Trigger Warning: Suicide, torture, abusive guardians. I might've missed something. This chapter covers a lot of ground.
Peeta Mellark, District 12
"But don't you remember that you once said
That you liked happy endings?"
Pulp, Happy Endings
She was twelve years old. Too young to have fought in the war but definitely old enough to rebel. Her heart sank like a stone when the boy from Two ran to the centre of the arena and grabbed a sword.
She was malnourished but not injured. Too weak to fight but strong enough to run. She realised that standing still out of defiance would just get her murdered on the spot.
So she decided to run.
It was the only way she was guaranteed to give the boy any trouble.
When she finally ran out of energy, she looked her killer in the eye.
"Why..." she gasped, breathless from all the running.
The boy didn't answer as he cut her down. His eyes - the last thing she'd ever see - told her the whole story.
He didn't see her as human.
He didn't see himself as human, either.
He thought he was so smart, sneaking around the outskirts of the opening battle, stabbing the tougher kids in the back.
He thought he was so tough, patrolling the arena, killing all the weaker kids who'd run away from the weapons.
Even mortally wounded, bleeding to death on the ground, he failed to realise that the boy from One had used exactly the same strategy as him. And this boy was pretty well-off. He didn't get nosebleeds from all the fumes in the air or have to eat rats to survive.
In a contest of two boys trying to hold themselves together while they bled out, he died unaware that the boy from One would win.
As the boy from Four came for her with a trident, she closed her eyes and dreamed she was dancing with the love of her life. Her parents had told her stories of how they'd met at a school dance.
She'd always hoped for something similar.
She killed again and again to protect her district partner, a boy with a soft voice, trembling hands and wide, haunted eyes.
In the end, she even killed herself.
He spent the entire games staring up into the sky, wishing he had wings to fly out of the arena.
He was terrified of blood. He fainted seconds into the games. He only made it to second place because the boy from Two assumed that he was already dead.
She knew her district partner. She loved her district partner.
"Did you do it to protect me?" She asked, curled up next to him on the train.
He couldn't reply. He cried the whole journey.
He did protect her, though. Right up until they reached the final two and he put a spear through her heart.
She never found out why he'd volunteered.
She was reaped on her twelfth birthday. She died the day after her twelfth birthday. Her skull was smashed into so many pieces that there was no way of knowing whether every piece had been collected and sent home.
He watched the golden-haired boy from Nine on the train, a ray of sunshine in the darkness. The boy told jokes. The boy charmed. The boy entertained.
When he watched the boy grab a sickle and start hacking people apart, he gave up on life. There was no sunshine left.
His parents would've regretted naming him Reaper if they'd survived the war.
Everyone loved her. The sponsors flocked to her. Her mentor, still a teenager, adored her.
If only she could've fought off the girl from Four with love.
If he hadn't gloated over the injured body of his final opponent, maybe the boy from Three wouldn't have found the strength or determination or anger to stab him in the leg with a taser and keep stabbing until the games were over.
They'd all agree that it wasn't the poisoned dart that'd killed her. It was the days and days of isolation and uncertainty that had twisted her into something unrecognisable.
Something barely human.
The peacekeepers had killed his parents. They'd done a lot worse to his sister. The moment the boy from Five - the volunteer with the pretty face and the sparkling, blue eyes - started spouting the Capitol's views in his interview, he knew who'd he'd enjoy killing the most.
He'd never expected that he'd be the one to die.
As she fell to her death from the top of the arena's tallest tree, every tree she'd fallen from as a child haunted her.
In any other games, she would've won. But she was reaped the year that Two decided to send a trained girl.
Being the school's javelin champion wouldn't cut it anymore.
He spent most of the games wondering why the boy from Eight's name seemed so familiar.
When he died with a needle in his jugular, he died seconds away from remembering.
She knew, from the moment she was reaped, that the games would be rigged. It was four months before the election. She would've thrown her support behind any party if anyone had asked for it.
But she watched the girl from Nine - the fair-haired, graceful mayor's daughter - give her interview with white roses in her hair and realised that nobody would ask her.
She resigned herself to her fate.
He'd never kissed a girl. He'd been too busy working.
When he caught the girl from Eleven and forced her back against a tree, knife to her throat, she licked her lips, eyes full of desire. She asked, with a sweet, husky voice, if he was hungry.
His brain momentarily shut down.
It was all she needed to stuff poisonous fruit into his mouth and force him to swallow.
He never heard the boy from Two coming.
He'd been deaf since birth.
After his tenth conquest, he realised that he was bored of girls from his district. They were too coarse and calloused for his liking. He dreamed of becoming a victor, of sampling a girl from every district on his victory tour.
