Training, Day One
He knew him, from District Two. He had won the Games just three years ago. He had powerful sponsors who had given him such valuable gifts that there was little doubt that someone as beautiful and deadly as that could not win the games in his year. He wondered, though, why he had volunteered for the Quell.
Did he want to do it again? To see if he could win above all others? Or was it for the carnage? Those eyes--those unbelievable eyes--had barely flickered with each kill.
As though he was a god, taking down mere mortals.
Did he want to do it again? He would never have another chance, if he did.
One victor. One tribute.
That was the rule of the Quarter Quell.
"You remember him, don't you?" the voice behind Julian made him jump. He turned around and saw another familiar face. From District Four. The one who won two years ago. He saw that the tribute of his district, Danny, was keeping careful distance even from him.
"Of course I remember him," Julian muttered in return, turning his eyes back to the District Two victor. "Who wouldn't."
"You should watch out for that temper of his," Derek snorted without much concern. In his costume, he looked magnificent, powerful, and while the victors of the other districts ignored him, the new tributes looked frightened. "It makes him...a wild card." But then he gave Julian a calculating gaze. "I didn't expect you to be drawn. I thought you'd have ways around that."
"You mean to say, you'd think I had ways of making sure I wasn't drawn, because I'm so loved?" Julian's beautiful smile drew the eye of the staff and tributes alike. "Because I'm a celebrity? A star? A precious one? You overestimate the mercy of our president, Derek."
Derek smirked slightly again. "Your tongue might get you in trouble."
"My tongue gets me out of trouble," Julian replied with a lewd gesture before turning away, intending to find the hapless tribute who had been saddled with him for District One's hope of winning. A hundred souls would have volunteered in this boy's place, but the rules of the Quell were clear--no volunteers for the tribute drawn who was not a victor. A victor could replace another, but the lamb will be sent to slaughter.
Julian froze when he saw where Kurt stood. Radiant in his costume like he was, Kurt was staring up into the eyes of District Two's victor, looking only slightly apprehensive. They were talking. And the victor, Logan, had a strange smile on his face.
Julian had seen that smile before--it was the smile of someone who appreciated the beauty of selecting the hamstring in order to sever it.
Eventful as the parade had been, the victors knew that it was all mostly pomp, circumstance, and just a show to get the crowd riled up. For them, it was another round of basking in the glory that they had already owned upon leaving the arena, believing that they would never return to it again. It was the same glow that they had all enjoyed for the years succeeding, every time the victors would gather and see each other.
Far less dismissive were the new tributes, who had just received their taste of glory for the first time—the roar of the crowd as it greeted them, the splendor of the surroundings and the preparations within the Capitol. It was more than they could’ve asked for in grand entrance as tributes into the ferocious battle that they would enter in a few days. They were being adored, worshipped, admired, and feted by the Capitol’s citizens.
The victors found it almost adorable that the tributes thought so.
The morning of the first day of training was vastly different. Stripped of all their trappings of attempted glitz, away from the screaming crowd and shut within the sterile, cold training room, the tributes had their first good look at each other—their allies and enemies—for the Quarter Quell.
It was a very sobering sight, and more than one person’s bravado deflated.
The tributes look amidst the victors that they had been placed with and against. A lot of them were much older than they were, and the way they nodded to each other when they began to gather made it obvious that they all knew each other well enough. Probably from Victory Tours and events of years past. That, and some of them were so famous that it was impossible not to at least know them by their face. Kurt was from a Career district, and he knew many of them owing to how much emphasis were placed on them. While he himself had not quite gone for the Career track in particular, he knew who Dwight of District 11 was, and how he simply refused to go down during his year—the boy simply could not be killed. Blaine may also have not quite expected to be made a tribute as opposed to other more willing Careers in his district, but he knew Han of District 3 was responsible for frying alive at least seven of his year’s tributes with an electric trap, and he knew that Justin of District 10 was powerful enough to snap necks with his punches.
The victors surveyed the new blood that they were brought with. And as they appraised each other’s tributes, some of them felt that some victors lucked out, while others were terribly shortchanged. The victor of years past named Merril, from District 8, had with her a small curly-haired boy named Reed who smacked his forehead into a post the minute he walked in wonder into the training room. However, the powerful Sydney from District 7 had with her a tribute taller, broader, and physically stronger than her—a powerful young man named Charlie. If they decided to work together for a while, they would be dangerous. Casey wondered how Hope of District 9 intended on dealing with the admittedly beautiful but fragile-looking tribute with her, named Katherine—she didn’t look like much. But there was little doubt that Casey’s own tribute, Wes, would be more help to her than hindrance.
