A/N: I just wanted to say thanks for your support with Nick before I rattle on, it really means a lot to us... After mikki "kindly" asking me to say thanks to all you readers and reviewers (us authors are the ones who need thanking if you ask me!) for all your support due to the long break, I reluctantly dragged myself over here to write another one of these abysmal A/Ns. In the words of Marvin the Paranoid Android: "Life, don't talk to me about life." (Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy reference) I know how you feel Marvin, I know how you feel. Anyhow, this is the first of the three evening scenes in the Capitol "of your choice" as I put it... so I'm very curious to find out what people have put. Also, this chapter is the one that knocks our current writing count over the 100,000 mark, I mean wow! First off it's a lot to write and to read (so thanks to you and to us) and second off, we're only under half way through the Capitol Scenes! So, without further ado, I hand you over to the capable hands of... Pumpkin Grin (D5 Male).

A/N: Hello, PumpkinGrin here, aka Pumpkin or Xian. Here is my Capitol chapter, which is the first evening scene of my choice. I do hope you enjoy, and I apologize for grammatical errors; as some of you have pointed out, I have switched between past and present tenses a bit. I hope I haven't done so in this chapter. Anyways, I hope you enjoy! Wait, I've said that already… Oh well!

Evening Scene In The Capitol One - Claus Hendall (D5 Male) by Pumpkin Grin

"Beliefs are what divide people. Doubt unites them. "

-Peter Ustinov

I will not make it out of here alive.

I had remained in a quiet, panicked state throughout the whole train ride, choosing to sit by myself and to keep quiet. Then, we arrived in the shining city that was the Capitol, to which I treated with contempt. It looked too artificial, which was understandable when I remembered what exactly the Capitol was; a heartless totalitarian city that sought total control over the districts they already ruled. One would have assumed that my state of silence attributed to my total unease over my position in this situation, but I had hoped someone would have noticed the brief flash of scorn that crossed my face when we had approached the city.

The twenty-four of us got settled within our quarters in the Training Center. It was roomy and comfortable, not to mention unbelievably sophisticated and technologically advanced. We barely had any time to familiarize ourselves with our temporary homes before we were carted off to our stylists. My stylist, Ambrosine, wasn't as freakishly decorated –or as freakishly deformed – as the other residents of the Capitol, but she still had an alien aura of beauty to her. Being around her made me feel more insecure than I already was when they began to strip me down and "clean me up", as they put it. I honestly didn't see what was wrong with my appearance, but I suppose I don't have an eye for appearances like they do.

Then came the Chariot rides. I was placed in a rather…strange tuxedo suit that was relatively normal except for the fact that my suit had dozens of brightly lit light-bulbs planted all over it like flower buds. My district partner, Aella, looked much better than I did in her outfit, so we received mixed reactions from the audiences at best. Ambrosine told me to go out there with confidence, but I had kept my head bowed all the while.

And then the training.

The training was probably the most fruitless ordeal I had ever gone through. There were different stations situated around the training environment, each with a different area of expertise. Most of the tributes flocked to the weapons, but I lagged behind and stayed near the knot tying. I had passed that station pretty easily, so I wandered to one station that focused on running. I just resorted to running a couple of laps, testing how long I could run until I ran out of breath. Suffice to say, my agility hadn't deteriorated, so I automatically knew that running was going to be my strong point. But running won't be enough in a fight to the death.

Here I am, in my room, after that training period. I'm not as sore or tired as some of the other tributes are, but there's still a lingering burning sensation in my gut and my calves. I briefly remember my first foray into cross-country and long distance running. It wasn't an activity that was pursued much back in District 5, but they had never closed down the empty registration boards for it. Seeking some distraction from my estrangement from my parents, I sought out the lonely activity. And for such a reserved person like myself, I found that running suited me just fine.

Eventually, an hour passes, and I start growing a bit tired of reminiscing and thinking and just being immobile overall. I need to take my mind off of things, I tell myself. I need to work off some of this pent-up stress within me. The laps I had completed back in training certainly did a number to my anxiety, but it keeps refilling. I'll have to constantly be distracted, and that's something I'm sure I can do easily. After all, I'm in the very city that I despise. I think I'll find a way to occupy myself by at least exploring this little prison of mine.

