Author's Note: This story is a sequel to my story "Tribute," which is a Hunger Games AU/crossover. It is absolutely necessary to read Tribute before reading this story. However, it is not necessary to have read the Hunger Games trilogy or have seen the movie. Events and characters are borrowed from the HG books, but in both the previous story and this one I do my best to explain the parts derived from the Hunger Games universe. Tribute roughly followed the Hunger Games with some elements of Catching Fire, for those of you that are familiar with the HG universe. This story picks up with events leading up to the Victory Tour in Catching Fire but will primarily draw from the events in Mockingjay.
As with the Tribute, this story is necessarily dark and angsty, but I hope you all will trust me to lead you to better times. This story will be moved to the rated M section in a couple of chapters so please alert it so that you will know, or just know that by chapter 3 or 4 it will probably be in the other section.
CH 1: In the Beginning
Five months. Four months, four weeks and five days to be exact. Since the 75th Hunger Games had ended. Some days were better than others. Some days passed without even a thought of the Games. Usually only one, never more than two and when they did she felt guilty that she'd forgotten for even those twenty-four to forty-eight hours. Not that she didn't deserve a respite. Guilty, because it meant she'd forgotten them: the other tributes who had died, even the ones who had tried so hard to kill her.
Nightmares had grown infrequent for a time. One day since the Games. Two days. Three. Seven days. Fourteen days. A few less nightmares. One month. On and on the countdown went…until it changed and the nightmares became more frequent again. Three months until the Victory Tour. Two months and two weeks. Two months. A month and a half. And now: one month and two days.
The Victory Tour was situated halfway between the end of the previous Games and the start of the next. No one in Panem could escape the Games; the country was always in some perpetual countdown related to them. In one month and two days they would have no choice but to step back on that train and play their parts yet again. They would start in District 12 and go in descending order, skipping their own district and saving it for last, and of course the whole display would be punctuated by their return to the Capitol.
Maura walked along the fence that separated District 8 from the world outside. She picked her way through the broken concrete, bricks, and other building materials from the crumbling structures that once made up some of the oldest factories. The blackened shell of a factory, long torched, stood bare to her left. See through from one side to the other, the burnt and melted remnants of unsalvageable machines sat piled in its center. She'd taken to walking through this part of town since their return from the Games. It was abandoned and quiet save for the whirring of the late winter and early spring winds that swept through the debris and occasionally brushed pebbles from rock piles or rustled sheet metal in its resting place. It was also the place where her birth mother had died, in the very building to her left. Maura never went inside, not because she feared the structural integrity of what little of the factory remained, but because she feared the ghost of the woman that had perished inside. Since former Head Peacekeeper Patrick Doyle had been revealed as her father their visits had often been filled with talk of Hope. Maura wondered if her mother would have been proud to have her as a daughter. When she closed her eyes and saw herself plunge that dagger through Casey Jones's throat, she wasn't sure that she would have been.
She sat, on the same rock slab she sat on every time she walked along the fence and reached for the book in her satchel. The book was old, the once hard black leather cover, now bent and supple. Angela said the lettering had been gold, but she had not seen it, nor had her mother before her. It was gold though, she said. A trivial point, Maura thought, but Angela had entrusted the book to her and one day she would give it to her and Jane's daughter and she would tell her what color the words that had resided on what was left of the cover had been printed in.
The book was not unfamiliar to her; though physical copies were virtually nonexistent the words persisted, passed down through the generations though few believed them as people once had. Maura ran her finger over the scant indentation where the title had been. Holy Bible, it had read…in gold. No more, fingers and thumbs had stroked it smooth, wearing even the imprint of the title away. Maura looked again at the burnt building ahead of her. Where is God?
Through the darkness, I found comfort here, Angela had told her. Maura opened the book, holding the yellowed pages down with her hand to protect them from being torn away by the quickening breeze. She would be grateful when spring truly arrived and eventually summer. It was too long since the sun had shone. She began to read.
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.
Only when Maura blinked and saw the wet drop spread across the page did she realize that she was crying.
Somewhere, amongst the factory ruins, a scream echoed through the empty air. "Hello!?" Maura called out, tucking the book back into her satchel as she stood. Another scream, shrill and high…a child maybe. Setting off in the direction the cry had come from she tried to tread softly, listening for more clues as to which direction to look. Screams interspersed with painful whining led her closer and as she neared the source she realized it was not a child. The sandy, wiry hair of the little dog was so sullied by mud and rock dust she almost blended in with the rubble that had shifted and trapped her.
