|The Undiscovered Country
Author: Miss Yvonne Hartman PM
Smallville/Hunger Games AU: The escort moves across the stage to the Reaping ball that holds the girl's names. Thousands of slips of paper. I think, pray, beg: don't let it be me or Megan or Jamie. But these wishes don't ever come true do they? Because the name that echoes around the square is "Tess Mercer!" ... Tollie, Lexana, Clois. Now COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Friendship - Tess M. & Oliver Q. - Chapters: 18 - Words: 48,404 - Reviews: 74 - Favs: 4 - Follows: 7 - Updated: 12-10-12 - Published: 10-06-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8585242
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
The Undiscovered Country
"I guess that's why I would win the Games," Tess said softly, the stain glass windows painting her face in shades of blood and gold, "no decent person does."… Tess has been reading 'The Hunger Games' with Alexander, and wonders what her life would be like if she was reaped for the Games. Tollie, Lexana, Clois…
AN: Welcome, welcome, Happy Hunger Games! So this is an AU version of Smallville, where the entire cast were selected to represent their District in the 72nd Annual Hunger Games.
Not mine, all rights to Suzanne Collins and DC Comics.
Chapter 1 – The Reaping
The morning of the reaping dawned bright. I sensed that the bed was empty as I woke and on the pillow, where usually I would see Oliver's sleeping face, there was a single yellow rose. A gift on Reaping day. I wonder if the nightmares he is plagued by woke him, and if so, why he didn't wake me too. Sometimes I feel his body convulse when he's locked in nightmares and I coax him out of the shadowland. Other times he shakes my shoulder, and I open the harbour of my arms to his weary body and hold him until we fall asleep again. I twirled the rose slowly in my fingers before I sat up and pushed my red hair out of my eyes. I cannot appreciate the perfume or the softness of the petals, not when my stomach is full of acid like this.
I kick out of the sheets and fix myself up for the morning, brushing my teeth and putting the rose in a cup of water on the window sill. I know where Oliver will be, either swimming or fishing, but somewhere near the water. I take a detour from rushing out to see him, to check on my little sister, Megan. I hovered near the head of her bed, watching her sleep. She looks serene, her oval face so vulnerable in slumber, she looks a lot like me, the same high cheekbones and slanting nose. But her mouth is prettier and her hair is in dark waves, a counterpoint to my vibrant red curls. I feel my heart break with how much I love her, how far I would go to protect her. But I have no power over the Reaping, I have no way to prevent the parade of horror that is the Hunger Games we are forced to celebrate each year. Megan sighs in her sleep and I don't want disturb what precious peace she has on a day like today. I press a kiss to her forehead. I leave the room silently and steal out of the house, breaking into a jog when I reach the gate.
District 4. Fishing. The smell of salt water is carried on the high breeze, the steady rush and retreat of the waves on the sand like the intake and exhale of breath in deep sleep. I jog through the town towards the beach, my eyes scanning for the man I know like the back of my hand. I see him, walking down by the water's edge and my heart suddenly feels like it's too big for my chest. I run.
"Oliver!" I cry for him, the sand between my toes is still cool, the sun has not yet gathered enough heat this early in the morning to make it scorch. He turns and catches me in his arms. Kisses me hard, his lips hot against my mouth. My Oliver.
"How are you feeling?" he asks, as we sit on the sand, me leaning into his side, watching the waves roll in and out. I take a deep breath.
"Alright. I mean, two years in the future and I could be free of this." I sit on my hands to stop the faint shake. "I'm scared for Megan." I'm always scared for Megan. She's only thirteen this is her second Reaping.
Oliver is the voice of reason. Well, as reasonable as you can be in this situation, it's not like we have an active choice in the matter. We do not have any power to stop the slaughter of our children. Maybe it is more the voice of gentle optimism. "She'll be fine. Her name's been in there only twice. She's a Career, Tess. And so are you."
Yes. I am a Career. I have spent my life so far training in survival and slaughter. I know how to wield knives and swords and arrows and spears. But Megan… I don't want her to ever be tainted by the horrors of the Arena. I look at Oliver's profile. He was my age, seventeen, when he won his Games, six years later and he still has nightmares, is still looking over his shoulder for attackers that are not there. Sometimes I worry he never left the Arena. And then there is the Capitol, where all his wounds are reopened. I've never been to the shining city of the Capitol, although Oliver frequently visits, for parties and the Games of course. He mentors our tributes, alternating with some of the other Victors to try and bring our Tributes home. They are not always successful. We've only had one victor in the last ten years.
