I am SO sorry for such the long wait, but I've regained my love of this story and know where it's headed after this :) Thank you for all the reviews about taking my time, it really helped me not rush this chapter and make it really bad. Hope this was worth the wait! xXx


Previously...

He blinks dizzily, eyes unfocused slightly as his hands slide down my back roughly. His lips are hot and disgusting on the side of my neck and I cringe slightly. His hands fumble for a moment before he squints at me, blinking rapidly. His hands fall back onto the bed languidly and I turn around to take a sip of my wine.

When I look back he is laid backwards knocked out, snoring softly with drool dripping onto the satin pillows.

I suppose that's what sleeping pills do to you.


Friends and Enemies

It carried on for a week.

I kissed their cheeks and left smudged lipstick on.

I undressed them and hid their clothes.

I left a note asking them to call if they want some fun.

It was Sorrel's number.

Now I stand on an icy platform on the outskirts of District 12, shivering lightly through my green jacket, mittened hands stuffed in my pockets.

Keeva scowls and curls her lip up as I take off one mitten and watch a snowflake melt on my hand.

"At least it's not raining." I say lightly and she shudders, face twisted with disgust as she huddles further down into her fur coat. I roll my eyes at my over-dramatic escort and turn to Geo who's obsessively brushing the bottom of his trousers that drape nowhere near the snow.

"Where do we go now?" I prompt. "Katniss's house?"

"Yes, yes follow me." Keeva shoves past me to take the lead before Geo can answer, and I trail after her staring avidly around at the ramshackle houses almost falling apart.

"I don't understand why we didn't get a car, we escorts are far more deserving than a Prep team." Keeva bitches, and Geo scowls behind her. I think for a moment he is considering shoving her head first into the mound of snow we pass.

A little boy runs ahead of us in the snow, shivering in a thin tunic and I frown, mouth bitter at the sharp contrast between this freezing boy and Keeva's complaining. I go to take off my coat but he's already disappeared.

In District 5 the air may be smoggy and thick, the buildings soot covered, the climate generally rain that soaks to the skin, but even in hard times with four other brothers I have always been able to afford clothes to keep me warm. Even if they were just old hand me downs, or a few rare pieces of clothing that belonged to my Mother, still smelling like her-

Switching train of thought is not an easy task any more. Where once I was was upset by the thought of Mom, I could easily distract myself with thoughts of my Father, brothers. Now even they are tainted with horrors that could become reality if I do not play the game well enough. President Snow is like a disease, picking and flaking away at my defenses until there is nothing left and I shall never be safe, my family will end up perished in mysterious circumstances. I shall be a shell, empty on the inside.

I shiver, my red locks shielding my view as they fly in front of my eyes. I brush them back as the snow starts to fall more rapidly, swirling around and making it hard to see.

So hard in fact, that when someone barrels into me I let out a shriek and topple backwards with a thump, heart nearly ejecting from my chest.

I gasp, the wind knocked out of me. The snow doesn't particularly soften the blow and I blink fuzzily amidst the panic to see my friend.

"Katniss." I choke.

"Sorry." She says. "I just- I need to talk to you about a lot of things."

"Is that a reason to assault me?" I say teasingly, trying valiantly to ignore my dry mouth and raspy breath, the tightness of my chest and sweatiness of my palms. I tug my mittens off anxiously.

Katniss sticks out an olive hand to help me up and I take it gratefully, wrapping my arms around her.

"I've missed you." I breathe into frozen ears through her silky hair. "I need to talk to you too." I pull back. "It hasn't snowed in District 5. Not yet anyway. It might at a later date." My shoulders pinch together slightly. "We're not very equipped for it."

Katniss squints at me before shrugging. "Well District 12 always gets snow. One year it was so bad we couldn't get out for days..." She trails off in reminiscence and I sigh slightly at her density to not understand secret messages.

It is no question in my mind that President Snow has called in on Katniss in one way or another. I suspect face to face would be most rewarding for him, for he could register the real emotion of her face, her tone of voice. He had no chance to talk to her during our short stay at the Capitol due to the pushy photographers and my meetings with Finnick.

As I constantly do these days, I get entangled and trapped in my own mind. Sometimes more dangerous then unreassuring reality, and I shake my head, trying to focus on Katniss leading us to her house, telling me about Prim and Peeta and Haymitch.

"Ailey couldn't come." I explain as we enter the Victor's village of 12. It's beautiful, dusted in a coat of snow that seems almost silver. "She's ill, so I suppose Haymitch will have to put up with me."

