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The Only Sane Woman - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
The Only Sane Woman
Okay, so I started posting these at AO3, and someone asked about when Fulvia got Plutarch back. I never did try anything from Fulvia's POV. She kind of surprised me.

The Only Sane Woman

I'm not a criminal by nature.

I've never shoplifted or taken illicit drugs. I've never visited any of the Capitol's many prostitutes. I've never participated in my brother's get-rich-quick scams, which always seem to involve deals with people who end up reporting on him to the Peacekeepers. And I've never tried to spring him from jail.

The only crime I've ever committed, other than high treason, is kidnapping.

I'm not even sure it counts yet, since, at least as of this morning, Plutarch still hasn't realized that he's been kidnapped. All we've done is sit around my living room and watch movies. We slept together, mostly because it's expected -- that's why we did it when we were kids, too -- but that's never really been a key part of our relationship, and that seems not to have changed during his time at Capitol dreams. It was perfunctory, and he was more animated afterward, when we started talking about what we were reading. The movies are more important. The plays. The poetry. The politics… if I can get him back to them.

When I left for work this morning, I programmed the television to run a series of movies, interspersed with believable current commercials, that I think he'll sit still through. I hope he will, anyway. The early ones are entirely innocuous. Later in the run are some we used to analyze together for secret messages. Nothing overt, of course, or they'd never have been produced, but we know -- well, Plutarch used to know -- that there's more than one way to hear a story, and that if people are careful with what's on the surface, they can slip a lot in underneath it.

It's a risk, but I had to take it. He told me he was on vacation -- his first in three years -- since he successfully completed his studies as a Gamemaker, and asked me out on a date (another first in that amount of time). It may be my only chance to get to him when no one is expecting to see him right away. I only have three days. I couldn't get time off today, but maybe I can work on getting him back where he belongs during my weekend. I think he wants to come back. He's never betrayed us (despite what the others think) and I've sometimes seen him in the restaurant, his eyes suddenly going distant, his voice stopping mid-sentence before he picks up again. He knows something's wrong. That's got to be why he asked me out again. I mean, I've been pretending, so I can stay in his circle, but I'm not that good an actress. And I'm definitely part of his old life. His new friends snicker at me behind my back.

I may have to explain the fact that my door is locked from the inside. I rehearse the explanation in my mind as the bus crosses behind the train station.

Oh, I'm so sorry. I didn't realize I'd left that on. Security, feature, you know. If there's an intruder, I can lock myself in the bedroom and keep him out here until the Peacekeepers come. I didn't realize it engaged this morning! I hope you didn't miss anything important. You know, I was just thinking about that old show you made up in school -- remember it?

Then -- presuming he hasn't lost his patience and I haven't lost my last chance -- I'll bring in the old episodes of Plutarch's Lives. We were in high school when we did that, in the arts and culture track. It was picked up as a contest winner. Only five episodes aired before the Culture Authority became suspicious. They couldn't pin anything down exactly. What could they really say about a show whose sole message was that one boy made a difference in fairly trivial personal affairs? It's not like they admit that it's a dangerous message. Half of Snow's propaganda is about how important each and every one of us is to the glory of the Capitol. They couldn't very well say that they had a problem with that.

So we didn't get into any trouble, but with the exception of my personal copies, the whole thing disappeared down the Capitol's very large rabbit hole. By the time the Quarter Quell was over, even the district rebels had forgotten about it in the horror of the double-reaping. I doubt anyone missed that the Quell was a retaliation for the defiance of a few bands of kids. The youth rebellion, so much a part of our lives at that point, disappeared as cleanly as the show did.

Except that I still have the show. Except that the poems written by that year's victor, Haymitch Abernathy, are still circulating in certain corners of the Capitol, passed solemnly around dingy back rooms, whispered in the cold nights -- call and response, a symbol of recognition.

How many gore streaked stripes on your back?

Twenty-five, and every one to be paid back with interest.


The bus pulls up to my stop, and I get out, pulling my cheap coat tightly around myself to cover the dress I work in. It's a season out of date, so I suppose it's not fashionable, but it's more than anyone around here can afford. Plutarch got me a good deal before I kidnapped him. He's still kind to me. He wants me to join Capitol Dreams with him, and be a hostess for their parties, instead of an accountant for the chic restaurant where they all lunch together.

"We could live together, Fulvia! You could live on the lake shore, in a penthouse! You don't need to live by the station!"

I shake my head.

It's not that I'd mind living in his penthouse, and being away from the leering, mocking boys who line the streets as I head home. I wouldn't mind taking permanent leave of my brother, who is out of jail again and over to beg for money once a week, as he has ever since he found out that he had a sister with a job. I hate the garbage on the fire escapes and the cheap knock-offs for sale in the storefronts, and I hate that in this neighborhood, I'm still treated like the ugly little girl who once tried to organize a street-cleaning squad. I went door to door with a petition and a sign-up sheet, and expected fifty people. I'd saved my allowance for weeks to buy brooms and cleaning things, and loaded them up in my wagon.

