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HG: The Final Eight, continued - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: The Final Eight, continued
Just a little continuation on this one, with Delly narrating. Yes, I'm writing a long story about a person watching television. I just wanted to peek in on D12 on the day of the big announcement.

For those in the fandom, question: How are people about accepting the name the actress gave Foxface (Finch Crossley)? It's getting silly to keep referring to her as "the girl from District Five" when the broadcast would certainly use her name. She's only Foxface because Katniss didn't know her name. I don't mind the Finch Crossley name, honestly.

I stay with the Mellarks until my brother comes to fetch me back to the shoe store, where Mom is drowning in broken heels. Apparently, the Capitol folks chose their footwear without considering their destination. We are all pressed into duty making repairs. Dad brings the television in, since we're still in mandatory viewing hours (and since he knows I will need to know what's happening with Peeta). Katniss is still wandering around, dazed, with her bow drawn.

"I wonder what she thinks she's hunting," Dad mutters.

"She's hunting those monsters who set the trap for the little girl," Mom says.

No one comments on this. We have seen people hunting other people in the Games before. It happens every year. But it's not generally people we know. District Twelve's tributes have not often lasted long enough to join the hunt. Katniss doesn't look like she could shoot a slow-moving turtle in her current state of mind, though.

There is a cutaway to District One, where the uncle of the boy Katniss shot is waxing eloquent about how he'd built model cars, and created beaten gold jewelry that had sold in the Capitol. His name seems to have been Marvel. No mention is made of his talent for spearing little girls caught in nets.

They cut back to Claudius Templesmith, who muses that this was the end for District One, often heavy betting favorites. This segues into a feature on gambling in the Capitol. Peeta, it transpires, is a dark horse favorite among people who think he'll just hang on there in the mud while the other five kill each other.

When they return to the studio, Claudius has invited a doctor to speak about Peeta's injuries. I stop working to listen and watch; Mom doesn't correct me.

A small, holographic model of Peeta's body is projected up above the desk, crouched as he was during the brief fight with Cato. A sword appears floating beside it.

"The wound should have been fatal," the doctor says, "but if you look closely at the footage, you'll see that, at the last minute, Peeta lost his footing just enough to turn his leg." The studio is replaced by footage from the arena, showing Peeta and Cato. Peeta chases Katniss off, then turns to fight while Cato calls him a traitor and accuses him of, well, not thinking with his brain. The sound isn't on, but I remember that, because I was afraid I was about to see Peeta's head disconnected from his shoulders. He is just armed with a knife.

The footage is slowed down. Peeta blocks the first blow, toward his head, by raising the knife and swiping at Cato's wrist. It catches the upside, and blood starts to flow. Cato then spins, bringing the sword around low, toward Peeta's leg. The doctor stops and circles the sword and Peeta's leg. "If you see here, when Cato initially aimed, Peeta's leg was outstretched, and the blow should have landed on the femoral artery, which would have caused massive bleeding and, almost certainly, a quick death." He edges the tape a few frames further. Peeta loses his balance and moves just slightly, the doctor circles it, then the image is replaced by the model, where the sword comes down in its brutal blow. "But here," he continues, "you see that now, the front of the thigh is presented. There will still be significant blood loss, but not catastrophic blood loss. The angle and strength of the blow indicates that the cut is deep, possibly to the bone, and is almost certainly infected, judging by his condition. There may also be serious nerve damage, but there's no way to know that unless he's conscious."

"Is he a good bet?" Claudius asks jovially.

The doctor shrugs and says, "It depends on how long the Games go on."

I want to reach through the screen and strangle both of them. I reach into the work bin and pull out another shoe to fix.

