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Challenges 5 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Challenges 5
I'd like something with Danny's reactions to Peeta's performance in the pregame stuff - the tribute parade, Peeta's crush confession in the interviews for Anon

Generally speaking, the inn has a certain type of customer. I'm guessing it's the same kind of customer that's in any inn or hotel in the districts, other than District Four (Sarey's dad, with a good deal of envy, tells me that they actually have Capitol tourism for the beachfront). The customer is always from the Capitol or District Two (it's hard to tell sometimes), and always either related to someone whose business stations them here, or involved with the Hunger Games somehow. They do leave a film contingent here, generally, until our tributes die.

I can expect to be busy, I guess, until my baby brother is put into a box.

They are strewn around the lounge now, camera equipment propped against the wall, eating "local" dishes that are mostly imported, since no one is allowed to produce food in significant amounts. Their wigs and clothes are bright and garish against the simple lines of the building, and they look with distaste on the old wooden furniture. They all seem to have their own agendas.

Only my father, sitting by himself at the bar and nursing a beer (it's all I'd let him have), looks different. He is dressed casually, in jeans and a white tee shirt. He looks oddly young -- it's hard to spot whatever white he has in his hair from a distance, and his face isn't especially lined. He looks like he's only a slightly older version of Peeta… except that Peeta doesn't sit by himself with his back turned to the world. That's probably why the reporters haven't even commented on his presence when they're here, even after the parade, when Peeta came through in a chariot, set on fire. They were looking for anyone to comment on the amazing spectacle. Dad knew what it meant when he saw Peeta push the girl ahead of him, just slightly, and he couldn't seem to muster up the strength to comment on his own. Mom did the response.

This time he managed to smile a little bit and say that of course he knew about Peeta's crush, and yes, Katniss was a lovely girl. But he's been off by himself since then, and I don't think the crew has any idea that he's here with them. Why would he be? Doesn't he live at the bakery with his beautiful wife?

I go to him. "Come on, Dad," I say. "Let's go for a walk."

He looks at me dully. "Why?"

"To get some air. And you know you need to go home after."

He grimaces. Until the actual reporters leave, he will go back to the bakery and put on a show. But I'm pretty sure that as soon as they go, I'll be making room for him in the family quarters. Dad forgives a lot, but the thing Mom said before Peeta left…

"Dad, come on, I promise, we'll stay where we can see the screen."

He thinks about it for a minute, then nods. I know there's no chance of getting him away from the screen, even now that mandatory viewing is over and the tributes are all most likely trying to get a good night's sleep before the arena. He is grasping at every image of Peeta, whether it's live or a saved photograph from training. He is storing those images in his head.

He has given up on ever seeing his favorite child again in the real world.

Ed and I both know that Peeta is Dad's favorite. Dad loves all three of us. Mom does her best, though I sometimes think asking Mom to love someone is like asking a blind woman about her favorite color. But Peeta and Mom have clashed for as long as I can remember, and Dad has always tried to make up for it by giving him just that little bit extra. I don't ever recall resenting it myself -- Peeta was always a great kid, and it just seemed natural -- but I know Ed sometimes did.

I manage to get Dad off the stool, and take him outside to the square. Most people have gone home for the night. I hear a few kids from school talking about the big reveal on the show. They're laughing at the fact that Katniss never seems to have noticed. Everyone else certainly knew. Ed and I have been ribbing Peeta about his crush for years.

I guide Dad to a bench and sit down. On screen, there's just Claudius Templesmith, currently gushing about the District Two girl.

"You have to rally, Dad," I tell him. "This isn't going to help Peeta."

"Help him do what? He's trying to let someone else live."

"The audience loved him. They're going to want more about him."

"He's using it to save Katniss Everdeen. I never should have let him obsess on that girl!"

"I don't think you had a choice."

He leans forward, burying his hands in his hair. "This is my fault," he says.

"That's crazy."

"Peeta's going to let them kill him."

"He's going to try and hang on to help her as long as he can," I suggest. "And if something happens to her, he's going to fight. You know he will. And he has a chance."

"How sick is this?" he asks. "How sick is it that I could want the child of one of my oldest friends to die, so I can keep mine? What does this business turn us into, Jonadab?"

"Parents. Which I'm starting to get, for the first time."

"We're rooting for other parents' children to die."

"I know," I say.

"I've sat with parents of tributes for years ---"

"You have?"

"Yeah. Favor to Haymitch. I thought I understood. I didn't."

On the screen, Claudius Templesmith looks up like someone goosed him. "Oh, my!" he says. "It seems our lovebirds from District Twelve may not be on the same page!"

