When Dean had shot his first doe, on his first hunting trip with his dad 9 years ago, he had only nipped its hind leg. Not nearly enough to kill it. Intead the beautiful, chesnut beast had gone into a shock, forgetting how to breath, falling over its own feet in a wild panic to escape. As it lay on the blanket of snow, wheezing and suffocating in it own confusion, Dean's dad had taken the knife, and did the only kind thing he could've done. Red blood bloomed over the perfect, white ground, the doe's eyes open and glassy, her body ridgid and cold. He hadn't wanted to, but Dean watched the whole thing, the metallic taste of blood bitter in his mouth and tears choking his throat. Then his father stood up, turned to him with scarlet splattering his shirt like paint and emotionless eyes. Dean turned and ran as far as he could, because he couldn't face anyone. Not Dad, or Sammy or anyone. He shivered inside a hollowed out tree until the next morning, crying for the first time since his mom died, the image of the doe choking on her own fear singed into his eyelids.
Dean hadn't undertood what it was like to drown in your own fear until Sam's name was called.
He had been slicing his way through the crowds as Jubilee rambled aimlessly, but as his little brother's name was read off the cards, the world span and sizzled, and he stumbled before the shivers started rocketing around his ridgid body. Children around him steadied him and held him up, but their touches were like a burning numbness as he scanned the crowds desperately for the skinny, longlimbed boy with the shaggy brown hair. Towards the front of the square, crowds parted as little Sam Winchester, wide eyed and shaking, made his way toward the podium, waiting for someone to speak up for him. But Dean's voice just got lost in the silence.
Anna Milton's hand was soft and pale. Her fingers laced with Cas' were long and elegant, as she gently squeezed his hand, though she seemed adament to not look at him. Her blazing, dark eyes looked out at the crowds gathered below them, but Cas was determined to not even acknowledge them, instead studying Anna's jawline. The way it tilted upwards, like a swan craning its neck to see futher up the river. It was tradition for the two tributes to shake hands, but he and Anna kept their fingers locked together, the pressure of her palm anchoring him to home. Unimpressed applause drummed through the square, customary even though noone in the district held out much hope for the pair. Neither were anything extraordinary. Then they were being hustled into the justice building, the roar of the crowd dulling to silence with a click of the heavy, marble doors. Anna was ripped away from him by peacekeepers and escorted into one of the conference rooms, probably identicle to the one he was shoved into. He rolled his eyes as the head peacekeeper told him he had 10 minutes to say goodbye to any visitors, attempting to mask the dissapointment the coursed through him, telling himself Gabe had better things to do than see him off.
Instead he sat on the plush settee, memorising the craveses in the stone floor, the beams on the ceiling, the patterns of the mahogony furniture. The distorted hum of voices came from the next room, a muffled sob that could only be Anna's sister, Tash. Cas was too numb to care. To numb to be sympathetic, or angry, or even jealous.
It swallowed him, his emptiness. All the fire, all the talk about wishing he could make a difference, all the hatred fizzled out like a light and he just couldn't find it in him to feel anymore. He was going to die. And it wouldn't mean a damn thing. He had never realised how long 10 minuted could be, but after a few forevers, the door opened and Snowdrop's sparkling eyes smiled down at him from the doorway, her hand frantically gesturing for him to follow, her purple hair bouncing around her face as she span on her heel. Cas cautiously stepped out the empty doorway, hoping weakly that Gabriel might come sprinting up the stairs, shouting 'I need to say goodbye!'. Instead he found a older girl with long red hair holding desperately onto a shorted girl with a short, aubern bob, the same burning eyes as her sister. Cas flicked his eyes away, feeling like an intruder, not part of this moment, a swelling nothing aching inside his chest, until Anna caught his eye over her sisters shuddering form and fresh tears clouded her eyes. She nodded once, untangled herself from Tash - 13 years old and utterly alone - and whispered a final goodbye in her ear. Cas stepped forward as Anna straightened and stepped away. Shoulder to shoulder, the two tributes marched out of the justice building. Anna didn't turn back once to see her little sister huddled in the empty doorway, and Cas didn't want or need to say goodbye to district 2. Wherever Gabe was, Cas hoped he was fucking miserable.
The train station was buzzing with activity and too many faces, but they weren't given the time to speculate. Peacekeepers surrounded them on all sides like a forcefield, moving too swiftly for Cas to get a good look at who had come to see the train leave. Then he was boarding the train, and on the final step, he turned around briefly, telling himself it was for closure. In the warms of people, Cas almost could've sworn he saw a familiar pair of golden eyes, like sunlight through a gla of whiskey. The the door slammed shut and the train purred, roaring to life. Anna, Snowdrop, their prep team and Cas jolted and jostled as the train shuddered into a steady pace, taking them out of the district, toward the Capitol.
Out of the frying pan. Into the fire.
The crowds moved around him, like a stream around a boulder. Dean wove his way through the kids, toward the front of the square, without barely a brush of a arm or a slifght nudge. The he was out of the huddle and standing in the aisle, looking up at his scawny little brother halfway up the step of the dais, big brown eyes deep and scared.
"Sammy?" His voice broke on the second syllable, all the eyes on him making him stutter with nervous anger. "Sammy. Sam, no..." Peacekeepers swarmed around him, bees to honey, and pushed against him as he tried to move forward. In a sort of daze, he threw some of his rage at one. There was a stinging in his knuckle, and blood colouring a peacekeepers split lip, but he didnt stop to ponder the consequences.
