Second to last reaping! Welcome to District Nine XD Our girl Rhain Miller is from Anime'sPrincess and our boy Knox Blake is from Foxface5 :) Hope you enjoy this chapter, everyone! R&R

Thank you for all reviews thus far. :)


"It was raining," my grandma begins, "and the boy had to make his way home under the dark clouds and cold, heavy rain. He did not want to, but he was brave and so through the rain he walked. He was soaked almost immediately, and his dark hair stuck to his forehead and the back of his neck. His glasses were spattered with drops of water, and he squinted against the sheets of rain. As he walked, he tried to scrunch himself down to occupy the smallest space possible, to escape the freezing rain.

"There was a sudden noise! Alarmed, the boy turned, looking for the source, and saw a feral dog dash into an alley. He continued walking, but soon a scream echoing from the same place stopped him dead in his tracks. He ran to the alley and saw a girl, her back pressed against the wall, surrounded by the dogs. He wanted to run, to get away from the snarling, foul beasts, but he simply could not leave the girl while she was in danger.

"He straightened up despite the rain, adjusted those glasses he wore, and with a courageous glint in his gray-green eyes, spoke to the dogs. "Leave her alone!" he commanded, stretching a hand out towards the animals. The dogs, suddenly afraid, listened and whimpered. They were torn between obeying this boy who could speak to them, and finishing what they had started."

Setting down my whittling knife and half-finished carving, I interrupt Grandma's story. "That's not realistic, Grandma, humans can't speak to dogs! I can't speak to dogs!"

The wizened old lady winks at me and holds up a finger. "Knox, honey, this is a story. Anything can happen. Now listen, boy, let me finish!" I resume my whittling and let Grandma continue. "The leader of the pack growled, "It's only a boy, he does not command us!" But this only-a-boy would not take 'no' for an answer. He walked right up to the leader of the dogs and set a firm hand on the top of the beast's snout. The dog, forced into such a position of submission, turned tail and fled, taking his pack with him. The boy was then a hero. He turned to the girl, who smiled at her helper."


I don't even get a reply this time. "Even though the girl is taller than the boy, older than him, she hugs him hard and kisses him. "Thank you so much!" she cries, "You've saved me! How can I ever repay you?" They walk out of the alley holding hands."

"Gran, since when do I get a girl?"

"Since when is the story about you, Knox? The boy doesn't have a name yet."

"You always make me the main character!" I grin, "Besides, he looks like me, you described him just like me!"

Grandma tweaks my nose. "Of course it's you. But this is a story, why wouldn't you get the girl? Don't all the modern heroes get the ladies?"

"Because that's awkward and at least the talking to animals bit is cool. This doesn't work at all," I complain.

"Well would you rather get a boy?" She smiles wickedly.

"Grandmaaa, that's still awkward. And no."

"Fine then, you tell the ending, Knox." Grandma leans back in her chair, listening intently.

"The boy follows the girl out of the alleyway. "What can I ever do to repay you?" she asks. The boy replies that, if she wants, they can be friends. She agrees and they part ways. They boy who can talk to animals goes home to his mother and grandma and lives happily ever after. The end."

Grandma claps. "Now how about setting it up for a part two?"

"Um… and then the grain fields nearby catch on fire. Even the rain can't stop dragon fire."

Grandma raises an eyebrow. "Dragons? Doesn't that seem unrealistic to you, Knox?" she asks wryly.

"It's a story, anything can happen!" We both laugh.

My mother's voice breaks into the conversation. "Come on you two, we have to leave for the reaping in ten minutes!" Grandma leaves to finish getting ready and to tidy up the house a little, but I've already done my morning chores and gotten ready to go, so I sit on the floor and keep on carving.

