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The Beginning of a Spark

Chapter Text

"That's right, this year will be the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Hunger Games, and that means it's time for our third Quarter Quell!" Caesar Flickerman announced optimistically on the screen of every television all across Panem.

"What will they do?" Primrose Everdeen, the younger sister of the last female victor, Katniss Everdeen, asked no one in particular. "It isn't for months yet."

Both Katniss and Prim turned to face their mother, whose expression was solemn and distant, as if she was remembering something. "It must be the reading of the reading of the card."

The anthem of Panem began to play and President Snow took the stage. He was followed by a young boy dressed in a white suit, holding a simple wooden box. Once the anthem ended President Snow began to speak, to remind the people of Panem of the Dark days from which the Hunger Games were born. When the laws for the Games were laid out, they dictated that every twenty-five years the anniversary would be marked by a Quarter Quell. It would call for a glorified version of the Games to make fresh the memory of those killed by the districts' rebellion.

Those words could not be more pointed, Katniss thought as he spoke, since I suspect several districts are rebelling right now.

President Snow went on to tell everyone what happend in the previous Quarter Quells. "On the twenty-fifth anniversary, as a reminder that their children were dying because of their choice to initiate violence, every district was made to hold an election and vote on the tributes who would represent it."

I wonder how that would have felt. Picking the kids who had to go. It is worse, Katniss thought, to be turned over by your own neighbors than have your name drawn from the reaping ball.

"On the fiftieth anniversary," the president continued, "as a reminder that two rebels died for each Capitol citizen, every district was required to send twice as many tributes."

Katniss imagined facing a field of forty-seven instead of twenty-three. Worse odds, less hope and ultimately more dead kids. That was the year District 12's last victor before Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, Haymitch Abernathy, won the Games.

"I had a friend who went that year," Katniss' mother said quietly. "Maysilee Donner. Her parents owned the sweet-shop. They gave me her songbird after. A canary."

Katniss and Prim exchanged a look. It was the first time they had ever heard of Maysilee Donner. Maybe because their mother knew they would want to know how she died.

"And now we honor our third Quarter Quell," the president said. The little boy in white stepped forward, holding out the box as he opened the lid. Everyone in Panem could see the tidy, upright rows of yellowed envelopes. Whoever devised the Quarter Quell system had prepared for centuries of Hunger Games. The president removed an envelope clearly marked with a 75. He ran his finger under the flap and pulled out a small square of paper. Without hesitation, he read, "On the seventy-fifth anniversary, that even the strongest among them cannot overcome the power of the Capitol, a male and a female tribute shall be reaped from both their existing pool of victors and the usual inhabitants of each district."

Katniss' mother gave a faint shriek and Prim buried her face in her hands, but Katniss felt more like the people she saw in the crowd on television. Slightly baffled. What did it mean? Existing pool of victors?

Then she got it, what it meant. At least for her. District 12 only had three existing victors to choose from. Two male. One female.

Katniss was going back into the arena.

Chapter Text

District 12

Gracie Harlem woke up on the morning of the Reaping to her older brother, Jake, cursing under his breath as he hopped around their small house on one foot, trying to get his second shoe on while Gracie's best friend (and girlfriend but nobody was supposed to know that because it wasn't the most accepted thing), Sophie Solace, laughed. Gracie shifted in her and her twin brother's small rickety bed, sitting up and trying her best not to wake up Andrew who was still curled up on his side, his hands fisting the thin, old sheets covering the relatively uncomfortable mattress. The bed creaked in protest under her as she slowly swung her legs over the side of the bed and placed her bare feet on the cold, wooden floorboards, flinching slightly.

Her twin brother groaned slightly and then the mattress creaked again, causing Gracie to look over at Andrew. He was sitting up and was rubbing his closed greenish blue eyes with the balls of his hands. Well, so much for not waking him up . Gracie thought and sighed, standing up from the bed and walking to the other side of the small bedroom she shared with both of her brothers and Sophie as Andrew lowered his hands and blinked groggily in her direction. "What time 's it?" He asked, his voice slightly raspy from both lack of use and sleep.