The shot goes to the Training Center. There's no sound, and they can't get a good angle for lip-reading, but we can see Katniss and Peeta. They are having what looks like an intense conversation, and it ends with Katniss stalking away.

"Could it be that the girl on fire isn't happy about tonight's revelation? We'll have analysis tomorrow, after the mandatory viewing!" He doesn't add that this will only happen if they're both still alive.

"She's mad at him," I say. "He's giving up his life for her, and she's mad at him."

"I don't think Katniss Everdeen is used to anyone giving up anything for her," Dad says. "I doubt she even knows what he did."

The camera lingers on an odd angle on Peeta, brooding in the night.

Dad and I don't waste time wondering if the argument is going to change Peeta's mind.

Mags, watching Haymitch's Games for vesta_aurelia

I should leave the Viewing Center. All of the District Four tributes are dead. I have sponsors to meet for next year, and a scent endorsement (being marketed obnoxiously under the tagline, "It will make him forget your age"). I want to get some new clothes while I'm here.

Instead, I wander aimlessly around. I finally settle down in the lounge, with Seeder from Eleven.

"Down to the last seven," she says. "How long do you think the Gamemakers will drag it out?"

"It's a big arena. They'll have to force them all together. That usually takes a while. And they've killed enough of them with the arena already." I nod at the big screen above us, where I can see a grimy little town surrounded by a forest. "District Twelve?"

"They just got there."

The camera circles down, then fades to a perky young reporter standing in front of a pile of coal. This used to drive Duronda crazy. ("Do they put reporters in front of a pile of dead fish in Four?" I remember her raving on one of the rare occasions that her tributes made it far enough to warrant the full production number. "A jewel vault in One? No -- they put them at the Justice Building, or in the square. But District Twelve gets the slag heap. It's like filming in a dump!")

"Hello!" the reporter burbles. "I'm Salonina Cox, and I am here in District Twelve!"

"And doesn't she look thrilled about it?" Seeder mutters.

I smile. Salonina Cox looks like she believes she ought to be reporting from anywhere else in the world. Her lime green dress is smudged with coal already, and from the looks of it, something in her vicinity stinks.

"District Twelve -- not often a contender -- has not one but two tributes in the final eight! The lovely and vivacious Maysilee Donner has joined with her District partner -- and friend, as I understand it -- Haymitch Abernathy… the taciturn but handsome boy who has a talent with knives. Come with me to meet their families, and see where these remarkable tributes come from!"

At first, they go to a sweet shop, a quaint little false-fronted building on the side of a narrow dirt road. Like everything else, it looks a bit dirty on the outside, and the paint is peeling, but I know from Duronda's stories that the merchant class here is considered well-off. Maysilee's family features both parents, a twin sister (who looks like she's about to erupt in fury), and a large group of friends.

I've had a lot of respect for the way the Donner girl is playing the Games, but it doesn't look like they're going to show anything extraordinary about her. It's the usual kind of puff piece they like to do, and I mostly tune it out, while Seeder and I talk about our gardens. We're on the finer points of magnolia trees when Seeder's eyes go wide. "Oh! Oh, my."

I turn and look.

The coverage has moved to Haymitch's family. We saw them a little bit in the pre-Games coverage, but it was brief, and I had other things to worry about. Now, the shot is full.

There's a little boy who can only be Haymitch's brother -- he's smaller and skinnier, and is wearing a pair of cheap new spectacles that he's obviously not used to, but other than that, they look a good deal alike. He's pale and nervous.

It's the woman in the shadows that Seeder gasped at.

They've done their best with the makeup, but ultimately, they've tried to hide her. She may have once been a beautiful woman -- she still has a striking spill of curly black hair -- but she's dying. There's no way to pussyfoot around it. She's dying, and badly. The flesh of her face has eroded, leaving her skin clinging to her high cheekbones. Her eyes are sunken despite their efforts to bring them forward with make-up. Her lips have been bleeding recently, and even as the camera focuses on her, she coughs harshly into a handkerchief. She looks like an animated skeleton.

"That poor child," Seeder whispers.

"Here I am with Rhona and Lacklen Abernathy," Salonina says. "Lacklen, how do you feel about seeing your big brother doing so well? Do you think he has a chance to win?"

The boy -- Lacklen -- is obviously struggling with his feelings, and I see a bony hand move to his shoulder to calm him. He straightens up and manages to give the same cocky smile that his brother gave Caesar. "Haymitch can do anything," he says. "Though I might have to beat him senseless when he gets back for leaving me with all the chores."

"Oh, is that where he gets his fighting skills?"

