I'm watching a Capitol reality TV show when Ventidius and my prep team arrive the next morning. I started looking for something stupid and brainless to take up my attention after I realized I wasn't going to get to sleep last night, and a day-long marathon of My Juliet certainly fit the bill. So far, I've seen two dozen girls make total idiots of themselves while trying to earn some random man's 'true love'.
I'd think it was funny if I wasn't in such a shit mood.
"Ooh, I love this show," Venny coos the second he sees what I'm watching.
Of course he does.
"I can style myself and you can sit here and watch… I mean, if you want," I volunteer dryly.
Ventidius looks at me with an expression of absolute horror. "But you've no idea how to dress yourself." He takes in my disheveled appearance and shakes his head. "No… it would not do... Although maybe I could catch an episode while you are getting ready…" He looks back towards Aemilia, who's peering at her reflection in one of the windows. "Please, Darling, would you get this boy out of these disgusting clothes and give him a proper cleaning? I have… things to attend to."
Ventidius plops down on the couch, and I'm whisked off to be violated for what is thankfully the last time. Every member of my prep team has something to say about the stupid recaps last night, but I really don't bother listening to any of them. Not until Aemilia chirps, "So, Marvel? Did you just use that Everdeen girl, or do you love her? Oh… I'm so torn on that. To think that you could have tricked all of us… but she is just from District Twelve, and so plain. I almost hope that you'd have better taste than to fall for a girl like her. Cashmere is quite single, see, and I think you'd make quite the wonderful couple-"
"Gloss would kill me if I tried going out with his sister," is all I say. Even though Snow never mentioned my relationship with Katniss during our little chat, I doubt that he wants us to be portrayed as 'together'. Not when it symbolizes unity between District One and District Twelve. Even the recap strongly hinted that Snow would rather stifle the rebellion than play up a love story that's only purpose would be to please the Capitol.
Honestly, Snow would probably be happiest if I straight up told my prep team that I lied about everything. I know this. I just can't bring myself to do it.
"Oh, but that would just make it star-crossed love!" says Viola. And with that, I am regaled with tales of how much more legitimate my love with Cashmere would be than any 'silly' crush I could possibly have on Katniss. It hardly matters that she's seven years older than me and could practically be considered a cougar for snatching up innocent little Marvel. All they care about is that I didn't deny tricking Katniss, which apparently means that I'm all but open for a new, more exciting romantic interest.
For the first time in my life, I'm glad to see Ventidius when he enters the room and shoos my prep team away. Of course, the gratefulness fades away rather quickly when I'm shoved into a hot pink suit with a silver vest, but I still appreciate his dissection of My Juliet a million times more than my prep team's petitioning for me to start up a new romance with Cashmere.
I wonder if everyone in the Capitol thinks that love is something a person has complete control over, or if all the Capitol morons I've met so far are just a special kind of stupid.
When I'm completely dressed, Ventidius replaces the necklace that Cinna gave me last night, shooting it a disgusted look as he does so, as if he hates giving me something he didn't design. Then he looks me over one more time before nodding in approval.
"Very, very nice," he says lightly. I get a quick pat on the head, and then I'm sent on my merry little way.
The interview takes place right down the hall, back in the sitting room I'd just vacated a handful of hours ago. Now, the sofa I'd been sitting on is replaced with two separate chairs, both of them surrounded by vases of colorful flowers, and the television I was watching has disappeared. There are a few cameramen milling around to record the interview, but no Katniss in sight.
I take a few minutes to chat with some camera people, but just as I'm turning to have a word with Caesar, a door opens and Katniss steps into the room. She's wearing a gauzy white dress with pink shoes, her hair straightened and falling down her back in a silky curtain. My heart reflexively soars at her presence, only to come crashing to earth when I remind myself that she currently hates me.
"Ah, Katniss!" one of the cameramen says happily. "We were just waiting on you. Now, if the two of you would take your places…"
I'm ushered over to one of the seats, and Katniss is seated beside me. Someone counts backward, and then the cameras are running and our every movement is suddenly on live television.
Caesar does his typically peppy introduction, and then he turns to us.