The dog twisted and cried out in agony again, her leg caught under a chunk of fractured concrete. "Shhh," Maura tried to soothe her as she knelt beside the frightened animal. The dog shook, her eyes wide and bulging, her tongue hanging out as she panted frantically. Maura ran her hands over the little creature, talking to her, calming her as the trembling began to subside. Slowly she reached for the small slab and lifted until the dog's trapped leg was free. Struggling to three legs the weak animal dragged itself out of further harm's way, though her leg was obviously broken. Maura expected the dog to flee but she didn't, rather she lowered her head and crept towards her savior as she wagged her tail.
"She's usually back by now," Jane muttered to herself as she stood in the window of their apartment over Maura's shop. Despite the early evening darkness the street outside was still busy. She scanned the groups of workers walking to and from work or errands to see if she could spot her wife amongst them. On numerous occasions she had asked if Maura wanted company on her walks; the answer was always no. Jane stopped asking. If anyone could understand the need to be alone, it was Jane. She still needed that time for herself, those after hour calls of solitude nestled under a patchwork of leaking pipes. She never charged, so she'd work as fast or as slow as she wanted depending on the job and how alone she needed to be. And when the work was done she'd stroll home, strip out of her greasy, sweaty clothes and crawl into bed next to her wife. Just as Maura would return when she was ready, wrap her arms around Jane and kiss her neck and tell her she was ready to go to dinner at Angela's.
The door clicked and opened behind her.
Jane arched an eyebrow at the dingy creature in Maura's arm, "What…is that?"
Maura closed the door behind her with her foot, "We have to get her to the clinic. Her leg is broken."
"Are you a veterinarian now?" Jane asked, half smiling when Maura huffed in response. "Because…that…" she pointed at the little dog that her wife was now pushing towards her, "…is a dog. And dogs…are technically illegal."
"And since dogs are technically illegal," Maura arched an eyebrow as she thrust the little bundle into Jane's arms, "there are no veterinarians in District 8, which doesn't make her leg any less broken. I can cast it, with your assistance, at the clinic, you know, that place you help me out at that is also…technically illegal."
Jane looked down at the scruffy terrier she held against her chest. With a perfectly timed lick the dog's long, wet tongue, caught her square on the lips and nose. Jane sputtered and wiped her mouth as Maura giggled.
"Oh, good," Maura smiled, "she likes you."
Jane followed her out of the apartment, pursing her lips as Maura looked back at her over her shoulder. "Don't you even think about it, 'Korsak'," she teased, "We are not keeping this dog."
The house they had been awarded in the Victor's Village had been converted into a clinic. Citizens of District 8 came to Maura as they always had, sick or injured, and too poor to go to a real doctor. Dr. Lucius Black, who had helped Tommy escape from the Capitol, helped her run it. He taught her new procedures, and together, with the supplies they were able to obtain, they could perform far more surgical operations than Maura had been able to do alone. Still, the people were wary of the newcomer and it often took a fair amount of convincing from Maura to impart to them that Lucius was there to help, and that he could help them in ways that she could not. Lucius had taken Jane's old apartment down in the projects, but when patients were too sick or required extra recovery time in the clinic, he stayed there. There were no patients there overnight this time, however, when they walked into the dark house.
Jane carried the dog to one of the exam rooms they had set up in what was intended to be a bedroom as Maura set to work gathering supplies: a sedative, intravenous fluid as the dog appeared not only malnourished but also dehydrated, clippers, and the casting materials.
"I'll have to guess on the dosage…" Maura lamented as she eyed the vial and syringe in her hands and the dog in Jane's arms. She hated guessing. It made her skin crawl and threaten to break out in red, splotchy hives. But treating the sick and injured was no exact science, especially with her limited supplies and equipment. Treating an injured dog was something new entirely. Once sedated, she shaved the hair from the dog's delicate forearm, ran a central line and then shaved the hair from the broken back leg.
No procedure, no matter how small, ever lost its awe for Jane. She watched Maura work, a smile creeping across her face as her wife set the broken leg and then began to wrap the cast. "You're amazing, you know that?"
The corner of Maura's mouth turned up revealing a tiny dimple. Jane reached out and ran her finger over it and then caressed her cheek while she continued to work. "I think we should name her Josephine," Maura stated, not bothering to look up.
"We're not keeping the dog, Maura. We can drop her off at Korsak's."
"I always liked the name Josephine," Maura continued. "I thought perhaps if I ever had a daughter I would name her Josephine. But, when we have a daughter, we're going to name her Francesca, so I need some opportunity to use it."
