More than a Game
Logan shut his eyes tight, trying with everything he had to block out the thought of what he had just done, of another tribute he had just killed. It didn’t work. Letting out a shaky breath, he bent down to wipe the blood from his axe onto the grass, trying to look anywhere but the broken form of the girl from District 2. What was her name again? Lauren? Logan let out a groan as he heard the canon go off, finalizing what he had just done.
Anger boiled up inside him; anger that was there all along, that the games only intensified. He was furious at the Capitol and those game makers and at whoever’s idea it was to keep these damn games going when the world probably wasn’t even going to be around much longer. He was pretty sure the people who inhabited Panem were the only ones left on the planet. Not to mention that living conditions were harsh, and the population was dwindling. But instead of putting their efforts into saving the human race, they were making kids fight to the death, and making a sport out of it.
And those were only the long term problems. He was here, now, in the arena, and he was furious for what had to come next. There were only three tributes left. He was closer to winning, but there were still two others. Two other people he would have to kill and he didn’t think he was ready for that. But would he ever be?
It also didn’t help that one of the other two tributes was Julian Larson.
As the canon went off, signaling the death of yet another tribute, Julian winced visibly. Each one had hurt him like a physical blow. No, he thought, hoped. That wasn’t him. He leaned forward to run his hands nervously through his hair. Just knowing that each canon could be him, that boy from District 7, acted as a constant weight on his chest. But the worst part was, as much as he hoped the boy was alive, a small part of him wanted the opposite. Because if that canon had been for him, then they wouldn’t have to face each other later. They wouldn’t even have to think about what would happen if the situation occurred.
“Julian?” The voice of the other tribute, Adam, woke him from his thoughts, and unconsciously spread a grimace on his face. He had only aligned with the tribute from District 10 because he had seemed to take an interest in Julian, so he trusted that Adam would keep him alive, at least for a while. Also, aligning with him saved Julian from aligning with Logan, which he knew he had to avoid at all costs. Not that it was working.
“What are you doing?” Startled, Julian whipped around; the first thing he noticed being a pair of bright, blazing green eyes that looked familiar somehow. “Wh-what?”
“Look at how you’re holding that knife. It’s… wrong.” Logan told him, smirk forming on his face.
Julian blinked, and looked down at the small throwing knife he held in his hand. The two of them were among the twenty four other tributes in a large training room somewhere in the Capitol, and each of them was supposed to be practicing their skills for the upcoming games. Julian had grown fond of the idea of the throwing knives, and found that he was good with them. However, a couple of tributes from District 11 had just moved in front of the target he was aiming at, and he stood holding one in his hand, waiting. “Excuse me?” He asked the boy, the hint of a challenge evident in his voice.
“It’s dangerous to hold a weapon and forget about it. You could hurt someone,” he said plainly.
“Isn’t that the point?” Logan laughed, something that seemed so out of place, but soon Julian joined him.
It was later that night, the night before the games, and Julian had officially given up on sleep. His current bedroom made him feel trapped, and needed to be away from it. He snuck past the others on his floor, making it out to the hallway which led to a room with only two couches and an elevator shaft. He didn’t know where he wanted to go, didn’t even know if he could go anywhere, but he found himself unconsciously pressing the elevator button. It came to him within a minute, and when the doors opened he saw a flash of short blonde hair that looked as if its owner was hurrying to stand up, caught in the act of sitting in an elevator.
When the doors were completely open, Julian stood face to face with Logan, who had a look on his face like he was caught doing something wrong, but who relaxed slightly when he saw that it was only Julian who had found him. It was Julian who spoke first. “So you just decided to sit in the elevator?” The doors started to close again, but both boys stuck out their hands to stop them.
“Like you weren’t about to do the same thing,” Logan shot back. The stress was eating at him, making him jumpy and angry and he didn’t like it. Instead of answering, Julian stepped inside, and took a seat against one of the back walls of the elevator. It was made of glass, but it was so dark that anyone who happened to go by underneath them wouldn’t notice the two tributes out of their beds. Logan sighed, and followed suit, resuming his seat at the opposite wall. They sat in silence for a few minutes, the doors closing, and neither doing anything about that, or the fact that the elevator was slowing moving downwards. Logan spoke, if only to get his thoughts out and off his chest. “This sucks.”
Julian snorted. “That’s probably the biggest understatement I’ve ever heard.” He put his head back, leaning against the wall. “But it’s true.” More silence followed his words. Both wanted to start a conversation, but there was nothing to talk about, nothing that would help with the dread of what was happening in only a few hours.
Just when Julian was about to ask about the weather, the elevator stopped and was accompanied by a light signaling that they had made it to the ground floor. The doors opened, and both tributes stared out of them, before Logan stood. He made a few steps forward, before Julian whispered, “What are you doing?! They’ll catch you.”
