Post by d2m claudio markham [windy] on Jun 5, 2019 10:46:57 GMT -5
Ginger is doing her best, bless her heart, but it would be wonderful if she would shut up.
As she prattles on about the luxuries of the Capitol and the fans that await them, Claudio stares out the window with glazed eyes, all but ignoring both the escort and his district partner. He can't bring himself to feel bad for it, either, as he tries to wrap his head around everything that's to come, and everything that's going wrong. Already, he feels as if half of what he knows about the Games is inaccurate, and they haven't even truly started yet. It would help if someone would talk them through things, but it also seems as if they effectively have no mentors. He'd seen Julian get on the train ahead of them, but hadn't seen the man since. And with Cricket being a Gamemaker...
It's all less than ideal.
Rubbing at his face with a sigh, Dio turns from the rushing scenery to Blair, eyes flitting over her quickly before settling back on her face. He hesitates, lips popping open as he tries to think of what to say, tries to think of what to do in the face of the task before them. There's no point in commenting on the red that has tinted her eyes since he first saw her on the stage, nor the rip in his shirt or how he'd tried to run from his place beside her. Ginger's quiet prattling fades a little as she turns to grab something from the other side of the car. None of it matters anymore. There's only one thing that does.
The train is as luxurious as she’d expect – the Capitol, once again, never failing to show their superior wealth. She can only imagine how the lower district tributes would feel, stepping onto a train that’s worth more than their district’s wealth combined. She’s greeted by the escort, the same woman who had called her up to the stage, chirpy and excitable as if her job wasn’t to call the names of children who will be dead within a few weeks.
At least, one of them will, if not both. But after the stunt her district partner had pulled, attempting to run from his death, she doubts he’s got it in him to survive the Games. It’s almost pitiful. She’s not a monster; she doesn’t enjoy death, doesn’t enjoy seeing weak children perish every year, children who have done nothing to warrant such a thing happening to them. She doesn’t want to see the boy die, but she has a feeling that if he wins, it’ll be by pure luck, just like how he sits unharmed on the train with her rather than being shot down by the Peacekeepers after trying to run.
Neither of them listen to Ginger, who seems overly enthusiastic about returning to the Capitol. Is it really such a good place? As tempting as the wealth and luxury of the city is, she’s not sure she’s a fan of extravagance. Chandeliers, peculiar fashion choice, copious amounts of rich food – it seems tiring, if nothing else.
Eventually, Ginger pipes down – whether it’s because she realises no one’s listening, or because she got distracted, Blair doesn’t care to know. She can feel her district partner – Claudio, was it? – look at her, and he breaks the short moment of silence.
“So, Blair… How do we do this?”
It’s as good a question as any. Despite being raised a Career, trained to kill with the Games in mind, she’d never truly planned on being here. Training was more a distraction, some way to take out her feelings. Of course, it had started as a way to prove herself to her mother, like everything else did, but she developed a liking for it.
She wonders if her advice will have any weight if she speaks it now. This boy doesn’t know her – she doesn’t even recognise him remotely. But he asks her a question, and so she responds.
“No more running, first of all.” She doesn’t know what reason the boy had for running – it could have been cowardice, as her first thought was, or maybe there was something else. There’s no use in thinking about it, not now that he’s here. “And… I guess we have to make them like us first.”
It’s not something she’s ever been good at, but it’s somewhere to start, at the very least.
Post by d2m claudio markham [windy] on Jun 6, 2019 10:15:56 GMT -5
With a hum, Dio grabs his water glass from the table and tries to push down the embarrassment at Blair's call-out. It certainly isn't going to be the last time he hears it before the Games start, so he supposes he has to get used to it. One moment, one moment of weakness, of panic, that might follow him for the rest of his time alive, whatever that might be. The worst part is, it isn't bad advice. No more running. By the times the Games would end, Dio wouldn't find himself crowned through running alone. He'd have to have earned it.
Make them count.
It's a little easier to stamp down the unsteady feeling that the thought brings, though it lingers. For the time being, he doesn't have to think quite that far ahead. He is more than happy to push off thinking it through for as long as the Capitol would allow him.
"And... I guess we have to make them like us first."
Blair isn't wrong, but that certainly doesn't mean that Dio has to like the deception her step one promises.
After having grown up with four siblings and a host of half siblings, Dio is good at lying. You don't survive in that kind of environment without being able to throw your siblings under the Peacekeeper's truck to avoid getting in trouble for something you caused. But there, at home, it hadn't been about making people like him outright; it had been about being believable enough that they like him more than someone else. Relativity was key.
To do it on a greater scale, with his life in the balance... The idea makes his skin crawl.
His lips twitch down at the corners for a fraction of a moment, and he hopes that Blair hadn't seen it. For now, they are tucked away in their own corner of the world, traveling fast enough that he can see but a blur of the world around them, but that all changes soon. In too little time, the pair of them will be surrounded and he knows that everything will change the moment they have to start playing their parts.
It doesn't hurt to start a little early, he supposes. As much as he wants to wrap himself up in a world of ignorance, Dio knows he'll have to wear his new self with comfort. Better to start now and lose himself to it, thicken his hide enough so that when the Games start in earnest, he won't feel the like ripping through his paper-thin skin with every person he'll have to make count.
He doesn't let himself feel nauseous at the thought this time around. He can't afford it.
With a small, wry smile, Dio settles back in his seat a little more and re-centers his focus on Blair. The world outside of their train car doesn't matter, not anymore.
