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Lady of the Lake: Behind the Scenes

Chapter Text

"She's trying to kill me!"

The door had just opened to allow Mags into the District 4 control room, leaving the reception hall where Sponsors of the District 4 Tributes could gather, eat fine food and wine and discuss the Tributes they were sponsoring. She had seen up on the screens, situated throughout the opulent room that Sky had managed to drag Cato all the way back to her Cave.

Darrien was in the lake at the moment, slathering mud on his stingers and listening to the girl from 2 growling about all the disembowelling she would do when she got her hands on the girl from 12.

Mags discreetly excused herself from the reception and headed back into the actual control room, where Finnick was pacing up and down, raking his fingers through his bronze hair.

"Do you see?" he pointed dramatically at the screen before him, where Sky got Cato settled before heading back out into the world, "She took him HOME with her? Like he was an injured puppy! HE IS NOT AN INJURED PUPPY!"

He threw himself down into his chair and let his head fall on his arms, cushioned on the desk with a thump. A dramatic fake sob left him and Mags rolled her eyes.

"Stop that." She scolded him, "You knew she didn't have the killer instinct."

"There is killer instinct and then there is taking the killer instinct personified home with you," Finnick wails, one hand coming up to flail wildly once more. Mags discreetly removed the mug of coffee from next to him. He'd go crazier if he spilt coffee all over his controls and wasn't able to do anything.

"She's safe for the moment." Mags soothed, patting his head lightly, "Besides, the boy fancies her. He won't kill her now."

"But she'll have given away her hideout!" Finnick moaned, "Do you know how perfect that cave is for her? Seriously?"

"I know Finnick, but she's being Sky. You can't expect her to act like someone else now."

"I was hoping that red head would rub off on her." Finnick sat up, glaring at the screen again where his Tribute was listening in on the Careers talking about Cato, "She's so practical it hurts."

"Stop that." Mags flicked his ear gently, "You did not think that. Sky is who she is and you love that about her. You'd be sad if she became all mercenary."

"She's killing me Mags…" Finnick turned his best puppy eyes on her, "I'm going to go grey like you, before my time."

"You're a overgrown child Finnick Odair." She flicked him once more, "And a bratty one at that. Now…go away and find some sponsors to help your Tribute. I think her move got quite a bit of attention…people were entering the hall when I was leaving."

"You're so mean to me." Finnick stood and moved away as Mags took her seat in front of Darrien's panel, watching her Tribute and the one from 1 kissing gently. Finnick watched for a moment too and then he kissed the top of Mags head, "Call me if anything happens."

And then he headed out to the reception hall.


You're killing me here sweet cheeks. If he kills you I'm never talking to you again. Keep him warm – F

"She's right," Mags informed him, amused despite herself, "You are still a complete ass."

"I hate you both." Finnick drawled back, watching Sky gently wrap Cato up in her blanket, "But I hope she knows what she's doing…"

The two mentors sit in silence, just watching their Tributes, waiting for something to unfold.

Chapter Text

It's Marvel who spots the smoke curling up above the trees.

"Hey guys! Guys! Look," his voice breaks my concentration, and I look up from my task.

I'd noticed that morning that my long knife was getting blunter, and since the Gamemakers had been so kind to provide a whetstone, I found little reason for it to remain that way. So I'm sharpening it, except now I can see the thick smoke in the clear sky.

Instantly our group rushes around, gathering weapons and gear before assembling, a bright eyed pack of hunters, ready to go looking for the prey, so foolish to attract attention.

The others bicker over the boy from 3, Marvel wants him to stay put and guard but Cato says the whole point of the booby trap is to be able to leave the camp unguarded.

I tune them out, watching the smoke with a small frown.

Why a fire? Why now in the middle of the day? It doesn't make sense, but it's still worth checking out I suppose.

"Darrien," Marvel nudges me and I blink, realising the pack is moving. I fall into step beside him and smile slightly at his eagerness, "Cato says it's my turn, when we find the Tribute." Marvel boasts, bounding eagerly beside me, "You'll get to see me in action."

I chuckle.

"I've seen you in action remember? The bloodbath?"

"That's different," Marvel waves a hand, "This time, you'll get to admire what I'm doing. Who do you reckon it is anyway?"

Anyone but Sky, I think, stomach clenching, anyone but her. I wouldn't be able to stand by and watch Marvel spear Sky. But Sky isn't so foolish, not to light a fire with that much smoke.

"No idea man," I shrug, "Maybe the little girl from 11?"

"Ergh, that's no fun." Marvel pulls a face, "I hope it's 12, either of them. That'd be a good kill."

I wasn't going to dispute that, at least not in regards to the Girl on Fire. Those Tracker-Jackers had hurt like hell. I wouldn't mourn her loss.

I'd be a little more wary about killing Peeta though. He'd been pack…until he chose the girl he loved over us.

I could understand. Sky isn't the love of my life, she's my sister, but I'd choose her too if Cato was standing over her, ready to kill her.

The pace picks up as we approach the fire, until we tumble out into a clearing, to be faced with a large fire, built up and lit.

"What the fuck?" Cato mutters, saying what we're all thinking, as he walks forward.

My instincts are jangling.

It's a set up, a trap.

There is a lot of green there on that fire, it was meant to smoke, which means someone wanted us here…lured away…

From camp.

"Fuck…" I hiss and turn on my heel bolting back towards the camp, ignoring Marvel's confused call of my name or Cato's shout.

I know I'm right, and soon enough they'll figure it out too and then they'll be behind me. But I have to get there first.

What if it's Sky…?