The Careers surveyed each other. Logan wasn’t sure of what exactly he expected from this Quell, but he was certain that if the boy named Blaine did prove that he was at least marginally useful to him, he’d leave him or kill him himself. And Blaine knew that for certain. Logan didn’t differentiate between allies and enemies when he went into the Games, and Blaine wondered if he was better off preparing for making it on his own without Logan. The same threat of abandonment went to the District 4 tribute, Danny, but Derek seemed to be confident in the abilities of his tribute. District 1’s Julian and Kurt eyed each other and wondered if the other was really good for anything. Kurt knew Julian was talented, he’d seen him during his Games—he was resourceful, winning, and his charm won him expensive parachutes—but for the past years, Julian had been a glittering social butterfly. Who knew if he could even do anything anymore? Julian wasn’t any more thrilled about Kurt than the tribute was about his victor. To Julian, Kurt didn’t appear as though he were made for the bloodbath. He looked too elegant, as though he had spent too much time grooming himself, and was not inclined to the combat arts—as expected from ordinary citizens of the Luxury district.
And then of course…
All eyes turned to the doorway as two identical bodies entered. Both tall, with bright blonde hair perfectly tended by the stylists they had been assigned, and their ice blue eyes far too striking. They did not look as though they came from an outlying district. The Twins of District 12 were well known. Too well known.
Everyone knew who the Twins were—the ones who won just last year, and made such a commotion in the Capitol, then they turned the game against itself. And they were both named victors. And now, they had returned. And more than one person in the tune knew that they were, like it or not, in for a much harder time against the Capitol’s will.
The gaze they received from the victors was one of unflinching appraisal, while the tributes looked to them with curiosity and wonder. The twins looked back at them steadily, as though they were not afraid, as though they didn’t realize that with their acts of defiance, there could be revolt. As though they didn’t care that it was precisely why they were at the Quell.
“You have three days,” the trainer was saying, giving them all a direct look. The victors already knew him. “And then, you will come to the arena. The new tributes would do well to focus on the survival leg of the training. This is something that, apparently, all your victors are already proficient in.”
A small snicker sounded from the victor of District 5. Of course they all were. They lived through the carnage once already. Some of the tributes winced—they didn’t need the reminder.
“However, since the arena changes every year, your victors might want to pay attention themselves.” The trainer gave the victorious ones a pointed look. “And it has been a while since they have all been in the Games.”
Kurt now openly gave Julian a look that made it obvious he agreed and how much he thought of him. Julian raised an eyebrow at him in return and simply looked back at the trainer. He didn’t expect this pixie tribute to understand anything.
The Twins never batted an eye. They simply linked hands. Everyone, in spite of having seen them in action before, found this unsettling.
“You are free to begin training in any of the areas you wish, with any of the weapons and techniques you see within the training area. Tributes are not allowed to come in combat with another tribute. If you need a sparring partner, you will be joined by one of the trainers. However…”
The group looked up, as did the Victors, as this had not been part of the rules before.
“…according to the orders of the President and the Game Master, the victors have the option to train in combat against one another or train their own tributes. They cannot, however, train with tributes of other districts. Is this clear?”
Silence. Blaine eyed the other Careers, and saw that even they were surprised.
Sydney, arms crossed over her chest, glared and remarked, “We could do each other injury in this way. Is this allowed?”
“No,” the trainer replied. “Even if you are to spar, you cannot inflict serious injury upon one another. Any victor who harms his or her opponent in such a way that it will require medical aid will not be received into the Games.”
Of course not, but a coffin will happily receive them, Han rolled his eyes but said nothing. He glanced to his tribute, Mika, and decided that as far as training went, he’d help her somehow. It wouldn’t be the first time he had mentored, but it would be the first time that the one he mentored might also be one he had to kill within the Games.
The training began, and the different Districts looked at each other before scattering off. Each of them were clearly going for their strengths immediately, especially for the victors. There was no reason for them to hold back—everyone had seen what they could do. The tributes, on the other hand, knew that while the officials were watching, they were not going to be impressed unless they did something to catch their attention.
And try they certainly did.
