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Fluffy Challenges 7 (and final) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Fluffy Challenges 7 (and final)
Made it through fifteen!
I'm not sure how fluffy these requests are, but could I please see Caesar's POV during a victory interview for a victor that he was really rooting for during their Games (perhaps someone he felt he helped during their pre-Games interview, bonus points if it's someone he perhaps wrote off during interview like Johanna or the D3 victors?) Perhaps remembering his own return as unlikely victor? for Dash
Most of the kids who sit here in my studio two weeks after the Games end aren't in great shape mentally. When I sat here myself with Candria Light, I spent the whole interview looking around for emergency exits, and things I could use as weapons if I had to. I didn't let on, of course. Even back then, I knew what I was doing with an audience. But my mind read the closed studio as a trap. I'm not the only one.

Some of the kids try to hide in the cushions of the sofa, pushing back into the fetal position like they're expecting blows. Others -- probably the majority -- bluster and brag, posturing as they did in the arena to intimidate their enemies. Some are like me, looking for a way out. And of course, there are the angry ones. Candria was very frank with me when she was teaching me the job. It's important to spot the angry ones, and not let them put themselves in any actual danger by letting their fury out. She said it was the most important thing we had to watch for, and I agree with her. They've been through enough in the arena without going to war with Coriolanus. He won't kill them -- they're too valuable -- but he has plenty of ways to make them wish he would.

So, I watch out.

Johanna Mason is about thirty seconds from killing someone.

I don't think anyone else notices it, but I do. I've been there. I see the way her hands are flexing, the way her smile has stretched very tight over her face. If one more production assistant asks when she decided to "stop faking" and "let loose," she's going to "let loose" here in the studio.

I shoo them away and pull up a chair beside her. Her mentor, Jack Anderson, isn't allowed to be here for the final prep, and I know she needs someone to keep her calm.

"Glad to see you back, Johanna," I say.

She snorts. "I bet you'd say that to anyone."

"Yes. And it would be true. But I am glad to see you."

"I'm still dressed as a tree," she says, pointing at the green-sleeved brown dress they have her in. "Can't they give me decent clothes, even?"

I smile. "There will be decent clothes. You'll get a rest until the Victory Tour, and you can buy whatever you'd like. Then the Tour is the last time your stylist will be playing paper dolls with you. After that, the most she'll be able to do is make suggestions."



She looks at the make-up mirror and grimaces. I don't blame her. District Seven is stuck with Leta Pettibone, the kind of terrible stylist who thinks herself inspired with every clunky, literal costume she churns out. "I don't really know where to shop," she says. "I don't actually know how to shop."

"Ask Jack. He'd be much happier to mentor you on something like that, and he's on a first name basis with half the designers in the Capitol."

She smiles faintly, then turns and glares at the mirror again. "You're going to ask about when I stopped pretending to be weak, right?"

"If you answer it once on television, maybe you won't have to deal with quite as many people asking." In point of fact, I don't think Johanna "stopped pretending" at all. I interviewed her before the Games as well, and I flatter myself in believing that I can read people fairly well. She was a terrified fifteen year old girl who didn't think she really had the skill or strength to match up with the kids she'd been training with. She was also skinny, short, and reeling from the antibiotics they gave her to kill the flu she'd had at Reaping. I didn't think there was the slightest chance that I'd see her again.

We never talked about it, but I'm pretty sure Candria thought the same about me.

But sometimes, the arena wakes something up, some wild gene that's kept the human race brutal, vicious, murderous… and alive. For me, it was when my allies -- those poor, hopeless, decent kids -- were snuffed out like so many campfires. It came off on television like I wanted revenge, but I don't remember thinking of revenge at all. I just remember getting cold. Getting angry. There were two killers left, and if I didn't kill them, they'd have killed me.

And just like that, the rogue spark went off, and I dispatched the last two without even registering that I'd done it until later.

