Pairing/Character(s): So far just the Humphreys
Summary: Vanessa Abrams is reaped for The Hunger Games. Here is what transpires.
Dan knows that the Humphrey children owe the Abrams family a lot. He knows that he owes them more than just their lives and when one is given the privilege of life in a world such as Panem, one remembers their debts and pays them.
But Jenny is raising her hand to volunteer and Dan, for a moment, doesn't care about debts. He feels guilty almost immediately because Jenny is volunteering her life for his best friend and its not like he wants Vanessa walking up on stage either.
Of course the most ideal situation would be if all three of their names were never called and they made it to the ripe old age of eighteen like Ruby has. But the lavender coloured hand had pulled Vanessa's name out of the glass bowl so at least one of them was headed into the arena.
Rationally, given the situation, Jenny is making the most pragmatic choice. It's the only option that pays the Humphrey debt while still allowing a chance for all three of them to survive. Because if she didn't do it, he would have. And there'd be at least one death guaranteed, his. He would have raised his hand and stood beside Vanessa on stage to be a support system, ally, and if/when need be, a willing sacrifice so she would have at least one less tribute to worry about. He would have died knowing the Abrams would take care of Jenny in exchange for his best effort of keeping their youngest daughter alive and the next year, Jenny would only have her own name in the reaping bowl to agonize over.
Instead he's left feeling confused and conflicted.
Distantly he hears Vanessa's voice fading to the back of the square. She's asking - no, screaming - for the original draw to count. But rules are rules. And Jenny stays on stage. Dan doesn't find his voice until the next time she's stands on it again.
Rules are rules.
That's what the peacekeeper said as he whipped the life out of Dan and Jenny's father.
Their mother had disappeared around 2 years prior leaving behind not only her husband and two children but also a room full of paintings. Rufus started selling the canvases, brushes, wood stripped down from the frame, and colour pigments on the streets for extra income.
(Being a musician doesn't earn much in District 6, though Dan still uses the pneumonic songs his father wrote as lullabies to remember the train routes they study in school.
Rufus is also the custodian at the lab-factories near their home but the job is not just the least glamorous occupation, mopping up a stranger's vomit also doesn't sustain 3 hungry mouths.)
Dan and Jenny would play at their father's feet before they'd be scooped up and placed in the little booth to be carted away quickly when the Peacekeepers would patrol.
It was only a matter of time before Rufus found out about The Train. Originally a sector of the tunnel systems built for older models of transportation, long since out of service, The Train was literally an underground network full of people selling and trading without the legal license to do so.
Rufus learned how to run his own Train Car and his children learned to navigate through the underground maze as they played tag in its tunnels. When he ran out of materials from the paintings, Rufus smuggled medicines that were entirely missable from the inventory room of the lab-factories at his day job.
Arlo Abrams, the apothecary vendor teamed up with the newcomer instead of viewing him as competition. Gabriella Abrams used the plants and berries that her husband foraged in the day to create syrups that would replicate the effects of the simple medicines Rufus stole. In partnering up with Rufus they were gifted with a variety of new ingredients that upgraded their stock when blended with existing recipes. They could sell less at higher prices and the Whitecoats no longer had a monopoly on the higher quality drugs that Rufus and the rest of District 12 could not get their hands on, let alone the weaker medicines he stole.
Rufus was glad to share the profits and the customers so long as he didn't have to risk stealing larger quantities. And while the ingredients he provided were illegally obtained, Rufus reserved the right to refuse any customers, especially those with saggy, yellow skin and wide eyes. It earned him the respect of many Healers who knew that enabling addicts was something the Whitecoats and Peacekeepers had no qualms about.
He was caught redhanded delivering stolen morphling the week of Jenny's 6th birthday. On his way to make the rare above ground trade to the shoemaker who had ready a small pair of leather boots in exchange for something to ease the constant ache in his wrist. The shoemaker didn't get his morphling that day and instead of a birthday present, Jenny was gifted with the status of an orphan.
The Abrams took the remaining members of the Humphrey family into their home and fed them.
Dan (and later Jenny) became a part of the network. It was a way to ensure their own daughters stayed out of the illegalities while still maintaining the business.
Dan learned how to be sneaky and quick while carrying contraband. He could whiz past any obstacle and escape anyone's grasp leaving him with most of the above ground deliveries.
Jenny was surprisingly deft at dealing morphling-lite, easily passing the item from her unsuspicious little hands to whomever Arlo instructed.
In the back of the Train Car, they chopped, ground, blended, and mixed ingredients, returning to their original recipes now that they didn't have someone to bring them Whitecoat medicines. Remedies that could slow a person's racing heart when they were high on Morphling, or increase the amount of palpitations per minute when they crashed.
But no matter how efficient and successful they were, the family was still starving to feed the extra mouths. The loss of the partnership with Rufus meant reduced prices for simple cures and needing larger quantities of foraged ingredients just to make them.
So the winter Dan turned twelve, he earned his keep by slipping his name into the reaping ball thrice more to claim Tessarae. He had stared at the meagre portion offered in exchange for the first token, knowing it would be split. And although he left the line with 3 times that amount, he found himself joining again to double the grain and oil in his hands. One for each person, no splitting.
It was the first winter he didn't fall asleep to Jenny's stomach grumbling every night and when the next one came, Gabriella gave Dan a pointed look at the dinner table while Arlo served the food - he knew what was expected of him now.
Jenny found out what he was doing when she was 11. He made her promise that she wouldn't do the same next year. Insisted that he had a deal with Gabriella and Arlo that she would be safe from the expectation should he ever die or get reaped. Vanessa found out soon after - Jenny wasn't good at hiding her emotions then - and threatened her own name into the ball to lessen the load if her parents ever made Dan do it again.
