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Challenges 8 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 8
Something about how Cecelia managed to get married. I imagine she had to go through quite the media circus! for Anon

If there was one piece of advice I could give every tribute in the arena, it's this: Bore Snow.

I didn't do it deliberately. It just happened. Once I got through the Cornucopia, my Games were very dull. Other people were interesting, and killed each other in interesting ways. I fought my way to the supplies and got what I needed, then I did a fade. There was a big drama that year between the girl from Two and the boy from One, who had some kind of huge grudge match going, which made the Career alliance the focus of most of the coverage. The lovely, ethereal boy from Five had devoted followers, even among the other tributes. There was a tragically young girl from Twelve, and very clever one from Four. They teamed up for a little while. The boy from Eleven put together a counter-alliance against the Careers, and they had an all out war. My district partner from Eight was in on it.

I spent most of the Games in the basement of a carefully built mock-up of a bombed-out factory. I got three kills at the Cornucopia -- I’m no one's saint -- but other than that, my big confrontation was with a pack of mutt rats that finally chased me out. The only other tribute left was the boy from Five -- no longer so pretty and ethereal after he led his little cult on several suicide missions. I would have fought him, I guess, but the rats scented him before I did.

I did nothing wrong, per se. I didn't rebel. But I bored Snow and the sponsors to tears. Add it to being not terribly pretty, and on the whole, I have been left quite unharassed in my five years as a victor -- unlike the much more interesting victors. No one was clamoring for my company, so Snow didn't even bat an eyebrow when I announced my engagement to my long-time boyfriend, Boze Frye. He probably had to check his lists to remember who I was.

Caesar Flickerman (who likes me despite my deplorable lack of an interesting story) takes the ball and runs with it. Suddenly, I do have something interesting. Like a handful of other victors, I am going to have the whole dream: not just the riches, but the happy family to share them with. Caesar brings in the other married victors and their spouses to give a funny show about life in the spotlight. I am sent on a tour to visit all eight of them. Boze and I ride horses with Earl Bates and his kids (except his oldest daughter, who is pregnant). We go boating with a District Four family (last year's winner, Finnick Odair, comes along, because people are very interested in him). We have a huge feast with two families in Nine.

The unmarried female victors throw me a bawdy hen party (all televised, of course). It is the most attention I've had since they pulled me out of the arena. I'm sure someone somewhere is milking it for some kind of profit, but I don't care. I've heard enough horror stories from the other victors that if the best the Capitol can do is make a little on the side of my wedding prep, I'll count myself lucky.

The wedding itself, of course, will be televised as well. District Eight has about a million little wedding traditions, most of their origins lost in the mists of time, and Caesar is determined to show them all. I don't know if it's because he thinks it will make good television or because he thinks they'll make me happy, but whatever the reason, most of District Eight ends up involved in the wedding in one way or another. It's kind of embarrassing. They weave me a canopy that goes up in the main square (one of those traditions with no discernable origin) and bring in a sweet local wine. Local children are practicing songs and dances. The Capitol producers spring for food, and local cooks whip up all sorts of delicacies that we pretend are common fare. (This is one of the great advantages -- everyone will be well-fed for few days.)

The night before the ceremony, Boze and I sneak out to the square. The cameras are turned off, since the preparations for the day are done, and only a few Peacekeepers are on patrol. They ignore us; we aren't doing anything worth disturbing us for. We sit down, cross-legged, knee-to-knee, on the cobblestones.

"You ready for this?" he asks.

"It's a little late to back out," I say. "Are you?"

He nods. "I have been for a while. I'd've been perfectly happy to get married like normal people."

I sniff. "Trust me, everything will be much better if people are completely invested in you and me."

"I'm happy if it's you and me invested in you and me."


He sighs. "Ceels, the second I asked you to marry me, you started pitching it to Caesar -- "

"I didn't pitch it!"

"Yes, you did. You pitched it, and we've been selling it. Are you going to tell me why?"

"I didn't tell you why?"

"No. You didn't." He bites his lip. "Look, I know it has something to do with you being a victor. I know you've been squirrelly about it since you got back. I know Woof's not right in the head -- "

"Woof used to be good looking," I say. "And interesting."

"You're good looking and interesting."

"No. No, I’m not. Don't say I am!"

"Ceels, I'm marrying you. I think people will figure out that I think you're attractive and interesting."

"We'll have to do something about that..."

"Cecelia -- talk to me. And don't even think about saying 'Trust me' and dropping it at that."

