|Watching the Watchers
Author: SJlikeslists PM
Madge and Gale had to watch their friend go off to the Hunger Games. Their parents had to watch them.Rated: Fiction T - English - Hazelle H. & Mayor Undersee - Chapters: 25 - Words: 30,671 - Reviews: 42 - Favs: 18 - Follows: 24 - Updated: 06-05-12 - Published: 04-07-12 - Status: Complete - id: 7999128
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Disclaimer: The Hunger Games isn't mine.
They are still in my home, and I am still seething. I can't look at one of my children without seeing something they have taken, something they may have destroyed.
I don't think Posy will ever be able to stand being near a dog again. It's not that she has encountered them often, but the select few tied in Merchant yards have garnered her attention when we've passed. She's always asked why she cannot go and pet them. I suspect that desire will not reappear. It's something that the Gamemakers have stolen from her – a piece of her innocence, a simple joy that they have turned into one more nightmare. (The way that boy suffered – I may have nightmares myself.) She sobbed and fought and kept demanding to know if Katniss was being eaten. When I finally got her to sleep, she did so only bursts – waking up often in tears or screaming wanting myself or Gale to reassure her that she was safe and neither Vick nor Rory had been "got by the big dogs" while she slept.
That woman has no idea how close she came to losing her front teeth to my fist when I returned to the room after my third time of resettling Posy. "Excellent camera work for the lack of lighting," she commented as if a child wasn't being torn to pieces while another one bled and another one nearly froze in front of her face. "It really makes it look as if it's right in the room." Gale's hand on my arm pulled me back to the land of thinking before doing. Part of me wishes he hadn't. Part of me wishes that just once I could force a hearty dose of reality into one of those pathetically shallow little Capital lives. The part of me (and it's the largest part by far) that is invested in my children's safety over anything as insignificant as my pride and temper is grateful Gale had the presence of mind to intercede.
Then, there's Vick. I leveraged him away from the awfulness on the screen with the insistence that it was bedtime. It got him away from the television. It got him away from the people still camping out in our living room. It didn't get my sweet, sensitive child away from the memory of everything he had seen. He didn't sleep all night. He lay in his bed quietly crying. "Gale needs you more," he would stubbornly insist whenever I peeked in on him. Except for once, once he reached up and grabbed my hand and asked me "Why?"
"Why, Mama, why do they like to watch them hurt?"
Why indeed, my baby. I had no answers for him. There are no answers to give. There are no explanations to offer. There is no way to make him understand because there is nothing there that can be understood. There is nothing reasonable in the knowledge that those children he sees suffering are doing so in some twisted sort of penance for something that occurred before their grandparents were even alive. So, my baby nursed his fear, his confusion, and his sadness all alone in the dark because he didn't want his brother left alone with the people who didn't understand "that Katniss is really real, and so are all the others." I'm so very, very afraid that he's lost his optimism to these Games. Some people call that growing up; I call it the loss of something vital to who my child has always been.
I don't know yet what they've taken from Rory. He's so trying to be Gale in everything that he can. My practical little boy who retained his pride as I hustled him away from the television to bed by muttering to himself about "no good to anyone half asleep" and was promptly out like a light (or, at least, pretending to be so that Vick could have his privacy). I want so badly for him to know that it's okay to be himself – that he doesn't have to take on extra burdens, and yet I can't help but be proud at his willingness even while I struggle with my anger over the possibility of him losing his childhood like his brother. I hate the way the presence of these people in our home has pushed him into thinking he needs to be more mature to help to shield Gale. I hate that I'm watching him learn to play these people when this isn't a game (and he shouldn't be confronting them at all).
My heart has broken for Gale more times this night than should be humanly possible. Time seems to stretch out every moment that ticks by as he watches silently, unflappable, trying so hard to give no reactions that his watchers can use as he stares at his best friend on the screen. I watch him wondering what he is thinking, being reasonably certain that I know. Realizing that she is so close, knowing that it could still go all wrong, listening to the comments of the people from the Capital and worrying that he is becoming like them since he knew he wanted all the others to die to clear the path for her to come home, desperately wishing that everything could just go back to his normal, knowing deep down that the girl he watched leave on the train won't be the one who comes back, planning ways that he can fix that, thinking of ways to put everything back the way that it was, and trying so hard to find something, anything about this situation that he can control – and finding only his refusal to let those watching into his head as the only thing to be found.
After the seemingly endless night, dawn brings a change in the speed of the Game that may be only in my imagination. The boy from 2 is finally no longer suffering. The Gamemakers are refusing to keep their word. My younger children are stumbling into the living room. Katniss and Peeta are fighting with each other – not to kill the other, but over who has to go home and live with being the survivor. Our unwelcome houseguests are so entranced (even our silver painted vulture) that they have forgotten to pay attention to us at all. Gale is looking at me with all of his defenses dropped with eyes that are pleading and lost and hurt and confused, and I'm squeezing his hand in response. Katniss is pulling out those poisonous berries, and Posy is wide eyed in my lap not knowing what questions to ask. The tributes from 12 are standing defiantly together, and Vick is burying his head in Gale's shoulder. They're pushing the Capital into a corner. They can have two Victors or none at all, and Rory is pushing himself in between his brother and me on the sofa. And the same announcer's voice I have heard all my life (but never sounding so out of breath and distraught) is telling them to stop. They've won, and my family is squeezed together holding each other and holding our breath not sure whether it is really over or not.
The screen flashes to the seal and goes blank. The Capital people break out of their entranced spell and turn to look at us. And I know it's not really over at all.
Author's Note: This felt like the appropriate place for this story to draw to a close. Thank you to everyone who chose to stick with it until the end. Thank you, especially, to everyone who took the time to leave me their thoughts and reactions. Your words meant more to me than you can ever know