a/N: Sorry for being late and the sketchy quality of this chapter! I recently finished up school and had to move out of dorms, and so I was just all over the place. lol! I hope you enjoy the chapter ^^
Cashmere had never seen Victors Village in such chaos. The usually sleepy town of victors was suddenly bustling. The air was thick with the clanging of metal on metal, and Cashmere acutely realized for the first time how some victors had deteriorated.
Of course, district 1 victors generally did not decay in the same way those of the lesser districts did to substance abuse and alienation. Most of these victors were indoctrinated with a certain callousness from early childhood, and were not prone to that. They were destined to be murderers, and unlike the victors of the destitute districts like 5, 11, or 12, when district 1 victors deteriorated, they deteriorated due to gluttony. (Though there were a few notorious morphling addicts also).
Sapphire, the once lithe and lethal tribute from eleven years ago threw knives at a target in the village square, her chubby arms jiggling and glistening from disuse. She was still covered from head to toe with her ridiculous amounts of sparkling jewelry, and Cashmere suspected that she had the jewelry amalgamated into her flesh in the Capital way. Sapphire had once been so lovely and fierce as she cut down the other tributes unfortunate enough to cross her path. It hurt Cashmere to realize that a tribute she had once so looked up to was reduced to the blubbering pile of hedonism and jewels she saw now.
"Let's move on Gloss, please." Cashmere said, tugging on his hand. He had been watching Sapphire with mild interest, but also seemed eager to get away from the pitiful spectacle.
"All of this is so terribly familiar." Gloss muttered, eyeing over the way the village was separated into areas for practicing various skills. Sword fighting to the right, archery to the left… further down: spear lessons. It was so similar to the training facility in the capital that it was cruel.
Cashmere felt a shudder run down her spine as her mind raced back to her time in the games. She didn't want to remember the chariot ride to the capital, or the week of training. She didn't want to recall her district partner's friendly face as he chatted animatedly with her over knot making, because she cut it later. She didn't want to remember her betrayal, or the way his brown eyes looked when his fingers stumbled over his flayed cheek.
"Where do you want to go first?" Gloss asked, sensing his sister's distress.
Anywhere but knot making Cashmere thought, and as if he understood Gloss began to drag her towards the axes.
"Let's start with the most inefficient of weapons and work our way down. Okay sister mine? "
The siblings ventured over to the Axe wielding station which was empty except for a middle aged male victor named Io. No one messed around with axes because they were so unwieldy and heavy. Io was one of the only people in Hunger Games history to win with the fierce but impractical weapon, and fittingly he was a giant of a man. Most District 1 tributes had a similarly tall and slim build with decidedly effeminate features, but Io was as massive and heavy set the district 11 tribute Thresh had been.
The siblings were, as predicted, miserable with the axes. Cashmere's tiny frame did not have enough upper body strength to even impact with the target, and she felt jarring ripples travel up her arms as the metal impacted with the cobble stone floor. Gloss did not fare much better. His axe buried itself deeply into the wooden target, but refused to budge after.
"We're clearly not cut out for this." Gloss stated bluntly as he watched Io slice through the thick targets like they were sticks of butter.
They moved on to a station in which they both fared much better: knives. There they polished their technique while politely chatting with the thirty five year old Opal with whom they had always been very close. Cashmere couldn't help but notice with a mournful sting that a certain frigidity had settled over all of the victors. Though everyone attempted to hold up old relations as normally as possible, Cashmere knew that they were all actively wishing ill on one another, hoping their peers would be sent to their deaths in their stead. Even with Opal, Cashmere sensed a creeping frost permeating their conversation. In the end, the siblings dropped attempts at vapid small talk altogether and focused on lodging their knives squarely in between the mannequin's eyes.
Cashmere hated the moments when her mind would wander, because they never traipsed through happy memories. Instead, they paralyzed her, forcibly making her recall moments in the game or watching her own brother struggle to survive, gore, and President Snow running his cold hands down her back.
Today, Cashmere thought of Glimmer's green eyes and the hesitant way she smiled. She thought of her horrific death and the way she went mad as the bees stung her. Her death was slow. It was so slow, and after the venom ran its course, Cashmere couldn't even recognize the once stunning tribute anymore.
The way Gloss sobbed and clawed at his face as Glimmer fell to the ground twitching still rang in her head. Gloss must have loved Glimmer, though he was never vocal about it. Cashmere knew he must have felt something for that tribute. There was no other way to explain why he was distraught after her death, but stony faced as he watched Marvel bleed to death.
"If you're not thinking happy thoughts Cash, it's best not to think." Gloss said suddenly, piercing through the memories of the dead tributes.
Cashmere glanced up towards her brother. He gave a half hearted grin before returning to tend the fireplace. He placed another piece of wood, and watched the glowing tendrils of flame peeling back the bark.
