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Hunger is the Purest Sin

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         Would she have rather ripped that boy's throat out or been dead? Well, the scenario where she was alive, obviously.

         And for all that some of them stared a bit as they reflected on it, replaying the shocking decisive moment over in their memories, it was something all these other victors had to understand. All of them were here because of that same pulsing, primal urge- live, live, live.

And they, most of them, chose life again and again. The signs were there in Cecelia's pregnant body, Wiress' laugh, and Blight's struggle with his stuttering. After killing, a person lived.

---

         When the teeth were suggested to her, Enobaria understood that simple "no" was not an option. You could bargain with the Capitol (though never on favorable terms) and you could agree. Those were the options. Unable to think of reasonable alternative, she acquiesced to the tooth-shaping procedure and put in the request for the gold decoration herself.

         "I got tired of wearing my crown on my head and decided to wear it in my mouth," she quipped at Caesar Flickerman.

         She could smile at little boys and girls with gold-colored tinfoil wrapped around her teeth while still hating their parents.

---

         Forced to dance at the stop on her Tour in Ten, some hayseed local official stepped on the long trail of her decorative tunic and ripped it straight up the back. It wasn't showing skin that irked Enobaria- she'd been trained out of that sort of shame long ago- but the stupid indignity of it. But then Clover had ripped off her own cloak to throw around her and Dace had the offending man in a half good-natured headlock (there was a fierce glint in his eye) before even Enobaria's own mentor could respond. There was honor among victors. Possibly.

---

         Khamphan in Seven let her hold his guitar. He reached around her and gave the strings a strum.

         Someone in the Capitol had written a song about her. Both Brutus and her mentor had made valiant attempts on different occasions not to let her hear it, but there was just no getting around it. The tune was catchy. The words weren't particularly complimentary, but at least people were thinking of her as strong and ferocious and not darling and sweet like they'd seemed to have dubbed Kelvin Ison, even though, seeing his Games she'd judged him a happier killer than the average outlier (and at this point the only victor outside Two she was curious to meet, because she thought she saw rage still roiling beneath his surface the way in a parallel way to how her blood simmered within her).

         The guitar was weak and pliant, but even under her clumsy touch it made a pleasant sound. It reminded her of the boy from One she'd killed.

         It turned out Khamphan had written a song about her too. Enobaria wasn't sure it was good, but it wasn't insulting either. There weren't all that many words. Most of Khamphan's music seemed like that (it was his talent (and it seemed a sincere talent-- why was he so stupid as to let the Capitol have that from him?), so even without really caring she'd caught enough of it on air over the last three years). He was more into the plucking and strumming of his instrument than putting rhymes together. He got really into it, closing his eyes as the music picked up intensity. The three other victors in Seven (all variously scruffy men whose looks played right into that stereotyped lumberjack idea), all turned their attention toward him (and this coming on the heels of the two oldest men practically seeming to ignore her). Blight tapped his foot to the music.

         Khamphan's song didn't mention biting or blood or her teeth at all, but Enobaria could still tell it was about her. It was about stalking prey in the long grass. About black shadows and a brown girl and golden grass. He didn't try to ham-fist in any references to stone or mining or other things that colored the common perceptions of Two. There were no references to honor or glory, but neither was there any of that outer district 'ain't it a pity' twang.

         Khamphan Larch had not behaved much like Enobaria in the arena, but this was clearly the song of someone who had been in the arena. It was about the sounds and colors and feeling of hunting.

         And these men in Seven understood it. Maybe the others had listened before; had heard Khamphan practice it. What did it make them think? Did it make them remember?

         Her ponytail flipped over her shoulder as she hurried to see her mentor's reaction to the song. He had- she'd thought throughout the Tour- a rather more sympathetic feeling toward the sorry, faint-hearted outlier survivors (the killers despite themselves most seemed to be, or at least they played at being, an idea that disgusted her even more) than was necessary. Certainly more than she did.

         He was watching Khamphan's fingers intently, digging his fingers into the fabric of his pants at his knees in an unhappy gesture. "Swatch," Enobaria hissed to him, interrupting a reverie that she imagined would be better cut short. What was her mentor getting up to letting himself be sidetracked like that when he was here to focus on her? (Sometimes- and this had to be a luxury of surviving and maybe it was wrong to even think it, but- she thought she should have had a different mentor. That Brutus was already a good mentor despite being so young... There had been eight other choices than Saminpytr Swatch, but here they were)

         Swatch turned his gray eyes to her and made a funny face like 'You caught me!' but didn't speak to interfere with Khamphan's playing.

         The weird discomfort on the faces of her escort and Seven's mayor were more gratifying. Enobaria didn't have mixed feelings about them.

