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TW: hard to dance w/ a devil on your bac

kath_synecdoche in synecdochewords

A Falling Out

Title: A Falling Out
Series: Little Poplin Paylor, President of Panem
Author: kath_synecdoche
Characters: Poplin Paylor, Tuck Wefts, Eddie Paylor, Ray Paylor, Seam Paylor, Connie
Rating: M
Warnings: Violence, gore, implied sexual situations, death.
Summary: With Tuck leading the rebel movement, things become strained between him and Poplin. And then something happens that ends their friendship for good.
A/N: Beta'd by penelopemuse.



It had been a long year already, for the both of them. Communicating across the districts was a challenge, but they had done it just the same. And it had cost them, because the rebellion failed. The rebellion failed, and six people had been marched onto the stage while the whole of Eight watched, and had bullets blown through their brains in warning.

Tuck blamed himself for it. And Poplin refused to think about how her mother had looked up on that stage, made a martyr of for the cause. It hurt too much, and they couldn't lean on each other the way they always had before. It wasn't working, and they were falling apart.

So Poplin leaned on Skein, and Tuck leaned on Connie.

So it wasn't entirely a surprise when one day, while at Tuck's house, he broke the news while they sat curled up on opposite ends of his couch. "Poplin, listen to me. You know I love you like a sister and I don't want to hurt you. But I can't keep doing this."

Tears sprung to the corners of Poplin's eyes unbidden. "You really have something with her, don't you?" That was the agreement. That was always the agreement. They weren't going to be the rumour stock for the district, so when Tuck found someone, they would break it off. There was no need for - it seemed silly to call it cheating, when they weren't really together, but that's what it would be seen as by anyone else. She couldn't be mad at him for wanting it, for having a real chance of happiness. But it had been years - seven years - and Poplin had almost believed it was never going to happen.

He nodded, and pulled her close. "Poplin, Poplin, please don't cry. Please don't cry."

Poplin forced herself to take a ragged deep breath in. "You deserve to be happy," she croaked out, wincing at the sound of her own voice. "Just be careful."

"You know me, Poplin. I will."

She shook her head, corners of her mouth curling up ever so slightly into a smile. "No, you won't. You never are."

Tuck smiled a little at that, relieved that this wasn't going to be a fuss. "Well, I'll try. For you, and for Connie. It's the best I can do."

Poplin just nodded. "Do it then. Have a good life with her." She stood up, trying to hold all of her nerves together, and went to the sink. She ran a trickle of water into her hands, and splashed it over her face, washing the tears and the salt streaks on her face away for long enough for her to make it home.

She put on her smile then, and headed for the door. "I'll see you tomorrow, then. Bye Tuck."

He looked up from his folded hands to see her leave. "Bye Poplin."

She walked the two blocks home, and curled up in her too small bed in the room she still shared with Seam and cried, though she wasn't sure for what.

***

There were anti-Capitol slogans written on the Justice Building one morning, about a week before the Victory Tour, when Poplin walked through the main square to buy a little bit of bread with the little bit extra money she earned for being a supervisor. She looked at it for a moment as she crossed the square, heading from Skein's home, and the bakery, towards her own. She frowned, and a Peacekeeper glared at her, so she hurried past.

She arrived home to find a frantic Ray, Seam having already headed off to school, and her father to the factory. Something was very wrong.

"Eddie." He said, words frantic and near hysterical. "He went out last night, and he didn't come back. I was up all night waiting for him, but he didn't come. He didn't. I don't know what's happened to him!"

Poplin held him close, stroking his hair, talking him down until the words made sense. "Eddie. Eddie. Poplin, I'm scared."

"I know," she said, "I know. But you still have to go to school, and you don't want to be late, so you need to think clearly for me now. What did Eddie say he was going to do?"

"He said, he said, he had a job, and it was just for him, and" - a hiccup - "he was really excited."

"Did he say who it was for?"

"Tuck asked him special, he said."

Poplin didn't let herself explode. "Okay," she breathed out, and held Ray out by the shoulders. "Go to school, act like nothing is wrong. And go now, and run, because otherwise you'll be late. Got it?" He nodded and grabbed his bag, and ran out the front door.

Poplin nearly collapsed on the couch right then. She already knew what had happened, what had to have happened. But she didn't, she couldn't.

She walked out the door, pulling it closed hard behind her and headed for Tuck's house. She rapped on the door, and Tuck's mother answered it. "Poplin, love, come in. Tuck's a bit busy right now, but I can wake him up if it's urgent."

"It's no bother, Anita, I'll wake him myself." She headed straight for his bedroom door, ignoring his mother's protests, and went right in without so much as knocking.

It was easy to see why he didn't want to be disturbed. His sheets only half-covered him and Connie sprawled out and entangled across the bed. Her blonde curls and peach pale skin and big breasts made Connie everything that Poplin was not, but the only jealousy she felt was that they could still be so happy like this while her world flipped upside-down. She simply bent over Tuck and slapped him awake, the crack of her hand on his face easing the worst of her temper.