“And do what? Throw me into an arena to fight for my life?” He had a point, and Julian rolled his eyes as he stood, following him out. Julian walked carefully, looking over his shoulder to make sure no one was watching them; he was a tribute, well recognized, and his usual strategy of walking around like he owned the place wouldn’t do him any good here. He fell in step next to the taller boy, following his lead as he walked towards the door that led outside. Julian opened his mouth to protest, but Logan smirked at him, and he shut it. What would it hurt anyway if they roamed the Capitol for a little? They might as well try to enjoy themselves. Logan put his hand on the door and pushed, surprised to find it unlocked. He was less surprised, however, when an obnoxiously loud alarm sounded, making both of them jump. They looked at each other, stunned, before Julian came to his senses. “Run!” He shouted, grabbing hold of Logan’s arm, the two of them sprinting for the elevator.
They could hear hurried footsteps as guards were close to finding them, and Logan jammed his finger onto the sensor, making the elevator doors open. Both boys rushed inside, and quickly started pressing buttons to make the doors close. They did, just as the sight of Capitol guards came into view, backs turned to them due to their attention on the front doors.
Julian and Logan sat down again, breathing heavily, not noticing for a while that they were right next to each other this time, instead of in opposite corners. And when they did notice, they didn’t do anything to change it. “You’re an idiot.” Julian said after a while, and Logan turned to face him.
“You followed me,” he said, plainly. Julian rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t help but smile. It was nice having someone who knew exactly what he were going through, instead of the pompous Capitol workers who pretended like it was an honor. They could be honest with each other, and it was relaxing.
Somehow, because of the way they had attacked the elevator buttons, it decided to take them to the very top, and then start making its way down, stopping at every floor. When it had arrived at floor seven, Logan sighed. It was getting lighter outside, and he knew he should head back to his room. He stood, and Julian unconsciously stood with him. Logan began to move towards the door, but stopped and turned back around. This would be the last time they saw each other before they were thrust into the arena, and wouldn’t have time for this. Logan put out his hand for Julian to shake it, but the other boy pushed it aside, instead doing something that even he would call unusual for him. Maybe it was the nerves, or the timing, or the lack of sleep, but Julian wrapped his arms around Logan, holding him close. He thought vaguely about how it was probably reckless of him to show weakness, but he didn’t mind. Surprised, Logan hesitated slightly before hugging back just as tight.
They heard the doors start to close again, so Logan broke apart to stop them. He held his hand on the door, looking back at Julian, nodding once before returning to his room. Julian watched him go, and dropped to sit on the floor again as the doors closed. His heart was beating like mad, and he felt his face grow warm. He wanted to hit himself for feeling this way, to make it stop, to erase those beautiful green eyes from his memory, but he couldn’t. In lack of a better phrase, things really sucked.
“What?!” He turned around, and saw Adam standing right behind him. “Sorry,” he said, embarrassed at zoning out again. “What is it?”
Adam turned and pointed to an area behind him, farther in the little shelter they had made by throwing their camouflaged tarp (Adam had killed the two tributes from District 4 just to get his hands on it. It was one of those seemingly magic inventions from the Capitol that concealed whatever was under it almost perfectly) over a couple of trees that had fallen and created a convenient niche to hide in. On an unused sweatshirt laid two cooked squirrels that the two had caught with Julian’s knives and which Adam had clearly just finished cooking.
“Not a problem.” The terseness in their conversation didn’t go unnoticed by either boys, but neither chose to do anything about it. Of course there was going to be tension; they had heard the canon. It was time for the Games to end. They were going to have to find the last tribute, or he would find them. That, and the fact that there could only be one victor, meant at least one of them was going to be dead before tomorrow.
They sat down, each taking a squirrel in his hands, and biting down. They sat in silence for a while, listening to the sound of the wind through the trees and their chewing. Finally, Adam spoke up. “Who do you think it was?” He asked, quietly.
Julian was quiet, thinking. “I think it was the girl.”
“She was stronger, but he was quicker and he had an axe, which her sword wouldn’t work well against.” Adam nodded, and the two fell into silence once again, Adam occasionally glancing at Julian only to see him looking the other way.
And once again, it was Adam who spoke first. “So what do you want to do now?”
“Wait.” Julian said, quietly.
Adam raised an eyebrow. “Uh, I don’t think that’s… shouldn’t we keep moving? There are only three of us left and the game makers will probably get us to move somehow.”
The actor shook his head, and put a finger to his lips. “No, wait. As in be quiet.” They sat in silence while he listened. Then, he said, worry clear in his voice. “I think they already have.”
