Disclaimer: I have never owned anything, certainly not book or character rights. Those belong to some lady named Suzanne Collins. I am poor and this story won't change that because I'm not making money off it.

A/N: Hello and thank you for reading (assuming you continue) my Hunger Games fic. It starts during the announcement for the Quarter Quell. I'm staying true to everything up until that point. (I assume you've read the books so I'm not going to breakdown everything that happened up to now) With one exception. Gale is one year younger, so instead of being 18 during the 74th game he was 17. Making him only one year older than Katniss, and still eligible for the Games.

This fic will be told from multiple POVs, the in the first half, Katniss, Gale, Prim, Peeta, and Haymitch will all have sections. When I'm in each POV I'm going to try to keep the vocabulary and tone of each character authentic. Considering that in the books they mentioned that schooling was more about vocation then actual academics, I'm don't think they'd be able to describe things quite as well as I'd like to. I hope that the authenticity adds to the story and I know that the content and depth of the story itself will make up for it. Also, as the story progresses some of our characters will be in new situations which will broaden their horizons, so it will get better as the story goes on.

When I change from one POV to another there will be a line break between them put whose POV it is in parentheses at the begining.

Thank you again and all reviews appreciated.


Written by: DBlaze

Proofread by: Ellenka

Chapter 1


I'm sitting in the kitchen of the house in the Victor's Village. I can't really call it home yet. Hell, I might never really call it home, who knows where I'll be living once I'm married... I still can't believe that. I had no choice but to say yes, and I still had hope that if we played our parts well enough, maybe we could get out of all this. Turns out our union and love story was exactly what moved the rebellion, at least that's what I'm told. Now I'm just wondering if a wedding is all the president has in store for us. Somehow I just can't bring myself to be that hopeful.

I'm in the middle of this very thought for the trillionth time when a sound I have come to despise fills my ears. It's the National Anthem. Just perfect, time to parade me in my dresses to the Capitol so they can choose what I'll get married in, and have even more say over my life. My sister and mother are here and I may even be having a conversation with them but my mind isn't here. This was a technique I developed years ago to stop Prim from worrying when my mind was racing to find ways to feed our family. It's been a mainstay of my being for years. It's also how I kept my cool during the games - being able to effectively operate while paying absolutely no attention to what you are doing. Gale is good at it too, in the forest we use it to heighten our senses while we gather and track. Here it's used to drone out things you don't want to pay attention to. It's usually foolproof, provided nothing extreme happens to snap me out of it.

For example, the voice of a man that makes my skin crawl, my teeth clench and my fists ball. Just the sound his voice is enough to fill my nostrils with his putrid stench. Snow. Now I'm locked onto the screen of our TV and my eyes try to burn holes in his head though the screen. I know it's pointless but I still appreciate the effort on their part. So as he begins to talk about the next games my heart races. I had forgotten. The Quarter Quell...

Every 25 years a special games was held to make an even bigger spectacle of the massacre and make everyone that much more hopeless. They add a special rule; so far both were in the choosing process. So I imagine this year it will be the same. Then my heart starts to race, Snow can control what the rule is, he could do anything. Even select them personally. He recaps the rules of the last two Quells but I'm so anxious about the third that they don't register. Besides, I've heard it before. Then he reaches for the envelope with the new rule in it and opens it.

"For the Seventy-fifth Anniversary of the rebellion, to remind all those foolish enough to stand against the Capitol that they bring death to those they love as well. Each Tribute when selected with have to choose a companion of reaping age and the opposite sex to join them in the Arena." His cold eyes look directly into the screen and even though it's silly for me to try, I can somehow feel the burn of his stare.

Prim gasps and my mother's look turns to stone. "Not only twice the children, but making them choose? Those monsters." Her voice is barely a whisper but I can see the screaming in her eyes when she looks at me. My mother knows better than to talk about the Capitol like that but I can hardly blame her.

I leave, not having the heart to tell her this is almost certainly because of me.

"...they bring death to those you love as well." I should get that phrase out of my head. I know it was meant for me but the reaping isn't for months so I won't really know what he's got planned until then. So I shouldn't think about it. After five minutes of walking, and not being able to think of anything else, I already know that this is going to be a long couple of months. Because no matter how many ways I look at it, there is only one answer...


You really can't imagine how it feels to be whipped, and really why would you want to? But me, I don't have to imagine. A few short weeks ago I found out firsthand what it's like, and you know what? It really fucking hurts. But I think what hurts worse is the knowing everyone saw me like that. She saw me like that. And worse still is having to watch it happen to others.

