(A/N) Hey guys, here we are, returning with a very special chapter. Unfortunately, as I mentioned a few chapters previously, we had a few writers drop out, and while we'll be skipping one or two chapter that don't impact on the plot, we didn't want to skip this one. So what we've done, rather than giving it solely to another writer and giving their character more focus, we've got two writers in, and two characters, to make it a little fairer. Hope you enjoy it, and let us know what you think in the reviews!
Thanks to sailerraven34 for their review, and we hope you'll continue to let us know your opinions on what we have to come!
Chapter Twenty-Eight – Can You Even See Me?
Private Training Assessments (D9-D12)
Written by InDeepDarkWood & robbiepoo2341
Ororo Munroe of District Eleven
Written by InDeepDarkWood
"Why do you think the old stories tell of men who set out on great journeys to impress the gods? Because trying to impress people just isn't worth the time and effort."
– Henry Rollins
T'Challa had tried to talk about what she was going to do once she got in there. 'Tried' being the operative word in this scenario, as she waited in the chair beside him, spaced a little distance apart from the other districts on either side of them, and a two-person distance away from Cletus. Still too close, she thought, shooting him a glare, though her district partner was in the way, so he wasn't able to see.
Probably a good thing, she told herself, as the doors opened and the Nine boy was called in. The boy from the elevator gave himself a little shake, and then was lost to the depths of the Assessment Room, leaving his district partner alone beside the Cletus. No, that was wrong, it wasn't the Nine girl, it was Kate, who'd messed up the order of the line because for some reason she'd wanted to sit beside the red-skinned boy.
No, that was wrong as well, she realised as she remembered the words that had been uttered in her periphery just a few moments before. Kate hadn't been speaking to Cletus, she had been speaking to Nine. Ororo gave a small sigh of relief as her subconscious filled in the blanks, assuring her that the archer was not a psychotic maniac who was going to be life-long friends with the other psychotic maniac. She tilted her head away from the door Nine has gone through, to where his real district partner was sitting beside Loki.
What's her name again? she asked herself, trying to remember Disappearing Girl's real name. She thought it began with a 'W'. Wendy…Winny…Witchy…Ororo stifled a giggle at the last option, aware of the serious nature that had descended over the seated group once Nine had left.
Let's go with Witchy for now, she decided, the brief good mood deflating as soon as she made the gaze darted from the Sentinel, wondering if he or she was going to say something about the order – Sentinels didn't act frightened of Cletus, but Ororo didn't think they were stupid enough to be unafraid, so they probably wouldn't blame the girl for not wanting to sit beside him – and then back to the girl. Witchy had a little contented smile on her face, like the world was good around her and she was right where she was supposed to be.
Ororo didn't feel the same way. It was just like that stupid Reaping last year when she wanted to vomit; she hadn't eaten all that much at lunch, though she'd noticed others from both the Careers and the outliers scoffing down food as though their lives depended on it, but she was glad she'd held off now.
"I feel sick," she clicked to T'Challa.
"Ororo, do not speak in such a way when we are here. It is…improper," the older replied softly, his eyes lifting towards the Sentinel that stood at the closed door. She wasn't sure if that was entirely true based on his slight hesitation. Beside him, the Ten girl shifted in her seat, the bench creaking ever so slightly.
"So, what can they do? I've already been on the television, so they can't find a replacement," she growled back stubbornly.
"Ororo, it is not what they can do to you, but to the ones you love back at home. I am sure your Nanny would not appreciate more orphans under her care."
"Shows how much you know about Nanny," she muttered under her breath, mollified by the words however, and switching back to the universal language. Her legs swung back and forth in the chair as the Nine girl was called in, nervous jitters spreading to her periphery, and she leaned forward as T'Challa smiled as Kate darted back to her own seat, the tattooed girl on his other side eliciting a barely disguised grunt of disdain for the archer who didn't want to sit by Cletus. From the corner of her good eye, she could see he kept the smile on his face as she sat down, watching her from over Loki's head.
