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Challenges 2 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 2
Sorry for the slowdown -- plumbing problems making an uncomfortable work space! Grr.

Challenge: Let's have this conversation [note: between Gale and Peeta, regarding "I Choose To Be Free" propo] in its entirety, pretty please? for Kobe G

I have to admit it: Peeta Mellark has a few yards of guts that I never gave him much credit for.

Not only did he insist on shooting the end of his propo at his prison cell instead of a controlled soundstage, but he actually went inside the cell -- the place where he was tortured for weeks -- and retrieved, of all things, a basket full of playing cards. Some of them look too bloody to use, but he doesn't pay attention to that at all. He just sets it down outside the camera's range, gives his line to the camera -- "My name is Peeta Mellark, and I choose to be free" -- then shuts the cell door and asks if it was a clean take.

While the techs clean up, I wander to the door of Johanna's cell, right next to Peeta's. There are still black burn marks on the wall from occasional discharges from the prods they shocked her with. Peeta asked her if she wanted to come down and film one of these "Choosing Freedom" propos, but she's not interested. She claims she's perfectly capable of being both angry and free, and embraces the freedom to continue being angry.


I turn. Peeta's standing there, the basket of cards balanced against his side. I try not to look at the blood smears. "Hey."

"Why'd you come?"

I shrug. "I guess... I figured Katniss would, you know, want to make sure you were okay."

He smiles. "Yeah. Maybe. Look, can we talk?"

"About Katniss?"


As we don't have a lot else in common -- even the crazy chase through the Capitol that we got to know each other on was all about Katniss -- I can't guess what he means, but I say, "Yeah. Sure."

He looks around. "Not here, though. I think I've had enough fond nostalgia today."

I laugh. "Okay. Sure. Where?"

"Outside's fine," he says.

I nod, and lead the way up that I brought Jo and Annie. It empties into a barren, rocky yard that leads to an arroyo. Peeta and I go and sit at the edge of the arroyo, looking out over the empty land south of the Capitol. To the west, I can see the lake glittering in the sun, and the mountains rising up in the distance. It's harsh out here, but I actually sort of like it.

Peeta is quiet for a long time, then says, "You should do one of these, Gale."

I frown. "What?"

"A propo. One of the choosing freedom ones."

"No," I say immediately, then sigh. "Look, Peeta, I'm glad you're moving on from what happened to you. But I -- how can I stop being angry at what happened to other people? How is that right?"

"Who said anything about not being angry?"

"Pretty much all of you -- isn't the whole theme that you can either be angry or free?"

"Okay, yeah. But it's not..." He thinks about it. "It's not really about not being angry about what happened. It'd be hard not to do that. But who are you angry at? What are you going to do about it now? Snow's dead. Coin's dead. The Capitol fell. We're in charge now. We're rebuilding Twelve -- "

"Which was bombed out of existence," I remind him.

"I know. I lost my whole family when that happened, remember?"

I look down. I didn't lose my family. He knows it. I have a vague sense that he's manipulating me here. "Yeah. I remember. Are you saying you're a better person than me because -- "

"No. Please don't go there. You sound like Brutus." He shudders and closes his eyes, and I remember, just before the bombing, that the District Two victor did say something like that, just before Peeta slit his throat.

"Sorry," I say.

"It's okay. It's just... that's not what it's about. It's not what I'm saying." He opens his eyes and looks out across the desert. "I'm saying that there's no one left to be angry at. Nothing left. It's all being fixed. If we just sit here fuming, then what happens? We keep finding some new thing to be a target. Oh, I'm still angry and Snow's not here... how about I go after the Peacekeepers? No Peacekeepers? Then it'll have to be the bureaucrats. They're behaving? Well, I'll bet there are people here who had family in the government, and they benefited from it. And the shopkeepers, they sure made a killing on the Games. And what about Snow's granddaughter?"

"We don't even know where she is."

"She left town under a different name," Peeta says. "I was helping Haymitch with the refugees when she came through. I didn't tell anyone. I just sent her on with fresh papers."

"You did what?"

"Go ahead. Shake the information out of me. Then go and chase down a nine-year-old girl -- maybe she's ten by now -- and then what? Who are you if you do that?"

"I can't believe you did that."

"Someone had to." He looks at me. "The point is, Gale, chasing down some poor little girl isn't going to make the world any better. It's not going to bring back my family to take Snow's, and it wouldn't unduly discomfit Snow, because Snow is dead. Are you really going to spend your time being angry at a little girl who never did anything?"

"Of course not."

"But other people are. People who see you as someone that they want to be like. I can say anything I want on the screen. I did it because I had to commit myself to it. But it's not going to make any difference, because the people who give a damn what I say aren't the people who want to keep the war going. Those people... they care what you say, because they see you as one of them."

