A/N Welcome to the first Reaping chapter! You know, I could really use a beta-reader. Hint hint. Celeste and Apollo Lockheart were submitted by sc148. Prepare to have your mind blown. (If I can write this right.)
Family Number 1:
Apollo Lockheart (age 16)
Celeste Lockheart (age 16)
Velvet Lockheart (age 64)
Apollo strolled through the District Square, his hands shoved in his pockets.
The day was a pleasant one. The sky was a clear, bright May blue. Apollo couldn't help whistling to himself. Okay, today was supposed to be a somber day. But man, he wasn't too good at being somber. What was the point?
Besides, in District One, today was a day worth celebrating. Everyone knew that the Quell gave a chance for entire families to bring honor to their district, not just one tribute. Okay, so there were no volunteers. The president had only recently let this new installment out. But that was only to ensure variety of ages in the tributes and their families, as well as families of different types. Some people in the outer districts were probably worried about this, Apollo reasoned. It would be pretty damn frightening to be thrown into the arena with no training at all.
As for himself, he would go as far to say that he was indifferent towards the whole thing.
Yes, he had been training at the local underground center in typical Career fashion. He wouldn't label himself a typical Career, though. Bloodlust wasn't his thing. It was exhilarating to slice open a dummy or dodge an opponent's attack and he for sure wasn't about to deny that.
But he was only going to the center for one thing and that was the steady food source he and his sister were provided with there. Plus, the beds in the center were slightly more comfortable than the ones in the orphanage.
He and his twin sister Celeste had been bored with the daily routine in the dull orphanage. They had been rowdy twelve year olds, ready for something new besides thin porridge and lice on the sheets. And so the decision to go off and train was reached by acquiescence.
Now the normally quiet Square was being prepared for the day. Cameras were being set up everywhere and Apollo even spotted a few people being interviewed. District One was one of the Capital's favorites and the Reapings tended to be shown a little longer on screen than with the other, dirtier, poorer ones.
His sister nudged his arm with her pointy elbow. "Maybe you should go see about an interview. How amazing would that be? Imagine people all over the country getting to see you."
Apollo chewed his lip in thought. There was a possibility. He was pretty good looking, after all. He knew that. It wasn't like he went around flaunting it. He just knew it. His hair was wavy and golden and his skin was the exact bronze color that girls couldn't help but stare at. He had blue-green eyes that could melt any girl. Apollo was confident in that fact. Not to mention his physique, now toned from years of physical training. Apollo had never known either of his parents. But it was his inference that they had been a handsome couple, if nothing else.
His twin sister, on the other hand, was another matter entirely. Apollo pitied those boys whose eyes popped when he announced he had a twin sister. Surely, she must be quite the looker then? Oh, what a misconception it was that twins, even fraternal, can look alike!
Celeste did share several features with him, of course. She, too, was blonde. Only her hair was a dull, darkened blonde that hung limply across her back, ending in frayed and uneven tips as she never seemed to cut it well. She was bony. Where other girls had curves and places where a guy's eyes could linger for a while, Celeste was all angles and points. There was nothing there to look at in the first place. Other girls grew tall and developed hips and other seemingly random occurrences of curves. Celeste certainly did grow tall. She was 5'9 or so at least. But her figure stayed almost exactly the same. She was an odd mash-up of features from all age groups and strangers could never seem to guess her age.
Apollo tossed his man of hair back carelessly. "Ah, screw those cameras. If I get Reaped, I'm going to let my weapons skills speak for themselves."
"Oh man, Apollo. There is such a thing as being too confident, you know." Celeste's voice was light, as it always was when she teased her brother. She did do quite often. Apollo usually didn't retort back. Girls were sensitive about those sort of things.
Besides, being a girl, she had probably taken all that had happened to them a lot harder. Well, this Apollo knew. Sometimes he heard her crying into her pillow at night. Apollo hadn't engaged in much pillow crying. What happened happened. There were kids he knew with worse stories than theirs. Yes, they had never known their parents. But after some of the stories Apollo had encountered at the orphanage, it almost seemed better that way. He'd never been beaten, save for those spankings with a wooden spoon he'd gotten at the home. He'd never seen his father hit his mother or been given a cigarette burn or seen his sister getting (shudder) touched by his father. It did happen. Just not to them.
