For the first time, I get a good look at them. A mix of human and lizard and who knows what else. White, tight reptilian skin smeared with gore, clawed hands and feet, their faces a mess of conflicting features. Hissing, shrieking my name now, as their bodies contort in rage. Lashing out with tails and claws, taking huge chunks of one another or their own bodies with wide, lathered mouths, driven mad by their need to destroy me. My scent must be as evocative to them as theirs is to me. More so, because despite its toxicity, the mutts begin to throw themselves into the foul sewer (…).

Climb!" Gale barks at me. I’m back up, hauling him in, peering into the gloom for more. "No." Gale turns my face to him and shakes his head. Uniform shredded. Gaping wound in the side of his neck.

There’s a human cry from below. “Someone’s still alive," I plead.

No, Katniss. They’re not coming," says Gale. "Only the mutts are.

Unnable to accept it, I shine the light from Cressida’s gun down the shaft. Far below, I can just make out Finnick, struggling to hang on as three mutts tear at him. As one yanks back his head to take the death bite, something bizarre happens. It’s as if I’m Finnick, watching images of my life flash by. The mast of a boat, a silver parachute, Mags laughing, a pink sky, Beetee’s trident, Annie in her wedding dress, waves breaking over rocks.

Then it’s over.

AU meme: Gale and Katniss got into the Games. Snow calls Gale.

"Would you like to drink something, Mr. Hawthorne?" he asks.

"No. Thank you, sir… but I am too young for drinking," I reply and he grins at me. He nods and calls one of his assistants.

"Wise decision, Mr. Hawthorne… Wise decision," President Snow nods again and takes a pill and a glass of water that a red-haired girl has just gave him. (…) "Do you know here from somewhere? The girl who has just left. Do you know her?"

I shake my head and my hands start sweating. He doesn’t know about what happened in the Woods… right? “No, of course not. I’ve never seen an avox in my whole life,” I hiss, but then I try to look a bit nicer to him. “They can’t talk, can they?”

"We cut their tongues, that’s why they are really polite…" Snow laughs and I try to smile, but his behaviour seems disgusting to me. (…) He walks to his balcony and stares at the Capitol, with his hands behind his back. "Some people told me you and Miss Everdeen know each other…"

"Oh, well… Yes, Sir." That’s the moment when I realize I came here to talk about Katniss. "What else do you know about us?"

Snow laughs and takes a rose from his suit’s pocket and puts it on mine. “Let’s see… You appreciate each other. Some people said they wanted you two to get married someday, but well… The Games don’t help a lot, do they?” He turns at me. “Am I right?”

"We care each other, but not that way. Anyway, Katniss said she’ll never have kids and…" I start saying but he interrupts me.

"That means you thought about that, at least once. Marrying here could be great for you: she looks pretty and seems really nice and…"

I look away. “We are just friends,” this time I interrupt him, and Snow doesn’t like that. He stares at me for a few seconds.

How strong do you think you are, Mr. Hawthorne?" he asks me.

"Excuse me?"

"You heard me, Mr. Hawthorne."

"Strong enough to survive until the end, Sir." I reply and he smiles, trying to contain his laugher. I try to walk away but he stops me, calling me.

"No! Wait, Mr. Hawthorne. I have to tell you something else, something that your little Seam’s brain can understand… You aren’t useful for me, so I could kill you easily -but I think you’ll understand your little friend Miss Everdeen might need some help. Don’t you think? Anyway, I recognize threat when I see it, and you two are one."

I turn on my heels and look at his snake eyes. “I volunteered to protect her. As long as I’m still alive, she’ll be safe.”

"That’s what I wanted to clear you, Mr. Hawthorne…" he walks closer to me and touches the white rose he left on my coat’s pocket. "Maybe your heart won’t beat time enough in the Games…" He pats my shoulder and I frown. "Now you can leave, Mr. Hawthorne," he grins again and I open the door.

Dedicated to my Tris on her birthday, Kalina (it’s tomorrow but well… you know)