Fallen from Grace (Hunger Games)

68th Hunger Games


43. District Four

   “Looks like you’re on the headlines again, Em,” Conner called from the living room while Emily was in the kitchen.

    “Oh god, what does it say?” she called back, her attention on the pot of slowly simmering meat sauce.

    “Does Emily Aldair have a new lover in her life!?” he answered dramatically. “Witnesses say that the widowed district Eight victor has been seen with district Eleven’s victor, Gryffon Sauntor, winner of the 64th Hunger Games, as of late.”

   “Oh god,” she sighed and put the lid back on the pot before walking over to the living room across the way.

    “So you have a new boyfriend now?” the oldest Aldair brother teased.

    “Ew, no,” she wrinkled her nose and shook her head before she sat beside the man and looked at the Capitol news article in his hands, immediately finding some pictures of her and Gryffon Sauntor on the few days they spent the day with each other. Emily pursed her lips and scoffed at what she read. Rumors of them being a new item, poking and prodding at whether or not she had truely moved on from Liam’s death to already be with her new ‘boy toy’, as well as informing what the two were seen doing out in the open. “We’re just acquaintances. He offered to take me out of therapy and I accepted.”

   “Is this one of the victors that was giving you a hard time?” he asked as he tossed the paper toward the coffee table.

    Emily kept her lips pursed and looked away from the man. Of course she told him that she had a terrible time in the Capitol for the Games. Of course she told him about the victors she had to work with. And she knew that if she didn’t say anything, he and Scottie would notice something was wrong and poke at her to blab. “Maybe . . .”

   “Sudden change of heart?”

   She shrugged. “I don’t know. Maybe?” Or maybe hanging out with a man she had a terrible first impression of was far more appealing than talking about her feelings with someone that detested her since day one. “We’ll just have to see how it turns out in the end,” Emily shrugged again. It was only the two good days, she couldn’t be too sure there would be other good days after.

    Conner smirked at her and gave her a strong and short side hug. “Sounds like all the victors are being paired up,” he commented. “Are any of them true?”

   “Well you know me and Gryffon aren’t a thing,” she wrinkled her nose. “I’m not sure about the others. Who else did they mention?” the redhead asked and reached over for the newspaper.

    "Uuuuuh," Conner sighed and crossed his arms over his chest. "I think that guy from Four, Trace and Kella from Three?"

    "Oooooh yeah," she raised a brow as she opened up the paper. "They were uncomfortably close, I wouldn't doubt it." Her eyes fell on the newest victor, Wren, with a picture of her and Abraham going out for a walk of some sort. "And the Sevens?"

    "Yeah," he nodded. "She worked really fast."

    With her unusual good looks, it would have been strange if she didn't have a boy attached to her hip. Emily just didn't think it would be the gloomy redheaded victor from Seven. Better yet, Wren's mentor.

    Wonder what started it . . .

    There were other victors being paired together, but Emily didn't believe a majority of them. Snow wouldn't allow victors from different districts mingling together with emotional attachments. Working together was one thing, romantic relationships was something different. A large number of the Careers were paired together, of course, in their respective districts while the outside districts seemed to be the most popular in other district pairings. Either way, there had to be lies to the tabloids all for the sake of popular demands and high interest in the rich and famous.


   "You'll come to me when you get the truth from the victors, right?" Conner joked as the cat jumped onto the couch then hopped onto his shoulder.

    "If I get anything out of them," she rolled her eyes. "But sure," Emily scoffed and pushed herself off the couch. "Wake up your brother, dinner should be ready soon."

    "Yes, mom," Constantine answered, his voice mockingly low as he rolled his head and pushed off the couch after her, Biscuit just barely staying on his shoulders as he walked up the stairs. “We can always tell him we forget he’s around.”

   “I’m not starving him, Conner,” she called in a grim tone and went back into the kitchen to check on dinner.


    Emily got a call immediately during dinner. She was to leave for District Four in the early hour of the day so they could catch the sun and so they didn’t have to worry about losing any light. District Four themed attires and props were thrown at her during the photoshoot, her hair done and fixed over and over again, and moving to different locations then having the photographer’s mind changed then go back to the previous surroundings. It was an exhausting day.

