Finally! If there's anyone still here, here we are! The last 'chapter' to my story.
HOW DID THIS END UP AT OVER 7,000 WORDS? SOMEONE, STOP ME FROM TYPING.
Here is the victor's homecoming. I hope you enjoy. I took some time to think, but I've decide to do an alternate ending for Franz and Tiffany, since I received the most PM's and reviews about them. I'll explain more about those when I do them, but for now, this story is technically "complete" :D
To my memory, nobody reviewed the last chapter lol rip me. I might be wrong, and if I am, my apologies!
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games in any way, shape, or form.
"The thrill of coming home has never changed." ~Guy Pearce
Luke Coloss, Fifteen, Victor of the 80th Hunger Games
I wake up swathed in cotton sheets.
There's no pain in my body, just a sense of sluggishness.
I guess that means the operation must have gone well, for me to remain alive. It was a painfully long trip to the Capitol from the arena, and I'd blacked out soon after that. Nonetheless, I've heard the rumours from victories of the past. Any injuries are cleaned up and removed, scars untraceable, blemishes forgotten. But I've never had the opportunity to experience it first hand. I guess it shows that even the Capitol aren't completely devoid of emotion, as much as that's hard to believe.
My hand reaches up my shirt to feel my stomach.
My mind immediately flash backs to the crystal cave, Derek stabbing me in the abdomen with his scythe. And now? The wound is gone without a trace. This is...surreal. I can't really explain how I feel, simply because I'm so baffled and confused. Is this real? Am I dreaming?
I sit up, although it's a struggle, and view my surroundings. A single hospital bed in a whitewashed room. The air smells faintly of medicine, and a small continuous beeping sound chirps nearby. I'm hooked up to some wires, but there doesn't appear to be anything else. How long have I been out for?
I marvel once again over the cuts and bruises from my arms appears to have vanished.
This is so weird...
"Comfortable?" a cold voice calls from the door of the room.
My mentor, Isaac Lander steps in, his footsteps quiet, yet audible in the silence of this room.
"More than I was, I'm sure," I joke. "I mean, the arena was pretty dope, but this? This is nice, if not a bit bland."
Isaac doesn't even smile at my jokes, but this is how he's always been. He told me before; he hates his job, and the only reason he helped us with the Games was because he wanted to change jobs. Isaac's an escort, see. Any of the surviving mentors in District Twelve are dead. Well, unless of course, you consider me. Yeah, that's right. I'm a mentor now, technically. What am even I supposed to do? How am I supposed to learn how to mentor people? Unless of course, Isaac teaches me a few things, but he doesn't look like he's going to any time soon.
"How long was I out for?" I wonder aloud.
Hm, that doesn't seem too bad, considering my body had to recover from everything it went through.
"So when's the interview?" I question, eager to get things over and done with so I can get out of here.
"Since you've woken up, tomorrow."
I don't say another word.
"Get some sleep, Luke," Isaac says, his tone holding some emotion. "You'll need it."
I'm so surprised that Isaac expressed any kind of emotion, that I simply nod and lay back down. Maybe getting some sleep is a good idea. Despite the short and clipped conversation, I feel like I've run for miles. My body aches, and I've only been conscious for a couple of minutes. Perhaps this is what Isaac means by sleep. I've never been the biggest fan of the guy, but maybe he's right this time. Maybe that's because I'm this guy's way out. Isaac hates his job, and it's obvious. He mentioned something about wanting to travel, but got roped up into being a mentor for District Twelve. I guess that's why he's begin nice to me. I've finally given him the exit he's wanted for so long.
My mind drifts into random thoughts filled with puns, the Games, and Thomas, before sleep takes me once more.
"Luke, wake up."
I am awoken once more by Isaac, who has returned to his emotionless self. I wake up almost immediately, sitting up and feeling the soft cotton rub against my skin. Usually I'd feel a bit groggy waking up, but this is different. There's a strange feeling in the air, almost energised...or maybe it's just me.
