July 29, 2012

"Ready. Set."

BANG!

Peeta dove into to the pool as quickly as he could and slipped underwater, using his long legs and arms to power himself forward.

Don't stop, he told himself. Get ahead now so you don't have to worry later.

He punched the wall and turned, trying his best to keep moving as quickly as possible.

Peeta swam the next two lengths of the pool with ease, letting a couple of the others burn out more energy early. As he hit the wall on his last turn of the heat, he surged forward, giving his all until he felt his fingers hit the pad behind his head.

Quickly coming up from underwater, Peeta pulled off his goggles and looked at the giant scoreboard on the other side of the Aquatic Centre, smiling as he saw the results.

Thresh Granger- USA-1:55.59

Peeta Mellark- USA-1:57.74

Beetee Bell- AUS- 1:57.84

It certainly wasn't his best, but Peeta didn't care. He was in, and that was what mattered.

He leaned over the divider to shake the hands of his competitors on either side of him, congratulating them both before getting out of the pool.

Peeta headed for the diving pool, wanting to warm down before he had to get ready for his next race.

After his muscles felt loose and relaxed, he got out of the small pool and walked back to the warm up area, intending to clear his head a little with some music.

Once he got there, he stopped by the table filled with drinks and grabbed a large water bottle. As he was leaving to go find his things, however, a familiar voice stopped him.

"Peeta?"

He whipped around to find none other than Katniss standing behind him.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he cried, grabbing her wrist. "You could get into serious trouble!"

"I needed to talk to you!" she said, wrenching her arm away from Peeta's grasp. "And I won't get in trouble. Gale brought me down here."

His eyes hardened. "Gale brought you down here, huh?"

Katniss looked at him confusedly.

"Yeah. Why does that matter?"

Peeta ran his hand through his damp hair.

"Why does it matter? Katniss, he's not the guy you think he is. Gale is a total douche when it comes to girls."

"And you're not?" she countered angrily. "Do you even realize how immature you're being. I called you-I made Gale give me your number."

"He gave you my phone number?" Peeta cut in. Now he was twice as mad at Gale. He hated when his number was given out without his knowledge. The last thing Peeta needed was for the public to find out his phone number; it would be a nightmare.

Katniss glared at him and didn't answer.

"I sent you messages on Twitter and Facebook. I just wanted to know what was bothering you, what was bothering my friend, but if you're going to act like a five-year old, you can forget it."

Her words shocked Peeta. He had let his horrible jealousy overtake the budding friendship between himself and Katniss.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "It's not an excuse, but I'm just...really jealous."

Katniss' eyebrows furrowed. "Jealous? Why?"

He laughed. "You seriously don't know?"

"No, I don't," she said honestly.

Peeta took a deep breath. "Katniss, I really, really, like you."

Her cheeks flushed.

"Sorry for yelling at you," she said quietly.

"No need," he said. "I deserved it."

Katniss smiled at Peeta and stepped closer to him, standing on her tiptoes to wrap her arms around his neck.

Pleasantly surprised, he hugged her back, and

"I like you, too."


Katniss took a deep breath as she walked up to the vault runway. As luck would have it, she would be the first girl to compete for the United States in the competition. She normally wasn't nervous about vault, but today was different. Today meant everything.

She ran up the runway, gaining speed as she did so. Katniss did her roundoff and sprang off the horse, twisting high in the air and sticking a satisfactory landing, her right foot only a small distance apart from her left. Katniss raised her arms and smiled at the crowd before leaving the platform, the audiences' cheers ringing in her ears.

"Nice job, sweetheart."

Katniss smiled at the gruff voice that congratulated her as she left the platform.

"Thanks, Haymitch," she said, giving him a quick hug before returning to her teammates.

Katniss returned to where her team was waiting. She anxiously looked up at the scoreboard, hoping her marks would be good enough to help the team get on top early.

Finally, her score appeared.

EVERDEEN, K. USA. 15.474

Katniss smiled. Her vault's difficulty level was a whopping 6.5, and she was very pleased with her score.

"Nice one, Kat," Clove congratulated her friend.

"Yeah, you did good," Madge added.