"Do you see me as one of them?"

"I don't really know you," he says. "But I don't think so. I don't think Katniss would love someone like that."

"In case you missed it somewhere, she doesn't."

He sighs. "I'm not having this argument. It's just... it'll make a difference if you say it." He waits a minute. "Gale?"

"I'll think about it," I say.

It's the best I can give.

I'd love to see your take on one of the minor victors either in their Games, or even better more behind the scenes mentoring during the Games. Wiress, Beetee, Seeder, Cecelia etc for Maraudercat

"You need to get him a message, Beetee," Seeder says, pointing at the little screen on my desk. She sits down in Wiress's seat, vacant now since the Cornucopia. "Tell him to get out of there."

I frown. "Right now, he's in with the Careers. He's as safe as he can be right now."

"He won't be if they go to melee. And he definitely won't be if Rue and Katniss manage to get by his traps."

"They won't."

"The girl from Five has gotten past them three times so far. All she's after is a little food. Rue and Katniss mean to blow up the whole stash. I'm telling you, your boy will be safer if he ditches the Careers and allies with the girls. He could wait for the others to go off hunting, then offer himself to the Everdeen girl when she comes. He could show her the traps. She won't kill him if he does that."

I glance over at the mentors from One and Two. Gloss, Brutus, and Enobaria. I've never worked with them before, and I somehow doubt they'd take it kindly if I was the one to initiate the break-up of the alliance. If the girl from Four were still there, maybe I could work with Mags and get them both to break off. But Tesla alone? They've already all but killed Haymitch's other tribute for leaving them. They wouldn't hesitate to do the same to mine. "They're not going to get by the traps," I say.

"Yes, they are. If Katniss misses it, Rue won't. I'm telling you -- get your boy out of there."

I look over at my allies again and hiss, "What do you expect me to do, Seeder? Send him an address book with their names highlighted in it? Even if I did, those girls aren't great allies."

"Are you kidding me? Katniss Everdeen scored an Eleven in training. Rue's managed to avoid any fights so far, and we both know that can get her a very long way in these games. Your boy... he could bring along some serious defensive skills."

I sigh. "Look, Seeder, even if I could somehow come up with a present that would convey all of that to him -- and afford it, which isn't exactly a given; he hasn't got many sponsors -- then I can't promise he'd listen. I can't even say it's likely that he'd listen."


"I go to the school once a month to do lessons in practical application of electricity. I know the kids pretty well. Tesla hangs around with a group of bigger boys, because they'd pick on him if he didn't join them in picking on other kids. He's a smart kid, but not a really nice one. In other words, my best possibility for a victor in years."

"Not if he stays with the Careers."

"You'd rather he left them, and ended up having to kill Rue and Katniss?"

"I'd rather no one had to kill anyone," she grumbles. "Fine, then. Have it your way. But they're going to succeed. And your boy is going to end up taking the brunt of it when they do."

She gets up and goes back to the District Eleven tables, where Chaff is keeping an eye on Thresh and Rue both.

Enobaria stalks over and drops into the vacated seat. She jerks her chin in Seeder's direction. "What's that all about, Volts?"

"Seeder's an old friend."

"Trying to get you to break the alliance?"

"You know that's how the Games are played," I say. "It's nothing personal."

"Trust me when I tell you, it'll get very personal if Clove tracks him down."

"You know that girl's crazy, right?"

"What's your point?" She bares her sharpened teeth.

"No point."

"Good. Now, we're going through the gift list. We've got a pretty good pile of money among the four of us. They're well-armed already. Gloss thinks we need to be ready to send them more food, in case that District Twelve hick actually manages to do any damage, which I doubt, but Gloss thinks is possible."

"And what do you think?"

"I think we need to get them word about where the Mellark kid is hiding, so they can finish him off once and for all."

"First of all, how? Second, why? The kid's pretty much dead as it is."

"'Pretty much' doesn't count in the arena, and you know it." She grinds her teeth. "Brutus laughs him off. Brutus is a lot crazier than Clove."

"He's dying of sepsis. I'm not laughing, but unless the Games end in the next twenty-four hours with everyone else being killed, he's not a factor."

"I don't know. I just feel like we're ignoring that situation at our own peril. In my arena, I'd have gone looking for him the second he didn't show up in the sky. But Cato won't think about it, and Brutus won't send anything. Maybe, if you could help me convince him..."

"And why would I do that? It's not going to help my tribute one way or the other, and I'm not all that interested in helping Cato."

"Clove has a lot of sponsors. I could move some money in your direction, and you could get your tribute a better weapon."

