They say taking down the Capitol is impossible, but she knows better. After all, the community home headmaster thought it was impossible for her to break into his office and take his keys. The Peacekeepers thought it was impossible that anyone could hide in the gaps underneath the porches. Other kids thought it was impossible to climb trees that fast. Everyone thought it was impossible for there to be two winners in the same year, much like they thought it was impossible for a rail-thin thirteen-year-old to win the Hunger Games. Maybe "impossible" doesn't mean what they think it means.
So she unlocks the doors with the perfect locks, crawls in the places nobody can fit in, evades the security measures that catch everyone, climbs the walls no one can climb faster than it's possible to climb, and becomes the thief who steals the impossible.
And at the same time, she finds the pieces she thought nobody could put back together are a little less broken, a little less lost, a little less "strange". She has people - friends, maybe even family, who care the way she thought it was impossible for anyone to care.
"Impossible"? What do they know, anyway.
They say he's an idealist, but he knows better. He's an optimist, sure. Somebody has to keep their spirits up, and it isn't going to be Eliot (if he ever found a ray of sunshine, dude would try to whack people with it), Nate (miserable when he's drunk, and he's always drunk), Sophie (too busy trying to keep Nate out of the gutter) or Parker (who's … Parker).
There's an old saying his nana used to recite about how all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. He doesn't know if a few good men and women doing something is enough to end it, but if children getting murdered on live television isn't enough of a reason to try, nothing is.
Maybe it's a little naive to think they can all work together - this ragtag collection of underground resistors, Capitol defectors, oppressed citizens and broken victors. It's definitely crazy to think they can take on the Capitol. If he had joined the revolution because he believed they could win, then he would be a little more than crazy.
With a team like this behind him, though, sometimes he starts thinking a little crazy.
They say he's the strongest out of all of them, but he knows better.
You need someone to take out a guard or five or break down a door, he's your man. If there's a mission that needs someone who can stand harsh conditions, bad odds, and keep their mouth shut even in the face of death, he's a better choice than most. It's not a strength most people possess, but it's not the only kind worth having.
Like the kind of strength it takes for a kid with all the brawn of an oak switch, who won the Hunger Games by the skin of his teeth, to take on the Capitol. Or the kind that supports a woman giving up everything for the craziest cause in history. Or the kind it takes to get out of bed and do anything when your own child's been taken from you. Or whatever it is that's holding Parker together, whether it's her special brand of crazy or pure stubbornness; they're all made of sterner stuff than anyone he knew before.
He can be the kind of strong they need, so long as they're there to give him the strength to keep going.
They say she holds them together, but she knows better.
In a rare moment of honesty (brought on by about four glasses of a particularly potent wine), Pearl described her life as skiing ahead of an avalanche: trying to keep her balance while traveling at breakneck speed, staying ahead of a wave of destruction that will inevitably wipe her out (just not today. Please.).
Some days it feels like an avalanche. Other days, it feels like she's trapped in a costume parade and she can't get out. And some days it feels like she's lost herself in all these parts she's played and she will never be able to piece herself together again. She's as broken as the worst of them, she just hides it better.
Then one of them walks in, with an argument to be sorted, a concern about a team member, or needing a listening ear, and she steps into yet another role - referee, counselor, confidant, friend. She's playing the same game, but the rules are a little different now. It isn't just the other person who leaves feeling refreshed.
They wonder what they would do without her. She knows what she would be like without them.
They say he drew them together, but he knows better.
He knows what they must see when they look at him: a bitter, shattered man with nothing to live for and little to die for, feeding the fury and hatred with alcohol and fantasies of revenge. He has no idea what they see in him that keeps them here.
Maybe he is the one who found them, introduced them, brought up the revolution, but he isn't the one who first suggested they work together. They do work well together, he has to admit; even if he isn't quite sure why they haven't left.
Maybe he is the one who saw past their brokenness to what they could do, argued that it was better to support the revolution than just strike at the Capitol. But they were all looking for something that could keep them from falling more apart; he was just the first one to suggest an answer.
Maybe he is the one who makes the strategies, gives the orders and shoulders the responsibility, but he can't do that on his own. He's the one who needs them.
He can't imagine why they're still here … but he's glad they are.
Author's Note: Surprise epilogue!
As i was writing this, a few people asked me about continuing the story, or having them meet up at the end of the story. That wasn't my original plan, but i realized that as it was, it didn't really have an ending – at least, not a happy one.
So here you are, the really-truly-final chapter of Leveraging the Odds. I'm glad it's finished, and i really hope you like it. Please review!
(Soli Deo gloria)