Epilogue: Premonition


District Six

She didn't want to do it.

Evelyn curled up in the tippity-top window of her house in District Six's Victor's Village, staring blankly out at the evening winter sky as if it would save her from what she had agreed to do. Dark clouds slowly puffed across her view, bringing promises of snow in the next twenty-four hours.

A donut with a bite taken out of it sat on a dainty plate on the nearby table, where she had set it down early that morning after her father stopped by. He'd handed the paper bag to her in the freezing morning air, a sad twinkle in his eye.

It wasn't the same anymore. She now lived in her mansion. Her family stayed back in the old house and bakery. There was nothing either of them could do about it. When he had wrapped her in a hug and his warm breath had tickled her frozen ears, it almost felt like things were normal, as if she could disappear in his arms and simply exist, away from the thoughts, the screams, the guilt. But he couldn't understand her, not fully. She didn't blame him, but it was no longer what it once was.

She chuckled bitterly at herself. Silly Evelyn… throwing a fit about something so small. This wasn't a huge commitment. This wasn't the next Reaping or even the Victory tour set to begin in a week. This was nothing more than a simple dinner invitation with some common folk of District Six, nothing that deserved the amount of existential dread that hung over her head like the thick clouds outside.

Yet it scared her all the same. Today, six months after the Hunger Games, she was finally meeting Reuben's family.

It wasn't the first time she'd seen them. They had welcomed her back when her train from the Capitol arrived at the station, standing at the forefront of the crowd with sad smiles. Two parents. Two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Just like Reuben had described them.

But she hadn't ever met them. Not really. And what did they think of her? Reuben had had much better odds; it was purely bad luck that he drank the poisoned water before she did. They had every right to hate her.

Maybe I shouldn't go.

She sighed. As tantalizing as it sounded, she knew she couldn't just back out now. The average family in District Six couldn't just afford to change meal plans on a whim, so if they didn't already hate her, they'd definitely hate her if she quit last-minute.

Plus, she needed closure.

She slowly uncurled herself and picked up the donut for strength, taking a nibble even though she wasn't particularly hungry. While she dressed herself to go out, the sweet aftertaste lingered like a culinary pep talk, keeping her mind off everything that could possibly go wrong.

Of course, the donut only lasted so long, soon replaced by the metallic taste of her own blood as she gnawed on the inside of her cheek. She came face to face with her own front door and paused to collect herself, a bag of sweets in her left hand and an envelope of cash in her right. The beating of her heart picked up in pace, so she closed her eyes and slowly counted until her chest no longer felt like it would burst.

1… 2… 3… 4… 5… 6… 7… 8… 9… 10…

Calm. This was an excellent day if it only took counting to ten. Now assured that she wasn't about to die, she smiled for herself and stepped back into District Six.

As she walked closer and closer to the familiar place, her heart pounded and her breath came out in short puffs that momentarily blurred her vision. The street market was busy. It always was before sunset. Her eyes flew wide open—it was so noisy; there were so many people, she just wanted to hide

Breathe, Evelyn. Breathe.

She flipped on her hood, stuck her hands in her pockets, and pulled up her shoulders, taking care to keep her head down in case someone should make eye contact with her—or worse, recognize her as the Victor of the more recent Hunger Games.

Halfway through the market, she came upon the old dry fountain and stopped to stare. It was even bleaker than she'd last seen it. The stunted, wizened trees ringed around the square had lost their sparse canopies. The wildflowers had disappeared from their cracks in the concrete. Reuben's rapping was absent. As she stood there, cheeks stinging in the biting wind, her ears strained to hear the lines that would never be heard again.

She forced herself to move on.

Two more blocks, that was all that remained of her journey, yet every step felt slower than the last. Her heart strained against her with an urge to flee, to run away from this terrifying, people-filled place back to the safety of her house.

But she had to do this. She needed to. She grit her teeth and continued forward, not stopping to think until she stood in front of a perfectly normal townhouse, slightly weathered but otherwise fine if not a bit drab, with the grey paint that covered the walls and theft-prevention metal bars over the ground floor windows.

This was it. She took a long breath and knocked on the door. Every new moment of waiting felt a new eternity of an ever-increasing infinity.

Are they mad at me? Do they blame me for Reuben's death?