I'm working with a small piece of wood, whittling out a simple vine pattern. When it's finally finished I'll most likely give it to Mom, I do end up giving a lot of my carvings to her. Who else would I give them to? Grandma prefers getting my stories. I only see Father once or twice a year, he doesn't exactly like me, although since I look so much like him with my coppery skin and dark hair he feels obliged to see 'how I'm turning out'. He's married to a woman who's not my mother and he has other children to care about. There isn't anyone else.

"Come on, sweetheart, time to go!" Mom calls. I jump up, leaving my whittling knife and carving on the floor, and dash out the door. "Knox, you've got wood shavings on your clothes again!" she cries, brushing at my light green shirt and khaki pants until they're clean again.

"Thanks, Mom," I say, giving her a quick hug. Then we're off. It's a long walk to the main town, since after I was born and Father refused to marry Mom we moved in with Grandma in her little cottage near the edge of the grain fields. In fact, the sun has barely risen when we start our trip. Reaping Day is a day trip for us.

I sometimes think older people get tired fast, but every time I think that, Grandma comes along and proves me wrong. She talks more than Mom and I combined on the way to the big city and walks ahead of us for most of the trip.

"In my day, the longest walk I ever took was a hike in the mountains when I was young- the mountains where District Twelve is now, honey, they used to be called the Appalachian Mountains. Once my friends and I walked a trail- the Appalachian Trail- and it took us months!" she laughs, "Imagine that, a walk that takes half a year. You can't do that now, Knox, and I'm sorry for you because of it. Everything was more interesting without District borders."

"I don't know, a hike that long doesn't sound like much fun," I say. Grandma and Mom laugh, but I'm serious. I hate walking all the way to the town for a terrible thing like the Reaping ceremony. It's the scariest thing in the world. And the four or five times I've done it- I've only been eligible once before but Mom decided I was old enough to come years back- I've been utterly exhausted by the time we got back home.

By the time we reach the city, the sun has risen much higher in the sky. I feel like I've barely awoken, but walking through the streets of the main town wakes me up quickly. Everything's huge here, the buildings and houses and even the old ruined places from before the rebellion seventeen years ago (that nobody's gotten around to fixing, apparently) dwarf our house and the little community where my school is. This place is the setting of a lot of Grandma's stories.

"There's the square," Mom says. She's getting anxious. I bite my lip as I watch her. She's probably more nervous about reapings than I am- not only could she lose her kid, but she usually runs into Father at the ceremony and that brings back too many memories for her.

"Today will not be a good day," Grandma mutters, fiddling with the tassels on her black shawl. The words send little chills down my spine.

"Well, I've got to go check in. See you later!" I hug both of the women and turn to the registration line.

"Love you, Knox!" Mom calls.

"Love you too!" I reply and then step into the line.

I'm basically ignored. It's fine with me, it's not like I know these people (and if I did recognize the kids here I don't know what I would say). I like people, but mostly just to watch. Talking to them… nope. Sure, having a legitimate conversation would be fun, but I like watching people too. It's easier, and just as interesting. Sometimes. And I don't have to come up with things to say.

The line moves quickly and soon I'm holding out my hand to a Peacekeeper. She's young, her eyes aren't hardened from experience yet; she even smiles grimly at me as she pricks my finger. "Have a nice day, sir," I pipe up as I pass her. I figure everyone needs something happy. Being a Peacekeeper may be nicer than starving but you're still a slave to the people in charge. Even Capitol citizens are like sheep. They don't have anything to do but follow orders and eat a lot of food.

I take my place and wait patiently for the ceremony to start. Glancing around at the other sections, I see a few kids I recognize, including Carla in the girls' area. She sits next to me in math class and sometimes she talks to me. She's a good person.

The Mayor steps up and gives the Treaty of Treason, but I'm looking for my mother and grandmother in the crowd and so I don't pay very close attention. By the time he steps back to his seat, however, I've located them in the front of the crowd and caught their attention to let them know where I am.

And it would be very hard to not pay attention to our escort. Roxana Rellinger is back for a fourth year of taking District Nine to the Games, and everyone cringes as she begins to speak. She's like a butterfly on steroids, the way she squeaks and changes up her inflections and talks so fast you can barely separate the words in your head.

