The first time, I enjoyed it. The second time, I loved it. The third was boring. The fourth was agonizing… From the fifth to the twenty-second, I didn't even know what to think. By the twenty-third, I figured it out. Nothing. That's what I would feel. And that's what I feel now. Even now, as this stranger's lustful and unloving lips claim my achingly weary, nibble-riddled neck. As his melon-flavored fingers prod and pinch me in all the wrong places. Don't ask me how I know they're melon-flavored…

He doesn't care. I can see it in his eyes. He hungers for my body only. What I think is meaningless, so I just don't think. I do what I was trained to do in the Career Program: turn off all emotion. Only I'm not an anesthetized assassin. Not anymore. Now I'm a toy. A dress-down doll. A mere piece of merchandise…

As his teeth redden another spot of skin sitting above my shoulders, my paled hands clench the sheets in a moment of sentience. For a half a second, emotion washes over me: anger at President Snow. Shame at the position I was forced into. No pun intended… Sorrow at the loss of my best friend, who was killed in an 'accident' when I initially refused to work for Snow as his whore-for-sale… Then it all goes away at once. I'm a toy once again.

His mellifluous voice whispers my name carnally in my ear: "Cashmere… Oh, Cashmere…" Just hearing him feed me my own name makes my throat tighten. It reminds me of my humanity. That I should be more than an abusable puppet. More than a commodity used by Snow to make his own money back. Should be. But this is my prize. This is what I get for being the pretty girl who won the Hunger Games: a little money, a new house, fame that lasts a year at most, and three and a half years, so far, of garish, catchpenny sex in mutually anonymous apartments with a different person and a different colorful fetish every time. This one is the first in seven customers that wanted nothing more than to get inside and enjoy the ride. A few lascivious acts here and there, but nothing too extreme, to which I am somewhat grateful.

The next half-hour is ossified and systematic. I move where, when, and how he tells me to move. I moan when he tells me to moan. I do what he tells me to do. When it finally happens, I'm face-down, biting a pillow with my rear in the air. As he detaches from me, my entire body suddenly becomes exhausted and I collapse in a prone position on the bed. Like the very doll I'm pretending to be, I go limp and lifeless once my owner stops playing with me.

I feel him give my bottom a gratified pat, then I hear footsteps, the opening, then closing of a door, and then silence. The hush persists for a long while, so long that the candles burn out and leave me in total darkness long before I make a sound. It's a choked sob. Naked in the darkness, Cashmere, the fearless blonde vixen, the green-eyed assassin, the Victor of the 69th Hunger Games… begins to cry.

Only in the darkness, where no one can see me, can I truly express how I feel. In public, I have to act like 18-year-old Cashmere: arrogant, conceited, and independent. When I'm forced into the bedroom, I have to be nothing and no one, or those I love will pay for it. But in the dark, all alone, I can be what I am: a woman full of anger, full of sorrow, full of shame…

I cry until my tear ducts burn, and when I can't cry anymore, I just lay still for a little while longer. It takes the soothing warmth of the morning sun to breathe new life into my cold puppet body. The next thing I know, I'm on the train heading back to District 1. I don't even remember dressing myself, so I gasp and quickly look down to make sure I'm not naked. I sigh in relief as my pretty traveling gown meets my eyes. Satisfied and content, I look back up and now meet my brother's eyes. Gloss is giving me a strange look.

"You okay, Mimi?" he asks as his thick and smooth brows crease concernedly into his face.

I put on my 'everything's fine' face and nod at him. "Of course! Why wouldn't I be?"

As he looks into my eyes, I'm certain he can see past my façade. He can perceive the pain and the hurt I've endured like only a big brother can perceive it. But I keep the mask on. This is not something I can just spill to Gloss, not even in confidence. I can't let him see me crack or he'll have no other option but to grill it out of me.

Gloss holds the stare for the longest of times, and I almost break down, but he smiles and accepts my answer, turning back to look out the window.

"Cashmere," he sighs after a couple of minutes. "I'll always be here for you, you know."

As he stands, I notice a ring of red, raised skin on the side of his neck as well. He pats me on the shoulder and smiles again and makes his signature, regal gait towards the dining car.

It comes to me now for the first time. Gloss knows what I've been through. He can relate with me in a way that typical older siblings cannot. I don't feel quite so alone anymore. No longer in the dark. It's taken me longer than I would've wished, but I've finally found the one person I can be myself in front of, and for the first time in a long while, with no deceit or underlying intentions behind it, I actually smile.

(A/N: Thanks for reading, guys! Just a little one-shot to get my gears a-turning again. n_n My computer's working again, but my chapters got wiped, so updates on SoR might be a bit delayed. Never fear! I'll pull through; I always do! :D

Leave me your thoughts on this little snippet into the life of one of my favorite Victors! Be nice!)