It's the most information we've had since the original fight, but Peeta is still doing nothing interesting by their standards, so it doesn't last. They cut back to the arena, briefly show Peeta in his mud bank, then go to the District Two tributes, who've found the bloody net where Rue died. They don't know yet that their friend from District One is also dead, though Clove speculates that the second cannon they heard might mean he won't make the rendezvous. Cato snorts and says it was "probably just Loverboy finally figuring out that he's dead." They find the white flowers, which have been pulled up--I guess the hovercraft they used to lift the bodies must have caught them--and have a brief snowball fight with them. The camera lingers on Clove, laughing wildly with flower petals in her hair and a knife in her hand.

"We are all insane," Dad says, and there is no particular evidence to the contrary.

Once we make our way through the pile of damaged shoes (we've been taking turns running up to wait on the customers), I ask if I can go back to the square to watch. Mom tells me not to fall asleep out there again, since I have school tomorrow. The reporters have finally relinquished Prim Everdeen, who is wearing a hooded jacket to hide her blond hair, and is huddled on a rock beneath a tree. I sit down on the ground beside her.

She puts her finger to her lips. "Cressida gave me her jacket," she says, pointing to the bald woman with vines tattooed on her head, the one who interviewed me earlier. "She says they've bothered me enough, and everyone's just asking me the same thing over and over anyway."

"What are they asking?"

"If I think Katniss sang to Rue because of me, if she sings me that song... you know."


"The doctor said Peeta might be all right," she ventures.

"I saw."

"I thought that might have been what happened. Cato probably thinks he hit the artery."

"He still needs the medicine, though. I wonder why they don't say that on the broadcast? Maybe some of those sick people betting on him could send him a shot."

Prim says nothing, and I guess I can see why. The longer Peeta lives, the more likely it becomes that it will come down to a final brawl between him and Katniss--and he is not in brawling shape. She isn't in any psychological state for it, either. I don't know what will happen if it comes down to the two of them.

Katniss comes to the base of a tree and starts to arrange the bags she took from Rue and Marvel, obviously meaning to keep them when she climbs. She looks up from this task when a parachute floats down to her, and frowns at it. I have a moment's wild hope that it is a shot for Peeta and explicit directions to his mud bank, but when she opens it, it's just bread. Not any kind of bread that Peeta's dad makes, though--this is crescent shaped and dark brown, with seeds on it.

Katniss looks at it for a long time, then says, "My thanks to the people of District Eleven." Then she takes it in her hand and climbs high into the tree.

"This is unprecedented," Claudius Templesmith says as the broadcast returns to his studio. "A district gift to a tribute from another district! I wonder how she knew where it came from." He puts his hand to his earpiece, listens, and says, "Ah, yes, of course--her district partner is a baker's son. Do we have footage, Amica? We do?" He looks up at the audience, as though this is the only thing they could be thinking of, and says, "During training, we keep records for security purposes. This is from the tributes' training period." He brings up video of a large dining hall, where all twenty-four tributes, most now dead, are enjoying a sumptuous looking lunch. He zeroes in on Katniss and Peeta. There is no sound, but they seem to be very friendly with each other, and she is listening to him intently. He is pointing to the different breads in a basket. He looks up, and they smile at each other. The picture freezes. Claudius zooms in to a very grainy shot of the bread, and someone resolves it to a much better shot of the bread in Katniss's hand, which she is breaking off tiny bits of while she watches the sky.

While I am glad to see a happy shot of Peeta, and glad that the Gamemakers seem intent on following his storyline, I don't think he'd be pleased that the generosity of District Eleven has now been subsumed into the love story. Given that they still haven't cut to District Eleven or spoken to Rue's friends and family, it's actually kind of insulting.

There are quick cuts to all of the tributes. Peeta remains in his mud bank, though he seems almost conscious right now, and is reaching for water. Clove and Cato are sitting back to back, watching the sky. The girl from Five is examining the food she's foraged today. Thresh, from Eleven, is making some kind of paste from the grain in the field when his attention is caught by something above him. Katniss is still in her tree.

