This is for the Secret Santa fic exchange, for Angel [angels entwined]. The prompts were: "Amsterdam" by Daughter; a brief love affair; wanderlust; castle ruins. I tried to incorporate a Christmas-like element into the first section.
Angel, I hope you like it! Or rather, I hope you put up with it, since I'm not the best with prompts. :)
The small child's eyes glistened with a stardust of lights as she stared, eyes wide, into the bedroom in her house. A smile grew on her well-formed pink lips, exposing a mouthful of straight, white teeth, with a few gaps. Then, getting over the rush of happiness that she felt at seeing her room draping in sparkling white tinsel, she stuck the end of one of her wispy blonde braids into her mouth, sucking placidly. Her parents exchanged a glance -they were trying to rid their daughter of the childish habit- but then smiled in unison. After all, it was the winter now, and the entirety of District One was glistening silver-white under a soft blanket of snow.
In celebration for this first snow of the season -like every year- the citizens of the District exchanged presents throughout their families, and bedecked the rooms of the houses with sparkling ornaments and garlands of artificial white pine-branches, doused in glitter. The insides of the houses were as shimmering as the snow outside, which gleamed under the tentative morning sun.
"Glimmer, darling, would you like to open your present?" the girl's mother asked gently in her usual sweet voice, carefully removing the now damp braid from her daughter's mouth. "Me and Daddy thought that since you're a big girl now-"
"Seven already!" Glimmer's father interrupted with a hearty laugh, scooping the girl up in his strong arms and spinning her through the air. She squealed in happiness, the lost braid forgotten.
"Now, now, honey, don't interrupt," his wife said, but the tone of her voice was anything but harsh. "Anyway, Glimmer, we thought that you'd deserve a grown-up gift for the holidays." She handed the little girl a package, a box wrapped in bright paper. "Go on, open it."
Glimmer's fingers, still pudgy with puppy fat, ripped open the paper eagerly. The package was long and thin, and when she jostled it, she could hear a slight rattling. Once the paper was taken care of and thrown to the floor, she tore the tape from the box and lifted the flaps, shaking out the contents onto the pink comforter on her bed.
"A real bow!" the young girl shrieked happily, picking it up. "And real arrows!" In truth, the bow wasn't exactly the finest, and the arrows had blunt rubber tips that would barely leave a bruise upon impact. But they were the most dangerous thing that the happy-go-lucky seven-year-old could be trusted with -at least, according to her parents. And she loved them. "Oh, thank you, Mommy! Thank you, Daddy!" Dropping the weapons, she turned to embrace her parents, snuggling her face against her mother's shoulder.
When they broke apart, Glimmer was giggling happily, and her mother had a warm smile emblazoned across her kind face. "I'm glad you like them, sweetie," she said, ruffling her daughter's blonde bangs. "Someday, you're going to be our little victor. And we'll say, 'That's our daughter- that's our Glimmer, the beautiful victor of the Hunger Games.' And we'll be proud of you. And people will tell you how lovely you are." Swelling with pride for her daughter, the woman kissed her button nose. "In spring, you can start training with the other kids. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"
Glimmer's eyes lit up, and she grinned her irresistible gap-toothed smile again. "Ooh, yes!" she said.
"Oh, and here," added Glimmer's father. He was holding something behind his back, with a loving smile. "This is from Grandma. She says to tell you that you'll always be her little princess. And ours, of course." He held out a plastic crown, bejeweled with rhinestones of many colors, shining with silver paint. "Here, try it on, sweetie," he urged.
Glimmer clapped her hands in delight, bouncing on her bed while sitting. "It's so pretty!" she laughed. "Put it on me, Daddy! Put it on me!"
Her father sighed, with a quick smile at his wife. Their little child's antics were adorable to them. "Now, I invite you," the man said, in the kind of voice that Glimmer and her friends used when playing 'pretend', "to the coronation of Princess Glimmer!" The words were nothing but the scraps of old days, and he was almost positive that they hadn't been correct, but his daughter didn't mind. She wriggled with glee as her father's hands placed the crown on her head. "The princess of her own little castle," he said, almost as if to himself.
Glimmer stuck out her lower lip in a pout, those bright green eyes widening plaintively. "But Daddy, I want to be the queen!" she insisted. "The queen of a castle!"
Her 'daddy' chuckled. "Oh, and who will the king be?" he asked teasingly, before feeling the indignant jab of his wife's sharp elbow in his gut.
No one who knew could say who was worse off as the girl grew up- Glimmer, or her parents. Glimmer had to go through the pains and joys of youth, but her mother and father, of course, had to watch it all happen before their very eyes, unable to intervene much. In this way, the parents suffered worse.
The giggly little girl who always wore her crown transformed into the smiling young girl with a slender build and hard muscles- the girl who all the trainers adored in the so-called 'Career Tributes' Academy'. "You'll go far one day, my dear. You'll make your District proud to have you," they said, and they meant it.