"Come on," Isaac says. "We need to prepare you for the interview."
I silently obey again, swinging my legs over one side of the bed and standing up. My feet are met with the icy cold floor of the hospital wing. The room is still white, although it's clear to me now that I have no idea what time it is outside. It also depends how long it's going to take for my team to dress me up and prepare me for the interviews. I'm not looking forward to the procedure; all the makeup and the products they put onto me makes me feel more like a painting than a person.
It's not drive, belief or even thoughts of getting this done that propels me forward. It's merely perseverance, as I've always done. I've always had to survive this, and to survive that. I lost my parents, I lost Mariel, Vella, Franz, hell even Derek, even though we were never very close. Lives were lost, and I survived again. That alone tells me that I can survive this.
The door opens with a metallic hiss, and I follow Isaac through it out into a white hallway, just as bland as the room I was last in. As I am aware of this fact, I cough, my throat like sandpaper and my stomach eating itself.
"Hey Isaac," I say. "Can I get some food and water?"
"No need to ask," the man replies coldly. "We're heading there now. It was decided that you'd need some nutrition so that you wouldn't fall flat on your face during the interview."
"...Right!" I smile, giving him a thumbs up, trying to lighten the mood.
When there's no response, I give up and settle back into silence.
As the next door opens with a hiss, I almost roll my eyes. Another white room? Whoever designed this building doesn't like colour. I disregard that thought. Something so trivial isn't important at this moment in time. My stomach growls, returning me to my previous thoughts of food, and lo and behold, food appears to be readily available. My prep team are gathered around the table, and although I've failed to remember their names, I have to say that they're actually kind of great. I remember telling them jokes when they prepared me for the chariots and the interviews, and they always laughed at them.
Even now, they become this wild carnival of squeals and clapping hands, all three ladies coming up to me and swarming me.
"Oh, brilliant!" one of them cries. "You were simply brilliant!"
"I couldn't stop watching!" another exclaims. "So dashing, so heroic!"
Isaac herds them back with a simple wave of his hands, and I approach the table.
"Don't eat much," Isaac commands, as cold as ever. "Just a little. You'll throw up otherwise."
I open my mouth to complain, but then I realise. Of course! It makes perfect sense, especially since the Capitol foods are so rich, and my stomach has barely eaten anything for days. I nod obediently once more, and look through the foods. The first things I notice is the large cranberry pie in the middle of the table. Thomas' favourite food, and probably one of mine as well. Smiling to myself, I take a couple of large slices for my meal, a tribute to Thomas, and of course to the people who helped my victory become a reality. I wouldn't be eating this meal if it wasn't for them.
I was numb to the non-stop chatter of my prep team; they always seemed to talk about tiny things as if they actually mattered. In a way they were only by-products of the ferocious Capitol and Snow's malicious control over Panem.
I sit and eat in silence, still remembering those who died.
Vella, Franz, Mariel, Derek...
I tune the world out as I'm led by my styling team to get me ready for the interviews. It's the usual grueling process of hair removal, strong smelling liquids and a faint stinging sensation across the entirety of my skin. I don't even know how long it lasts for, for time is a blur when you're faced with three Capitolites armed with sponges and waxing strips. There's an additional half an hour for makeup as well, which is just as boring to sit through.
Eventually however, I'm done, being left in front of a mirror for Aurora, my head stylist to come through. She's somewhat shy around people, but she's had to have been strong to get to where she is now. I have to admit that it's still a little bit weird for me to be standing naked in front of Aurora. It's an odd feeling, and I'm still quite shy about it. It's not that there's anything wrong with my body, but it just a bit invasive. Plus, it reminds me how little I've eaten really. If my ribs weren't showing before, they certainly are now. I look like I've been starved for a week.
Nice joke, Luke. You have been starved for a week.
"I-I've gone for something simple," Aurora tells me nervously. "But I think it should do the trick."