"I realize that we have much to talk about, but I do have one question that I'm sure everyone wants to know the answer to. Ever since Miss Clove's dramatic speech during the Feast, countless viewers throughout Panem have begun to question your relationship." Caesar looks straight at me. "I am sure that Katniss is wondering the same thing, but Marvel… what is your honest opinion of the Girl on Fire?"
I have to fight off the urge to narrow my eyes at the blue-haired bastard. Seriously? Two minutes into the interview, and he's already throwing me to the dogs.
I laugh with purposeful unease.
"Wow, Caesar," I say, fidgeting slightly. "That was rather… tactless. Well…" I run a hand through my hair and look at Katniss. "Damn, this is uncomfortable."
"Come Marvel, it was your life you were fighting for," says Caesar. "We won't think less of you."
"Then…" I take a deep breath. I don't even have to pretend that I don't know what to say because I really have no idea. Snow could've been more specific about this. "I suppose… I should say… wow… I don't… I guess I can say for sure that... I was lying, back when I said I loved Katniss in that interview." I bite my lip and look right at the camera. "I was jealous of the attention she was getting, and I wanted to steal some of it back."
"And Katniss?" asks Caesar gently. "What do you think of this?"
"Haymitch told me that he'd sober up for a year if Marvel wasn't lying," says Katniss, her voice light and airy. Fake. I know her well enough to hear exactly how fake it is. She's hurt, and it's all my fault. Dammit, dammit, dammit! "I suppose it's safe to say that I'm not exactly surprised."
That gets a laugh from several people in the room, but I'm still not able to look at Katniss.
"But Marvel," says Caesar, "it appeared to me that things began to change when you were in the arena. There were several times that you seemed to put Katniss's safety ahead of your own. Did you… eventually start to develop feelings for her?"
I look at my hands.
"Katniss is… beautiful, stunning, caring… one of the best people I have ever met..." My voice starts to become too tender and I shake my head, forcing the gruffness back into it. "But there wasn't a single time that I put myself in a situation I wasn't confident I could survive. I would have killed Katniss myself if it meant winning the Hunger Games… I mean, I do have a soft spot for her, and maybe I see her as a friend, but… I don't have any feelings for Katniss Everdeen."
Katniss takes too long to speak, and I glance in her direction to see her eyes fixed on me, shining with hurt for the first time I can remember. I mentally beg her not to believe me, to trust me, but she doesn't, and I'm forced to look away before I start pleading for her forgiveness on live television.
"Are you okay with this, Katniss?" Caesar questions, his voice quiet and caring.
"I suppose that it's fortunate I never came all that close to falling for him," says Katniss, her words like a punch in the gut. "I feel… betrayed, I suppose, but…" I can feel her eyes on me, can tell when she starts addressing me instead of Caesar. "I understand that you did what you had to do in order to survive, and… at least now I don't have to feel guilty for not loving you back."
"Whew." I force a force a smile and dramatically drag the back of my hand across my forehead, pretending that her words didn't hit me right where it hurts. "That sure helps with the guilt… although I do have to feel bad for lying to all the wonderful people of Panem." I look at Caesar. "Do you think my fans will ever forgive me?"
He smiles charismatically.
"Oh, I'm sure of it," he says. "As Katniss said, you were only trying to survive. Now, I think we've cleared that awkward subject out of the way." He booms out a laugh and continues, "We best move on so that we can cover everything we need to. Marvel, your rivalry with Cato was quite interesting. What can you tell us about that…?"
The rest of the interview goes on in a similar fashion, all the way up until a cameraman signals that it's gone on long enough and Caesar signs off. I relax back into my chair and let out a sigh of relief.
"Oh, it wasn't that bad, was it Marvel?" asks Caesar jokingly.
"Are you kidding?" I look at Katniss and choke out a laugh. "I was worried about getting an arrow through the throat when I admitted to that ruse."
Katniss smiles softly and says, "Come on, Marvel. I was willing to drop a tracker jacker next on your head. I say that now we're finally even."
We share a smile that neither of us mean, and then Tilly takes note of the time and starts badgering me to start packing up. The train leaves in less than an hour, she says, and it would be a terrible faux pas to make the conductor wait. I get to my feet and shake Caesar's hand. Then I throw a casual greeting over my shoulder to Katniss and head off to my room.