It wasn’t what he heard, it was what he didn’t. The wind was gone, as was the sound of the leaves that accompanied it. That was what was special to this arena. Every once in a while, silence would settle over everything, making the only noises still audible speech and breathing. Not even footsteps made a sound. Both of them turned quickly to look at the mouth of their shelter, and gasped.
The other twist in the arena was the rain. It rained every day, but it wasn’t normal rain that would be more than welcome in the arena. It was acid rain. It was actual acid diluted somewhat with water, which burned at the touch, and more than a few tributes had died due to overexposure or drowning in it. Both boys in the tent had scars on their faces and arms, and holes in their clothes from the first time the rain had fallen, before they had found cover. And from what they could see, though it made no sound, rain was falling over them at this moment.
“We should move.” Julian said, hurriedly, and began stuffing their things back into the backpack.
“What? Are you planning to go out in that?” Adam asked, confused.
Julian nodded. “I think that’s the point. They need us to move, and this is how they’re doing it. If we don’t move now the rain will probably flood this place.” Adam shuddered visibly before jumping to his feet; but it was done in such a hurry that he was off balance, and almost fell to the side. Maybe I could take him, Julian thought, if that’s what it comes down to. Not that he wanted to kill Adam, but if he had to, and if it meant he would win… then he would try. Really, he was in a bad position, being the smallest and weakest of the tributes left. But he did have his knives, and he knew how to use them. Up until now he didn’t even think he would make it to the final three, so winning hadn’t been something on his mind. And now that it was a possibility, that he might be able to see Cameron and Clark and the rest of his cast mates—his friends—again, he was filled with a burning desire to win. He only hoped that winning didn’t have to mean killing Logan, but he didn’t think he would get that lucky.
“Come on, before it picks up!” Adam shouted at Julian, who cursed himself for zoning out yet again. He needed to stop doing that; Adam could have killed him and he wouldn’t have been prepared in the slightest. Julian stood and ran towards the exit, hesitating when he noticed that Adam had stopped. Some part of his brain registered that the other boy was letting him go first. He blinked, and his mouth fell open for a second before he caught himself and ran outside.
Julian and Adam, with their backpack and sweatshirt, respectively, held over their heads to protect them from the rain, ran from their shelter back towards the cornucopia, towards the middle of the arena. Neither bothered to gather up their tarp; what use would it be to them now, on their last day there?
Adam hissed as the rain burnt holes through his sweatshirt, landing on his hands and arms. Julian turned to look at him and his eyes widened. Shit. “Go! Come on, keep going!” He shouted at Adam, who honestly didn’t need the suggestion.
“I am!” Fueled by adrenaline and survival instinct, Adam found a burst of speed and ran ahead of Julian, whose backpack was proving a better shield. The rain began to pick up, and he ran faster still, hurdling over tree roots and plants.
Maybe it was because of the lack of sound, but what happened next, at least from Julian’s point of view, looked like something out of a movie. There was a small puddle ahead, the rain making ripples across it. Adam saw it too, so when he got to it he jumped, clearing it easily. But his landing wasn’t so successful. Julian cried out to warn him, but it was too late; his foot landed exactly in a small metal trap most likely set up by one of the other tributes to catch squirrels. It closed around his ankle, and he crashed to the ground, crying out as his face became exposed to the rain.
Adam writhed on the ground as he tried to shield his face from the rain. The actor jumped over the puddle, and took a few steps past Adam before he slowed to a stop. “Julian—help!” Adam yelled between cries of pain, and Julian knew that if he was going to do something, he needed to move quickly. He clenched his fists and teeth, trying to muster the courage to keep running, to leave his ally to die.
“Damn it!” He cursed, before turning around and running to the trap wrapped around Adam’s ankle. It was simple, and he just had to pry it apart, but it required the use of both of his hands. He grabbed at it, letting go of the backpack over his head; after only a few seconds it rolled backwards and, before Julian could catch it, fell into the puddle behind him.
He was exposed now, and the rain was hitting him full on, searing the back of his neck and quickly burning through his shirt. Tears stinging his eyes, Julian yelled as he put everything he had into pulling the trap apart. Then, miraculously, opportunely, it worked. “You’re free, go!” Julian yelled desperately as he jumped to his feet and started off in the direction they had been going, Adam close at his heels, both of them sprinting for their lives.
Julian could barely see through the pain, but he kept running, trying to keep his eyes at least slightly open so he could see where he was going, and he was sure Adam was doing the same. Both boys had they hands over their heads, but it was barely doing anything. Somewhere along the way, Julian noted that he could once again hear their footsteps, the crunch of the leaves and dirt under their feet. And he could hear the rain lighten up.