The door finally swung open, releasing a faint aroma that immediately brought tears to her eyes. It was unmistakably his. Before her stood a girl of about twelve, half-hiding behind it as she stared. Evelyn stared too, withering inside with every second. She dug her fingernail into her palm. Speak, Evelyn, speak! She'd done it in the Arena. She could do it again.

Pull it together. For him.

"May-Li?" Evelyn whispered. She cringed at her own voice.

The girl nodded. "Evelyn?"

She nodded too, goosebumps rising at the thought of looking the girl in the eye. But then May-Li latched onto her with a ferocious hug that nearly knocked Evelyn into the street, making any worries irrelevant. The girl buried her face in Evelyn's thick winter coat and sobbed.

"I'm so sorry…" Evelyn choked. "I… I couldn't save him."

"It wasn't your fault…" The girl sniffled, wiping her nose. "I… I just miss him."

"Me too."

Evelyn rubbed May-Li on the back and patted her gently on the shoulders as the two stood over the threshold with winter blowing in from outside, meeting the aroma of tomato sauce that wafted over from the kitchen. A deeper voice called from further inside the house; a slightly older guy appeared in the hall. His brother.

"Oh! You're here. So sorry about this; come on in! We're having spaghetti tonight; Reuben used to make it a lot…"

All she could do was smile, teary-eyed and overwhelmed. Although she still hadn't met the whole family (the others could hate her for all she knew), she strangely felt at peace, as if Reuben were smiling at her again with a "good job."

Things would be okay.


Capitol

Silvia never returned.

Rufus sat at the rickety dinner table, whose rough surface scratched at his bare elbows. He rested his head in his hands, staring across his living room at the patched-up front door as if it would make her materialize right there. Though her presence had been a source of tension for weeks leading up to the Games, her absence now was unbearable, as if part of his heart had been forcibly ripped away, never to be given back.

It was his fault, too.

What happened to her? Was she dead— or worse, an Avox? Was she locked up in a prison somewhere, deep underground where he'd never find her? Was the Capitol torturing her at that very moment, seeking to discover her secrets?

He clawed at his hair and groaned, careful to stifle it so Vera wouldn't hear it as she played in the bedroom, naively unaware of what was really happening. He had to be strong for her. She was all he had left.

The door creaked open. He bit his lip and forced a tired smile. Though the cost felt too much to pay, he had to do it for her.

"Daddy?"

"Yes?"

Her voice was sad. "Where's Mommy?"

There it was. The dreaded question. He opened his mouth to answer, yet nothing came out. He sucked in a deep breath.

"Come here." He opened his arms and welcomed her into a hug, patting her gently on the back. "Mommy's… gone away on a long, long trip."

"I miss her."

"Me too." Though it pained him to lie to her, telling her the truth… It wasn't an option. She was too young, too naive, too innocent. Someday, she'd have to know, but she wasn't ready yet.

Maybe he was the unprepared one.

"When will she come home?"

"I don't know… I really don't know." He sighed, cursing himself internally as water poked at the corner of his eyes. As her father, he was supposed to be her pillar of strength. Some strength he was.

Vera frowned and scrunched her face up, as if confused.

He noticed her watching him and blinked rapidly. "She loved—" He caught himself using the past tense and grit his teeth to keep the tear from slipping down his cheek. "She loves you very much."

She stared up at him with big, innocent eyes, suddenly tinged with fear. "Will you go away on a long trip too?"

"No," he said, pulling her closer. He bowed his head to plant a tender kiss on her cheek. "Never. I'll always be here for you."


The Wilds

When the woods gave way to huge, sprawling plains, the blood rushed from Orysa's head and she nearly fainted from joy. After two weeks of hiking through the woods, sleeping by day and traveling by night, she had finally found her way out of the nightmarish forests. The wide expanse of grass welcomed her into its sunny arms that smelled of home and open air. A fence towered in the distance, running on and on across the grass until it met the sky. If she squinted, she swore she could see a house, or even a cluster of houses, and—

Was that a person near the fence? She clamped her hand over her mouth, barely able to keep herself silent. After all this time… another human! Her heart raced as words bubbled up in her throat. All these things to say, with no one to talk to… the silence was getting unbearable; would it come to an end?

She pinched herself. Get it together, Orysa. This could be dangerous—whoever it was could turn her in, and all the effort she'd put into survival would be for naught.