Gracie glanced out the grimey window of their room, pulling the thin, torn curtain made of an old bed sheet away from the slightly cracked glass. She looked up at the sun, which was only just barely visible above the houses on the uneven, cobblestone street in the Seam their house was near the end of. "Probably nine or so in the morning..." She replied to her brother's question a few seconds later and let the old sheet fall back in front of the window as she turned away from it.

Even this early in the morning Gracie could tell the day was going to be hot by the way the air just above the street was already shimmering slightly, as if everything on the other side was blocked off by a thin screen of water. She couldn't help the sigh that escaped her lips and the bubble of terror that had began to grow in her chest over the past couple weeks seemingly popped, sending floods of fear and panic through her. Today was the Reaping and she, for some reason, was more terrified of this particular one than she was of the other four she had been in danger of being chosen at.

She knew her chances of not being reaped were lower than they had been before. That wasn't anything new though, since this wasn't the first year she had needed to sign up for tesserae and since she was sixteen and had to sign up for four people her name was in the Reaping Ball twenty-five times. Jake had been signed up for the tesserae the previous years as well, but due to the fact that they had only earned a very small amount of money since their father had died in a mine explosion when she was ten, she and her older brother who had had his last reaping two years ago had both gotten enough tesserae for all four of them so they would be a bit better off with food.

She forced herself to stop thinking about any of that and picked up the pale turquoise dress she had worn to the Reaping every year since she was twelve. Back then it had been much too big for her and she had had to use the small amount of safety pins in the house from when her mother had sewn before she had gotten sick and died so that it wasn't as obvious how big the dress was. The dress only really began to fit when she was fifteen and even then it had been a bit loose in certain places like her waist and hips.

"Oh, would've thought Jake would've woken us up by now..." Andrew said, stretching his arms far above his head and yawning, making a sound that sounded like a cat's meow. "Why? It's reaping day, everyone is allowed to sleep a bit longer." Gracie replied as she tucked the dress and one of the house's only two towels (both of with were fraying at the ends and had multiple stains and small holes in them) under her arm. "Because, for all we know... some of us might not sleep well for the next couple weeks." She gulped slightly as she turned away from her brother and walked out of the bedroom, heading towards the only bathroom in the house. She knew that there was a bath, most likely not incredibly warm anymore but still somewhat, waiting for her there, just as there was every year on the day of the Reaping.

There was always the same schedule on that day of the year: get up a few hours later than usual (though that was something that rarely happened due to the fear that often woke her or her family up in the early hours of the morning), bathe, get dressed and make sure sure you look good before eating and then heading to the square for the Reaping. After the tributes were chosen everyone would go home, some relieved that they and their family was safe and others desperate, terrified and worried for someone they were close with.

Gracie, like many others, hated the whole thing. She hated how the Capitol made mere kids go to an arena and kill each other till only one was left. She hated how this made some kinds actually enjoy it. She hated how she had to have her chance of being chosen heightened because her family needed food. She hated how the last person standing in the Games and their district were treated better for a year just because their tribute managed not to get themselves killed. She hated how her entire life she had had to live in fear of dying, of her family dying, of her or one of them being sent to the Hunger Games and being slaughtered like an animal. Gracie hated it all, wanted to make it all end. She wanted to fight back, wanted to prove to the Capitol that they couldn't control them, no matter how hard they tried, but she couldn't. Doing anything would put the people she cared about in danger and no matter how much she hated everything that happened, she wouldn't risk that.

Gracie shook her head rapidly, pulling her curly, black hair out of the braid she had put it in the night before. She needed to stop thinking about this stuff and just get ready.

