|As the Sky
Author: GataFairy PM
Effie pieces her life back together after the rebellion and helps others along the way.Rated: Fiction T - English - Angst/Friendship - Effie T. & Katniss E. - Chapters: 21 - Words: 47,223 - Reviews: 12 - Favs: 13 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 07-31-12 - Published: 07-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8358084
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
TRIGGER WARNING: dubious consent.
Year of the 73rd Hunger Games
He has an emerald green tattoo of vines on his side that he attributes to a wild night with some friends from school.
"We had wild nights, too," she says, "but I never got a tattoo because of one."
"Because you are a saint, of course," he tells her as she sits, fully dressed, on the edge of the bed. He reaches for a lavender curl, and she swats his hand away. "A veritable saint."
"No, I am like every other well-behaved citizen you'll come across in life. You, however…" She leaves it at that, tracing one of the curling emerald vines with a fingertip. The vibrant green contrasts beautifully with the violet of her nails, giving her ideas for her next shopping trip.
"Keep my secret?"
She nods, grinning. The exchange is almost a liturgy of theirs now, repeated nearly word for word on those days or nights when the curves of the vines seem to beckon to her with his every breath. It is a refuge from the pressure to perform because here, she can behave as would a friend and it will pass as something more.
And as she is an excellent friend, she can finally rest easy.
Year of the 74th Hunger Games
"So why is it that you don't go by your full name?"
She adjusts the big flower pin in her hair, glancing at his reflection in the mirror before her. "Is there something wrong with my going by my nickname?"
"No," he answers, shrugging. "I'm only curious. Most people I know tell me they grow out of theirs."
"Oh, well, they just stick with you sometimes, nicknames," she says, shrugging. "Mine certainly did. But do you know, I used to hate mine when I was younger. I wanted to feel like a lady, so I kept correcting everyone who called me 'Effie.'"
"And now you introduce yourself that way."
He comes up behind her and places his hands on her shoulders, staring into the mirror with her. Surely he means to be reassuring or sweet, but she cannot help but remember, as the muscles in her neck tighten, that she is imprisoned, bound to him as some sort of prize or pretty doll.
Breathing deeply, she nods. "I think it makes me seem more approachable. I'm an escort, you know. I am the face of the Capitol for District Twelve. I can't be mysterious or removed, not like you with your fancy title."
"There is that, yes," he says, arching an eyebrow. "But there's also the fact that you simply can't find a good nickname for me."
"Hmm." She puts a hand to her chin and purses her lips, lifting her gaze to the ceiling. "Let's see. Sen, Sennie, Neca… Goodness, you're right, those are all awful." From the corner of her eye, she sees him cringe. "I suppose it would have to be an animal pun at that point. You know, what with Crane. But what would it be? I don't associate any particular animal with you except possibly mutts, but there are so many of those!"
"Now you see the problem." He shakes his head, rolling his eyes. "It would take too much thought to come up with anything, so no one ever did."
"Oh, I've got one!" She clasps her hands together and whirls to face him, delighting in the suspicious curiosity written all over his face. Holding back a laugh, she prolongs the wait for a moment, standing on the balls of her feet and grinning brightly.
He shifts under her gaze, but finally, he cracks. "Are you going to tell me sometime this week?"
Giggling, she says, "Beardsley."
Time slows for a moment, and she sees him go from shocked to insulted to amused within a second. Then, just as quickly, she darts away, and he gives chase. She is easy prey in her high heels and tight skirt, and the room gives her little room to play out her role. His hand closes about her arm far too soon, and though they are both laughing, her heart is pounding, screaming at her to go, to refuse, to beg to be set free. The words are on the tip of her tongue as they face each other, please, let's end this, I can't do this anymore, let me go, and she wonders if President Snow would accept the dissolution of this arrangement if she pushes Seneca into argument after argument until he has no more patience for her.
"That was terrible," he tells her, barely suppressing a grin. He isn't breathing hard at all. But, of course, he has no reason to be. The hunt lasted all of five seconds, and he is not being punished for one tiny mistake.
"It was too easy," she says, forcing a breathy laugh. "I'm sorry."
He fixes her floral pin, nodding. "Apology accepted."
He means it, too. It is always easy to get him to forget things. As far as prison guards go, he is the best kind, showing her no cruelty because he knows not the power he possesses.
But Effie cannot forget it. Perhaps that, in the end, is her true punishment: to know that she has brought this on herself, and that what has been done cannot be undone. Rebels must suffer. Rebels can never know peace again.
Maybe it would hurt less if she were really a rebel, if these were the Dark Days and she had meant to overthrow the Capitol with her words. Then her suffering would be glorious, and she could feel proud of her imprisonment.
But she hadn't intended that, and she is no rebel. She is a good citizen, a glowing escort, and she will do as she is told.
Year of the 75th Hunger Games
Effie is introduced to the new Head Gamemaker only a few days after he is promoted. No private meetings with President Snow this time, no discussions of past misbehavior, no reminders to stay on the straight and narrow path of perfect obedience. Attendance at the first big social event of the year leading up to the seventy-fifth Games and third Quarter Quell is very nearly mandatory, so of course she and the other escorts are there, and of course all the Gamemakers are as well.
