A/N: "Bound by Blood" is a 24–Author–24–Tribute fanfiction.
For those of you unfamiliar with this terminology, it entails twenty–four authors collaborating to create one Hunger Games, each of them writing from the First–Person Point of View of a different tribute. It's like an SYOT. Only...yano...legal.
Legal FTW! c:
"Bound by Blood" (or 'B–b–B', as we authors refer to it) is also a sequel to our story "Blood Dreams", which is unfortunately on an indefinite hiatus. I know what you're thinking: why for the love of God/Yahweh/Allah/Zeus/Odin/the Flying Spaghetti Monster are we writing the sequel when the original isn't done? That would be for a number of reasons, actually:
(A.) We have people lined up for the sequel who are ready to start.
(B.) Many "Blood Dreams" authors are no longer committed to the project.
And (C.) We know how "Blood Dreams" plays out.
If you are one of those types who can't stand spoilers, then please do not continue reading! We begin with a prologue detailing the end and consequent aftermath of last year's Games. This (of course) includes who won. Seriously. It's in the POV title.
Don't look there.
Everyone else, leave an offering of chocolate chip cookies, cake, or pudding by the door and come on in. (We accept strawberries in a pinch—ripe ones, that is.)
Aqua Rio, 17 ~ District 4 Victor
Oh my God! What do I do?!
I see Gleam running to stop Lila from tackling me, knives in her hand.
"Gleam!" I yell, running toward him.
I'm thwarted by Dominic in my way. He pushes me to the ground by my shoulders; it's a hard–yet–gentle push. Why isn't he using that sword of his to stab me?
Oh, I get it! Lila told him she wants to kill me.
I've got to help Gleam!
I try to get up, but Dominic puts his foot down on my shoulder—hard, keeping me restrained. I scream silently. Why does his boot hurt so much?!
This is it...I'm going to have to hear Gleam die. I start crying, glaring at Dominic. I look over and try to get to my trident, but he slams his foot on my arm.
"AH!" I scream out loud that time.
"Aqua!" Gleam shouts my name. I try to get up, and feel all of Dominic's weight on me. I think I hear my bones start to crack. So painful! When suddenly—
The weight is gone. I look, and Nolan has slammed his entire body into Dominic.
Gleam looks at me, having Lila pinned on the ground, and yells something. What did he say? My mind is clouded; I can't hear anyone anymore. I read his lips and make out, "Run!"
I hesitantly obey. Picking up my trident, I take off into the city.
I take multiple turns in the maze of ruins, and judge that I'm on the east side. There's the forest. I stumble through it, stopping at a lake to get a drink of water.
It's nighttime now, and cold. I hope Gleam is okay.
I should have stayed, I think to myself, crying once more. I huddle in a fetal position, thinking about the mistake I have made.
I awake the next morning feeling cold and sick to my stomach. I lie still to make the pain go away, but sadly it doesn't work. What is this? Why do I feel like I'm going to throw up? Is it the guilt eating at me?
No...this is actual throw–up.
I get on my hands and knees slowly, and crawl away from where I set up camp. I can't hold back anymore as the bile leaves my stomach. I feel a little better after I finally stand—a bit dizzy, though.
I walk back to camp and wash up.
I hope Gleam made it away from those two. I never should have left him. I passed out as soon as I reached this lake, so I didn't get to see the faces in the sky last night. A tear goes down my cheek as I process his possible death.
I hear footsteps in the distance, coming closer. I move to my trident, heart pumping and adrenaline rushing. Fear makes my skin clammy. I look around, and there I see him: Dominic, wide–eyed and enraged. He holds a sword in one hand and an axe in the other. As blood drips from the sword, I let out a blood–curdling wail of grief. I fall to my knees.
He killed him.
Dominic killed Gleam.
When I finally look at Dominic again, our eyes make contact. There's something in them, I don't know what it is. But I don't have time to worry about that. He lets out a scream and throws the axe. My eyes widen, heart skipping a beat as I roll out of the way. The axe skims my right arm and leaves a gaping wound. I wince and grab it, picking up my trident and taking off.
