"An eleven?" I whisper "How the hell did I get an eleven?" I ignore the sounds around me as I stare at the screen. Effie squeals something that I can't make out exactly and Peeta says a 'congratulations' before huffing and walking, more like storming, into his room. I'm still staring at the screen even though it went blank a few minutes ago. I'm snapped out of my focusing only when Cinna lays a hand on my shoulder.
"That's my girl on fire" he says in an affectionate tone
"Yea well, your 'girl on fire' is going to get killed in the arena due to that eleven" Haymitch cuts in
"What?!" I snap as I shoot up from my seat "What do you mean 'I'll get killed?'" I scream. Haymitch lets out a long sigh and looks at me as if the answer is obvious.
"Well spit it out" I scream
"You may have impressed the Gamemakers sweetheart, but not enough to get you an eleven! This is revenge for showing them up at your session. That move you pulled was just a little too rebellious for their liking so, they made you desirable to sponsors but, dislikeable to tributes. You are going to steal their sponsors and the tributes won't like that. Especially not the careers" he takes another swig from his drink.
I knew he wouldn't stay sober for this,
"They can have their sponsors! I don't want them! And how do you know they only gave me that eleven for revenge? How do you know that they didn't just like my skills" I shout. I don't care if they can hear me on floor one, in fact, I hope they do and I hope they get my message.
"The tributes don't choose the sponsors Katniss! The sponsors choose the tributes! I mean, I know that you're thick headed but, I am pretty sure you should get that by now! It takes a certain level of incompetence to not understand that but, I'm pretty sure you have just gone over that level! Due to your 'surprise' the careers are going to come after you, they will kill you. God damnit how stupid are you! The sponsors may save you from dying of natural causes but, even they can't stop the other tributes! They didn't give you that score because they were impressed; they gave it to you as a death sentence! And I was, thinking we could have a District 12 Victor this year but, all hope of that is gone. You just signed your own death certificate, sweetheart" He screams back.
I freeze. Did he just say-?
"Haymitch, how dare you! You have said some pretty horrible things but, this is by far the worst!" Effie says with disgust in her voice. He looks around the room, with glazed eyes, at all the faces shooting disappointed looks at him. Even Peeta came out of his moping to see what was going on. Haymitch finally registers what he just said and his eyes widen in shock and regret but, it's too late.
"Sweetheart I'm so-"I cut him off
"No! You know what Haymitch? FUCK YOU! FUCK THESE GAMES! FUCK HAVING TO BE STUCK HERE BEFORE I DIE! I'M GETTING AS FAR AWAY FROM YOU AS FUCKING POSSIBLE! AND DON'T START YOUR 'I'M SORRY' BULLSHIT! TRAIN PEETA FOR THE REST OF OUR TIME HERE BECAUSE I DON'T NEED NOR WANT YOU DRUNKEN HELP, YOU BASTARD!" I scream as I walk out of the penthouse, slamming the door on my way to the elevator. I ram my fist into the button that says roof. I would go down to the training room but, by now it's closed. This really sucks because, right now, I want to slice the fucking heads off those dummies with the smallest, dullest sword they have in there. I don't even want to use a bow right now; that would be too easy, too painless.
All I can see is red when the doors open up to the roof.
How dare that fucking drunkard talk to anyone like that? I grab the closest thing next to me, a potted flower, and chuck it off the roof. I hear a sizzling and the flower pops back up onto the roof, with a shatter.
Just fucking great! A force field! Now even if I wanted to jump off this fucking building and end it all, I couldn't. I let out a frustrated growl as I plop down on the edge of the roof. If there weren't so many lights and I wasn't so pissed, the view would be pretty. A nice full moon with fluffy white clouds slowly rolling over it. Beautiful. I always loved these types of views back in twelve. Even through all of the hunger and sickness, the beauty was still there. I feel my anger slowly seep from my body. I let out a small whimper as I think of home; Prim, Gale, Madge, even my mother, if she can even be called that. I'm going to miss my woods and my father's old hunting jacket, hunting on Sunday's with Gale. I know that I'm probably not going to see them again. The funny thing is that, I accept it. There is no use in prolonging the inevitable. I would just sit there at the beginning and wait for the careers or I would just step off my plate, before the countdown is over, so I could be blown to smithereens but, no, I promised Prim that I would try to win. Though I have little hope of doing so, I never break my promises.