Since those are the exact words on the tip of my tongue, I go silent while I search for something. "Some of it... it's not mine to tell. Things that have happened to other victors. Things that happened to Woof when he was younger. I can't... I can't say it, but you must... you have to understand what I'm saying."

His eyes get wide. "Ceels, did they... did you..."

"No. Because I'm boring. Because now the only thing they care about is that I'm going to be a model wife to parade around."

"Are you marrying me to keep them from harassing you?"

"No," I promise him. "No. I could just keep going the way I was going. Bore them until I'm too old to be interesting. But I love you. And I want to have a life with you. And that means certain things. Do you understand? It means being on, all the time. No fighting in public. Ever. Putting on the show whenever they're here, until they get bored again."

"Or they'll start selling you?"

"They'll kill you first. I wasn't kidding when I said that. I know you didn't believe me when I told you that you had to play along or -- "

"I believed you," he says, and grins. "I just didn't care. I figure, if they're going to kill me, at least I'll be your husband first."

"That's not funny."

"No. It's not. But it's true." He takes my hands. "Ceels, I need you to calm down. Everything will be all right. We'll put on a show if we have to, but it's our wedding. I want you to be happy at it."

I blink. The thought of being happy at my wedding has quite honestly not occurred to me. I have been so concerned with making sure the Capitol sees all the things I need them to that the idea of actually being a happy bride hasn't crossed my mind.

I suppose it would be a novel approach.

I'd like to see something from Digger's perspective, like her watching Haymitch's parade/interview/winning. for Sara Libby

The Abernathys' house isn't quaintly impoverished, with camera-friendly peeling paint or raw, stripped logs -- the sort of thing they like to linger on during the rare Games when they actually send someone to film in District Twelve. Next to Maysilee's house, even a regular Seam house would look bad, of course, but the shack near the slag heap makes Seam houses look like Capitol apartments.

I guess it wasn't always like that. When the house was assigned, it was like any of the others. Before he got sick, Mr. Abernathy drank a lot. He burned down half the house by accident trying to cook a pigeon when Haymitch was seven. It's not like they were going to assign another house. So the holes got repaired with whatever the family could scrounge, and the support beams got bound up with sticks from the woods. By then, Mr. Abernathy was already starting to get miner's cough, and he didn't have energy to do anything all the way. By the time he died, the family had already given up. When it's windy, the whole place shakes, and in the winter, the cold comes through the cobbled-together walls like a ghost. Mrs. Abernathy has the cough now, and Haymitch tries to shore the place up for her so she doesn't get a chill, but there's really no help for it.

The Capitol people are afraid to go inside. I heard one say that she's afraid it will collapse while they're filming. So Mrs. Abernathy and Lacklen have been moved up to the Community Home with me for the duration of the Games, so they're available for interviews in a safer space. Lacklen wanders around awake at all hours, because he's afraid that he'll be here for real in a few months' time. Looking at the bloody cloths Mrs. Abernathy coughs into, it's hard to argue with him. The Capitol people walk around her with suspicious dread, like they might catch whatever it is that's making her die in such a non-attractive way. I wonder what they do with dying people in the Capitol. Not one of the reporters seems to have ever seen an actual sick person before.

I do what I can for her. I like her, and she's always liked me, and I promised Haymitch that she'd still be here when he got back.

And he will get back.

This thought has been slowly growing in my mind for the last few days, since he joined up with Maysilee Donner. She's practical. He's smart. They're staying away from the fighting, and they're both good against the mutts. The thought I hadn't even dared to entertain really is starting to look possible: Haymitch may win. Will win. I know it's crazy. There are still six other people wandering around, some of them pretty dangerous (including Maysilee, if I'm going to be honest; she hasn't gotten this far by being afraid of lethality). But I can feel it in my bones.

Haymitch is coming home.

When he first left, I made the right noises. I doubt he believed me when I said I was sure he'd make it -- Haymitch is pretty hard to fool. When I saw him in the parade, fading into the background in his stupid miner's costume, I was pretty sure everyone would forget him. The interviews were the first flicker of hope. He showed up fancier than he'd ever have a chance to be here -- all suited up, with his hair glossed and his teeth cleaned... he was very handsome. And got smart with Caesar Flickerman, which made people laugh. We started seeing a little motion on the sponsor boards. Not much... but then, he hasn't used much. He got his things from the Cornucopia before anyone else even got there to fight. Then he headed for the hills.

Even then, it was a long shot. Until Maysilee showed up, I was sure the others would hunt him down and kill him. But she did show up, and now they're both in the final eight. Well, final seven, now. The reporters have switched from calling me Haymitch's girl to calling me Haymitch's best friend, and that's okay. They can call me Mildred the Mine Engineer if it makes them happy and gets him good coverage. I know he and Maysilee are just friends. Maysilee's boyfriend knows it, too, and we're on the same page.

