Author's Note: Well, this is it, everyone. The end of the sequel. This series won't become a trilogy, but I expect to write some tie-ins. So keep an eye out if you're interested.
And I'm not lying when I say I seriously can't thank you all enough for your support. Your faves, watches, and of course your reviews have always cheered me up. Thanks a million for taking all the time to interact, and to read my ramblings in the first place. :)
For those of you who do not want to see the list of the dead, just skip the following and go to the bold text.
Celladora Talith, 15, D12 (Vahn)
Perdita Adva, 12, D5 (Wiremu)
Dardana Angstrom, 16, D2 (Vash)
Meghna Cinge, 14, D10 (Vash)
Laine Berna, 13, D7 (Taberah)
Wireumu Sachy, 17, D4 (Sve)
China Wang, 15, D6 (Fronce)
Vash Zerlan, 17, D2 (Pinecones)
Taberah Atalanta, 16, D4 (Greis)
Sadik Ottoman, 17, D8 (Amer)
Raivis Lithu, 16, D12 (Vine)
Eston von Bock, 16, D7 (Vahn)
Vahn Larus, 18, D9 (Amer)
Finni Vaina, 16, D11 (Mutt)
Sve Oxenstierna, 17, D11 (Fire)
Natalya Larus, 17, D9 (Fire)
Rome Gnaeus, 18, D1 (Ania)
Lovi Vargas, 14, D3 (Ania)
Spain Carriedo, 18, D3 (Ania)
Fronce Foybon, 16, D6 (Rome)
Ania Jerume, 16, D1 (Greis)
Greis Karpusi, 16, D8 (Ania)
Igris Kirkland, 16, D5 (Poison)
Zed Ventril, District 10
I can't stand my mentors.
There are only two, one of which is Monifa, who won twenty-seven years ago. She's too drugged-out all of the time to do anything but sit around and drool.
And then there's Amer. He won four years ago. And he's… just… irritating, I guess would be the word. Right now he's enjoying his train dinner about five-hundred decibels more than anyone else at the table.
I poke at my own plate hungrily. The Capitol food is amazing. I have no idea why Amer's over there eating a pile of hamburgers instead.
I have no idea how any of him works, for that matter. He did nothing but mope about his friends and how he murdered people in cruel, unusual ways during the Games. But he's somehow gotten completely over it. Throw a name of one of his dead allies at him, he hardly blinks. I don't understand at all.
"What's eating you, Zed?" It takes a moment for the food-garbled words to register, and I look up at the speaker.
"Not much," I respond coolly. "Just wondering exactly how you managed to get over your Games."
"Huh? Oh, that?" He actually takes a second to swallow. "Well, it's all in the past, and there's no changing it, so it won't do me any good to think about it. I just clear my mind of everything that's gone." He crosses his burly arms proudly. "I can't even remember what I had for lunch today!" He looks down at his plate. "Although I'm assuming it was hamburgers, since that's pretty much all I eat."
I narrow my eyes. "So you don't remember any of it?"
"Nope." He starts on the next burger.
"None of them? None of the people you killed? None of the people you called friends, whom you dragged to their deaths?" I continue, voice rising.
"No idea what you're talking about," Amer replies dismissively.
I stop talking in disbelief. There's just no freaking way…
As he continues eating, saying something half-incoherently to the district escort, I suddenly get an idea. Trying to recall the sound of that voice as best I can, I ready my throat.
"I can't understand a word you're saying!"
Amer immediately chokes a little, coughing out some of the fragments and doing a poor job of covering up his mouth.
"So you do remember!" I respond victoriously, getting the reaction I was aiming for.
"What're you talking about?" Amer wheezes, reaching for his drink.
I cross my arms. "That was my dead-best impersonation of Mr. Igris Kirkland."
Amer quaffs some of his fizzy drink and looks at me. "Don't know who that is," he insists.
"Oh, so you've forgotten him?" I snarl, unable to keep in my spite. "The guy died for you, and you won't even do him the justice of thinking about him!"
"I'm telling you, I don't know what you're talking about," Amer says, setting his drink back down hard enough to rattle the wineglasses about the table.
I glare for another long moment before dragging my gaze back to my food. "You disgust me," I growl under my breath.
The rest of the meal is nice, the only chatter between the escort, my district partner, and our resident monster Amer. After that, we're sent off to our rooms to do whatever we feel like until it's time to go to bed.
I end up watching some stupid Capitol show involving really weird magic before I finally decide to catch some z's.
Thankfully shutting the television off, I get into some provided sleepclothes, pull the covers over, and close my eyes.
