Rylos Velken, District 5 (13)

I woke to the sound of Artemis knocking tentatively on my bedroom door.

"Rylos," my district partner said quietly, a nervous touch to her voice, "breakfast is ready. I've been told to tell you that you need to get up now." She paused, continuing in a slightly louder voice when I didn't reply. "Are you even awake?"

I sighed, pushing myself up from my bed and walking across to the dresser where my training uniform was neatly set out.

"Yeah, I'll be right there."

I scowled at my disgruntled appearance as I passed the mirror so, instead of pulling on my black training uniform as planned, I stepped into the adjoining bathroom to freshen up. Even though I had seen the bathroom the night before, its luxuriousness still didn't cease to amaze me. For starters, it was larger than my bedroom back home in District 5, with a large marble bathtub set into the middle of the floor large enough to swim in. A shower ran the full length of the room from the opposite side to the door. Next to it was the counter with a marble sink to match the bath.

I ignored the rest of the room and made my way to the sink. There, I splashed my sleepy face with water to try and wake myself up. I also flicked some into my dark brown hair in an attempt to neaten it up, but I soon realised that wasn't going to work and reached for the gel resting on the shelf above me instead.

Once my hair was neatly gelled to the side, I placed my hands on either side of the sink, letting out a loud sigh as I stared into my icy blue eyes.

"You can do this," I muttered to my reflection, not breaking eye contact. "You're not going to let them kill you."

I closed my eyes and, sighing again, left the bathroom and went to the dining room for breakfast.

Artemis and her mentor, Bree Summers, were already seated at the table; tucking into a breakfast of eggs and bacon. They both raised their eyebrows at my appearance.

"Pyjama day?" Bree asked, smirking.

"Shut up," I mumbled, plonking myself down the chair besides her, inwardly cursing that I'd forgotten to get dressed. "I'll get changed before we go."

I grabbed some bacon, watching Artemis out of the corner of my eye as I did so. My district partner was already dressed in her fitted, black training uniform, her hair red hair pulled into a high pony tail to keep the tight curls off her face. She appeared to be calm, but her wide blue eyes looked uneasy as she fiddled with the number five that had been sewn onto the front of her jacket.

"You nervous?" I asked, trying to make conversation.

"A bit," Artemis replied with a small smile. "But I'm trying my best not to be."

"Yeah, me too."

I could tell that I made the older girl uneasy. To be honest, I knew that I made a lot of people uneasy, all because of the simple fact that no one is able to read me. And the fact that I was pretty good at reading other people, though I doubted Artemis knew that. Judging by the way Artemis had behaved so far, I had drawn up the conclusion that my district partner was used to being able to tell what other people were thinking. She was a wallflower; the type of girl that just faded into the background, but was able to observe everything that was going on around her. She clearly didn't like it when she couldn't.

I guessed my appearance also had something to do with it. My hair was a naturally dark brown, so dark that it looks almost black, and my eyes were a cold, icy blue. The sheer contrast of that was enough to make any feel slightly uncomfortable because of how intimidating it looked on a boy my age. Though, I guess that would be a good thing in the Hunger Games. That contrast was going to be even greater when I had my black training uniform on.

"So, do you two have any strategies for the training session this morning?" Bree asked in an attempt to break the silence.

Artemis shook her head, red curls in her pony tail bouncing from side to side.

"Not really," she answered, "but I'd like to work on my close combat skills."

"And I'd like to work on my skills with a spear," I added. "Oh, and hopefully make some allies."

"Don't ignore your survival skills, you two," said a new voice. "They were nearly the death of me in my Games."

My mentor, Erica Laute, had just made an appearance. District 5 had only two victors in the history of the Hunger Games and both of them were female. Which meant that the two of them had to mentor together every year. Erica was a recent victor, winning the 46th Hunger Games when she was 15 years old, and it was obvious that she was agreeing with Capitol life. For starters, the mousy little girl who was reaped was nowhere in Erica's appearance, and instead she now had bouncy, chestnut curls and artificial-looking, bright green eyes that shone whenever the light hit them. Her full lips (fuller than they were when she was a tribute) were painted red, and they stretched into a wide smile in greeting as she sat down across the table from Artemis.

"Are you also going to try making some friends?" she asked Artemis, reaching across the table for a scone.