Because suddenly, they're getting a lot of attention. People are noticing that they're in good shape. They're not starving. They're not in a lot fights, and they aren't too damaged from the ones they've had. Haymitch obviously has a plan, though he hasn't told her what it is yet. Everyone wants to know where he's going. His school records and poems and stories have been examined in great detail by people placing bets. Most think he's determined that there's a stash of weapons somewhere in the arena, a second Cornucopia. Some think he's trying to circle around to the volcano to use the gases somehow. People have drawn diagrams of a hot lava thrower they think he means to build, and traps to get the remaining Career tributes into the still burning fields. Another bunch thinks he's trying to get to high ground, and plans to build a glider. They use a poem he wrote about Daedalus and Icarus (who he says are part of an old myth) to support this one. They don't say where they think he's planning to fly.

Still, I think that's the closest. I know Haymitch. I've known him since we were very small and my parents were alive. He's not looking for a prize. He's looking for a way out. I don't share this with anyone. I think that, if there is a way out, saying it would make sure it gets closed off.

"Is anything new?"

I look up from the television. Lacklen is standing in the doorway, squinting at it miserably. He's as smart as Haymitch, I think, but his eyes are so bad that he doesn’t do very well in school. He can barely see what's happening on television. I pat the couch for him to sit beside me, and wrap him up in my blanket. "The boy from One and the boy from Four are fighting," I tell him. "The two girls from One are hunting. The boy from Two is sleeping. It looks like they're going to find him."

"And Haymitch and Maysilee?"

"She's sleeping; he's guarding." I watch a little bit. "She's trying to make him say what he's looking for still. She's not very happy with him."

"If he tells her, he tells everyone," Lacklen says.

"Yeah. Easy for us to say. We're not in there."

We watch in silence together as the heat of the afternoon passes in the arena. The girls from One do catch the boy from Two and kill him, then the girl named Filigree turns on her district partner before there's even a chance for her to gloat. The field is down to five.

Maysilee wakes up and asks if Haymitch wants to sleep, and he tells her that he doesn't. He wants to get on the way again. They argue. He's not going to be able to put her off much longer.
9 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 13th, 2013 11:00 am (UTC) (Link)


I get to do the first comment when my request goes up!

These were both absolutely terrific. I like the way you've used the fic to set up everything that comes later (Haymitch's father, their particularly rickety house, Maysilee's coming death).

I also really liked the glimpse at how Cecelia managed to have "it all" (for awhile anyway -- poor baby). Really glad that she and her husband were able to have that talk and I hope that she was actually able to enjoy her wedding day.

Thanks for all the fics!

Sara Libby
From: (Anonymous) Date: June 13th, 2013 11:12 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Awesome!

Not to mention the supreme post-game advantage of being boring and not drop dead gorgeous, which is sadly not the kind of advice that can be easily followed in this context even if it can actually be conveyed. Although from Jack's comments in the District 7 fic, I think that Blight would definitely agree.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 13th, 2013 02:37 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Awesome!

I'm glad you liked yours!

I think Cecelia took her husband's advice to heart, and let herself be happy -- she's a rebel, after all. :D
barbara_the_w From: barbara_the_w Date: June 13th, 2013 02:06 pm (UTC) (Link)
Bore Snow. Yes, yes, that would be excellent advice. And definitely a novel one.

Seeing that coping via alcohol is a family problem is also illuminating on Haymitch's story, too.

Thanks, Fern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 13th, 2013 02:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Unfortunately, I think self-medicating with alcohol is a fairly common problem for people who have too many brains and not enough to do with them. That it mucks up opportunities to ever have anything to do with their brains seems not to occur until it's way too late.

Edited at 2013-06-13 02:41 pm (UTC)
shortysc22 From: shortysc22 Date: June 13th, 2013 10:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked Cecelia's wedding and that her husband asked why she was marrying him and that she admitted the truth to him.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 14th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
She thinks she's very normal and level-headed. I think she needed her fiance to say, "Look, hon -- you're acting a little crazy here."
sonetka From: sonetka Date: June 13th, 2013 11:38 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh, Cecelia. I'm glad she took her chance and didn't try to wait out her whole youth being boring, considering future events. I hope all the victor-killers left their families alone -- Boze seems like a standup guy.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: June 14th, 2013 12:43 am (UTC) (Link)
I hope so, too. We didn't see much nonsense in Eight.
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