She knew Loki's name, though not from any real affection for the boy; the Career just always seemed to proclaim it to the world every time he saw the scrawny kid, who was almost as small as she was. Watch the small ones, she thought to herself, giving a little smile. Loki was a Career too, even though he was a Twelve; his brother had made sure of that, and Ororo had made sure to stay off his radar as a result. She caught sight of Cletus eyeballing her after roving his eyes over Kate, and scrunched up her face into a sneer.
"What're you looking at?" she hissed, as T'Challa lay an appeasing hand on her shoulder.
"Dinner," he said with a cackle, licking his lips deliberately. His grin widened as he was called forward, pirouetting away. "So nice and cool, so juicy sweet. Yuh-meee!" Ororo stared after him, hard eyes watching the door close and separate the little girl from the far more violent little boy. I hate him. She was afraid of him too though, like some of the men from the mines. They were grown men, strong men, but Cletus...if she thought about it too much – which she didn't – she was more afraid of the red boy than the towering miners. So she kept her hate inside, and found the small island in her head, and clung to it as fiercely as she dared, and smiled at T'Challa when he released her with a small pat.
She didn't know what she was going to do in front of the Gamemakers. She had nothing, she felt, to offer them; no way of showing them what she knew, since she wasn't strong and she didn't have enough time to demonstrate what Tony had taught her at the electric circuits. She could hide, and she could be fast, but Sam had told them that the Gamemakers needed to be wowed by the time they got to Ten, and Eleven and Twelve were nearly always forgotten.
She sighed in unison with Kate, though she didn't think the other picked up on it.
Even if they remembered Cletus – and she knew they would remember Cletus, because no one could forget that dyed skin and pointed teeth and rock hard muscles – he would probably be still on their mind when she went in. And hiding was not a useful trait to grab their attention.
"Stupid, Gamemarkers," she grumbled, her legs still swinging and no doubt disturbing Loki beside her, though the pale boy gave no outward signs. She was glad of that, that he didn't mock her for being unable to keep still.
"Ororo, be calm," T'Challa said, his voice soft and barely heard over the call for the Ten girl. They made quite a pair, the District Ten tributes, with their dyed skins. There were a lot of red-heads in the mix of tributes this year, but Ten would always be distinguished by the blue tattoos she bore. Although, if Ororo thought about it a little, the others also had their own traits, though it would be Ten that she could recognise from a distance; that Sixer with the skull token, and the one from Two that she never wanted to ever meet in the Games, because that would mean she had encountered the Careers, and that would mean that she was dead.
Dead, like Eric.
She gave a small nod at T'Challa's words, matching her breathing with his and leaning back against the wall. She wished she had Eric's sunglasses, to block out the world around her. The Sentinels were silent, and the two Twelves were silent, and if she shut her eyes, she knew everything would be able to cease around her. Silence didn't bother her all that much usually. Sometimes she liked it. This was one of those moments.
"You be calm," she muttered, catching the smile from T'Challa and bringing one back to her own face. If I'd closed my eyes, I wouldn't have seen that, she told herself. It wasn't just the Gamemakers she had to try and impress though. She knew she wouldn't survive for an awfully long time alone in the beginning. She needed people, not just T'Challa, to help her at the start. To help her stay calm, and anchored safely to her island in her head, and not clawing at bigger kids' faces, unable to keep the storm from surfacing.
"I am calm," he informed her.
"No you're not," she shot back. "You have a tell, T'Challa, it's just a little different than most." Her smile widened as he deliberately straightened up and shifted in his seat, the first movement he had made in a long while that involved his whole body. "At least you know what it is." The doors swung open and the cool voice came over to announce Eleven's male. "Good luck."
"Be calm, Ororo. It will be okay," he said as he went through the door, it closing soundlessly behind him and leaving the three alone in the room with the Sentinels. The silence closed around them, and she found herself crossing her arms, the quiet making it seem like there weren't tributes in the holding room, but Inhumans.