Jane cleared her throat to try and keep from smiling. "You're not naming that dog. Not…Josephine." Maura's eyes flashed up to meet her, she'd won, and she knew it. "Josephine is all…feminine and sophisticated. This thing is all…scruffy, and dirty, and smelly. She's a street dog."
"She'll smell better after you give her a bath," Maura stated nonchalantly as she continued to wrap the cast.
After I give her a bath, of course. "I think we should name her Friday," Jane countered. "You found her on a Friday and it kind of has a street cred ring to it…"
"And why, pray tell, does a dog need street cred?" Maura chuckled. "Fine. Josephine Friday it is."
Jane watched as Maura cleaned up and then piled some blankets in the corner and placed their little patient on them. "Jo. I can live with Jo."
"The sedative should keep her subdued until we're done with dinner." Maura finally sought out her wife's embrace, relaxing into Jane's arms and kissing her neck.
"Your walk was very eventful tonight," Jane whispered, running one hand through Maura's hair as the other tightened around her back.
"Mmm," Maura hummed, nuzzling tighter into Jane's neck. "I think…I won't be taking anymore walks. The closer we come to the Tour…I have this unsettling feeling. Does it make me needy if I'm afraid to be apart from you right now? Once, I was used to being alone…"
Jane tilted Maura's head back and pressed their lips together, strong and rough, she kissed her until she knew if she didn't stop they would never make it to dinner. "No, it doesn't make you needy. But, there's nothing to be afraid of. We'll be together every moment on the Victory Tour. It's not the Games. We never have to go back to that. No one will ever take you away from me again."
Nothing to be afraid of. It was a lie. There was always something to be afraid of. Jane knew it and Maura knew it, but she smiled anyway and kissed Jane softly on the lips one last time before they made their way to Angela's.
The usual raucous conversation didn't greet them as they entered the house. Nor did the fragrant aroma of cooking food fill the air. Angela and Constance stood in the entryway between the living room and kitchen, hands clasped between them, faces gaunt and pale. Harrison Isles and Korsak stood abruptly from their seats on the sofa and turned. Everything felt wrong. Jane froze and reached for Maura's hand and pulled her close, her eyes roaming from her mother and mother-in-law to her friend and mentor.
Korsak's hands trembled as he tried to speak. The man was a rock; only one thing shook him like that. "We barely had any warning…" Korsak stammered. And then, Jane knew.
Jane lurched forward nearly jerking Maura off her feet as she pushed her forcefully into Constance's arms, "Take her home! Now! And don't you dare leave her!" She barked.
Maura struggled out of her mother's embrace, confused, reaching for Jane. "What is going on!?"
Clenching her fists first in an effort to stifle the shaking, Jane shook out her hands and gently cupped Maura's face, fear and shock bled into anger across her desperate features, "Your mother and father are going to take you home and stay with you until I get there."
"No," Maura replied staunchly. She looked into Jane's eyes, watched as tears welled up and reached to wipe them away. Only one thing could…she knew. "We protect each other, remember?" Resigned, and with a ragged breath, Jane nodded.
Looking past Maura, Jane caught her mother's terrified stare, "Where?"
"Frankie's room," Angela replied, barely louder than a whisper.
A Capitol man in a lime green suit was waiting outside the closed door to Frankie's room. The garish coloring of his jacket and trousers magnified by the muted tones of the hallway and the stark white uniforms of the two Peacekeepers flanking the door. Jane and Maura didn't recognize either one of the officers; they too must have come from the Capitol.
"Ms. Rizzoli, Ms. Isles…" the Capitol man spoke, "Or is it…"
"We didn't change our names." Jane cut him off. She wasn't surprised that the Capitol knew about the wedding, but it still felt like an intrusion.
He dipped his head, "Go right in," he urged as he opened the door.
The smell was apparent immediately, filling both of their noses as they stepped over the threshold. Maura squeezed Jane's hand so hard she was sure she would break it. Jane's steps were small and stiff…forced. Part of her still hoped it wasn't what she thought. But, when he turned Maura couldn't contain the small gasp that escaped.
President Hoyt stood ten feet away.
In his hand he held the baseball that had sat untouched on Frankie's dresser for fourteen years. Jane wanted to scream for him to drop it. She focused on the ball to avoid looking at his face, what if his smell forever stained the canvas and stitching? She would have to burn it. He was violating her again. He was in her district, in her mother's house, standing in her dead brother's room, and touching his things. So desperately had she wanted to believe that of anywhere in Panem, there was some shred of safety for her and Maura in District 8. Slowly, she summoned the courage to lift her gaze until they met his vacant, yet piercing blue stare. They weren't in the Capitol anymore. Maybe…just maybe…she could kill him.