    How the citizens in that district were fine running around when there was more sand than street was beyond the redhead. It was simply tiring trudging around and getting sand in her shoes and feeling heavy walking on the beach.

    She let out a sigh as she sat in some shade while everyone was on their lunch break. An apple and a water bottle being the only thing she could stomach in that hot weather. Emily took a large bite of her apple when she looked a couple yards away from the crew to a small child and, from the looks of it, their parent walking on the beach.

    Emily kept her eyes on the two figures, slowly making their way to the set. She saw the child tug at their parent, pointing toward the set out of curiosity. Before she knew it, the parent was leading the way with the kid just behind them. The closer they got, the more she noticed features. The child was a small brunette girl, hiding behind her father. Her daddy dearest was a tall beast of a man, dark hair and too well fed for a normal citizen of any district. She bet her money on him being a victor. Or very fortunate.

    The redhead looked toward the crew, and feeling a little more social toward the normal people, Emily stood up, brushed sand off her too long flowing dress, and made way to the adorable family. Nearly there, she squinted her eyes at the man with the familiar scar at the corner of his eye. “Trace?”

   Trace peered back at her, before breaking out into a grin. “Emily! I hardly recognized you under all the costume.” The little girl peered out behind his leg up at her, her eyes wide. Emily glanced down at the shy girl, making sure not to make it last more than a second and looked up at the District Four victor again. “I should’ve known the modeling gig would bring you here eventually.”

   Emily wrinkled her nose at his comment. So he knew too. Sooner or later all the mentors would comment on her new career and Emily didn’t like the thought of it whatsoever.

    The little girl tugged on Trace’s hand, her eyes still on Emily, and Trace glanced down at her before looking up at the redhead and giving her another amused smile. “Oh, Em, this is my daughter, Moriah.”

    Moriah gave Emily a bashful smile, and tucked her head into her father’s side quickly.

    Emily raised her brow at the man then looked down at Moriah. Her eyes were so big and she was painfully adorable. Far too cute to be his. The redheaded victor crouched down so she was within eye level of Moriah and lightly smiled at the girl. “Hi, Moriah. I’m Emily.” She looked back up at the man, “She’s beautiful.”

   “H . . . hi . . .” Moriah stammered in response, peeking out with a single eye. Trace nudged Moriah, and she looked up at him. He nodded at Emily with an expectant look, and Moriah mumbled, “Uh . . . um . . . thank you . . .”

    Trace patted her head, and shrugged at Emily’s comment. “She got lucky, she takes after her mom,” he joked with an easy smile. The man pushed his hand through his hair. “So how long are you shooting in Four?”

   The redhead smirked at the girl before standing up again and cracked her knuckles. “Just for today,” she sighed and looked to the crew, still talking amongst themselves and rearranging things around for the next millions of pictures to be taken. “I think I’ll be done by the time the sun sets,” the victor shrugged. “It’s just a guess.”

   Trace nodded idly, and Moriah tugged on his sleeve, urging him to bend over before whispering in his ear. Trace nudged her, nodding at Emily, and Moriah shook her head quickly, ducking behind him again, her hands squeezing his painfully tight.

    How tragically adorable.

    He rolled his eyes. “Moriah wants to know if you want to eat dinner with us before you go.” Moriah punched the back of her dad’s leg lightly with embarrassment, but the man continued with a teasing grin. “She’s helping me cook, so you know it’ll be good.”

   Emily couldn’t even make out words. Instead, she hesitated and fumbled on her words with ‘buts’ and ‘umms’. “Well . . . uh . . . maybe--sure,” she shrugged. It would be rude to say ‘no’ to an offer, and in honesty, Emily couldn’t say ‘no’ to the small child being the one to put it on the table. “I’ll stink of perfume and beach, though,” Emily wrinkled her nose.

    Trace snorted. “So does the entire district. As long as you skip the fish smell, we’ll bear it.” Moriah gave Emily a toothy smile and her father ruffled her hair. “And I don’t think she cares anyway. We don’t get company very often.”

   “Mrs. Aldair!” the photographer called for her.

    Emily pursed her lips, her eyes narrowing into a grim look and glanced over her shoulder. The victor let out a sigh and turned to the Brun family. “I’ll be there, sounds way more appealing than this,” she rolled her eyes and turned toward the set. “I’ll see you two after?” Emily waved and went back before the anal photographer could even fuss.