There were no Inhumans allowed in this area; she wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing, and gulped, her hand going up to stroke her neck and tongue pushing against her teeth. She tried to imagine having no tongue and being rendered invisible by the 'superior' Capitolites; though the latter was pretty much standard for every day, the former was unimaginable. She wouldn't be able to eat fruit without her tongue. She wouldn't be able to stick her tongue out without her tongue. That was what would happen to one of her brothers and sisters, she knew, if she spoke out. She had just forgotten for a moment, like always, and T'Challa had reminded her, as usual. Even if she had sometimes thought about shutting Misty or Jericho up before, she wouldn't like to ever see them get their tongues cut out.
The voice slid out across the room, calling her to enter the Assessment Room. She had been so busy thinking about Inhumans and tongues that she had forgotten to think about what she was going to do. Damn. Light on her feet, she left Loki alone with his thoughts and Kate, and gulped again as the door swung closed behind her, catching the Sentinel watching her through the gap until that disappeared. And then she stepped forward, and just like Sam had warned her, the Gamemakers were no longer paying any attention.
She thought they probably did for T'Challa; he was the mayor's son after all, educated to a degree in the ways of the Capitol. He wasn't Ororo, the half-blind little girl who sported 'raw umber'. Walking into the centre of the room, a woman gestured for her to begin, standing beside the man she recognised from television.
She gave Director Fury a small wave, and lifted her hair away from her blind eye, pointing at him and it a few times. He gave a barely noticeable inclination of his head, which Ororo took to be a raucous celebration of their mutual affliction, and then set about her work. She took some deep breaths, finding her island and trying to anchor in her head.
She tried out the move Rand had shown her on one of the dummies, though her foot fell short, as she knew it would, and the inanimate object was not as good as Logan, so she wasn't able to demonstrate her monkey ability. She'd already lost a couple of Gamemakers by then, and grumbled to herself in Wakandan as she held up some of the poisonous plants, and gave either a thumbs up or stuck her tongue out depending on whether it would kill her or not. O...kay...she thought, looking around to try and find something, anything, that would enable her to make it through the Bloodbath, and when nothing sprang to mind, she gave a small sigh.
Fine, Sam, I'll hide. She supposed it would show off her climbing, to any of them that were watching, and she sprinted for the nearest foothold wall, springing like a cat onto it at a height that seemed decent enough to her, but she was small, and she thought Logan could get much higher. Stupid, Logan, she thought, hauling herself up into the rafters, and balancing across the long beam that cut through the room, ropes dangling from it. She took some more deep breaths, as her calm island began to float away, and she forced herself to cling on to it.
"Thank you, District Eleven Female," the cool voice said, nearly scaring Ororo off her perch at the suddenness. She glanced down to the Gamemakers below, where the ones paying attention were at the very least unsure as to where she was. Shinnying down the rope, she hopped onto the ground, heaving a sigh.
"I wasn't done, stupid voice," she growled, tapping her eye again as she met the Director's eye briefly. Then she stomped out, her arms crossed, through the door that had just opened, resisting the urge to look back at the Gamemakers. She had been done though, she supposed, since even if they hadn't stopped her, she wouldn't have known what to do afterwards.
Could've just stayed hidden, she mused as she made her way to where Sam and T'Challa stood, Everett a little ways off talking with T'Challa's stylist.
"Well, how did it go?" Sam asked, placing a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm going to come twenty-fourth this year," she said mournfully.
"I will not let that happen," T'Challa interjected, his arms crossed. "Were you calm?"
"Did you hide?" Ororo gave a small nod at her mentor's question, and he breathed a sigh. "That might help." She shook her head at the words.
"They weren't looking, Sam. They didn't care."
