POV: Ludovic Robertson (24), Mentor for the Male Tribute, District 4
Floor 4, The Training Centre, The Capitol
6.25 am, Thursday 16th July, year of the 75th Hunger Games
I hit the ground, and the harsh grit digs into my back and cuts me under my shoulder blades. My head hits the ground hard, leaving me senseless for a few moments before the pain pulsates through my body from my injured leg. Only then does the fear return, and with it comes the imminent threat of Quintus. I try to get to my feet and run, but my legs are rooted to the spot in fear and won't go anywhere. Quickly Quintus is upon me, his tall, athletic figure silhouetted by the sun. But I can still see the bow.
Even though I'm paralysed with fear, I manage to force a small uttering as he trains his weapon on me.
"Give Finnick my regards, will you?"
Quintus shrugs and smirks. I don't get the stall that I was hoping for. Only added pressure on the drawstring of his bow. Any second now, it will all be over. I'm unarmed with nowhere to go, ten metres from my murderer. I watch Quintus' face crease in concentration just before the cannon sounds.
Both of us turn our heads towards the cornucopia and watch a beaten-up and tired Maddie rise to her feet, her sword coated in Remora's blood. I watch the brief look of surprise vanish from Quintus' face as he fires his last arrow into Maddie.
And then I'm screaming... screaming... SCREAMING!
I jolt upright, sweat running from my forehead. My head is spinning, and it takes me a while to place where I am; the bedroom for the male tribute's mentor on the fourth floor of the Training Centre. In the dark, and after what I've just been through, I hate this small, confined space. And I detest these nightmares. Even after all these years, they still haunt me. Luckily I was spared Blaine's death tonight. I find his the most agonising to relive.
I hear a quiet, polite knock on my door. I guess I've been screaming again. I usually wake somebody up with my nightmares. I don't reply to the knocking on the door, but after a few seconds, whoever it is takes my silence as consent and slowly opens the door, allowing a small slither of light through into my room.
Silhouetted against the dim light of the corridor, I can already tell from the athletic physique that it is Finnick who has decided to pay me a visit. As he steps into the room, he turns on the light, dazzling me momentarily. Finnick pushes the door shut before sitting down at the foot of my bed, and I pull the bedsheets up around me, trying to conserve warmth.
Looking up at him, I can see that the years have fallen lightly on Finnick. It's been ten years to the month since his Games, and aside from a couple of inches, and, on a rough day, a little facial hair, the man in front of me is the same as the fourteen-year-old Victor. That same flirtatious look in his eyes that he plays for the camera, the same strong, athletic figure, the same winning smile. On the inside, though, he's a changed man. After years of playing the flirt for the Capitol, he almost subconsciously flits into that mode at times. It's as though the Capitol is slowly driving the real Finnick out of him. It's almost unbearable at times. I can tolerate his actions in the Capitol, but it sickens me to see him saunter flirtatiously through Victor's Village. It's just not right.
In reality, the years have been tough on both of us. Of the sixteen tributes that have entered the arena since I left it nine years ago, only two have made it back to District 4. And me and Finnick have mentored all fourteen fatalities. Some years, there has been success; others have been shambolic. Some have been down to luck rather than skill. Annie Cresta had everything go her way. Well, enough things to get her home. She's still just as broken as we are.
Some Games, even from the point of view of a mentor, have been gripping to watch. Though not for the right reasons. You don't want to take your eyes off the screen, for the fear that you might never see your tribute again. Seventy and Seventy-Two were the worst for this.
Other Games are just horrible to watch, however you spin it. Last year was the worst. Everything about it reminded me of my own Games.
From my first look at the arena, I knew that it was similar to my own. Largely woodland. I knew from then on it would bring back memories. No doubt about it.
Due to the survival of my own tribute, Gabriella, until the fourth day, I had been drawn into the Games by the time she was killed, a victim of a tracker jacker nest dropped by Katniss Everdeen, the high-scoring archer from District 12. Her archery almost paralleled Robin's.
With both Finnick's tribute and my own out of the Games early on, I have nothing to do for the next fortnight but relive my nightmares. Everything about these Games, the 74th, reminded me of my own.
The boy from District 1, Marvel, managed to bring back too many memories. He was brash, arrogant and violent.
Just like Pearl. And he died a victim of an arrow to the throat. Just as Robin did.
The eventual Victor of the Games was both a shock and a painful memory.
Sophia had once told me that she had pitied her nephews, young boys who were too gentle-natured to ever survive the Capitol's sadistic Games. From the moment that the name of Peeta Mellark, Sophia's nephew, was drawn from the Reaping bowl, I feared the worst.
"Peeta will never win the Hunger Games," Sophia had once told me, nine summers ago in the arena. How wrong she was.
However, she was right about one thing. Deep down, Peeta is a better person than the rest of us Victors. Only due to the Everdeen girl did he survive. She pulled him through, almost literally at times. And I'm so, so glad that she did. I don't think I could have lived with watching another Mellark die. The memories associated with it would be too strong.