    For the rest of the day it had been nothing but empty stares, laying in the sand, getting into the freezing beach water, and getting soaked. The sunlight made her tired, hardly getting much sunlight in Eight proved to show how exhausting it was to be outside all day. No wonder most of the District Four was dark and tan. Emily cleaned all the makeup off of her and switched into her ‘normal’ sundress attire, light on her shoulders and easy to move around in.

    Emily combed through her tangled hair, still wet and crunchy from the sea water. After fighting her monster tangles, she rolled her eyes and pulled it up into a ponytail, not wanting to have to deal with it anymore when she picked up a figure that didn't quite fit the professional surroundings.

    Little Moriah.

    Emily lightly chuckled, picked up her bag, and walked away from the Capitolites still putting everything away in a truck toward the Four victor's daughter. Her big eyes were out searching for the victor, making her look like a curious kitten. "Surprised your daddy is okay with you being out on your own," she called as she grew closer to Moriah. "Big girl, I guess."

    Moriah nodded sheepishly, giving a shy smile. “I’m, um, eight and a half,” the child informed her proudly, albeit quietly. She was small for her age, so she was used to being mistaken for younger. “Is it . . . um i-is it okay to, um, leave?” she fidgeted, her thumbs wrestling one another.

    Nearly nine. She was so young and so was her father. Emily vaguely recalled him being seventeen when he won. That was nearly nine years ago. He was just a child too. Emily smirked and nodded at the little girl. "Yep. We just finished," she informed and looked to the houses just ahead of them, Victor Village within sight. "Lead the way," the redhead smiled down at her and shouldered her bag.

    Moriah nodded and skipped ahead in the sand, the grains flying everywhere under her feet. She pointed ahead about one hundred fifty yards away. "Tha-that's, um, our house." It was a big, hulking house, much too large for two people, but so were all of the houses in Victor Village.

    Moriah strained her eyes; ahead she could see her father cleaning the grill, fish now sitting on the plate beside it, his back to the girls.

    Emily followed behind her, obviously struggling more than the little girl walking in the sand. Moriah made it look easy while Emily felt heavy. She looked toward the house she pointed to, noticing the man outside facing away from them. It was still strange knowing he was a father. With the way he behaved in the Captiol, especially when he was with Kella, it was hard to believe he was a responsible dad.

    Even Moriah turned out just fine.

    "So what's for dinner, Brun?" she called when the two were close enough and slung her bag onto her arm, ready to toss it somewhere where no one would trip over it.

    Trace looked over his shoulder and gave her a grin. "This is Four, Em. You have three guesses, and the first two don't count." Moriah giggled, running up to her dad, and pulling back a corner of the foil to check on the fish.

    "Did you finish cutting up the fruit, Mo?" Trace asked, glancing down at her. She gave a tiny gasp and shook her head, quickly darting inside to finish up, her pigtails flying. Trace chuckled at her enthusiasm, shaking his head.

    Emily rolled her eyes at the man and looked over to Moriah before she scurried back into the house. "No seriously, she's too cute to be yours," she shook her head and looked to the foil that the little one looked into. "The confident guy I remember talking to in the Capitol is not THIS," Emily continued and waved her hand at Trace.

    Suppose a majority of the victors were two faced when they were at work.

    "Well she is," Trace snorted, turning towards her with arms crossed. "The guy at the Capitol wasn't taking care of an eight year old, soooo . . . Besides, its not like you're the same there and home either, right? Hardly anyone is." Too many different circumstances. Different people. You weren’t being watched as closely, theoretically anyway. It was just easier to turn into someone else while mentoring.

    She could argue that she was the same, but she'd be lying if she did. With the Aldairs at home to calm her nerves and then suddenly be away from them, she really was different. Although, for the time being she was more talkative than the last time Brun saw her. Emily pursed her lips and popped a noise when she gave up thinking of an argument.

    "Yeah," she agreed instead and looked at the rest of the house. "Is there anything you want me to help with?" she asked when she noticed her fingers fidgeting against her lap, others doing work around her and not doing any work practically drove her mad.