I ended up standing alone, my arms full of old rags, a bucket hanging off my elbow, while people jeered at me as they passed by. I finally sat down on my laden wagon and started to cry, which didn't help matters. For two years, they called me "Dustrag," and made mocking crying noises when I went by.

Even getting into the arts and culture school didn't help, as I was now a pretentious faker on top of it, but I did meet Plutarch. He was rich, smart, funny, and idealistic. I don't know what he saw in me, except that I may have been the only girl in his circle who shared his essential disinterest in physicality. When I decided to try another neighborhood cleanup -- not in my own neighborhood -- he took the ball and ran with it. With him in charge, we had a hundred people show up. We gave out fresh lemonade and scrubbed up buildings and streets until they shone.

Of course, prices went up the next year in that neighborhood, and a lot of people had to move, but no one blamed Plutarch for that. When Plutarch decides to do something, it ends up done properly.

So no, I wouldn't mind living with him in his fine penthouse on the lake. I just insist that it actually be him, and not this creature that Capitol Dreams has built on top of him.

My apartment is two blocks from the bus stop, and I make the walk in five minutes, my head bent down, watching my feet as they pound along the gum-dotted sidewalk. I took off my heels before I started home. I barely get around in them where the sidewalks are clean. I'm wearing beat-up old sneakers that I've had for years. I keep them hidden in my locker at work, and sneak quickly into the ladies' room at the party center to change them before any of my colleagues can see.

I reach the small newsstand that's on the first floor of my building and go through the glass door that leads to the narrow stairway. Most people miss it the first time in the neighborhood. I go up past the second floor (a pair of older women who don't hear very well) and get to my door on the third floor. I can hear the television through the door, and something smells good in the kitchen.

I put my key in the lock and rehearse my little speech again, but when I get in, Plutarch is just humming and stirring some vegetables in the skillet. "Hey!" he says, grinning. "You look beat. I figured you could use dinner."

"Thank you." I take off my coat and hang it on the coat tree by the door. "Did you have a good day?"

"Yes. It's been so long since I've had a few days off! I did some writing."

"You did? Can I see?"

He shakes his head. "I threw it out. It didn't make sense. Do you have any wine?"

"In the cupboard above the stove."

"Great. I'm making risotto with lamb. I saw some in your fridge. Is that all right? I've spent so much time ordering in restaurants, I forgot that I like cooking!"

"You've always been good at it," I say.

"Yes. Maybe I should have been a chef instead of a Gamemaker."

I sit down. "Maybe. But you were always interested in the media, too. Remember Plutarch's Lives?"

He laughs and pours me a glass of wine. "You know, I found myself thinking about that just today. That was fun. I haven't produced a show for so long! They may let me produce a few segments during the Games."

"That's… great." I bite my lip. "It could be a chance to really show more of Panem. We used to want to set something in the districts."

"Mm." He stirs the wine into the risotto. "The districts are so brutish, though." He sighs. "It would be nice if we could elevate them. We could let go a little bit if they hadn't proven over and over that they weren't so violent. It's a shame that the Capitol still needs to maintain such a tight grip -- I've liked so many of the victors I've met -- but really, the risk…" He looks out the window, his eyes going blank again, then slowly, his face comes to life, like machinery under his skin is warming up. "I suppose you're still with the old crowd?"

He's asked me this before. I don't know if he's trying to gage whether or not he can expose his own questions to me or if he's trying to find out where we've hidden our small arsenal. I always err on the side of caution. I want him back, but the real Plutarch is the one who warned me not to trust him if he ended up in Capitol Dreams. He'd consider the rebellion more important. So do our old friends, who think my entire mission is a waste of time. "Oh, you know," I say. "We've all grown up a little."

He gives a bright, Capitol Dreams grin. "We sure have. It's hard to imagine what we used to be like. We were playing with some very dangerous toys."

"Well, there are a lot of those lying around." I brace myself. "The Gamemakers have a few dangerous weapons themselves."

I see his shoulders tense. "I wondered if you still thought that way."

I don't answer.

He finishes pouring the wine in with the rice and seasonings, then tightens the top of the pressure cooker. "It's really about making things less deadly," he says. "It's like this pressure cooker. If I just yank the top off, everything will explode." He looks at me imploringly. "You know it's true, Fulvia. I remember our meetings as well as you do. If the Peacekeepers ever let go… the whole country will explode."

"But sooner or later, you finish cooking, let the steam off, and open it."

He smiles at me, faintly puzzled, then opens up into the bright grin again. "Well, our whole metaphor falls apart when you remember that the point of cooking is to eat. I don't really want to eat Panem." He laughs. "Well, not in the political sense, of course. Panem is bread, when you think about it, so we eat it all the time. But generally not from a pressure cooker."

I let the metaphor go. "Why did we name the country 'bread,' anyway? Does anyone at Dreams have a theory?"

