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Challenges: AU 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges: AU 2
Katniss and Peeta as mentors in an AU where there was no rebellion. for yalumesse

-----
I'm useless at sponsor meetings.

I know it, Peeta knows it, Haymitch knows it, and the sponsors know it. I would be a hundred percent more useful back in the apartment, teaching the tributes (this year, a pair of Seam kids named Dianner Teets and Brannon Dutch) to make snares and find water, than I am sitting here in a stranger's house, holding Peeta's hand and smiling awkwardly because I can't think of anything to say.

It's not that they're bad people. Haymitch has helped us build up a core of decent sponsors who aren't out to get anything from us, and who seem to genuinely want to help the kids. It's just that they're complete strangers, and all I want from them is money. In some ways, it feels like dinner with Peeta's family. I promised him that I wouldn't antagonize his mother anymore, and once that's off the table, there's nothing left to say, leaving me hanging, face frozen into what I hope is a non-aggressive expression, waiting for it to be over. He does his best, but when we're talking to each other, we tend to be talking only to each other.

At least at the Mellarks', Peeta's father and brothers and sisters-in-law will usually rescue me sooner or later. Here, all I can do is listen to the ticking of the clock and hope someone repeats our host's name, because I've completely lost track of it.

"…and really," she's saying, "it's such joy to work with the two of you. It's good to know that sometimes, it works out. Do you think you can save both of these children? They're thoroughly wonderful, and I just can't bear…" she sighs. "But I suppose it will never be allowed again."

"There's always hope," Peeta lies.

I start to chime in, but think better of it. Since the Quell, we've all known that there's no hope of another double rescue. In a move that absolutely no one considered a coincidence, the President announced that the Quell card said that because the Districts destroyed themselves in the rebellion, district pairs would have to fight one another before being released into the general arena. If they both starved to death or killed themselves before they fought, then so be it. That was how everyone knew he was serious about the punishment for my little stunt with the berries: He was willing to forgo the Capitol's entertainment value just to force intra-district murder. In the end, most of the districts, including ours, gave in and fought. Only three girls made it into the general arena, all of them stealth killers. The winner was a girl from District Six named Veronica Drear, and she's one of the few victors I still expect to put a knife in my back someday, probably while I'm sleeping and most likely smiling beatifically when she does it. Most of them have forgiven me. Jo Mason and Finnick Odair are actually something like an extended family.

Some of them still blame me for the Quell. Haymitch says to ignore them, but it's not easy.

"…tea, Mrs. Mellark?"

I look up, realizing that I must actually be glazing over. "I'm sorry?"

"Would you like more tea?"

"Oh, no thank you. I… I wouldn't want to drink it all." I wince internally, and wish for the millionth time for Peeta's talents. Mine were good for the arena, but that's about it.

He smiles. "Don't mind us," he says. "We're both worried about the tributes. There are a hundred things to teach them, and only three days for it."

If I said that, it would come off like our tributes are unprepared (which is true). When Peeta uses exactly the same words, it comes off like they just have really devoted mentors (which, to be fair, is also true).

I force myself to be more attentive to the sponsor, who's going on about her business, which involves gem cutting somehow. She used to be a District One sponsor, but has been increasingly disgusted with the "inner district alliance" since Peeta and I showed her a better way, apparently, and she finally decided to come over to us. I nod a lot and contribute erudite sentiments like, "Really?" and "That's very kind."

"You were fine," Peeta says, when we've finally been released. It's a foggy night in the Capitol, and we have our arms around each other as we walk back to Games Headquarters. "Really, you're not as bad at it as you think you are." He kisses my head. "They just love seeing you. They even like that you don't like small talk. I think they'd like it if you really opened up."

"I'm not talking to them about personal things."

"It doesn't have to be personal. Most of them would like to know that you like swimming in the lake. Or about your piano lessons with Madge. Whatever comes into your head."

"How are my piano lessons helping the kids?"

