Mercy Kill

Author's Note: I've had a version of this floating in my head ever since I read the first two books (fortunately for me, the blasted third one wasn't out quite yet). Basically, I asked myself, 'What if my name was chosen?' This is not an SI (self-insert); she is not even a Mary-Sue (anymore ::laughs::). She is now merely an OC (original character). A few of Savannah's traits (namely her inability to hurt people) are based off of mine, for the simple reasons that 1.) it fit the plot, 2.) I've always morbidly wondered about the moral-choked people in gladiator pits (in Rome, they would sometimes stab themselves with their sword instead of their opponent), and 3.) they are so intrinsically a part of my nature that I can't be rid of them, even for writing. New topic, but her last name is pronounced 'DEE-tree.' Finally, I chose Brutus to minimize the OC's, and because he fit the character that I wished to portray. I randomly chose the Game number based on his age, and I hope you enjoy.

"Now, for our lady contestant!" The sick capitol man who drew the tributes' names every year paused dramatically before unfolding the paper. " Ms. Savannah Ditri!"

Oh, God. Oh, God in Heaven, that's me.

The next thing I remember is my youngest sibs crying at me in the Justice Building: "Don't get hurt, Savannah! Don't get hurt! Come back, we love you! Please, please don't get hurt!"

My just-younger brother, whose own name will be reaped for two more years, gave the bluntest and most chilling advice. "Try not to die in a way that will traumatize them. Maybe a plant, maybe you can make a noose, but make it fast, painless, and bloodless. I love you so much, Savannah!"

I've been at the Capitol only for this evening. As I am from District Seven, my costume for the parade was mediocre at best. Trees are simply not appealing to the average person. My fellow district tribute is fourteen, terrified, and wants absolutely nothing to do with me. I can live with that. For now, I just have to sleep. Tomorrow will be the first training day.

Once everyone has arrived, the head trainer gives us a rehearsed spiel. I pay attention only so that I will not attract later trouble and otherwise tune out. Sadly, I know that I will not win. I have utterly no training or ability in anything resembling fighting, foraging, or even being nasty. Several of the other tributes have potential, though. The female tribute from Eleven has systematically attempted and accomplished each survival station with flying colors. The male from Eight looks like he could knock down a tree simply by punching it. Both tributes from Four are definite contenders, with the girl as beautiful and as deadly, if her physical training sessions are any indicator, as a syren, and the boy as negligently lethal as a knife. Finally, the male District 2 tribute is definitely the one who has caught my attention the most. Already gifted with his body type and district, when I look at his face, I see nothing but focus and pure, ruthless determination. Watching him train with an instructor on the mats, my mind slowly assembles a new idea. Maybe sometime in the next couple of days, I will actually gain the courage to utilize it.

The televised interviews are tomorrow. Skulking around the edible plants station once again, I pluck up enough courage to actually speak to the loner District 2 tribute. Slowly approaching, my voice tremulously reaches his ears. "Brutus?" His head jerks to face me, and I watch curiosity flash in his eyes even as they harden. "Do you mind if I speak with you alone?"

He regards me carefully, before sharply nodding once. "Fine."

"Thank you." Silently, he follows me towards the back where we are still under the watchful gaze of the peacekeepers but away from prying ears. After a ways, he turns fully to me and raises an eyebrow in invitation.

Shakily, I take a fortifying breath before starting. "You mean to win this Game, correct?"

He blinks at me in surprise. "Yes," he answers without hesitation.

Flashing a nervous smile at him, I continue, "Well, I think you definitely could. However," my voice hitches, "what I wanted to know was, can you kill someone with your bare hands? Very fast and painlessly?" Seeing him draw back distrustfully, I quickly reassure him, "I'm not going to tell on you or anything, I just want to know."

Warily, he searches my face before carefully replying. "I can. Now," he practically growls the word, "tell me why you want to know."

My eyes drop to the ground, and I inhale another deep breath before squarely meeting his gaze. "In the arena, after the bloodbath at the Cornucopia, I… I wa… I want you to kill me."

He reels back as if struck as shudders wrack my body. "What?!" he hisses. "What do you mean!?"

"I m-mean exact" inhale! "ly what I said." I pant a few times and manage to regain my tattered poise. "I want you to give me a quick, painless, and relatively non-disturbing death."

Eyes wide, he just gapes at me, now almost under control, before asking the obvious question. "Why? Why do you want me to kill you, and before you even have a chance? It's unlikely, but you don't even want to try!"

I bark a short, bitter laugh. "Why? Because I don't want to face the depraved horrors in those death-pits. Because I'm terrified of fighting, of being hurt, of things I don't understand in those hell-holes. Because I have two siblings under the age of ten who want their big sister to come back, and will be desperately watching me on television to make sure I'm alright. But I'm not," my voice softens to a whisper, "I've been damned since he pulled my name out of that globe. Even if by some God-induced miracle I did survive, I wouldn't be that same sister. I would be haunted, not smiling like they're used to." Another mockery of a laugh. "If you talked to my family and friends, and you asked them who the happiest person they knew was, there's a good chance they would have said me. The nicest, too. I literally cannot hurt people, not more than a bruise and most certainly not on purpose." I raise my face towards his again. "I will not compromise myself. Not for this spectacle, and not for anyone in this city. Besides, I don't want to trouble my littles that will be watching." My voice softens again, and my eyes drop back down. "My brother told me to suicide myself. It's one of the only skills I've bothered to learn over these days. We… we don't want to traumatize the little ones. I desperately don't want them to cry needlessly, and just about every option that the arenas throw at people will cause that. Suicide probably won't. But I'm scared, and I don't know if the arena will allow for any of the ways I learned. So," I gaze at his face pleadingly, "will you kill me in the arena before something else does?"