The anthem plays, and the deaths of Rue and Marvel are re-run, for those who missed them the last several times. Then Claudius Templesmith says good night, and the mandatory viewing hours are over. The anthem plays again over the grainy shot of Katniss and Peeta and the basket of bread. They cut to a screwball comedy for the half-hour until the late night broadcast begins. It involves a businesswoman from the Capitol and a cowgirl form District Ten who look exactly alike and switch places. I have seen it before. The Capitol girl, after a few mishaps involving cow dung, gets the hang of District Ten and even wins back the other girl's ex-boyfriend. The District Ten girl, who boasted that it couldn't be very hard to live in the Capitol, gets lost and almost wrecks the other girl's business.

Prim sighs. "I should go home before Mom sends Gale to get me."

"If you want to stay by the square," I offer, "you can stay at my house. Your mom, too."

She shakes her head. "It's better to be home. If anything happens, Haymitch will call the mayor, and the mayor will come find us. We better be where he thinks we are." She starts to take off her borrowed jacket, then thinks better of it. "If you see Cressida, tell her I'll give her jacket back tomorrow."

I watch the comedy alone, not paying attention to it. By the time it's over, Edder Mellark has come out to sit with me. He is no more a boyfriend than Peeta is, but I have never thought of him as a brother. He puts his arm around me, more to get comfort than give it, I think. I hug him back, and the late night coverage starts. There are re-caps, and the doctor is back, still not mentioning the medicine Peeta obviously needs. Then someone chases down Finnick Odair to get his response to Rue's death. He doesn't even bother not to look disgusted when they ask how he feels about someone finally succeeding with his tactics. An older man points impatiently to his watch, which gives Finnick an opportunity to tell the reporter that he has to go. Haymitch is up next, extolling Katniss's virtues.

Edder sits up straight and brushes brutally at his face. "I should get sleep," he says. "School. I can't believe we have to go to school."

Normally, this would be a complaint about not getting time off, but I think Edder is quite sincere. He and Peeta don't get along, but they are brothers, and I don't think he's likely to concentrate much on the various uses of coal by-products right now. He kisses the top of my head, then goes back to the bakery. I watch for a few more minutes, then go home when it becomes obvious that the doctor and his little model are all we're going to hear about Peeta tonight.

I can't sleep in my bed, and finally curl up by my window, where I can see the screen. They are re-playing the security footage with the bread. I fall asleep watching Peeta laugh silently.

The morning is incongruously sunny and cheerful, the sort of day that usually would occasion a great deal of joking around on the way to school. No one is joking, though. Everyone I see has eyes cast down. Clothes are worn indifferently, hair left in tangled messes.

When I get to school, the main corridor is crowded because there is a space blocked off for a camera crew. I see Cressida, and she has the jacket she lent Prim slung over her shoulder, so I clearly don't need to deliver the message. Still, I head toward her, to see what she and her two cameramen are filming.

Each year, the school puts whatever pictures it has of the tributes up on the wall for the duration of the Games. After, their final official school photos are hung from a wire that stretches out along the hall, with their birth and death dates, and some favorite quote ("Reach for the sky!" is a popular one). Most people don't look at them, but Cressida and her cameramen are looking closely. They are also scanning the blackboards that have been put up around Katniss and Peeta's pictures, where friends can leave messages about them. Peeta's side is filled with cartoons (one, appropriating Cato's derisive nickname, shows him beating Cato in a wrestling match, with the scoreboard reading, "Loverboy wins again"). There are a few cartoons on Katniss's side, including one showing her aiming an arrow at a flying heart that says "Peeta," but here, the messages are more serious. People offering support to Prim, mostly, and writing "Katniss can do anything."

One of Cressida's cameramen comes to get her and points to a poem that I think is freshly written. It has a photograph of Katniss's mockingjay pin, which means it can only have come from Madge Undersee. The cameraman runs his hand down it diagonally. Cressida stares, looking astounded, then brusquely says, "Let's skip that one." She moves on.

I get close enough to read. The poem is not going to win any literary awards, and might even be mildly seditious, though really no more than the everyday complaining that even the Capitol doesn't bother to prosecute. Certainly nothing that ought to have shocked Cressida or her cameraman.