He smiles. "That's the thing, Katniss. Not everyone wants to go straight from A to Z. Most of them want to stop at B and C now and then. Even K or M. Sometimes Q, if they're really interested."

"By the time I get to Q, they'll know I'm not very interesting."

He rolls his eyes. "At least I know when I'm lying."

I move closer and hold him tighter, trying not to throw him off balance on his bad leg. I don't know if I'm as crazy in love with him as a young wife is supposed to be, but I'm grateful that, if I have to be pushed into marriage and cast in a never-ending romance movie, it's with Peeta. If there's someone I can never be seen without -- and Finnick assures me that at no point do I want rich Capitol trolls thinking that we're anything but blissful -- I'm glad that it's someone I like to be with, someone who, on occasion, makes me very happy.

But the romance movie is tiring. We almost always snap at each other and live in our separate houses for two or three weeks after the Games. I don't know how anyone thinks it's possible to live like this all the time.

When we get back to the apartment, Haymitch and Dianner are at the kitchen table, eating something chocolate and decadent. Brannon -- who's thirteen and knows he's been handed a death sentence -- is watching television in his room. Haymitch is technically no longer mentoring, but he's even worse at giving it up than he is at the booze. He claims he's just coming to see the other victors, but even at a glance, I can tell that he's spent most of the evening trying to convince Dianner to stay away from the Cornucopia.

Maybe she'll listen. Sometimes they do.

Peeta and I join them at the table, order up some hot chocolate, and do our best to make sure the message gets through.




What if Haymitch or one of the other victors (other than Peeta) had found out about Caesar being a Victor before his death? for danel4d

-----
"They're looking for you."

I open my eyes and find myself and nearly complete darkness. My head is pounding and I feel like I'm rocking back and forth. The only light comes from a window high up, which lets in a pale square of moonlight. It catches a woman's profile for a moment, then she moves away from it.

"Who's looking for me?" I ask. "Where am I?"

"Our friendly new neighbors are looking for you." The woman's voice seems familiar, but I've never been as good with voices as faces. "As to where you are? Not far enough away from the Capitol."

"Where's Prisca?"

"Who?"

"My granddaughter. Prisca Snow."

The figure moves across the light again, and shrugs casually. "No idea. You were alone in the studio when I clocked you."

"No, I wasn't."

There's a pause, then she says, "Hmm. I thought I might be able to pull that over on you. Don't worry. I got her far away. She's small enough to carry. I put her on a train to District Two, and I told her to go to my parents and lie her little lips off to everyone else."

"District Two… Enobaria?"

She laughs bitterly. "I guess that's the sum of it now, isn't it? I'm the District Two victor now. The only one left."

The cellar seems to get colder. "We were already dying off. Some were old. Some were… like Albinus Drake. We were down to nine before the Quell. Then we lost Brutus in the arena and the mentors in the Viewing Center. Then five more in the fighting. They even managed to shoot Lyme. Lyme. If she'd stayed away from the fighting, they'd have probably forgotten about her entirely."

"The rebels killed the victors?" I frown. "But…"

"Oh, not all of them. The Peacekeepers killed a good number, too, and Lyme was in the middle of the battle. On the rebel side, I think. She was right up there with Everdeen, anyway."

"Is Katniss dead?"

"No. She's hurt. In the hospital. But Abernathy says she's alive."

"And Peeta?"

"They showed him on television. Burned up and bandaged, but breathing. Coin -- that's the new bitch in charge of things -- says that he wants you and the rest of the Games staff punished for letting him be tortured into those propos. I don't like him, but I doubt that's true. She's not a very good liar."

"I wouldn't blame him if it were true. Do you know what they did to him?"

"Yeah. I do. My brother was a Peacekeeper assigned to his cell block." I hear her shuffling around, then see her hands against the window briefly before everything goes black. Then she strikes a match and lights a candle. I see that she's put several boxes in front of the window. She comes to me and crouches down, the candle between us. Her face is soot-stained and she's covered with cuts and bruises. At some point, she seems to have been burned. "He overheard a lot. Including that you were helping the kid."

