It's been what feels like eons since your sister disappeared on a train and became a spectacle for the entire fucking nation to behold, though you know that it's been less than even month. Maybe even less than a fortnight, if you're being honest with yourself. Normally, in another life, under other circumstances, you wouldn't know how to be anything other than brutally honest with yourself, honest with your emotions, or rather your lack thereof. In other lives, your twin doesn't leave you and you can go on pretending that you don't love her more than you love yourself. In other lives, you can keep on pretending that you're better than her, that you're more clever, that you're a come-again Titan with an entire world at his fingertips.
In other lives, you are James and Juliet Monaghan, and you are still one.
Instead, though, she's given her life to save your useless sister, the one that you hate yourself now for loving, the one that you will resent until your dying Ripred-damned breath. You know in the back of your head that Jules would be angry with you for feeling this way. Don't be like that, she'd say, and probably wack her palm against the back of your head.
She's the only one you ever let do that.
You've always been much more generous with your violence towards others than she ever has been, the games she's fucking gotten herself involved in are testament enough to that. When she jumped ship from those pathetic allies of hers, that skinny blonde girl taking all the kills that belonged to others of particular annoyance, you didn't know if you should spit at your screen or finally be fucking proud of her for kicking off the dead weight. The Monaghan's don't depend on others, Juliet least of all, and watching her cozy up to dead meat walking was nothing if not something to set your teeth to a grind.
You'd have been more proud if she'd slit the skinny blonde's throat in the middle of the night instead of hanging back like some kind of fucking martyr, but you're never one to look a gift horse in the mouth.
"I'm not going to beg you," she says, and there's a man two stools down who actually has the fucking audacity to laugh at your forsaken sister.
After the bar had cleared out, and after the man stumbled out the front door, you flicked out your knife and pressed it against the man's throat.
"Make a joke about my sister again and I'll take out each of your eyes and feed them to your dog," you start, and when the other man inhales, you press your blade against his neck just that much harder, drawing a clean sliver of blood. "And then, after I tie you to a chair until you're starving, I'll feed you the dog while you foam at the mouth for a taste."
If you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.
Isn't that what they used to say? The souls who thought about what it meant to even have a soul? The ones who lived before all of this—before the war and before the Dark Days and before Twelve was nothing more than a dumping ground for the rest of Panem, before Twelve was even twelve.
Before the world became what it never should have.
Before you became what the world needed you to be.
Tonight you're so angry that you could spit. It's not usually an emotion that makes you reflective, not usually the kind of things that makes you wonder about life and death and who you are and what you've become, but you're standing in an alley with your back pressed up against the brick and there's a knife in your hand. You've been getting careless lately; or, not exactly careless, but reckless, more and more so every time you have to pass by one of those fucking screens and watch something or someone try and kill your twin sister.
Every single time, you tell yourself that it doesn't feel like someone trying to kill you, that it doesn't feel like the other half of you has traveled across the god damned continent and taken a part of you with her. Stop being sentimental, she says in the back of your head. Stay on task.
You swallow, think about Noah, and taste battery acid.
What are you supposed to do when your sister is the reason your twin might die? What do you do when your sister, soft and kind and lovely as she is, takes away the one thing in the world you've ever admitted to loving?
The Peacekeepers go barrelling by the alleyway, and yet not a single muscle relaxes. Your chest heaves against Carlos's, and with every trembling breath, you feel hot anger course deeper and deeper through your bones, seep out of your blood and into your marrow until every single part of you is on fire. I killed your boyfriend Juliet, that girl had fucking spit, and Jamie had seen red, hadn't been able to think about anything except where he was going to bury his knife. Don't worry, I'll make sure you see him again. She'd had the audacity to threaten his sister, the audacity to fight Jules instead of that fucking beast that was trying to take out her ally. You don't even want to think about what would have happened if that pathetic child Jules has been looking after hadn't somehow managed to shove his javelin through that other boy's chest and shocked everyone in their alliance into a kind of standstill.
Before anyone knew what was happening, Jamie's knife had been in a Peacekeeper he forgot to buy's thigh.
For several long minutes, you stand in that alley, pressed up against Carlos uncomfortably close. There's horrible silence between the two of you, a weighted thing that gets heavier and heavier with every buzz of local foot traffic that makes its way down the dark space.
Finally, you step away, drag your eyes from him and don't so much as unclench your jaw.
He grabs your arm, and you yank it out of his grasp just as quickly, spin on your heel. The light from the street is soft on Carlos's tan face now, and if you could see yourself you'd see nothing but a shadow, backlit.
You're even darkness in the light.
"You're angry," he says.
"No," you say back quickly. "I'm fucking pissed." His lip is split open, and you can see the tear in his shirt from where one of the Keeper's comrades grabbed at him before Carlos pulled you away running out toe pub door and down the street. "Why the hell did you step in?"
"You didn't even see the blow coming," he replies, eyes hard. "There were ten guys in there, at least, all of them ready to hit you for what you did to their boy, and after the beating you took the other day—" he's breathing heavily now too, mouth a flat line. A beat passes, and then two and three. Tension sits between the two of you, thick enough to cut until Carlos finally does exactly that. "And I'm not carrying you all the way home."
Take off your blinders, you hear Jules say. You take off yours, you say back.
It pisses you off that you've been weak enough for him to notice, pisses you off that a bat to the ribs was actually enough to make a lasting impact. She's right, the Juliet in your head. You've had on blinders ever since she left, and sooner or later they're going to get you killed.
"Let's go," you say instead of an acknowledgement, adjust the lapels on your jacket and step out of the shadows. "We need to go over what you found out about Morello."