Artemis shook her head again.

"No," she said, avoiding my eyes. "I think I'll do better on my own."

"Are you sure," asked Bree, sounding concerned. "Allies can make staying safe a whole lot easier."

"I know," my district partner replied, "but you can't really trust anyone in the arena, because only one tribute will get out alive. Your 'allies'," she made tiny air-quotes, "could turn on you in an instant. Well, either that or you'd be forced to kill each other eventually. I'd rather take my chances on my own."

"Well, if you're sure," Erica said, trying her best to keep the surprise out of her voice. "I guess everyone has their own strategies for survival."

The rest of the breakfast was spent discussing other Games' tactics, until our escort hurried us out of the room because 'we were going to be late for our first day of training'. She was in such a rush that she didn't notice my outfit, but once she did, she marched me into my bedroom and practically shoved the uniform over my head. Needless to say, I was not happy.

Sensing my irritable mood, Artemis said nothing when I re-joined her outside the District 5 apartment. Erica and Bree both looked slightly amused, but they said nothing about it and instead chose to give us last minute advice on what to expect in the training centre as we waited for the elevator.

"Try to ignore the Career tributes," Bree advised. "They're going to try their best to intimidate you with their skills, so do your best to stay out of their way and just get on with your training."

"Though it's good to get an idea of what they're capable of," added Erica, "so don't completely ignore them."

I sighed in frustration. I hated getting mixed messages from anybody. But luckily the elevator arrived a second later, so I was saved from my mentors.

I was glad to see that the elevator was empty when we got on it, though, when I mentioned it to Artemis, she reminded me that we still had four floors to visit before we reached the training centre, and three of those floors belonged to Career tributes. Just great.

We passed District 4's floor without stopping, doing the same for Districts 3 and 2. I had almost relaxed (because seriously, what were the odds of stopping off at the last floor anyway?), but that was short-lived because, soon enough, I felt the elevator slowing down as we approached the District 1 floor. I thought Careers liked to be early for things like training?

I cast a nervous glance at Artemis as the doors slid open. Against my will, I felt my eyes fall to the floor as the two District 1 tributes stepped on. I heard a girl's voice.

"I don't understand why you have to be so difficult, Damask," she said, her voice snappish. "Look, we're here now, so just suck it up and-" she broke off suddenly. "Oh, hello there."

It took me a few seconds to realise that she was talking to us. I only actually noticed because Artemis greeted her back.

"Hey," I said, and I lifted my head to look at the District 1 pair. I did not want to seem weak in front of them.

They were both older than Artemis and me. The girl, Chiffon, 17 and the boy, Damask, 18. Chiffon's short, chestnut hair was scraped back off her face into a tiny, tight bun at the back of her head and her electric blue eyes regarded us with interest, as if we were two particularly interesting animals she happened across at a zoo. Her brother completely ignored us. His white-blond hair fell in sharp bangs across his stony face (which was slightly more tanned than Chiffon's) as he stood against the wall with his arms crossed. The only way in which he resembled his sister was his eyes, but, even though they were identical to hers, they held a certain coldness that Chiffon's did not.

"So," Chiffon said awkwardly, trying to fill the silence that surrounded us. "District 5, huh? What's it like there?"

"Oh, it's alright," I replied, giving her a smile that I hoped looked warm. "It's very pretty at this time of year."

"Sounds lovely."

Thankfully, it was only a short ride from the first floor to the ground floor, and I breathed out a tiny sigh of relief as it slowed to a stop. Damask walked out as soon as the doors opened and Chiffon followed quickly, rolling her blue eyes. Artemis gave me a nervous glance before following them, and then I too stepped out. Training was about to begin.

Only about half the tributes were gathered in the training room, which irked me somewhat because our escort had virtually dressed me herself to stop us from being 'later than we already were'. Unsurprisingly, the tributes from Districts 2 and 4 were already there, standing together at the front and whispering to each other. The District 3 pair was there too, also whispering to each other and providing a stark contrast to the District 10 pair besides them who were practically ignoring each other. The last pair was the tributes from District 9; the girl chatting happily to the girl from District 10 while her 12-year-old district partner stood in silence behind her. Artemis and I joined the group in silence, quietly observing everyone in the room.

