I follow Glimmer through the woods, keeping my arrow nocked and ready to put into the girl's back. She glances back occasionally to make sure I'm still following, but if she notices the rather obvious weapon I have ready to kill her with, she doesn't say anything. Finally, after a half hour or so of walking she stops and turns to me.
"All right, we should be far enough away now." she announces.
"For what?" I question, still keeping me weapon ready.
"To talk." She says it like it's the most obvious thing in the world. I guess to her it is. I still think she's not right in the head though.
"Fine, so talk."
Glimmer flashes me a smile in response. I think it's meant to be friendly or disarming, but from a girl I have a weapon pointed at it just strikes me as weird. "It's simple. I want to team up." I stare at her blankly. She wants to team up? With me? The girl who was treed less than an hour ago? And she wants to ditch the Career pack to do it? I don't get it. Just yesterday I was running for my life from her allies, now somehow joining me is an upgrade? "Oh, and you're welcome, by the way." she adds with a cocky grin.
Wait, what? Is she serious? She certainly looks serious. She got me out of that tree and armed me; granted I only have one arrow, but still, I am technically armed. I mean one arrow for the one Career in front of me is hardly the worst odds I've ever seen.
There's so many questions in my head, I need to organize my thoughts and ask them in a calm, rational manner. "Wait… What?" Smooth Katniss. Real smooth.
Glimmer gives a roll of her eyes and a pained sigh. "Just like your interview I see. Ok, so where'd I lose you?"
"Uh, at the team up part."
"I mean team up. Ally. Join forces. Work together. You must have heard of the concept." She seems patient, but something in her tone sounds like she's making fun of me at the same time.
"I know what it means!"
"Then why ask?" Now I'm sure she's making fun of me.
"Because it makes no sense!" I answer in a huff.
"Ah. I thought that's what you might mean."
"Then why not just answer the question?" I ask in frustration.
"Because you're just too much fun to tease." Glimmer smiles at me again. Ok, I've decided she's not just crazy, she's annoying too.
"You know I'm still holding a weapon, right?"
"Oh please, you aren't going to shoot me." Glimmer answers with a dismissive wave of her hand.
"And how are you so sure of that? Don't think I have what it takes to kill or something?" Crazy and annoying yes, but is she stupidly suicidal too?
"Oh, I think you can kill; I wouldn't want to team up otherwise. It's just that you won't kill me right now."
"Are you sure?" I ask in an even tone.
"Of course I am. I'm betting my life on it, aren't I? " She still has that playful tone, like this is just some game to her or something.
"Confident, aren't you?"
"After what I wore to the interviews did you really have any doubts?" Ok, she has a point there. It was this translucent gold thing. Well, translucent might be generous; you could see right through the thing. The only way anything was covered was because the thing (I hesitate to call something with so little fabric a dress) was layered strategically to cover up the really bad parts. Apparently layer enough translucent layers and they aren't see through anymore. And on top of that I didn't think you could even wear a dress so short and so low cut without getting arrested. If someone offered me a chance to get out of the Games right now in exchange for wearing it around District 12 for a day I'd laugh in their face and take my chances here.
"So what, you just aren't afraid to die or think you can't be killed or something like that? Too beautiful to die maybe?"
"No, I'm not an idiot." Well, that's one girl's opinion at least. "I know I can die, same as anyone else; I just don't think you'll kill me right this minute. I figure you're too curious about my offer. Also, you owe me for getting you out of that tree. Now maybe that matters to you, maybe not, but I either way you're going to hear me out and then either agree or we can go our separate ways both alive and well."
Ok, I'm starting to think this girl isn't the dumb blonde she looks like. Well, maybe that's going a bit far. It could be that she just had lucid moments now and then.
Maybe she's freakishly lucky at reading me or maybe there's actually something between her ears besides knowing all about slutty dresses and high heels. Either way, she's right. I do want to hear what she has to say. "Fine, so tell me this. Why would you want to ally with me? I met the Career alliance and had to run for my life. Doesn't seem like a smart move to me."
"How much have you watched the Games? Or better yet, how much have you watched the Career alliance in the Games you've watched?"
I shrug. "I dunno. Some I guess? It is required viewing and all."
"More like you've watched to see who can stop the big bad Careers I think."
I roll my eyes. "Yeah fine, whatever; I don't really like Careers. Nobody does in 12. So what's your point?"