"They cared about me!" Ororo swung around as Cletus' voice rang through the holding area, his district partner rolling her eyes at the words as he bared his pointed teeth at Ororo, and she clenched her hands into a fist. "Guess they don't like dark meat; guess that means more for me! Mmm-Mmm, tender, tasty Orororororor."
The girl's nose scrunched up to her eyes, any tendril holding her island in place snapping, and she sprang for the red-skinned boy; fear or no fear, she hated him enough in that moment that it overrode any residual terror in her body. Somewhere in her head, she knew the Sentinels would tear her off him, and be none too gentle in their act. Behind Cletus, Hank McCoy started to yell at Sam about uncontrollable tributes.
Sam, on the other hand, was a lot gentler, and he reached her before she had time to close the gap between her and Cletus, lifting her up and pulling her away from the grinning, cackling boy. Hank's grumblings ceased after assessing the scene, and Ororo only resisted her mentor for a moment, her voice never rising above the whisper as she hissed, "I hate him. I hate him." Her mentor held her, his head shaking against her own as a Sentinel approached, and waited until he had her turned away from Cletus' taunting face and back towards T'Challa before dropping her to her feet, his hands firmly on her shoulders this time.
"I know, I know; don't draw attention," she said as the doors opened and Loki came through, his expression unreadable as he surveyed the scene. She thought she saw his lips lift in a small smirk, and the storm within her rose up again, clawing its way out, threatening to break free of Sam's shoulder grip. She trembled under his hands, and he picked her up again.
"Believe me, Ororo, if I could stab that bastard or throw him off the roof, I would in a heartbeat," Sam said quietly, the words unexpected. "Look at me, Ororo. Look at me." She could hear Cletus' cackles behind her, and guessed where he stood based on Loki's eyes, the young boy standing by the door with his arms crossed. It took another deep breath, and the knowledge Sam also wanted to hurt the red-skinned boy for Ororo to turn her gaze on him.
"There is something wrong inside him, waiting to get out, and you better make sure you're not near him when it does. You too, T'Challa," he added, lifting his gaze to the boy, his expression darkening. "Let's not give him the satisfaction of his...dark meat delicacy. You need to learn how to control your anger though, Ororo. Don't let it overwhelm you."
"That oughta get me higher than a zero!"
Kate Bishop of District Twelve
Written by robbiepoo2341
"I love it when people doubt me. It makes me work harder to prove them wrong." - Derek Jeter
"You know what you're going to do?"
Kate was sitting beside Kurt. She'd stolen his district partner's spot on the bench, which she definitely wasn't supposed to do, but what's-her-name from Nine didn't seem to care much. After all, that meant Kate was now sitting beside the psycho from Ten.
Kurt smiled at Kate. He had been staring at his hands and looked nervous until then, and she figured he needed some cheerleading. "I think so," he said, though she could tell he was nervous just by the lilt in his voice. Kurt had a bit of an accent, but it seemed to get thicker the more nervous he got.
"Betcha get the best score," she said. "Just show them half the moves you've been teaching me, and the Swordsman himself couldn't be prouder."
He smiled feebly at her, like he wasn't convinced.
Kate rambled on a bit longer, extolling Kurt's virtues in an effort to cheer him up, but it wasn't long before they called for him. Boys went first, after all.
The door closed behind him, and Kate sighed, locking eyes with Nine's girl, who gave her a look that said, No way am I switching seats back.
Not that Kate could blame her. She scooted a little further away from Ten.
A few minutes later, they called Nine's girl, and Kate tried not to look too relieved as she sped right back to her seat. On the far end of the bench. Past both tributes from Eleven and past Loki. Lots of people to make a cushion between her and Ten.
But lots of people meant lots of time to wait, and as Kate settled down on the bench, the silence settled around them.
Kate shifted in her seat and pretended she wasn't nervous.
Only she was definitely nervous, because she could hear District Ten's boy drumming his abnormally long fingernails against the solid bench. He caught her gaze and grinned at her, running his tongue over his weird teeth.
