Title: Walk With Me
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Against all odds, Merlin survived – but it turns out the Games don’t end when you leave the Arena. Hunger Games AU.
Warnings: Mentions of character death and non-con
Word Count: 808
Prompt: #46 Fire
Author's Notes: Three things! One, this is unbeta’d and kind of angsty. Two, the title if borrowed from Twin Peaks. And three – a proper Hunger Games AU is something I always wanted to write but never had the time. Hope you enjoy!
It’s about time you met your sponsor. And yes. You’ll probably have to sleep with him.
The words burned in Merlin’s memory, even as he stood in front of a mirror in his lovely Capitol suite, playing around with the cufflinks. And what a glorious masterpiece they were, shaped like tiny golden flames. The fidgeting nearly caused them to fall off – or perhaps this is what he was hoping for, since that would mean a delay.
Alas, no. His clothing was immaculate, his hair was styled perfectly and his face was smudged with a tiny amount of make-up. He breathed in and stood straighter. Prouder. Like a winner would.
This is important. You owe him a lot.
The ride was short and uneventful, especially since they never let him out of the tiny, confined space of the car. They seldom let him out anywhere these days.
To say that they were unhappy with him would be an understatement. Merlin – via a combination of clever engineering, unassuming personality and yes, a few extremely well-placed gifts – managed to blow up the force field around the Arena and then stayed shamelessly, stubbornly alive, despite the Gamemakers’ best efforts.
He remembered anger. He had been so very, very angry back then – felt trapped under the artificial sky and the artificial rain, hunted down and half-starved as he was – that he wanted to do something, anything to liberate himself. From confinement, not from death that is. He felt that everything inside him was on fire and only seeing the blue sky, open and real, would quench the flames.
Merlin Emrys, District Three. Victor of the 71th Hunger Games.
“You looked younger on TV,” was the first thing his sponsor said to him, a touch of reproach to his voice.
He wasn’t what Merlin had expected. Handsome, young – had that air of charisma around him that made people stop and listen. Yet his persona was nothing like the casual flamboyance of the Capitol, seeming earnest and simple and natural.
“Sorry to disappoint,” said Merlin, trying to force a warmer note into his voice. Was this guy a paedophile, or what? Or is that what passed for normal here?
“No, don’t be,” the guy said. “It’s better that way.”
“Clears your conscience, doesn’t it?” Merlin said before he could stop himself.
The guy paused. He had bright blue eyes, a strong jawline and blond hair that gleamed softly in the light. They were standing in the living room of his apartment, the large glass windows giving a nice view of the Capitol.
“You should really be more careful than that,” he said, matter-of-factly.
“No reason,” Merlin said.
How could he explain that? He was completely hollow inside. Everyone – his mother, Will, Freya (sweet, kind Freya who brought him flowers after he got Reaped, who promised to greet him when he got back) – was dead. The Capitol saw to that. And made sure that he knew.
We need you. People will rise up and fight, but we need something to set them off. A spark, if you will.
But he couldn’t become that. There was nothing inside him left to burn.
He tried to explain it to his sponsor – Arthur, Arthur Pendragon. Arthur didn’t want to sleep with him, it seemed, but rather to place him as the shiny beacon of Revolution.
Merlin didn’t even know there was a Revolution. It seemed like something bored Capitol citizens would do. He couldn’t imagine the District people, whose hatred burned bright but didn’t really go anywhere, planning anything like that. How could they, when Capitol controlled every means of communication, kept them starving so they couldn’t focus on anything except the next meal?
Merlin had as much food as he wanted now and more, and plenty of electronic gadgets to tinker with to fill his time. By District standards he lived in luxury. Still it was nothing compared to what Arthur had. And it made no sense, because Merlin could remember being poor and yet out of the two of them, it was Arthur who was passionate about the cause.
At first he hated that about him. At first he hated everything about Arthur. But maybe what this nation needed was some childish idealism.
We only need one spark for the flames to spread.
“You’re sure about this?” Merlin said.
“I’m very, very sure,” Arthur wasn’t meeting his eyes but his hand wrapped around Merlin’s and squeezed. The contact didn’t last long – couple of seconds at most. They had been closer during public events, trying to keep up the pretence of being lovers. But this felt different. Warm.
His skin was still tingling moments after Arthur let go.
Arthur burned brightly, like the sun. Merlin could do little more than reflect the light. And, in a perfect world, maybe that would be enough.