She holds up a bag and zips it down the middle, revealing a sharp looking blue suit and tie. It looks a tiny bit puffy, which tells me that there's probably some padded areas. Putting on the suit itself confirms this suspicion. As soon as the blazer is buttoned across my stomach, I can feel the padding brush my shoulders. They been made to look broader and sturdier. Padding on the sides of the blazer gives me a more defined and muscular look, although I was never that muscular in the first place. I notice my face too...the makeup has contoured my face to make it seem fuller and more chiseled than the skinny boy that left the arena.
I have to confess, it's a remarkable transformation. Get it? Remarkable? I give up.
I shake my head. Even bad puns don't have a place here. I can't even express myself right now. I look strong, different...like the idolised version of the victor the Capitol wants to see. In a way, it's nice to see me looking so strong, but it repulses me that it's so unnatural. There's so many products on me, that I can barely even recognise myself.
I'm pretty much a cake.
Isaac leads me out of the styling room after a few moments. I didn't notice his presence until his hand landed on my shoulder, steering me out of the stylists room. I follow him obediently, admittedly a bit nervous. It feels like months since the interviews, but here I am, ready to have another one with the silvered Dallas Cornwall. I was awkward around Dallas last time, although I managed to get in a few puns to make the crowd laugh. Maybe I'll just do the same, stay true to myself. I grimace at the thought of returning to the stage.
"Just do you," Isaac tells me bluntly, seeing the look on my face. "Nothing fancy, nothing rebellious. Just do you. Show them that you're Luke, a kid from Twelve, who somehow won the Games."
I nod nervously, agreeing with Isaac, because that's all I am to the Capitol. I'm just another kid who won the Games. Or am I? Am I more valuable than that? I don't know. I can't tell at the moment. There's so many things that are to come, and I don't even know what they are. I guess that's the price of keeping my life.
I can hear the faint roar of the crowd cheering and clapping. I'm so close to getting home now. I only have to deal with this false array of colour until I can see Thomas again.
"And now introducing, Luke Coloss, the victor of the 80th Hunger Games!"
A door opens from above the stage, and I get onto a pedestal, which rises me above the stage. As I go up, Isaac nods at me coldly, and give him a short nod back. The roar erupts into a deafening sound of shouting, screaming and cheering. I stay where I am, purely because I know that this stage is the crowning process occurs. After the rebellion, the structure of the Games was slightly altered to combine the final interview and the crowning ceremony into one. For what purpose this holds, I don't know, but that's how it's done now.
As the national anthem plays, I hold my head high. I don't like the world for what it is, but nonetheless I'll keep up appearances unless I want trouble. The President slowly walks towards me, his snake like face stretching into a rather unsettling smile.
"Congratulations on your victory, Mr Coloss." the President tells me, his voice a whispering hiss as the golden crown descends upon my brow.
I've never seen the President so close to me before. I can smell a weird scent on his breath...an iron-like smell, one that I can't place my finger on. As he draws away, I mutter a quiet thanks to him. He returns to a golden throne in the stands near the stage. The crowning process is fairly boring and quick, so it whizzes by without much trouble.
As the crowd roars, Dallas gestures to the large sofa next to him on the stage, obviously the place where I'm supposed to sit. Tentatively and somewhat awkwardly, I descend into the plush piece of furniture, feeling the soft foam beneath me capture my weight.
"Well, well, well," Dallas laughs, decked out in his usual silvery attire. "Luke Coloss, you are an incredible inspiration to some of the people in this room, as well as proving to be an influence in your own District as well."
The large screen to the side of the audience comes to life, showing cheering people from District Twelve, who appear to be elated that they would enjoy a year of increased supplies for their families. Less people would be starving this year, that's for sure. That's something for me to celebrate. My victory may have killed twenty-three others, but I could save many more. But even so, twenty-three lives have still been lost...
"I want to ask you how you feel, Luke," Dallas says. "You've just won the Games, and you've proved yourself to be a very capable contender this year."
"It's a bit weird," I admit. "I was expecting to get my head chopped off."
