exile [stella oneshot] Jan 8, 2021 15:55:19 GMT -5
Post by ☾ alex on Jan 8, 2021 15:55:19 GMT -5
It’s almost a scene out of a dream — leaving the Capitol after the Games. After the carnage is gone, swept away and sparkling bright and clear, and everyone is back to their regularly scheduled programming. As if it never happened. As if it wouldn’t happen again like clockwork.
After the trains have long since left the station and Stella wordlessly watches the scenery pass her by, standing ever so often to grab a drink from the bar, her leg falling asleep as it dangles over the other, her nails bitten to the quick and clenching half-moons in her palms. Nico is always silent on rides back, his eyes closed, but a glass of whiskey never far from his hands. Arbor chooses to find a car to himself and Aranica has no doubt given Stella up as horrible company by now.
(District Twelve isn’t her home.
District Twelve is all she has.)
When she dreams, she dreams of forests and trees and greenery as far as the eye can see. Her homeland overgrown.
Her soul is covered in moss and vines, her blood flows with the strength of streams and rivers. Her lungs expand to the highest mountain in the Seam and her throat cries like the call from the loudest falcon. Her breath is laced with ash and coal dust and she will end her time right back here, in an ash coffin with no adornments. Deposited in the dirt, just like her father.
And yet, she’s left half of herself, all of her heart, waiting for her in a Penthouse in the middle of the Capitol.
It’s for the best, Ex always says. They would tire of each other, being together 24/7. Their schedules couldn’t handle it and Ex’s assistants would go mad trying to find time for something as simple as dinner. At least this way, it’s like having a vacation house, Ex says.
Yeah, a vacation house in Purgatory.
Not the stuff dreams are made of.
And still, Stella finds herself dreaming of home as she leans her head back on the plush seat. She sleeps terribly, her dreams filled with a silent Ex, a silent Nico, a silent Teddy, and the looming figures of her family hanging around the edges of her vision as they swing from rafters.
The ties that bind, that pull her back her every year seem to grow taut and frayed the longer that she does this — the longer that she acts as a guide into the underworld. A death granted, but not given, the moment a name is read out in the District Square. A second follows. She guides them. She tries to bring them back. She inevitably fails.
A jolt and she snaps her head forward, nearly smacking into the window, her heart racing in her chest. Nico’s watching her but he’s kind enough not to ask. He knows far too well the nightmares that plague her, that plague all of them. Thoughts that ricochet and break against each other when their defenses are lowered. A sigh and Stella gets up again, wordlessly refilling her tumbler with water this time.
Her right hand smarts and she unclenches it from where she had laced her fingers together, her engagement ring leaving a welt on her pinky finger. The pain wakes her up. It’s a reminder. Nothing is granted without a price, not even love.
She ignores the emotions that have taken root in her chest like unwanted weeds. Weeds she’s afraid to get rid of for fear of losing more than just feelings. Of losing herself. Of losing everything she’s built.
She makes it back to the Victor’s Mansion when the sun has already bid farewell to the world, entering a dark and dim house.
When she inhales, the dust, accumulated over weeks and months, burns in her throat. Making her way to the studio that she had installed in one of the many empty rooms, she throws open the French doors, leading to the back patio. An easel sits, dark black paint splashed across it as Stella tries, even after eight years, to make sense of the Arena. That's the trick though - you aren't supposed to make sense of it.
You enter it and you survive or you don't. And then it's over and it starts anew. Logic doesn't dictate survival. It's a winless fight.
Leaning over the banister at the dark forest, she breathes deeply, her neck and back aching. Even in the dim light, she can see that the hedges are overgrown and her bougainvillea looks like it’s on its last leg and not spiraling up the gazebo in the way she had wished it would. She would have to call someone about that. Ex would know exactly what necks to break but Ex wasn’t around and with a sigh, Stella walks back inside, slamming the doors behind her, before she sits in front of the easel, clenching her fists and her jaw and trying to get her hands to stop shake.
She fails miserably.
Exile is never chosen, only granted.