I don't want that to ever happen to Megan. I'd rather volunteer myself for her. I know Oliver wouldn't let her starve if I died.
Our District's principal industry is Fishing, supplying the Capitol, where the rulers of our country Panem reside, with seafood to eat and minerals they slather on their skin to make them look young. But I think they look like freaks, with their wigs and skin dyed, stenciled and surgically altered beyond any capacity of aesthetics. Freaks and Barbarians. But I don't say this out loud, you can't be found to be causing or speaking dissent. Although he tries to mask it, I can see the pain in Oliver's eyes whenever he is called to the Capitol. Usually he goes swimming, not wanting to talk to me or watch me pack his clothes for the journey. Sometimes I think he rages and screams everything underwater, where nothing but the salt and the fish can take his words. Oliver hates the place, the Capitol is the epitome of waste and excess in a world where Districts starve to death. Our District is what I've been told is slightly wealthier than others; We have the resources to train our kids for the Games, as do Districts One and Two, the luxury and masonry districts respectively. None of the other Districts can do this, the tributes from Six to Twelve are often the ones to die in the Bloodbath at the Cornucopia or go in the first few days. They always have a horribly starved, pinched look about them when their Reapings are broadcast. District Three has managed to scrape a few Victors as they deal in electronic items and have a certain genius and wit about them. While the Games are a fight to the death, they also entail a few weeks of running around whatever landscape they've been thrown into, so the ability to hunt, gather food, make shelter and outsmart the other Tributes may tip the odds of survival. One Game, the boy from Three electrocuted half the arena and won, so it's not always about who can throw a spear the best. All while the people of the Capitol place bets and laugh and drink while these children are brutally murdered onscreen. They make me sick and angry, at what they take from us, our families. And what they took from me, in the way they ripped my Oliver to pieces.
He holds me tighter and I think - I love this man. I do. Our love wasn't a blazing inferno right at the start. He refuses to talk about his Games, even though I saw them on television live. He was reaped for the 66th Hunger Games and after three days of training and an impressive score of 10, the arena opened onto an island with fierce jungle and rough waves. Ten tributes died in the Bloodbath. The remaining tributes, namely the careers and both of ours from 4 – Oliver and the girl tribute, a dark eyed beauty named Mercy Graves – dispersed into the jungle. Oliver battled his way through, having made it out of the Cornucopia with a bow and arrow, knives and a backpack of food and water. And when he started to run out, sponsors stepped in. But while the food and water helped it wasn't enough, he still had deadly snakes to avoid, was almost eaten alive by bugs and freezing at night. And you can't forget the other tributes, all of them out to cut your throat.
As the days progressed and the tributes dropped from fights or the elements, Oliver was doing well with the bow and arrow, keeping himself fed when one day he put his hand on the thorned stem of a bush with the most vivid purple flowers. The thorns were poisoned and he was dying fast, the toxin working through his body, when Mercy found him.
By all means, she could have left him. She was starving, injured and he was on his way to death anyway. So it was of course a surprise when she hauled him to a sheltered outcrop of rocks and tried to save him. She used leeches to get the toxin out, shared their food and kept him warm at night. When Oliver was well enough, they were able to resume hunting together, get more sleep and food and plan their strategy.
Neither of them were talking about the elephant in the room. The fact that only one of them could make it out alive. I think Oliver was angling for it to be Mercy who was crowned. But the odds weren't in their favour.
The mutts that year were vicious, genetically engineered boars and in a pack attack, only the District One tribute, a huge eighteen year old named Marcos, survived. With only three left, the Gamemaker's called for a feast. Feasts in the Hunger Games often are used when they need to wind it up, spill more blood and crown the Victor.
Mercy was wicked with the sword, but District One was equally as deadly. The battle was fast, blood was so thick that even now with replay we don't know who was who until there was an awful silence. Oliver had shot Marcos through the chest with an arrow dipped in the poison that had almost killed him – who crumpled and fell back, twitching - he turned to Mercy, but she was lying on the blood soaked ground, a small spear was lodged in her stomach. Oliver held her as she died, begging her to not leave him as the light faded from her eyes.