He thought the girl from One was a starter. She had silky, golden hair, lips as sweet as sugar and soft, delicate skin. He was sure that she'd awaken his appetite for the main course.
But the girl from One had thoughts of her own, feelings of her own, ideas of her own.
She also had two knives...
"Can you sing to me, please?" She begged, as she was dragged to the water's edge. There was no point in begging for mercy.
"Okay," the boy from Four said. His voice was far softer than his dry, calloused hands as he began to sing a sea shanty and forced her head beneath the waves.
She could hardly hear him over the rush of water in her ears but it was the thought that counted.
She scored a one! Was his last thought, as the girl from Six shoved him into the fire.
He wasn't angry or annoyed or even embarrassed.
He was more shocked that that girl had managed to kill him. It just showed what the arena could do to people.
When he saw the quiet, polite girl from Seven with a rock in a sling, he laughed.
He died laughing.
They all saw him as the hero of the games. He was just a kid who'd killed a peacekeeper by accident, so much more charming than his serial killer competitors. He'd always had a way with people. He'd campaigned to get into the Quell, to have a shot at living rather than being executed.
When it was just him and the girl from Eight left, they rooted for him. But that didn't save him.
It took him two days to die when she got him. The only thing that stopped her from torturing him even more was when he died of thirst, his lips sewn together.
If he'd known what would happen, he'd have chosen the noose.
She sang like an angel. Had she come from one of the rural districts, her voice might've given people strength to keep working through the long, hard days in the fields.
Had she come from one of the rural districts, maybe someone would've missed her.
He cried the first night in the arena, over all the death he'd caused and witnessed. His allies didn't hear him but microphones picked up his sobs and carried them across Panem. He knew that he'd brought shame upon his district. He was a poor excuse for an Elite.
He was glad when the girl from Five beat him to death. He didn't want to go home and face his family.
She hoped that her little brother wasn't watching as she burned the boy from Seven to death with a can of gasoline. She had to do it. The boy was killing her ally.
When her ally turned on her, she regretted everything.
It was the longest Hunger Games of all time. She spent two months in the arena, slowly running out of food, clutching a knife that she didn't know how to use.
When the volunteer boy from Nine found her, she just gave up. She let her knife drop to the ground.
The boy flew into a rage.
"Why don't you fight back?" He roared as he slashed her apart. "Just... fight... back!"
But she was too tired to fight. She just wanted the games to end.
When he saw that all of the Careers but one had been killed, he realised that they must've turned on each other. They must've thought he was so insignificant that one of them could've killed him alone.
So he didn't give them the satisfaction. He screamed insults about the president until the gamemakers were forced to take him out.
She knew that the girl from Four was trouble. She told her ally again and again but he didn't listen. He reassured her that nobody could survive those wounds and still be a threat.
"Told you so," she shrieked as the girl from Four speared him. The girl was covered in bloodied bandages and there was a gaping hole where one of her eyes used to be but she was still fighting.
The girl from Four rolled her single eye and turned from her ally to her...
In his district, he slept around. He was the father of three bastards, all with different women. He comforted himself with the thought that, while there was no way he could be a good father to all of them, he'd have plenty of money to send them if he won.
In the arena, he slept alone. He hoped that he'd wake up alone.
But the boy from Seven and his axe made sure that he'd never wake up.
He had a family waiting for him.
The girl from Eleven - the girl with no family - didn't care. She put a noose around his neck and left him to hang.
She prided herself on being the most alert of the Elites.
But even she never saw the boy from Five coming. She just felt a sharp pain in her neck and then she never saw again.
As he died, he hoped that his son and all of his son's descendants would never be picked from the reaping bowl like his was.
He was right, in a round about way.
His son was spared. His grandson's name was never picked from the bowl. But, thirty-seven years after his final plea, the boy was rigged into the games.
He would've hated knowing that he wasn't the only man in his family to die in second place.
As he lost consciousness for the final time, he thought the cannon he'd just head was for his district partner, who'd been brutally tortured by their final opponent.
He died believing that he'd failed to save her.
They made friends easily, all six of them. They agreed that they'd hunt down all the outliers before turning on each other.
When they died in the boy from Three's electrical trap, they died together, their hearts stopping simultaneously. It would take better technology than the gamemakers had to work out which of them had died last.
As she bled out, she wondered why the boy from Ten had been so desperate to kill her. She'd always been good at reading people.
She took one long look at the boy from Ten and read enough to bring her to tears.
"Don't cry," the boy begged. "Please..."
"What did they do to you?" She asked.
He couldn't answer. He cried until she died. She knew that he'd cry after as well.