I have a head start and I'm naturally faster than the others, especially over distance. Cato's too heavy, Marvel too easily distracted, and Clove is a sprinter. I have time…I have to have time.

I break into the clearing and my gut lurches because there she is, my Sky, hovering at the edge of the ring of mines.

She's turning, swinging around, to run across the clearing, but she hasn't seen me yet, she doesn't know the danger she's in.

If they see her they'll hunt her down! I can't let that happen!

"Sky!" I shout, waving at her wildly, twisting around to look back at the forest behind me, and checking to see if I can see the Careers "Go! Go!"

If they see her they'll hunt her, unless I can hold them off. Like Peeta did for his girl. So I keep running, running towards her.

But Sky has skidded to a stop and instead of sprinting out of sight, she's twisting, looking around, looking terrified.

"No!" she screams it, stumbling towards me, her arm reaching out as though to ward something off and then pain punches into my left side, my shoulder, my chest. The world spins and I reach out, finding the ground as the pain flares. I push up, blinking through the sensation to try and find Sky.

To find who shot the arrow through my shoulder.

Glimmer had the bow…which means…

"DARRIEN!"

I can't finish the thought, as suddenly I'm blasted back off my feet, hitting the grass and hard earth with a whump. For a second I'm dazed, and then…

It's agony, blinding hot agony and I scream. I scream as loud as I can, even though the sound is murky in my ears. I can't see, I can't feel anything other than the sheer lightning pain that burns through me, that sears through my body.

I can't take this!

I don't know how long it is, how many scorching pain heartbeats it takes before Sky, battered, bruised Sky, her arms red raw with burns and her face wet with tears, suddenly appears above me. She's crying, wrenching sobs that shake her frame as her hands smooth my hair, brush my cheeks.

"Darrien," I can barely hear her, "Darrien…"

I try to focus, try to find the words when suddenly another face looms above me and Sky rears back, slashing out like a wildcat, a frightened, hurt animal, trapped. Cato just looks at her, his face unreadable, but he doesn't reach for his sword, even as her eyes well with tears once more, the knife falling from nerveless fingers.

And then suddenly someone else is there, and it's Marvel, my Marvel, pale and drawn but Marvel…he's here.

His hands cup my face, the hazel green eyes fevered as he clutches at me.

""You can't leave me like this," Marvel sounds tortured, tears leaking down his cheeks as he grits his teeth furiously, trying to hold it in, "You can't leave me here like this Darrien! You promised!" His voice breaks on the 'promised' unable to hide the pain that he's feeling, the agony of impending loss. "You promised!"

Everything is clearing, even the pain is numbing and I take a moment to glance down.

I wish I hadn't…but the huge, sharp chunk of metal that has destroyed my stomach is cold and final.

I'm dying.

"It's a promise…I can't keep." I say it softly, amazed by how calm it sounds, "Marvel…"

"No." He's feverish, determined as he looks up into the sky, screaming up at the sponsors, the people watching "No! I'll save you. I'll do anything! Please!"

Nothing happens, not even a breath of wind and Marvel's face, his beloved face, crumples.

"Please…" he whispers brokenly.

"Marvel… it was never going to work…" I force my arm to move, to hold his arm gently.

"Don't say that…" his mouth finds mine, the sweet taste of him familiar and comforting, even as I know that soon enough comfort won't matter anymore, "Don't say that, I'm going to save you."

"Cato…" I know he's still here, and sure enough, the next second he's there, handsome face set in lines of stone, "Cato…I need to speak to Sky…take him away from here…please…."

"No! Darrien!" I can hear them fighting as Cato hauls him away, and I have to look away, to look at Sky, who is still shaking with the force of her tears. She looks wretched, torn apart, and I force myself to smile, to try and comfort her.

My poor Sky.

I wish she hadn't had to see this.

"Sweet Sky…"

"Please don't go…" her voice is choked, thick, "Please Darrien…."

It hurts, knowing that I'm abandoning her now, now when she needs me most.

"I've…protected you…as best I could. I just…wanted you to be safe."

A cough wracks through me, and pain blossoms, sharp and ugly. There is darkness now, faintly at the rims of my vision.

"I am…Darrien I…" she is trying to gather herself, but she can't and tears flow down her cheeks again.

Gently I tug her down, and she understands, as she always does, cuddling into me, fitting against me perfectly, like Marvel did. My two loves….I'm abandoning them both.

"Come here," I kiss her hair and smile sadly, breathing in the scent of her hair. She smells like water…"You're the sister I always wish I'd had."

"You're my brother. The best brother I could ever want. Darrien…"

My throat closes up and I know I have to tell her, to let her know how I feel, so she knows I'll always be with her, caring.

"I love you…I always will Sky…" but I can't go on, the cough returning and making my vision swim. I can't die yet, I haven't…I need… "Marvel…."

"Marvel!" Sky's voice calls out, and my heart clenches in gratefulness to her. Even now, even now in the end, she knows…she understands.

"Darrien!" Marvel's mouth finds mine again, and it's like being grounded, stopped from floating away, which is all I want right now. But I have to…I have to say goodbye.

"Come on," I hear distantly, aware vaguely of Cato lifting Sky, carrying her away. For a moment my eyes meet his, and I see the way he holds her, careful, gentle.

And it's now, in the end that I understand.

He will protect her.

Then they are gone, and I can focus on Marvel, my Marvel. Gently I press a leather band into his hands.

It's simple, barely even worth keeping, it's so worn. But my father gave it to me, and the ring looped there, it's my mothers.

"Here," I cough again, and I feel wetness dribble out of my mouth and Marvel gently wiping it away, "Please…take this."

"I can't take your token…" Marvel's face crumples, "You're not going to die."