"No one at Dreams," he says, then his eyes go a little bit distant. "But I remember… in the Sons of the Founding…" He looks up suddenly, realizing that he's mentioned the long-disbanded group. It's another thing we share. I’m in the Daughters -- another thing I'm teased about, since my neighbors think it's only for rich women, even though it's explicitly about celebrating Capitol history -- and he told me once that the Sons still meet, secretly, in the caves by the lake. He claimed at the time that it was mostly to gamble and look at magazines they didn't want their mothers to see, but I've learned since that they also took several historical documents into hiding, to prevent Snow from destroying them. They are generally as likely to be looking at them as at the girlie magazines, though they mostly don't admit it. I have no idea what the adult Sons pretend to be doing, or where they meet. Plutarch breathes harshly for a minute, apparently having trouble connecting himself with an illegal group. Finally, he comes back to the surface and says, "Well, you know, the guys. We always had to have a secret identity." He rolls his eyes. "Anyway, one of the guys said it was because, after the Catastrophes, when the Capitol first settled and started farming, and most people were still just wandering around, the nomads started calling the city 'the Breadbasket.' And of course, the Capitol became Panem. I mean, the Capitol is Panem. And I guess it just sounded better in Latin. With the basket part dropped."

"It would sound somewhat silly to pledge our undying devotion to the well-being of Bread."

He mucks around with the lamb a little bit, then says, "You know, I wonder why we have a name at all."

"I beg your pardon."

"Historically, isolated people have just called themselves things that boil down to 'the land' or 'the people' or 'the language.' We developed flags and names to differentiate ourselves from other nations we might end up on a battlefield with."

"People remembered what it used to be," I guess. "So they picked up symbols."

"In that case, why not the old symbols?"

"We did keep an eagle."

"Everyone used eagles. I’m not sure it's the old eagle we kept."

"I suppose they wanted to disassociate themselves with the old country. It was pretty deep in the wars. And the civil wars when the oceans came up… they were nasty."

"I guess." He frowns. "But no worse than anywhere else. No better, either, just luckier with the long-term consequences, but no worse."

"We're not really the same people, though. Except for the Outer Districts. They were pre-established, and I guess that Twelve, especially, is still the old Appalachian population, and Eleven was colonized by indigenous nomad groups, as far as we can tell. But Panem got its name before we annexed the Outer Districts" -- the word annexed is carefully chosen as a contrast to the preferred narrative of Capitol Dreams, in which Eleven, Twelve, and Thirteen were welcomed, but I don't stress it -- "and our people came in from everywhere, with the in-Gathering, then spread out again when we formed the districts. That's why only a few people in the Capitol are Sons and Daughters of the Founding. So they wanted to start with something new, without all the old baggage." I bite my lip. "Though I seem to recall that you always liked the baggage."

He freezes, his hand stopping abruptly mid-stir. "I -- don't --" He blinks rapidly, then mechanically forces a smile across his face. "Well, some of it was made of pretty ideas, though the whole thing fell apart fast enough once the fighting started. Like a lot of pretty things, it didn't stand up to a pounding. Authority is ugly sometimes, but sadly necessary."

That momentary freeze spooks me, and I decide to let it be. Ugly ideas, apparently, can't take too much of a pounding before they fall apart, either, but I have a feeling that right now, he'll do anything to keep those ideas together, rather than let them fall apart.

We talk about the utterly inconsequential while he finishes cooking, and while we eat together. An old schoolmate of ours has taken up a marriage contract, and plans a lavish, week-long affair in August, after the Games. One of the Gamemakers has an embarrassing condition that he picked up in the Pleasure District. Another one -- a young kid just out of school, by the name of Seneca Crane -- got in trouble for spending work time reading absurd romance novels. I've been working on writing a play that's going to be produced at our old school (I don't mention that it has a lot of hidden rebel symbolism). He wants to write again as well.

"What did you start to write today?" I ask him, putting the dishes in to wash. "You said you threw something out."

"Oh, right. I was going to try my hand at a new series. I made up a few ideas, but I kept coming back to one about a victor living in the Capitol. I even had Haymitch Abernathy in mind, believe it or not -- talk about a fish out of water story!" He shakes his head at the absurdity, though in fact, Haymitch actually fits in quite well in many parts of the Capitol. "Of course, that could never happen anyway, so it was ridiculous."

"You could probably get Mimi Meadowbrook to star in it."

He laughs. "Oh, yes. Mimi. She's still quite besotted with him, if you can believe it after all this time."

And that ends any chance of this turning into a conversation about challenging the norms, because he's off on another round of gossip about who's sleeping with whom, and who's been seen in absurd clothes, and why the beautiful actress, now a leader in Capitol Dreams, still thinks of the drunken District Twelve victor as "the one who got away." Not that this has stopped her from netting a lot of other men and women since. She just throws them all back as a matter of course these days.

This turns into an extremely distasteful Gamemakers' view of the victors, who Plutarch is apparently encouraged to think of as performing monkeys, even though he knows them. I prod him with the fact that he used to be Haymitch's friend -- of sorts -- but he brushes it off with an airy, "Oh, I haven't had time to talk to the mentors for a few years."

