Screams ripped through the quiet dawn. Within a heartbeat, Dean absently reached across the double mattress and pulled a restless Sam over the blankets, into his chest. The younger boy cried and thrashed wildly in his sleep, tears soaking Dean's nightshirt as he held Sammy against him - his head tucked neatly into the crook of Dean's neck - stroking his hair and soothing him, gently shaking the bundle in his arms awake.
"It's ok, Sammy, you're safe. Wake up Sammy... It's just a dream..." Dean curled his body around Sam's, as the bundle of messy, brown hair and long limbs began to shake violently, choking hiccups rattling in his throat when he breathed. Dean never slept with a duvet - a symptom of his childish claustrophobia, where he felt confined, unprepared - and hadn't noticed that Sammy had kicked the feather blanket off the bed in a fit of nightmares. The air was too cold, biting at his cheeks and draining through his skin, but whatever warmth he had left, he willed his body to give to Sam, shivering wildly against him, "Oh God, Sam... Wake up, please-"
"It was me, Dean," A small voice, trembling, cut in "They chose me." Sam's breath came out as a cloud in the frozen air, as he faultered, choking on all the words he didn't have to say. Dean understood.
He looked down at his younger brother ( his olive eyes pale in the hazy light spilling through the cracked window, flecked with gold and blue around the centre. Sam had once told him he had kaleidoscope eyes, and though he still had no idea what that meant, when people asked, thats what he told them) who's enourmous, soft, hazel eyes were glassed over with fear, eyelashes glinting with teardrops, like dew on a spider web. "It was me."
"I know, I know... but they won't. I swear it - your name's only in there once." Dean's whispers were muffled, his lips pressed into Sam's hair. Muffled with cold, fear, lies and determined protectivness. "And I wont let them. I swear it, Sammy. On any god, angel or demon."
Sam's laugh was twisted and sad.
"You sound like dad."
A vice clamped down hard around Dean's lungs, cutting off his breath, his eyes blazing with rage. A wall fell between the two brothers and they regarded each other in the faded light. Sam rolled away from Dean's arm, untangling himself, and lay on his back, looking up at the ceiling.
"There are worse people to be like." Dean's voice was barely a whisper, but it echoed through the room like a chant.
The Winchester 'den', on the outskirts of district 12, was too small and shadows danced in every corner of the two-roomed house. Books and weapons littered every clear space and a single bed wedged self-conciously into the corner of the second room, lumpy and hard. There was only one window, and in early mornings, the light bled through the sheer curtains and caught the specks of dust swimming through the biting, cold air, like golden snowflakes. In the summer the heat melted Dean's mind, and a haze blanketed everything in the 'den'. In the winter, the cold melted through you, no matter how many layers you wore, and small icicles crystalised at the bottom of Sam's hair. There was hardly enough space to breath.
But it was still too empty. Ever since their dad went missing on a hunting trip, a hollow heaviness bloomed throughout their home.
In his district - where children were considered adults at 16 - Dean had been allowed to live alone after his 17th birthday, and had moved from the district's orphanage into their famiily home, taking Sam with him. It worked... until he closed his eyes. He dreamt of his father, fighting of some beast in the woods, deadly and broken. And of all those years in the orphanage; stinging flesh, a blossoming slap mark colouring Sam's cheek, missed meals and ribs exposed under a thin layer of skin. And of this day. He always dreamt of this day, when Sammy turned 12. He always dreamt of the Reaping.
Cas had always loved being up high. Where he was at the same level as the clouds and closer to the stars. It made Cas feel like he wasn't such a little thing, like he was worth something. The dawn was flaming, the sun casting psychedelic shadows over the mist as it rose behind the mountain. Castiel sat about halfway up the 'Nut', district 2 hushed and small and meaningless bellow him, hidden behind the fog. He hadn't always lived in the district, and the place was far from 'home', but he wasn't allowed to be angry. He had to bottle up the bitterness - bite back harsh words like a corked bottle - because he was supposed to be grateful. When his mom had died, his father had left. Gone. Abandoned. But not before he left Cas, squaling and wrapped up in blankets, on the doorstep of the 'Big House' - the mayor's home - in district 2. On his neck, just behind his right ear, was a faint, intircate marking of a pair of solid black wings. The only evidence of his true heritage. His 'birthmark'.
Usually the Mayor Zachariah, a cynical, leathel man, would've dumped the baby in the nearest orphanage, but his son, Gabriel, held on tight to the little, darkhaired baby with the enourmous, sapphire eyes and inked skin. The two boys had grown up together, Gabriel sheilding Cas from everything and everyone that he could, because his little brother was different - too innocent. But more than that, he had a righteous understanding of what was good, mixed with a burning anger inside him that scared even Gabriel. A combination that would be more than dangerous to him. In a place like Panem.
Cas considered how grateful he was as he sat in the cold, morning mist. He was shivering, but he didn't feel cold, the collar of his long coat turned up around his jawline. The wind danced around him, whispering, ruffling his fine, dark hair and he closed his eyes, stromy blue and watering from the sting of the cold. He hadn't slept all night, but he didn't feel tired; his muscles cramped from sitting in the same position for hours, his eyes hooded, thick eyelashes heavy and casting shadows over his cheekbones, darkening his eyes. But his mind felt sharp and intense, like the gleam of a knife.
He watched, wrapped up in his cream-coloured coat, as lights began to blossom in the town beneath the mist and mountains, as children woke up screaming from nightmares, only to find reality was worse. Parents bustling about absently at the crack of dawn after a sleepless night, wondering if this would be the last time their child sould sleep in their own bed.
The joy of the Games.
Stumbling down the side of the 'Nut', the largest mountain in his district and the centre of the Capitol's defences, Cas trembled with anticipation, light seeping through the valley now, disintergrating the mist, burning it. At the bottom of the mountain, he weaved gracefully in between the heaves of people already huddled in the square. The podium was alight, piercing lights shining from every corner of the square, and on the stage the mayor squinted out at the crowds of children; 12 year olds crying, enourmous eyes and tear stained cheeks. 15 year olds huddled in groups, cowering away from the blinding stage lights and the capitol seal. And even girls and boys, 18 years old, glowering defiantly up at Snowdrop - the district 2 escort, a ditsy young girl, so made up she looked about 40. Feeling completely lost and helpless, he wove his way to the back of the square, invisible and hating himself for not being brave enough to make a difference. Year in year out, he stood by and watched children be shuttled off to the capitol, and very few came back. He watched them fighting in the arean, clawing for food and freezing to death, and he watched fhe bloodied bodies and gleaming swords. Only one more year, and he'd be free from the reaping, but never of the games. Never of the Capitol.
With a heavy sigh, Cas looked up from his feet, at the screen on the stage - which had began to play propo's sent 'all the way from the capitol' - flickering with images of fire and rebellion, tributes and victors. The entirety of Panem, in every district, watched that Capitol's, short film bought, holding their breath, suspense choking them, and listened to the rough voice narrating. A voice that Cas remembered long before he heard it, that sent shivers rocketing around his body, the way chalk on a chalkboard did...
"Welcome! Welcome! Happy 94th Hunger Games and may the Odds Be Ever in your Favour..."
Thousands of miles away, a scrawny, adolencent boy sat in the presidents manner. He was born and raised in the capitol, always full and well dressed, blissful unaware. It was his first year working on The Games, and though he hoped to become head gamemaker some day, he was quite happy sitting smugly in that enourmous house, a humming camera rolling on his shoulder, as he recorded the President of Panem speaking to the world, a pair of electric blue eyes gleaming back at him through the lens.