Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to Suzanne Collins or anyone else who has purchased the rights to HG

Written for the One-Shot Hunger Games on the Starvation forum.

Prompt: Inescapable

The stars dance before my eyes, pretty colours swirling and spraying, patterns in the air. I reach up to trace them with my finger, but they are intangible, visions in my mind. Visions from the drug I inject first thing every day.

The colours ripple now, like water in the air and I screw my eyes shut but it doesn't matter because the image never leaves my head. Rippling waves like those around the head of the girl I hold underwater, her limbs flailing, catching my clothes. Her knife cuts me again and again under the water, a blood-red froth bubbling with her breath as it escapes her. The icy water numbs me though and I hold on, for victory and home and my brother and sister and dear sweet Macey.

It has been eight years since the last District Six victor, thirty-four since our first. Kaylee and old Marissa have been good mentors, if a little vague at times, somehow dredging sponsors for their underrated charge, the first to survive the bloodbath in the last half-decade. The matches save his life on the freezing third night, the rope and hook provide an escape from the Career pack on the seventh. A half-loaf of bread and a small pack of the caffeine pills used by the truckers on their long journeys give him the edge in these final days after the Careers destroy each other, giving him a chance.

The girl he battles now will be just his second kill, the first a savage boy from District Seven who had found him removing the arrow from his leg and nearly decapitated him with the axe he had somehow obtained. He should have died under the glorious sunset; it was only the reflexes born of five years clearing the tracks at one of the bullet transport stations that saw him roll aside. He doesn't remember the broken arrow clasped in his hand until he sees the dripping point emerge from his attacker's back. The boy had seemed a lot bigger when attacking, but as he lays him out for the hovercraft, stripping him of anything useful he remembers that Jarrah Walsh was only fourteen. Three years younger and now dead at his hands.

The girl's body goes limp in his hands, though he keeps her pinned until the canon fires. The resounding boom resonates through him as he releases the corpse, trying not to stare at the bulging eyes of Felice…something, the ivory-haired ice-queen from One that had entered as favourite. But now she is dead, her blood from the scalp wound mingling with his and dripping from his body as the hovercraft lifts him free. Free from what?

When he reaches out to hug his little sister she cowers and hides behind Cowan, who tries to act normally while staying just out of reach. Macey watches him warily as he walks through the door, flinches as he reaches out to caress her face before letting him gather her into his arms. A week later he knows it's no good when she chooses to stay in her battered house with the leaking roof and eight siblings rather than move in with him into the victor's village.

Kaylee arrives unannounced the next day and hands me the Capitol marked packet. For the nerve damage in my leg that still pains me, she says and it takes me less than a week to surrender. Now I live for the needle, savouring the good visions where the pretty colours fill my waking hours of loneliness. Sometimes the visions are bad, memories of the arena, back fighting, dying again. Surrounded by blood and pain and destruction, my brother and sister bleeding at my feet, Macey with her throat torn out next to my bloody hands.

When Marissa dies 'in her sleep' that winter I realise what my life will become and when the 40th annual Hunger Games roll around I discover that there is no end to the horror. The arena is inescapable, one way or the other. The only freedom is the freedom Marissa gained when she tripled her Morphling dose. The only thing that stops me from doing the same is the terrified faces of our newest Tributes, thirteen and fifteen, lambs to the slaughter.

So now I drown out their deaths, mercifully quick at the bloodbath with a new needle and savour the blissful colours as they fill that empty place for just a little while.