Over the course of 10 minutes, the rest of the tributes arrived. District 7 arrived next, closely followed by Districts 11 and 12, who all, besides the pink-haired girl from 11, looked nervous. District 8 was the next to arrive. The boy, Paddy, smiled warmly as he entered the room, followed carefully by his blushing district partner. We waited a whole five minutes for District 6 to arrive.

The boy from District 6 (Ky, I think his name was) arrived alone. I expected his district partner, Rebecca, to enter the room soon after he did, but she never did. Instead, the Gamemaker seated on the platform above out heads stood up and cleared her throat.

"Good morning, tributes," she said in a husky voice, "there has been an accident involving Rebecca Deryl from District 6, so we're going to start this morning's training session without her."

Whispers broke out amongst the tributes, everyone wondering just what kind of accident could have befallen the District 6 girl. If Ky knew, he wasn't telling.

The Gamemaker cleared her throat again, though angrily this time.

"As I was saying," she continued, glaring down at us, "my name is Moriah Denim and I'll be over-seeing your training here in the Training Centre." She sounded bored, as if she had recited those exact words many times before. "You will all train in here for three days before being sent into the arena where only one of you in this room will come out alive." She smirked, clearly enjoying that part of her speech. "So I suggest paying attention to your instructors and try to learn something." She nodded towards where the instructors were standing. "Don't underestimate survival skills. Weapons won't help you when you're freezing or starving in the arena. The rules here are simple, show up here for training every morning and don't fight with the other tributes."

"Yeah," muttered the District 4 boy, "we'll have plenty of time to do that in the arena."

The other Careers sniggered, but fell silent instantly as Moriah glared at them. I laughed silently at her expression. I think she wanted to make that joke herself.

"Okay, go train," she said, waving her hand dismissively. "Oh, and may the odds be ever in your favour."

Giving us all one last glare, Moriah turned and left; walking up the short flight of steps at the top of the platform to where the other Gamemakers were seated. I gulped. The idea of the Gamemakers watching our training sessions seemed very daunting to me.

The tributes split up immediately; not wanting to miss a minute of training. I looked to my left for Artemis, but my district partner had already disappeared and was walking over to the knives station.

Looks like I was going into training alone then.

Damask Silver, District 1 (18)

"There is no way that I'm allying with you."

Chiffon's blue eyes narrowed immediately, but I knew my sister well enough to know that she wasn't surprised.

"Fine," she hissed, folding her arms. "Girls, let's go."

Foster Bell and Estelle di Mare, the other female members of what would have been the Career pack, cast me an awkward glance before following Chiffon as she marched away. It seemed like my sister had not only suspected that I wouldn't want to be her ally, but she'd already planned for such a situation. She had successfully split the Career pack in two.

"What the hell, man?" shouted Drake from District 2, motioning at the girls' retreating backs. "Why did you go and do that? You've just lost us three alliance members!"

"Dude, relax," Keenan said calmly, patting Drake on the back. "We're the Careers. I doubt it would be difficult for us to find some more alliance members."

"Yeah, like we'd get some good ones out of this pathetic bunch!"

I sighed and turned away from my alliance members. They were acting like children and I didn't feel like getting involved with their argument at all. Even though I was technically the one who started it. Instead, I watched my sister walk away.

My relationship with Chiffon had always been tricky. We were very close as children, but an accident soon after my 10th Birthday caused a gap in our friendship that could never be repaired. Murdering your own mother tended to do that.

Officially, the records stated that it wasn't my fault. The doctors my father made me go see all agreed that I was suffering from an extreme mental disorder where I couldn't separate events that were happening in the reality to what was going on in my head. To be honest, I couldn't remember anything about my mother's murder at all. One moment I was talking to her and the next I was standing over her body with a bloody kitchen knife in my hands. Luckily for me, I was given special pills to make sure something like that never happened again.

I slipped my hand into my pocket, closing my fingers around the small pill bottle that I kept on my person at all times. I'd been taking those pills twice a day, every day from the age of ten, secretly supplied by my father through Capitol doctors to hide the fact that a District 1 victor's son was a medicated psychopath. Unfortunately, I only had enough pills left for a few more days.