The anger I feel is too much to actually go that far into the forest. I turn around and wait for him. He weaves his way through the trees skillfully. How am I going to beat him, I whimper to myself.
I throw my trident when he gets near, and it stabs into his shoulder. He yells in anger and tosses it like a flimsy toy. My eyes widen.
He comes closer, swinging his sword at me almost blindly. I dodge and duck swiftly—I cannot die! He backs me into a tree, and I duck just in time to get the sword firmly planted into the trunk. Even with how strong Dominic is, it's going to take him a minute to pull it out. He's smarter than to think I won't take that minute to kill him. He leaves the sword lodged, and charges.
I scream in fear and turn to run. I feel my body being yanked back by my left arm, and let out a yelp as pain soars through it. I can't tell what he's doing, but it hurts.
He picks me up by the neck, and I gasp. I can't suck in any more air. This can't be it! I start trying to hit and kick him. He grabs my left arm again and does some kind of movement; I scream as I literally see the bone pop out of place.
The adrenaline pumping harder through my veins allows me to kick him in his sensitive area. He drops me, and I scramble to get up, coughing and trying to take in air. I see my trident where he threw it, and make a break for it.
Almost! Its golden metal is like a beacon of hope as I run.
Then I'm brought down inches in front of it. He grabs my leg, and I try kicking at his face while reaching. He's so absorbed in stopping my legs that he doesn't see me pick the trident up; I ram it through his throat and he gasps, blood trickling out of his mouth.
I lie there panting, waiting for the cannon to go off.
Waiting to be picked up.
Waiting to go home.
6 MONTHS LATER
I find myself gaining more weight each week. The morning sickness I had in the Games hasn't stopped. I'm trying to deny the truth; I don't want it to be true, and yet...I do—I'm pregnant with Gleam's child. I can't believe I allowed that to happen. I'm too young!
I have no clue what to do. I haven't said anything to my parents, but I'm sure they know. I mean...I'm almost half the size of a halibut. I wish my father would say something to me.
We are now living in the Victor's Village, in a huge house on the beach. It's absolutely beautiful. But the only things on my mind right now—as I lean on the third–floor balcony, staring at the sea—are my father, my pregnancy, and how I'm going to deal with it. I can't abort the poor thing; it's already alive. I don't want to give it up for adoption, because it's the last thing I have of Gleam besides the bracelet he gave me.
What if President Snow comes along and executes me? I really don't think he's happy with tributes getting knocked up during the Games. I cry silently, hot tears falling down my cheeks and stinging my eyes.
I miss Gleam so much.
I play with the bracelet that was originally his token. I've been wearing it since I got out of the Games. It's bright, glittering silver, and broad with five rows of diamonds covering every inch of the outside. A smooth, cold silver band on the inside has the message, 'I belong to the champion of the Games'. I cry a little harder, thinking of Gleam and this sentence; I firmly believe he should have won. I should have stayed with him instead of running. Maybe Dominic wouldn't have killed him...
I don't want to go on the Victory Tour—that will bring more publicity to the fact that I'm pregnant. I would need a cover story. Scratch that: I will need a cover story. I suppose I could say it's Zachary's. Even though it's someone else's, he seems not to care. He fell in love with me after I won. I think I'm a replacement for Alison, but he gives me the support and love I need right now from a male.
I walk into my room, drying my eyes, and stare at the dress hanging from the closet door. It is a gorgeous teal. The waist is decorated in white pearls, forming a belt. The sleeves come off to around my shoulders. And I don't even know if it will fit me anymore. I put a hand on my bulging stomach. What a cute little parasite.
It doesn't matter whether I want to go or not: it's today. Any minute now, Faustina, Largo, and Lileia will burst through my door, showering me with smiles and tears of happiness. They will then prep me—as they did before—and gossip about what is being said about me in the Capitol.
As I predicted, my prep team bursts through the door with wide smiles. But as soon as they get a good look at me in my white cotton nightgown, they all collectively gasp.
I cover my mouth with my hand, trying not to laugh.
"Goodness...what...what happened to you?" Faustina asks, her eyes moving up and down my body. The others do the same.