I saw it happen to Johanna. I'm sure when I ask her, she'll spin some elaborate tale about planning the whole thing. She probably should. People admire her for it. But I've been there. I know. When the girl who'd been protecting her turned on her, when she had to kill that girl in self-defense, using an axe she had to steal for the job… I saw the flash in her eyes, then the cold, brittle aftermath. She went through the last six tributes like a robot. I doubt it's settled in even now.

She sniffs disdainfully. I can tell what kind of character she plans to play. I can help her with it. "Well," she says, "I guess I can come up with something." She looks at my tie clip. "I like that stone. What is it?"


"What if I wanted something with an emerald in it? Leta'd probably even let me wear it. She'd say it looks like a leaf."

I smile and unpin the tie clip. Let the tie flutter. "Have mine," I tell her. "At least for the interview. For luck."

She smiles and takes it, and fixes it like a broach on the brown part of the dress. "And after, you can tell me where you got it. And then, I'm getting a dress…"

I'd still really love to see Peeta and Haymitch discussing Peeta's plan to tell Caesar about his crush on Katniss. for Anon

This is definitely not fluffy. Not really a way to do that fluffy. -FW
"So, what's the big secret?" I ask Peeta, guiding him to a chair that's almost as uncomfortable as the interview chairs. "I figured you'd be trying to get every minute in. Or at least wanting to know her strategy so you could back her up."

"Katniss doesn't have an interview strategy. You know that."

"Okay, true -- which is even more reason I wouldn't think you'd want to separate the training. The way you've been going on, I figured you'd want to coach her." I shake my head. "You're not even trying to win, are you?"

"It depends what you mean by 'win.'"

"I mean that you get to keep breathing a while longer. You know, your dad came to me after he talked to you and Katniss -- "

"Dad talked to Katniss?"

"Yeah. He wasn't allowed to go back and see you, so he went and saw her. Just bringing her cookies, like he does for all the tributes. But he was a little upset this year for some reason."

Peeta's quiet for a long time, then he says, "He went to see you after?"

"Yeah. He told me you weren't planning to come back. He also told me to get you to change your mind." He had a little more to say than that -- he's pretty sure the whole business is his fault and mine -- but that's not Peeta's business.

He looks up suspiciously. "Of course, I mean to play by the Gamemakers' rules…"

"This room's clean. They want to be surprised by the interviews."


I sit down across from him. "So, are you looking for me to respect Danny's wishes and try to change your mind? Or did you want me to be all respectful of your insane goals? Because I'll do either."

He sighs. "I don't have a chance. You know it. I know it. There are about a million things I wanted to do with my life that didn't involve dying, but I guess those are off the table. Now, what I want to do is make Katniss the victor, and make sure that everyone loves her."

I sit down and put my feet up. "I'm not sure the best way to put this, but let's say, you maybe want to be careful of how many people love her if she's the victor."

Peeta is not dumb, and he's not as naïve as he acts. He just raises an eyebrow. "Well, then, we better make sure people see her as a person."

"Why do you care?"

"I like her. I kind of like her a lot, you know?"

"Oh, great. You are Danny's kid. Throw yourself in front of a bullet for the girl."

"It's not just that. I mean, it is, but… it's why I like her. She's... She's useful."

I raise my eyebrows. "Useful?"

"That doesn't sound right does it?" He sighs. "It's just… she keeps her family alive. She helps. She's here for a reason. I'm just here. I don't really need to be. Not if you're measuring her against me."

"Your dad loves you."

"Yeah. And he loves my brothers, too. It's not like I'm the only one he's got." I have no idea what to say to this, and Peeta goes on before I think of anything. "So, I want to make sure Katniss lives. And lives well. So… I'm going to tell everyone about her."


"How great she is. How much I like her."


"I've been thinking about it. Ever since the train. Everyone knows she loves her sister, but they won't show all that much from home, not at first. But if she's got a whole story going on, if it's about more than getting set on fire… if people wonder if she could have a future…"

"A future with someone who's planning to die?"

