A year has passed since the Games. The Quarter Quell for the 75th Hunger Games consisted of tributes being pulled from the existing pool of victors. Cato and I immediately knew that this was to take a stab at us for showing up the Capitol, but it's not like they could have gotten us back into the arena. Brutus and Prica volunteered to go in faster than anyone was reaped, which "coincidentally" turned out to be both Cato and me. Everyone was talking about it, and kind of laughed at the Capitol for their attempt to get back at us.
For the Quarter Quell, the only district they had to fish a regular tribute from children was District 12 since they only had one victor, Haymitch Abernathy, who was barely sober enough to get past the bloodbath. He didn't last much longer after that, and neither did the twelve year old who was reaped.
The winner was from District 7. The last living female victor from her district, Johanna Mason.
"Why do you think Johanna won instead of someone like Brutus or Gloss?" I ask, letting the wind blow through my hair. It's gotten darker since last year. Almost symbolistic, having gone into the Games as practically a princess, and then coming out a scarred warrior, woman, lover.
"The a huge fraction of the arena," Cato replies after a long moment of silence, "it targeted the emotional ties of the tributes. Even Brutus could barely hang on after the Jabberjays in that niche of the arena. I think they mimicked his wife's voice."
I nod, but then look up.
"But that didn't answer my question," I say. "Why do you think Johanna won compared to the more experienced ones?"
Cato shrugs and runs his thumb across the petals of the bouquet of flowers in my arms.
"She seemed like very much like an isolationist," he says. "There was no one she allied with, not even Finnick. When she went into the Jabberjays' territory, she barely paid attention to the random screams, as if they meant nothing to her." He pauses. "I don't think anyone else in her family is alive, or friends for that matter."
I nod and look down at the lush grass beneath my feet.
"Perhaps it's better that way," I say, placing down the flowers before the headstone. "To not have anyone you care about."
The silence is almost painful.
"I'm so sorry Clove."
Clove kneels before the couple of gravestones before her. The joint grave hold her mother and father's names, although the fresh flowers all around her father's name is just a painful reminder, as is the grave with her brother's name, "Claud Ewood."
It was a traffic accident. A truck conveniently empty of anything of high significance slammed into the mayor's vehicle, carrying both him, his son, and a couple of Clove's closest friends to what was supposed to be a private party congratulating the District 2 victors.
No one in our District believes for one second that it was an accident. We had heard of the misfortunes of victors, even more so the victors who in some way shape or form defied the Capitol's wishes. Finnick Odair refused to go to the Capitol once for an "escort" and bam, Annie Cresta was reaped the very next year.
"Clove?" I look down at her. She sits back on her heels, gripping the grass beneath her. I squat down next to her and hold her, the only thing I've been able to do since the "accident".
"Is this what our life is going to be from now on, Cato?" she asks, her voice breaking. "Just meeting new people and waiting for them to die because of what I did in the arena?"
I don't have the words to answer. I just hold her until she falls silent, and a quiet cry overtakes her.
As we grow, as we come of age, we marry and move into one mansion in Victor's Village, we even have a child. In District 2, there is no worry of our son being placed into the Hunger Games with all the willing volunteers. He grows up without grandparents, and with only one living cousin, Kimi, who we win custody over after my father dies of alcohol poisoning.
Our life is comfortable, free of the oppression the Capitol has on District 2. Every month, Clove visits all the graves of those killed in the accident to put fresh flowers at the headstones. As I watch take her hand, lie with her in bed, even kiss her or make love, I know she isn't the same as she was when the Games began. She's no longer the ice queen who gained my competition. She seems to hold guilt over her stunt in the arena and the affect it had over her family's fate.
We are frequently called to the Capitol. We're a crowd favorite, us, Kimi and our son Jarl. We've been receiving more attention than normal now that Clove is expecting another one, another boy by the doctor's prognosis. President Snow can't get enough of us, but we know he hates us, and he can't wait to make our lives miserable. I never let Jarl out of my sight. I have him train with the pool of potential careers because I know, if there's something Snow wants done, it will be done.
And the Games continue, year after year, but my family will always be safe.
Safe and forever wary.
A/N: It was pretty difficult thinking of a way to officially end this, and I didn't want a very happy ending because that would be illogical under the circumstances. Thanks to everyone who supported me through this fanfiction. I had a freaking great time writing this!