Fandom: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Story Title: "Twenty-Four Victors, Twenty-Four Tributes: Meet Your Quarter Quell Contestants."
Character/Relationships: The 24 tributes of the Quarter Quell. References to Katniss/Peeta, Finnick/Annie, Haymitch/Chaff, but no actual pairings or shipping content. Gen.
Warnings: Spoilers for all three books. Violence, forced sexual slavery, enforced reproduction, sexual/physical/emotional abuse, minor bad language, references to character death, drug use, and familial death. All of the usual feel-good content of Collins' Hunger Games world!
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All characters, settings, and proprietary language are owned by the author of the work from which this is derived.
Twenty-Four Victors, Twenty-Four Tributes: Meet Your Quarter Quell Contestants.
Gloss is twelve minutes older than his sister and had an extra year to prepare for the Games.
She never lets him forget it.
She hates her brother more than any of the Rebels hates the Capitol. She's heard murmurings about organized dissent; she's even tried asking Finnick about plans, but he doesn't trust her.
Maybe he shouldn't.
She's from a Career district, yes, but so is he, and Finnick of all people should understand what Cashmere has been through. But that is precisely why Finnick wouldn't trust Cashmere as far as he could throw her, and she knows it – with lives like theirs, a person's interests condense to one dark, shining, blood-tipped point inside them. Survival.
When she was fifteen, Cashmere's name was called to represent District 1, and in the dark of night, hidden away in one tiny bed together, Gloss told Cashmere he was jealous. It was the first time that it ever occurred to Cashmere that something might be wrong with training little boys to be killers – that something was wrong with her brother.
But she can't worry about that. She can't worry about the fact that her brother wishes he were in her place; he could have Volunteered, if he wanted it so badly. She points it out and he says, but then I'd have to kill you.
Cashmere decides later that it never would have happened. She wants to live so badly that she would have killed her brother in his sleep on the first night in the Arena just to have fewer Tributes left to fight. She doesn't really do alliances, not in those first Games. The Sponsors like her because she's beautiful and brutal – that's her strategy going in, of course, because she's been trained well and knows enough about past games to recognize what she needs to do to win.
On the second night in the arena, she seduces the male Tribute from District 10. He's one of the most beautiful players in her Games, and she's seen him get two silver parachutes already – one with medicine to soothe welts from the poisonous snow that covers their arena and one with a grenade he uses to cause an avalanche, trapping three Careers behind a wall of fallen boulders and crushing two more.
He is the opponent to beat. And the cameras love him. So Cashmere follows him into the arctic wasteland and knows that every camera in Panem is pointed to her as she takes off all of her clothes and makes him trust her and she smiles for the cameras like a naked angel as she slits his throat just before he comes.
Twelve silver parachutes fall, all weaponry and trinkets – nothing useful; no medicines and no heating pads and no blankets and no food, just knives and garrotes and two diamond bracelets – and Cashmere is, for the next five years – until Finnick Odair of District 4 – the youngest winner of the Games.
She also thinks that she may be what gave Snow his idea to sell his Victors as the sex objects she's caused the Capitol to see them as. And when she's twenty-three and a bewildered, not-yet-legal Finnick Odair is being fondled by a Gamemaker's nephew and he looks like he might cry, Cashmere feels dirty for the first time. But then her own Gamemaker sidles up to her and she remembers what it was like to slit that boy's throat while he was still inside her, and Cashmere realizes that if she didn't feel dirty about anything before, she doesn't deserve to now.
Her brother is ugly. He has no idea what it takes to survive the Games, even if he is a Victor. When they are chosen for the Quarter Quell, Cashmere makes no promises.
In his first Games, Brutus is eighteen and uses no weapons. He is his own weapon, and there is something beautiful to him about the feeling of someone's life leaving them under his own hands. At the Cornucopia, he breaks three necks and gets a silver parachute that night with barbecued elk ribs, huge and dripping with juices and red sauce.
He hums as he licks it from his fingers, because he knows now what the Capitol wants to see. They like a boy with blood on his hands.
It surprises him when he receives no parachute after strangling the twelve-year-old female Tribute from District 12.
He's only doing what they wanted.
She doesn't eat meat anymore.
The recap for Beetee's first Games is terrible. There are no shots of him at all until the frames of him being declared Victor, because he spent the entire twenty-two days hiding in the canopy of a tree, building a motherboard.
He has no idea why no Mutts were sent after him. Maybe he was so adept at hiding that even the Gamemakers couldn't find him.
