Bread And Circuses: California, Here We Come

so this is an idea I've had for a while. it's ridiculously AU and i'd just something i'll be writing on the side,
but it wouldn't leave me alone until i'd written it. basically, it centers around the idea that all the characters
of the hunger games are living in 2012 and they're all going to the university of panem instead of the games.

Leaving home for college is always hard, but for me, it was harder than usual.

I'd been packed for weeks. My stuff was all in boxes by July, ready to move in by September. I'd been looking forward to leaving all summer, from the moment I graduated from high school. Leaving West Virginia for California was the best thing that would ever happen to me, and I couldn't wait to leave already and start a new life on the West Coast.

What was making it so hard was leaving my little sister behind. Primrose was only fourteen, and was half-begging me to stay. It broke my heart. Standing at the stoop of my childhood home, I felt as though I was leaving my heart behind. My father had left them when I was ten and Prim six, and we'd never really recovered, emotionally or financially; I was going to college on a scholarship and I'd been the sole caregiver for Prim since my mother had been fighting her own battle with depression since my father had left in the night. Mom had left Prim's care in my hands, and now I'm gone, who was going to take care of her? Mom hugged her me goodbye and told her she'd take care of Prim.

I'd taken Prim aside last night and told her to call me if there are any difficulties with their mother. College was nothing compared to your wellbeing, I'd told my sister. Anything at all, just call me and I'll be back before you know it.

I'd said goodbye to my friends yesterday. I'm known for being quiet, even more so after the death of my father. I've only had a few close friends that I've known since childhood, and they'd come around my house with a cupcake to say goodbye. Not many got the chance to leave this town never mind get college, and never was it on the other side of the country. I'd been thankful that they were there to say goodbye to me, my friends that I'd probably never see again. If it wasn't for Prim, I don't think I'd ever set foot in this town again.

Putting the last rucksack into my car, I waved tearfully to the two females on the doorstep as she climbed into it, an old truck bought on the cheap from the black market that existed in their small town of Seam. Nothing was new in Seam, it was all second hand or traded. That's how they lived, the town of Seam. All of it's occupants were in near-constant poverty, and the fact I had received a scholarship to the University of Panem, across the country in California, had made me somewhat of a celebrity in the small town. There had been column inches in the town newspaper for Christs' sake, and that had made me extremely uncomfortable. I don't like being talked about or being 'famous', and it made the list as yet another reason I couldn't wait to get out of this dirt town and make a new life for myself on the other side of the country.


That is the first thing that I register about California. It was hot. Muggy, even. I'd barely opened the window of my truck and my gray, worn, two-sizes-too-big t-shirt was clinging to my back with sweat. I pluck my hair off my neck, and put it back quickly in a braid; I couldn't be doing with my hair sticking to my skin, making me even hotter. The car park was fit to bursting with freshman students – or what I assumed were freshmen, for the actual semester didn't start for another two weeks – and I'd never been around this many people before.

I took a deep breath, and smiled. I was ready for this. This is what I'd been waiting for since June. I could do this, I could. If I could bring up her sister almost single-handedly when I was a preteen, I could attend college. I could do this.

Pushing all thoughts of Prim aside, I hopped out my car and rifled through my bag for my orientation papers, cursing myself for not being more organised. Shouldn't I have put them in a folder or something? I really would have to get more organised for the semester ahead. Eventually I found them, buried deep under a mountain of papers and books. I sighed as I pulled them out; they were only a little bent, nothing huge to worry about. I hoisted up her bag, a holdall; everything else was in cardboard boxes in the back of the truck, waiting to be brought up.

As soon as I walked in the doors, there were signs seemingly everywhere that screamed in bright colours, 'New Student Orientation: This Way!' with arrows pointing in various directions. It seemed a little too contradictory for my taste, so I dug out the map I'd been given.

Included in the orientation pack was this map, but no matter which way I turned and read it, it was completely and utterly useless to me. I decided rather than trying to make my own way there, I'd follow the crowd. I spotted a few girls with obviously new UP sweaters on, and I decided to inconspicuously follow them. They were in a group of three, one blonde, one redhead and a brunette, and clutched like a lifeline in their hands was the very orientation pack I myself had in mine.

