Decidely, I do not need Gale. Not to win and not to live. And Haymitch must be so displeased that I've realized this. The audience must me cursing me from the safety of their couches for ruining their precious couple that they'd been so emotionally invested in.
And I don't care.
A rabbit darts into my path just then. I kill it both for nourishment purposes and for reminding me of Rue. If it had been a tribute, I probably would do the same.
Because of my anger, not for nourishment.
My anger is not to a cannibalistic level.
"We should just set them on fire once they are in close quarters again," Seneca says anxiously. "It's dramatically ironic and also puts an end to them swiftly."
"No, we shouldn't!" Haymitch differs boldly.
"And why shouldn't we?!" Seneca exclaims. "Without each other, both tributes from 12 have nothing worth rooting for. The girl is distant and brooding and the boy's weapon killed the little one. The audience has ceased to care about either of them."
"The girl has a sister," Haymith reminds him. "Panem could do with some family values."
"We haven't heard about her sister since she took her place as tribute," he reminds him anxiously. "She wasn't interviewed about it at all. The audience probably doesn't even remember that she has a sister."
"Her sister hasn't!"
"Mr. Abernathy, why would we put the desires of one girl over those of the entire country?"
Haymitch represses a look of stark horror rather easily. He's accustomed to the Capitol's misplaced priorities.
"Besides, it's probably for the best," Seneca decides. "They can't both survive. They had to have separated at some point. Now, they have. And now, we don't need them alive."
Haymitch clung to this.
"What if they could?"
"What if they could both survive?"
Seneca frowns. "Haymitch, that's not how this works. There is one victor."
"You've just pointed out that the audience does not root for 12 as separates," he explains. "They root for them together."
"I am not obligated to play to your own favorites, Haymitch."
"Look at all the other kids! Do you think anyone will be pleased if the erratically violent girl wins? Or the strange-faced girl who barely says two words? Or the pretty one that people hate automatically for being pretty?"
Seneca meets his gaze levelly.
"President Snow will only accept one victor."
"A two-in-one victor is still a victor," Haymitch pleads.
Five hours pass without being allied to Gale. I feel safer than I have for the entirety of the Games.
I cook my rabbit meat in daylight, prepared to tear off in the other direction once it's cooked enough to eat since the smoke from the fire is a beacon. I'm tense, though, clutching my bow tightly with one hand.
Just then, the Panem anthem blares over the arena. I take it as a welcome distraction to my fire for the other tributes.
"Attention tributes," Seneca's voice booms across the forests. "We have an announcement."
"There has been a carefully considered change of rules for the seventy-fourth Hunger Games," he gathers. "Effective now, the top two tributes remaining at the conclusion of the Games will be named the victors."
Are. You. Serious?
I don't listen to the rest of the announcement, the cordialities and niceties. I'm too stunned.
Just one day ago, I would've given my right arm for such a rule to be implemented.
Gale and I could win the whole thing together.
Then again, Rue and I could've won the whole thing together.
No, I realize. No, we couldn't have.
Why this timing? Why not announce this when the Games began?
Because it wasn't planned. This rule isn't for the Games.
The rule is for me. And Gale.
Was the Capitol so attached to our budding romance that they demanded action be taken once our ties were severed? I should be thankful. Or maybe even upset. But I'm conflicted.
I wonder what Gale is feeling at this moment. Should I go looking for him? Is he about to start looking for me?
I'm not going to go after him, I decide pretty quickly. In the whole scheme of things, he still killed Rue. And how would I just walk back into his life after the commotion I made with him?
But that doesn't obliterate the rule. What if Clove and I are standing side-by-side as victors in the end? I don't put it past her to wring my neck in the end anyway as to attain the glory of being the one and only victor.
What I think to do at the moment is stomp out my fire and dart off. I'm not entirely sure what to do beyond that.
~End of Chapter~
Please note that I understand that in the books the rule was that two tributes of the same district could win, but then I realized I didn't have anyone else besides Gale and Katniss that were in the same District. But I like this rule, too. I can work with it, right?
Also, I've decided that I'm probably not going to rewrite all books. I'm probably going to just address the first one and have the timeline extended a little beyond it.