"I didn't help him much."

"There's only so much you can do… even as a victor."

I am only half-listening, trying to figure out what her game plan is -- or even what side she's on -- but this stops my mind cold. "What?"

She smirks, the points of her teeth pressing against her lips. "I didn't believe what my brother overheard. Not at first. But the more I thought about it, the more sense it made. Brutus used to say, there's us and there's them -- victors and everyone else. But you always seemed more like us." She sniffs and puts the candle down on a small box. "At any rate, there are enough dead victors. When I heard that Coin was gunning for you, I figured you'd be holed up in your studio someplace. Not your safest hiding spot."

"I was looking for costumes to get Prisca out."

She nods vaguely. "Well, she's out. Technically, you're out, too. But no one was looking for her -- yet. I could get her on a train. You?" Another shrug. "You stayed knocked out longer than I was expecting, even with the shot --"

"Shot?"

"Yeah. I borrowed a tranq from the Training Center. I doubt they'll care. Or notice. Anyway, I realized I couldn't carry you far. I just stole a car and got you away from Headquarters. The roads were too blocked to go more than a few blocks that way, so I've just been dragging you from car to car, going a few blocks when I could. It was clearer once I got to the lake shore, but I couldn't figure out how to get any further than the island dock on the boat. They're patrolling. They already blew it out of the water for good measure. I'm not sure how we're going to get out of it from here."

"You did all of this because I used to be Charlie Flynn?"

"Yes. And you better get real used to the idea of being Charlie Flynn again. Everdeen made some kind deal with the new regime to keep the victors in the Capitol alive. She even covered me, so I'm sure, if get in and point out that Charlie Flynn is alive, I can get you covered before they know exactly who you've been since."

"I haven't been Charlie for a long time, Enobaria."

She's unimpressed. "These people are crazy, Caesar. Crazier than we ever were -- and I'm saying that as someone who bit a guy to death once. They're shooting stylists and prep teams for fun." She stands up and starts pacing. "I'm better at sneaking around than most people suspect. I didn't exactly get to my last fight by being physically overbearing. I overheard soldiers saying they might shoot me 'accidentally' if they saw me, just because I didn't run around agitating in a bird costume. A lot of them still want to kill Mellark. If we want to live -- we victors -- we'd better stick together, and we're going to have to count on Everdeen's deal. That means that you're going to be Charlie, whether you remember him or not."

"I remember him."

"Good." She looks me over. "I stole some hair dye," she says. "Gray. Plain gray, like you should be. These people like gray. And they want some sign of submission to the new order. Which is fine. I don't have any loyalty to the old one, and neither do you. But the first chance I get, I'm bolting."

"Am I going with you?"

"I think I've brought you far enough."





Finnick Odair survives the events of Mockingjay. What is his reaction to Coin's death, and what place do he and Annie find in a post-war Panem? for princesselwen

-----
"It's really strange to call my own name," Finnick says. "Especially when someone else answers."

I roll my eyes at him. "Naming your kid after yourself isn't exactly an untraditional arrangement."

"I didn't say it was bad. Just weird. Ever since he got big enough to answer, I keep feeling like he's catching me talking to myself."

"Are you going by Finny these days?"

"Well, you're not going by Jo-Jo, either, but you still know it's your name."

"It is not my name."

"Your baby sister-in-law thinks it is." He grins. "Well, maybe not quite in law."

I scratch my nose with my middle finger. The Trident rocks peacefully in the Ghost Gulf. Annie is at the wheel, and Finny is running up and down the deck, hooting happily in the afternoon sun. Their dog, an oversized mop of fur named Ballyhoo, keeps giving out his great, rumbling bark. Gale's at the back of the boat, dangling his feet in the water and holding a fishing pole. Finnick and I are on the upper deck. It's as close as I care to get to the water, though Finnick has taken to gently flicking seawater on me from time to time, trying to desensitize me. I guess it's going all right. I haven't broken any of his bones for it lately.