Keeping a safe distance from them, I followed them through the twists and turns of the college, wondering how the hell I was ever going to be able to find my away around this place. The map was made completely and utterly redundant as I saw wide corridors splitting off into new ones, into little back rooms and alcoves, and staircases that seemed to go on forever. It was completely overwhelming and ridiculously exciting all at the same time, and I was slightly relieved to find that they'd stopped outside a room which had a sign with 'New Student Orientation' tacked on it.

"Hey there," a voice made me whip her head to the left. A girl stood there, only a few years older than me, but what made her stand out was her fashion sense. Dressed in a bright pink dress with an electric blue belt, accessorized with green tights and pink shoes, paired with purple and blue highlights in her mousy-brown hair, you could spot this girl from a mile off. She shot me a dazzling smile. "I'm Effie Trinket, and I'm the Head of Student Orientation this year. Welcome to UP!" she trilled, her voice as bright as her clothing. I smiled at her. "Now, what's your name? We can get you registered and up to your room in no time."

It was only then that I noticed she had a clipboard in her hand – bright blue to match her belt.

"Um – It's Katniss. Katniss Everdeen," I manage to mumble out, one hand pulling my holdall further up my shoulder as Effie clucks her tongue as she searches through the papers.

"Not this page … or that one … or that – wait, here you are, Everdeen, Katniss," she said finally, smiling brilliantly as she scored off my name and handed me a card with her name and picture on it from a bundle stacked on a table. "You're in the West Building, Room 12. Your roommate is already up there. The floor is co-ed, but the rooms are all single sex. I'm also the Orientation Leader for your building, which means I'll be taking you around town, showing you all the hottest places to hang and all that," Effie continues, flicking her multi-coloured hair over her shoulder. "Your keys will be in your room with your roommate. West Building is just over there," she says, pointing to a building on the map that didn't appear too far away from where they were, but the map had already proved unreliable and I don't trust it, but I bid Effie thanks and goodbye, and make my way in the direction the map tells me to go.

As it turned out, it was pretty hard to miss West Building. It was an old, red-stone building that I pretty much instantly fall in love with. Not too far away from the main campus, it looked like it would have good views of the surrounding campus, which in my view wasn't too bad. The greenery was lush, and I'd never seen a place look so … alive. After giving my name and showing my card to the RA at the door, he tells me how to access my new room. Since the first two floors were for communal living, my room was on the third floor.

I soon get to Room 12, which is to be my home for the next year. It's pretty quiet, with most people moving in next week. I wanted to get here as early as possible, and so did my roommate. Since my roommate – Johanna, the papers had said her name was – was already in, I didn't have keys and so I knock three times, to no answer. I knock again, my eyebrows knitting together. Had she gone out?

"Wait a second, would ya?" A voice comes through from the door, before a bang and a crash reverberates through. "Shit, fuck, shit!" the voice says again, and I take a step back from the door, my eyebrows shooting up of their own accord at the language. I'd heard it before, obviously, in high school, but it was forbidden at home and easy way these words flowed of this girl's tongue surprised me. The door flings itself open, and a girl appears. The girl is shorter than me by about two inches, with shoulder length dark brown hair and a nose piercing. She looks as though a smirk is permanently attached to her face, and my first reaction is it could have been worse.

"You must be Katniss, yeah?" she says, opening the door wider and me in. I nod at her.

"Johanna Mason, right?" is all I say in reply, and the girl nods.

"That's me. Sorry about all my shit," she says, kicking aside a cardboard box full of possessions that was lying about, turned on its side; the source of the banging noise earlier. I look around. The room is pretty much a bombsite, and it is small, smaller than I'd thought it'd be but still bigger than the matchbox sized room I'd shared with Prim in Seam.

"It's alright," I say, and I incline my head to the bed that isn't scattered with belongings. "I'm guessing this one is mine then."

"I need to sleep next to a window," Johanna shrugs, as if she hadn't really taken into consideration my sleeping habits. Somehow, I didn't think she did. Luckily I don't really give a damn where I sleeps as long as I have a bed. I dumps my holdall onto the bed and collapse on the end, looking around the room. It's clearly laid out for two halves; one bed at either side of the room, two wardrobes and two desks. If we wanted, we could live entirely separate lives in this one room.

(Although I'd never, ever show it, I hope this won't be the case).

