Chapter 1: The Summons
The familiar but oddly gentle wheezing noise made itself known just as Amy and Rory had arrived at their house and were closing the front door. Without hesitation, the front door was again swung open, and Rory adeptly stepped out of Amy’s way as she barreled outside to greet the Doctor. Rory himself hadn’t yet crossed the threshold when Amy returned inside, perplexed at not finding the blue box. Amy was soon again in motion, stomping through the first floor towards the back yard. As she slid open the door, Amy immediately began scolding the Doctor.
“Nine hundred years of time travel, and you still can’t manage to land the TARDIS properly? If you’ve destroyed yet another shed, so help me….” Here, she trailed off as the only creature in the backyard was a neighbor’s cat that had wandered over in search of a treat or some petting. She automatically crouched down to scratch behind the cat’s ears, much to the animal’s delight. Sighing, she closed the door and returned to the living room. Drumming her fingers on her chin, she began to quiz her husband, “You did hear something, right? It’s not wishful thinking or….”
“PTSD?” Rory finished not-so-helpfully. Having been rewarded with a withering glare from Amy, he continued, “No, it was definitely TARDIS-y. I just can’t imagine that if he didn’t land in the street….”
“LIKE WE’VE ASKED HIM TO AFTER THE FIFTH SHED?” growled Amy.
“Like we’ve asked him to,” Rory agreed placidly. “And if it isn’t in the back yard, there just aren’t that many places where he can park her. Where could he possibly have landed this time?”
Realization and panic hit both of them simultaneously. This time, Rory led the search for the Doctor as they both ran upstairs. Having mumbled a quick plea to the universe that the Doctor hadn’t crushed anything too irreplaceable, and willfully ignoring Amy’s retrieval of a cricket bat from the hall closet, Rory slowly opened the door and peered through squinted eyes, as if not seeing the damage meant that it wouldn’t exist. He breathed a sigh of relief at the absence of smoldering ruins and allowed himself to open his eyes fully to survey the room. The TARDIS was rather neatly parked between the bed and the closet, with the Doctor himself avidly inspecting some new Petrichor-related photographs and prints on Amy’s bedside table. A second person, however, was lounging on the bed. While she had seemingly been engrossed in a thick tome, she was also the first to notice Amy and Rory’s entrance.
“Mother! Father!” River Song jumped up to greet her parents. “You’re looking wonderful. And happy! No wonder-the house is definitely an upgrade from the old flat.”
So, it was her first time here. Not that that really clarified anything. “Oh, we’ve been here for a couple of years. What are you up to these days?” Rory asked as casually as he could manage.
“Well, the latest news is that I’ve finally cornered my committee to set a date for my final oral examinations for my degree. In one month, I’ll finally be Doctor River Song.” She beamed proudly. “Of course, I have no idea what the format will be so I’ve been studying anything that could be remotely related to my research, including that steaming pile on the bed. Honestly, the lack of intellectual rigor that passes for serious academic writing when dealing with time travel phenomena. ‘Timey-wimey’ as an explanation for non-linear time streams”-here, she actually snorted and she reached down and shut the book-“What bull…what’s going on?”
The Doctor, Amy, and Rory looked concernedly at one another once River had mentioned her oral examinations, knowing what would be in store for her on that fateful day. Amy was the first to recover. “Spoilers!” she teased in a gentle sing-song voice. “But I can’t say that I’m not shocked to see you here. Especially since you landed with the brakes on-please tell me the the Doctor is not corrupting your driving skills!”
Confronted with these indictments of his driving, the Doctor could remain silent no longer. “Amelia Pond, I will have you know that my TARDIS landing skills are second-to-none!” The laughter that greeted this completely baseless assertion inflamed his wounded pride further. River cut off any further protestations with a barking laugh.
“Oh no, no, no no. No. The TARDIS did want to be landed indoors tonight and, since we weren’t certain where you’d be, I thought that common courtesy actually dictated the use of the brakes so that we didn’t completely surprise you and cause a heart attack or interrupt a, shall we say, delicate moment.” She paused thoughtfully and then smirked. “Although from my review of future TARDIS logs, there are least two separate days where the TARDIS will be completely unable to land within 5 km of you two, and I can’t possibly imagine the reason for that.”
Rory’s eyes flickered between his daughter, his wife, the Doctor, and the TARDIS while trying to work out the meaning of River’s comments. Amy seemed to have caught the meaning of River’s words pretty quickly, and her serene smile indicated that there must be some sort of happy reason. He then looked to the Doctor, who was now seemingly engrossed by a tissue box on the nightstand and pulling them out one by one. Of course, the TARDIS wasn’t providing any hints. Once he looked back towards River, he finally understood. And with this understanding came so many conflicting feelings. First, as so often happened with Rory, embarrassment, here, because certain intimate matters were being discussed in front of his daughter. Then happiness, brought about by thoughts of a still-growing family. Happiness was fleeting and quickly replaced by worry that River might take any happiness to mean that she was somehow not enough for Amy and Rory. Finally, and how so often was the case, Rory was overcome by melancholy at Melody’s irretrievably lost infancy and childhood.
From River’s face, he knew that she had between watching him this entire time, had followed his thought process, and that her frown meant that her light-hearted comment was meant to tease and comfort her parents rather than bring up unhappy memories that no one-not even the Doctor-could do anything about. Not a single damned thing. Rory opened his mouth to begin to apologize to his daughter for dampening the happiness of the occasion when he was cut off by the Doctor.
“Yes, yes, yes, congratulations are apparently due all around.” The Doctor peered into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handful of confetti, which seemed to surprise even him. “Big, big, big days ahead for all the Ponds. Hurrah! However, I would still very much like to know why you summoned me, River, and you said that you would let me know as soon as we picked up your parents.” He then turned to Amy and Rory. “You don’t happen to have any idea, do you? No, no, of course you don’t. You so rarely do. Not your fault, of course-how could you know? You’re just humans. But still, one would think that you would at least try occasionally. River, they don’t know anything either. Can you please let us know what is going on?”
River finally broke her gaze and turned to the Doctor, shaking her head as if to clear it. “Of course. Shall we move into the TARDIS? Or the kitchen? Actually, the kitchen might be best. I could do with something to eat. You’d think that there’d be some improvement in British food in the fifty-first century, but I swear that it’s gotten worse.”
Twenty minutes later, they were seated around the kitchen table, and three pairs of eyes were looking expectantly at River for answers. She sighed. She really hadn’t been hungry at all, but she also hadn’t wanted to delve into the reasons for this mission. Somehow, despite everything, she never seemed to have even a fraction of all the time that she wanted. Or needed. Just for once, she wanted to enjoy being in the company of her parents and the Doctor without their being in some life-threatening situation. Especially now that she wasn’t going to be the person actually threatening their lives. She opened her satchel, removed a blue notebook from it, and turned to a page towards the beginning of the book. At least she had had these precious minutes of Rory putting the kettle on and Amy and the Doctor carefully evaluating the biscuit selection before making the inevitable selection of jammie dodgers.
“About two weeks ago, I was at my carrel in the university stacks doing some research for my latest book project. At some point that afternoon, I realized that I had seen a perfect book in someone else’s carrel and decided to wander over to take a look at it. I hadn’t been gone for more than two minutes, but when I got back, I found this on my research notes.” While speaking, she had flipped to the inside back cover and pulled out a rather crumpled slip of paper. She ineffectually tried to smooth it out further before she slide the paper over to the the other side of the table. She knew that the scribblings would mean nothing to Amy and Rory, but she rather wondered if they would mean anything to the Doctor. His narrowed eyes indicated that they did, and when he snapped up his head to look at River, she was absolutely sure that he understood. Of course he did. She wished that she herself didn’t. “I had no idea what this meant, but I knew that I needed to find out. After a few days of investigating, I realized that the writings were a time, a place, a date.” She flipped over the piece of paper to reveal this information, carefully printed in her own hand. Still no change in expression on the faces of her three companions-these new numbers were as seemingly meaningless to Amy and Rory as the original symbolic writings had been, and they didn’t provide any new information to the Doctor. Another breath as she picked up her pencil.
“This, this is the year,”-she pointed to the first cluster of numbers-“and these,” she pointed to the next cluster of numbers-“are the map coordinates, which indicate that we need to go to….”
“The western United States,” interrupted Amy and Rory simultaneously. They looked not to River but, oddly, to the Doctor for confirmation. River frowned again. She didn’t think that her parents had taken any further geography classes after primary school, and that was, even for them-still so young-a long time ago. What odd trivia for them to have retained after all these years.
The Doctor seemed to be deliberately ignoring River while he answered Amy and Rory. “Yes. No. Kind of. Actually, no, not really at all. But you’re right in that it is located in what remains of North America. And pretty much what remains of the earth’s habitable land. There are a few isolated small land masses, but pretty much everything else is gone.” Amy and Rory audibly gasped at that news. Amy’s first adventure with the Doctor meant that they knew that terrible things were in store for Earth, but they somehow sensed that this was a different kind of destruction.
Amidst this desperate chatter, including frequent recourse to River’s very own studies as evidence that such a terrible thing could never happen, River thought that her parents were taking the news quite well. Much better than her own weeping at the thought of so much human history and civilization eradicated, and humans surviving only in one of the most despicable regimes that she had ever had the misfortune to study. Earth, come to that. As her parents mentioned, it was true that they’d be traveling a timeline different from her own: her speciality was Earth archaeology, after all, and such terrible destruction would have severely hampered her research, to say the least. But the fact that it was happening somewhere or somewhen never failed to provoke nausea in River. All the jokes about cockroaches being the ones to survive the end of the world turned out to be depressingly true. Her fingers now gripped the pencil tightly, and it was only the splintering wood that silenced her parents. River herself looked surprised to find her hand clutching the broken item. The Doctor again began speaking, this time, his voice was much gentler, as if intending to soothe everyone’s agitation.
“Time is always in flux. Fixed points are the exception and not the rule.” He jabbed at the piece of paper with one of his long fingers. “This”-the Doctor did not hide his disgust-“This only happens in one of the darkest timelines, but it is a timeline, and I need to know why we need to go there.”
River looked helplessly at the Doctor. “I don’t know.”
“Are you lying to me?” A simple question, but the challenge in the Doctor’s voice was unmistakeable.
“No,” River answered firmly. She looked boldly at the Doctor. “I swear I have no idea.” To her surprise, the Doctor elected not to challenge River further.
“Fine. We need to go there and we’re walking into an incredibly dangerous situation blindly. As we do. But, River, I need you to explain to your parents what exactly we will find there.” The Doctor stood, walked over to River, and whispered, “Rory needs to know.”
So that was to be the price that he would exact in return for trusting her.
River closed her eyes before reaching into her satchel to pull out a map, which she then unfolded before Amy and Rory. “This is where the coordinates take us.” She looked up before speaking the next words, avoiding her father, although she could see him from the corner of her eye. “To a country called Panem.” Even in the very periphery of her sight, she could not fail to see that Rory’s eyebrows shot up so high that they were hidden in his fringe.
This was not going to go well at all if a single word already provoked a reaction.
She continued to describe the centralized authoritarian regime of the Capitol, the enforced famines in the subjugated states (“which are now called Districts”), and the extreme decadence and frivolity of the Capitol and its citizens. She preferred to look at Amy, who openly wore her revulsion, than Rory, who was now staring blankly at a point somewhere above River’s left shoulder. The Doctor was keenly watching the couple as they processed this information. It was clear to both River and the Doctor that Amy hadn’t yet noticed Rory’s dazed reaction to these tales. It was only when River began describing the signature outrage of this regime, the selection of child gladiators to fight to the death in a brutal arena, which caused Rory to black out and fall out of his chair, that Amy looked over to her right side.
“RORY!” she exclaimed as she ran over to the floor and lifted him up to a sitting position. She turned to the other two occupants of the room only as long as was necessary to ask what had happened before she turned back to care for her husband.
“Amy, you know what happened,” the Doctor murmured. “The memories became too much for him.”
“Oh no, oh no, oh no.” Amy repeated as she cradled Rory. “Come back to me. Come back. Don’t leave. You can’t leave. Come back.”
In a rare moment of discretion, the Doctor drew River to the other side of the room to give Amy and Rory some space. River turned angrily to the Doctor. “How could you let me hurt my father like that? I knew that it would be hard for him-how could he not recognize some of this stuff from all those years guarding Amy-but I didn’t know that it would be like that! How dare you toy with him-with us-like that! We are not your playthings!” She looked over to the floor: Rory had still not revived, and Amy’s pleas were now muffled as she whispered urgently into the top of Rory’s head.
“If you knew that this would have happened, would you have told Amy and Rory everything?” the Doctor asked.
“What kind of monster do you take me for? Ask if I’d deliberately hurt Rory?” River spat out these last words.
“It would have been crueler to ask him to go into that world without knowing what it was that he faced. There are some types of knowledge that you can’t withhold, no matter how painful. Always remember that. Now, River, are you going to stop lying to me and tell me why we need to go there? Tell me why you’re not only willing to have Rory suffer the pain of remembering his time as a Roman, but also willing to risk the lives of both of your parents? Because no one’s survival is guaranteed.”
“I’m not lying,” she hissed in reply. “I don’t know.” She emphasized each of these words as she looked brazenly at the Doctor. She lowered her voice as she continued, “But why don’t you tell me why me that original note was in your writing?”
She did not expect the look of utter bafflement on the Doctor’s face. “That is not my handwriting,” he sniffed. He grabbed some notepaper and a pen from the counter and replicated the original symbols from memory. “How can you compare that childish scrawl to this?” He held out the two notes for inspection.
He smiled with great satisfaction as River compared the two notes. Now it was her turn to be confused: they were distinct, sure, but she couldn’t understand what made the original childish. “But the note matches up with the records of the twelfth….” She froze, realizing her mistake.
“Spoilers,” the Doctor cautioned, but his curiosity about the first note apparently was now piqued, and he took a close look at the note for the first time.
How she hated that word. “Spoilers indeed,” she said as she snatched both papers from the Doctor to deny him the opportunity to enjoy the newly-realized and underappreciated elegance of the first note.
“I hate to ask again, but why don’t you tell me why you’re here.” The Doctor’s voice was still calm, but now there was a dangerous element to it.
“What do you want me to say? A note mysteriously appeared-in your handwriting-with a mission. I don’t know any more than that!”
“No one forced you to do anything.”
River rolled her eyes at the absurd remark. “You ask for help, and I’m supposed to say no?” She was surprised when the Doctor reached out to grab her hand.
“You can always say no. Don’t ever blindly follow my, or any one else’s, requests if you don’t think that you should.” he whispered urgently. “Trust in yourself. Now, tell me, why are you here?”
This was a rather more serious conversation that even these dire circumstances warranted. River was about to deny any further knowledge again when a voice answered for her.
“Oh, River, isn’t it obvious?” Rory said as he and Amy walked over to her. At River’s shaking of her head and blank look, he continued, “The reason why we have to go, why we all have to go, is because none of us can stand aside and do nothing when we know that children are being turned into weapons.”
The three family members were still sniffling slightly as the Doctor ushered them upstairs to the TARDIS to begin their journey. The TARDIS clearly wanted River to pilot her to their next destination, much to the Doctor’s extreme disgruntlement. Amy and Rory were simply pleased that they might actually get to start this adventure with a minimum of bruising. As Rory had to spend much of their trip assuring Amy that he was fine, that he would be fine, and that even if he weren’t, they needed to do this, minimal distractions were welcome.
“And we’ve landed.” River announced. The Doctor, Amy, and Rory rushed out the doors to take in their surroundings.
“How odd,” remarked the Doctor, crouching down and running some dirt through his fingers. “The coordinates were for the Capitol and this is most certainly not the Capitol.” He tasted a pinch of the soil in hands. “Definitely not the Capitol-the mineral balance is off. Hah. Even Ms.-soon-to-be Dr. Superior TARDIS driver can’t guide her.” The Doctor leaped up and turned around in order to grin smugly at River but was instead met with the TARDIS doors slamming in his face and noisily disappearing.
He spun around in outrage, pointing a finger at Amy and Rory. “Your daughter has just taken my baby for a joyride!”
They shrugged their shoulders. “She does that sometimes,” Rory admitted.
“And she didn’t even have the decency to take off the brakes!” Amy and Rory were more agog at the hypocrisy than at River’s theft of the TARDIS. The Doctor ignored them and whipped out the sonic. “Give me your phone, Pond-I need to call your daughter.” Amy nudged Rory in the ribs, and he sighed as he reached into his pocket for his phone.
“What do you need to do that for? I’m right here, and I’ve been waiting for ages for you.” Three heads turned around to see that, indeed, River was waiting for them. And without any sign of having had a TARDIS.
River hugged each of them in turn as if it had been a very, very long time since she had seen any of them. She began speaking very fast.
“I’ve been waiting here at least three hours. Fortunately, I brought my research notes with me. Never hurts to be prepared in case my committee actually starts returning my messages about setting up a defense date. I swear that it’ll be a miracle if I even manage to talk to two of the five members within the next six months. I can’t tell if it is because they want to keep me around or if they’re scared that I’ll somehow embarrass them during my orals.”
“So you’re not defending next month?” asked Rory.
River laughed mirthlessly. “I’m not kidding when I say that the best case scenario is defending within six months. A year is just as likely.” She paused as the three others exchanged looks. Again, with the secrets. “I’m really starting to think that I’m getting a little too old for this school thing.” She smiled in a very self-deprecating way, which had the effect of breaking the tension. A little.
“How did you get here?” It was now Amy’s turn to interrogate her daughter.
River held up her left wrist-somehow, no one had noticed the vortex manipulator in all of the excitement. “I came as soon as I got the message from you three.” Again, she appraised each of them thoughtfully. “So I’ve been here about a week getting everything ready. Or as ready as things could be.” She suddenly became somber. “With all of my studies, I think that I know how something will be like from reading about it, but the reality never quite matches the theory. How could things become this bad?”
No one had an answer.
“Well, no point in dwelling when there’s still so much to do. Where’s the TARDIS? How’s the old girl doing?” She whipped around but found nothing.
“Your guess is as good as ours,” shrugged the Doctor. “We got here, and she ran off for some reason. You know how she is. She’ll turn up soon enough, she always does.” Rory and Amy nodded their heads in earnest agreement.
“That makes no sense at all. You’d be panicking if she just upped and left like that.” River glared at the Doctor, and all three hung their heads in shame. “But it’s clear that you have no intention of telling me what really happened to the TARDIS, and we really need to get going so we’ll just have to cut through this later. After Amy and Rory have been reaped.”
River had begun walking determinedly down the path to the cottage, but, suspicious of the lack of footfalls behind her, she paused and spun around. As suspected, Amy, Rory, and the Doctor hadn’t moved an inch and were gawping at River. While this might be comic under different circumstances, there really was no time to waste at all.
“Don’t look at me. This wasn’t my plan.” She crossed her arms and looked at the three other time-travelers. “I really will explain everything, but you have to follow me. Now.” She spun on her heel again and resumed her brisk march.
“I suppose there’s a first time for everything.” Rory muttered as he, Amy, and the Doctor trotted to catch up with River. The walk wasn’t a long one: after five or ten minutes, River had stopped in front of a comfortable-looking cottage, unlocked the door, and ushered everyone in.
“I thought that the districts were desperately poor?” wondered Amy as she took in her surroundings.
“They are,” answered River. “But right now we’re in the Victor’s Village section of the district so everything is more luxurious than what the average citizen has. She handled a garment bag to Amy and to Rory and pushed the two of them towards a door. “Now, you two, change. And hurry.”
In a few minutes, Amy and Rory returned. Instead of their earlier outfits of trousers and jumpers, they were now somewhat more formally dressed, with Amy in a dress and Rory in a button-down shirt and trousers. In their absence, River had arrayed various make-up and product on the kitchen table. They sat at the table and, River began bringing them up to speed while trying to do something about their ragged appearances.
River had arrived in Panem a few days ago, spending all of her time in the Capitol until this morning when she had arrived in District 6, which is where they were now, following the instructions in their note precisely.
“What note?” interrupted Rory. “We haven’t written any note!” He was quickly silenced by a trio of stern expressions, and he sulkily re-submitted to having his massive amounts of hair product introduced into his hair.
“I’m assuming that you are all familiar with the basic format of the Games?” River paused for agreement before she continued. “This year, the format is somewhat different, which works to our advantage as well as our disadvantage. As you probably don’t know, last year, in the 74th Games, there was a rather unusual situation in which two victors were crowned,”-no, Amy and Rory most certainly did not know that-“and it had not been the Capitol’s intention to reward the impudence of a boy and a girl who professed to be so in love that they would rather die in a suicide pact than kill each other.”
It was now the Doctor’s turn to interrupt. “Profess?”
River sighed. “Apparently, some very highly placed officials doubt the sincerity of the girl’s feelings, choosing to believe that it was all part of some rebel movement instead of two teenagers acting on their hormones.” She paused, giving Rory’s scalp a brief respite from the merciless massaging of mousse (mousse!) into his hair. “They may not be completely wrong, though. At least as to the extent of the girl’s feelings, though I think that she does care deeply for the boy.”
River shook her head at this aside. She really needed to focus and not be distracted by the story of these two youngsters who reminded her so much of her parents at that age. “No matter, you can see all this for yourself during the train ride to the Capitol-we’ll have plenty of time to watch the packaged version of the Games, and I can fill you in on what really went on. In any case, the two simply had the bad luck to have their story be the spark that lit a fire that was already smoldering. Of course, the Capitol in its infinite wisdom, chose the most brute force way to dispose of these two by announcing that the tributes for this year’s Hunger Games would be reaped entirely from past Victors. In theory, this would allow the government to very neatly dispose of these two inadvertent troublemakers. From what I can tell, it certainly never occurred to them what a very, very bad idea it would be to gather nearly all of the people who had been cunning enough to emerge victorious from their Arenas and give them a reason to hate the Capitol even more.”
“So the victors are part of the rebellion?” asked the Doctor, although the tone of his voice made it seem as if he already knew the answer.
“Some are. Actually, a decent number are,” replied River. “Although I’m not completely sure as to what has already happened or will happen. And I’m still not sure why we need to be here. Because this doesn’t happen in my timeline, I really could only find the barest of mentions of Panem in our history books. Basically I could only uncover anything that would have bled through as a myth or legend or cautionary tale. But, from what I could find, the rebellion did succeed, although at great cost.”
The Doctor touched his fingertips together. “Clearly there is someone or something out there that doesn’t want the rebellion to succeed. But why? This timeline is, at best, a quaternary timeline. Who could possibly want to interfere?”
“Does it matter?” asked Amy fiercely. “We can’t let down these people-these children-and let the rebellion fail!”
“Of course not,” agreed the Doctor. He turned to River, “But how did you manage to learn of underground rebel plots in what, five days?”
“One, District Six has one of the stronger rebel movements, and, even in the original timeline, the District Six tributes, their mentor, and even their Capitol stylist-that’s me now, by the way-were trusted with some knowledge of the plot. Two, their futuristic technology happens to be very primitive by my standards, and it was absurdly easy to hack into their databases to do whatever I needed. Three, never underestimate the power of hallucinogenic lip….” She trailed off at the stern looks from both her parents, and even she quelled under their severity. “Perfume,” she corrected herself. Amy arched an eyebrow, which was really too much. “Yes, perfume. And, before you even ask, of course it wouldn’t work on you lot because pheromones wouldn’t be effective on biological relations or Time Lords who are completely out of touch with human emotions.”
This last bit was said in a rather high-pitched voice, which River hoped would serve as a further distraction from the lipstick as they would try to unpack the emotions behind that. She continued with her story.
“So, this year’s games. It’s going to be a challenge to sneak in phony competitors because the Victors are all known to the Capitol. As I said, I’ve been able to play with the Capitol’s records as needed, so that helped. It also helped that there are only three living victors from this District, none of whom have caught the Capitol’s fancy, mostly because each has a terrible painkiller addiction. The government doesn’t see them as a threat so they’ve been able to survive under relatively benign neglect despite their victor status. I’ve also changed the records to list Amelia Pond, Rory Williams, and John Smith as the sole surviving victors of District Six, so we don’t even need to worry about using pseudonyms.”
“Wait, you think that Amy and I can pass as drug addicts?” Rory asked incredulously.
“Well, yes. From what I can tell, the over-large eyes and slightly sallow complexions are typical of morphling addicts.” A dark look crossed River’s face. “The accents are rather more difficult to excuse away, but people talk so weirdly here, even for Americans, that I think that you’ll manage. Besides, the official story, which you’ll tell to great effect in your pre-Games interviews-will be you both have been trying to kick morphling for a long time and the announcement of the Quarter Quell was the final motivator.”
“So the Doctor is to be the third victor who doesn’t get reaped?” continued Rory.
“Yes. So he’ll be the designated mentor for you and Amy. Amy, as the lone female victor, you’ll be selected by default. Rory, there shouldn’t be any problem because the District Six Capitol escort has proven wonderfully susceptible to my…perfume, and the Reaping Ball for the males will include slips of psychic paper. Your name should be read as a matter of course. If something does go wrong, however, you must volunteer.”
