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HG: The Final Eight, Chapter Five - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
HG: The Final Eight, Chapter Five
Time for the feast. I think this is going to be more chapters than I thought.

Chapter Five
Mayor Undersee uses the local cut-in option, which is almost never used in District Twelve, to announce that there will be no school tomorrow. Sunrise in the arena is around eight-thirty here, and he encourages us all to come to the square to support each other while Katniss tries to survive the feast.

"If I may speak personally," he says, "I have had the privilege of knowing both Katniss and Peeta somewhat through my daughter, Madge, who is in their year at school. They are fine young people, and a credit to District Twelve, and my heart and hopes go with them tomorrow." I expect him to ruin this by hoping that the odds be ever in their favor, but he doesn't. Instead he says, "Let's all be with them, by being with each other at this time. I know that we are often divided, but here and now, we are all District Twelve together."

The regular programming comes back. Katniss is settling in beside Peeta. We know without the commentators reminding us that she had a long sleep this afternoon, and will undoubtedly try to stay up through the night to make sure she doesn't miss the dawn.

District Twelve stays up with her. We didn't sleep all morning and into the afternoon, so we spell each other. I sleep on my father's lap for a little while, then go over to a group of Sixteens to see if anyone there needs to rest. Leevy nods, and I promise to wake her in an hour. She curls up on the grass and I sit beside her, staring up at Katniss. She seems to be trying to take some warmth from Peeta's body. I'm sure with his fever that there's plenty to take, but he's so deeply unconscious that it looks like she's cuddling up to a corpse. She seems uncomfortable, and I can see her breath coming in little white puffs.

The coverage doesn't stay solely on her, of course. In fact, at around three in the morning--about the time I wake Leevy--they cut to a romance in which a pretty young starlet plays the victor in the First Games, who fell in love with her stylist and had to go through quite a lot of trials for permission to live with him in the Capitol. Tansy and Billa sleep through this, but Leevy and I watch it without really seeing it. After it, they go to early morning news, with Games stories intermixed with heartwarming tales about lost kittens. Around six, the Everdeens show up, looking pale and terrified. Prim sits on the ground and grabs my hand tightly. Gale is with them, and he cuddles Prim from the other side. The bitter boy from yesterday is gone, or is at least subsumed by Prim's need for comfort, and probably his own need for it as well. A group of young Seam kids who I take to be his brothers and sister come along, and the mother puts an arm around Mrs. Everdeen.

The tributes are shown now in the corners of the screen, getting ready for their confrontations. Katniss bundles up, putting on Peeta's jacket as well as her own, and putting a pair of socks on her hands. She bends down beside Peeta and gives him a kiss, though I doubt he notices it. Then she takes a deep breath and heads out.

She will be surprised--Finch has spent the night in the Cornucopia itself. I doubt she'll attack Katniss, but she'll certainly get away first. Clove is on the far side of the clearing, while Cato is headed down to the ravine to try and intercept Thresh when he comes. Thresh, intelligently, has spent the night making a wide circle around the clearing, and is coming from an entirely different direction. He's further away than the girls are.

"District Two and District Eleven have both encountered several muttations, as well as dueling one another," Claudius says, "and they have reached a stalemate. They each have body armor waiting for them. Will both get to it? Clove and Cato have decided to divide and conquer here."

The shot goes to Finch, waiting warily inside the Cornucopia. "Our clever girl has had bad luck with food and shelter. Her bag contains a thermal blanket, and two days' worth of food." Katniss fills the screen, crouching at the edge of the woods with her bow at the ready. "And of course, Katniss Everdeen is here for Peeta Mellark's medication. We are providing her with a strong antibiotic, used successfully by mountain climbers and adventurers who are prone to injury and infection. Our doctors, monitoring Peeta, have determined the right dose. But will she be able to overcome the other two girls and Thresh to get it to him?"

"Does Katniss need medicine?" a little girl asks.

"No, Posy," Mrs. Hawthorne says. "Katniss is helping the boy."

"Oh. He's a nice boy. I like that she's helping him." She sits down on my other side and tugs on one of my curls. "How do you make your hair be springs?"

"It does it by itself," I say.

"I sure wish mine did," she says fervently.

Edder starts to come over, then stops when he realizes who I'm sitting with. I feel like I should extricate myself and go to him, but Prim is holding my hand so tightly it hurts. She glances back, then looks up at Gale and says, "Please Gale, I want them."

