“I’ll go first,” she says, when they are six and browsing through the armoury for the first time, humming with anticipation.
(Their training begins tomorrow. They have been selected for this, bred for it, you might say, if you were crass.)
He looks up from the knife he’s carefully running his finger over. “I know.”
Her games are short. She is back in the square where she was reaped within two weeks’ time. The crown is heavy on her brow, and she has to brush it back up twice over the evening.
The parents of her opposite number are introduced to her after midnight. She brushes kisses on both cheeks of the mother, pats the father’s hand.
She does not breathe until that night, when she is alone in a great big house with everything she owns thoughtfully placed on the shelves, and she tucks her whole body under the sheets and does not sleep.
The next day she begins mentoring him for real, because for the first time she has passed through a doorway that he has not and it sits wrongly within her.
They train together like they always have, but what is different now is the time they spend sitting together (he lies between her legs, head on her chest, and she strokes his hair, mentions he should grow it out like hers.) She tells him what the training facilities look like and what to do at the Cornucopia, and even though they've heard it all before he listens to every word.
He takes up residence in her victor’s mansion; of course he does. They’re family.
She holds her breath for him as he ascends the podium, but he makes it, of course - she had no doubt, because she made it, didn’t she, and she never went anywhere he could not (would not) follow.
No one challenges her nomination as his mentor. They are a badly-kept secret.
A few people chuckle, but she pretends not to hear them.
He’s wearing glittering paint in his golden hair when he’s interviewed, and he’s cold and ambivalent but the crowd loves him. She sits backstage and watches the screen and drums her artificial nails against the bottom of her chair.
His allotted time has almost run out, but Caesar Flickerman leans towards him conspiratorially and asks what it’s like to have his sister as his mentor.
He laughs. “It’s good to have someone I know I can’t trust.”
She had wondered for a while, a whole year, actually, why she hadn’t received the same message as most of the other tributes: a handwritten note on her pillow, one that it’s said reeks of blood with a hint of rotting roses. An invitation she can’t refuse.
She stops wondering one sunny morning, when she untangles herself from her brother’s limbs for long enough to notice two matching envelopes on their bedside table.
The Capitol is glad to inform you that a citizen has requested the erotic services of yourself and your brother.
Please wait until further notice. Instructions are forthcoming.
The third Quarter Quell is announced. Two victors from each district will be reaped.
This time, she is expecting it.
Eight die at the Cornucopia. The blood refuses to wash out of her clothes.
The jungle is hot and she can’t breathe again. Her brother is next her and she wants to curl up around him, like children, like she hasn’t done since they left the Victor’s Village, but she can’t, she has to keep moving, always watching, because the jungle is alive and they are on camera.
Together with impenetrable Brutus and humourless Enobaria they prowl, and wait, and it’s not long before the bloodbath starts again. Gloss kills the madwoman from District Three with one stroke of a blade, just as agile and golden as he was at seventeen.
It strikes her violently for a moment that something is wrong with his chest and the way he’s standing, but then her back is on fire, and she’s gone, as he is, with all the gravity of two candles being blown out by the wind.
There’s a revolution, after, that they don’t get to see.
It’s alright, though. They wouldn’t have been a part of it anyway.