"No, that's not really the point. If they see her as someone who's loved… then they'll imagine her, maybe pining away, they might fall for that. But mostly they'd see her as someone people want. Then, when she goes home and ends up marrying Gale, they'll all be rooting for her to have a chance to be happy after all the tragedy. See? You can sell that, right?"

"This is insane. You're auditioning to be her tragically lost love?"

"She doesn't love me. She barely knows me. But come on -- you and Cinna have been putting us together in everyone's eyes from the start. You must have had something like this in mind. It's not like you'd known us long enough to come up with it on the fly before the parade. You always planned on sending a matched pair down."

"Peeta -- "

"And it was a good idea. Rub everyone's faces in the idea that they love both tributes in the district, but one of them is going to die, no matter what. Right?"


"I'm just volunteering to be the one who dies. It was always one of the roles up for grabs, right? Let me play it. I can play it better than she can. And she'll be alive at the end, to go home and keep her family alive."

"This isn't a play. You're not going to come bounding out for a curtain call after your big death scene."

"I know. I also know that I don't have a chance against people like Cato or Marvel. So, since I'm dying anyway…"

There's not really an answer to this. For years, I haven't had any fighters. Despite Effie's best attempts, by this point, my tributes have usually either been delusional about their chances (and therefore stupid) or melted into complete surrender. This year, I got two fighters. Peeta's chances are better than he thinks. In another year, I'd think I could have a victor in him.

But Katniss is almost certainly the best tribute I've ever trained, and Peeta doesn't want to win at her cost. She will want to win, and Peeta's right about the strategy. I was going to do everything to get one tribute through this year. And then everyone would see the empty space beside her (or him), the space that was always filled before the Games, and they'd realize what they were doing.

Only I was doing the same thing -- casting some cipher as a corpse for my own purposes.

Plutarch always tells me I'd be a good Gamemaker.

I rub my head. There's no way out of this, and Peeta's the most reasonable person in this business. I sigh. "Fine. But let Caesar work up to it, okay? They're not going to care that you like her if they don't like you first…"

A vignette about everyday Capitol life in the early days of Paylor's presidency, perhaps. for vytresna
"You sure this is okay?" I ask, putting on the apron. "I mean, teaching me to do this? Won't it, I don't know, cut into Milon's business?"

Peeta Mellark rolls his eyes and fishes for large bowls under the sink in his kitchen. "Even now, there are enough people in the Capitol to support two bakeries. And I'm not teaching you his recipes. Possibly because he's not teaching me his recipes. I'm just working there for a little while."

"I guess."

"Besides, maybe you'll want to head out to the districts. I think I heard District Seven doesn't have anyone doing this."

This sounds like a good possibility. I thought I had a future here, but Tazzy has other things to do, as it turns out. Guys at school with her who don't look at her like she's a prostitute trying to reform her life. Apparently, I do that. I am not aware of doing it, but she says every time she accomplishes something, she feels like I'm saying she's doing a really good job, for an ex-hooker. The guys at school don't know. So they just look at her like she's doing a really good job, end of story. All of my protests that she was imagining this did no good. I am well and truly dumped. I may as well just go out to the districts and brood about it.

"Okay. I'll go be a baker in District Seven. Still don't know why you're teaching me."

"You took a beating for me. I owe you one." He shrugs. "Besides, the doctor still isn't letting me go home. I need something to do."

So I learn about cakes. We set out bread dough to rise earlier, but that seems to take a while, and Peeta says the altitude in the Capitol makes his bread come out wrong, anyway. (I don't notice anything wrong.) I will have to visit him in District Twelve to learn about bread properly. He teaches me to do the batter, and there's a long lecture about the difference between batter and dough. Then there's the art of proper cooling, and of course, how to keep the cakes moist.