Don't do this, it isn't safe, they'll turn you in, you'll be killed, wait for nightfall—

She didn't care.

With her hood flipped up to conceal her face, she crouched down into the tall grass and approached the fence, which buzzed with electricity. She peered through the holes in the wire lattice. Sure enough, a boy around her age stood a little while away, his hands stuck deep in his pockets as he strolled through the grasses. She stuck up her hand and waved, resisting the almost-irresistible urge to jump and yell.

The boy lifted his head, met her gaze, and froze momentarily. He cocked his head, eyeing her with suspicion, but after forever he finally approached the fence in slow, cautious steps.

Orysa half-whispered, half-screamed the moment he was near enough to talk—or perhaps even a little early to talk. "Oh my goodness! Hi!"

He met her frenetic gaze uncertainly. "Hey… Who are you?"

"Oh! I'm… Mazie. Nice to meet you."

"Mazie? What are you doing out there?"

She frowned at his wary look. This wasn't quite the welcome she had expected. "I'm… not sure. Just avoiding the Capitol, I guess."

"Are you headed for Thirteen?" he pressed.

"Thirteen?"

"Oh."

She chuckled uncomfortably, though deep inside, talking to this weird kid was better than nothing. "I'm… not sure where I'm going, actually. Just anywhere the Capitol can't get me. They'd probably kill me or Avox me or something…. Ugh! I don't want to think about it!"

"Then you should go to Thirteen."

District Thirteen? She nearly laughed, but his tone was solemn and his eyes were sincere.

"You mean… District Thirteen? Isn't it bombed-out?"

"You don't know?" He raised an eyebrow. "It's common knowledge 'round these parts of District Nine that it still exists… effin' Capitol brainwashing."

She frowned. She was from District Nine herself; how had she never heard of this? Now it made sense why the rest of the district was always so rebellious… if Thirteen could stay free from Capitol rule, perhaps the other ones could as well.

A smile spread across the boy's face. "Wait right here. I'll be right back."

The smile. The moment he was gone, Orysa cursed herself. This was a trap, wasn't it? Trying to lure her into false security before calling for Peacekeepers? She shouldn't have come…

But she remembered his tone. His eyes. The way he seemed disappointed that she didn't know of Thirteen, as if her going to Thirteen was exciting to him. Her stupid brain could yell at her all it wanted; she would wait for him to return.

Sure enough, a few minutes later, he reappeared from the door of one of the houses, a small bundle in his hand. Once near, he took a few uncertain steps towards the buzzing fence before sliding the paper bundle in between the electrified wires.

"Here," he whispered, now completely serious, "It ain't much, but it's something."

She snatched it up before it hit the ground. It unraveled in her hands to reveal a small rusty compass and a small bag of crackers, with a hand-drawn map scrawled on the inside of the paper wrapping. At the top right was a messy "D13."

The boy grinned sheepishly. "It's not very good, but you get the gist of things."

She nodded. With eager hands, she peeled open the bag a took a deep whiff of the scent that transported her back to her very own kitchen, the smell of District Nine that she hadn't experienced in almost a full month. Her stomach sank. Homesick. Even if she made it to Thirteen, she'd never see anyone from home ever again.

A tear slid down her face. "T-Thank you."

"I should go." He backed away, an encouraging smile on his face. "Good luck."

She barely heard it, still drowning in the memories of Dad… Mr. Emmer… the days spent in the fields she would never return to. She wasn't ready to let go. Not yet. But time was running out, and soon, she'd leave District Nine for the very last time.

"Oh… one last thing!" she called after the boy. It was far too loud to be safe, but that was the least of her concerns.

He looked back in confusion.

"Tell Rye Edrei that his daughter is alive, will you?"

"You betcha!" he called back. "Rye… Edrei… Wait! You're—"

But she was gone, back into the inter-district wilds, running against the wind with tears streaming down her cheeks. District Nine was behind her. There was no going back. Either she became a resident of District Thirteen, or she died trying to get there.

But someday…


Capitol

Adrastus' hand was heavy as he swept the pile of papers off the desk into a crisp cardboard box, where they fluttered down in solid stacks that landed haphazardly on top of each other. After thirty years of working in this office, he was preparing to say goodbye for the last time.

