A/N: I was trying to reconcile the kindness we see in some Capitol-raised characters (the prep team, for example) and the fact that the Capitol citizens genuinely seem to enjoy the games. So I decided to write the Games from the POV of a random Capitol citizen.
Original Character POV. I don't know her name, but I like her.
Disclaimer: I don't own Hunger Games and I'm not making any money off this. Get off my back.
It's almost time for the Games again.
This is the time when something inside her stirs, something that's dormant the rest of the year wakes itself up and maybe she feels a little more alive for these weeks. She always hopes the games go on for a long time because as soon as they end, that something goes back to where it hides the rest of the year and she smiles through the days filled with good food and nice clothes and alcohol, the days that all seem to blur together until she can't tell what happened when.
Not that anything happens anyway.
She's never been outside the Capitol, but she's heard enough to know that the people in the Districts hate the games.
They think that the Games are to keep them from rebelling-a punishment, instead of a holiday.
But she is a Capitol girl. And she knows better.
She's sitting in the audience, watching all the tributes go by, picking the ones that she's going to get attached to. The little district eleven girl is cute, but she won't last a day. Lots of the tributes are big impressive and if she were smart, she'd root for one of them and maybe see at least one favorite live by the end of-
Those people are on fire.
For a split second, she panics, wondering if they're already being picked off. But then she sees them smiling and waving and blowing kisses and-holding hands? Who does that? Don't they know they're going to die? She feels a vague sort of respect mingled with pity for these strange flaming creatures, so tiny from her spot so high in the audience.
She keeps waiting for the rest of the tributes to come out, but nobody does, and then she sees that little District Eleven girl, so tiny compared to the giant next to her, and they're only one up from the flaming people.
That's District Twelve.
Frantically, she flips open her booklet.
Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen
These are the children of Coal Miners.
Brilliant Design, that-
Her mind jerks away from that subject. She has a general rule that she doesn't think about fashion or food or anything she usually thinks about during the Games, because she can think about that any time but the Games are something special. So she tries to regain that sense of shock she had a moment ago, and she's not even sure why.
"Because she came here with me."
Its takes her a moment to realize what this boy-Peeta Mellark-is saying, mostly because she's throwing the contents of her mind around like the contents of her room when she's looking for something she's lost. Because that's exactly what she's doing-she's desperately searching her mind for some other explanation, some other way to make the pieces fit so it won't be real. But she knows.
This boy, this beautiful boy on the screen, who was smiling so brilliantly just a second ago, is looking as heartbroken as he is, his whole emotions spilled out across his face. It's so raw and intense and so, so real that for a second she thinks he's going to spontaneously combust. She really thinks that. Because she doesn't know where emotions are stowed in the human body, but she knows that if she could take everything Peeta Mellark is feeling and scrape it off his perfect face with a butterknife and try to hold those emotions for him, there wouldn't be room.
And that's upsetting, for some stupid reason.
She cries for an hour that night, stupidly jealous of a boy who is probably going to be dead in a month, because he is so sad and distraught and so trapped, and he's so angry and frustrated and maybe he's crying now too, and maybe the girl, too. Or maybe she's screaming into her pillow, or throwing things around, flaming and flaring and burning up the way Girls On Fire are known to do.
She kind of hates Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen just then, because she's never felt anything so intense.
There was never a question in her mind that Peeta was trying to protect Katniss. He had to be. If he gave her up so easily, then that means everything on his face that night with Ceasar was completely fake, and that means that Peeta Mellark is empty. And if Peeta Mellark is empty, that means those tears she shed are just as empty. Everything hinges on him.
She would not give empty tears to that boy, not even retroactively.
She runs into her living room, having just woken up to realize that she was missing the first few minutes of the next broadcast. She doesn't want to miss a single second of this. She's starting to pay more attention this time. Through these little movements that these people make, like every one's a struggle, she's starting to realize that these are people and it's really kind of morbid what's going on, cruel even.
There's probably something wrong with her, that it's so important and satisfying to watch, even if she doesn't enjoy it, not really.