"What're you studying?" Johanna asks, looking at though she doesn't give a shit but needs to ask.

"Political science," I say. "You?"

"Business management," she says, frowning. "It's be boring as fuck but at least I'll have a degree out of it. That can't be all you brought?" Johanna questions without taking a breath, looking at my lone holdall. I look up from it, blink, and then shake my head.

"No. All my boxes are down in my truck," I say, shrugging a shoulder. "I was going to find the room and then bring them up, but honestly, I can't be bothered."

Johanna sighs. "You won't be bothered in the fucking morning either, let me tell you. I'm gonna be uncharacteristically generous and offer you a hand in getting the boxes and your other shit up here. But this is a one-time only offer, and only because I met you two seconds ago. It won't happen again," she says, and I think I might actually like Johanna, surprisingly enough. I hadn't expected to like my roommate at all.

"Thanks," is all I say, however, as we stand to walk out the door. I get two steps out before a voice calls her back.

"Wait," Johanna's voice comes from inside, and I poke my head around the door. A key is flung at me, and I catches it millimetres before it hits my nose. "Your key. It's quite handy, or so I'm told," Johanna says, raising an eyebrow as she makes her way downstairs.

"So where you from, Kat?" Johanna asks, as they make the short walk over to my truck. I'll drive it back to just outside West Building, to make the trips easier, before parking it in their allocated lot.

"It's Katniss," I reply, following Johanna down the stairs. "And West Virginia. You?"

Johanna laughs. "You're an East Coast girl, huh? I'm from Washington, myself. Couldn't wait to get the fuck outta there. And Katniss sounds like you're fucking hissing all the time. I'mma call you Kat."

No-one calls me Kat, apart from Prim. I swallow, and sigh.

"Katniss is fine," I defend, and I see we have eventually reached my truck. Johanna eyes it with a little uncertainty, but clambers in nevertheless, before gasping.

"Fucks sake, it's boiling in here," she says, rolling down the window and leaning out of it as if she hadn't had fresh air in an hour. I start the car in silence, but I'm grateful for the breeze that blows in the window as we roll along towards West Building. It really is scorching. "California's so damn hot. In Seattle it rains pretty much constantly. I wonder if it ever rains?" Johanna was musing as we pulled up outside the building.

"I think, like, once a year, perhaps," I say, smirking slightly at the exaggeration of the hot days. I'm sure it rains more than once a year here, but with the sun high in the sky, it's hard to imagine anything other than blistering heat.

Johanna's already got a cardboard box in her arms by the time I'm out the truck. I grab the other one closest to me and we begin the trek back up to our room. We make small talk as we do so, well, Johanna does. I just nod in the right places.

It's on our second – to – last trip down that he stops us. He's easily cleared six foot, with dark brown hair, olive skin, and a little bit of stubble. He's attractive, and both Johanna and I exchange a look that says everything. He's hot.

"Hi," he says, his voice husky. "Do you girls need a hand with the boxes?"

Truth be told, the last few boxes are more of my heavier possessions, so I nod. "That'd be good. Thanks."

"I'm Johanna. Business Management," the girl in question says, putting down a box to extend her hand. The man smiles and shakes it.

"Gale Hawthorne," he says, as he extends his hand to me. "Physical Education."

I take it, and it's warm and solid. "Katniss," I say quietly. "Political science."

"I saw you two go down and back up again and I thought you might want a bit of a stronger hand. I'm in room 13, across the hall from you," he continues, lifting up the box Johanna dropped and shifting it in his arms. "You're in room 12, right?"

Johanna nods. "That's us. Get familiar with it 'cause we're gonna be party central this year!"

I do a double take at her comment. "We are?" I say, uneasy. I've never been good around big crowds. I've never been popular, or with many friends, and therefore I'd never been invited to any parties in high school. I didn't really have any sort of cause for celebration or the motivation to do so. The biggest party I went to was graduation, and I only went to receive my diploma and then leave. Johanna, on the other hand, looks like she'd be a life and soul of a party, whilst I'd be sitting in a corner with a book.

Johanna turns to me, glaring a little, almost saying Don't act so uncool around a hot guy with her eyes. I catch on to what she's saying. "Yeah. Party central, us," I say, but there is no enthusiasm in my voice. I grab the last box, and make my way upstairs.