He paused at the holo-bulletin board, littered with virtual scraps from news sites and television shows. Some held high praise for his work. Others lambasted him for every minor mistake over the last thirty-seven years.

It was his career. It was his life. It was over.

Somehow, he didn't mind, not too much. He'd miss his team, the ones that stuck by him through thick and thin. He'd miss seeing the growth of the next generations of Gamemakers, especially Callista Otherson, who was set to become the next Star Gamemaker. But he wouldn't miss the death threats. The careful political maneuvering it took to keep him alive thus far. The weight of his own life on the line, especially since the Games themselves were becoming an unwelcome chore.

After the Thirty-Seventh Hunger Games, he was glad to leave.

Still, a boulder sat deep in his gut, a brain-numbing concern that refused to let him go, not for himself but for his country. The terrorists were still out there. He might've killed one or two, yet there was no telling what the Districto ruffians had planned for the future. Would his successor—or worse, Panem—fall to their dastardly schemes?

Suddenly, the door clicked open behind him. He didn't have to turn around to know who it was.

"Mr. Beaufleur."

A younger voice, a firm voice. The voice of one that knew what he wanted and would stop at nothing to achieve it, not even poison and sabotage.

Adrastus cleared his throat. He hoped his shudder wasn't noticeable. "President Snow."

"I must congratulate you on your efforts over the past few weeks."

"Thank you." He paused, trying to decode Snow's steely face. "Anything for the future of Panem."

Snow smiled, his signature wiley smile that sent a shiver down Adrastus' smile. It was the very smile that the late President trusted to his own demise. "I do hope you enjoy your quiet retirement from the public sphere."

Adrastus was too drained to care. "I will, thank you. I've had enough political intrigue for my time."

"The country will miss you dearly."

A pause ensued as the two stood across the half-cleared office from each other. An awkward one for Adrastus that made his skin bristle and would've made him squirm if his years in the military hadn't hardened his self-control.

"One last thing," Adrastus ventured, "If I may."

The corner of Snow's lips curled up. That bastad, enjoying his power over him.

"My one worry concerns the Red Blades—the terrorist group that disrupted the Games this year, if you recall. I trust that something is being done about it?"

"Don't worry yourself, dear Mr. Beaufleur." Snow nodded in approval. "What a hero, always concerned for his country. The Senate is currently finalizing broad restrictions across Panem, from the Districtos here in the Capitol to even filthy District Twelve. You would do well to be reassured that this sort of terrorist action will never happen again."

"I'm glad to hear that." Adrastus smiled weakly. Though he had his doubts, it was better than nothing.

It did strike him as funny, though, that even District Twelve would face restrictions. District Twelve, the weakest link in Panem, whose wretched inhabitants worked their lives away unaware that their efforts weren't all that important in the grand scheme of Panem's economy. He had been there once during the war; the people there could barely afford to feed their own families, let alone dream of revolt.

District Twelve? Starting a rebellion?

What a ridiculous idea.


Fin.


A/N Aaaaaand that's a wrap! The end of Premonition. This is so unreal to me; I never thought I'd come back to writing Hunger Games fanfiction after three/four years of inactivity, let alone finish another SYOT. I think the simple fact that this story is more than double the length of my last SYOT says something about how I've improved in my characterization and writing ability.

Below this, I have a little self-evaluation and then some statistics (read to the end for something inspired by Dawn), but before I go, I'd like to thank every single one of you for reading and joining me on this journey as well as all my submitters who gave me kids when I really struggled with getting subs.

A few specific thank-you's: Thank you to Dawn and Bradi, my most loyal reviewers and some of my dearest friends on this buggy blue website. Thank you to silversshade, TyQuavis, the garden, and all who kept up on discord. Thank you to timesphobic for being my spoiler buddy, and thank you to optimisms, ladyqueerfoot, goldie031, and timesphobic for looking over the finale.

I'd love to know your opinions, especially if you have any constructive criticism.

Thoughts?


Self-Evaluation:

Strengths: In my opinion, the strongest point of the story was probably the Pre-Games/Capitol arc, where every tribute was tied into a subplot somehow and most of them also had more clearly-defined arcs. I'm especially proud of how I could use the fillers to tie characters together in a way that made every character feel more or less relevant. I'm also happy with the way I tied things together throughout the story, such as Marleigh's gnome featuring in the finale as well as Jasmine's tie to Evelyn beginning in training, though I think I could've done more.