I know the translation of this is really that Capitol Dreams has made sure he's never put into contact with such undesirables anymore -- he might start to get funny ideas -- but again, I decide not to push it. I have two more days.

We go to my bedroom and watch the news from my bed, where I have a ceiling screen so I don't have to sit up, then have dessert while we watch a movie together. We don't bother with anything else.

He's already up when I wake up in the morning, and his mood isn't quite as good. He's discovered that my door is locked from the inside, and only grudgingly accepts my explanation about security. He wants to go outside. I'm not about to let him go alone, but I'm not ready for him to be suspicious yet.

I pull on some old sneakers and leisure clothes, and we take a city bus to the beach. He reminds me that he has a car, and we don't need to depend on buses anymore. I tell him that it's better if we don't have to worry about parking. He seems all right with this.

We spend the morning in the water, having splash fights and talking about absolutely nothing that matters. Kidnapping and brainwashing is considerably more difficult for me than it was for the government. We meet some of his friends, and they look at me like I'm an alien, but he puts his arm around me and says, "You know my girl, Fulvia," and there's no further questioning. One of the girls says that it looks like my makeup has "smudged" in the water, and helps me "re-do" it, bringing me a little more up to date. We go out on a boat, and they dance and play, but they don't talk politics. I'm not sure how to bring the subject back up, since everything they're doing is harmless… except that it keeps him stimulated and in their world.

I have no idea how I'm supposed to compete with this. I hear their names from time to time, but I have no idea which name goes with which of them.

It's about six-thirty when we start talking about dinner. I try to talk up the idea of cooking, since Plutarch enjoyed it so much last night, but it's a non-starter. Restaurants are the order of the moment, and none of the ones they bring up is in my budget.

"There's Eagle Feather," the woman who helped with my make-up suggests. "I haven't tried it yet, but it's supposedly got District Six food."

One of Plutarch's other friends snorts. "What… laced with morphling?"

There are general, mean-spirited giggles at this. Over the last ten years or so, District Six has developed a big problem with abuse of the painkiller. Someone is bringing it in. They spearheaded our last youth rebellion, using their access to transportation to create lines of communication, and Plutarch used to know that this was retaliation, but he doesn't seem to anymore. He laughs with the rest.

Other restaurants come up. Cossina, a spicy food restaurant where you have to reach through flames to get your food (burn specialists are on hand, but it's a mark of sophistication if you don't burn yourself). Forget Me Not, which features food both made with flowers and made to look like flowers, so you seem to be eating a garden. The Crow's Nest, which is all seafood, with a District Four theme. Taste of Panem, where there are serial feasts with food inspired by all the districts -- including a still-smoking flamed dessert that represents Thirteen, which gets another laugh. I hope no one brings up the restaurant where I work (The Emerald Eye), as I suspect my colleagues wouldn't treat me as a proper customer, and in this, I'm lucky. The Eye is seen as a lunch place for middle-aged bureaucrats and their trainees.

I suggest a few down-market places, trying to pretend that they just haven't been "discovered" yet, but no one bites. I catch Plutarch looking over at me a few times, then suddenly, he says, "You know, I want to celebrate my exams. And my vacation. Let's call it my treat for everyone, at the Gold Leaf."

No one argues with this. The Gold Leaf is the most fashionable -- and most expensive -- restaurant in town. It takes normal people three weeks to get reservations, but Plutarch, as usual, knows someone who knows someone, who in turn knows someone else, and an hour later, they've set up a special table for us up on the roof, surrounded by rose covered trellises, and the alcohol is flowing freely. A couple of the others are also taking mood pills, and the woman who helped me earlier pulls out a handheld steamer and starts inhaling deeply.

I've never seen anyone actually take Libi before. I thought it was one of the myths that occasionally goes around about party drugs. But that's definitely what it is. It's supposed to be very dangerous, with something that raises the body temperature beyond safe limits. If so, it doesn't seem to be hurting her much. She sighs in ecstasy as it settles in, then pulls off her remaining clothes and starts petting me. When I don't respond, she switches to the man sitting on her other side.

Across the table, Plutarch rolls his eyes at me and grins, almost the old grin, the one he had when loyalists were acting ridiculous.

They bring our food, which comes on sheets of gold foil. I ordered the cheapest thing on the menu without looking at anything other than the price (which is still equal to my week's food budget). It turns out to be a pasta dish, tossed with artichokes, cheese, and shrimp. It's tasty enough. I pretend to love it. The others have gotten steaks and lamb and rare poultry. One man orders peacock breast, nested in a ring of roast mockingjays. I see Plutarch looking at it, vaguely troubled. He has a moment of blankness, like I've seen at the Eye, then he powers up again.

"So," he says jovially, "does anyone want to drop by the party at the end of the Victory Tour? I can get ten invites."

The girl beside me claps her hands. "I forgot it was almost time! When does it start? I love Diamond. He's so handsome."

