A/N: I'm so sorry for the awful wait, as well as this awful chapter. I'm having a lot of problems in real life that have just weighed me down. I am continuing with this story, and hopefully future updates will not take so long. This chapter is partially unbeta'd also. Thank you so much for everyone's support.
I can also be found on tumblr now as vonbaconandeggers. Come talk to me!
Anna tossed and turned all night. She had begun her sleep curled under Kristoff's large arm, but his weight felt less like comfort as the dark hours dragged on, and more like a chokehold. She felt smothered by his presence, and had to get away.
But even in her own bed she felt smothered, stifled; the severity of the situation threatened to crush her, the steady ticking of the clock a grim reminder that her hours of life were numbered. She shivered and cringed, trying to hide further into the blankets, silently praying to any deity she thought might listen to help her.
I don't want to die.
No gods answered. Only silence.
But I'm going to die, and that's all there is to it. The thought was on repeat in her mind, pushing her through a roller coaster of emotions, from anger to sorrow, to guilt, denial, and finally acceptance.
It's okay. She tried to convince herself, groggy and bloodshot eyes finally opening again to the viciously bright sunlight. I'm going to die, but it's okay. It's okay. It's okay.
Her final breakfast with Kristoff and Sevin was somber; even the Capitol woman did not push for conversation, picking at her fruit pieces quietly with a fork, smiling politely down at the slices of grapefruit and watermelon.
Anna's stomach churned, but she forced down as much good as she could before a wave of nausea and uncertainty threatened to bring it all back up. Kristoff ate as if determined to win some type of eating contest, staring down the bacon and eggs like potential enemies.
There would never be another meal again in peace; it would only ever be glaring from overtop the scraps they could forage or manage to hunt. Anna forced down a few extra bites of sausage, spurned.
Her outfit for the Games was splayed out across the plush chair in her room, the dark material an ominous cloud against the clean white of the furniture. She sat on the bed, hands folded in her lap, and stared at it for a long time.
A tentative knock at the door pulled her from her stupor. She looked to the door to see Kristoff peeking in, already clad in his outfit. He smiled softly at her.
"Hey," she replied quietly, standing up to step towards her outfit. She ran her fingers along one arm, nails leaving faint grooves in the durable material. The lines faded quickly.
"Last to get ready again?" he chuckled, leaning against the doorframe. "Some things never change."
She couldn't help laughing, though perhaps it was from routine, expectation, instead of mirth. Everything had changed, after all.
"I can't change while you're in here," she scolded light-heartedly.
He put his hands up in mock defeat, but didn't exit immediately. "It might be the last time I see you naked, you know." He winked.
Anna huffed, narrowing her eyes at him. "Might be the last time you see at all, you know." The corner of her mouth fluttered in a half-smirk.
He laughed heartily and backed away, closing the door behind him. Her face fell as soon as he was gone. All she was doing now was delaying the inevitable.
It's okay. It's okay. You're going to die but it's okay.
Sevin had added a shimmering line of gold to her lips that day, and a fancy broach of flowers to her neck. She was radiant, leading the way from their vehicle back into the familiar Arena.
This time the stands were devoid of an audience, and the only sound was not of applause but of the thunderous rotating of propellers. Resting in the centre of the Arena was a large, winged machine with several whirling fans to lift it from the ground. Anna had seen them periodically flying over the District, but for what reason she did not know.
Sevin stopped at the ramp leading up into the plane, drawing the two of her tributes closer with a hand on their arms. "I'm so proud of you two!" she shouted, trying to rise above the impossibly loud whirring.
An Officer clicked their boots impatiently at the top of the ramp. Sevin drew them closer into a loose, brief hug before pushing them away. She dabbed at her painted eyes with a kerchief as she backed away, raising one hand in a feeble wave. Anna waved back.
They took their seats in the plane, seated on either side of vessel; boys were on one side, and girls sat on the other side, so that those from the same District could look at each other one last time in a neutral setting.
"That's the last of them," an Officer said as Olaf and Elsa boarded the plane, ushering them to their seats before raising the ramp. All the tributes were strapped in, and another Officer went from person to person with a large syringe and a container of metal studs.