I change out of my training clothes and tug on a simple T-shirt and trousers with equally simple shoes. I'm thankful for the rather generic clothing; I was worried that I would have to go out in some hideous outfit that the Capitol citizens would have deemed relaxation garb.

I tiptoe outside, closing the door softly behind me. Looking around the hall, I try to determine a direction to go. I don't have a particular destination in mind, which is understandable due to not even knowing where everything was. I had chosen to follow the other tributes to the Training Center when it had come time to report there earlier today. Trusting my blind instinct, I step tentatively to my right and flinch as I can practically hear my footsteps ring out through the halls. Despite the carpeting, my feet shuffle against in rather noisily. This would definitely be a bad thing if I'm not supposed to leave my room, but I push the thought to the side. Slowly, patiently, I make my way down the hall.

I arrive at an elevator, the same one I had taken up to my quarters only a few hours ago. It takes only gentle push of a button to make the doors open silently, beckoning me in. I have no choice but to comply. Inside, next to the doors, is a number pad with probably hundreds of buttons, but I know it's a great exaggeration. I scour my memory for the floor that I had passed with a waiting room of some sort and end up blindly pressing 16.

Suddenly, the elevator dips down, leaving my stomach back up on whatever floor I was previously on. Gripping the railings with my sweaty palms, I gulp and hope that nobody decides to catch me right when I land on my designated floor. In the matter of a few seconds, the doors open and reveal nobody. A sigh of relief is expelled from my lips.

Cautiously, I step out of the elevator and peek around for any passerby. Strangely, this place is a lot emptier than I previously thought a building of Capitol origin would be. Then again, this is to my benefit, so I have no right to wonder or complain. With quick fast steps I traverse the hall to my left in a blind faith. Suspense takes me as its prisoner as I hurry.

I peek inside every door that I pass by. All of them are styling rooms of some sort, which meant they were of no use to me and my intents to find a place to relax that wasn't completely choked by technology. Isn't the Capitol interested in one of those fads; retro or whatever? Wouldn't a quiet room devoted to just reading or sitting be considered retro by today's standards?

It takes a while, but I eventually reach a rather unremarkable door that doesn't appear to be a styling room. Upon inspection, it appears to be just a simple rectangular room with beige walls and simple leather armchairs and sofas. To my vague delight, bookcases filled with half its namesake are present.

All too eagerly I rush inside and silently close the door behind me. I don't hear it click, but it doesn't matter. By God, I've finally found a place of solitude! It's amazing, really. At least someone here in the Capitol has been thinking of folk like me.

I have picked out a particular armchair and a particular book, a very old one called Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by a man named John le Carré –I was probably right about this being a sort of retro fad- and have made myself comfortable. A quiet place to read a new book that I haven't practically memorized is a godsend in this strange prison. Welcome silence had finally come, and I embrace it whole-heartedly.

I've started the book and made it to the third chapter –such strange vocabulary this book boasts, I notice- when I hear the door croak. Looking up suddenly, I see a girl. A fellow tribute, to be more exact. Her sudden appearance has almost shocked me, but I hide it with the hardcover book. I see her eyeing me from the doorway, one hand on the doorframe and an eyebrow half-cocked. She's questioning my appearance, as I'm questioning hers. Has she followed me, or does she possess the same desire to be alone? Whatever it may be, I don't want to cross her path and my eyes dart back to my book.

I hear soft footfall as she enters the room. Her steps are slow, a bit methodical, as if she's still studying me. As if she's wary of my continuous presence here. I hope that me simply being here hasn't irritated her; I don't know if she's one of those people who gets annoyed when they see someone else occupying something that they themselves were expecting to be first to. Either that, or she just doesn't like me. I continue to make it seem like my full undivided attention is focused on the book in my hands.

There's a soft sshh sound, like something smooth rubbing on something of equal texture. I realize it's her withdrawing a book from one of the shelves. The sound disappears and is replaced with her quiet footsteps over to an armchair off in the corner of my eye. My eyes strain from trying to peer at her at such an angle, and I realize that this might be intentional. My eyes again dart to my book.