"How is it that your hair always feels so soft after you take a bath, but mine still feels like hay?" Sophie asked Gracie as she combed her gentle hands through Gracie's hair, pulling some of her damp curls back into a thin braid which she tied off with a small piece of blue thread at the end. "Your hair doesn't feel like hay, Soph'. It's really soft. It's just not curly." Gracie replied, looking up into the bright blue eyes of Sophie with her dark green ones.

"Well, maybe that's true. It still feels like hay to me." Sophie replied and Gracie rolled his eyes slightly. "Do you even know what hay feels like?" She asked and Sophie shrugged, pulling Gracie's dark curls that weren't in the small braid up into a high ponytail and then wrapping the braid around it and making it stay in place with a small golden pin with a flame pattern etched into it that had once belonged to Gracie's mother. "No, I don't. But books are quite good at describing things." She said as she combed her fingers through the ponytail.

"Yeah, okay, fair enough. But I can't imagine which book you would've read that would say anything about hay, and obviously you aren't remembering properly if you think your hair feels like it." Gracie replied as she turned around on the bed that had once belonged to her mother and father and now belonged to Sophie. "And how would you know?" Sophie retorted, smirking slightly at her as she tucked a loose curl behind Gracie's ear, leaving her hand on her cheek. "I've stolen the books you have and read them myself. Honestly though, why are we even talking about hay? It's... It could..." Gracie's voice trailed off and she looked down, leaning into Sophie's touch.

"It could be the last time we see each other..." Sophie finished for her, the smirk fading from her face as she looked down as well. Gracie nodded slightly and slowly looked up at her, wrapping her hand around the back of her neck and kissing her softly, letting her eyes fall shut. A year ago Sophie would have tensed up for a moment once she was kissed, but she had been expecting this and only kissed Gracie back for a few moments before pulling back slightly and just leaning their foreheads together.

"Let me tell you this, Grac'," Sophie said a few seconds later, causing Gracie to open her eyes slowly and look at her. "No matter what happens this Reaping, no matter if one of us has to go or not, no matter if one of us doesn't... doesn't make it through the next couple weeks... I'll always love you, remember that, okay? Please, remember that." She said and Gracie saw the tears swimming in her eyes, making her eyes glassy and pained. "I love you too and I won't forget. But... we'll both be fine. We have been for the past four years, this year won't be much different, I'm sure." Gracie said, but even she could hear how much her voice was shaking.

"Y-Yeah, I know... I just wanted to say it..." Sophie said and smiled slightly, even though a tear ran down her cheek. Gracie wiped it away with her thumb and was about to say something in response when Jake walked in, smiling sadly when he saw the two of them. "We have to go now..." He said it in a way that sounded like he was apologizing, like he wanted nothing more than to say anything but what he did and Gracie knew he did. She knew he would take them all far away from this place if he could, knew he wanted nothing but to keep them safe, but... she also knew he had no way of doing so. He was too old now to volunteer in Andrew's place if he were to be reaped, he couldn't help any of them if they were caught doing something they shouldn't be doing like sneaking off into the woods as Gracie did with her other best friend, Nick Parker, every once in a while during warmer weather, and he definitely had no way of protecting Gracie and Sophie from the reaping.

"Okay..." Gracie said quietly and carefully stood up, making sure her dress was on properly one last time before grabbing Sophie's hand and carefully pulling her along out of the house and through the streets towards the square. Jake and Andrew both stayed a couple steps in front of them the entire time until they had to part ways. Gracie and Sophia went into the middle of the roped off section for the girls, not letting go of each other's hands, and Andrew went into the roped off section across from them for the boys while Jake stood off to the side, nervously clenching and unclenching his fists.