"Damn, am I ever glad to get out of that dark and dingy training center." Celeste stretched her arms and let the sun hit her face. She had never been happy cooped up inside the center. That was where the two of them differed.
"Don't let anyone hear you talking like that." Mason's voice came to them from behind. He flashed a grin at the twins. Mason was Apollo and Celeste's age and had been a close friend of theirs since they had begun training. He was, like Apollo and Celeste, decidedly un-Career. That is, if one was looking at the typical Career stereotypes. Mason was a level-headed type of guy; very smooth and easygoing. He was lay and loved to pull jokes and, all in all, wasn't very serious. Which was why he and Apollo got along just fine.
Mason put his arm around Celeste's bony shoulders. He lowered his voice to a whisper. "We're supposed to be going on about how lucky we are to have this so-called secret training center that I'm sure even the most ignorant hicks in Twelve know about." He laughed.
Apollo sat down on one of the stone benches that had obviously been placed there as part of a beautifying effort for the cameras. Normally, despite its reputation as being the most pristine district, District One wasn't really much to look at. There were remnants of elegance, sure. The Justice Building was white marble and enormous and had obviously been stunning once. Once. The fountain in front of it, in the dead center of the Square, was a large and opulent thing made from stone. No water came out of it now though, just on days when the camera crews came. Its stone was cracked and crumbling.
And the district was not without its seedier areas too. Any seasoned citizen knew that these parts could be just as bad as any in Six.
Apollo had no doubt that he and Celeste had come from an area such as workers, few in amount, at the orphanage had told him that he and Celeste had been taken there by an older woman, with slightly gray hair and an apron still covered in blood from their birth. Though they weren't sure if this was the woman who actually birthed them. It probably wasn't. The woman had been sobbing, her face wracked with grief and her eyes swimming with tears. Before the women from their orphanage could ask her anything, she handed them a box with two of the tiniest babies the women had ever seen.
Twins. Twins were a rarity, even in districts with slightly less abysmal medical care. But miraculously, both were alive and crying.
The woman only said one thing. That the children's names were Celeste and Apollo. And that her name was Velvet.
Then she took off.
"So what do you two think of this Quell, eh?" Mason's voice, thankfully, cut into Apollo's sort of depressing reverie.
Apollo shrugged his shoulders. "It's an interesting one, I guess. It'll probably make for some pretty good entertainment. It's gonna be something else to see adults in that arena. Maybe our trainers will go. Or really seasoned trainees of the past, along with their kids." He studied his fingernails. "Won't affect us, though. By us, I mean me and Celeste."
"Celeste and I," Mason corrected slyly. He glanced at Celeste, hoping to see her crack a smile. She didn't. Ah, Celeste. She had always been a oblivious girl to the point where Apollo wanted to jump in front of her spacey eyes and eve his hands frantically.
"You're only saying that because we don't know our family." Celeste said quietly. She and that intense look in her eyes. Even though she lacked in physical strength, her mental intensity during training was hard to beat. Apollo sometimes wished he could be as intense as she was. But then he thought that someone had to be there to counteract all of his sister's seriousness. That was him.
"What do you mean?" He asked slowly. Okay, he had always been a little slower on the uptake than most people. Usually, that ended up with comical results, which made it okay. But this conversation was quickly turning anything but comical.
Celeste sighed. "Just because we've never met our family, however screwed up they may be, it doesn't mean we don't have one. They're out there somewhere. Somewhere in the district is someone with our blood, right? You remember that blood testing thing everyone had to go to a few weeks ago, don't you?"
And he did. about three weeks ago, every single person in the district had to go to the Justice Building in an enormous room to get blood tested and scanned. Throughout the day more and more people went inside until the whole district was finished. This was to ensure no one escaped. Even those who tried to dodge the testing were found somehow. The Peacekeepers had their ways. Apollo was no coward. If he was picked, then that was that. He and Celeste would bring honor to their district just like any other Careers would.