"Thanks, guys," Katniss said. It made her feel good to know there were people wanting her to succeed and perform well.

Soon it was Johanna's turn to perform her vault. Katniss watched her friend take off down the runway and twirl in the air, landing with only one step forward on the mat.

Everyone cheered for Johanna, proud of her solid landing. She quickly came down the platform and talked to her coach for a moment before returning to the small group.

"Nice one, Jo!" Clove said.

"Good job," Annie told her.

"You were awesome up there." Katniss congratulated.

Johanna smiled at her friends' kind words. "Thanks," she said, a rare

After her score had been posted- a 15.501- it was Madge's turn to take the vault.

This was her best event, and the team was confident that she would do well.

Madge took her place at the beginning of the runway, taking a deep breath before starting down it. She sprang onto the horse and spun around in the air, landing effortlessly on the mat with a huge smile.

The crowd erupted with ear-splitting cheers, all the supporters of the United States impressed and proud of her stellar performance.

"Madge, that was amazing!" Katniss congratulated her friend when she reached their group.

"Amazing? That was perfect!" Johanna cried.

The girls all celebrated Madge's performance and cheered loudly when her score was posted.

UNDERSEE, M. USA. 16.023

More loud cheers came from the crowd at her score, giving Madge and the others a big boost of confidence.

"Alright girls, don't get too excited, we've still got three events."

Katniss smiled at the sound of the team coach, Effie Trinket. She'd recognize the shrill and bossy tone anywhere.

"Yes ma'am," Clove said somewhat sarcastically.

Effie gave her a sharp look.

"You girls can't afford to slack off now. This is it. Now, be respectful and watch the last girls to go."

The whole team turned their attention back to the vault, watching one of Russia's most talented gymnasts, Glimmer Gorshkova.

Glimmer ran up the runway and sprang off the horse, her twists impressive and fluid. She stuck the landing without a step out-of-place, raising her arms to the judges and crowd with a bright smile before heading over to her coach and teammates.

Katniss clapped for her competitor, but did so slightly reluctantly. She and Glimmer hadn't been on the greatest terms since the 2011 worlds (or ever, really) when Katniss took the gold in the all-around and Glimmer received the silver.

Now, however, Katniss knew that she was going to have to step up her game. Even though they were only competing in the qualification round, this was what would determine the rest of the competition for the rest of the games. Katniss wanted to win gold in the all-around again, and wasn't about to let Glimmer get in her way.

Once the rest of the Russian team had completed their vaults, the United States were barely leading, a half of a point ahead of the Russians and two points ahead of Romania.

"Come, girls! Uneven bars are next!"

The girls followed Effie towards the uneven bars, the momentary happiness from their great scores on vault turning into adrenaline.

Wait. Peeta? Where did that come from?

Katniss shook her head, trying to clear her thoughts. She knew she liked him, he knew she liked him, but they hardly knew each other.

I never should have told him that I like him, she thought. It's only going to bring about trouble. I need to focus.

Pushing away all of her thoughts of Peeta, Katniss turned her attention back to the competition, trying to quell the feelings of nervousness in her stomach.

She watched Annie and Madge fly on the bars with impressive dexterity, both girls receiving good scores to keep Team USA in the lead.

Katniss took a deep breath as she approached the bars. The uneven bars had always been her weakest event, and after she'd damaged her leg falling on them in 2009, they were especially daunting.

She'd pushed through then. She just had to push through now.

Katniss jogged up to the springboard and jumped onto the top bar, swinging her legs high in the air and bouncing from one bar to the next.

When she finished her routine, she twirled high in the air and landed cleanly once again, her feet only slightly apart.

The crowd cheered and applauded her performance, and Katniss smiled, knowing it was one of her best routines since Worlds.

She ran down to see Haymitch again, who hugged her in a rare display of affection for his oldest student.

They both watched in anticipation for her score, and relief washed over both of them when the score was finally posted.

EVERDEEN, K. USA. 15.287

Soon after Katniss had finished, the rest of the competitors had also taken their turns and received their scores. The United States was in the lead by a larger margin- two points ahead of the Russian team and five ahead of Romania.