"Hold out your arm," the Officer commanded, the feminine voice not unfriendly but with little patience. Shaking, Anna offered her arm. She hissed at the feeling of the abnormally thick needle digging into her skin, and would have yanked herself back if the Officer did not hold her arm so tightly.
"What is that?" she rasped as the needle was pulled out and the Officer moved on to Elsa. The blonde woman did not flinch.
"Trackers," the Officer responded. "So we can monitor you at all times."
Kristoff was busying himself with the injection site, running his hand up and down the length of his arm, experimenting with the feel of having a foreign object under his skin. Anna took the moment to look at Elsa.
Blue met green. Anna caught Elsa glancing at her from the corner of her eye; the blonde woman looked away abruptly, turning her head to hide the blush creeping across her cheeks. Anna smiled to herself.
They had discussed their plans during stolen moments in training; rather, Hans had devised a plan and informed everybody else of it. Anna was told to run in the opposite direction of the Cornucopia, and the rest of her allies would meet her there.
There were no windows in the plane, so the only indication of where they were versus where they were going was the unsettling feeling of rising. Her ears ached at the pressure change, and she could see the other tributes were fairing no better. Elsa still looked away from her, her hands tight on the straps holding her in place. Kristoff grit his teeth and lowered his head, face obscured behind the thick mat of his hair. Hans leaned back with his eyes clenched shut, and his hands knitted together in his lap. Only Olaf seemed at ease, swinging his feet out and beaming at the redhead.
When they landed, it was a whirlwind. Anna felt disoriented as her head adjusted to the lower altitude again, her ears popping painfully as she stood from her seat and was escorted down the ramp into an unremarkable tunnel like all the rest she had encountered as of late.
Two Officers brought her to a room, empty aside from a washroom and a tall glass tube at the opposite end, open and awaiting her. An intercom in the ceiling screeched awake.
"Countdown will begin from two minutes. Be inside the tube at thirty seconds. Late-comers will be terminated. Those that leave their platform before the timer chimes zero will be terminated. Timer is now at one minute fifty seconds."
The same nausea from breakfast returned and she rushed to the bathroom to heave. No matter how many times she tried to tell herself that it was okay, that she was going to die but that was alright, her body did not want to listen. Her chest was tight, and her fingers itched and pulled at her clothes to alleviate the painful pulsing in her chest to no avail.
It wasn't okay.
She was going to die away from her family, away from her home - and probably away from Kristoff, in a gruesome or brutal fashion. And it wasn't okay.
"Fifty seconds remaining. Please commence to the tubes."
She washed her face quickly in the sink, the cold water doing nothing to cool her burning face. She felt sick. She felt terrified.
She took a deep, shuddering breath and rushed out of the washroom towards the tube. It slid shut behind her, muting all sounds but the pounding of her heart and the ragged wisp of her breaths.
"Thirty seconds remaining. Tributes will commence to position."
With a deflating sound, the floor of the tube began to slowly rise, lifting her upwards. The room fell out of site and she was encased in darkness. The terror made her breath hitch.
The darkness was only momentary, and she was lifted into a bright new world, with a familiar blue sky above her and the smell of grass and dirt. The movement finally stopped, settling her on a brushed metal platform. In front of her was the Cornucopia, an open-mouthed shelter lined with weapons of all types and piles of backpacks filled with what Anna could only guess.
All around the Cornucopia in a circle was the sixteen platforms of the tributes, and behind them was trees as far as she could see. She looked over her shoulder and swallowed.
"Ten seconds remaining."
Elsa was poised to bolt, as was Kristoff. Anna pursed her lips. This was the part of the Games that was a bloodbath, and there was Kristoff preparing to leap right into the hellfire. Olaf was already turned around on his platform, staring into the foliage.
Hans was bent forward, his toes dangerously close to the edge of the platform, balancing on the precipice of termination. Ursula was next to him, doing the same.
Gaston shared a wordless glance with Hans, pushing the sleeves of his outfit further up his forearms. Belle was straight-backed, looking in Anna's direction; the two of them would be the first to re-group in the forest.
The other tributes, those that weren't their allies, were fidgeting on their platforms. Kocoum pulled at the collar of his outfit, snarling when the material did not give away.
Rapunzel nervously braided her long blonde hair, a habit that Anna had yet to see her without.
This was it. The Games were here. Her death was imminent. She closed her eyes.