"There's a lot of ways to make them like us, but what to choose?" he muses, rubbing his thumb across his bottom lip. Leaning forward to rest his elbows on the table between them, he cycles through the options in his head. "The lovers, the ruthless Careers, the begrudging enemies to allies to friends? It seems hard to pinpoint what makes the Capitol tick. Hell, some of the lower districts have been making a killing in sponsorship in past years and I haven't exactly found a pattern."
To the credit of Claudio Markham, he takes her jab at his earlier fiasco surprisingly well for someone unhinged enough to attempt to run from authorities. It’s not like she blames him for wanting to run – fear, after all, is an emotion that can’t be controlled. What can be controlled, however, is the actions taken in response to the emotions, and his have already humiliated Two for the year. Considering that the twentieth anniversary of the last time a victor from Two was crowned is coming up just next year, she has a feeling that they’ll already be a laughing stock somewhere in the Capitol.
If they think they’re weak, they won’t like them. Blair knows that – they can put on the charisma, smiles and glitter and winks thrown at audience members, but it won’t mean anything if they can’t prove that they’re worth betting on. Worth taking risks for. Money flows easily through the Capitol, yet the people themselves seem to clutch quite tightly to their purses, giving only to who they think is truly worthy.
No victors for nineteen years. A boy who ran from the reaping. A stoic girl who can't make friends. No allies means little protection. Little protection means certain death.
So far, the odds are not in District Two’s favour.
She wonders if Claudio is good at making friends. He has a strange charm to him, in the way he speaks, the way he holds his own against her comment. Of course, fear shows itself in subtle ways, but even then he’s no better than her at hiding it. It would be hypocritical of her to judge him for fear, when her own eyes still ache dully from the justice building. She wonders if her father will uphold his end of the bargain, or if he’s already drowning his sorrows. There’s no way of her ever knowing what will become of him. Ignorance may be bliss, but part of her heart still feels heavy, holding hope for her father above all else.
After all, he can still save himself. Her chances of surviving these next few weeks are less than favourable, and the more she learns to accept it, the more she can focus on making the show easier for her father to watch.
No more tears. No weakness. If Dad sees that you’re suffering, he suffers too.
Claudio speaks again, this time pondering ideas on how to make the Capitol like them. She doesn’t know any better way than him, but as he sifts through the options, she notices one thing; it’s all focused around putting on a show for them. Charisma, above all else. Lovers? Ruthless careers? Why would she be someone she’s not, if she’s strong enough by herself?
“It’s not just about showing that we can put on a show,” she speaks slowly, trying to organise her thoughts as she does so. “It’s their money they’re putting on the line. If they have faith in us to succeed, they’ll help us. You could be the most charming tribute in the arena, but if you don’t know how to hold yourself in combat, you won’t convince anyone.”
Charisma. Strength. Intelligence. Strategy. Luck. She’s convinced that a mixture of those five things could increase her chances – the question is, which ones do they have?
His last point strikes her – “Hell, some of the lower districts have been making a killing in sponsorship in past years and I haven’t exactly found a pattern.”
“They had allies.”
It almost hurts to say, because out of every skill she listed, charisma is her weakest; there’s a reason she’s never had any friends she could truly connect with. She doesn’t work well with others. After all, she trained on her own, teaching herself as much as possible, rejecting help as much as possible, because what was the point of glory if she hadn’t earned it herself?
But the Games are not like the training academy. It’s real people. Real people who will have other people fighting by their side.
Post by d2m claudio markham [windy] on Jun 13, 2019 16:22:39 GMT -5
"Fair enough. So we've got to be interesting and good enough. Will the high expectations never cease?" he replies, raising an eyebrow and shooting Blair a quick teasing look. She's right, he knows. Survival isn't a one-sided die.
A sigh pushes between his lips in a quick gust at her question, though. Is he good at making friends? Claudio isn't quite sure if he knows the answer. He didn't have many, and that number became even smaller if he didn't include his siblings, half-siblings, and his half-sibling's siblings. His whole life had been centered on training, and while being likable was a skill to be honed as much as anything else, it wasn't necessarily a muscle he had exercised all that often. Mother had prioritized combat and knowledge and craftiness.
He wishes he had had more time.
"I don't think people actively dislike me, but I'll be the first to say my circle tends to be... small," he admits, sucking the inside of his cheek between his teeth and biting as he thinks. After a moment, Dio shakes his head and leans back in his seat to cross his arms over his chest. "I'm not sure we need to be good at making friends, really. We're not leaving here with them either way. We're a few Games too late for lasting relationships."
The words feel too cold, even as he tastes them and licks where they have left a sour taste on the backs of his teeth with a puckered look on his face. Despite the reality he knows they hold, they feel too callous, too clinical. He can't take them back, however, and he doesn't want to. They're true.
"I don't think it's wise to go more than surface level on that front. It'll just make things harder when it comes time for everything to fall apart."
And they will fall apart, when the time has been deemed right.
Dio rolls his head, going a little limp so his neck gives a satisfying pop. There's no surprise that he feels tense, but actively thinking about killing other people who may come to rely on him puts him a little on edge. Despite the thrum of uneasiness that settles in him, his thoughts circle back again and again that he has to make them count. He's responsible for himself, first and foremost. When it comes down to it, when the pieces start to fall into place, the allies that he may make have to mean nothing in the face of his own chances.