Oliver was crowned victor, the hovercrafts came in to collect the bodies. He was never the same. Even now I can tell that he sees Mercy in his mind. I know that it's her he has his nightmares about; it's her that he begs to stay alive.
When he came home he was a hollow man. He drank; he took morphling and was rarely seen. And then one day we met. I don't even know how it happened, but we ran into each other at the solstice festival. He had been drinking again, I was fourteen, too young to touch the liquor, but he offered and the burn of the alcohol was nothing compared to the fire his lips caused on mine. It took a while for our relationship to blossom, to move from those frantic stolen kisses to something deeper. It first had to survive in a wasteland. But Oliver sobered, and I grew up. I trained harder and harder at the Academy, trying to outrun the Reaping each year. Oliver knew he was safe but I wouldn't be until my nineteenth birthday.
"Come on, what do you want to do today?" Oliver asked, snapping me out of my reverie. I leant over and kissed him deeply.
"Whatever you want." I say and we stand up. We take one of the boats out and decide to go collect the crab baskets for a fisherman friend of Oliver's dad. Oliver rows the boat. It's only on the open water that I can truly breathe easily. I lean against Oliver's chest, loving the warmth of the sun. "Oliver. What if we kept sailing?" I asked. "What if, what if we didn't turn back, just kept on going." I point to the white horizon line.
Oliver shook his head. "We can't Mercy. They'd send in hovercrafts faster than you could blink. They'd cut out your tongue if they didn't shoot you on the spot." He sighed heavily. "Besides. There's nothing out there anyway."
I do not know much about geography. All of our learning in school is controlled by the Capitol, we adhere to their curriculum. It's true that no one knows if there are other countries. Apparently there had been once. A whole world of land and sea and culture. But if there's anything left, we do not know. The boundaries of the world Oliver and I live in are the flashing buoys bobbing out on the waves and the razor wire fence before the forest. And to some extent the Capitol. That is what we know. Fishing and school and training and slaughter. And Death. It hangs over everything. Even though I can wield I sword, I've never killed another human being. Another child. The most I've done damage to are the training room dummies. I don't know how I would do in the Arena. I've seen the faces of the Tributes onscreen, the sheer terror in their eyes. When the time comes I suppose that I would fight and kill to keep myself alive, but I will not relish it. I wonder what would happen if all the kids sat down on the grass in front of the Cornucopia and refused to fight. The Gamemakers would probably send in mutts, or blow us to smithereens, but I still wonder.
"Yeah. It was a stupid idea." I say, trying to hide my hurt. Oliver stopped rowing as we glided up to a floating marker. I reached into the cool blue water, grabbing the rope and hauling it up. Oliver grabbed too and we pulled the crab cage up from the depths. Dripping water all over our clothes, we dropped it to the floor of the boat.
"Five crabs." I announce. It's a fantastic number for the first basket and we transfer the crabs to a water filled bucket. We sail on, bringing up crabs and sending the baskets back until we have finished. All these crabs about to go to the market and their death in the Capitol. I look up at Oliver before my mind can continue on its morbid avenue of this year's Reaping.
"You ok?" he asks me. I nod slowly, reaching out for his face and pulling him in for a kiss.
"I'm ok when I'm with you." I tell him. He hugs me close as the boat bobs on the waves and it's so quiet until he shifts, sighs and says:
"We should get going, Tess."
I let him row us back to shore in silence and after dropping off the crabs we return to his house in Victors Village. He disappears and I busy myself making breakfast for him and Megan. She has finally gotten out of bed and is sitting, white as a little ghost with fear, at the kitchen table. I put her breakfast of bread and scrambled eggs in front of her.
"I can't eat." She says.
"Just try a mouthful, ok baby?" I reply. I don't want to eat either but I force a spoonful down and chew my seaweed flecked bread. Megan does as she's told. "See, you'll need your strength if you're going to the Capitol." I try to joke but she glares at me, knife poised in her hand. I should know better, Megan's specialty in training is knife throwing and she's got pretty good aim for her thirteen years. "Ok. Ok. Bad joke."
I stand up, my plate finished and kiss her on the top of her dark head. "You won't be going to the Arena, Meg, I promise. If I have to Volunteer for you, I promise."
She suddenly clutches at me, her arms tight around my waist and I set the plate down so I can hug her back. "I love you." she sobs against my stomach and I fight the heavy lump in my throat.