Everyone who knew her before the games agreed she would've changed the world. She was a genius, a child prodigy.
But, instead, she became just another dead tribute.
He spent the last few moments of his life panicking as the mutts tore him limb from limb. Where was the girl from Six? How had she just disappeared like that?
He caught the look of disappointment in the sea-green eyes of the boy from Four.
"Why are you disappointed?" He asked. "I'm the one who's dying."
"I was hoping for more," the boy from Four said.
"I was hoping to live."
He'd always been brutally honest.
She used to think that having a crush on a boy who'd never like her back would be the most painful experience of her life.
But being tortured to death made that feel tame.
She'd been raised tough. Tough enough to kill a Career.
She'd been raised smart. Smart enough to wait until there was only one left before striking.
But that wasn't enough when the boy from Nine lost his mind.
He wanted his district partner to win.
She'd got pregnant a year ago and taken the opportunity to terminate her pregnancy so she could volunteer. She was so dedicated to her district.
When the boy from Seven drove an axe into her skull, he didn't hesitate. He charged.
He should've thought things through.
She had a good ally, someone who knew how to survive. But she was the fast one. She was the one who escaped when the Careers came.
Without her ally, she ate a poisonous plant and died after several hours of agony.
It wasn't a boy who killed her. It was a monster with savage, hollow eyes.
But it'd once been a boy, a boy who'd been hurt a lot.
She felt sorry for him.
He was proud of his size. Many of the boys in his class were so handsome, with their wide, bright eyes and mops of unruly hair. But beauty was subjective. What couldn't be argued, what could be proved by cold, hard numbers, was that he was the tallest boy in his class.
When the girl from Three's bomb went off, there was nothing left of his bulk but bloody rain.
The boy from Five was his friend. They'd eaten together, hunted together, laughed together.
The boy from Five knifed him in the gut, ensuring that they wouldn't die together.
Her district partner was the son of a victor.
She missed one of the stabs in their final duel so he'd kill her. She chose to die rather than return to a mourning Victor's Village.
She was the academy's second choice. They only let her volunteer because of the Quell and they gave her the older mentor. Luckily, her mentor understood.
"I know what it's like to be seen as second best," the victor said. "I know you can prove them all wrong."
She celebrated when the other girl from her district died. Now she was living proof that she wasn't second best.
Until she wasn't living anymore.
At thirteen, he became the youngest ever tribute to kill five Careers. He was famous.
But if he'd had a choice between fame and getting to live, he'd have chosen the latter.
His district partner was a good district partner. She saved him until last, like she was meant to.
But she couldn't save him.
The boy from Seven, who'd comforted her as she'd died, took her advice to heart and kicked his parents out of his house.
He thought of her until the day he died.
Sometimes, when the dark arena nights closed in on him, he wondered who he was.
He knew his name and his district and why he'd volunteered but there had to be more to him than that.
There had to be more...
When the arena began to flood, she panicked. Her final opponent was the girl from Four. If the water reached them, she'd be doomed.
But she doomed herself. She got desperate to win their duel. She got sloppy.
She was dead before the water reached her.
She found a tunnel full of bones and rats and filth to hide in. She stayed there, confident that the girl from One wouldn't venture inside.
She was right.
She raised her head at the wrong moment and got an arrow in her brain.
He'd planned for everything. He knew exactly how to play his cards in his alliance, exactly how to survive the split.
And his plan worked.
Until he encountered a wild card - the girl from Five with her poisoned arrows.
His arena was full of tracker jackers.
He loved it.
All she wanted to do was prove that a girl could win the Hunger Games without trying to make half the Capitol horny in the process. She wanted to give the mousy girls with sour faces and sharp tongues their victor.
She was stabbed by the girl from Ten - a natural beauty. That girl would spend the rest of her life in Capitol men's beds.
He was the perfect volunteer. Strong, smart, skilled, handsome. The academy couldn't refuse him.
Even though he had a wife waiting for him.
But the girl from Eight had an unborn child in her womb, a chance to create a scandal at her fingertips. She'd been declared victor by President Snow before the gong had even rung.
So the gamemakers sent a tiger after him.
He hated his parents almost as much as he hated his district. They'd been awful to him but, to add insult to injury, they'd named him Silver...
Silver, the colour of the second place trophy.
When the girl from Two tore his throat out with her teeth, he hoped that his younger sister was watching.
It would upset her. Maybe it would upset her enough to convince her not to volunteer.
The boy from One held her hand as he stabbed her in the heart. The last thing she heard was her ally telling her that she would've made her brother proud if he'd still been alive.
The last thing she told him was that she was sure that his sister, waiting for him in District 1, was already proud of him.