Their attention was caught when they heard the sound of powerful punches. A number of them glanced over and saw District 2’s tribute, Blaine, already standing before a punching bag. Kurt stared in surprise. For his size, Blaine was incredibly strong. He was brutally punching down the bag with speed and power no one expected, even from a Career. He rattled the bag with the force of his assault.
But there was a sickening crash that drew the gasps in the room when Justin, the victor of District 10, threw a punch so powerful into the bag that it sent it flying back with a rattle of chains. A flurry of jabs followed by a single deadly straight that slammed the bag back into the wall.
Reed gasped. If that punch ever connected with a body, bones would have definitely shattered. He felt Merril’s hand on his shoulder. “Come on, Reed. Let’s put that painting of yours to some use.”
Blaine wasn’t the only rookie to display devastating results. In the middle of hand-to-hand combat training between victor and tribute of District 9, a viciously sharp javelin whistled through the air and not only slammed dead center into the head of the training dummy, but penetrated it so deeply that more than four inches of it burst from the back of the head.
Charlie glared at his efforts and flexed his arm slightly. Sydney, standing behind him, simply nodded, unimpressed. “Again. This time—” She threw two javelins into his hand and smirked.
Bailey of District 10 winced as Charlie flung the javelins with such deadly precision that he managed to take down two more target dummies.
There was another chorus of surprise as the victors tributes began training in the water. Barely had many of them managed to clear three-fourths of the pool when Danny was already heaving himself out of the water at the end. His speed in the water was undeniable, and he could hold his breath under it even longer than Derek could. He could even fight when over it. Armed with a spear, he could still move in the water easily. When it came to the water area, there was little doubt that District 4 would hold dominion over it, with both Derek and Danny in the field.
Kurt looked around the entire arena for a specific weapon that he wanted. He found it amidst the daggers and blades. With a triumphant smirk, he walked up to the rack of gleaming silver weaponry and drew out two sais.
They were surprisingly light, but strong, and Kurt twirled them one in his hands, pleased.
Kurt turned around to see Julian standing there, eyeing him. The District 1 victor gave him a nod as he revealed that he too had picked up the twin sais, aiming to spar with him without making any other indication that he was about to. “Are you any good with those?” He flipped a sai lightly with one hand.
That was the time Kurt decided that some primadonna victor who did nothing but appear on television to flirt and charm and get publicized for his multitude of affairs with women and men wasn’t going to make him appear like an idiot here.
He was, after all, still from a Career district.
Kurt’s eyes flashed once—he twirled the sai in his hands rapidly and leapt at him. The sound of impacting metal filled the air as he and Julian clashed swords, moving swiftly. Kurt was bearing down forcefully at Julian, his movements rapid with practice. At the speed the two of them were going, one mistake could cause immediate injury.
Combatants on the training floor fled their path as Kurt continued to force Julian down the hall, Julian parrying blows that Kurt rained down on him. All eyes of the officials were on the both of them now and Kurt forced his way against Julian’s defense.
Blaine stared in amazement at the spectacle. He didn’t know what he expected from the beautiful tribute that came from District 1—when he had met Kurt, they weren’t able to exchange so many words— but he certainly didn’t expect him to be overpowering his victor this early. Especially since only Danny had partially been able to do it with his own. Not like this.
It took Blaine a few more moments, however, before he realized that the other victors did not really share his sentiment.
While the tributes stared, slack-jawed, the victors continued what they were doing with only mild attention to what was happening. They did not look at all concerned. Among them, only the Twins of District 12 watched the two Careers fight.
This puzzled Blaine for a while—maybe they knew all along that Julian wasn’t going to be a threat in the games. Maybe they knew Kurt was meant to be the one to look out for in District 1. While the second statement wasn’t entirely incorrect, the first one was certainly a misconception on Blaine’s part.
Julian waited until Kurt had him to the edge of the combat mat. Then he made a neat maneuver with his sai, hooking it against Kurt’s and wrenching it free from the other boy, sending it flying. The sai whirled through the air and flew right at David’s face. Kurt gasped, spun his other sai around and flung it to the one already flying to veer it off course before it struck the other tribute.
Julian turned his own sai and smacked Kurt across the face with a powerful blow and sent him crashing into the mat. When Kurt look up, his breath came short as he saw the tip of Julian’s sai stopping short just between his eyes.
Silence fell in the training room.
“It’s polite to say, ‘shall we begin?’ before attacking,” Julian remarked, without sounding winded.
