As the years passed and Saffron watched more and more crowns find heads to nestle against, the victor realised she had a responsibility to uphold. It felt like both a lifetime and a day ago that her tiny, sticky frame had bouldered into Mace from the copters, drenched in blood and riches. What had followed that day had been a long, hard battle - but she'd come out the end of it better. Bent, and broken in places, and mourning those that had died in her rule - but better.
A new generation of Victors sprouted, carrying her own burdens. Whether it be in bottles or bruises or bed sheets they all coped - some better than others. Rescuing Annie Morrison from the dangerous dazzle of Capitol parties was only the beginning of Saffron's duty - she knew better than anyone that one good day only made room for a dozen bad ones.
Approaching the blonde girl was easier than she had expected. Annie stood tall, proud, as expected from a Career victor. One without the knowledge that Saffron had might think Annie was coping just fine, but it takes a damaged survivor to know where to look for cracks. Be it tight lips or shaking hands or a hard swallow before speaking, the signs were all there. You just had to know where to look.
"Annie?" Saffron spoke gently, grasping the young girl's attention. "It's good to see you."
And it was. Truly. Every year Saffron waits to hear that a face she had grown to love wasn't coming back - first Klaus, then Opal, then Katelyn. The latter's return had been a shock for all the victors, for the first victor from Eleven was surely dead. Then, suddenly, she wasn't.
At least Klaus and Opal were home. Far away, but home. Alive. Not safe. None of them were safe, not ever. But alive? Saffron would settle for that.
"How have you been holding up?" she asked, casting her eyes towards Four's newest offerings.
"They look strong," she noted, hoping to make Annie feel a little better. No use bullshitting, at least Four had half a chance more over Ten of winning. "They look like fighters."
Saffron paused for a moment, letting a handful of the tributes pass them by. Call it selfish but she didn't bother remembering most of their names nowadays - surely the Capitol would remind her of their faces a thousand times between now and her journey home.
"I don't blame you if you're not," she finished, leaning into the wall of the Dining Hall once out of earshot. "Holding up, that is."
this is my kingdom come ;
“and men said that the blood of the stars flowed in her veins.”
At least, since she stopped drinking straight from the bottle.
They warned her that she was going to experience this as she went through the motions of being a victor, they didn’t didn’t tell her that she would fall hard though. Or maybe they did and she just chose to ignore it, because at the end of the day, she was only human.
Though the word human only existed in other victor’s vocabulary.
To other people, she was someone who went through hell to be where she was now.
To her district and to the capitol, she was a goddess, gracing them with her presence as she came back from driving knives and eventually as sword through tributes in order to claim the crown.
To other victors, she was human, but she also a wretch. She just happened to win the games that the capitol decided to have mercy on the tributes, and while she had no choice in the matter, some of the victors still blamed her for it.
Just like her, they were still reeling from the losses they had experienced. Except Annie could visit her losses in the flesh. The others could only see them in the Dalgaard Museum.
She didn’t blame them for their hatred.
It was the time of the reaping again, a birthday passed and the victory tour had wounded down. She wondered how Nico was going to fair against the odds, his first year of being a mentor.
Would he crack under the pressure just as Annie did? Or would he rise to the occasion.
She didn’t know.
She wouldn’t know.
She was watching as the tributes poured into the capitol, and while the noise was deafening, being on the other side of the commotion was always a different experience then being the one cheered for.
Now a days, Annie never really received praised when she walked into a room. People usually shuffled away because they knew that she either had been on the bottle, or she had been off of it. Her attitude could fluctuate at any moment, well, in the past.
Annie’s eyes averted for a moment as she heard a soft voice cut through the noise. She looked to the left and her eyes had met Saffron Lowe’s. It had been a couple months since she had her last run in with her, Saffron being her savoir from making a complete ass of herself. She hadn’t asked for the help, but she knew in that moment that Saffron was not going to leave her be.
And for that she was thankful.
”One of them told me that is was my fault for them being reaped.” She mentioned as she listening to Saffron compliment the strength of her tributes. Annie wanted to be transparent, she didn’t care whether they lived or died, but she couldn’t openly admit that right here. Not now at the least. ”I hadn’t laughed that hard in years.” Annie deflected, knowing well that someone could probably see through that amount of bull.
She would never be able to handle them the way she wanted too, because at the end of the day, these tributes were not like her.
No one could be like her.
And for that she was thankful.
Saffron asked more question that Annie wasn’t sure how to answer. For once, she was speechless.
Or maybe she never had the words in her to articulate just how she was feeling. Sure, it had been a good amount of time since she had been in her arena, but that didn’t mean that certain things flew right over her head. She couldn’t look at a butter knife without imagining blood all over it. She couldn’t look at a glass of water without thinking about Angels face laying in it, lifeless and cold. She didn’t want to think about it, she was very transparent in that notion, but she didn’t have a choice. It all flooded her mind at once, and as much as she wanted to reach for a glass of champagne, she had come so far already. She didn’t need to go back.
She had done enough drinking for a lifetime.
”I don’t know if I am ever going to be alright Saff.” she smiled softly as she tried to breath before looking back at Saff with the most convincing look she could muster.
Obviously she could see right through that, and Annie was alright with that.
She would never truly be whole again anyway.
”How long did it take for you to feel like you could get over what happened? If you don’t mind me asking that is.” Annie spoke softly, trying to ignore the noise of the area and just focus on Saffrons. If someone was willing to talk about it, then she was willing to ask.