"You know…that's not true."

"Darrien," he looks stubborn, but I know…I know…the darkness is closing around me.

"I love you," I whisper, closing my eyes, "I love you so much…thank you…"

"Don't…" he chokes it out, "Don't…"

"Marvel…please….the metal…?"

He didn't study the survival stations. And I feel bad for tricking him.

He doesn't know that when he pulls it out…I'll bleed out in less than half a minute.

I feel it slide out of me, and then Marvel's lips find mine.

"Is that better?" he asks me, as the darkness closes in.

I feel my lips curl up in a smile, "May the waves carry you home Marvel…." I whisper, and then…

I know no more.

Chapter Text

It was her baby brother's wedding day.

It had been a beautiful ceremony, even she could admit that, and Cato looked genuinely happy standing up there, holding his bride's hand and reciting his vows. She was happy for him, despite what he might think, and she did want him to be happy generally, despite what others might think.

The thing was, Cato was almost ten years younger than her. He'd only just been beginning his Tribute training when she was standing for her chance to be a Tribute. She remembered him as an intense, frowning little baby. It was hard to reconcile the memory of her bratty little brother, and the man standing there being married.

And then she had to remind herself that yes, he was young, but he'd seen and done things that aged him, matured him, beyond his years. In some ways the Games had even been good for him. Although she was sure that that was in large part down to the young woman standing beside him.

With the Hunger Games hanging over everyone, people tended to marry young, reminded of their mortality by watching other people your age, and younger, being slaughtered in droves every year. The comfort of another living being was something craved, and she could understand that.

The problem was that most men found a woman like her…well, they didn't exactly look at her and think, 'that's the mother of my heirs'. And most of the time she was fucking thankful they didn't! She was never going to be a good housewife, or someone who tended to domestic things.

District 2 valued strength, but men liked to feel protective and dominant, especially District 2 men, especially District 2 men that trained as Tributes. Cato was an excellent example of that. And his affection for Sky…well…no one was ever going to say Deccia was like Sky. Sky was…unusual.

Anyway basically it boiled down to the fact most guys were scared as fuck of her.

Whatever, bunch of pussies really. All 'I'm a man hooah' and waving their swords around like feather dusters. Show them someone with a pair of breasts however, and who can kick their ass, and they run off…their little dicks all shrivelled up with fright.

Pathetic.

"Fuck I'm feeling all hormonal and shit," she griped to Enobaria sitting beside her, and the other woman smirked faintly, "Weddings are evil."

"Feeling your age?" Enobaria teased arching one dark brow at her friend. "How do you think I feel? Cato's a puppy, and I'm even older than you for god's sake."

"Three years," Deccia reminded her chuckling softly, "Just three years."

"Whatever, I'm on the other side of thirty to you. And I have these," she tapped her sharpened, dagger like teeth. They did give her a bit of a feral look, Deccia had to admit, "Most guys piss themselves if I smile at them."

"Maybe they think you'll eat them if they shag you," Deccia pointed out, "All black widow style."

"Tempting…" Enobaria drawled, but was interrupted from continuing by Haymitch Abernathy flopping down into the seat beside Deccia.

"You mean men aren't drawn to your sparkling personality Enobaria?" he gave her an insincere smile, "I'm stunned. Floored." He then looked at Deccia and nodded, "2."

"Beanstalk," Deccia greeted back, and Enobaria rolled her eyes.

"And on that note…before you two decide to drink the entire party dry. I'm getting a bottle of wine."

The two of them watched her go, Haymitch a little more mournfully than Deccia, as he sipped the drink in his hand. A drink that looked suspiciously like water…

"Peeta's banned me from drinking," he muttered, at her questioning look "The kid's a menace. Has me running, jumping, leaping and lunging like I'm supposed to be a kid again. Katniss too. Although I don't think she's feeling the booze ban like I am."

That was surprising; she'd always thought the bread boy was a bit of a pushover. Nice to hear there was a bit of spunk somewhere under those big, blue eyes.

She could respect him getting his fellow Victors in shape. Especially with the Quell looming.

"I'm sure you'll thank him if that Trinkett woman calls you up to dance on Reaping day."

"If my name is called, the kid will volunteer." Haymitch pulled an unhappy face, "He's determined to protect her…"

No need to say just who 'her' was.

Deccia wrinkled her nose; she didn't like Katniss, even if Sky seemed to have forgiven her. The girl would always be Catpiss, or Cato's nickname, Bitch on Fire, to her. Either one was fine.

"And what if his name is called?" She asked, glancing at Haymitch, "You going to return the favour Beanstalk?"

"Reckon so." He shrugged, "He has good points for wanting her safe. But she has good points too, about protecting him. Helping him win."

More surprises!

"She wants him to win?" Deccia whistled, "Seriously? She doesn't even know it's not a real Games yet."

"Katniss is the master of self delusion." Haymitch snorted, "She thinks she doesn't care for the kid. But everything she does…"

"Fuck sometimes she reminds me of Cato." Deccia muttered, rolling her eyes, "Sans psychopathic temper."

Haymitch snorted again and Deccia reached down into her bag, drawing out a small flask.

"Here," She slipped it into his hand, "It's a party."

"I love the way you think."

"Yeah, yeah. Shut the fuck up, drink and pass it over. Don't even think of guzzling it all for yourself."

Together they sat there, sipping occassionally from the flask and enjoyed the companionable silence.


It was the end of the night, everyone was making their way home, and Deccia along with Haymitch were heading to Finnick's house, trudging along the sandy road towards the Victors Village.

"How do they live like this?" Haymitch groaned, kicking a spray of sand into the air, "It gets everywhere!"