I'm not bored, and it's good to have a friend, but I can't see ever being passionate about this, the way he is.

I guess he notices this, because he smiles. "You don't have to do this, Aurelian."

"I can't think of anything else. And I'm going to have to have a job, right? I can't just drift around the city letting people beat me up, which is, so far, the thing I've been best at."

"Haymitch said you organized a huge street fair."


"So, that's a skill set."

"Not one I can sell!"

"Maybe you could have… a traveling carnival. I read a book once with a traveling carnival. And they had one for the victory celebration, too. So maybe people would like one, just kind of going around, having rides and games for festivals."

"You want me to reinvent the traveling circus?"

"Why not? Now that we can travel freely between districts, I bet it would be good. You could get animals from everywhere, and find people who do funny stunts…"

I laugh. "Yeah. Peeta I can't even keep a job on a cleaning crew."

"That's your shoulder. It gave out. That happens. I'm not going to be running for a living any time soon, either." He shakes his head. "Come on, no one gave you bad report. You were doing great. But the crews are cleaning stuff up. It's getting to the big stuff, and the big stuff is heavy. Your shoulder's not cut out for it."

"I have no idea how to have a job. Everyone needs to get one now, but other than cleaning up, what am I good at?"

"That's why we're having lessons." He drizzles fruit preserves over a warm cake. "What did your mom and dad do?"

"Mom cleaned houses until she died. Dad borrowed a lot of money and never found something to do to pay it back with. So, debtor's prison. Not the best career path." I shrug. "Sorry. I come from a long line of underachievers. Or as long as it gets in the Capitol, which is one more generation. My grandfather got fired from being a Peacekeeper. How bad do you have to be for that?"

"Darius was really good, and he got fired."

"For treason. Gramps got fired for getting some girl pregnant, then trying to sneak off and marry her."

"Sounds responsible."

"Except that she was married to someone else, and Grandpa killed him. Yay, Grandpa."

Peeta snorts. "I'm surprised they minded."

"Oh, they just transferred him for that. Two months later, he tried to desert and go back to her. So they fired him. He did six months in low security, where he met my grandmother, who was at least not married at the time. After that, there was an illustrious career as a part time con artist. The guy could sell saltwater to fish. At least until he swindled the wrong person."

Peeta looks at me strangely. I guess he's used to people's families being a little more respectable.

I look away. "Anyway, I don't really have a role model for the 'working for a living' business. A lot of people here don't. Capitol used to take care of most of the basic stuff. You just got jobs if you wanted the fancy stuff."

"What did people do all day?"

"Whatever came up." I shrug. "What did you do before you started working in the bakery?"

"As I understand it, I was very busy with crayons." He goes back to the cake "I didn't have anything to do the year I was a victor. I was kind of bored."

"Oh, yeah. I can see how that would be -- having to keep up a show for your life every day, dealing with Haymitch and Katniss, putting up with a crackdown in your district -- "

"I was bored," he says again. "That's why started painting and baking so much, even though there was nothing to do with either. It just filled the day."

"I get that. I was bored, too."

He smiles. "So, if baking doesn't make you less bored, what shall we get you to work on?"

I think about it. "I don't know. I'm kind of warming up to the circus thing."
18 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 27th, 2013 11:01 pm (UTC) (Link)

Caesar and Johanna

Thank you so much Fern! I've been a fan of your writing for years now and this was the first challenge call for which I was able to submit a request in time. I love the interaction between Caesar and Johanna here and the glimpse into Caesar's past and Jack's life. I love it! ~ Dash
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Caesar and Johanna

Glad you liked it!
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 28th, 2013 12:16 am (UTC) (Link)

You Display...

Such insight into the psychology of these characters, it's really quite marvelous. You do such marvelous things with their head-spaces, Ceasar, Haymitch, and Peeta. Those were all terrific.

Thanks so much for this challenge call.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: You Display...