He closes his eyes, then looks at Edder. "All right," he says. "Stay then."

Edder nods, and signals to Mr. and Mrs. Mellark. Jonadab and Sarey have joined them. By now, the little corner where the Sixteens spent the night is quite full, and we are all pressed together. Edder sits behind me, putting his arm around my shoulders and resting his cheek against mine. I take his hand with my free hand, which is a little difficult, as Posy Hawthorne is leaning on that arm. Gale and Edder do not acknowledge one another any further than Gale's implicit promise not to start anything, but there's no sign of the boys who were waving knives at each other only a few hours ago.

Mrs. Everdeen has sat down on the single bench in the area. Mrs. Hawthorne sits beside her and holds her hand, then reaches for Mrs. Mellark's hand. Mrs. Mellark looks shocked, and I half expect her to turn up her nose, but instead, she takes Mrs. Hawthorne's hand and sits down on her other side. Mr. Mellark stands behind the bench, his hands on Mrs. Mellark's shoulder and Mrs. Everdeen's. They are all watching the screen intently.

The sun rises over the arena.

The ground opens and a table rises up. Finch grabs her backpack and runs, practically before the table has stopped moving. She's back in the woods before Katniss or Clove has budged, and Thresh still hasn't reached the clearing.

Katniss bites her lip, then bursts from the edge of the woods, running for her life toward the innocuous looking table, where a tiny orange backpack with a twelve on it sits waiting for her. Clove moves at the same time, raising her throwing arm.

"KATNISS!" Prim screams, and her hand clamps down around my fingers so tightly that I have a feeling I'll be bruised later. "Katniss, please, Katniss..."

Katniss deflects the first knife with her bow, and shoots toward Clove, but the other girl is wound up and ready for it. She turns enough that it only hits her in the arm... and unfortunately, not the arm she throws with.

Still, it slows her down enough for Katniss to grab the tiny backpack and slide it up her arm. There are gasps in the crowd, but no applause. No one wants to risk the sound of it covering anything. Clove has recovered from her surprise at the arrow hit and pulled another knife. She throws it.

Katniss is just turning when it comes, still bent down a little from grabbing the backpack--if she'd been where Clove expected her to be, it would have caught her in the center of the back. Instead, it catches her in the forehead, and blood pours down over her face. She fires the arrow, but I doubt she can even see her target.

Prim screams. Gale cuddles her more tightly, and I squeeze her hand as well as I can. Mrs. Everdeen shouts, "Prim! It's a scalp cut, it looks worse than it is! You know that!"

Prim catches her breath and forces the screaming to stop. Until Clove knocks Katniss down and pins her to the ground.

This time, Mrs. Everdeen doesn't try to calm Prim. She's breathing in heavy, panicked sobs. Mr. Mellark has buried his hands in his hair and fallen to his knees. Edder is making a strangled sound in my ear. Gale yells, "Katniss, no!" He reaches for his little sister and buries her face against his coat. He covers Prim's eyes.

"Where's your boyfriend?" Clove asks conversationally. "Still hanging on?"

Katniss lies, saying that he's covering her, but Clove calls her bluff. I can barely understand her. There is a horrible, terrified whistling in my brain, and I feel like I'm about to watch both of them die--Katniss here, Peeta back in the cave. Through this, I manage to catch, like a fragment of a nightmare, Clove talking about Rue for some reason. Then she wipes the blood off Katniss's face and stares at it, holding her knife casually.

"Throw her, Katniss!" one of Gale's brothers yells. "Throw her! Take the knife!"

But Clove is bigger than Katniss, and healthier. There is no chance of it. We are going to watch her die, and Clove is going to make sure she dies badly.

The coverage cuts away, causing a wail to come from Mrs. Everdeen. It shows Thresh, moving up quickly, his brows drawn together in rage.

"Looks like District Two has forgotten something," Claudius tells us. "And I think she may have made a fatal mistake in her taunts."

Thresh lifts Clove off of Katniss and holds her in the air, then flings her to the ground. Katniss just blinks up at him, in shock. Yesterday, this would have occasioned a cheer, but now District Twelve is silent, confused.

"What'd you do to that little girl?" Thresh demands. "You kill her?"

"No! No, it wasn't me!" Clove protests.

"You said her name! I heard you!"