If we give tribute to strength,
then Katniss speaks for us all.
Until valor dies, and courage fails,
she stands for the wretched ones
whose voices reach the Capitol now.
From her bow the arrow burns!

I try to figure out what upset them, then remember the diagonal slash of the cameraman's hand. I read the first word of the first row, then the second of the second, and so on.

If Katniss dies, the Capitol burns!

I turn and see Madge standing in the shadows. She raises her clenched fist, then disappears toward her first class. I'm not sure how I feel. Madge is supposed to be Peeta's friend, too.

The teachers try and maintain some kind of normal rhythm during the day, as they always do during the Games. Other than the quick quiz to make sure we watched yesterday, our classes are unchanged. We have been reading a play called The Last Londoners in our literature class. Izzarel Tarpley has taken over Peeta's part (a boy named Jack who doesn't want to take the American transport out of his drowning city and ends up jumping out the window into the roiling floodwaters), and he is terrible. Katniss doesn't take this class--she takes very few that are not required--so she's not missed in it, but her empty desk is rather acutely present in math. I sit with Madge at lunch, but she doesn't discuss her poem, or anything else.

By the end of the day, the school officials have figured out that the poem is more than average bellyaching and erased it, but not before half the school has drawn pictures of the mockingjay pin, with varying degrees of talent. Some have just drawn mockingjays in general, and the effect is a flock of chalk birds flying through the hall. They have even taken over Peeta's side of the board. One has landed on his shoulder in the wrestling cartoon. No one seems inclined to erase the birds.

I walk home with Edder. He holds my hand. When we get to the square, people are starting to gather for the mandatory viewing hours, which will start soon. "She's got the bird," he says. "We should have sent something with Peeta."

"Like what?"

"No idea. I'm not good at that. We sent him with nothing. He's got friends, but they're all rooting for her."

I let go of his hand, go up on my toes to kiss his cheek, then go to the store to help Dad for a little while. There's no homework during the Games--nothing is supposed to interfere with the viewing--but I still have my chores, and I get them done quickly. I hear noise out in the square, but I don't pay attention until there is actually a scream.

I look up at Dad, who seems surprised.

I run out.

A knot of people has gathered in the middle of the square, egging on a dust cloud in the middle. I ask a man what's happening, and he just says, "Looks like they figured out they can't both of 'em win."

I hear the scream again:

"Gale! Stop!"

I push my way through the crowd just in time to be splashed with blood as Edder's fist connects with Gale Hawthorne's face. I grab hold of him and drag him backward. Prim has jumped onto Gale's back and is trying to keep him away. Edder has about forty pounds on Gale and several years of wrestling training, but Gale doesn't exactly fight by wrestling rules. And frankly, neither of them looks like they're willing to observe the niceties right now.

"Let go, Delly!" Edder growls.

"I will not!"

Gale manages to free himself from Prim, and grabs a rock from the green. Prim hits his wrist to make him drop it. "He wants your sister to die," Gale says.

"Of course he does, if it means his brother lives," Prim says grimly.

"He could have volunteered, if he wasn't so spineless."

Edder rips himself out of my hands and goes after Gale again, but Gale ducks out of the way and Edder ends up face down in the dirt.

I get between them before Gale can run back into the fight. He's already beaten Edder a few times over less important things, and he doesn't look like he's going to stop at a broken tooth this time. "Stop it," I say. "Both of you, right now. They're both alive, and we're all District Twelve."

Astonishingly, Gale backs off, and Edder doesn't push it. He just turns over and sits up, wiping at blood on his face. He won't meet my eyes. Prim, none too gently, maneuvers Gale away. I can't hear her, but she looks cross.

The anthem blares from the speakers (a bit more loudly than usual, I think), and the coverage begins. It opens with Katniss sitting by a smoky fire, cooking birds and glaring aggressively into the woods.

