Nightfuries A/N: Helloooooo everyone! I am extremely proud to present to you (drumroll) . . . the death scene of Ari Locus! Seriously, I was so excited to write this thing, I've had the idea in my head for ages. I think I would have cried if the decision had been for Ari to win. I was too excited to kill him off :)

Well, that sounds rather violent :) Anyways, there are a few things special about this oneshot. One, the quote I decided to use was from one of Ari's previous chapters in the story. I know, it's probably horribly conceited and egotistical to be quoting myself, but I felt that it just kind of fit with the events going on in the chapter :) Also, this one has been written in past tense. I just felt that it worked so much better for the style of writing I had in mind for this oneshot, so I hope the change in tense from Tears of Blood/all other oneshots to this one won't be too disorientating.

Anyways, without further ado, I hope you enjoy Ari's last little POV!

The Death of Ari Locus, District 9

By Nightfuries

"Remember the old me,

Before I was killed or became a killer,

Before the Games ruined my life."

—Remember me, Ari Locus, 15 year-old District 9 tribute

I should have known that irony would be the death of me. I mean, come on; a thief, arrested for skipping a reaping? Really, I had it coming.

The irony of the situation was that for the first time since the Games had begun, I'd actually started thinking about the possibility that I might just make it home after all. I couldn't believe it when I'd realized that I'd made it to the final eight, and all the doubts that the Capitol couldn't possibly let me win because of my history fled from my mind as I considered the scenario where I'd make it out of all of this, where I could see my dad and Webb and Caia and everyone again, where we might all be able to get out of that dilapidated cell and live happily ever after in a house in Victor's Village.

Yeah, because the criminals always get the happy endings.

It's all about the magic "if." If I'd been more careful, I might have been fine. If I'd chosen to stay in the forest rather than venture into the mysterious, underground cavern, I could have saved myself. If. If, if, if. Along with could have, should have, and would have.

Though, admittedly, if anyone had shown me an exit from the tunnels after about five minutes of wandering around in them, I would have gladly taken it, no matter what horrors waited for me on the other side. The darkness, the walls that seemed like they were always closing in on me, the impossible amounts of turns and loops and dead ends; it was like me trapped in jail all over again, though this time I was a prisoner of my own fears, terrified as I turned each new corner at the thought of what horrors might lie ahead. Needless to say, my nerves were completely shot after about a half an hour of being in there.

So when I heard the noise of tumbling rocks, followed by a bigger, louder impact on the ground as though someone (or something) had just arrived in the cave, I nearly had a heart attack. Every muscle in my body tensed to the point where it was surprising that they didn't snap, and my heart began pounding so fast and loud against my chest that I'm surprised everyone within a five mile radius couldn't hear it. If that didn't tip them off to my location, then my slight case of hyperventilation surely would have. Somehow, though, I managed to get up enough courage to peer around the corner and see what this new arrival was. You knew there'd be weird things down here, Ari, I'd told myself. And you purposely got yourself into this mess. So quit being a coward and try and catch a glimpse of it!

Slowly, my eyes opened and I attempted to calm my breathing slightly, though my heart was still racing faster than the Capitol train that drove us here to our doom. Every muscle in my body was screaming not to move, but I still inched my head around the corner, my hands gripping my sole possession so tightly that my knuckles were beginning to glow white in the dark. All you have to do is look, I thought. Just look. So I did. And this is what I saw:


Tunnel walls.

More rocks.

Blonde hair.

Blonde hair?


If I'd thought that I'd been terrified beforehand, well, that was nothing compared to what I felt after I caught a glimpse of the newcomer. Pure horror coursed through my brains as I leapt about a foot in the air backwards before some survival instinct I didn't know I had kicked in and I jumped forward at what I was positive was the grotesque, insane mutt of my former ally with the only weapon I had. My water bottle (as a side note, if you ever find yourself running to the Cornucopia and having to choose between grabbing a weapon or a water bottle, go for the water bottle. They're so useful, it's insane.)

An ear-piercing scream emerged from the thing I just hit, though as it fell and got right back up again, whirling around to face me with hands balled into fists, I realized that it wasn't a thing at all; it wasn't Sapphire. It was the girl from Five, Aella Dekas. For one glorious second I nearly collapsed with relief; after my first encounter with the human/mutts, I had been pretty sure that both my life and my sanity would not survive another encounter with them. But as quickly as it came on, the relief disappeared, replaced by more frantic, horrified thoughts. I just hit Aella Dekas with a water bottle. The girl who wielded a double axe better than any other tribute in the Games. I'm dead. I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead, I'm dead.

For once, I listened to what my brain is screaming at me to do, and whirled around, preparing to sprint blindly off down the tunnels. Anywhere was better than here. Except for a place that might have the mutt/humans. Actually, now that I think about it, between the mutts and Aella, it might be a toss-up.