Claudius's voice, hushed, assures us that Thresh had been protective of Rue during training, and they had known one another in District Eleven. Then the camera focuses on the rock in Thresh's hand.

Clove screams for her district partner. He hears her, but he's nearly down at Thresh's camp. He turns and runs for the Cornucopia. He won't get there in time. Thresh slams the rock down on Clove's skull.

Then he turns on Katniss.

Prim has forced Gale's hand off from over her eyes. She has not stopped shaking, but now she's whispering, "Please, oh, please..."

Thresh says, "What'd she mean? About Rue being your ally?"

Katniss tells him the story of her alliance with Rue, and what happened when Rue died, how she killed Marvel, and how she sang. There is something else she says she did, but the audio is briefly distorted. Finally, she just says, "Do it fast, okay, Thresh?"

Thresh stares at her, then lowers the rock. There is another collective gasp in the square. "Just this one time, I let you go," Thresh says. "For the little girl."

Mrs. Everdeen falls to her knees, sobbing in gratitude. Prim is weeping into Gale's jacket. Edder kisses my cheek and I can feel the tears running from his eyes as well. I think we are all deeply indebted to District Eleven, and I can't even imagine how we will repay it.

Katniss scrambles backward, gains her feet, and runs into forest only a few steps ahead of Cato's arrival. Thresh grabs both remaining backpacks and runs for his camp.

The coverage stays on Cato and Clove. She doesn't regain consciousness. A doctor reports on the likely damage to her brain while Cato tries to whisper her back to life.

The cannon fires.

Cato doesn't hesitate. He sets her down gently, then runs after Thresh. Thresh is prepared--he's taken a route that he's rigged traps on. Cato avoids getting caught in them, but they slow him down long enough for Thresh to jump down into the ravine and light a brush fire.

Cato is mad enough that he actually tries to charge the fire, but he doesn't get far. Both boys fall to the ground and rest.

The coverage returns to Katniss, who is walking down the middle of the stream, and Prim tenses again. The head wound is bleeding profusely. Mrs. Everdeen steps carefully into the crowd of us and kneels in front of Prim. "You've seen scalp wounds," she says. "She'll lose blood, and she'll need to keep warm, but it's not as bad as it looks. You know that. It's a clean cut. She just needs to put pressure on it."

Prim blinks slowly, then nods. She pulls herself away from Gale and me and flings herself into her mother's arms. They go back to the bench and soothe each other.

Katniss tries to apply pressure with the socks she'd had on her hands, but they soak through quickly. She barely manages to stumble back to the cave, but she gets there. She pulls a syringe out of the little backpack, jabs into Peeta's arm, and gets the medicine into him.

Then she passes out on the floor of the cave, blood spreading out around her head in a sinister halo.

"Wake up, Peeta," Edder breathes beside me. "Wake up. Help her."

Gale glances over his shoulder, surprised, but doesn't say anything.

But Peeta doesn't wake up. She gave him enough sleep syrup to knock him out for a day.

The coverage returns to the studio, where Claudius has the doctor back. "What's the prognosis for our star-crossed lovers?" he asks cheerfully.

"I loaded that syringe myself," the doctor says, "so I can tell you that Peeta's prognosis is very good. He should wake up hungry, with a vastly reduced fever and lower swelling."

"What about Katniss's wound?"

The doctor unknowingly echoes Mrs. Everdeen. "It looks worse than it is," he says. "Luckily, she's fallen on a slight incline, and her head is above her heart. That should slow the bleeding. The human body can lose more blood than people think it can, though I expect she'll wake up dizzy." The camera fixates lovingly on the spreading pool of blood, which is now touching Peeta.

They must determine that this isn't a very interesting shot, because they cut now to us, here in the square. I feel a wave of gratitude to Cressida, who will most likely be in trouble for this. Judging from the shot that they put up, she is on the far side of the square, deliberately shooting away from us.

"It's certainly an emotional morning for District Twelve," Claudius says. "Our on-site producer says that the Mellarks and Everdeens aren't available to comment." He looks annoyed at this, as if we have nothing better to do than tell the Capitol how we're feeling. "But we can see the dedication in District Twelve to bring their star-crossed lovers home."

"What does 'star-crossed lovers' mean?" Posy asks. "They keep saying it."

"It's people who love each other, but can't be together," I tell her.

