XIII: Interlude.

So you can throw me to the wolves.
Tomorrow I will come back leader of the whole pack.
Beat me black and blue.
Every wound will shape me, every scar will build my throne.

Theora Mazaryn-Reinhart, 21
Former Student of the Arcadia Institute

A knock on her door was predictable at any time other than this.

Her mother, when she visited, spoon-fed her warnings like an adolescent, spamming her with messages and calls in the hours before. The landlord never gave such warnings, but he dropped by so frequently to check on upcoming payments he might as well have been her closest friend. And then there was her neighbor from down the hall, good old Marius, who both looked as if he had crawled out of a dumpster at a recent date and smelled like it, too.

Theora's mother said the man may be harboring a crush. Her father, on the other hand, would claim that he was likely looking to weasel some of the food from her fridge.

He did tend to come her way when she was preparing something to eat—it was as if he could smell it wafting down the hall.

She wasn't even that good of a cook.

It was just after midnight, though. Her mother retired by ten, at the very latest, and the landlord wouldn't bother wasting his time. Marius, perhaps, but was he that desperate?

Theora padded to the door, thick socks muffling each footfall against the floor. It didn't matter how many layers she draped over her narrow shoulders; in this area of the Capitol, the heaters on the back streets ruptured just about as often as she imagined they did in Six. There was a frigid chill to the floor, drafts seeping in through the windows. Her parents had told her to come home once they had overcome their disappoint in her leaving the Academy, but their pleas finally died out after a year or so of her refusing to cave.

It was cold, but she didn't mind it. She never had.

Theora peeks through the peep hole, no security cameras to be found here, expecting Marius. The sight on the other side of the door makes her stare, blinking over and over again as if the image will somehow dissipate. It doesn't seem real.

She hasn't seen her in over a year.

Every instinct tells her not to open that door, but Theora finds herself reaching for both locks without making the conscious decision to do so. When she does, leveraging the door open just enough to shove her head through the gap, she's rewarded with Elide's gentle smile, lips chapped from the wind. Her teeth are chattering.

Elide is here.

"Are you drunk?" she asks immediately.

"What? No. Can't I just... be here?"

"You haven't been here for fourteen months," she excuses. "I haven't seen you—"

"I'm sure you've seen me," Elide says sheepishly. "On the news. You know."

"And what a joy that's been," Theora mutters under her breath, resisting the urge to slam the door shut. What a tragic mistake it was to open it in the first place. "What do you want?"

"Can we talk?"


"Please?" Elide asks carefully, voice soft. She hates that voice—she always did. It made her feel open, cut right down the breastbone to reveal her heart, like Elide could see every inch of her. For some certifiably insane reason her pajamas only added to the effect. Elide was there in all her shining glory, dressed for the cold. A long, luxurious coat. Heeled boots. A snugly fitting gray hat, topped with a fluffy bobble.

They've seen each-other in much more revealing states, but now she feels more bare than ever before.

Still, she steps back to open the door, and allows Elide inside.

Each step that Elide forages into her apartment brings a curse forth to Theora's brain—this ramshackle place, the mismatched furniture. The cold. Of course, Elide doesn't say anything. She's not the type. Still, that doesn't stop her from hating every second that passes, wishing she would leave. She shuffles her socks over the floor, watching Elide approach her stained coffee table and the hefty notebook that lies overtop of it. It looks like some sort of ancient relic, the pages slightly yellowed and misaligned. Certainly nothing like the type of technology that Elide sees on a daily basis.

"I've seen what you've posted online," Elide says. "It's... it's incredible."

"Is it?" she asks drily.

"You know everything. Every detail, every minute. It's like you were in the control room with us, or in the arena itself. Nothing got by you."

"Are you implying that Kosta's done a bad job of keeping track of things?"

"Kosta's doing his best." Elide laughs, a light little huff that makes a shiver roll down her spine. "It's been a lot for all of us, but we're managing."

"I'd say, considering you're all still alive. Ariston would be proud."

Elide nods, blinking back the wistfulness that appears in her eyes within a few seconds. He would be proud, of course, if he wasn't dead. So many of his best and brightest students, thriving in the jobs they were meant to do. There's always time for things to go south, but the amount they've seen through already is impeccable. Dare she say it, even impossible.

And yet here she is.

Elide draws a fingertip over her notebook, the hundreds of pages of notes and logs she's made of every single Games and the people within them. It's been her sanity—every moment she spent poring over the footage or the pages of her book felt purposeful, as if she was prepping for her future. That was the goal, of course. She would know everything so thoroughly that nothing would ever slip past her again.

She looks tired, Theora realizes. The brightness to her eyes has been dimmed, the shadows that hang beneath them darker than ever before.