"Seems our girl on fire is trying to smoke out her opponents," Claudius says. "Unfortunately, they're a good distance away." The scene cuts to Cato and Clove, who are planning an elaborate trap for Thresh, then to Thresh, who is holding a token of some sort, made from twigs. He crushes it suddenly and looks up at the camera like he might reach through the screen and murder whoever happens to be on the other side. The girl from Five is looking for food by the lake. She looks at a bunch of berries, frowns at them, and moves on. Peeta is still in the mud.

Since none of the tributes is doing anything especially entertaining, the coverage moves to the Capitol. Haymitch is said to be in negotiations with sponsors, so they can't interview him, but they interview Effie Trinket, who talks up both Peeta and Katniss with great enthusiasm. She's asked how Katniss responded to Peeta's confession of love for her on Caesar's show. "Oh, you know young girls," Effie says lightly. "She was surprised. And delighted, of course. Peeta is a wonderful boy."

Cressida's footage from the school comes next, with Katniss's mockingjay all over the walls. The poem isn't shown. A perky reporter stands by the slag heap at the mine (for some reason Capitol people like seeing their reporters standing beside coal) and talks about how the District is supporting its tributes. They've dug up old school photographs of both of them, and even found one they appeared in together, though it was completely accidental. It was one of Peeta's wrestling matches, and Katniss can be seen in a shadow in the background, holding her books protectively over her chest. It must have been really bad weather that day. She'd have never come to a sports event if she could have been out hunting. Oddly, and probably coincidentally, she seems to be watching Peeta intently. Much is made of this by the commentators. There is more grainy security footage from their training, including soundless shots on the roof the night before the games, and grabbing each other's hands in the chariot as they headed out. A lip reader is brought in as they show footage from after the parade. Peeta, he says, has told Katniss that flames suit her. Then she kisses his cheek.

People on the street are interviewed. They want Katniss and Peeta to live happily ever after.

I expect that, when they go back to the studio, Claudius will remind everyone that there can only be one winner, but instead he says, "We may have a little surprise coming, friends. We'll have to wait and see."

Surprises in the Games are rarely happy, and my stomach feels tied in knots.

After this, they go to footage from District Two, where Clove and Cato are played as longtime friends who played together as children, though pictures of this are noticeably lacking. Their families are shown having a meal together. I wonder where they're going with this.

They cut back to Katniss, staring at her smoky fire and cooking birds. She looks tired and ill. Peeta, by the river, is muttering her name over and over. Someone has put a microphone near him somewhere, because the audio is much clearer.

"Sorry about Gale," Prim says, sitting down beside me. "I sent him back to Mom. He's mad because of the cousin business."

"Cousin business?"

"They decided he's going to be her cousin now. Because of the story." She points at the screen. "He's not our cousin."

"So I gathered."

"I'm sure Peeta didn't mean to cause trouble."

"I'm not. He's always liked her. That's not just a story."

Prim shrugs. "He helped her once. I think she's afraid of liking him."

This is a stunning thought--first that helping someone would cause fear, and second that there was some secret action that Peeta hadn't told me about. But I don't have time to answer, because there are legal experts on television now, talking about Claudius's "surprise." They won't reveal it, but several say that the Gamemakers are "skating up to the edge of the law." One says that "This can only work if it's attached particularly to the districts." Another is ostentatiously scanning the Treaty of the Treason.

Claudius Templesmith listens to his earpiece with the air of a man waiting to see if the world is about to be hit by an asteroid. He looks up dramatically, and says, "Ladies and gentlemen, we have an announcement. You will hear it with the remaining tributes."

They go back to the arena, splitting the screen into five sections: Katniss, Peeta, Cato and Clove, the girl from Five, and Thresh. In the center, we see the studio. Claudius's voice covers all of it.

They've changed the rules. If two tributes from the same district survive, they will both be victors.

There is dead silence in the square.

