He has never been the one to know what kindness looked like. To be quite frank, he was told multiple times that he would never amount to the level of success that his twin brother was pushed towards. They were young, but that did not mean that his father had not expected them to be everything that he had wanted.
The arts had never been something they relished in, if he was being quite honest, he rarely noticed any artwork in their quaint home. Daniel had known that they had lived in the capitol, but it was quite apparent that his father had tried to divide the lavishness of the culture from his family. He had been a been a cold man, and Danny had always wondered what it would have been like to live another life. One that involved support and a little indulgence. It was quite clear to him that his father had no interest in it, and even in the large house they lived in. It was plain, barren almost.
One fixture that Danny had always been fixated on was the large ornate wardrobe that had been placed in his room. To be quite honest, Danny could tell that this work had been sort of special, one that had been worked meticulously. Every time he would have friends over, they would always comment about how they had never seen anything like it before. It made Danny feel sort of special, knowing that he had something unique that other children wouldn’t be able to.
You see, he had been teased mercilessly by the other for his homely appearance. It did not matter how Danny had presented, he was always told that he was behind on the times. He had never understood that turn of phrase, but his twin took it upon himself to explain to him that he stood out from the crowd in a bad way, and that just did not work in the capitol. His twin called it the look, and it was ever evolving, always changing, and to be quite clear, Danny had no interest in keeping up with it like his twin did.
It was one of the main differences they had.
However, both of them had their own skillset. His twin had been taught how to hold a chisel from a young age, his father taking time to show him the art of sculpting for the rich and famous. Danny? His hand was far more comfortable with a paintbrush. Sometimes his father questioned how he had even found one, seeing as he kept the house they had lived in plain.
Danny did have a friend while he went to school. One that had stuck by him as he was teased and taunted by all the kids that didn’t like the sight of him. He was a painter, one that Danny was in awe of. Sometimes he would find his friend after running off from a vicious group of kids that wanted to bully him for wearing the wrong color that day. He would always be in a room by himself, a paintbrush in hand and a canvas being drawn on. Sometimes he had questioned why he had always isolated himself, and his friend always laughed at him.
”Because the brightest stars burn the hottest.”
Danny did not understand what that meant, seeing as stars were not something discussed in capitol curriculum. What was even discussed in the capitol? The games? The fashion that came from them? Love and admiration for tributes? What did that boy mean by stars?
Maybe it was a premonition of the highest caliber.
Time always passed, that was something that his parents had made very clear to them. Danny’s brother had been exposed to thing that he himself felt a little out of place for himself. He was told that he would create the world with his hands, and while he might have risen to that occasion, Danny had a feeling that he was not happy.
Who would be when the world was forced upon your shoulders without even the slightest bit of input from anyone else? Danny started to feel a little better about him not being expected to do anything more than just exist in his family. He knew that his brother would be okay eventually, but the amount of work that was put on top of him, especially when they finished school had even made Danny’s eyes glaze over.
Danny on the other hand, had given himself to nothing. His hands still found no commitment in his mind, though he did take a bit of a liking to his friends views about the world.
From what he understood, what he talked about was not generally felt by the capitol, crazy talk, mentions of stars and what they meant would be overshadowed by recaps of tributes dying in gristly ways. Sometimes the games would come up between them, but they would involve conversations about who would win and who would die. They only saw each other from time to time, but no conversation was a plain one. They were always full of life, just as animated as the paintings that his friend did while they were talking.
Sometimes Danny would wonder what exactly went through the others head, as he always watched the others hand move gracefully along the canvas. Sometimes he would sit idly by as his friend worked, and a part of him wondered if he would ever find his own calling.
That’s when he realized that he had never really tried. If he was being honest with himself, he spent years just sitting on the sidelines as he watched people like his brother, and even his friend continuously work at something.
Danny had no right to complain.
So where to start? That was the real question.
It all started with his mother, who had told him time and time again to come down to the restaurant that she owned. Danny always had been apprehensive about this, because he didn’t want his father to see him as weak because he was going to be involved in something like cooking. He didn’t know why masculinity had to play a huge role in their house, but it did.
He accepted that.
He watched as his mother had created dishes based around past arenas and tributes, nothing that seemed groundbreaking, seeing as he had heard of this before. His mother had always changed the menu once a week, and the week that he had come to the restaurant, it had been based around the 75th arena. Works of art had been served on porcelain plates, and for the life of Danny, he could not understand why no one was in awe of this. The hard work that was put in to make unique dishes would have had Danny floored, but everyone else seemed to be pretty ambivalent to the presentation.
One day he watched his mother cry as someone had sent back a dish that had taken her an hour to complete, claiming that it was not surreal enough.
This business was not for him.