"You'll scare him sober." Katniss says wryly, corner of her lip tilting upwards humorously before turning the corner where a crowd of people stand. Some are pacing grumpily and Keeva gives a smug nod as if to confirm that she's not insane, snow is a treacherous enemy after all. It is, to high heels anyway.

I spy familiar blonde curls hugging and laughing with a miniature blonde. Peeta and if I'm correct this is the girl Katniss volunteered for at the Reaping. This is Primrose Everdeen.

"Peeta!" Katniss calls. "Look who's arrived!"

Peeta turns and shoots me a dazzling grin.

"Carumati!" He comes forward tentatively, his prosthetic leg getting stuck in the snow. I stride across the gap and hug him.

"How are you?" I ask, pulling back and staring avidly at his face flushed pink from the cold weather.

"I'm good." He says cheerily. "I've missed you. Did you have a good birthday?"

"I loved the cake. And the biscuits." I laugh at Katniss who bristles.

"Actually I have something else for you."

"She bought it this morning." Peeta stage whispers and Katniss scowls.

"I'll just go get it..." She strides into her house and pauses at the door. "You can come in if you want."

Her sister beams up at me, the gap in her teeth making her more adorable. Small and golden haired with periwinkle blue eyes so endearing I already feel protective over her. I can understand how Katniss teamed up with Rue now, after volunteering for her sister.

"I'm Primrose." Her eyes sparkle excitedly. "I think you're so cool!"

She bounces on the tip of her toes for a second before hugging me. "Katniss says you do ballet will you show me how?"

"Sure." I smile. "In fact I can teach you something right now if you want."

"Yes!" She bobs her head shyly. "I mean- if that's okay."

"It's fine." I grin. "Although we'll have to go inside your house because even I can't do ballet in snow."

She shoots a quick glance at all the Capitol adults gossiping and paying no attention whatsoever to us.

"Will they mind?" She asks and I shake my head.

"You can see Katniss's dresses too!" Prim says brightly as I and Peeta follow her into the house.

"Her 'special talent'." Peeta smirks, slipping slightly on the ice. I grip his forearm tightly and he smiles gratefully. I knock my boots rid of snow before stepping in.

It is similar to mine, the decoration just as ornate and Capitol-esque. Touches of District 12 still remain despite; a hunting jacket hung on a peg, boots fallen sideways in the corner. Wild flowers in a vase and I smile at the simple beauty. We have no such thing as beauty in the pollution riddled 5.

"We can go into the kitchen." Prim directs us, her sky-blue dress swishing against her skinny knees. "The living room is full of fabrics."

I peek in as we go past and have to snort at the work that is so obviously Cinna's.

"We're leaving for the station in ten minutes!" I hear Keeva's shrill voice and wince.

"You better make your dancing quick." Peeta grins, leaning against the table to watch us.

"Okay I'm going to teach you a pirouette. Put your left foot slightly in front, and your right behind... you need to make sure your front heel is on the ground and your back heel is up as far as it can go." I move her leg and she wobbles, a slight giggle falling from her lips.

"Okay now put your front arm in front of your chest rounded. Like this." I bend my arm and she mimics me. "And put your other arm like this." I stick my left arm straight out to the side.

"Straighten your back..." I murmur. "Okay now you need to bring your foot up into Posse-"

"What?"

"Put your arms closed and press up on your back heel to elevate. So this is the first position. After this you just do the same as the starting position but with both arms open and your head needs to spot around for the turn."

"Okay." Prim says doubtfully.

"Here I'll help." I grasp her ribs and count under my breath. "Okay ready?" I swivel her around as she wobbles in a shaky circle.

"I did it!" She claps her hands joyfully. "How many can you do?"

I smile, an embarrassed flush rising on my cheeks. "Ten."

"Without stopping?" Prim's eyes widen. "Show me." She begs and I smile before fluently rising up and spinning, spinning, spinning...

I come to an abrupt stop and Prim stares at me enthralled.

"I want to do that." She says wistfully.

"You just need to practice, and then the next time I see you you'll be as good as me. Better." I promise and she skips off happily.

"It's strange how District 5 is power but you still learnt ballet. We have small school functions; a few traditional dances and Madge Undersee the Mayor's daughter owns a piano but aside from that we don't really do anything with entertainment." Peeta comments.

"Yeah because most of us are starving." Katniss mutters under her breath as she comes in.

"Well District 5 used to be where all the citizens of the Capitol got their entertainment from." I shrug.

"You know professional ballet and other types of dancing, singers, acting... But then they started getting power shortages and demanded that everyone work in the factories. I just do ballet as a hobby now, but back then I could have been employed by the Capitol. It's like District 4 with all their chefs and District 7 with their carpenters and District 8 with their designers."

"While District 12 had nothing." Katniss snorts.