Mrs. Everdeen walks toward the screen, her hands up as if to touch the picture of Katniss. Mr. and Mrs. Mellark are staring at it, uncomprehending. Prim's hands go to her throat.

On the screen, Cato and Clove high five each other and shout "Go, Two!" Thresh looks furiously at the sky. The girl from Five doesn't react. Peeta's eyes flutter open.

And high in a tree, Katniss Everdeen calls out, her voice full of hope and agony, "Peeta!"
15 comments or Leave a comment
sonetka From: sonetka Date: November 26th, 2012 10:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love this. I've been very late to the Hunger Games books (only read the first two over Thanksgiving) and I love your narrator's voice here and seeing more of what's going on outside the arena. (Also, in regard to your last entry, I like your Tolkien fics too, especially since if I hadn't run across them I wouldn't have found your LJ and would have missed out on a lot of great fic).
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 26th, 2012 11:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was late, too. No hostility or anything to them, they were just never in when I thought about reading them. I finally gave in and bought the first one before the movie. I for some reason wasn't utterly caught up in it, so I didn't rush to the other two. Then I read some spoilers and thought, "Huh, that sounds pretty good." So I bought them, too. And now I'm hooked.

My narrator is Delly Cartwright, who gets a brief mention in the first book, but actually becomes a character in the third.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: November 26th, 2012 11:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love, love, love what you're doing here and how it's all through Delly's perspective. I like how it's Delly and Prim that break up Gale and Edder's fight and can't wait to see what other little gems you have planned for the Hunger Games.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2012 02:06 am (UTC) (Link)
I was glad the movie showed a little of the response in the district, but I think there's a lot of opportunity to get into how it feels to watch your friends and neighbors turned into human sacrifices--there's probably a lot going on.
beceh From: beceh Date: November 26th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Love it!

fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: November 26th, 2012 11:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
I've really loved these series of HG fics you've written. I hope you'll keep writing them. Especially the alternate POV ones like this fic.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2012 02:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I think I will. POV-swapping is always fun, especially in works where the offical POV is so tightly focused.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 27th, 2012 05:08 am (UTC) (Link)
Any plans to update the James Potter story? I enjoy reading your HP stuff!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 27th, 2012 05:14 am (UTC) (Link)
At the moment, no. I can put up a post saying whodunnit and why, I guess. But at the moment, I just don't feel like I have a lot to say there. Even though I guess there's not a lot of crossover fandom!

(ETA: Sorry you don't like the current stuff. I just needed a change of pace!)

Edited at 2012-11-27 05:33 am (UTC)
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: November 27th, 2012 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
Heh. You don't want to write a crossover where Harry's sent to the Games in the Capitol?

I've been quite *meh* about HG (what is it with you and "H" fandoms?), but you're starting to intrigue me....
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 28th, 2012 01:30 am (UTC) (Link)
I was meh at first, then sort of, "Okay, hmm, now I have a thought on this..." And once I start having thoughts ("A dangerous pastime, I know"), I'm a goner.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 28th, 2012 03:04 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, it's not that I don't like the current stuff- I'm just not really a huge fan of the original books, so I wasn't all that keen on reading more. But I do love the way you write so I gave them a shot and your take on the characters is WAY more interesting than the original! (plus, your endings aren't totally lame!). I just miss your HP stuff- that's how I found you initially and love when you write more about that world!
coralia13 From: coralia13 Date: November 29th, 2012 09:24 am (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE it! I love your elaboration of the sort of things the televised version would show (the doctor, scenes from training), I love the reaction to the District 11 bread, and I love the idea of the school photos... I hope you'll write the next part of this!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 29th, 2012 08:44 pm (UTC) (Link)
Working on it now.

I'm kind of using Olympics coverage as a guide for the commentators, and gossip shows for the "romance angle." If I'd started earlier, there'd have been fashion blogs about Cinna's outfits, I'm sure. "District Ten--oh, honey I can't even. Someone should have stopped you from going out the door in that..."
15 comments or Leave a comment