I hate myself every day for having killed my mother, but, more than that, I hated the way Chiffon looked at me. I love my sister so much, and seeing her look at me like I'm some kind of monster kills me inside. My love for Chiffon is actually what made me decide not to ally with her. I plan to win the Games no matter what, but having my sister at my side the whole time would just complicate things, especially if I had to save her from someone or (God forbid) kill her myself. By not allying with her, I planned to avoid her for the whole of the Games in the hopes that someone else would kill her before I had to see or do it myself. Out of sight, out of mind.

"How about the boy from District 7?"

Keenan's question snapped me back to the present, and I looked over to where he was pointing at the District 7 male who was practicing his axe throwing with his district partner. He hadn't hit the bull's-eye on the target yet, but there was no denying that the boy had a moderate amount of skill. His good looks and strong, muscled body definitely counted in his favour too. To me, he looked like an excellent candidate for a Career tribute. Well, the best we were going to get out of everyone here anyway.

"I like the look of him," I said, nodding. "We should ask him to join us."

Drake snorted.

"He looks like a stuck up moron," he said arms folding, "and he'd probably turn on us in a second."

"Don't be jealous of him because of his good looks," Keenan jabbed. "Don't count him out just because you don't want to be compared with him when it comes to the ladies."

"I'm not jealous of his good looks!"

"Oh, so you admit he's better looking than you then?"

"Will you two girls quit it," I snapped, glaring at them. "Drake, you're out-voted two to one, so we're going to ask him whether you like it or not."


Keenan shrugged at me as Drake started mumbling something to himself, but the three of us set off towards the District 7 pair anyway. They both looked up as we approached.

"Hi," said Keenan, sticking out his hand for the boy to shake. "I'm Keenan and they are Damask and Drake." He nodded towards us. "We were wondering if you'd be interested in joining our alliance."

The boy's eyes sparked with interest, but he shook Keenan's hand calmly.

"Parker Dubois," he said smoothly, nodding to each of us in turn, "and this is Regina Marks. You make a very interesting proposition. May I ask why?"

"Damask's baby sister and the other girls ditched us," Drake replied, sounding annoyed. "So we figured that we needed some more muscle on our team. You in?"

Parker's eyebrows rose, but he said nothing about the girls.

"Of course," he answered, his voice just as smooth as before, "but on one condition. You accept my friend Regina here into the alliance too."

Drake, Keenan and I all glanced at each other, but it seemed like no one had any complaints about allowing Regina to join us.

"Sure," I said, nodding at Regina. "Welcome to the Careers."

"Lovely to meet you all," said Regina, her voice bored. "Now if you don't mind, we're trying to train here."

"Now, now, Regina, don't be rude," hushed Parker, smiling at us again. "Sorry, what I think she means here is: we're trying to practice our skills so if you don't have any pointers for us, we'd like to train without distractions today so that we can be suitable Careers for your alliance."

"No, what I actually meant was 'fuck off we're busy'."

"Listen here, girl," snapped Drake, pushing his face so close to Regina's that their noses almost touched. "You're lucky that we even asked you to join us! If it wasn't for your district partner here, you would be first on my kill list."

"Yeah?" she shot back. "Well now you're first on my kill list anyway!"

"Please, there's no need to fight," Keenan said calmly, stepping between the two arguing tributes. "Parker, Regina, we'll leave the two of you to it then. See you at lunch."

The three of us turned and walked away, Drake muttering something about how Regina was an ungrateful bitch until Keenan pushed him aside to shut him up.

"Who do you think we should watch out for here?" he asked as Drake stalked away to the nearby sword station. "Besides the girls, I mean."

He made a good point. I actually hadn't given the matter much thought. My mind had been too occupied with thoughts of Chiffon.

"I think the boy from 10 looks the most threatening at the moment," I said, looking at where the boy in question was practicing with a spear. "He looks quite strong, probably from farm work or something."

Keenan nodded. "Yeah, I'll watch out for him." He paused, looking around the room. "What about the kids from 11? They both have victors for parents. What if they've been trained?"

I looked over to where he was pointing. The pink-haired District 11 girl was standing alone at the plants identification station and the boy was practicing sword play not far off.

"The girl has obviously been trained," I observed. "See how she's busy identifying plants? I don't think she'd be doing that on her first day if she didn't already know how to use some weapons." I turned to the boy. "He, on the other hand, hasn't had much training at all. His sword play is decent, which suggests that he's had some practice, but I can tell he hasn't used one recently. He wouldn't be practicing now if he had already mastered it."