    Trace shrugged, shaking his head and grabbing the plate before ambling inside, gesturing for her to follow. "Not really. I think we're just about done." At the kitchen counter, Moriah's tongue poked out as she focused, trying to chop the strawberries into even halves, a small pile of those she still had to finish sitting by. "Actually, you can help her finish up if you want."

    Emily went inside after Trace, studying the inside of the house and couldn't help but chuckle at how drastically different it looked compared to her home in Eight. She tossed her bag in the corner when she looked over to Moriah, still working on the fruit salad. The redheaded victor smiled and cracked her knuckles. "Sure thing." The girl walked around the counter to see the progress, not a lot to do but still quite a bit to do. "You mind?" Emily asked Moriah anyway.

    Moriah looked up at her but gave the older woman a small smile and the shake of a head, handing her the knife. She stepped back and pulled another one from the drawer. "Th-thank you," the young girl smiled, as she reached for another strawberry. Trace pulled cups from the cabinet and filled them at the sink, already distracted again as he set the table. Moriah carefully chopped the strawberries, careful not to cut her fingers, still trying her best to focus.

    Emily took the knife carefully from the girl, making sure not to accidentally slice her and twisted the blade away from the small girl when it was far enough way. The redhead cleaned her chosen strawberry before cutting it, peeking at Moriah beside her and herself care way of cutting up her strawberry. When she felt she was near done with her action, Emily looked back down and tossed the pieces into the bowl. "You often help your dad cook?" she asked, the silence being too weird for her.

    Moriah looked up and nodded with a small smile. “I . . . I try. I’m not very good . . .” she admitted. Trace appeared behind her and ruffled her hair, planting a light kiss on her head.

    “You’re still learning, Momo. You’re only eight-”

    “And a half,” she added, causing her father to chuckle.

    “And a half,” Trace agreed, “you have plenty of time to learn.”  Moriah nodded, pursing her lips, before hopping off her step stool and moving across the room. “Where are you-” the girl grabbed one of the frames off the table on the far wall on brought it to Emily.

    The Eight victor looked down at the picture, seeing a young woman with similar features to the little girl. “Th-this is my mom,” Moriah informed her, her face shining with a new determination. “She was a good cook, even b-better than daddy! I . . . I want to be good like mommy was.” Emily couldn't help but smile at the love from the girl's voice.

    It made Emily envious, actually. To have loving parents that she loved equally and KNOW for a fact she was loved.

    Trace shook his head and pulled the photograph back, placing it back on the table. Moriah hopped back onto the stool, and picked up her knife, smiling up at Emily. “Th-that’s why daddy said he’d h-help teach me.”

   She smiled at the girl and dumped the rest of the fruit she cut up into the bowl. "Well, I hope you surpass your dad. You already have a talent making fruit salad," she said and nodded to the bowl. "Everything looks delicious, and I'm dying to try them."

    Moriah beamed, before putting the finished cut fruit into the bowl and mixing it in. “All done!” She declared, hopping back down and scurrying towards the table where her father now sat, leaning back and watching her.

    “Looks good, Momo. Good job.” Her grin grew even wider at her father’s praise, and climbed into her chair after pushing one out from the table for Emily. Trace distributed the three fish, and passed the fruit bowl to Emily first.

    Again, Emily lightly chuckled at Moriah's smile and walked after her to the table. It was sort of weird how absolutely and perfectly normal they were. The redhead took her seat that Moriah pushed out for her and dished more of the fruit salad onto her plate. It must be normal for Four to eat fish, it was just foreign to her since fish wasn't exactly common in her district.

    Emily took a bite of the fish, genuinely bewildered by the taste and chuckled with the same amount of surprise. "Okay, if your mom's cooking is better than this, I don't think I would have been able to handle it," she fished a compliment.

    Moriah gave her a sunny smile. “I never got to try it, but um, I’m sure it was!”

   Trace gave a thin smile. “It was something alright. Glad you like the fish.” He pushed a hand through his hair. “Wasn’t sure you would. Fish isn’t exactly a staple in Eight, but it’s all we’ve got at the moment.” Ten was having shipping issues, so no beef or chicken. And he wasn’t about to do without protein.