So even if I am caught, I will fight.
If one of the tributes kills me, I am determined to take them down with me. It's not a choice; it my duty. My final death wish.
I hear the door opening as my head snaps reflectively towards it.
"Um K-Katniss, a-are you OK?" I let out a breath I didn't even realize I was holding; it's only Rue.
"Something like that" I find the energy somewhere in me to chuckle.
"I heard what your mentor said. He seems really mean" she says quietly. She's still in the doorway as if she's afraid to approach me.
"You can come out here. I don't bite. And yeah Haymitch can be a bast-bad man" I correct myself. She takes a seat next to me and we talk quietly for an hour. I learn that she's from District Eleven, that she has a semi-large family. She works in the orchards, so she knows a lot about plants. And that she loves to sing; it how she signals the work day's end. She sings a four tone tune and the mockingjays relay it throughout the district. I find it fascinating to learn about other districts but, it's late and we have training tomorrow.
"Listen Rue you need sleep, we have training tomorrow. I saw you steal Cato's knife. That's probably the funniest thing I've seen in the capitol, other that the people I mean. Also, congratulations on the eight by the way"
"Thanks. And you for the eleven" she hesitates "Katniss… Can we form an alliance during the games?" she asks. The small smile on my face falters for a moment. An alliance?
"Rue, you don't want to ally yourself with me. You heard what Haymitch said. The careers and other tributes hate me. I don't want you to get hurt just because of me." I shake my head
"I don't care about the other tributes; you and I could help each other." She reasons
"I do care, Rue. Those tributes will kill me and anyone who is in an alliance with me. I have no doubt that we could help each other. No matter how much I would love to ally with you, I can't risk your life. Your life is too precious" my voice cracks a little on the last word but, I ignore it.
"And yours isn't?" she asks with a voice much to mature to belong to a twelve year old, as she stands and walks to the door.
"W-what?" I stutter
"I don't care if it dangers me. If you're in trouble, I will do everything in my power to help you." She says determinedly
I school my features into a proud grin "And I to you" I say as she closes the door behind her. I might have just imagined it but, I believe I saw the faintest of smirks on her face.
My mouth opens in shock.
She tricked me into an alliance.
I turn back to the view; I know I won't be able to sleep so why try? Rue's comment floats to my mind.
'And yours isn't?' it seemed so innocent of a comment. A simple respect for life. But, the way Rue said it; it made it feel like so much more.
Is my life important?
I've never really thought about it. All my life I've been thinking of others wellbeing. It was always about Prim's life, Gale's life, even my mother's. But what about mine?
I guess it is? I mean, if I'm gone who will care for Prim, along with the rest of my district? Oh right, Gale will. Well there goes that. Who will keep Gale company on hunting days? Oh wait. He was hunting before I was. I wrack my brain for reasons to live but, I find none.
What do I have to live for?
I hear the door opening again but, I don't bother turning around
"Rue, I told you to go to bed, you have to train tomorrow" I say in a reprimanding tone
"Wrong tribute, Twelve" says a deep voice. I pause, I know that voice. A scowl adorns my face.
Well isn't this just my luck
"What do you want, Two?" I still don't bother turning around. He isn't worth the effort.
He pauses, as if he wants to know as well "I want to know how you got an eleven" he says sternly. I smirk.
"Oh you mean to tell me that all of your special 'training' didn't teach you how to point out a person's strong points?" I ask smartly
"What do you mean, scum?" he replies in a terse tone
"I could tell, before you even got into the training room; that your specialty is swords. Clove's was obviously knives and Marvel's was spears. You see, Clove's hand was calloused and her arms and wrists are much more muscular than the rest of her body. Marvel's shoulders are more muscular due to all the throwing. You are just too muscular to be anything other than swords and brute power. Glimmer, I guess could be an archer, her fingers are semi-calloused but, not enough to have been training for long so I doubt she's any good." I reply adding a bit of sarcasm into my voice; as I look down at my own calloused fingers discreetly and curl them into fists. I figure if I'm going to die, I might as well have fun before I do. Mocking the Careers seems the only way to have fun, currently.