"My Father told me once that his Great-Uncle had been recruited to the Capitol to bake there but I always figured he was teasing." Peeta shrugs. "Maybe he was telling the truth. The Capitol do like the best of the best and my Great-Uncle was apparently legendary." He rolls his eyes.

"Why aren't you there then?" I tease.

"Because I have to go on this Victory Tour." Peeta jokes. "Speaking of we should be going."

The three of us pause for a moment listening to the hustle and bustle outside.

"Here." Katniss shoves a poorly wrapped package in my direction. "An extra present."

"Thank you." I peel back the layers and look at the small booklet laid inside.

"It's a book of mind things." She shrugs, clearly ill-informed. "I thought they looked like something you could do."

I stare at the flimsy book quizzically, opening it to see a grid with squares filled in black and others white. Words are printed on the bottom.

"Oh I see." I murmur after a moment. "You have to write the answers into the correct boxes."

"Yeah that's what you do." Katniss nods with clearly no idea. "You do like it right?"

I laugh and nod. "Yes! I hope you liked my present to you?"

"Why wouldn't I like a nice warm pair of gloves?" She sighs happily. "Perfect for when I'm out – side in this weather." She swiftly changes sentences and I nod.

"I figured." I grin as we wander to the front door.

"Carumati!" Keeva trills loudly. "Come on dearie! We're riding down to the station."

I make a face of horror at Peeta and Katniss.

"Why don't we walk?" Katniss proposes. "You can meet my... cousins."

"Oh." I squirm uncomfortably. "Um, sure."

"Gale wouldn't harm a fly." Katniss assures me and I stare at her skeptically.

"Birds, small mammals..." I mouth to Peeta who chuckles, shaking his head.

As the Capitolites ride down to the station wanting to get out of here as quick as possible, I venture slowly around. I can't ignore the panic infused in my veins but I can try to put it to the back of my mind, focusing on the District so different to mine.

As we walk and catch up I notice the tension between my two fellow Victors, not mentioning the fact I am firmly planted between the pair as they point out various spots in 12.

We walk down a small snow covered lane filled with houses in various states of decay.

"This is where I used to live." Katniss pats the gate of one house, staring longingly for a moment before shaking her head and carrying on.

"This place is called the Seam." Peeta whispers to me. "It's where all the coal miners live."

I nod. "I used to live in the poor part of 5. All those chemical fumes." I wrinkle my nose at the memory.

After a few minutes wandering through back-alleys we reach a house indistinguishable from the rest aside from the slightly damp washing hanging on the snow covered line.

Katniss knocks on the door and a woman answers. She looks more like how I imagined Katniss's Mother to look, same olive toned skin and grey eyes.

"Katniss, Peeta and you must be Carumati." She smiles at me warmly and I smile nervously, waving awkwardly. "I'm Hazelle Hawthorne, Katniss's Aunt."

They must be related on Katniss's Father's side.

"I'll just get your cousins." Hazelle shoots me a final fond look before going around the corner away from our view.

Peeta stares down at his shoes silently and Katniss stares straight ahead like she's made of stone. I realize however awkward I feel something has happened to make it even more awkward for them. I stare at them suspiciously and startle when someone clears their throat. I turn and stare at the tall messy haired man in front of me. Dark eyebrows pulled together in irritation.

"Gale." Katniss smiles thinly. "This is Carumati. She-"

"I know who she is." He says gruffly. "I recognize her from the TV."

"Hi." I squeak and he glances at me for a second before spotting Peeta.

"I thought we could all walk to the station together." Katniss attempts to be cheery. "You could meet Caru properly-"

"Sure." He grumbles and grabs a thick leather jacket. "My Mom will follow in a minute; Rory and Vick are trying to untangle Posy's hair." He smiles fondly and we set off into the snow, descending into even more awkwardness.

Katniss glares at Gale from the corner of her eye and he huffs sharply, hands shoved deep in his pockets.

"So Ca..." He trails off.

"Carumati." I smile.

"Yeah." He swallows. "How are you liking District 12?"

"It's nice. Different from 5. You get real snow, and flowers and trees..." I sigh happily.

Gale nods curtly. "Yeah. District 12 is great."

Did I say something wrong? Why does Gale seemingly hate me already without no proper reason? Surely he should be happy I did all the things I did to keep his cousin alive? Perhaps he resents me for making Katniss try to commit suicide as those berries were my idea. Perhaps he just didn't want Katniss to have allies and thinks Peeta is far more than enough. One Victor was enough, Katniss was enough, and two never mind one fellow Victors is just over complicating things. Perhaps he hates District 5, or ballet, or maybe he just hates gingers.