Maybe no one remembered he was even there. The only clue to his continued survival was the fact that the Games of his year simply did not end and did not end and did not end, because there were four of them left alive for so long that the Careers below him started to grow too close as friends to want to finish each other off, hoping against hope instead that the mysterious male Tribute from District 3 would appear in a rampage and kill off their weak two and the strongest, a girl from District 2 or maybe the boy from District 7, could kill him.
After three weeks in the marsh Arena, Beetee electrocuted the four remaining Tributes so swiftly and unspectacularly that they kept filming for twenty minutes, scarcely believing at the never-ending Games had ended without a fight, without a murderous gleam in the eyes of a killer child, without even a whisper or whimper. The games ended with four silent heart attacks over a laughing lunch between young friends, and for the first time, the Capitol expressed widespread sorrow over the deaths of the Tributes.
Analyzing his Games later, Beetee realized that there were two important things the Gamemakers overlooked:
First, the importance of the Capitol's connection to the Tributes – more than beauty and more than brutality, the audience likes to see friendship and camaraderie and strategy and love. And the more they can relate to the children in the Arena, the less they want to see them die.
Second, the reason why he stayed safe up in his canopy was that he happened to hide in the barely-visible blank space of a force field, its electric hum making camera placement impossible.
There were holes in the Arenas.
Like Annie Cresta, there is very little reason to how Wiress won her games. Her Arena had been a bank vault, steel and cold and locks and lasers. Entirely manmade, there was no food to be foraged and nowhere to hide, and every Tribute was dependent on sponsors to send them food and water and shields.
All of the other Tributes starved to death around her. When the first girl died, a crippled girl from District 8, and the other Tributes began to eat her body, the ratings fell so low for the Games that the Gamemakers made sure they retrieved the rest of the corpses immediately after their demise. Apparently the moral line for Capitol sensibility was not the sight of children dying, it was the sight children doing anything they could to survive.
When the Gamemakers pulled Wiress from the safe where she'd been hiding from the last living Career, she was so gaunt that every one of her ribs was visible through her black uniform. It became the fashion in the Capitol after that. To be so thin that death looked imminent. Wiress doesn't understand why – she can't imagine anything uglier than the sight of people starving over nothing.
In the Quarter Quell, Wiress doesn't go mad because she sees Blight die.
She goes mad because she sees Beetee's mouth, Johanna's mouth, Blight's mouth covered in blood.
There are secret stories that are told in District 4, out at sea on small boats that the Capitol monitors only by weight, so they can't steal fish from the government. Finnick's favorite is about a man called Odysseus, a great soldier who is lost at sea and unable to reach home. Odysseus is held captive by an outwardly beautiful but dark and vengeful spirit called Calypso, who loves him for his beauty and virile strength, and will not let him return to his wife.
The reason this story is forbidden by the Capitol is because it makes reference to gods, and God is not allowed in Panem. It is the Capitol, not these invisible gods, who determine the fate of men. That's the whole purpose behind the Hunger Games. The Capitol decides when a person dies, what he does for a living, who he can love and what happens to his body. Not God.
But when Finnick receives his trident, he silently prays a thank-you to Athena, the beautiful gray-eyed goddess who helped Odysseus find his way back to his home and his wife. Even though after Athena, Odysseus has to escape the clutches of the brainwashed Lotus Eaters and the sexual perversions of Circe and the Sirens, has to battle for his freedom from Hades and slaughter Scylla and Charybdis, the hero still gets to go home to Penelope.
No matter what they do to him in the Capitol, Finnick has to believe in gray-eyed Athena.
Mags remembers the time before there were Hunger Games. She's eighty-two years old and the memories are fuzzy, but the first games were held when she was seven, so she alone among the Victors in the Quarter Quell knows that a life without the Games, without the Capitol, without Reapings and Tributes and District Specialties is like. She doesn't remember the Uprisings much; they were hidden from children.
That's one of the differences between the alleged barbarism of the Districts and the cruelty of the Capitol, and Mags is proof of it – the Capitol fights its battles by slaughtering children, and the Districts hid the slaughter of adults from their children. Mags is surprised every day that she's allowed to continue being alive, knowing this.
Most of her memories have faded, gilded by decades of turning them over and over in her mind to polish them smooth like fairytales, like the stories she tells Annie to calm her and Finnick to rile him into action.
But the thing she remembers most about life before there were Hunger Games is the way that every District was self-sustaining. District 4 had fish, yes, but they also had livestock. Mags remembers beef and bacon and eggs, and her mother making hearty breakfasts every morning for the seafarers who were Mags' father and brothers. They had the lumber to build their own boats and the technology to design and to build and to improve their own sea navigation instruments.