Anna leapt off of the platform, nearly tripping on her own feet at the sudden drop. She tucked her chin down and raced towards the treeline, her eyes still clenched shut, trusting her instinct to keep her on a straight path.
The thunder of footsteps was broken by a gargled scream, and Anna faltered, dropping to her knees at the edge of the forest. A pained yowl followed the scream. Anna could not keep her eyes closed anymore. She stood slowly, shaking, and turned around. Nothing prepared her from seeing the infamous bloodbath up close and personal.
Ursula's body slumped to the ground, a single arrow embedded in her throat. The knife in her hand slipped from her grasp as she went limp. In front of where she stood, Fergus was sprawled out on the grass, his throat slashed; Hans stood above him, his preferred sword glistening at the tip with blood. From further within the Cornucopia, an enraged Merida notched another arrow in a hurry.
Gaston and Naveen played cat-and-mouse overtop a large crate at one side of the Cornucopia. Naveen clutched a backpack in his arms, feinting to one side and then the next, attempting to get around the armed man. Gaston wore his confident grin, slapping the broad side of his sword against the crate to scare the other male.
Finally, hope overpowered Naveen's fear, and he tried to dart past his muscled villain. He did not get far though, as Gaston lunged, slashing at Naveen's legs and taking them out from under him. The dark-skinned male fell to the dirt with an agonized howl; he screamed as Gaston advanced on him slowly, scrambling with bloodied and fractured legs to get away. Having taunted his prey enough, the looming swordsman drove the point of his blade through Naveen's gasping mouth, twisting once and then ripping it free in a spray of blood and tender flesh.
Then she saw Kristoff, running towards her with a backpack flung over one should. Hans zig-zagged in the same direction, narrowly dodging Merida's arrows that sliced at his cheek but never quite finding their mark. Anna felt her spirits soar. They were still alive!
Then Kristoff stumbled, and fell, revealing Kocoum close behind, spear raised and ready.
"Kristoff!" Anna screeched, but could not move to help him, her feet cemented to the ground. The scene played in slow motion before her, Kristoff struggling to stand and Kocoum nearly on him. Their eyes locked; Kristoff was devoid of cheer now, drained off his confidence and good hope. He was going to die, and he didn't think it was okay either.
Kocoum made a guttural sound, and drew back his spear arm. Anna wanted to close her eyes, but couldn't.
Kocoum's arm never released, and the spear never impaled. A mighty halberd hooked the powerful man around the throat, pulling him backwards into an ungraceful heap on the ground. Elsa did not loom and taunt like Gaston, pulling back her longarm only to drive it quickly through the man's skull.
"Let's go!" Elsa roared, louder than Anna had ever heard her speak, dislodging her weapon and yanking Kristoff up towards the trees. Her face was hard lines and determination, but as the blonde dragged her lifelong friend past him, Anna could see moisture collecting in the corner's of Elsa eyes, and a faint quiver bothering her bottom lip.
Suddenly Hans was grabbing her by the shoulders, shaking her less than gently. He was bleeding from a gash across his cheek that Merida had caused; the redheaded archer seemed to have abandoned chase, for no more arrows rained hell down upon them.
"Anna!" Hans said, searching her for recognition. "You have to move!" His words did not click in her head at first, and he shook her more violently until Anna felt her feet break free from the metaphorical concrete. This time when he ushered her into the forest, she complied.
They ran through the foliage for what seemed to Anna like forever, and when they finally slowed to a walk it seemed like they were no longer in the Games. Insects buzzed past her, and the greenery smelled fresh and natural; there were no shouts of pain or rancor, no consuming metallic scent of life essence. It seemed peaceful.
Loud cannonfire resonated across the landscape, startling birds and the weary tributes. One, two, three, four times; the cannons were the death knell, signifying another fallen tribute.
From a dense patch of shrubbery, a white blur burst out at the blonde woman. A brunette woman followed closely behind him.
"Elsa, I was so worried," Olaf sniffled, grasping his sister around the middle with thin, shaking arms. His chest heaved with labored breathing, and his face was slick with sweat. Elsa frowned down at him.
"Are you okay?" she whispered to him, lowering her face to his ear. The rest of the party had stopped, but Anna gravitated closer to the pair, eager to know the state of her newfound little friend.