It was a nice gesture (and definitely reassuring to know that Jenny would have someone on her side if he wasn't there) but even as he nodded and promised her he wouldn't acquiesce to such a request again, Dan knew he wasn't going to let them starve. He'd just have to be more stealthy about it. Besides, after the first few times, it got easier.
He can't even fault the Abrams for it because they fed both Dan and Jenny for 4 years, free of charge, and when the time came they never asked Dan to return the favour, he just knew. Just like Jenny knew. Just like all the orphans know.
District 6 can generally be divided into three main areas. (Four if you include The Train which exists underneath it all) Or three major intersections.
Although its location is actually closer to the Capitol than it is to the middle of the district, the first intersection is nicknamed The Hub and it is considered the centre of everything. It's where all the transporters (the ones that cross into other districts) converge. The closer you are to The Hub, the better off you probably are in 6 which is why the Victor's Village is the closest residential area.
The next section is aptly named Intersection X as 4 tracks lead into it. Surrounding Intersection X are the merchants. Butchers, Bakers, Florists, Mechanics, Healers, and any other sellable trade one can think of, really. At the clear border between the Hub and Intersection X is both the Square and the Justice Building. Heading further out, the merchant stores become more sparse as the amount of lab-factories in sight grow.
Intersection O has the smallest station of the three major intersections but it is used most often. Not just because most of the routers, porters, baggage handlers, etc., are residents spattered near the outside edge of District 6 who need to use that route to get to their low paying jobs. Intersection O loops through each and every lab-factories, and while the Whitecoats who work there are employed by the Capitol, it is another source of income for the starving people of Intersection O.
Most deaths aren't caused by morphling overdoses like the other districts think. The death toll in 6 comes from desperate parents (too old to claim tesserae with children too young) offering up their services as test subjects for new medicines because if they're lucky, the Whitecoats won't hand them something lethal and they'll be able to feed their families from the income. Unfortunately, the results are a lot of parentless children with one last meal whispering the name of the drug that gave it to them.
These children know that if a family (usually one with a child of a similar age) takes them in, the adoption isn't out of generosity.
Orphans are life insurance expected to volunteer for their own kids (at best) or free labour and a delayed meal ticket claiming extra tesserae once they turn twelve (at worst) who will happily accept their role because it's better than following in their biological parents' footsteps by submitting themselves to science for some food. Unlike with tesserae there is no age limit for volunteering to become a guinea pig.
Most kids would rather risk extra slips of their name in the reaping ball in what seems like the far off future than risk being subject to the same deaths as their parents in the very near present - not all of them are so lucky.
Volunteers in District 6 are not uncommon. Jenny is just one version of that. A single dose of the full prescription.
It doesn't even occur to him until the male tribute's name echoes from the speakers that there was always a chance (4 for Jenny and 42 for him if you were to be specific) for a brother-sister duo from district 6 but now that fear will be gone. The odds have been in their favours in that regard he guesses as he watches Wes Rogers (the Florist's son) stumble out into the aisle.
Still, Dan doesn't feel the relief he normally does when his name isn't called. Instead it's the protective instinct he thinks the whole district feels when a twelve year old is reaped, only magnified tenfold because that's his baby sister on stage.
He doesn't raise his hand though. He wouldn't be so stupid as to waste Jenny's sacrifice. He knows she volunteered not just to save Vanessa but also to prevent Dan from going in with her. Raising his hand would only make Jenny want to kill him first for his idiocy once they got to the arena. He understands, just like she would've if the situations were reversed.
Debts don't exist between them. They don't save each other out of obligation.
When it's time to say goodbye he sits outside the ornate wooden door and waits his turn. This is where the loved ones sit. He's never really thought about the family members before, just the ones that go to die. He guesses it's because he never really knew someone who was actually reaped.
Jenny has though. She was interviewed once. Her classmate had made it to the final 8 and at the age of thirteen, it was a surprise to everyone so they interviewed more than just her family. They never showed Jenny's clip on air. She told the camera the same thing she told him while they were watching Elise sneak up behind the boy from district 10, stab him at the base of his spine and twist upwards, "She helped me return my library books once. I've never thought of her as someone who could kill so easily."
Vanessa walks out crying into the shoulder of her older sister. Gabriella takes his hands and thanks him, he doesn't know what for. Arlo ruffles his hair and gives him a comforting squeeze on the shoulder. And then he's alone staring at the doorknob.
The peacekeeper beside him grunts when he takes too long.
He takes a deep breath and finally goes in. Jenny looks lost like she did when she was four years old asking for their mother, six years old asking for their father, three weeks later asking why they were living in someone else's home, seven years old pointing out an extravagant dress projected in the square asking why she didn't have a dress like that, twelve years old asking if they could just not show up at the reaping.
She leaps forward to grab him and hugs as tightly as she can. Whispers into his neck, "I'm scared."
He hugs her tighter.
"I'm not scared of dying." She pulls away from the hug and steps back. "I know I can win this." They swallow nothing at the same time, his nervous, hers determined. "I'm scared that I'll come back and you'll still be the last Humphrey left in District 6."
He doesn't say anything. Can't say anything. This could very well be the last time he sees his sister alive in person. She's staring at him intently, looking for answers, and he's rendered mute.
"If I come back, it'll mean I've killed people." She takes a breath, "you'll look at me different."
And although no sound actually comes out, he mouths, "I won't."
She hugs him again, until he's ripped from her arms by a peacekeeper.