"In two days," Plutarch tells her. "The crews are already on the way to District Twelve to kick it off."

This occasions ribald laughter. "Yeah," one of the men says, "it's always a party out there in the sticks. Probably why their only victor tried to snuff himself last Games."

"Oh, that's not true," my neighbor says. "He just had a little too much fun during the after parties."

"Not what I heard," the man sniffs. "I heard it was just 'Goodbye, cruel world,' after his idiot tribute decided to rush on a stronger alliance." He snorts. "Or maybe he just finally figured out that he's a worthless drunk."

Plutarch frowns. "I know Haymitch Abernathy. He's not… well, he drinks a bit, but he's hardly worthless. He's actually quite a good mentor."

"Right, that explains his string of victors!" There's great merriment at this.

One of them mimes slicing his neighbor's throat, the way Nasseh Rutledge's throat was cut when he rushed the inner district camp. "What's Abernathy's count so far, anyway? Twenty-eight tributes down?"

"Hey," I say. "It's dead kids."

The woman shrugs. "Twenty-eight less backward hicks… who'd probably have ended up making a hundred more backward hicks. It's not like they were going to do anything important with their lives, except maybe impregnate their cousins."

The laughter at this jape is deafening in the small space. The sexual habits of the districts are always fodder for jokes, which somehow make them prudish and perverse in the same breath.

I expect Plutarch to put a stop to it -- even now, he's not one for this kind of thing -- but again, he's gone far away, and by the time he comes back to himself this time, the conversation has moved on to which victors are the prettiest, and what next year's arena will be.

We finish eating and Plutarch doesn't invite people back to his place. I remind him that he still has things at my place, and he hires a car to take us back across town. I don't lock the doors, but he doesn't even bring up the possibility of leaving.

We go to my room and watch some of the preliminary programming for the Sixty-Fourth Victory Tour. There's a special on the District One spa, up in the mountains, built around some hot springs. Plutarch has been there with his family, and he tells me about it in a quiet way. He's still thinking about something.

Finally, when the evening talk shows come on, I turn off the television. "What's on your mind?" I ask. I don't prod any further. I don't want to risk him getting defensive.

"Fulvia… do you still talk to our old friends?"

I nod, but don't elaborate.

He shakes his head. "I'm not asking to jam you up. It's not like I don't know who they are. No one even asks me about them, anyway. I just wanted to know what they're saying about Haymitch's accident. Did he… I mean, what do the other victors think?"

"I really don't know much," I say. "They… his escort found him. He took pills with his booze. It could have been an accident."

Plutarch shakes his head. "Haymitch isn't a pill popper, and he knows what can happen when you mix them. He's not stupid. He must have thought the Rutledge kid had a real chance. He was doing well. It's too bad. He could've been a good victor. Good for Twelve. And probably good for Haymitch to have a neighbor out there."

I try to think how to turn this conversation to politics. It seems like a good start. At least this isn't the Capitol Dreams line. I can't come up with anything, so I just say, "Haymitch is definitely smart. I wonder why he doesn't write anymore."

"Given what he used to write, it's probably safer that he doesn't."

"You remember what he used to write?"

Plutarch nods, but doesn't elaborate. He strokes my hair for a while, then turns off the light. We go to sleep.

When I wake up in the morning, the apartment is empty.

I panic. I can't imagine when I'll get another chance. In one more day, he'll be back with the Gamemakers, and all he'll get is their poison. They might even ask him to report on me. He may have believed my falderal about a new security system making the doors lock from inside, but they won't. No. They'll be suspicious enough about me. They know I was his friend before he needed re-education. They have to know that I'm not one of them.

I sit down on my ratty couch, breathing harshly. I can hear the sound of it whistling in my ears.

I almost don't notice when the door opens.

"Hey," Plutarch says cheerfully, coming in, his arms laden with shopping bags. "I got us breakfast."

I look up.

He puts the bags down, alarmed. "Are you alright, Fulvia? You look a little pale."

"I'm fine," I manage.

He doesn't pretend to believe me, but he doesn't push it, either. "I couldn't sleep last night," he says. "I didn't want to wake you -- "

"You didn't."

" -- so I just got up and wandered around a little. I noticed you were low on a few things. And I… I looked for something to read. Because I didn't want to wake you up by turning on the television. And I didn't want to watch. I wanted to think. I don't have time to think much."

I don't say anything.

He sits down in my reading chair and pulls out a battered old journal. I close my eyes. It's Haymitch Abernathy's poetry book. "You've got this," he says.

I nod, then open my eyes. He's not looking angry, or accusatory. "I… I still read it sometimes. We still read it."

He looks at it. "This thing caused a lot of trouble, you know. Pelagia Pepper ended up getting caught because of it. They used to ask me about that. Did I know she was a rebel? Did she make me a rebel?"

"Why would they ask you about that?"