But oh, the rest of the family complicated that.
Who knew? Maybe they would have to bring along some drunken father or catatonic mother they'd never seen before. He rolled his eyes. Well, thank goodness they wouldn't get picked. That just wouldn't happen. The odds were phenomenal at best.
Apollo put his hands behind his head and rested against the back of the bench, letting the sun warm his face. It really was nice outside. And it felt great to be in the sun finally and not sweating in the dank training space. Even though he would have to return tomorrow. Quell or no quell, Careers got exactly one day of rest and that was Reaping Day.
"Don't look too comfortable," Mason warned. "Reaping starts soon, you know."
Celeste fingered her skirt. Apollo wasn't sure how she'd managed to find the dark velvety looking thing, or the cream colored blouse she wore with it. The only clothes they'd been wearing for years were the training outfits, which consisted of tight black t-shirts and gray sweatpants.
Mason himself was looking pretty comfortable. But then, he always did. Mason was the kind of guy who could brush off any situation as no big deal at all. Even when he was training, though he rarely showed off for others, his swordsmanship looked more like a calm and controlled dance than the wild, hacking movements the other guys made. Apollo agreed that this was the way to go. As far as his own machetes went, he aspired to create such fluid movements as Mason used.
"I think it's time for some real victors this year, don't you?" Apollo asked. "Honestly, I think it's pretty generous of Snow to let multiple people win for two years in a row."
Celeste shrugged. "I don't know. Something smelled fishy with last year's Games. I didn't get what happened at all and I'm still trying to process it. Don't get me wrong, I'm not bitter about two scrappy kids from Twelve winning. The boy was pretty strong and there's no denying that the girl was an excellent marksman. But they shouldn't have won. They just got lucky. Especially with that random rule change that went back and forth, huh? If you ask me, Cato and Clove should have taken it."
Mason leaned over in mild interest. "Rooting for the rival district, are we?"
She punched him lightly in the arm. "Shut up. I always thought our girl was never going to win. That boy was an idiot. The Games just didn't seem fair."
Apollo checked his watch. "Well, maybe this year will be better. We'll have some adults go in. Let's head over to the Square. We're gonna be late." He got up from the bench, slightly apprehensive to go to the Reaping. He did like to train. But what he didn't like was watching the Games. They were meant to be an entertaining contest. Gory, sometimes, yeah. He could take that. What he couldn't take was little kids being ripped from their parent's arms and thrown into a fight against kids like him.
There was no way he could ever kill a little kid.
But a monstrous brute from Two who could actually put up a fight? Or a clever tribute from Four who happened to be excellent at wielding a net? Yeah, he'd like that. Celeste wouldn't, though. When he was younger, he had teased her about her passive nature, so odd in their home district. But now he didn't anymore. Actually, he kind of respected it. That's what happens when one gets older and begins to tune out the mindless brainwashing the trainers would shout out. If she didn't like to fight, that was cool by him.
No doubt about it, she was the brains of the pair. Apollo was no braggart. He would admit that his intelligence was lacking. But hey, he was a good guy. Most of the time.
"I can say hi to Chardonnay, if you want me to." Celeste offered as the three of them, Mason included, walked over to the tables to get their fingers pricked. She walked without her usual bounce in her step. The Quell had freaked Celeste out from the beginning. Apollo knew she was thinking about all those babies who now had a chance of entering the arena.
Apollo felt himself blushing at the mention of his crush's name. "O-Okay," He stammered. Damn it. He always lost his cool whenever the girl's name came up.
Mason laughed. "Jeez, man! You couldn't possibly get any more obvious, could you?"
Apollo laughed too, but found himself blushing even more. Oh, if only he could get Chardonnay to notice him. But she was one of the best of the best. She was nearly as intelligent as Celeste! Almost. And man, could she control a spear. Although he would never hope for her to get Reaped, she would make one formidable competitor. He meditated on this as the line to get fingers pricked inched along. The Reaping would function like any other, except that the child's family, normally brought into the Justice Building to exchange goodbyes, would actually meet up with the Reaped child to strategize and figure out how to survive the days to come.
