To Banish Darkness

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    and !ill ourselves+ or orse still !ill one another&'

    #,hat can e do thou$h (eeta Other than drin! ourselves senseless and try and

    achieve a dreamless oblivion every ni$ht+ li!e poor aymitch used to have to do

     before /ffie helped him heal It"s a ell !non phenomenon "survivors $uilt" and in

    our case it is orse because e aren"t entirely innocent. ,e both had to do somethin$s e eren"t proud of+ in order to survive the Arenas.'

    #I"ve been thin!in$ about it %atniss.' (eeta replied. #)y therapist 0anny and I have

     been tal!in$ thin$s over and she and I have come to believe that only one thin$ mi$ht

    help us. ,e should $o bac! %atniss+ revisit the place here all our ni$htmares

    ori$inated+ $o bac! to the 12th un$er 3ames Arena&'

    %atniss loo!ed stunned at his su$$estion but (eeta carried on+ sayin$4 #5ou must

    !no The Capitol preserved it as a memorial to all the lost children sacrificed to Theun$er 3ames+ they !ept that one alone hen they destroyed all the others. I"ve seen

     pictures of ho it is no and it"s a natural+ beautiful place+ completely transformed

    no that all the 3amema!er"s eapons and surveillance e6uipment have been

    removed and all the fear and !illin$ is over. It as preserved because it"s the place

    here (resident Sno and the Capitol"s re$ime first be$an to crac!+ the place here

    you+ in so many people"s eyes+ first became their )oc!in$7ay because of the lovin$

    ay that you mar!ed poor little 8ue"s death. )any people no $o to visit it+ to

    remember their lost loved ones from all the many "3ames" over the years and $ive

    than!s for our ne found freedom.'

    %atniss thou$ht over hat (eeta had said+ then smiled at him and replied+ #I thin! 

    you"re ri$ht my love+ $oin$ bac! there mi$ht be the only ay e can banish the

    demons and finally $et closure on hat they did to us all+ the only ay perhaps that

    e can find some peace. ,e need this+ it may be the only thin$ that"ll help+ let"s ma!e

    some calls.'

    Renewal

    They found that bein$ (eeta )ellar! and %atniss /verdeen still had it"s privile$es andtheir re6uest to the (resident and Council as loo!ed upon favourably. It as

    arran$ed that a hovercraft ould be sent to collect them from 9istrict :; and ta!e

    them direct to their old Arena. The site as to be temporarily closed to normal

    visitors and $iven over to their private use+ for as lon$ as they felt they needed to be

    there.

    %atniss and (eeta left the home they ere sharin$ in the old

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    $round of the playin$ field there.

    ,al!in$ throu$h the nely rebuilt streets of their home ton they passed houses that+

    hilst still modest+ ere a far cry from the tumbledon ooden shac!s of old+ the

    ashes of hich had lon$ been sept aay. Over recent years since the survivor"s

    returned the "ne" 9istrict :; as becomin$ a much more comfortable and healthier  place to live. It"s citizens ell fed+ those mines that ere still open ere no far 

    safer+ the miners better paid+ better fed and livin$ far less dan$erous lives. The

    9istrict children also ere no ell nourished and $roin$ tall and stron$+ ith their 

    minds becomin$ filled ith !noled$e in the brand ne and ell e6uipped 9istrict

    school.

    Ordinary people no had the ri$ht to travel+ not 7ust ithin their on 9istrict but

     beteen them and also to the Capitol+ hich as becomin$ a popular holiday

    destination for those $roin$ number of people ho ere fairly ell off. Terms of trade ere no lon$er determined by the Capitol"s military occupation+ but by normal

    commercial bar$ainin$ and the merchant class of 9istrict :; ere no used to havin$

    the ri$ht to freely ha$$le over prices. *o lon$er as 9istrict :; to be 7ust a poor coal

    minin$ area+ they ere also be$innin$ to ma!e pharmaceuticals+ usin$ sophisticated

    coal based chemical and plant based biochemical technolo$ies. There as also no a

    nely established hi$h tech factory+ ma!in$ various domestic electronic items+ hich

    Beetee had come to 9istrict :; after the ar to help set up.

    The economies of all (anem"s 9istricts ere becomin$ far less specialised in $eneral+

     political poer more decentralised and a $reater+ more reardin$ variety of or! 

    opportunities ere becomin$ available to all. /ven in 9istrict := there as stron$

    revival in pro$ress+ ith the populous re$ainin$ the chance to re-emer$e from their 

    tunnels and bun!ers and once a$ain live in sunli$ht. To be$in to rebuild and rene

    their dama$ed land. The previous strict military control over the populous had

    vanished ith the death of (resident Coin and the nuclear eapons of both The

    Capitol and 9istrict := had been dismantled and destroyed.

    The leadership of (anem+ both local and central ere no elected by democratic

    vote+ the ri$ht to exercise hich included all adult citizens over ei$hteencountryide. /veryone+ be they 9istrict or Capitol people+ had an e6ual ri$ht to ta!e

     part in the (residential and Central Council selection as ell bein$ able to chose their 

    local 9istrict officials. Also+ in honour of the lost children of The un$er 3ames+

    there as an elected Children"s Council. This or$anisation had representatives

    selected by a youn$er electorate+ from the a$e $roup of those ho mi$ht once have

     been selected to die in The Capitol"s murderous Arena"s. This body of fine youn$

     people had a fair de$ree of real poer in certain specific areas+ such as education+

    health+ sports+ the arts and other youth relevant fields. *ever a$ain ould the

    country"s children become mere fodder for an appallin$ series of televised atrocities.(anem as finally becomin$ a truly civilised nation and not 7ust a collection of 

    occupied territories+ trampled under the boots of The Capitol"s former military mi$ht.

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    All ould have been ell %atniss felt+ had she and (eeta not been left bro!en and un-

    repaired+ unli!e the rest of their 9istrict and their country.

    The ReturnTheir hovercraft as loaded ith supplies enou$h to last them for several ee!s and

    they ould+ in addition to the usual campin$ re6uirements+ both be carryin$

    communicator>trac!er units. %atniss of course also had her bo and a huntin$ !nife+

    (eeta a spear and also a similar !nife. These ere needed as a precaution+ since no

    the perimeter forcefield as no lon$er active some lar$e ild creatures had entered

    the old Arena from the *orthern ,ilderness and ta!en up residence in it"s oods.

    Ordinary $roups of visitors ere alays accompanied by a arden ho as armed

    ith a huntin$ rifle in case of bears+ olves+ survivin$ ro$ue mutts or suchli!e. But

    (eeta and %atniss ould be entirely alone+ so their eapons ere vital tools andneeded to !eep them safe. They could have ta!en a $un as ell had they so anted+

     but both felt more familiar and comfortable ith their on "loer tech" eapons. In

    any case since %atniss and (eeta ere both formidable ith their chosen eapons a

    $un ould have been of little additional advanta$e to the pair. Their s!ills ould

    ensure their place as top predators in those oods and they had nothin$ to fear from

    any creature they mi$ht encounter there.

    The communicator>trac!er units they also had ith them ere a safety measure. The

    electronic trac!er netor! bein$ the only part of the Arena"s ori$inal technolo$y still

    left operatin$. But no nobody had to have trac!er chips implanted in them a$ainst

    their ill anymore. All normal visitors to the old Arena ore trac!er ristbands+ 7ust

    in case anyone $ot separated from their $roup and $uide and became lost in the

    oods. In the case of %atniss and (eeta this function as built into the radio units

    hich they both carried in case they need to contact each other+ if for some reason

    they $ot split up.

    The couple also had one other piece of technolo$y ith them+ a small+ li$htei$ht+

    easy to operate but sophisticated camera>recorder on hich they intended to record

     personal video diaries of their experiences in the old arena. This ould or! indayli$ht or at ni$ht+ had built in motion trac!in$ autofocus and also could film in near 

    complete dar!ness+ usin$ either it"s built in li$ht or ima$e intensification technolo$y.

    It had poer enou$h on a sin$le char$e to run continuously for a ee! and spare

     batteries ere also carried. The use of this device had been at the re6uest of the

    (resident and the Capitol"s T< netor!. It as intended that their "video diaries"

    ould later be edited and a documentary film created+ from diary clips and later 

    intervies+ to be broadcast (anem ide. %atniss and (eeta ould have full editorial

    control of hat ent into the pro$ramme+ but they could understand that a $reat

    many people ould be interested to see hat ould come about durin$ their trip bac! to the place here it all be$an. They ere happy to co-operate ith the plan+ as lon$

    as they didn"t feel it too intrusive.

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    xxx

    The couple ere set don by their hovercraft in the la!eside meado in hich the

    Cornucopia had previously stood+ althou$h this no had been replaced by a beautiful

    memorial to all the children !illed in all the un$er 3ames. There as a tenty foothi$h hite marble statue on a stylised "launch pedestal" of to youn$ children+ a boy

    and a $irl hand in hand ith a four se$mented circular polished dar! $ranite all

    around it+ ith entrances at the cardinal points. This recorded the names of all The

    un$er 3ames victims from the very first to the last+ their names en$raved into the

    stone and hi$hli$hted in real $old.

    The memorial $leamed in the late autumn sun as %atniss and (eeta disembar!ed

    nearby from their hovercraft+ havin$ had their supplies and $ear unloaded for them by

    to very helpful Avox attendants. Sadly after the ar it had been found that nothin$could be done to restore the voices of these victims of the Capitol"s former cruelty+

    the horrible sur$ery to their ton$ues and vocal chords had been too extensive and

    dama$in$ to correct. But they all no had small voice synthesizer units ith compact

    control !eypads on pendants around their nec!s+ ith these they could+ in a limited

    ay+ compensate for their lac! of a real voice. All the Avoxes ere of course no

    free+ they had been $iven substantial compensation payments for their mutilation and

    enslavement and also+ if they anted it+ ere found suitable and interestin$ paid

    or!. The married Avox couple on their fli$ht had told %atniss and (eeta+ usin$ their 

    artificial voices+ that they ere most happy to be of service to so famous a pair and

    they ere the very epitome of polite helpfulness throu$hout their fli$ht.

    As the Avoxes unloaded materials from their craft %atniss and (eeta or!ed ith

    them and stoed all their excess $ear in an animal proof container made from a lar$e

    metal shippin$ crate. It formed a small cache near to the memorial+ to hich they

    could return hen they need to re-supply. Thus they ould only need carry ith

    them a fe days orth of food ? ater at a time+ their eapons+ their li$htei$ht

    "tech items"+ plus a sleepin$ ba$ and insulatin$ $round mat each+ alon$ ith a small+

    li$ht but thorou$hly eatherproof tent. It ould mean they"d have a much li$hter load

    to carry and made them more mobile.

