There For You
You all know the story of how the 75th Hunger Games came about. The tributes were reaped from the surviving winners of each District. But what if Katniss Everdeen wasn't the only girl winner for District 12? What if the star-crossed lovers never re-entered the arena at all?
I do not own Suzanne Collin's characters at all, I'm not trying to steal her work.
Thanks for reading! :D
For the safety of my family.
I forced myself to run faster past the trees that hung over me with dark speckled leaves, to find Tye faster.
I had just come home from the mines hardly two minutes ago, and Dad had told me that Tye was going to talk to his "friends".
And even if Dad may not know what that meant, I most certainly did. I've made it my business to know what that meant for at least four years now.
And it meant that Tye was in deep shit.
"Guys, come on, please!" I heard my brother's voice ring out to the right of me, right behind where the Hob used to be before it was burned down a few months ago. "I told you, I can get you the money in two days' time!"
I made a sharp right, crashing through the last clump of trees and into the back alley behind the now dark and ashy pile of rubble, making everyone's eyes jump to me.
I pulled myself up to my full height of five foot one as I looked around, seeing three guys of about eighteen years of age corralling one of my sixteen-year-old brothers into a corner.
The three guys were tall, at least over six feet, and they were all built stockily with honey-blonde hair, meaning they weren't from the Seam.
I looked past them and met Tye's eyes, giving him a look that said get the hell out of here now.
Tye took my advice in an instant, dodging past the guys and I and disappearing into the woods in a flash.
"What's going on here?" I asked mildly, folding my arms over my chest and raising an eyebrow at the three guys.
"We were just having ourselves another little chat with you brother, Variance," said the one in the middle, who I recognized as Ryder Thread, the son of the new head Peacekeeper we'd had for about a month now. "And we don't appreciate you saving his scrawny little ass every time."
I smiled at him sweetly. "I guess that's just what I do."
"Shut up, Variance," Ryder snapped, glaring at me with eyes full of dark anger. "We're sick and tired of both of you getting off scott-free on everything because you and your worthless father have won the Games."
I felt anger spike through my system, but I tamped it back down again. Calm, Variance. Rational. That's you, remember? You're a mother now. You can't go picking fights all the time.
"Yeah, someone has to start paying for what we've done for your brother." Now it was Carter Thread who was speaking, the one with longer, shaggier hair.
The other guy, I'm pretty sure his name was Tanner Crawford, had come around while I was distracted and was now standing behind me while Ryder and Carter continued advancing on me.
Shit. Not now, the Capitol broadcasting is soon and I'd promised Katniss I would be there.
Of course, I had also hoped to avoid a fight at all. And I also kind of had to watch the Capitol broadcast as it was required of every citizen of Panem.
My heart began to beat faster in my chest, but I kept my face impassive and raised an eyebrow at Ryder.
"Are you sure you want to do this, boys?" I asked with a quiet, barely contained anger clearly present in my voice.
"I'm sure we want to... do this." Ryder drawled, looking me up and down with a dark look in his eyes and a smirk on his face.
Ugh. I'd nearly forgotten how awfully immature eighteen-year-old boys can be.
Already my mind was racing ahead of everything, analyzing how close the three guys were and calculating what I'd have to do to get out of this situation, just like I had to do to survive during the Games.
Just as Tanner put his hand on the skin of my back above my dirty dark grey tank top, I jammed my elbow backwards into his gut, then snapped my fist up to punch his face and then down to punch his groin.
Yeah. I play the hard way in times like this.
Tanner ducked down with a curse and I kicked backwards, knocking him onto his ass while simultaneously throwing a punch straight at Carter's face, hearing the crunch of bone under my fingers.
By the time I'd gotten to the two of them, Ryder was ready and waiting with a punch to my face that landed with a crack! and made me see stars.
I tried to shake it off and ducked under a punched thrown by Tanner, kicking out my leg to trip up Carter, who fell back on his face in a second, with a cry of pain.