She tried to force herself to smile back or stick her tongue out at him — something— but it was hard to do anything but just look down and away and pretend not to be intimidated.
The boy from Eleven, who seemed decent but who Kate hadn't really stopped to get to know, gave her an understanding sort of smile.
Kate sighed and shifted again.
Beside her, Loki had his eyes closed. There was no telling what that kid was planning in his weird little head. She'd almost thought they were friends, after that second night. He certainly had at least stopped staring at her like he knew something she didn't. At least, he'd stopped doing it while she could see him.
Kate folded and unfolded her hands in her lap. This was a really long wait, and she didn't like it. Didn't like that she was in the last district. Her mentor had warned her that the Gamemakers were usually tired out by the time they got to Twelve, and so Kate had better do something to get their attention back.
She watched the boy from Ten leap to his feet and practically dance into the room, and the mood in the waiting room lifted substantially. There was something about him that gave everyone the creeps.
And yet, without even the tap-tap-tap of Ten's fingernails against the bench, the silence grew more and more oppressive. Kate missed District Twelve terribly, could almost hear Tommy's voice breaking the silence. You're all so bo-o-o-ring, he would say. He seemed to think everyone in the world moved too slowly for him.
Or maybe Billy would say something dreadfully, hilariously dramatic. And then Teddy would chide him for taking the Games too seriously. America would punch them both when they got too involved with each other.
She could hear both of the kids from Eleven talking quietly with each other as Ten's girl went next. Their voices were low, but she could still hear every word in the oppressive silence. But it seemed like a private conversation, and half of it seemed to be in a different language, so she tried her best to pretend she couldn't hear it.
At least they were talking. It sort of helped to have human voices around her again.
She watched the girl from Eleven swing her legs back and forth. Loki didn't seem bothered—except Kate could see that he was. One fist was clenched tighter than the other. It was the only sign that the nerves were getting to him, too.
They called for the boy from Eleven, and that was what broke Kate out of her thoughts. The sound of Eleven's footsteps was so light and soft that if Kate had managed to convince herself to actually make conversation, even her whispered voice would have drowned out the sound of his steps.
But now? Now they sounded like bullets.
Kate winced. There was not much time left before the Games, and she had to admit that she'd thought about running. But each daydream ended in a spray of bullets as loud as those footsteps.
And besides, she'd done plenty of smiling and waving and even convincing half the Capitol that she was just about the smiliest, most excited little tribute the Games had ever seen.
But after the Games, that was the real test. If she could smile through all that. If she could come back from it.
She knew she wouldn't come home unchanged. Experience had taught her that. No, you don't live through something like that, something so awful, and come back unchanged.
Two years ago, Kate had become someone else. And if she came back from the Games, she'd be another stranger. Only this time she'd have even more power to keep the people she cared about from harm. She'd be a victor, and she could help train girls so they'd never have to be as helpless as she was. She could even help get sponsors.
After all, she loved Blackagar, and he was growing on her, but there was not much he could do to get sponsors when he couldn't talk.
She jumped when the girl from Eleven left her seat—she hadn't heard them call her name. She tried to cover for the movement by skipping over so that she took up Eleven's now unoccupied bench on her own, apart from Loki, who still looked calm and collected as he kept his eyes closed and thought about whatever he was thinking about.
What was he thinking about? How best to kill Kate?
She swallowed hard and tried not to think about it. She'd just have to avoid Loki and the Career pack if she could, and hope if they found her that maybe — just maybe — Clint would be nice enough to help her skirt by. Or maybe Loki, if he was feeling generous, but that was a big if.
It was a fleeting hope, but that was all she had to hold on to.
She stretched herself out on the bench, letting her hair fall around her. She focused on that, on the gravity working on her hair as she brought it up and laid it across her shoulders, where it slowly fell back down again.
Up and down. Up and down. Something to do with her hands. Her fingers itched for a bow, for arrows, for security.