He leans back in his deck chair and opens his arms, sunning his chest. The huge claw scars are still pretty visible like this, though he had them removed on his face ("I could afford it, and I don't want to have to explain those tunnels to my kid before he's ready"). "I haven't had a decent tan in months," he says. "Can't very well lie around on the beach in the Capitol. Someone would get a picture, and I'd have to re-hash the whole derring-do in the sewers. I better teach Finny to swim soon, though. It seems to come in handy in our family."

I don't even want to think about what he had to swim through to get away. He had acid burns up and down his arms, too, but he only kept a few of those scars, "for character." I haven't failed to notice that the scars he kept are on the parts of his body he usually covers… like a nasty surprise for anyone tempted by his pretty face. I don't mention this. I'm not even sure it's on purpose.

"How are your pros doing?"

He sits partway up and gives me an irritated frown, then lies back down. "Not pros anymore, Jo. About half of them are college students. The other half are gainfully employed on their feet, not their backs." He sighs. "There are new ones, though. I can't seem to get it to stop."

"There's a reason it's the oldest profession."

"Yeah, well, as a former professional, it's one business I'd love to kill. I can't, but I can at least get the kids in off the street. I really thought, once Coin and Snow were both out of the picture, that I could at least make that work. Though maybe Coin could have done better. She did turn out to know how to really crack down." He shudders. Ever since that last meeting, he's beaten himself up for ever believing in Alma Coin. "But this is a vacation. If we want to talk about Capitol things, we can talk about them back in the Capitol. If I wanted to talk politics, I'd have invited Paylor. We've only got two weeks before Annie's Council holiday is over, and I'd rather spend them playing with my kid and getting you back in the water."

"Getting me…? Oh, no. This is not a therapy-for-Johanna trip."

"Sure it is. We're having supper on the beach tonight, near the tide line, someplace where the water splashes."

"Oh, come on!"

"You'll be playing with Finny, and tossing a ball to Ballyhoo, and canoodling with Gale, and before you know it, the sea will be there, and you won't care a bit."

"I don't think so. I'll start screaming. I don't want Finny to think Aunt Jo's the one with the scary wailing."

"He won't. And you won't."

"Finnick…"

"I know, Jo. But do you really plan to spend the rest of your life being afraid of something you used to like? I remember when I brought you down to the beach on your Victory Tour. You had a blast. You shouldn't let them take that away."

"I didn't let them, Finnick."

"You know better, Finnick," Annie says, coming up on deck. I glance down. Gale has moved to the wheel. Since we're not moving, I guess all he has to do is not actually do anything. Annie looks at me. "I had a feeling he was pitching this idea. I told him not to."

"I'm used to Finnick being Finnick. I like him that way."

She smiles. "Well, so do I, but that doesn't change the fact that you're not ready for total immersion."

"Well, maybe…"

"No, absolutely not. It's not right. You're still fragile."

"Hey!"

"Still damaged and --"

"Oh, knock it off, Annie. Fine. I'll have a picnic with you and frolic in the sea spray. Unless I start screaming, and then I'll blame it on you."

She grins. "Good. That's settled, then." She looks at Finnick. "You should get back down there. Gale may be able to catch any animal in the woods, but he's kind of hopeless with sea fishing."

"It's his first time trying," I point out.

"Yes. But we still need something to cook on the campfire tonight."

"On it," Finnick says. He gets up and pulls on a shirt, covering his scars completely, then leans over and gives Annie a kiss. "The brave provider will now go do battle with the sea!" He poses heroically.