The whole time I was fighting, I was thinking about nothing and everything at the same time; it was something I'd had to learn in the Hunger Games the hard way. I could think about every fighting option and at the same time my mind will become almost completely blank, not a stray thought in it.
I jumped to the side, barely missing a kick aimed for my ribs but suffering a punch to the back of my head because of that move.
I stopped Ryder's fist in midair and twisted it around until his arm was behind his back at an awkward angle. Then I punched him in the head twice before I was jerked away from behind.
My arms were wrenched behind my back roughly, and I could feel my left one pop out of its socket.
Pain flashed behind my eyes like a bright white light.
I was kicked in the back of my knees, making me drop down on the dirt road with a barely audible hiss of pain.
Either Tanner or Carter grabbed a fist full of my red hair and yanked my head back far enough to see Ryder standing up and walking back towards me, spitting a small white tooth out onto the road as he came.
"You little bitch," he snapped, stopping right in front of me and taking my chin in his hand as if to inspect my face.
I glared up at him with hatred, feeling the other boys' hands begin to roam even as they held me captive.
Get your hands off of me! I wanted to scream- though I knew it would make no difference.
Ryder smirked darkly. "Before I let the boys have their fun, you need to be taught a lesson."
"Who's teaching?" I countered bitingly, trying to wrestle my arms away from Carter and Tanner and failing. "Not you, you couldn't teach a deer why they have to run from a hunter you're so thick."
Ryder made a "oh-I'm-so-hurt" face. "Ooooh...strong words for a woman who has eight younger brothers and sisters, a worthless drunk of a father, and not to mention a husband and newborn daughter, isn't that right?"
No! The bastard! I fought at my captors even harder, my teeth bared in anger and frustration when I found I couldn't get away. "You stay away from them! All of them, you hear me?"
"Oooh...I seem to have hit a nerve." Ryder's smirk widened and then he swung his fist back and punched me full in the face, twice. I saw stars again and I could feel blood fill the inside of my mouth.
Ryder crouched down in front of me again and I saw two of him through bleary eyes. "And you know that what you just did was wrong, don't you, Variance?"
I spat a glob of blood on his face, then smirked at him before speaking in a singsong voice. "Oops, looks like I'm going to hell."
Ryder wiped my blood off of his face with one angry swipe of his hand. He leaned close to my ear while Tanner and Carter pulled my arms back tighter, making me wince. "By the time we're done with you, there won't be a hell close enough for you to drag your sorry ass to."
We'll see about that. I smiled sweetly over gritted teeth. "As long as I get to kick your ugly ass down to hell, I don't even give a damn."
I heard a dark chuckle from Tanner as Ryder stood up and took a couple steps back, as if he was trying not to lose his temper. "That was the wrong thing to say, Abernathy. Now you're in for it."
In for it. Yeah, I know I am. Where the hell is Tye with help?
I blew a piece of red hair out of my face impatiently just before Ryder turned back around and punched me in the gut, hard.
I forced my teeth to stay shut, so instead of yelling in pain, only a grunt managed to come out of my throat.
Loud laughter rang in my ears as I felt another punch connect with my stomach, then another, and another, and another...
It went on for so long that I basically blocked out the pain or became numb, I'm not sure which one or even when.
All I could keep thinking was that I hadn't told my baby that I loved her yet today. And if this was going to happen, I wasn't sure if I would be able to.
I got to the pint that I was coughing up blood. Still I didn't cry out for help.
While Ryder punched me in the gut and face repeatedly, Tanner and Carter were kicking and punching my back and arms, even my ribs, which I'd heard a few of them snap. And still I didn't cry out for help.
I knew that if I did that, these guys would move on to those I cared about most; my family. And even though I knew that Dad and Brandon would kill me for playing the martyr, I did anyways because I cared more about the safety of my family than what the two of them thought.
I have no idea how long it actually went on for, whether it was ten minutes or an hour, but all of a sudden it just stopped.