It isn't until I'm away from everyone else that I realize I have nothing to pack. It feels wrong to leave with nothing, but I didn't bring anything, and there isn't anything I can imagine wanting to take back home. Not except the necklace that Cashmere gave me, and, well... I don't deserve to wear Katniss's symbol. Hell, she can't possibly want me to wear it either.
It's probably best that I leave it behind.
As soon as I come to this conclusion, I take off the necklace and stare at it for several moments, studying it carefully. It really is a nice necklace, and it really would be a waste to just ditch it in my room. I bet that Katniss's stylist is hanging around her floor, waiting for final good-byes. Maybe if I sneak up there and return it to him, or…
A little seam along the edge of the disk catches my attention, and I lift the necklace up closer to my face, brow furrowing. A closer examination confirms my suspicions, and after a moment of searching, I find a tiny catch on the side of the disk. The face pops open, and a piece of paper falls onto the floor.
Surprised, I slowly bend over and pick it up. A single sentence is neatly written across the tiny slip.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
I blink several times before the meaning of the sentence sinks in, and my jaw drops with shock. Cashmere said that Cinna wanted me to have this. Katniss's stylist. Who apparently doesn't hate me and… and what? And is encouraging me to keep rebelling? But why? Unless it's Cashmere who wrote this, but… no, I know what girl handwriting looks like and this is too harsh, too blocky…
But Cinna? What does he know?
I swallow and look at the piece of paper again.
"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."
Something sinks in for the first time since my chat with Snow. Enough people are willing to rebel that Snow is nervous, and maybe what I'm doing isn't the best thing for the rebellion, but… if they really care about it, my actions aren't going to make all that much of a difference. Thresh's backflip off the Cornucopia won't be to be forgotten, and… and Katniss's song to Rue can't just be ignored. Even what I did... me killing Rue, risking my life for Katniss... those things aren't going to be written off by the people who really care.
In all likelihood, the rebels aren't going to stop because of me, and maybe I don't see myself as a rebel, but… but I also don't want to live the rest of my life as Snow's bitch any more than they do. So... so if they aren't going to give up because of Snow's actions, because of my actions, then... then why should I?
With something between a smirk and a smile on my face, I dig through several drawers until I find a pen and a piece of paper. Then I tear off a corner, and, in my neatest handwriting, write, "I love you. Please trust me."
I then fold the paper into a square, stick it in the locket, and shut close the disk.
When I step back out into the sitting room, Tilly impatiently asks, "Are you ready to go?"
I blow past her without a response, tearing open the elevator door and jamming the circle with the 12 on it, praying that Katniss hasn't left yet. Cinna isn't going to get that necklace now. Katniss is. She needs… some part of me. I refuse to drag her into this, to tell her anything about what I have to do, but… but I'm just selfish enough that I want to give her something that'll keep her from forgetting me completely, something that'll make me feel just a tiny bit better about what I'm doing to her.
The elevator comes to a stop at the twelfth floor, and I jump out as soon as the doors slide open. Katniss is right in front of me, impatiently pressing the button over and over again. We both flinch backwards with surprise when we see each other.
"Marvel-" Katniss starts, her expression cold and stony. I hear Haymitch curse from somewhere in the corner of the room, can feel him coming closer to me, but I ignore him and face Katniss.
"Cinna made this for me… before everything, and I figured that you probably don't want me wearing it anymore, so I'm giving it back to you." Before Katniss can protest, I slip the long chain of my necklace over her head. She starts to say something, but I cut her off with a hug that she immediately tries to struggle out of. Holding her tight, I let my lips find her ear so that I can whisper, "It's a locket," before my grip loosens, and I take a step back.
"I'll see you in six months, Fire Girl," I say lightly. "Bye, Haymitch!"
Then I wave a deceivingly jaunty goodbye and hurry back into the elevator just as Haymitch rushes into punching distance.
Tilly is waiting for me when I return to the first floor. Even Ventidius has arrived to say a last-minute goodbye. I give him a careless hug before several Peacekeepers come and lead Gloss, Cashmere, Tilly, and me to a dark limousine with tinted windows. I keep my eyes down as we drive to the train station, leaving the towering buildings and colorful people of the Capitol behind us.