I smile, aiming for a more humourous interview. Despite the fact it wasn't a joke, the crowd chuckles, a low rumble of approval.
Play it up for the camera, Luke. I tell myself. You just have to get home to Thomas.
"Indeed you did!" Dallas laughs. "And even after everything you've been through, you've still got the joking nature we all know and love."
You don't know me...
"Of course," I chuckle charmingly. "I wouldn't want to lose a part of me. I'd say it definitely helped me to cope with some of the things I saw in the Games."
"Well instead of us asking you to explain what happened," Dallas tells me. "We have a shortened version of the Games that can help to explain some of the things you went through."
Everyone turns to the screen, where it lights up again, a film beginning to play. The 80th Hunger Games is starting all over again. The film has to last for at least an hour, if not more. I know the camera's are on my face, so I do my best to hold what emotions I feel inside of me so as to not reveal my inner self.
The film is mainly focused on me, beginning at the reapings. It flashes quickly through each reaping in a fairly standard way, but it stops to let us watch my entire reaping in full. The suited slick-haired man takes slips from the bowl. I can barely remember him, even though I was only reaped a couple of weeks ago. The man calls up Charlotte first, and then me. I look pale, shocked, afraid. Back then I wasn't even sure if I could make it back to Thomas, especially since I wasn't good at making friends. Charlotte and I shake hands as Thomas cries silently in the front row. My heart skips a beat when I see him, my dear brother. I hope his friends have been taking care of him while I've been gone. I've never spoken to the parents of Thomas' friends, but I hope he's been taken care of.
The scene changes, the cameras showing the scores from our training sessions. The training sessions and the individual sessions aren't shown since they're not filmed, but it's obvious that the film fills in the gaps, lingering on Vella's score of seven, Franz's score of two, and Mariel's score of nine. Finally, the score lands on my smiling face, a figure of six appearing next to it. I remembered being impressed that I'd scored so highly for an average tribute, but at the same time I was worried that I might have put a target on my back somehow. I was lucky the careers didn't target me except for what happened at the bloodbath.
The interviews are short and clipped, lingering a little on Vella's, Franz's and Mariel's interviews, as well as Derek's and Tiffany's. My interview is still as awkward as I remember, with me throwing out a few puns. The crowd even laugh again at some of them.
The bloodbath comes next, a myriad of spraying blood and horrible death. Vella's district partner dies first, quickly followed by Florescent. Adelaide from Nine dies to Taser's weird blood rage possession thing, and he uses her spine to attack Ali from Eight and kill her too. I still don't know how the hell he did that. Franz has fainted but appears dead, which is a strange but incredible move. He soon gets saved by Shaune. Tiffany kills Skyla, and Kleska finishes off Rachelle. It's odd how I still remember their names, but I committed them to my memory for a reason.
I don't want to forget them.
The camera focuses on me running into the bloodbath and getting beaten down by Hans, as well as my narrow escape from Kleska's knives. They thought I was easy to take down, but again, I was lucky. The days fly by, tributes falling slowly. The person that triggered my trap back when I was in the crystal cave was in fact Mariel. It was odd, since I didn't expect it to be her at all, since we were kind of allies in a sense. The mutts come and go, and this is when Vella and I meet up. There are several scenes that replay some of our awkward conversation and our eventual blossoming friendship. I keep my face as blank as I can during those scenes. I watch Sedan kill Charlotte, and Nicolo kill Sedan, before Vella and I arrive and kill Nicolo. Taser kills Zest, but Mariel saves him somehow.
The feast comes. The explosions were made by Steven, with Taser, Mariel, Franz and Shaune making some kind of odd career pack. Shaune battles Steven, Taser battles Tiffany. Both of them lose. Mariel and Franz meet Vella and I in the cornucopia. I can still remember the tense stand-off between us, and this plays out in full before moving on. Thomas is brought in for a tearful interview for the final eight, where he tells me how much he misses me, and that he wants me to come back. I feel a lump in my throat as I watch him, obviously in awe of the Capitol, but also charming the crowd like he always does. He was always so much more comfortable in social situations compared to me. More and more tributes die. Vella and I run through the poisonous flowers, but Vella gets shot down by one and dies in my arms. I hold back tears as I watch Vella die again, quickly followed by Mariel and Franz and Tiffany kills them inside the cave. It's horrible, because it's so fresh. Everything I've seen happened days ago, and they're as clear as day before me.