"So, Gale, where you from?" I hear Johanna ask as they follow me up the stairs.

"New York, born and bred," he says, his feet making more noise against the stone staircase than mine and Johanna's combined. "You?"

"Seattle," she replies, and then she continues. "That one's from West Virginia before you ask." I can almost see her jutting a thumb or her head in my direction.

"Fellow East Coaster," he says, and I turn my head back to smile a little at him. Maybe getting to know the neighbours wouldn't be such a bad thing after all.

It's a week after I moved in, and there is a ton of commotion going on outside.

Johanna's lying on her stomach on her bed, flicking through Cosmo magazine and pointing out all the clothes that would 'look cute'. I'd never really been much of a fan of fashion. Most of my clothes were second-hand and I only usually wore what was comfy. Johanna looked like she'd faint if I told her that. Her head snaps up as the bashing outside continues. "What the fuck is that racket?" she comments, lifting herself onto her elbows. Apart from flicking the page over every so often, this is the most movement I've seen her make in hours. I stand up from my bed and make my way to the door. I hear a creak, and see Johanna is right beside me.

I open the door, and there stands Gale Hawthorne, surrounded by suitcases and boxes. He looks slightly sweaty and out-of-breath, and if I'm being honest, it's a good look for him.

"Moving out so soon, Hawthorne?" Johanna comments from around my shoulder area, where half her body is hidden behind mine as with both stand in the narrow doorway.

Gale laughs. "My roommate is moving in today. Apparently he's brought his whole house with him."

"Not my whole house," comes a voice from the stairwell. "I think I left my kitchen sink at home." We turn our heads and a man with another suitcase is standing there. He is about six foot tall – a couple of inches shorter than Gale – with wavy blonde hair and a stocky, strong build. He too has a sheen of sweat on his forehead, and he extends a hand to me. "Peeta Mellark, I'm Gale's roommate."

I shake his hand. "Katniss Everdeen," I say, watching his blue eyes as they connect with mine, before moving onto to Johanna.

"Johanna Mason," she says, also shaking his hand. "Did you really have to make so much fucking noise? We moved in with not so much as a peep."

"Apart from the fact you had to trip over most of your boxes to get to the door until yesterday," I say, smirking at Johanna. She glares playfully at me.

"Sorry," Peeta remarks, not really looking sorry in the slightest. "But to be honest, I was Gale making most of the noise. He isn't skilled at placing the suitcases down lightly. Must be the guns," he says, eyeing Gale's arms. Johanna and I both laugh, and Gale scowls. He already has the quiet, brooding persona down, whilst Peeta seems like he smiles at lot more. I notice Peeta's arms aren't exactly small themselves, but I don't mention it.

"Right, routine questions. Where you from and what you studying?" Johanna asks, leaning against the doorjamb, watching as the two men deposit Peeta's belongings into their room.

"I'm from Pennsylvania," Peeta says, and Gale smiles.

"No way, man! New York," he says, and the two bump fists.

Peeta turns to Johanna. "And before you ask, I'm studying Culinary Arts."

I frown. "Culinary Arts?"

"It means he wants to be a chef, Brainless," Johanna supplies to me, looking at Peeta. 'Brainless' is another nickname she's thought up of the past week, to join with 'Kat' and 'Moody McMooderson', which we both agreed wasn't her best. I have a feeling that by the end of the year there'll be several notebooks worth.

The man in question smiles. "No, it means I want to be a baker. My family owns a bakery." He leans against the wall, shrugging one shoulder.

"Then why are you wasting your fucking time at college?" Johanna spits back. "You could have just taken over the family business, you don't need a degree."

"I wanted one," he fires back, just as quick. "Gets me away from my house and family, and it gives me a chance to experience life and learn about something I love. Couldn't say no when they offered me a place."

No-one could argue with him, and there was a uncomfortable silence within the corridor. No-one really knew what to say to one another, now all the pleasantries had been taken care of.

"I'm fucking starving," Johanna says, always one to speak her feelings. "Anyone want to grab something to eat?"

Everyone seems grateful for the break in ice, and the tensions rapidly dissipates.

"I could do with some food," Gale says, and Peeta nods his agreement.