There would be no volunteering.
But Apollo wasn't worried. He never was. Mason was never worried, either.
He sauntered over to the table and winked at one of the young women with the needles. He stuck out his finger and proceeded to give the girl such a funny, rather seductive look that sent Apollo into a fit of laughter. Except he couldn't really laugh out loud for fear of looking insane. So he just stood there getting redder and redder in the face and clutching his hand over his mouth like an idiot. Damn Mason.
Because of that little show, when Celeste walked off to the sixteen year olds' section, she was smiling.
Apollo and Mason made their way to the guys of their age, all the while making a joke of comparing the hotness of their trainers. Even on a Quell, they refused to take the Reaping seriously. There was no fun in that. And they were, admittedly, a bit hedonistic. Well, more than a bit. Life was short, so why spend it miserable? Apollo knew he hadn't started life off to well and neither had Celeste. But they had food and clothes and soon would be out of the training center for good, maybe with a nice little flat with window boxes full of geraniums. Ah, that sounded nice. He would go on to become a trainer himself, though he'd open up his own little academy. Take a calmer approach and teach his pupils some of Celeste's logic. She could do that.
It sounded silly, but they actually had it planned out. Apollo might not admit it, but life without his sister was unimaginable.
"I assure you, my good man," Mason was saying. "I tell you, Vera is by far the hottest because of her walk. You know, that little hip swivel thingy she does."
Apollo shook his head vehemently. "Certainly not! Her face is as squashed up as a bull dog's. They're all just fantastically ugly, if you ask me."
Mason sighed. "It's a shame, really. They're some of the only girls we get to see throughout our fine adolescent years. Besides that horrendous bunch we're forced to train with." He sighed again. At that same time, a rather nosy girl from their training group overheard them and let out a little gasp, followed by a hair toss in their direction. The boys didn't stop laughing until Soleil Mink, their chirpy escort, bounded the steps to the stage.
"Welcome!" She wore her trademark eye-watering yellow. Apollo felt the urge to shield his eyes and Mason actually did. Of course. Soleil cleared her throat lightly and tapped the microphone. "This year is very special. It's the 75th annual Hunger Games and a Quarter Quell!"
The crowd cheered. Apollo felt his voice rise with the rest. Mason wasn't cheering too loudly though, if at all. Maybe he was just too casual for that. Or maybe it was something else. Apollo toyed with this thought as the video began to play, highlighting all the gory scenes from the Dark Days. Apollo always tried to avoid looking at the video. He hated it, honestly. What was done was done and that was that. In fact, that his whole mentality. But unfortunately, the Capital didn't share this.
It was what it was.
Soleil clapped her hands to signal the video's end. Up on the stage with her were the victors of past years. Apollo spotted the most recent victor, from three years ago; a young man named Jett who was probably twenty by now. They hadn't won last year, obviously. And the year before that went to District Two. So it was probably time to reclaim some glory and not let anyone forget how formidable they were. Since the tributes were Reaped, this did put a damper on things. But many of the kids had at least had basic training, so Apollo figured they could still have an advantage.
"And now I will select one name. That's right. Just one name. The bowl is twice as large this year to accommodate both boys and girls." She smiled over at the district's mayor, who in turn gestured to the gigantic glass bowl at the front of the stage filled with minuscule slips of paper. Soleil walked toward the bowl. "I assure you, it is an honor like no other to decide which tribute, and in turn, which family, gets to represent this lovely district."
Apollo kept his eyes focused on her hand, which was adorned by a large and sparkly ring that even he could see, way here in the back. He could also see horde of twelve years olds squirming in either excitement or discomfort at their first Reaping, which just so happened to be a Quell.
Soleil lowered her hand. Then, she suddenly plunged it into the bowl and latched onto a slip of paper in one lighting-fast move. She drew the slip up and carefully, slowly, unfolded it. For a second, she stood on the stage in stillness. Like she was just taking the time to read out the name to herself.