    Once all had been dis$or$ed from their hovercraft %atniss and (eeta said a fond

    fareell to their Avox helpers and aved to the fli$ht cre at the controls of the

    hovercraft+ tellin$ them via communicator they ould contact them hen they

    anted retrieval. The hovercraft then too! off and headed aay on a bearin$ toards

    The Capitol. It had no need to use it"s invisibility "cloa!"+ so (eeta and %atniss

    atched it vanish to a dot+ then turned to each other+ embraced and !issed.

    Alone At Last!(eeta smiled at %atniss and said #I !no it"s a [email protected] love but I"ve $otta say it+ so here

    $oes... Alone at last&'

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    #5eah+ you"re ri$ht (eeta+ it is a terribly corny [email protected]+ but in this case an appropriate

    one.' %atniss $rinned. #et"s ta!e a loo! at the memorial before e move off into the

    oods. It loo!s so beautiful.'

    Indeed it as+ but also incredibly sad they both thou$ht as they more closelyexamined the statue of the to innocent and fri$htened loo!in$ youn$ children. Their 

    youn$ faces bore expressions they both !ne all too ell. Seein$ this (eeta said. #I

     bet e both loo!ed 7ust as fri$htened as them hen e emer$ed from the launch

    tubes and ere stood on those pedestals over there. I !no I as terrified and didn"t

    thin! I"d last even beyond the first fe minutes.'

    %atniss replied. #I as terrified too+ I anted that bo they"d set up in the front of the

    Cornucopia so badly I could taste it+ but seein$ you sha!in$ your head about it

     brou$ht me to my senses and I ran from the "bloodbath" after $rabbin$ only a nearbyruc!sac!. /ven then Clove nearly $ot me+ but your arnin$ not to $et involved saved

    my life in the first sixty seconds of the 3ames (eeta.'

    The couple then read some of the names on the memorial"s all. They concentrated

    mainly on the later 3ames and of course a $reat many names they !ne appeared in

    the list of the fallen of the final to Arenas. 8eadin$ those names recalled the faces

    of so many they"d !non+ both lost friends and old enemies and they both had tears in

    their eyes by the time they $ot to the end of the roll of the dead. They held each other 

    ti$htly+ slumped a$ainst the all and cried to$ether for several minutes+ 7ust than!ful

    to be alive and not to have become 7ust another to names amon$st the lon$ list of 

    those ho"d died.

    Then they $athered their thou$hts and %atniss ith her tears dryin$ bravely said+

    #Toni$ht I"d li!e us to revisit the cave here e hid hilst you ere hurt (eeta. That

    is the settin$ of one of my orst ni$htmares+ the one here I failed to $et you the

    medicine you needed because Clove !illed me sloly and sadistically at the feast+

    leavin$ you to die horribly of your ounds+ all alone.'

    (eeta loo!ed concerned and said+ #9o you feel stron$ enou$h to ta!e on that demonour first ni$ht here darlin$ I !no that horrible ni$htmare+ you"ve told me it several

    times and I have a similar one sometimes+ here you ent off to the feast and never 

    came bac!. I"m $ame to $o there thou$h+ if you feel e really need to so soon.'

    %atniss+ loo!in$ determined said. #This isn"t a vacation (eeta+ it"s our chance to heal+

     perhaps our only chance and e must confront and defeat our "demons". So yes+

    hilst I"m scared I really ant to do this. et"s $o+ it"ll be $ettin$ dar! in a fe hours

    and e"ll need to set up camp there before sundon.'

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    Their Sanctuary

    Bac! in the 12th  un$er 3ames %atniss had found the badly in7ured (eeta

    camoufla$ed by mud and eeds next to a river. That river floed into the la!e+ so the

     pair be$an to follo it bac! up it"s course to find their cave. 0ust as the sun be$an to

    touch the horizon they made it bac! to the cleft in the roc! hich had been their 

    "sanctuary". They siftly $athered plenty of fireood in the deepenin$ shados andlit a small fire. They !ne that it ould $et cold later it bein$ late autumn+ althou$h

    for some hile it had been unusually arm durin$ dayli$ht hours for that time of 

    year+ ith all the leaves still on the trees and only 7ust startin$ to "turn". avin$

    assured themselves of ade6uate armth they then laid out their li$htei$ht foam

    campin$ mats and sleepin$ ba$s on the most level part of the roc! floor+ their tent not

     bein$ needed as the cliff face overhun$ the roc! cleft+ formin$ a roof for the caveli!e

    structure.

    Then (eeta set don the small video unit they had ith them on a roc! and the pair  be$an to $ive an account of their arrival in the Arena+ their impressions of the

    )emorial and ho it felt to be bac! in their former "sanctuary". Both then tac!ed on

    some individual impressions and insi$hts about the day. *either had any secrets from

    each other as they undoubtedly ould have been married by then+ had they been

    sufficiently mentally ell. The pair both fran!ly admitted in front of each other their 

    trepidation about havin$ to sleep there for the ni$ht+ fearin$ the ni$htmares it ould

    almost certainly induce. Then they shut the machine off and ate some of their rations+

    tryin$ to comfort each other by en$a$in$ in fairly inconse6uential chat about

    aymitch+ lau$hin$ about his love>hate relationship ith his $eese and their latest

    chaos inducin$ "escape attempt"+ runnin$ s6uar!in$ around the villa$e+ ith aymitch

    in rampa$in$ pursuit+ yellin$ drun!en threats at them.

    They then discussed the fact that /ffie Trin!et as no a permanent fixture in his

    life. They ere a happy+ if somehat "odd" couple+ the former sophisticated Capitol

    /scort and the a$ein$+ $rizzled and $rumpy un$er 3ames

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    Then after some unspecified time had passed %atniss o!e as she"d heard a female

    voice callin$ softly from outside the cave"s entrance. It called+ #%atniss+ %atniss

    /verdeen+ a!e up you dozy co+ $et your head to$ether "3irl on ire". I"ve come to

    tal!+ come out here+ I need to spea! to you ithout over Boy listenin$ in.'

    %atniss as puzzled+ as she !ne that herself and (eeta ere supposed to be

    completely alone in the Arena. She also felt sure she someho !ne the voice she

    as hearin$+ but 7ust couldn"t put a face to it. She $ot out of her sleepin$ ba$+ put on

    her boots and ith her huntin$ !nife in her hand as a precaution she ent out of the

    cave entrance. (eeta seemed sound asleep and didn"t stir as she did so. On the moonlit

    riverban! in the shade of a tree she could 7ust ma!e out the fi$ure of a $irl+ sat on a

    roc! atchin$ the silvery ater floin$ by. She had her bac! to %atniss+ but

    nonetheless seemed stran$ely familiar.

    As %atniss dre near the $irl turned and in horror %atniss reco$nised her. It as

    Clove& She loo!ed exactly as she had hen they"d first met in The Capitol+ earin$

    the same trac!suit she"d orn for Trainin$. But %atniss !ne full ell that she had

    died in the Arena several years a$o+ her head caved in by a blo from a roc! ielded

     by Thresh. "This must be a ne ni$htmare+" %atniss thou$ht+ "(erhaps I"ll a!e up if I

    really try+ before it turns nasty."

    Clove loo!ed at the huntin$ !nife in her hand and said+ #*ice tool %atniss+ $ood ed$e

    on it+ $reat for s!innin$ and $uttin$ but not much $ood for throin$ thou$h+ lousy

     balance. I had one 7ust li!e it once.'

    Almost as if she"d read %atniss"s mind Clove smiled a little sadly and said. #*o "3irl

    on ire" this isn"t a ni$htmare+ I"m as real as I ever $et to be these days+ I died here in

    this arena and never left+ I $uess that ma!es me a $host.' ,ith that Clove stood up

    and al!ed beteen %atniss and the bri$htness of the near full moon shinin$ at a lo

    an$le throu$h the folia$e overhead. Sat on her roc! in the shados of the riverside

    trees Clove had seemed fairly solid+ but no a$ainst the moonli$ht %atniss could see

    clear throu$h her+ she as $ossamer transparent.

    #It"s $ood to see you a$ain %atniss' Clove said+ her ords soundin$ surprisin$ly

    $enuine. #I !no e ere mortal enemies in The un$er 3ames+ but dyin$ tends to

    $ive you a bit of a ne perspective on the past. I overhear thin$s said by the visitors

    ho come here and their $uides+ thin$s about hat you did+ overthroin$ (resident

    Sno and the Capitol re$ime ith the rebels and even about the stuff before that. I

    !no all that happened in the uarter uell Arena+ both to you and over Boy+ DI

    really must stop callin$ him that&E' Clove snapped at herself+ a little of her old mental

    instability shoin$ throu$h.

    oever she then smiled a$ain and said4 #(oliteness never as my "thin$"+ sorry

    %atniss. I meant to say about the second Arena that you and (eeta ere forced into

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    and I $uess hat I"m tryin$ to say is this+ I $ot you ron$& I thou$ht you ere ea!+ I

    thou$ht you ere 7ust a sho off+ all fiery froc!s and no moves& A "one tric! pony"+

    ith that bo of yours that $ot you the top 3amema!er"s ratin$. I as 7ealous of all

    the attention you and your boyfriend $ot. I"m ashamed to say I as happy hen 8ue

    as !illed+ !noin$ ho sad it ould ma!e you and that it ould leave you

    vulnerable. Anyay+ I anted to tell you that I"m sorry. Bein$ such a bitch $ot me theonly reard I deserved+ a roc! in the head from Thresh. I"m so happy for you and

    (eeta. 5ou"ve both done such marvellous thin$s for all the people of the 9istricts and

    I anted to than! you on behalf of my family. (lease don"t fear me anymore %atniss+

    if e meet a$ain in your dreams please stop bein$ afraid of hat I almost did to you

    and try to thin! better of me. I could never be your friend in life but at least by your 

    comin$ here a$ain to this Arena it has $iven me the chance to apolo$ise to you. I"m

    $lad you made it "3irl on ire"+ the best $irl on& I"d sha!e your hand but that"s sadly

    not possible no.

    Then Clove faded from vie li!e sloly evaporatin$ mist+ but as she did she beamed

    in happiness and 7oyfully said. #I"m free %atniss+ free of this place at last& It must

    have been tal!in$ to you that did it. That as the thin$ I needed to do to be set free

    from this Arena and no I can $o and 7oin Cato at last& Than! you "3irl On ire"+

    than! you for bein$ so fair and for listenin$ to me+ it"s more than I deserved from

    you. I hope e"ll meet a$ain as friends some day&'

    As the vision of the dead $irl faded aay %atniss shivered+ not merely because of the

    ni$ht-time cold+ but also because of the stran$eness of hat had 7ust happened to her+

    althou$h she felt happy for Clove that she as finally free of the Arena. She then

    headed bac! bac! into the cave and lay don a$ain at (eeta"s side. e stirred and half 

    ao!e as she did so+ as!in$ here she"d $one. %atniss explained it by sayin$ #0ust a

    "call of nature" (eeta+ $o bac! to sleep.' Then she soon drifted off herself into a

     peaceful ni$htmare free slumber.