"How did you know?" Cashmere asked, scooting closer to the hearth and leaning her head against her brother's arm. He was so much taller than her. He had grown so fast, Cashmere couldn't even place when it had happened. Even up to his hunger games, Gloss had been about her height. Perhaps even a bit shorter. She had always been the one looking down on him, carrying him around, reaching over the counter for cookies because he couldn't reach. Somewhere along the road, he grew to tower over her. Gloss, her baby brother.
"I could tell. You tend to wear your emotions on your sleeve." Gloss poured hot chocolate into a mug and gave it to Cashmere. "Do I dare ask, what were you thinking of?"
The bark completely peeled away and quickly became ash. Cashmere hesitated.
"I'm not sure if you would want to know."
"The bad thoughts might leave you alone if you talk about them." Gloss playfully snatched the drink out of Cashmere's hand, and she gave a small noise of protest. "Stop trying to hide behind the cup."
"You got chocolate on my skirt." Cashmere complained, flicking at the tiny splatter on the white cotton.
"Tragic." Gloss said dismissively. "What was bothering you?"
Cashmere sighed and folded her hands together.
"I was thinking of Glimmer and Marvel." She admitted, and she felt Gloss flinch.
"I have to admit, I didn't expect that. I assumed you were worrying about the reaping. It's getting close."
"I wasn't thinking about that, but I am now. Thanks brother."
The siblings settled into a somber silence, occupying their senses with the sound of crackling wood.
Glimmer and Marvel had been the very first tributes they mentored, and both of them had met disastrous ends. If their deaths had at least been dignified, Cashmere may have been able to grieve and move on. Instead, she and Gloss had to witness Marvel get pierced through the throat with an arrow, scrabbling at his ruined neck like a confused child. Marvel had always been haughty and arrogant, and Cashmere admitted she wasn't particularly fond of him, but the look of panic that ingrained itself on his face even in death disturbed her. If Marvel ever considered the possibility of his own death at all, he probably liked to imagine a glorious death after a grueling fight. Not a surprise attack in which he hardly even had time to lift a finger.
Glimmer's death was infinitely worse. Cashmere wanted to remember Glimmer for the unexpectedly kind girl that she was underneath her ice princess façade. Instead, when she thought of the tribute, all she could see was Glimmer hysterically flailing at the swarm of tracker jackers, her body twitching and bloating from the venom. Her bruised eyelids swelled shut over her piercing green irises. Cashmere would have done anything for those stunning eyes to remain beautiful. Instead her body was crated back to District 1 bloated, purple, and covered with plum sized tumors: an ignominious corpse after an ignominious death. The Capital never even bothered to make her presentable again.
"If we ever get the chance to mentor tributes again, we will do better. We'll bring one of them home." Gloss said finally, feeding another log to the fire.
Cashmere nodded, despite the fact that she knew, just knew, that neither of them would be mentors this year.
If Cashmere knew the Capital like she believed she did, both she and Gloss would be thrown into the arena once again.
"Here Cash." Gloss said, and Cashmere automatically lifted her mug of hot chocolate.
Gloss unfolded a little paper and poured in a teaspoon of white powder into the drink.
He then poured the rest of the white powder straight into his mouth, not bothering to stir it in with a liquid.
Since the announcement, the siblings had turned to a special antihistamine to put them to sleep each night. The nightmares wouldn't leave them alone otherwise.
District one has one of the largest victor pools in all of Panem. Dozens of people, in varying states of health and age, wait around the stage, hoping not to hear their name again.
But there really is no question of who will be reaped.
Cashmere and Gloss, siblings, both beautiful, young, and virile. Both deadly, and if sent together and pitted as enemies, a good possible source of heart wrenching familial drama for the viewers.
Despite intuitively knowing that they were about to hear their names and possible death sentence, the siblings clung tenaciously to their hope that it might be someone else. That terrible hope that someone else would die in their place. Maybe Sapphire. Maybe Opal or Io. Anyone else.
But of course, the first name written on the slip of paper fished from the orb said Cashmere. As she ascended the stairs, the brief thought that all of the slips of paper must have read her name crossed her mind before she locked eyes with Gloss.
He was looking at her with such uncharacteristically steely intensity that Cashmere could tell he knew what was coming. He knew he would be called next, and he was preparing himself.
The crowd parted for him immediately, and with squared shoulders and an air of self assuredness, he made his way to the stage.
The siblings had both agreed that if they were both called, they would silently clutch hands as a sign of defiance of the games. But seeing her younger brother walk bravely towards what could very well be his death sparked something in Cashmere. As soon as he ascended the stairs, Cashmere broke into a run, a sudden inexplicable and strong need to be close to her brother taking over her. Gloss barely had enough time to throw his arms open before his sister flew into him with such force he stumbled back.
Cashmere felt Gloss' arms wrap securely around her waist, and was vaguely aware that he had placed an affectionate kiss on the side of her head. She knew the message they were sending: They were entering as a team, and nobody should expect back stabbing sibling scandal between them. They would never betray each other, even if the laws of the hunger games called for it.
As the siblings embraced on the stage, a silence swept across the spectators. They all wanted to applaud their brave defiance, but the unprecedented presence of machine guns at the reaping made their voice catch in their throats.