I'm pretty sure this is the longest piece I've done for THG, and I'm quite fond of it. I hope you guys like it~ (Reviewers are and always will be beautiful people~)
The usual: Wire and Beetee and Caesar Flickerman and Panem and Three; they all belong to Suzanne Collins.
(Oh oh and. I never saw Beetee and Wiress as Beetee/Wiress but... There are hints of that if you're looking for it.)
She's seventeen when she's reaped, and by then he thinks that he's become immune to watching them walk into death but he's twenty-eight, he's young, and he tries and tries and tries but you can't stop feeling.
He feels a pang of something and he doesn't know what it is but he thinks it must have something to do with her willowy figure and yellow silver hair, how long her fingers are (delicate) even as she curls them into fists.
She doesn't cry when she says goodbye (or maybe she does, he wasn't paying attention) to the mother who looks like she does and the father who swallows back his tears, doesn't cry when she kisses her little sister's eyes, her hands, the tip of her nose.
He smiles at her when they leave, tries to look friendly and open, but she does nothing but stare with those curiously grayish eyes (transparent, open, luminous) and she curls her legs up to her chest, locks herself away from him.
'What are you good at?'
'What can you do?'
'Tell me about yourself.'
She doesn't respond to him, not anymore, doesn't even look at him. She brushes at her hair impatiently, sweeps it behind her ear, and he thinks fleetingly that he'd like to snap a photo, draw a picture, catch her like this, her silver yellow hair fanned over the deep red.
She sees him watching, and her legs curl to her chest tightly, caught in the cradle of her arms. They're too long, and her trainers make black marks on the seat as she rocks like that, on her side, head pillowed on the smooth velvet.
'Why do you care?' she asks, and he lets himself absorb the sound before he works out any meaning, because it's the most he's ever heard her say.
'I'm your mentor. I need to know about you to keep you alive.'
Her jaw shifts slightly, tightens the lines of her face. 'You can't keep me alive,' she says, and it's swept out on a long breath. He wonders how long she's been waiting to exhale. 'You barely kept yourself alive.'
That stings, a little bit, and it's not true; he knew what he was doing. He didn't know where he was going with it, but he knew what he was doing. That's more than most victors can say.
'Yeah I did,' he says, a little defensively, but he can't quite meet her eyes when she raises her eyebrows at him. 'But this isn't about me. It's about you.'
She sighs, all breath and no sound. She lets herself relax against the cushions, and he hadn't noticed that she'd been propping her legs up on the back of the sofa but now she lets her limbs sag slightly, her side sink deeply into the cushions.
'You know my name,' she says, her cheek pressed against the cushions. He nods. 'Wiress. Wire? Do you prefer Wire?' 'Yeah,' she says absentmindedly, untangles her hands, runs one over the delicate embroidery, tiny rubies and pearls. 'That's what they call me at home.' He nods slowly. 'Your father manufactures wires?' He's grasping at straws now, but he needs to know, needs to open her up. She grimaces.
'No,' she says shortly, pokes at a pearl, but her finger slips off of the surface, too smooth, too perfect. She hesitates. 'More... Architecture. He designs the holograms.' She chews at the inside of cheek. 'Kind of... Land expansion. Programming. Calculation. Cities and cities and cities in hard drives. You know.' He does. 'Then why...?' Her fingers curl over the velvet, latch over a ruby, and for a moment he imagines her tearing it out, the strands bleeding red behind it. 'My mother liked it. She used to call me a live wire. Bright. Always going. Humming and humming and humming but moving still. You know?'
He looks at her, a little fascinated and a little entranced but mostly he's full of that strange little ache. 'A live wire,' he breathes. He thinks about her, moonlight and silver. 'It fits.'
'A live wire,' she murmurs, tries the words out on her tongue, rolls them around in her mouth, a little cloying and fragrant and slightly bitter. She looks at him, and she smiles, a little bit. 'No,' she says. 'It doesn't.'
It's a very good thing that Pamme Kenischtra is all the uproar when the Games sweep into Panem; she's very Wire, or maybe Wire is very Pamme, but either way they have the same willowy moonlight thing going on, so Flavia almost shrieks with joy when she sees what she's got to work with. She's not as happy about the boy, who's short and stocky and constantly glowering, but he's got big knuckles and a menacing frown and anyway Phee is mentoring him so he'll draw enough sponsors; a real competitor, from Three!
'Wires,' he tells her, and Flavia may be a little over exuberant but she's not slow. 'Absolutely,' she nods, and she gets down to work, her golden eyebrows clearly defined against her purple skin.
So when Wire emerges, soft and pale and moonlit, Flavia presses a button on her wrist and the wires come to life, threaded through her hair and around her wrists and up and over and down her whole body, where they're sewn into the lines of her dress, her soft, flat slippers, threaded around her calves and ankles like ribbons. They glow and hum with delicate electricity, set her off so she's golden.
'Isn't it fantastic?' Flavia asks, and her eyes gleam with superb satisfaction. 'He's the same, but we plated his black; they're thicker, they jerk.' She demonstrates with her hands. 'Like spiders.'