"That means nothing" he growls
'That means nothing?' That is the kind of thinking that saved my family from hunger by pointing out the weaker deer or finding the weakness in a large predator.
"No!" I snap my head towards him my narrowed eyes bore into his glacier one "That means you're just too thick headed to understand tactics". I smirk. He's speechless as traces of fear slink they're way into his eyes.
"What have none of your district buddies talked to you like that?" My smirk grows into a full blown grin when he shakes his head. We stare at each other for what felt like hours but, was only seconds. His eyes held shock, mine held hatred.
"How do you know about all of that tactic stuff? I didn't think there was any training in District Twelve." He asks, not completely relaxing out of his defensive stance.
Wait, what? A career is asking me a question about tactics. That just doesn't happen. I replace the surprised look on my face with a scowl.
"Is this some dirty trick?" I jut my chin out as a sign to show that I'm not afraid of him "Career asking advice from District Twelve scum? Treating her like she's an equal in your eyes." You could sense the hatred in my voice "No there isn't any training in District Twelve; I am self-taught, unlike you prissy careers!" before I can blink, I'm being pinned to the floor by Cato
"No you are not an equal in any way" he seethes "You are far below me. Now, I want to know how you got that eleven"
Despite my situation I can feel a smirk growing. Riling him up is much to easy.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" his icy blue eyes are now darkening to a navy blue. Weird; I wonder how that works. I snap back when I hear him growl. "Let's just say that I gave the Gamemakers a big surprise" I say smoothly.
He processes my words slowly and a feral look seeps into his eyes with a matching grin.
"Oh I get it now" he says as I try to, unsuccessfully, push him off of me "You have no actual talent; you're just some District Twelve slut who used her 'feminine charm' to seduce the Gamemakers." He spats
His words strike a chord in me and, with a burst of rage, I push him off me. I may not be as big as him but, I am strong.
He sees the fury in my Seam gray eyes and a smirk grows on his face.
This game has just changed.
"Is that why your district loves you so much? Or should I say the district's males." His eyes are back to icy blue and bottomless. He could make fun of me however much he wants, but when he brings my district into this; it becomes personal.
"I did what I had to do to keep my family from dying of starvation while yours was tossing extra food in the trash" I seethe. I did whatever it took to keep my family alive. The winters in my district were hard and game was scarce. I had to get money somehow.
I could see the flicker of surprise in his eyes when he hears my words.
Did he not know what goes on in the other districts?
All it takes is the flicker in his eyes and I know that this game is mine.
"That's right pretty boy. While you were off training and feasting, I was trying to scrape money together for some type of food" the sound of the pure hatred dripping from my words, shock even me. "Why do you think that District Twelve doesn't train their children? Do you think it's because were lazy? No! It's because we don't have the means to. We are all too busy trying our best to survive! Do you know how many people die of hunger a day? Not to mention sickness and unstable mine conditions! In the past three years we have had seven mine explosions. Do you know just how deadly they are? Poke fun at me all you want, but I know I'm a survivor. And what are you? A machine trained to kill? Is there any human left in you brainless careers?" I storm my way towards the door. But I hear him mutter something under his breath
"What was that?" I ask a little too innocently in accordance to the rage on my face
"I said that, that is a load of bullshit and that you're a selfish whore" he says confidently, the smirk returning to his face.
A fist connects with his jaw before either of us can register a third person. I look up thinking it would be Peeta but, when I see who it is even I can't register my shock.
He grins at me "Yes Miss Everdeen" He says in a joking tone, as if there isn't a career lying on the ground in front of us. My brain catches up moments later.
I grin back "You stole my punch"
"Well I am terribly sorry but, he has no reason to speak to you that way" he says firmly, sending a glare at Cato.
"I don't need protection. I can protect myself" I say with a tone of warning.
"Yes but, you shouldn't have to all the time and I really wanted to punch him" his grin never leaves his face.
I look down at Cato and see that the shock has finally worn off and he's getting up.
"Your mentor is right, Twelve. You don't stand a chance in the games. Which is the real reason I came here; Do you want to form an alliance with the careers?" he asks
Thresh moves to step in front of me but, I stop him.