Then it's Derek, Tiffany and myself. The battle moves quickly, with Derek and I working together to kill Tiffany, and then turning on each other. The fight is gruesome from this angle, especially since it looks like I'm going to lose. It's my hand-crafted crossbow that scores the final hit. If I didn't have that at my side, Derek would be sitting in my place right now.
The film comes to a close, and the audience claps and cheers for my victory. I feel slightly sick at their enjoyment, and I let out a deep breath, the emotion struggle written all over my face. The cameras pick this us, but I allow myself one moment of emotion so that people don't think I'm faking it or something.
"Wow, what a performance," Dallas congratulates me. "How did you feel at the bloodbath? You got struck down by Hans, and attacked by Kleska. How did you feel being targeted by careers so early on?"
I think honestly about the answer.
"I mean I was kind of taken off guard when it all happened," I tell him. "They both came at me all at once, so suddenly. I couldn't fight them there when I didn't really have any weapons, so I had to run."
I play it off confidently, as if I knew what I was doing. In reality, it was mostly instinct and adrenaline saving my life.
"How did it feel to kill Nicolo and Derek?" Dallas asks. "You killed two people in the Games, and assisted with a third death as well. Did you psyche yourself up to do it? Were the killings planned?"
"Well, I knew it was either them or me," I tell him. "Nicolo was a little lost in the head, but I think he was a good guy. Derek was his friend and had a reason to fight me. I fought in self defense. And Tiffany...Derek killed her, and I helped him. Careers win a lot of Games, so I think Derek and I both agreed that taking her out was best."
"Very intelligent," Dallas comments. "And your relationship with Vella...was it something more than friendship there, do you think?"
Several people in the crowd scream in response to that question, obviously obsessed with me in some odd way, but I fidget awkwardly and don't look them in the eye.
"I...uh...Vella and I..." I muttered. "Vella did a lot for me. She fought well, and if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be sitting here. I liked Vella a lot, but there wasn't really enough time for us to get much closer than that."
"You mentioned letters in the arena," Dallas asks me. "The both of you talked about letters that you wrote. You never said this in the interviews. What did it mean to you?"
"My parents had a pen-pal of sorts in District Eleven," I told him honestly. "We sent letters to each other, and sometimes Vella and I would write. I only recognised her name from the District and the letters, and I made an assumption. I was right. We were pen-pals, friends really, but we met each-other properly in the Hunger Games."
The crowd makes a sound of sympathy at that, because they know Vella's gone now.
"I know we don't have much time," Dallas tells me. "But perhaps you could answer a final question?"
I nod silently.
"What are you going to do now?" he asks. "You've won the Games, you have a lot of money as a prize fund, and there's a lot of girls waiting out there for you that might take your fancy, eh?"
He laughs, and the crowd makes a screaming sound, obviously some of the Capitolites are interested in being with me.
"I think I'm just going to go home and see my brother, Thomas," I smile, thinking a bit before trying to pander to the crowd. "I've missed him a lot, and I want to make sure he's okay. Maybe after a while I might settle down with someone though."
A mixture of sympathetic and excited sounds ring from the audience, and I send them a little wink just to play things up for them. The buzzer goes off.
"Well, it's been a pleasure to have you, Luke," Dallas smiles. "But now it's time for you to return home. Give it up forrrrrr Luke, the Valiant Victor of the 80th Hunger Games!"
Finally relieved that the interview is over, I'm ushered off stage.