Weaknesses: One we hit the Games… many arcs got a bit murky. Though I had a vague idea how the Games were gonna go from the end of intros, I didn't spend quite as much time planning out the ins and outs of every POV the way I did for training. So, sometimes I'd realize after I posted a chapter that the POV didn't do enough "work" to set up or depict the development I had in mind for them. In my eyes, the biggest examples of these failures are setting up Orysa and Lannister's rebelliousness, Bryson's betrayal, and Lasmine's love arc (though to be fair, that one wasn't in the original plan). In the future (especially for Justice), I will keep individual plot arcs at the forefront of my mind while planning to avoid this issue in the future.

Tribute Portrayal Accuracy:
Excellent: Jasmine, Alia, Marleigh, Rina, Barrett, Dove
Decent: Lannister, Cleodora, Reuben, Evelyn, Orysa, Elena
Meh: Chaos, Baize, Bryson
Poor: Zeus, Devrell

Looking back, this is how I'd rate myself on the way I portrayed each tribute, sans the fillers, of course. For the ones in Meh or Poor, I feel like I didn't portray them in a way that was accurate enough to what they should've been. If you think I rated myself too highly, please tell me! I won't be offended at all! In fact, I'll probably thank you for the feedback.


Statistics


Kills:

Three Kills:
Alia Bernold, District Two (Viyella Mackinaw, Elena Vogel, Zeus Strikon)
Zeus Strikon, District Two (Achan Combrush, Jasmine Softwing, Devrell Sibley)
Elena Vogel, District Ten (Naaman Rhus, Rina Alcott, Tommy Chassis)

Two Kills:
Jasmine Softwing, District One (Cedric McKowen, Dove Yee)
Lannister Saint, District One (Cleodora Mulroy, Baize Liliwin)
Evelyn Darby, District Six (Marleigh Gaskawee, Bryson Fields)
Dove Yee, District Twelve (Hass Kirchoff, Integra Simms)
Capitol (Lannister Saint, "Orysa Edrei")

One Kill:
Rina Alcott, District Seven (Anetha Layton)
Marleigh Gaskawee, District Five (Reuben Koled)
Barrett Adler, District Ten (Alia Bernold)
Bryson Fields, District Nine (Barrett Adler)


Final Placements:

24th: Hass Kirchoff, 16, District Five
the one who schemed against his own conscience

23rd: Viyella Mackinaw, 18, District Eight
the one who had to be responsible

22nd: Achan Combrush, 17, District Twelve
the one who began to try

21st: Cedric McKowen, 18, District Seven
the one whose directness showed his sincerity

20th: Integra Simms, 18, District Three
the one who was compliant

19th: Naaman Rhus, 17, District Eleven
the one who actually knew how to scheme

18th: Anetha Laython, 18, District Eleven
the one who sealed her doom in trying to be strong

17th: Rina Alcott, 18, District Seven
the one who couldn't give up her walls of mirrors

16th: Dove Yee, 16, District Twelve
the one who always felt betrayed

15th: Jasmine Softwing, 18, District One
the one who followed her heart

14th: Cleodora Mulroy, 18, District Four
the one who chose duty over heart

13th: Devrell Sibley, 18, District Four
the one who thought he didn't care what others thought

12th: Tommy "Chaos" Chassis, 16, District Three
the one who lived on the edge

11th: Elena Vogel, 17, District Ten
the one who died on her superior path she chose

10th: Reuben Koled, 17, District Six
the one who protected against the odds

9th: Zeus Strikon, 18, District Two
the one who only wanted to make it through for his momma

8th: Baize Liliwin, 17, District Eight
the one who always needed to rebel

7th: Lannister Saint, 18, District One
the one who discovered his heart

6th: Orysa Edrei, 16, District Nine
the one who persisted till the end (and beyond)

5th: Alia Bernold, 17, District Two
the one who became disillusioned with the spotlight she sought

4th: Marleigh Gaskawee, 18, District Five
the one who could not bear to hurt anyone

3rd: Barrett Adler, 18, District Ten
the one who genuinely loved

2nd: Bryson Fields, 13, District Nine
the one who learned to trust but chose to doubt

Victor: Evelyn Darby, 15, District Six
the one who stepped out in confidence