"Well obviously I've watched the Games from the other side. And do you know what the single most dangerous moment in the Games is for a Career?"
I shrug again.
"The single most dangerous time is when the Career alliance breaks up. Sometimes it's friendly, but usually not; sometimes it's a free for all, sometimes it breaks into pairs, sometimes it breaks into a smaller alliance, maybe just a few who turn on the rest. But however it happens it's the first time in the Games you're up against people who are basically as skilled as you are and you don't have anyone at your back anymore. And worse yet, if you aren't ready for it you can find a knife in your back real fast."
"Gee, that's a darned shame." I reply in a deadpan. "So what part of this is relevant to me? "
"Simple. Just look at the numbers and threats. Roughly half gone in the bloodbath. If we'd gotten you with that whole tree thing, bread boy would have been next. After that the big guy from 11 is the only real threat left. That means either the alliance breaks up once we get him, or maybe even on the way there. And really, let's face it, even just two Careers would be more than a match for him, no matter how big he is." She pauses a bit, thinking (I think. It's hard to tell if that's a thing she does or not.) "And honestly, the alliance wasn't what I'd expected at all."
"What's that mean? Just what did you expect?" This is getting weird. She doesn't look the part at all, but it really sounds like she's thought this through. I suppose I shouldn't be totally shocked, Careers have an academy after all, of course they'd study old tape, analyze behavior and all that sort of thing. Really it's not that different from what I do in the woods. If you want to hunt, you have to know your prey and know the dangers you might come across.
"Ok, tell me this. What's your impression of the Careers here?" I'm not sure if she's answering my question with a question just to annoy me or if this is somehow her version of logically explaining it to me.
"I dunno." I shrug. "You're all bigger than me; you're all better trained than me; you all scored worse than me." There. She can sound all smart (maybe fake sounding smart?) but I can still rub in that to the so called experts none of them got ranked as high as me.
Glimmer giggles at that. "Ok, not quite what I was going for, but fair enough. Point is, I was hoping either Cato or Clove would be a bit more average. Either one alone is a lot to handle, but together it's a nightmare, and I was getting this vibe they had some district loyalty thing going, so it was looking like they'd team up when it came time to get rid of the rest of us Careers."
"Ok, but now you're out of the pack and I'm out of the tree. So what's that mean, more enemies for the Career Pack so they stay together longer?"
"Exactly." Glimmer confirms.
"And this matters to me why?"
"Besides the fact you're out of that tree you mean?" she asks, to which I nod. "Well it means they might still need bread boy; they can keep him around to try and find you, maybe use as a hostage when they do. That or if he's an early riser and isn't a total moron he can run for it when he sees the empty tree."
"So this was all just some scheme to shake things up." I frown.
"Oh no, I meant what I said earlier. I want to team up. For real." There's that smile again. Is she trying to be genuine? Maybe it's an act? She is a Career, I've seen them kill almost every single tribute 12 has sent to the Games. On the other hand she's not acting like a typical Career; Careers just plain don't talk to tributes from 12 like this.
I stare at Glimmer for a while. She's definitely not the dumb blonde she played on TV, but I still don't know for sure just what's in her head. This all could be some big plan that manages to wipe out a bunch of the Career alliance before I find a knife in my back. I'm not really sure how that plan would work, but this is way too weird to just take at face value.
Still, she did get me out of that tree and armed me, and if she's really serious about teaming up there's no doubt it'd up my odds of survival. I think I need to at least see exactly what the details of her little alliance plan are. "So just how long did you think we'd be allies anyway?"
"Until the end; you know, when it's just us."
"And then what, we kill each other?"
"Well I figured we'd shake hands, say some sort of quotable thing or another first. Unless you want to hug. Hmm, you don't look like a hugger to me, but you never know…"
I roll my eyes. She keeps doing that, alternating between serious and this insistence with messing with me. I have no idea why and the whole thing irks me. I don't know if she's doing it for fun, to distract me or what. But that aside, she might have a point. And even if she got me out of that tree and gave me a bow there's still no way I trust her. After all, she's still a Career, even if she is a weird Career. But Career or not, the odds say I'm safer with a partner than alone. And at least this way I can watch and actually see the danger if she does betray me. "Deal. But just so you know you've got a long way to go before I trust you."
Glimmer smiles at me (it looks actually genuine, not cocky or mocking. I have no idea if that should worry me or not.) "Great, now let's get going to the Cornucopia."