I can't help but laugh at the thought, and my three companions stare at me slightly worried.

"We're almost at the station." I say. "I don't want to leave."


As Katniss and Peeta bid goodbye to everyone, I plant myself down on the edge of the platform behind the train and swing my legs back and forth, already filling in the book Katniss gave me. Hmm... I tap the pencil against my lips as I try to think of the answer to a particularly hard puzzle.

"Carumati." I jolt and almost fall off the ledge.

"Hi." I smile tentatively at Gale.

"I want to talk." He says brusquely and I nod. He sits down next to me and for a minute sits in silence.

"I know you don't like me if that's what this is about. I just don't get why."

I stare at Gale who sighs.

"Fine you want to know the truth? I don't think you should have survived. You're only sitting here because of Katniss and her good will. It's because of you there's all this drama. Katniss has changed and-"

"How would there be less drama?" I say coldly. "Two victors instead of three? There would still be unrest in the Capitol. You need to blame someone Gale, so you're blaming me instead of looking at the larger picture."

"Which is what? I don't trust you. You've already proved you can't be trusted with your sneakiness and lies. You tried to get Katniss to commit suicide."

"I was the one trying to commit suicide to let her win. I told her not to copy me if you recall. Maybe I shouldn't have let Katniss choke them from my mouth. Then all your problems would be gone wouldn't they?" I smile sarcastically. "Because it's my fault Katniss is suffering from the arena, it's my fault the Capitol are angry, it's my fault Katniss and Peeta are the golden couple and you're left out in the cold-"

He stares at me angrily, eyes flashing. "Shut up."

"Grow up Gale." I scramble to my feet angrily. "And stop being a bully. Maybe before you start blaming other people for your misery you should look at yourself. Because it seems to me you're the reason Katniss isn't as close to you anymore and you're the reason Katniss and Peeta aren't getting along. I've saved Katniss's life more times then you, so if I were you I would be thanking me she's still breathing and not buried six feet under like you want me."

I grip my booklet tight in my shaking hands and glare at Gale as he stands towering over me. And the last blow, the one that I know is wrong even before I say it.

"How would your Father feel if he knew you wanted an innocent girl dead for no reason other than petty jealously?"

His face contorts in pain, becomes shadowed, but he still manages to have the last painful word.

"How would your Mother feel knowing she gave birth to a murderer?"

My hand rises furiously to slap his face but he's faster and grips my wrist hard. Just like Clove before she snapped it and I killed her-

I gasp for breath as my chest tightens and tears form in my eyes. I pull away from him and storm onto the train.

He's ridiculous trying to pin all his anger and pain and unwillingness to change on me, just because I'm here, just because I'm part of it, just because I'm alive.

I hurtle into the bathroom and lean against the door clutching my chest as I wheeze. I can feel clammy sweat on my face and the ground around me swirls and dips. I slide to the floor, head spinning. Was this even real? Was this just a hallucination like the memories of Clove-

My chest tightens and restricts and tears slip down my cheeks as I gasp for breathe. I'm going insane, I'm having a mental breakdown all because of Gale Hawthorne-

I bury my trembling fingers into my scalp, trying desperately to cling to normalcy. He thinks I should be dead – Rue and Luc and Clove – bloody bubbles frothing from her mouth and I drop the knife...

My stomach lurches and grumbles and I can hear my heart hammering in my chest. Thudthudthudthudthud. I don't want to die and people shouldn't die like Clove and Rue and Luc and my Mom. She was gone, never to exist again, unnoticed by everybody in Panem bar her family and a few others and Gale wanted me to join her, maybe I should join her... No, no that's stupid, I need to calm down.

Deep breathes...

In...

Out...

In...

Out...

After a few minutes my breathing goes back to normal and I rub at my forehead exhausted, feeling weak and hot and awful.

I close my eyes and lean my head against the door.

I know one thing is certain.

Gale Hawthorne hates me? Well I hate him too.


So we're now on the Victory tour and Carumati and Gale hate each other. Look forward to some tense scenes between the two further on in the story! ;)

Do you think Gale really hates Carumati for 'convincing' (i.e planting the idea for) Katniss to attempt the Nightlock? Or do you think Caru is right with Gale pinning all his bad emotions to the girl he doesn't know? They certainly both raise valid points: Gale about Caru's sneakiness and Caru about Gale failing to look at himself and then evaluate the situation.

Next chapter we're in District 11 and we have a touching scene between Caru and Thresh's family because after Foxface Thresh is my favourite tribute :)

I have one question to ask you about the Victory tour - do you want me to go by the book and do it in one or two chapters? Or do you want a chapter for each District?

Should be updated in the next week barring college work!

xXx