    "It's fine, I wasn't sure I'd like it either," she chuckled. "There's a first for everything," Emily tilted her head and took another piece of fish. Fish wasn't really a favored dish in Eight, so they don't get any shippings from Four nor ask of it. "Hey, my in-law is curious about the victors and whether or not the tabloids are telling the truth about romantic relationships or something," she rolled her eyes. She even said she'd ask the others and poke fun at them. "Kella and you are on the list, is that true?" Emily asked and stabbed a piece of cut up fruit.

    Moriah giggled into her meal and Trace rolled his eyes. “Tabloids telling the truth, that’s very funny, Horwitz.”

    Again, the use of her old surname. It didn't feel as heavy as the Aldair name.

    The little girl nudged her father, a giant smile spreading across her face. Trace spared her a glance and let out a loud sigh. “But they are right about that.” Moriah broke into a bigger giggling fit, looking back up at Emily.

    Emily smiled and giggled with Moriah, it was too contagious to fight and covered her laugh behind her hand. "I figured as much. You two are cute," she added and pointed her fork at the man.

    Trace rolled his eyes and snorted. “Thanks, Em.” He took another bite and glanced up at her and allowed a small smirk to touch his lips. “But what about you and Sauntor? Where did that come from?” He doubted it was the truth, but there had to be some reason for the article.

    Emily exaggerated a gag and rolled her eyes, her expression and noise being a fair enough answer. She calmed her expression for the time being as she ate a small piece of her fruit and shrugged, "We just ran into each other and hung out a few times to get out of doing our chores." The term 'chores' being enough for anyone to cringe at. "We're just acquaintances."

    Calling Sauntor a 'friend' was a toe out of line.

    Trace raised a brow, tempted to press further, but didn’t. Prying wasn’t really his thing, never had been. The man pushed his hand through his hair and glanced at Moriah, who was munching on her food, watching Emily with a curious look. Don’t ask, don’t ask. Trace urged her silently; the girl had been fascinated with Emily’s marriage in the Games, but he was certain it was a bit of a sore spot. Moriah seemed to understand; she didn’t say anything.

    “Ran into each other? As in in the Capitol?” What was she doing in the Capitol? More photo shoot stuff? Ah, dammit, “I’m sorry,” he corrected himself, frowning. “I shouldn’t pry.”

   “Mm hm,” she nodded casually. “It’s fine. He was there for a landscaping gig and I had an agreement to follow there and then a modeling job at the end of the week.” It was a safe subject. Probably a boring one for the little one, even. Yet, she still watched her with large curious eyes. Don’t ask what the agreement was. Hopefully Trace would get what she meant and not pry about that. Knowing their guest was a basket case wouldn’t grant her any friendship points. Not that none of the victors were a little on the loopy side. Emily finished off her fish and let out a sigh while leaning back in her chair.

   Trace nodded, not pushing further. He got it, and it definitely wasn’t something he wanted to annoy her about. He reached for a second helping of fruit salad and glanced at Emily’s empty plate. “Would you like anything else? You still hungry?”

   "I'm not sure," she chuckled. "To be honest, this is the most I've eaten in a long time," Emily answered as she leaned forward to stab a piece of fruit with her fork. Still ate like a bird, even when she had infinite money to never go hungry. Yet there she was, finding one fish and a serving of a fruit salad filling. She should be starving with the amount of food she nibbled on during the day. The redhead still ate the fruit at the tip of her fork and decided she was about to explode full. "No, I think I'm pretty satisfied," Emily informed with a short smirk. "Thanks for dinner, it was really good," the redhead began as she pushed herself away from the table.

    “Glad you liked it,” Trace replied easily, finishing up his plate.

    Moriah hopped up before the woman could and took her plate and silverware, then took hers and her father’s as well. “I got it!” she chimed cheerfully, retreating to the kitchen to wash the dishes, practically skipping.

    Trace snorted in amusement and smiled after her affectionately before glancing up at Emily. “Thanks for humoring her, we don’t have company very often.”

   “I don’t see why,” she chuckled as she pushed her chair in, glancing up to the small girl washing their finished plates. “You guys are unrealistically pleasant company to be around.” It turned out there were quite a few more victors that were actually decent to be around. Some more than others. With the Brun family, they won by a landslide.

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