"Wow," said Keenan, sounding impressed, "I can't believe you can tell all that just by watching them for a few seconds."

"What can I say? I'm a good observer."

I then turned my attention on Chiffon and her alliance. The three of them were standing at the archery station, taking turns to shoot an arrow at the target. I felt a surge of pride as I saw Chiffon hit a perfect bull's-eye, but I quickly supressed that feeling and looked away. I couldn't have any feelings for my sister anymore. Nothing could get in the way of my victory.

Isaac Hartman, District 3 (18)

I looked down at the two berries in my hand, trying to decide which one would kill me in a heartbeat and which one would provide a lovely meal. They both looked identical to me; a dull bluish colour with a grey tinge, but apparently there was a significant difference that I was supposed to notice. Sighing, I picked up one of the berries and placed it in the 'safe to eat' bowl at the edge at the table.

"Ouch," said a voice behind me. "You've just died a very painful death. Well, painful for the six remaining seconds you were alive anyway."

I spun around.

"Can I help you with-?"

I broke off. There was no one there. Frowning, I turned back to my berries on the table.

"Down here, big foot."

This time, I looked down when I turned around. Standing behind me, with a wide grin on her face, was the small, pink-haired girl from District 11.

"Penny," she said happily, sticking out her hand. "You're Isaac, right?"

"Yeah," I said slowly, frowning again in confusion and I shook her tiny hand. "Why?"

"Oh, I just think we should be allies."

Allies? Wow that little girl sure liked it forward.

"Why?" I blurted out again.

Pensyla laughed.

"Because you clearly need my help," she replied, raising her eyebrows at the berries in my hand, "and I think I could probably use your help too. We could help each other."

"No offense," I replied, "but I'm not sure a 13-year-old would be much help to me in the Hunger Games. And how could I possibly help you? You've seen how useless I am at this kind of thing."

The district 11 girl looked put out.

"My daddy's a victor, moron," she said, folding her arms. "Do you really think that he'd let me live my life untrained when there's a chance that I might be reaped? I don't think so. And as for you helping me; have you seen yourself? You might be a bit on the skinny side, but you're easily the tallest tribute in here!" She sighed. "Look," she continued, "I'm pretty small. There's going to be a giant target on my back from the moment the Games start. People might have second thoughts about going after me if I was allied with a big guy like you. Plus, I can teach you how to defend yourself."

Huh. She certainly made a good point. Maybe allying with the kid wouldn't be a bad idea.

"Alright, I guess that makes sense," I said with a shrug. "Welcome to the team!"

Pensyla's little face broke into a grin.

"Awesome!" she exclaimed, her brown eyes lighting up. "Now onto the berries!" She reached down and plucked the berry out of the 'safe' bowl that I'd previously placed it in. "See how the bottom end of this berry points slightly to the left?" she asked, holding it up to my face so I could see it. "The kind that isn't poisonous points straight down."

I took the berry from her fingers and compared it with its almost identical counterpart on the table. She was entirely right. The berries were exactly the same in size and colouring, but the bottom tip of the one was angled left while the other one wasn't. It was very subtle, but now that I'd seen it, it was obviously there.

"Clever," I said, smiling. "Thanks for saving my life there."

"No problem," she laughed in reply. "You'll have time to repay me in the arena."

We turned back to the table so Pensyla could show me some more plants, but before we could get to the berry section, the door to the Training Centre opened loudly. Looking up, I caught sight of a girl who could only be Rebecca Deryl from District 6, although she looked very different to the glossy image of herself that she was during the tribute parade. Her light brown hair had lost most of its shine and was tied back into a messy ponytail which hung limply down her back. Her blue, almond shaped eyes that were once bright with -probably forced- awe during her chariot ride were now dull and empty looking, pointed downwards at the floor as she entered the room. Her district partner jogged over to her with a concerned look on his face, but Rebecca just pushed him aside.

"I wonder what happened to her this morning," Pensyla mused, watching as Ky went after Rebecca in an attempt to talk to her.

"Apparently she attacked their escort," a female voice said behind us. "Well, that's what Ky said anyway."

