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THG: twenty ways to kill you with a knif

kath_synecdoche in synecdochewords

At What Cost

Title: At What Cost
Series: Maysilee Donner: Victor
Author: kath_synecdoche
Characters: Maysilee Donner, Johanna Mason, Finnick Odair, Mags, Peeta Mellark, Katniss Everdeen, other Victors
Rating: PG
Warnings: Talk of suicide, violence, Victor treatment. Emotional breakdown.
Summary: Maysilee's almost won it. Both Peeta and Katniss are still alive, the last two. And then Claudius Templesmith announces the rule change. The AU-version of the berry scene.
A/N: Beta'd by penelopemuse.



"All prior rule changes have been suspended," Claudius Templesmith announced to the Arena, and to the televisions across the nation. It took a minute for them all to process, and on the screen in the Mentor's room - just the one, at this point, because the two tributes weren't leaving each other - Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen exchanged confused looks as they worked it out.

Their mentor, however, had already realized exactly what it meant. Maysilee clutched the nearest handrail for support as her knees buckled. Finnick beside her wrapped his arm around her waist to hold her up. Beetee arrived on the other side of her, Johanna not far behind. The Mentor Room was suddenly bustling with activity, half of the room watching the screen intently, focused on the two tributes from District Twelve, the other half focused on Maysilee as Finnick and Beetee half-carried her to a couch before her legs gave out completely. "No, no, no, no, I was so close," she muttered frantically, tears streaming down her face. "So close. So, so close." It was almost a mantra.

Peeta and Katniss each had their weapons poised, circling each other uneasily. Neither wanted to make the first move.

Johanna sat down beside Maysilee on the couch, and some of the other Mentors - Lyme, Wiress, Cecelia, Chaff, Seeder, more, even Brutus - stood blocking her view of the screen. "Maysilee, Maysilee, come on, you need to be here now," Johanna said, squeezing her hand. "You're bringing one of them home. You've done it."

Maysilee shook her head. "No, no, I almost had them both. I could have had them both. They gave me that and then they took it again. I almost saved them both."

Johanna looked desperately to Finnick for help, and he took his turn trying to calm her. "Shh, shh, Maysilee, you've done what no one else could. You've done so much. But you can't do anything more than be there for the Victor now. And you need to do that, Maysilee. You need to."

In the Arena, Katniss looked Peeta in the eye, and said simply, "I don't want to kill you."

Peeta held her gaze and replied, "I don't want to kill you either."

They couldn't protect her from the voices in the Mentor Room, not now. The tears were still streaming unabated. "No," she whispered, "but they'll make you, they'll do it, and you'll never be able to live with yourself and you'll always wonder what might one day have been. Always, always, always."

Johanna and Finnick shared a look. The words were near enough to treason, for all that they were so very true.

Mags appeared then, with a handful of tissues, and started blotting away at Maysilee's face, cleaning it of the snot and streams of tears. "Maysie," she said tenderly, "you have saved a life. It is all you can do. It is all we can ever do. That is our part."

Maysilee sniffled, but tried to pull herself together. "But at what cost?" she whispered, low enough that just the three people who were as much of a family as she had in the Capitol could hear. "But at what cost?"

As the Mentors watched, Peeta and Katniss lowered their weapons in the same moment, dropping them to the ground. They eyed each other warily. "They still have to have their Victor," Peeta said, and Katniss nodded.

"They do." She pulled out her knife and held it hovering over her wrist. "And it should be you. You're a better person than I am."

Peeta's hand grabbed her wrist, twisting it until she dropped the knife. "No! No, Katniss, I can't let you do that. Your sister needs you. Your mother needs you."

Katniss pulled away angrily. "And your mother doesn't need you? Don't even start with me, Peeta."

"Fine, Katniss, you want the truth? I can't let you kill yourself because I love you and I'd rather die than live in a world without you." He reached for the knife, and Katniss kicked it out of reach.

"You think I'm going to let you kill yourself for me? No, no, that's not how this is going to go."

The two tributes stared each other down, looking for one of them to break resolve. Neither was willing to bend.

Tears were still streaming down Maysilee's face, but the colour was returning to her face. Mags returned to watching the stand-off on the screen, while Johanna and Finnick kept watch over Maysilee. She was shaking her head. "They're both so strong. They won't... it'll still break them. It'll still..."

"Shh, shh," Finnick whispered, rubbing her shoulder calmingly, and Johanna squeezed her hand.

Katniss reached her hand down to the pouch where she had put the nightlock berries after they had found the girl from Five, and pulled out a handful.

"No, Katniss!" Peeta stepped toward her, but she held out the hand holding the berries, and he stopped.

"Do you trust me?" she asked.

"With my life," he replied.

"Hold out your hand then" she said, and when he did, she poured a handful of berries into it, holding his gaze firmly. "On three."

Maysilee looked up sharply, glancing between Johanna and Finnick. "Is she..." Johanna nodded, and Maysilee tensed, craning to see through the Victors in front of her unsuccessfully.

"One."

Maysilee stood up, Johanna and Finnick following. "I need to see this," she said, in a tone that brokered no argument.

"Two."

She moved to the edge of the group of Victors, Finnick and Johanna still at her shoulders to support her when she needed. She grabbed each of their hands and squeezed tight.

"Three."

The pair lifted their hands to their mouths and popped the berries in. Before they could start to chew, Claudius Templesmith was shouting, "NO! Stop! Ladies and Gentlemen of Panem, presenting the two Victors of the Seventy-Fourth Annual Hunger Games, Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen!"

Maysilee's knees buckled again, but Johanna and Finnick held her up. "They did it," she murmured, so quiet that she wasn't even sure that the words were spoken. "They did it. They're both coming home." It was relief, pure and simple. She had sworn she’d bring one of them back, and she had done better. She had them both, alive. She had done something no one else had dared to do. For once she wouldn’t be trying to console parents back in District Twelve as their worlds fell apart. For once she had succeeded.

She smiled brightly for the first time in weeks as the other Mentors clapped her on the back and hugged her tight and wished her luck with the next few months. The Games were over. Now for the real challenge of preparing the newest Victors for their new lives, and the price they'd be paying for the privilege. And with a heavy feeling settling in the bottom of her stomach despite her victory, she realised that it was going to be even harder than she had ever anticipated.

Comments

Love. ♥

Seriously, I love all the tiny differences you've worked in to separate this from the books, yet make it still very recognizable. I definitely want to see more from the mentor room, now, though!
Thank you! It was way easier to do this than to make the speech match up perfectly, which I've done in other places. But Peeta and Katniss have a different dynamic in this world than in the books, and I wanted that to come through. AUs are fun like that.

There's definitely more from the Mentor Room in the works/plans, for at least three different Games. I'm dead convinced that they're all super-supportive of each other, because they're all in the same boat, and if they weren't it would just be another layer of awful.

I also like rambly comments apparently.