"I don't know. I don't think they know, honestly. I'm pretty sure they don't think I was really a rebel at all. I just had more unorthodox thoughts than was strictly appropriate for a Gamemakers' apprentice. I got 'exhausted' right after I said something about the old District Council. Just history, you know? They don't like history. They pay it lip service if it suits their purposes -- or if they can twist it to suit their purposes -- but they don't really like it. Too much gray area. Too many places where people don't act the way they're supposed to." He smiles faintly. "The facts don't fit the models, so the facts have to be changed."

"Oh, I'm sure they don't change facts…"

"You know perfectly well that they do. Why do you think I wanted to come back to you? You're the only totally sane person I know." He grins. "Even if you did kidnap me."

My jaw drops. "Plutarch!"

"Come on, Fulvia. Security systems?" He shakes his head. "I know better. But I never intended to leave. I've been thinking about coming back to you for a long, long time, I think. I've missed you." He sighs. "Who am I? What have I been doing? What have I done? I keep thinking about it, and I can't square it. They hate history. I can't talk about it with anyone."

"You can talk about it with me. With… with us. All of your old friends."

He laughs. "I seriously doubt I'd be able to just walk back in."

This isn't true. He can walk in anywhere he wants to, and make them accept him. "I bet you could."

"Maybe. Maybe not. But I'll tell you one thing, Fulvia: It won't do anyone any good if I do. I'd lose my job for sure."

"Your job! But… you shouldn't do this job! You're better than this!"

"Do you have anyone else as well-placed as I am?" He shakes his head. "Don't bother telling me that you can't answer. I know you can't. But I don't think you do."

I sigh. "Plutarch, your Dreams friends don't trust me. They'll know something's up even if you don't meet with anyone else."

He thinks about it. "It's a lucky thing that I finally talked you into moving in with me, then," he says. "I mean, my nice place up by the lake. You finally understood that it was time to grow up. Right?"

I nod.

He smiles at me. "Good. Then why don't you start packing? I'll write an ad for you to sublet this place. It's a good location. It shouldn't take long." He goes to my computer and starts writing.

I go back to my room and start putting things into a bag.

I'm not stupid. I know that I could get there and find people ready to take me away for "exhaustion," to put me in their therapy sessions, to offer me glamor and acceptance in return for obedience.

But I risk it.

I'm a criminal, after all.
22 comments or Leave a comment
Comments
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 29th, 2015 05:56 pm (UTC) (Link)

A NICE Fulvia? Whodathunkit?

I liked the story. And normally I can't stand Fulvia.

-- Tom
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 29th, 2015 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: A NICE Fulvia? Whodathunkit?

I figure everyone's nice inside their own minds. There's also the question of comparison. In comparison to Peeta or even Katniss and Haymitch, even here, she's kind of narrow-minded and tone-deaf. In comparison to Capitol twits? A saint.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 30th, 2015 06:16 am (UTC) (Link)
Really nice -- Fulvia isn't a character I think about an awful lot but you've made me like her, even though I can completely understand why she drives everyone else crazy. I did like that Plutarch's wedge was his love of history -- he just couldn't turn his brain off forever. It's too bad Mimi didn't have an overpowering intellectual interest she could hold on to, it might have turned out differently for her.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2015 04:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
An overpowering interest, and a friend who would give her a safe space for it. Unfortunately, the only friend she had who'd have given her a safe space is out in Twelve, and it was the friendship they specifically targeted. (Well, she had Valerian, too, but he didn't really understand how bad things were until it was too late.)

Edited at 2015-07-01 04:41 pm (UTC)
beceh From: beceh Date: June 30th, 2015 06:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Really enjoyed that - and like the others, I don't usually have much time for Fulvia :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2015 04:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was a little surprised by her, too.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 1st, 2015 12:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Fascinating...

Look at the characters and Plutarch's emergence from his Capital Dreams brainwashing.

In a weird way, the way you've written it, Fulvia and Plutarch are older, Capital versions of Katniss and Peeta. Fulvia is a little poorer and more street-wise, Plutarch is richer, more charismatic, better at narrative and the bigger picture. The bit about trying to organize the street cleaning was very evocative.

And you managed to craft the whole scenario very well; it fits what Haymitch hears later, where Plutarch gives all the credit to Fulvia (because she stuck to him and never let him slip out of her life and went to the trouble of "kidnapping" him and doing what she could) and where she gives all the credit to Plutarch (because she feels that she didn't really do much other than program a bunch of movies for him to watch, hang out with him for a couple of days, and give him a safe, quiet space to think dangerous thoughts). It's really a quite heart-warming level of give and take, which is what you want to see in successful relationships.

And how adorable to see that even after the passage of hundreds of years, wars, dictatorships, etc., the mark of a really sweet boyfriend is one who cooks for his significant other at the end of the day.

Brava

Sara Libby

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 1st, 2015 04:43 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fascinating...

I definitely wanted it to come off believe that each one would see it the way they describe it to Haymitch. Fulvia thinks that Plutarch was pulling himself out anyway. Plutarch thinks that Fulvia is why he pulled himself out.

And yeah, he actually did turn out to be a good boyfriend, and they like their stodgy relationship.

