A/N: We've made it, guys. This is the last chapter of The Same, But Different. Enjoy.


Epilogue 2


Rielle Corde, age 35
Victor of the 74th Annual Hunger Games

Nineteen years later

I wake up with my eyes flying open and my breathing fast. I was back in the forest of my Hunger Games, but instead of running from the wolf mutts I was slashing at them with a sword while my children screamed in fear behind me. I take a deep breath, focusing on the dark bedroom around me as the nightmare fades away. I'm alone. Thank goodness.

I'm not in some stranger's bed, loathing the services I've been forced to perform, or in the Arena, fearing for my life. I'm in a train bound for District 12, and I'm safe. Safe and sound.

I drink some water from my bedside table and try to get back to sleep, but I find that I can't. My thoughts keep drifting back to negative things, like how I killed three children and failed to bring home many others. So I get out of bed, throwing on a robe and carrying my half-full glass of water with me. I might as well watch some television in the main compartment. Anything to distract me from the fact that I feel pretty shitty.

I walk quietly through the train, my bare feet chilly against the floor. When I reach the main compartment, I'm surprised to find out that Dasher Suárez is there, watching the television, awake. Has the kid gotten any sleep tonight?

"Hello, Dasher?" I say gently. "It's me, Ms. Corde."

"Ah!" Dasher yells, glaring at me and bolting upright. He quickly relaxes.

"S-sorry, I s-still get startled really easily," he says in his characteristic quiet voice.

"It's okay," I say, giving what I hope is a reassuring smile. "How are you doing?"

"Fine."

He doesn't look fine. I pause, thinking about what to say next to Panem's most recent Victor. The mother in me wants the twelve-year-old to get some sleep so he can be up early tomorrow for our visit of District 12. But the fellow Victor in me understands what he's going through.

"What are you watching?" I ask, glancing at the screen and sitting down next to Dasher. I see the face of Rose Chiang and am greeted with a rush of conflicting emotions. On the one hand, I'm proud of the Victor of the 85th Games, the first tribute I brought home. But on the other hand, I'm reminded of my own Games and the pain I was trying to avoid by coming here to watch television.

"Past Victory Tours," Dasher answers.

The kid is always so quiet these days. Maybe it's to make up for all the screaming he did in the Arena, screaming as he watched his two allies die and threw blades into the two people he killed. I want to help him, but I'm not sure how. Every time I talk to him, he gives such short, simple answers. He doesn't come into the Academy, either.

Not that I expect him to, I think as I nod. He's said that he wants as little to do with the Games as possible.

It's funny how things have turned out. Three is often called a pseudo-Career District these days, along with Four. We almost never have volunteers, but our tributes are almost always well-trained in a variety of Games-related subjects, so they can have the best chance in the Arena they get Reaped. Four is like this, too. In the years following the 74th Games, there has been less and less volunteers from the fishing District. They are no longer considered on par with Districts 1 and 2, but their training facilities give them an advantage over the Outer Districts.

I can't say that I'm upset by this development. It was partially my fault, with many people taking an interest in sports after my athleticism gave me an edge in my Games. And if Rose and Dasher hadn't trained in the Academy before being Reaped into their respective Games, they wouldn't have had the physicality to win and come home. I glance at Dasher. He's so timid, but he's so fast and strong. I'm very proud of him, the youngest Victor.

Rose's program ends, the screen showing one final shot of the then-eighteen-year-old, and the next one begins.

"Wait, this one's mine," I say, my heart heavy.

Dasher doesn't say anything, but he sits closer to me. I appreciate the gesture. I'm reminded of each and every tribute who died in the 74th Games, and I remember them all.

Fiery Amanita, determined Kivan, exuberant Poppy, subdued Digger, sweet Marie, brainy Suede, sad Millie, laid-back Koras, kind Rayon, bitter Twine, extraverted Piper, quiet Kayne, cruel Kasumi, hardworking Axel, spirited Sonata, friendly Alec, knowledgeable Pearl, easygoing Calder, competitive Brock, proud Hestia, antsy Token, bubbly Reign, good-natured Chip.

For some reason we watch the whole program.

"You have to grin and bear it," I say as the credits roll. I don't even realize that I've spoken out loud at first, but I allow myself to continue. "It's pretty tough."

We sit in silence for a while. Then Dasher looks up at me with uncertain but hopeful eyes.

"But you survive, don't you?" he asks.

"Yes," I say, smiling ever so slightly as the first tears fall down my face. "Yes, we do."

-END-


A/N: I'm not going to get super sappy because I'm just so proud and happy that I have finally, after more than two and a half long years of ups and downs, finished my first SYOT. I am so, so glad to have had this experience, meeting new people and learning new things along the way. To everyone who ever submitted a tribute, reviewed, or otherwise helped this story, I can't thank you enough. But I still want to say thanks from the bottom of my heart for supporting me on this amazing journey.

Chapter Question: What do you think of District 3 becoming a Pseudo-Career District along with District 4?

Submissions are open for my next SYOT, The Hours, which I will post most likely on November 1st. I hope to see you all there as I continue writing and having fun with Hunger Games SYOTs.

For the last time in this story, thanks for reading, and have a great day!