Loki walked past her, deliberately jostling her bench as he went. She made a face at him and then grinned, but he did not smile back.
She sighed. It was silent now. Just Kate and her thoughts — no one else.
"My name is Kate!" she bellowed at the ceiling, because it was horrifically quiet, and she just couldn't stand it anymore — and what did the Sentinels she might have disturbed care if she let out her frustration for just a second? "And you will remember me!"
The ceiling didn't say anything back, but that was probably a good thing. Meant she wasn't going insane.
She sighed. Her outburst hadn't helped.
She went back to playing with her hair. Up and down. Up and down. The silence, which had broken apart when she shouted into it, crept back in around her like a stifling blanket.
And then they called for her.
She felt her feet hit the floor, though she was not aware that she ever made the conscious decision to move.
And then she was back in the training room. Stations were set up all around her, and there was a large room, a seating area for the Gamemakers.
Kate beamed at them, waving enthusiastically. She was running out of beaming smiles in her supply, but when the adrenaline kicked in, that was all she could remember to do — smile and wave.
She probably did that for too long. One of the Gamemakers even sort of smiled back, his hand moving like he might wave back out of pity.
That was not good. She didn't need pity.
She forced her mind back to reality. She could see already that she was losing their interest. She'd get a zero — was it possible to get a zero? She was pretty sure it wasn't, but then, maybe...
She grabbed the staffs and twirled them over her head, losing her fear in the motions, going through a few dummies, testing out her strength, throwing in a few unnecessary twirls...
When she looked back in the room, she noticed that there were almost no eyes on her.
She dropped the staffs with a loud clang. Didn't even bother to pick them back up, just left them there.
And then she stalked over to the weapons rack and grabbed the bow and arrows. She didn't care enough to check to see if they were watching. Surely she'd grabbed their attention for a moment when she dropped the staffs, but they were already distracted enough that they might have just assumed she dropped them on accident.
Thwack. The first arrow.
Twang. The sound of her bow.
Stupid assessment scores.
Thunk. The third arrow.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
Kate's muscle memory took over. She stopped thinking. She just saw one target after the next.
And when she reached back for another arrow and found the quiver empty, that was when a real smile chased her eyes, and she licked her lips, turning back to the Gamemakers who were, predictably, only half paying attention.
And she could see it in the eyes of the ones who had been watching. (There were maybe three). The raised eyebrows. The pursed lips. Fury in particular looked like he might even smile.
Kate cleared her throat loudly, and more of them turned to look. Elbowed the ones who weren't paying attention.
Kate probably should have used the moment more. If she'd been Loki, she would have had something grand or amusing to say. Instead, she had already placed the bow back on the weapons rack and was headed out the door before half the Gamemakers had even processed the scene before them.
The row of dummies, all suddenly filled with arrows. No head shots or chest shots or even cool lightning designs like Clint had done. No, no. These were specially aimed with just the Gamemakers in mind.
Kate chuckled to herself and she closed the door behind her, laughing as she pictured their faces when they looked up to discover that every single dummy had at least two arrows in its nether parts.
When she looked up, she was surprised to see that there had apparently been a bit of a commotion while she was gone. The girl from Eleven (what washer name? Kate wished she'd had more time to talk with her to get to know her better) was in her mentor's arms, apparently calming down, while the boy from Ten was being led away by his own mentor.
Should have known he'd be the source of whatever this problem was.
Kate decided to deflate the tension a little. "That oughta get me higher than a zero," she announced to the room. She beamed at all of them, putting on her 'prettiest' face, before she locked gazes with Eleven, who smirked at her and seemed to relax in her mentor's arms.
Loki, who had been standing near the door and apparently watching the confrontation before Kate arrived, sighed, "Must you?"
"What would you do without me to make your life more interesting?" she shot right back, skipping right on past him toward her mentor, Blackager, who was shaking his head at her even though she could see he was trying not to smile.
Yeah, that's right. I've wormed my way into your heart—don't go bothering to deny it, she thought, waving merrily at Blackager.