"Our ladies first," she squeals, flipping her crimson curls over one shoulder and marching over to one of the reaping bowls, "I remember last year, we had Sarracenia Trallon as our female tribute! This year, we have… Rhain Miller! Rhain, come on up, dear!"

There's an ear-piercing scream from a girl, presumably Rhain, and I flinch as it hits my ears. A flurry of movement in the fifteens, and a tall girl with silvery hair breaks away and makes a run for the crowd. She's lunging for an older girl who's holding a small child, screaming and crying all the while, but the Peacekeepers were standing nearby and they grab hold of her before she can disappear into the throng. The people murmur sadly; they don't want to see this girl die.

The Peacekeepers drag her up to the stage and dump her unceremoniously beside Roxana. Rhain manages to stand up on her own, wavering for a second before she dashes forward yet again. The Peacekeepers grab her arms, and at a motion from Roxana they haul her into the Justice Building ahead of schedule.

"Wasn't that eventful? Now, let's see who will be going with Rhain to the Capitol!" Roxana gushes. She selects a name and pauses before she opens it. "Last year, Alec Ryans was our male tribute! I wonder who it will be this time?" She opens the slip of paper. "Knox Blake, where are you, dear? Knox Blake!"

Everything falls to pieces. The world spins, but I'm not granted the luxury of fainting and getting a pass on going up to the stage. I slump to my knees and cry out in fear. There's a scream from the crowd as well- Mom. I'm breathing so hard, so quickly that colorful spots dance before my eyes and I'm getting dizzy.

I've never been this afraid before.


I remember.

I remember swimming in the river and splashing and having fun with my friends.

"Come play with us, Winnow!" I shout, flinging a shower of water droplets up from the chilly river. The other girl shakes her head, laughing. "Come on, your name is so close to Minnow you must love the water!"

"Nope, sorry, Rhain!" Winnow giggles. "Besides, I have to get home soon and my parents will never forgive me if I show up for their stupid dinner party soaking wet!"

"Guess what, Winnow?" I call, keeping the girl's attention on me. I can't let her see Robin creeping up behind her.


"WE DON'T CARE AND YOU DON'T EITHER!" shouts Robin from behind Winnow, pushing her forward. She shrieks and stumbles forward, almost toppling into the water. However, she catches herself at the last second and windmills her arms as she teeters on the bank. At last, she rocks back and steadies herself on solid ground.

"Robin!" she shrieks.

Robin and I laugh.

I remember.

I remember the comfort of middle class and not going hungry and getting new clothes.

"Rhain, you are not going out in those clothes!" Mother calls out from the living room as I'm about to leave the house.

"Mother, come on, they're fine!"

"Shorts that short are not all right, young lady!"

"Let her go, Clarissa," Father steps in, "She'll be fine, she's responsible. And Jensen is a nice boy, he'll take care of her. It's the girl's first real date, honey, let her go."

"Be back by eight!" Mother relents, but not without a final rule for me to follow.

"Will do!" I call back to her, smiling.

I remember.

I remember the young Peacekeeper who kept flirting with me, and I was too naïve to do anything but talk to him. I was fourteen.

"Hey there, how are you doing?" asks the man coming from the grocer's, stopping to greet me. He's a Peacekeeper, in uniform, but he can't be more than nineteen.

"Fine, you?"

"Better now." He grins at me and winks.

"Thanks, I've got a boyfriend."

"Well, no surprise there, you're cute."

I giggle. This is exciting… but more than a little weird. "I'm fourteen."

"Fourteen? That's an odd name!" He's joking, of course, but he seems so confused that I can't help but laugh again.

"Rhain, that is."

"I'm Drusus. Eighteen and a half," he says proudly.

"That's a stranger name than Fourteen! Eighteen and a half, what were your parents thinking?"