However, the girls all knew that their work was far from done. They still had beam and floor to complete, and there was also the matter of qualifying for the all-around competition.

The beam routine passed quickly and easily, girls from each country performing well. By the time Katniss and her teammates were to take their turn, they were faced with incredibly fierce competition.

Johanna was first up on beam, and as her team's strongest performer on this apparatus, she had to do well.

The girls on the floor nervously watched her as she started her routine, beginning her series of complicated twists and flips. She put on a real show, smiling in all the right places. Johanna flipped off of the beam and landed without a toe out of line, her smile genuine this time.

Katniss went next, her routine also going off without a hitch. Although she lacked the showy smiles and charm that Johanna displayed, her technique was so similar to the old world style of gymnastics that the judges tended to favor.

Clove came after her, hoping to repeat what her teammates had just accomplished.

The spritely girl sprang onto the beam and started her routine, getting into a comfortable rhythm with her jumps and flips.

As she made her final flip, Clove's right leg gave way from under her, and her face contorted in pain. She tried to keep a smile on her face as she finished her routine, but it was easy to see that she was hurt.

Clove's coach, Brutus, ran over to her, picking up and carrying her down to where the medic was waiting to check her over.

The rest of the girls tried to clamor around their teammate to see what was going on, but Effie held them back.

"We mustn't get in the way, girls," she reprimanded. "Clove will be fine. We must move quickly. There's still one event left."

All of the girls reluctantly left Clove behind with the medic, taking off towards the floor apparatus, where they would have to give their all. They were still in a qualifying spot for team finals, but they needed to turn up the heat for the all-around.

Play resumed quickly after Clove's fall. Team USA had to go first, and so they had to push past the emotion and give everything they had.

Madge went first, tumbling and leaping to the beat of her music, showing off impressive dexterity.

After her skillful routine, Johanna followed. Once again, she turned on the charm and received many cheers and support from the crowd.

Katniss was happy for her two friends, but she was also nervous. Floor was her best event, but she knew she needed a little extra boost to secure her spot in the all-around competition.

She walked up to the mat and got into position, a small smile on her face. Katniss cleared her mind as the music started to play, letting her mind become immersed in gymnastics.

Katniss gave it her all, her form fluid and her moves effortless. She virtually performed without error, and was all smiles as she finished.

After the rest of the competitors had finished their routines, the final team scores were posted. Russia had overtaken the United States for top qualifying position. Team USA came next, closely followed by the strong teams of China and Romania.

The judges took a little longer to post the results of the all-around competition, leaving all the girls waiting nervously.

I want to get in, Katniss thought, but if I don't, at least I've got another chance to prove myself with team finals.

Katniss' mouth dropped open when she saw the final scores.

EVERDEEN, K. USA. 57.354

MASON, J. USA. 56.987

UNDERSEE, M. USA. 55.325

Katniss couldn't believe what she was seeing. She'd qualified for the all-around competition.

A wave of emotion swept over her as she realized what this meant. The elusive Olympic all-around title could belong to her.

Katniss couldn't hold back her tears as she hugged Johanna.

"Can you believe this?" Johanna said. "We made it. We made it!"

After the two of them broke apart, Haymitch congratulated his gymnast.

"I knew you had it in you, sweetheart," he told her, his voice thick with emotion. Katniss didn't reply and just hugged him, silently thanking him for everything.

The rest of the girls congratulated Johanna and Katniss. Madge looked slightly hurt as she did so, having just missed out on the competition.

"I'm so happy for you," Madge whispered in Katniss' ear as they shared a hug.

"Madge, I'm"

"Don't, Kat. Enjoy this."

As soon as Madge had spoken and broken their hug, reporters began to bombard Katniss with questions.

"Katniss, can you tell us what it feels like to finally be in the all-around?"

"How are you taking all of this in?"

"What's it like to know you have to face off against your teammate Johanna Mason for the gold?"

"Tell us about Madge Undersee- how's it feel to know you and Johanna knocked her out?"

"Alright, alright, let the girl breathe!"

Haymitch's voice abruptly silenced the reporters.

"One at a time's fine," he said, "Just don't be so damn pushy."

