Author's Note: So, school just started back. Yay. -_-
Anyway, I'm going to be honest. This chapter probably sucks. It's short, and even worse, it's happy. I'm... no longer good at writing happy things. But I figure that everyone needs a breather (before I get back to the angst). Still, I apologize for this.
"Deep in the meadow, under the willow/ A bed of grass, a soft green pillow/ Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes/ And when again they open, the sun will rise./ Here it's safe, here it's warm/ Here the daisies guard you from every harm/ Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true/ Here is the place where I love you." –Katniss Everdeen, The Hunger Games
Everything was bright. The sky and the ground and even Kit's face right in front of her. His grin was radiant.
He flung his arms around her waist. Vale half-expected the pain to come flaring back to life inside her abdomen—from the injuries to her chest and side—but she felt nothing but warmth. She looked down at her chest. The fatal arrow wound was not there anymore. Neither were the dirty, tattered clothes that she'd worn into the arena. She was wearing something flowing and pure white. She had never laid eyes on the garment before, but she recognized Damon's skilled handiwork in the elaborate beading at the waist.
Kit released Vale from his hug and stared at her in wonder. "Vale, you're here!" he said, laughing. "You're really here. I almost can't believe it…."
There were so many things that Vale had thought of to say to Kit when she finally saw him again. But just now, she could not think of any of them. All she could do was say Kit's name, over and over, and wrap her arms around him.
Finally, Kit squirmed free. "Sheesh, are you trying to choke me to death? Because I hate to break it to you, but I'm kind of dead already."
He grinned. Vale remembered that, when Kit used to talk about death, he wore a dark expression on his face. But things were different now. Everything about his expression radiated light. It was true: there was no sadness here, in this place without districts.
Kit stared up at her, curiosity shining in his wide blue eyes. "You still look the same as I remember you. How long has it been? It's all like one long, never-ending day here."
"Not long," Vale answered. "The Games just ended."
She knew what he was going to ask, even before the words left his mouth. "Did you win?"
She expected to feel some sort of regret, for not succeeding like Kit had wanted her to. But she didn't. "No," she said simply, "I didn't win."
Kit's smile didn't slip. "That's okay. I'm just glad you're here." The brilliant white light highlighted the flush of happiness on his cheeks, the hints of gold in his dirty blonde hair—still as unkempt as ever. "This place is exactly like you described it."
Vale thought back to those last moments in the arena. "Once upon a time, there was a place without districts!" It seemed a world away now. It was a world away. She could hardly remember what it had felt like to be cold and wet and sore.
Kit smiled up at her. "Actually, it's even better. Guess what? I'm not shorter than you anymore." And he lifted up, right off the ground, and hovered at Vale's eye level, beaming. "See? Nothing to hold you down anymore. Come on, you try it!"
He grasped her by the hand and took off. Vale's feet left the ground, and she and Kit were zipping through the air, and the world was resplendent and bright.
She wasn't sure how long they flew—or if she should even try to measure time anymore. When they landed, they were laughing. Vale couldn't remember feeling so happy, ever.
"Vale? Is that you?"
Her head shot up at the sound of that voice. She hadn't heard that voice in years. Vale turned around to see a petite blonde girl in a pale dress, her blue eyes sparkling. She still looked twelve years old.
They embraced—a tight, warm, long hug that made up for four years without seeing each other. Then, they caught up. Briony told Vale more about the place without districts, and Vale told her best friend about the past four years—life in Twelve, and then the Hunger Games. Vale found that she had difficulty remembering the pain of the arena. She could only remember the good things—the lighter times with her allies, without any twinge of sorrow.
"…And you told that story in front of all Panem?" asked Briony, wide-eyed. "That was so brave."
A new voice piped up. "Kit? Is this…?"
Kit looked away from Vale, and Vale turned around, too. There was another small girl standing behind them, this one slightly less familiar. She was about a year older than Kit, with wavy, bronze-colored hair. Nerissa—the little Career girl from District Four, who had been killed by the same mutt that had attacked Vale and Kit.
Kit smiled in welcome. "Yeah, this is my sister Vale. Vale, you remember Nerissa, don't you?"
Vale had a sudden, vague recollection of killing the mutt that had killed Kit and Nerissa. Hacking away at its scaly skin in blinding anger. She couldn't feel any of that hatred now.
At Vale's questioning look, Kit explained, "Rissa and I came here around the same time. We kind of figured things out together. There's a lot of other tributes here—Phlox, Mac, Ford, lots of people. And I think I heard the brother and sister from Five saying that they were your allies?"
Vale's ears perked. "Fen and Lark? Can I see them?"
"Sure, we can track them down." Kit grinned. "After all, we've got all day."
It was a massive, wonderful reunion like Vale hadn't even been able to dream of. She was reunited with Fen and Lark, who looked happier than Vale had ever seen them. She found Lexus, the girl from District Six, and thanked her for the blowgun. She saw Phlox and didn't feel even a twinge of resentment for her betrayal.
She passed by Cassia, the young girl from District Seven, in the street, walking arm-in-arm with an older auburn-haired boy who looked like he could have been her brother. Vale opened her mouth to apologize… but Cassia just smiled. Her brown eyes were bright.
No hard feelings, they said. No ill feelings at all. It was like the utopias that Vale had read about, back home.
It was a long time before Fen asked the question that no one else dared or cared to ask: "Who won the Games, then?"
"Sid." Kit tilted his head in confusion, and Vale caught herself. "I mean, Obsidian Citrine."
A smile spread across Nerissa's face. But Kit didn't look so pleased. "Citrus?" he asked. "Man, you should've won instead. I bet he'll go home to District One and gloat forever."
"No, he won't," she said. He looked confused now, and she felt compelled to explain. "He's not so bad. I think you would have liked him, Kit."
"If you say so." Kit grinned and lifted off in the air. "Hey, race you down the street and back."
As she watched him take off, Vale paused as she remembered something. She had been worried about how Sid would react if he won. She'd been concerned for him, back in the arena.
She could no longer remember why. He would be out of the arena now—safe and sound. There was no need to worry about him any longer, now that he was a victor.
"This could be heaven for everyone. This world could be fed; this world could be fun. This should be love for everyone. This world should be free; this world could be one." –Queen, "Heaven for Everyone"
Author's Note: ...And from that last line, you know that the next chapter's not going to be happy at all.