Deccia chuckled dryly, "It makes their feet all soft you barbarian. It's worth it for the baby feet."

"Shut up," he laughed, a raspy chuckle that made her grin, "If the mud in 12 hasn't made my feet perfect by now then I'm just destined to have manly feet."

"I'm surprised you don't have the ladies of 12 swooning at your door," She mocked, nudging him slightly, "Soft, baby feet are such a turn on."

"Fuck I hope not…" he barked another raspy laugh, "None of the women in 12 really do it for me."

That made her arch an eyebrow, and whistle at him.

"Fuck are you picky? You, you greasy beanstalk?"

"I'm a catch," he waggled a finger at her; "Don't you go thinking I haven't had offers sweetheart. Ladies swoon when they see me coming. I'm the Finnick Odair of District 12."

"They pass out even before they smell your breath?" Deccia retorted and laughed as Haymitch swiped at her playfully, "So offers huh? Why didn't you accept?"

"Life's tough in 12," Haymitch shrugged, "They saw me as an easy way out of the poverty. After that…my drinking would probably be a cakewalk in comparison."

"Tch," Deccia snorted, "Nothing like the scent of desperation."

"One of your perfumes my dear?"

"Fuck you." Deccia growled, bristling despite herself. Sure she'd been a little maudlin earlier, but it was allowed dammit, "I can kick any man's ass to District 12 and back. And that includes you."

"Just means you need a real man to handle you." Haymitch chuckled dryly, "Not arrogant pups like you breed in 2."

"Oh and you could handle me?"

Fuck…were they flirting?

Haymitch smirked and stopped walking, turning back to face her before slowly sauntering forward, backing her up against the rough wooden fence behind her. Automatically her fists came up, and he laughed, a throaty laugh, before he put his hands on hers, gently pushing them down.

"Fists down sweetheart, you can use your talons later."

"Fuck you," she breathed, before his lips met hers.

It was unlike any kiss she'd ever had, and sure she'd had a few, even if no one had stuck around after the fun ended. She'd had hesitant kisses, dry kisses, over enthusiastic kisses, and one kiss that had reminded her of a washing machine.

You know…transfer all the spit from his mouth to yours and then swirl the tongue around and around until your lips and chin were slobbery? Yeah she'd had that. And it was fucking unpleasant.

Haymitch's kiss was like him. A little acerbic, and on the slightly rougher side, which she kind of liked. He tasted like the sweet fruits they'd eaten, the tang of the illicit alcohol she'd given him, and the warm taste of the seafood. He was tall too, so they were level, and he was unapologetic.

He wanted. She wanted.

"Have I mentioned," he muttered against her mouth, "That I like not having to bend in half to talk or kiss you, you harpy?"

"Right back at you, you muckraking miscreant."

"Feisty." He grinned against her mouth.

"Want to see how feisty?" She asked daringly, tilting her head proudly, "I'm a wildcat."

"How can I resist a challenge like that?" he kissed her again, and the two of them started stumbling towards the Village again, "I know just the bed to pet you sweetheart."

It made her laugh, a husky, but honest laugh and he dragged her over under a willow tree beside the road.

They eventually made it back to Finnick's house, and Haymitch's bed.

But not for many hours yet.

Chapter Text

It's night, and the anthem has long ago faded from the sky, taking with it the face of the girl from 5, Foxface.

Peeta is asleep beside me, curled around me, his breaths deep and even apart from the occasional little hitch of breath. No one can sleep wholly, soundly in the Games. To do so would be to invite disaster, to invite death.

Laziness could kill as easily as hunger, or a spear.

But that wasn't the reason sleep eluded me. Tomorrow Peeta and I would have to go out there, searching for Cato, Cato and Sky, the girl from District 4.

For a moment I let myself consider her, this girl who has made it to the final 4 Tributes living, two deaths away from being a Victor, alongside the monstrous boy from 2.

As far as I know she hasn't killed any Tributes, she hasn't gone hunting for competitors, and she hasn't even left other Tributes to die, when she finds them compromised.

Peeta told me about her helping him after the Tracker Jackers, of how she bandaged his leg with the insulation from her jacket, compromising her wellbeing to tend to an enemy's wound. He told me of how she had been there that first night, with the fool girl from 8 who lit the fire. She hadn't been able to kill her, not even to put her out of her misery.

As far as being a threat goes, she pales in comparison to Cato. When the time comes, she'll hesitate, waver. She's never had to deal with death.

She's not sly like Foxface, not cunning or particularly clever. She doesn't slide in and out of sight, or stay invisible to her competitors. And yet somehow Foxface is dead and Sky still lives.

She doesn't have the brute strength of Thresh, tall, solid boy, capable of smashing someone's skull in. She can't even fight. And yet, Thresh died days ago, and Sky yet lives.

She hasn't got Clove's killer instincts, her accuracy or her desire to kill. She hasn't got a Career bone in her body, but somehow she has survived.

But for some reason Cato is allied to her. The ruthless killer from 2, and the bleeding heart from 4.

He's been playing to win, this whole Games has been about him playing to win. In the beginning it was all just easy, a game, but now, now he knows he has to fight for it. It'll be two on two…but his partner isn't the sly Foxface, brutish Thresh or sadistic Clove. No, his partner…is Sky.

So really it's good news for Peeta and I. It's practically 2 on 1.

For a moment I let my thoughts linger on Sky, on the well meaning girl from Training, the girl frozen on the edge of the supply piles, her green eyes meeting mine down the line of the arrow. On the girl who came flying out of the bushes and soothed the boy from 1, the boy who killed an innocent little girl, to die peacefully. Who advised me to find Peeta.

