CHAPTER XLVI. EPILOGUE


"Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself."
-Leo Tolstoy


LIANA TAYLOR (15) - VICTOR OF THE 26TH HUNGER GAMES


How silly was she to think she'd get over everything within the span of a three-hour nap?

Liana awoke yet again in the Victor's recovery apartment with her face puffy from the crying. There were boogers in her eyes, the aftermath of dried tears, and the District 3 girl felt just as miserable as she did when she went to bed. Her reflection grew more and more familiar to her even though she hated the person in it.

Liana wasn't used to hating herself or hating anything for that matter. She wasn't used to the pent-up bitterness that awakened with every step she took around the apartment. She wanted to be mad at the Games, at the Capitol, at Panem, yet the District 3 person couldn't find the aggression able to be extorted at anybody but herself.

You're the only reason you hate you, scum.

She was unable to think any positive thoughts about herself, just reiterations of what the people in the Districts probably were thinking when they saw her do the horrible things she did. Perhaps the most frightening part was that she had only seen one bit of the disaster she created out of herself, and that she would have to see the rest soon.

"Liana, dear!" Her stylist Luminesque ran into the room with bright-colored fabrics as soon as she woke up, "I'm glad to see you awake and so well!"

This is so well?

She licked her thumb and wiped the crust out of her eyes, "Good to see you as well."

Liana had a feeling that being complicit throughout the remainder of her time in the Capitol was the best way to accelerate the process. She had no idea where she even wanted to be, but she knew it wasn't the Capitol.

Luminesque had her try on a maroon velvet dress with long sleeves. The District 3 girl never had any particular feelings about clothing, so she didn't really mind it, even if the shade of the dress made her hair stick out like a sore thumb. If the Capitol seemed to like it, she would learn to like it as well.

"I must say, you look ravishing!" Luminesque spun Liana as she twirled in a circle, not sure if she was supposed to be enjoying herself, "I bet the Capitol is going to love you."

"I'd like to think you're right," If anybody was going to love Liana at this point it was going to be the Capitol.

"Everybody was going nuts whenever you did anything on the screen! You don't even know the half of it."

If that was the case, Liana didn't care to know the rest.

When she walked on stage for her crowning (though she didn't deserve a crown for what she did), the District 3 girl tried her best to not let the lights blind her. The attention was overwhelming to say the very least and while Liana didn't mind the concept of people occasionally stealing glances at her, the flashing cameras and hollering screams were enough to give her a headache.

"Thank you so much for being here," Lucretius Flickerman held her hand and walked her to a leather chair so that she could do her final interview, something she sure wasn't going to enjoy –the first interview was bad enough.

It's not like I have a choice.

"The pleasure is mine!" She figured that being enthusiastic was what the Capitol wanted from her and if she gave them what they wanted then they would let her leave.

"How does it feel knowing that you, Liana Taylor won the Hunger Games?" The enthusiasm he had over the occasion was disgusting almost.

"It's so surreal," She wasn't lying. It truly was unimaginable that her, a barely fifteen-year-old girl from an outer-District had somehow beaten out a field of Careers, and even though she hated the way she did it, she was thankful to have survived.

Surely Lucky was expecting her to speak more on that as he stared her down while she fiddled with her hair and looked out at the audience with a blank stare, but she didn't have much more to say that wouldn't be deeply negative. He could tell she didn't want to say much so he just spoke instead, "Your parents must be so proud of you!"

Why would they be proud of me? Why would anybody be proud of me?

"I'm sure they are," Short answers were becoming her trademark.

"I can assure you the whole country is as well," Lucky flashed a cheesy grin at the camera in front of him before segueing into the next part of the ceremony, "Now, what do you say we relive your wonderful journey in the Games right here?"

Liana wanted to say no. She wanted to run away off the stage and onto the first train she could find, so she could go home and sleep in her own bed because maybe that slight sense of normalcy would be enough to make her feel like she wasn't the monster she was beginning to know herself as, "I'd love to!"

It was hard for Liana to be too startled by the events of the bloodbath, she never really spoke to any of the people who passed. The deaths were gory, the District 3 girl looking away as somebody was beheaded, but for the majority of the time she was able to keep a straight face.