    The next mornin$ %atniss ao!e feelin$ refreshed+ both she and (eeta had $ot

    throu$h the rest of the ni$ht ithout either of them a!in$ up screamin$+ but %atniss

    did remember her stran$e dream about Clove. She felt that althou$h it could not

    exactly be called a ni$htmare it as certainly odd+ but someho comfortin$. (eetaand herself then had some brea!fast and be$an to pac! up their !it into their 

     bac!pac!s.

    (eeta then said+ #I"m 7ust headed off into the bushes before e set off+ I bet it as

    cold out there last ni$ht %atniss+ I"m $lad I didn"t need to $o then.'

    %atniss as shoc!ed+ as she"d rationalised her ni$ht-time encounter ith Clove as

     bein$ don to simple dreamin$+ but apparently (eeta as confirmin$ that she really

    had $one outside the cave the previous ni$ht. She put on her boots+ hich indeed stillhad some soft mud on the soles and ent to loo! at the riverban! area here she had

    "met" Clove. Sure enou$h her on footprints ere plainly to be seen in the mud by the

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    roc! hich Clove had sat on. er ni$ht"s "visitation" had been real&

    #Bless you Clove.' %atniss said 6uietly and smiled. #Than! you for comin$ to me

    last ni$ht and for your honesty+ I do believe that hat you did ill help ease the

    ni$htmare I"ve been havin$ about you and hat nearly happened. (erhaps hen e

    meet in my dreams in future it may be as friends+ as you hoped. I"m $lad you"re freeno+ and at peace ith your Cato.'

    The Tracker acker Tree

    The couple spent a very pleasant day to$ether by the river+ mostly 7ust al!in$ hand

    in hand or 7ust sittin$+ tal!in$ on the river ban!. %atniss told (eeta her stran$e story

    from the ni$ht before and they also recorded it on camera. (eeta listened closely and

    hilst obviously ishin$ to believe her he still tended to put it don as a dream+ plus

     perhaps sleepal!in$ on her part. As they tal!ed they ere both each fishin$ ithhand lines from their !it and competin$ to catch the fat bron trout in the stream. The

    fish ere very naFve because they ere $enerally left to lead undisturbed lives and

    they both easily cau$ht to of them each+ before sayin$ that ould be enou$h for 

    supper.

    %atniss and (eeta planned to spend that ni$ht camped by the tree here %atniss had

    cut loose the trac!er 7ac!er nest and dropped it onto the Careers and also (eeta. At

    that time+ althou$h %atniss didn"t !no it+ (eeta+ thou$h he as ith the "Career 

    (ac!" as in fact attemptin$ to lead them aay from her. The tree that %atniss $ot

    trapped in as a place about hich (eeta had ni$htmares+ rememberin$ not 7ust the

    terrible insect attac!+ but also the horrific event before it+ hen he had to ma!e the

    horrible decision to "finish off" the mortally in7ured female 9istrict G tribute hom the

    Careers had attac!ed after seein$ her camp fire. %illin$ that $irl as the one event

    (eeta as the most conflicted about from his hole Arena experience. ,as it mercy

    or as it murder ,hy had he volunteered to $o bac! and finish her off after 

    3limmer had bun$led her !illin$ and left her lyin$ there+ sloly dyin$ in pain ad

    (eeta despatched her to end her sufferin$ or to impress the Careers and be$in to rac! 

    up a "score"

    The pair left the riverban! late in the afternoon and al!ed the to miles or so to the

    tree here memories both $ood and bad aaited them. Hpon arrivin$ they chec!ed

    that no ne insect nests had been re-established in the tree. They set up their small

    tent and camp-fire+ then coo!ed their delicious fresh fish for their supper. They then

    spent a further couple of hours sat by the fire+ tal!in$ ith the camera runnin$+ but

    i$nored+ about the many events that had happened in this very spot. There ere both

    $ood and bad memories here+ bad mostly for (eeta but for %atniss it as the place

    here her alliance ith her friend 8ue had be$un+ hen the youn$ $irl had saved her 

    life by pointin$ out the trac!er 7ac!er nest and thereby $ivin$ %atniss a ay to $etdon out of the tree she as trapped in alive. /ven thou$h durin$ the incident

    %atniss had herself suffered several stin$s and their terrible venomous side effects

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    she had+ ith 8ue"s care and herbal !noled$e+ survived and from then the friendship

    and alliance beteen the to $irls had blossomed. (eeta had bravely insisted on

    stayin$ by the tree that ni$ht+ as to of his orst ni$htmares happened in and around

    that settin$.

    eeta's 'Victim'

    /ventually the couple ent to bed in their tent and %atniss drifted off into a deep

    slumber+ havin$ a very happy dream about her time ith 8ue+ before the little $irl

    as sadly !illed.

    (eeta on the other hand as totally unable to sleep+ terrified that if he did he"s once

    a$ain see the clouds of insects envelopin$ himself and the Career (ac!. ri$htened

    that he"d once a$ain be made to see the once lovely 3limmer becomin$ a horrible

    mass of sollen flesh as she screamed her last. Or maybe it ould be the even dar!er dream about his !illin$ the 9istrict G $irl+ the one here he never !ne if hat he

    did to her as $ood or evil.

    /ventually he decided to $et up and ta!in$ a torch from his ruc!sac! and puttin$ on

    his al!in$ boots he left %atniss in their tent and ithout a!in$ her he headed

    toards the nearby spot in hich the $irl he"d !illed had once lit her camp-fire+ the

    fire that had betrayed her all those years a$o. As he $ot nearer to the place it

    happened he became very afraid+ but bravely pressed on+ hopin$ that actually bein$ at

    the scene of the $irl"s death mi$ht help him overcome his bad memories.

    e arrived at the exact spot and sat on the leaf mould and $rass beneath the trees

    there+ then as it as becomin$ very cold and perhaps as as somethin$ of a memorial

    to the dead $irl he lit another small fire ith the dry ti$s he found around the place.

    e sat for some time 7ust $azin$ into the flames and then said out loud+ #I"m sorry "G"+

    I still don"t !no hy I did it+ as it ri$ht or ron$+ ho can I !no ,as I bein$

    merciful or a murderer'

    e as startled to receive a reply. A $irlish $i$$le and then a voice sayin$. #(eeta

    )ellar!+ hy do you even trouble yourself over my death'

    e loo!ed up and there she stood+ youn$ and pretty as the day she"d appeared in her 

    intervie ith Caesar lic!erman in the Capitol. She as even earin$ the same

    lovely $reen evenin$ dress she had orn then+ hich seemed a little incon$ruous out

    here in the ilds. She smiled at him and came to sit next to him by the fire+ as she did

    so her clothin$ smoothly morphed into her more suitable oodland outfit+ consistin$

    of a seatshirt+ aterproof 7ac!et+ 7eans and al!in$ boots hich she"d once orn

    and her hairstyle became far less formal and fussy+ turnin$ into a simple braid not

    disimilar to %atniss"s prefered style+ althou$h her hair as auburn. ,hen she $otcloser he noticed she as semi-transparent+ the flames shone visible throu$h her body

    as she dre near his camp-fire and passed in front of it.

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    She smiled at him as she sat don and said. #5ou ere my saviour (eeta+ hy do you

     beat yourself up about finishin$ me The ound I"d suffered as mortal but it mi$ht

    have ta!en me hours of torment to die. 5ou stopped the pain and set me free+ I bless

    you for your compassion. Clove as finally able to 7oin us last ni$ht than!s to

    %atniss and she told me you to ere bac! in this Arena. 8ue"s been atchin$ over %atniss on and off and she told me about the horrible ni$htmares you"ve both been

    havin$+ so I had to come bac! here toni$ht to help set your mind at rest. I have

    nothin$ but than!s for your !indness and I am sure it as no more than human

    decency that made you come bac! and stop my pain. 9on"t $ive it another thou$ht

    (eeta. The man ho could $o on ith %atniss and achieve hat you both did

    to$ether is not capable of cold blooded murder.'

    Then the $host of the $irl leaned in as if to !iss him on his chee!. Of course he felt no

    contact but the spot here her lips ould have been felt momentarily arm+ hichsurprised him+ since he seemed to remember hearin$ stories told that $hosts ere

    alays cold.

    (eeta said. #So Clove really did come to see %atniss last ni$ht then& It seems I have

    some "humble pie" to eat+ I"d best find out the recipe and ba!e one hen I $et bac!.'

    e said smilin$.

    The $irl smiled in return at hat he said and replied. #I don"t thin! %atniss ill be too

    mad at you+ after all it as a pretty incredible story she told you.'

    (eeta nodded then said+ #Than! you for this visit my dear+ I"m so $lad you came to

    see me+ this has really helped set my mind at rest. I"m ashamed to say I can"t even

    remember your name+ I simply !ne you by your 9istrict+ as "G"+ hilst you

    obviously !no mine. ,hat do they call you'

    Alia+ it"s Alia ,esterman+ (eeta+ and of course you don"t remember my name. I don"t

     blame you since you only had eyes for one $irl Tribute and ere terrified for her 

    safety. As to me !noin$ you+ ell you ere the consort of the "3irl On ire"+ you

    to ere the bi$ nes. /veryone in (anem !ne ho you ere then and ho you both still are+ even to this day.'

    Suddenly another female voice bro!e in from beyond their circle of fireli$ht and said.

    #5ou can say that a$ain Alia+ and "The Boy ,ith The Bread" is not only famous+ he

    has nice buns too& o come you $et a snea!y !iss and not me I as his ally for a

    little hile after all.' oo!in$ up (eeta sa another face he !ne ell+ the beautiful

    face of 3limmer+ the former 9istrict : Career as chee!ily $rinnin$ at them both.

    (eeta as utterly shoc!ed+ not so much at the arrival of another $host+ althou$h thatas stran$e enou$h+ but because Alia then $i$$led at hat 3limmer said and shoed

    no hostility to her arrival+ despite the fact that 3limmer as the former $irl Career 

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    ho"d bun$led her murder and left her there to die in pain.

    #,hoa& old on&' (eeta said. #This is $ettin$ too eird+ one $host at a time li!e

    %atniss met+ that I can 7ust about $o ith+ but to at once& And in any case Alia+ you

    should hate 3limmer+ she"s the one ho left you here ounded and dyin$+ forcin$ me

    to ma!e the decision to finish you off. ,hat"s $oin$ on here'

    3limmer+ ho had arrived already earin$ more suitable outdoor $ear+ smiled at

    (eeta and Alia and sat don by the fire ith them both+ sayin$4 #,ell over Boy+ it"s

    li!e this. As I believe Clove told %atniss last ni$ht+ bein$ dead $ives you a hole ne

     perspective on thin$s+ you can ta!e "the lon$ vie" and are forced to be honest ith

    yourself. I soon came to realise that hat I"d done to Alia as really shitty+ an aful

    thin$ to do& It"s bad enou$h that e ere forced to try to !ill one another+ but I should

    at least have had the decency to have done so cleanly+ not leave her to suffer li!e I

    did. Than! you for correctin$ my mista!e (eeta and bein$ so !ind to dear Alia. After all e Careers ere supposed to be "professionals" and my attac! on her as ran! 

    amateurishness and callousness at it"s orst. I apolo$ised so many times to her+ both

    for hat I"d done and ho badly I did it. Than!fully Alia has also learned to see some

    thin$s differently and eventually she accepted the truth of my shame over hat I did

    to her. Believe it or not it"s no "by$ones"+ e"re $ood friends no and han$ out

    to$ether a lot+ that"s hy I"m here toni$ht ith her.'