There are two tribute trains waiting once we get to the station; one that I'm assuming will take Katniss to her district, and another that will drive a shorter, separate route to District One. My team and I are all shuffled into the District One train, and, with an unexpected lack of remarkableness, the engine starts up and the Capitol soon fades away in the distance, as if it's nothing more than a bad dream that can be woken up from.
As the train speeds off towards District One, I lock myself in my room and force the old Marvel to make a complete reappearance. The sweatpants and t-shirt i changed into after my interview are ditched for a crisp white suit and tie. My hair is combed until it sits perfectly on top of my head, and I even dig around until I find a handful of expensive-ass rings to wear.
When I look in the mirror, faking a smirk and tossing my shoulders back like I rule the world, I find myself staring at a reflection nearly identical to the one I would have seen barely a month ago. There are dark circles under my eyes, and I really do need to put on weight, but… all of the important changes are invisible. The physical scars that could give some little hint as to what I've gone through have been erased, and now all that's left are the mental ones; ugly and disfiguring, but also ironically invisible.
I'm practically the old me, getting ready to fall back into my old life. The next six months are going to be spent convincing my entire district that everything I did in the arena was part of one big, stupid act. My life will turn into a ridiculous lie, and… who knows. Maybe I'll even start believing myself. Maybe, with the Games far away and Katniss off in District Twelve… I'll turn back into the waste of space I used to be.
The thing is though, I don't think I will. Over the last few weeks... I became strong enough to start a rebellion without even knowing about it... and back in that arena, I didn't just have things to live for, but I also friends I was willing to die for. I hadn't even known those parts of me existed before, but now that I've seen them, that I know they're there... I also know that I never, ever want to lose them, and that they've become so important to me that I don't know if I could if I tried.
So I suppose I'll have to keep fighting, like Cinna said. Sure, Snow may be kicking my ass now, and I've practically got my neck in a noose after all the shit I pulled in the arena, but it isn't like things have to stay this cruddy forever. I mean, there are rebels who have a snowman's chance in hell- which is still a chance- of actually taking Snow out, and if I'm optimistic, then that snowman's chance in hell will be just enough to keep me going until something good actually happens.
Hell, even looking at the smaller picture, I still have things I can be optimistic about. I'm going to see Katniss again in six months. I'll have a chance to make things right with my little sister in sixty minutes.
So there are good points in my life. Good points that I can't forget, because I'm pretty damn sure that things aren't going to get any easier from here on out. But maybe that's an okay thing. I mean, generally everything has to go to hell before life gets really good, and if I keep that in mind, well… maybe I'll be able to convince myself that all this shit I'm going through is worth it, that it's going to make everything better in the end.
"Marvel!" Tilly shrieks, knocking on my door three times fast. "We're almost there!"
I stand up and walk over to one of the windows in my room. We're just approaching the district's main city, and I can see a shit ton of people lining our path. I mean, hordes and hordes of them. They're all chanting something I can't understand, or maybe even several different things, and at least half of them are holding signs that fly by way too fast for me to read.
Then the train is slowing down and the station starts coming into view.
For a second I worry over whether my reception is going to be good or bad. Then the train stops moving completely.
I suppose I'll find out soon enough.
ANNOUNCEMENT: IF YOU READ NOTHING ELSE, PLEASE LOOK AT THIRD PARAGRAPH OF THE A/N!
Gosh, sorry this took so long. I was having trouble coming up with enough to write for an actual chapter, and it's still kind of short. However, in case it isn't obvious, this is the last chapter of the story. So as of now, Genius and Insanity is a hundred percent complete!
As promised, there is going to be a sequel of an unknown name. Once I figure out a title, I'll stick it on here, or if you have me on Author Alert, it'll come up then, too. It may take a wee bit of extra time for me to get the new story up as opposed to a normal chapter because I actually have a Harry Potter fic that I've pushed off to the side for the last two months so I could finish this, so I'm going to churn out the last chapter and epilogue of that, but then I'll start in on the sequel of this right away.
*PLEASE READ*: Okay, real quick, I have two questions about the sequel. First- Would a Gale/Marvel/Katniss love triangle be welcomed or frowned upon? Second- Does anyone have ideas for the sequel's title? Please reply in a review or PM me. I'm super interested in your opinions.