As she passed Eleven, who had now been released from her mentor's bear hug, she paused and then decided to stop. (The mentor for Eleven didn't look too happy about that. Why he didn't like Kate, she would never know. Didn't he know that everybody here thought she was awesome?)
"Shame he stopped you," she said, gesturing toward Eleven's mentor. "Would've been nice if you could've taken Ten out before the Games. You'd be doing us all a favour."
Eleven grinned, and her district partner looked mortified at Kate's suggestion. Or maybe he looked like he agreed with her. The two emotions seemed to be equally mixed on his face.
"Don't I know it, but T'Challa would think that's working the system," Eleven muttered under her breath as the smile slipped from her face. She paused, looking to her district partner, before she shook her head. "You know you can't possibly get a zero, right? I don't know what you were worried about."
"I dunno. I'm not even sure half of them saw anything I did," Kate shrugged easily.
"Yeah," Eleven said. Her face fell, and she looked at the ground.
"Doesn't matter, though," Kate said, more forcefully this time. "I know how good I am, and it's time I stopped caring if other people know it, too."
Eleven didn't look convinced. (Kate wasn't sure she had convinced herself, actually).
Kate looked to Eleven's mentor, who gave her a look that sort of said If you must, before she reached out and put a hand on Eleven's shoulder. "Hey," she said. "Just because the Gamemakers have already counted us out doesn't mean anything. They've never been out in the Outer Districts. Bet they wouldn't survive two hours where we're from."
Eleven grinned. "Two hours is generous."
Kate shrugged easily. "Depends on the day," she said.
Eleven laughed. She looked over her shoulder at her mentor, who was chatting with her district partner but kept shooting her dark looks.
"Why does he hate me?" Kate asked suddenly.
Eleven practically cackled at the question. "He thinks you're stupid."
"He's not wrong," Kate admitted with a smile.
Eleven snorted. "That's what you get for calling attention to yourself. Told you not to do that, ghost gum."
Kate rubbed the back of her head and smiled sheepishly. "I'm really not all that good at following directions."
Eleven smirked but said nothing.
"Ororo!" Eleven's mentor called. (Oh, yes, that was her name!) He looked upset.
Ororo pulled a face and then looked over at Kate with an exaggerated eye roll. "Don't worry. He's not really annoyed. He's just...Sam. See you around?" she whispered.
"Maybe wait 'til the Games, where it's safer," Kate joked, jerking her head Sam's direction, but Ororo didn't smile, so Kate just shrugged. "Yeah, see you around, Ororo," she said, making a point to use her name now that she could actually remember it. Kate liked this spunky little girl, and she wouldn't mind having her on her side.
Ororo sidled off, talking animatedly with her mentor and with an expression that clearly said she could match him in levels of annoyance.
Kate grinned, waved, and looked back at Blackager, who looked like he didn't know whether to smile or scowl at her.
She skipped over to him with a grin. "What score do you think they give people who shoot all their dummies in the crotch?" she asked in a whisper just loud enough for Blackager and Loki (who had joined their mentor at last) to hear.
Blackager gave her a disapproving look, but Loki sort of smiled at her, like he was weirdly proud of his district partner. Blackager glared at Loki, too, then made a motion with his hands that sort of looked like he was pointing to his head.
"Yeah, I know. I'm stupid," Kate said. "At least stupid works for me."
Blackager gave her his big, sad, long-suffering eyes. She'd gotten to know that look pretty well — she and Loki were apparently very good at getting his feathers ruffled.
She snorted. "Let's head back," she declared. "Don't want to miss them announcing the scores."
"Yes, we wouldn't want to miss the first zero in the history of the Games," Loki said. He spoke with a straight face, but she could see his lips quivering into a smirk.
She smacked him playfully upside the head. And before anyone nearby could give her yet another 'no fighting' shout, she rushed ahead of him and called out, "Race you back!"