The silence is uncomfortable now. My limbs are stiff and aching from remaining in such a fixed position, but I feel that if I move it will somehow irritate the other tribute. I glance at her as discreetly as I can, and I take mental note of her long brown hair pulled back into a practical ponytail and her ivory skin. She has the air of a confident competitor, someone who surveys her surroundings constantly. Maybe she's a Career. I wouldn't be surprised.

Her eyes, a hazel in color, dart towards mine from her novel, causing me to return to my book. Chastising myself for getting caught, I sneak another glance at her. It dawns on me that this is my enemy, and here we are in the same room. This definitely ups the awkwardness of the situation. Two contestants in a fight to the death in the same room, reading books that were written way before our grandparents were conceived. What a cruel world we live in.

Nonetheless, I try to expel all dark thoughts from my mind, but I find myself hopelessly failing. A potential murderer of mine is sitting a few feet away from me, and I know for sure I'm probably one of the weakest tributes here. Things aren't looking too bright.

Just then, the door opens yet again, this time revealing a somewhat familiar face. It's the female tribute from my District, Aella. Her blonde hair is also pulled up into a ponytail high upon her head, but its color, not to mention her green eyes and freckles, differentiates herself from the other girl. She has a slightly more welcoming aura about her, though this is probably due to us belonging to the same District. But seeing her here as a possible enemy lowers my spirits even more.

It doesn't stop me from giving a tight grimace of a smile and muttering, "Hello," to her. She offers her own smile and a small wave before leaving the doorway and making a beeline towards the nearest of the three sofas. Taking a seat, she swings her petite yet gangly frame onto the furniture. I can tell that she's definitely a lot more open than the other girl.

Aella doesn't make a move to grab a book like the other two-thirds of the room. She just remains there with her legs sprawled out and her feet upon the opposite armrest and her arms folded so that her hands meet atop her stomach. She seems much more at ease than I, but there's no doubt that there remains at least a little trepidation within her. Or she is just that good at hiding her fears and doubts. I envy her if this is the case.

My eyes start scanning the words in front of me, failing to register them properly. I read them, but I don't take the time to stop and form a basis of what's going on. My mind is racing with other things at the juncture that cannot simply afford to let up some space to comprehend some ancient book. I only catch vague thoughts; a character in the book has the surname of Smiley. Who would ever have a last name like that? Only bare-threaded thoughts are formed from the book, and it doesn't bother me much, contradicting the rather avid reader and writer I naturally am.

"So, you're Claus?" Aella asks. My shoulders spasm and my fingers twitch into holding the book in some sort of death grip. My head jolts to her direction and I give a short nod. The words spoken have cut through the air like a knife through melted butter.

"Oh." She frowns at my lack of what she seems to consider a proper response. "I'm Aella."

"I know." I reply quietly, not realizing how creepy that sounded until a few moments later. I blink and shake my head as I straighten up in my seat. "I mean, no, I…heard your name. At the Reaping, when they called it," I hastily add for clarity's sake.

Aella raises her brow at me, blonde eyebrows perched high above her dark-lashed eyes. "Yeah…I know. That's how I know your name too." She states carefully, giving me a strange look.

I utter a shaky, "Oh," as my head ducks toward my book. I tilt my head a few degrees to see the other tribute looking at me through the corner of her eyes. I avert my gaze and inwardly sigh at my awkwardness.

Aella seemingly senses my inability to make decent conversation and ends up trying to converse with the other girl. "How 'bout you, what's your name?" She asks invitingly.

The girl looks up, slightly annoyed but with a tinge of interest. "Onyx Marshall. District 2," she responds in detached air. Onyx's gaze scans over Aella, making observations of her like a predator would. Her body remained still while her eyes did all the investigating.

At the mention of District 2, Aella tilts her head back and slowly brings it back down, mouthing a drawn out "Oh." "A Career, huh?" She inquires. A twinge of spite is detectable in her voice. Obviously her opinion of Careers is low. Unlike me, she doesn't bother to hide it as much.