By the time the actual Reaping began, Gracie was shaking from a fear she had never felt so strongly in her life. She felt like today was going to be the last day she was alive, she felt like she needed to get out of there as quick as she could. She had never felt like this about a Reaping before and it terrified her. She couldn't explain why when Effie reached into the ball filled with girls' names she had to bite her tongue so that she didn't yell out for her to stop. Gracie squeezed her eyes shut for a second after Effie had pulled out a small slip of paper and smoothed it out. She needed to calm down, she would fine, everything was going to be ok-

"Sophie Solace." Effie Trinket's voice interrupted Gracie's attempt to calm herself down and her eyes snapped open, even more dread filling her. For a moment all she could do was numbly stare up at the woman with gold hair from the Capitol who had basically just said her girlfriend was to be sent to her death. then she felt Sophie carefully free her hand from her's and Gracie's voice rang out through the silent square before she could even comprehend what she was doing. "I volunteer as tribute!" She cried and Sophie's eyes widened in even more horror as Gracie stepped in front of her. "What? No, Gracie, you... you can't..." Sophie started and grabbed Gracie's hand but Gracie interrupted her, shaking her head. "I... I have to, Soph. I love you..." She said before she pulled away from her completely and made her way up to the stage, forcing herself not to start crying.

"What's your name?" Effie asked, the slight gentleness in her voice sounding unusual with her Capitol accent and the mostly genuine smile on her face foreign and confusing. "Gracie Harlem." She replied, forcing her voice not to break. Effie nodded slightly before turning to the crowd of people, seemingly waiting for an applause but she got nothing. No applause, no farewell in any way. Only a few people seemed to recognize who she was and none of them applauded. Why should they though? Sure, their district had won last year, but that was because they got a good tribute. This year wouldn't be any different from the years before and nobody seemed to have any hope that that could be false.

Andrew looked as if he was about to jump out of the roped section he was in and run to Gracie on the stage but he didn't. Nick Parker was holding his arm and making sure he didn't do just that, though Gracie could tell he was forcing himself not to run up to her as well. Sophie was standing in the same spot she had been when Gracie had volunteered in her place, tears now streaming down her freckled cheeks. Jake was staring at Gracie, his eyes sad and filled with tears that he wasn't letting escape, he couldn't do anything and Gracie could tell that that thought was almost making him break down. She quickly looked away from them, unable to stop the tears that gathered in her eyes.

"Well then, on to the boys!" Effie Trinket said after a moment of silence and went over to the ball for the non-previous-victor boys. She dug around in it for a few moments before pulling out a small white slip of paper. She then walked up to the microphone and smoothed out the paper, looking down at it as she said the name written on it.

"Nick Parker."

Gracie's eyes widened in horror and a soft "no..." escaped her lips as Nick let go of Andrew's arm and slowly moved past him, Andrew not trying to stop him in any way, just staring numbly after him. Nick straightened his shoulders and lifted his chin up slightly as he walked through the crowd and up the steps onto the stage. As he got closer and stood next to her, looking over at her, she saw the glint of fear and determination in his dark brown eyes. For a brief second the image of him stabbing her in the heart with a sword and thereby killing her flashed through her mind. Gracie knew he could do that easily, she had grown up being taught with him by his father how to use most weapons and she had seen him spar with his father and older sister before she had died. She knew he was practically as good with weapons as the Careers. She knew he would barely hesitate to kill someone if he had to.

But then she realized the determination wasn't at all of the sort that she had thought. It was a strong need to protect. Protect her , she realized and all she could do was stare at him, not even comprehending that Effie had moved on to the past victor tributes. All she could think about was that Nick didn't look determined to make sure he won, but to make sure it was Gracie who did.

Gracie only stopped staring at him when Katniss Everdeen got onto the stage and gave her a sad look before masking all of her emotions in a way that was incredibly familiar to Gracie, since she did that quite often, but it was also completely foreign to her. It felt like looking in a mirror one morning and finding someone else reflecting back at her but their face with the same expression as her's. Then Haymitch Abernathy's name was pulled out of the ball and Peeta Mellark volunteered in his place. Then, finally, as Peeta and Haymitch both got on the stage, it hit Gracie that she was going to be in the actual Hunger Games, this was most likely the last time she would see this place, the last time she would see these people.