"I love you too." I kiss her again, "but don't worry, it won't be us."
"Will you help me get ready?" she asks. I wipe away her tears with my thumbs and nod.
"Of course. Go have a bath and I'll find you a dress." Megan gives me another hug and I watched her leave the room, wishing that we were a million miles away from the world we live in. Wishing we were safe.
I wash the dishes. Given Oliver's status as a Victor he has tonnes of money and we can afford food from the grocers. It is better than many of the other people who live in District 4. Meg doesn't know hunger like some of the kids who live on the fringe of the District do. Even still we are not Capitol rich, we don't possess a dizzying wealth. Megan wears my old dresses and I haven't had anything new in a long time. Oliver tries to bring me something nice back from the Capitol, but even he can't always do that. But I don't care for riches. I just want him and Megan.
I watch the ocean, taking in every part of the sparkling blue, hoping that this will not be the last time I see it.
Upstairs, Megan is out of the bath and I rifle through her closet, trying to find something suitable for her to wear. The Reaping is another humiliation, making us stand there in our Sunday best while our freak of an Escort pulls out the names of 2 kids that will never come home. I keep my bitterness to myself and give Meg a pretty pink dress that was mine several years ago.
"You haven't worn this in a while and it's clean." I say. She holds the material and nods approval. I leave her to get dressed myself. Oliver's house has running water that is always hot and I even wash my hair before twisting it into a roll and pinning it into place. I choose a white dress from my small wardrobe, tying the blue sash in a bow. I meet Meg on the landing and she turns so I can do up the buttons on the back of the dress. "You look great, baby." I say. I brush her dark hair but leave it out, tying back the front section in a ribbon to match her dress.
The siren blows and she jumps a foot in the air, clutching at me. "It's ok. It's ok. It's time now." I soothe her. Oliver is waiting at the bottom of the steps. He's the current mentor with Pete Ross the Victor from the 57th Games, so he will be onstage today.
"You are so beautiful." He tells me, foreheads together. I kiss him, holding myself close in his arms, never wanting to let go. "So beautiful."
"I love you." I tell him. He hugs Megan as well and we walk to the Justice Building holding hands. Megan and I have to sign in so he reluctantly released my hand, kissed me one more time and forced himself away. I won't get a chance to say goodbye to him after the Reaping, he goes straight to the Train with the Tributes. I sear his image into my brain until Megan gives me a shake.
"Come on." I say. We sign in and I hug Megan tight. "I'll find you after this ok?" before she turns I have an awful thought and call her back, "Don't Volunteer. If it's me, don't you dare volunteer, Megan or I swear I'll kill you myself!" I kiss her forehead, making her swear to it and she kisses me and goes to stand with the thirteen year olds. I make my way to the seventeen year old area and find my friend, Jamie Kite who is so pretty with her blond hair and blue eyes. A few metres away from us is Emil Hamilton, a boy I used to go around with before I met Oliver. He looks nervous and I call him over.
"How are you?" he asks, pulling out of our hug. I give a non- committal shrug that he mirrors. We're not exactly over the moon about being here. "How many times is your name in?" he asks.
In all the Districts you can take out Tesserae, which is putting your name in an extra time in exchange for grain and oil. I did this for my first four Reapings before I met Oliver and we moved in together in my fifteenth year. (We are not legally able to marry until I am eighteen but neither of us could wait, my parents are dead and Megan needed a real home.) Entries to the Hunger Games are cumulative, so I have 21 entries. Megan, who I vehemently said no to taking any Tesserae only has 2 entries. Emil, who has seven younger brothers has an unmentionably high number. I don't want to think about the odds.
The Reaping begins, our Escort, Eva Greer, saying her traditional speech in her flouncy Capitol accent. The Mayor reads the Treaty of the Treason, where the twelve Districts revolted against the Capitol and now we pay for our rebellion with the blood of our children in a barbaric and disgusting game. Alright, so he doesn't say it with those exact words, but everyone knows that's what is implied.
And then Eva Greer moves across the stage to the Reaping ball that holds the girl's names. Thousands of slips of paper. I think, pray, beg: don't let it be me or Megan or Jamie. Don't let it be me or Megan or Jamie.
But these wishes don't ever come true do they? Because the name that echoes around the square is "Tess Mercer!"
To be Continued...