Interesting point about being like Katniss and Peeta, though one major difference is that, brusque and unfriendly or not, Katniss has major charisma, while Fulvia... doesn't.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 1st, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC) (Link)
I really like the way you get inside a character's head. Each one is themselves from their own point of view, with their own voice.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 4th, 2015 12:26 am (UTC) (Link)
That's the fun part for me. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 3rd, 2015 06:45 am (UTC) (Link)
Really enjoyed this. It's interesting that you made both Fulvia and Effie "outsiders" in the Capitol. It makes a lot of sense though, people generally rebel when they're dissatisfied with their lives, not when they're happy. It's interesting though, you can tell the two never even talked. Would Fulvia had been so dismissive of Effie if she knew how hard she tried to fit in? Maybe she'd be more dismissive. Love how you give everyone such moments of raw humanity. Thanks!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 4th, 2015 12:27 am (UTC) (Link)
I think she'd be more dismissive, because Effie's outsider-ness didn't lead her to any kind of active rebellion, instead just making her sad, and causing what Fulvia would see as the useless action of taking care of tributes (and Haymitch) instead of plotting Snow's overthrow.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 3rd, 2015 09:38 pm (UTC) (Link)

Thanks

It was me who asked and it was very good you made a great bit of something out of nothing with one of the most difficult characters in the HG universe.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 4th, 2015 12:28 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Thanks

I'm so glad you asked -- it turned out interesting to write.

I'm going to post over there as soon as I have a chance to proofread and check continuity issues.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: July 4th, 2015 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)

Catches/Review part 1

Saw just a few things, which your proofing may've caught, but thought I'd mention just in case.

as matter of course Just missing an a before matter.

A snorts. Not sure exactly what that bit's supposed to be; there's no one named "A", so I'm guessing some missing words somewhere.

Also, I think there may be a weird spacing fluke right before she says even joining the art school etc. etc. since that appears with a ton of blank lines before it.

I have to echo everyone else praising the depth you gave Plutarch and Fulvia. But this piece almost makes me angrier at them, rather than ultimately more sympathetic--and this has nothing to do with your writing so much as my extreme Haymitch sympathy; it's an entirely "reader reaction" rather than a critical one. Because okay, on one hand, I'm delighted that it was Haymitch's suicide attempt that finally pushed the last of the switches in Plutarch's brain, and I loved how influential Haymitch's poetry book was--I will never get enough info about that poetry book and its impact. :) But Plutarch is...I don't want to call him a fair-weather friend, but he's a great friend in his head. How he actually *treats* Haymitch on the other hand. (we won't even get started on his comment about it being better for people to think Haymitch drinks because he's miserable and not a drunk; grain of truth or no, way to miss the extenuating circumstances that worsened his addiction.) There's just such a profound disconnect between the way he thinks of Haymitch and his actions towards him.

Having said that, I love that this piece explains their attitude somewhat. After all, Plutarch was never dealt with as harshly as Haymitch; he was, after all, merely an apprentice with unorthodox thoughts. So when Haymitch is trying to explain, for example, the whole idea of the line of fire, it just hits a brick wall for Plutarch, because he was never questioned harshly or disciplined in a way that would make him get it. (I'm not saying re-education isn't awful, just a different kind of awful.) And for someone who's always been doing something since high school--and I love the confirmation/back-story about "Plutarch's Lives"; I wondered about the name all the way back in EOTW, but I was still to shy to comment then, and by the time I wasn't, I'd forgotten--it'd be inconceivable to just drown everything in liquor.

And the same thing goes for Fulvia. It was so hard for Plutarch to break out, and he had to want it so much, I can better understand, though not condone, her very dismissive attitude towards Haymitch's suggestions surrounding Effie.

Interesting that Fulvia isn't always the best person for curbing Plutarch's ego, because she sees him with such rose-colored glasses. I'm thinking especially of her comment that no one blamed him for the raised prices/evictions when in reality, it was merely that no one could say anything.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: July 4th, 2015 05:39 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catches/Review part 2

I love your look at capitol poverty; it's such a different kind of desperation than in the districts, but equally crippling if not more so, because they live so close to luxury. And oh God, some of those reminiscences about Fulvia hit a little too close to home; I was very similar to her in my awkward earnestness as a child. And her plight about moving in with Plutarch; I think that's a plight a lot of poor people have been in, and there's a real universality to the idea of fearing being with someone solely for convenience. Of course, in this context, Fulvia's fears are quite valid, but it was an excellent metaphor nonetheless.

All the cultural details were excellent, for that matter. One of the spookiest things, especially about your capitol, is how similar it is to our culture in certain ways while being so profoundly different. I love that "ethnic" foods will always be a fad; it just shifts to district fair instead of foreign. And there was that excellent nod to drug safety warnings, even in a culture where drugs are rampant, which somehow made things even creepier. Not to mention that that was a hellish, but entirely plausible, retaliation for six. (it was terribly unkind of me, but I was sniggering at how clever Fulvia and Plutarch thought they were as teens, figuring out why the quell happened going: Haymitch figured that out first.)