His response time was slow. "Wha- Poplin!" He jerked awake and upright instantly, shocked. He nudged Connie to wake her too, holding Poplin's glare. "You shouldn't be here."

"Where's Eddie?" Her voice was low and threatening, but measured in fury.

"At the factory, I assume. Why are you here?" Across the bed, Connie pulled the blankets up to cover her properly, blushing scarlet.

"Ray was up all fucking night waiting for him to get back from a mission that you sent him on, so don't give me that bullshit. You knew I'd be at Skein's, couldn't stop him from doing something stupid, so you told him to paint anti-Capitol slogans on the Justice Building. Get the message across. Well guess what, Tuck. He fucking got caught. On a bullshit fucking mission." Her voice rose to shouting. "You fucking asshole! You fucking asshole! You told me you loved me and you didn't want to hurt me. Well congratulations Tuck, you couldn't hurt me more if you fucking tried!"

She turned heel and ran out the room, Tuck calling out for her to wait, and out of his house and back towards her own.

She was still there when a Peacekeeper came to the house to summon her to the square. Everyone who had ever so much as spoken to Eddie - all of his classmates, the whole factory that he worked in, the entire neighbourhood in a five block radius - was being called to the square. It was a public whipping, but at a hundred lashes, it would surely also be a death sentence.

She arrived in the square with her chin held high, face stony with preemptive grief. No one dared to touch her, preferring to stand around her protectively with ample space for her to lash out without hurting anyone. Seam and Ray came near the end of the stream of people, and the crowd pushed them toward her. Seam clung to her side, her tears splotching darkly on Poplin's dress. Ray stood at her other side, a bundle of nerves, quaking in his boots with exhaustion and fear.

On the hastily erected stage stood a massive post, with straps tying him Eddie in at the wrists. He was stripped bare, back facing the audience so they couldn't see how he radiated defiance.

The Head Peacekeeper, hideous and scarred, took to the center of the stage. "You've all been gathered here to stand in witness to the whipping of Eddie Paylor. He stands accused of treason, for decorating the Justice Building with slanderous phrases. The punishment is one hundred lashes."

Another Peacekeeper carried the whip out from the Justice Building, and handed it to the Head. He lifted it with care, and held it out, well away from his body. And then he swung it with the ease of practice, spikes at the end of each tail biting into his flesh and ripping it out. Poplin gasped in shock.

And then the Head Peacekeeper handed the whip back to the other Peacekeeper, and he repeated the motion. Once, twice, twenty times, Poplin watched as the spikes ripped out her brother's skin and muscle and blood. Eddie didn't cry out the first time, nor the second, body tensing and withdrawing at every blow, but by the fifth, he did, a sharp, raw, scream, cut short by the next blow falling. He fell into a blubbering mess after that, calling for their mother, whimpering with the pain.

Seam buried her head into Poplin's chest, crying, her whimpers matching her brother's. Ray stood stoic beside her, which she knew too well meant nausea would follow.

He stopped on lash number thirty-two, unconscious from the blood loss, and Poplin thanked the world for at least that tiny mercy, that he would feel no more pain. But still they kept whipping him until the blood stopped pouring out, and Eddie lay dead, his body mangled and swollen and raw and red.

They had only reached 64.

Poplin stood silent and still as they dragged the body off of the stage. She didn't know where they'd take it, but she knew she'd never see it again.

The crowds began to disperse, then, the square slowly emptying out. Ray fled from her side, running to vomit in a darker alleyway, away from prying eyes. Iowa, with her sharp eyes and caring manner, followed after him.

Tuck hovered near her, regret pouring out of every pore. Poplin motioned to him, and he followed her and Seam out from the square. They walked in silence through the central part of town, where the shops all were, and into the residential area. They were ten minutes from home when Poplin spoke, voice hushed and angry.

"I'm done, Tuck. I'm not doing this any more."

He looked at her sharply. "If this has something to do with Connie..."

"It's got nothing to do with Connie and everything to do with you and Eddie. I'll fight when the time comes but right now, I can't do it any more."

"Eddie was a martyr, same as your mother."

Poplin hissed. "My mother schemed and plotted and was trying to get freedom. It wasn't adrenaline and plans not even half thought out. Eddie wasn't a martyr for the cause, he was a victim of it. And if you can't see the difference, I don't want you anywhere near my family."
"Poplin, you're not being fair."

"The world's not fucking fair, Tuck. I want nothing more to do with you."

She didn't storm off, because that would have been suspicious, but she didn't say a word the rest of the way home, and ignored Tuck when he tried.

Comments

Poplin is totally my hero. And poor Eddie... and grr, stupid Tuck.

Basically, this bit reduces me to feels and nothing but feels.
This hurt so much to write. So much.

And yeah, Tuck becoming leader of the rebels in Eight is pretty much the worst idea. He's rash and impulsive, and he doesn't use his brain. Pretty much the worst combination for a leader.