If she wasn't tired, Theora might begin to wonder if she was even human at all.

"Why are you here?" she wonders.

"Come with me," Elide says at just about the same time, folding her fidgeting hands over her chest and under her arms to still them. Theora can only blink, halfway committed to keep a healthy distance between them.

"Come with you where?"

"You know where. Come work with us. Be with us."

Theora swallows away the desirous lump in her throat, one that wants her to leap at the opportunity. She forces herself to remain quiet—if there's anything Elide deserves after fourteen months apart, it's the silent treatment. At least for a little while.

"The others miss you," Elide continues. Code for I miss you, too but that admission would only complicate things. "The President trusts me, now."

"What happened to only—"

"Only eight, I know," she interrupts, scrubbing a hand over her forehead. "We can make an exception, now. She'll see your merit."

It sounds more like a business deal than anything. Elide hasn't proposed anything else; it's not as if she's getting on her knees and groveling. They both hurt each-other, both said things they shouldn't have. Theora wants to ask her why she didn't chose her in the first place, but that's what it all comes down to. They were angry with one another, unable to see a future where everything worked out the way they wanted to. Elide leaving her behind was the decision that any intelligent, rational person would have made at the time.

That doesn't mean it didn't hurt.

"If I agree," Theora says slowly. "This doesn't fix everything. This doesn't mean we—"

"It has nothing to do with us. We'll do the work. Everything else... well we'll see, won't we?"

So they will. This is what she's always wanted. A place in that control room was her dream, the one that meant everything to her. She'll get away from this dingy, drafty apartment and move into the big leagues. With the others, too. People who understand her and can work with her, even if they've been just as distant... it won't matter so much when they're all back together.

It won't matter, of course, when Theora has exactly what she wants.

"When are we doing this?" she asks, reaching forward to scoop up her notebook. The shadows that seem to cling to Elide's demeanor dissipate, the smile that graces her face chasing away every inch of darkness that had filled the apartment. In just a moment she's switched back to the girl that used to keep so closely to Theora's side, the one who would have picked her no matter what.

They can never quite go back to that, but they can go somewhere.

"Get dressed," Elide commands. "No time like the present."

"Bossy as ever," she says under her breath, letting their shoulders brush as Theora makes headway to her room. "Nice hair, by the way."

She doesn't linger, doesn't stop to see if a blush fights its way its way to Elide's cheeks. Her hair has been a multitude of colors in the past year or so—blonde, when they parted ways. Green, for a few months. Purple just a few weeks ago. The red is muted in the darkness, not quite as bright as her own, but unable to miss regardless.

"What can I say?" Elide says. "I missed you."

Theora knew it.

thecentennialcelebration . blogspot . com

District One:
Maderia Elvario, 18.
Tova Revelis, 18.

District Two:
Levi Alcandre, 18.
Sander Elek, 18.

District Three:
Alia Maduro, 15.
Sloane Laurier, 17.

District Four:
Jordyn Palladino, 17.
Amani Layne, 18.

District Five:
Zoya Ossof, 16.
Kai Melchior, 15.

District Six:
Vadric Gaerwyn, 17.
Weston Katsouris, 18.

District Seven:
Sanne Levesay, 16.
Ilan Azar, 17.

District Eight:
Milan Crusoe, 16.
Aranza de León, 18.

District Nine:
Casia Braddock, 13.
Lilou Holbrook, 15.

District Ten:
Hawke Rabanus, 18.
Robbie Creston, 17.

District Eleven:
Clementine Alinsky, 17.
Farasha Oriani, 14.

District Twelve:
Ravi Fusain, 17.
Pietro Dolokhov, 16.

I guess our official blog do be here... finally the harassment aimed at it can end. Hopefully it's sufficient enough for all you blog hoes out there.

From here on out we'll be moving to a more 'traditional' SYOT format - introductions (even though we've already met them all) and pre-Games shenanigans. The Tumblr is officially retired, I guess you could say, unless you ever get nostalgic to look back on their very first appearances. Otherwise everything will be updated on blogspot from here on out, spoilers included as we come across them. For that reason, I advise you not to pay much attention to it, at least the main page, unless you are up to date with chapters. Everything else is fair game as it won't change.

This fic will be taking a brief pause until May 27th, as I will be away from the 12th to the 23rd with little to no internet from the 14th onward. If you need me for anything important don't hesitate to reach out on Discord directly so that I see it when I return. Otherwise, I probably won't. Let's be real, I'm lazy, and I ain't backreading all of that. But regardless, thank you for all of the support for our 'part one' of this fic and I can't wait to see everyone for the second.

Until next time.