He looks at her, wreathed from head to toe in golden wire, humming, stretching, alive. 'Yeah,' he says. 'It is.'
'Ladies and gentlemen!' Caesar Flickerman roars later that night, and his eyebrows almost disappear into his bright forest of hair, a strange mahogany and buttercream. 'Take a look! Take a look!'
And Beetee is grimly satisfied.
She's fast, one of the fastest they've had in years, and she has good aim, an uncanny knack of knowing where to strike; heart, lungs, eyes.
She shrugs whenever he brings it up. 'Precision,' she says. 'You need to be precise—exactly there—when you're dealing with measurements. You can't collapse an entire city. You need to know where things go. Precision,' she says again, and he understands.
So he grips her by the shoulders moments before he sends her into the hovercraft; her clothes are simple, earthy colors, a green shirt and long pants, sturdy and comfortably tight, the same strange mahogany and buttercream as Caesar Flickerman's hair. She's shaking so hard that her teeth chatter, and he curls his fingers so tightly around her arms that he's sure he's cutting off her circulation. He chooses his words carefully. 'Wire,' he says. 'Wire.' They look at each other, and eventually her eyes steady and her hands still. 'I'll remember you,' he says, and she tears up but they don't spill over. 'Everything,' he breathes, grips her hands tightly. And she doesn't understand but she nods anyway, brushes her lips over his knuckles, hesitant, light, warm, fleeting.
He doesn't sleep that night.
Her arena is evolution.
It almost stuns him, the brilliance, how they've managed to recreate the birth of the universe; the Cornucopia stands in the middle, straight and tall and golden, surrounded by geysers heated by roiling embers, crags of rock and pools of lava, sheets of stone melting and burbling into thick, viscous pools. It's all the basic loot; backpacks and spears, knives and a few swords and a bow glinting silver and black in the light.
She gets away with a backpack and a few knives and a gash on her forearm, and he doesn't have time to check whether it's deep or not before the cameras pan away to the girl from One, hooting as she pumps her new bow in the air.
The arena hardens and solidifies in two days, with tender saplings and sprigs of new grass bursting from the ground. It's still swelteringly hot, though, and her backpack is nothing but weight as she treks through the forest, curling higher and deeper and thicker all around her; it's mainly a hooded jacket, thick and black and ridiculously padded, and he doesn't understand why she insists on lugging it around but in a few hours, when the sprawling jungle freezes over Wire sleeps warm and he's glad.
It's only the fifth day by the time twelve are out; some were hunted down by the strange, scaled birds, the ferocious wild cats with the human eyes; some ate the wrong food, the odd, plump little birds with the short legs and wings and tufts on their beaks; some froze to death, ice beading in their hair. (It started a trend in the Capitol; diamonds, powdery blue lipstick.)
Phee's is doing pretty well; he didn't get a coat, but he took the one from his kill, the little boy from Eleven.
When the sun cracks the ice open, the blood melts onto his throat.
She only comes out of her hiding place when the snow and ice have melted; in a matter of hours it drains away, leaves the arena naked and barren and weak.
Then the grass comes. And the flowers. And it's warm again, but the weather changes, hitches and stumbles from cold to warm to hot, and the snow and rain come erratically with the sunlight. Animals, of all kinds, sprout and grow and develop out of tiny compounds hidden in the soil; muttations, with red eyes and terrible mechanical instincts, killing only for the rip, the tear, the still of a heartbeat.
The girl from One gets the boy from Four and the girl from Twelve; she aims for their throats, the crevices hidden behind their shoulders and collarbones, and she hits her target, every time.
Soon it's time for civilization, and buildings fold out of the ground, rickety huts and tents at first, lengthening into houses and shacks and buildings with cobbled streets and metallic lights. The diseases come; the boy from Two catches a rat, the only creatures who run away at the sound of footsteps, that have eyes that are yellow and wide and ignorant and natural, but he ends up dying in an hour, oozing pus and blood and with black spots dotting around his lips and fingernails. Wire stays wrapped tightly in her jacket, shoves her socks onto her hands, and even though a river of sweat trails its way down her temple she doesn't take it off.
Five die that night.
He dies on day ten.
By then the buildings have reached their way into skyscrapers, paneled clean and bright and sharp with metal and glass. He knows better than to tangle with the birds, he's seen the chickens maul the girl from Five mercilessly, but he's not expecting the gorilla that shakes him out of his tree, that snarls and lunges and is much, much too clever with its lethal hands.
He kills it by stabbing it repeatedly in the chest, over and over and over, but by then he's cut and bruised and he's covered in blood and sweat and fur. He dies in barely ninety minutes, shivering with fever and covered in bright, poppy-colored splotches.
Beetee doesn't let himself mourn, because it's one less thing for Wiress to do, but he feels something in him break and he wishes he'd at least known the boy's name.
Destruction comes after; strategically placed fires burning and breaking and searing through the darkness, illuminating the way for the Capitol to see.