    Alia smiled and said4 #5eah+ that"s ri$ht (eeta+ certainly the pain as horrible+ but it

    $oes aay and then thin!in$ about it I realised that I too ould have happily !illed

    3limmer if I"d $ot the chance to+ in order to survive+ to so-called "in" The un$er 

    3ames. *ot that anyone ever really could+ because "victory" as a sham and no more

    than a passport strai$ht to a haunted and horrible life. One of bein$ sexually exploited

     by the de$enerates in The Capitol and bein$ forced to ")entor" other poor !ids+ then

    atchin$ them bein$ sent off to the Arena to face an almost certain horrific death. But

    at the time+ because e"d been brainashed+ both 3limmer and myself ere i$norant

    of hat so-called "victory" ould really mean and e both thou$ht e anted it.

    The youn$ $irl"s $host ent on+ sayin$4 #So then (eeta+ $iven that I ould cheerfully

    have murdered 3limmer myself then in all fairness I could scarcely blame her for !illin$ me+ althou$h I must admit that for 6uite some time I as more than a bit

    unhappy about her doin$ it so badly. But li!e she said+ I"ve for$iven her no+ after all

    I as her only real "cold blooded" !ill. (rior to that she !illed no-one other than in the

    "!ill or be !illed" frenzy of the Cornucopia "bloodbath" and despite her trainin$ she had

    never been in a such a situation for real+ had never had to !ill a real live person in

    cold blood+ only trainin$ dummies that didn"t be$ for mercy or bleed. It as her lac! 

    of experience and nervousness that ere to blame for her bun$lin$ the 7ob+ rather 

    than intentional cruelty. Anyay+ 3limmer may once have been a murderess but her 

    remorse is $enuine+ plus she"s clever+ beautiful and fun to be around+ no that shecan"t !ill me anymore that is. All the boys love her+ she"s a real "party animal" !nos

    here and hen all the fun thin$s are happenin$ and I $et to ride on her ave of 

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     popularity.' Then she chee!ily stuc! her ton$ue out at 3limmer and both $irls a$ain

    $i$$led.

    (eeta shoo! his head in amazement+ $rinnin$ at this bizarre turn of events and said+

    soundin$ astonished4 #And there as me thin!in$ I as be$innin$ to $et the han$ of 

    understandin$ omen+ but you to+ you"re somethin$ else+ you really are. Anyay+it"s tau$ht me one lesson meetin$ the pair of you a$ain+ that all that an$sty $uilt I as

    feelin$ is nonsense& In the end one ay or another e all die and there"s time enou$h

    to sort thin$s out hen e leave this earth. ,e should 7ust en7oy it as much as e can

    hilst e"re here.

    #3lad e could be of help settin$ your mind at rest (eeta.' Alia said.

    Then 3limmer as!ed. #I need to see %atniss toni$ht hilst I"m here (eeta+ is that

    o!ay ith you'

    #5eah+ sure 3limmer+ after Clove"s friendly visit I"m sure she"ll be $lad to see you.

    She"s up in our tent by the trac!er 7ac!er tree. Tal!in$ of that+ I felt so $uilty that I

    couldn"t $et you aay from those horrible bu$s+ I"ve had many ni$htmares about it+

    althou$h I nearly died myself and it as sheer panic for all of us. To see hat those

    horrible stin$s ere doin$ to you as aful+ you $ot the orst of their attac! and

    ere such a mess. I"m so $lad you"re beautiful a$ain no 3limmer.' I !no %atniss

    sometimes feels a little bit $uilty about it too+ but for her it as "!ill or be !illed"+ she"s

    $ot a reasonably clear conscience about the issue.'

    #I !no it as self defence on %atniss"s part (eeta and I don"t blame her in the least+

    or you for not tryin$ to save me. ad you tried it ould simply have meant you"d

    have died as ell+ so please don"t blame yourself. Could you $ive me a hile alone

    ith %atniss thou$h+ e really need to tal! and I have little time left here.'

    #Of course I ill 3limmer+ bless you both for comin$ bac! to see me and than! you

    a$ain $irls for puttin$ my mind at ease+ I feel a $reat burden has been lifted. That"s

    to ni$htmares about this place I doubt I"ll ever have a$ain.'

    3limmer then leaned over and !issed (eeta on the chee! as Alia had earlier and once

    a$ain he felt the armth of the $irl"s lips on his chee!. #Bye (eeta+ she said+ see you

    later. Are you $oin$ to !eep this hun! company for a little hile Alia+ hilst I visit

    %atniss'

    #I sure ill 3limmer+ and I"ll see you bac! here later+ e need to $o by dan don"t

    for$et.'

    #I on"t+ and don"t you to $o $ettin$ up to anythin$ you shouldn"t do in themeanhile.' 3limmer said+ in!in$ and smilin$ at the pair as she $ot up from the

    camp-fire and al!ed off into the trees.

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    A "limmer o# $n%erstan%ing&

    %atniss as still fast asleep in the small tent hen 3limmer"s $host arrived. 8ather 

    than a!e her she decided to insert herself into her dream.

    %atniss as dreamin$ about a time hen 8ue and herself had been sat in the ood+

    tal!in$ to$ether about their love for their families and sharin$ anecdotes about them+

    it as one of the fe peaceful lulls that they"d had in hich to relax. oever+

    %atniss as fully aare+ as is often the case ith many people+ that this as a dream

    and as not+ unli!e the previous ni$ht ith Clove+ a real event. She !ne it as

    simply a memory of a happy time replayin$ in her mind. A time hen she had felt

    safe ith a loved friend.

    %atniss soon realised the dream+ hich as one of the better ones she sometimesexperienced+ had be$un to chan$e. %atniss heard footsteps approachin$ throu$h the

    oods and turned to see 3limmer emer$in$ from the trees. This she !ne had not

    happened before and she also !ne that 3limmer ould+ in any case+ have been dead

     by the time in hich this particular dream as set.

    3limmer as+ hoever+ smilin$ and not+ as %atniss felt she had the ri$ht to be+

    exhibitin$ any a$$ression. #ello %atniss.' 3limmer said. #I"ve 7ust been tal!in$ ith

    (eeta and Alia by her old camp-site e told me you ere here and that I could drop

     by. 9on"t orry+ I ish you no ill ill and in any case could do you no harm no+

    even if I anted to.'

    #Are you really here 3limmer or is this 7ust a dream+ only you seem more solid than

    Clove did last ni$ht.' %atniss as!ed her.

    #In this case it"s both.' 3limmer smiled at her. #I really am here in the Arena but this

    time instead of a!in$ you I let you sleep on and 7ust slipped into your dream. I

    $uess I"m 7ust more considerate than Clove. But she"s $ettin$ better+ bein$ stuc! here

    for so lon$ seems to have tau$ht her some lessons and she"s almost human no.'

    3limmer smiled at %atniss ho couldn"t help $i$$lin$ a little at hat she"s said. The

    former Career then ent on+ sayin$ #By the ay+ than! you so much for freein$ her 

    from this place+ it"s $reat to have her bac! ith us a$ain. *obody is exactly sure ho

    she mana$ed to $et stuc! here and unable to "move on" but the consensus seems to be

    it as her poor mental state hen she died+ that it as her violent psychosis that held

    her here. 8ather+ that is+ than it bein$ don to her bein$ any more "evil" than the rest

    of us Career dupes that the Capitol and our 9istricts brainashed. Another theory is

    that it as the "(oers of i$ht"+ ho decided that a peaceful time here alone ould

     be healin$ for her soul and help clear her mind. /ither ay Cato"s been a so sad+ aninconsolable mess alone ithout her. I suppose that for both of them it could be seen

    as "7ust punishment" for hat they did+ but if that"s the case then hy only those to

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    and not the rest of us But in any case it"s $ood to see Cato smilin$ a$ain no they"re

    reunited.'

    %atniss loo!ed around and sa that the spot here 8ue had been sittin$ as no

    empty. She felt a little sad she"d $one and it must have shoed on her face.

    Seein$ this 3limmer said consolin$ly+ #5ou !no she asn"t real %atniss+ that as

     7ust a memory you ere reviein$+ so you"ve lost nothin$ because you can have that

    dream a$ain anytime you li!e. 9on"t orry thou$h+ in any case you"ll be seein$ 8ue

    for real a$ain before you leave this Arena+ that"s somethin$ she as!ed me to tell you.

    Anyay+ listen up "ire 3irl"+ I could ma!e bi$ speeches of for$iveness for your 

    !illin$ me in such a horrible fashion+ but hat"s the point+ Clove said it all last ni$ht+

    all that stuff about redemption and $ettin$ a ne perspective on thin$s. I must admit

    that it as not a nice ay to $o+ but then a$ain e ere all tryin$ to !ill you+ in fact if 

    I asn"t such a lousy shot I"d have done so ith that bo. 5ou ere fully 7ustified inusin$ hatever means you could to save yourself. She"s damn smart+ that little tree

    top friend of yours+ I"d never have thou$ht of usin$ those bu$s as a eapon.

    3limmer ent on to say4 #I !no I must have loo!ed a horrible mess hen you sa

    me after the attac! and you came to $et the bo+ but I as dead and beyond all the

     pain and the horrible hallucinations. ,ell you !no ho it felt+ you had a dose of that

    nasty bu$ venom yourself. So buc! up %atniss+ be the "3irl on ire" a$ain. Stop

    mopein$ and distressin$ over past tra$edies+ you did some bad thin$s+ sure+ as e all

    did+ but e ere not the insti$ators. Those ho ere mainly responsible are no

    dead and can"t hurt any of us ever a$ain+ so it"s over& 5ou+ (eeta and the rebels have

    totally transformed (anem and it is no unreco$nisable from it"s old dis$ustin$ self.

    So $o on ith your life %atniss /verdeen+ have babies ith that hun!y Ba!er Boy of 

    yours+ live+ en7oy+ don"t for$et us but please remember us as e are no+ not as the

    fools and murderers e ere conned into bein$ bac! then.'