Ever since Thread became the new Head Peacekeeper, whippings have become commonplace. A lot of things have become commonplace, nasty things. And my usual escape is lost to me. Now that the electricity is now constantly running through the fence, the forest has been completely cut off. Our biggest fear in District 12 (besides the games, of course) used to be starving to death; it's strange to miss those days. I also miss sunlight, being in these mines all day sucks the life out of me.

I say that, but starving to death never really scared me, it pissed me off. When I realized that with my father gone my mother couldn't do it alone, I made the decision that I was going to take care of my family, which meant no more being afraid. Which I thought was the grown up thing to do. Too bad it's not that easy to turn off your fear. No you can't do that yourself, something else needs to do that for you. In my case it was someone.

Of all the things I met in those woods that I wasn't ready for, without question I was the most unprepared for her. "Catnip" Everdeen, at least that's what I heard. She tried telling me later that it was "Katniss", but after the Lynx incident, Catnip it was. Long before she was the Girl on Fire, she was the girl with the bow. My best friend, my teacher, my student, my confidant, my Partner. She taught me to use a bow, I taught her snares. We'd spend hours together hunting and she'd listen to me rant. I don't care if things aren't quite the same since she was reaped. I don't care if the Capitol is forcing her to be with someone else. She's still my Catnip.

Needless to say, this has put me in a bit of a rough spot. My partner is at the center of a sick game being played by a man with the power to do whatever he wants, whenever he wants, to whomever he wants. Not to mention the twisted sense of humor that makes sport of kids killing one another. Our relationship... has been better. And I have no idea how to get back to what we had. Especially considering she's not really supposed to see me too much, it wouldn't look good. Not with her upcoming wedding...

My stomach was in my throat the second the words came out of the president's mouth. (And I thought I hated him before.) My mind ran in a million directions all at once, I was dizzy and I could hear my heartbeat in my ears. Peeta Mellark is going to marry my Catnip and if I try to do anything about it, everyone I care about will be dead.

Did I say rough spot? I meant the seventh circle of hell, okay maybe sixth circle. I know I don't have it the worst and that makes me even angrier. This whole game is about her. The president sees us all as tools to get to her and he's right, I hate to admit it but it's the way I'd do it. The man barely registers me as a pawn and yet, he still crafted my perfect hell by coincidence. The man has a gift for sadism and I would sell my soul to shove it down his reptilian throat.

I finish up the last of my work and make my way back towards the elevator. My group worked a little late today, not nearly as anxious to get to the surface when a mandatory broadcast is scheduled. Nothing they ever say is good and it will be the talk of the district for days, no need to rush to the bad news. I'm pretty sure I heard that this was going to be about Catnip's wedding dress.

She's the one I'm really worried about right now. With everything that's going on, I know she's tearing herself apart. She's worrying about everyone but herself, which is okay, because that's my job. I'm her partner. The part that's not okay is her thinking this is all her fault - what happened during her games, the uprising, even all the changes that happened here. She blames herself when the Capitol, and that bastard Snow, should be taking the blame. If you asked anyone else (in a dark corner far away from other people) they'd tell you in a second this was all the Capitol's doing. But not my Catnip, the girl wouldn't know what to do if the weight of the world wasn't on her shoulders. But that's exactly why I love her. She's the only person who understood everything I was going through without either of us saying a word, because she was going through it too.

So here I am and despite the futility, I haven't stopped trying to figure out a way to get her out of this. Damn, I wish she just would've run away with me before any of this ever happened. I laugh. Yeah right, I couldn't have left without my family anymore than she could. It was just a daydream that I needed to say out loud. It's proof to how stupid I am. That was my first real attempt to tell her I had feelings for her, a fantasy of running away together. I really thought she would've connected the dots but as usual that girl is completely oblivious when it comes to emotions of any kind. (Except anger, she does that one masterfully.) She always thought she was some kind of outcast, when the truth is she's one of the only people in this District that is accepted by both the Seam and the merchant class. She thought all their kindness was because of her father, and that may have been true at first. But after watching that fearless girl literally fight for her life and the life of her family, fighting starvation, the woods and the world, who could possibly not admire her? She had to have all this happen to realize it though.

The girl could read my every movement, gesture and look, she just couldn't read between the lines. But now that I've dropped that bomb, (again she had to be all but slapped in the face with it), we even shared a kiss. One that I think about way more than I care to admit. Down here, this damn situation and staying alive is all there is to think about. Not like the work takes much brain power.

I was on the elevator when the broadcast came on. First time I was ever thankful for it being slow as hell. By the time we got to the surface it was already over and a symphony of gossip filled the air. The melody was not what I would have expected from a debate about wedding dresses. The tone was dark, and I noticed that while everyone was talking they were talking in the way that you don't want people to overhear. "Something is wrong." I say it out loud, in case the guys I came up with haven't noticed. But most of them are older miners, and you don't live long enough to be an older miner if you can't hear the feeling of the air. I get a few stern nods as I look around at them and without a word we all set off to our respective homes.