Then it was gone; they had gone as far as the game makers needed them to go, and the rain stopped. They ran a little farther just to be sure, before collapsing onto a patch of grass at the base of a large tree. Julian fell on his hands and knees, dry sobs wracking his figure, as Adam fell next to him and pulled his legs against his chest, eyes screwed shut with his hands cradling his face.
Out of breath, Julian crouched down and leaned with his hand against a tree to catch his breath. He was proud of himself; he had made it past the bloodbath at the cornucopia, and had managed to grab a black backpack and a belt that held half a dozen small throwing knives. He put it around his waist, and took out one of the knives, examining it. It was less than a foot long, but was extremely sharp, and exactly like the ones he had practiced with. He slid it back in the hilt and stood up, looking around. He knew he should probably keep moving; if he had made it here without stopping the others definitely could, too. Julian began walking, listening closely to the soft thud of his footsteps on the forest floor, careful to make sure his were the only ones he heard.
That was, until he couldn’t hear his footsteps anymore. Panic quickly came over him; he bent down to run his hands through the dirt, to see if he could maybe hear that, but he couldn’t. “Hello-o,” He said aloud, and was somewhat reassured by the fact that he had not suddenly gone completely deaf. It had to be the arena. Taking a breath to calm himself, he stood up, and almost bumped into someone who had moved and was standing right in front of him.
Julian yelled in surprise, and fell backwards, scrambling to grab a knife out of his belt and get to his feet at the same time.
“No, wait! It’s okay, I’m on your side!” Julian raised his eyebrows at that. He looked up and saw that it was the tribute from District 10, the one who, at training, had immediately told Julian he recognized him from when the actor and some others had traveled to their district to perform a series of plays. He was a big fan, he had said. A fan was good; a fan meant that he wasn’t going to kill him right away, at least in Julian’s mind. The tribute—his name was Adam, Julian remembered—offered his hand to help him up, but Julian declined it, deciding that this could all be an act, and stood up on his own. “I mean, if you want me to be,” he finished.
“You mean an alliance?” Adam nodded, almost shyly, and Julian eyed him warily. After a moment, he decided that an alliance would probably give him a better chance at survival than being on his own, so he agreed. “Okay, yeah,” Julian said, and the corners of Adam’s lips turned up. “Did you get any weapons?”
“Yes, I did!” Adam said, excitedly. He turned around and bent over to retrieve the long leather hilt that could only be covering a sword. He looked at Julian like someone who was looking to a teacher or parent for approval. Julian eyed him strangely, but decided to humor him.
“Nice! That’ll come in handy.” What was he even saying? It was barely an hour into the games and he had just said a deadly weapon would come “in handy.” “Do you know how to use it?”
Adam’s face fell a little, like he was disappointed that Julian didn’t have faith in him, but he covered it up within a second. “Yes. That’s why I grabbed it.” He tried to keep his voice calm.
“Okay, good. So… do you want to keep walking?” Julian looked around again. When Adam had verbally agreed that that was probably the best idea, he started walking again, his new ally right behind him. The sound came back within ten minutes.
As Logan walked towards the cornucopia—he figured that was where they would meet up; it was something of a formality—he couldn’t help but take his time. It wasn’t like one could hastily walk to his death. For once, he almost wished he could feel numb, that he could take away the rage and fear inside him.
He could win. He could, and he knew it. The way he saw it, he had just as much of a chance as the others, if not a better one. He just needed to keep his head, to not let anything distract him. Anything, or anyone. He could do this, he reassured himself. They wouldn’t even be the first tributes he killed, but for some reason, the thought didn’t make him feel any better.
He heard a rustling behind him, and immediately whipped around to look. There was nothing there, or at least nothing he could see. He turned back around, his ears still on guard, and kept walking. After only about thirty seconds he heard it again, and this time when he turned around he almost jumped a foot into the air.
Right behind him stood one of those awful mutts, huge flesh-eating dogs, which have become a custom part of the arena. It was huge, and was growling threateningly at Logan, staring him down like he was its next meal. This one had light, caramel colored eyes that Logan recognized, and that made him feel sick to his stomach. But he didn’t allow himself time to dwell on it; he gritted his teeth, gripped his axe and swung, taking the beast’s head off in a single motion. Its body crashed to the ground, and Logan stared for a moment, breathing heavily, trying to stop his head from spinning.
He bent down to—once again—wipe the blood from his axe. That was all it took; one swing. It was just like cutting down trees. No, it was easier than that. That was all he needed to do to win. He could take down the last two tributes just like he had taken down that dog, and he could go home.
But go home to what? A father who didn’t accept him for who he was? To Kurt, who would much rather be with anyone else? No, he would go for Michelle. She had told him to win, and he said he would try. He had to. Logan looked down and realized his hands were shaking; the rage was brewing inside of him and he was just about ready to burst. Was there even a point to holding it in?