"No, Stop. I volunteer! I volunteer..." The peacekeepers parted, and Dean stared defiantly up at the strange array of people standing on the stage. Green eyes flickered in the dawning light, burning with hate. "I volunteer as tribute."
Sam flung himself down the stairs and into his brothers arms, his head buried into Dean's chest. When he looked up, his eyes were wet, but not sad. They glowed like the embers of a fire, and Dean knew then that it would be alright. He refused to fade out. If he was going down, he was going to burn. He untangle himself from his brother, except the interlocked fingers, and together the made their way up to the stage.
Jubilee didn't say anything about Sam's being on the stage, and when his eyes met Dean's, a small glimmer of something similar to pride glittered in them. Everyone in district 12 stared up at them, and after 6 seconds, a girl near the front, raised her fingertips to her lips, and then held them to the sky. After another 3 seconds, everyone in the square had 3 fingers held above their head, thousands of eyes glaring proudly, defiantly up. The girl was no one either Sam or Dean knew - they didn't know that her brother had died in the games 3 years before, simply because people refused point blank to sponsor him. Or that her mother had died of cholera before she had even been old enough to partake in the Games. Or that her father had been paralysed from the waist down after a mining accident. They didn't know anything about her. Not even her name.
All they knew was that she was on their side.
Dean stared out at the square, not really seeing the crowds, missing his father and burning from the inside out. Sam's fingers, laced with his, anchored him to sanity.
The heat in district 7 was enough to drive a man crazy. Heat rays rippled over the heads of the crowds below Chuck, as he stood up on the podium, considering how much longer it would take for him to flip the switch from sane to insane. He wished he could've been a bit more memorable, but it was too late for him now, unless he wanted to backflip of the stage and ninja kick his mentor, Zachariah, in the face mid air. That second part sound tempting...
...Yes he was definitely going crazy.
He realised now that only the exciting, entertaining people got sponsored, and he was about as interesting as a full stop. He felt marginally better that when his district's female tribute had been called, she hadn't created some oscar winning performance or inspired awe with her bravery or even turned on the water works. They had both been equally dull, and the citezens of the Capitol will have already switched the channel over to a more inticing reaping.
Just when Chuck thought he would start speaking tongues he was so hot, he and his fellow tribute were promptly ushered inside the justice building. There was a hustle and bustle as peacekeepers locked the door and took their coats, shielding them from the murmurs and shouts coming from the district's square. People were unhappy. People wanted justice. People wanted to play their own games. Then the peacekeepers marched off and the two tributes were alone. It was the first time Chuck really looked at her, the girl he was going off to fight to the death with.
She was younger, maybe 14, with dark hair bouncing off her shoulders and ebony, eager eyes. She was petite, but he could see she was probably a better fighter than he was - though that may have been damning with faint praise. Slender arms flexed with fine muscles and she held herself like a hunter. She was a fighter.
Bloody good for her.
"What's your name?" Her voice was crisp and light, light autumn leaves, breaking him out of his reverie.
"Chuck...Chuck Shurley." He tried to smile, lighten the mood, but he felt like there was a black hole looming over their heads, sucking out their former lives slowly. "What's yours?"
"Gwen Campbell." Her nightime eyes slickered over the cold, stone, entrance room of the justice building, before coming to rest back on Chuck with a newfound determination, like remembering who she was helped her be stronger. Chuck wished he had that kind of affect on himself.
"Got anyone coming to visit you, Gwen Campbell?"
"My uncle, Sammuel... He'll come and see me. Give me some last minute advice... you know, that's what family does. Help." Her voice wavered and Chuck didn't blame her. The truth was, he didn't know, at all.
A hour or so later, they were moving at a hundred miles an hour toward the city Chuck had heard so much about and hated so much. The train was smooth and silent, but every slight, non-existant bump, Chuck felt in the pit of his stomach. The forested, wild landscape of district 7 began to fade in the distance, and the view out the window became dull and baron, but he had nothing better to do. Gwen was also in her tempory room, and he had absoloutly no inclination to go and sit in the lounge with his repulsive mentor, or boring, simple escort. So he just watched the landscape change as he sped further and further away from his home.
Gwen's uncle never did come to say goodbye, and even though Chuck didn't ask, she just told him that it was because she was as good as dead to him anyway. And the worst part was, was that Chuck couldn't find it in himself to blame the guy for it.
Crowley smirked to himself, more and more the further he got away from district 5. Stupid git's hadn't known a thing about real power, his district's supposed industry. The food on the train tasted better than anything that had ever passed over his lips, and they didn't mind him drinkinig red wine. The girl who came with him had already shuffled off, snivelling and snotting off to her room, tears sticking her eyelashes together. He supposed if he were afraid to die, he would also probably sniff and snot, but he wasn't so he let himself smirk and feel superior. He bit back the little, timid voice whimpering at the back of his mind, takiing another bite of the creme scone. But the unrelenting whisper rattled around his skull like a loose screw; 'you're going to get skewered Crowley. You're going to die. You're going straight to hell...'
Tapping his fingers across the tabletop, and blinking a few too many time, Crowley told the voice to shove it. But the little whisper continued to flutter around his head like a annoying insect
'You're going to hell. You're going to hell. You're going to hel...'
'Of course I am.' He told the little voice.
'I've got a kingdom to run.'