I never make it to mine, instead I see Katniss coming down the street in one of her functional dazes and I purposely stop directly in her path. She's less than ten feet from me before her eyes focus on me and she stops short.

"Gale, hey." I sense the awkwardness of the elephant between us in her voice and the way she moves. I wish I was able to do something about it or just act like it's no big deal but honestly, I don't know what is safe for me to do anymore. And she would never forgive me if I pushed it and something happened. But there is something else too. There's an elephant between us, she must have a whale on her chest too.

Still, I go for light and warm and say with a smile, "Heya Catnip, how've you been? Haven't seen you around much cous'." I know she hates our newfound Capitol-fabricated kinship, but it's just too fun to tease her. Not as fun though, when it doesn't get the expected sarcastic response.

Instead, she shrugs and gives me a look that tells me not here. I straighten my face and turn around so we're side by side and without a word we're walking perfectly in step. Our feet move on their own and we go where there aren't so many people. We keep a slight distance from each other so we don't arouse suspicion. Soon enough we're in one of the only in-district places where it's safe to talk at normal volume. Still, I use a simple look to start the conversation. One that says, So?

She reads it without looking and immediately starts, "I can tell you didn't see the broadcast, because if you did, you would've exploded by now." Now she turns to me with a look that wants verbal confirmation.

"No... I knew what was gonna be on so I missed it on purpose." Surprisingly, I find absolutely nothing interesting as I scan the distance to keep from looking at her because my eyes would betray my disdain. "I'm sure you looked amazing."

She scoffs, "Like any good little doll does." She kicks a rock in frustration. "As if that wasn't horrible enough..." Her voice trails off and I look at her, head down arms wrapped around herself. I stop, after a second she does too and without turning around says to the sky. "The Quarter Quell"

She tells me word for word what the president said and how it's all her fault. (How did I know she was going to say that?)

"...bring death to those you love as well," she repeats, spitting the words like they're disgusting in her mouth. She looks at me and stops. I turn to face her and her eyes show the kind of fear that she didn't even show in the arena. A fear greater than the one for her own life. She barely whispers it but I don't need to hear to know the words that passes her lips is, "Prim..."

Jaw clenched and eyes closed, I raise my head towards the sky and shake my head, "That Bastard, he..." I was about to say wouldn't, but it didn't even make it near my mouth. "... is the most evil piece of shit in the world." I shake my head and it drops. It's taking a lot to bottle the anger, but it won't do me any good now so I force myself to put a cap on it. Save it for later.

My crack gets a seething scoff, "Yeah, he could win awards." She answers from a faraway place. We spend a moment in silence as I finish capping my rage.

"I can just see him now, so pleased with himself." The rage threatens to burst, but instead of blowing up, it releases a small, white-hot beam of light that connects right to the part of my brain that that I use while setting my snares. Suddenly I see everything clearly, everything that's happened and what's going to happen next. Slowly, a smile creeps across my face. Not a normal smile, not a fake smile, more like the one that sharks make, and some crazy people. (I hope in my case it was more like the shark.) "But I can tell you one thing. He's not getting the last laugh." Somehow I'm sure my eyes lean more towards crazy.

Her head snaps up and the look in her eyes tells me that if this is a joke it will be my last. Good thing I'm not laughing. "Snow is going to make sure Prim is picked. She dies and I'll never laugh again. Seems pretty damn final to me." It would have been much less scary had she screamed it at me. Instead I got an even, detached, dead voice, one that's resigned itself to inevitable fate.

I nod my head dramatically, "It does at that..." Her fist is halfway to my chest when I say. "ButItsNotGoingToHappenThatWay." She doesn't have time to stop but her hand hits me like a wet noodle. The sadness in her eyes turned to rage and then just as quickly to confusion. She doesn't need to voice the question her face is pleading me to answer. "He may be sending Prim into the Games, but she's not going to die."

"Don't fuck with me Gale!" This she does yell, luckily, there's nothing suspicious with her yelling at me. Happens all the time. Her voice lowers again, "I barely made it out alive, she doesn't stand a chance. And you know it."

"No, alone she doesn't." A crack of questioning appears across her steely face and it slowly widens as I continue. "But she's not going to be alone. She gets to choose a partner."Now it's understanding that crosses her face and she begins shaking her head. "And I don't know about you, but I can't see Prim choosing a partner." She starts saying no but I talk over her.

"Gale I won't..." is all she gets.

"That's why I'm going to be her partner." I say with a twinge of satisfaction. Which turns to pain as she open hand slaps me across the face.

"That's your brilliant answer? You die with her? Then instead just her, it's my fault you're both dead?" She starts to storm away from me.