I don't know why I didn't shoot her then, when she came hurtling out of the forest into the clearing, dashing past me, ignoring the arrow pointed at her. She'd run straight to the boy from 1, crying, soothing, stroking his cheeks. She'd cradled Rue's murderer to his dying breath, and then she'd left him, respectfully laid out, holding a spear, his weapon.

I'd have left him there in a heap. He didn't deserve her care. Not when he killed little Rue.

I don't know how many times I watched her, sighted down the line of an arrow, just waiting to loose it, to end her life. But each time something held me back.

Even when facing off at the Cornucopia, Feast bags in our hands. I could have attacked. Would have won. Would have killed her. But…

Sky.

If there were a way, a way that Peeta and I could win, without having to kill her off, we would. Peeta likes her, he saw her today, he told me all about it, and he didn't kill her.

And she didn't kill him. She didn't even try to, didn't even look like she was going to try to. But it doesn't change anything.

Tomorrow we have to seek them out, her and her rabid dog, and put them down.

I'm so close to the end, to getting out of here, to seeing Prim again. So close to escaping this nightmare, Peeta by my side.

Sky is an obstacle to that. And when you look at it like that, that she is between me and my sister, my life back in 12, there is only one thing to do.

She's the enemy, sweet as she may be, she's the enemy. She's an obstacle. She's a weakness, a chink in Cato's armour to exploit, to use to win. So…we get Cato…kill him off first. He's dangerous, lethal, and far too cunning. He dies, and then Peeta and I are practically Victors.

Just Sky left.

And so…she has to die.

Chapter Text

The night air was completely still.

It was almost unnerving, Darrien thought, fidgeting a little as he tugged his jacket close about himself, trying to preserve his body's heat. The real world was never so still, not outside the Arena. Back home there were constant little eddies of air, breezes, the smell of the sea...But here it was completely still. Unnaturally still.

It meant you could never forget that you were in a perfectly controlled little bubble and that everything that happened, was meant to happen.

Including the cold.

He huffed another sigh and shifted from one foot to another before a soft voice broke into his reverie.

"Cold?"

The dark haired boy glanced up in surprise, taking in the sight of Marvel with his sleep ruffled light brown hair and tired hazel green eyes standing a short distance away, a smile on his mouth, and his favoured spear clutched firmly in his hand. He was leaning against it, a crooked little grin curling up his lips and Darrien found himself smiling back.

"Hey you," he greeted the other boy and shuffled over on the log to make room for the other to drop down beside him, "And yeah…it's bloody freezing out here."

"Remember what they said," Marvel gusted a sigh and propped a hand on his fist, "About the whole exposure thing? This is their way of subtly thinning the herd."

"It's not exactly a big herd at this point," Darrien pointed out dryly, "Glimmer's dead, Cato's missing and Fire Girl has vanished with Lover Boy."

"Not to mention your Sky is out there somewhere," Marvel observed, shooting him a sly look, taking in the quick look of discomfort on Darrien's face, "What? She is…and frankly I'm surprised she's lasted this long. Thought she was a bit useless…"

"She's not useless," Darrien snapped and then blinked when Marvel just chuckled, "What?"

"I know that now idiot," Marvel nudged his shoulder, "She's alive isn't she? And no one's seen hide nor hair of her since the Bloodbath, not even Cato…and he was the one who wanted her dead."

"Mmm…" Darrien frowned, "Yeah…"

"What?" Marvel nudged him again, "What? You have that look on your face."

"What look?"

"The 'I'm not sure if I should trust this nosy Career with my secrets' look."

Darrien snorted softly, "I think having that look is fair enough."

"Well yeah," Marvel leaned forward, catching his gaze, "But we're friends. Right? I mean…you're my friend…"

There was something hesitant in the other young man's voice, something slightly vulnerable, and Darrien looked at him properly. He did trust Marvel, despite his common sense bawling that it was a terrible idea. His brain said he was being idiotic…but his gut…his gut said to trust him.

"I trust you," He said softly, and heard Marvel inhale softly, "I know that that's probably stupid but…"

"Good…I mean…I'm glad…" Marvel smiled at him, tentative, "I trust you too, you know? More than anyone here. You're the first…you see me. Me as me…for me. I just…this fucking sucks you know." He ran a hand through his hair, "I mean if I hadn't met you here…in a fucking Hunger Games I would…I would've…"

"What?" Darrien glanced at him and was surprised to see a flush to Marvel's cheeks, "Marvel…what?"

"I would've…well…I probably would have given you a courting gift."

Darrien blinked, "A…what now?"

"A courting gift? You know like a bracelet or ring, or piece of jewelry or something…a token to express interest in someone…you know….don't you do that in 4?"

"No," he shook his head, but his mind was caught on Marvel's words, "You want…you want to…with me? Really? I just thought we were having fun..."

"Yeah I know…stupid right?" Marvel gave a little laugh, "You're so far out of my league, I mean you probably had your pick of…"

"Marvel," Darrien interrupted him, rolling his eyes, "Shut up. Surely you know by now I'd have said yes."

"You…what?" hazel green eyes blinked at him, completely poleaxed, "You…with me?"

"Yeah…idiot."

Marvel stared at him and then lunged in to give him a kiss.

It was far from the nicest kiss Darrien had ever had, in fact it wasn't even the nicest kiss he'd had with Marvel to date. Marvel was a little too enthusiastic, a little too rough in his initial gestures, but the fact that it was Marvel, and the way they both kind of relaxed into it, made him think that he'd rather have this kiss, with this man, than all the others he'd ever had combined.