    %atniss smiled and almost tried to hu$ 3limmer+ stoppin$ at the last moment thin!in$

    it asn"t possible. But then 3limmer smiled at her and said #3o ahead $irl+ it on"t

    or! in the real orld+ but that"s not here e are at the moment. It mi$ht be

     possible here in a dream+ I ouldn"t !no "cos I"ve never tried it.'

    So %atniss hu$$ed her and found that indeed it as possible+ as both youn$ omen

    !issed each other on the chee!. Then 3limmer said. #,ell it as nice seein$ you

    a$ain %atniss /verdeen+ ma!e sure it"s %atniss )ellar! soon+ you promise me

    %atniss blushed and nodded. Then she said+ #,e"ll meet a$ain someday 3limmer+

    next time as friends. (lease as! Cinna to or$anise a party for (eeta and I hen e

    eventually $et there ill you'

    3limmer $rinned+ and replied4 #5ep+ I sure ill+ but I"ll do the decoratin$ and most

    of the arran$ements+ I"m the "party animal" after all+ I"m famous for it& Cinna ill be

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    too busy to do it all in any case+ he"ll have his or! cut out desi$nin$ all our dresses.

    By the ay+ he as!ed me to say hi and that he loves you very much.'

    #(lease tell Cinna that I love him too and that I"ll see him later.' %atniss replied+

    smilin$.

    3limmer $ot up to leave+ sayin$ #I must be off no and $o and stop dear Alia from

    seducin$ your boyfriend+ she"s such a flirt. It"d never or! out anyay+ they"re such

    different people+ orlds apart really.' She $rinned.

    %atniss $rinned bac! at her+ then sat up fully aa!e in her tent and hilst reachin$

    for her boots said #old on 3limmer+ I"m feelin$ ide aa!e no anyay+ I"ll come

    ith you and say hello to Alia as ell+ before you both $o. I never really !ne her 

    much+ other than as 7ust another face at the Trainin$ Centre+ it"d be nice to meet

     properly at last. And as to her seducin$ my boyfriend+ I very much doubt there"s anyectoplasmic "han!y pan!y" $oin$ on. (eeta"s too "noble a spirit" for that+ he"s really

    6uite shy ith other $irls.

    3limmer aited as %atniss dressed armly and then both the livin$ and $hostly

    youn$ oman headed off to$ether the fe hundred yards throu$h the moonlit trees+

    soon arrivin$ at the camp fire+ hich as blazin$ merrily and sendin$ red spar!s

    s!yard+ (eeta havin$ sto!ed it up ith some lar$er branches.

    They heard Alia and (eeta lau$hin$ loudly as they approached and then as the duo

    entered the circle of fireli$ht (eeta in!ed at Alia and then said to %atniss + #ello

    my love+ are you o!ay Only you loo! li!e you"ve seen a $host&' Then they all burst

    out lau$hin$ hysterically.

    /ventually+ hen the mirth had died don 3limmer said to %atniss+ #And this is the

    $uy you say is shy ith other omen e seems pretty relaxed to me.'

    %atniss $rinned at her and replied. #Oh it"s only live omen he sometimes has a

     problem ith+ hen it comes to dead ones it seems he"s 6uite the charmer.'

    #That"s o!ay then+ as lon$ as it doesn"t $et "physical"+ "cos there are las a$ainst that

    sort of thin$.' 3limmer replied+ $rinnin$ bac! at %atniss.

    #*ecrophilia isn"t your style is it (eeta' %atniss as!ed.

    (eeta simply po!ed out his ton$ue and ble her a raspberry as his only reply.

    #That"s hat ma!es me love him so much $irls+ he"s so mature.' %atniss smiled. #So

    anyay+ it loo!s li!e you to have been havin$ a nice chat hilst 3limmer"s beenith me. i Alia+ it"s nice to really meet you at last+ I ta!e it from all the lau$hin$ as

    e $ot here that (eeta and yourself have resolved any old "issues" beteen you both.'

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    Alia smiled at %atniss and replied. #There ere no "issues" %atniss. ,hat (eeta did

    for me I alays felt as a blessin$+ an act of compassion and no he !nos it too+

    it"s all by$ones and never ere"s.'

    5ep+ I thin! that"s another ni$htmare or to $one up in smo!e.' (eeta said+ smilin$.#By the ay %atniss+ you on"t be surprised to learn that I no completely believe

    hat you told me about meetin$ Clove last ni$ht. Sorry for doubtin$ you my love.

    I"m $onna loo! a bit of an idiot hen the video of that riverside chat $ets aired+ cos

    I"ll have to eat my ords in the commentary. As far as I"m concerned the evidence

    that it really happened is pretty conclusive. In fact I as!ed Alia if it ould be possible

    to film a $host+ but sadly it isn"t+ they have no physical presence to reflect li$ht+ their 

    ima$es are created directly in our minds and on"t sho up on a camera. It"s a bi$

    shame as e"d ma!e a fortune ith a real verifiable "$host film". Anyay+ ho"d you

    and 3limmer $et on+ $irly chat all sorted'

    ,e"re fine (eeta+ 3limmer and I have been havin$ a nice tal!+ ,e don"t bear any

    $rud$es either. It didn"t ta!e us lon$ to or! that out+ so e"ve also been plannin$ a

     party e"ll be havin$ some time later hen you and I $et to "heaven". I"m $onna ma!e

    you ta!e dancin$ lessons (eeta )ellar!+ "cos 3limmer and Cinna are $oin$ to be

     plannin$ a massive elcome party for our "heavenly" arrival. On the al! over here

    3limmer su$$ested e ma!e it a formal ball and I a$reed. I"d love an excuse to ear 

    one of Cinna"s beautiful $ons a$ain.'

    (eeta as a terrible dancer+ he had to admit %atniss as ri$ht+ and the idea of havin$

    to learn to do so properly as not one he cheerfully entertained. %atniss+ Alia and

    3limmer all 7ust $rinned at (eeta"s discomfiture+ he could scarcely believe it but his

    ni$ht had 7ust $ot even eirder&

    #)aybe there"s still some trac!er 7ac!er venom soa!ed into the $round under that

    tree+ I"m really still in the tent and this is all a hallucination' e desperately thou$ht

    to himself for a second or to+ then re7ected the idea as baseless rationalisation+

    acceptin$ the events for hat they ere+ $enuine but stran$e.

    The first li$ht of a dan sun+ althou$h still ell belo the horizon+ as be$innin$ to

    hit the hi$h ispy clouds above the arena+ ma!in$ them $lo a faint pin!. 3limmer 

    and Alia stood up and 3limmer said+ #,ell you to+ e"d best be off+ e shouldn"t

    stay here in dayli$ht or ho !nos hat+ e mi$ht even $et stuc! here li!e poor 

    Clove did for so lon$. ,e"ll see you a$ain+ but hopefully not too soon. Bless you

     both+ have a $ood life and a lon$ one+ !no e love you and ill be aitin$ to $reet

    you hen the time comes. By the ay %atniss+ as I said earlier 8ue ants to see you

    toni$ht+ so be sure and be at the place here she died. She"s brin$in$ a companion

    ith her to say hello as ell.'

    #Bless you both+' %atniss replied. #I"ll loo! forard to toni$ht then and than! you for 

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    everythin$ you to. Bye 3limmer+ Bye Alia. See you later.'

    #Bye loves+' (eeta added. #See you both in a hile.'

    3limmer replied+ #Hntil later then+' and Alia said+ #Bless you both+ have a $reat life.'

    Then after !issin$ them both on the chee! a$ain the youn$ omen"s $hosts fadedaay+ avin$ happily as they ent.

    #,ell e"d best $et bac! to the tent and try and $et a bit more sleep then %atniss+ it

    loo!s li!e e"ll be up all toni$ht as ell.' (eeta said.

    #O!ay+ but I don"t !no if I ill $et much sleep+ I"m so excited "cos I"ll be seein$ little

    8ue a$ain toni$ht&' She beamed ith excitement and 7oy at (eeta+ ho !issed and

    hu$$ed her and after extin$uishin$ the fire led her off to their small tent for another 

    nap.

    The Blessing in the oo%&

    That day+ after risin$ in the late mornin$+ havin$ in fact achieved a fe more hours

    sleep+ (eeta and %atniss ent al!in$ bac! to their cache by the )emorial at the old

    Cornucopia site+ to restoc! ith food and $et more fresh ater. By $oin$ direct

    throu$h the oods and not $oin$ bac! to the river and folloin$ it"s meanderin$s the

    distance as cut in less than half+ so they arrived in time for a late lunch. They had a

     picnic there+ sat by one of the old launch pedestals hich had been left in place in

    their circle and en7oyed the sunshine hich as still bri$ht and fairly arm. ,ith

    their camera runnin$ they $ave a detailed account of the previous ni$ht"s "visitors"+

    then be$an to discuss the implications of hat they"d been told.

    #5ou !no hat %atniss (eeta said+ soundin$ very relaxed. #I don"t thin! I ill be

    havin$ any of those ni$htmares about hat happened to us in the Arenas anymore.

    And than!fully the other ni$htmares and "episodes"+ the ones due to bein$ imprisoned

    and hi7ac!ed in the Capitol+ are fairly rare anyay and are $ettin$ less intense. I can

    usually tell hats real or not real no and 0anny+ my therapist+ has really helped me

    ith the bad memories about that time+ althou$h she says I may alays suffer some"flashbac!s". But as far as here and the other arena are concerned I thin! all my old

    demons are $one+ or rather they aren"t demons any more+ but an$els.'

    %atniss smiled at him and teasin$ly replied+ #An$els eh I thou$ht you and Alia ere

    $ettin$ on a bit too ell hen 3limmer and I turned up at the fireside last ni$ht. I can

    see I"ll have to !eep a close eye on you to hen she"s around&'

    (eeta tried to splutter out a denial of any amorous intent+ but %atniss 7ust lau$hed at

    him+ sayin$+ #Only indin$ you up seetheart+ Alia may not be exactly an "an$el" butI thin! she realises that you"re "out of bounds" and if she tried anythin$ I"d "clip her 

    in$s" for her.'

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    (eeta $ot her 7o!e and lau$hed+ feelin$ relieved that she really did trust him. Then he

    secretly smiled to himself thin!in$+ "(erhaps I as flirtin$ 7ust a little bit+ come to

    thin! of it+ but to be fair romance as never my "stron$ suit" and I probably need the

     practice."

    e then $ot more serious and ent on to further explain his feelin$s about the

     benefits of the couple havin$ returned to their old Arena+ sayin$4 #%atniss+ I thin! 

    that even the ni$htmares that involved other people than those e"ve so seen here so

    far+ as ell as the ones that ori$inated in the second Arena e ere forced into feel

    far less traumatic+ no that I !no so much love and for$iveness are possible. 5ou

    !no hat I thin! that even if I met Cato"s $host no that he"d no lon$er fri$hten

    me. I"m $lad he"s $ot his Clove bac!+ he may have been a total bastard+ but he as a

     brave total bastard and he deserves to have his "arrior $irl" at his side. (erhaps she"ll

    even be able to "civilise" the bloody $it a little+ since she"s turned over a ne leaf.'(eter $rinned.

