A/N: Thanks to Violagirl23, Vykktor, I-am-Cashmere-the-victor, richards25, mangesboy01 and DigbyThompson for reviewing the last chapter!
POV: Ludovic Robertson (16), Mentor for the Male Tribute, District 4
The District 4 Tributes' Train, en route to the Capitol
7.30 am, Monday 15th July, year of the 67th Hunger Games
I sit in front of the TV in a luxurious armchair, slowly sipping from another mug of hot chocolate. Excluding the Capitol attendant, nobody else has surfaced for breakfast yet.
In my other hand, my left, is a pen, and I have a notepad on my knees with the half-finished notes that I took last night visible on the paper. After Marline's dramatic (and very disrespectful) exit last night, I haven't seen either Finnick or his tribute. As for Alec, I know that we stayed up quite late into the night, so I'm not expecting to see him any time soon. Then again, we don't arrive in the Capitol until ten o'clock, so he can afford to sleep in. I'll wake him at nine if he hasn't shown his face in the dining car by then.
In the meantime, I've got a reapings recap to watch. We only got through the first four districts last night before our attention was broken, and so now I have to make sure that we catch up.
From the first four reapings, I manage to catch the name of the girl from District 1; Amethyst. At least now I can name all the possible Careers.
It turns out that I didn't miss much from many of the reapings. Both from Districts 5 and 6 don't look to pose any serious threats, although the boy from District 7 seems to be well-built and one of the few eighteen-year-olds to have been reaped so far. Even though the way that slips are proportioned in the reaping bowl means that more elder tributes should be reaped, it seems as though the average age of the tributes is remarkably young this year. The average must be about fifteen. Then again, I'm not going to complain. This means that less tributes are likely to make a stand against Alec, increasing his chances of survival even further.
Past District 7, very few of the tributes look anything other than terrified. The pick of the tributes from the outer districts is the boy from District 10, who is the oldest of all of them and they only one to hold anything other than minimal physical presence. Still, he doesn't worry me. In comparison to Alec, he is nothing. I doubt that he will be well-prepared for these Games, either physically or mentally.
Eventually, after watching all twelve reapings again, the recap ends, by which time Finnick has arrived for breakfast. Feeling hungry myself, I stand up, turn off the TV, grab some toast and sit down next to Finnick at the dining table.
"Morning, Finnick," I say brightly.
"Morning," he replies rather formally.
"What happened with Marline last night?" I ask. I was slightly worried about her after the reaping recap, and I'm eager to know how she is coping with the news.
"I was really worried that she was going to just give up."
"I was, too," says Finnick. "Especially when she started telling me that everyone that she knew that was worth living for was dead. She has nothing left in life for her to live for."
"So she is giving up, then?" if so, then as harsh as it sounds, Finnick might as well channel his resources into Alec too. If Marline is resigned to her death, there's little that Finnick and I will be able to do for her. We might as well focus all our efforts on getting Alec out of the arena alive.
"No, she's not," Finnick replies. "She now says that because there's nothing else left for her, she can afford to put everything into the Games, and bury her grief in her training. If anything, Nathan's death has spurred her on."
Finnick suddenly cuts off as another figure walks through the door into the dining car; Alec.
I'm finally starting to truly appreciate having Alec as my tribute. He's tall, probably a couple of inches over six feet, and his broad, stocky body has clearly benefitted from years of rigorous training, the muscles in his arms well-toned and perfectly sculpted. When it comes to gaining sponsors, a powerful physique is a must-have. He's rather good-looking, too, beneath shortly-cut auburn hair. He's no Finnick Odair, but he's good enough looking to attract attention from Capitol sponsors. Of course, with a jovial attitude, bright eyes and a winning smile to add to his merits, the sky's the limit for Alec this year. I really believe that he will be capable of going all the way.
After visiting the long table at the end of the room that is now laden with breakfast foods to grab two rounds of toast, Alec makes his way to my end of the room and plants himself in a chair next to mine. As much as I know that Alec will be a threat in the arena already, I don't really know much of Alec the tribute. What's his fighting style? Does he have any weaknesses? Does he favour the Career Alliance, or does he prefer working on his own? I just don't know. All I know is that he's half decent in hand to hand combat, but that's no secret; all of Panem knows it.
"So," I start as he places his plate on the coffee table in front of him. "Is there anything you think that I should know about you before we reach the Capitol?"
Alec raises an eyebrow at my question.
"Well, what do you mean?" he asks.
"Ok, let me explain," I reply. "Obviously, every tribute has their own fighting style, their own unique look, their own on-screen persona. I just want to know how you want to be portrayed."
"So I get a say?" Alec asks, surprised. "From what Harrow told me, it was entirely up to the mentors and stylists."