This was fun and refreshing after the doom and gloom.
redlily From: redlily Date: October 28th, 2013 12:52 am (UTC) (Link)
Antibiotics for the flu? Nah. :)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 12:58 am (UTC) (Link)
Yes, for the flu. No, for a cold. That's why the flu is better than a cold.
beceh From: beceh Date: October 28th, 2013 04:59 am (UTC) (Link)
Antibiotics can help bacterial complications of the flu, but not the actual influenza virus.

Loved all these challenges :) I really admire how well you do 1st person POV. You get into all the characters heads so thoroughly.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 05:46 am (UTC) (Link)
This was really the first voice I seriously wrote in, back in high school -- switching first person POV on every chapter of an insane soap opera. I think I violently rejected it for a while because it was not an association with the best writing I've ever done, to put it mildly. But it's kind of been fun to go back to.
beceh From: beceh Date: October 28th, 2013 06:12 am (UTC) (Link)
I struggle with 1st person - somehow I end up making most of my characters sound blandly the same. I need to work on it...
redlily From: redlily Date: November 13th, 2013 01:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I wouldn't harp on this, but I think it's a public health issue to know that antibiotics don't help with flu, and given the huge uptick in antibiotic resistant bacteria we've seen lately, it's important we all understand that antibiotics are to be used only when a bacterial infection is the culprit.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 28th, 2013 01:11 am (UTC) (Link)
I am in awe of how well you fill in canon's gaps in such a realistic and consistent way. Is Aurelian's Peacekeeper grandfather the same Peacekeeper as Mirrim's father?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 01:23 am (UTC) (Link)
Yup. That's why Peeta gives him a funny look -- he's just put that together.
From: (Anonymous) Date: October 28th, 2013 10:42 am (UTC) (Link)

And That's...

Why the two boys look so similar!

Sara Libby
redrikki From: redrikki Date: October 28th, 2013 02:29 pm (UTC) (Link)
Nice little collection. I liked your acknowledgement of how Johanna broke. The series never got there because Katniss is extremely clueless, but yeah, that's obviously what happened. Also, I love Peeta in both of these. I saw that someone else noticed that the boys are cousins. Good to know that being a con artist runs in the family.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: October 28th, 2013 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
The concept of Peeta on the wrong side of the law running scams is kind of frightening. But very plausible. (And I guess, from Snow's POV, that's more or less what the situation was -- except that Snow thought it was Katniss running the show.)
sonetka From: sonetka Date: October 28th, 2013 07:17 pm (UTC) (Link)
I loved them all, but especially the last one. I was going to say that obviously Peeta's talent at conning people people is something he came by, um, honestly. Damn, it's hard to make that grandfather look good, isn't it? I suppose it's nice that he didn't just blithely walk out on his district girlfriend and the baby, but unfortunately his way of looking after them wasn't really any better!
hymnia From: hymnia Date: November 10th, 2013 04:22 am (UTC) (Link)
I don't care if it's not fluff, I love the one where Peeta reveals his plan. It's probably my favorite of the whole bunch.
beceh From: beceh Date: January 12th, 2014 11:00 am (UTC) (Link)
I'm killing time waiting for the next 12 hours to be over and to find out if I've been accepted into my Master of Teaching course, so of course instead of writing new fiction of my own, I'm going back and read loads of yours ;).


I just wanted to say something about how... frustrated... I become, reading your stories. It's nothing against you at all. It's Susanne Collins. We have this HUGE FERTILE world, which you show so so SO damn well... and all we get from Suz, is Katniss' extremely limited view. Extremly limited. In a way I can respect writing such a character as Katniss... but... ugh. I wish your Haymitch stories were "real" books. (They are real to me, just as real as reading any other author's stories, but I think you know what I mean...)

Anyhoo. Just wanted to say that.

tl;dr I wish you'd come up with this world in a way. You do it so much justice.
18 comments or Leave a comment