Is this what life as a celebrity is like? I wonder about the thought. Can I live like this? I guess it's not more of "can" than a "must". I have to live like this. If I reject this way of life then I face trouble. That, and having enough money to survive has always been a problem for Thomas and I. Maybe with my prize winnings our lives can be more fulfilled. At the same time though, I feel guilty. How can I live as a rich man and watch as the rest of the District starves to death?
I'm not sure if I can do this.
It's been a few days since the interview.
The train rumbles beneath my feet, finally slowing to a stop at the station in District Twelve. It's been a long train ride back, but the ride was fairly comfortable. It's just my thoughts that haven't been at rest. Obviously the Games have been running through my mind, Thomas too. After all of this waiting, I've finally found my way back home. Isaac is standing beside me at the door of the carriage, ready to see me out. He looks at me with an emotionless expression, handing me a pocket sized journal.
"Everything you need to know about being a good mentor is in there," he tells me. "I'm sure you'll find it useful. And...thanks Luke. Your win...I can quit my job and travel Panem like I've always wanted to."
The last few words are warmer, and I smile at him. For the first time ever, Isaac smiles back, a genuine happy smile. Hopefully he'll find himself a better life in his exploration of the world. It was obvious that even he was constrained by the Capitol in some ways.
"Go," Isaac tells me, the train stopping. "I'll walk with you as far as the town. After that, I'll leave."
I'm shaking slightly as I get off the train and set my feet on the platform of District Twelve. The familiar ashy scent of coal makes its presence in my nose, entwined with the cinnamon sweetness of the bakery's good. I'm...home. Part of me is relieved that I'm back. I'm happy that I don't have to worry about getting killed by another person. But there's something off. It feels too good to be true. That, and I've very nervous. How will people react to me? How can I face everyone in the crowd. It just feels so expectant, nerve-racking really. I'm not sure what to expect. That image in the Capitol could all be a lie.
Do I just get back my life now? I mean, mentoring is a thing, but other than that, the idea of being a mentor seems strangely carefree, a massive contradiction to the poverty stricken life I used to lead. In my heart, I know I'll still play pranks on the Peacekeepers as long as I can get away with it. Just because I've survived the Games, it doesn't mean I'm going to change who I am entirely.
I am changed though. The nightmares haven't reached me yet, but the constant broken feeling inside of me has well and truly taken hold. It's almost as if I can be happy, yet still feel sorrow, no matter how I try and wish it away. It's a feeling I don't like, but one I might have to become accustomed to.
Coming out of the train station is instant pandemonium. Cameras film my return as I walk outside, waving awkwardly at the cheering faces of my District. I know barely anyone here, and yet each one of them is happy that I came back to them alive. Their faces don't seem that familiar, maybe a few I might recognise, but only in passing.
I don't know these people, but I'm going to give back to them. Who else will do it if I don't?
The parade of people lift me up on top of their hands, and the cameras follow us. I feel a bit unsteady, but I smile a little at their happiness. It's a strange and infectious feeling, one of celebration and praise. Because I've won, they'll be living comfortably for a year. That thought alone makes me smile and they walk through the District to the shack where I live. Security quickly breaks me apart from the crowd, separating them back as I gently push open the rotting door of my old home.
I feel odd, walking into this house with a pressed white shirt, a black blazer, and smart trousers. I feel clean, too clean. I look over the cracked mirror I used to use to check my face. Clean cheeks look back at me, so different from the dirty streaks that used to be there. My hair is lighter too, probably because the coal dust has been vigorously washed out. There's nobody here, not even the chests where our clothes are kept.
It's all been cleaned out.
I return outside, realising that my new home is in the Victor's Village. The parade picks me up again, and I'm taken to the entrance of the Victors Village, where many of the people, both from the Seam and the Town stand outside of, looking in awe at the victor's homes. I remember looking at the buildings with the same awe, but now, one of these buildings are mine. Two Peacekeepers hold their guns menacingly, keeping the public in check as I'm offloaded and set back on my feet. I give the parade a thankful smile and a wave before approaching the houses slowly.