"Oh gross!" Someone exclaimed and then suddenly something whumped into their heads, "Get a room you numbnuts."

Both of them turned, Marvel scowling, to see Clove rolling her eyes at them.

"What was that for?" the boy from District 1 whined, rubbing his head.

"You're supposed to be on watch!" Clove reminded them, "Or rather Darrien is, and you're distracting him with your tongue down his throat."

Darrien flushed but Marvel scowled at her, "Shut up, we're allowed to kiss if we want to."

"Not on watch," She pegged something else at him, hitting him squarely on the forehead and sending him tumbling off the log with a yelp, "Beat it." Then she eyed Darrien and rolled her eyes, "Oh god fine. Since I actually like Darrien, Marvel, I'll let him off Watch for now."

"So generous," Darrien murmured, lips curling up, even as Marvel spluttered.

"Who died and made you leader?"

The name Cato hangs between them all like a leaden weight, and Darrien takes in the dark shadows under Clove's eyes. She'd never admit it, she was far too proud, but Darrien suspected that the younger woman was deeply worried for her missing District partner, despite her protestations of not caring either way.

Silently the two boys packed up and Marvel disappeared into the tent, leaving Clove to drop down onto the log in his place. Slowly Darrien got to his feet and rested his hand gently on her shoulder.

He didn't say anything, and neither did she, simply resting her cheek against his wrist for a brief moment before straightening once more.

Satisfied, Darrien moved towards the tent but paused in the doorway, looking out over the lake, silent in the cold night.

Cato had thought Sky was somewhere near there, but he'd never gone hunting for her, never actively sought her out. Despite his fighting words about killing her, he'd never really begun to seek her out.

He didn't flatter himself that it was because of his wishes, his wants as a member of Cato's Careers. If Cato had truly wanted Sky dead…she'd have been hunted down actively…like Fire Girl.

Which left him here, wondering. Was it time to leave the Careers? To band with Sky against them? To leave Marvel, to choose the sister he'd found over the boy he could love? Would he choose Sky if it came down to that? What would he do if Cato found Sky? If he tried to kill her?

"Where are you?" he whispered, and he wasn't sure which of them he was talking about, Sky or Cato.

The night had no answer for him and so he slipped into the tent with Marvel, curling up into the other boy's warmth, smiling as the boy hesitantly offered him a simple leather band with a small gemstone hanging from it. His District token.

His Courtship gift.

It made him smile, smile as Marvel kissed him once more and they settled together, breaths evening out into sleep.

No more worrying for tonight, Darrien thought drowsily, eyes closing shut as he nuzzled his cheek into Marvel's neck.

Who knew what answers the new day would bring?

Chapter Text

It's not until I see them that I understand.

It had been one of the things that troubled me when we were in the Arena, the knowledge that Sky, who seemed so simple, so naïve, could align herself with a monster like the Career from 2. Had he convinced her that he was not to blame for his actions? Had he somehow managed to dupe her into thinking him a better person than he was? Or was Sky just really like all of us, someone who would do whatever it took to see that she got home? Did she pretend her sweetness in order to get farther?

It was the more likely option, but whenever I saw Sky something about the idea rang hollow.

So I put it from my mind, it did not matter how, or why Sky would associate with the brute. What mattered was getting through the Hunger Games, Peeta and me, and going home together.

That was all I wanted.

And then I see them together.

It doesn't make sense when I see Cato fall from the Cornucopia, my arrow punching into him and Peeta's shove sending him tumbling down. It doesn't make sense because Sky doesn't stay, she doesn't fight, doesn't even look at me or at Peeta. She just sees Cato fall, and her face crumples with genuine horror, terror, fear, loss, heartbreak…

That's when I realise that Sky loves Cato.

Everything unfolds quickly after that, the end of the Games, Sky screaming as she huddles over the still body of her partner, the wolves toying with both of them, yet another sick game from the Gamemakers. Like children who rip the wings off flies. But they will die…and even though Peeta shouts at me to put them out of their misery I know that they will die. And who knows what the Game Makers will do then.

I need my arrows.

My safety and Peeta's has to come first.

It's not until I see them together that I understand.

I knew about Sky, open hearted, foolish, naïve little Sky. But Cato? How could a monster love?

But I have a front row seat as the discs raise to the stage for the recap, I am there, with a perfect view as Cato strides over to the girl from 4. He looks neither left and right, his eyes find her instantly, blinking and unsure on her own disc, and he walks, swiftly to her.

I see his face, and it shakes me to my core.

I thought I knew Cato, knew his breed of monster. Career Tribute. Killer. Arrogant. Murderer. Unfeeling. Cold. Heartless.

His mouth finds her in a passionate kiss and I see Peeta's mouth fall open out of the corner of my eye. The crowd is cheering, and it's clear that we are the only two people here who were unaware of what exactly the alliance was between the boy from 2 and the girl from 4.

That's when I realise Cato loves Sky.

It's there on his face as he watches her, the hands that run over her, checking for any hurt. Gentle hands, hands that I had seen snap necks and wield his damn sword, but now which cradle the small woman to him. Briefly I wonder if it's a sham, a construct like Peeta's warm hand in mine. But there is something there, in the way she leans into him, seemingly unaware of even doing it, the way he stands, turned towards her, always supporting, protecting. There is something there in the way they always touch, but are almost oblivious to even doing it. There is something there...because Cato's eyes, eyes I thought cold and empty...are soft when they watch her.

In that moment I wonder if am wrong, if there is more to Cato than the monster from 2. But as they move over to us, Sky hugging Peeta close to more cheers I realise it doesn't matter.

The Game is over. And whether or not Cato loves Sky or no...