Reporters kept the girls behind for almost twenty minutes doing post-competition interviews and took an inordinate amount of pictures of the finalists.

When the interviews were finally over, Haymitch pulled Katniss aside and clapped her on the back.

"You did good, sweetheart. You did real good."


"Ready. Set."

BANG!

Peeta dove into the pool for the umpteenth time that night, once again trying to get ahead of his competitors early to ensure his success.

He'd received a bronze medal about an hour before this race in the 200 meter backstroke, and he intended to do better in this one, the 400 meter freestyle.

As Peeta completed the first length, he tried to remind himself to stay calm.

You can win if you keep your pace steady. Just swim. Don't think too much.

One of Peeta's biggest challenges as a swimmer was keeping his mind free of worry. Ever the perfectionist, it was a real struggle for Peeta to let things be less than flawless, and he tended to channel that into his swimming, which sometimes hurt him instead of giving him an advantage.

He was approaching his fourth length now. Peeta made a quick turn, hoping to stay in close contention for the last few lengths.

By his sixth length, Peeta was neck in neck with Marvel Rivers of Australia, both men now trying to power ahead of one another.

This is it, Peeta thought to himself. Make it count.

As the swimmers started down the home stretch, they could hear the roar of the crowd as they swam. It gave Peeta an extra boost to speed forward, and he gave it everything he had until he hit the wall.

Peeta looked up at the scoreboard as soon as he could get his goggles off, hoping to see his name at the top of the list.

RIVERS, M. AUS. 4:08.96

MELLARK, P. USA. 4:08.94

RUSSEL, D. GBR. 4:09.06

Peeta let out a sigh of frustration. Once again, he'd barely missed the gold.

He shook hands with his competitors on his left and right sides, getting out of the pool. Once he was out, he met up with his coach, Jack Boggs.

They shared a quick hug, and Boggs told him to try to enjoy the moment, even though he was still disappointed.

Peeta knew that he should feel proud of his accomplishment, and he was thankful that he had received a medal. However, that didn't make it any easier to realize that the gold was just out of reach.

He congratulated both Marvel and Darius, trying his best to sound upbeat. Although he was upset with his performance, he knew that the other swimmers deserved congratulations as well.

Once Peeta had changed into his gray jacket, black pants, and tennis shoes that the American team sported on the medal stand, he was ushered over to where the ceremony would take place. His race had been the last of the evening, and so they would be presented with their medals promptly.

Marvel, Peeta, and Darius took their places on the podium. Darius was first to receive his medal and bouquet of flowers. Peeta was next, and bent down to receive his medal. The man put it around his neck and handed him his flowers, shaking his hand. Marvel was next, and once he had received his gold medal, the Australian anthem began to play.

Peeta listened to the music, a small smile on his face. He was proud that he'd made it onto the podium, but it was still hard not to hear the Star Spangled Banner being played throughout the Aquatic Centre.

Shortly after the anthem had finished, Peeta met up with his coach and family, following them and his escort out of the building.

When Peeta arrived back to his room in the Olympic village almost an hour later, he was exhausted. He took a shower and changed into his pajamas, eager to get some rest.

Deciding to quickly type out a message to his fans on Twitter, he pulled his phone out of his duffel bag. Before he could open the application, though, a flood of text messages stopped him.

The messages were all from his friends and family, wishing him well and congratulating him on his medals he'd won so far. However, one message in particular stood out to him.

Just heard the news, congratulations, you deserve this. See you soon. K xox

Peeta didn't know who the message could be from. He'd never seen the number before, and didn't know how someone could get his phone number-he kept it tightly under wraps.

Then it hit him. Katniss had sent him the message. Gale had given her his number.

He switched his phone off and got into bed, making a mental note to thank Gale for giving Katniss his number after all.


A/N: Words can't describe the thanks I have for your feedback. I am so thankful to have such kind readers. Thank you so much, it really helps to hear your reception to my work!

Sorry this took me so long. School just started, and I'm already busy. I'm working on this in my spare time though, and I'm hoping to get the next chapter up by next weekend.

Thanks so much for continuing to stay interested in my story. Your support means the world.