The third house down has a bright green door, which is wide open. Taking this as my route to follow, I leave the rest of the District behind as security disperses them. Isaac has already left me, the weight of his book filled with endless advice heavy in the large pocket on my blazer. I feel strangely sad. I never noticed him leave.
The steps are clean and polished, the stone gleaming with a dampness, possibly from recent rain.
Cautiously, I step into my new house. A large lobby welcomes me, with a chandelier over my head and coat hangers on the wall. There's two staircases that lead upstairs, and a middle hall that leads to the ground floor rooms. This house...it must be massive. It'll be more than enough for me and Thomas to live in. Speaking of Thomas, he stands there waiting for me, blond hair as unruly as messy as mine always is. His eyes are shining with tears, an unbreakable smile playing across his lips. He's been waiting for a long time for me to come home.
There's no words, only the sound of shoes slapping against the floor as he rushes towards me. I scoop him up and hug him, managing to lift him, despite my thin frame.
"I'm kept my promise," I tell him. "I told you I'd come home."
Thomas laughs, hugging me tightly around the neck. I hold onto him, remembering his warmth, his happy smile, and of course, his voice.
"I missed you so much Luke!" he cries. "I'm so happy you're back! Is this really our new house?"
I let him down and smile. He's only twelve, and yet it feels like he's younger. Perhaps it's what I've seen that gives me the unnecessary reason to want to protect him from the cold, cruel world. Next year will be his second reaping year, although he won't have to take out tesserae. It's not like I would have let him before, but I wouldn't have been able to stop him if I'd died back in the arena.
I nod faintly.
"Yeah..." I mutter, still completely lost for words. "It is."
I turn to Thomas and smile widely.
"I think it's crystal clear to me that this house is pretty awesome!" I say winking and pointing to the crystal chandelier above my head.
Thomas facepalms, probably not missing my puns. He takes his leave, running off upstairs to explore the rest of the house. Security leaves us alone, meaning that only Thomas and I are in the house now. I finally feel myself relax. I'm home. I'm safe. Nothing can hurt me now.
No more death, no more destruction. At least for me.
"Come and see!" Thomas yells.
I hurry upstairs, exploring what rooms are there. There are a total of six bedrooms, a bathroom, and two study rooms here. It's obvious that this house is decked out and ready to accommodate more than two.
"I can have sleepovers now, right?" Thomas asks me hopefully.
"If you behave..." I tease him, chasing after him and tickling him.
Laughing joyously, Thomas writhes breaks free from my grip and runs downstairs, wanting to explore every nook and cranny of this spacious building. Taking one last look at the study rooms, I smile. There's one that overlooks the summer fields, filled with wild flowers and weeds. This will definitely be the place I make things. Call it my new workshop, per say, to make all sorts of little gadgets. Maybe I'll make a practice sword for Thomas and try to train him a little bit in case he's reaped. That would give me some piece of mind at the very least.
I move downstairs after my brother and into the kitchen, where Thomas is inspecting a delicious looking pie, along with two envelopes. Thomas looks desperately at the pie, sniffing it hungrily. I laugh at his face, he almost seems like a whining dog, desperate for a treat. A familiar scent arises to my nose and I smile at the memory. It's a cranberry pie, Thomas' favourite. Of course he wants a piece.
I read the first envelope quickly, since the message is scrawled onto it, along with some flour and a smudge of cranberry juice.
As the baker in town, I'm a Mother to one of Thomas' friends. Congratulations on your victory for the Hunger Games. I know we've never spoken, but...if you ever have to leave the District on important matters, then Thomas can always stay round mine. I baked you two a pie. It's cranberry, Thomas' favourite.
Look forward to meeting you properly; I'm always here if you want to talk.
I smile to myself. I don't know Aruma, but if she's been keeping Thomas safe, then she can come and stay around this house, let alone her own. I owe her the comfort. I take the second envelope. It's thicker, heavier and more professional. I can tell that it's from the Capitol, since the paper under my fingers feels more high quality.