She smiled just slightly.
The crowd held its breath. Everyone drew air in at once in one collective motion
Ward. The name given to so-called "wards of the state." Orphans. It was the name placed on the back of every nameless, or semi-nameless child who entered the orphanage. The name placed on children who really didn't exist at all. Those too young to remember who their family was.
Apollo wasn't listening until he heard the last part. That awful word. The last name he had always hated. And as soon as he heard it spoken, he knew it was him.
That was him.
But that wasn't all. Oh no, it got much worse. So, so much worse. Apollo felt his heart sink deep into his chest as he slowly took a step forward. He let out a gasp of air, realizing that he'd been holding it in the entire time. The ground beneath his feet felt rough and uneven. Everywhere around him, people stared. Their eyes bore into his. Some looked away. Others simply couldn't.
All gazes were the same. Hard and unfeeling.
Somewhere just behind him, a single scream pierced the air.
The Goodbye Room
Apollo kept close to his sister.
Both were sitting on an ornate, if slightly moth-eaten couch in a high and airy room. The room was at the top of the Justice Building and it had only one purpose. It seemed a depressing notion; that a room could only be created for such a sad propose. But the room did possess a little bit of cheer, if that cheer was oddly placed. The floorboards were clean and gleamed as the sunlight hit them. The furniture was done in cozy colors, like deep red and brown. In District One, the room didn't have as much of a sad purpose as in the other districts. At least, the mood in this room often wasn't as sad.
However, numbers simply do not lie. Most of the kids who walked into the room, however confident they were, did not return home.
Thus it came to be known under one name in every single district. And that was The Goodbye Room.
Celeste was biting her lip. "I can't do this." She said in a voice as thin as a reed. Tears welled up on her eyes. "Apollo, I'm no Career. Not like you. You've always been strong and good with weapons and all of that. You could survive. Oh, I'll only slow you down! I won't last a night. I'll be an embarrassment to the district and everyone knows it." She sighed deeply. "I'm just not like them."
Apollo patted her hand. He fleet like it had been a while since he actually tried to physically comfort his sister. That was the case with all siblings, he supposed. They got further apart as the years went by. Apollo knew that the recent years had been rough, as their personalities began to emerge as so decidedly different. But at the heart, he knew they were actually very much the same. "Don't cry, Celeste. C'mon, just for me, okay? Please don't cry."
Celeste stifled back a sob.
"You're right that you aren't like the rest of the people here, Celeste. But who gives a damn?" Apollo said loudly. "You're whip smart and I don't know where the hell you got that from, but that's not the point. You could beat any Career with your intelligence. So you aren't a Career. That doesn't mean you won't have a chance."
"Everyone has a chance." Celeste said these words with conviction, even though Apollo could tell that she didn't quite believe them yet. He didn't either. Sure, he had trained for a long time and he could wield a machete. He was a pretty good height, at about six foot one and he could take down most people in hand-to-hand. But he had never been at the top of his training groups. That spot was reserved for Mason, whose cunning and slyness could outdo even the largest of the guys. Apollo wasn't so sure he could take down the real competition in the Games.
He sighed. "And this year is different. We have to take into account the families. Plus the fact that there aren't any volunteers. Maybe they picked some scrawny twelve year old girl from Two who has a pregnant mother and a baby brother and no father or something. That could happen. Not every kid in Two is a killing machine, just like here. We have weak ones here, too. Not every kid trains for the Games. Some do, sure. But I think the kids who don't, at least the ones who've stopped training by the time they reach our age, outnumber the real Careers by a lot. When you think about it, the odds are pretty good."
Apollo felt satisfaction at seeing his sister's face visibly lift. A small smile played at the corners of her mouth. "Yeah," She said. "You're absolutely right. You know, you always go on about how I'm the smart one. But you're the one who's cool under pressure."
He shrugged. "No pressure, Celeste. We have this. We're coming home. So don't take a long time staring out your window to see the district when the train pulls out. There's no need for that. You'll see it again real soon. Why? Cause we're coming back."
She nodded and smiled wider. "Okay. I just have one question."
