Experience of a Lifetime.

A/N: How exactly did Caesar Flickerman come to be the host of the Hunger Games? It wasn't a role he chose: it was his eternal punishment.

A bit dark, a bit serious, a bit bloody, but I love my fiction to be just that.

Disclaimer: If I owned, this would be total canon.

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The Capitol of Panem was cruel, but they were definitely clever with their methods of torture.

Public execution was a punishment reserved only for the lower ranks of the instigators of the rebellion. Those in the higher tiers were saved for a much darker fate. After all, it's like they say, the punishment is to fit the crime.

Since there were so many pockets of rebels, there were many leaders that needed to face the chopping block.

A few went the conventional path of torture or starvation or some sort of horrible death. But they were boring, so things were spiced up a bit as more people were led into the empty courtrooms for punishment. Empty courtrooms that had no jury or witnesses or lawyers. The only law that counted was the Capitol's. Your word against theirs—and you always lost.

Some were locked in rooms with jabberjays that had their loved one's screams programmed into it, forgotten until they went mad and died. Some were tied up and forced to watch as lovers were tortured on their behalf. It would drive them insane as they begged to swap places with girlfriends or wives only to see them receive extra punishment for the person speaking out of turn.

Quite a few had to eat their family members, and more than that were eaten alive by genetically engineered fire-ants. Some were experimented on, blown up, frozen, went under the surgeon's knife in an effort to see how altered humans can get before they die. To those in charge, to those that defeated the rebellion, this was justice. This was their reward for winning. Who could say otherwise?

A popular choice for the President to punish these heretics was to select their children into the first Hunger Games and make the parents have control over the hidden guns, flamethrowers and whatnot. They fought over their ideals to either save their children and take out the competition or to end their suffering and kill their child.

It didn't matter much to President Snow which road they took. He reminded them with every moment that it was their fault that their children were suffering a fate so cruel. And then he drilled it in some more of how children for decades to come would face the same fate.

Caesar Flickerman made his debut performance on the stage of the first ever Hunger Games as the hated-always-so-cheery host. His skin was freshly blue, and he was off his rocker on anti-depression drugs. His enthusiasm made people hate him all that much more.

Few remembered and less acknowledged his pain. It was understandable, seeing as his face had be altered so many times, it would have been impossible to recognize him—they'd even removed and replaced his voice box. As time passed, those that knew of his great secret, died.

Caesar was one of the major ringleaders of the rebellion, so smart and charismatic, he was quite important in rallying troops and planning raids. He was alone, with no family or loved ones to suffer as he did, and the man seemed rather immune to pain. Even when they bathed his skin in acid and "accidentally" changed his genetic structure to make him blue all over, he barely whimpered.

It wasn't fun enough. It wasn't painful enough. It wasn't cruel enough.

Thus his eternal punishment was not public execution or torture, but to be in the front seat as he got to watch later generations die.

The Capitol made the man who fought for freedom shake the hands and smile at the children he would send off to their deaths. When off screen, Caesar was as bound as anyone, the chains binding him to his job and his life as strong as anything. He was essentially an Avox, except the higher ups let him keep his tongue so he could do his job.

During the third ever Hunger Games, he attempted suicide. It was his first and last attempt. He did not succeed, even after the pains he took to carve his chest open. Instead he was left with an ugly scar and burn marks on his back as they punished him for trying. That was when he started changing his hair colour. It would be odd if the public noticed the singed ends of his hair from being set on fire.

Once, during the fourteenth Hunger Games, he tried to say something against the Capitol and spark another rebellion. He learned the hard way that they'd surgically installed an electrical pulse shocking device near his heart. Another thing he learned was how fast the government could blind the audience. Almost no one saw him fall to the ground, spasming. To those that did, he was forced to make a witty comment about some stew churning up the works.

When he couldn't remember a lot of the twentieth Hunger Games, he realized that he was undergoing some form of brainwashing. But he forgot that realization soon after. He figured it out again in the twenty-eighth games, but again, he forgot.

The thirty-ninth Hunger Games came and went and he noticed little gray pills in his food. He wondered what they were for, but didn't think about not eating them. He stopped questioning anything, really. If there were pills in his food, he was expected to eat them. There was a lot to be said about behavioral conditioning.

When he rounded his fiftieth Hunger Games, and had finished delivering the speech for the second Quarter Quell, he asked, "Why won't I die?"

President Snow had smiled at him over a cup of tea and replied dryly, "We won't let you have the luxury."

Oh, he tried to fight. He tried to help every tribute, but it always amounted to nothing. He would share some laughs, some jokes, hear a story and then do it all again after he watched them die. If he were a normal Capitol celebrity, he would simply stay in his room and not watch the proceedings at all—if only he had the freedom—but every day for every year of his life he was kept under constant surveillance with a guard stationed near him 24/7.

They made him watch. When he didn't, they would add something more nasty into the arena, and he hated having the blood of children on his hands. Telling himself that they'd die anyway didn't help the slightest.

When he wasn't working, and he wasn't under house arrest, sometimes he was taken on little tours of the dungeons. It warmed his heart in the beginning to see that there was still fighting spirit, but soon he was crushed every time to see them locked away in bloodied chains and with broken bodies. He was starting to question everything. The point of life, the point of existing, and whether the rebellion was worth it.

Then another Hunger Games would roll around and his indignation would surge forth once more. Fighting for freedom was always worth it. He refused to lose hope, he refused to let them crush his spirits. So he smiled and joked and laughed and choked back vomit every time he stepped in the limelight.

During the seventy-fourth Hunger Games, the finale gave him the chance to turn his world around. Rebellion was brewing and he would work again for the greater good.

The Capitol were cunning, but they overlooked one thing.

With the cruelest instruments held by their own hand, they had created a weapon more terrifying than they could have anticipated: a man with absolutely nothing left to lose.

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A/N: What would be amazing is if Caesar played a big role in Mockingjay. (Can't wait for that to come out!) I don't think he will, but it would make this character-reflective one shot so much more ominous...

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