“I would never let Amy go into that arena without me!” hissed Rory. “You don’t have to worry about that. But what happened to the real victors? Surely we’re not leaving them on their own?”
It took awhile for River to answer. “Medically induced comas. They’re in the basement where no one will look for them or see them. It was the kindest way that I could think of removing them from the Reaping, but not forcing them to be conscious for the withdrawal effects. They’re fine-I’ve got their vitals wired to my communicator.” She held out the device to the Doctor for inspection. “I’m not sure what else to do. It would be a foolishness to take them to the Capitol, but I don’t know if they’re safe here….”
“They’re far safer here than with us,” the Doctor answered briskly. He looked at his faceless watch. “I think that it’s time to go.”
Rory and Amy stood up together, clutching each other’s hands, and Amy spoke for the both of them.
“Let the Games begin.”
Chapter 2: Journeys to the Capitol
In which the District Six and Twelve victors discuss each other.
Peeta Mellark scowled a scowl worthy of Katniss Everdeen.
He looked over to the sorry band of travelers that passed for his company in the train compartment. No one seemed particularly disturbed by the District Six reaping that they had just seen, and now the recap had proceeded to District Seven and the second reaping of Johanna Mason. After shuddering at the thought of encountering her in the arena, from that point on, Peeta paid only the bare minimum of attention needed to mark the reaped victors in his notebook. Instead, he tried to work out what was wrong with District Six.
He had been surprised when Effie’s original box had included only three District Six tapes instead of the expected four, although Haymitch’s answer somehow ended up not surprising him. “Didn’t you hear? Trent Waggoner died last month. Suicide apparently. Three shots to the back of the head. Quite a spectacular way to go, even for a victor. Terrible luck for the rest of the District Six victors with this Quarter Quell-I don’t know how many other people even remember that he wasn’t the only living victor from that District. None of the rest of them have been to the Capitol since their Victory Tour-why would they? No reason for them to go anyway: the Capitol only makes you go so they can finish killing off whatever part of you that survived the arena. The District Six morphlings destroyed themselves-no need for the Capitol to expend any more effort or expense on them.”
And, without even the slightest trace of irony, Haymitch finished off the rather full bottle of white liquor that he had been clutching so the conversation hadn’t lasted for much longer. Peeta didn’t even give Haymitch a hard time for drinking (how had he managed to get that bottle despite Peeta’s threats to Ripper and anyone else who could possibly enable Haymitch?). Such nagging seemed unduly churlish even to Peeta in light of his newly acquired realization that the Capitol was resolutely determined to hunt down its victors whether inside or outside of an arena.
District Six now gnawed at him. He needed to talk to Haymitch about this: although the older man didn’t seem to have noticed anything, Peeta was beginning to suspect that he was very good at acting as if he didn’t know all that he actually knew. If that made sense. Unfortunately, Haymitch left before Effie, and then only Peeta and Katniss remained in the compartment.
Katniss had been a reasonably diligent viewer of both the tapes of the Games during their training and this evening’s reapings. Peeta tried to ignore the sinking feeling in his stomach as he thought about Katniss’ reasons for doing so. Because she always had reasons for what she did. He decided to talk to her about it, but he needed to be discreet about his questioning because surely there were Capitol surveillance devices everywhere on this train. He focused on his notebook while trying to figure out how to broach the subject. To his surprise, it was Katniss who initiated the discussion.
“Peeta?” she asked hesitantly. He looked up at his name and frowned. Is she worried about disturbing his fussing with his notebook or does she think that he doesn’t want to speak with her? It was amazing: he was fairly sure that both he and Katniss were planning to sacrifice themselves in order to ensure the survival of the other, but they somehow couldn’t even manage casual conversation. He sighed.
“Katniss?” he returned softly, closing his notebook and turning to her. Their eyes locked on each other, and he had to exert so much willpower not to look away in embarrassment. Stupid, stupid him for even thinking that anything that had happened could have been real, that he could have ever had a chance. But he shouldn’t blame her for his own stupidity.
She, like him, seemed to be struggling with words this evening, so Peeta decided to go ahead and ask his question. “What did you think of the reapings? I wasn’t expecting how…different…some of the victors looked compared to their Games. Even for the more recent victors. I guess that’s the passage of time for you.”
Both Katniss and Peeta resolutely ignored the unspoken words that hung in the air, that at least one of them, maybe even both of them, would never know what the passage of time would do to them because they’d be returning to District Twelve in a coffin. There was no escaping the morbidity of the Hunger Games.
Peeta saw the light in Katniss’ eyes and knew that she had noticed the same oddness that he had. How was it that they could understand each other so well but be so completely unable to breach the chasms that inevitably sprung up between them? He again reproached himself for his melodrama and waited for her answer.
“I guess?” she finally ventured, with false hesitation belying the keenness of her eyes. Peeta mentally laughed at her tone of voice: she was such a rotten actress, trying to inject a modicum of doubt for any Capitol ears listening in to their conversation. She pretended to pause in further consideration of Peeta’s question. “For example, look at the District Six victors-they’re each at least six inches taller than what they were in their Games.” She reached for a nearby blanket and then frowned. “Although maybe that shouldn’t be surprising,” she mused as she wrapped herself in the woolen item. “Both you and I have gotten taller over the past year-you more than me, though. Enough food to eat-maybe that’s it? Maybe we would have gotten as tall as those District Six Victors….” Katniss trailed off, having decided that there was no need to add “if we had had several more years.” Neither of them believed that they would have any more months, much less years, to come.
Peeta puzzled over these comments, but not for the reasons that Katniss would have assumed. No, Peeta was really quite busy being inordinately pleased that Katniss had noticed his growth spurt. He still wasn’t what would be considered tall even in District Twelve, but it did mean that Katniss had noticed him. Not that it had escaped his attention how she would sometimes stare at him while he worked on her plant book-he treasured those memories too because he thought that, even if she didn’t love him, then maybe at least she cared for him. He closed his eyes in thought. The time to think about those things-if there ever had been a time-was not now. Now, he had to make sure that she stayed alive despite her own best efforts.
When he finally opened his eyes, he saw Katniss holding up the blanket and inviting him over to her side of the couch. Well that was an unexpected development. Wryly, he thought that Katniss could not have set a better trap for him, and then scolded himself again for injecting so much melodrama and metaphor into a simple gesture. He did lean over, but only to tell her that she should go to sleep and that he would see her in the morning.
Katniss shook her head. “You’re still staying up, aren’t you?” He nodded. “Then I’ll stay up as well. Are you going to watch more tapes?”
“I was thinking about it,” he admitted. “The box is in my room.”
“Why don’t you go get them and I’ll watch with you?” She looked at Peeta. “This isn’t your burden to bear alone, you know.”
Peeta couldn’t help but smile. Was he the only District Twelve victor with even a modicum of self-awareness? “Fine. I’ll be right back.” He returned to room with the box in hand, and, after some discussion, they decided to watch the tape of the Second Quarter Quell. He cued up the tape and returned to the sofa to wait for Katniss, who had now gone off in search of an attendant for something to drink. Once she returned, she grabbed the blanket from her side of the couch and marched towards Peeta’s side. Without asking, she sat down beside him and covered them both.
He decided to stop resisting—hadn’t he told Katniss all those months ago that he would finally stop acting so wounded? It was time for him to keep his word. He wrapped his arm around Katniss and hit play.
In another train hurtling toward the Capitol, a second set of friends had themselves finished watching the recap of the Reapings and a tape of a previous Games. In contrast to the District Twelve passengers, The Doctor, Amy, Rory, and River could talk more freely thanks to River knocking out the bugs in the room. The novice District Six escort had proved as affably compliant as River had promised, and he went to bed quite early. Amy and Rory even hugged him goodnight, although this was less out of affection and more so that each could get a closer look at the young man’s face for any trace of lipstick. None was found, but they did notice River’s smirk from the corner of the compartment.
The first order of business was to discuss Amy and Rory’s fellow tributes. All agreed that the Capitol commentators were less than useful: while there had been some discussion of the victor’s performance in their Games, there wasn’t really any information that allowed for strategizing. It was clear that Amy, Rory, and the Doctor would need to do further investigation during the upcoming training period. “You two need to stay alive,” the Doctor helpfully opined, “And it would help to have one or two allies in there. Plus, chatting with the victors and their mentors may also help us figure out what brought us here.”
Even with the Capitol listening devices decommissioned, River proceeded very cautiously when following up with the Doctor’s advice. She opined that there would be particular districts that would probably be more willing to ally with District Six but that, otherwise, River thought that their best bet would be to trust no one as a default.
“You’re so like your mother,” mused Rory. Under normal circumstances, Amy might have protested (loudly), but she just squeezed his hand affectionately and pulled a face at him.
The Doctor sighed. “In a way, she’s right. You two plan to live, and everyone else knows that they’ve been commanded not only to die but to kill each other before dying. Which is hardly compatible with our aims.” A pause. “So we need to find you allies, but it’s also imperative that you avoid everyone who is not an ally.” At this, Amy swallowed the lump in her throat before bobbing her head along with Rory. The Doctor continued, “Prioritize befriending the District Twelve victors-I can’t help but think that if we gain their trust, they’ll be useful in more ways than one. The only reason for this year’s format is to kill them off in a manner that the government thinks that its people won’t question. There must be a reason why they haven’t arranged for a convenient accident.” While Amy agreed, she also thought that Doctor was being uncharacteristically cynical this evening. The Doctor stood up, stretched his gangly limbs, and announced, “I need to take care of some things elsewhere. You three amuse yourselves, and I’ll catch you lot later.” He caught Amy and Rory’s eyes, and Amy understood that the Doctor intended that they rendezvous later without River.
“‘Night, Doctor,” Amy replied for all of them. She reached for her cup of coffee before continuing. “I’m still not sure that I understand why the Capitol is so fixated on taking them out. They’re both clever to be sure, but revolutionaries? The boy couldn’t even bring himself to speak to the girl he liked for over a decade, and that was only because he was sent to a death arena. He makes Rory look like a fearless man of action.” She smiled fondly at her husband.
“If the girls in question weren’t so determinedly clueless, maybe the boys wouldn’t have pined away for so long,” Rory replied, slightly defensively. “And I talked to you. When you didn’t leave me in a closet for hours on end. Talk about playing hard to get.” From his tone, it was clear that he was now teasing her.
“True,” Amy acknowledged. “But he’s got you beat as the precocious romantic. You didn’t even start until the ripe old age of eight or nine.”
“I didn’t even meet you until we were eight!”
“As if that should matter. If you really loved me, your little five-year-old heart should have been pining for Amelia Pond wherever she was,” Amy replied haughtily.
River laughed at this. “You have to concede that point to him, Amy. Plus not every couple is fortunate enough to have a matchmaker who has such a vested interest in them getting together. What would you two have done without me?”
Rory and Amy both became solemn, but it was Rory who replied. “I’m glad that we don’t have to find out.” Amy couldn’t quite decipher the look on River’s face, but it looked to be a mixture of gratitude and affection.
“So what happened afterwards? Did it work out?” Amy wanted them to return to the real subject at hand.
“In a way. As I mentioned before, the government-well, the President, really-was fixated on the idea that the two intended to undermine his authority by the ploy with the berries. He thought that the boy was sincere enough, but apparently he didn’t believe that the girl cared for the boy. Certainly, some of the population did interpret it as two citizens finally taking a stand against the government’s manipulation. Something changed after those Games, and the President didn’t believe that a simple love story accounted for the unrest. Oddly, he became very personally involved in advancing the narrative of their romance: after all, if they were kids in love, then there could be no reason that they’d even be thinking about showing up the government. So, he made sure that they were engaged after six months, and their wedding was even going to be hosted by the government and televised nationally. Until he hit upon the idea of completely removing any threat that they posed via the Quarter Quell.”
“The President is even more of an idiot that I had thought,” exclaimed Amy, with a vehemence that seemed to surprise the others. She continued, “Of course a simple love story could have provoked that response. Their stupid government and their stupid Games has made the people so focused on survival that it took two teenagers to remind them that they could live and not just survive on whatever the government deigned to concede to them. That just surviving to the next day wasn’t enough if it meant losing who you loved or what you were. And the President is an extra-special idiot for not realizing that she does love him.”
What Amy didn’t say, because the feelings were all too familiar and painful, was that she was also sure that the girl herself didn’t realize that she loved the boy. Or refused to let herself realize that she did. In the girl, she could see echoes of what she, Amy, had been in the old universe: someone who put up barriers because, somehow, she always ended up losing the people she loved. So not loving people meant not getting hurt, although somehow Rory had worked his way into her heart anyway. Still, she had refused to admit how much he meant to her, until he had died in that dreamworld and she realized the true extent of her loss. How stupid had she been, especially since not only had he died for real soon afterwards but went ahead and got himself erased by time (Rory never did anything by halves). And even though none of that had actually happened, she still hated the thought that there was a version of the universe where there was any amount of time that she hadn’t realized what a wonderful thing she and Rory had.
She felt a handkerchief gently brush across her face, wiping away tears that she hadn’t noticed. “Amy Pond, the hopeless romantic. Who knew?” Rory teased gently. She smiled through her tears.
“I’m only a romantic when there are silly boys and silly girls involved,” she replied. She took the handkerchief away and finished dabbing the other side of her face. She turned to Rory, and they had only just begun to lean in towards each other when River cleared her throat.
“In case you have forgotten, a child is present,” River announced with fake solemnity. She stood up and walked over to them to kiss them on their foreheads. “I’m exhausted. I’ll see you at breakfast tomorrow.” Amy and Rory nodded in agreement, and soon they too were alone in the compartment.
Amy and Rory took nearly full advantage of their new-found solitude for the next few minutes. Finally pulling apart, Amy laid her head against Rory’s shoulder and they sat in quiet contentment. He broke the silence first.
“So, you think that all that stuff was real?”
Amy nodded. “Then again, maybe I do have a weakness for hopelessly romantic men in love with difficult women.” She smiled up at him and was gratified to see him roll his eyes. She looked down. Now that it was just the two of them, she could be completely honest. “I hope that whatever we do here involves the two of them surviving these Games. I hate to think that she might be as stupid as I was and lose him before she realizes how she felt.” She felt Rory start to stroke her hair.
“You know that that never happened,” he responded firmly. “And I always knew, even if you didn’t. It all worked out in the end, didn’t it?”
“That it did, Mr. Pond.”
Their quiet reverie was soon interrupted by the Doctor sticking his head back into the compartment. “Is she gone?” he asked in a stage whisper. They nodded, and he soon began to patrol the compartment with his sonic screwdriver. Amy and Rory turned to each other in panic.
“I thought that you and River took care of things already,” whispered Amy urgently.
“We did, but your daughter inherited your ruthless streak, and now I’m doing a sweep for Pond-installed devices.” Amy’s breath caught-she hadn’t yet discussed Madame Kovarian and Area 52 with the Doctor. He couldn’t know, could he? No, she didn’t think that he did. She took several quick breaths, somehow sensing Rory’s look of puzzlement at her behavior, and put on a smile for the Doctor. He grinned in return and sat down, finally satisfied that they could now talk in confidence.
“So, the western US…do you think that it has anything to do with the last time we were here?” Amy inquired.
“I absolutely do. Never ignore a coincidence, I always say.” The Doctor leaned back in his chair. “I just can’t quite work out if it’s just a trap or if they have their own reasons for undermining the rebellion.”
“Just a trap?” asked Rory. Amy snorted. He almost had the same high pitched voice that River had tried to use earlier to distract them from the hallucinogenic lipstick, which she was most certainly still using.
“That really would be the best case scenario.” The Doctor didn’t elaborate. He reached into a coat pocket. “Hold out your left hand. You remember how these work, right? The Capitol will inject you with a tracker for the Games, but I’ve modified the nano-recorder to also include a tracer function. I’ll be able to keep track of you and supersede the Capitol’s own device when necessary. Now go to sleep-apparently we arrive in just a few hours.”
Amy and Rory had traveled enough with the Doctor to know that they were being dismissed. As they quietly exited the car, Amy wondered exactly what the next few days would bring.
Chapter 3: Interlude I
In which someone is haunted not only by what has been done but what will be done.
A huge thank you to the readers of this crossover that would not get out of my head.
I also wanted to clarify that, while AU for The Hunger Games, it's only so far as to account for the cross-over, and the next chapter(s) will have major spoilers for Catching Fire.
In the darkness paced an old man who felt every hour, every minute, every second of his years, an old man who was weary of the blood on his hands and the accusing memories of all whom he had failed to save. The only thing that this man ever could protect were his secrets, a talent that could give him no comfort. Because these well-guarded secrets threatened the lives of the innocents in his charge.
The man picked up one of the intricate glass sculptures that littered this particular car, briefly pretending to take an interest in the wholly frivolous object. And this object soon found itself hurtling towards the ground. As always with this man, it was difficult to tell whether the act was one of a fearsome temper or one of a clown, an ambiguity which the man often used to his advantage and which led foolish people to gravely underestimate his abilities. To their detriment. He made sure of that.
Did his enemies realize what they had set in motion? He thought it unlikely: besides the arrogance which so blinded them, there were no outward indications of anything less than success. But they didn’t know enough to be scared when good people are willing not only to stand and say that they will take no more but will fight to make sure that this does not happen again.
He had a certain skill at taking advantage of a person’s best and most noble impulses in order to accomplish his aims. He was also able to take advantage of a person’s worst impulses, but that weighed less heavily on his conscience. He might simplify that first observation instead to say that he’d always been skilled at taking advantage of people. Even now, he was toying with the lives of two people who deserved days of happiness and contentment. Instead, they had known so much strife and turmoil, had lost so much, since meeting him.
He hoped that, when it was all over, that these two, the boy and the girl, might not only survive their time with him and live, but might also live. That they would still have each other and still find comfort in each other.
The new day was almost here, but the new day would bring only new questions. And new lies.
And so the old man paced.
Chapter 4: First Meetings
In which Rory and Peeta run into each other.
Rory sat miserably in the Remake Center as he desperately scanned his surroundings. Their train had arrived at the Capitol during the mid-morning, and the quartet had been immediately taken to the Center for preparation before the parade. Unsurprisingly, the Doctor had disappeared shortly after their arrival, leaving River to escort both Amy and Rory to their separate prep rooms. The first level of sub-basement was where the male tributes were processed, and River and Amy bade Rory goodbye as they headed off to the lowest floor. Rory had no sooner started to turn the handle when the door was flung open from the inside, and three pairs of brightly colored arms reached out to pull him in.
He had barely managed to stay upright after being pushed onto some sort of elevated platform when he was nearly blinded by the bright lights that now flooded the room. After some seconds, he managed to finally get a fleeting look at the three people who were prowling around him and avidly examining each inch of his body. Rory was too shocked to make any protest, but his sense of outrage returned once they began stripping him of his clothing.
“OI!” he exclaimed to absolutely no effect-in fact, this only seemed to provoke his handlers to redouble their frenzied removal of his clothing. “You could at least tell me your names before I get naked,” he mumbled sullenly.
For whatever reason, this caused the three people to immediately cease their efforts. “You can speak! And in sentences!” exclaimed the shortest member of the group, a man who Rory now saw sported striped purple and fuchsia hair worn in a topknot. “No one told us that you could speak!”
“Of course I can speak! Why wouldn’t I be able to speak?” He glared reproachfully at his tormentors and mustered as much dignity as he could standing in his underpants before three complete strangers.
“Because of your condition,” piped up the lone woman. “We were told that you should be processed as quickly as possible before, um, withdrawal symptoms set in and you might become, um, difficult.”
Oh, right, the morphine or morphling or whatever it was.
“I got better,” Rory sniffed. “So you don’t have to descend upon my clothes like a bunch of piranhas.” They looked blankly at him, and Rory supposed that no one knew what a piranha was. Whatever. He assumed that they would assume that he was just babbling nonsense as the result of his supposed morphling problem.
“You’re in a lot better condition than we thought that you’d be in,” agreed the final member of the trio. “Still not great but definitely not terrible.”
Rory tried, and failed, to not be offended by this remark. “Brilliant. Now, could you please tell me your names and what the hell is going on?” They introduced themselves in turn, informing Rory that they were Aurelia, Hadrian, and Trajan. At this, Rory began to exclaim “Oh, for f….” before he was drowned out by a cacophony of information about everything that they had in store for him.
And so began some of the most traumatic hours of Rory’s time thus far in this world, in which he drew upon his remarkable ability to put things behind doors and not think about them. He didn’t really speak at all during these hours, but the three people didn’t seem to much notice or care as they were taking their tasks at hand very seriously, especially now that they had realized that their tribute wasn’t as hopeless as they been led to believe. Indeed, at the end of the session, each of them surveyed Rory appreciatively and seemed to be positively delighted with their handiwork.
Rory had foolishly thought his ordeal was now over and reached for the nearby dressing gown when it was snatched from him by Aurelia. “No!” she told him in a firm voice. “Your stylist is going to need to examine you to make sure that your outfit fits properly, and you can’t be hiding in a robe. She handed off the garment to Hadrian before turning back to Rory. “Now, you stay here while we go and find Melody.”
Rory had been slightly distracted as they left the room, being pleased at both River’s defiance of the prevalent Capitol naming conventions, and that she had elected to use her birth name in order to do so. This peace had lasted all of one second before he realized that he needed to find something-anything-with which to preserve his modesty before she got there. And so it was now that he was scanning his surroundings for anything larger than the hand towels used by the team. He breathed a sigh of relief when his eyes fell upon the dining table which had a tablecloth. He anxiously liberated the fabric and cocooned himself in the brightly patterned monstrosity. He had just sat down again when the door cracked open ever so slightly and River’s voice called out, “Are you decent?”
“I’ve got a tablecloth,” he replied, and he was rewarded for this information with a bundle of clothes, including the stolen dressing gown, hitting him in the face.
“Get dressed and let me know when you’re done,” yelled River from the other side of the door. Rory immediately obeyed, got dressed, and double-knotted the tie of the dressing gown before crossing the room to open the door. River was standing with her back turned to the room, apparently finding the corridor wall extremely fascinating. Rory cleared his throat and announced that he was ready.
River spun around, and Rory could now see that she was clutching an additional batch of garments in her arms. “Good. I’ve had enough traumas in my life without adding seeing my father naked to that list.”
Rory winced slightly, but the particular twinkle in his daughter’s eyes never failed to bring a smile to his face. He frowned at the bundle that she was clutching. “I have a feeling that my own list of traumas is going to grow.” At this, River looked somewhat apologetic.
“I’m afraid so. The parade is not a time for tastefulness-the Capitol likes to see as much of their tributes as possible, and it has generally been a good idea to pander to their wishes. And, in this case, since you and Amy are looking so much better than anyone would have expected,”-here, River paused meaningfully-“it seemed like it would be a good idea to show off, ah, your good health as much as possible for any potential sponsors.”
Rory peered at the jumpsuit in River’s hands, which looked stretchy and revealing and at least two sizes too small. “Am I supposed to be a sexy train conductor?” he asked, with more than a little outrage in his voice.
“That’s one way to put it,” River agreed. “But be grateful for it. Apparently, you made quite the impression on your prep team, and they were chattering to me about all of the modifications that could be made to the outfit that might better show off your assets.” Rory paled at this, and River leaned over to pat his hand in comfort. “At least the makeup is going to be minimal-just enough to make sure that the lights don’t bleach you. I’m going to take care of that, but would you mind terribly doing the rest yourself so I can get back to Amy?” After Rory’s nod of acquiescence, she continued cheerfully, “I bet that all you need to do is not fall off the carriage, and we can consider our job done!” She then yanked the collar of the dressing gown to pull Rory closer and added in an urgent but barely audible whisper, “That is all that you need to do—we do not want to draw any unwanted attention. And, remember, you and Amy are going to leave the romance to District Twelve.” She moved back and smiled. “Now, let’s get ready.”
Rory finished dressing himself in fifteen minutes, but he needed another fifteen minutes to muster up the courage to leave the room and be seen in public. His initial assessment of the outfit being tight and stretchy had been correct, but he had missed the padding found at various parts of the outfit. Before leaving, he looked at himself in the mirror. It could have been worse, he reminded himself, and he could only hope that Amy wouldn’t take a fancy to these costumes and want to keep them. He took a deep breath before exiting the room.
Standing outside his door, he realized he had no idea where to go. He had just decided to retrace their footsteps from their arrival, and began heading toward the elevator bank when a flickering light in the opposite direction caught his eye. As he turned his head, the light flickered again. He shook his head, and then he felt a vibrating sensation in his left palm. The Doctor hadn’t mentioned this particular modification, but Rory knew what it signified. He abandoned his initial plan and broke into a run in the other direction.
He was so entirely focused on trying to catch his unknowable predator that he hadn’t heard the door open, hadn’t seen the young tribute step out, and hadn’t realized what he had barreled into until some seconds after the collision when he was able to recognize the person under the heavy makeup.
