Canon Divergence from THG Universe - Only Katniss wins the 74th Games. The rebels mostly die out due to the pox epidemic in District 13 and are unable to recover their numbers, so no second rebellion occurs in the canon time frame. The Games go on. The 425th Games are when they finally rebel.

The chapter title is from Glory and Gore by Lorde.

CWs for the Chapter: Familial angst, self-deprecation and self-esteem issues, mercy killing, fire, sacrifice, etc.

The throne was golden and studded with gemstones. He knew it wasn't supposed to be for him.

Aquilina made a few comments, about what, he couldn't hear. He wondered what the editors and audience considered to be 'highlights' of the show. What did they want the Capitol to think of him? A glorified murderer, or wasn't that always supposed to be the case?

This was when the lights of the Capitol dimmed to show the three-hour long recap of the Games. After the opening was the pre-arena events. The Reaping, where he volunteered for the tessera-taking twelve-year-old - it was a local scheme to protect, to ensure no unprepared child would enter the arena. The chariot ride through the Capitol, where Abigail Dare dressed him up in the turquoise toga with the white trim and seashell clasp. The crowd screaming his name. The soundtrack accompanying it reminded him of the sea waves crashing on the shore at home, but with the joy of Victory was bittersweet. He thought of the little girl, Scarlet, lying in the jungle, now likely in a box and shipped home to Eight. Zoë returned to his mind, her regal stature and sharp eye at the crowd; and behind her, Bianca in the coal-black gown, the girl that ran into the flames to take down a Career and lost her life in the process.

In the interview, he was the friendly jokester with the stony glint in his eye, that he was not to be underestimated. He swore he would make it home to his mom. How many others had sworn the same to their own families but never came home alive?

In the Bloodbath, he grabbed a sword and a backpack and fled the miniature beach, Careers screaming for his blood due to his "betrayal". Had he ever told them he would join them? He definitely didn't recall joining them.

He was in the northern quarter of the arena, with the lightly snowing boreal forest. A stag-like creature. Two girls, one tall and dark-skinned, the other short and with hair braided back. Both had arrows nocked on their bows. Two shots. Arrows piercing the mutt's head and shoulder. He remembered them from the training room - for girls from outlying districts, they shot surprisingly accurately, even better than the kids he'd trained with back in Four (he sucked at archery, he needed range). The smaller girl smiled and then they were allies.

He put Scarlet out of her misery. She had an infection in her wound and was already too far gone to save. The stylist of District 8 put them. She told him to kill her. He sliced her throat. And then they had their final 8.

They interviewed his mother. She sat in the room where he said his goodbyes and told the Capitol that she had faith in him still. He had done nothing to deserve a mother like her. He had never done well in school. The main subject he was good at was the Hunger Games preparation stuff at the Academy, but for what cause was it for? Killing children wasn't the way to go to stay in power.

Then came the forest fire. Nothing impressive had happened for the next couple of days, so they sent in sparks to burn down the rainforest in the western quarter. The boy from Three (Talos, his name was) came out of nowhere and tried to fight them to the death in the flames. They had almost reached the beach, to safety, when Bianca smiled sadly and said there was no choice. She gave him a figurine and told him to give it back to her family at home in Twelve, and that was when his heart dropped. The words of her little brother, scruffy but bright-eyed despite the horrid living conditions in the poorest district, echoed across the screen, "I have full faith in my sister. She'll come back. I believe in you, Bianca."

He didn't know if the voiceover was for dramatic irony or to invoke the tears in the crowd.

He still held the token in his pocket of his victor-crowning suit and that was when the dam broke. He wiped at his eyes - the smiling child had lost his sister, and since there was no mother or any other familial figure in sight during the rerun of the interview… she meant her baby brother when she mentioned her family, didn't she? His survival meant another family broken. He should have stopped her from rushing back into the burning rainforest, blades flashing silver in the firelight. He didn't deserve to win this. But he had to watch on - for the sake of the cameras.

"No," he had told her, "please don't go, it's going to be a suicide mission and he's going to burn to death with the rainforest regardless."

Bianca had argued back, "If he gets out of the fire, he's going to kill you both. You're both injured and aren't in any condition to fight him, and since he's part of the Career alliance, I'm sure he's going to kill you both. I just can't risk that. Promise to win the Games for me, Percy, Zoë? I know you can."

He cried for her not to go after Talos, but she was gone before he could drag her back. As the fire died down, two cannons boomed, and he knew there was no going back.

The ones who made the video added all the footage of him and Zoë talking. It had taken days for her to trust him, but she was a good friend ultimately. And of course, after the Feast (Nancy Bobofit, the school bully, went down with a stab to the chest; despite him being one of her victims, he couldn't help but feel sorry for her), acid rain fell from the skies and his skin was burning and the silver parachute floated down on the outskirts of the eastern quarter and he couldn't get the antidote to Zoë in time-!

Three days later, he killed Asterion from One and Chrysaor from Eleven (the latter of whom was Zoë's district partner), and he was going home but his friends were dead and oh, gods, he'd killed three people… He had been taking deep breaths, they probably thought he was gasping in excitement at Victory or in relief from winning the final fight and they would be correct, but now he was trying to calm his racing heart down because he had won, but at what cost?

The anthem was playing again and he forced himself to sit up and wipe away the tears, or pretend they were tears of joy instead of grief. The President took the golden laurel wreath-shaped crown from the little girl holding the cushion and she looked so much like the twelve-year-old tributes in the Games that he'd watched die before her eyes and-

The crowd roared. He definitely didn't deserve the crown upon his head.

It's tragic how many OCs I had to make for this fic alone, for the sole purpose of killing them off, just because I don't have enough canon characters. Anyway, I really hope you enjoyed this!

Date of Writing: 6-7 May 2020

Date of Editing: 10 May 2020

Date of Publishing: 10 May 2020

Also, happy Mother's Day to all the decent parents out there, and happy birthday to one of my cousins, though I doubt she'll ever read this.