You may be thinking this sounds exactly like one of my other fanfics, Small Things. This is actually different. This takes place only in the Capitol, and never after the rebellion. It is only about the victors. And this is not a character tribute. Just wanted to clear things up, everyone. (By the way, this short paragraph before it changes to Johanna's POV isn't an every-chapter thing.) This is all in Johanna's POV.
In the Capitol, almost nothing is abnormal. There's hot pink wigs, there's a yearly, televised fight to the death. But the victors of that fight, the victors of the Hunger Games, never leave the arena the same as they went in.
Each year, the victors must mentor a new round of tributes as they take their turn at fighting for their lives. And every time, they are reminded of their own experiences.
What the Capitol finds abnormal is how every single night, at least one of the victors wakes up screaming their heads off. Stupid them. They know nothing, nothing, about how it feels to have left the arena alive. Even the victors themselves can't control that every night, one of them is screaming.
I didn't think that it would be so awful. Hearing the screams of my tributes ring in my head. But it is.
They were only twelve, damn it, both of them. Twelve, with skinny, starved bodies, huge eyes, and frizzy hair. They were enraptured with me, and I didn't like it. They actually looked up to me. They asked me all sorts of questions about how good I was at hand-to-hand combat, with an axe, at running. I grudgingly answered them. I admit it now, I got used to those kids running after my like a pair of puppies, saying that I was such a good fighter. I knew they would die in the fucking bloodbath. I guess I just didn't really accept it as the truth.
But now, fifteen minutes into the Games, both Pansy and Thorn are dead and gone. I keep seeing, in my mind, the axe sinking into Thorn's head. In another part of my mind, I hear him telling me that I'm perfect when it comes to axes, and I feel like I'm going to be sick. In my mind, I see Pansy stepping off her metal plate two seconds early and getting blown to bits, showering the other tributes in flesh. In the other half of my brain, I see her telling Caesar that she would be very precise in the arena and plan everything carefully, and that she would make it past the bloodbath. She said this all dressed in a light pink dress, swinging her legs because she was so small they couldn't touch the stage from her chair.
I slip down the wall of the elevator until I'm sitting in the corner, curled into a ball, helpless, until it reaches the floor for District Four. An elderly woman steps into the elevator. She has tan, wrinkled skin, and snow-white hair. She has surprisingly sharp eyesight and sees me right away.
"Why are you looking so sad, Johanna?" she asks soothingly. Then she checks her watch and swears. "Oh, you poor thing. I realize now, the Games started a bit ago. Let me guess, your tributes are dead." I nod. I don't want to open my mouth for fear of getting sick. "Why don't you come to the bar downstairs with me?" she asks. "All the victors that aren't mentoring right now are there." When I don't respond, she pulls me into a standing position. Her bony arms are surprisingly strong. I now realize who she is. Mags, one of the District Four victors. She presses the button for the lobby and we shoot downward once more.
When we get to the bar, I only recognize a few people from my two years as a mentor. Chaff and Seeder, both of District Eleven. Brutus and Lyme, both of District Two. Beetee and Wiress, both of District Three. Blight, from my District, Seven. Cecilia of District Eight. They don't look surprised to see me. I pull up a barstool and sit between Mags and Chaff. I order the most alcoholic drink I can think of off the top of my head. In seconds, I'm served by an Avox. I take a gulp of the liquor, loving my familiar fire. Mags stares at me a bit disapprovingly. I shrug at her and take another gulp. I feel like I'm being stared at. It takes me a few second to realize that Chaff is literally staring down my strapless shirt. I turn a little red. Mags notices.
"Chaff, she's only been a victor two years," she says. "She doesn't want you staring at her."
"I don't care," I say, surprising myself. It must be the alcohol, because I pull down my shirt even more than it is already and take another drink. Chaff guffaws and thumps me on the back.
"So, Johanna. That's your name, right, girl?" says Chaff. I nod. "Has Snow told you that you're going to have to prostitute yourself?" He says this so matter-of-a-factly that I cough and end up spitting liquor across the bar at the Avoxes.
"Yeah," I say with a burning throat. "He told me. I'm not the only one?" Brutus, who has only just joined us, chuckles.
"No way in hell," he says. "All of us have to sell ourselves. Until we get too old, like Mags here." He nudges Mags so hard she nearly falls off her stool.
"Like Chaff was probably about to say," says Lyme, grinning at me in a mean way, "since you're not mentoring, you're going to be in for a rough few weeks." I groan, and finish off my drink. It's replaced with a new glass immediately. "Yeah, poor you. Too bad you're not from a Career district. Then you'd only have to get fucked about five times." I scowl at her and drink some more.
"Leave the girl alone," says a gruff voice behind me. I recognize the voice as Haymitch Abernathy, the only victor from District Twelve. "Well? You should all be saying sorry now, because Mason here has two 'appointments' tonight." Shit. I down the rest of my drink. "They need you in Remake, Mason."
"I don't care," I say. "I don't want to get fucked by a Capitol bastard."
"Too bad," says Haymitch. "You have to. Let's go." I get up and follow him. Hours later, after I am remade, I stalk to the car sitting outside the Training Center, slam the door, and dread what my destination is.
The whole time, I worry that I might get knocked up. I worry that I'm going to get in trouble for not getting in that bed willingly. I worry that I'm going to die.
The next time isn't that much later, and it's even worse. My 'lover' hits me, claws at me, and bruises me. When it's over, I pull on the dress I was wearing, flip off my 'lover', and walk out to his cries of indignation.
I crawl into my own bed alone that night, in District Seven's floor, feeling utterly, hopelessly alone. I didn't feel like wearing anything, so I sleep stark naked. I can't fall asleep for around half an hour. When I do, it's a troubled sleep.
"Johanna, when I grow up, I want to be just like you!" says Pansy happily, following me to our dining area. "I want to be good with axes like you! Will you train me?" Her eyes are so hopeful that she's going to live a long life that I give in.
"Sure, Pansy," I say. I realize we're going the wrong way. "Where are we?" I ask myself.
"Where we eat!" Pansy answers, even though I'm not talking to her.
"Dammit," I hiss. Now I feel really stupid. I'm supposed to be telling Pansy about her interview approach.
"It's all right," she says. "You're still the best mentor ever. Why don't we just sit here?" She points at our dining table. I open my mouth to object, but then I wonder, why the hell not?
"All right," I say. "You're very smart. And practical. Play that up, all right?"
"Of course I will!" says Pansy, smiling at me. "And then I'll make it past the bloodbath! Remember, when I'm a victor, you're training me."
"How could I forget?" I ask.
I wake up falling out of my bed and flat on my back. Screaming something wordless about the Hunger Games and sick, twisted Capitol fuckers, I stagger to my feet. My stomach lurches violently and I hightail it to the bathroom, hand clapped over my mouth. When I drink, I always get sick afterward. But this is worse. I sit in front of the toilet for the next half hour, because I can't stop the vomiting. When I'm feeling slightly better, I take a shower and put on clean clothes. I lie on my bed, miserable.
All I can hear is, Johanna, when I grow up, I want to be just like you!
Believe me, Pansy, I think, even though she's dead, you don't want to be anything like me.