Notes: Written for kolms comment ficathon; prompt: "Sympathetic Capitol kids, the tricky thing is, yesterday we were just children."
She sees Julia's body, bleeding and dead and lying on a pile of dirt. "Girls, come inside! You'll ruin your lovely dresses!" she remembers Mrs. Bell calling for them, annoyed but perfectly aware they had plenty of equally lovely dresses.
She considers going outside. But the doors are locked and there's a rebel in her kitchen (Soldiers, they're called now. The bluntness makes her uncomfortable), and the men currently kicking and spitting on Julia's body would probably be thrilled to bury her best friend alongside. "One coming to defense of the other. It's almost human of them."
The blood on Julia coats her so thoroughly you can't tell where the actual wounds are. Claudia's grateful for that. Everyone knows what's the first thing to happen to girls during a war (or the Districts know; the Capitol's learning quick, though), and if that's what happened to Julia (before she died; people like them aren't allowed to die) she doesn't want to know. The Capitol has privileges the rebels (those barbarians; no, she can't think like that anymore) cannot take away; they're all well trained at not knowing things.
Soldier Heubur approaches her, clearly quite anxious about her spending so much time looking out the window. "Miss Bell, I would advise you attempt - Oh god."
It takes him a few seconds to notice, and a few more to accept. Overall, he manages a good reaction time - must be part of his training. "You can't mention this to anyone."
"The Government does not approve of these actions taken to any civillian, mark my words - however we cannot allow rumors and exaggerations to spread. You understand. The Capitol people must accept collective responsibility for the atrocities of the Capitol, in particular the Hunger Games. We cannot risk a-"
He, unsurprisingly, isn't happy with her suggestion to end the sentence (but he doesn't come up with a better idea). "District 12 was razed to the ground. You should have seen the things that happened in Eight. This is nothing."
Of course it's nothing. Just like the things about the Dark Days she learned in school are nothing - about what happened when rebels took over Capitol suburbs; about whole families burned alive in their homes, about teachers killed in front of their students for peddling "Capitol values", about cosmetic inks injected in eyes and, when that only blinded instead of killed, then injected in bloodstreams.
But none of that really happened; all Capitol propaganda after the war to justify their extreme measures. The textbooks are already being rewritten. The Arena Space was annexed to the Capitol after the war, and records were edited to show it had always been there; the areas of the Capitol completely destroyed by rebel forces were also completely fictitious.
Makes us much sense as anything.
She can't be too self-righteous though. She fell asleep in most history classes; her only interest in the games was for the violence occasional emotional moments. Julia's interest in them was because they were all anyone talked about for months. There was once this killer in the Capitol, who was obsessed with the games. He tracked down twenty-three citizens, was planning on murdering them all, then declaring himself "victor." He was found after the seventh death, but it still sent shockwaves throughout the Capitol. "What a monster."
Julia once asked her what made it so different from the games themselves, with a sort of braveness only the young, drunk or, as was the case in this incident, both can manage. Claudia didn't bother getting mad. "The tributes know the point of the game. They have the chance to fight one another; anyone can win. It's not - it's not just slaughter. We don't do things that way in the Capitol."
It made perfect sense at the time.
The rebels have picked up Julia and appear to be playing catch with her body, unphased by all the blood. "...She was your best friend, wasn't she?"
Claudia just nods.
"You're not crying."
"I know how. I've just mostly done it over stupid stuff in the past - give me a minute; it'll come."
One of the rebels drops the "ball" - the blood makes Julia sticky, so the dirt's all over her too. At least she looks less red.
"You don't feel much guilt, do you?"
Claudia frowns at him, pondering the question. "I haven't really been convinced I should," she says. "I mean... the Games are the Games. They're not thatbad."
Soldier Heubur could kill her; she can tell it just by looking at him. Did he lose someone in the Games?she wonders, which is a bit of a strange question. However, he looks outside to see what his comrades are doing to Julia's body (posing her in silly positions, like a their own life-sized barbie. Claudia has one of those in her wardrobe somewhere). He gives a long sigh. "...I suppose they aren't, to you."
She feels dumb, for having never noticed that the Districts must hate it. It brings honour and wealth (things much more important in Capitol society than life, but maybe that's because no-one ever dies here), and two children can't be many even in District 12 (well, maybe in the rebuilt one), but year after year... It was meant to control the Districts, right? And now the Districts control them. So it's all their fault Julia is dead, and that's not what she should feel guilty about, is it?
It starts to sink in when she sees them getting bored and digging a shallow pit for her body. Julia is dead.For a second, she doesn't give a damn about Hunger Games or razed areas or District 12 or anything, because Julia. Julia is real. Julia is hers. And there can be nothing else that matters more, right?
This is nothing, said Heubur. Of course this is nothing. Nothing like the games were nothing; one more person killed in the grand scheme of things, to keep the group down, unimportant. A piece in a game. But Julia is important, Julia has to be important because Claudia says so, because it hurts so much, and oh, she gets it now.
Julia always was the smart one.
Soldier Heubur waits until his fellow rebels are gone, until the dirt covers Julia (although her left big toe is sticking out) to say anything. "I could have gone out and stopped all that."
Claudia gulps, trying to keep her breath steady. "I know. But... we're hardly the only ones watching. It makes a good message, right? You did these things to us and now we have every right to..."
She trails off with a shaky sob. Oh god, not Julia, please not Julia; it's not fair!
"...We just have to fix things," he says, sounding much less confident than before. "We can't let the Capitol keep believing they own us. Horrible things will happen, but it's - it's for the best. For the Capitol as much as anyone else."
She nods along, fixated on the patch of dirt representing her best friend (at least she's not in one of those mass graves they're saying are in the outer suburbs, though she's sure she'll be told that's propaganda too). "We need to get better," she says.
If we can't keep you away, we'll have to keep you happy.
She didn't know any of this. She watched the Games like any other girl, and didn't think. She has to learn that. They're going to teach her. It turns out, the Games taught all the wrong lessons: the only way to be safe is to be good.