Celeste suddenly seemed intensely focused on a stain on the couch. "Um, what about the family part of it? We don't know who our parents are. And don't you remember what we were talking about in the Square just a little while ago?" Her grayish eyes clouded at the mention of the conversation. And of their family. Whoever that could be.
Apollo felt stuck. He was at a loss for words. How could he possibly comfort his sister now? Damn, sometimes he really did feel like he was letting Celeste down. He was all the family she had and sometimes he just couldn't make up for a lost father and mother. Just the way Celeste could never fill the gap in his heart. He wanted parents. He wanted a father to scold him to train harder so he could prepare to bring his family honor. Then he wanted a mother to pat his shoulder and make sure he wore a jacket outside, even if it really wasn't that cold. He wanted proud grandparents who remarked on how big he had become and how handsome he was. And how honorable he was sure to become. Every now and then, people had complimented Apollo on this. But he wanted more.
His eventual answer was soft. "Maybe we'll finally get to meet them."
"They had everyone do that DNA testing. Everyone. If we have any living family in the district, they'll be here soon enough." Celeste's eyes widened at this realization. Whether it was a good or bad realization, neither of the two of them had any clue.
The Peacekeeper who was standing at the door suddenly cleared his throat loudly. Apollo thought the man must realize that the two of them weren't exactly classic District One tributes. For one, usually tributes had visitors pouring in. Their family would crowd and wish them only the best odds and so on and so forth. Apollo and Celeste had none of that, a fact made especially obvious by that year's Quell.
"You might be wondering why you don't have any visitors," He said in a slight monotone, answering Apollo's thoughts seemingly directly. "That's because district officials have located on living family member of yours and they figured you might want time to strategize." He looked slightly uncomfortable. He seemed to Apollo like the type of man who liked to follow protocol and this Quell was breaking protocol in many ways so far.
"Let her in!" The man called loudly.
The door opened slowly, creaking as it did. Two Peacekeepers, both large men dressed in the white uniform, stepped in. Their faces were grave. Their size made the woman between them appear even smaller. Apollo craned his neck to get closer look at her.
Was she it, then? The woman was smaller than Celeste, standing at only a little over five feet or so. She was old. Not so old that she had trouble walking or looked sickly, but her hair was gray and her body seemed frail, with veins showing and plain clothes covering her bony body. She wore a light purple skirt reaching nearly to her ankles and a simple white blouse, though a gold locket adorned her neck. Perhaps she was somewhat, or at least had once been, well-to-do. It was then Apollo noticed the woman's deciding feature. Though her form was small and fragile appearing, her bright gray eyes, the exact same color as Celeste's though even more vibrant, gazed around the room. They had something to them, a strange intensity, that Apollo wouldn't have expected to see from a woman like her.
So yes, she appeared weak. But Apollo knew that appearances were everything. And he could see that in the defiant way this woman stared at the Peacekeepers and the way she held her chin up. It was almost like she was trying to make the men uncomfortable. And for an old woman standing so small, she was doing a pretty good job of it.
The men slowly began to leave the room as the woman stepped forward. Her step seemed quick enough and so far unmarred by her age. She was healthy, a fact for which Apollo was grateful. It would have been very difficult for him fi she was not.
The woman immediately sat down on an ornate chair right next to the couch where the twins sat. She stared at them for a few moments, her gray eyes taking them in silently. Apollo hadn't met many people with truly gray eyes, and the ones that did have them were slightly dark. Only Celeste and this strange woman posed eyes that had an intense gray all to their own.
"So," The woman finally said simply. "You are both sixteen years old. Isn't that something?" She shook her head silently to herself, smiling softly. Even a little sadly. She looked…almost remorseful. Well, she should be, Apollo figured. If she was still living, why hadn't she taken them in? She certainly didn't look dirt poor or anything. They had spent their childhood being neglected in some orphanage while a healthy living relative completely ignored them.
Evidently, Celeste was thinking the same thing. "Who do you think you are?!" She spat out. Her eyes flashed raw anger that made Apollo's face grow hot with worry. His sister was never angry. Emotional, well, she sometimes was. But never, ever angry.
