Written for Starvation's Monthly Oneshot Contest. Prompt: Icing
"You aren't going to win."
The little girl from Six glanced up at her district partner. He was leaning back in the chair, arms folded neatly across his chest, and he wasn't looking at her. His facial expression could only be described as annoyed, but she knew him well enough now to guess that he was trying his hardest to be impartial, simply because he didn't want to feel anything when she died.
It was inevitable. It was going to happen. No way around it, no question, she was going to die.
"Yeah," she agreed, leaning against the table. Her mentor had gone to bed, her escort had gone to bed, the stylists had all gone to bed. The tributes, the ones whose lives hung in the balance, they stayed at the table, neither willing to leave before the other. The crumbled remains of dessert were still strewn carelessly over the white tablecloth; until they went to bed, the Avoxes could not interrupt them to clean up the mess.
"You scared?" He was still glaring at the vase at the center of the table, his voice carefully controlled.
"Mmm," she said, grinding one of the crumbs into the tablecloth with her index finger. To be honest, she hadn't been thinking about it so much. She'd been scared at the reapings. Crying, shaking, sweating, whimpering. Her chances had been destroyed right about then.
By the time she'd made it to training, she'd pretty much accepted her death. The inevitability of it was so overwhelming that thinking anything else would seem strange to her. Accepting her death had been easy, but thinking about it, wondering how it would go… She found that it had become more difficult with every passing moment.
Silence reigned. She considered going to bed, but her legs didn't seem to be working properly. Glancing at her district partner, she saw that his eyes had closed and he was breathing deeply. Asleep?
She poked him in the cheek and he didn't react, so it was safe to assume that he'd been dragged deep below, where even she couldn't reach him.
If this was to be her last night of breathing, of consciousness and thinking, she'd like to go out with a bang. Something memorable, so if her district partner won (could he win? Would he?) he would never forget her. There was a tray of pastries still sitting patiently on the table, waiting for her nimble hands. She plucked up the fattest cupcake she could fit in her hand and dipped one finger in the chocolate icing.
It made a very nice moustache for her district partner, when she swirled her finger correctly.
Next came a sophisticated-looking goatee, and she even smeared him a chocolate-y eye patch. At this point, she couldn't stop the fit of giggles emanating from her lips. They were slightly hysterical, and she was, at this point, praying that he would wake up and see what she'd done. He was so serious, so cold. If he was going to remember her, he'd have to be angry at her. Maybe he'd even have to hate her a tiny bit. Cold indifference was not enough, not for her. All her life she'd been trying to get people to notice her. She was small, unremarkable in looks, and then there was her older sister to think about. The sister who'd married a Victor and lived in the Victor's Village and gave money and food to everyone and was so, so beautiful. The little girl from District Six had grown so used to being in the shadows, having to get on everyone's nerves in order to be noticed at all.
They would notice her tomorrow, when her intestines were dangling from the butt of a spear and her mouth was all coated in blood.
Her district partner stirred, sniffed and shot upright, quivering. Slowly, with great ceremony, he wiped one finger across his upper lip. When he saw the chocolate, his whole body went rigid.
"You'd better run," he told her.
She made it all the way out of the kitchen and down the corridor to the elevators before he finally snagged her ankle and brought her down. His face had been wiped clean in the time she'd spent fumbling with the door, and his mouth was curved in a decidedly downward slope. Still, she let loose a flurry of maniac giggles, staring up at him as he towered over her. He couldn't hurt her, not the night before the Games, and she didn't think he would hurt her anyway.
His hardened face remained impassive, and her giggles died down. Surely he would do something, right? His glare was making her nervous, and for a terrifying moment she thought he would turn around and walk away, leaving her in suffocating anonymity.
Instead, he knelt down by her side and offered her his hand.
As he was pulling her off the ground, he made her a solemn promise.
"You don't need to worry," he said. "About tomorrow. I'll kill you. I promise."
She stared at him for a moment before nodding. This was a gift that she didn't know how to respond to. A thank-you seemed inappropriate, but there was nothing else she could really do. "Will you be fast?" she asked him, trying not to shake.
He nodded gravely. "You won't feel a thing," he swore. "I'll kill anyone who tries to touch you before I do. I won't let anything bad happen to you."
One more question, then. "Why?"
For the first time since she'd met him, she watched as his lips quirked upwards in a smirk. It wasn't a real smile, but it was close enough for her. "I really like chocolate icing."
She watched him walk back down the hall and she didn't even know what to feel.
The gong sounded and she bolted from the plate.
The arena this year was sand, sand everywhere, a desert of unknown proportion. There was chaos; children were bolting away from the great golden horn, which blistered in the heat. Others were running directly towards it, hooting and cheering as they snagged weapons and turned on their prey.
Where are you?
She took an unsure step, the only child in the entire arena who wasn't running. Where are you?
She took another step and he came, running from the battle at the center of the inactive plates, blood trailing from a gash on his forehead. In his arm he held a sword, and a bag was slung over his shoulder. She didn't know how she could tell, but she knew that he'd been looking for her.
His face was as cold as always as he reached her and put a hand on her shoulder, pressing the sword against her neck.
Her tears were like droplets of molten glass, sliding down flushed cheeks thrumming with lifeblood that was seconds from spilling from her body and into the sand.
He pulled her into a rough embrace, the sword sliding through her neck as easily as if it were paper.
abort, overheating, crackling, sparks, de—
The corpse of his district partner slipped from his grasp and thudded into the sand, her glassy eyes staring at the cloudless sky. He pulled the sword away, trying to ignore the bright red fluid sliding down the metal and splattering her pale face.
He had no time, no time, but he found himself kneeling by her side anyway, reaching out and pressing his hand against the ugly wound, blood running down his wrist. He pulled away and dipped his index finger in the mess, pressing it against her upper lip. His movements were hurried and jerky, but he got it down. A moustache, a goatee, an eye patch.
They had looked much better made of icing, he thought, but her blood was a decent enough substitute.
Many years later, the daughter he had taught to love the smears of blood and chocolate would die as she scribbled a flower on Peeta Mellark's pale cheek.