Pensyla and I turned in unison to see the girls from Districts 9 and 10 standing behind us, also watching Ky's attempts to talk to Rebecca.

"No one has any idea why she did that though," continued the girl from Nine, "but it's very worrying."

The girl from Ten snorted.

"Yeah, sure," she said, rolling her eyes. "I bet you that the Gamemakers actually love it because it will make the Games more interesting if one of the tributes is clinically insane. She'd probably murder her allies in their sleep."

"You know we're here allies, right? We made a deal with Ky about it."

"Oh, yeah…I'm starting to think that's not such a good idea…"

"Well that would make life a bit easier for us," I mumbled to Penny, who giggled behind her hand.

The two girls looked up sharply.

"You know we can hear you," the girl from Ten snapped, glaring at us, "and I don't think it's funny at all!"

"Calm down, Sahara," sighed the District 9 girl. "He was joking." She looked up at me quizzically. "I think."

"Oh, yes," I said quickly, not wanting to make any enemies, "of course. It was just in poor taste, that's all."

"Yeah, I'll say," muttered Sahara, walking around her ally to stand beside me at the table. She pointed to the berry in my hand. "So this one is safe to eat?"

"No," I replied, shaking my head. "See how its tip points sideways? The safe one doesn't."

Sahara took the berry from my hand and compared it to the one on the table.

"I don't see it," she said, frowning. "Looks exactly the same to me." She turned to her friend. "Ray, this is stupid."

Ray sighed. "It's not stupid. It might save your life one day."

"Doubt it," Sahara scoffed in reply, dropping the two berries back onto the table. "Berries are stupid. Come on; let's go to that station we passed earlier where the District 12 kids were learning how to make things. I think they're gone now."

She grabbed Ray's hand and pulled her away. Ray smiled at us in goodbye, but eventually turned to follow her ally away. I watched them go, thinking that, although they both seemed like two really nice girls, I didn't want to ally with either of them. It wasn't as if I didn't like them (I certainly didn't want to be the one to kill them), but rather more that I didn't trust them. To be honest, I didn't really trust anyone. I had learned early in life that no one can truly be trusted, no matter how much you wanted to rely on them. First it was George; the man that showed me that being able to father a child didn't make you a dad. He screwed around with half the women in District 3 before leaving my mother for a 20-something slut three years ago, making my mother go slightly crazy and become the second person on my list of people that can't be trusted. And now Alan had been added to the list too.

Alan. My heart ached just thinking about him, and I had to turn away from Pensyla to hide the tears that had unwelcomely welled up in my eyes. When I declared my love to my best friend, I never expected for him to love me back. No, Alan is, and will always be, straight despite how much I wished that could change. What I didn't see coming, however, was his reaction to my confession. I expected him to be a bit shocked, but then calmly explain to me why we could never be together. I thought he was my best friend and that he loved me, but clearly he didn't care about me enough to see pass the fact that I was gay. I had never expected him to lash out at me the way he did.

I sighed and looked back down at the berries on the table. It's not like Alan's reaction mattered much anymore. I'd be dead soon anyway.

Ky Jacobs, District 6 (17)

I knocked quietly on the bathroom door, holding my breath until I heard the faint voice from within.

"Come in."

I slowly pushed open the door and walked cautiously into the room. Rebecca was sitting in the large bath-tub, her arms wound tightly around her legs that were half submerged in the steaming water. She turned to look at me as I entered, her long brown hair fanning out in the water behind her as she moved her head.

I blushed and looked away quickly.

"Sorry," I stammered, staring at the wall above the basin. "I didn't realise you were still busy. I thought you were out already."

Rebecca laughed bitterly. "It's not like you haven't already seen me like this."

I felt my face redden further.

"I wish I could change that," I replied. "You know I do! I wish it never happened."

"Why? Was I really that bad?"

"No!" I said quickly, my face growing hotter and hotter. "It wasn't bad at all! I mean, you weren't bad. You were good. More than good! Great actually." My face was burning scarlet now and, even though I knew I should stop talking, I just kept on going. "But not 'great' as in 'I really enjoyed myself great', more like you 'knew what you were doing' 'great'. Like you have lots of experience." I flushed immediately, realising what I'd just said. "Not that I'm suggesting you've been doing that for long! No, it's more like-"

Then the most surprising thing happened. Rebecca started to giggle. I promptly broke off, listening to her laugh a laugh that I had never expected to hear. It was beautiful and sincere in a lovely, crystal-clear sort of way, like all her worries seemed to have vanished in that instant and nothing seemed to matter anymore except for that laugh. I relaxed, breathing out a small sigh of relief as I listened to her giggles subside.