Her knees suddenly felt weak and she had to bite her lip to stop herself from beginning to cry. She had never imagined what it would feel like, actually being chosen to have to go to the arena. Actually knowing that she had an incredibly high chance of being killed in the next couple weeks; actually knowing that she would probably never get to ramble with Andrew about something, sneak out into the woods with Nick to just get away from everything when it all became too much, kiss Sophie and just lie by her, her head in Sophie's lap as she read one of the few books Sophie had been able to keep after her father had died and she had moved in with them, would never get to hear Jake softly sing before she fell asleep or dance with them all to the small amount of CDs their mother had owned.

When she had to shake Nick's hand she saw in his eyes, that he too was thinking similar things. Gracie could tell that his true emotions were hidden by a mask that covered everything but his eyes, which were so filled with sadness and fear that it looked like it was taking all of his strength not to begin crying as he grasped her hand. His hand gripped her's tightly for a moment, almost as if he were afraid she might disappear or maybe he hoped she would if he held on tight enough and she would be replaced by someone he didn't care about.

Then he let go of her hand and she took a deep breath, trying to calm herself as the Peacekeepers came and hauled all of the tributes away from the stage. Gracie thought they were going to be taken into rooms in the Justice Building to say their goodbyes like every tribute got to every year, but instead they were just lead back out the back. "Change of plans." The head Peacekeeper said and lead them into a car, leaving Gracie with yet another realization: She would never get to hug her brothers again or tell them how much she loved them, she would just be pulled away from them forever.

Chapter Text

The Train from District 12 to the Capitol

Even after District Twelve and its surrounding woods had long disappeared from her line of sight, Gracie stared out the train's window. She had been doing that ever since she had gotten onto the train. She had immediately sat down at the window of the room she had followed the others into and had simply stared out it at the place that had been her only home her entire life. She watched as it disappeared into the blur of colors caused by the speed of the train.

Gracie had expected the tears that had begun gathering in her eyes the moment she had heard Sophie's name being called by Effie Trinket to finally escape the moment she had disappeared from the view of the cameras, but they hadn't. She no longer felt the desperation, sadness and terror about the next weeks to come. In fact, she barely felt anything at all. She only felt numb, completely and utterly numb and useless. Gracie knew she would die sometime over the next couple weeks.

Despite the fact that she was quite talented with weapons due to all of the years she had spent secretly learning from Nick's father, she knew she would never be able to win. Gracie didn't want her brothers or Sophie to see her become some sort of crazy killing machine for the Capitol, she didn't want to have all that blood on her hands and above all she didn't want to hurt Nick. He had been the only person who had been there for her besides her two brothers and Sophie and he was another one of her brothers in every way except blood.

At the thought of him Gracie's gaze finally shifted away from the place on the horizon where District Twelve had last been and looked around the room she was in. Her dark green eyes darted around the room, taking in the walls which were painted colorfully with flowers, the plush velvet couches and armchairs, the polished dark wooden table covered in a smoothe white silk tablecloth. It was all so luxurious and over the top fancy that it made her feel like she was in a room that belonged to the royalty in a few of the books she had read. That, Gracie realized, was actually a very accurate comparison; The Capitol was in a way the palace that ruled over Panem and controlled the people that lived in it.

She looked back at one of the couches that was so different from the worn down, fraying and old one they had in their house in front of the fireplace; Nick sat in the corner of the plush couch. He had his knees pulled up to his chest and his arms wrapped tightly around himself, shaking, with tears in his eyes that threatened to spill over and down his cheeks. He stared unseeing at the wall across from him, his brown eyes distant and blank. He had always been the stronger of the two -or perhaps just better at hiding how he felt, Gracie realized- and seeing him like this, so vulnerable and obviously scared, was strange. In that moment it struck Gracie that they were absolutely doomed to die in the next couple weeks and she felt the tears finally build up in her eyes and begin rolling down her cheeks in silent streams.