Olaf mumbled something back, too quiet for even Anna to interpret, and the blonde simply nodded and dropped to one knee. The boy skirted around behind her, clasping his arms around the woman's neck; Elsa looped her one free arm around Olaf's leg, and fluidly stood while pulling him up onto her back. The boy buried his pale face into the nape of her neck and spoke no further.
Hans cleared his throat, the tension of unspoken questions too much. The party of allies - only seven strong now - regarded him quietly. He breathed deep, and continued walking further into the forest.
"We will find a place to rest, preferably out of the elements at least a bit. Then we will examine the contents of that backpack Kristoff got, and make a plan from there. The biggest thing, is we mustn't split up. There is safety in numbers," he explained, carving his own trail through the brush with the occasional swipe of his blade. The others formed a single-file line behind him, trudging carefully in his footprints.
Anna followed behind Kristoff, and put a gentle hand to his shoulder. He flinched, but she felt the anxiety leak from his muscles when he saw the perpetrator. He smiled weakly at her. "I'll need to thank Elsa for saving my butt," he said, glancing past the redhead to the blonde woman behind them.
Despite carrying another person, Elsa seemed comfortable and unburdened, stepping lightly in the dirt. Upon noticing two sets of eyes upon her, she quickly dropped her gaze, adjusting Olaf to sit higher on her back. Anna slowed her pace.
"Is he okay?" she asked once within earshot, and evidently within Elsa's personal bubble judging by the way the blonde's fingers tightened their grip.
"He's fine," Elsa grunted tersely.
Anna sighed lightly. "It's just, he told me that he was sick, and-"
"And you better stop there." Elsa cut her off in nothing short of a growl. Anna's frown deepened and she looked away, almost ashamed.
"Just...thank you for saving Kristoff."
Elsa's mouth opened, and then closed abruptly. When she spoke, it was in a hushed tone out of the corner of her mouth. "He got lucky."
"We can stop here!" Hans shouted from up ahead. He had led them into a cramped clearing, though it was partially sheltered on one side by a raised peak of earth and the gnarled tree roots that twisted through it. One by one they filtered in, sitting down in the bare, cool dirt; the spot was well shaded, but still provided ample routes to escape.
Hans remained standing while they seated themselves. Elsa plopped Olaf gingerly on the ground before leaning on her halberd next to him, ever the image of a guard dog and his flock. Anna sat next to the young boy, slipping her hand over his; his sister's watchful gaze followed every gesture. He felt clammy, and as cold as before; he looked gaunt, and his eyes were sunken. The sweet boy was not how Anna remembered him at all.
Kristoff had started tearing into the backpack he had risked his life to procure, reaching in and groping around in the bottom until he found purchase. He pulled out a small metal canteen first, and then a smaller metal container.
"There's water in this!" Gaston exclaimed, taking the canteen from Kristoff and drinking greedily from it until Hans wrenched it away.
"Ladies first, Gaston," he said, handing it towards Anna. The redhead blushed faintly, and accepted it. Gaston had taken more than his fair share, leaving Anna only a mouthful if she wanted the others to partake as well. That single mouthful, however, was glorious, refilling her, and soothing her parched throat.
"Thank you, Hans," she smiled back at him, before passing the canteen to Olaf; lady or not, the young boy needed the water probably more than anybody. However, Olaf only sipped briefly before passing it to his sister. She urged him to drink more but he declined, crossing his arms over his scrawny chest and putting on a convincing pout. Elsa relented.
Anna stood then, taking the other container from Kristoff. She turned it over in her palms until she found the lip of the lid, grasping it tightly and twisting it open. Inside was a translucent gel that stank of cedar and sterility; the inside of the lid displayed 'great for cuts, burns, and gouges'.
Hans swooped in to investigate. The gash on his cheek had left a trail of red down his face and neck, disappearing beyond the collar of his outfit. "What is it?"
"It's medicine. Like, a kind of ointment." She scooped a generous amount out with two fingers and then looked to the handsome man. "It would probably help your cut."
Hans grinned, and the radiance of his smile rivaled the announcer Simba's row of shining teeth. He squeezed her hand that held the container, and presented the wounded side of his face. "Please, go ahead."