"Oh. Is that why they kiss each other all the time?"

"Yeah," Gale says. "It'd be hard to convince people without that. Come on, Posy. Looks like Katniss is going to be okay. Let's see if the Everdeens need anything." He takes her hand and goes over to Prim and Mrs. Everdeen.

I think he's wrong. The pool of blood spreading around Katniss's head is a lot more convincing than a hundred kisses would be.

I spend the morning with the Mellarks, watching the coverage nervously. Not much is focused on Peeta and Katniss, as they are both unconscious. A few of their Capitol fans are interviewed, and the doctor occasionally checks in to report that her cut is clotting naturally or his temperature is going down, but the real interest is in Cato's hunt for Thresh. He's taken over Thresh's camp and is calling him out. Thresh is not stupid, and doesn't go in, but the brush fire he started to put Cato off is pushing him closer anyway. Finch eats too much of her food at once and it comes right back up, wasted. She cries in frustration, then goes to sleep, curled up and warm in her new thermal blanket. The commentators make a point of how close she is to the fire zone, but nothing comes of it.

We aren't really paying a great deal of attention, just listening for scraps of information about Peeta and Katniss. We talk about what Jonadab and Sarey mean to name their baby, which is due in January, though I doubt anyone in District Twelve will be terribly shocked if it comes a month or two earlier than they're saying. Edder takes some teasing about using his brother's life-threatening situation to hit on me. I am mortified, but this passes for normal conversation between the elder Mellark boys, and at least seems to defeat Edder's guilt enough for him to formally ask me out. I say yes, then go home for lunch, where my brother makes gagging sounds at the news.

It is almost normal. The only thing that would make it seem more normal would be Peeta making gagging sounds.

By mid-afternoon, it has started to rain in the arena, and the creek that runs down the middle of the ravine where Thresh's camp is has started to rise. A reporter in District Four tries to interview Annie Cresta, who won when the arena flooded, but she screams and slams the door in his face. Instead they cut to Finnick Odair, who was her mentor, but cut away suddenly after they tell him that they tried to talk to her about it.

No one is in the shop, so Dad gives me the rest of the afternoon. I wander to the square and find Madge Undersee. She is not in a talkative mood, but we sit together for a while and watch as Cato is pushed out of Thresh's camp by the raging waters of the creek. Thresh himself is upstream a bit, in an area where rock walls will eventually hem him in if the waters keep rising. It's been almost an hour when Madge says, "I wish I could send him a raft. He's earned a raft." I suggest that we see, just for curiosity's sake, what it would cost, but when we get to the sponsor booths, we are blocked from District Eleven's boards. There is now a rule that we may only support our own tributes.

"It would have been too expensive anyway," I say as we leave the booth.

"That's not the point."

We go for a long, rambling walk before mandatory viewing hours, up the hill, down through the Seam, around the meadow. Mr. Mellark is at the Everdeens', and it looks like he's brought them bread. Cressida is interviewing them, though all either of them has to say is that they're worried, which can't qualify as news even in the Capitol.

The anthem calls us back to the square, and Madge decides to watch at home. She turns for a second like she means to invite me, then just smiles and scurries inside instead.

The Mellarks are still in the bakery, so I go home and watch in the living room with my family. They recap this morning's feast for people who didn't get up for it (or stay up for it), and do a memorial for Clove. After this morning, I find it difficult to feel sentimental for her. Her parents are calling for Thresh's blood, and Katniss's. Apparently, they missed the part where their daughter pinned Katniss to the ground and threatened to torture her to death. Her mentor, Enobaria, seems relatively untroubled by the whole thing, and just says that Clove was a good fighter, and did her best.

The brush fire has started to get out of control as evening comes to the arena. It's not a fire started by the Gamemakers, so they can't just turn it off. Instead, they spread the rainstorm through the whole arena, and it is the rain that finally wakes Peeta up, coming through the cave entrance and onto his face.

He sits up, confused, then sees Katniss and lets out a yell that would have brought every tribute in the arena if they weren't otherwise occupied. He sits up and puts his hand on her throat, feeling for a pulse.