    #I a$ree+ those to are perfect for each other and I"m $lad they"re bac! to$ether. Apart

    from both havin$ been vicious murderers they really ere 6uite cute to$ether.'

    %atniss smiled broadly+ ma!in$ (eeta realise hat she"s said as at least part "ton$ue

    in chee!".

    inishin$ their meal and pac!in$ aay the extra supplies that they needed from their 

    cache into their bac!pac!s the pair headed out to hi!e to the clearin$ in the ood

    here 8ue had been !illed.

    The place as deep into the oods and once a$ain the sun as $ettin$ lo hen they

    arrived+ castin$ a beautiful dappled li$ht into the open space. %atniss as+ at first+ a

    little sad and nervous about enterin$ the clearin$+ her feelin$s bein$ that it as almost

    a "holy" place. A place someho apart from the rest of the orld. To her it as the

    true memorial for her fallen friend. (eeta too! %atniss"s hand as they stood at the

    clearin$"s ed$e+ s6ueezed it $ently and said+ #Buc! up "ire 3irl" 8ue"s $onna be

    comin$ to see you soon+ you don"t ant her to see you loo!in$ unhappy do you'

    They set up their little tent a fe feet from the spot here the youn$ $irl had died and

    afterards (eeta pulled out somethin$ from his bac!pac! that %atniss didn"t even

    !no he had ith him+ a small bottle of red ine and a couple of plastic tumblers. e

    filled their "$lasses" and then pullin$ %atniss to her feet he too! the bottle ith the

    remainin$ ine over to the exact spot here 8ue had once lain+ dead and covered in

    the floers %atniss had $athered. Settin$ up their camera>recorder on a fallen lo$

     positioned to cover the scene he too! hold of %atniss in a ti$ht embrace and !issed

    her.

    e said4 #If I may I ant to do somethin$ 0anny"s tau$ht me %atniss+ somethin$ that"s

    very old. It"s somethin$ special+ li!e hat you did for 8ue ith the floers and your 

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    salute. It"s somethin$ that even pre-dates Christianity. It is a ay to sho respect for 

    the dead+ a ay to $ive than!s for their lives+ for their love and to honour their 

    memory.'

    %atniss nodded her permission and (eeta then $ently up-ended the bottle in his hand+

    lettin$ the remainin$ ine flo onto the $round onto the spot here 8ue had died.

    e said+ #Blessed Be 8ue+ e $ive than!s that you brou$ht li$ht and friendship into

    this dar! place and are ea$er to see you a$ain toni$ht. Blessed Be also all those ho

    suffered and died in this Arena and the many similar ones created by men"s evil+ be

    you previously our friends+ foes or stran$ers to us from lon$ a$o. %no that you are

    loved+ missed and not for$otten.

    Then %atniss and (eeta both dran! deeply from the ine in their bea!ers and then

    tipped the last of it onto the $round as an additional "offerin$".

    %atniss as cryin$ copiously and she said. #That as beautiful (eeta+ It"s as li!e

    nothin$ I"ve ever seen before+ spirituality ithout reli$ion+ ritual ithout do$ma+ it

    as amazin$.'

    #i!e I said+ it"s somethin$ I learned from 0anny my therapist. She is interested in

    ancient reli$ions and spirituality and she is teachin$ me some of this old stuff+ she

    says it may be calmin$ to my soul. I thin! she"s ri$ht.'

    #It certainly as calmin$ to mine (eeta+ perhaps hen e $et bac! to 9istrict :; e

    should both or! ith 0anny and try and learn and more of this stuff. I as never one

    for reli$ion+ I never sa ho any 7ust and lovin$ 3od could permit The un$er 

    3ames to exist+ but this is different+ this is "real".'

    (eeta told her+ #I had initially intended to do this at the )emorial site+ it seemed the

    ri$ht place before I arrived here+ but this clearin$ seems even more appropriate+ it is a

    far more "sacred" place and far more important to you %atniss my love. In any case I

    no have somethin$ else very important that I ant to do bac! at the )emorial

     before e leave. or no thou$h+ to practical matters+ it"s $ettin$ dar!+ it"ll be coldlater and e"ll need plenty of fireood for toni$ht. et"s $ather lots before it $ets too

    dar! to see it.'

    The pair then set about $atherin$ dead ood ith a ill+ until the deepenin$ tili$ht

     brou$ht a halt to their activities. They then sat around the fire as it burned $ently+

    eatin$ supper and ith a pot of coffee brein$ by the fire"s heat. Then usin$ the

    camera"s built in li$ht intensifier to amplify the fireli$ht and compensate for the

    $atherin$ $loom and ith it set up on a small roc! by their camp they videoed a

    section about the "ceremony" they"d carried out+ plus some more about the healin$effect of the previous ni$hts events and also hat they"d discussed on that afternoons

    tre! to the clearin$.

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    (iller an% Victim

    By the time they finished it as around midni$ht and the moon as risin$ hen

    (eeta said+ #9o you thin! it"s orth us $oin$ to bed %atniss I"m really not that tired+

     but ho are you'

    #Sleep+ are you !iddin$ (eeta& I couldn"t+ I"m 7ust so anxious to see little 8ue a$ain+

    this ait is !illin$ me.'

    Then a !indly soundin$ male voice spo!e from the dar!ness outside their circle of 

    fireli$ht+ startlin$ them and sayin$+ #Then I"m $lad to say your ait is over %atniss+

    here she is+ $o and say hello honey. And 8ue+ loo!in$ "pretty as a picture"+ her hair in

     bunches tied by ribbons and earin$ her blue "intervie dress" stepped into the

    fireli$ht and al!ed over to hu$ and !iss %atniss. The to of them ere soon cryin$tears of happiness and sayin$ ho much they"d missed each other. %atniss+ ith

    streamin$ tears+ as sayin$ ho sorry she as not to have $ot bac! in time to save

    her life+ ith 8ue tellin$ her it didn"t matter and she should not blame herself+ that she

     believed her death in the Arena had been more or less a certainty+ almost pre-ordained

     before she"d even entered the place and that at least than!s to %atniss she"d not died

    alone+ terrified and unloved.

    Then+ ith the pair re$ainin$ some de$ree of emotional control the little $irl al!ed

    over to (eeta and saidJ #I never !ne you as ell (eeta+ but I sa you to to$ether in

    the Trainin$ Centre and on the Intervie evenin$ and you loo!ed so ell suited to

    each other. I"m so $rateful to you both for all that you"ve done for my family and all

    the 9istricts+ you ere so brave+ both of you. 5ou+ %atniss and the 8ebels have

    remade the our orld. Than! you. Then she hu$$ed and !issed (eeta as ell.

    It as then that (eeta noticed somethin$ very odd indeed+ ho did she do that 8ue

    as apparently solid+ a arm+ livin$ little $irl+ not an insubstantial $host.

    is puzzlement must have been obvious+ as the un!non male ho as barely

    visible at the ed$e of the rin$ of fireli$ht chuc!led and said+ #5es (eeta my friend+here in this clearin$ and on this ni$ht she is real+ a livin$+ breathin$ little $irl a$ain.

    5our friend 0anny has probably told you that this time of year is !non a Samhain+

    an ancient Celtic festival hen the dead may return to console the livin$ ho love

    and miss them The (oers of i$ht have $ranted this ni$ht as a reard for all that

    you and %atniss have done and have had to $o throu$h. It is an incredibly rare event

    for them to intervene directly to chan$e reality+ but you to deserve it+ and so does

    8ue. It is because she as a total innocent hen she died that this physical return is

     possible. But in any case 8ue"s "afterlife" is somehat different to that of the rest us.

    Thin! of her as hat the Christians call an "An$el"+ she has been $ranted abilities beyond those permitted to most of the dead. In her !indness she insisted she be

    alloed to use her poers+ so that that I too could be solid and near human a$ain in

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    this one place+ hilst I"m actin$ as her "escort".'

    #And 7ust ho are you my mysterious friend+ out there in the $loom (lease come

    into the fireli$ht so e can see you properly.' (eeta replied.

    #

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    Hpon hearin$ this %atniss"s former hatred of the youn$ man melted aay. She stood

    up and al!ed over to )arvel+ held his hand+ !issed his chee! and replied. #And if 

    you can for$ive me for my ven$eful !illin$ then you"ll ma!e me a better person too

    )arvel. ,hat I did as ron$+ I !illed you out of fury and frustration+ it made me

    spiteful& It as a deadly frustration that nothin$ I could do ould ever save 8ue"s lifeand that I had been 7ust seconds too late returnin$ here. Than! you for brin$in$ my

    dear 8ue bac! to see me here toni$ht.'

    %atniss then smiled at )arvel and 8ue+ and returnin$ to (eeta"s side she firmly but

    happily said4 #*o enou$h of this an$st and past sorros. et"s have some fun& 8ue+

    as you"re alive here toni$ht can you eat seeties Only I have a bi$ chocolate bar in

    my ruc!sac!+ ould you li!e it And )arvel+ there"s still some food in the pac!s if 

    you"re hun$ry and e"ve $ot fresh coffee.

    )arvel declined to eat but accepted a mu$ of coffee. But a $rin spread across the

    youn$ $irl"s face at the mention of chocolate and 8ue replied+ #,hat+ a hole bar to

    myself& I never had so much before. Then can e play hide and see! The moon"s

    full and risin$ and there should soon be enou$h li$ht to see by ell enou$h+ once our 

    eyes $et used to it.'

    %atniss nodded and smiled+ sayin$+ #5es o!ay 8ue+ but only if you stay on the

    $round+ e can"t climb trees as ell as you so that"d be cheatin$. And don"t $o too far 

    from this clearin$+ there are ild animals in these oods that have come don from

    the northern ilds+ bears and such and I ouldn"t ant you harmed.'

    8ue loo!ed at %atniss ith a stran$ely puzzled expression on her face and then

    $rinned+ sayin$+ #O!ay "bi$ Sis"+ but you for$et I"m an an$el no+ nothin$ can harm

    me and no ild animal ould even try. In any case I"ve sent all of them aay from

    here for the ni$ht+ but even if I hadn"t I can do this.' And thus sayin$ she too! %atniss

     by the hand and to$ether they soared strai$ht up into the treetops+ then $ently $lided

    don a$ain+ as $raceful as a pair of moc!in$7ays.

    xxx

    Over to hours later %atniss+ (eeta and even )arvel ho had also 7oined in the $ame

    of hide and see! ere tired+ but 8ue still had boundless ener$y. As they sat by the fire

    $ettin$ their breath bac! 8ue said to %atniss+ #(lease tell me about the )oc!in$7ay

    dress you ore+ the one Cinna made you as your eddin$ dress. I heard about it from

    one of the Capitol $irls ho died in the attac! on the city. *ot everyone there as on

    (resident Sno"s side+ as you !no. I have lots of $ood friends ho ere sadly !illed

    in the fi$htin$ supportin$ the 8ebels. Anya as one of them+ she as very youn$ but

    as carryin$ messa$es for local 8esistance fi$hters that had to be !ept "off air". She$ot shot by (eace!eepers. Anyay+ she told me about a marvellous dress you ore

    that made (resident Sno so furious.