Peeta lay on his back in the corridor and had entirely no idea what had just happened. He had thought that, while the Games were imminent, the Capitol would conform to their self-imposed rules and restrict their vendetta against the victors to the arena. He blinked slowly and started to get up when an unfamiliar voice shouted, “No, don’t move!” An unfamiliar face to go with the unfamiliar voice moved into his line of sight. “Are you okay?” the face asked anxiously. “Can you move your lower body? How’s your head? Did you lose consciousness? Do you want me to get a doctor?” In reply, Peeta flexed his good leg and began pulling himself to a sitting position. “I’m fine,” he reassured the stranger. He then realized that his head was lighter than it should be. “You didn’t happen to see where my headpiece went, did you?”
As the young man trotted a few feet down the corridor to retrieve the crown, Peeta suddenly recognized him as one of the District Six victors. When the man returned, he extended an arm out to Peeta in order to help him up before handing the crown back to him. “Thanks,” Peeta said as he replaced his crown on his head and adjusted it as best as he could.
The man again held out his hand to Peeta. “I’m Rory, by the way. From District Six.”
Peeta smiled, which seemed to relax Rory. “I remember from the Reaping and the tape of your Games. I’m Peeta.”
Now it was Rory’s turn to smile. “Even I know that.” He continued to look curiously at Peeta.
“Really. I’m fine,” Peeta tried to assure him.
“Actually, I was just thinking about how the Capitol stylists seem to really love jumpsuits. Although yours leaves more to the imagination than mine does.” The District Six victor seemed to be grimacing at the imminent public spectacle.
Peeta laughed. “I have no complaints about my costume, but the makeup is something else entirely. I never thought that I’d miss the days of being set on fire, but I think that even real fire would be preferable to this.” He gestured to his face, still smiling. “I’m pretty sure that our stylists decided that this look would be great on Katniss, which it will be, and I’m just coming along for the ride.” Peeta paused at seeing that Rory now wore a look of…sympathy? Empathy? Recognition? He was momentarily confused, but then realized that Rory must be remembering last year’s Games and how every action that Peeta had taken in the arena was solely to promote Katniss’ survival. “I supposed that at least we’re not naked and covered in coal dust."
Rory’s eyes seem to widen in horror at this prospect. “Who could think that that would be a good idea?” he asked, aghast.
“More stylists than you would think. Apparently mining hasn’t been terribly inspirational to the stylists who previously worked with District Twelve.” Peeta paused. “But that’s what the District Twelve tributes did the year that you won. Don’t you remember?”
Rory seemed to be thinking very hard, but he eventually shook his head. “No, I don’t remember.” He looked directly at Peeta. “Morphling’s a hell of drug,” he added, almost hopefully. Peeta smiled sympathetically-he had forgotten that the surviving District Six victors were morphlings. No wonder Rory was acting and speaking so oddly.
“We really should be getting going,” Peeta commented. In the elevator, he turned to Rory. “Where were you running to, by the way? You were headed in the completely wrong direction.” He was surprised at the deep consideration that Rory seemed to be giving this simple question. “It’s okay, you don’t have to tell me, I was just curious.”
“No,” Rory answered firmly. “I don’t mind telling you because it’s important, but I can’t remember.” He frowned and then bit his lip. “It had to do with a blinking light. I saw a blinking light. Did you see a blinking light?” he asked Peeta hopefully.
Peeta smiled again at Rory-the morphling habit must not be fully kicked yet. “No, I didn’t see any blinking lights. We have power shortages all the time in District Twelve-maybe you’re remembering power shortages from District Six?” Rory shook his head. By this time, they had arrived at the chariots. Peeta quickly surveyed the chaos. Not only did he see that Katniss had already arrived, but she was also talking to someone who could only be Finnick Odair. Peeta became incredibly curious at this development, and turned to say goodbye to Rory. Before he could say anything, he saw that Rory’s eyes were now scrunched together and he was rubbing his temples rhythmically. Peeta reached up to gently tap him on the shoulder.
“Rory?” he asked quietly. “Are you okay? Do you need me to do anything?”
It was a few very long seconds before Rory seemed to come back to himself and remember where he was. “I’m fine. Just some bad memories.” He stared off into the distance. “I’m fine,” he repeated, and Peeta thought that this was more directed at reassuring himself than reassuring Peeta. “I just saw my chariot, so I should go join Amy. See you around?”
“Yeah, see you around,” replied Peeta as Rory scurried off towards his chariot. He arrived too late to meet Finnick Odair, but he couldn’t help but ask Katniss what had happened. The subsequent conversation was one of the more relaxed ones that they had had since last year, and Peeta blushed slightly when she reached up to adjust his crown. If nothing else, getting trampled by Rory had been worth it for this one moment. He remembered that he hadn’t told Katniss about his own meeting with a victor, and she seemed amused by the incident.
“Where’s the District Six chariot?” Katniss asked, and Peeta pointed it out to her. Rory and the female victor-tribute were in deep conversation with each other, and it was at this moment that a figure in a long green coat ran over to them to join their huddle. He stayed only for a few minutes before running off again and leaving his tributes with what seemed to Peeta to be very worried looks. “That must have been their mentor,” Katniss observed, and Peeta nodded his head.
“Speaking of which, have you seen Haymitch, Portia, or Cinna?” Peeta asked. “I thought that they would meet us here.”
“No clue. Looks like we’re on our own this year.” She looked at him thoughtfully. “We might as well switch ourselves on.” Peeta had started to raise his arm, but he found that Katniss had already reached out to him and was pressing the button on his sleeve. She pressed her own switch before looking up to him. She smiled fondly at him as she again reached out for his arm. Once they had clasped hands, she asked “Let’s do this?”
“Let’s do this,” he agreed. And it took no effort for him at all to obey Portia’s instructions to ignore the crowd because the only thing that he could think of at this moment, at this time, is that he would do anything to keep the girl by his side safe.
Chapter 5: Interlude II
In which the plot thickens.
Apologies for the delay in a new chapter, but I wanted to do some reworking of my intended story structure. As a separate note, the plan is to have the story completed by the US theatrical release of the movie (March 23). The last chapter is already written, and the endgame is very clear in my mind. The next chapter will focus on the training sessions.
Thank you again for reading!
Amy and Rory were slightly unsettled by the Doctor’s unexpected appearance. They had figured that he and River were off doing Doctor-y and River-y things, and that they’d just meet up with the two of them at dinner, and the suspiciously compliant Capitol escort would no doubt be persuaded to find alternative arrangements. Which was actually the plan, with one slight wrinkle.
“You want us to kidnap Katniss and Peeta?” asked Rory in a strangled voice. Amy sighed sympathetically and patted his hand. The array of chariots and victors and thronging crowds had not done anything beneficial for Rory’s mood, and she looked forward to leaving the stadium for the presumed quiet of their quarters.
“Rory’s got a point,” she said. “I thought that we weren’t supposed to draw attention to ourselves, and now you want us to kidnap public enemies one and two? In plain sight of the Capitol?” She fixed her eyes on the Doctor. Sometimes he really did try so hard to live up to his reputation as a madman with a box. Probably there wasn’t even much trying involved.
The Doctor sighed. “Oh, Amy, must you be so narrow minded?” He smiled fondly at Amy and Rory, as if they were very simple children indeed.
Amy glared at this and pursed her lips. “Explain.”
“I just need a bit of a distraction so I can talk to their mentor and explain how we’re really on his side and to offer our support.”
“And you intend to gain his trust by having your tributes hold his tributes hostage? Do I understand your plan correctly?”
“I suppose that it sounds a little dodgy if you insist on characterizing it that way,” the Doctor sniffed. “But that’s not what I’m asking you to do. I just need you and Rory to distract them and provide an incentive to Mr. Abernathy to discuss certain matters with me.”
Amy snorted. “No idea how that sounds like kidnapping at all. And would you care to provide us with any ideas as to how to accomplish this?”
The Doctor grinned. “Knew you’d come around in the end, Pond. Here.” He handed over the sonic to Amy and pulled the three into a brief huddle in order to obscure the screwdriver while he hurriedly explained his plan. Afterwards, he kept them covered while Amy hid the device in her utility belt. “Got it? Good. See you in a bit.” He gave Amy and Rory two thumbs up and then ran off. Rory waved weakly at the Doctor’s back while Amy pondered their conversation. She didn’t have much time to think as the horses suddenly began to draw the chariot forward. She and Rory looked at each other encouraging before each looked forward, gripping the front of the chariot in order to resist the temptation to reach out for each other.
River and the Doctor watched the parade on one of the numerous monitors in the Training Center. She frowned critically as the District Six Chariot emerged and the commentary began. As she had intended, there was much discussion on the unexpected health of both victors despite the fact that neither had been seen in the Capitol since the conclusion of their victory tour. After a brief discussion of the recent death of the oldest District 6 victor, the commentators followed the oblique gossip regarding the supposed morphling habits of Amelia and Rory with some excited praise for their outfits. At this, River tuned out until some tutting unexpectedly caught her attention.
“See those hand tremors right there? That both District Six victors had? A typical side-effect of long-term morphling use.”
“Right you are, Albina,” agreed the co-host. “Clearly there has been some progress, but a sponsor would be right to consider whether the District Six victors can be truly competitive.”
River peered closely while Amy and Rory remained the focus of the cameras. She had missed the first alleged tremors-were they even there or had the commentators just expected to see them?-and she didn’t any others for the rest of the footage. Although both Amy and Rory were clutching the front of the chariot with a vise-like grip that she suspected that it would be rather difficult to identify any subtle movement. She turned to the Doctor, “Did you see the tremors? You haven’t doped them with morphling, have you?”
The Doctor continued to look straight ahead at the monitor. “We can’t go unnoticed any longer.” He turned to River. “And, no, no morphling. Probably just nerves. Or their hands fell asleep because those ridiculous outfits cut off circulation to their extremities.” Having dismissed River’s question, he looked at his watch. “I have things to do. Make sure that Amy and Rory do what they need to do,”-River, at least, was privy to this part of the plan-“And do what you need to do.” Without any further ceremony, he left.
River nodded but said nothing. She had her own plans. Silently, she continued to watch the monitors for the clues that the Doctor refused to provide.
Amy gratefully accepted the blanket that River handed to her and immediately passed it to Rory, who wasted absolutely no time in wrapping himself in it. A pity that Rory felt so self-conscious in it-Amy rather liked the way he looked in it. She cocked her head to the side; she’d really need to talk to him about these outfits. She took River’s second blanket-she wasn’t at all embarrassed, but it would certainly make carrying out the Doctor’s plan easier. River slipped away, leaving Amy and Rory by themselves. Standing slightly apart from the other tributes and their entourages, the two chatted inconsequentially until Rory nudged Amy in the ribs. Amy looked up and nodded. It looked like Katniss and Peeta were about to head toward the elevator bank. Amy began to walk quickly in that direction, knowing that Rory would follow eventually. She succeeded in reaching the elevators before the District Twelve victors and, upon entering, quickly pulled out the sonic and waved it at the panel of buttons.
“Going up?” she called out to Katniss and Peeta, who were now standing just a few feet from the elevator. They nodded and hurried inside. Katniss pushed the button for the twelfth floor and joined Peeta in the back of the elevator. Amy popped her head out of the elevator looking for Rory. “Sorry!” she apologized to the two younger people. “I thought that Rory was right behind me.” She pretended to smile sheepishly while she looked out for her husband. The smile soon disappeared as she saw the female District Seven victor stalk purposefully towards the elevator. Rory, however, was now sprinting towards the elevator and immediately started pounding the door close button after he was safely in. As the doors closed, the four occupants were treated to the sight of a blazingly angry Johanna Mason right before the elevator lurched suddenly and rapidly upwards.
Amy felt sorry for Peeta-based on what Rory had told her, this would be the second time today that he would have found himself sprawled on his back without knowing why. He started to pull himself to a standing position, and then Katniss helped him up to his feet. Amy recognized the look of irritation on Katniss’s face, and she idly wondered what had happened. To her, at least, the parade seemed to have gone well for District Twelve. She wasn’t surprised when Peeta’s “Thanks” was met with silence from his fellow tribute. Peeta then turned to Rory. “What just happened?”
“No idea, mate,” he replied. Amy decided to begin jabbing the button panel angrily, and this caused everyone to look over in her direction.
“Oh, come ON!” she yelled at the panel before slamming her fist against it. Amy looked up helplessly as the floor indicator zoomed past six. Mumbling some choice words under her breath, she picked up the emergency phone, pushed some buttons, and huffed into the receiver. “Yeah, is this Melody? It’s Amelia. I’m in the elevator. Why am I in the elevator? An excellent question, really. Is our mentor around? Yeah, put him on, please.” She looked at her companions and rolled her eyes. By this time, the elevator had already zoomed past the twelfth floor, and the doors had opened onto the roof. “Yeah? Of course I know that we were supposed to have arrived already for dinner, but the elevator had other ideas.” A pause. “I see. Well, it’s not like we’re going anywhere. Wait, what? Okay, okay. See you in a few.” She slammed the phone back into the compartment. Of course, there hadn’t been anyone on the other end of the line, but she rather hoped that that had gone unnoticed.
“Don’t just stand there, move!” Rory scurried out of the elevator, with Katniss and Peeta confusedly trailing behind him. Amy discreetly sonicked the panel once again before exiting. As soon as she was clear of the threshold, the elevator doors slammed shut, and they could hear the car zooming away.
“That was close,” remarked Amy mildly as she walked towards the edge of the roof to look out at the Capitol. She looked at the city before her. Really, she could almost find it pretty if she could forget all of the horrible people to be found here. She walked back to the center of the roof and looked up-despite all of the city lights, the stars twinkled brightly in the sky. Now this, this she could admire without reservation.
Typically, River would consider skulking about in dark shadows to be beneath her, but unusual times called for unusual measures. Somehow the Doctor had convinced the District Twelve mentor to stop off at the sixth floor, and the two men were seated in the viewing room. While she was unable to see them, she suspected that the Doctor would be quite oblivious to any antipathy on the part of the other mentor. She, of course, would have been correct. She adjusted her earpiece and the communicator and waited for the conversation to begin.
The Doctor, as usual, came straight to the point. “I want in.”
Silence. A long silence broken only by the sound of flowing liquid. “In?” the second man asked indifferently.
“Yes. In.” More silence. Really, skulking left so much to be desired. River adjusted the volume and still just barely heard the Doctor whisper, “I know about the mockingjay.”
A scuffle, and a finally a complete sentence from Abernathy. “You don’t know anything,” he shouted. River quickly reduced the volume before her eardrum blew out.
The Doctor cleared his throat. “If you will let go of my tie, I will gladly tell you what I know.” Apparently this condition was met because the Doctor resumed talking. “I know that it was a blow when my predecessor met his untimely demise. I know that people were relying on the assistance of District Six, even when it was known that three of the four previously surviving victors were largely incapacitated because the movement cannot afford to lose any help from any quarter. I know that you and the other victors find the improvement in the three representatives of District Six to be remarkable, almost to the point of being incredible. I know that only you suspect that we may not be what we seem, but that you have kept your suspicions to yourself because you don’t want the enemy to even consider the possibility that not everything is under their control despite their efforts. I know that you are wondering why I am being so frank, but I assure you that I have disposed of all Capitol listening devices. And, what you don’t know, is that my victors and I are completely at your service to make sure that the mockingjay takes flight.”
“I should ask why I should trust you, but I expect that you’ll have a ten-minute answer to that as well.”
“Possibly. You should know, however, that my friends were instructed to sequester your victors on the rooftop. If I had anything less than honorable intentions, I would have been able to execute those plans by now. But I only mean to show that we can carry out any plan that we are tasked with, and that we would do anything to keep those two safe.”
“You order the kidnapping of my victors and you expect me to trust you? That’s some nerve.”
“The irony of this aspect of my plan has been duly noted by others, but I assure you that they’re safe.” River now heard steps and the sound of something being turned on. “And scene. Now, the fact that I can even show you this should prove that I can be very, very useful to you.”
“I would be lying if I said that I’m not intrigued. But I’m also not stupid. Who are you? The last time that I saw you, or who you’re pretending to be, you were several inches taller, lighter brown hair, and wore glasses. Also, the chin wasn’t quite so much.”
“The universe does like its jokes. But that is the one thing that I can’t tell you. It’ll have to be enough that my friends and I know what you’re trying to do and that you have our full support. And trust me when I say that that will need to be enough.”
“Looks that way. We’ll be in touch after the training scores are released. Make sure that your kids get to know my kids.I’ll be encouraging the kids to be form an alliance with other tributes. Doubt that they’ll end up listening to me, but I need them to be interacting with others in order to have any idea of what their brilliant strategy is going to be.”
“Gotcha. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to head to the roof.”
River heard both men exit the room. The Doctor was still keeping secrets, and she was still none the wiser.
Rory was apparently the only person to hear the doors open, and he turned his head towards the elevator bank. Sure enough, the Doctor had arrived, but he remained apart until Amy had finished her tale of Hercules and the other constellations that surrounded him in the night sky. Rory smiled-the Doctor had been closer to those stars than anyone in this world could possibly imagine, but he still stopped to listen to Amy’s tales of legend and adventure. Only when Amy had finished did the Doctor speak.
“Amelia and her stories of the stars,” he remarked fondly. “I can’t imagine a better way to pass the time. However, I have been reliably informed that a certain Haymitch Abernathy is awaiting the presence of his victors, and his opinions likely differ from mine.” Rory noted that the fondness remained on the Doctor’s face as they trooped into the elevator, and the Time Lord extended a hand to Katniss and Peeta to introduce himself. “My friends call me the Doctor, and I hope that you will too. Such a pleasure to meet you at last. I’d told Amelia that it’d be fixed in five minutes, but it took slightly longer than that. Hopefully this won’t be too much of a disruption to your dinner plans.”
“Oh no,” Peeta assured the Doctor. “We had a lovely time.”
“Effie might be upset,” Katniss pointed out reasonably. “But Peeta’s right-it was nice.”
“Good to hear. Well, here we are. Twelfth floor. Again, very nice to meet you.” After Katniss and Peeta departed and the elevator continued to the sixth floor, the Doctor now turned his attention to Amy and Rory. “Thanks for that. I think that we’re in Haymitch’s trust, or, at least, he thinks that we can be useful.” They had now arrived at their floor, but the Doctor kept the elevator door shut. “Now, it’s up to you two to continue the work on this evening and work on befriending them. It’s not going to be easy-I think that they’re a tighter unit than either of them think-but I’d like to know more about them.”
Rory and Amy both nodded. “Is there anything that we shouldn’t do, though?” asked Rory. “I mean, Amy and I don’t want to do anything that might interfere with their…relationship. Or whatever is supposed to happen to them.”
“Go with your instincts, but don’t be heavy handed. Just because something happens in one timeline doesn’t mean that it will happen in another. You two, of all people, know that. People have to find their way to each other, it can’t be forced or even prodded.” The Doctor paused. “And don’t let this task distract you from learning survival skills and making an impression.”
Rory was surprised by this. “I thought that we were supposed to keep a low profile?”
“That changed when I saw you and Amy in the parade. Each of you activated your nanorecorder, and I saw that Rory had activated his earlier as well. We need to show that we’re making our stand against all enemies. We now know that they’re watching us, so our battle starts now. Also, be careful in your rooms-I believe that River is trying to find out what we’re keeping from her, and she absolutely cannot know about the Silence right now. Now, let’s get you two fed-you’ll have a very busy day tomorrow.”
Chapter 6: Training Day 1
In which potential alliances are first assessed.
Thank you so much for your patience and your continued interest!
Peeta surveyed the gym critically. As in the morning, it seemed that all the pairs of district co-tributes had decided to train together as a team. All, that is, with the glaring exception of District Twelve, the putative star-crossed lovers. He had devoted a good portion of the morning alternating his time between chatting with other victors and practicing throwing weapons. While he would never admit it to anyone, he had selected his morning activities in the hopes that he might take out some of his many frustrations on the target dummies. Any progress, however, had been quickly unraveled by Katniss’ continuing irritability at lunch. While she had eventually relented and joined the larger group, he couldn’t help but be acutely aware of the continuing tension evident in her posture. Katniss hadn’t expressed any interest in re-joining Peeta after the meal, which left him in his current state of trying to figure out his next move.
The morning combat training was necessary, but Peeta thought that something a little less aggressive might be a good change of pace for him this afternoon. His eyes fell upon the camouflage station, which was currently occupied by the District Six victors. He felt mildly guilty for forgetting about them earlier and racked his brain to remember where they might have been during lunch. After some consideration, he thought that he had seen them at the very edge of the large table, slightly apart from the other victors and engrossed in their own conversation. They must have left lunch early, though, as they seemed to be quite settled at the training station. Amelia was intently studying a stack of paper while simultaneously mixing colors and gripping Rory’s forearm, which was already completely covered in green and brown and dappled with some brilliantly crimson accents. Between the fact that he had thought that Amelia and Rory seemed nice enough and that the camouflage station had been a particular favorite of his last year, he thought that he could do worse than going over to join them. Peeta arrived just in time to see Amelia make some finishing touches to Rory’s forearm before presenting it to the trainer, who looked to be quite impressed with her work. Both Amelia and Rory beamed at the trainer’s effusive praise but hadn’t registered Peeta’s arrival until the trainer greeted him by name.
“Peeta, have you met Amelia Pond and Rory Williams? The District Six tributes? I think that you may have some serious competition for star pupil status this year,” exclaimed the trainer. “Can you believe that she painted this even though she’s never seen cedarberries until this morning?” He yanked Rory’s arm to show Peeta, and Rory’s smile suddenly (but rather understandably) was replaced with a grimace. Peeta sincerely expressed his admiration at Amelia’s handiwork, and his gaze wandered to the drawing that she had apparently used as reference.
“Are those yours?” he asked. He walked over to her and sat down on the floor.
“Yeah, Rory and I spent the entire morning at the edible plants station. We did fine on the final test, but drawing really helps me to remember stuff.” She smiled wryly. “Sometimes I remember things the way that I want them to be instead of what they actually are. I thought that making drawings might be a problem-like maybe it would be considered cheating? But the trainer didn’t even bother to ask the Gamekeepers-he just handed over paper and pencils.” Amelia’s voice lowered considerably and she leaned into Peeta, “Between us, I think that the training rules are considerably more relaxed this year, and I wasn’t about to not take advantage of that.”
“Can I take a look?” Peeta inquired, gesturing to the stack. Amelia nodded her permission, and Peeta worked his way through the drawings. “Wow, these are really good. I can’t believe that you did this all this morning!”
“Thanks,” Amelia laughed. “Although I think that you’re being entirely too generous. I remember seeing your paintings, and this is strictly amateur hour compared to those. But they’re good enough for my purposes, I think. I’d like to try my hand at some more camouflage, though. Unless you’d prefer to work by yourself? I hear that you excel in mud studies.”
Now it was Peeta’s turn to laugh. “The highlight of my artistic career.” He turned to ask Rory something, but found no one there.
“Ah, Rory gave us the slip a few minutes ago,” Amelia informed Peeta. She pointed to the sword training station. “He’s probably the most patient person that I know, but even his patience has its limits. Looks like he needed to stretch his legs. Now, what do you think we should try?” Amelia and Peeta then spent a very pleasant half-hour preparing new pigments from the plants and roots available at the station and painting, and, at the end, each sported two brilliantly colored forearms. The trainer had just handed each of them a damp towel so that they could clean themselves up when a sultry voice was heard from above.
“Why, Peeta Mellark, I knew that you were talented, but I thought that it would be beyond even your talents to make the lovely Amelia Pond even lovelier.” Both Peeta and Amelia looked up to see Finnick Odair standing above them. “I could not have been more mistaken.” He winked at Amelia as he walked to the other side of the station and sat himself down right between Amelia and Peeta, causing the latter to smirk to himself. Peeta soon realized, however, that he was going to become a third wheel in this conversation. Under other circumstances, he might have left the station, but the trainer had just gone off to retrieve a dummy for Amelia and him to work on, and he really wanted to see more of her techniques. He decided to just draw designs with the various muds until Finnick got bored and left.
“I’m so pleased that you think that covering myself in dirt is an improvement,” replied Amy archly. Peeta glanced sideways at the other two-he could just see that Finnick’s expression turned surprised and then intrigued. Maybe he had expected Amelia to be as unreceptive as Katniss? Amelia continued, “From your outfit yesterday, I rather suspected that you would have had a minimalist aesthetic. Cover-ups don’t seem to be your style.”
“Oh? And how would you know what my style is?” Finnick now turned his back completely on Peeta in order to completely focus on Amelia. Peeta idly wondered what was taking the trainer so long as he continued to draw in the mud. There were a number of different soils, so at least he had different reds and browns.
“I’m a quick study when I like what I see, and I saw a lot yesterday. But I must say that I much prefer a man with some mystery to him. I rather like surprises.” Peeta’s view of Amelia was still blocked by Finnick, but he thought that her tone became slightly less flirtatious and slightly more serious.
“Do tell, Miss Pond. I’m quite interested to learn what you find attractive.” Unexpectedly, Peeta realized that Finnick’s tone also became somewhat more serious. Finnick had now shifted slightly so Peeta could once again see Amelia’s face.