It makes no difference to me in the end.

Peeta and I are going home.

Chapter Text

The atmosphere is tense in the Sponsor hall, everyone looking up at the screens, including the mentors, hearts in their mouths.

Everyone has gravitated towards the final four areas of the hall, District 2, 4 and 12, the Sponsors sitting on their couches and standing in the area corresponding to the Tribute they want to come out as the Victor.

Inside the District 4 control room Finnick couldn't sit, his feet carrying him back and forth in quick, frenetic movements, but his eyes never left the screen dominating the wall. With only one Tribute left, the screen was entirely focused on Schuyler, on her walking through the darkening woods with Cato by her side.

"Something's going to happen," Finnick muttered, green eyes following Sky as she looked around her for the umpteenth time, her face tense, "The Gamemakers love a good show and these Games has been unprecedentedly popular. They'll want to end with a bang."

"It'll likely be combat," Mags pointed out evenly, from her place in her seat, "Which isn't good news for our girl."

"She has Cato…"

"Katniss has a bow." Mags' voice was firm, "And Peeta is no shrinking violet."

"We're so close," Finnick whispered, stopping briefly to hunch over his console, fingers brushing against the small screen there showing Sky's face, the blue paint glowing softly in the night, "She could come home. We wouldn't lose another one."

"Finnickin," Mags stood and moved over to him, brushing her hand over his head, smoothing hair made spiky with restless fingers running through the bronze strands, "We've done everything we could. So has she. Sometimes we just have to let the chips fall where they may."

He didn't answer so she just pressed a kiss to his hair, "I'm going to go out and mingle with the sponsors. Try not to wear a groove in the carpet mmm?"

"Yes mother," he rolled his eyes but smiled as she cuffed him lightly over the head before disappearing out the door.

He didn't get up to pace again though, just stayed where he was, watching Sky.

Even though he was expecting something, he still jerked with surprise when four great wolves lunged out of the underbrush, and suddenly the two Tributes on his screen were running, Sky ahead of Cato, for once the one with the advantage, being smaller, faster, lighter and the boy from 2 followed, sticking as close behind her blue glowing form as he could, wolf howls filling the night behind them.

"They're driving them together," Mags was back and he jumped slightly when she spoke beside him, "Those wolves are faster than them, look…" she pointed to the outline of one of the wolves flanking the pair, snarling and snapping, "They're driving them, like fish into the net."

Mags turned out to be correct of course as all four remaining Tributes ended up on the Cornucopia, Sky aiding Katniss in pulling up Peeta, much to the despair of her Mentor.

"Sky," he wailed, "What are you DOING!"

Cato it seemed had no such compunctions, and in a flash had Peeta up and away from the two girls, with a strong arm about his throat. In a flash an arrow was aimed at him and the boy from 2 stared her down, Sky looking between the three of them desperately.

And then of course it all went to shit.

Cato fell. The arrow and Peeta's shove sending him tumbling to the Earth below, where the wolves howled with triumph.

Leaving Sky alone, alone to face the girl who had killed at least three tributes, the girl who had killed her District partner, and the boy she'd done her best to save. But Sky…she didn't even look at them.

"Cato!"

And she threw herself after Cato.

"SKY!" Finnick howled, lurching to his feet as the girl crashed to the ground, using her trident to knock the wolves back, "Mags…"

"Finnick…" Mags voice was shaky, "Finnick…I don't think…"

"No!" Finnick slammed a hand to the table and stared in horror as the wolves charged Cato down and Sky, instead of running, stayed to fight, "No!"

"Darrien!" Mags suddenly gasped and then Finnick sees it too, the dark wolf with blue eyes, Darrien's human eyes, leaping to the girl who'd been his partner's defence. "I can't believe it!"

He can't believe it either; the wolves are fighting one another, Sky's and Cato's allies choosing to fight alongside them. But even with that, even with Darrien fighting his heart out and Marvel there beside him…even with that…there are too many.

Cato went down, and Sky screamed, stabbing at the wolf and falling to protect the bleeding, savaged neck of the Tribute from 2. Cato's eyes slowly closed and he slid into unconsciousness, but Sky…

Finnick closed his eyes, unable to watch til the end. Unable to watch and see his sweet Sky, his little sister Sky, her neck ripped out, and her life's blood staining the dark grass.

But it doesn't come.

Instead the wolves start to play with their prey, tearing away the armour with sharp claws and fangs, gauging the skin beneath as the girl screamed and sobbed with pain and anguish.

For a long moment Finnick just stared, horrified, appalled, grief stricken. And then the pain changed.

Changed to anger.

He got to his feet and left the booth, Mags calling after him with concern. He emerged into the hall, but none of the eyes from the District 4 couches go to him. They are all staring up at the screens, watching…listening to Sky being torn apart.

But instead of the blood-thirsty cheers from years past, the entire hall is eerily silent. Silent except for the screams of the girl dying on the screens, and the shouts of the boy from 12, begging Katniss to help, to do something, anything. But the Sponsors don't cheer, not even the ones over sitting in the 12 area. They too are silent…and they, and the ones supporting 4 and the ones from 2…they all look shattered.

They look heartbroken.

"She's…she's going to die?" One of the women asked, her voice trembling and Finnick wanted to shout at her, fury rising in him. Yes she's going to die. His little Sky is going to die because the Capitol wanted her dead.

But…that wasn't right, he thought, looking around once more, taking in the distress, and the people walking over, some even leaving the 12 area, the area likely to be the place of Victory. Everyone is gathering, most of them crying and they all watch the screens like…

…like they don't want this to happen.

What would Snow think if he could see this? Finnick thought to himself, before he froze, mind stilling in shock.