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    So %atniss told 8ue all about the incredible moc!in$7ay dress that Cinna had created+

    the hite eddin$ dress that transformed by false fire as she spun into a blac! 

    feathered representation of a moc!in$7ay. They both $rinned as she told her friend

    ho furious it had made the former (resident+ ho he"d loo!ed li!e he ould explode

    hen he sa it. Then she sadly said+ #)y onderful little sister (rim ould haveloved to have been there to see it+ but no she mi$ht never see me in any of Cinna"s

     beautiful creations+ she died in the attac! on Sno"s mansion did you !no'

    #But of course I do %atniss.' 8ue replied. #(rim"s one of my very best friends+ e"re

     practically sisters& She ishes she could have come here toni$ht as ell+ but sadly

    she couldn"t. Than!s to you volunteerin$ to ta!e her place she as never here as a

    Tribute in this Arena for The un$er 3ames. This meetin$ place has been set aside

    solely for those ho fou$ht here ori$inally+ so sadly she had to remain behind.'

    But then 8ue $ave a sly $rin and said+ #She"s very sad about it+ but as you both !no

    all too ell %atniss and (eeta+ this Arena is particularly infamous for last minute rule

    chan$es+ so don"t despair& ,e may ell find a ay to snea! (rim in+ as ell as some

    other members of your families+ plus other old friends and ex-foes mi$ht 7ust $et in

    here yet+ before you have to leave. 5ou"ve plenty of supplies+ far more than the three

    days orth you"ve used up so far+ so even thou$h I"m pretty sure you"ve both already

    healed enou$h to $o home hy not ta!e the opportunity for a little vacation here It"s

    a lovely place no that all the !illin$+ hatred and fear have $one+ so there"s no reason

    not stay here a fe more days and I"ve $ot a feelin$ this "party" is not over.

    ,hen I $et bac! I have some serious lobbyin$ to do+ alon$ ith Cinna hose a ily

    fox and ise in the ays of "heavenly politics"+ plus I"ve several other friends ho"ll

    help me. ,e"ll be or!in$ alon$ ith lots of influential people e !no to try and

    ma!e history repeat itself+ ith luc! more "last minute rule chan$es" mi$ht 7ust happen

    here once a$ain.'

    The Beauty Re)eale%

    %atniss had noticed that sometimes 8ue sounded older and more $ron up than henshe"d first !non her+ even thou$h she still loo!ed exactly the same. earin$ hat

    8ue had 7ust said+ and ho it had sounded she as!ed her+ #8ue+ do people still $ro

    up in "heaven" if they die youn$'

    #Ah+ so you"ve cau$ht me out then %atniss+ you clever $irl.' 8ue smiled. #,hilst e

    spirits do not a$e+ as such+ e can appear any a$e e ish to+ up to our real "mortal"

    one. Hp "till no I"ve stayed in the a$e you !ne me for this meetin$ because I

    anted to relate to you as I did hen e first met as friends and allies. ,ould you

    li!e to see me at my proper a$e+ the one I ould be no'

    #I ould very much li!e that 8ue.' %atniss replied. And (eeta nodded too.

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    #

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    a$ain and %atniss moaned softly to herself. #Oh (rim+ I miss you+ I need my "little

    duc!" but no she"s $one forever.'

    )arvel stepped in ith concern on his face and $ently said+ #But she"s not $one

    forever+ you !no that %atniss+ she"s 7ust "somehere else" at the moment and you"ll

     be to$ether a$ain one day. And hat"s more if you need her to be your "little duc!"a$ain+ 7ust li!e 8ue here (rim can shift her a$e she can become so a$ain+ at least for a

    little hile.

    (eeta holdin$ her hand told her. #)arvel"s ri$ht my love+ (rim"s only "in the other 

    room" 7ust a fe footsteps aay. 5ou"ll be to$ether a$ain all in $ood time+ the ne

    friends that e"ve made here have tau$ht us that haven"t they'

    #Thats ri$ht %atniss.' 8ue said+ puttin$ her arm around her shoulders. #isten to the

     boys+ those ho love us are never far aay+ no more than a heartbeat"s distance. Their love never diminishes and one day+ hen it is time+ there ill be a 7oyful and

    complete reunion. 5ou !no this+ you have seen the evidence here ith your on

    eyes. This is not a matter of "reli$ious faith" hatever that is+ it is a simple matter of 

    fact. So stop cryin$ honey and !iss your (eeta. I"ll have one too if there"s any $oin$

    spare. I"ll bet they"re seeter than that chocolate bar you $ave me.

    %atniss couldn"t help but $rin a little at that+ and pulled herself to$ether. She as

    helped to her feet and then did as she as told+ !issin$ (eeta passionately on the lips

    and then 8ue as also !issed+ but more chastely in $ratitude. Then she loo!ed at

    )arvel+ smiled and ith open arms said+ #C"mon then lummox+ hy should you be

    left out' And !issed and hu$$ed him as ell&

    Smilin$ and happy to see %atniss stron$ a$ain 8ue said. #)arvel and myself must $o

     bac! soon+ but li!e I said+ hy don"t you to ta!e a fe more days vacation here

    9on"t be too ea$er to leave+ 9istrict :; ill be fine by itself for a little hile more+

    you"ve done more than enou$h for them and The Capitol to have earned a proper 

     brea!.'

    8ue smiled and continued+ sayin$4 )y friends and I ill have a lot of bottoms to !issor !ic!+ there"s bureaucracy to bypass even in "heaven". ,e"re $oin$ to or$anise a little

    "rebellion" of our on+ I"m fairly sure e can tal! most people around+ but I"m

    thin!in$ of one particularly stubborn $uy ho"s in the $roup that deals ith hat you

    mi$ht thin! of as "mortal relations". e"s an aful "ruleboo! stic!ler". I thin! I"ll as! 

    Thresh to $o and loom over his des! for hile+ that should ma!e him more flexible.'

    8ue $rinned her old+ cute "little $irl $rin" at the thou$ht of tormentin$ a bureaucrat

    and then said4 #By hoo! or by croo! never fear you to+ several people ho really

    ant to see you a$ain ill be comin$ here before you $o home. This isolated place isa uni6ue facility and a one off opportunity+ so hy aste it I promise it"ll be orth

    the ait+ meanhile en7oy it here+ relax+ by mista!e the 3amema!ers created a pretty

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     place and it"s all yours+ tax free and funded by the Capitol+ even the eather is bein$

    nice and loo!s "set fair" for a hile lon$er+ so hat more could you ant'

    %atniss and (eeta a$reed they"d stay a fe more days and ould en7oy a nice brea!.

    8ue smiled and then said mysteriously to (eeta+ #Can I have a little ord in privatefor a second before )arvel and myself leave.

    e loo!ed puzzled but replied+ #Of course you can 8ue.'

    #Step into my office then.' 8ue said and she led him a short ay off into the trees.

    Once out of earshot of %atniss and )arvel she as!ed. #I hope you"ve $ot it ith

    you'

    #3ot hat ith me' (eeta replied+ soundin$ confused.

    #9on"t be silly (eeta.' 8ue smiled. #The thin$ you"ve been carryin$ around

    everyhere ith you for nearly a year+ you !no full ell hat I mean&'

    #Oh that.' (eeta said shyly+ #5eah+ it"s in my ruc!sac!.'

    #3ood+ no listen carefully+ here"s the plan'....

    xxx

    A couple of minutes later 8ue and (eeta emer$ed from the trees to find a sli$htly

     puzzled )arvel and %atniss aitin$ for them. They both smiled a little $uiltily and

    then 8ue said+ #*othin$ to orry about+ 7ust clarifyin$ ith (eeta some arran$ements

    about a little surprise I hope to set up. Anyay %atniss+ (eeta+ it"s been onderful to

    see you a$ain but )arvel and myself better be $oin$ no+ e"ve lots to arran$e.'

    Then+ after ta!in$ their leave as the first slivers of li$ht be$an to appear on the

    horizon 8ue and )arvel vanished.

    The Last Night&

    (eeta and %atniss had spent three days of deliriously happy and relaxed holiday

    to$ether in their old Arena. They"d "s!inny dipped" in the freezin$ cold la!e+ emer$in$

    covered in $oose bumps and shiverin$ in each other"s arms to rub each other dry in

    the bi$ fluffy toels they"d brou$ht on their trip to double as pillos. They"d made

    love in the sunshine on the riverban!+ surrounded by the tall trees and son$ of the

    )oc!in$7ays. They"d hunted in the oods+ coo!ed their $rooslin$ and s6uirel !ills

    over an open fire and slept in each others" arms by their camp-fire under the stars+ noteven botherin$ to put up their tent as they"d zipped their sleepin$ ba$s to$ether and

    shared armth. *one of their old ni$htmares had troubled them and they had come to

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    truly believe that at last they ere free of them.

    On the third evenin$ they decided to camp not far from the )emorial+ in the meado

     by the side of the la!e. They felt that even thou$h they hadn"t yet heard from 8ue that

    they really should $et bac! to 9istrict :; the next day+ as it as $ettin$ nearer to

    aymitch and /ffie"s eddin$ and they needed to be home to arran$e some thin$s.They planned to recall their hovercraft to pic! them up in the mornin$. oever+ in

    the early evenin$+ after they"d finished their supper and ere sat by their fire a

    familiar fi$ure came to 7oin them in their camp. It as 8ue+ she as bac! and

     beamin$ at them+ loo!in$ 7ubilant and in her older "real a$e" persona+ but much more

    casually dressed in clothes better suited for here they ere. She did hoever+

    remain 7ust as solid and "alive" seemin$ as she"d done earlier.

    (eeta and %atniss ere deli$hted to see her a$ain and $reeted her armly. They

    as!ed her about her non "$hostly" condition and she beamed at them+ sayin$+ #I $ot anextension on this+ hat can I say but somebody "up there" li!es me+ but that ain"t all&

    Hnable to stop smilin$ 8ue ent on+ sayin$+ #,e did it $uys+ e !ic!ed their butts

    and they"ve conceded. The "(oers of i$ht" have a$reed+ althou$h to be fair they

    ere never the real obstacle+ it as some more "petty" officials e had to "arm tist"

    /veryone"s comin$ to see you off and they"ll all be here an hour or so before dan+ so

    e must be sure to be at the )emorial by then.

    #Oh e"re not li!ely to need sleep anyay+ e had a $ood nap this afternoon.'