Kurt glared at him, a bright scarlet weal on his cheek from where Julian had hit him. He was furious at the realization that he was being toyed with and now humiliated in front of the other tributes and victors. He was made to look unbelievably weak, and if he even had a sai in his hand right now, he would’ve thrown it at Julian.
An arm with a hand holding a dagger slipped around Julian’s shoulder, but the victor didn’t look concerned. He even smiled when a voice playfully said, “That’s enough for a warm up, isn’t it?” The arm pulled Julian easily away from Kurt, who got to his feet, flushed with rage and humiliation but silent.
Julian looked back at the owner of the arm and dagger and smirked—and Kurt saw that it was Sebastian. The District 5 victor grinned at the victor of District 1 and playfully whispered in his ear, “Come play with me, kitten. I’ll make it more interesting.”
This seemed to please Julian, who now looked at Kurt with a smile. “Don’t get me wrong…you’re very very good with the sai. Have you considered throwing weapons, though? You seem to have a good aim there too…” And as Sebastian tugged him away, he added to Kurt with a laugh, “I might just keep you for the first few days.”
Kurt resisted every urge to find the nearest knife and fling it at his so-called “mentor”. He brushed himself off, glared at all the other staring tributes and strode off furiously to the edible plants area. He hadn’t gone more than five steps when a fellow Career accosted him.
“Hey.” Blaine said breathlessly as he came up to him.
“Leave me alone,” Kurt snapped.
“But that was amazing!” Blaine added, not deterred by Kurt’s obvious displeasure at being spoken to. “I didn’t know you could do that—and to have fought with Julian like that, you were really good! You were as fast as he was.”
Kurt glanced to him. He recognized Blaine from the tribute parade. Panting, he retorted, “Yes, but clearly, he was just waiting to make me look like a complete dolt.”
“It’s kind of what they’re meant to do, if they intend on winning over us,” Blaine replied sensibly, tightening the wraps around his knuckles. Kurt knew what those hands could do—he’d seen them attack the punching bag. “They like proving that they’re older, stronger, and can kill us easily. I imagine it’s to make sure we stay in line, at least for the first few days while we hunt down everyone else.”
That was how Careers worked—as a pack. Kurt glared, looking displeased, ignoring the penetrating stares that the District 12 twins were giving them both. “I don’t intend on going around following Julian’s orders. He’s not reliable, and one swordfight isn’t proof of his abilities.”
“He did win once,” Blaine pointed out.
“Don’t you have your own victor to kowtow to, Two?” Kurt snapped.
Blaine rolled his eyes, also looking irritated. “Logan seems occupied.”
The two of them looked over to where the towering blond was. Sebastian was still towing Julian along with him—looking for all the world as though they were in another one of the endless victory balls and not in training to murder each other in less than four days—and was headed to one of the weapons racks with him when a knife embedded itself in a pillar between the two of them.
They both looked up and saw Logan striding to them, green eyes blazing, and throwing hand still raised slightly. Whatever he said, Kurt and Blaine couldn’t hear through the distance and the fact that it was hissed through clenched teeth. But Sebastian rolled his eyes, annoyed and Julian looked disinterested. Logan grabbed Julian by the sleeve and hauled him away from Sebastian, who gave the District 2 victor a grimace before gesturing for his tribute, Joshua, to approach him.
Blaine’s eyes lingered on Joshua before they looked back to Logan, who now pushed Julian next to the other Career victor, Derek, and began haranguing him for completely unknown reasons. “They’re planning something, all right.”
“Isn’t that the usual way?” Kurt sniffed. “We hunt the rest of the weak ones down. And then we have to all end each other one way or another. We all knew we were dead the moment we set foot into this place. …it’s what Career districts are for, aren’t they? That’s what we’re for? For the glory of our districts?” Kurt spat the last sentence out as though it was poisoned.
“So it seems…” Blaine sounded distant, as though he didn’t believe it. His eyes met that of the twins again. He wondered if it was true—the rebellion, and that it was all because of those strange twosome who bent the Capitol rules.
Kurt was going to look to where Blaine was gazing when his eyes did a double take to the camouflage area. He was certain he saw a whole side of a boulder move. His eyes widened when he realized that what he was looking at wasn’t even a boulder at all—it was Reed, blended perfectly into the rock.
The small tribute of District 8 saw him staring at him, and smiled faintly. Kurt’s lips curled to a small smirk. Maybe not so helpless after all.