It wasn't until after the bloodbath that Liana was legitimately startled. Her District Partner Edison, somebody she had admittedly not thought about in a while was mauled by the exact minotaur that she remembered disassembling.

Seeing herself watch over the boy, remembering how she consciously decided not to dissect him brought a tear to her eye. If only she had made that decision again.

Liana wondered how Edison's cats were since they were the main topic of most of their discussions. Maybe they'd need somebody to look after them now, and the District 3 girl had always wanted a pet, or fifteen.

Memories of Edison were just barely enough to stall her until Liana saw herself being kidnapped. She remembered how scared she was when Kingston lifted her from the town and put her on a ship. The District 3 girl remembered the tired look in his eyes when he carried her. For a moment she was scared she wouldn't make it, but then she remembered that she did indeed make it out, burning down the boat in the process.

Seeing the District 4 boy's charred body was devastating but it wasn't nearly as bad as when she had to see the incident with Piper again.

The footage was edited in such a way that absolutely nothing was hidden, Liana wanting to scream as the audience applauded while she ripped apart the District 10 girl's neck.

Do I interact with them?

Liana momentarily looked away from the screen to wave at the audience, looking back to finally see how the Games ended.

Eros had just killed Marcel from 7 and was walking up the volcano, the one Liana was trying to erupt with a pressurized bomb she built by hand. She saw the District 1 boy's eyes water as he went deeper into the smog and the conflicted looks on both their faces before she dropped her device into the volcano and watched Eros scream in terror before falling to the ground.

Why did I do that to him? He helped me on the boat and I didn't even care.

"Well, wasn't that stunning?" Lucky's voice drowned out Liana's thoughts as he clapped alongside the audience, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Liana Taylor of District 3, Victor of the 26th Annual Hunger Games!"

The Capitolites roared as Liana was taken out of her seat to stand as Sapphira Starlett, the previous victor approached her. The District 3 girl couldn't comprehend her own thoughts, Sapphira glaring at her before removing a crown from her own head and placing it on Liana's. A man in a white suit, President Coriolanus Snow, put his hands on her back, "Liana Taylor, may the People of Panem never forget your name!"

I want to forget it. I want to forget everything that happened. I want to forget this life.

The District 3 girl didn't utter another word that night. She simply went to bed hoping for a lack of nightmares since at this point it was all she could ask for.


Six months later...


Not even the purrs of Edison's –no, Liana's fifteen cats could keep her calm as the train approached District 10, the third stop on her Victory Tour. She stared out the window, bewildered by how flat all the land was since District 3 was very much the opposite, but 10's aesthetic didn't mean anything in the long run since Liana was moments away from being face to face with the family of Piper Sanderson.

"The families of the dead usually sit on the left side of the town square. You don't have to greet them if…" Her Escort Demetria's blabbering was drowned out by the smallest (and cutest) cat Minerva, pawing at the District 3 girl's face.

Liana was afraid to see the Sanderson family even though she knew virtually nothing about them. Demetria said that Piper had two parents, a younger sister, and a younger brother, but that could be interpreted in so many different ways. For all she knew, Liana's nerves could be unwarranted and the family could say they hated Piper and were glad she was gone, but obviously that wasn't very plausible.

The District 3 girl had tried to find a sense of happiness in between the Games and going on tour, and the fleet of cats that was waiting for her when she first got off the train was just that. It was obvious they were looking for Edison, but they adjusted to Liana quickly, though it would be hard not to enjoy a life in the Victor's Village, especially since she had it all to herself, Pascal not even living there when he was alive.

She enjoyed the new house, a large room for her to play around with science experiments being where she spent most of her time, but Liana Taylor was done with dissections. She wanted to create instead of destroy which is what led to the small army of robotic mice for the cats to play with.

Liana wished she could say she was happy, but even everything that could be considered "joyous," somehow led her mind back to the Games and the terrible events that occurred.

"You'll be fine, Liana," Her mother hugged her before she went off on her tour, "You can do anything now."