“I’m not sure that you’d understand,” Amelia replied. She then leaned over towards Finnick, “You see, I think it’s what a person is inside that makes them beautiful, and I haven’t met very many people in the Capitol who would think the same.”
“Well, it’s a good thing that neither of us are from the Capitol, because I may just understand more than you think.” With this, Finnick dipped his fingers into some of Peeta’s mud, winking at Peeta as he did so. With his clean right hand, he reached out for Amelia and started tracing patterns on her forearms. He had just begun to say something when a loud clang of metal hitting metal interrupted him. Peeta’s eyes darted around-the loudness of the sound meant it must have come from nearby-and found its source when he saw the commotion at the sword training station. Rory was now engaged in an extremely vigorous sword fight with the lead trainer at that station. While Peeta was far from an expert in sword play, he thought that Rory seemed to be moving with a remarkably elegant (and, if he were being completely honest, unexpected) ease and confidence. There was no doubt, however, that Rory was fighting to win, and the trainer conceded defeat after only a minute or two. After the two shook hands, Rory turned to the camouflage station and directed a severe look at…Finnick? Amelia laughed softly while shaking her head. Peeta noted that Finnick looked impressed by Rory’s display
“Is that new?” Finnick asked Amelia. “I don’t recall District Six ever having anyone particularly skilled in sword fighting?”
“Rory is full of surprises. And he can be a bit of a show-off under the right circumstances. If you go over now, I’m sure that he’d be willing to give you a few tips.”
“I think that I will. I’ve been meaning to let him know that he looked quite fetching in his outfit yesterday.” Finnick waggled his eyebrows suggestively at Amelia and Peeta and then departed the station. Peeta looked over towards Amelia, and they both burst out laughing.
“Well, that was something!” Amelia remarked. “Now, where were we…oh my god! Did you just do that?” Her eyes were fixated on the patterns that Peeta had been drawing during Finnick’s visit.
“Yeah, I was trying not to seem like too obvious of a third wheel,” Peeta explained. Amelia was now crouching on all fours, seemingly trying to take in the mud plot from all angles.
“Just wow. I love the textures, and the swirls, and the energy and the emotions of the strokes,” she commented excitedly. She then paused, “Do you study the ancient artists in District Twelve?”
Peeta shook his head. “No. I think that there may be some books in the library, but somehow it never really occurred to me to look at them. I’ve only really had time to draw and paint since last year.”
“Oh,” Amelia replied. “It’s just that I was just reminded of someone, but I’m not sure if I can explain.” She gathered her papers and stood up. “I officially give up on ever getting the dummy this afternoon. I probably should follow Rory’s example and do something more active. Maybe run the obstacles or something.”
Peeta stood up as well, “Yeah, I should probably go try something else as well. It was really fun working with you, Amelia.”
“You can call me Amy. In fact, I much prefer Amy.”
“Okay…Amy,” replied Peeta, and then he paused. “Does Rory have a nickname? Both you and the Doctor have one-is that a District Six custom?”
“No, no he doesn’t. Rory is only ever Rory.”
Peeta decided that he liked both of the District Six victors, and he wondered if Katniss would even entertain the idea of an alliance with them. After further thought, he decided not to bring it up unless Katniss did. He wasn’t even sure if Katniss had spent any time with them today, and he didn’t want to take the risk of sullying them in Katniss’ mind by recommending them just now.
Finnick and Rory only talked long enough to come to an agreement that they would exchange some dueling lessons for knot tying lessons tomorrow. Rory had laid down the sword and was pondering his next station when an unexpected voice piped up.
“That was really impressive,” commented Katniss as she surveyed Rory.
“Thanks,” Rory replied. “I haven’t done that for awhile, so I really thought I would just end up stabbing myself in the foot or something.” His voice dropped to a whisper, and he leaned down towards Katniss. “I think I’ve worn out my welcome here, though, at least for today. I don’t think that the trainer appreciated me defeating him in under three minutes.” They both looked over at the sulky trainer who was pretending to sharpen some of the weapons, and the sight caused Katniss to smirk. “I’m not sure what else to do, though. Any suggestions?”
“Have you tried the camouflage station?” Katniss offered. She turned to point it out to Rory, which caused her to see Amy and Peeta at the station. An inscrutable look came over her face.
“I did, actually, just before deciding to practice with the swords. I was just acting as a human canvas for Amy, though, so once Peeta came along, I decided to leave the real artists to their work. From what I’ve seen, it looks like they’ve been enjoying themselves.”
“Amy?” questioned Katniss.
“Yeah, she rarely goes by ‘Amelia’ these days,” Rory explained.
Katniss nodded diffidently. “I didn’t know that there were any other victors who were artists apart from Peeta.”
“Oh, yeah, Amy has been painting and drawing for ages. She’s really good.” It seemed that Peeta and Amy were now winding down their time at the station because they were cleaning up, although they were continuing to chat merrily with one another. Katniss continued to look blankly at Amy and Peeta, and Rory idly wondered if it might be jealousy. He was trying to consider the situation from her point of view when she suddenly seemed to allow herself a small smile.
“I haven’t seen him so happy in such a long time,” she confided to Rory. “He’s been so focused on the Quell. And I wasn’t exactly the most encouraging camouflage partner last year during training. And if he hadn’t been able to hide himself last year….” She trailed off, now looking slightly upset.
“But he did,” Rory gently reminded her. “No use in dwelling on that now.”
Katniss nodded, took a breath, and turned to Rory. “I should stay here and try some sword fighting.”
The awkwardness was palpable to Rory-did she think that she had shared too much? Maybe she worried that she had exposed a weakness to another tribute? He decided to improvise. “Oh, hey, I meant to ask-would you mind meeting up with me at the medicinal plant station tomorrow?”
Katniss peered at Rory with great curiosity. “Really? I can’t say that my healing skills are noteworthy. If it weren’t for the medicine from the feast last year, Peeta would have died under my care.”
Now it was Rory’s turn to look bug-eyed with disbelief at Katniss. “But if you hadn’t taken care of him, he wouldn’t even have survived to the time of the feast.” He paused to make sure that she was looking at him before he continued. “Not everyone could have done what you did, Katniss, and you managed to keep a very sick boy alive for far longer than I thought was possible under the circumstances. And I think that that is remarkable.”
Something in Rory’s tone of voice seemed to have resonated with Katniss, and she nodded. “Okay. Maybe in the morning?”
Rory smiled. “Morning it is. Looking forward to it.” And, with that, he nodded farewell and went off in search of his final training activity of the day.
“Nice swording, Roranicus,” greeted Amy as Rory approached her at the elevator bank. Rory mock-bowed, causing Amy to punch him gently (or so she intended) in the shoulder.
As Rory rubbed his right shoulder and worried about possible bruising, he turned to his wife to ask, “How was your afternoon?”
“Good, I think. That Peeta kid seems to like me. I want to see if River’s brought any of the van Gogh picture postcards I sent to her-I think that he’d like them. Didn’t manage to talk to the other one, though. Other than that, ran some of the obstacles this afternoon, and I think that I’ll do that for the judges. Oddly enough, it’s pretty easy to run a course when there aren’t bloodthirsty aliens chasing after you. Who would have thought? And yours?”
“Fine. I talked to Katniss for a bit-we’re going to medicinal plants tomorrow. I can’t quite get a read on her yet, though.”
“Hmm. Rory Williams not quite connecting with the ladies-what a surprise,” teased Amy. As she had also reached out to squeeze his hand while saying this, Rory smiled instead of pouting.
“Well, maybe I would have had more opportunities to practice if you hadn’t chased off any and every girl that showed the slightest interest in me by wildly misrepresenting my romantic preferences. Don’t think that River hasn’t spilled the beans on that.” With great, but perhaps misplaced, satisfaction, Rory entered the now-arrived elevator and waited for Amy to recover sufficiently to move from the spot where she stood dumbstruck.
Chapter 7: Interlude III (District Twelve)
In which the District Twelve tributes forge an agreement.
That evening, Katniss and Peeta sat quietly at the dining table as they finished their dinner. Haymitch had wandered off to parts unknown with a third bottle of wine, and Effie had, surprisingly, left soon afterwards. Peeta thought that much of their awkwardness from lunch had dissipated-it seemed to him that Katniss’ shooting display had restored a lot of her self-confidence-but he was lost in his thoughts trying to plan out his day tomorrow. Katniss seemed determined to form an alliance with the District 3 victors and Mags, whom he hadn’t really talked to today. He would try to catch up with them tomorrow, but he also remained intrigued by the remarkably lucid District Six victors. He still wondered if Katniss had interacted with them at all today-she certainly hadn’t mentioned either Amy or Rory-but at least it seemed that she hadn’t counted them among the victors who were adamantly ruled out. He idly poured himself a cup of tea while he considered the matter.
He looked up at hearing Katniss’ voice. “Hmm?”
“What do you think about the District Six victors as allies?” She was staring intently at Peeta as she waited for his response.
“Well, it’s your choice, but I think that they’re interesting,” replied Peeta slowly. “I liked talking to them yesterday, but I kind of forgot about them until this afternoon. But then I spent time with Amy at the camouflage station-she’s really good. And I’m not sure if you happened to see Rory at the sword skills station, but he’s really good at that. And apparently they’re both good at identifying plants, so I envy them that skill.” He smiled sheepishly.
“You couldn’t know,” Katniss replied simply. “And I’m just glad that you didn’t eat them.” Her look softened momentarily, but she then frowned slightly. “I only talked to Rory briefly this afternoon as he was leaving the sword station. It was when you and Amy were still at the camouflage station because he was telling me about how Amy was also a good artist. He wanted to do medicinal plants with me tomorrow, which now seems weird if he’s already good at normal plants.”
Peeta shrugged. “But you still need to know how to prepare the medicine, like which ones get crushed, which ones need to be mixed with water, which ones are particularly good for knocking out your fellow tribute for a full day….”
“Peeta!” exclaimed Katniss, with a mixture of both exasperation and amusement, much to Peeta’s relief. She then grinned wickedly “Honestly, I wasn’t even sure that Haymitch had sent enough. You should have been knocked out with the second spoonful, but I guess that you have the constitution of a horse.”
“Are you seriously criticizing me for not being as easy to drug as you think I should be?” Peeta tried his best to look offended, but the smile tugging at the corners of his mouth severely undermined these efforts.
“Yes, I am.” Katniss smiled her thanks as Peeta now passed her a cup of tea. “So, maybe we should consider District Six?”
“It’s your call,” Peeta reiterated. “Besides, if you’re interested in them, why didn’t you bring them up with Haymitch?”
“I think that he would have had a fit if I had added the District Six morphlings to my top picks for allies. As it is, I don’t think that he thinks that I’m taking this seriously. And please stop saying that it’s my choice. I’m sorry for being difficult earlier today, but this affects both of us, and your opinion is important.”
“So I can withdraw my formal request to form an alliance with you? I was expecting Haymitch to drive a very tough bargain.”
“I suppose.” Katniss smiled. “But, really, what do you think of District Six?”
“Well, as of now, I like them. They seem to be holding their own in training, and they seem to be good people.” Peeta trailed off, suddenly preoccupied as to whether it was incongruent to call a victor a good person. He knew that he and Katniss, as well as a good number of their fellow victors, had only done what was necessary to survive, but even that knowledge hadn’t sufficient to ward away the nightmares and haunted days for either him or Katniss.
“But isn’t that strange?”
“Isn’t what strange?”
“That they’re holding their own? From all accounts, they were in even worse shape than Haymitch, and even your insane training schedule could do only so much for him.”
“I guess I haven’t really thought about it that much since getting here.” Peeta considered the question further. “Maybe it seemed not to matter any more? Even if something weird was going on, these are the people being sent into the arena with us and there’s absolutely nothing that we can do about it.” Peeta knew that the last sentence sounded a little defeatist, and it seemed that Katniss thought so too. Or, at least, she decided to drop the subject.
“I suppose. I’m glad that you seem to like them, though. Let’s both try to spend time with them tomorrow before we make our decision.”
“Sounds like a plan.” Peeta stood up. “I think that I’m going to go to sleep now. Allies?” He extended his right hand to Katniss.
Katniss stood up and grasped his hand firmly.
Chapter 8: Interlude IV (District Six)
In which Amy and Rory learn too much and not enough.
Thank you so much for your continued interest in this story and for all of your support! A strongly Whovian interlude, but it is one that is fairly necessary for the rest of the story.
“We missed you last night.”
Amy and Rory smiled wanly at River’s greeting as they entered the dining room for breakfast. After yesterday’s training, they had been surprised to find themselves dining alone. Training had provided a reasonable distraction during the day and had prevented them from dwelling too long on the true nature of their mission. But, last night, left alone with so many thoughts and so little information, well, Amy and Rory’s disposition had taken a decidedly melancholy turn.
“Where were you two?” asked Amy as she sat herself opposite River and the Doctor, with the latter being oddly inscrutable even for him.
“Not sure about him, but the stylists got to spend a lovely evening with the Gamemakers, where we were informed that we are now required to present our tributes’ interview outfits for approval in advance of the final interview. It was a ridiculously long meeting for something that could have easily been addressed in a memo, but I think that they were operating under some sort of delusion that they were being intimidating. Or something.”
“Approval?” questioned Amy. “How bizarre. You’d think that they’d have more important things to do.”
“Well, I can’t say that I feel too badly that they’re letting themselves be distracted by completely inconsequential things,” commented the Doctor. “Still, they’re not completely oblivious. I would expect rather more Gamemakers at training today-I heard that there was some unexpected excitement yesterday.” The Doctor trained his eyes on Rory, who began to blush slightly.
“I may have gotten a bit carried away in the moment,” Rory muttered.
“A bit of an understatement given what I’ve heard,” continued the Doctor. “Of course, a supposed drug addict taking down the dueling champion of the Capitol in two minutes isn’t exactly ideal in terms of the not-drawing-unnecessary-attention-to-yourself-aim, but we can’t have everything. Still, lemons to lemonade. Or is it the other way around? In any case, I think that we can work this to our advantage by keeping an eye on any new attendees: presumably the President would have handselected the Gamemakers that he trusts to obtain the desired intelligence. I assume that you two are prepared and know what to do.”
Amy and Rory understood the Doctor’s oblique reference to their implanted nanorecorders and nodded their assent.
“Good. It’ll be hard, but be observant today,” instructed the Doctor. He leaned back in his chair and began to drum on his watch face.
“Doctor? Is something up?” inquired Rory tentatively.
“Hmmm?” The Doctor seemed to look through Rory without seeing him, but he then turned his attention to his watch. “Oh, no, nervous habit that I seem to have picked up from somewhere. Quite recently, I think.” He frowned. “Not sure where, though. Which, now that I think about it, is mildly troubling.”
“No! I mean, well, I did mean the watch-tappy thing, but have you been able to figure out why we’re here?”
“Not yet, but I’m working on it.” The Doctor sat bolt upright. “Which reminds me-how are you and Amy getting along with the District Twelve tributes?”
“Well enough, I think,” answered Amy. “We’re supposed to spend more time with them today, but there hasn’t been any mention of alliances or anything.”
“Good. But under no circumstances are you to form an alliance with them.”
“Why not?” asked Rory. “Wouldn’t that be the best way to protect them?”
“No, I really don’t think so,” replied the Doctor thoughtfully. “We need to be involved and stay close to them, but I think that that might be getting too close to them, and who knows what effects it would have. For all we know, we ourselves might actually be the targets.”
“As a Time Lord, wouldn’t that kind of be your thing to know?” suggested Amy.
“One would think, but not in this case,” replied the Doctor. “My current theory, which I think may be correct, is that there is a fixed point in time that someone is trying to put into flux. And, to answer your next question, I don’t know exactly when that fixed point is, but I think that it may be within the Games.”
“And somehow not being able to recognize the fixed point-which, again, is kind of your purpose, that doesn’t worry you?”
“Oh, Amelia: always worrying about things that aren’t any of your concern. We still have three days before the actual Games-that’s practically forever for us in terms of coming up with a plan.”
“Anyway…what makes you think that the fixed point occurs in the Games?” asked Rory.
The Doctor sighed. “I thought that you would ask that.” He turned his head to River, who nodded, pulled out a sheet of seemingly blank paper, and slid it over to Amy and Rory. “As it turns out, River had managed to unearth a few more details about things in her research, but, for reasons that will become clear to you, I thought that it would be best if you read it on the psychic paper instead of her telling it to you. Not exactly the sort of stuff I want to chance that anyone might overhear, however remote the possibility.”
Amy and Rory were each holding a side of the paper and, at these words, began to read. And they read generally of the furor induced by the Quell; how the Games not only failed to provide a distraction from the social upheaval but how these very Games themselves stoked the flames of rebellion; the final stand in the arena; how only Katniss was able to be rescued and how Peeta had been left behind to be tortured and broken; how Katniss had been broken in turn; the utter destruction of District 12; the simultaneously ill-fated and successful mission to breach the Capitol; that final, bloody battle. They read the cold, statistical tally of the many lives broken, lost, given, and taken to secure a better future. These Games were pivotal to the downfall of this sickening government, and somehow they were to figure out what could be changed and what couldn’t? Their eyes filled with tears and they looked to the Doctor and River to see if they could provide answers. Any answers. Neither could.
“You can see the difficulties. The TARDIS brought us here, so, without a doubt, this is where we need to be. It would seem that the Games need to happen because that is what ignites the nation, but, other than that? I don’t’ know. But we need to find out in the next three days”
“So many losses,” whispered Amy.
“All those people…” Rory murmured.
“I’m so, so sorry.” The Doctor walked over and knelt between the two of them. “But you have got to believe that we are going to be able to do something good. Even if we don’t know what it is yet.” He stood up and sighed. “I have to believe that we can do something good here.”
The next fifteen minutes passed in silence as Amy and Rory tried to make sense of this additional, terrible knowledge. Finally, Amy spoke. “This. Does this need to happen?” Both the Doctor and River looked at the event to which Amy was pointing on the paper.
A new silence hung in the air while the Doctor considered. “I don’t….”
“Dammit! Can you stop with the ‘I don’t know’s today!” Rory slammed his fist on the table. “A straight answer. For once. Can’t you just give that to us? A single change. You’d think that the universe could spot us that one.” He threw his napkin on the table and stormed off.
Amy stayed just long enough to quietly plead with the Doctor, but she, too, had clearly reached the end of her patience. “You don’t know what it’s like,” she whispered coldly as she stood to follow Rory.
River stood up to follow them, but the Doctor held up his hand. “River, you need to stay. You’re absolutely the last person they need to see right now. We’ll go to them soon, but they need to be alone for now.”
“I beg your considerable pardon?” hissed River.
“Do I really need to spell it out for you?” A glare from River followed by still more silence. “Apparently, I do. Typical. Amy and Rory are upset because we have absolutely no idea how to actually provide any help to anyone right now. The best we can do is make sure that everyone gets to suffer all the pain and the losses that we know that they experience in the original timeline. It’s hardly the stuff of inspiration, especially for those two. And, so far, they’ve only been able to come up with one thing that they think-that they hope-that they might be able to change without consequences. Well, of course there would be consequences. Amy and Rory aren’t stupid-they absolutely know any change has consequences. And yet, if nothing else, and perhaps more than anything else, they want so badly to prevent even a little pain, to make someone’s life have just a little less horror. But, oh, how they know about unintended consequences.”
“But I could get them to understand that it would all be for the greater good. That things do get better, that the sacrifices are going to be worth it.”
The Doctor smiled indulgently. “Oh, you poor, poor child. You still don’t get it.”
“Apparently not,” replied River, irritably.
“Do you know how many days and nights I have spent with Amy and Rory discussing cockeyed schemes that might let baby Melody be saved while preserving who you are? How much guilt they feel because they worry that they’ve abandoned Melody to save River or because that they might kill River to save Melody? The one thing that both of them desperately want to change is the one thing that they can’t for so, so many reasons. Not the least of which is that they would never do anything that would prevent you from becoming the person that you are now because everything that has happened to you has led to making you who you are. All that pain, all that suffering, and you’ve never once asked for it be undone. Don’t think that Amy and Rory wouldn’t have ripped time and space apart to keep their baby safe-the only thing that has ever stopped them, that could ever stop them, is you.”
“So do you enjoy torturing them, then? Giving them all that information that they can’t do anything about. Putting them into another situation where they can’t do a single damn thing about anything?” River asked coldly. “Because I’m starting to understand how you operate.”
“No you’re really not. If anyone can figure out what we can do to help, it will be Amy and Rory. They’ll help me to understand any changes-any saves-that I might have overlooked or even dismissed.” Oddly, the Doctor now smiled. “You wonderful, wonderful humans. Always bringing out the best, even when I’m being a right old fool. Saving lives that I would have forfeit because I stupidly thought that I knew better and that things couldn’t be changed. There are so many times that I don’t, but thank goodness I have my friends to make me understand when doing the right thing is more important than doing the Time Lord thing.”
The Doctor turned quiet and seemingly lost in his thoughts. Before River, who was now struggling with quite a number of emotions and thoughts herself, could manage to say anything herself, the Doctor again spoke.
“River, while we’re waiting, have I told you yet about Donna Noble?”
Chapter 9: Training Day 2
In which understandings are reached.
It was nearly eleven, and the district six tributes had not yet arrived. Today, as with yesterday, there were a good number of absentee victors, but Peeta was rather surprised that Amy and Rory now numbered among them. From Katniss’ account, it seemed that at least Rory planned to be attendance. Certainly there was no lack of gamemakers today-both Peeta and Katniss had noticed that it seemed that the gamemakers now outnumbered the tributes. Oddly, the head gamemaker—Plutarch something or another—seemed to be nervous. Or, at least, Peeta supposed this to be so because he kept twisting his watch while throwing the occasional surreptitious look at the new arrivals.
“Do you think that it’s because of my shooting yesterday?” Katniss asked as she worried over a length of rope. To Peeta’s surprise, Katniss had elected to pair with him this morning while waiting for Rory even though she had already done the knot-tying station yesterday.
Peeta considered her question. “It seems unlikely. It’s not like they didn’t already know about your private session last year. Plus, they would have seen all your Games footage from last year. So, even accounting for the strong possibility that they’re idiots, I’d be really surprised if they hadn’t been aware that you were a fantastic shot.” He lowered his voice. “But, along those lines, maybe it is related to why Amy and Rory aren’t here.”
“That too,” Katniss replied softly as she looked up to study the gamemakers.
Whatever she saw seemed to hold her interest. Curious, Peeta followed her lead and took a much closer look at the gamemakers. On first glance, no one had really stood out to him, but he now realized that a certain number of them had very distinctive-looking eyes. Grey, but nothing like Katniss’ eyes. These looked to be almost metallic, like silver or mercury. Peeta frowned. He certainly had seen far more exotic modifications by Capitol citizens during his time in this city: why was eye color, of all things, troubling him? He nudged Katniss to get her attention. She shook her head and looked questioningly at him. He opened his mouth but inexplicably found that he had lost his train of thought.
Katniss smirked at him. “Cat got your tongue?” she teased.
Peeta blushed, closed his mouth, and shook his head. “I forgot what I was going to say,” he admitted sheepishly.
“Peeta Mellark, at a loss for words. Never thought I’d see the day.” Katniss smiled impishly at him. Peeta couldn’t help but return the smile, but he really wished he could remember what he was going to say. He thought that it might be important, but, if it were important, surely he’d remember. He scanned the room, hoping to jog his memory, but to no avail. He did, however, manage to catch the door opening, and Amy and Rory slipping into the training center.
“It’s noon,” remarked Katniss. “I hope they’re okay.”
“Noon?” questioned Peeta, but the time was confirmed by a brief glance at the clock. “Well, it looks like they’re headed over here, so I guess we’ll find out.” And, indeed, Amy and Rory made a beeline for Katniss and Peeta. The District Six victors, however, looked far from okay. They both looked exhausted, and their red, puffy eyes made them look even worse.
“Hey,” greeted Rory as he and Amy arrived at the station. Amy waved her fingers in greeting but said nothing.
“Oh. Hey. Is everything okay?” answered Katniss and Peeta in perfect unison. This time, Katniss joined Peeta in blushing, and they both cast down their eyes at the same time. As Peeta looked up, he thought that Rory and Amy looked almost stricken, but he decided he must be imagining things.
“We’re so sorry for being late-it’s been a rough morning,” Rory apologized. “Katniss, do you mind if we reschedule to after lunch? Amy and I aren’t quite a hundred percent yet, but we think that we’ll be fine after something to eat.”
“Of course. No problem,” answered Katniss. “Is everything okay?”
“Oh, yeah, everything’s fine,” replied Rory, who was now rubbing his palm.
Peeta cocked his head at the obvious lie. He looked over at Amy who, for some reason, was now staring openly at the Gamemakers. Her left hand twitched, which seemed to break her concentration. She seemed captivated by her hand for a few moments and then turned to the rest of the group.