He took meticulous care of his hair. He grew it long, like a lion's mane, and spent his weekly allowance on the best gels, sprays and shampoos from the Capitol.
The girl from One grabbed him by the hair and shoved his face into a puddle of mud until he couldn't breathe.
"Please, I just want to get back to my brother," She begged the boy from Four, the boy who'd caught her in his net.
"Why did you volunteer?" He asked.
"I don't know," she admitted. "I don't know why I'm here."
"Neither do I," the boy stabbed her with his trident. He hadn't volunteered. He was just an unlucky little kid.
An unlucky little kid who'd trained for years.
She died wishing she hadn't felt sorry for him.
She could swing a mean axe.
But there were no axes at the Cornucopia. Only maces that she wasn't strong enough to lift.
So she ran and hid until she was devoured by leech mutts.
She had one regret. She'd taken extra tesserae so she could afford a nice dress for the school dance. Had she not done that, she might've lived to see her fifteenth birthday.
She was relieved when she died. She was never going to endure one of her aunt's beatings again.
When she was twelve years old, a group of kids from her class found out that she liked girls and they beat her up on the street. They called her a monster.
She promised that she'd show them what a real monster looked like.
Six years later, with the girl from Three's poison in her veins and her own knife in her stomach, she realised exactly what had made her a monster. She'd hurt people. She'd thrown her life away.
She'd lied to herself.
She died wishing that she hadn't lived a lie.
She would've willingly given the Capitol anything they'd wanted if they just sponsored her some water. She was a patriot, a true loyalist.
But what the Capitol wanted was her final opponent, the strong, handsome boy from Ten.
Forgotten, she died of thirst.
She was twelve years old, like the second place tributes of long ago who'd only survived so long because they'd run from every fight.
When the floodwaters rose, she clung to a floating branch until she lost consciousness and slipped beneath the waves.
She killed the boy from Seven in the bloodbath. It was an act of mercy after what the explosion had done to his arm.
She was the one who brought his district partner's wrath upon the alliance.
He was chosen.
He was picked from the crowd as a tribute likely to survive a few days. His test scores were average. He was almost nineteen, skinny for his age by Capitol standards but bigger than most boys from his district.
His face was the reason he stood out. The gamemakers thought they'd chosen an average pretty-boy. One who the sponsors would latch onto for a while before realising that he didn't have any useful skills and let one of the tougher tributes get him.
But they'd made a mistake.
In the interview, he revealed himself. A charmer, a showman, a trickster. And smart, so smart. The kind of smart that couldn't be measured by a test.
Too damn smart for his own good.
The gamemakers had some nasty mutts waiting in their labs for this year's arena. There was one which was particularly terrifying. They'd tested it on avoxes and agreed that it could only be used on one tribute. More than one would be overkill.
He was chosen.
He only realised that he shouldn't have let his fear rule him when when the boy from Two was cracking his skull open with a brick.
Almost everyone agreed that he would've died had his district partner not pulled out a handful of berries. He was never offended by this. He was well aware that she was the stronger one.
But he found himself trawling through the records, learning as much as he could about the seventy-three tributes who'd died in second place. He knew that he could've shared their fates.
Sometimes, he found himself wondering if any of them could've shared his. Whether that girl from One in love with her district partner or that boy from Three with a head for people could've done what he did.
He wondered how close the tributes of the past came to beating the odds.
I hope you enjoyed Peeta's chapter. I was going to publish this chapter in another story about second place tributes as a companion to this one but I changed my mind when I realised I could tie Peeta into the chapter. I could imagine him doing a little research project about second place tributes after the war.
The second place tributes are probably the main focus of this chapter. I have a bit of a fascination with them but maybe it's because my favourite character I've ever written came second. Some of them you might recognise from past chapters and some of them I thought of just for this chapter. The kind of tribute who comes second evolves over time, since younger kids did well in earlier games due to running away from the bloodbath. A lot of the more recent ones are Careers.
Thanks for reading this story. It was long and very sad but you made it! As for stories I have planned for the future, it might be a while before I publish my next Hunger Games story since I have no idea how busy I'll be with real life. I also need a bit of a break because seventy-five chapters in just over two months was tough. This is kind of the end of an era for me because I've done all I can with Katniss' universe. The rest of my writing will probably focus on AUs because I've killed off too many good characters and I want to give them another chance at life.
I'm also planning to branch out into another fandom. It doesn't mean that I'll stop writing Hunger Games stories but there's this one story about the Edge Chronicles that I'm planning to write next. I'll probably start publishing it tomorrow for anyone who wants to read it. Earth and sky be with you and may the odds be ever in your favour!