As she sprints through the hallway, she catches sight of herself in a mirror and stops short, backs up again to stare at herself. There is something different in those eyes, in that complexion, in her posture even.
She can't help but feel like she's burning up just as hard as Katniss Everdeen right then.
She's starting to have nightmares.
Nightmares about herself being in the Games. Nightmares about dead tributes, some from years and years ago, from when she was just a child. Nightmares about the families of tributes coming to yell at her for reveling in their pain.
They are sick and twisted and disgusting, and if she were sane she'd wake up screaming and sweating and crying.
But apparently she's not sane, because she wakes up with a grim smile and then pops a sleeping pill and goes back for more.
There is something different about those two, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark. But there's something special about all these people. Even the careers. They're different from the people she knows. And she thinks that maybe these lines around the capitol mark a different kind of boundary. She can't put her finger on what's so different about them, but even as they fall before her eyes, she becomes more and more convinced of it.
Convinced of what…she's not sure yet.
She starts to wonder, for the first time in her life, what it's like outside the Capitol.
Today's broadcast is just wrapping up when she realizes that something is going on outside. She goes to the window.
There's a fire down the street.
She's not scared-accidental fires get put out long before they create evidence like this, but she's curious so she puts on her shoes and runs down the street.
There's already a small crowd there, standing a safe distance from the fire across the street, and she can't quite make out what they're burning, so she taps someone in front of her to ask what's going on.
He turns around, and she the first thing she notices is that he's wearing almost no makeup, just gold eyeliner. In fact, she's probably the only one wearing less makeup than he is. She doesn't wear it during the games.
The second thing she sees is his smile. It's cold and amused and angry all at the same time. Bitter. He's bitter, and it takes her a second to realize that the only other time she's seen an expression like that is on the Games. She's staring, face to face, at that same thing that those contestants have that she doesn't, and it scares her and she wants to run away so bad that she takes a few steps back instinctively and trips over her heels, falls over. She stares up at him, wondering how he'll react.
The man must sense that she's scared, because even though he doesn't look surprised, his face softens and he reaches out a hand to her. She flinches before she realizes that he's helping her up, and she wonders for the fifteenth time that day what's wrong with her.
"Yes?" he asks, and for a second she can't remember what she'd wanted to ask him. But it seems rude to just not answer him, so instead she blurts out "I like your eyeliner."
He grins at her, and she decides that maybe he isn't so scary after all.
"I like your shoes," he answers, and she looks down and blushes at the fact that her shoes don't match. She hadn't noticed.
"I might actually keep that in mind and use it later," he mutters to himself, and she doesn't ask what he means. They turn back to the fire, and his smile is subsiding and she can almost see him receding back into himself, so before he becomes totally lost to the world, she asks him what's going on.
He glances down at her. "They're burning some books from the library. President Snow-" he says the name with such unbridled venom and anger and hatred that she wonders if he's planning on flinging himself into the flames. She's not sure if she could live with that kind of malice, even towards her worst enemies-"Is concerned that some of the reading material is propagating anti-Capitol attitudes."
He nods. She looks at the flames, and watches as a lone page escapes the clutches of the flames and flutters over to her, carried by the slight breeze to sit at her feet. She picks it up. There is only one line on it.
It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society.
The words make something jolt inside her and she looks up to show the man with the eyeliner, mostly because she's wondering if he will scare her or smile at her this time, but he's started walking away, down the street, and for a second she actually considers running after this stranger. But then she looks back at the paper in her hand and decides that she wants to keep it to herself for now.
It occurs to her that through almost twenty years of watching the Games, this one has changed her irrevocably. She is never going to be the same after this. A part of her thinks that she's caught in some kind of middle ground-that she's something Other, not quite like the Everdeen girl or the man with the eyeliner, but not the same Capitol girl she was either. The thought that she's distancing herself from the people she knows best, the people she should consider friends, gives her an almost vulgar thrill, sending chills up her spine and down her limbs in a way that makes her smile like a madwoman into her pillow as she remembers watching while all those books went up in flames.
So Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark are both going to live. She can't begrudge them that. It's been a long night, with an extra long broadcast and she's tired, emotionally spent, which is strange, and she's on her way to bed, replaying the sound of Cato's screams in her head (she wants to say "just for fun," but she knows that's wrong, even if it's accurate.) That's when she puts it together.
The berries. The fire. The man with the eyeliner.
The Capitol is angry.
She looks at herself in the mirror again, and picks up the scrap of paper she saved. It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. That's when that last piece of whatever was missing comes back to her, something from far away that she'd long forgotten until the night she saw Peeta Mellark confessing his love for the Girl On Fire.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with her.
She starts laughing just then, really laughing until she's on the ground and can't breathe and the scrap of paper, clutched to her chest, is stained with tears. It occurs to her that she is probably a little insane, more than a little, but it doesn't matter because her own insanity could never compare to the world in which she lives.
This world is completely and utterly insane, completely turned upside-down. The whole world is asleep while it's burning, and now that she's burning brighter than anyone, even Katniss Everdeen, she's waking up. This is her awakening, dammit, and she's going to enjoy it. So she crawls to the window and throws the little bit of paper outside, hoping maybe someone else will find it and find their missing piece too and they can all burn together.
She wakes up there on the floor by the window. Her stomach hurts from laughing so hard, but there's a pounding at the door just like the one in her head and she's not laughing now.
The Peacekeepers break the door down and are over to her, kicking her down before she can even get to her feet. It hurts, she can feel herself bruising, ribs cracking, and it surprises even her to realizes-that sound, bubbling up from inside her? The one spilling out of her mouth?
That's not her screaming. That's her laughing again.
And she's not even surprised when the Peacekeepers step back and she hears one of them mumble something about "crazy bitch laughing," or when he pulls out a sedative and jams the needle into her kicking foot, knocking her out mid-giggle.
She's not surprised when she wakes up in a padded cell instead of a hard dark one. She's a little irritated when she hears two "friends" outside talking about how she was such a nice girl and it must be a mistake and how whoever put her here must be incompetent. She's getting angry and how unsurprising it all is until she hears someone say that the lunatics are running the asylum now.
And then she smiles, because damned if it's not true.
She giggles to herself, and her therapist looks up from her clipboard, alarmed, worried that she's going into another episode. Her therapist is frustrated with her. Everyone here is, most of them hate her and she loves that. She won't talk, won't try to make progress. People think she can't, but truthfully, she's just not convinced she's done anything wrong. She doesn't belong here. She's insane, totally crazy, but the Capitol is crazier and she doesn't want to get better. She likes it better this way, with her burning and illuminating everything around her, so she can finally see what's there. If some people can't stand the heat, that's just not her problem.
"Something funny?" her therapist asks, encouraged when he realizes his patient isn't having another episode. She just shakes her head.
He wouldn't get the joke.
The Capitol is trying to keep them all submissive through the games.
This is the missing piece. This is what she always knew, kept it in her mind but let it get dusty and covered with junk and she forgot it.
And it is the funniest damn thing that she's ever realized.
Maybe it works for the Districts.
But she is a Capitol girl, and she's lived vicariously through these people doomed to die, because they were the only sign of live in the driest, emptiest, deadest place on Earth. These were alive, down to their last breath, and she will be too.
Because she is a Capitol girl. And she knows better.
A/N: As I'm writing, suddenly Cinna shows up, and I'm like "Oh, hi, Cinna! Where did you come from?" because I hadn't planned on writing him. "What a surprise!"
And then she went insane.
Yeah, wasn't expecting that one either, actually, brain. Thanks for the heads-up.
The quote is Jiddu Krishnamurti. Speaking of quotes, all I will say by way of interpretation is this:
"'You,' he said, 'are a terribly real thing in a terribly false world, and that, I think, is why you are in so much pain.'" –Emilie Autumn (The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls.)
If anyone cares, I've not been posting fanfic much because I've been focusing more on original fiction.
Reviews are chocolate.