“I hate this!” He screamed as he gripped his axe harder. He turned and started taking out on the nearest tree, hitting repeatedly towards the base. “I. Hate. Everything!” He cried out between blows, letting out everything he had. What he really wanted to do was curse out the Capitol, repeatedly, but he was still in enough of his right mind to know that they wouldn’t be against killing him before he even got a chance to face the others.
Sweat was dripping down his face, and he could feel on his hands where the axe was digging into the calloused skin. He kept swinging, connecting in the same spot each time, until he cleared his mind. When he was almost through the entire trunk, he threw his axe down, and pushed the tree the remaining way over with his hands, and sat down on the remaining stump, head in his hands. He was so tired, and it wasn’t from the tree. He wanted to sleep, to lie down and prolong whatever was going to happen, but he knew that wasn’t an option. He needed to move. The game was getting boring, and they needed to end it; the dog was a sign of that. So he stood up once again, trying to calm his breathing, and continued his walk.
Ten. Nine. Eight.
This was it. All twenty four of the tributes stood on their platforms, facing the cornucopia and trying to prepare themselves for what was to come. Many of them would be dead in the next five minutes. Logan took a deep breathe, and found himself watching the boy from District 3. He looked small in his place surrounded by the careers from districts 1, 2 and 4, and he stood wringing his hands nervously, looking around. Logan couldn’t help but feel for him, and he wished that the boy didn’t have to be here.
Seven. Six. Five.
Julian turned, and accidentally made eye contact with Logan. He pursed his lips together and tried to give a reassuring shrug, and Logan nodded back. Maybe we could make an alliance, Logan thought to himself, but almost immediately dismissed the idea. That wouldn’t be good for either of them.
Five. Four. Three.
Julian turned to him again, the look on his face being one of complete panic. “Good luck,” Logan mouthed to him, hoping to be some form of comfort. Julian nodded repeatedly, looking as if he was trying to calm himself. “You too,” he said, barely a whisper.
Two. One. Go!
Before anyone could even think about what they were doing, there was a mad dash to the cornucopia. Logan had been eyeing up a large axe, and he knew he needed it. As it turned out, he and Julian were among the first to make it there. He grabbed the axe, and saw the brunette grab a belt of knives. Good for him, he thought. Then he saw it. One of the careers, sword in hand, came up behind Julian. It wasn’t the actor’s fault; he was only grabbing the weapons. It could have been anyone.
“Duck!” Logan yelled loudly. Eyes wide, Julian quickly obeyed, and Logan hit the career across the chest. He fell to the ground, and Julian and Logan ran to the far side of the cornucopia, Julian grabbing a backpack on the way. “Watch out!” Julian called as Logan moved out of the way just as a knife soared past his head.
They made it to the other side, leaning against it, safe for no more than a minute. Julian looked at Logan, their eyes meeting again. Julian turned his head to looked at the grass, embarrassed. “Thanks,” he said quietly.
Logan smirked, almost laughing. He realized by something in the other boy’s tone that apologizing wasn’t something he did very often. “Don’t mention it.” The two of them stood there for a few more seconds, until they realized what they were doing. “Uhh…” Julian stuttered.
“Yeah.” And they exchanged a last look before running off into the woods in opposite directions.
Julian and Adam had both recovered enough to make it to a sitting position, but their skin was red and raw, and they were shaking. “Can you stand?” Julian asked Adam, whose was massaging his ankle. Julian could see that his face was deeply scarred, looking red and inflamed, and he realized that his own skin probably didn’t look too different. He was also aware that his hair smelled like something burning.
“I-I think so. Yeah.” Adam shifted, and stood gingerly, wincing a little when his shirt moved against his skin. Julian followed suit. He knew that it was far too late in the games to be counting on any more parachutes, so they would just have to make due. The pain would be stopped by the end of the day, one way or another.
“Let’s keep moving,” Julian said, not giving Adam a choice. The last thing they needed was another rain storm. It took a little while for them to get used to the stinging of fabric rubbing against their skin, but they kept walking. The back of Julian’s shirt was almost completely gone anyway.
After a while Adam spoke up, his voice quiet but clear. “You were really brave back there. Saving me.”
Julian started shaking his head almost immediately. “That wasn’t brave. I should’ve..” He broke off. He didn’t want to continue.
“You should’ve let me die?” Julian glanced at him sideways. He hoped that was a rhetorical question. Another silence passed. “But you didn’t.”
“Right.” Julian was starting to get annoyed. What did it matter anyway what had happened? It was over, the games were almost over, and he didn’t feel like talking at all right now.
“I would have done the same for you,” Adam said carefully, keeping the same tone of voice. Julian eyed him carefully. What did he mean by that? He decided to just give him the benefit of the doubt: they were hurt, and scared. He probably didn’t really know what he was saying.