"Katniss, you coming?" he asks, and I shrink back. Going out for dinner with people I barely know means making small talk and I don't like it.

"You three go ahead. I'll … stay here," I say, and Johanna rolls her eyes.

"Come on, party pooper," she says, grabbing my arm and dragging me away from the doorway and down the corridor, my protests falling on deaf ears. "We wouldn't want you missing out or what-the-fuck ever."

I reluctantly let my roommate drag me all over town looking for the perfect Italian restaurant.

The first day of class is interesting to say the least.

Professor Abernathy is, for another word, mad. He rants and raves about the uselessness of the united states government for the first half hour, spends another fifteen minutes proclaiming that President Obama is the new Jesus Christ and then proposes we should spent the rest of class in the bar down the road. Which we do, and he gets quite drunk on some sort of spirit and then spent ten minutes yelling at a guy in the class for saying he preferred George Bush to Al Gore.

I can't decide if I love him or hate him.

Johanna calls me a lucky bitch for having such a cool professor, why can't she have him rather than an overweight, sixty-year-old spinster who has clearly never been fucking laid in her life and is taking it out on them?

I laughed at her bitter tone, telling her that probably, Abernathy would probably be a worse marker than Coin. I couldn't help, however, being a little bit smug.

The second day is a little better, and he actually teaches them about the science behind politics. Once again, Johanna comes home with a scowl on her face, ranting on about how Professor Coin is probably Satan reincarnated. Only it's said with a lot more expletives and very loudly, and at one point I thought she might put her fist through the wall.

Johanna's ranting and raving isn't done quietly, and it brings over a curious Peeta and Gale.

"What is going on over here?" Peeta asks, deciding the end of my bed would be a good place to sit. I'm sitting up against the headboard, while Gale takes one of the desk chairs. Johanna is still pacing but at least now she's quietened to she's only muttering to herself now and again.

"Johanna's lecturer is, I quote, 'Satan reincarnated'," I say, using air quotes where appropriate. Peeta and Gale share a look.

"Isn't that a pretty harsh judgement to make on the second day?" Peeta asks, one eyebrow raised at Johanna.

"That's what I said," I agree with him, and he tilts his head back to look at me, and smiles.

"Easy for you to say, Brainless," she spits at me. "She only went and fucking got Abernathy, who is literally like the best prof ever. She spent the whole lecture is a bar whilst I got yelled at for having brown hair!"

Gale and Peeta both look at me for confirmation. I shrug my shoulder, and they sigh.

"How did you get so lucky?" Gale asks, crossing his arms. "I got Crane and he hates people. In general. He should have got a job where he's a hermit 'cause he seriously doesn't like people."

"Mine's okay," Peeta admits, rubbing a hand over his jaw. "Flickerman. He could be worse, although he really needs to learn about frosting. His is average at best."

Johanna barks out a laugh. "You think you know more than your lecturer on the second day?"

"I know I do," is Peeta's answer. "I've been frosting cakes at my family's bakery since I stand on a stool, so I've been doing it just as long as he has."

"Flickerman loved Peeta's frosting so much he's assigned him to help lecture for the rest of the year," Gale says, clicking his fingers in Peeta's direction. Peeta turns his head to the back of it is towards Johanna, and winks at me. I bite my lip to keep from smiling as I nod marginally, letting him know I've understood that we're in a game.

"Really?" Johanna turns to him, an impressed look on her face.

"Flickerman does loves his frosting," Gale adds, smirking, clearly enjoying this.

Peeta nods slowly, biting his lip in a manner similar to mine, before he makes eye contact with Gale and they both lose it, bursting into laughter. Gale is having a hard time staying on the chair whilst Peeta's head ends up near my feet, and his laughing face makes me giggle as well.

"You were having me on, weren't you?"

Gale laughs at Johanna. "I can't believe you fell for that! As if they'd let him help lecture on the second day!" he is overcome with laughter. "You're too gullible, Mason."

He smirks at his roommate, and Johanna laughs as she collapses backwards on her bed, the springs squeaking in protest. She brings her arms up to cover her embarrassed, red face. Gale is still laughing loudly, and Peeta is trying to manourver himself into a sitting position, using my knee as a ledge, wiping away tears of mirth.

Somehow, despite everything, I think I might actually enjoy college.