My brain was all foggy. What...it stopped...
I was shoved to the ground after one last kick and then i could hear their footsteps leaving in the direction of town.
There was silence for a moment, in which I didn't even move, for fear of them coming back.
"Variance? Oh my God, Variance!"
I felt someone roll me over onto my back and I couldn't keep the cry of pain from escaping my lips.
That's not them, right? I thought groggily, looking up for the source of the voice.
Slowly, a face came into focus. One face...or was it two?
I shut my eyes for a second and took a deep breath.
Well, as deep a breath as one can take with several cracked ribs.
Variance, breath. Focus.
When I re-opened my eyes I was able to discern that there were in fact two people looking down at me, both guys.
The one on the right had curly dark brown hair and dark grey eyes while the one on the left had shortly cropped dark brown hair and the same grey eyes.
Behind their heads I could see that the sky had darkened considerably, the sun just touching the horizon, warning that sunset was only a few minutes away.
A voice was still shouting in my ear. "-Variance! Variance, can you hear me?"
I groaned, trying to muster the strength to sit up and failing. My head would have fallen onto the dirt road, but one of the boys caught it in his hand and supported my neck. "Yes, I can hear you, Tye." I said faintly, feeling a bit of blood bubbling over my lips, running over the already-dried blood on my chin and neck.
"Oh, thank God." Tye said, dropping his head onto my stomach and gripping my hand tightly. "You scared us half to death! I'm so sorry, Ri, I am so so so so so sorry, you have no idea-"
"Tye. Shut up." I said to my brother with more strength in my voice as his twin, Alex, helped me into a sitting position while still supporting my head with the palm of his hand. "We need to get to the house. Now."
There would be time to tend to injuries and accept apologies, but now was most certainly not that time.
Tye looked around and seemed to realize how late it was getting. He caught on quickly and helped Alex pull me to my feet.
I hissed through gritted teeth as my brothers put my arms over their shoulders, feeling and hearing my battered body's protests. It also didn't help that they were both nearly a foot taller than me, despite them being nearly nine years younger than me.
My thoughts were jumbled at that point, and went something like this:
Owowowowowowowowowowowowowowowow-stop!-owowowow-it's dark we nee to be getting home-owowowowow-what if the Peacekeepers catch us?-owowowow...
You get the idea. I was just a great big bundle of worry and pain at that moment, which wouldn't be of use to anyone.
At the first step, I had to bury my face in Alex's side to keep from shouting, biting my tongue hard enough to draw fresh blood in my mouth.
"Variance, you can do this." Alex said quietly, giving my hand a gentle squeeze. "You have to do this. Come on, one foot in front of the other, Ri, you got this."
I winced, hearing my own advice repeated back to me. Come on Variance. Nut up or shut up. Let's go.
I steeled myself and then nodded tersely. "But you two do know that we have to cross through town to get to Victor's Village, right?"
"Shit." Alex and ye swore softly as they realized that I was right.
We were in the back alleys of the Seam, near where the Hob used to be, which is on the opposite end of District 12 from Victor's Village. So we had to go through the main center of town to get there.
Which didn't used to be a problem, but ever since we'd gotten a new Head Peacekeeper by the name of Romulus Thread, the security has become more...well, more like actual security.
They have Peacekeepers roaming the streets at all times now, doubling the amount at night. And the fences are always electrified now.
Which makes District 12 like a prison to everyone who lives here. We were used to being able to come and go almost anywhere, to do as we pleased for the most part, and now we couldn't for fear of being whipped or worse, hanged.
And now my sixteen-year-old twin brothers and I had to find a way to cross town without being seen.
Because if we got caught, we would all get whipped, even me in my injured state. Thread wouldn't give a damn.
And I'll be damned before I let my brothers get hurt.
"Okay," I said quietly but firmly, even as my body ached beyond belief just because I was breathing. "Here's what we're going to do."