"Oh, come on, guys. It's not that bad," I joke. Their faces tell me this is not a laughing matter. "I got pregnant." I smile sheepishly.
They collectively gasp again and demand to know whose it is.
"Is it Gleam's?!" Largo pipes up. I feel a sudden pang of fear.
"N–no!" They're confused. I answered too quickly. "It's Zachary's."
I hope they don't catch my lie. The looks that they're giving say they do, but none of them calls my bluff.
"Well...anyway, Largo," Faustina says. (Bullet dodged?) Largo turns his attention. "Go adjust Aqua's dress." She pulls up a chair and motions for me to sit.
I slowly sit, automatically placing my hand on my stomach.
"You know...for being fat...you look really cute pregnant."
I think it's supposed to be a compliment, so I smile.
Soon begins the horrendous remaking sequence. I hate this. I always feel violated. My hair plucked, my face caked with makeup, my nails heavy with polish, and my hair stiff with spray. I let them do their job without any complaints, though. They're extra careful not to use any products that would harm my baby.
Eventually, Largo comes back with the dress. It doesn't look any different than before, but when they slip it onto my naked body it fits like a glove. I smile at how comfortable it is.
"I love silk," I muse out loud. They go on to tell me a history of silk that I really don't want to hear.
The remake takes an entire hour.
I hear a soft knocking at my door. Largo opens it, and freezes as he sees who's standing outside.
"Aqua Rio?" The sinister voice of President Snow.
If my face didn't have so much makeup on it, you'd see it go pale. I start to stand, but Snow puts his hand up. "I would like to speak with you alone."
My prep team hurries out, and Snow steps in.
I smell blood on him, mixing with salty air from the open window. It's not a good smell. He pulls a chair from the desk and sets it in front of mine, then sits and crosses his legs official–like.
"Did I do something wrong?" I ask, trying to mask my fear.
"I don't know. Did you?" he counters. His eyes travel to my enlarged chest, and finally rest on my stomach. I take a deep breath and run a hand over the bracelet nervously.
"Nothing that I can account for," I say, my voice matching the seriousness in his.
His eyes snap back to mine. They are cold, and bear into my soul. "Really? Say—who is the father of that child, exactly?" he asks with a coy smile.
I don't match it. I keep staring.
"Zachary Shellhammer," I answer matter–of–factly.
"I see. Well...on the Victory Tour, you had better make sure Panem knows that it isn't Gleam's." He smirks at the fear that flashes in my eyes. "We keep...excellent watch on our tributes, Miss Rio." He winks.
Cameras—they had cameras in the room. They watched us have sex. That's disturbing.
"I will," I whisper. My voice is caught in my throat; I can barely say that.
I can't believe this is happening.
I can't breathe.
"Good. I'll leave you to it, then." He starts to walk out. Then he stops, and turns to me before he leaves. "May the odds be ever in your favor."
The odds are not in my favor. They won't be until I have this child. I really hope it's a girl, that way she'll look more like me instead of Gleam.
Zachary enters. I didn't even know he was here.
"Hey. I came to tell you good luck, but uh...since I passed President Snow on my way up, I see you might need me to go with you." I should be extremely upset, but his charming smile keeps me from being so.
"It appears so." I smile at him.
He walks over and places his hand under my chin. He kisses me passionately, and I close my eyes, melting.
My heart stings every time I do anything intimate with him; I can't help but feel sad. I miss Gleam. I want to be intimate with Gleam. I promised myself I wouldn't take anyone else.
But as soon as I found out I was pregnant, that would not have been a smart idea.
He pulls away, feeling my withdrawal. "I'll wait for you downstairs."
I hear the pain in his voice. I want to tell him I'm sorry, but I can't bring myself to apologize for still being in love. Gleam was the first person I ever loved, ever had sex with, ever...had a child with—I can't just replace him like that.
I watch Zachary leave.
Lileia pokes her head in, and makes her way over to me. "Don't cry," she whispers. (Trying to comfort me, I think.) "You'll ruin your makeup, and look ugly."