The re-education details were scary and brilliant. The way that it was almost like an induced multiple personality; things like how even though he came to Fulvia, the fears he'd been inculcated with were still so strong they made him grudging and irritable over her explanation, because by then, they were starting to set in good and proper. And those blank moments reminded me of nothing so much as King's description of malfunctioning robots in his Wolves of The Calla

As a history geek, I loved both that it was history that drew him out, and the discussion of why Panam shunned and embraced particular symbols. And speaking of history, is Fulvia simply a scion of one of the old families whose family's been reduced in circumstances, or is she just a "hanger-on" at the daughters? She says it's not just for rich women, but if she was an actual member, wouldn't she have to prove ancestry, just like in the Daughters of the Revolution?

P.S.: I agree with sonetka's Mimi pity; I keep thinking of that AU you talked about a while back where she didn't get pregnant when she did, and they actually made one another fly right. (the Haymitch/Finn interactions in November--which I will hopefully be commenting soon because that's a treasure trove of a fic--made me want all the Haymitch and his ladies AUs; all the possible permutations of Haymitch being happy with kids and/or stability. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 4th, 2015 06:18 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catches/Review part 2

I read somewhere -- I can't remember where -- that unhappiness tends to be greater in what might be considered mild poverty if it's close to great wealth, than if it's in the company of more poverty. I can't say whether or not that's true, but I can say that my own experience of being... well, not poor in the totally destitute sense, but certainly in the sense of there never quite being enough money for things sense. When I lived in a town where there were a few people in the upper middle class, but a whole lot more on the state or close to it, I didn't think much about not having money. It was never a big thing to not be able to afford things, because everyone knew what that meant. But when I went to college and there were a lot of very well-off kids who traveled at the drop of a hat and knew all the latest tech and could afford to spend the summer in a big city working unpaid internships instead of making minimum wage at the dry cleaners... boy, I started to feel it then. (And those unpaid internships started to make the difference, since they were making useful connections while I was learning to count change out smartly. Grrr. Make those things illegal, I say!)

And yeah, I've been that earnest kid, too. And when I plan something and people don't show up, I tend to take it as proof that I've failed, and some other person is inherently better than I am if people show up.

I think of the Daughters as essentially the DAR. You have to prove relationship to someone in the original group of settlers, but that's all. I qualify for the DAR six ways to Tuesday, and eventually, I'll finish my application, but that doesn't keep the bills paid. ;p



Edited at 2015-07-04 06:20 am (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: July 4th, 2015 05:54 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Catches/Review part 1

I'll grab those tomorrow.

Plutarch's just awful at the small picture. In his head, he's definitely Haymitch's friend -- a dear, old friend dating back to the Victory Tour. In Haymitch's head, he's that rebel Capitol kid who's around a little bit. But when it comes to the line, Haymitch is more likely to treat Plutarch decently than otherwise. Haymitch is the one who doesn't think of himself as anyone's friend, but will go to the mat for everyone in his circle of care. (On the other hand, Plutarch really was genuinely shocked by the suicide attempt, and it did get to him on an actual human level, so...)

Plutarch probably thought that Effie would, at most, get taken back to Capitol Dreams. In that case, it may have been a rare instance of him thinking of someone as a person in her own right -- she was a Capitol girl and would be treated like a Capitol girl. He wasn't thinking of her, as Snow undoubtedly did, primarily as a serious pressure point for Haymitch.

I wanted to finally get back to "Plutarch's Lives," which I always figured was his thing... then I made him Haymitch's age, and wasn't sure how it worked.

Fulvia is utterly awful for Plutarch's ego. She so adores him and thinks he can do anything.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2015 02:23 pm (UTC) (Link)

Liam

Plutarch's lives was something I have suspected was his work as I certainly during EOTW noticed the rebellious message however you then in hanging tree made him Haymitch's age so that may need correction. Also do you still have a copy of final 8 before edited for continuity because I only found your FFN account in December and only just started commenting. If you do can u email me the document (openable on a hudl2 tablet) or pm me on ffn?. Thanks for the great stories
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2015 02:30 pm (UTC) (Link)

Liam

The Plutarch's lives thing was smart and in EOTW I noticed the rebellious message. However you made Plutarch Haymitchs age so that may need correcting. Also do you have a copy of final 8 before you edited for continuity as I've read all your stories and need something new. If you do can u email me a android friendly file or pm me it on ffn? Thanks.
From: (Anonymous) Date: July 4th, 2015 02:32 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Liam

Sorry I didn't think first post had gone thru can't delete. Whoops
redrikki From: redrikki Date: July 8th, 2015 08:49 pm (UTC) (Link)
Very interesting take on Fulvia. I like how you deal with the fact that she is a complete stick-in-the-mud and ideologue while still making her human and approachable. I also appreciated that she and Plutarch were basically asexual in a society where it was basically a social requirement.
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