Then as the girl's childhood faded, she became the most famed person in her grade of school. Popular, pretty, promising with weapons- she seemed to have it all. And most of all, she had a smile to offer to anyone.
Somewhere around age thirteen, the smiles faded. Glimmer would only give smiles to her friends, not to the poorer people walking the streets. To the handsome, strong boys, not to the quiet ones (the weaklings, she called them; a true Career at heart).
That was the time when Glimmer indeed became the queen of her own castle: a castle built with beautiful, white-rock walls, drawing people in but keeping them far enough away, not close enough to lay siege. Her childhood was gone, and now Glimmer's parents looked as if they would in fact end up with a 'little victor'. But it seemed that they forgot the saying, "Be careful what you wish for."
Golden. Golden and transparent. Glimmer stood tall like some type of ancient and erotic statue, baring her body for the entire nation to see. Curled blonde locks flowed down her back, and she batted her long eyelashes and giggled seductively and winked at all the right times for the audience. Just the way that her mentor, Cashmere, had commanded, she played up the 'sexy' interview angle perfectly. The applause of the Capitol was music to her ears.
But there was something more appealing to the girl.
The Gamemakers' balcony. One man was staring at her- the Head Gamemaker, who wore a formal outfit and a sly sort of grin. Something about the dim expression on his face sent a flutter through Glimmer's stomach, something that she was familiar with. As she smiled out at the crowd, she made sure to catch his eyes.
And even though Glimmer wasn't the smartest of people, she wasn't stupid, either. The plan came to her in a flash of both horror and brilliance, and her smile faltered for but a moment.
"Are you sure?" Seneca Crane purred, stroking the silky blonde hair away from Glimmer's face. The girl lay helpless on the bed, naked, pale skin seeming to glow in the dimness of the bedroom. Those wide green eyes blinked up at him, and she brought herself to nod.
"I'm sure," she answered, forcing a smile to her face- one of those rare smiles that she handed out to the lucky, only this was false. Fool's gold. All part of Glimmer's plot to ensnare the Head Gamemaker, and then maybe, maybe, maybe... maybe he wouldn't harm her in the arena.
She kept trying to make herself believe that this was nothing but a plan. But it was something more. At least, it was to her.
That night, the queen's castle was torn to pieces. In the siege that lasted mere minutes, she surrendered her own territory to a rival king, and they ended up allied. An alliance more than she could hope for, though bitter like the taste of medicine. And she shed her armor and let her skin stand as the only barrier between her and the killing stroke of a sword- a killing stroke that left the castle walls in a rubble of granite. Skin torn to the bone. Blood spattered on white cloth. Two rival rulers seeking to dominate, and the queen ended up with a ruin.
Glimmer -stripped down to nothing but a tribute girl- came back again later that night, to Seneca's room. This time, she was dressed in nothing but a lacy nightgown, her hair mussed with a sleep that she tossed in and out of like a ship on rough water. Standing in the doorway, she flicked on the light to find the Head Gamemaker sprawled out in an armchair, a half-full bottle of red wine on the floor nearby, breathing slowly.
"Wake up," she whispered, a hand reaching out to touch his face. Her fingertips brushed up against the stubble of his beard. "Wake up."
His eyes flew open, and for a moment, they were looking at each other. A glance that said both everything and nothing. Then he spoke, his voice hoarse from sleep. "It's you," he mumbled, sitting up. In general, the remark didn't sound that bad, but his tone of voice was to her the sound that the wind makes when it's barely passed on. Something passing, leaving. Replaced by still air, uncaring still air. "That girl, from District One."
A hot rush of anger ran through Glimmer as she fingered the viciously clawed fingernail marks on her arm, so recent that they still bled. How could he forget? How could this happen? "Yes," she said after a moment, a frown creasing the smooth, unblemished skin on her forehead. "We... you... just a while ago... right here..." she stuttered, trying to explain. Then the frustration mounted. "You just fucked me! I thought- I thought you cared- I thought you loved me!" she burst out furiously.
A look of pure confusion passed over Seneca's face, like a mist over the sunrise. A horrifying thought crossed Glimmer's mind. "You... you aren't married, are you?" she asked, eyes widening. What a story that would end up as- the Head Gamemaker cheating on his wife for a tribute. But he shook his head.
"I..." For a second, the Head Gamemaker himself seemed to falter before Glimmer's eyes. "I do not have a wife," he said. "You'd say that I'm... dating." Glimmer's heart sunk for a moment. "But there's a reason why I let you sleep with me. I can't stay." He paused, sighing. "Even... even if you win, I can't stay with you. I don't know... it's just that if I try to stay somewhere -with someone-, my feet just take me somewhere else."
Spinning through the air- a shout of "Wait!"- panicked eyes- and the slam of a door. And a room, empty except for a man who wandered far enough to break a tribute's heart.
The next day, no one who saw Glimmer spoke a word of the obvious scratches on her skin.
Of course, not many people who saw Glimmer lived to the night.
And the blood would have stopped oozing from the thin fingernail marks, but the running -the killing- kept her blood flowing.