In the heat of district one, a girl with blonde curls and a glint in her eye raised her hand above the crowds of children lounging in the centre. Brandy - the district one escort - hadn't even finished her over-rehearsed speech, and simply sighed, wishing she had a bottle in her hand somewhere far away from these bloodlusting kids. Putting down her cards, she nodded curtly down at the older, blonde girl with daggers gleaming behind her blue eyes, and lent her a hand as the girl sashayed up the stairs and onto the stage.
"Our first volunteer! What's your name, dear?"
With a smile that could've broken glass and outshone the sun, the girl replied;
"And as ever, ladies first!" The district 12 escort, Jubilee - a burly, tall man with tattoes snaking over the crest of his bald head and a permanent scowl - had already began his announcment by the time Dean and Sam stumbled into the square, panting from the cross country run from the 'den' to the square. The boys didnt eat everyday - not many people did in the district - but due to a restless night, Dean had been up at dawn, and off to the woods to hunt them some breakfast. But without any way of telling the time, he had lost track of it, and by the time he got back, Sammy was waiting at the door, with his only nice shirt on, caramel eyes axious. They had skipped breakfast, and soared across the fields to the town, Dean still dressed in hunting gear and caked in mud, clinging desperately to Sam's hand, pulling him behind like a ragdoll. When the boys had raced into the square a peacekeeper, masked and armed, had yanked Sammy away from Dean, pricked his finger, and hustled him into a fenced area crammed with younger boys. He felt like a cow being led to the slaughter house, surrounded by a sea of defiant faces and terrified eyes. He couldn't see his brother, but he knew, somewhere at the other end of the square, Dean was shoving his way through, trying to get to him, as Jubilee purred his scripted introduction.
As his enourmous, heavily decorated hand decended into the glass bowl full of names - girls he went to school with, who he bought food from, who remembered his name, who smiled at him - a deafening silence blanketed the rabble of kids and parents in the square. A heavy quiet.
Snowdrop's violet lips formed a name - one Cas was not entirely focused on - and a girl, fiery hair plaited across her elvin face and such dark eyes, like burning coals, tripped up the strairs, grazing her tear-stained cheek. He didn't recognise her, but wished he did. Wished he could've know the girl with the pixie like face, and the nighttime eyes. Wished he could've spoken to her, and known what made her laugh, because he didn't need to know what made her cry. He could see. Wished he could've listened and remembered her name.
It didn't matter. She was as good as dead anyway.
Wound up in his own thoughts, Cas looked up from the floor - from the dust his boots kicked up - and realised every pair of eyes in the square were trained on him, expressions ranging from relief to pity. From the podium, the redheaded pixie looked down at him, her marble eyes glassy with tears and burning with anger. The same rage that trembled inside everyone in the districts. Everyone who had ever been hungry, or lost someone in an pointless accident or illness. Anyone who had ever been abandoned or orphaned. He saw it in her eyes, because it mirrored the anger that blazed behind the blue of his own eyes. Snowdrop stood on the other side of the raised paltform, a manufactured smile plastered across her meretricious features, and a second scrap of paper pinced between perfectly manicured blue nails. Her eyes sparkled down at Cas, and she offered a hand down to him, a gesture that turned his blood so cold, it boiled.
Scrawled across that piece of paper, in swirling caligraphy, were two word. His name;
Back in district one, Lilith giggled delightedly as a fight bloomed into existance on the boy's side of the plaza, as two brothers graplled mercilessly to get onto the stage first. Her eyes rake over both boys, one slightly older, but weaker. The younger one, with the honey brown hair smiles up at her, his eyes warm and full of promise... as he smashes his brother's - Michael, yes that was his name - head against the paving stones. With a grunt, Michael rolls onto his side, cradling his head ad fighting back tears. They had always been so close, two brothers taking on the world together. Nothing was more important than money. Excpet riches. Except the Games. Except power.
Moving from his brother's drowsy, limp body, the younger brother moved with silent grace through the crowds, (who even though they parted for the new tribute were not in the least bit surprised at this show of violence and eagerness to volunteer) and marched up the steps, his dancing blue eyes never leaving Lilith's, a vortex of cobalt. A small smile played across her lips as he took his place next to her, his hand grazing softly the small of her back, his breath hot on her ear as he whispered over the top of the cheering crowds;
"Of course you'd volunteer, wouldn't you Lilith?" They stood, looking down at the kids in district one, Brandy still ranting pointlessly on, her voice only just loud enough for his ears as she replied.
"23 kids going to burn in hell, and me and you are the first to sign up. Yeah, sounds about right..."
"Speak for yourself Lilith." From the corner of her eye, she could see his smile: manic and dangerous.
"Not place in hell for you Lucy?" She smirked "Or are you just that confident-"
"Oh I might not be burning with the rest of you, but there's a place alright" He cut in, smooth as silk. "It's called the throne."
Jo. The tough girl. The girl who cheats. The girl from the Hob. The girl all the boys want and all the girls want to be. Jo.
Jo, who had only had her name in the reaping ball 63 times. Who was only just 16.
The square seemed so much bigger as she pushed her way through the crowds and made her way to the stairs. She hadn't realised how much weight stares could carry until she was the focus of hundreds of them, her name still ringing in the silence. Chin up, she told herself, taking the stairs two at a time, pointedly ignoring Jubilee's outstretched hand. She refused to owe these people anything.
The first year of the Hunger Games Jo remembered was the year after her father died. She had only been 7, but still she remembered watching the black and white hologram, fuzzy and tiny, at the back of her mother's bar. They had sat together in the pub, adamently refusing to go to the square, and watched a boy who had been sitting on one of the barstools the week before walk up onto the stage, head held high, before being carted off to the capitol with a one way ticket. He never came back into the bar. Jo only hoped she looked as proud and defiant as he had when he was reaped, tossing her hair over her shoulder as she stood on the stage next to her escort, letting it fall down her back, a waterfall of golden curls. If she was going to go out, it would be with a earthshaking bang.
Nobody cheered. Nobody cursed. Nobody contadicted or disagreed. Everyone just stared up at her, like they were trying to remember how she looked, moved and was. Even Jubilee, with his wild, amber eyes, watched her silently for a matter of seconds, forgetting his place. The silence was crushing. From across the courtyard, her mother's eyes glowed with hatred, meeting her gaze with a tearfilled intensity that reminded Jo that she was raised by fighters. Raised to fight. Raised to loose everything and come back hard.
Then, with a shuddering, pointed thump, Jubilee marched across the stage, eyes flying everywhere but her, and thrust his hand into the boys reaping ball. He didn't seem to notice the hundreds of venemous glares devouring him. Maybe he just didn't care.
Every boy on the right side of the square, subconciously choked on their own breath, caught halfway down their throats. Silence erupted throughtout the district's centre, like a bomb seconds from exploding.
Three... Two... One...