But what Mags most vividly returns to, when she kisses Finnick Odair on the mouth and walks into the corrosive mist, is how District 4 had orchards when she was a young girl. Behind the rows of seaside houses, further upland where the ground was black and rich, there were towering trees that smelled of apples and pears and cherries, the kinds of fruit that were natural in the world and not muttations from District 5. When Mags was a very little girl, she would sit high in an apple tree and smell the sweet, fresh scent of the blossoms and fruit and whittle little good-luck charms for the fishermen or weave baskets from reeds or read. The sun set over the water in the distance, horizon dotted with the dark wings of boats coming home, and the night fell like a well-loved cloak around little Mags' shoulders as she clambered down from her tree and ran across the fields to home.
After the Uprisings, Mags was six years old and went to her orchard and found nothing but charred ash. A citadel of leaves and freedom razed to the ground.
A few months later, her strong, seafaring, smiling brother was taken in the very first Reaping. He died at the Cornucopia when a thirteen-year-old girl shot him in the heart.
Heliquo knows it's unnatural and he's deeply ashamed, living his life in a shadow to avoid anyone realizing that he's –
He blames his Games. The girls all died in the Cornucopia, every last female in that arena dead in five minutes, Careers included, and Heliquo, at eighteen, was the oldest Tribute that year.
It's only logical that he'd become obsessed with little boys.
It's the best thing in the world for him to be killed by Finnick Odair. He'd been in love with Finnick since the boy was fourteen years old and mostly-naked in his own Games, deadly and beautiful with a trident sprouting out of his arm. He'd ordered every program the Capitol broadcast with Finnick Odair in it, the more debased the better. President Snow once offered him the chance to purchase one night with Finnick and Heliquo almost accepted.
And yet… there were some things that no Victor could ever do to another. Not knowing what it was like to be them.
So when Finnick Odair spears Heliquo on his Trident only moments into the 75th Games, without even sparing him a second glance, it's really a good thing. Heliquo dies glad.
Quoila was Reaped twice.
Her first Reaping was the 70th Hunger Games, and her friend Cytocyn Volunteered to take her place because Quoila was Repro at the time, gestating twelve Splices until they were ready to be Dished.
That was what District 5 did. It was the responsibility of the Thin Girls to take the places of Repros if they were Reaped, because as much as the Capitol needed Tributes, it wanted splices and muttations more.
So Quoila was home, drugged up and sore-breasted and already nauseous and all of fifteen years old, when the broadcast screen filled with so much water so fast and the Tributes drowned and a mad girl from District 4 broke the surface, hollow-eyed, swimming.
The next year, Quoila was a Thin Girl and Volunteered to take the place of Phosphodee, Cytocyn's twelve-year-old sister who was huge with humanoid muttations gestating inside her and sobbing with hormones injected by the Capitol that kept her awake and upright and full of terrified memories of watching her sister die because she had the misfortune to be in control of her own body that year.
Quoila won the Games when she beheaded a coal miner's son from District 12 who had bludgeoned all of the Careers with his pickaxe. He had chased her into the river and was holding her under before she managed to kick free and slice her sword through his neck; she would not let Phosphodee watch another District 5 Thin Girl drown. Not when Phosphodee would have to Volunteer in a year. After her Victory tour, Quoila was sent home and medically processed and Implanted with muttation fetuses so strong they broke her ribs from the inside and bruised her liver.
She was a Victor. She was strong enough to take it. She watched, bedridden, as Phosphodee suffocated in thick, wet poison gas in the Arena, and Quoila wondered whether it's worth being alive at all if you're a District 5 female, and your entire life consists of waiting to be told it's your turn to drown.
When Quoila is Reaped the third time, for the Quarter Quell, she goes quietly.
And when the tidal wave crashes over her on the beach, she isn't afraid.
The Arena was a desert when he was seventeen. The sand was so scorchingly hot it burned the skin off his palms and the soles of his feet and to win, he had only to keep alive for three days.
That's all he lets himself remember.
Poppy was simple and addled long before her Games.
She knows that a lot of what's to happen in the Quarter Quell isn't real and will happen because it's planned. She knows it's her job to help Icelus to remember that they're protecting the girl with the long braid and the pretty boy with the paints and the yellow hair like sunshine. It hurts when the monkey muttation rips open her chest, but Plutarch made sure that two syringes of Morphling were in the Cornucopia just for Poppy and Icelus, so they could stay on point and friendly and remember what they had to do. Icelus dies trying to get it and Poppy cries. Johanna gives her the little yellow parcel of Morphling, and Poppy goes off to hide in a tree.