"It used to be," says Finnick. I wasn't even aware that he was listening in on the conversation. "But things have changed since Harrow was a tribute. Nowadays, we can see that it's beneficial for tributes to have a say in what happens to them. It's their life at risk, after all."
"Well, I've never doubted that I'll join the Careers," begins Alec, filling me with confidence. He might be playing it safe with a well-used strategy, but at least he'll be able to survive. "As for fighting style, I'll take anything that's used for close combat. Swords, maces, daggers, axes - you name it, I'd use it. Of course, I'd even use my fists if I have to. As for ranged weapons, I tend to avoid them. I'm half decent with a spear, but aside from that, I don't touch them."
Sounds like a typical Career. Nothing too taxing from a mentor's perspective.
"What about your appearance in front of the cameras before the Games?" I ask. If anything, that is the most important aspect when it comes to gaining sponsors.
"I guess I'd play it safe and be a stereotypical Career," he begins, making me feel even more relieved about my role. "Act tough and powerful, and the audience will love me."
I nod in agreement, realising that Alec probably knows as much about the roles of a Career as I do. He's spent all his teenage years preparing for this moment. I'd be a fool to think that he hasn't gotten it all worked out.
"All right," I say, standing to leave. I need to prepare for our arrival. "We arrive in the Capitol within an hour, so make sure that you're looking good. You won't get a second chance to make a good first impression."
"This is what I've been trying to tell you," says Finnick, almost apologetically. We are in the Remake Centre in the Capitol, being escorted down a long corridor to a large function room where the mentors are kept whilst their tributes are being prepared for the tributes' parade that takes place later this evening. We've already dropped off Alec and Marline, with District 4's new stylists. I haven't even met them yet. We won't get to see then until later this afternoon. Of course, I know Alec's stylist; Bella is my sister, after all. However I know nothing of Marline's stylist, Octavian, other than that he was the one who made the girl from District 12, Sophia, stand out in last year's parade.
"I know that there's no way that Marline will involve herself with Alec during the Games," continues Finnick. I can sense the disappointment in his voice. "She still blames him for what happened to Nathan, and won't even speak to him at the moment."
"So she won't be joining the Careers?" I ask, now worried myself.
Finnick shakes his head.
"Not if Alec does," he says. "Marline will put herself out that much to avoid him. She won't be showing him any mercy in the arena, that's for sure."
Marline's refusal to cooperate with Alec is certainly an inconvenience, but I know that I'll be able to work around it.
"So, are we still going to try and get Alec into the Career Alliance?" I ask, knowing that even if Finnick won't help me, I'll still make the effort to get Alec into the alliance.
"Sure, I'll help," replies Finnick. I know that he's trying to guide me through this; this is my first full day as a mentor and I'm feeling a little out of my depth, so I'm glad of his support. "Of course, it all depends on who the mentors are for Districts One and Two."
I hadn't yet considered the possibility of other mentors not wanting to work with us, but that could be a serious threat to the alliance. Aside from Blight and Haymitch, who are the only living victors from their respective districts, I have no idea who the other twenty mentors in this year's Games are.
"As long as they're willing to join, we'll be fine, right?"
Finnick nods in agreement, and then politely holds open the door to me as we enter the room at the end of the corridor.
The large communal room, which is on the top floor of the Remake Centre, shows off Capitol luxury at its finest. Like the rest of the Remake Centre, the room has one wall made entirely out of glass, offering simply stunning views over the Capitol. The room is filled with tables laden with food, and plush seats lie around the room in groups where I can see previous victors conversing in small groups. Although there are a lot of faces that I recognise, it seems like there are already more than twenty-two of us here, and I doubt that me and Finnick are the last to arrive, either.
My thoughts are almost immediately confirmed as I watch a tall, slender figure with long black hair approach me out of the crowd.
"Harrow!" I exclaim as the man reaches me. "I wasn't expecting to see you here!"
"Weren't you told that all victors were invited to this get-together, not just the mentors?" he says excitedly. "Nearly all of us are here. How are things for team District Four?"
I take a moment to think of an answer before replying to him.
"Not well," I say, but after a very concerned look being given by Harrow, I quickly try to reassure him. "Alec is fine, it's just Marline. After, well, what happened at the reaping, she's refusing to speak to Alec, let alone work with him in the Career Alliance. As far as I'm aware, she plans to have no role with the other Careers and work alone simply because she can't stand Alec."
"And?" says Harrow, shrugging. "Let her do what she wants. If she won't cooperate with your plans, don't force her to. It's her life, it's her decision."
I nod in agreement with him, as he was basically confirming what Finnick and I had decided to do anyway.
"I assume you're going to book Alec a place in the alliance?" Harrow says eagerly.
"Yeah, we are," I say confidently. "Finnick and I are going to find the mentors for Districts One and Two and book Alec a place."