"Just stop before you dig yourself into a hole," she chuckled, shifting her whole body around to face me. "I was joking about me being bad." She grinned. "I know I'm good."

I blushed again, causing Rebecca to burst into laughter.

"You look so awkward right now," she giggled, her blue eyes sparkling with a kind of glee that I'd never expected to see from her. "Is this a difficult subject for you to talk about?"

"A bit," I admitted. "Isn't this weird for you?"

Rebecca grew serious.

"I'm a prostitute, Ky," she said with a sigh. "I see my clients around the district sometimes. This is no different to that."

"Yes, it is! At home you can avoid them, but here…" My voice trailed off, not knowing how to finish my sentence. What could I say? But here we have to see each other every day while we train to kill? But here we have to see each other while we learn how to survive? But here we have to see each other before we eventually have to kill each other? Somehow none of those options fitted what I wanted to say.

Rebecca sighed again. "I know," she said, looking sad, "and that's something I wish I could change."

"Me too."

We fell silent; Rebecca's eyes trained down on the cooling bath-water before her while mine studied her with interest. She looked so different to the blood crazed girl this morning who had attacked our escort over breakfast.

"I guess you're wondering what happened this morning," Rebecca said suddenly, posing it as a statement rather than a question.

"A bit," I confessed. "I just want to know what made you do what you did."

Rebecca closed her eyes. "It's difficult to explain," she said quietly, "but I'll try my best anyway."

"You don't have to if you don't want to," I said quickly. "I understand if it's not something that you want to talk about."

"I do want to," she replied, smiling sadly up at me. "It's something you should probably know anyway." She paused, her blue eyes looking pained. "I was never the same after Lexi's death," she continued, closing her eyes again. "We were very close, and watching her die during the 49th Games took its toll on me."

She stopped speaking again, keeping her eyes closed as she ran her hand through a strand of her wet hair. I kept quiet, not wanting to interrupt her story.

"Her death was very bloody," she went on. "Sierra Golding from District 2 cut her up pretty badly. I remember that blood so clearly." She shivered and stopped speaking again. "When I see blood now, it reminds me of what happened to Lexi," she explained. "It triggers something inside of me and turns me into someone I'm not. This morning, Harmony spilled some of his breakfast wine on the table. It looked like blood to me, which caused me to snap. That's why I attacked him." She sighed. "It's really hard to explain as I don't understand it myself, but that's the truth."

"I understand what you're trying to say," I replied, wanting to reach out and stroke her hair to try to comfort her. "I'm sorry Lexi had to die like that."

"I still wish it was me instead. It should have been, you know?"

I did know. I remembered how Lexi had volunteered for Rebecca two years ago, and I couldn't help thinking about just how different our lives would have been if Lexi had never volunteered to save her cousin.

"Well, I'm glad that I now have the chance to know you."

Rebecca smiled up at me again, that same sincere look that she'd displayed when she'd laughed earlier present in her blue eyes again.

"Me too."

Wow, I didn't realise how long this chapter was until I'd finished writing it...I hope you all enjoyed it anyway!

I'd also just like to take a moment to do some shameless advertising.

1. My dear friend and Beta Reader, Aspect of one, has just published a new SYOT and is in need of tributes. If you're interested in submitting, you can find her profile under my list of favourite authors. I know that a lot of you are very creative when it comes to creating tributes (since you've given me such lovely ones!) so I really hope that you chose to submit to her.

2. I'm also excited to announce that I'm participating in a collaboration story! It's called "Reality Shift" and is about the very first Capitol Games after the rebellion. I'm writing the character of Deimos Wake, the Capitol boy representing District 13 and I would greatly appreciate it if you guys checked out the story. The profile it's published on is called The Head Gamemakers and you can find it under my list o favourite authors. We have some really talented authors on board so it looks like an exciting read!

Thanks for reading this chapter (and the long AN).

Question: Which of the tributes (in the 49th and 51st Games) would you choose to ally with?