Several sets of eyes watched as she smeared the ointment across his injury. He winced briefly, but his grin insisted; he watched her intently, tracing the outline of her face, the misting of the freckles across her nose. Anna's flush intensified.
In the end, Anna's hand was coated in a thin layer of the gel, tainted red by his blood. It seemed that no matter what she did, she could not escape the fact that her hands would be dirtied by the Games, in one way or another. She wiped her hand clean on the hip of her outfit.
The canteen was empty by the time it made its way through the group, and Kristoff returned it to his pack with the ointment. "We will have to find water, now," he said with a sigh.
Hans nodded in agreement. "In the morning. We should rest while we can; the others are bound to start actively hunting us, soon."
Gaston scoffed. "We should just charge at them now then."
"Merida would pick us off way too easily," Belle reasoned. "Some things have to be won with patience, Gaston. Not brutality."
The black-haired man did not respond, but his jaw tightened. Anna swore she could hear his teeth grinding together, rearing to fight, like a horse chomping at the bit with the urge to run. The thought brought an image of Sven instantly to mind, and the last ride Kristoff and her shared with him on the day of the Reaping. The last relaxed moment she would ever have.
"What do you think, Elsa?" Hans prodded. The blonde woman appeared indifferent, and shrugged to maintain the facade.
"Charging in would end the Games more quickly, though probably not in your favor," she said after a moment of deliberation. "If any of you want to live, we should wait."
Hans nodded, and then planted himself on the trunk of a fallen tree. "Then we wait. Majority rules."
The daylight did not linger long after the decision was made. Feeling safe and secure in their numbers, they dared to build a fire, with Belle crafting it skillfully as she had in training. Anna could see the stars between the leaves of the trees; after two weeks of nothing but metal and concrete, seeing the real sky again, glittering and vast, was a relief. She might still die in a cage, but at least it felt more like home than the Capitol.
Olaf had already fallen asleep, his face pressed up against the side of Elsa's leg. No matter how many times Hans or Kristoff offered, she refused to sit and rest, instead claiming that she would spend the night on guard for all of them. Hans remained awake despite it, and Anna settled in next to him, distancing herself from Kristoff's erratic snores.
The fire felt pleasant, an ideal amount of heat to combat the chill of the night. Anna smiled and stretched her feet out towards it, wiggling her toes near the glowing embers. These normal, placid moments chased away the negative thoughts and hopelessness.
"Careful now," Hans warned quietly. "I wouldn't want you to get hurt."
She giggled. "That ointment works on burns too."
"That's good, at least. If you get burned, I can treat you."
Anna looked him in the eye and swallowed hard. For all her care for Kristoff, the draw to Hans was unmistakable; he was attractive, and sweet, and at the brink of death he was increasingly tempting. His hand rested next to hers on the log; he was close, so close. It was a good enough moment as any, quiet and intimate, and all she would have to do is lean in...
Just lean in and kiss her...
Wait. Anna blinked, perplexed at her own thought. Her?
She must have looked how she felt, because Hans straightened his posture and cocked a brow at her. "Anna? Is everything okay?"
Her stomach rumbled suddenly, breaking the moment. The two looked at each other and laughed.
Elsa, watching from her perch, released a small sigh.
The night sky lit up with unnatural colors, and a marching tune began playing throughout the forest. Anna's sleeping companions awoke one by one, peering up into the sky where holograms flashed.
The first was of Ursula, with a glaring 'District 1' scrawled below her face. Then came the other fallen tributes: Fergus, Naveen, Kocoum. Once the final face had lingered for a while, the holograms vanished, and the music died, leaving the remaining tributes in a dark silence.
"President Disney, the tributes have divided into two distinct alliances, but they are on complete opposite sides of the arena."
The stoic man tented his hands in front of him on the table, looking between the various monitors and screens that followed the tributes. Most of them slept by fireside, resting and relaxing. The man scowled.
"Well, don't let them rest. Shove them back together."
"How would you like me to do that, sir?"
President Disney stepped towards the workstation of the Officer, reaching down to a glass ball that served as a cursor. With a flick of his wrist he sent the glass spinning within its cradle, letting the cursor scroll like a hurricane through the options of natural disasters and hazards. When the spinning slowed and then stopped, President Disney regarded the randomized choice with a small grin.
"Very well, sir."