a/n [For the monthly one-shot challenge at Caesar's Palace.]

The first time he saw her they were up on that stage. Yes, that stage, the old one in the square used twice a year; for the reaping and the Victory Tour. That's where she was and that's where he was, and that's exactly where everyone else in the audience was looking. Unfortunately, for this particular time of the two, it was the reaping. Not just any reaping either. It was the second Quarter Quell, and he was going into the Games with forty-seven other tributes, including her.

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The first time he spoke to her was to introduce himself. It wasn't a special introduction, just a hello and his name. He spoke to all of his fellow tributes from his District, but she was the only one to reply. And she did so with confidence and a head held high. Maysilee Donner. And then she stalked out of the room.

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He decided he disliked her at dinner that night on the fancy train. She isolated herself from everyone, and if you tried to talk to her she'd snap at you. He ignored her, and chatted with the other two for a short time before the overly cheerful escort joined in. Dinner ended quickly after that.

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She spoke directly to him for the first time at the Opening Ceremony. Her words danced through his head. You look stupid. He looked her up and down. We look the same. She smiled a little bit. Exactly. And maybe he smiled too. Then the chariot started moving forward and the screaming audience drowned out everything else.

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He changed his mind about her on the first training day. She spent the whole time in the stations about poison and plants and fire. When she finished those, she tried them again. Every minute or so, she'd glance around the room. Every minute or so, he would glance over at her. Consequently, they met each others eyes an exact total of six times. And each time the fear in her eyes grew just a bit more prominent, and the confidence faded farther and farther away.

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On the second day he decided to help her. He grabbed her by the arm before she could head over to the poison or plant or fire station, and dragged her over to the weapons station. She ripped her arm out of his grasp, but didn't leave. They spent until lunch throwing knives at a target. And at the end of the day he watched her hit a bull's-eye.

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By the third training day he wanted nothing to do with her. He focused on himself, and went to every helpful (and empty) station he could. At the end of the day, he was confident in his skills with a sword.

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He discovered her many different layers at the interview. She was portrayed as sweet and innocent. The very idea made him scoff. But she did it well, and what she said seemed truthful. And she had him rethinking everything about her. But then it's his turn and he forgot about the girl, and instead thought of all the glorious things he could have when he won. The thought lasts him through the three minutes, and then it's off to bed.

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He doesn't see her for three days after that. He's not sure if that's good or bad. If he sees her in the sky, then she's dead, and he's not entirely sure he wants that. But if he sees her in the arena with him, then one of them is going to die, and it sure won't be him.

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On the fourth day she saved his life, and that was one outcome he didn't foresee. He was disarmed, certain he was going to die, but then he didn't and his attacker was dead, and his attacker's attacker was standing next to a tree holding a dart gun. She looked proud of herself, but also frightened. He could also see she still had her confidence, and it was with that that she approached him.

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By that afternoon they're allied. It's uncomfortable, because they're both just using the other to survive. And he guesses they've bonded enough to not want to kill the other. So they work with each other and, to his surprise, become a really good team. But he knows it will end eventually because the numbers are dwindling down.

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By the sixth day he has a plan. She questions him, but he won't give her answers. So she stops walking, and even sits on the ground to protest. So he tells her. Because it has to end somewhere, right? So she follows him, even if she is a bit wary, and together they reach the end. It ends in a cliff, and he's fascinated by it. He deems it a good place to stay, but she isn't so sure. So they end the alliance and she leaves him there at the cliff.

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It's when the pebble shoots back up at him that he realizes the brilliance behind it. And suddenly he has a new plan.

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The day is almost over when he hears the scream. He knows immediately that it's hers, so he runs. It's only later does he wonder why he ran. He finds her just in time to watch her die. She's skewered through the neck by mutts, who then promptly run off. Her hand is pressed against the spurt of blood from her wound. He sits next to her and grasps her hand. And he's still holding it minutes later when she exhales her last breath, and the warm hand in his falls limp. He leaves before he can feel the hand turn cold.

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The day hasn't even ended when he wins. He's collapsed on the ground, biting back screams of pain, when the ax shoots back at the tribute and lands in her head. She's still alive for one terrible second before she falls to the ground with the boom of a cannon. Her body is removed, and then trumpets blare to announce his victory. But he's tired, and he won, and every thing's over now. So he closes his eyes and drifts away.

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He's still in the hospital when he remembers her. He hopes that she's glad he won, that she was rooting for him after she lost.

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He's living in the Victor's Village, all alone, when he wishes that she won instead of him. It would save him the misery. But he knows that's wrong, because then she'd be under the burdens of a Victor, and that wouldn't be fair.

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He never really figured out much about that girl in the end. And he never understood why he ran after her when she screamed. Maybe it was because that through all of that, their hearts were knotted together. At least just a little bit.