What if I could show him…?

The idea came in a bright flash of inspiration and Finnick turned, running back into the District 4 booth.

"How much money do we have left!" he shouted as Mags looked up startled, "Quick! How much!"

"Some…" Mags looked at him in bemusement as he brought up the figures with trembling figures, "Finnick what…?"

"Enough for ten…" he muttered, and turned to Mags, "Get the other Mentors on the line. I need their funds."

"What?" Mags stared at him like he'd lost it.

"Get them!" He reached for his own headset and smashed trembling fingers against keys, "Enobaria!"

"Odair," The woman's voice was cool, and he can hear the noises from the Games behind her, "Little late to be collaborating isn't it?"

"You know me," Finnick grinned weakly, wincing as Sky screamed again, "Fuck, Enobaria I need you to send me your funds, and I can't tell you why because I'm running out of time. Just…please…this could save them."

Silence from the other end and Finnick closed his eyes, "Technically Cato is Brutus' Tribute." The woman spoke finally, "But he stormed out of here when Cato fell, and hasn't come back. Sending the money now. Anything else?"

"Can you get 1 to send theirs too?"

"I have no idea what you're planning Odair…" she sighed, "You're a fucking moron but you wouldn't be playing a game right now. I'll try. Fuck off."


District 5 are his next call and Ria and Sefir actually send their money without needing much persuasion. District 12 is the hardest, Haymitch being difficult as always, but after Finnick hung up in annoyance the man wired it through anyway.

"He is insufferable," He growled as he started filtering the money into sponsor gifts, fifty little floating cannisters that fall from the Arena sky, "Hilarious, but insufferable."

"Do you really think this will work?" Mags asked, leaning over his seat as parachute after parachute descended, "It seems…farfetched."

"Better than just sitting here and watching…listening to her…" Finnick's throat closed up, "I can't…"

Mags' hand gently squeezed his shoulder as a knock came on the door, "Hey," Fells, the mentor for District 9 peered around the door, "One of you might wanna go out there? You have sponsors clamouring."

"What?" Mags stared at him, "What do you mean clamouring?"

Fells pointed at the screen, "That, what you're doing there? With the gifts? They want to help."


It turned out Fells was right.

Finnick went out into the hall and instantly the noise level hit him like a wave of sound. The Capitol Sponsors clamour at him, and when he explained that they just needed to send money to them to send into gifts, either to 4 or 2 or even 12, suddenly money started pouring in.

Inside the booth Mags sent wave after wave of gifts into the Arena, and the wolves hesitated.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," Claudius Templesmith's voice rang out and suddenly the hall hushed, everyone looking up at the screen, all with wide eyes, and Finnick held his breath, hope choking him, "I give you the Victors of the 74th Hunger Games. Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark of District 12, Cato DuGrey of District 2 and Schuyler Cavendish of District 4!"

Cheers echoed around the room as Finnick felt his knees weaken, the relief making his head swim like he is faint. All around the hall everyone was hugging and crying and laughing, toasts were given and hands slapped him on the back. He turned to see the Mentors, Ria, smiling through her tears, Sefir who looked dumbstruck but grinned like a loon, Haymitch who looked completely poleaxed, Enobaria who smirked at him, Cashmere who was as unreadable as ever, but seemed pleased and Gloss who smiled one of those rarely seen but often swooned over smiles. Brutus hung in the periphery, scowling at people before he fixed a smile on his face, accepting the congratulations like they were his due.

"I hate that guy," He muttered and Mags chuckled beside him, "I mean it. What a nasty piece of work. He's the poster boy for the worst of what District 2 produces."

"And you thought Cato was just like him at first," Ria's voice was soft, as he looked at her, "Admit it Odair."

"No," and it was true, he hadn't, "He wasn't the same. But I never expected…"

"This?" Sefir waved a hand at the massive celebration unfolding around them, "Who could have fucking guessed this!"

"Certainly not someone as empty headed as you Sefir," Gloss muttered, "I'm always amazed you can get out of your bed in the mornings."

Everyone rolled their eyes and Ria grabbed the man from 5's arm before he could retort, "Let's go Sef."

The others watched them go before Enobaria turned to Gloss.

"You two need to fuck that sexual tension out before one of you combusts. Excuse me." And she left Gloss looking completely flummoxed, to stride over to her District partner, a wicked smirk on her fanged mouth.

"That woman scares me so much," Gloss muttered and strode off, "even if she is batshit crazy."

"Especially then surely," Cashmere followed, with a nod to them and a narrow eyed look toward Haymitch who saluted her with a drink, "Especially if she's batshit crazy."

Finnick turned to Mags and smiled at her as she pressed a big kiss to his cheek.

"What was that for?" he asked, glancing up at the screens, which showed the After Games show with Caesar Flickerman and Claudius Templesmith.

"You, Finnick Odair." Mags smiled at him, "You give an old woman hope."

"Shut up," he smiled at her, cheeks pinked with pleasure, "I just did what I had to. And besides, I had to bring her back. The girl gave me grey hairs Mags, grey hairs. She had to answer for it…"

Her smile said bullshit, but she didn't say anything else, and for that he was grateful. Even as the celebrations unfolded around him, Mentors from all Districts united for once in an uncommon display of solidarity with the Sponsors, his eyes were drawn inexorably toward the screen.

Somewhere, not so far away, a hovercraft was bringing his Sky home.

He knew there would be a price to pay, Snow never did anything without having a return in mind. He would want something from her, from him, from Cato maybe even from Katniss and Peeta. Whatever the price…this was a moment to celebrate.

This…this was a Victory.