"Cato" I say calmly as I walk towards him.
This time it's me who gets to punch him. He falls to the ground again.
"Not in your wildest dreams" I say as I crouch down next to him.
"That would require me to actually dream about you" he snaps as he sits up
"I can't control who you dream about" I smirk
"Don't you have to be at the bottom of some pond?" he snaps again, this time in defeat.
I get up to walk to Thresh when I feel arms wrap around my waist and pull me down and once again I am trapped underneath the six foot one career. I once again hear Thresh begin to move but I stop him with a wave of my hand. I know Cato won't actually hurt me, maybe a punch or two, but, if he actually hurts me; he will be evicted from the Games.
"Listen here 'Girl on Fire'" he spats "As soon as we get into the arena, I coming for you first" he growls as I smile. Not a smirk of a grin but, an actual smile.
"Thank you. That is perfect" I say happily. I don't even think when I plant a kiss on his cheek and push him off of me again. I'm too happy; I don't have to prolong my death for long in the games. Cato will kill me quickly and I can finally leave this hell. I get up and skip over to a shocked Thresh and I pull him through the door towards the elevator.
As soon as the door closes on a baffled Cato, Thresh turns to me.
"What the hell was that, Katniss? One minute I hear screaming; then I find Cato insulting you and the next minute you kiss him on the cheek?" he look at me questioningly as he pushes the Eleven button in the elevator.
"I'm happy that he isn't going to prolong my death" I say cheerily "Why avoid the inevitable? I'm going to die so why should I waste days upon days worrying about who's right around the corner, where my next meal will come from, and who just died? It's pointless"
"Y-You mean you're not going to try to win?" he asks incredulously
"Oh course I'm going to try but, we all know that I won't. I have just learned to accept it" I say in a matter-of–fact tone.
Before I can blink Thresh grabs my shoulders and looks into my eyes
"Katniss, you cannot think like that" he says seriously "You have just as much a chance as anyone of us! Don't listen to Cato, or the other tributes, or your pathetic excuse for a mentor" I search his eyes for any indication that this is a lie but, I find none.
Do I really have a chance? Thresh seems to think so and Cato must have thought so if he offered an alliance. And I didn't just get that elven because I surprised the Gamemakers. I might be able to go home.
I look into his eyes and nod. When he seems satisfied he steps back.
"Why did you come to the roof?" I ask. It's a legitimate question.
"I wanted to thank you for allying yourself with Rue. She told me you were on the roof and so I went up. Then I heard screaming and Cato disrespecting you and now we're here. Not to mention Cato had just come from our suite when I refused to join the careers." he says as he gestures around him.
Ah that makes sense.
"Wait, you reused alliance with the careers as well? Why?" I ask
"Because I can protect myself" he says stiffly
"But that doesn't mean you have to" I recite his words, which causes him to smile
"Well it's too late to change my mind anyway" he says
"Why don't you join Rue and I?" that catches him off guard. He didn't see that coming? "I'm pretty sure it would make Rue happy and I wouldn't mind you being there to help with gathering food and other vitalities. The two of us can't do it alone" I say
"If I do, we should keep it quiet until the Games" he says
"So you'll do it?" I say hopefully
"Yea, why not?" he smiles
I chuckle and bombard him with a hug, and a bone-crushing one at that.
"The three musketeers" He says in a jovial tone
"It's an old story that I will tell to you and Rue tonight" he says
"Tonight?" I say confusedly
"Yes, tonight! Do you really think Rue and I will let you sleep on the same floor with your bastard mentor after he said all those things about you? Us lower districts got to stay together!" he said with a questionable look
"This... should be fun" I say as the elevator doors open to the eleventh floor.
It's not much different from the twelfth floor. Maybe a little less luxurious but, I like it that way. Luxury is not my taste.
When Rue walks out of her room to see me standing in the living room, she runs and hugs me. God, she reminds me so much Prim but, Rue has a different air about her.
"Hey Rue, guess what?" I whisper
"What?" She whispers back
"I punched Cato in the face and so did Thresh" I say happily
Her eyes go wide as she bursts into a fit of giggles
"Really?" she manages to say between breaths
"Yes speaking of which, our duo alliance has just become a trio" I say looking at Thresh, who is smiling down at Rue with a loving look in his eyes. Anyone who meets Rue just has to love her, just like Prim.