“Okay. That’s nice of you.”
“No!” Adam stopped suddenly, grabbing Julian’s shoulder, right where it was burned. “Ow!” Julian cried out, but Adam ignored him. “No, you don’t understand!”
Julian shoved him off. “Alright! What the hell don’t I understand?” He was fuming, and tired, and hurt, and he just wanted to go home. He didn’t know what had gotten into Adam all of a sudden to make him lash out, and he wasn’t sure he wanted to.
Adam paused, biting his lip. Clearly, this wasn’t the way he wanted to say what he was about to. But it was now or never. He stuttered a few times, trying to figure out what to say, looking around at anything but the boy he needed to talk to. Julian figured it out less than a minute before Adam spoke, and it was like a weight had dropped in his stomach. He wasn’t happy about it. “There’s something I need to tell you, especially if we both die,” he paused for a second, but was just short of giving the other boy time to interject. “I love you.” He spoke with sincerity, but to be honest, he sounded a little insane. Julian stared, not really sure what to do. He figured it was the heat, or the rain, or just being in the games that had caused Adam to hallucinate just a little too much.
“Adam.. you—you don’t really think that, do you?” Adam’s jaw dropped, astonished. “Of course I do! And you love me back—“
“What?” Julian blinked, taking a step back. “No. No, I don’t.” He thought bitterly of what the viewers must the thinking right now. Would they maybe pity Adam? Or would they say that he was mad, and in the future speak of him jokingly as the one who fell in love?
“Yes, you do! After everything we’ve been though, of course you do! You—you saved my life back there, and you’re trying to tell me you feel nothing?” He was outraged, and kept unconsciously moving towards Julian with his words.
Julian tried to keep his voice calm; the last thing he needed was for Adam to turn on him now. He turned away and continued walking the way they had been. “I saved your life because you’re my ally. I shouldn’t have, but I did. And it wasn’t because I have feelings for you—“
Adam grabbed him again, and turned him around, making sure he was paying his utmost attention. “Yes you do!”
Julian shrugged him off once again, his voice adamant. “No, I don’t. I really don’t. And why are you bringing this up now? It’s completely pointless! Logan’s gonna find us soon, and then at least one of us is—“
“Logan?!” Adam spluttered, furious. “Since when do you call him by his name?! That’s dangerous out here—“
The actor threw his arms into the air, fuming. “You are such a hypocrite! You can’t just—“ Julian broke off, eyes widening as he looked past Adam, behind him. Adam turned around quickly to see the tribute from district seven, who had stopped walking and was watching them from the other side of a little stream. Adam looked back and forth between him and Julian, and saw that they had been watching each other. Adam’s jaw dropped as something clicked and he put that together with the look on Julian’s face.
“Him?!” He shrieked, disbelief and anger and regret all present in his voice. He yelled again, pulled his sword out, and lunged at Julian, who barely had time to step out of the way. Julian glanced at Logan one more time, before grabbing the back of Adam’s arm and shoving him to the ground. He was down for only a few seconds, and before Julian could do anything else he was back on his feet, ready to strike again.
Logan came running towards them. He had taken in the sight of Julian, clothes ripped and skin red, and had immediately felt sick to his stomach with regret. But then his eyes traveled to Adam, looking possibly worse, and his survival instincts kicked in. They were injured; he was at an advantage. He hurdled over the stream, axe in hand, and ready to join the fight.
Adam stood and managed to hit Julian in the face with the hilt of his sword, causing the actor to fall to the ground, landing on his back. He managed to roll out of the way just as Adam was about to stab at him again. As he jumped to his feet and stood facing Adam once again, Julian called out, sarcasm thick in his voice “but I thought you just said you loved me?”
Adam snarled back. “And you said that it was pointless. You were right.” He lunged forward, but once again Julian dodged him. “But I can’t let you think you love anyone else!” Julian reached to take out a knife, but Adam kicked his hand away. He went for another swipe with his sword, when Logan made it to them, shouting, “Duck!” Julian did; he dropped to the ground, and could feel the air from the axe swinging over his head. But Adam had heard the warning too, and he took a step backwards, just avoiding the blade.
Wasting no time, Julian grabbed a knife and threw it at Adam, but the other boy managed to deflect it with his sword, something even he seemed surprised at. This was definitely something the creators of the Hunger Games took pride in. Taking kids who would have never fought in hand-to-hand combat and making them do precisely that. It was nothing like the professionals, but for them, it was still terrifying.