Plutarch Heavensbee takes one of her hands in both of his and shakes it firmly, studying her for a moment after their hellos and how do you dos have been swallowed by the crowd. Then he blinks, the strange spell on him not quite broken, and tells her softly, "I'm so sorry for your loss."
"Oh." She swallows, nodding, forcing herself not to pull back her hand. "Yes. I- Thank you." It's still strange to hear those words. In the eyes of society, she was neither family nor friend of the deceased, but somewhere in between. She isn't sure, herself, given the details of the arrangement. Beyond the funeral and burial, every instance of someone giving their condolences has given her pause. Luckily, that is a permissible manifestation of grief.
Even in death, Seneca makes some of the tragedy bearable.
Heavensbee releases her hand but does not move on. "He did very good work in preparation for this year's Games," he says. "It's a shame he won't get to see them come to life."
Effie nods. "I'm sure it will be a wonderful arena."
"Oh, it's outstanding."
He grins widely, and she smiles and nods, just to please him. It doesn't reach her eyes, but she will let grief cover for her again.
In the moment before he tells her good-bye, she realizes that his grin had been forced, too, but she can't imagine why. Maybe he misses his colleague that much, or maybe he feels sorry for her and what she has lost, the future she might have had if President Snow's sentence had been meant to remain in effect for the rest of her life.
All the better for her if that's what people think. With President Snow's approval of her performance and acceptance of her continued loyalty, she is as free as she will ever be.
Except she isn't free, really. As she stands with Cinna and Portia by a window in the vast hall, Effie understands the truth of the situation: she must always maintain the pretense demanded of her, because the truth can only result in her death. President Snow has made that much very clear.
"I think I'll retire early tonight," she tells Cinna and Portia. "Thank you for your always wonderful company. I'm just feeling very tired."
"Of course," Portia says, nodding sympathetically. "Good night, Effie."
Cinna places a hand on Effie's shoulder, stopping her before she goes. He waits until she meets his gaze, then tells her, "Things will get better soon. Trust me on that."
For anyone else, Effie would have played the eternal optimist, attempting to dazzle with a brilliant grin. But because it is Cinna and she has come to like him very much since his appointment as District Twelve stylist, the smile she gives him is broken and sincere. "Thank you. You know I would trust you with anything."
"I don't know what to do," Effie says quietly. A light breeze blows overhead, rustling the leaves of the evergreens, leaving her untouched. Still, she draws her coat tighter about herself, shivering. This is the only place she allows herself to be upset or afraid. She has given up the ideas of privacy and safety, but perhaps, in the context of grief, any unpatriotic comments might be forgiven, ascribed to the temporary madness of her lonely misery.
"I know there's no way you could help even if you were here, but at least I could have asked." He wouldn't have understood, anyway. There is nothing he could have said that would take away the ache that burns in her chest every time she remembers the special rules for this year's Quell.
"I'm going to lose at least one of them," she says, sniffing. "Probably two. The first victory of my career, and I don't even get to enjoy it. None of us do."
She does not sit on the grass because it will ruin her skirt and stockings; it's bad enough there is mud on her shoes from the dampness left behind by last night's rain. Besides, it's irrational to want to be closer to the bones in the earth. There is nothing to be gained from that, only a phantom closeness and terrible mud stains.
And hadn't she wanted to be free of him anyway?
"Things are not supposed to be this way." Clutching his white handkerchief to her chest, she sniffs. "The Victory Tour was supposed to have been perfect, but I couldn't- it was out of my hands. And now, with the Quell-"
She is glad for the sob she must suppress. It keeps her from saying things she shouldn't, such as how much she cares for her victors, how fond she has become of their rude alcoholic of a mentor, how she will hate to see any of them die because they have been hers to care for this year, longer in Haymitch's case, and she can't imagine never seeing one of them again.
"They were supposed to get married, Seneca," she weeps, patting her cheeks dry. "I had a wedding to plan. I was so excited. What will we do with all those dresses? Even if Katniss wins-"
This time the wind does come her way; it is cold, carrying a warning of snow on its breath.
Effie shuts her eyes. "What do I do?"
Her mind responds in his voice, smooth in tone, gentle in volume and force. You know the answer to that. You must work your hardest, be at your best, and steel your heart against the children of the rebels.
Holding the handkerchief to her face, she covers her nose and mouth as if from the cold and breathes, "But we're a team, and I want them all to live."
She stays that way for some time, taking refuge in grief. This, she suspects, is an extension of her punishment. Though she is now free again, Seneca's death is as much a warning to her as to anyone with thoughts of rebelling. What's worse is that he had meant no real harm by his mistake, much like she hadn't all those years ago among her colleagues. Snow's message is loud and clear: dissidence of any sort will not be tolerated, and its consequences will be delivered and felt immediately.
As she leaves the safety of the cemetery, she spares a moment for one angry, truly traitorous thought: if there are any rebels in the Capitol, she hopes this has strengthened their resolve, because if this iron-fisted rule continues for too long, they will all suffocate or become mindless drones, mutts programmed to believe in the illusion of free will.
In the meantime, she will keep her fleeting faith in the simple idea of them burning bright. It is the only thing she can do, and it is the only thing that will sustain her during the Quell, when she must watch and wait for at least one of her pearls to be crushed.