And lastly, thank you guys so much for all the support you've given me. Your reviews have been absolutely amazing, so thanks a million times over for all the inspiration. I really, really hope you'll all leave a final review for this entire story, even if you haven't said anything so far. Any ideas for the sequel, opinions about Genius and Insanity, or anything else you have to say will be much appreciated. I'll even fire out personal review replies to anyone who comments on this chapter, since I won't get any chances to do them all together.
Review replies (p.s. I also did get Ch.21s up a few days ago if you want to check those out), Thanks to-
lovelifegymnastics- If he ever does get a chance to tell Katniss, it won't be for a while. Don't you just love the added drama? mh21- The main reason that Marvel didn't tell Haymitch anything is because he doesn't know him. For all Marvel knew, Haymitch would either tell Katniss right away, or go straight to Snow about how unhappy Marvel was with everything. To Marvel, Haymitch is still an old drunk with a soft spot for Katniss. And for your comment about how last chapter was almost as hard to read as some of the deaths, I had an easier time writing Rue's death than these last two... imagining how Katniss feels through all this is so hard, and I'm kind of scared for the sequel because things are going to take a Catching Fire-like turn and not get any easier. tricksk8er- Thanks. Lilac Alyssa Halliwell- Thanks for reviewing. I agree about how hard it'd be to just... laugh off everything that had happened. I'm not sure who was in the worse spot last chapter; Marvel or Katniss. Wetstar- Poor everyone pretty much summed last chapter up. I'm not sure if this chapter is really any better. Snow really does know how to screw with everyone's lives. Guest- No family meeting yet, but don't worry. Just make sure to tune in for the sequel, and I can guarantee that Katniss and Marvel will get to check out each other's districts. Olive Monster- No huge fights or romancey stuff yet, but I still have a sequel to write, and even though I can't guarantee anything yet (heck, I don't even have it all plotted out), I want to say that something like that's going to come up sometime. Or at least the part where Marvel pleads with Katniss... her forgiving him will be something else entirely, though. irene- Gosh, I can't even imagine how bad this had to be for Katniss; she doesn't trust anyone, and one of the few people she does seems to turn on her right away. Both of them are in kind of cruddy places. Hahukum Konn- Really, a lot of what Marvel has done has kind of mirrored Katniss's role in the book- he's been the really rebellious one, anyway- so I kind of just figured that he'd also be the one Snow would talk to, especially since he's the one with all the power to stop it. Anyway, thanks for reviewing, and I hope you tune in for the sequel. Even. The. Stars. Refuse. To. Shine.- I can hardly believe Katniss is going to hate him either. For almost the entire story, I had all the scenes after the Games turning out sappy and romantic, but then came the sequel requests, and even though I hate writing stuff like that, it was kind of necessary given everything that's happened. Thanks for the review. Guest- I guess you kind of got what you wanted with the locket and everything. Not to her face, but I hope the 'I love you' that he wrote was a suitable substitute. TheHungerGamesFan11- Thanks for reviewing. Sharpay Evans 11- Thanks for the review. brooke13243546- Definitely still doing a Catching Fire replacement. I'm glad you liked the chapter, though, and I'll try to get the sequel up ASAP. Tigers Like Red Blood- Thanks. lambtastic- Yeah, Marvel's kind of forced to be tight-lipped about the whole thing, but I can see how you'd figure Katniss would be able to guess at what's going on. I haven't thought that much into it yet, but while she is rather thick about some things- she didn't understand what was wrong with her berry trick until Haymitch told her- she also does have a decent sixth sense in certain areas. Given that I have approximately two scenes in the sequel plotted out so far, I'm not entirely sure how that's all going to work out yet. Nissy Padfoot- Thanks for reviewing. Even-the-Fire-is-Crying- Ah, don't worry. Things will get better soon... maybe. Anyway, thank you for reviewing. Wringrose- Oh gosh, Marvel's mom. That's going to be one of the first scenes in the sequel, and I'm actually having fun thinking up ideas for that meeting. Anyway, if you like drama, I'm guessing you'll like the sequel quite a bit. I still don't know exactly what I'm going to do, but there definitely won't be any immediate, unbelievably easy forgiveness.
Okay, that's everyone. Thank you all so, so much for the great reviews, again, and I'm really hoping that you'll stick with me for the sequel.