I take it out slowly, but before I can do anything, a large wad of Panemian dollars slips out of the envelope on onto the kitchen side.
"Whoa!" Thomas cries, seeing the large wad of money fall out. "That's a lot."
As he marvels over the money, I take time to read the letter.
Dear Mr Coloss,
Congratulations on your victory. In this envelope holds the first installment of your victory prize.
You will be given money once every week to accommodate your needs and lifestyle.
I wish you a happy and comfortable time in District Twelve. I hope to meet you again on your victory tour in six months time.
President Coriolanus Snow.
Almost instantly, I tear up the letter in disgust. Money? To "accommodate my needs"? This money could have fed Thomas and I for a few months, let alone a week. Some anger courses through me, but there's also a guilty feeling...one of happiness. All my life I've barely had any money, and Thomas and I have scraped to get by. The fact that we have enough to sustain ourselves makes me happy, even though I know I should be concerned about the rest of the District.
Thomas touches my elbow.
"Luke?" he asks. "Are you okay?"
"No," I tell him honestly. "Do...do I deserve this, Thomas? F-for killing people?"
I'm shaking a little bit, but I do my best to breathe evenly, calming myself down.
"I don't think so," Thomas tells me sagely. "But you did what you had to do, right? You and that girl? You fought to come home, like all the others did. i guess they're giving you money to say sorry. Or something like that. Risk your life and die, or live and take your prize."
I blink, staring at my brother. I was wrong, he has aged a little. He seems taller, sharper, more resourceful. He's reminded me that things are okay now. Even though the future seems scary, Thomas can help me. He's more than a twelve year old child. He's a human being, my rock of sorts.
"Come on, let's have some cranberry pie." I tell him, a small smile on my lips.
Thomas rubs my arm, before practically leaping for the pie.
I take a silver knife, brand new and shining, and cut it into the pie, giving Thomas a slice. He mutters a thanks before digging in. It's clear that he's already comfortable here. Seeing him happy makes me feel the same way, despite everything that's happened and the memories that I'll relive only in nightmares. I wash up the knife quickly, not feeling like I want a piece of my own. Even using the sink and the knife seems so strange to me. Everything here is so high quality, and it feels odd to live this way, in luxury.
I need to get rid of these thoughts. I need to move on. But something's stopping me.
Leaving Thomas to his his pie, I go up to the study and sit down in the soft chair there. Maybe I was wrong about making this room into a workshop. It feels more emotional, like a safe haven or a thinking space. The peaceful world outside instantly makes me feel safe, even in an empty house like this. As if to commemorate this, I open a drawer, quickly finding a notepad and a pen. Smiling to myself, I think of something I used to do so often.
I feel so much grief for the people that have passed. Vella changed my world. Mariel taught me love. Franz taught me determination. Time will pass, but somehow I know that I will remember them for the rest of my life. They've changed me so much that they'll never go away. A part of me is scared of what nightmares may come when my mind is more idle. But another part of me yearns to remember their faces, their smiles, and their words.
That's why when I finally put pen to paper and begin writing, tears are not in my eyes.
Instead, there is a smile across my lips.
And that's that. That's the end. Congratulations to Maysha-chan for her victor, it was a great run, and now Luke's story has ended (Did you like the chapter name as well? XD). We will be seeing Luke in the future stories of my series, but until then, this is going to be a rather sad goodbye. The victor's blog will be updated soon as well, I promise.
Now, it's been a long time coming for the end of this story. It has a special place in my heart, and I've enjoyed the writing journey, and I'm happy that I've finally completed it! ONE SYOT DOWNNN! I'm really pleased that I finished my first full story. Here's to many more completed stories! :D
So whether or not you're staying to read my other stories or if you're leaving, I just want to thank you so much for all of this tremendous support. I'm really thankful that people cared about both myself and the story, and sometimes people don't realise how much it helps. So thank you.
Well, here goes! Goodbye Seeping Wounds! It's been a wild ride.
Over and out!