The Train from District 3 to the Capitol

Chris Black fidgeted and fiddled with the small wire he had been playing around with since he had gotten onto the train to the Capitol a few hours prior. It had been late afternoon then, about half past six, and it was light outside too, but now it was pitch black outside and the whole train was lit with bright yellow lights that hurt his eyes if he didn't close his eyes every few minutes. It shone out the window of the dining room of the train, a dark shadow in the shape of himself cutting through the yellow light that bathed the ground next to the train that was speeding by.

Chris sighed softly and dropped his hands down into his lap, ceasing to fiddle with the wire and stared at the wall opposite of him. His mind began to wander again, no longer distracted by the wire he had been twisting around his fingers and then unraveling it and forming it into random shapes. An imagine of his younger cousin, Sam, appeared in his mind's eyes; her fractured looking blue brown eyes that lit up whenever he walked into their house after having been gone at work all day, her pale olive skin that covered in freckles and small scars that was soft and yet calloused from all the writing and drawing she somehow managed to do, the way her nose scrunched up when she was trying to hide how much she hated something, the way her short black hair fell in front of one of her eyes and how she would run her hand through it when she was agitated or stressed.

It had been just the two of them for years now. They used to have her older brother and his mother around to help but his mother had somehow gotten injured at work and died four years prior and that same year Sam's older brother, Ashton, had been reaped as District Three's male Tribute and had died the third day of the Games. Ever since that day him and Sam didn't allow themselves to pay attention to the Games, didn't really watch them like they were supposed to. The year after Ashton had died Sam had had a panic attack before the reaping, terrified she would be chosen, or he would and would die. Chris had managed to reassure her and calm her down but after that he had vowed to never let anything happen to her. He had forbidden her to get tesserae and had sworn that if she were ever to be reaped that he would volunteer in the male Tribute's place and make sure she won, no matter what. He knew him being reaped had terrified her and he knew he had to get back to her. He was not going to let her watch her last family member die and he was not going to let her be alone. No matter what it took, he would make it home to her. No matter what it took.

Suddenly a knock came from his compartment door and Chris looked, subconsciously bending the wire in his hands in half and twisting the ends together so that they formed a sharp point. "Christopher, it's time for dinner. Join us." Seelie Keonig, the lady from the Capitol who did the reapings for District Three, said from behind the door and he sighed, clenching the small wire in his hand so tightly it broke the surface of his skin and a bit of blood dripped from his palm onto his lap. "I'll be there in a minute." Chris said and stood up, straightening his button up shirt and tied one of his shoes which had come undone before slipping the bent piece of wire into his pocket and leaving his compartment.

He walked down the hall and into the Dining Room where Seelie, Beetee, Wiress and Lea (the only other Tribute from District 3 still alive) were already at the table, Seelie obviously trying to strike up some kind of conversation. The girl who had been reaped with him, Kyla Wilson, was sitting on the couch off in the corner, looking at the food in distrust, her brown eyes narrowed. He had seen her around school before, always alone and glaring at anyone who approached 'd always wondered what was up with her, but he was starting to think her behavior had something to do with the Capitol. Or maybe he was just thinking too much into her mistrusting behavior towards the Capitol's food.

Chris sighed and sat down at the table, looking around at the other people present. "So!" Seelie said over enthusiastically, clapping her hands together. "Before we watch the recap of the Reapings, how about you two tell us if you've got any talents! I'm extremely curious about it." She grinned at Chris and Kyla, both of which looked at her with angry looks mixed with distrust. "I... Guess I'm okay at building stuff and rewiring and re-coding stuff." Chris said after a few moments hesitation, fiddling with the fork in his hands before stabbing it into a piece of potato which split clean in half. "He's being modest," Kyla spoke up for the first time since she'd been reaped and Chris looked over at her in shock as she walked over to the table and sat down next to him. "He's the top of the school at all of those things, is even better than most teachers." She said and grabbed a steak knife off of the table and began twirling it around in her hands.