Brutus' face still carries a shade of horror, but he finally grants me an answer. "Yes," he replies softly. "I will kill you before something else does."

At this, my legs simply give out. Brutus instinctively moves to catch me, his arm wrapping supportively around my waist. Ironically, that arm makes me feel as safe as my mother's embrace used to. Tears pool in my eyes as he sets me unsteadily back on my feet. "Thank you, thank you so much. I am terrified, but I can't thank you enough."

As frowning peacekeepers march toward us suspicious tributes, Brutus takes charge by giving me a quick command. "At the beginning of the Game, run and hide nearby. Once the fight is over, I'll call you and keep my teammates from attacking you. We'll do it then."

I nod in acknowledgment as we are separated. "Alright. Thank you for your time, Brutus. I appreciate it." He manages one terse nod before shaking off the peacekeepers and striding away without a glance.

It's the first day of the Game. I'm standing on my platform, finalizing my personal plan. Sunlight burns my eyes as I listen to Claudius Templesmith introduce this year's barbarism. "Ladies and gentlemen, let the Fifty-second Annual Hunger Games begin!"

Our sixty seconds start, and I take the opportunity to plan my escape and hiding. Glancing about the clearing swiftly, my eyes survey the scene: large dirt clearing, encircling trees with few branches, golden Cornucopia, items littering the ground, and other tributes plotting their own modus operandi. Just as I finalize my route, the gong rings out. Whirling around, I dash for a reasonably far tree with a thick trunk. Quickly reaching it, I step behind it and press myself against the trunk, attempting to quiet my frantic breathing.

In the direction I ran from, I hear screaming. I hear screaming that suddenly cuts off at its zenith. Twice, a fellow tribute races past me, not realizing that he or she is being watched. I clutch my arms around myself and simply pray for it to end.

Finally, the horrid sounds stop, and several cannons fire. Voices speaking at normal volume start in a soothing contrast to the abomination of before. "Savannah?" Brutus' voice carries throughout the area. "You can come out now. They all know you're coming, and no one is going to hurt you."

My voice seems broken, so I silently heave to my feet and stumble around the trunk. In the clearing, Brutus is standing in the middle, while his Career companions stand distrustfully nearby. As I walk jerkily forward, their glares bore into me with the weight of a timbering tree. Brutus immediately spots and walks towards me, stepping in obvious disgust over bodies and pools of blood. Quickly he reaches me, and turns back to his companions. "I'll be back in a few minutes; we just need to do something." With that, he grasps me by the elbow and leads us into a clump of trees that will shield us from view.

Once out of sight, he faces me. "You're positive that you want to do this?" he asks quietly.

Shivering, I nevertheless manage a firm nod. "If you can do it, then I want to get it over with."

Indiscernible emotion flits through his eyes, before he nods brusquely. "Fine. Let's do this."

As he begins to maneuver around me, panic hits me like a great wave. "Wait!" I choke out. "Just wait one minute, then we can do it!" He stops, frustration screwing up his face. Tears welling in my eyes, I turn directly towards him, step until our chests are touching, and desperately throw my arms around him. "I'm sorry!" I whisper through the tears. "I know this has to be hard for you, but I'm just so scared! I want to go home, I want my mom, and I really, really want a hug. So," my voice cracks and my shoulders shake with sobs, "could you just… hold me for a minute?"

A silent pause before hesitant, unsure arms slide around me. I manage a tight "Thank you," from where my head is buried in his shirt. I can't see his face, and by the time I reluctantly pull away about a minute later, blankness dominates it. Gently, I reach up and touch his cheek. "Thank you. You don't know how much I needed that." My voice remains soft as I continue, "I think you can win the games. May God watch over you and help you." One last deep breath. My emotions are fading away in favor of an airy feeling; it's now or never. "I'm ready, Brutus."

Noiselessly, he pulls me into position. An arm wraps around my neck, and lips lower towards my ear. "I will win," Brutus' comforting voice whispers, "because I am too scared and too harsh to die. I will win, and I will tell your family that you love them." With that, a sharp, all-encompassing pain emanates from my neck, and I am suddenly looking Brutus right in the eyes. A whining fills my ears. I lose feeling in my body. And as fuzzy blackness overcomes my sight, I stretch my lips into a faint smile. Thank you.

The accursed cannon fires, and Brutus gently settles the body onto the ground. His eyes fasten onto her face, where there is a hint of a smile around her mouth. If it were not for the empty staring and unnatural angle of her head, she could be playing a silly child's game. Inadvertently, his hands clench around her arms. A child's game indeed. Reaching out, Brutus straightens her head and tenderly closes her eyes. I hope you don't hurt. I hope it didn't hurt. Task finished, he heaves a deep breath, stands up, takes one last, half-desperate look, and strides away. Goodbye, Savannah. I will win. I will tell your family what happened and send your love. And I will never forget you or your unique kind of courage. Stepping out of the trees, Brutus faces his doomed teammates with no emotion in his gaze. "She's dead. Let's go."

When he volunteered to go back into the arena twenty-three years later, his one light thought was that maybe the girl would meet him after his death. Because he would die this time. While he wanted to go down fighting, he was no longer scared, and he no longer wanted to win.

Second Author's Note: In case this wasn't obvious, I have very little idea on how to snap someone's neck with my bare hands. As I also have zero inclination to learn, my only help was Cato doing it to District 3. Even more obviously, I have very little idea about how people who know that they are about to die feel, and no idea for what it feels like to die by a snapped neck, or how long it takes. I did my deliberately-ignorant best.