    %atniss explained to her and added+ smilin$ shyly+ #,e $ot a little+ "physical" earlier 

    and needed a sleep to recoup some ener$y. ,e can nap on the fli$ht bac! tomorro in

    any case. Can you stay ith us till dan 8ue It"s so lovely to have you bac! in my

    life.' She said+ smilin$.

    #Of course I"ll stay %atniss.' 8ue replied+ #Can I invite a fe more friends alon$ to

    ma!e it a party'

    #Of course 8ue.' (eeta said. #The more the merrier.'

    8ue didn"t say anythin$ vocally+ but evidently the invite ent out as immediatelyClove returned to the Arena+ but this time ith a familiar fi$ure holdin$ her hand.

    It as none other than the arch Career+ Clove"s lover+ Cato. oever the youn$ man

    ho no appeared seemed a very different person from ho %atniss and (eeta

    remembered him. ar more relaxed+ still "fi$htin$ fit" but ith all his former bravado

    and a$$ression $one. e as earin$ the simple "trac!suit" type sports outfit he"d

    orn in the Capitol"s Trainin$ Centre+ as indeed as Clove+ but it as obvious from

    their manner that neither of them had come to fi$ht.

    They both smiled at %atniss and (eeta+ then Cato+ all false pride $one+ said softly4 #I

    don"t !no ho to than! you %atniss+ you $ave me my Clove bac! and no I have

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    all I ever anted+ I as so alone and no e are one a$ain. I don"t deserve such

    !indness from either one of you+ but believe me I am in your debt. Time is "different"

    here e are no+ much more "flexible" and e to have been bac! to$ether a$ain

    for some "apparent" time lon$er than it has been in your orld. It"s been lon$ enou$h

    for us both to "heal" some more. ,ith Clove at my side I am a better man and she is

    calmer too.'

    Then smilin$ at his $irlfriend Cato said+ #5ou"re not such a psycho bitch no are you

    my love' Instead of bloin$ up as she once ould have at his verbal provocation

    Clove simply smiled at Cato+ nodded and !issed him. Cato continued+ sayin$+ #That

    $oes for me too+ once all I thou$ht about as !illin$ and innin$ a "victory"+ but no

    I see that as all insane and pointless. *o e both !no all ill be ell for us and

    that all e need is each other to be happy. I ish I could sha!e your hand (eeta+ but

    that ill have to ait "till e are on the same "plane" of existence+ but+ ith your 

     permission and hers may I !iss your youn$ lady

    (eeta and %atniss both smiled and nodded+ Cato stepped up and $ave %atniss a chaste

    !iss+ hich+ as she as by no expectin$+ she felt as a arm spot on her chee!+ the

    imprint of Cato"s lips.

    Clove+ still smilin$ li$htened the formal mood by sayin$+ #Sorry about the "trac!suit"

    outfits by the ay $uys+ e can chan$e "em if you"d prefer but it"s hat e li!e to

    slob around in. In any case e ere both doin$ some trainin$ to$ether hen e $ot

    the "call" from 8ue and shot strai$ht don here. After all+ 7ust "cos one"s dead there"s

    no need to let yourself $et out of shape. Cato and I ould miss it anyay if e

    stopped trainin$+ it"s been such a lar$e part of our lives. But no it"s $ood to !no

    that it"s not leadin$ up to anythin$ nasty li!e The un$er 3ames+ e 7ust do it for 

    fun. e beats me ith spears+ I beat him ith !nives+ but in unarmed combat e"re

     pretty much evenly matched most of the time believe it or not. e"s much bi$$er and

    stron$er than me but sometimes I can turn his stren$th a$ainst him+ "cos I"m faster+

    nastier and snea!ier.' She smiled at Cato ho nodded ruefully in a$reement+

    obviously from "painful experience".

    Then Clove ent on+ sayin$+ #But there"s one thin$ e still both lac! from our s!illset thou$h+ e"re lousy at archery 7ust li!e 3limmer. (erhaps you"ll teach us all hen

    you eventually "arrive" %atniss /ver since I first sa you practisin$ it at the Trainin$

    Centre I"ve alays anted to be able to do that rollin$ shoulder dive thin$ you do

    ith your bo in your hand+ the one that ends up ith you in a !neelin$ position

    ready to shoot. That"s so cool&' Clove beamed in admiration.

    #It"ll be my pleasure Clove+ and in return you can teach me your !nife throin$

    techni6ues+ I can"t hit a barn door from tenty feet. 9on"t bother chan$in$ the

    trainin$ $ear thou$h+ it"s alays suited you both anyay and you loo! better in it than(eeta and myself ever did+ that"s for sure.' %atniss smiled.

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    Cato turned to (eeta+ sayin$+ #5ou can help out ith the ei$ht trainin$ too if you

    li!e (eeta. I remember hen you lobbed that bi$ heavy metal ball thin$ at us Careers

    in the Trainin$ Centre. I never thou$ht it"d even $et half ay+ but it as impressive I

    must say& or a second before it hit that rac! I thou$ht it"d bol us don li!e s!ittles.

    ots of us ex-Tributes and not 7ust the Careers have started a little "trainin$ club" and I

    have been attendin$ for a hile to try and ta!e my mind off of missin$ Clove+ itdidn"t or! thou$h.'

    Cato loo!ed momentarily sad+ but then s6ueezin$ his $irlfriend"s hand to reassure

    himself that his lonely time as over he carried on+ sayin$4 #Anyho+ the $irls and

    $uys there are plannin$ to start holdin$ some reasonably non-violentDishE

    competitions. *ot that anybody could $et really hurt no in any case+ but e"re

    aimin$ at somethin$ li!e e"ve read about. It"s an old pre-(anem sportin$ "3ames"

    tournament called The Olympics+ but e"ll be doin$ it ith different events+ more

    suited to hat e !no best. There"ll be more types of manual eapons s!ills than inthe ori$inal+ and also all sorts of unarmed combat+ climbin$+ pursuit and evasion

    $ames+ both for teams and individuals+ it"s $onna be fun& 5ou and "ire 3irl" ou$hta

    enter as a team.' e beamed and (eeta and %atniss and they said they"d loo! forard

    to it.

     

    0ust then a spectacularly $lamorously dressed 3limmer in a semi transparent outfit

    not unli!e the $old one she"d orn for her Capitol T< intervie+ alon$ ith Alia in a

    sophisticated and slin!y emerald $reen evenin$ $on and ith her lon$ auburn hair 

     piled up in a stunnin$ fashion both materialised by the fire. 3limmer smiled at (eeta

    and %atniss and said #i a$ain you to+ this is nice+ I didn"t expect to be seein$ you

     both a$ain so soon but e 7ust $ot "the call"+ than!s 8ue& ,e ere at a party but it as

    a bit slo and stuffy+ lousy music and no decent "nibbles". This sounded much more

    fun and subversive so e slipped out before anyone could notice. )arvel ill be

    alon$ later ith a $uest+ but he"s ta!en it upon himself to $o and tell some of the

    others to be here for the pre-dan+ as permission for us all to come as only $ranted

    last minute and he ants to be sure everybody !nos about it ho should. That boy

    never relaxes+ anybody"d thin! he had a $uilty conscience.' 3limmer in!ed and

    $rinned at 8ue.

    Then both the $irls party outfits transformed+ shape-shiftin$ into far more practical

    and comfortable seat shirts+ 7eans and trainers better suited to their current location

    and both their hairstyles chan$ed to become simpler and more practical also. Then

    they all sat by the blazin$ camp-fire and be$an to chat and lau$h to$ether.

    Bit by bit more people+ both old friends and ex foes turned up as they sat around the

    fire and eventually 6uite a number ere assembled. Thresh arrived loo!in$ stron$+

    tall and fit as ever. e shoo! hands ith Cato+ slapped him on the bac! and then

    !issed Clove"s hand+ an eye bo$$lin$ si$ht considerin$ the history of mutual violencethey all three had shared. e said a very polite hello to (eeta+ than!ed %atniss

     profusely for her lovin$ care of 8ue then !issed her chee!+ as ell as those of all the

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    other $irls around the fire. All that is bar one+ as he finally too! 8ue in his arms+ lifted

    her clean off of the $round and !issed her far more passionately on the lips+ it as

    obvious they ere no very much a happy couple. %atniss speculated that 8ue had

     probably momentarily used her an$elic poers+ temporarily ma!in$ Thresh as "solid"

    as herself so that she and her boyfriend could !iss properly.

    )arvel as had been promised eventually arrived+ ith the red headed $irl %atniss had

    only previously !non as oxface. er real name turned out to be Amber inch+ or as

    she told them 7ust inch as a nic!name. ,hilst initially a bit shy she soon relaxed and

     proved to be a deli$ht+ smart as a hip and very itty. oever+ %atniss and (eeta

    deliberately and discretely failed to as! inch about ho she"d died+ as neither as

    6uite sure if the berry poisonin$ had been accidental or intentional on her part and

    they felt it ould be bad manners to en6uire. As the party carried on into the ni$ht it

    $ot later and later+ then earlier and earlier as all the former Tributes present all tal!ed

    and lau$hed to$ether in a bi$ and merry circle round the ell sto!ed up fire./ventually 8ue su$$ested that they all started to head toards the nearby )emorial+

    as it as $ettin$ nearer to dan and those ho had not yet arrived ould be there

    soon.

    A *uestion Aske%+ ith Frien%s&

    It as 7ust over an hour "till first li$ht as the happy $roup from the camp-fire made

    their ay toards the )emorial+ hich as only a fe hundred yards aay on the

    other side of the la!eside meado.

    The hite marble of the children"s statue palely shone+ more $hostly loo!in$ in the

    li$ht of the lo+ anin$ moon than even the $roup of spirits ho accompanied

    %atniss and (eeta. By comparison and ith the exception of 8ue ho remained

    "alive" even thou$h they ere not solid and ere all in $hostly form the $roup of 

    former Tributes ere far more colourful and "real" than the statue fi$ures+ seemin$ to

    radiate a $entle li$ht of their on.

    The $roup reached a point near to here the statue as and stood+ aaitin$ the

     promised arrival of many other"s due to be there. Suddenly+ in a part circle described by the still present arc of "launch podiums" there ere a host of other $hosts present.

    Amon$st them ere %atniss and (eeta"s fathers+ (eeta"s mother+ and to %atniss"s

    deli$ht her beloved sister (rim. Also present as )ad$e+ the ex mayor"s dau$hter and

    %atniss"s former friend ho had ori$inally $iven her the $old moc!in$7ay pin and

    ho"d sadly died later in the 9istrict :; bombin$. There ere also all the rest of the

    Tributes former friends and foes ali!e from both their Arenas+ alon$ ith those rebel

    friends they"d lost in the assault on the Capitol also present. They all made up a lar$e

    thron$ in a lon$ arc+ described by the podiums and almost surroundin$ the memorial.

    Those amon$st them ho had been particularly close to %atniss and (eeta in life then