This is for my friend Brooke, as a belated birthday present. This character Brooke Cardamon is the same one who was in my other oneshot, Only Children. I advise you read it, to get a little more story on Brooke. Only Children was set in the sixty second Games. This is before.

Brooke Cardamon, District Two (7)

"Run, Brooke!"

Those were the last words my Dad said to me before he went back in the house for Mom. The house is all burning up. There's fire and smoke pouring out, and I hear someone screaming. But I'm going to wait right here for my parents.

I hear another scream, and know who it is.

"Mom!" I yell. She's still in the burning house. So I disobey my Dad's orders and run back to the house.

I tear off my blue jacket with the yellow flowers and press it to my mouth, so I can breathe, before running through the front door.

The air is filled with smoke, and I'm coughing and choking, even while pressing the jacket to my face.

"Mom?"

She wouldn't be able to hear me. I can barely hear myself, with the crackling of the flames. I need to get Mom and Dad out before they burn up.

The flames are approaching the stairs. It'll be seconds before they catch on fire. I manage to leap onto the second one, and make it to the top just before they are gloriously ablaze.

I swallow hard. No way back down. But I've got to find my parents.

"Mom! Dad! Where are you?" I'm racked with a coughing fit, gasping for air. Feeling dizzy and light-headed from the smoke and ashes, I stagger to a window. I try to yank it open, but my weak seven year old muscles can't unstick it.

Dying...dying...

I can't breathe.

Dying...dying...

My lungs are heaving and filling with smoke.

Mom. Dad.

With a final burst of strength, I jerk the window open, and suck in a huge mouthful of clean, fresh air.

Now I have to find my parents.

"Mom! Dad! Over here!" I'm yelling at the top of my aching lungs, but I don't hear anything except the fire crackling.

And voices outside.

They got out.

I slide out through the window to hug them, to kiss them, to be glad that they're alive.

"Mom, Dad! I'm here! It's okay! You got-"

I crash into a man who is most decidedly not my father. He's huge. His arms are thicker than my waist.

I remember him. He's the head of the training center.

Backing away, I start running back to the house. My parents aren't out of the house. They're dying right now. I need to find them! They're dying, burning in the fire! I have to save them!

The training center man catches me in a strong grip, and I shriek, beating at him with my small fists, fighting tooth and nail to get back in.

"No! Let me go!" I scream, flailing at him. "My mom and dad are in there! You have to let me help them! Let me go!"

He holds me in the air, letting me thrash. It's obviously not doing anything. He looks at me with an impassive gaze, ignoring my shrieks. What does a huge, deadly man like him care for a soot-streaked little girl who's squealing like a toddler?

"They're dead, kid."

I stop thrashing and just hang there for a moment, uncomprehending.

"What do you mean? Who's dead? I don't care, I need to go save my mom and dad! Let me go!"

"Your parents are dead."

I don't understand. Of course they aren't dead. I'm going to save them and everyone will be all right.

"The bodies were already carried out while you were in there. Look." He nods toward two stretchers with shrouded forms being carted away. But that doesn't make sense. My parents aren't dead.

"Listen. They died. You can't go back in there."

"You're lying," I say abruptly, glaring at him. "You're lying to me. My parents aren't dead. And if you don't let me go back in there and find them, I'll make you go in and burn."

How ludicrous this must seem. A little girl threatening a man who could snap her neck with one twist of his huge hand.

He looks slightly amused.

"They died. What part of that do you not understand? You're coming with me."

"No!"

I stamp my foot, which would have been more impressive if it hadn't been in the air.

"I'm going back and you can't stop me!"

Somehow I twist out of his grip and I'm racing back to the house, hoping against hope they're still okay, ignoring the part of my brain that says the smoke would have killed them by now.

A peacekeeper catches up with me and holds me to the ground, struggling to insert a needle into my arm.

"Take it easy, kid- ouch, she fights like a tiger!"

Another peacekeeper comes over to help, and another. They all try to keep me still long enough for the sedative, I'm sure that's what it is, to be given to me.

"Just calm down-"

"It'll all be over soon-"

"What kind of little girl is she?"

I'm bleeding from my mouth, nose, and knuckles, where I've punched them in the teeth. A steady stream of blood is flowing from my nostrils. My lip is split open and one of my teeth was knocked in. I think I swallowed it. I'm in so much pain, I feel like I'm dying. Maybe I am. Probably I am. But I don't care! I have to save my mom and dad!

Getting frustrated, one of them hits me in the stomach. I gasp, winded, long enough for them to pin me down. The needle plunges deep into my arm.

I let out a weak little cough, spitting out blood. The sedative starts to kick in, and things are going blurry.

I'm crying harder than I've ever cried before, but I'm making no sound at all.

The pain

so great

run

run, Mom

run, Dad

it hurts

please

make it stop...

I black out.

Epilogue

Brooke Cardamon was brought up by the training center after the death of her parents, and trained to volunteer. After she 'won' the sixty second Games, when she came back to District Two, the home of the man in charge of the training center burned to the ground, killing him. Nobody knew how the fire started. The homes of each peacekeeper who had stopped her from getting back to her house also burned to the ground. They were all killed. A week later, Brooke's house in Victor's Village burned to the ground, killing her. After the other fires, nobody ruled it out as an accident.

She just wanted her Mom and Dad, so she finally came back to them.