As I say this, I try and locate Finnick amongst the crowds, as he has wandered off to talk to several victors who he hasn't seen in at least a year. I finally locate him talking to a young woman from District 8 named Cecelia, who has a three-year-old son clinging shyly to her side. I then see Julian walk over to them, and the three end up laughing over a rather trivial joke.
"I guess I should let you get on with your business," says Harrow. "I'll see you at the parade this evening, Ludo."
"See you later, Harrow," I say as the Hunger Games veteran walks off into the crowds.
As I slowly walk over to Finnick, I start to properly take in the atmosphere of the event. It feels as though we are at some sort of school reunion, where everyone is in busy conversation discussing everything that life has thrown at them in recent years. Music is playing quietly in the background, adding to the upbeat atmosphere.
"Excuse me, can I borrow Finnick for a moment?" I ask as I reach the three victors.
"Of course," is Cecelia's quick reply. She seems kind, but I've never really spoken to her. This is only the second or third time that I've met her, and all of them have been fleeting visits.
"Have you found out who the mentors for the other Career districts are yet?" I ask Finnick as we leave Cecelia and Julian behind.
"Yeah," he replies optimistically. "The District One mentors are the same as last year, Cashmere and Gloss. I'm not sure about District Two, but I'm sure one of those two will know."
"Any idea where they are?" I ask.
Finnick shakes his head before we both search the room for any sign of the two young victors from District I spot them looking out over the Capitol the large glass window, and Finnick and I make our way through the crowds to find them.
Finnick runs up behind Gloss, muffled by the noise of the room and startles him by jumping on him from behind, making Cashmere laugh as Gloss tries to wrestle Finnick off of him. Being the youngest four victors here, Finnick and I get along well with the two twins from District 1, who won in consecutive years; the 63rd and 64th Games, respectively.
After a few minutes of greetings and catching up after the events of the last year, we finally got down to the business in hand.
"How're your tributes this year?" asks Finnick, starting to set in motion the move that we all want to complete.
"My tribute, Gabriel, is sure to be a contender," grins Gloss. "I've been watching him at the Training Centre in District One for the last few years. When I volunteered, he was already being noticed an he was a year younger than me."
"Our lad's been well known in our district for years, too," says Finnick, trying to make light of Gloss' claims.
"The important thing for us," I continue on Finnick's behalf. "Is that the two can work together as allies during the Games."
"I suppose you want our tributes to form the Career Alliance?"
"Sure," says Gloss happily, and we shake upon the deal. "Your tributes look like worthy allies."
"Tribute," Finnick corrects Gloss. "Tribute. Singular. Only Alec will be joining the alliance."
"Well, what about your tribute, Marline?" asks Cashmere.
"She'd rather work alone," says Finnick diplomatically. I'm glad he's chosen not to reveal the true reason why Marline won't be joining. The last thing we could do with now is for the people who will eventually become our competition knowing our secrets.
"Will Amethyst be joining this alliance, too?" I ask Cashmere, who is Amethyst's mentor. "If she wants to join, of course," I add, so as not to sound forceful.
"Yeah, I'm sure that she will," Cashmere says. "I'll still need to check it through with her, but I'm sure that she'll join once I've asked her."
"Ok," I say to both mentors. "Thanks."
"Do you know who's mentoring District Two this year?" Finnick asks Gloss.
"Yeah, it's the Catos," replies Gloss. "Amadeus and Brutus. They're over by the bar if you want to talk to them. Me and Cashmere went to speak to them earlier, but Brutus rejected our advances straight away, so I doubt they'll be allied to us this year."
"Alright, thanks," says Finnick. "We'll go and speak to them, then."
We walk amongst the crowds to the bar at the back of the large room, where the three generations of the Cato family stand in conversation. The eldest, Amadeus, is possibly the most famous and respected of all Hunger Games victor, and is known for the fact that he won the 8th Annual Hunger Games in under twenty-four hours. Now, even in his seventies, he's a living legend in the eyes of Panem. His son, Brutus, continued the family tradition nearly thirty years later, setting another record in the process of doing so; fifteen kills in the arena, a feat that has never been equalled. As for Brutus' son, well... His first born, Quintus Licinius Cato, met his demise in the Games last year, courtesy of my sword hand. It's a moment that I never want to have to relive, but do every night in my dreams. I never wanted to kill Quintus; not really, anyway. He was a charismatic, vibrant figure, very similar to Alec. But survivalistic instincts kicked in, and he was unlucky enough to be the one who was the threat to me.
Brutus' younger son, however, lives on, eleven-year-old Sextus Aurelius Cato. He looks just like his grandfather did at a young age, and I don't doubt that he will follow in the family footsteps when the time comes. But for now, my attention must be on the two victors in the Cato family.