Poppy is happy to save the boy with the yellow hair from that monkey muttation. He's beautiful and has blue eyes and Poppy finds some red paint on her fingers to draw him a flower for his kindness. She hopes his baby with the dark-colored girl lives in a happier world than they do.
He's a Victor because he stabbed a damned twelve-year-old in the eye. They can make him play again, but they can't make him put on a show.
Johanna Mason was sixteen years old when she won her Hunger Games.
When she was seventeen, a gas line into her family's home burst and her mother, her father, her grandmother, and six siblings died in a fiery inferno.
It was during the Games. Johanna was in the Capitol, mentoring a hopeless twit of a girl who couldn't even kill a worm to go fishing. It was during the Games, and Johanna had refused to let Chancellier Grover fuck her throat. And her whole family died.
When she tells Finnick Odair what happened, in a room swept for bugs by Volts, his face goes ashen and he goes running off before she can finish. Johanna wonders who Finnick is running away to suck off, and how he could possibly love someone in District 4 that much.
Even knowing what the Capitol would do to her family, Johanna couldn't imagine living the way Finnick does. Letting Capitol people into his house, into his life, into his body. And he does it with a smile, a different smile for everyone, but every one a lover's smile – a shy, bashful upturn of the lips for Nemosine Aetna, wife of the Ethics Council; a luscious smirk for Knosos Pallaicaster, the Minister of Tesserae; a half-debauched wet pout for Jupiter Terminus, the Borderkeeper. Finnick is bright and beautiful and funny and used and while he's Johanna's friend, the closest thing she has to caring about someone, she thinks he's disgusting. He's as bad as the women with violet skin and the men with forked tongues and whatever else the Capitol has made, because the Capitol built Finnick, too. He's not from District 4 anymore. He's a Capitol man.
And more often than not, Johanna Mason thinks she would rather the Capitol blow up her entire family than become one of their toys. She was born and bred and learned to kill in District 7 and District 7 is where she left her ability to love anything. She will be of District 7 until she dies at the hands of the men and women that her friend Finnick graces with smiles and skin every night.
Woof won the first Quarter Quell. He was voted into the Arena because his father was a robber and had killed a little girl when she witnessed him stealing silk from her parents' workshop. An eye for an eye, a child for a child. It was the Panem way.
In their Arena, most of the Tributes killed themselves. They were locked into a black box, and the viewers at home watched them all go mad in sickly greenish night-vision. Besides the Tributes, muttations were roaming, terrified and deadly, through the dark, and the explosions of violence whenever two living things encountered each other in all that blackness were bloody in the way that happens only out of desperate self-preservation, strike first and ask questions later; is it your District partner or part of the Career alliance or a frilled lizard muttation with serrated claws?
When Woof emerged, blinded by his return to the world, he found out that the entire Games lasted less than six hours.
He thought he'd been gone for weeks.
Cecelia lost three cousins and two sisters to the Hunger Games in the decade surrounding her own win. She knows the risks.
She also knows what Haymitch Abernathy and Finnick Odair and Plutarch Heavensbee and Alma Coin, who had escaped District 8 in their shared teens, are planning. She knows what she told Bonnie and Twill about the Mockingjay before Snow blew up their factory. She knows that her name was called because somehow, the Capitol knows that it was she who stabbed the first Peacekeeper in the Proposal Night Uprisings.
But she also knows that they have no idea she handed out 1,126 Mockingjay crackers, and that someday, her children will understand why she had to leave them. She would have been a worse mother if she stayed and let them grow up in a world where they could lose their cousin or their sister or their mother to the whim of the Hunger Games.
District 9 is one of the Districts that does not breed Victors. The skills necessary for life there have very few useful applications, and even fewer that can serve in combat.
There had never been a District 9 Victor before Louis, and he suspects that the Games were specially rigged to allow a win for his home in his year, because there had been some unrest until he came home alive. District 9 existed to process the fruit and grains from District 11, the livestock from District 10, and the seafood from District 4 before it reached the Capitol; they were the only district allowed to have nuclear power, since they used it to irradiate the red meats and seafood.
The year Louis won his Games, the foreman of the factory allowed Capitol citizens to contract c. botulinum. Fifty-six Capitol children died. It was two fewer than District 9 children who had died playing in the Hunger Games, and it was clear it was not accidental. They killed the foreman by firing squad in town square, and a month later, the new foreman let 58 Capitol children become nerve-damaged when they contracted spongiform encephalopathy. The Capitol killed him, too. A month later, it was e. coli.