"Come on, come on, oh please..." He finds it and picks her up, holding her to his chest. "That's it, yes, that's it. Crazy girl. Don't you die on me..." He goes on in this vein as he gently washes her face with a torn off piece of his shirt. I see Prim Everdeen pop up in the corner of the screen, watching intently and saying that Peeta will need to be careful not to start the cut bleeding again, but that he does need to clean it before it gets infected. The doctor in the Capitol comes on and agrees with her. There is not much to focus on--Cato, Thresh, and Finch are all just trying to find a dry place. They cut to them intermittently throughout the broadcast, but comparatively, Peeta's attentions to Katniss are fascinating.

He isn't moving well. His infection might be healed, but his leg is obviously stiff. He lurches to the cave entrance to rinse and wring out his cloth, then lurches back to Katniss to continue cleaning her up. When he's got her face clean, he goes into the first aid kit she took from Marvel and finds a bandage, which he presses to the cut. A longer one goes around her head to hold pressure. When it's done, he takes her hand, and looks suddenly alarmed.

"You're freezing," he says. "She's freezing, Haymitch!"

This is not answered with any parachutes.

He finds a square of plastic in Katniss's backpack and secures it on the rocks above her head, which keeps the rain off of her. Then he rubs her hands and breathes on them. He takes off her soaking shoes and socks and finds a relatively dry corner for them, then he rubs her feet. He starts to take off his own socks, but they are more or less destroyed after days buried in the mud. He throws them away in frustration and wraps her in her sleeping bag, then slips in beside her and holds her to him, stroking her hair carefully to avoid the bandage and kissing her head. "You'll be all right," he says. "You'll be all right. You have to be all right." He sets her down gently when the anthem plays, keeping her head elevated by putting the backpack under it, and looks up at the sky. Coverage where we are cuts back to a replay of Clove's death.

The mandatory viewing closes with a shot of Peeta wrapping himself up beside Katniss, giving her his warmth.

There is no movie tonight between Games cycles. Everyone is worn out.

I go to bed, and am asleep before the anthem ends.
11 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 6th, 2012 02:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

What I Really Enjoy

is the way you are incorporating all of the mentors that we will get to know better in "Catching Fire."

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 6th, 2012 02:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: What I Really Enjoy

Katniss does say that the victors are almost always there in the Capitol during the Games, so I figured they'd probably be go-to interviews. (I'm thinking of the Olympics, where they love to interview former medalists while the current athletes get ready for their events.)
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 6th, 2012 02:39 pm (UTC) (Link)

The Capitol

I LOVE the way you are showing how the Capitol is shutting things down and how the citizens do not get it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 6th, 2012 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: The Capitol

I think Madge gets it...
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: December 7th, 2012 02:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm really enjoying this perspective of the Games and even more so how you've fleshed out the characters. I feel like I say the same thing every time, but it's true. There's so much more depth here to your characters.

Glad you seem to be having so much playing in the Hunger Games fandom!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 7th, 2012 03:18 am (UTC) (Link)
I wasn't expecting it, but I actually find myself enjoying the very nasty commentary on television as much as anything else.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: December 7th, 2012 03:19 am (UTC) (Link)
Again, I think that's another interesting aspect of the Hunger Games. These people can barely eat, yet they all of have required television viewing times during the Hunger Games.
jedinic From: jedinic Date: December 7th, 2012 06:24 am (UTC) (Link)
This world is so fascinating. You're creating an amazing place from the snippets we got in the books - I particularly love how you've described the Mellark and Everdeen families interacting, because OF COURSE that would have happened, only I never thought of it til now.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 8th, 2012 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the fact that they're old friends (well, acquaintances, in the case of Mrs. Everdeen and Mrs. Mellark) probably would come into play with the situation.
From: (Anonymous) Date: December 7th, 2012 12:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love the way you're showing the parts of the Games that Katniss was not witness to. I must admit, my favourite aspect of the book series was the way the ordeals of the tributes were represented and distorted on the televised show, with false plotlines imposed on their sufferings through snippets of the actual events, so a fic about 'just watching television' is, in this case, my ideal HG story! I liked the HG film for this reason as well, and wished they'd made a bit more about being able to get outside Katniss's viewpoint - although I do appreciate the way the original novel uses Katniss as an unreliable narrator, and don't think a different viewpoint structure would have worked better.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: December 8th, 2012 04:24 am (UTC) (Link)
That's sort of what I'm discovering. Delly isn't really passive, per se, but she's a little bit separate, and that gives a chance to experience what people would see and hear outside the arena.
11 comments or Leave a comment