But I can't get to sleep.
There's some stupid clacking noise, clanging over and over from somewhere behind the left wall. I roll over to glare at it. It unsurprisingly doesn't stop.
I thought these trains were supposed to be nearly silent. Admittedly, I didn't hear anything before, but I wasn't trying to sleep then...
With grumpy resignation, I throw my covers back off and walk barefoot out of my room. The clanging of metal grows a little louder, and as I walk to my left, it grows still. It only starts to fade once I'm about a meter past Amer's door.
I pause and back up, squinting at the door in the lack of light. So Amer's doing this. Figures that he'd be ignorant enough to not realise this could keep people awake.
I bang on his door loudly, and the clanking stops abruptly. Some footsteps thud over, and with a click, the door is opened. My eyes have to adjust to the light pouring from the room before I can see anything more than a silhouette.
He looks down at me—I'm a good ten centimeters shorter than him—and lowers his arm from the doorknob. "Hey. Am I, uh, keeping you awake?" he asks, voice softer than what I'm used to.
"Duh." I frown. "The crap are you doing in there, anyway?" I try to duck over to see behind him. When my attempt fails, he backs into his room, allowing me to make out the contents: a thus-far unused bed and loads of exercise equipment. That explains the noise. And a little bit of how buff he is.
"Did you not think clanking around like that would wake people up?" I ask scornfully. "Oh, or maybe someone's told you before, but you forgot about it!"
He casts his gaze down, perplexing me by looking genuinely upset. "Okay, listen..." He pauses, scuffing the floor with his foot to buy a little time. He looks back to my eye level. "You know I don't really forget everything."
"Again, duh," I reply, not willing to fall for his vulnerable act.
"And they don't deserve to be forgotten. Any of them. But—But I'm selfish. Thinking of them makes me miserable, so I try to forget about them." He puts his elbow against the doorframe and leans on it. "I got out lucky, though. I'm not genius material, if you know what I mean... My brain's bad enough at multitasking I don't have to destroy it with drugs or alcohol first. I just have to get involved in something distracting enough, and, bam, they're gone for a while. And the Capitol's got plenty of distracting things to throw at me, so it works out pretty good a lot of the time..." He crosses his feet. "But... Sometimes... No matter how hard I try, I can't get them off my mind... And that's when I work out obsessively... Wear myself out so much I can barely think of anything... And, well, as you can tell—" with a grin that doesn't reach his eyes, he puts a hand over one of his biceps, which is bigger than most Careers'—"that happens a lot." The fake smile fades back away from his face, and he lets his arm drop.
Exhaling, he continues. "And... you're right. They deserve better memorial than this. But—But I can barely stand to think about them. Sadik, V-Vahn... I murdered them with my own hands... I saw their broken families... Vahn's mother... She died of grief before I even came around for the Victory Tour..." His breathing gets a little louder, and he sounds surprisingly close to keeping tears down. "A-And my friends there... They're just as dead, and half of them are my fault, too. I could have stopped Raivis from running. There's no way Eston would have gotten ambushed like that if I didn't lead him off against his will. And—I know he told me not to blame myself for it, but—I don't care if it was up to chance. It's still my fault that Igris died. We would have never started up that turntable if I just could have been strong enough to kill myself... And Fronce... I was the only one with disinfectant, and I completely looked over what became the death of him... It was my fault he got that wound in the first place, since I didn't kill Rome..." He looks down, clenching a fist. "If I knew that would happen... I would have ripped that son-of-a-gun's throat out right then and there, I don't doubt it..." He slumps a little. "I still don't have confidence in my own sanity. Sure I didn't have any problems before the Games, and I haven't had any since, but... But I'm scared... I'm scared to death of myself." He looks back up at me, and I try to stand my ground despite the misery in his eyes.
"So now you know," he finishes, voice hollow. "I always try to put on a happy face... For the Capitol, for my family, and for myself. If you'd really rather see me... see me like this all the time, I could do it." He scrunches his mouth to the side a little. "But if you win and come back, you'd better believe I'm not going to keep this up." He looks at me, awaiting an answer.
"No, you can be... be cheerful," I respond quietly. "I just... I didn't know."
Amer looks at me neutrally for a second before putting weight back on his feet and crossing his arms. "Well, I didn't mean to get you all depressed." Shaking off his mood, he grins. "You wanna go bug the Avoxes for a midnight snack?"
"Sure..." I do my best to smile back, although I'm unable to match the suddenness of his mood change. "Let's do that."