It was also clear that District 9 was not going to stop its rebellion until its own children got to come home.
So when Louis was seventeen, the Arena itself was harmless – save the fact that all of its food and water were diseased with bacteria and all other plants and animals were poisonous. Silver parachutes with edible goods were forbidden. And Louis happened to have the good sense to boil his water before he drank it.
After she decapitated that boy, her own identical twin could hardly recognize her.
019. Chattle & 020. Dromeda
They competed in back-to-back years, and Chattle has been in love with Dromeda since the moment they met sixty years ago. He mentored her thirteen years later and indebted himself into ruin sending her silver parachutes of medicinal salves, fresh food, clean water, burn ointment, and a feather-light bandsaw. When she slowly and meticulously tortured the Career boy who killed her District partner until even the Gamemakers turned the cameras away and all of the rest of the mentors were retching, Chattle was just glad that Dromeda would be the one to survive. When she was airlifted from the arena, Chattle was there waiting for her, embracing her tight and ignoring the boy's blood on her hands, on her face, covering her like she'd bathed in it. She was alive. He was alive. They lived side-by-side in the Victor's Village and became living ghost stories in District 10, the red lady and her bloody benefactor.
It occurs to them as they slay the District 9 tributes together, holding hands in the Cornucopia bloodbath of the 75th Hunger Games, that if they had competed in the same year when they were young, they could have been Katniss and Peeta instead.
What the Hunger Games gave Chaff is Haymitch Abernathy.
He's the love of his life. It's all very tragic and star-crossed, really. Gives Peeta and his little puppydog heartsickness a run for his money, as far as Chaff is concerned.
Haymitch and Chaff get to see each other once a year, when they mentor children who will lose their lives, but it's more than these kids will ever get with their loved ones again, and it's better than what Finnick is allowed to have with Annie – dangerous and fraught with pain – and it's more than Johanna gets and it's even better than what Chattle and Dromeda have, so it's enough for Chaff. He gets to have Haymitch Abernathy for one month out of the year, every year for the last twenty-one years, and that's something the Capitol cannot take.
When they tell each other goodbye the night before the Quarter Quell, Chaff promises Haymitch that he will stay far away from both Alliances in the arena – the cameras won't follow one old man hiding alone in the jungle, not when deadly Enobaria and Brutus and Cashmere and Gloss are stalking the Mockingjay. Haymitch will not have to watch Chaff die. He promises.
Brutus finds him anyway. Chaff would have been okay with that had Brutus not been tailed by Peeta, golden Peeta whom the cameras love so much. But at least the boy cares for Haymitch, too, and Chaff can't help thinking, as Brutus snaps his neck as easily as if he were a groosling, that Peeta will make up for the broken promise. Haymitch always said that Peeta did a good job taking care of him and Katniss, out there in District 12. Hopefully now Peeta will take care of them in a freer world.
She has Seam cousins, because her parents had lived in a world without barbed wire fences and Peacekeepers with machine guns. Her mother had come from District 12, looking for a better life than the danger and poverty of mining. She met Seeder's father, a peach farmer, and they fell in love. The Capitol didn't like it – races mixing like that. But back then, there was nothing they could do except stare cross-eyed and use terrible words.
Then the Uprisings started and the fences were built.
Seeder had mentored Rue, and watching that sweet little girl share a meal with Katniss Everdeen felt like she was staring at the precipice of something wonderful, like the key to unlocking the world her parents had tried to live in finally fit into place.
And then Marvel –
But the Seam girl covered Rue's body in flowers and made her unforgettable. The Seam girl sang her a lullaby. Katniss and Rue, like Seeder's parents, showed an alliance between the poorest districts that nothing the Capitol did, no weapon the loyal districts could use, would break.
Seeder knows she won't last long in the arena at the Quarter Quell, not at her age. But she will do everything she can to bring back a world where people are free to be who they are and love who they love and live where they want to live and be friends or lovers or conspirators with whomever they want.
He asks Finnick to watch out for Katniss after he's dead, when the older man is bringing him to the island and Katniss is waiting on the shore.
"You aren't going to die, Peeta," Finnick Odair says, showing him the gold bracelet on his next stroke out of the salty water. "You're not allowed."
When Katniss Everdeen hangs Seneca Crane, Plutarch Heavensbee knows that they've made the right choice.