“I’m sorry. That was rude of me. I just got…distracted.” Amy took Rory’s hand. “Rory, would you mind coming to the plants station again? I want to see if you’re right about my not getting the leaves of the tacitera quire right. Let’s go do that now.” After Rory nodded his assent, Amy turned back to Katniss and Peeta. “See you guys later,” she called as she dragged Rory off to the station, leaving Katniss and Peeta in a slightly perplexed state.
“Do you think that they had a relapse?” Peeta asked Katniss.
“Possibly,” Katniss replied slowly. “Their eyes looked bloodshot, and I remember the Capitol announcers saying that hand tremors were typical of morphling addicts. And they both seemed slightly jumpy and distracted. But they seemed to be doing so well.”
“I know. Maybe yesterday was bad for them, what with being back in training and all.” Peeta stretched out his legs before standing up. “Speaking of which, I think that I’m going to head over to the climbing station for a bit. See you at lunch?”
“I’ll join you.” Katniss jumped elegantly to her feet.
Peeta supposed that his surprise must have been more obvious than he had thought because Katniss rolled her eyes at him. “Well, I’m glad that you don’t seem to be regretting our alliance this morning.”
“Never.” And, to Peeta’s further surprise, she reached out and squeezed his hand. “Never,” she repeated.
“Tacitera? Really? That’s the best you came up with?”
“Not all of us had centuries in which to practice our Latin. I was panicking. Anyway, what do you think?”
“It’s definitely something. I wonder why the change, though.”
“Apparently eyepatches are too clichéd and obvious even for the Capitol.”
“Of course they are.”
“Hey, what do you think is up with the guy and the watch?”
“No idea. Hopefully we’ll remember to ask the Doctor about that. It seems like the kind of thing that he’d notice.”
Peeta was almost sorry when lunch was called: he and Katniss seemed finally to have set aside the post-parade awkwardness and could be at ease with one another. At least, he harbored high hopes that he might get through lunch without Katniss angrily splashing food on his uniform. Indeed, he and Katniss even talked pleasantly while selecting food items from the trolleys.
“Do you mind if we just go ahead and join Amy and Rory for lunch?” Katniss asked. “I kind of want to see how they’re doing.”
“That sounds like a great idea,” Peeta replied, and they both walked over to where the District Six victors were sitting side by side. While they seemed to have been in conversation, they both looked up as Peeta and Katniss arrived. To his relief, they looked markedly improved in the brief time since their arrival.
“Hey there,” greeted Amy.
“Mind if we joined you?” Katniss asked.
“Not at all,” Amy smiled and gestured to the seats opposite her and Rory. “Thanks again for being understanding about this morning. Rory and I just had some…stuff that we needed to process. But we should be actually useful now.”
“Glad to hear that you’re feeling better,” Peeta replied as he eased himself into the chair. There was no need to inquire about the “stuff” that weighed on their mind-he was all too familiar with the darkness and nightmares that were impossible to escape as a victor. The subsequent lunch conversation was quite enjoyable: unexpectedly, Amy informed Peeta that her stylist happened to have some pictures of the ancient artist that they had discussed yesterday and asked whether he and Katniss might be interested in stopping by the sixth floor before dinner to see them. Peeta and Katniss had just accepted the invitation when a shadow loomed over their part of the table.
“I’m surprised that you two haven’t partaken of the dessert.” Peeta looked up to find Finnick looming over them holding out a pewter goblet to Katniss. Anger blazed across her features before Finnick motioned to offer it to Peeta. And, when he saw the contents, he understood why.
“Of course, it’s not really nightlock,” explained Finnick. “But these candies have apparently been all the rage in the Capitol thanks to the star-crossed lovers of District Twelve. How could the gamemakers deny this treat to their inspiration?” He selected one of the chews and popped it into his mouth. Almost as a bored afterthought, he offered the goblet to Amy and Rory. Without comment, Amy selected a handful of the candies, gave some to Rory, and both ate the chews at the same time, with more than a touch of defiance. Had Peeta not spent the time with Amy and Rory that he had, he would have been angry at the near-perfect mimicry. Instinctively, however, he knew that Amy and Rory meant not malice but solidarity, and, looking at Katniss, he recognized that she felt the same. Finnick, curiously, looked somewhat impressed and nodded at the District Six victors before sauntering off in Johanna Mason’s direction.
“Is there nothing the Capitol won’t trivialize?” muttered Amy as she clenched and unclenched her fists.
Rory now reached out for her hand and began stroking it. “I think that we all know the answer to that question,” he replied. Peeta saw that Amy seemed to calm immediately at her district partner’s touch and she clasped her other hand over Rory’s.
“I guess,” Amy conceded. She closed her eyes, breathed, and looked at Katniss and Peeta. “And look at me raising a fuss when it’s you two who have every right to be upset.”
Katniss shrugged. “It’s probably one of the less traumatizing things that’ve been done to us.”
While Peeta knew that Katniss had sought to dismiss any upset that Amy felt at the nightlock candies, a brief glance at Amy and Rory’s stricken looks showed that they had not understood her intention. Peeta tried to mitigate the awkwardness. “I mean, if there’s a way to be awful, you can trust that the Capitol will be all over that.”
A look of resolve crossed Amy and Rory’s faces. “You’re right,” Rory conceded. He turned to Katniss, and his expression softened. “I’m done here. Katniss, do you want to do the medicinal plants now? Or do you want to met up later?”
“Now’s good,” she replied. “Amy? Peeta? Do you want to come or were you going to do something else?”
“I’d like to come, actually, if that’s okay,” replied Amy. “I want to know this stuff in case I need to help Rory. Peeta, are you in?”
“As Katniss is more than capable of taking care of herself, I’d like to go see exactly what I should avoid eating if Katniss offers something to me.” He smiled shyly at Katniss, hoping that she would take this joke well. She not only didn’t scowl, but she actually smiled back.
“Drug a person one measly time and they never let you forget it.”
Amy thought that the hour spent at the medicinal plants station was quite successful, with Rory and Katniss having quite animated discussions with the trainer about the different properties of the plants and how different combinations of plants might lead to different effects. Meanwhile, she and Peeta were assiduously taking notes and making sketches for reference. After completing the station exam with great success, Rory and Katniss finally seemed to remember that their district partners were also at the station and greeted them with sheepish smiles as they sat down next to them.
“Finally remembered us, huh?” Amy leaned over to bump shoulders with Rory. “What do you think of these drawings?”
“Brilliant,” replied Rory. “Although I just noticed that there’s also a healing station. Might be interesting to check out if there are any new developments or stuff. Could be useful.” He seemed to look very hopefully at her for her permission.
Amy assented, and the four moved on to the next station. “I really think that we need to do some defensive stuff this afternoon,” she commented to Rory. “There’s the climbing wall, which really strikes me as something that we should work on. You’ve never really recovered from that fall when we were ten.”
“Oh,” exclaimed Katniss. “Did you know each other before the Games? I didn’t realize.”
Amy grimaced slightly at Katniss’ keen observation. She looked to Rory for help, and he closed his eyes in deep thought. “We did,” answered Rory slowly. “We were neighbors growing up. It’s nothing that Amy really wanted to publicize after her Games-she didn’t want the Capitol to know who her friends had been out of fear they would just end up being targets. But then I got reaped anyway, and, even though I managed to get back to District Six, well, you know what happened afterwards.” Rory trailed off, wringing his hands quite convincingly.
“We weren’t like you two, we were just friends growing up,” Amy added almost dreamily. “But...after...I wish that we had fought harder to be there for each other, to have been at the other’s side. Maybe we wouldn’t have lost so much time. Or even so much of ourselves.” Her eyes lost their dreaminess and sharply focused on Katniss and Peeta, who were now regarding her quizzically.
Rory also seemed to be surprised at Amy’s remarks, and he frowned, probably from his guess at Amy’s motives. “Well, none of that can be changed, so there’s no point dwelling on the what-could-have-beens, is there, Amy?” he remarked pointedly.
Amy, as she not infrequently did, elected to ignore the obvious warning in Rory’s tone. “No, but we know better now, and I’m not letting the next few days slip away to join all the other lost days.” She began folding and unfolding the bandage in her hand, unwilling to meet Rory’s accusing glare but also not sorry for what she had said. Admittedly, she might have taken things a step too far with that last bit, but she could never have forgiven herself if she hadn’t at least tried. At Rory’s audible sigh of exasperation, she looked up and at him.
“Let’s talk about that later, okay?” Rory’s voice was calm, but Amy could tell that he was displeased with the turn of events. While she glared at her husband, she could just make out Katniss and Peeta on the periphery, looking even more baffled at this turn of events.
“Trust me, I’m reconsidering my original plan right now. Time apart sounds like a really, really good idea,” Amy hissed. She turned to Katniss. “Katniss, we are going to go do splints right now.” Amy’s tone of voice brooked no opposition and, insofar as Katniss Everdeen had ever done anything meekly, she silently got up and followed Amy to the far side of the training station. Had Amy not been so frustrated with Rory, either Peeta’s look of complete shock at Katniss trailing Amy like a lost puppy or Katniss’ own look of utter disbelief at the same would have caused her to roar with laughter. As it was, the corners of her mouth barely twitched as she plopped herself at the feet of the bemused trainer and demanded to learn how to deal with injuries.
For the next few minutes, Amy and Katniss worked quietly side by side, and it ended up being Katniss who broke the silence. “Is there anything that you want to talk about?” she asked awkwardly.
This time, Amy indulged in a slight smile at Katniss’ expense. And, frankly, her own because the conflicting tones in the young girl’s voice were all too familiar. Amy could tell that Katniss was sincerely concerned for Amy but, at the same time, Katniss wasn’t going to be entirely comfortable with a hashed out discussion of feelings and emotions. And, to be honest, neither was Amy. Despite their present disagreement, Amy and Rory had known each other for so long and so well that they rarely needed to articulate their thoughts and feelings with one another-they could express so much with the briefest of looks and smallest of gestures. Really, the only other person with whom Amy felt comfortable discussing sensitive matters was the Doctor. It was perhaps telling that it necessitated an 1100-year-old Time Lord for Amy to open up about her feelings.
“Nah, Rory and I will have an argument, but we’ll resolve things soon enough. We don’t really like our disagreements to linger.”
“Do you argue a lot?”
Amy paused. “I don’t think so. I mean, it’s not like we agree about everything, and it probably seems like Rory lets me have my way more often than not. But if he feels really strongly about something, he’s going to stand up for what he thinks, even if I might get upset. It’s one of the things that I really like about him: he picks and chooses his battles, but he’s always honest with me. And I do appreciate that, even if it makes me angry sometimes. It’s a rare quality, and I’m glad to have had someone like that in my life.” She looked at Katniss. “Look at me blathering on as if any of this could possibly be of any relevance to you.”
And as she busied herself with attending to the injured dummy, Amy couldn’t help but be pleased at Katniss’ silence.
In the meantime, both Rory and Peeta had tracked Amy’s progress to the other side and winced in unison as they both observed the glee with which she was breaking and fracturing parts of the test dummy for splinting. Rory still believed that he was right to caution her, but clearly Amy was more upset about things than she had let on even during the morning discussions. As there was nothing to be done until he and Amy had a chance to properly talk, he decided to distract himself with training and trying to see if anything unusual happened with the new gamemakers. A thought, however, occurred to him, and he turned to Peeta.
“I can’t believe that I forgot to ask, but are you okay? Did you have any injuries or bruising from our run-in the remake center? Are you okay for the arena?”
Peeta tore his eyes from Amy snapping the wrist of dummy as he answered Rory’s question. “Oh, yeah, I’m fine. If anything had happened, Portia would have gotten it fixed right away. The healers here are pretty good: last year, they were able to fix all those cuts that I got from Katniss the night before the Games.”
Peeta flushed. “Let’s just say that Katniss’ reaction to my first interview with Caesar was not all that I had hoped for. I’m not actually sure what I had been hoping for, but I’m pretty certain that it didn’t involve getting shoved into pottery and needing both hands bandaged up the night before the Games. In fact, I’m absolutely certain that bleeding all over dinner was not even close to what I had been hoping for.”
Rory whistled softly. “Huh. That’s quite an origin story. Both hands, eh?”
“At least things could only get better from there? I mean, apart from being thrown into the arena to kill each other and everything?”
“Actually, it kind of sounds like something that Amy would have done back in the day.”
“Really. Anger’s the probably the only emotion that Amy’s never felt the need to bottle up.” A sharp crack from the other side of the station punctuated this statement. Rory was gratified to see Peeta break into an understanding smile.
“I think I could see that.”
Rory considered whether to continue the conversation. He would be treading dangerously close to the line that he thought that Amy had crossed but, now, when it was just him and this young boy bravely facing not only his own death for a second time, but that of the girl whom he loved so honestly and entirely, he understood why Amy had acted the way she did.
“Okay, so this is kind of stupid, what with all the circumstances and everything, but I think that it’s impressive that you managed to get from Katniss attacking you with ceramics to having such a close friendship.” He looked at Peeta, who bristled slightly but nonetheless quirked an eyebrow questioningly at Rory. “I mean, even setting aside the engagement and everything, just watching you and Katniss looking at each other while Amy and I were having our…conversation…just now, well, not just any two people could communicate so much without saying anything, you know? ”
Another glance at Peeta showed Rory that the boy was starting to look away in embarrassment at having been caught at watching Amy and Rory. Rory sighed and tried to explain further. “Don’t look so awkward-I don’t care that you and Katniss were probably thinking that Amy and I were being ridiculous because we were. Like I said, it’s nice to have someone that you just know and they know you, and you can just be yourselves together. Now, I think it’s your turn to splint my arm.”
As Peeta attended to his arm, Rory looked up and caught Amy’s eye.
“Oh, are you?”
“Yeah, I am. If you were her, and I were him, I’d fight like hell for even one more day together.”
“So you do see.”
“I do. You were right, and I was wrong.”
“I knew I liked you for a reason.”
They grinned and broke eye contact suddenly, almost as if they were afraid of anyone seeing them. Amy returned to working on her dummy, and Rory saw that Peeta was concentrating deeply on setting Rory’s arm correctly.
They didn’t know it, but someone had witnessed the entire wordless exchange. And so Peeta Mellark had rather a lot to think about while he dressed Rory’s arm.
Chapter 10: Interlude V (District Twelve Revisited)
In which Katniss and Peeta add to their pile of good things.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Though Peeta’s concern was unmistakable, it was the touch of his hand on hers that broke Katniss’ reverie. “Hmm?” she mumbled, somewhat confused at his urgency.
“Are you okay? Haymitch tried to get your attention before he left, but you didn’t respond to him.” Peeta continued to scrutinize her, looking for any sign that something was amiss.
“Haymitch is gone?” She looked wildly at the seat opposite her and Peeta: sure enough, there was no sign of their mentor. Before she could even wonder at her own inattention, she was next distracted by the sight of Peeta’s frown deepening. “Peeta, I’m fine. Really. I was just thinking about this evening.”
Katniss was relieved to see Peeta relax and nod in understanding. After completing their session at the healing station, the District Six and Twelve tributes had parted ways for the remainder of the afternoon. True to Amy’s prediction, she and Rory seemed to have gotten over their disagreement, and they had wandered off together in order to practice climbing. Katniss and Peeta had decided to separate in order to continue interacting with the other victors. As agreed at lunch, all had reunited at the end of the day so Amy could show Peeta the ancient artwork. Katniss and Peeta had just been sat down on a sofa that faced the entrance to the suite when that very door had been flung open.
“AMY! RORY! MELODY’S LOOKING FOR YOU AND SHE’S NOT HAPPY. SHE’S EXTREMELY VERY NOT HAPPY…oh, you’re here already. That was fast. I didn’t expect you to be so prompt. You usually never listen to me.” The District Six mentor scanned the room excitedly and then noticed Peeta and Katniss on the sofa. “And we have company-how wonderful. Hello again, District Twelve!”
“Doctor?” Amy asked, drawing out both syllables of the word.
The Doctor sighed. “Melody will be here shortly with new outfits for the each of you to try on for your interviews, and she’s determined that you’ll finally stop ignoring her and make your decision already.”
Both Rory and Amy seemed to be confused by this information. “Make our decision?” Rory inquired. “About our outfits? As the stylist, isn’t that supposed to be her job?”
The Doctor shrugged. “Apparently, she’s been inspired by the not-terrible reception that you lot got at the parade, so she’s been furiously whipping up some new designs. As you would know if you had been paying the slightest attention to her.” He turned to Rory. “There’s one that she particularly likes for you. She described it as ‘something that would make even Finnick Odair blush.’”
“Oh, hell no!” Rory exclaimed. At that very moment, the front door was again flung open, and a woman entered the room pushing a cart laden with garment bags. Rory stomped over and grabbed the four bags labeled with his name. Without further adieu, he marched past Katniss and Peeta, and, from the door slam, Katniss assumed that he was now headed to his bedroom to try on the outfits. Amy smirked as she picked up the remaining garment bags and also left the room. The woman-presumably Melody-looked questioningly at the Doctor.
“Let’s just say that I made sure that Rory realized that it was in his best interest to cooperate. Although it’s entirely possible that I might have ever so slightly misrepresented some of your intentions. Which may or may not have involved taking Finnick Odair’s name in vain.” The woman rolled her eyes as she too disappeared behind the door in search of her tributes. As the Doctor started to follow her, Katniss turned to Peeta and mouthed “we should go.” Peeta nodded, but then a soft whirring sound led both to snap their heads in the direction of the Doctor, just in time to see him fumbling with something in his pocket. His grin somehow became even bigger when he caught their eyes.
“I don’t think that it’ll take too long,” he commented as he strode over to the seating area and sat down opposite them. His expression, which had been jovial just a few seconds ago, now became serious as he regarded the District Twelve tributes, seemingly with great curiosity. To be fair, Katniss was similarly fascinated by this mentor whose demeanor made Haymitch look even-keeled and sober. The Doctor began to fiddle with his watch, and he tapped the face to an irregular beat. Katniss frowned and, vaguely remembering Plutarch Heavensbee’s watch at that long-ago party, wondered if a mockingjay might spring forth. The Doctor noticed her fascination and stopped.
“So, what brings the two of you to the sixth floor? It’s rather…unorthodox for tributes to visit one another.”
“Amy wanted to show us some art that she thought we would like,” Peeta responded.
“Did she now?” The Doctor’s gaze drifted over the table and settled upon a leather portfolio. “I’m guessing that this would be the artwork in question.” He opened up the portfolio and fanned a set of cards before him. “Oh, Amy. I should have guessed.” He smiled as he quickly arranged the cards in the folder, although the actual content was still shielded from Katniss and Peeta’s view. “And, voilà,” intoned the Doctor as he replaced the portfolio on the table and slid it over to Katniss and Peeta.
The riot of color was nothing like Katniss had ever seen before: the paintings could hardly be called realistic, but the passion and emotion, life and death, ecstasy and fear in each fervent brushstroke were evident even in these reproductions. If this art could provoke such a response in her, she could only imagine Peeta’s reaction to the paintings. She tore her eyes from the table in order to fully look at Peeta. In contrast to yesterday, this time Katniss allowed herself to fully smile as she observed Peeta’s rapt interest in the vibrant pictures before him. He seemed to sense her gaze, and he turned to her with an almost bashful smile. Her fond expression, however, did not falter, and all the shyness melted from his countenance. Katniss didn’t know how long they were staring at each other until she heard a faint cough from the third occupant of the room.
“I take it that this is the first time that you’ve seen anything by van Gogh?”
Katniss and Peeta both nodded. “It might have been different in District Six, but the arts were definitely not emphasized in the District Twelve curriculum. I mean, you’d think that we’d get charcoals for drawing at the very least, but no,” Peeta explained. “I definitely would have remembered these.” He picked up a postcard of a nighttime sky for further inspection.
“Is it different in District Six?” Katniss asked. “How did Amy know about these?”
The Doctor smiled. “I can’t really speak for Amy, but I do know that they were very important to her during a very difficult time in her life. It was as if she had lost her memories of all the good things that had ever happened to her. There was so much sadness, and there was nothing that I could do to help her. But, eventually, she finally remembered some of the good things that had happened to her. And while they couldn’t take away from the pain of the bad, those good memories did help to bring back some parts of her that she thought she had lost forever.” The Doctor extended his hand over the portfolio, hovering for just a second, before selecting one of the pictures to place on top of the pile. “This one ended up being of particular comfort and hope to Amy.”
Katniss’ eyes widened at the picture before her, and she was suddenly overwhelmed by an affinity for this girl who had also found unlikely solace in a common yellow flower. She stared at the card, with her mind’s eye replacing each sunflower with a dandelion. After some moments, she looked away in order to collect her thoughts, but then her eyes immediately fell upon a picture of a young child in a meadow, which also struck a chord in her for some reason. She suddenly sat up straight and away from the pictures, feeling that the only safe place was to look was her lap. After some moments of silence, the Doctor spoke.
“It’s all too obvious, it’s all too convenient. They’ve only made the barest of pretenses.” Katniss looked up, both uncertain of and confused by what she had just heard. She saw that Peeta also was now staring at the District Six mentor. The Doctor, who had been sitting back in his chair, suddenly leaned forward.
“You two are much stronger than I had realized.”
Katniss was even more confused by this statement. Instinctively, her left hand reached out for Peeta’s right hand, and she finally breathed again once he had grasped hers. Before she could further consider the motives underlying the Doctor’s words, he leaned back in his seat and continued.
“Seventy five years of child sacrifice in order to try to break the will of they people, but they’ve failed. And you two are the most prominent evidence of that failure. You two refused to concede the meager scrap of hope that they gave you last year. And this refusal, in turn, strengthened the will of the Districts. And yet, somehow, the government thinks that they can finally break their people with this Quell. But they’re wrong, oh, how they’re wrong. Because they haven’t bothered to notice that even after seventy-five years of terror and atrocities, that the children always want to live. Even coming from the most desperate of circumstances, even after generations of suffering and punishment, not one tribute gives up without some sort of fight, not one tribute doesn’t at least try to survive to the best of their ability. They think that they’ll break your spirits by taking away the one illusory hope that they have given, but they’re wrong. All they’ve done is to ensure that the people think that there is nothing left to lose. That won’t make them desperate, that will make them angry. And they should be very, very afraid of that anger.”
It was almost too much for Katniss to process. What the Doctor had said was so dangerous, so nakedly seditious. But he was right, at least from Katniss’ view: she had seen the people on the Victory Tour and even she had realized how nothing she or Peeta could do could soothe the anger. She had also realized that she was undoubtedly marked for death in the arena, but she couldn’t understand why the Capitol was so determined to create at least twenty-two other martyrs. She had always assumed that there must have been some larger strategy at play, but…maybe not. Maybe the government was so blind to its own excesses that they couldn’t see that the wholesale execution of the victors-the one class of District citizens guaranteed to be safe-would inflame the citizenry, not break it. Katniss’ train of thought was only broken by the sound of a door jangling; in fact, it seemed to be the door separating the seating area from the bedrooms. The Doctor, however, seemed either not to have heard the noise or to be wholly indifferent to the commotion.
“But here I am rambling on and talking when you must be desperate to get back to your rooms to clean up before dinner. I expect it’s been a very long day, and your mentor probably can’t wait to discuss all sorts of mentory things.” He waited for Katniss and Peeta to stand, and he led them to the elevator. “It has been my very great pleasure to meet you, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark,” the Doctor stated as he shook each of their hands. “I can only wish that it had been under better circumstances.”
Katniss and Peeta were both silent as they traveled to the twelfth floor. Immediately upon entrance, they were accosted by Haymitch. “Finally decided to show up, eh? Would you mind letting me know where you’ve been?”
“Just talking to the District Six victors,” Peeta replied casually.
Haymitch looked intrigued. “Really? They’ve been bothering to give you the time of day?”
“Yes, some people actually find us worthy of their time,” Katniss replied irritably. “Why are you so surprised?”
Haymitch shrugged. “No skin off my nose, sweetheart. Their mentor has made it clear that he’s not interested in forming an alliance with any other district. Been a bit standoffish, so it wouldn’t have surprised me if the tributes had been the same way.”
This tidbit of information surprised Katniss. If anything, Amy and Rory had been actively trying to talk to her and Peeta-their behavior made no sense unless their mentor was keeping them completely in the dark about his intended strategy.
“And don’t get any ideas, you two,” Haymitch growled. “You both still need to ally with other victors if either of you wants any shot at making it out of the arena again. I don’t have the patience to discuss alliances with you this evening-I suspect Katniss might have her eye on a potted plant that she took a liking to in the training room. Right now, I’m starving, so run along and wash up for dinner.”
And it had been all of this that had preoccupied Katniss’ thoughts during the meal. She fiddled with her napkin. “What the Doctor said…about the Districts…you must think its true.” She looked up at Peeta, who merely raised an eyebrow at her. At this, she continued. “I mean, like you said on the train, people aren’t happy, even people that I wouldn’t have expected to care the slightest bit. You realized that, and you made me realize that. Why don’t they realize that?”
Peeta sighed, and he began to doodle designs on the table with his finger. “I can’t even begin to understand. But he’s also right about it being all a little too convenient. We’re all just so many fish in a barrel. What?” Peeta had looked up in time to see a smile creep over Katniss’ face, a smile that was rather incongruous with the serious subject matter at hand.