Chris felt heat rise up to his cheeks at the compliment from the girl he had never spoken to or interacted with at all for that matter before the Reaping. "And you wanna know about any talents? Well, does this count?" Kyla added and threw the knife across the room and shot through an orange, which it stuck into the wall. Chris felt his jaw drop in shock and everyone else's eyes at the table widened as well. "I'd count that as one. You got anything else up your sleeve?" Lea spoke into the silence after a moment. Kyla raised an eyebrow, her arms crossed over her chest. "Like making weapons out of small amount of metal or wire?" She said, smirking slightly and Chris blinked, sure that he looked surprised and threatened.

"Quite impressive! Maybe my District'll win this time!" Seelie suddenly said happily and then stood up, seemingly not having realized that neither Chris nor Kyla had really eaten. "Now, I think it's time we watch the recap! You all ought to know who you're up against!" She then picked some small device up from the table and pointed it in the direction of the large television that Chris only just then realized was hanging on the wall. She pressed some buttons on the device and the screen of the television suddenly flickered to life.

An Image of District One's symbol light up the screen for a few moments and Chris sat up a little straighter. The Tributes from District One and Two were always the worst, the most dangerous, the ones you had to either beware the most or become allies with immediately. The image shifted to show the Justice building of district One and their Capitol guide or whatever they were supposed to be called, Chris honestly had no idea. As Chris expected all of the tributes from District One and Two, both the previous victors and new tributes, looked incredibly strong and threatening.

Next they showed their district's Reaping and Chris realized just how shaken he had been when they had drawn his name from the ball. He realized how desperate Sam had sounded as she had ran forward, towards him when he had hesitantly stepped out of the roped off section he was standing in and started up to the stage. Chris looked away for the rest of the recap of their district, unable to watch his cousin scream and try to fight her way out of the Peacekeepers grip as they dragged her away from him. He looked back at the screen during the beginning of District Four, both of which's new tributes looked like they could be a challenge and Finnick Odair was the previous male victor reaped along with an old lady volunteered in place of the victor of the Hunger Games Ashton was in.

Chris felt a flare of anger towards the girl who hadn't had to go even though she'd been reaped. It wasn't for the reasons you would have expected him to be angry, he wasn't angry because someone had volunteered in her place, he was angry because she had survived those games five years prior and his cousin hadn't. He knew she hadn't been the one to kill him, that had been the male tribute from District 5, but he still always felt angry whenever he saw her during the games the past four games.

Most of the other tributes' reapings blurred by after that, Chris barely taking in anything about them. The tributes from twelve caught his eye though . Maybe it was because their tributes both won last year and were supposed to be getting married soon, at least that's what he tried to convince himself of. In reality, if had to do with the fact that the girl, Gracie, reminded him of his cousin in a way. The way she screamed that she volunteered in the girl-who he assumed she was incredibly close to- 's place. The way she managed to hide her emotions everywhere but in her eyes, which shone with unshed tears.

The new male tribute also reminded him of someone, but he just couldn't place who. It was like he knew him in another life or something. Though Chris knew that made absolutely no sense, he felt connected to the guy, Nick, in a way he couldn't quite understand and for some reason his brain wanted to call him Nico instead of Nick.

Everything about the boy, from his almost shoulder length black hair to his scarred, olive hands seemed familiar and strangely perfect to Chris. He wanted to know why and decided that he would talk to the guy the first chance he got.

When the recap was finally over he quickly got up and stalked out of the room, mumbling some excuse about needing to sleep. He slipped into his compartment and looked around, wondering if there was something he could change into for bed. When he found nothing Chris sighed and simply decided he would just wear his shirt to bed.