"Rhain, you're really funny. See you around sometime?" I nod in agreement and bounce off, on my way home.

I remember.

I remember taking the shortcut home after my second date with Timothy.

It's dark. Really dark. Even though it's before eight, the night has set in pretty quickly and it's cloudy. I don't want to go the long way home, and I know an alleyway that can cut my travel time in half. It's not a very clean place, and I usually avoid it, but I'd rather take a shortcut than walk the whole way home in this suffocating darkness. Actually, I wish Timothy could walk me home, but he lives in the opposite direction and his family is waiting on him to get back.

I'm about halfway down the alley when I see the dark figure just ahead. My heart beats a little faster, but I don't stop moving.

"Hey there, Rhain."

"Drusus! I was afraid for a second. I'm glad you're someone I know, though."

"Come on, let me walk you the rest of the way home." We're almost out of the alley when there's a rough hand on my shoulder, tugging at the sleeve of my dress and Drusus is whispering in my ear. "Tell anyone about this and I will make you and your whole family suffer for it."

I remember.

I remember giving birth to his child, just after turning fifteen, in Robin's house because my mother convinced Father to kick me out.

"I don't want it."

"It's not an it, Rhain, it's a she."

"I don't want the thing. Take it to the orphanage." With my body still exhausted and hurting, I curl up in the fetal position on the bed, turning away from Robin and the creature she holds.

"She's your baby, Rhain, take her."

"She's his baby too and I don't want her. It hurt enough then, I don't want the hateful reminder all my life. How can I love this child after what happened?"

A squirming bundle is forced into my arms. I try to keep myself from looking at it but I just can't. The baby cries until I adjust her in my arms. She's got wisps of blonde hair and big blue baby eyes and I think I may be able to actually feel love again.

"Hope. Her name is Hope."

I remember everything as Roxana Rellinger calls out my name. I didn't expect my life to flash before my eyes so soon. I'm screaming and trying to break out and run away. I'm trying to latch onto everything that I have left. Robin. Hope. I still have Hope. I have my jobs. I have a life, a shattered life but I could still live, just please, please let me go. I want to live. I don't want to die. I don't want to die! I am only fifteen years old, I don't want to die.

I reach for the crowd. Most are melancholy, eyes full of sorrow and pain and the beginnings of grief now. They cannot bring themselves to care anymore. But I can see some of them trying to help me, urging me to run faster and some even reaching back for me. Robin's mother is standing there with Hope at the front of the crowd, and I run for them. I need to get to them, I need to get to them so badly! If I can make it to there, I tell myself, I will be free.

A powerful arm sweeps into my guy like an iron bar, I'm knocked off my feet and grabbed by several Peacekeepers. I panic, thrashing and screaming and trying to break free because I could live, I could live and I could actually make it but I'm caught now. My feet drag along the paving stones as the Peacekeepers pull me along; the screams are pure fear now, not just at the reaping but because they're grabbing my arms like he did a year ago and the memories flood back and everything's a blur of terror.

I'm deposited on stage and left to my own devices to stand. Shakily I manage it, and Roxana looks at me curiously. They think I might actually stand here and accept this fate while I still have a chance at escape? I think not. I leap for the edge of the stage but the Peacekeepers are more ready for it than I thought they would be. They jerk me back by the shoulders and I end up flailing around again, trying uselessly to shake off their grips. This time they won't leave me a way to escape. I'm hauled inside the Justice Building.

"Whoa, what are you doing with her, the ceremony's not over yet!" A woman hollers at the Peacekeepers from the other side of the lobby area.

"Avia Brooke," one of them snarls, "You're supposed to be sitting out there onstage!"

"And you tell us off for removing a troublemaker from the ceremony? We can't exactly lose a tribute, Ms. Brooke. You're a major part of the ceremony." The second Peacekeeper tries to reprimand the sole District Nine victor.