Maura seemed to sense the thoughts coursing through Jane's mind and animating her body, she brought her hand up and rested it against Jane's violently erratic heart and shook her head.
"Jaaaaane," Hoyt let her name roll off his tongue on an excruciatingly slow hiss. "Do you dream about me, Jane?" Thin lips crooked into his telltale sneer as he asked.
Maura's hand flexed tighter into her chest. "Yes," Jane answered.
Hoyt closed his eyes and smiled, drawing in a long breath and releasing it. "In your dreams…" he took a few steps closer to them, testing them, toying with them. The Games never ended. "…are we lovers?"
Jane began to shake and even Maura's touch couldn't reassure her.
"No, of course not," Hoyt answered his own question. He stepped closer. "You dream of killing me, is that it?"
"Every night," Jane answered without pause.
"And you want to try…right now," he stepped within an arms reach of them, prompting Jane to pull Maura protectively into an embrace.
"More than anything," Jane admitted unabashedly.
Hoyt paused, watched the muscles in his obsession's sinewy forearms flex and tense as she held her wife. "Do you think I couldn't have her if I wanted her? Right now." He stepped right in front of them and Maura could feel his body heat against her back and his breath roll out to lick at her neck.
Every fiber of Jane's being told her to take Maura and run, but that's what a predator wanted. To see its prey flee, to be given the opportunity to chase and subdue. She stood still, unwavering, and guided Maura's head into the crook of her neck, the intensity of her embrace never lessening.
"One word from me and my guards will come in…hold you down…make you watch." He leaned in and dragged his fingers through Maura's hair and brought the strands to his nose and inhaled. "Make you watch while I have your wife on your brother's bed."
"Don't you touch her!" Jane growled, slapping his hand away. Her eyes darted nervously towards the door, but no one entered.
Hoyt laughed, undeterred. He reached out again and ran his finger over the wedding band on Jane's left hand. Clucking his tongue he shook his head, "You cause me so much grief, Jane. The citizens of the Capitol were so looking forward to a televised wedding as the culmination of the Victory Tour. You have always been so difficult. Do you know how that grieves me? The precarious position it places me in? The delicately balanced order you have disturbed?"
"I don't give a damn about your difficulties." She was finding it harder and harder to hold back.
"For someone that went to such lengths to preserve her life and the life of the woman she loves…you seem so frivolous with it now. So willing to throw your life away, Jane? Maura's life? And of course, there are your families to think of. The patients in that little clinic of yours, why, all of District 8 as a matter of fact. You see Jane, Maura, my problems are very much your problems because the brunt of my current predicament began with that little stunt with the daggers, you see."
He'd had no part in it. Jane had suspected. Their rescue was all the work of Head Gamemaker Gabriel Dean. He'd stopped them from martyring themselves, presumably under the assumption that their dual survival would quell the outcry. But, it hadn't. Before they had even left the Capitol word had spread of dissent and demonstrations. Even now, months out from the next Games, Head Peacekeeper John Martell still fed Patrick Doyle news of disquiet and fomenting rebellion in the districts.
"If Gabriel Dean had had any sense of the bigger picture he would have tripped the switch on those mines and blown you both into oblivion. Alas, here you are. And Gabriel…" His voice trailed off and Jane and Maura both knew that Gabriel Dean was dead.
"Between a rock and hard place that put me as the saying goes," Hoyt continued. "The greatest love story ever seen, some say, but also…the greatest act of defiance. If a seamstress and a plumber's daughter from District 8 can defy the Capitol and walk away unscathed, what is to prevent, say, an uprising?"
An uprising. The word was sweet and nourishing on Jane's tongue. She wanted to say she hoped every last living person in Panem was sharpening a blade as they spoke. That when the Presidential mansion was stormed and Hoyt dragged fearful and pissing himself from his garden that she would be at the head of the crowd begging for the honor of slitting his throat.
Unexpectedly, Maura turned in her arms and faced the man ahead of them.
"People will die, Maura. Scores and scores of people. A few of my soldiers and Peacekeepers no doubt, but mostly innocent civilians. The people you treat every day. Men and women, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, children in their parents' arms…all will die. And you, and Jane, and everyone you hold dear…they will be first, that I promise you."
Maura reached for her ring finger and turned the band round and round as her stare held his, unbroken. "We'll play your game."
"The Tour will be your only chance to turn things around." Hoyt breached the small distance between them and reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and produced a clipping of lavender. The back of his hand brushed Maura's cheek as he tucked the sprig behind her ear, leaning in to take a long whiff. "I do so love the smell of lavender and fear." And with that, he was gone.