         When Khamphan opened his eyes again, the glass one had turned in to make him seem a little cross-eyed. He smiled at a slant like a boy she remembered who had washed out of Career training early. If someone had asked her at this very moment, she wouldn't be sure whether to answer if she liked him or hated him. Twos didn't need to make friends with Sevens to have someone who understood them. There was something raw and painful about a stranger's expression of feeling veering that close.

         Enobaria didn't clap for Khamphan, and so no one did, except her escort. Who was a complete idiot.

---

         Enobaria listened in on Swatch talking to Mags while they strolled the beach in Four. "You're not changing fast enough with the times," he said (but when did people her age ever change fast?).

         "You have better ears than I do if you can pick up what they're saying over the tide," Theo laughed.

         "Be my guest," said Song, his fellow victor and wife, reading right into Enobaria's half-playful, half-frustrated intent.

         She shoved Theo into the surf and took off running, the wet sand thrumming under her stride. The camera crew fell fast behind.

         But running wouldn't make her free.

---

         "Kelvin," Wiress explained, "Could use some soldering."

         "Loose wires," Beetee translated.

         "He's a live wire," Ios supplied an alternate take on it, idly wiping her spectacles.

         Swatch seemed to think they were hilarious, like they were a comedy act because they meant to be, not just because they were sort of weird, grappling with various levels of spaciness and intellectual distance. ...None of them seemed ashamed of who they were though, and Enobaria could respect at least that.

         Swatch had allowed her a lower dose of painkillers that day. At this point they were for dealing with ache of her tooth-altering procedure. Maybe it was a little early. Then again, with a tinge of pain hovering around the edge of her mind, Enobaria felt she judged things in a different manner. More clearly?

         For some reason, someone had arranged for more dancing. Dancing, Enobaria imagined, could be a stimulating activity if pushed toward its athletic possibilities, but when meant to make a show for the audience at home it wasn't exactly that interesting.

         The dancing in Three didn't seem to be meant to involve much touching. The three older victors just watched.

         But Kelvin Ison raised an eyebrow. "Go on, touch me," he invited.

         She tested him, griping tight to see how he'd react, but he didn't flinch. His dark eyes flared with delight. "You still hungry?" he asked and she wasn't inclined to take it as an immediate insult.

         "For what?"

         "For everything."

         With these stylist-chosen heels on she must have stood a full half a foot over Kelvin. She smoothed her gold-painted nails up the front of his slick gray suit. His fingers dipped to hold at the small of her back.

         If she hadn't been as aware of audiences as she was she would have kissed him.

 ---

         "You know, it's normal," Brutus told her, "To be or want to be friends with a couple of victors who aren't from Two. You don't have to be embarrassed about it."

         "I'm not friendly like you are," Enobaria tossed her head. Just because Khamphan wrote her song didn't mean they would be friends. Just because she wanted to drag her nails down Kelvin's back and he probably wanted it in turn didn't mean they would.

         "There isn't anybody it would hurt to have friends."

         "Swatch is my friend," she grumbled, admitting it to end this.

         "Non-mentor friends are different though."

---

         One had back to backs in the years that followed. Then there was Finnick Odair. With each new ring added to the Capitol circus, she was relegated further to the sideshow.

         Enobaria'd never done any of it for the attention.

         It was good to be a Two and have the slightest degree of control over the attention. Khamphan could buy her a beer in a quiet hole in the wall bar and they drank (almost silently) uninterrupted. Kelvin liked to be tied up and no one would know she obliged (afterward, he made her tea). Swatch took her ice skating.

---

         Enobaria didn't want to mentor. She felt frayed around the edges. She'd been wild in the arena and with each passing year there was pressure for the Careers to come out wilder. Even the outliers (fewer of them) - the Johannas and Akanes- they broke sharper than before.

         She came to Capitol for the chance to interact with the other victors.

         "I wish I could be friends with Johanna," Khamphan sighed, "But things got off on such a bad foot..."

         "I'm not friends with our newer victors in Two either," she answered, though she wasn't sure it comforted him any.

---

 

         Swatch was not to be tasked with picking back up his hammer for the Third Quarter Quell ("With that back of yours?" Lyme'd forced a laugh).

         Kelvin was not called back to cut flesh again with wires though he rose with Beetee at his mentor's name. "I'd kill for you," he insisted, but Beetee, smiling, shook his head.

         Khamphan's weak sight was so far gone even those fatalist Sevens couldn't possibly have surrendered him to another arena.

         The Quell was bullshit. But better Enobaria than someone else.

         She would live.

         The ones left would need her when she came back.

 

 

 

         ...But when she finally did, there weren't any left.