"Whatever. They focus on the tributes, not me. I'm not popular right now, the fresh meat is. And I really hate watching these ceremonies." She finally looks at me, the skinny little girl still struggling to escape from the two men. "Who's this then?"

"Rhain Miller. This year's female tribute. Fifteen. She tried to run twice."

Avia examines me briefly before looking me right in the eyes. "I'm so sorry, Rhain. So, so sorry."

The Peacekeepers throw me in the visiting room right after Avia retreats. There's a while to wait now, since I'm sure they've barely chosen the poor boy who will be joining me in death, and then irritating Roxana will give her ending words. After that, any visitors for me will have to make their way to the Justice Building. It's too long. As I wait alone, I can start to calm down; the harsh new reality sinks in. In the silence, in the tension, I can only break down and cry. There's no escape now, they've got me too closely guarded. But I could still live. Through my sobs I try to imagine becoming a victor, like Avia, and I can't imagine what it would be like.

The doorknob finally begins to turn and I jerk my head up. Who is coming to say goodbye to me? My parents? Robin? Will someone bring Hope to me?

No. Because Robin's mother, who has Hope, and I both know that a visit from my daughter is the last thing I need. I would not be able to say goodbye. And it would hurt us all too badly.

I see dark skin and black hair. Robin. She sees me crying and is at my side in an instant. "Shh, shh, Rhain, shh. It'll be all right. Come on, dear, calm down." She kneels beside me and wipes at my glistening cheeks with her fingers.


"Yeah, Rhain?" I can't actually say anything though; I end up breaking down again and Robin just hugs me.

I sniffle and open my mouth, determined to get something out this time. "You made it through your reapings, Robin."

The older girl nods, a little sadly. "I was on the fence, though. I almost volunteered for you. They never gave anyone a chance, though."

"Nobody would have," I spit out bitterly, "All the girls there think I'm trash now."

"Don't talk like that," Robin snaps, "So some of them betrayed you. You don't even know most of them. And Winnow? You pushed her away. She would have been there for you had you asked. So don't say every girl out there hated you. Because it's not true." I don't answer. "This is important, Rhain. You've sunk into depression, sure. My mom says so- I'll believe it. But I will not let you give up. I'm here. You've got Hope. You've got hope."

"I can live, Robin. I will fight and win and live."

"Are you sure that's what you want, Rhain?"

"I have a friend- you. I have the honest jobs that give me enough money to keep marching on. I have my own little family. That's a cause enough to win for. Of course I want that." Hadn't she just told me that I have hope? That I can't give up?

"Sometimes not giving up is simply staying true to yourself. Look, if you end up winning those Games and going crazy or changing on such a deep level that you aren't you any longer, that is giving up. But if you die and you're still the Rhain Miller that has survived so much already, that's not giving up."

"I can't die. Hope is the only thing I have left. Why stay myself? That man ruined me a year ago. Why bother trying to keep that part of me alive?"

"Because if that part of you dies, and you come back, you will not be Hope's mother. You will not be my friend Rhain. You will be Rhain Miller, the victor. And that will be a different person."

"Robin, you're talking like you want me to die."

My friend's eyes fill with tears. "Rhain, right now I want you to come home more than anything in the world. But you cannot let the Games change you or you will not be the person that is only alive right now because there is a possibility her daughter might grow up to be a better person."

"Hope needs me, in any form I am. I will come home. For you, Robin, and for my girl. And I swear, I will do my best to remain who I am."

Robin's voice cracks. "I love you, Rhain!" She wraps me in a tight hug, "And I'll take care of Hope as long as I live!"

"Take care of yourself, too, Robin." I rest my head on my best friend's shoulder and cry.

I hope you guys liked these characters :) Tell me what you thought!
I KNOW there are some of you who will dislike Rhain because the basic character format is getting to the point where it is considered cliché. I chose to use her because I wanted to write such a character and see how I can develop her differently.

One reaping left, dear old District Eleven!

For the remaining pre-Games story, there will be four Capitol chapters with six POVs each. :)