Quickly, the woman held up her hand. "I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have just…I wish it wasn't like this. I'm very sorry." The wrinkles in her face suddenly seemed to become much more pronounced. "I haven't even introduced myself. I'm your grandmother. My daughter, s-she was so young when she had you. Only nineteen. So scared. Sometimes women who give birth to multiples survive if they get medical care on time and are healthy. Ambrosia was always a frail little thing. It was a blood-clotting disorder. They only told me this after she died, of course." The woman stared into her lap.
The room had just become much more silent. It hung heavily and Apollo felt a weight on his heart. So his mother really was dead, then. All those nights when he and Celeste were little, fantasizing and making up stories about their mother who would someday return. All for nothing. She had probably been dead before they had even gotten to look at each other.
The woman looked very distressed. Tears welled up in her eyes. "I had lost everything," She whispered. "My daughter was all I had. No husband. I never married. He took off before Ambrosia was even born. He said…he said I could only think about another boy who wasn't him." She wrung her hands. "That's true. It still is. I thought about you two, Ambrosia and Adonis all day for years. It was so hard. I had to give you two to the orphanage. I just couldn't take care of you. I was gone for years. Catatonic, even. I was so, so lost. Please forgive me."
"I'm sorry," Celeste said plainly. "It looks like all of our lives haven't been easy. There's no point in getting angry about you." She looked over at Apollo. "I say we put this behind us. Our grandmother's better now then she was and what's done is done."
This sounded more like Celeste. But Apollo had only one thing on his mind. "Who's Adonis?"
At this, the old woman's eyes did let out a tear. It ran down her face, the etched wrinkles in it forming a path for the little drop. "My name is Velvet Lockheart. Adonis Lockheart was my brother. He died in the 25th Games. The first Quarter Quell in history. He was seventeen years old. After he died, everything fell apart. My father was awful. Always had been. He only got worse now that our family name was forever blotted. And my mother…she did nothing to stop him. She died a year later. Suicide. Everyone said it was a heart attack. I ran away when I was seventeen and I'm not at all proud of what I did in the years that followed. But eventually my father passed away and I inherited some of the money that we got as compensation. Many don't know, but families who lose children in the Games get a bit of money to sustain them. As if that could make up for it."
"Oh, man." Apollo's words came out in a whisper. They were all he could think to say.
"After I had Ambrosia, we lived together for some time until she met a boy. I don't even know who. I presume that whoever he was, he's dead now, since he isn't here in this room." Velvet spoke of death flatly, like she had been speaking about far too much. "But she wasn't saddened by the burden of children. On and on she went about her baby. If it was a boy, she wanted him called Apollo. For a girl, she wanted Celeste. And so that's that."
Celeste's eyes were welling up. "I wish I could have met her."
Velvet nodded. "I wish the same for you and for Apollo. I would have liked for you two to have met Adonis, too. Oh, he was so honorable. And I would like to see my Ambrosia again as well. But do you know what? Such thoughts can wait. We will see them all again someday."
"And now, Apollo and Celeste, is not that time."
Apollo was actually really liking this woman. She was strong, at least mentally. She was determined. Perhaps she'd even trained at one time. Apollo could imagine that when she was his age, she would have made a formidable competitor. And she wasn't letting her age bring her down. He found this admirable.
Okay, Velvet wasn't physically strong. She was his grandmother. That word would take some getting used to. What was he supposed to call her, when she had been a stranger hardly five minutes ago? But all put aside, she would do. She would have to.
Velvet went on. "I was gone from the world for so long. It was all so much, losing so many people close to me. And when I was lucid, I thought only of you two and the guilt that weighed me down was unbearable. But now that I can finally see you again, I'm not throwing this away. I refuse to let my family slip through my fingers again."
A smile formed on Celeste's lips. Apollo knew that these words meant a lot to his sister. He was glad to hear them, too.
Velvet held up a spindly finger. "Oh, you may think that I'm weak. But I assure you, when I give every ounce of strength I have, I am someone to watch out for. It's the same for anyone. All we have to do is give every ounce of strength we have because this is life or death. So, what can you do?"