However, the thing that I despised the most about the 74th Annual Hunger Games was when the plates rose into the arena and all of Panem saw a tall, muscular, fair-haired boy of eighteen representing District 2, raring to go. The replay of the Games held sixty-six years before were last shown a week before the Reaping, and I could clearly see that the boy, Sextus Aurelius Cato, brother of Quintus, is the spitting image of his grandfather.
And he was just as much of a killer, too.
I hated watching him throughout the Games. And I felt guilty when he died. If Quintus had made it out of the arena in my place, there would have been a good chance that Sextus would never have entered the arena. That Sextus would never have died, a slow, bloody, gruesome death at the hands of the Capitol's mutts. I felt guilty watching him die from behind a screen in the Games Headquarters.
I remember looking round the room at the fellow mentors. Many were in shock. Some, like District 7's Johanna Mason, didn't seem to care. Others, like Chaff and Haymitch, were jubilating. But Brutus looked distraught. And, for the first time, I felt for him. To lose a son must be devastating. The pain of losing both is unimaginable.
After the Games ended, it was easy to tell that control was falling. This girl, a starving young woman living in poverty in Panem's poorest district, has managed to publicly defy the Capitol on the biggest stage of all. If she can do it and live, what's stopping us?
It only took two months for anarchy to hit the streets of District 4. Two more, and rumour of revolution started to filter in again from elsewhere. Districts 3 and 8. The fire was catching.
Then came the peacekeepers. Order followed, and with it came punishment. But hope was never completely taken from us. Three months ago, the Quell announcement gave us all the energy to fight once again. But so far, we only plan our endeavours.
For years, there has been a group of anti-Capitol terrorists working to bring down the Capitol from inside. They first contacted me and Finnick when we were in our late teens, and we respectfully declined their advances. As much as we may hate the Capitol, we weren't yet ready to commit acts of terrorism. I thought the group had disbanded after the fiasco in which some of their leading members had been held responsible for the bomb plot during the 71st Games. But then, after the Quell announcement, we were approached again. With our lives already on the line, me and Finnick were willing to become a part of their plans. As have half the tributes for this year's Games.
It's obvious to me why the Victors are returning to the arena this year. So that the Capitol can silence Katniss Everdeen, the girl that the districts have been rallying behind. And so, this year we have a new aim; get Everdeen out alive. Finnick knows how much of a risk this is. But the consequences are too great. Either he dies rescuing Katniss from the arena or dies fighting for freedom in District 4. Either way, he wants to play a part in ensuring that the future generations don't have to suffer from some Snow-esque leader and his power. With Head Gamemaker Plutarch Heavensbee being the leader of our cause, there might even be the chance that more than one Victor can escape alive. But I'm not betting on it.
Assuming that Katniss will become the sole Victor, today is my last day with Finnick. Tomorrow will be the interviews, and the day will be surrendered to Finnick's prep team. Today will be my last day in his company.
Unlike when I thought this day would come nearly ten years ago, I'm neither scared nor upset. Ten years ago, we had not lived a life. All we knew was the innocence of youth.
Ten years later, as Finnick prepares to return to the arena once again, I can't think the same way. In our twenty-four years, me and Finnick have experienced more than anyone in Panem.
We have travelled to all twelve districts and seen the sights of the Capitol. We have grown into tall, strong, handsome young men who have outgrown their innocence. We have gambled and drunk alcohol. We have both loved and lost. I had Maddie and, well, Finnick will surely lose Annie.
Oops. I need to stop thinking about that. From the moment that I found out, Finnick made it clear that even thinking about it is a sin. It won't bode well with the Capitol audience if they find out that Finnick has a lover. At times I envied him for it, for everyone I love is long gone, but now I only feel pity. Finnick will never get to grow old with Annie.
But, aside from the gambling and the alcohol, the one thing that has changed us most is the arena. We are both murderers. If our actions had taken place out of the arena, we would have both faced the firing squad years ago. Because they did take place in the arena, we get to live on with some freedom. Not a lot, but more than the Capitol allow the rest of the population. But in reality, we are all slaves.
That is why Finnick is willing to die in the arena. Not for us; our lives are already ruined. But for the future generations. That is why Katniss Everdeen, the face of our rebellion, must leave the Quell arena alive.
"Did you just hear a word I said, Ludo?"
Damn. I had completely zoned out, and I can't remember a word of whatever Finnick just said. I'd better start listening soon, there'll be a time when I won't be able to hear that voice again. A check on the clock tells me it is half past six in the morning. I can almost count the number of hours we have left on my fingers. Suddenly I find that I don't want to spend any more minutes in this small bedroom. I want to spend them actually doing something with Finnick.
I quickly leap out of bed, catching Finnick by surprise. Startled, he jumps back and fall over, hitting his head against the chest of drawers as he falls into a crumpled heap on the floor. Then we're both laughing, and as our eyes meet through tears of laughter, I find that I'm dreading the moment when I will have to look away from those sea-green eyes, and never look back. Forever.
A/N: That's it! My first fanfic has come to an end! I'd like to thank anyone who has read the story for their continued support, especially to Richards25 and Vykktor, who (at the time of uploading this chapter) are my regular reviewers.
As for a sequel, work is underway, though it may take a few months to pull together.
Yet again, if you've enjoyed this story, please review. More than ever, constuctive criticism is welcome :)