Annie and I shake our heads at him as he leaves.
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Comments
(Deleted comment)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:15 am (UTC) (Link)
Glad you liked it!
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 14th, 2014 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
Interesting change to Katniss and Peeta's relationship without the rebellion. Wonder how it would have played out in the long term. -Kate
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)
I think that, because they did seem to actually love each other, they could probably make a decent enough life together, but I think they'd wonder a lot more about other possibilities that there might have been.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 14th, 2014 03:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
Amazing. And what a twisted alternate quell. I can totally see Snow doing that.
Robin
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Me, too. :shudder:
danel4d From: danel4d Date: December 14th, 2014 05:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Totally magnificent.

You really do have a brilliant line in "Twisted Alternate Quell" ideas.

The only real problem I have with these ficlets from you is that it's like having a single spoonful of some delicious food.

Also: I would never ever have expected or asked for it to be Enobaria who found it, yet it makes absolute perfect sense.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:19 am (UTC) (Link)
I have a twisted corner in my brain, I admit.

I thought for a while about who I should have find out, and how it would make for the best short, and Enobaria being there in the Capitol when it fell and not in the rebellion put her in a good position for it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 14th, 2014 05:29 pm (UTC) (Link)

With apologies to QB for invading her turf

myself +and+ nearly complete -- should be +in+

made some kind deal -- insert +of+

You've proven you can write as Joanna; now add Enobaria to your list of flawlessly characterized POVs.

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:20 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: With apologies to QB for invading her turf

Thanks, I'll grab those.

I kind of like Enobaria, in an odd way.
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: December 14th, 2014 11:12 pm (UTC) (Link)
With the first one, I'm struck by how peaceful it actually is. Wow. I know the rebellion probably made people better off in the long run, but...

And with the third, I'm weirdly curious about how the vote played out with Finnick there.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:21 am (UTC) (Link)
It's peaceful, but they are there to mentor two kids to their death.

(With Finnick there, watching Coin plan to actually ramp the whole thing back up, I'm surprised Katniss needed to shoot Coin. Maybe he couldn't reach his trident.)

Edited at 2014-12-15 02:22 am (UTC)
redrikki From: redrikki Date: December 15th, 2014 01:24 am (UTC) (Link)
That was certainly an interesting twist having Enobaria figure it out about Charlie. She was pretty much the last person I was expecting and yet it totally worked.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 15th, 2014 02:24 am (UTC) (Link)
She was just in a good position, and her loyalties are as murky as his.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: December 15th, 2014 06:33 am (UTC) (Link)
These were all great -- I especially liked the Caesar one (of course the Peacekeepers would listen in, and Janus would want to let his victor sister in on that particular bit of info!) Of course, now I'm wondering if he actually *did* escape, but at least Eno gave him a fighting chance.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I think he did, and maybe was even at the meeting after "Charlie Flynn" was promised immunity... but only after Coin had the mother of all hissy fit temper tantrums.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: December 16th, 2014 03:00 am (UTC) (Link)
This is now my personal head canon ;). (Though I can definitely picture either Caesar or Eno deciding they haven't got time to futz around with hair dye and just giving his hair the closest shave possible. Wouldn't that be grim and utilitarian enough for Coin?)
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: December 15th, 2014 06:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
One of the greatest tragedies in your stories, for me, has been what happened to Caesar. I'm so, so, SO glad of this AU. It's not survival for him--but it's at least a chance of it.

And he's a Victor. They know how to survive. Perhaps he'll find his wild gene again.

--

eta:
Oh, Annie. She's a sneaky, sneaky one--knows exactly which buttons to push on Jo, playing good cop to Finnick's bad cop, and getting her closer to healing by "expecting" her to be weak.

That made me smirk.

Edited at 2014-12-15 06:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 15th, 2014 08:11 pm (UTC) (Link)

Loved it

I don't normally do AUs but I almost want to make your story about Finnick my head canon. I loved that story. The "problem" with your writing, Fern, is that every thing you write leaves me wanting more of your stories ;) I hope whatever you write (be it in the Hunger Games world or another that you create) that I get to read more soon.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 16th, 2014 12:41 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, Annie... I almost had her actually against it, but I think she and Finnick would be of a mind here.
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