So he spent a couple days locked up in his room as he took a pencil and paper and tried to figure out things that he had been passionate about. Sometimes his brother would come in from a long day and turn on the television to catch up on games highlights to unwind. The noise made it hard to concentrate, but it wasn’t like he was actually thinking of anything groundbreaking. He had way too much time on his hands, that was the only thing that he could admit.
He ripped out a page that he had doodled on and threw it at his brother as a joke. He watched as he had picked it up, only to open it and see a very vivid image of the fight sketched out in front of him. ”Danny? What is this?” Danny looked at his brother as he asked that question. He shrugged for a moment before writing down ideas like costume designer, or host on a piece of paper. ”You should add artist on that piece of paper.” his brother had mentioned before getting up and walking out of the room.
Danny didn’t take his brothers suggestion.
But then he hung out with his friend that was a painter, and after a long conversation about what his worth was to society, Danny had realized that he had never tried it. That he was sort of robbing himself of a chance to experience something new.
Danny had picked up a paintbrush that day and tried to follow along with his friends instruction. Nothing made sense if he was being honest with himself, but his friend told him that art was subjective at the end of the day. Paint what he felt was relevant to paint.
no star will ever be the same.
Talks of space again had sent Danny out of his mind and into the clutches of some demon that he did not understand. He sighed for a moment before letting himself get lost in the moment, trading in the canvas and the paintbrush for a large drawing pad and a couple different pencils. Before he could blink his eyes, his hands took over, and he drew a picture of the night sky that he had never thought would come out of him.
He looked at his friend, who smiled at his work.
”see? youll burn just as bright as any other star with talent like that.”
And he couldn’t help but laugh.
Time passed a struggling artist. If someone would call Danny that. After all, he did have the support of his family, seeing as they didn’t care what he did as long as he stayed out of his fathers business. Living in the capitol was always a different type of experience, and sometimes Danny did wonder what it felt like to live in the districts. Whenever he brought it up, it was always dismissed by his friends, telling him that what he had was much better than what they had.
His friend had become his roommate, and together, they spent lots of time talking about the most random things. However, one conversation that stuck in his mind was the one about astrology. It was clear that talking about the stars and how they aligned was starting to become a little more widely accepted in the capitol, especially after Kassandra’s win during the 82nd. He learned about things that he had no clue about. Rising’s and fallings, how the placement of one singular star could actually ruin someone's life. Their nights would involve sketching out something that they had been thinking about, and then trying to figure out why it had been on their mind.
Danny still did not understand the science or fact behind this, but he could at least try to buy into it just enough to make it seem like he wasn’t wasting his time. He learned about various nuances in the belief, but he knew better than to say anything out loud in public. After all, he didn’t want to be accused of heresy.
However, he came home one day to see his apartment trashed beyond repair, and his roommate was nowhere to be seen. Danny wondered if maybe his roommate had finally snapped, but as soon as he got home, the television had turned itself on to reveal that an occult following had been taken into custody of the capitol. Danny could tell that this was an indirect message.
Moving home had never been so awkward.
But even now, Danny had never given up on his ability to sketch out such realistic scenes from his brain. It was almost like he had been born to put his imagination on paper. He had never been the type of person to talk about wild things that went on in his mind, mostly because he didn’t want to be seen as someone that was crazy. His work had sold in various places around the capitol, but little did he know that he had a repeat buyer.
His family never acknowledged his talent, and to be quite honest, Danny had never wanted them too. They were all fine doing their own thing, then so was Danny.
Much to his own dismay, he had been approached several times for commissions, of which he obliged, though sometimes he did wish he had his childhood friend with him in order to add color to whatever he created. The last thing that he had heard was that he was still alive, but he wouldn’t be painting anytime soon.
Sometimes his sketch’s would take on characteristics of everything that his childhood friend taught him. Tributes fighting in the stars, mutts crashing through the solar system, and even gamemakers standing on top of the world. It wasn’t long until he had caught the attention of the capitol. He came home one day to find an envelope left on his bed. All it had was an address, and a couple words.
”Because the brightest stars burn the hottest.”
He smiled and decided to follow through with this request. However, when he got to the place in the letter, he realized that it was not his roommate that had summoned him, but a man dressed in all black. They had treated him to an indulgent dinner, and then before he could even take a bite of desert, they had asked Danny if he would be interested in getting into Game Making.
At first he was hesitant, not sure if this was all just a ruse, but after a couple back and forth sentences, it was clear that they might have not taken no for an answer. They would show him all the ropes, that is what Danny was promised. Danny claimed that he wanted to think about it, but before he had left, the man who held all the power said to him, ”youll burn just as bright as any other star with talent like that.” And with very little thought about it.