Ten minutes later he lay on his back, staring up at the ceiling. A sigh escaped his lips and he rolled onto his side, pulling his knees up to his chest and closing his eyes as he snuggled as far into the warm blanket as he could. Without wanting to, he saw a pair of dark brown eyes staring at him in his mind's eye.

Little did he know that only some miles away from him, the boy those eyes belonged to was seeing Chris's blue eyes instead.

Chapter Text

The Capitol

Nick Parker had never thought about what the Tributes had to go through to look the way they did whenever they were shown publicly, not even while on the train ride to the Capitol, which had ended barely thirty minutes prior. Now he wished he had. Or wished he didn't have to know, he wasn't sure which one.

He felt like he was a chicken being plucked of its feathers, his prep team the butcher who was about to kill the actual him and... turn him into something he wasn't. Something that could be devoured, though in this case by the hungry gazes of the large groups of people from the Capitol and not... well, literally devoured.

Nick never expected them to strip him completely, bathe him without letting him do anything himself, and then wax all of the hair off of his arms, legs and pretty much everywhere except his head, though he was pretty sure they did something to his face too. He had expected them to trim his hair, make him shave off the scruff from the beginning of a beard, maybe take a long shower where he scrubbed off every last speck of dirt. But he hadn't expected any of what they did.

His prep team, three Capitol people who he didn't know the names of, all seemed disgusted at the fact that he had practically no way to remove the hair on his legs or arms in District 12 and they seemed determined that he would somehow look way more attractive if he had no hair besides eyebrows that they trimmed and made "perfect" and his now slightly shorter hair and if he was completely naked. He hated it. So much. Not only did he feel incredibly vulnerable now, he also felt... robbed of himself for some reason, like the him these people were seeing wasn't him at all. Then again, he had never looked like this or stood in front of someone like this before. Ever.

"Why are you all staring at me? And why am I not allowed to get dressed?!" Nick found himself demanding when the three guys stood in front of him and just stared with pleased looks on their faces. He fought the urge to try and cover himself with his hands or to grab something to hold in front of himself.

One of them finally seemed to pull himself out of whatever strange, creepy trance he was in and smiled. "Our work is done. Eleonora will do her thing now." He said before he and the two others simply walked out of the room, leaving Nick fidgeting nervously. His entire body seemed to tingle and he couldn't tell whether it was fear or anticipation of what was going to happen next or if the waxing had ripped off a layer of his skin as well and the remaining layer was not used to the air.

Not a minute after the prep team left, a young woman -with long onyx colored hair, eyes so black that Nick couldn't find any possible way for it to be her actual eye color and skin so pale it looked like it was because of make-up- walked into the room. She had a thick layer of red lipstick on, wore tight black and gold clothes that seemed to reveal quite a bit of her skin and knee high black leather boots with heels so high it amazed Nick that she didn't fall forward with each step she took.

She paused a few steps in front of him, crossing her arms over her chest and simply studying him, slowly beginning to circle him. Her movements reminded Nick awfully of the way he had seen animals circling their prey before they pounced and killed, causing him to feel incredibly nervous. He once again forced himself to resist the urge to cover himself with something but before Nick even got a chance his stylist paused in her circling and smiled slightly, her eyes glinting mischievously.

"I see why Cinna decided to keep our ideas from before for this year's parade. You'll look very attractive and intimidating in it." The stylist finally spoke up and Nick almost jumped in surprise at the smooth, almost melodic voice she had. He couldn't help but think that if she were to sing, she would be one of the best singers most had heard, even though he couldn't tell why he thought that.

"I... what? I'm gonna be in fire?!" Nick demanded as he realized what his stylist meant, momentarily forgetting his embarrassment about not wearing anything.

"Not exactly. Those were fake flames and this year's is slightly different." She said, gripping her own chin slightly as she stood in front of him, still studying him in a way that suddenly brought back his embarrassment. "And you'll see how in just a moment."