She rarely spoke to her parents now. They didn't understand, but neither did anybody. Ceci and Si always wanted to play with her but she couldn't look into their innocent eyes without seeing everybody who had died alongside her in the Games. Everybody that was more worthy than she was.

The first two stops were fine, Liana not speaking much since all the Tributes from 11 and 12 died in the bloodbath, but she knew 10 would be different. She knew she would have to see Piper Sanderson's family bawling as the person who terrorized their daughter got to be alive.

"And it looks like we are here!" Demetria clapped as the train stopped, the cats running away from Liana out of fear from the jolting motion, "Don't worry about it Liana. I'm sure they'll understand."

Why would they understand me for killing and then tearing apart their daughter?

The District 3 girl had discovered that the Capitolites had this odd way of justifying everything that happened in the Games for better or for worse. Liana couldn't help but wish it was a mindset she had since maybe then she wouldn't be so miserable with herself.

She stood on the stage in the town square giving the same speech she previously gave in 11 and 12, a scripted jargon about how thankful she was for the Capitol for allowing her to serve them as a Mentor (though she was dreading that like a plague) and giving her so many nice things. It was a cheesy spiel and Liana loathed whoever it was that wrote it, but it was infinitely better than having to face the Sandersons.

Liana thought she was free from having to interact with them, even though she saw the broken family cry as she spoke, but at least it wasn't one on one. She thought she was safe until a boy about her age tapped her on the back before she left to get back on the train.

"Hi, Liana," The boy was on the taller side, blonde hair that was a bit overgrown and the same blue eyes as Piper, his sister, "I just have to ask, why did you do it?"

The District 3 girl shivered, the numb look on the boy's face enough to bring her right back to the arena and have her regret everything all over again. Liana wished she had an answer, something she could say to him that would make everything she did excusable but she didn't and she hated herself for it, "I'm so sorry."

The boy's eyes teared up as a younger girl who looked like a miniature version of Piper hugged him, "What did she say, Shane?"

"She said she's sorry," He whispered into his sister's ear, "She doesn't know about everything that happened after."

"About Mom and Dad?" The innocence in the small girl's voice, the girl who probably looked up to Piper like she was the queen of the world, left a soft spot in Liana's heart, "How they yelled a bunch and aren't together?"

"We mustn't bother her about that," Shane hugged the girl back, carrying her off the ground, "We'll never know what was going on in Liana's head.

"I hate you," The girl cried as her brother lifted her away from the town square.

Liana wanted to scream. She wanted to apologize over and over and work her ass off to get the kids a new sister. That wasn't possible though, and Liana knew it. She knew she was unworthy of the tour, the fancy food and outfits. The District 3 girl didn't think she should be celebrated, but rather locked up so that nobody could look at her or talk to her ever again.

"It hurts, doesn't it?" Olive, the District 10 Mentor approached Liana from behind, "I understand why you did it, if that helps at all."

"I don't understand why I did it…" The presence of another survivor was oddly confronting.

"And you never will," Liana looked up to see a single tear hang from Olive's eye, "That's just how it goes around here."

It was obvious the older woman was hurting and that she had been for some time. Liana never saw her Games and didn't know what happened to her and while she wanted to say her personal experience was way worse, the truth was she had no idea, "Will it get better?"

"Only if you're lucky," Olive patted the District 3 girl's back and walked away.

I hope I can be lucky.


Twenty-four years later...


CORIOLANUS SNOW (58) - PRESIDENT OF PANEM


"Thank you Ms. Taylor," Coriolanus waved at the redheaded Head of Muttations as he walked through the halls of the Gamemakers Offices, a recap of pink birds attacking Maysilee Doner from District 12 on the screen in his pocket as the Second Quarter Quell drew to a close.

"It's nothing," She ran past him, a look of determination in her eyes, "The ending is going to be good!"

"I sure hope so," He cocked his head to respond to her.

Coriolanus knew that Lysistrata and Clemensia had every intention to make sure that the Second Quarter Quell went off without a hitch but that simply was not the case. Even before the Games officially began, the streets of the Capitol were a nightmare with twice as many mongrels running around than usual, The Games were fine though for the most part until dangerous events occurred earlier that morning.