"One of them told me that is was my fault for them being reaped."
Annie is cool, calm, collected. Saffron knows it's just a coping mechanism - even the laughter that she claimed followed the sharp words her tributes had spat at her. Some speak, and some - like Saffron - stay silent. She sees Nico Thorne slipping into a world of ghosts and she's been meaning to rescue him from that world before he becomes death, too.
Something in the back of Saffron's head tells her you can't save them all.
She blinks, Nico later. For now, Annie.
"I wouldn't take it to heart," Saffron offers, glancing at the handful of tributes scattered around the hall. Some sit together whispering. Others, alone. Saffron remembers when she sat alone, legs dangling from her seat, too short to hit the floor. Again, dining with the other victors, a child dressed in toddler clothes - then clothes far too big for her.
"It's easier to blame us than this whole thing," she says, waving a hand around to summarise the awful situation that befell any kid that stepped foot in the walls of the Training Center. "We're all mad at the same people. Sometimes it takes a while to understand we're pointin' the finger at the wrong person."
Her fist burns at the memory of slamming it into Teddy Ursa's face - now she puts a smile there instead of bruises. It took her a while to understand how to forgive, but not forget.
"I don’t know if I am ever going to be alright Saff," confesses Annie. That she understands. She nods as the girl speaks, "That's alright", she encourages - a smile. Sad, but genuine.
"How long did it take for you to feel like you could get over what happened? If you don’t mind me asking that is."
The victor has to break away from Annie's gaze for a moment to find words. They came easy to her now, but certain moments - certain things - they caught her off guard every once in a while. Telling the truth was getting easier every time she did it, so Saffron continues her trend and sighs into the air.
"Honestly? I don't think I ever got over it. I don't think I ever will. I won't lie to you, Annie."
She looks back at the girl, so young - but there are eons in her eyes, years stolen from others and locked away to erode at her mind.
"But I..." it was hard, to go back there. To think about it all. To think about them, 23 faces, their names. Young, so young. Half her own age, twice her daughter's.
"I don't think I want to. It's not fair to them all."
Ivana, Cerise, Sticky, Scout, Cassie, Ewe, Lucy-
Tiny blonde girl with the weight of the world on her shoulders, she sees Lucy in Annie. Annie in Lucy.
And it's the first time in a long time she thinks of the little girl she killed in the snow and smiles.
"But it gets easier. With time. One day you wake up and it's a little easier. But then you feel guilty. And it's not so good anymore. But eventually, one day, you wake up and..."
She pauses then, looking up to the sky through the windows.
"You understand why you wanted to live. And that it's okay to have wanted that. That it's okay to want that now. Does that make any sense?"
She wouldn’t understand why this world was like the way it was.
She knew of the Game Makers that had been assigned to the games, and it was clear that everything here was all because they were able to make it happen. Twenty-four children, double the number of victors, and the whole world watching. It was enough to make Annie sick. To make it even worse, Annie realized that one of the Game Makers this year, was a victor as well. She tried her hardest to understand that one, she really did, but seeing as this wasn’t her first time at the mantel, Annie could already assume that she was used to be excluded out of the victor circle.
It wasn’t hard to put two and two together after all.
However, she stares at her lunch like the rest of the victors had been staring at her.
She truly was the odd one out, and given that Glamour or Katelyn were not around, she knew that they were talking about her. Nico Thorne was the current victor, but Anatalia Morrisen was the victor of the most prolific games to date.
After all, she was the survivor of all the survivors.
She realized that she was staring into her gelatin before realizing that Saffron Lowe was answering her questions. ”Im not trying to let him get to me, but I don’t think I can help it at this point…” her fork pierces the gelatin and she scoops a bit in her mouth. She realizes that its lime flavored and she immediately spits it into her napkin. She wiped her mouth clean, ”There are so many that already blame me for what happened in my games.” Most victors made it very clear where they stand with Annie. At least, at first. It had been a while since she had crossed paths with most of them, but she had a feeling that those thoughts still rang through their heads. She was the one who got a chance to not have their deaths on her hands.
But they didn’t realize that she now had walking reminders of what she had done.
And that was worse than any death that would have been on her hands.
”I feel the same way Saffron.” she offered a weak smile before putting down her fork and pulling a glass of water to her lips. The sensation was enough to bring her back home just for a moment. She wished she didn’t have to be here, but alas, she was.
”I feel like it would be better if the world could forget about my games, but that will never happen, not after they decided to give all those children a second chance at life. Im sure I will go down in the books as the most infamous victor next to you know…” she paused for a second before looking up towards the ceiling. ”… Cricket.” She sighed before pushing her tray away lightly. She was very close to losing her appetite.
And then Saffron started to go on about how it doesn’t get easier at first, but eventually Annie will get over it. ”I just wonder if anyone will forgive me. The ones who were in the arena with me, the victors who think I got the best deal of all the games, the people who think I’m wrong for wanting to just live my life…” Annie frowned, ”…The ones that think I’m just a monster.” Annie was blunt in her words, because she knew what others were saying behind her back.
”Look at me, I am turning you into my therapist Saffron.” She chided herself for a moment before trying to think of anything else to talk about. ”Hows Mace? Will I ever get to meet him?” She offered a smile, even if it wasn’t the most sincere. She was trying to get off the topic after all.
Maybe that was the problem at the root of all of this.
Annie didn’t know how to face things head on, even after winning her games, she strayed away from confrontation.
Maybe that was what she needed to learn.
How to be a bit more confrontational with herself.