"You're partially right," her head jerks back at me with a look of shock and betrayal. It might be okay for her to think it but hearing it from me is like a knife in the back. But she should know me better. "This is happening because of you alright, because of your bravery and selflessness, because you only wanted to protect those around you. It's happening because you showed everyone that it's still possible to stand up and fight for someone else no matter the odds." I'm ranting like I used to in the woods, before the peacekeeper assholes cut us off from the only place where I felt free. Well since I can't do it there anymore...

"And because of that people are finally standing up to those bastards. Which scares the hell out of them. They know you are giving the rebels hope right now so they're doing anything then can to break you. It's all your fault that those sadistic fucks have been doing all this to us for seventy-five years and people are sick of it. .." I'm interrupted when I catch sight of her, she's pleading me to stop with her eyes. I may see all of this as a good thing, but she just sees people getting hurt. She's got more of her mother in her than she'd like to admit and I'd ever dare to tell her.

I continue softer, grabbing her shoulders and making her look at me. "It's not your fault, you were thrown into this by them. When they tried to break you, it didn't work. So now, they want to punish you. That's all their doing. All you've done is fight to survive and protect those you care about, and then played along with their games to protect those you care for. If that's doing something wrong then being human is wrong. Which is probably why it's so offensive to the Capitol, they wouldn't know anything about being human. You didn't ask to be a symbol, they made you one. You didn't cause any of this. If we die it won't be your fault"

"But I have no intention of dying for their little game, so either way you'll be innocent." I try to lighten this up with a joke but I look at Catnip and she is not laughing

She's looking at me with her head slightly tilted and her eyes narrowed as if she's looking inside me to figure something out, (perhaps what my insides would look like on the floor) in her mind she probably is. Trying to see if I really believe it, and I do. She trusts my judgment most of the time, so if I really believe it... She nods her head after an intense few moments.

"You're right..." She says it as if it's a foreign language. "You're right..." This time she's getting a grip on the words, I can see it starting to feel right in her head. "This is what they did because I wouldn't lay down and die. I don't want to be special; I just want to be left alone. So I can live my life and protect my family. I tried to play their game and they're still coming after us. Those..." She's building up steam and her voice is starting to rise a little.

"Keep your voice down, I doubt the peacekeepers would enjoy your epiphany as much as I am." My cocky smile earns me a dirty look. Fortunately my comment comes just in time as a pair of peacekeepers appears in our formerly secluded hangout.

I can tell I struck a nerve. As we walk back into the main part of town her head is up and her steps are fast. She had something on her mind, and it was making her angry. Is this how I look when I'm in the woods ranting about the Capitol? I doubt it; I couldn't possibly be this cute. She catches my look and shakes her head at me. She knows what I'm thinking but if I actually said the word adorable she might just kill me. She despises the word and I only use it when safely behind cover. Even if it's just for a second I'm glad we can get back to normal. Unfortunately, I don't get to enjoy it long. I walk her back to the gates of the Victor's Village. We nod an unsaid goodbye. I watch as she leaves and see it's not her house she's going to but Haymitch's. I only contemplate that mystery briefly, they've gotten close and since he brought her home, I've taken back almost every nasty thing I ever said about the lush. (I know, baby steps.)


I don't bother knocking on Haymitch's door anymore. It's not like he'd get up to answer it. So when I swing it open and see him standing in the kitchen I'm almost shocked by how straight he's standing." It's already past 6, and you can still stand?" Sarcasm with a smile.

"Haha, good one sweetheart. But of course I had to make sure I didn't have blurred vision when I saw you in all your lovely dresses." He knows I like to wear dresses as much as he does.

"You were checking me out? I never knew you had those tastes."

His laugh is even more forced now, "Only for you." Both our smiles drop as all our kidding around can't hide what we're both thinking, "You saw it?" he grumbles.

I nod, "You caught what he said right?"

He nods, "He's not done with you yet. The wedding isn't enough, that's the side show, his misdirection. It's got something to do with the Quell and the new rule. You watch out, he's gonna hit you where you least expect it."

"I know, that's why I'm here. You're going to help me." I look him dead in the eyes with the same determination that used to get me good trading deals.

He rolls his eyes and grabs a bottle off the counter. Without bothering with a glass, he gulps down as much as he can before coming up for air. He wipes his mouth with his sleeves and as his eyes lower from the drink he says, "Why do I know I'm not gonna like this?"

With a smirk I answer, "Cause you're a lot smarter than you look?"


A/n: That's all for now but I have most of two already done and the whole story outlined so as long as I stay motivated the updates should come fast. And do you know what helps with motivation? Reviews... (he said in a sagely voice) Seriously tho, I would love to know what you think