"It's fine father," His son Lucien tried to comfort him as he journeyed towards the Head Gamemakers' office, "Everybody loved the Games this year!"

"Quiet yourself," Coriolanus snapped at the twenty-four-year-old who had been shadowing him at work throughout the 50th Games, "You don't understand how horrible this is."

President Coriolanus Snow was the only one who knew just how bad it was when Haymitch Abernathy from District 12 was at the edges of the arena, kicking rocks in teenage angst when one of them bounced off the barrier and back at him. A fault in what had previously been perfection. That's what the Games had been ever since Lysistrata and Clemensia took over and Coriolanus had no complaints. From Liana Taylor to Caspian Zale, each of the previous Victors from their Games had won without cheating at all, but now the boy from 12 (because of course he's from 12) was about to become a Victor from exploiting the system.

"I don't see the issue either," Lysistrata Vickers sheepishly grinned when Coriolanus expressed his anger, "He's taking advantage of his natural settings."

"He isn't supposed to do it like that," The President snapped at her, "What in Panem's sake is he doing now?"

Haymitch had previously been launching rocks off at the barrier to take out two of the Tributes from 1, but things were about to get way worse. He had just killed Chateau, the last boy remaining, and now he had his axe. The girl Milan looked determined though, two spears in her hands. It was about time Sapphira Starlett, that tired hag, could rest every other year, District 1 having another female mentor, and the parallels of two District 1 girls winning two Quells would be marketable for sure. Milan launched her spear at the District 12 boy's stomach, guts flying everywhere a positive sign for Coriolanus.

"I have no clue…" Clemensia Dovecote held her wife's hand as Haymitch threw the axe against the barrier and watched as it chopped Milan's head clean off her neck.

Coriolanus was appalled by the act, the subtle sign of rebellion allowing somebody to win the Games so unfairly. He had to laugh as Caesar Flickerman announced the boy's victory.

"Are you okay?" Lysistrata approached the seething President, his skin practically red, "We can just do better next year."

"You'll be lucky if you see a next year," Coriolanus slammed his fist on the table, furious at how the Games were treated so lightly by them, "I never want to see any of this funny business ever again."

The President marched out of the room, Lucien's smug grin following him, "I still don't understand what's so bad about it."

"Then I guess you're not my son after all," Coriolanus left the selfish boy to himself before pulling up a photo of Haymitch on his screen. The boy looked happy, too much so for somebody who had just exposed a weak spot in the Games.

President Coriolanus Snow would make sure that ended soon.


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
I honestly cannot believe that I just constructed the final chapter of A Perfect Union. I'm unsure if I'll ever be able to properly express my gratitude for everybody involved in this story, since it has changed my life for the better. We The People was a fine piece for my venture into writing SYOTs, but this story has allowed me to get so much more recognition for my work, recognition I'm still not so sure I deserve. Thank you so much to the people old and new that I interacted with because of this story. I have love in my heart for everybody reading this, but I wanted to take this opportunity to shout-out a few people.
Laney, thank you so much for the tens and thousands of words you wrote reviewing my story. I like to pretend that I don't care about reviews, but whenever I saw an email saying that you reviewed, it made my day. You're one of the kindest souls out there, and I'm so glad that I met you because of this story.
Will, Abby, and Haley, thank you for being my rocks once again as I went on this journey. You already know how much I love you and how deeply you have affected my life for the better, but it bears mentioning it again here. Obviously I love everybody in our friend group just as much as I love y'all, but you three really emotionally supported me as I wrote this story.
Brooke, we reunited in the midst of me writing this story, and I already cannot imagine life without you. You were always so open to hearing my ideas, no matter how stupid and out-there they were, and I appreciate your feedback and advice more than you know. Head Gamemaker Wives forever!
Maggie, James, and Cartier, thank you for engaging with this story so actively even if you didn't have Tributes. I sincerely appreciated the memes and the vlogs!
Everybody else, just because I didn't mention you specifically doesn't mean that I don't deeply appreciate you, especially if you're somebody who I've grown closer with because of this story. A Perfect Union has been one of the wildest rides of my life, and while I'm sad it's over, I'm excited to see you all in Domestic Tranquility.
Best,
Lindsay