"So now all three of us have messed with Cato" she says. Thresh raises his brow with a questioning look
"You never told him?" I ask Rue
"I thought he would get mad at me for endangering myself" she answers shyly
"Katniss, what did she do?" Thresh asks me. He's standing next to me now. For such a large body, he moves very quietly.
"It's pretty funny actually" I say with an awkward chuckle "Remember when Cato was screaming at another tribute for stealing his knife?" he nods in agreement, the cogs in his brain turning. "Well if you'd have looked up, you would have seen Rue hanging up in the rafters playing with the knife"
"Rue!" he says in an exasperated tone
"Thresh I'm so-"Rue is cut off by Thresh
"That is brilliant!" he's laughs loudly
She jumps up and hugs Thresh and then pulls me into the hug.
"We are all going to protect each other right?" Rue squeaks from the middle of the hug
"Of course" Thresh replies
"We are going to protect each other just like family. That is one thing that we have and the careers don't; something to protect" I say softly as I look down at Rue.
The three of us grab pillows and blankets to build a fort for us to sleep in. I remember doing this with my dad before he died. After an hour or two of talking we hear a knocking at the door. Thresh gets it.
"Oh thank god!" He says "Sweetheart I'm sor-"
"No, Haymitch, I already told you I don't want or need your sympathy. Go help Peeta or something" I say and Thresh closes the door in his face. I don't let go of grudges easily. As Thresh rejoins the group we talk about battle strategy. After a half hour we decide on our plan.
As soon as the gong sounds Rue is supposed to run for the woods, we don't want her anywhere near the Cornucopia. Thresh and I will get the supplies we need but, we won't get together there. We wait a day, for a suspicion of an alliance to die down, and when they do, we meet Thresh in whatever territory he claims. But we meet at night for better coverage. We don't want anyone to know that the three of us are together. If we are being followed lead them far away from the meeting place and try to lose them or kill them. Thresh will tell me where to meet during the bloodbath when everyone is distracted. And I will find a way to tell Rue but, how to do that, I have no idea.
It was Rue that eventually found a way.
I pretend to 'find' Rue and try to 'kill' her. I whisper the place and she 'gets away' by climbing a tree when I'm distracted by the cannons; when I 'lose her', I give up and wander around pretending to be doing important things and then the next night we will meet. I one of us get caught, another will warn the third person and they will attempt to retrieve the captured. If one of us is killed, the rest move on.
We don't decide what to do if it's only the three of us left. We don't want to know. Though, I'm sure Thresh and I have made a decision.
If it's the three of us left; Rue will be going home.
After a long silence with each of us exchanging glances we move on to a happier topic.
Thresh tells us about the 'Three Musketeers' and how they were in many old movies from long before the rebellion.
After another hour, Rue has fallen asleep in our little fort. She looks so peaceful.
"Katniss?" Thresh's deep voice comes from the other side of the fort.
"Yeah?" I reply
"Are you scared?"
I let out a humorless chuckle
"Good to know I'm not the only one" he sighs
"What?" he asks
"I got my eleven through archery. I can hunt for our food. That's how I fed the Seam. It's the poorer section of District Twelve. I would go hunting in the woods near my house with my best friend Gale. On the days that we would catch a lot of game, we would feed the children, elderly, and starving of the Seam."
"I wish there was someone who is that brave in our district. Most of us are starving as well. I got so angry at the Gamemakers during my session. Half of them were gawking at a roast pig. I'm there trying to save my life and they are gawking at food while they have full stomachs; its sick" he says in an angry whisper
"I shot the apple out of its mouth"
"You what? You shot at the Gamemakers! You're obviously insane." I can see the whites of his eyes grow wider through the darkness
"It paid off didn't it?" I chuckle
"You've got spunk Katniss" I can hear him lie down onto pillows.
"I can honestly say; that is the first time anyone has said that to me"
I chuck a pillow at him
"Goodnight 'Girl on Fire'"
It was a good night. We forgot about how by the end of this week, we might be dead. We didn't have a care in the world. I fall asleep with a smile on my face. This is what a happy family feels like.