I consider this. It's a good offer. "While I'm thinking about it," I say, "you still haven't answered the question about how..."
12 comments or Leave a comment
snorkackcatcher From: snorkackcatcher Date: June 2nd, 2013 08:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
That's a good question, Beetee. Are you planning to answer it in a later challenge fic? :)

Great stuff as always, and just as one small point I enjoyed the way Gale casually thinks in terms of an "arroyo" as if he's always known what an arroyo is. :D
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2013 03:36 am (UTC) (Link)
Once you know there's a word for, as Christian Slater put it in Pump Up the Volume, "that dumb concrete river that runs through the center of town," then it's a useful word to have, especially in the southwest.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 2nd, 2013 09:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
The more I think into this, the more I can NOT get a handle on how the Games behind the scenes worked.

You mean people like Haymitch, Seeder, Beetee and Cecilia (did she mentor) spent time getting to know different teenagers and then plotted how to help them kill each other - and the mentors stayed on friendly terms? Not seeing it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2013 03:37 am (UTC) (Link)
They'd have to. That's the biggest horror of the Games. Not only does it turn kids into killers, but it makes the people trying to keep them alive into accessories without much choice, even if they're otherwise decent human beings.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 3rd, 2013 04:02 am (UTC) (Link)
They'd pretty much have to be polite to the other mentors, wouldn't they? If one mentor fell out with the others or got too far off the acceptable path, the others could see to it that person's tributes didn't make it much further. I wonder if every victor had to take a turn mentoring or if it was assigned to one set of people year in, year out? If everyone had to take their turn, it's easy to see different kinds of camaraderie between the mentors who had to be there every year (since they were the only victors from their districts) and mentors from places like District 1, where you'd have a bigger pool.
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: June 2nd, 2013 10:04 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked your behind the scenes with Beetee and his thoughts on his tribute. I can't imagine how they feel trying to help their tributes when it's going to be a lost cause in the end.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2013 03:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I think you'd have to turn off your feelings about it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 3rd, 2013 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Absolutely Love...

The bit about Peeta knowing exactly who "Prisca Flynn" was when he processed her. It practically begs another drabble.

The first two were dynamite as well. It really threw me, for a minute, when you described Haymitch with black hair (since I picture everyone based on the movie's casting), but given how Katniss always describes the Seam people as olive skinned and black haired, it makes perfect sense. (Although, goodness knows, there has to be a little genetic variety, or you couldn't get someone who looks like Prim.)

Enjoying Greatly,

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 3rd, 2013 03:40 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Absolutely Love...

It practically begs another drabble.
It almost made it into Narrow Path, but that chapter was getting way too long and unfocused. Haymitch and Johanna knew about it, too... though Johanna was less than thrilled. (ETA: I like this version better, where Peeta just did it on his own and didn't discuss with either of them.)

Yeah, the books have him black-haired (curly black hair, no less). I love Woody Harrelson in the part, but by not dyeing his hair, they totally changed his back story! I like the movie a lot, but no one in my head looks like the actors in it. (Gale's the closest.) I love Josh Hutcherson's performance, but, as Katniss says about the boy who gets beaten up in the Capitol, "Aside from some obviously bleached curls, he looks about as much like Peeta as I do." My head canon Katniss is the one from the U.K. covers, and my head canon Peeta comes from some fan art!

Edited at 2013-06-03 05:07 am (UTC)
patita_fea From: patita_fea Date: June 4th, 2013 05:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Absolutely Love...

Josh Hutcherson is adorable, and I've loved him in other things. But, enh, miscast, maybe?
patita_fea From: patita_fea Date: June 4th, 2013 05:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Gale and Peeta's overheard conversation in the underbelly of the Capitol was one of the highlights of Mockingjay for me. This conversation is even better.

I have a vague sense that he's manipulating me here.
Heh. In my head, Gale respects Peeta's silver tongue and appreciates that it saved Katniss' life, even as he fundamentally distrusts it.

"Are you saying you're a better person than me because -- "
Everybody in the series seems to have this huge moral inferiority complex when it comes to Peeta. I get that he's hard to live up to, but everybody takes it so personally. What's up with that?

"I don't think Katniss would love someone like that."
God, your Peeta is the most mature human being in Panem. And, ok, I might feel a little ashamed if my victorious romantic rival were this clear-eyed, fair, and generous about the whole thing. Perhaps I'd develop a complex myself.

Thanks so much for the lagniappe!

Edited at 2013-06-04 05:07 pm (UTC)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 5th, 2013 05:38 am (UTC) (Link)
I think it must drive Peeta crazy, because he sees pretty much that he's doing what ought to be done, and no more. What anyone would do in the same situation. But Gale knows him mostly through Katniss, and Katniss... well, if he has a minor case of seeing her through rose colored glasses, she has a full-blown case of idolization going on about him. No wonder she was scared to talk to him!

I agree about how Gale sees Peeta's silver tongue.
12 comments or Leave a comment