"Everyone in the living room!" Lance's mother shouted, gathering her remaining children and grandchildren into the room as she held the envelope in her hands. It was a summons, meaning someone in the family had been chosen as a tribute. For as many times it had happened, she never got used to saying goodbye to one of her children.
Lance reached up and took his mother's hand, smiling sadly. "It's going to be okay mama, I promise."
"Lance, how can you say that?" Veronica frowned, carrying her children into the room. They wouldn't take her children yet since they weren't grown, but it still made her afraid every time a letter came that she'd never see them again. "Nothing is okay here!"
"We have to open it! The collection truck will be here soon enough," Lance hissed back at her, crossing his arms. "Besides, it's probably me anyway. You have your kids and mama is classified as a caretaker, so she's probably safe."
"Having kids doesn't save me! My best friend got picked three weeks ago and she had a two-year-old!"
"Would you stop arguing? Just for now, please? Get along during the time we have, as a family." Their mother sighed and sat down on the dingy couch, still clutching the letter. "Lance, you open it. I can't do this now."
Lance took the letter. "Yes, mama. Can I get you anything?"
"Just tell me which part of my heart has to break today, thank you."
"Mama, I-" Lance stopped himself from trying to comfort her. It was no use at this point; She would either lose one more of her children or say goodbye to both of them forever. It was hardly a good day for any of them. He opened the letter, ignoring the official seals and print, just flipping to the second page and finding the name there.
It was a minute or two before Veronica broke the silence. "It's you, isn't it?"
Lance nodded, letting the papers drop to the ground. "Yeah. Vern, I-"
"Nope, no apologies. I'm sorry Lance, for everything." She reached forward, wrapping her brother into a hug, quickly joined by their mother who was already sobbing.
"Lance! My baby, I-"
"It's going to be okay mama!" Lance cut her off, hugging her tighter. "No tears for me, okay?"
"I cannot help it, Lance. I love you, I don't want to say goodbye."
Veronica nodded, glancing down at her kids' forlorn faces. "None of us do, Mama," She sighed, "Darlings, give your uncle a hug. He's... He's going away for a while."
X X X X X X X X X X
The first thing that happened when Lance entered the processing building was he was stripped of his clothes, everything he had neatly packaged to be sent back to his family. A quick and thorough shower along with every other tribute was next, followed by an examination. The 'doctors' weren't shy about touching him how they wanted or asking him heavily personal questions. He was going to be dead within a few days anyway, so he supposed it didn't matter. He was tagged through one ear and shoved into a room with about a hundred other people sitting on pallets on the floor.
Hell of a way to go out.
Food, once it was delivered, was weird marshmallow things that tasted like chemicals, but the texture was nice at least. Then they waited.
A few hours into sitting around and being too terrified to talk to anyone around them, someone's tag number was called. Lance's didn't recognize her, but he couldn't recognize much now. What the hell was in those marshmallows? Everything felt dizzy and faces were blurred. More numbers were called and more people were dragged away. He tried his best to memorize his own number. 156. 156.
Oh, that was him, wasn't it? Lance stumbled to his feet before they could drag him out and followed them out into another room before finally the drugs worked through his system completely and he collapsed.
Waking up to the sound of a door opening and all he could think of was the heat flowing through his body. He didn't care that he was restrained or that he couldn't see anything, just the craving for warmth and touch and-
"Name?" A hungry voice demanded, the door closing with a thud. Fuck, they smelled incredible.
Lance gasped, trying not to whimper, "Lance," A whimper escaped his throat anyway, "Sir."