“Nothing,” she shook her head while still smiling. “It’s just that, well, the only person that I’ve ever heard use that phrase was my father. I wouldn’t have expected you to have been familiar with it.”
“Did I not use it correctly? I mean, it’s never really made much sense to me-why would you shoot fish in the first place, especially when they’ve already been caught?-but I must have read it somewhere…I can’t really remember where, though.”
Katniss began to chuckle. “And now you’re babbling.” A blush began to creep over Peeta’s face. “No, really, it was actually kind of nice to be reminded of my dad,” Katniss quickly tried to reassure him. “It was just unexpected, that’s all. But nice all the same.”
“Okay,” replied Peeta, somewhat doubtfully. As he had last night, he poured a cup of tea for both himself and Katniss, and he passed the sugar bowl along to her as well. As she added a spoonful of sugar to her tea, Katniss was suddenly struck by another realization.
“You don’t ever take sugar in your tea, do you?” she asked, even though she already knew the answer.
“No, I can’t say that I do,” Peeta answered slowly. “Not that we drank much tea at home, but when we did, we saved the sugar for the bakery. I had it with sugar a couple of times last year, just to try, but it tasted strange. I didn’t like it.”
“The baker without a sweet tooth-you’re really quite full of surprises,” Katniss lightly teased, but then she fell silent. Where was this behavior coming from? She stirred her tea as she tried to figure it out.
“You bite your lip a lot when you’re thinking,” Peeta broke in. “If we’re sharing random observations, which it seems like we are. You did that a lot when you were writing in the plant book or if you were deciding whether my pictures were accurate enough to include.”
Katniss then understood: now that her life could be measured in days, she wanted to revel in the normal memories that she had, especially the ones that involved the boy sitting next to her. She didn’t expect that they’d have any opportunities to make new memories-at least, any good ones-over the next few days, but maybe it would be possible to enjoy the ones that she did have, and maybe to get to know him just a little bit better. If nothing else, she reasoned, it would help strengthen her conviction that her plan of self-sacrifice was the right choice. She took a sip of tea before continuing.
“You always double-knot your laces, even when you’re wearing dress shoes, like on the Tour. Why’s that?” Katniss was then treated to a rather pathetically funny story of a four-year-old Peeta insisting on joining a game of tag that his brothers had been playing, only to end up tripping on his untied shoelaces and finding himself at the bottom of a pile after being tackled by both brothers. And even though Peeta took pains to point out how his four-year-old self had been very brave and not cried even though his brothers were big and heavy, his oldest brother had nonetheless felt very guilty and showed him how to double tie his shoes, and the habit had simply stuck.
The conversation, full of laughter and teasing, lasted throughout the evening. And so, without intending to, Katniss and Peeta each added to their piles of good things.
I’m a huge fan of van Gogh, so I naturally needed to work in copious references to Vincent and the Doctor. In addition to the references to Starry Night and Sunflowers as artwork that was included in the episode, doing a google image search for the following terms will bring up artwork that I thought might particularly speak to Katniss:
-child with orange van gogh-this struck me as being a decent representation of the imagery of her dream after the beach scene.
-undergrowth with lily van gogh- and -tree trunks with ivy van gogh-Both are forest scenes, and they kind of reminded me of how Katniss described Peeta’s light-dappled camouflage during the training for their first Games.
Chapter 11: The Boys Who Waited
In which Rory has some important insights.
Rory heard the front door slam shut, and he assumed that the Doctor was now ushering Katniss and Peeta out of their suite. He turned to Amy and River, and he saw that they had arrived at the same conclusion. River switched off her communicator before carefully placing it in her satchel. The three then hurried into Amy’s bedroom and fussed with the garment bags to make it seem as if wardrobe fittings had actually occurred.
“That all seemed fairly innocuous, didn’t it?” questioned Rory. “They just seemed to talk about the pictures, and the Doctor didn’t need to lock us in for that.” He watched as identical, steely expressions crossed over the faces of both mother and daughter. As irritated as they were with the Doctor for locking them out of the sitting room, they were even more irritated with themselves for not anticipating his plan. Rory sighed and continued. “I mean, apart from that speechifying bit at the end, but the Doctor likes making speeches, and he didn’t even go all Oncoming Storm on them, so it was actually fairly unremarkable for a Doctor speech….”
“You’re right, of course,” River commented. “And I’m guessing that you haven’t even talked to the Doctor since this morning, so it’s not as if he would have known whether you had overlooked some vital piece of information or something. Did anything happen today in training?”
“Not really,” answered Amy quickly, prompting River to look at her suspiciously. “It wasn’t a bad day all in all-Rory even behaved himself.” Her eyes darkened. “Mostly,” she amended, and Rory assumed that she was remembering their disagreement that was no longer a disagreement. “And the Doctor had been right that Finnick would seek us out, but that seemed to go fine.”
Any further discussion was cut off by the Doctor throwing open the bedroom door and looking very suspiciously at the trio.
“Doctor!” Amy exclaimed, albeit somewhat half-heartedly. “I could have been undressing!”
Rory noted that Amy’s pretend outrage was blandly dismissed by the Doctor with a wave of his hand. “Don’t be silly, Pond. I checked Rory’s room first-knocking, mind you, because I haven’t forgotten that incident on the dwarf moon of Melinae III. When no one answered, I realized that the three of you must be in Amy’s room. And since no one tried to make a fuss by banging at the door when I locked you three out of the common area, I naturally assumed that it was because you had other means of finding out what was going on.” The Doctor looked meaningfully at River before continuing. “To be perfectly fair, I would have been fairly disappointed if you lot hadn’t been listening in.” The Doctor barely waited a beat before continuing. “Since we don’t have to go over that conversation, how was training today?”
Amy again spoke first. “We were offered the candies, and we ate them, so we should be in, right?”
“So I was told. I’ll expect that we’ll know more tomorrow after you’re done with your private sessions.”
“About that,” Amy began, but the Doctor cut her off with a wave of his hand. “Let’s discuss that at dinner. Anything else happen today?” With the last question, the Doctor idly began to brush the face of his watch.
The watch, Rory recalled suddenly. He was meant to remind the Doctor about the Gamemakers. Before he could say anything, the Doctor caught Rory staring at the watch. In a remarkably fluid motion, the Doctor let his hand fall away from the watch and stood up to stretch. “Nothing, eh? Not sure if that’s good or bad. In any case, if I’m not mistaken, which I’m not, River does need to get the final outfits to the Gamemakers to review in, oh, about an hour. River, you deal with Amy, and I’ll take Rory. I have a feeling that this deadline is going to be taken particularly seriously, and I have no interest in dealing with tedious bureaucrats right now. Or ever, come to think of it.”
The Doctor swept out of the room, and Rory scrambled after him with the four garment bags. The Doctor had already sat himself in a chair as Rory entered his room and laid out the bags on the bed. He had started to unzip the bags when the Doctor spoke up.
“You didn’t think that I was really serious about helping you with your clothes, did you?” asked the Doctor, slightly aghast.
Rory looked confusedly at him. “I did, actually. You know, because of the not drawing unnecessary attention thing.” The Doctor rolled his eyes, walked over to the garment bags, gratuitously flashed the sonic at each of them, and then peered at Rory. “Number four will look best with your eyes, so that’ll be the first choice by far. Two is, appropriately enough, the second best, so choose that as the back-up. There. Done.”
Rory saw no reason not to go along with the Doctor’s recommendations, so he zipped up the bags before taking a seat on the floor. Besides, he didn’t want to waste any more time because the Doctor needed to know about the gamemakers. “Doctor, I need to tell you about….”
“How are you doing, Rory?” interrupted the Doctor.
“Fine, thanks,” replied Rory automatically. “Wait, what? Did you just ask me how I was doing?”
“But, but why?”
“Because sometimes you’re too focused on taking care of others to take care of yourself. I haven’t forgotten the kitchen incident, and I saw how you reacted before the parade. Contrary to what you, Amy, and a rather distressing number of sentient life forms in general believe, I’m not completely oblivious. Are you really fine? Have you had any other episodes that I don’t know about?”
“Yes, I’m fine. Truly. I haven’t had a memory escape since that first day, not even when I was doing the sword fighting. Everything has been staying put away.”
“But then there was this morning…you especially didn’t seem fine then.”
Rory bristled. “I’m not sure that I know what you’re talking about.” He turned to the Doctor and was met with a curiously indulgent look. For some reason, Rory was made uncomfortable, and he averted his eyes to stare at the floor.
The Doctor crossed the room and sat down by Rory. “Do you remember that time when Amy asked if I wanted to be forgiven. An astute question on Pond’s part. You know my answer, but do you know your own?” And, while Rory still wasn’t looking at the Doctor, he felt the question hang in air and knew that the Doctor wanted an answer. Rory, however, wasn’t inclined to comply with the Doctor’s wishes, and he shifted his gaze only to stare defiantly straight ahead.
An exasperated sigh from the Doctor broke the silence. The Doctor stood up and was nearly out the door when Rory called out to him. The Doctor turned and looked expectantly at the young man who was still sitting on the floor.
“Your watch,” Rory said. “Amy and I needed to tell you something about your watch.”
Rory was surprised to see that the Doctor seemed slightly crestfallen. “I know about the watch. You’re not the first to notice my new habit. Tick-tock goes the clock for the old Doctor, I suppose. It’s about ninetieth on my list of things to figure out. Ready for some dinner?”
“I’ll be there in a bit.”
The Doctor seemed to consider his next words carefully. “Rory, I trust you and Amy. You know what’s at stake.” With that, the Doctor closed the door softly behind him.
The young man leaned against the bed, closed his eyes, and sighed.
“That’s exactly the problem.”
Rory’ s eyes flew open, and he sat straight up. Then, when he realized he wasn’t in his bed, he looked wildly around the room. He relaxed once he saw that he was simply on the floor, and he smiled when he saw Amy sleeping next to him. Rory concluded that he must have fallen asleep right after his conversation with the Doctor, and Amy, who would have been unable to carry him and unwilling to wake him up, must have resettled him with a pillow and blanket on the floor and stayed with him. He reached out to stroke her arm, which elicited absolutely no response from Amy. In that other life, the one that he preferred to forget, Amy had been the lightest of sleepers, always wanting to be alert for even the faintest hint that the Doctor had finally kept his promise. In this timestream, Amy was a remarkably sound sleeper and only the gravest or happiest of circumstances could persuade Rory to risk her wrath at being woken up early. Rory kissed his wife before he got up, stretched, and walked to the common area.
Rory flipped the lightswitch and saw an overturned bowl with a folded sheet of paper next to it on the dining table. Curious, he walked over and saw that dinner had been left out for him. Rory picked up the note and read it quietly to himself. In case my sleeping beauty wakes up before morning. xo Amy. He sat down, picked up a sandwich from a plate, and revisited his conversation with the Doctor.
He knew that both Amy and the Doctor would accuse him of being a hypocrite: whenever Amy felt guilty about anything that had happened in that timeline, Rory was quick to reassure his wife that it had never happened and that they only this timeline counted, this timeline in which she had never wavered and would do things like leave him silly notes.
But Amy never did anything terrible like I did, thought Rory grimly. Not that Amy would have agreed, and she had told him as much on multiple occasions. The first time had been, of course, at their wedding, after a moment when the weight of the 2,000 years had suddenly overwhelmed him. He had slipped outside for a breather, but Amy had almost immediately joined him.
“Trying to avoid another dance with the Doctor? You two looked good out there,” she joked as she sat next to him on the bench.
“Something like that,” Rory replied weakly. He could feel her intense gaze as he fiddled with the flower in his lapel.
“Rory, don’t lie to me,” Amy scolded. “Are you thinking about…before?” Rory had nodded in assent, and Amy sighed. “None of it happened. And even if it did, you have to understand how overjoyed I was that you had come back.” She leaned over to kiss him lightly on the cheek, but Rory refused to be consoled.
“Amy, I hurt you. I was a monster, I was the the reason why we needed to wait for so long.”
Amy rolled her eyes. “I’m not saying it was ideal, I’m just saying that it wasn’t you that did that. You can’t seriously think that it was.”
“How can you say that? How could it be anybody but me? It was me who did that.”
“Rory, I’m going to ask you something, and when you answer, I want you to be completely honest with me. Can you promise me that?” Amy reached out to take Rory’s hand and waited until Rory nodded before she continued. “If we were in each other’s place, and it had been me who had done what you did, would you be angry at me now and unable to forgive me?”
Rory’s eyes flew open and his jaw dropped. “Of course not.”
“Don’t you see what a daft boy you’re being?” Her words were tempered by the gentle squeeze of his hand by hers. “All I ask is that you be as kind to yourself as you would have been to me. Stop being unfair: it has to go both ways.” Without further ado, she got up, took Rory by both hands, and raised him to his feet. “Let’s go inside, Mr. Pond. I think that it’s finally our turn to dance.”
Rory mulled the incident further as he finished his dinner. Amy was right of course, but knowing that and believing that were two entirely different things in his mind. He sighed and looked at the wall clock: it was now just after 2AM, and he wasn’t really tired any more. Maybe, like at their wedding, a bit of outdoor air would help him clear his mind. He remembered the roof from his first day in the Capitol and thought it might be worth a return.
After barely five minutes on the roof, he heard the elevator zoom away. Soon, he heard the elevator again making noise as it returned to the roof. Rory stiffened in the expectation that he might have some very awkward explanations to make for his presence, but he relaxed when the doors opened to reveal Peeta, who was clearly surprised to have company.
“Oh, I’m sorry!” the younger man exclaimed. “I wasn’t expecting anyone else to be here.”
That much was obvious to Rory. “Just wanted to see if some fresh air might clear my head. I don’t mind company if you don’t.”
“Problems sleeping?” asked Peeta as he walked over to join Rory.
“Opposite, actually. I fell asleep right after we were done with the fittings-sorry about that, by the way. I only just woke up. You?”
“Haven’t been to sleep yet. Katniss and I stayed up late talking.”
“Yeah. It was nice, talking about when we were kids and about our families and stuff.”
Rory smiled. “That does sound good.”
“It was. Really good.” And, even in the moonlight, Rory could have sworn that Peeta had started to blush at the mere thought of having spent time with Katniss. Rory vaguely wondered if he had been as soppy about Amy when he was seventeen, and he quickly and honestly concluded that it was likely he had been even worse. He became lost in his own wonderings as to how, exactly, Amy had managed to stay so determinedly oblivious about his feelings when Peeta spoke up again.
“The thing about talking about our families, though,” Peeta began slowly, “is that I can’t get over how much I hate that they didn’t let us say good-bye to anyone.”
Rory flinched, and he wished fervently that he had even a fraction of River’s ability to dissimulate. “You have two brothers, yeah? I remember the interviews from last year-the three of you look like triplets or something.”
Peeta turned to look at Rory, and his mood seemed to be very slightly lightened. “Oh, wow, I’m glad that my brothers aren’t around to hear that. They liked to tease me about being the runt of the litter, and I think that they’d be none too pleased that you think that there’s any resemblance.”
“They sound like pretty typical brothers then.”
“They made the days at the bakery pass more quickly, that’s for sure. Fun, even, most of the time.” More quiet. “I thought that last year was hard, the good-byes. I just wish that I could tell them again how much I’ll miss them.” A determined look crossed his face. “They will know. Haymitch has my letters. He’ll make sure that they receive them.”
“I’m sure that they know regardless,” said Rory, hoping that it was true.
“Maybe. Not like there’s anything I can do about it now,” said Peeta, bitterly, and then he sighed. “I’m sorry for complaining. It’s not like I’m the only person that this is happening to.”
“That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about things if they’re bothering you,” countered Rory. “But, and pardon if this oversteps any boundaries, it doesn’t sound like you’re trying to win and get back home.”
Peeta shrugged. “Same strategy as last year. I don’t think that anyone will be surprised.”
“No, probably not.” Rory considered what he had seen these past few days. “Katniss is probably thinking along the same lines.” Did he just say that out loud?
Apparently he had because Peeta’s reply was fierce and swift. “She’d better not be. I don’t want her to do anything stupid just because of some misplaced guilt or because of some imagined debt.”
“And if it was because she cared about you?”
Peeta’s answer was barely audible. “That would make it so much much worse.”
“Why?” asked Rory, genuinely confused.
“Because I’m the expendable one of the two of us! She’s the one that needs to make it back home, not me. It’s my fault that she’s even here this year-she shouldn’t have tried to save me last year.”
“That’s not being very fair to her. She cares for you a lot.”
“You barely know her. How can you possibly have any idea what she thinks?”
Rory’s heart fell at the mixture of defiance, anger, and uncertainty in Peeta’s voice, and his already considerable anger at having so much useless foreknowledge increased exponentially. But there was also a bit of hope in the boy’s voice, and he needed to work off that. Rory tried to keep his voice steady as he answered Peeta’s question.
“Like I said earlier, Katniss reminds me a bit of Amy, so I’m going off that. Amy wouldn’t spend hours on end talking to someone whom she didn’t care about. And if she cares about someone, she’ll go to any length to protect that person.” Rory paused to let these words sink in before continuing. “Amy’s my best friend, and I hate that she has to go through this. The only thing that has been getting me through these past few days is that at least I know that I’ll be there to the end for her, and the only thing that gets her through the day is that she can do the same for me. You’re right: I don’t know Katniss well enough to know how well my analogy works, but you do.”
As the silence wore on, Rory started to get irritated with himself for not only meddling, but meddling with a speech. He wondered if Peeta would now think that monologues were the preferred form of communication in District Six.
Finally, Peeta answered. “I don’t know if you’re right, but I also don’t know if you’re wrong.”
“I don’t know either. I don’t even know why I said anything in the first place. Come on, we both should head back to our floors. Today’s going to be a long day.”
As they walked back to the elevator, Peeta spoke up again. “Thanks, Rory.”
“For what?” Clearly there was to be no end to Rory’s confusion this evening.
“For talking some sense into me and snapping me out of my self-pity. It was like talking to one of my brothers or my friends.”
Rory smiled. “I’m really glad to hear that."
When the elevator doors opened at the twelfth floor, they were greeted by the sight of Katniss in her pajamas and a dressing gown and looking very sleepy. Her eyes widened, and maybe even brightened, when she saw Peeta.
“Peeta! I was going to look for you! Where were you?”
“I just went to the roof after you fell asleep.”
“Well, don’t leave like that again, okay?” Katniss took Peeta’s hand and led him away from the elevator.
Various thoughts swirled incoherently in Rory’s mind as he took in the familiar sight before him, but he knew he needed to talk to Amy, and that she wouldn’t mind being woken up. Probably. Maybe. As the doors closed, however, there was only one thought that he needed to express out loud.
“Good on you, mate.”
Chapter 12: Mad Men with a Plan?
In which plans are made and secrets are kept.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
Amy worried, and, as she sometimes did, she masked her worry by pretending to be irritated.
“Are you sure that your fall was deliberate?” She practically shoved the ice-pack at Rory as she skeptically considered his injured leg. “Because your expression right now is reminding me of that accidental jailbreak of Ottesen Seven.”
Rory grimaced as he moved to apply the ice to his shin. “I never said that I did this deliberately.” He paused to look dolefully at his injured limb. “In fact, I’d be really stupid if I meant to do this. All I said was that I’m pretty sure that I did as the Doctor wanted, and we wouldn’t have to worry about me getting an excessively high score.” Rory fell back against the sofa and closed his eyes. “Did I happen to mention that it would have been really stupid to have done this on purpose?”
“Do we need to get someone else to look at it?” asked Amy as she sat down next to him on the sofa, her false irritation finally giving way to true expression of her worry. “I’m not sure that the Doctor has any of his medicines from the TARDIS, although you never really know what he’s managed to fit in those pockets of his.”
“I’ll be fine. Probably. I think. No, probably.” Rory sat up to massage his leg. “I used up that analgesic cream that I picked up on our last trip with the Doctor, but I think that I saw some other useful stuff in the cabinets. I’m told that the stuff here is top-notch.” He paused in his ministrations and tried to give Amy an encouraging look. “Even if that doesn’t do anything, a day’s rest should be more than enough.”
Before Amy could have a chance to remind Rory that they were going to be in a death arena in less than three days and that, so help her, if he did anything to harm his chances of survival, she would happily kill him herself, River and the Doctor walked in. The Doctor merely raised an eyebrow at Rory’s pained expression, but River quickened her approach to the sofa.
“What happened?” she asked as she began to rummage through her satchel. Amy’s mind wandered a bit as she listened to Rory’s explanation for the second time. Honestly, Amy could understand why he had made that last-minute decision to switch to hand-to-hand combat instead of dueling once he saw that the only trainer available for the session was the same one that he had so handily defeated in that first day of training. Still, he should have realized that the trainer would have been out to avenge his reputation no matter what the weapon at hand was. Logically, Amy knew that she had no real choice but to concede Rory’s argument that it wasn’t as if he could politely decline a fight once they were actually in the arena. For Amy, it wasn’t the severity of the injury itself so much as the fact that this injury had brought home the point that everything was going to become so very real in a matter of days.
The arena. Amy refused to let herself dwell on this because, given everything, there was no way that she could be in this place, at this time, and not do anything-everything-she could to stop these people from harming children in their sick need for control and power. She knew that Rory felt the same way. Still, and even despite her many travels with the Doctor, there were few places where brutality and mortality were as unrelenting as they were here. She shook her head, as if the physical act could rid her mind of the morbid thoughts occupying her head. As usual, she would place her trust in the fact that no matter what ended up happening, even if she died, at least she tried to make a difference. To distract herself, she worried at the sofa while River removed a bottle of salve from her bag and handed it to Rory. River caught Amy’s quizzical expression and shrugged. “Let’s just say that my fieldwork has impressed upon me the value of tissue repair cream.”
Oddly enough, this failed to console Amy even a little bit.
The Doctor swooped in and plucked the medicine from River’s hands. The Doctor peered critically at the label, and finally tossed the medicine to Rory. “Although I personally find the Vulpeculaean version to be faster-acting. Still, this’ll do in a pinch.” The Doctor opened his jacket and reached for his inner pocket. “Here, before I forget.” But, instead of the superior alien creme that Amy expected, he drew out two keys, each of which was on a rather ratty looking cord, and handed them to River, who inspected them in turn.
“Are those our tokens?” asked Amy as River placed them in her bag.
“Not just tokens but perception filters,” explained the Doctor. “You should be able to stay hidden from the cameras if I need you to be. Among other handy functions, to be sure.” Both Amy and Rory quirked their eyebrows quizzically. The Doctor sighed. “I’ll explain more tonight once you and Rory get back from the third floor.”
“Third floor?” Rory paused in his application of the medicine and turned to the Doctor. “What’s going on?”
“Alliance negotiation. You know how these things go,” answered the Doctor, with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“Actually, we really, really don’t,” countered Rory.
“Obviously, there’s no point in settling alliances before the training scores are announced. Really, why unnecessarily saddle yourself with an underperformer? In any case, I think that this might be a chemistry meeting or some such.” He looked meaningfully at Amy and Rory. “In theory, I’ll be occupied with a sponsors meeting, but we’ll rendezvous after the fact. Speaking of scores, I think that it’s just about time for us to find out exactly how well Mr. Pond impressed the judges with his remarkable ability to trip over himself.” Amy noted that Rory wisely elected not to even bother to correct the Doctor, and they all settled in the viewing area.
The program was, by and large, unremarkable. Even though Amy believed that she and Rory had done what they needed to do and shown the required level of competence, she still felt the tension in the room increase as each district was announced. The collective sigh of relief when she and Rory both received scores of seven would have been endearing if the outcome weren’t so welcome.
“Well done, Ponds!” The Doctor stood up, walked over to Amy and Rory, and kissed each of them on the forehead. “I don’t know why I doubted your abilities to be mediocre. With those scores, it won’t be surprising that you’re not picked off immediately and….” The Doctor flipped his sonic screwdriver and caught it neatly. “…no one will be surprised when you receive ‘sponsor support.’”
Amy rather suspected that the sonic screwdriver would be their most loyal and generous patron.
They chattered through a good portion of the remaining scores until they were distracted by the pronouncement that hitherto elusive perfect scores had now been achieved and that this remarkable feat had been accomplished by the youngest participating tributes this year. At first, Amy thought that the high scores must be good, but it took only the briefest of looks at the Doctor’s determinedly stoic face to realize that there must be some new complication resulting from these scores. He didn’t divulge his thoughts, however, beyond the following: “Ponds, you should run along to the meeting and make sure to do more listening than talking. I have a feeling that this might be a rather unexpected and unwelcome development.”
With that, the Doctor swept out of the room before anyone could have the opportunity to ask further questions. Amy could do nothing but sigh as she extended her hand to Rory to help him up from the sofa.
“Let’s hope that this meeting might actually provide some insight as to what the hell just happened.”
Amy and Rory had barely had time to exchange introductions and bland pleasantries with the District Three hosts when there was a loud thud followed by the crash of the door as it was violently swung open. Into the suite stormed the District 12 mentor, trailed at a careful distance by Finnick Odair and the other victor-tribute from District Four. Amy and Rory followed the leads of the other victors, who presumably had more experience dealing with the District 12 guy, and quickly sat themselves at the dining table.