I keep silent, unsure how to react. This confusion allows me to stop crying. She touches up my makeup and helps me out of my chair, not that I need much help. I don't see why people keep viewing me as fragile. I'm only six months along.
I walk downstairs and see my parents at the kitchen table. Pearl must be in her room.
Yorik comes running, but stops a couple of feet in front of me, remembering. He hugs me as best he can and puts his hands around my stomach. "I can hear its heart beating!" he exclaims happily.
"Don't yell at the poor thing," I scold him, smiling.
"It can hear me?" he asks, eyes wide with amazement. I nod, giggling. "Hi, baby! How are you doing in there? This is your Uncle Yorik! I can't wait for you to be born so I can play with you! I bet you'll be adorable! Or if you're a boy, you'll be awesome!"
My mother smiles. "Yorik, let your sister go, she has her tour to do."
I'm so glad she's accepting of it. My father doesn't say anything. In fact, he puts his coffee cup down and walks into a room that I'm not in. I feel hurt and abandoned. My mother gives me a sympathetic look and goes to find him, hopefully to talk some sense into him.
Yorik moves so I can go to the front door. Zachary is waiting for me outside. It's such a nice day.
Zachary takes my hand. "You look beautiful."
I kiss his cheek. His smile gets wider at my show of affection.
He walks me to the Falcon. The Capitol decided that since I was brought into the Games on it, why not let me go on the Victory Tour with it? The ladder is let down; Zachary and I grab hold, and allow it to freeze us and take us aboard.
Our first stop is, of course, District 12. I don't like the idea of going to the coal–mining district. It sounds...dirty.
I prepare myself. I have no clue what the hell I'm going to say. Luckily, the Capitol gives me something pre–made; I'm extremely grateful for that.
We get out on the stage, and there is silence. No one claps. I completely understand: I'm a Career, I'm the one that made it out while their children died. The mayor reads the speech she is given to congratulate me. When she's done, two District 12 people hand me a very large and heavy plaque. Zachary (who has been standing behind me the entire time) takes it with ease, and holds it as if it's a notebook. I say the scripted thank–you with a fake smile and fake gratitude.
Oh, jeez. District 11 is going to be hell.
I killed the female in 11. I can't imagine the looks her family is going to give me. I don't even think I remember her name. Guilt claws at me.
I don't look at the plaque. Zachary tries to show it to me to make me smile, but his attempts fail.
I stare blankly out the window...then remember Snow's words. Make Panem think it's Zach's baby. I have to be more lovey–dovey with Zach. This is awful—not because of that, but because I'm forced to be that way, instead of allowing me to get that way over time.
The District 11 square seems as dirty as 12, but at least it smells good and I can actually breathe the air. As the mayor reads his congratulatory speech, I make eye contact with the girl's family. (I don't know if it actually is or not, but by their more intense glares I assume it is.) I back into Zachary more. In response, he puts his arms around me. I feel comforted by his warm body against mine. I say my scripted thank–you after Zachary leaves to take my plaque.
I get a pang in my heart, and look at the family. "I'm sorry," I say to them, a whimper escaping my lips and tears starting to swell. I really do feel sorry. I killed her so brutally.
The family keeps glaring.
I don't want to be here anymore.
I move quickly back to the Falcon, sitting on board and waiting for Zachary. He finally comes after setting the plaque down, and he has a worried expression.
"What happened back there?" he asks, cupping my face in his hands.
"I...I can't take those hateful looks. They all despise me!" I take one of his arms in my hand.
"Why does it matter what they think? You're a hero in your own district." He looks sympathetic, but I can tell he still doesn't get it. I still see confusion; I feel the tense frustration in his hands. He's getting fed up with me.
"I killed their daughter. Not only killed her, I made her suffer in a momentary lapse of sanity." I whisper the last part of my sentence. I can't help but let out another whimper.
I press my face into his chest, and he puts an arm around my shoulders and pets my head with the other one. "You did it to protect Gleam." Even though I can hear bitterness in his voice, mixed with compassion, his words still make me stop crying. I sniffle, and look at him with a small smile. "Plus the way you took her down with your trident was awesome."