"Uh, what?" Apollo spluttered, in a way he was sure sounded just tremendously intelligent.
"You know, what are you good at? I presume you've trained, at least for a little?"
"Of course," Celeste answered almost immediately. "We've been going to the training center full-time since we were eight years old. Apollo's excellent with machetes. They're like an extension of his arm by now. He's also a formidable competitor in hand-to-hand combat." She looked over at Apollo and he smiled back at her. Though he didn't feel anything behind it, he wanted to reassure her at least. Even though he was still kind of in shock.
"Celeste is wicked smart." He finally said. "She knows all this stuff about plants and random survival facts most Careers don't know. She mostly just uses knives, but her brain is her best weapon. Really."
Velvet smiled. "Now this is good to hear. I think we'll work fine together. Now let's talk strategy." Her voice carried a steady, determined tone.
Celeste sat up straighter. This was her strength. "Velvet, you and I will run as fast as humanly possible as soon as the gong rings. We grab whatever supplies we can and don't kill any other tributes unless we're at risk for our lives. I don't want targets to be on our backs if our kill's family decides to avenge them. We need to watch out for that. And it's inevitable that we join the Career pack, at least for the first couple of days. After that, we can sneak off. Then, once the Careers start dying at the hands of other tributes, if that happens, we can start thinking of how to take down the rest of them."
Apollo rubbed his hands. "I like the sound of that."
Velvet clenched her fists. "We will get through this. We will come back alive and I'm going to finally make my brother proud."
The Peacekeeper at the door cleared his throat again. "Lockheart family, it is time to board the train that will take you to the Capital."
Apollo stood up on steady legs. "Remember what I told you, Celeste. Don't stare out your window when the train pulls out. Don't even look behind you. There's no need to say goodbye to this place because we are coming back. And we'll be back real soon."
A/N Thank you, sc148 for letting me make some pretty big adjustments to your wonderful characters. It's pretty cool that you took the time to submit to another one of my SYOTs! Glad to have you back. As for the rest of you, I hope you enjoyed this first chapter. Hopefully for those who didn't read my first story, it still made some sense. Maybe.
Yes, I have changed something significant, if any noticed. There will be no volunteers! This is because, unfortunately, many of my submitters did not elaborate enough on their tribute's choice to volunteer. I love ya'll, but seriously. PM me with some more elaboration. Some of you don't have to and you know who you are.
Here is the list so far.
District One: By sc148
Apollo Lockheart (16)
Celeste Lockheart (16)
Velvet Lockheart (64)
District Two: By Rosemarie Benson
Dakota Anneliese "Koda" Mitchell (18)
Kathryn Mitchell (48)
James Mitchell (49)
District Three: By The Mockingjay Lives
Roy Peregrine (15)
Calob Peregrine (67)
Ashella Peregrine (65)
District Four: By BecauseofKillianJones
Fehlix Khouryn (18)
Pihlar Khouryn (44)
Ceshar Khouryn (44)
Palohma Khouryn ( 15 )
Bianiz Khouryn (18)
Jonathany Khouryn (2)
District Five: By ABookwormNamedSteph
Shawn "Shade" Day (16)
Lisa Day (29)
Chuck Day: (40)
Nate Day: (7)
District Six: By RuetheDay
Circe Saffrone (16)
Hart Saffrone. (47)
Grifin Saffrone (18)
District Seven: By drinkthatliquorstore
Lyana Sectroe (17)
Dyson Sectroe (49)
Ayana Sectroe (47)
Open! I would love a younger tribute here.
District Nine: By God of Time and Destruction (Please PM me for more details or I may have to replace Roan. This is an emergency!)
Roan Martinez (17)
Lux Martinez (12)
Calcus Martinez (35)
District Ten: Reserved for Kitty!
District Eleven: By cherrybubble
Abra Millith (18)
Ceresis Millith (18)
Mazie Millith (9)
Ryeic Millith (40)
District Twelve: Reserved