Julian jumped to his feet, and this time when Adam sliced he ducked under it, grabbing his wrist and disarming him. The sword fell to the ground, and Julian kicked it a few feet away. However, Julian was certain that Adam was perfectly capable of killing with his bare hands, and the tribute from ten showed it right away. Wasting no time fretting over his sword, Adam pulled his hand into a fist and punched Julian’s ribcage, sending the other boy doubling over. But Julian used this to grab another knife, and came up, slashing through the air and managing to make a cut in Adam’s chest, though it wasn’t very deep, and Adam ignored it.
Logan took another swing at Adam, who, unfortunately for Logan, was much quicker that the other tributes he had killed. He side-stepped and grabbed Logan’s arm, twisting it until the latter dropped his axe. Logan recovered quickly and used his other arm to punch Adam square in the jaw. Adam flinched, but quickly came back and kicked Logan in the stomach. The two of them, without weapons, were fighting desperately, punching and kicking wherever they could manage.
Julian took a step back, knife in hand, watching. He was moving from foot to foot, trying to figure out where to stab, or throw his knife. It shouldn’t even matter who he hit, but it did. He didn’t know if he could stand the thought of Logan’s death on his conscience, so he waited, and watched. Almost to the point of forgetting he was holding a knife at all.
Suddenly, Adam gained the advantage, and shoved Logan away from him, towards where Julian stood. Logan turned, trying to regain his balance, and ended up running straight into Julian. Julian, who was holding a knife. Pain erupted in Logan’s chest as the knife pierced it, lodging between his ribs. Time seemed to slow as Julian’s eyes widened at what he had just been so careless to do.
Logan fell to his knees, coughing, still in shock. Julian had dropped his hold of the knife, horrified, the minute he realized what had happened. Logan pulled it slowly out of his chest, and let it fall to the ground now stained with his blood.
Adam stared on in shock, before regaining feeling and beginning to run for his fallen sword. But Julian saw, and he didn’t even have a chance to grab it before there was a knife lodged in his head. Julian’s hand had moved almost of its own accord, grabbing the knife out of his belt the second he saw Adam move. Adam’s body hit the ground, accompanied by the sound of a canon. A cry of anguish escaped Julian’s lips as remorse hit him like a wave, almost unbelievably, for the boy who had protected him and befriended him all this time. But he couldn’t dwell on it.
Julian hurriedly knelt next to Logan, his heart dropping when he saw the front of his shirt soaked with scarlet liquid. “I’m sorry,” he heard himself say.
Logan shook his head and his face, despite the pain, turned into an expression that was almost amusement. “Don’t be. It’s the Hunger Games.” He almost smiled, for Julian’s sake, but the pain in his chest caused him to wince.
Julian panicked, and began looking around for something, anything that could save him, but found nothing. But he wasn’t going to give up, he couldn’t give up. Tears welled in his eyes but he refused to let them fall; inside him burned a rage, but it was overpowered by something else, something that no one should ever feel in the arena. Logan took a gasping breath, and Julian was struck with a desperate thought. If he died, Logan would win, and the capitol would have to save him. He reached for another knife, but Logan seemed to know exactly what he was up to.
“No!” He grabbed Julian’s arm, stopping him. “Don’t be an idiot.” He clenched his teeth, but kept a tight hold on the actor’s arm.
Julian’s face screwed up in desperation. “I don’t want to win by accident.” His voice was hollow; he knew what happened next.
“And I’m not going to win by having you kill yourself,” Logan said plainly, his voice becoming raspy. “Please,” he added gently, when he saw the look on Julian’s face.
Julian nodded, looking into his eyes. Those blazing green eyes Julian recognized the minute he saw them in the training arena.
Julian and a cast of about eight others had been touring around the districts, something that was normally never allowed by the capitol, but they had been the exception. They were given permission to perform plays as long as they included special ones written by the Capitol about the beginning of Panem and how wonderful they were. Then they could do the other stuff.
“Why do I have the feeling that that first play wasn’t of your choosing?” Julian paused; he had been just about to enter the cast’s trailer when he heard a voice from behind him. Was this one of those fans Isabel had told him about? Or maybe a spy from the Capitol?
“What are you doing back here?” He answered, sounding annoyed. He turned around and started; he was looking into a pair of the greenest eyes he had ever seen. It sent his stomach to a weird place.
They boy kept his voice clear. “I had a question. Plus, I thought you might want these back.” The boy held up a pair of black sunglasses Julian immediately recognized as his own. He must have left them near the stage. They boy was taller than Julian, and had blonde hair that was cut short and styled back, the opposite of Julian’s which fell in dark brown bangs over his forehead. The boy smirked, tossing the glasses to Julian who caught them. He was about to put them on—it was a wonder he forgot them in the first place, since he was always wearing them—but he took another look at the boy and stopped, deciding it was bad for conversation.
“So are you going to answer my question?” The boy asked.