I laugh lightly, and give him that goofy smile I gave Gleam on the roof—the smile that would look stupid on anyone else. He laughs a little, and kisses me softly. I thank him in my head for being here for me. I wonder if Gleam approves of my decision.
Going through Districts 10, 9, and 8 is a breeze. I play up my lovey–doveyness on Zachary a lot more.
Now it's time for District 7. I killed the male tribute here. I believe his name was Jake.
'Jake Hall', maybe?
I look at the woman closest to the stage on the right helplessly. There's not a lot I can say, except, 'Sorry I didn't let him live.' I don't think it would be good to say that.
After I read my scripted thank–you, I apologize as I have done before. I leave the stage, but not as quickly as the first time, since I didn't go crazy and make him suffer. His death was quick.
The next place I'm scared of going is District 2.
Dominic and Lila's families—the two 'allies' that I had during the Games...I'll be surprised if they don't jump onstage and try to kill me.
After my scripted thank–you, I give them a piece of my mind. "Lila and Dominic...were extremely good fighters. You should be proud of how well they did."
I can't think of anything else to say. I don't want to offend anyone and make them mad at me. So I leave it at that. The only family I care about is Dominic's.
I hated Lila, so her family can shove it. She deserved to die.
Zachary doesn't look at me as we travel to District 1. I don't blame him; he knows what's coming, I'm not ready to accept it yet. I fiddle with the bracelet the whole way there.
As I stand on the stage, I take in the beauty of this city. Gleam wasn't kidding—this place is amazing. I can see why he loved his home so much. Everything here is pretty.
I take a look at Gleam's family; I can tell it's his family because they resemble him. I have to bite my lip. Zachary notices my struggle to keep from bawling, and puts his hand on my shoulder.
I don't even say my scripted thank–you.
I look them straight in the eyes. "Gleam...was...he was...amazing in every way. I...I loved him...it should have been me!" I break out into tears and almost fall to my knees. Zachary catches me. I can't breathe because of how hard I'm crying.
Zachary sighs and picks me up bridal–style with a small grunt. He carries me back to the Falcon. I don't stop crying until hours later, when I have to do my own district's celebration.
I get applause. By now, I'm back to smiling; I don't know how he does it, but Zach has a way with calming me down. (Tonight, I guarantee I'll be crying my eyes out.)
The mayor reads his speech, and I read the thank–you.
"Nolan was one of the best out there. It's a shame to lose a good District Four fighter. But he helped me regain District Four victory!" As I call this out, the crowd is actually happy for once.
That night, I sit at the silent dinner table. There is a nice display of whatever Dad caught, grilled and spiced to perfection by my mother. I pick at the fish.
"We saw you on the television. You looked beautiful," my mother says.
"She looked pitiful, like she wasn't happy to win," my uncle grunts.
I turn my gaze on him, slightly angry.
Pearl snickers at his comment. "Yeah, you looked really pitiful when you fell to your knees and started crying!" I shoot a glare at her. Boy, what I wouldn't give to put a scar on her face like I did Lila's.
"Pearl...eat your food," Dad says. He doesn't look at me, yet he's sitting right across from me. He's quite skilled in ignoring people.
Zachary takes my hand gently under the table.
"So...Zachary," Mom starts. (He turns his attention to her.) She sits right next to Dad. "Do you plan on marrying Aqua?"
Unfortunately, I'm drinking something when Mom asks this question; I cough, choking on my water. Zach pats my back to help. He's successful, and I start panting lightly, catching my breath.
"Well...I had it planned out at some point. I was hoping maybe after she has her baby," Zach admits. I look at my father. I can tell he isn't happy.
"Well, you already made her pregnant, so she says. Why not marry her now?" My father looks us dead in the eyes with a hard expression.
My mother hits him. "Triton!"
I put my head in my hands, and rest my elbows on the table. Why me?
Zach blushes lightly and looks down. "Well...I mean...I don't exactly have a ring for her yet...and I want the proposal to be special." He smiles a bit as he looks away. There's something in his eyes.
My father looks at me for the first time since I got back from the Games. "You are a disgrace. You don't even tell us you had sex. Then you lie to us about the father of your child. Do you think we're stupid?"