The male District Three tribute, Beetee, spoke first. “It would seem that tonight’s scores come as a surprise to you as well?” The District 12 mentor glared at Beetee and elected to take a long drink from a glass rather than deign to answer the man’s question.
“Do you know what they did, Haymitch?” asked Finnick, reasonably. “Maybe it’s not as bad at it seems? That eleven that Katniss scored last year seemed only to help her.”
“It’s exactly as bad as it seems,” spat Haymitch, and he colorfully explained exactly what his tributes had done to earn their scores. Amy surveyed the other tributes, each of whom blanched as Haymitch described Katniss and Peeta’s defiant private sessions.
“That does make things more difficult,” remarked the other District Three tribute. “How are we going to compensate?”
Amy couldn’t stay quiet any longer. “I’m sorry, but I’m not getting what’s the problem. What are we needing to compensate for?”
It was really an expression of her confusion, but the others seemed to be taking it as a challenge to their preconceptions as to the direness of the current situation. “Amelia might have a point,” remarked Finnick. “It’s not as if Districts One and Two wouldn’t have been going after them anyway.”
“Amelia absolutely does not have a point,” snarled Haymitch, and Amy was somewhat impressed as the the sheer disdain he infused when alluding to her. “First, and in case you’ve forgotten, One and Two are just as dependent on Capitol sponsorship as everyone else, and killing the star-crossed lovers most certainly would not have garnered any favor with the Capitol citizens. Now, however, their perfect scores make it clear that they’re fair targets for everyone else regardless of their oh so sad and tragic love story. Not only that, but you can bet that One and Two will consider it an honor and a challenge to kill the only tributes to have ever gotten perfect scores so far.” Haymitch paused to take another long drink from the tumbler beside him and continued.
“And last, but certainly not least, the gamemakers now have free rein to throw whatever they’ve got at them, and the Capitol will not only expect it but they will revel in it. Not only is this a quell with former victors, but now there are perfect scores thrown into the mix. It’s the ideal cover for Snow to have the gamemakers do his dirty work if the other tributes somehow fail to do so.” Another pause, this time to rub his eyes. “So now that my ever-delightful tributes have transformed themselves into the biggest targets ever to play in these games, we still need to somehow keep them alive.”
The female District Four tribute asked a question that Amy couldn’t quite decipher, but apparently Haymitch understood without a problem. “Did I manage to convince them to form an alliance?” he repeated, with a bark of irritated laughter. “Of course not. But don’t think that you’re off the hook, Four-they’re still your problems when you get to the arena.” Haymitch tossed something at Finnick. “I’ve passed along your new token for inspection. I think that the boy wouldn’t have a problem with you, but who knows what’s going on in that love-addled head of his? But you’re definitely going to need it to keep the girl from treating you like an overgrown squirrel.” Both District Four tributes nodded knowingly at this assessment.
“And the rest of us?” piped up Rory, who had so far been even quieter than usual.
“Beetee and Wiress have their marching orders, but I think that it no longer makes sense for you two to form an alliance with any other districts. We need to cover as much area in the Arena as we can, so keeping keeping everyone else separate might be a better idea.”
“And our function is to kill any non-alliance members that we come across?” guessed Amy.
“It wouldn’t be the Hunger Games without mass killings,” drawled Haymitch in reply. “But, no, that’s not your goal. Your goal is to do whatever it takes to keep that girl alive. Got that?”
Amy instinctively started to nod but she caught herself. “Wait. What about the boy? I thought that they were a package deal?” she asked at the same time as Beetee turned sharply to Haymitch to say “So you convinced her?” Following Beetee’s query, Amy took a closer look at the District Twelve mentor, and she was surprised that, for the first time this evening, the anger had finally drained from his face. In its place was something that looked like exhaustion, or maybe guilt, or maybe both.
“No, she’s still far from convinced that this is the way forward,” answered Haymitch. “But she was outvoted, and that’s the best we’re going to be able to do.” He drummed his fingers on the table and snorted. “With tonight’s scores, though, she may still get the martyr that she so desperately wants.”
“So we’re supposed to focus only on Katniss?” interjected Rory, still looking for clarification.
“Not that simple, because it never is with her.” It didn’t escape Amy’s notice that the man refused to look up from his drink. “I told the girl that this year I would try to keep the boy alive. If anything happens to him, Katniss won’t hesitate to run off on her own and try to cause as much trouble as she can for the Capitol before they engineer some way to off her. Which, of course, just causes more problems for us. So do what you can to keep both in the game, but if it comes down to choosing between the girl and the boy, you choose the girl.”
“And the boy? Who has a name? Does he get any say in any of this?” asked Amy, unable to mask the edge in her voice.
“Yeah, Peeta does, actually,” snarled Haymitch. “If it soothes your conscience, he also made me promise him that I would save the girl. I like him better, so I’m more inclined to keep my promises to him.” With this, he stood up and walked over to where Amy was sitting. When he was standing beside her, he reached into his jacket and pulled out a stack of letters.
“You see this? These are all the farewell letters he’s written to his family for me to deliver after he dies. I promised him that I would make sure that his family gets these letters. I carry them with me every single day since he’s given them to me so I can let myself believe that I’m keeping my promise by picking Katniss again.” He swept the letters back up and replaced them in his pocket. “Maybe, just maybe, if we pull off this little rebellion, I might be able to think that I did right by him.”
“Given Coin’s insistence that Peeta would be more useful to the cause,” began Wiress. “If we’re already making adjustments to the plan to compensate for today’s events, it might be worth considering whether two can be saved….”
Amy and Rory quickly made eye contact with each other. Coin? Who was Coin? Was this the same person as the “her” referred to earlier? They both suspected that they were supposed to know who, at least, ‘Coin’ was and so quickly tried to mask their confusion.
“Look, I’m not saying we abandon him if we have the chance to rescue him,” Haymitch countered, more than a little defensively. “But it’s going to be hard enough to rescue even one victor, let alone two. I have no doubt that she’ll mourn him, but she will move on. Because that’s what she does.”
“Would she, though?” wondered Rory. “They seemed to be pretty close last year, and they are engaged.”
Amy frankly marveled at great disgust that Haymitch’s expression managed to convey. “Do you think that you’d be a tribute again if she had actually been in love with him? Do you think that any of you would be here if I had just done my job and kept the two of them in line? That I should have realized that the girl wouldn’t understand that the Games never end for a victor? She had every incentive to pull off the love story before the Quell announcement, and yet here we all are.” Finnick spoke up before the District 12 mentor could get a second wind.
“Rory, I know that you weren’t mentoring last year and so you didn’t view the raw footage, but anyone paying attention could see that it was an act. They’re very close for district partners, but that’s all. They didn’t even speak for most of this past year according to Haymitch.”
Beetee also spoke up. “It’s really no different from what the rest of us have agreed to do in terms of being willing to die in order to advance the cause, namely, making sure that the Mockingjay lives. In that sense, what Haymitch has told us is as good as having his consent.”
“Fine. We keep both of them safe until we can’t,” summarized Rory. Amy whipped her head towards her husband, but Rory seemed to be very determinedly avoiding making eye contact with her. “How exactly are we going to save her?” The subsequent silence was nearly oppressive. “There is a plan, right? Just because Amy and I are apparently free agents doesn’t mean that we can’t learn about it, right?”
“There is a plan, and there isn’t,” began Wiresss. Beetee then picked up the conversation.
“A significant complication is that we don’t know much the nature of the arena. What we do know is that the cornucopia will include items that play to the strengths of each victor tribute. Specifically, an item that would be closely related to how we won our Games. Other than that, we can’t really do much planning until we know what the arena looks like.”
“Which we won’t know until the Games actually start,” added Wiress.
“Great,” muttered Rory, but he offered no further commentary. Nor could Amy herself muster the energy and outrage that, despite three months of foreknowledge, so much was going to be left to chance. On one hand, she wanted to rage at these people for being willing to sacrifice human lives with so little preparation, almost at the point to which she would consider death to be a waste. On the other, she realized that the very fact that they needed to improvise even at this late stage was indicative of how dire and desperate the entire situation was. Each of the people present in the room was willing to sacrifice their life for the slimmest and barest of hopes that they might actually bring about the downfall of their government.
“Which means that it’s going to be important for at least one tribute from each district to get to the Cornucopia, both for your own sake as well as to make sure that we have all possible resources available to us.”
The District Twelve mentor stood up. “And, as pleasant and wonderful as this meeting has been, I need to go clean up the mess that my tributes have made. I’ve just about convinced our escort that they should be left to their own devices tomorrow.” Amy could have sworn that he almost looked sentimental. “As maddening as those kids are, I just don’t have the heart to put them through all more ridiculousness that they need to. But now I’ve got to persuade the wonderful Capitol citizenry that they’re not throwing away their money when it comes to these two. And that’s going be some sort of chore because I haven’t even persuaded myself of that fact.” He polished off his drink before sweeping out of the room.
The meeting continued after the departure of the District Twelve mentor, but Amy and Rory found themselves back at their rooms within the hour. While Rory hadn’t been as vocal as Amy had been regarding the plans (such as they were), Amy could tell that he shared her concerns. Given all of their adventures with the Doctor, plans being made on the fly didn’t faze either of them, but ad hoc revolutions always left her uneasy. Upon entering their suite, Amy saw River seated upon one of the couches, idly swirling a glass of wine while seemingly deep in troubled thought.
Rory had barely shut the door before Amy began her interrogation of River. “I take it that strange things were afoot at the stylists meeting?” she asked as she took a seat opposite her daughter.
River snorted. “To tell you the truth, I’m not sure that I can always figure out what’s strange and what’s normal here.” She put down the wine glass and rubbed her eyes. “But I think that tonight definitely fell on the side of strange.” She explained how Amy and Rory’s outfits and tokens had passed muster at the inspection with little fanfare. Indeed, the gamemakers seemed almost bored with this task, barely glancing at the outfits and tokens...until they arrived at the last district. For twelve, the presentation of the tokens also seemed to be a rote formality, but, as the stylists motioned for the gamemakers to step behind the divider in order to view the outfits, one of the officials held out his arm to block any further action by the stylists.
In a voice that was simultaneously simpering and aggressive, and which carried-as it was undoubtedly intended to-across the cavernous ballroom, the gamemaker announced that the outfits were rejected. The resulting silence made the official’s continued loud tones unnecessary, but he persisted in order to inform them that the outfits to be used for the interviews would be delivered tomorrow morning and that he rather hoped that the stylists would not find this development to be too inconvenient. At that point, the official gestured at the other occupants and announced that everyone was now dismissed.
“But not you two,” he had hissed at the District Twelve people, apparently now trying to exercise discretion. “There is someone who has some rather important information to convey to you as to what, exactly, will be at stake in two days time.” While River had tried to dawdle in order to maximize her remaining time in the room, all of the other stylists had hurried off, with fear clearly outweighing any curiosity as to what was happening.
“Not that my own curiosity actually resulted in any useful knowledge. Or even useless knowledge,” River remarked wryly as she picked up her wineglass again. This time, she began drumming her fingers against the wall of the glass. “Was your evening any more informative?”
Rory briefly summarized the meeting for River. “So, that’s basically that. And, despite their coyness, it’s rather obvious that we’re the redshirts in this operation,” he concluded as Amy reached over to pat his knee sympathetically. “I suppose that at least that will be old hat for us.”
River’s frown deepened as she looked at her parents quizzically. “And this is okay with you? Doesn’t the lack of planning bother you?”
Amy slumped down in her seat, closed her eyes, and sighed before answering. “Of course it does. And that’s saying a lot given that the Doctor isn’t exactly one for long-term planning either. But this is taking things to a whole other level of improvisation.”
“But you’re still going through with everything?” River further questioned. “No second thoughts?”
Now Amy turned her head to face her daughter. “Of course we’re still going through! We’re here and in a position to possibly help. Why wouldn’t we do something?”
River cocked her head. “But are you really?” She stood, walked to the windowed wall overlooking the city, and considered the view before her. Amy and Rory could see her taking several deep breaths before she whirled around to face them again.
“I’ve been here for nearly two weeks, and I still know basically nothing! I can reconstruct extinct societies within hours based on a handful of obscure artifacts, but here? Here, where I’ve been fully immersed and integrated into a culture for a half a month? Nothing! And sometimes I can barely remember things that happened even that morning, much less put together any coherent theories as to what is actually happening.” She leaned against the window and began to rub circles over her closed eyelids. “I’m so, so tired of not understanding, but, worse than that,” her voice dropped to a barely audible level. “I don’t want to lose you two again when I’ve only just found you.”
And, before Amy and Rory could make any response, River practically ran over to the couch and fell against Amy, who took her into a fierce hug. They stayed, clasped together, for a few moments, before Rory broke the silence.
“You’re right to question the Doctor, you know.” His wife and daughter instantly turned to him, with wildly differing expressions united only in a wish for Rory to further explain his statement. Rory looked at the two, and continued with a stubborn earnestness. “The Doctor is many things, but infallible he is not. And you can’t let yourself forget that when you’re swept up in one of these schemes or adventures. But, the most important thing that you can never forget is that, with the Doctor, you always have a choice.” By this time, the earnestness had completely fallen away and was replaced with a determination that was startling to all. “And, no matter what happens over the next few days, know that this was our choice.” He reached over to pull River closer to him. “I don’t know what’s in store for us, but I do know that if there is even the slightest chance that I can do something to help this cause, then I need to take that chance.”
“You know that few people know the dangers of traveling with the Doctor like all three of us do,” continued Amy. “This is important. This is what we need to do.” She took River’s hand in hers. “Now, young lady, I think that you’ve been holding out on us. You can’t tease us with your tales of space archeology and not actually tell us what you’ve been up to. I want to hear everything.” Amy settled into a corner of the sofa and looked expectantly at River.
“Well, maybe not everything,” clarified Rory. The three adventurers laughed and settled in for an oddly normal evening of exchanging tales of their adventures in time in space.
Amy blinked as bright light flooded her senses. Her eyes finally focused on the clock opposite her, which only served to heighten her disorientation as there was no such clock in her room. After noting that it was just past five in the morning, she soon realized that she must have acquired Rory’s knack for falling asleep in inappropriate places. Sure enough, she turned to her left and saw Rory still asleep under a blanket that, tonight, must have been placed by River instead of her. She lightly tickled Rory to wake him up: if she was going to be rudely awakened, he was going to keep her company. Once she was satisfied that Rory’s rustling was him waking up, she turned to the intruder and scowled at him. “I thought that you were going to talk to us after the sponsors party?”
The Doctor, with his bowtie undone, made a surprisingly elegant twirl before seating himself on the table before them. “Yes, I did. And I just left the sponsors party. Your point?” He turned to give a winning smile to Rory, who rolled his eyes and was blearily shuffling off to acquire some caffeine via the automated dispensers.
Amy returned to considering the Doctor, who was now swaying gently from side to side. She leaned forward and sniffed the air. "Are you drunk?" She poked him with her index finger accusingly. "In case you've forgotten, we are going to be fighting in a death arena in two days! You had better be bringing your A game, or whatever it is the time lords bring when they actually have to be competent." She glared at the Doctor and refused to be pacified by Rory's offering of a cup of tea.
The Doctor was completely scandalized by Amy's accusation. "No, I am not drunk, thank you very much, Amelia." He took his cup of tea with more grace than Amy, nodding his appreciation to Rory, and waited for him to settle on the couch with his coffee before continuing in a more serious tone. "In fact, this was possibly one of my more productive times here."
"Really?" asked Amy and Rory in unison and equally unable to mask the awe in their voices.
"No need for that tone of surprise, Ponds," sniffed the Doctor, but his serious look completely obviated any trace of joviality in his words. He rested his hands on his lap and looked at each of them. “Now, more than ever, I’m convinced that this is a trap.”
“A trap?” Amy drew out each of these two words as she struggled to understand the Doctor’s relative calm. “One, what do you mean that this is a trap? And, two, what happened tonight that convinced you?” The Doctor stood up and flung himself onto the sofa opposite Amy and Rory, and Amy briefly wondered whether this was to avoid making eye contact with her and Rory when he answered her questions. As the length of the silence increased, Amy’s eyes narrowed with increasing frustration and suspicion.
“I’ve been thinking about it ever since this whole thing started in your kitchen. Rory said it himself-there was absolutely no way that any one of us could be aware of what was going on and not have done something. It’s all too perfectly tailored to our weaknesses. A bespoke atrocity, if you will.”
The Doctor’s head lolled to the side, and Amy knew from his eyes that he spoke from his heart. His hearts? Amy frowned as she waited for the Doctor to continue. “Because make no mistake that these children aren’t stolen from their parents at the time of their reaping. No, it starts far earlier than that, and this government makes sure that each and every moment of childhood is stolen from child and from parent alike.” The Doctor’s gaze fixed upon his two companions for several seconds longer before he returned to facing the ceiling.
“But what does this all mean?” urged Rory. “Fine, we’ve been lured here, but what are we up against?” Amy could see a sad, wry smile developing on the Doctor’s face. He stood up, walked back to Rory and Amy, and his hands took their left hands and held them so that the palms faced the ceiling.
“Rory, Amy, you know what you’re facing.” His comment was met only with blank expressions. “Come on, you two. You’ve known what you’ve been facing practically from the first moments of your arrival, even if you can’t quite remember right now.” With his thumb, he applied pressure to the palms that he was still holding.
Amy considered her hand. After some effort, she remembered the nanorecorder being implanted, and she couldn’t understand why the pain hadn’t seared that onto her memory. Shutting her eyes in concentration didn’t help either. She blinked open her eyes and tried to see Rory in the periphery. She could see that he was looking at the Doctor with a pained expression.
“I think that we had some sort of of discussion a couple of days ago? After we needed to choose our costumes?” began Rory hesitantly, but the Doctor’s nascent hopeful expression had barely formed before it was erased by Rory’s next words. “But I can’t remember what we talked about.”
The Doctor sighed and pulled out what appeared to be a scroll from one of his jacket pockets. He handed one end to Rory, unfurled the document, and gave the other end to Amy to hold. Amy rather thought that it looked like one of those cardiac readout thingies, and she looked curiously at the Doctor. Had he obtained medical information about them, information that had somehow been obtained without their knowledge? Amy’s unease increased exponentially, and the Doctor must have seen the panic on her face because he rushed to explain.
“These are data that I-me, the Doctor, not anyone else-obtained from your nanorecorders. As you may or may not remember, these modified recorders signal using a slight shock rather than light. That’s because they monitor the ambient electric energy. Spikes are not only detected, but I’ve also rigged the recorder to log any signal acquired and transmitted. This,” the Doctor gestured to the paper before them-“is the log. You can see the timeline right there, with zero being our arrival here at the Capitol. The spikes indicate abnormal electrical energy at, this, this, and that time.”
Rory and Amy scrutinized the document before them. Electrical signals, memories forgotten, it could only be one thing…a thing that eluded both of them even though they could almost remember. And then they did.
“You said that we had a conversation about it,” Rory said. “So I remembered long enough to tell you what I had seen, but then I forgot the conversation?”
The Doctor shrugged his shoulders. “It seems that way. I’m not sure whether it’s because you and Amy are developing an imperfect and temporary resistance to the Silence, or whether something else is happening as we approach the start of the Games. The memories are weak, so it wouldn’t take too much increased activity to have those memories erased. It could be a pre-job wipe. Rory told me that you two had seen something odd at one of the training days. Can you remember what happened?” They closed their eyes in concentration.
“I think that I remember,” Amy said as she opened her eyes. Rory nodded as well.
“Here,” the Doctor passed them paper and pencils. “Write down what happened that day.” He waited as each quickly scribbled what they could remember and handed their papers back to the Doctor. He read them and visibly relaxed. “Good, the memories are there, somewhere, but they need to be prompted. We can work with that.”
“Doctor,” began Amy. “River said something about barely being able to remember things that have been happening. Is that more of the same?”
“I’d be surprised if it weren’t,” replied the Doctor. “I don’t think that it would take much, though-she’s undoubtedly sensitized to them.” Amy thought that it seemed as if he wanted to continue speaking, but had had second thoughts about whatever it was that he had planned to say.
“Back to the trap thing, though,” interjected Rory. “Does that mean you know what it is we’re supposed to do?”
The Doctor became cagey. “I have an idea.”
Amy looked at him shrewdly. “You have more than an idea, I think.”
“That’s possible,” hedged the Doctor.
“But you’re not going to tell us?”
“I can’t,” replied the Doctor.
“And why not?”
“Because I…we…may still be able to change things. If I don’t tell you what is going to happen, nothing is fixed.”
“And that’s a good thing?”
“In this case, yes. Amy, Rory, please trust me on this.”
The irony of this request was not lost on either them. Rory reached out for Amy’s hand and squeezed it in support. “We do, and we will,” Amy answered.
“And you’ll trust me throughout whatever happens over the next few days?”
Amy’s breath caught at this last request. The Doctor rarely sought more than one assurance.
“Yes, we will,” answered Rory before Amy could reply.
“Thank you,” replied the Doctor simply. He gestured to the table, and Amy for the first time noticed the stack of books. “Based on what I heard at the party, I think that I have some idea as to things that might be helpful for you two in the arena. So I’ve put together a bit of homework for you and Amy to take care of over this next day. But, for now, you two should go back to sleep. A bit of peace will do you two a world of good. Goodnight, Ponds.”
The Doctor gave each of his companions a quick kiss on the forehead and a reassuring hug before disappearing to parts unknown.
The Doctor was true to his word, and Amy and Rory spent much quality time with the books left on their table. Amy and Rory decided to make a game out of quizzing each other on their readings, with pieces of chocolate serving as a reward for correctly answered questions. As this game had done for their schoolwork in days gone by, Amy and Rory were able to plow through the information with reasonable efficiency, though Amy wryly noted that the consequences of not doing well on this particular examination were rather more dire.
On that next and final day, both were taken aback when they were finally separated again by their prep teams in order to be styled for their interviews, though they had not realized that they had been granted the extra hours of the morning together thanks to the Doctor. Their styling was to be simple, in any case, and within the space of a few hours, they found themselves being herded along with the other tributes to wait to be presented for their interviews. They shared curt nods of greeting with Districts Three and Four, but they were able to effectively sequester themselves in a corner in order to observe their surroundings and their fellow tributes. Even at this late stage, there was still an easy socialization among the victors.
Silence fell, punctuated by the occasional sharp intake of breath, when Katniss and Peeta arrived in their wedding finery. Unlike a number of other tributes, neither Rory or Amy said anything to the District Twelve tributes. Amy couldn’t help but notice Rory’s posture stiffen noticeably, although she didn’t realize that she herself must have been particularly staring at Katniss until she briefly met her eyes. Amy’s gaze quickly fell to the floor, but she nonetheless saw that Katniss was soon distracted by other, more vocal victors.
If she was honest with herself, Amy was completely taken aback by how badly their appearance had disconcerted her. For all the unwanted commentary that she and Rory had received for marrying at the ages that they had, they were far older than barely seventeen, if she remembered Katniss and Peeta’s ages correctly. And, even more importantly, it was a step that both she and Rory had wanted to take and that had in no way been forced upon them as it had been on the two District Twelve tributes. Amy’s gaze darted again towards Katniss and Peeta, and she could see the silent misery on the latter’s face as he leaned against the wall while idly tapping one of his feet.
Amy had very little time to consider the matter further as it was now time for the interviews to begin. Consistent with their strategy heretofore, Amy and Rory were to be blandly competent. Amy resented having to participate in this farce, and she mollified herself by again revisiting an old game from her schooldays where she would deliberately delay her response in order to maximize awkward silences. She noted that Rory’s defiance took form in monosyllabic terseness. It might not be as striking as the outright challenges voiced by other victors, but she desperately hope that their resentment was conveyed. But, even with River and the Doctor’s briefings, nothing could have prepared her for the actual effect of the final two interviews, and she and Rory couldn’t help but turn to each other, agog, following Peeta’s sequential stunning revelations. She knew that these disclosures were not real, but she nonetheless found herself as emotionally overwhelmed as if they were. The ensuing chaos, however, brought her back to herself, and she knew that she and Rory would need to hustle in order to meet up with the Doctor and River before all hell truly broke loose.
River was steadily but aggressively making her way through the crowd. The initial note informing her of this venture had included oddly emphatic and specific instructions that she was to return to her own timeline immediately after the tribute interviews were concluded. She resisted the urge to disregard these instructions and to find her parents, but her instincts told her that she needed to follow these instructions. And, because her instincts rarely led her astray (too badly), she wasted no time in exiting the auditorium.
“Melody!” River whipped her head to see her parents hurrying towards her. Without any further ado, they each fiercely hugged her in turn, and River knew that this was serving as their good-bye in case anything went wrong. She saw Rory pull two plain envelopes from an inner pocket, and he crushed them into her right hand.
“Read these as soon as you get back to the University,” he urged. She noted mutely. He hugged her again and stepped back while Amy now approached her.