Julian sighed. The boy’s muscular arms and shoulders were sure signs that he was from district seven, and not from the capitol; talking to him wouldn’t hurt anything. “Because it wasn’t.” The blonde nodded, his thoughts confirmed. Julian took a step down and sat on the lowest stair. He wasn’t sure whether or not he should invite the boy to sit next to him, so he ended up just turning his attention back to him.
The boy took a step closer, lowering his voice when he spoke. “You know, the Capitol probably doesn’t like this,” he gestured to the stage a while to their left, “the plays you’re doing. They usually never allow inter-district traveling.” He seemed genuinely concerned, or maybe he was just curious.
“Yeah?” Julian muttered, not really interested. This was something often discussed and definitely greatly considered before requesting permission to tour. But they had decided it was worth it; doing what they loved was better than sitting by and letting the Capitol ruin their lives.
“I’d watch it if I were you. I wouldn’t put it past them to enter your names more times,” he said seriously.
“You think they would do that?” Julian asked, but he knew it was true. The Capitol government would go to any means to prove a point, to remind them that even though it seems like they might have been given some freedoms, it didn’t mean anything. They were in total control.
Then, randomly, the blonde boy moved and sat on the step next to Julian, causing the other boy’s breathing to hitch before he realized it. Normally, he would have come up with some arrogant, witty response to an action like this, but he didn’t. He kind of enjoyed it. “So what do you do in district seven, I mean, besides cut wood?” Julian asked, making conversation.
The boy laughed, his eyes lighting up in the growing darkness. “Cutting wood pretty much sums it up. But we do have pretty awesome parties. Every other Monday the Peacekeepers switch where they’re stationed and they don’t pay attention to what’s going on, so we take advantage of that. It’s sort of our way to keep the spirit going around here, especially since it’s something the Capitol knows nothing about. Actually, the next one is in a few days; are you still going to be around?”
The corners of Julian’s mouth twitched up when he recognized the invitation. But he frowned again when he remembered, “damn. We’re leaving tomorrow,” he said, regretfully. “They don’t let us stay too long in any of the Districts.”
Just then, they heard the call of a Peacekeeper somewhere nearby, telling someone to get inside, it was past curfew. The two boys made eye contact. “I should be going, then,” the boy from district seven said. They both stood up, and looked at each other awkwardly until Julian reached out his hand. The boy took it in his, shaking it. “Are you going to be coming back?”
Julian nodded, “We agreed on a yearly basis. So, yes. And I’ll see you then.” Not able to control his smugness, he winked, making the boy roll his eyes but smile nevertheless.
“See you next year.” The boy waved, and started to walk in the other direction. Julian was about to turn away as well, but he realized something. “Wait!”
The boy smirked, turning back. “Logan,” he called back to him. Julian smiled, and called out with his name as well. A grin spread onto his face as he turned walked back into his trailer.
But he wouldn’t have been smiling if he had known. If he could somehow have known that he would see the boy again, in less than a year, and that it would be because they were both picked to fight to the death in the Hunger Games.
Julian grabbed Logan’s hand in his own, lacing their fingers together. Somehow, Julian noticed that the sound had been turned off again, something of a slap in the face; the only thing he could hear was Logan’s ragged breathing, along with his own. Logan spoke, but it was so soft Julian had to bend down closer so he could hear it. “I really liked your play,” Logan whispered. The words were like a fist that clenched down on Julian’s heart, but he fought to remain composed, for Logan.
“I wish..” Julian found the words spilling out of his mouth, but Logan shook his head, stopping him. He glanced up towards the sky, reminding the actor that the entire continent was watching. He didn’t want him to have whatever he was about to say on him when he returned from the arena. And it wasn’t like he needed to say what he was going to, anyway. But Julian didn’t care about the Capitol, or whatever his reputation could be, or the fact that doing what he was about to would make winning that much harder. He only cared about this, about making something right. He bent forward, pressing his lips against Logan’s. Logan leaned up to reciprocate, relishing in the fact that Julian’s lips were even softer than he had imagined.
Julian laced his fingers through Logan’s hair and held him close. He felt the other boy smile beneath him, and it sent a warmth through his body. He broke apart and took one more look into those amazing green eyes before they fluttered shut, and the smile dropped from his lips as his body became limp in Julian’s arms.
This time when the canon went off, he didn’t wince. He was too numb. Far too numb, and he stared at the sky with glassy eyes, uncomprehending. He could hear the game maker’s voice echoing through the arena, but he wasn’t listening. He couldn’t listen. He didn’t want to hear what was true. Julian placed Logan’s head on the grass reverently, brushing the hair off of his forehead. He stood up, and took a step back, eyes still trained on Logan’s form as the shadow of the blimp that had come to take him away fell over them. Julian took a shuddering breath that felt as if it pierced his lungs, and looked up.
He had won the Hunger Games.