The rest try to outrun the flames, heave themselves up to the highest buildings, and no one hears them scream when the great figures collapse, razed to ash from the inside out. Wire stays on the ground, wrapped in her jacket, filthy and deflated and suffocating, and she gets minor burns but she survives, survives, because she can spot the blank spaces in the force fields, see the spots that Beetee had never thought to look out for.
(The cannons go off twice but they're lost in the chaos, the roaring currents of sound. The flames die down after three hours, and in the silence, the charred aftermath, she almost wonders if she's won.)
(She doesn't want to know.)
The ashes pick themselves up and arrange themselves into Panem, the Capitol, shining and sanitary and angular. She almost feels at home, because she knows these buildings, she's designed these buildings. There's no more food; the leaves are poisonous and she knows better than to disturb the eyes staring at her, red and wide and ferocious. She gets a parachute, a dry loaf of bread, and she can almost hear Beetee's apology, feel its dry kiss as the bread passes, unbearably tough, into her mouth, down her throat.
She knows they want the other girl to win. She's beautiful and stronger and she put on a show. The odds are in her favor.
So she lasts two days, but she needs food, she needs it fast, because the weather is draining her strength and she has to keep moving moving moving, away and after and towards death.
And she half expects the mutts that come after her, but she feels she very nearly dies when she sees that they're all people, her people, her mother and father and sister and Beetee reaching out to her with hideous hands and it's terrifying and grotesque and it breaks her, she breaks.
And she can't think, can't think, because the revulsion fills her brain and lungs and self, and she wants desperately for it to stop, please, please, she wants it all to stop because it makes her want to retch and it's a sick joke, a sick joke, that they take what she's been fighting for and twist it into a nightmare and she wants to die but she won't let the Capitol kill them all.
But she can't do it, she can't hurt them, and even though she has her last knife clutched in her hand she can't throw it, can't, and she desperately wishes that the girl from One would kill her, please, because dying would be easier than living with this. So she runs, and runs, and runs more and more but they keep coming after her, with their terrible smiles curling their faces, and they don't slow even as she tears up and down twisting flights of stairs, and she realizes that they're herding her, just as she pulls open a heavy, white door.
The first thing that strikes her is the heat; it curls into her coat and burrows into her collar, hot, thick, steaming. And she tries to pry open the door, let her sister, her tiny golden sister, rip her head off of her throat, her heart out of her ribs, because that would be better than this, this, living and staying and repeating this. But the door doesn't open, stays resolutely locked and shut and the panic rises in her chest, clots in her brain, and she hears herself start to scream because it's starting again, again, she's in it again, the same beginning, the same arena, the same steaming geysers and thick pools of lava, churning and bubbling, laughing at her feet.
She almost doesn't notice when the other girl slams through a door, camouflaged in a towering wall of rock, and she looks remarkably well, if a little dirty; Wire sees all the tufts of silver poking out of the nearly empty quiver on her shoulder.
Wire starts running before she's entirely sure why, but some part of her, the worst part of her, wants desperately to live as her feet fly away beneath her, and the other girl is close on her tail as she shoves around the deadly pools of melting stone, her bow raised, her last arrow secured tightly in its embrace.
But she's tired, she's tired too, and Wire's hair sways back and forth, curls and snaps and oscillates, and it disrupts her vision and her aim as she lets the arrow fly, as it digs into Wire's shoulder.
And Wire falls over, narrowly misses a bubbling pool, and she sees the big, broad shouldered girl coming at her with eyes that are blank and clean and mad, and she can't describe the sudden fear that shakes through her body violently but she raises her knife, rusty and dull and charred, throws it as hard as she can into the girl's eyes.
She doesn't fall immediately, but stays curiously still as the blood flows in rivulets from her eyes and down her face, pooling at her mouth and throat and chest, a thick, viscous rain. She falls backwards, over a geyser, and it bursts just as the final cannon goes, propels the body—the corpse—in a hot explosion of steam.
The trumpets sound and Claudius Templesmith is saying something, but she can't hear, can't hear, can't hear anything but her screaming.
He comes to her later, when they've hooked her up to an IV, got her calm and sedated and relatively clean.
'Wire,' he says, and he can't quite believe how small she looks, curled up in the blankets, her knees drawn to her chest. She looks up at him and it's not her, it's not Wire, and her eyes are dull and empty and a flat, cloudy gray and this, more than anything, truly breaks his heart.
'Wire,' he whispers, gets to his knees, cradles her face in his hands. He traces his thumbs over her cheekbones, bursting out of her skin, the hollow sacks curling away under them. He strokes her ears, her temples. 'Wire. You're here. Wire.'
Tears well up in her eyes and he knows, he knows, he knows he's lying but he has to try. 'Don't,' she says, and her voice is cracked and rough and desperate and not hers, and it shakes him so profoundly that he doesn't.
He pulls away, gets to his feet, and he turns away before she can see him cry.
(He thinks it hurts more because he remembers.)