Lacklen settles into his role. "Trained him up myself," he says. "My brother's the smartest person you're ever going to meet, and he's tough, too. Nobody messes with him."

"What about his ally, Maysilee Donner?"

This breaks whatever narrative Lacklen has in his head. He looks to his mother.

Rhona Abernathy smiles, and it only makes the skull-shape of her head more pronounced. I don't know how she's alive. She must be as determined as her son is. "We like Maysilee very much. And if it were possible to bring them both home…"

"Oh, but it's not! Do you think your son means to turn on her?"

"No." Rhona doesn't bother putting on a character. She simply looks down her sharp nose at the reporter, not hiding her disgust at all. "I raised my son better than that. He'll be a gentleman. So if anyone out there is betting on him betraying Maysilee, you can just stop."

Salonina doesn’t seem to know what to do with this. She gives a strange little smile to the camera. "What about the girl? What if she betrays him?"

"She has also been raised better than that. I don't know what they teach children… anywhere else. But it's not the way we do things in District Twelve."

"I see." Salonina looks back. "Well, that's a nice glimpse into District Twelve! Our production crews have been here since the reaping. Shall we see what else there is to learn?"

They go to a montage about coal production and quaint old fashioned customs, even visiting an apothecary where it appears that most of the medicines are dried herbs that hang from the ceiling.

I look at Seeder. "She just insulted Capitol parenting."

"And told the world that her son isn't going to play to expectations." Seeder frowns. "A gentleman… Mags, you don't think she means that in some knight in shining armor way, do you? Because they'll try to break him if she means that."

"I think he knows better than to tempt them with it. He certainly hasn't been playing an angel."

"But if push comes to shove…"

I don't answer. I've heard this kind of thing before. Boys who read too many old stories, mostly, and think their job is to die for the girl. I think about what Haymitch has been doing, about what he's looked like since Maysilee joined up with him.

And I think this "duty" has more than crossed his mind.

But what no one else seems to recognize is that Maysilee Donner has been raised on the same stories. Only instead of worrying who's the girl and who's the boy, I have a feeling she's going to look at her comfortable, full family, and think of who is going to take care of that poor, skinny little boy sitting with his dying mother.

"I think we won't know until something happens," I say. "But I don't think we'll see what anyone expects."
10 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: April 2nd, 2014 11:23 am (UTC) (Link)


All of them, of course. I really enjoyed this last pair. Really powerful stuff. Pairing Mags with Seeder (and throwing in Duronda) was absolutely fabulous.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2014 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Fantastic

Thanks! I thought they were the type to be friends.
From: tree_and_leaf Date: April 2nd, 2014 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)

"She's mad at him," I say. "He's giving up his life for her, and she's mad at him."

"I don't think Katniss Everdeen is used to anyone giving up anything for her," Dad says. "I doubt she even knows what he did."

The camera lingers on an odd angle on Peeta, brooding in the night.

Dad and I don't waste time wondering if the argument is going to change Peeta's mind.

That sums up both Katniss and Peeta!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2014 04:52 am (UTC) (Link)
It kind of does, doesn't it? ;p
redrikki From: redrikki Date: April 2nd, 2014 01:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
Great pair, as usual. I love Haymitch's mom. I loved her in Haymitch's stories but the way Mags sees her and her strength is beautiful.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2014 04:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I thought it would be good to get a glimpse of them from someone not quite so connected to them.
sonetka From: sonetka Date: April 2nd, 2014 06:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm not surprised there were cameras in the offstage areas; I remember seeing the argument in the movie and wondering when that would come back to bite them, and being surprised that it never did. I really liked that you wrote it from Jonadab's perspective, especially as he's getting close to being a father himself, and there are hints of that in the text. I also liked seeing Rhona and Lacklen from a non-Haymitch perspective; he loves them, but he sees them in a certain way and it's nice to see Lacklen breaking out a little on his own, and what another woman thought of his mother. (Also, "It Will Make Him Forget Your Age" *snerk*. I hope Mags got a fortune out of them for endorsing that!)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2014 04:54 am (UTC) (Link)
I think the book hints that there are cameras around, since Peeta goes to such trouble to go someplace where the ventilation system messes up any microphones that might be hidden.

I think Haymitch is so used to the way Rhona looks that he doesn't realize how startling it would be for other people.

And Mags is getting a bundle for her tributes.
vesta_aurelia From: vesta_aurelia Date: April 3rd, 2014 02:26 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, oh, oh!

Thank you, Fern.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 3rd, 2014 04:55 am (UTC) (Link)
You're welcome!
10 comments or Leave a comment