Onyx smirks. "Of course. Why not?"

"Careers are overrated. Predictable. Disgusting." My District partner spits out the words as if they are poison from a snake bite. "Violent, bloodthirsty creatures."

"But isn't that the sort of mindset that you've gotta adapt in the Hunger Games?" counters Onyx, closing her book and leaning forward. "We can't afford pansies or weaklings here. You've gotta build a skin, an immunity, some muscle. Both metaphorically and literally, of course." She eyes my thin frame and I look away instinctively.

"The Games aren't just about strength and physical power," Aella argues. "You need mental prowess as well. I mean, sure, strength would help out a whole ton–no offense to you—"

"None taken," I murmur, my ears burning.

"—but you need the reflexes and the wits to survive as well. The only reason Careers win all the time is because they rely on pure power and bloodlust to hunt down others. That's why the twigs that might be survivalist Einsteins die out because they value brains over total mindless brawn." Aella looks at me apologetically. "Again, sorry for putting you out there."

"No, it's fine…" I dismiss, my eyes darting to my lap as I can feel Onyx's scrutinizing gaze upon me. But I do suppose Aella is somewhat right, and that one must need a healthy balance of wit and physical strength to win this. Does running count as a display of physical prowess?

Apparently, Onyx is thinking along the same lines as I am. "That's why we form alliances. We group the strong guys, the muscle, with the whizz-kids, the brainiacs, like this guy." She juts a thumb towards me, making me raise my head in weak protest.

"I-I can run. I dunno about smarts or anything, but I can run," I try to correct, but Onyx's utter ignorance of me shuts me up. I'm definitely not a people person. When would the day come that I could stand up to someone? She doesn't even look older than fifteen and she's more of a man than I am. Both of them are.

"But don't you admit, it would be a bit more…I dunno, convenient, if someone had a balance of physical health and mental health?" Aella points out, swinging her feet from the armrest and placing them on the carpeted ground. "Having to rely on others for specific attributes that some don't possess. Why not take the time to actually have all the necessary skills and mindsets or whatever you call them? Seems much neater to me."

Onyx scoffs, her neck recoiling slightly in protest. "You do realize that we aren't here for months on end? We only have a week at the most to prepare for this, a week at most to focus on your specialties. Just recruit those who make up for whatever you don't have, and you're all covered." She retorts.

"Then what happens in the end? You try to kill them off, your allies?"

"Yeah, of course. Only one's gotta win, after all."

"But what if they have a 'specialty,'" Aella forms quotation marks with her fingers. "that ends up getting you killed because you can't counterbalance it?"

"Well, that won't happen to me." It seems that just for a minute, Onyx has lost her composure. Perhaps the thought of the possibility of dying has just reached her. She quickly recovers, but it doesn't leave my memory.

"How do you know?"

"Because, I'm a Caree—"

"Look, guys, please, just…be quiet." I interject quietly, my hands forming into fists around the book. Setting down the novel in my lap and closing it abruptly, my hands fly away from it and clasp together. I untangle one hand and drag it down my face wearily, hoping that the two tributes will catch onto my body language. They both quiet down and bring their attention to me, staring at me after my outburst (if it can even be called that.).

"It doesn't matter, about alliances and Careers and whatever. Right now, can we…please, just focus on getting some time to relax?"

The two girls give me strange looks at my rant, but I almost fail to notice due to me staring down at the hardcover book in my lap. My eyes traced the frayed blue edges and the worn corners, the faded lettering on the spine disappearing into dust. Sighing, I open the book to where my page approximately was and stare at the words.

The room falls quiet, and it seems that their anxiety-driven argument has come to an end. All noise is gone, and silence has come back once more.

Grin's A/N: Yeah, that was kinda crappy, I am sorry about that. I'm half-asleep at the time of this writing, so…I hope I've done Aella and Onyx justice, please forgive me if I haven't! And I apologize if this doesn't seem too Claus-centered. I do know that the later chapters within the actual Games will be Claus-centric for sure! Anyways, tell me what you think; I'm a review addict, I must admit.