I fight back tears as I take my elbows off of the table. "No, Daddy, I—"
"Who do you think you are?! You may have survived that Game...but you are dead to me," he sneers.
My heart breaks.
He quickly gets up, and knocks his chair down in the process. He storms to his and my mother's room. We all hear the door slam. The noise makes me jump. I start to cry uncontrollably.
I get up and sulk to my room. I didn't even eat anything, but I feel like throwing up.
I lay in my bed, still crying hard, when I hear my door open softly. I don't know who it is, and I don't care. I roll to lie on my side, so that my back is facing the door. The person that entered my room closes the door softly, and crawls in with me and puts their strong arms around me.
I realize it's Zach when I feel soft, warm lips press against my neck. I can't stop crying. My body shakes from the impact of my father telling me I'm a disgrace. He takes one of my hands in his and moves it down to my stomach, and rubs my stomach gently.
"My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea. My Bonnie lies over the ocean, O bring back my Bonnie to me," Zach sings.
I smile as his voice soothes me. He kisses my head, and continues to kiss my neck softly. I let out soft moans. Suddenly, I feel his breath on my ear. It arouses me strangely.
"I love you, Aqua," he whispers, still rubbing my stomach gently and slowly.
"I...I love you...too, Zach," I whisper back. Even if I hesitated, he seems happy. That makes perfect sense: I haven't told him I love him at all.
I want every night to end like this, with Zach holding me.
I imagine the rest of my days until this baby is born are going to be like today, minus the Victory Tour, add more of Dad ignoring me.
Three months later, at eleven at night, I wake up to an intense pain in my abdomen. I bolt up to a sitting position and let out a scream. Zach nearly falls out of the bed, startled.
"Aqua, are you—?" He gets a good look at my face, and instantly gets out of bed. "Breathe! Just breathe, everything's going to be all right!" He runs to my parents' room and informs them of what's going on.
"Oh, Aqua!" my mom exclaims as she comes into my room.
Zachary carries me carefully down the stairs. He sets me in a wheelchair, and my parents (of course, Dad only came because Mom made him) escort me to the hospital.
This is worse than when Dominic broke my arm. As I'm admitted to the hospital, I start crying. I'm squeezing Zach's hand, cutting the circulation off. I'm surprised he hasn't lost it yet. By the look on his face, he is too.
It's another painful hour before they can get me into the delivery room. I ask for my epidural right before. They lay me on the bed, and I put my feet in the stirrups. I shouldn't feel awkward about people seeing my feminine parts, but I still am. The pain is still excruciating as the contractions get worse. I scream.
"Excuse me, you can't be in here!" a nurse yells at Zachary.
He turns on her, glaring. "I'm the father, of course I'm allowed here." Then he quickly moves to take my hand. I squeeze his hand, once again cutting his circulation.
"Push! Push and breathe!" my doctor tells me. I scream each time I push, and at each contraction. I can feel my feminine parts being stretched as the baby starts to come out. "I can see its head!"
"It fucking hurts so much!"
Zach kisses my head.
"Just keep pushing!" the doctor says.
After grueling hours I let out a scream, and the life that has been growing inside me appears, crying and bloody.
The doctor cuts the umbilical cord, and I hold my child.
No—not just my child. His, as well. When the baby girl holds my finger tightly, she quiets, and I can see Gleam's eyes look at me. I start to cry from happiness.
"What are you going to name her?" my mother asks.
I look at her with a wide, exhausted smile. Zachary kisses my cheek. I look to him, to see if he wants any say.
"You pick a name, sweetheart." He smiles at me.
"Coral Rio," the doctor repeats. "It has a nice ring to it."
I smile at my baby girl. She's so beautiful. I can't believe I'm holding her in my arms, it's like a dream.
They have to give her her shots, and keep her here for a while before I can bring her home. I lie back and close my eyes. Gleam…did you see her? She's beautiful, isn't she? I think to myself, pretending he can hear me.
I feel soft lips on my cheek and know it's Zachary.
"I love you," he whispers.
"I love you too," I whisper back, with no hesitation.