Unfortunately, my opponent seems to have other plans, and before I can take my first step in the opposite direction, a hand latches itself around my ankle and the two of us go crashing to the floor, my priceless water bottle rolling away from me. Which really sucked, because I could have used it since the second afterwards, my brain went into panic-overdrive, causing me to do the only thing I could think of to get away from Aella; I bite her arm.

Gross, gross, gross, a small part of my brain still managed to register and I tried to cough and spit out the warm, disgusting liquid that currently coated my tongue. Ironically, the one time I actually needed to use my water bottle to drink out of, it rolled off into the darkness of the rocky tunnel ahead. Which meant that I was defenseless. Unless...

I looked frantically around for the source of the clattering noise I'd heard earlier, and was rewarded with a glimpse of Aella's prized double axe lying on the ground. She couldn't get it, she could, under no circumstances, manage to grab it. Or I'd be dead. Deader than dead. And then the Gamemakers would turn me into a mutt too, with black, soulless eyes and evil, pointed teeth, doomed to forever roam the arena in search of tributes to torture.

The thought sent my brain overboard, and before I realized what I was doing, my fingers had wrapped around the handle of the axe and I'd swung it outward at Aella, barely missing her.

What are you doing? You just tried to kill someone! With an axe! But only a small part of my brain was sending out that message; the rest had been completely devoured by panic as I literally fought for my life. Try again, that part told me. Get her this time, or she'll get you.

But you'll kill her!

The thought still resounded through my brain, despite the large amount of other loud, terrified shouts echoing through my mind as I tried to make my decision. Maybe just try and injure her, I thought, trying to compromise. I don't know if I'd be able to live with killing someone, but all in all, I'd also rather not die myself. Then again, I'd never even touched a double axe before in my entire life. How hard could it be? I thought, readying the weapon again. Step one: Prepare axe. Step two: Aim at target. Step three: Swing at target.

Step four: Fail miserably. Aella easily dodged the swing—though I was still unsure as to whether or not I'd wanted it to make contact in the first place—and grabbed the shaft of the axe, trying to wrestle it out of my hands. Whatever thoughts I'd had before about trying not to hurt people and be a good person disappeared immediately as the image of Aella chopping me to bits with her axe flashed before my eyes and I kicked out wildly, hitting her somewhere in the leg. It buckled, but before I could wrench the weapon from her grasp and try to ensure my survival, a giant force slammed into my face, cracking my nose and completely disorientating me.

I stumbled back, both hands trying to stem the large flow of blood now dripping down my face, but I'd taken my focus off of Aella for a second too long. My gaze frantically tried to find her again, my vision still blurred from the concussive hit that I took, but it didn't take long to find her. Although my eyes barely rested on her for a second before they jumped to the axe in her hands, positioned above her head and ready to slice me open like a slab of meat. Which I guess is pretty much what everyone's reduced to once they're in the arena. But I couldn't go like that now! What about my other option? Wasn't there always one? There had to be! I couldn't die now! I couldn't...

Note to self: When asking the universe to grant you another option, specify that you'd prefer it to be a non-fatal one. No sooner did the powerful hands wrap around my neck then I began to think that maybe being chopped to bits wouldn't be such an awful death after all. My hands flew away from my nose and to the iron grip that was currently cutting off my precious supply of oxygen, tugging vainly at them in an attempt to try and breathe again. "!" I'd managed to gasp. "Put me...down!" I could see my attacker's face now; Moss Dorian, another member of the Anti-Career alliance. He seemed to be yelling something at me, but I could barely hear him over the blood rushing in my ears and the pounding of my heart as it tried desperately to get in as many beats as possible before it was silenced. Permanently.

No, I thought frantically. This isn't how it's supposed to happen! "There be...another option," I choke out, but I can already feel myself fading, my vision blurring once more as the pressure on my neck becomes too much to bear. It's over. It's really over.

In that moment, I'd realised something; all my life, I'd listened to my dad, followed all of his advice and always searched for another option. It was only when death had come that I'd realised that sometimes, life is life. And death is death. One path. One choice. And that's it. There was no other option.

But sometimes, there was another way to look at things.

I mean, sure, you could think about it like I was being strangled to death slowly and painfully by a tribute that didn't seem entirely all there, my life ending and all hope of ever seeing my dad or my friends again vanishing just like my oxygen. And to be honest, that just made me want to cry.

But you could also look at it like this: the Hunger Games, the Capitol's number one tool from keeping the districts in line, for enslaving—no, no, imprisoning—us in a metaphorical cell of fear and hate, those same Hunger Games were what finally set me free in the end.

Ironic, isn't it?