Leveraging the Odds

Author's Notes: So ... here goes. This is my first Hunger Games story, my first Leverage story, my first drabble collection, and my first time posting up something i haven't finished yet! Please be gentle with me, and i will do my best to keep updating. I'm out of school, so the only interference in updating should be from my own muse. Not particularly encouraging, that.

This is one of those crossovers that probably won't make a lot of sense if you're not familiar with both fandoms (especially for those unfamiliar with Hunger Games), but if you scroll to the bottom of the page, i'll offer a brief overview of both fandoms.

A note about the format: I'm writing a total of 50 drabbles, ten for each member of the Leverage team. They are grouped by character (all of Nate's first, followed by all of Sophie's, etc.), and will be on the following events/topics:

* Reaping
* Train
* Mentor/Escort
* Stylist/crew
* Training
* Interview
* Games, part one
* Games, part two
* Games, part three
* Post Games

Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!

49th Hunger Games
Name: Nathan Ford
Age: 16
District: 5 (Power)

Stairs, twelve of them. The third, fourth, eighth and ninth ones creak when he steps on them. Why hasn't anyone replaced them?

The crowd is a blur, their applause a roar in his ears. Some are cheering. He wonders if Jim is one of them.

Six people on the stage. One is passed out. Two are glaring at him. They probably know his father.

He had plans for every contingency, but not this one. He shakes her hand automatically, sees the disgust in her eyes. The fear.

"District Five, your tributes: Avolee Marsh and Nathan Ford!"

This can still work.

He calculates, trying to factor in the early experience of the "Careers" against his own intellect, but the unknowns pile up too high for him to make any headway. He slumps back in the chair, defeated.

The rich supper is still laid out on the table, and the escort is playing with his silverware. Bored. One of the previous victors snores softly, shifting unconsciously in his chair. Drunk. Another watches the screen, lips pursed. Angry.

He can read their faces like so many books; something his father taught him, whenever he took him along on "business".

He hates his father.

Claudo Loupolis is a ridiculous name, but not so ridiculous as the man himself. He speaks so high his voice is nearly a squeak, and his pronunciation is always wrong. The man preens himself like a peacock, never letting his ringlets go astray or his clothing wrinkle. He dyes his hair blue. Seriously, blue?

Jonas Calliox drinks, constantly, but he's the only one of the victors who doesn't hate him for who his father is.

"You're a fighter, boy," he says the first night.

"You think I can win?"

"Win, boy?" He snorts and pours himself another glass. "Nobody wins."

Tullia Albus has been District 5's designer for six years. Her skin is dyed fuchsia this year, with ivory vines tattooed over her arms. She purses her lips when she looks at him, frowns in thought as she studies her drawings, and bites her lower lip in concentration as she works; but she never smiles.

His prep team works on him like one of the machines in his district. They squeal to each other like animals as they clean him, make-up him, and dress him up like a doll.

"I feel like a Christmas turkey," he tells them.

They laugh.

He impresses no one with his physical prowess, but then, he isn't really here to train. He's here to study them.

He moves from station to station, getting close to each of the other tributes. Noting their strengths, reading their faces, even planting an idea or two in a few cases. The "Careers", with their false friendships, secretive sneers and hidden alliances, are almost too easy to manipulate.

Then he says something District 12's girl tribute, just thirteen, takes as an offer of friendship. The look on her face makes him sick. Because if he's going to survive, she can't.

He knows he's being difficult. He won't talk about his family, his girlfriends, or his district. When asked what's his favorite part of the Capitol, he shrugs, and blinks when asked about his hobbies. Caesar moves quickly away from his low Gamemakers session score, and queries him on his opinions of fellow tributes - "District 4's tributes are kinda tall, aren't they?"

This approach won't win him many (any) sponsors, but he doesn't care. They can keep their money, spend it on their outlandish outfits and cosmetic alterations. If he's getting out of this alive, he's getting out on his own.

Nate smells it first; fetid water, moss, mud, and rot. Then he can see the Cornucopia on a small patch of solid land. Each base stands in something that is either water or mud, and a few feet away trees with enormous roots surround them.

At the buzzer, he jumps into the thick mud and heads for the trees, pausing to grab one thing. He ducks behind a tree, and waits.

The numbers thin, and the Careers gather. Then a knife sinks into the back of District 1's boy.

They stop, slowly turn to stare.

Nate grins. "Can I join?"

They listen to him; mostly because he listens better than any of them.

He lets them take the kills, mostly stays back at camp and watches their supplies. He listens, and he sees, and he tells them what they want to hear.

They don't really believe him, but he doesn't want them to - their paranoia works for him and against them, makes them unstable, easier to move them the way he wants. Ironically, their suspicions of manipulation open them to further manipulation.

And if they don't really trust him, then he is not betraying them when he gets them killed.

He kills the last one.

District 4's girl tribute is fifteen. She says the least, scowls the most, and never eats anything she can't dip in that strange reddish sauce. She is quick with a knife, and deadly with a spear, but she always hangs back in the hunts. She never believes a word he says.

Thanks to Nate's whispers in his ear, District 2's boy kills District 4's over her, suffering a fatal wound in the fight. She returns alone to the camp, and watches him like a hawk as they eat.

She should have been watching that sauce.

It's his twenty-fifth Games as a mentor, so he has another drink. It's the first Games since his wife left him, so he pours another one. It's the second since his son died, so he empties out the bottle and gets another one.

District 5 might have another winner this year; maybe. The girl is smart, a quick-thinker, a loner. If he can get her sponsors, and she can stay far enough away from the fighters, it could work.

"You think I can win?" she asks.

He snickers, feels tears as memories press in, pours another glass. "Nobody ever wins."

For non-Leverage fans: Leverage is a cable TV show about a band of Robin Hood-esque thieves who take on corrupt businessmen and con artists who steal from regular people. In this story, the five main characters are tributes from various districts in Panem. | Nathan Ford is the "mastermind" of the group; originally an insurance investigator, he quit his job and started drinking after the company he worked for refused to cover a treatment that could have saved the life of his young son.

For non-Hunger Games fans: The Hunger Games is a young adult trilogy about a dystopian future North America, wherein war and general devastation has turned the continent into a single country – Panem – which is divided into twelve districts and a Capitol. Each district has its own area of specialty; District 12 is mining, District 4 is fishing, etc. As part of its totalitarian regime over the districts, the Capitol forces each district to send two kids between the ages of 12 and 18, one male and one female chosen by lottery, as 'tributes' in a last-man-standing, fight-to-the-death televised "game show" called the Hunger Games (think of a more literally-named Survivor). Previous victors serve as "mentors" to new tributes, each district has an "escort" who makes sure the tributes get where they should on time, and members of the Capitol or districts can send money toward supplies for a specific tribute during the Games.

Each post-games drabble takes place during the 74th Hunger Games; the same Hunger Games that take place during the first book of The Hunger Games trilogy.