Disclaimer: The Hunger Games is not mine.
Note: First off, I want to apologize in advance for the fact that I'm not going to be updating for a while. For pretty much the rest of June, I'm not going to have access to the internet. I was (somewhat over-ambitiously) hoping to make it through the reapings first, but halfway will have to do. Again, I apologize, but life happens. I just wanted to let you know so that no one freaks out when I don't update for a while. I'm not disappearing. This story is not going to be discontinued. I will be back.
On a different note, thank you to Choi Junhong and bobothebear for Marjani and Roshan, respectively.
District Six Reaping
What You Can Accomplish
District Six Mentor
He still missed their smiles.
Gazing out at the crowd of children, Aron struggled to hold back a sigh. The District Six he had left so many years ago had never been this grey. This grim. This cold. Aron tucked his hands into his pockets, trying to hide the fact that, despite the sun shining brightly above the factories and streets, he was shaking. Shaking not with cold or even anticipation, but with age.
Later, he would tell them – his superiors. Maybe after the Games. They deserved to know that he wouldn't be able to serve much longer. That, one way or another – whether his replacement was a victor or another Capitol citizen – District Six would soon have a new mentor.
Aron shook the thought from his mind. Today wasn't about him – or his illness. He'd made peace years ago with his own death, but not with the thought of leaving these children without guidance. So he would hold on as long as he could. Not forever, but for a little while, at least. They still needed him.
Aron dug his hands out of his pockets and lightly clutched the arms of his chair to steady them as Vanesse Clipper reached into the first bowl and pulled out a slip of paper. "Marjani Esan!"
The sixteen-year-old section parted around a girl in a dark blue blouse and black skirt. She was very petite, with long, brown hair and dark brown eyes. For a moment, there was silence as she stood there, collecting herself. Then, slowly, calmly, one step at a time, she made her way to the stage, where she stood, waiting – her hands shaking, but her emotions under control.
Aron couldn't hide a sympathetic wince as every inch of the girl's composure fell away. The seventeen-year-old section parted for a boy who was surely her brother, but, before he could take a step, he was interrupted by a loud cry. "I volunteer!"
Bastien's gaze snapped towards the fifteen-year-old section, where the voice had come from. A boy was already stepping forward, but Bastien, making his way through the puzzled crowd, met him halfway. For a moment, the two spoke in hushed tones – arguing, maybe – before the older boy took the younger one's hand, and they made their way to the stage together. From a distance, the younger boy looked perfectly normal – short, brown hair, and a lean, average build. Only once he reached the stage did Aron see that his eyes were closed. No, not just closed, but sewn – carefully, surgically sewn – shut.
The girl, still weeping, threw her arms around the pair of them, and they both returned the gesture. For a moment, they stood there, huddled together, until the younger boy pulled away. "I volunteer," he repeated softly.
Vanesse, not quite sure what to make of her newest tribute, forced a smile onto her face. "And what's your name, dear?"
"Roshan Varick," the boy answered before being pulled back into a hug by Bastien. The younger boy whispered something, and the older one nodded. Quietly, the trio turned to face the cameras together, and, at last, the older boy stepped away.
Aron wiped a few tears from his eyes, his own troubles completely forgotten. There would be time for that later. Right now, these children needed him. This family needed him. So he would do his best to help them – to help them survive, and, if he couldn't do that, then to help them find some measure of peace.
One last time.
Marjani Esan, 16
District Six Female
They couldn't do this to him.
Roshan had already lost so much. His eyes. Most of his friends. Any hope he'd had of a normal life. And all because his family had supported them – supported the Capitol – if not by action, than at least by belief. And in one brief moment during a rebel raid, it had cost him everything. Amid the chaos, a window had shattered, flinging glass into the five-year-old's eyes, blinding him forever.
Marjani's family had done their best to help. Unable to remove the all of the glass, her parents had surgically removed Roshan's eyes. But the boy's parents couldn't stand the sight of the gaping holes where their son's eyes had been, so, together, they and Roshan had agreed to have his eyes sewn shut, instead. Now, from a distance, he appeared peaceful. At rest.
But that was only how he appeared. Inside, Marjani knew, the boy was broken. Lost. They couldn't send him into the Games like this. They just couldn't.
But they would.
And there wasn't anything she could do to stop it.
Marjani held Bastien close. "I'll help him. I'll … I promise I'll try to keep him safe as long as I can. But … it's just …"
"Only one of you can come back," Bastien finished, nearly in tears again. Marjani nodded quietly. She knew he was torn. Torn between his love for his sister and his best friend – maybe more than a friend, if it were up to Bastien. All she could do was be grateful he wouldn't have to make the choice. And, most likely, neither would she.
Most likely, there would be no choice at all. How much chance did she and a blind boy have? But they wouldn't go down without a fight. She wouldn't do that to them – to Roshan, to Bastien, to her family. She would win, or she would die fighting.
Because now she didn't have a choice.
Roshan Varick, 15
District Six Male
They couldn't do this to her.
That had been his only thought at the reaping, when he'd heard Bastien's name. They couldn't do this to Marjani. To Bastien. Not after everything they had done for him. All the kindness their family had shown. The Capitol couldn't take that away.
So he had stopped them.
Not completely, of course; Marjani would still be going into the Games. But Bastien was safe. And Roshan meant to do everything he could to make sure that Marjani made it out alive, as well. He owed them that.
Footsteps in the hall. The door creaked open. "It's me," Bastien said quietly.
He hadn't needed to. Roshan had known from his footsteps. But Bastien was always doing things he didn't need to – guiding him everywhere, sticking up for him, taking time away from his schoolwork to spend time with Roshan and Marjani.
Bastien put an arm around Roshan as he took a seat next to him on the couch. "For you." He pressed something into Roshan's hand. A stone. An old joke between the three of them. It was one of several stones they had found a few years ago. Bastien had been convinced they were gold. Marjani had insisted they weren't. Even Roshan had been able to tell Marjani was right, but Bastien had insisted on taking them to a dealer, nonetheless. Only after three different shopkeepers had told him the same thing had Bastien finally been convinced the stones were worthless.
But they weren't worthless anymore. They were a reminder. A reminder of their friendship. A reminder that he would need once he was in the arena.
"I gave one to Marjani, too," Bastien explained. "I thought you two might want to have something to…" He trailed off, not seeming to know how that sentence should end.
Roshan nodded. "How's she doing?"
Bastien laughed bitterly. "Better than me. I don't know what I'll do if … when…"
Roshan nodded. Bastien was probably right about Marjani; she always managed to appear strong. Bastien had never been one for putting up a false show of strength. His compassion, his kindness – these were his strengths. The Games were no place for someone like him.
Of course, they were no place for a blind kid, either, but, of the two of them, he was the better choice. The only choice. A choice he had made. He had saved Bastien's life. And he would help save Marjani's.
Because now he didn't have a choice.
"It's not a matter of wanting it or not. It's a matter of what you think you can accomplish."