“No matter what happens, know that this was our choice,” Amy whispered desperately to her daughter. “And never forget that your father and I love you very much.”
By this point, it was all that River could do to maintain her outward composure, but she was not going to add to the emotional turmoil that her parents were clearly experiencing.
“My brave, brave Amy and Rory,” River murmured. She pulled away, knowing that her parents would not be the first to break this final embrace, and, with only a further nod of her head, she sped off to the exit that was just yards away.
She refused to look back.
Once River reached the pre appointed place from which she was supposed to leave, she drew back her voluminous sleeve that masked her vortex manipulator. She had only just begun to punch in the necessary coordinates when the Doctor’s voice permeated the air.
“Time for you to go, I suppose?” he asked curiously.
“You could say that,” River replied noncommittally. She did, however, pause her programming of the manipulator.
“Do you realize that you’re not done yet?”
“I think that I am, actually.” River resumed programming the manipulator.
“Please listen to me,” implored the Doctor. “You have a much bigger role to play, but it’s not something that I can tell you about yet. But are you willing to do whatever it takes to bring this government down?”
“I’m here, aren’t I?”
“This is just the beginning. There are terrible things to come, but this can’t succeed unless you can trust me and do what I will need to ask of you very soon.”
“But I don’t trust you,” River replied honestly. “I’ve figured out that I will, but I don’t. At least, not yet. But I know that my parents do, and I trust them.” She took a deep breath. “So, yes, I promise you that I will do whatever is necessary to end this.”
River supposed that she expected the Doctor to be reassured by her commitment, but she was wrong. “Even the most terrible thing? You’ll do whatever I will ask of you?” The Doctor’s intensity was almost overwhelming.
River was somewhat taken aback by the Doctor’s attitude. What could possibly be worse than anything that she had already been forced to do, much less than what these children and their parents needed to endure? Again, she decided to rely on her parents’ trust of the Doctor for her final assurances.
“Yes, I promise. And now I really must go.”
Apparently this was now enough for the Doctor. He did not leave, but nor did he say anything further.
River finished programming the vortex manipulator. She took one last look around before pressing the final button that would land her back at her lodgings at the university. Now, in her solitude, where no one could see her, she let her full feelings come to the surface. She clutched the unopened letters from Amy and Rory to her chest, and hoped that she would calm down enough to keep her final promise to them, at least.
Because she knew that even though whatever had happened to her parents had already happened, she could have no idea when she herself would find out what happened to them.
Even though they at least had each other, Amy and Rory were not faring any better than their daughter in terms of retaining their composure. They were now less than twelve hours away from one of the most terrifying situations that they could even imagine, much less actually experience. They were relieved that River was able to escape, especially since the Doctor had informed them that the stylists had now been forbidden from assisting the tributes in preparing for the Quell.
“So it’ll just be us?” Amy asked.
“Just you,” agreed the Doctor. “And this is when I have to bid good-bye myself. I won’t be able to communicate with you directly, but remember our system, okay?”
Amy and Rory had both nodded. Part of their reading yesterday had included memorizing codes devised by the Doctor.
“Always wear your tokens—they’ll be far more useful than you would think. But, above all, trust your instincts. And know that I’m going to do everything to get you out of there.”
“We know,” replied Amy. “We know.”
Restlessness plagued Amy and Rory for the rest of the evening and through the night. The nadir was when she was finally separated from Rory as they were each transported to the arena. In a way, she was glad for the solitude as she dressed herself for the Games because she didn’t have to concern herself about adding to Rory’s worries. As she tucked the key under her jumpsuit, she whispered to herself, “Doctor, I really hope that you know what you’re doing.”
Amy took a deep breath, walked to the transport tube, and shut herself inside.
She clutched her sides as the platform began to rise.
I truly and deeply apologize for the inadvertently prophetic title of my last chapter. Please consider this an early birthday present from me to you, and please also know that I am 4.5K words into the next chapter. We're at the arena, so the end is very, very much in sight. Thank you all for your patience!
Chapter 13: Day One
In which Amy and Rory struggle to figure out the effect they're meant to have.
This chapter was ready, and there was no reason to delay. The next update will take longer, but D12 POVs will return.
To say that Rory had mixed feelings about the sixty-second countdown would have been an understatement. On one hand, he needed every second that remained because nothing, nothing, could have prepared him for the reality of seeing the other competitors. On the other, he was terrified that his knocking knees would somehow cause him lose his balance, and the Doctor had not spared any gory detail when describing the consequences of not staying on the plate for the full minute.
He took a steadying breath and looked to both sides of him. His relief was palpable when he saw Amy several tributes over to his left, but any relief was short-lived once he fully appreciated the nature of the arena. Water separated not only the tributes from each other but also from the cornucopia. Rory knew himself to be a strong swimmer, but Amy was decidedly less so, although, thankfully, she had finally learned on their penultimate trip in the TARDIS. While he had been irritated at the time, he was now grateful for the fact that one of the Doctor’s “repairs” had gone quite awry and had resulted in an extra week (or month) to kill while drifting in space. Still, he took some solace in the likelihood that he and Amy would likely be some of the fastest runners in the arena.
Rory quickly turned back to Amy; he saw her crouched and facing the nearest land strip, and he knew that he must do the same. He was absolutely certain that he would be able to get to the Cornucopia before she did; maybe he would be able to gather enough supplies for the two of them. He somehow registered that the countdown was now in the single digits, and took a final deep breath to steady himself.
And then there was no more time. Rory felt a surge of adrenaline at the announcement, and he launched himself into the water. Insofar as coherent thoughts were possible, he was pleased that he was swimming at an excellent pace, although it seemed to be far, far faster than any speed that he had swum before. Still, he wasn’t about to complain, and he made a relatively smooth transition from water to land. To his great surprise, he appeared to be the first at the cornucopia; or, at least, he didn’t see any other tribute yet. He knew that this solitude was unlikely to last, and he immediately turned his attention to the selection of supplies. Once he did so, however, his heart sank when he saw only weapons before him. Rory decided to focus on the extensive selection of swords, knives, and things with which to hit other things.
With weapons in hand, Rory quickly ran out and looked towards where he believed Amy would approach. She was just about to hit the land strip, which was far more progress that he had even dared to hope for. He quickly turned back to the cornucopia, and what he saw made him crouch immediately in order to avoid the knife that now whizzed past the top of the head. He was about to shout protestations at his would-be assailant when the bronzed-hair young man silenced him with a look that clearly indicated that he meant for Rory to get the heck out of dodge. Rory let the bizarre contradiction between Finnick’s actions and this present expression slide, and he made haste towards Amy. He surmised that Finnick was trying to throw the gamemakers off as to who exactly might be part of his alliance, an alliance that was more far-reaching than any of them could have contemplated. He could see the strategic value of Finnick’s actions, but that didn’t mean that he was pleased about having knives chucked at at him. He supposed that at least he was still alive, and now he needed to get to Amy in order to give her the best chance to remain so.
Rory nearly ran into her just as she hit the central island. “GO!” he shouted at Amy, motioning with his full hands. Without question, she immediately turned heel and ran towards the jungle that appeared to circle this lake. Amy continued running without a single look back until she disappeared within the lush vegetation. She made a sharp right, apparently having decided to skirt the beach, and ran for a short distance until she skidded to a halt. Rory also stopped and immediately dropped everything that he was holding in order to accept the frantic embrace that he knew that she was about to bestow. Amy was breathing a number of sharp and shallow breaths, not from exertion, but from trying to contain all of the emotions that were no doubt running through her. She quickly ran her hands along Rory’s face, and he knew that this gesture was equal amounts affection and looking to see whether he had suffered an injury at the cornucopia.
“I was so worried,” she gasped as she squeezed his hand. “It looks like he missed-I don’t even see a scratch. Thank goodness he missed.”
“No need to tell me that,” Rory remarked. “And you? You’re okay?”
Amy nodded. “Do you think we should keep going?”
“Maybe? I’m not sure. I do think that I need to catch my breath." Rory looked up see Amy contemplating through the greenery.
"I think that we should stay here for a bit," Amy said, slowly. “I don’t think that I’m ready to go deeper into that jungle yet.”
“Then catching our breath sounds like a good idea,” Rory agreed. He looked briefly over to the cornucopia, which was still in plain view. He shuddered and turned back to Amy, who simply gave him a look of understanding as she began worrying her token, which she had pulled out from underneath her suit. They were soon distracted, however, by the soft sounds of something falling near them.
“A parachute? Already?” whispered Amy. Her surprise gave way to a frown. “That’s really odd. Why would he do that?”
Rory couldn’t help but share Amy’s concern. Did the Doctor think that they were already beyond what they could handle and needed all the help that they could get? He knew that elaborating on his concerns would be counterproductive. “No idea, but we might as well see what we’ve got.”
Amy nimbly opened and unwrapped the parcel and removed the contents. “Two bottles of water. A bag. A really oddly shaped vial. And what looks to be a filter of some sort?” They both considered the gifts, but Amy was the one to speak first. “This must mean that water is going to be hard to find.” Given the jungle that surrounded them, Rory was skeptical of this theory, and Amy apparently had little patience upon seeing his pursed lips. “Oh, you hush. He’s not stupid, and he’s not going to be frivolous with whatever sponsor money we have.” She held up the filter. “Apart from the fact that it’s salt water, the lake is probably relatively safe since we swam through it and it didn’t kill us”
“Yes, the salt water thing is a very minor detail.”
“Anyway,” Amy continued, now jabbing at the filter with her other hand. “This must be a desalination filter. So maybe we should only trust the lake water?”
After some consideration, Rory shrugged his shoulders. “Probably. We should wait until dark, though, to be safe.”
Amy nodded. “We don’t want to be seen, and we don’t want to tip off anyone about the lack of water. So these guys need to last us for as long as possible.” She abandoned the filter in favor of the vial, which she then twirled in her hand. “No idea what this is, though. Any thoughts?”
Rory did have an idea, and, judging from her motions, he suspected that Amy did too. It would be foolish to tip off the Gamemakers now with too much secondhand insight into the Arena, so he elected to sigh with great frustration for the benefit of any audience. “None at all. Wouldn’t be surprised if he clicked on the wrong button by mistake. Let’s pack this all into that bag. I really think that we should get going.”
Amy nodded and gathered the supplies. She elected to carry a long knife in her right hand while Rory decided to wield one of the swords. Thus armed, they began to walk, sticking to the perimeter of the jungle.
As the Doctor watched their continuing progress an hour later, he couldn’t help but be pleased with his friends and how they were controlling the narrative in order to distract from his actions. The perception filters also seemed to be working: even though Amy and Rory had so far elected to stay close to the border between the jungle and the beach, they had nonetheless been able to evade the other parties of tributes and were safe. Or, at least, safe to the extent possible in the arena.
The Doctor aimed the sonic at the other screens in his viewing room in order to check out the other tributes. This was the real reason that he hadn’t wanted to ally with any other Districts: in theory, he would have been permitted access to the feeds of only those tributes who were allied with his own. Absent an alliance, he would be limited to the two feeds of his own tributes, and the other screens would remain blank. In practice, any alliance would actually limit the information available to him as he had, naturally, made sure to modify the electronics in order to accommodate his needs. He therefore had access not only to all of the other tributes’ feeds, but he had also managed to secure a feed that gave him a view of the control room. The audio for the latter was touch-and-go, but it was sufficient for his needs.
Not to mention that Amy and Rory had surmised correctly that the sonic was indeed a most loyal and generous patron to their sponsor accounts.
With a flick of the screwdriver, he decided to activate the feeds for the District Twelve tributes. He took a closer look at the screen once he saw that there was an ever-so-slightly yellow cast that seemed to match the tint of Amy and Rory’s feed. From his earlier viewings at the very beginning of the games today, he had noted that different sectors appeared to have very slightly different colored environments. Whether this was true in the arena, or perhaps it was merely an artifact of the feeds in order to aid the gamemakers’ visual tracking of the tributes, he wasn’t sure. What he did know was that Amy and Rory were coming dangerously close to an unpredictable confrontation with the District Four and Twelve tributes. He thought that Twelve would be friendly enough-at the very least, not immediately lethal-but the male tribute from Four had unexpectedly attacked Rory at the cornucopia. As Rory had, the Doctor also theorized that Four simply wanted to throw off the officials and the viewers as to the extent of alliances among the tributes, and he supposed that death was considered an acceptable price in order to disguise the league of victors. He returned his gaze to the District Six feeds-apparently Amy and Rory had become aware of the proximate tributes and had taken cover behind some nearby trees. Clearly they also were unwilling to reveal themselves.
Watching Rory and Amy had distracted him from the other activated feeds, and he started when he heard a crack and commotion coming from the other monitors. When he turned to these screens, he saw an all-too-achingly familiar sight before him, with the felled boy and the distraught girl. He turned to his own feeds: Rory and Amy had seen what had happened: both were upset, and it seemed that Rory was restraining Amy. He knew that the two had been friendly with the teenagers-even apart from what was strictly required for their present mission-and it didn’t surprise him that they were reacting quite badly at the scene before them. He turned back to the Twelve feeds, and his hearts sank. It was obvious that the boy was not breathing and, while he saw that Four was apparently going to try to resuscitate him, he had no idea whether it was even possible for him to succeed at this point.
Suddenly, still another audio feed crackled to life, and the Doctor turned to the monitor that showed the control room. Now he was able to see that one of the gamemakers was reaching for a lever that would sound the cannon that signaled the death of a tribute. The Doctor immediately realized what was about to happen, and he began to frantically program the screwdriver in a race against the gamemaker, whose hand had luckily been hovering just centimeters above the lever for some seconds-presumably to build up the drama and false hope. But that hand was now dropping steadily towards the blood red switch as he waited for the precise moment to make the boy’s death official. The sonic began to hum, and the Doctor pointed it towards the screen just as the gamemaker began to apply the pressure that would move the lever forward, the fatal action that would irrevocably signal that the star-crossed lovers were no more.
The blasted lever was stuck. No matter that he put his entire weight behind the thing-it would not budge in the slightest. He yelled over to his fellow gamemakers, but even the added force of his three largest colleagues in the control room did nothing.
“Forget it!” he exclaimed with exasperation. “We’ll just reprogram the girl’s cannon and use that instead.”
And he began typing furiously at his keyboard, indifferent to the race against time that was playing out in the arena. The boy was clearly dead. The President would be pleased, and these extra few seconds would be inconsequential. It was just a matter of a few more lines of coding.
The Doctor’s hand continued to hold steady.
Amy had buried her head in Rory’s chest, unwilling to watch. She was at least grateful that her reaction would not be broadcast because there was absolutely no reason for someone in her position to be grieving over the death of a fellow competitor.
Because there should have been no reason; no reason except that the tableau that played out before them was also one that was as familiar to Amy as it had been to the Doctor. For all of Rory’s constant worry over Amy’s safety and the ridiculous arguments that they always, always had as to the caution she exerted (or, rather, failed to exert), it seemed to be always her who grieved over the body of her lost love. But this scene, this scene that was happening right now, was so, so very resonant, and brought back the horrible memories of that time when Rory had entrusted her completely with his life, had trusted that she would bring him back because he thought that she would never give up. And, if she were truthful (or, rather, being cruel) to herself, she never failed to feel guilty that she had given up, because she had believed him to be lost forever once again. But Rory had come back anyway, because that is what he did.
So, once Amy had heard the sound and realized what had happened just tens of yards away, she had gasped and struggled against Rory, who was trying desperately to muffle her sharp cries of agitation, and he refused to let go even when her teeth clamped down on his hands.
“Amy!" he hissed. “We have got to stay right here. It’s not time for us to intervene…not yet.” He clasped her more closely to him after he must have seen a particularly wild look cross her face. “Look, Finnick is doing CPR. His technique looks perfect. I promise that I’ll run over if it looks like I can help, but we can’t give up our cover yet. I promise.”
Amy nodded at Rory’s vow-she could never, ever doubt his word. She knew that she needed to provide some sort of rationale for her behavior, just in case she was being broadcast. “It’s just that…that if it can’t be one of us, I want it to be one of them.” Rory nodded, and he patted her on the back. She then tried to collect herself, but she continued to keep her eyes averted as she extracted herself and tried to muffle her hiccups. She saw out of the corner of her eye that Rory was keeping his eyes trained on the scene, and she was grateful for his diligence. Amy then turned away to face the opposite direction from Rory; as upset as she was, she was still unsure as to how well the perception filters would work and didn’t want to give any unfriendly victors the opportunity to take advantage of their distraction. She gripped her knife and scanned around her as best as she could through her tears.
Immeasurable gratitude and relief flooded her senses when she heard Rory expel a breath and he murmured that everything was okay. She made a pretense of sweeping their environs again before allowing herself to look at the grouping of people. The heartfelt relief that she could see from Katniss’ demeanor, even from this distance, was an emotion that was seared onto her soul and she was again overwhelmed by all of the times that Rory had been, almost impossibly, restored to her. The only thing that she dared to do in this arena was to squeeze Rory’s hand with all of her strength, and she knew that he understood everything.
“They’re fine. We should go,” Rory stated. “There’s too much activity going on, and I want to avoid the other tributes for as long as we can. Plus, I think Finnick has it out for me, and I think that those tridents might be harder to duck.”
Amy nodded. They gathered their belongings, and they quietly continued on their way.
Amy and Rory had taken the occasional break during their hike, and their final resting point for the evening was determined by a second parachute received just as dusk was falling. Apart from whatever was contained in the delivery, they both suspected that the Doctor meant for them to stay where the parachute found them.
“Shall we stay here for the evening?” Amy suggested softly, and Rory nodded in reply. She had reached for the parachute first and unwrapped it to find several sandwiches. She frowned. “He can’t keep sending us food all the time. We’re going to need to find it for ourselves at some point. And what if we need other things, like medicine?”
“I guess we’ll deal with that when the time comes. Right now, he seems to think that we need sandwiches.” Rory held up the netting that had encased the food parcel within their package. “But I’m guessing that we’re meant to use this to fish. Makes sense that there could be food in that lake.”
Amy wrinkled her nose. She wasn’t a big fan of seafood, but this was hardly the time or the place to pull a diva-attitude. “I suppose. Although I can’t say that I’ve ever fished before. You?” She, of course, knew the answer to that question.
“No,” replied Rory. “But how hard can it be, really? Shall we dine?”
Neither was particularly hungry. Despite the exertion, the heat and the humidity put a damper on their appetites, but neither was interested in having food stick around that could signal their presence to either other tributes or to whatever unknown animals or monsters stalked the jungle. Really, Amy wished that the Doctor had sent more water, or even more empty bottles. Despite their best efforts to ration fluids, they were nearly out of water and soon would need to expose themselves in order to make their way to the lake. Still, they were probably fine for a few more hours, especially if they were to hold their ground here.
Amy and Rory sat in guarded silence through the anthem and the presentation of the fallen. Apparently all of the tributes from their meeting were still alive, which she supposed was a good thing. And, of course, the district twelve tributes were both still alive, which was a relief. Amy nudged Rory. “Hey, do you want to take a nap and let me take first watch?” She was still fairly wound up from the emotional roller coaster of this afternoon, and thanks to his job, Rory was pretty good at taking naps whenever the opportunity and need presented themselves.
“Not really tired, but thanks for the offer,” Rory replied as he stretched his arms. “Let’s the both of us stay awake until one of us really needs to sleep. It’s just this feeling that I have....”
Amy nodded. They still didn’t talk, but they really didn’t need to as they leaned against each other in a silent watch. Eventually, the unusual stillness was broken by a bright flash. Amy looked up and saw what appeared to be a lightning strike directly across the lake from their current position. She quickly looked around her for anything that she and Rory could use for shelter-maybe those parachutes could be improvised into coverings-but her actions were interrupted by a sharp poke in her ribs by her husband.
“Hey!” she exclaimed with some irritation. Rory only shook his head slightly and pointed across the lake.
“Look at that,” he instructed.
After some minutes, Amy finally spoke up again. “There doesn’t seem to be lightning anywhere else in the arena.” Rory nodded, but his continued focus on the lightning storm confirmed to Amy that her voiced observation about the localized storm was not the important one. She reached for his hand.
“It’s such a pretty blue. So...unusual...compared to what we’ve seen in District Six, don’t you think?” she asked innocently while squeezing Rory’s hand.
“Yeah, unusual,” he replied while reciprocating Amy’s grip. And thus Amy knew that Rory was well aware of her lie, because that blue-hued electrical energy was, ironically, now unforgettable to them. They sat, alternately mesmerized the light display and tensed for any possible attack. Time passed, and then the flashes stopped. They were still slightly tranced from the lightning display when their attention became diverted by the sound of heavy rainstorms just to the right of where the lightning had been.
“That’s odd,” muttered Rory. “Why didn’t the rain happen with the lightning?”
“We’re in an arena. Everything is artificial, so it’s not impossible that they’d be decoupled,” reasoned Amy. “But what’s the point of doing that? I mean, why not make everything as miserable as you can all at once?”
“That’s what I would think,” replied Rory. “Why parcel it out?” His grip on Amy’s hand suddenly tightened. “Hold up! Do you still have that vial from our first parachute?” Amy retrieved the vessel from the bag, and Rory began to stroke the curved sides.
“You have an idea,” Amy commented. “Out with it.”
Rory held the vial straight in front of her face. “Look at the shape. Look at what we’re surrounded by out there.”
Now was the time for Amy to divulge her suspicion. “It’s an hourglass!” she whispered excitedly and for the benefit of the audience.
“Yup. It opens on both sides and it’s notched so we know how high to fill it. Cover me while I get some sand.” Once he returned, he cracked open the vial, partially filled it with the white granules, resealed it, then flipped the whole thing over. “If we’re right, and I think we are, it’s going to be somewhat off because we got a late start. It’ll be close enough though to let us know what we’re on the right track. And we can just empty and start again.”
The wait began anew. Sure enough, the top half of the glass was significantly emptied when the rain stopped and a fog began to envelop the next area of the arena.
“Okay, that did seem to last an hour,” began Amy.
“And they’re sequential. One has to stop for the next one to start,” finished Rory.
“You thinking what I”m thinking?”
Amy looked ahead of her again and ignored the sounds of the pounding storm. “Which would mean that we were at six o’clock. Appropriate enough.”
“And which means that we need to figure out what in the world we’re doing before whatever’s in store for us happens.”
The two fell quiet as they pondered their next moves, watching the sand drain. Amy desperately hoped that there was more exciting goings-on elsewhere in the arena and that her and Rory’s revelations were being overlooked. They still needed a plan, though.
“How about this,” began Amy. “Let’s start moving over to the next sector while this runs so we can make sure that we’re right about things only lasting an hour. We’ll stick around just long enough to see what’s up, and then I think that we should cut across to the far side of the arena since that should be safe for awhile.”
“Okay,” agreed Rory. “But let’s be careful and not accidentally walk into the next active area. I think that it would be helpful to get a few additional data points, but I don’t actually want to be a data point.”
“Agreed.” They gathered their belongings, and Rory offered to carry the backpack and the hourglass. Free of these burdens, Amy decided to set the pace and walk ahead of him.
“It looks like we have only a few minutes left of this hour,” remarked Rory. “As soon as we see what the next thing is, we should run as fast in order to get as far as possible, just in case there’s anyone nearby who can see us.”
“Yeah, makes sense. Let me know when the hour is up.”
As it turned out, it was wholly unnecessary for Rory to alert Amy because not only was the dissipation of the fog completely unmistakeable, but, later, animal-like sounds started to come from the jungle ahead. She stopped suddenly, and Rory ran into her.
“Listen!” she hissed. “It’s not just weather. That sounds like some sort of beast. Do you suppose that it’s like those mutts from last year?” Even in the dim moonlight that permeated the greenery, Amy could see the color drain from Rory’s face as he concentrated on the noises.
“That’s…that’s not good. I say that we’ve got enough data points. Now let’s get out of here.” He shoved the hourglass into the bag, and the two of them began sprinting across the beach to the nearest sand strip. Their attention was caught by a significant commotion in the animal area. Amy and Rory both turned and saw three people battling what they now saw to be monkeys. They stopped completely once they saw arrows flying through the air, knowing who exactly those people must include. Amy’s breath caught when she saw that the boy was once again in mortal danger, having now left himself completely open to an attack by a creature that absolutely no one else seemed in a position to kill.
Amy’s legs began to run seemingly of their own volition, and she did not heed Rory’s screams to stay back, and she ignored his pounding footsteps as he chased after her. Because this second chance had to mean something. This couldn’t be a coincidence, this second time in less than a day that she was in a position to save the boy. She hurled herself at Peeta and, somehow, the momentum was sufficient to knock the two of them several feet over and seemingly well clear of the path of the attacking animal.
Oddly, the animal sounds seemed to have ceased completely-how had all of that time had passed? Amy supposed that that meant that she had succeeded and that Peeta was safe. She closed her eyes. That was a good feeling, she thought. A really good feeling. And so that was the feeling she elected to cling to in her last moments of consciousness, because it was so much better than the searing pain and so much better than the very, very warm sensation of her blood seeping through the torn jumpsuit.