The Victory Tour

The victory tour had been pretty bleak up to that point. Only Twelve, Eleven, Nine, and Eight were done, though, so there was plenty of room for improvement. Especially considering the next district up.

As soon as my speech was over, I ducked offstage to hide, unable to take the faces of Willow's heartbroken family. Amber was the hardest. Her face was tear streaked, and although she looked like she didn't blame me, it was obvious that she did. After all, I had survived where the girl she loved hadn't.

Mateo and Leif walked up to me as I quickly regained my composure. Leif looked bored.

"Well, well, well, Mister Victor. I hope you're proud of yourself. Hawthorn dead, Barker jailed, you've got me out of retirement. Now I actually have to work instead of drink all the annoyances of the world away. You'd better hope I mentor a victor before you do."

"What do you want, Leif?"

He grinned. "According to your mentor, you want a word with the crook himself."

I turned to glare at Mateo. "You weren't supposed to advertise that," I said accusingly. He shrugged.

"You wanted to talk to Barker, I made it happen. That's all it is."

I shrugged. "Fine. Where is he?"

"I'll take you," said Leif.

The District Seven penitentiary looked just how I'd imagined, a big gray slab of a building with barbed wire fences and electric shock mechanisms around the entrances. I walked up to the guard, who stared me down, neither of us blinking.

"What do you want, kid?" he asked.

"I want to talk to Barker."

He snorted. "Yeah, right. Get lost."

"Do you recognize me?"

"Should I?"

"I'm Javier Lorenzo. I just won the Hunger Games."

He almost jumped, he was so shocked. "Oh, God, Mr Lorenzo. I'm sorry, I didn't recognize you."

"Obviously. I want to talk to Barker."

"Of course, right away." He quickly unlocked the gate and led me inside.

Once we reached Barker's cell, the guard turned to me.

"A word of advice," he said. "He's dangerous. Highly. Don't underestimate him."

I raised my eyebrows. "Barker won't hurt me. I saved his life." With those comforting words, I walked in.

Barker was seated on his bed, staring out the window. I cleared my throat.

"Hello, Barker."

He didn't turn. "Evening, Javier."

I took a deep breath, then asked the question that had been burning in my mind for the last six months. "Why did you do it?"

"Do what?"

"Take the fall for Hawthorn. He threatened to kill you, expose you, he murdered your son!"

Barker turned to stare at me. "Hawthorn didn't kill my son. You did."

"I only killed him to save the districts. If I didn't, Jack would have killed himself. It was that or Hawthorn won."

He stared at me, then sank down onto his bed, defeated. "Why are you here, Javier? Come to rub it in that it's you and not my son standing there?"

I shook my head. "I still haven't forgiven you for letting him blackmail you. Markell died because of that."

He shrugged. "So? He's dead now. No point crying over it."

I ignored him. "I saw someone on my way here. She claimed to be Jack's girlfriend."

"Dana. He loved her a lot."

"Yeah, he did. She's pregnant with his son."

Barker looked shocked. "Why are you telling me this?"

I pulled out a pistol I'd taken off the guard at the gate and tossed it at him. "If word gets out that you lied to protect Hawthorn, there will be backlash. You'd be putting her in danger. If you truly value your grandson's life, you'll use this within the hour."

I didn't wait for his response, just hurrying out of the room. As it turns out, I didn't even need to give him the hour. The gunshot went off before I was out of the hall.

Well. That ended pretty bleak. I knew Javier wouldn't get a happy ending, so this was doomed to be a pretty sad closing chapter.

Thanks so much for reading this with me! I have had the time of my life working with these characters, and you can bet there will be AU's where Markell or Willow win. I'm probably going to be taking a bit of a break from fan fiction for a while because it's the end of the school year and I have exams galore over the next month. But never fear, I will return with maybe, possibly, a 75 victors fic and, if I really feel like stretching my literary abilities, an SYOT. Until then, stay happy, spend a few more hours crying over Markell, don't do anything I would do, and definitely don't do anything I wouldn't do, and most of all, read all the fanfiction you can take.

Until next time,