"Come looking for a drink, Robertson?" says Amadeus, chuckling slightly. He seems to be the only one in his family who can look past the fact that I killed Quintus. I know that as he's willing to joke with me about a rough night I spent getting completely drunk at a Capitol party last summer shortly after my Games. Never again, I said that day, and so far I've stuck to my promise.
"No, not me," I say. "Finnick might, but I've not been near the stuff since last summer."
Amadeus chuckles again and Finnick barely manages to suppress a smirk as he orders wine from the bar. Brutus, however, remains silent, appearing sullen and uncommunicative towards us.
"There's no point wasting time," I say, quickly getting down to business. "We're here to see if your tributes would want to join an alliance along with the tributes from our district and District One."
The blunt answer is the first thing that I have heard Brutus say since we arrived. I turn to face him as he continues speaking.
"After what happened last year, I don't want my tributes involved with your district."
His words sting, but I don't blame Brutus. I can understand if he holds a grudge against me; I killed his eldest son. I can't deny that I feel guilty about his death.
"And you, Amadeus?" asks Finnick, taking a sip from his wine.
"My tribute, Ashe, has already expressed her interest in joining the Careers. After all, she was trained to become one. I'm sure that she'll want to join, having hear your offer."
"Ah, good," says Finnick, looking pleased. "Thanks for your help with the alliance. Now, if you don't mind, may I get back to some friend who I have left waiting?"
"Of course," says Amadeus politely, and I watch Finnick saunter off through the crowds to where Julian and Harrow are standing in conversation with two older victors from District 2, named Cicero and Lucas.
I turn to leave, but realise that I can't without at least mentioning again that I feel guilty for killing Quintus. Turning back to Amadeus and Brutus, I try to gain their attention.
"I, er, I just thought I should apologise again for what happened last year," I stammer. "With Quintus, I mean." I look down shamefacedly at the floor. I can't best to look at the relatives of the boy that I killed.
"Look, Roberston," says Amadeus calmly. "Nobody blames you. We were all in that situation once. You had no alternative."
I don't know what to say, and neither does Brutus, by the look of it. After a short silence, Amadeus continues, trying to lighten the mood.
"You shouldn't be worry about such things at your age, anyway," he continues. "You've got your whole life ahead of you. Go and put some fun into your life. Maybe even try the alcohol again," he jokes.
"Thanks," I say. "I'll try and enjoy myself, although I think I'll pass on the alcohol. I wouldn't want to end up like Haymitch."
I can hear Amadeus chuckling again as I turn to leave the bar behind me. I get ten paces before I feel someone tap on my shoulder, and I turn to face them.
It's Sextus Cato.
Even though he's five years younger than me, he only has a couple of inches off of me. Aside from his figure, which is considerably more stocky than mine, we slightly resemble each other. His blond hair may be more closely cropped than mine, but we both have the same spark in our bright blue eyes. I can tell that he's a determined character, although not as arrogant as his brother.
"Hey," I say casually. "What's up, er..."
"Please, don't bother with my full name. Nobody ever does anymore, especially not since my brother died. They said that to call men Sextus - the sixth child - was to remind everyone too much of the fifth Cato - Quintus. And I don't care for Aurelius either; it's too Capitol-sounding for me. So please, just call me Cato."
To be honest, when he approached me, I never expected for it to be for friendly conversation. But I'm pleased that he doesn't seem to hate me like his father.
"Alright, Cato," I say, trying to be friendly. "By the way, it's Ludo," I say, holding out a hand to him, which he grasps as we shake hands.
"I just came to say that you really shouldn't listen to my father," he says. "Even though my own brother died, I don't blame you for Quintus' death. Yes, I grieved him with the rest of my family, but I accepted that it wasn't your fault. Please ignore my father, I can see that it pains you."
I have to say, I never expected a child who has certainly spent all his life knowing that he will be a Career to be so... Caring. But here stands Sextus Cato, showing me that maybe Careers can have compassion too. And I have to say, I value his words. It's nice to know that he doesn't hate me for killing his brother.
"Thanks," I say. "I'll try not to listen."
"Sorry I bothered you," he says, seeming slightly shy suddenly. "I guess I should rejoin my family."
"Yeah, you do that," I say reassuringly. "And it was no bother for me at all. So long, Cato."
I watch the young boy walk away for a few moments before turning and letting myself get absorbed in the atmosphere of the moment.
Sorry if there are formatting errors in this chapter, I'm having to upload on my iPod due to technical difficulties. Please let me know if there are any errors or mistakes.
Also, I apologise if updates for this are irregular, I'm writing this alongside another story, "75 Games, 75 Victors, 75 Oneshots", which basically has a little of the backstory of every victor to be mentioned in this story, and a few more, too! If you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend checking it out. I last updated it yesterday.
Finally, if you enjoyed the chapter, please review! As ever, constructive criticism is welcomed :)