"What? Are you nuts? That's the Careers home base!" Ok, there goes some of that trust. She's either an idiot or trying to lead me into an obvious trap. Too bad, I was actually starting to think (or was that hope?) the girl may have some brains.
"Yes, it is. But I'm a Career too, and right now the main pack is asleep under that tree. So if we hurry, we can get to the Cornucopia and away before the guard we left knows I'm not a loyal little girl."
"What's at the Cornucopia we need so bad anyway?"
"Weapons." Glimmer states and holds out the quiver of arrows to match the bow she gave me earlier. "I didn't bring any extras." Darn, she's right; I'm teamed up with an unarmed Career.
I take the quiver and, sling it across my back. It feels good to finally be properly armed; exactly how I wanted to be since the start of the Games. "So was being unarmed part of your master plan?"
"Well, to be honest I'm winging this whole thing." Glimmer answers sheepishly. "I actually didn't think of this plan until I was up for guard duty."
So much for feeling better.
I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it: My Catnip; teamed up with a Career. The girl may be a trained killer, but I'd be lying if I said a part of me wasn't glad that Katniss teamed up with someone other than him. At least here Catnip knows there's a danger and won't have some overdeveloped sense of sympathy or district loyalty clouding her judgment.
Watching Katniss in these Games has been one hell of an experience. At the reaping I seriously considered volunteering for Mellark. I know Catnip and I promised each other that if one of us was ever reaped the other would stay home to take care of both our families, but when I saw her up on that stage she looked like the one that needed protecting. Oh, she put on a brave enough face (Once I got Prim off her and my Catnip actually made it up to the stage) but I saw right through it. Guess it's lucky I was the only one. For all the angry and even jealous looks the Careers have given her, a look reserved for prey hasn't been one.
And she certainly got a lot of looks at the Tribute Parade. I've known her most of my life, spent practically every single day with her in the woods; after school on weekdays, then all day on weekends, we spent more time with each other than anyone else. But for all the time I've spent with her, I've never seen her look like she did that night.
District 12 is a simple place; the idea of a costume on fire without actually affecting someone is just plain not an idea we've ever had. Fire here is dangerous, deadly in fact. The district exists for the sake of coal. Coal and nothing else. It's everywhere in fact; either veins of it in the ground, or dust that coats the entire town. No matter where, fire here means death. In town all that dust would catch fire, spread across everything before anyone could do a thing. In the coal seam itself a fire could burn for decades, maybe centuries; the entire district would have to be abandoned.
Hell, those Capitol fuckers would just leave us to die and find some other slave labor to get them coal somewhere else. Somehow the big fancy Capitol firefighting gear never found its way to District 12. An oversight, I'm sure.
But the fire my Catnip wore wasn't anything like that; it wasn't some threat to all of us it was… radiant. I've heard people described as glowing, on their wedding day, when they're pregnant, when they've been having sex, but I don't think anyone had ever seen a girl glow like this. It's like she was my Catnip, but she was also some Capitol version of her at the same time. And for the first time I can remember, I saw something the Capitol had a hand in I didn't hate. (And they had a perfect record before that too.) Unfortunately Mellark had to go ruin it with that hand holding shit. Seriously, what the fuck was that? Didn't anyone tell him there's only one winner? So what's that all about?
The worst part was I couldn't say anything at the time. My family was over at the Everdeen's house watching the mandatory broadcast with them. Our families have been close for years, basically since Katniss and I got close our families just sort of followed. We're the providers for our households, and even though both our mothers are still alive, in a way we're also heads of our households too. Well, Katniss is at least, I only am until my mother decides I'm not. That woman can still scare me sometimes, no matter how big I am.
I watched the parade as long as I could, trying my best to offset my nausea at Mellark's crap with my delight at Catnip's brilliant glow, but when it came to the end of the parade I'd finally had enough. I made some lame excuse and went out to sit on the porch. It's not like I'm in the woods so I have to keep my emotions bottled up, but at least I can let it show on my face now.
Leave it to a townie to ruin something. Even in that god awful place Catnip found a way to shine, but he had to try and steal it; make it about him. I haven't gotten much farther in my mental rant (Or my thinking of nasty things to call Mellark) when Prim comes out and sits down next to me. She just sort of stares at a spot on the ground for a while before speaking. "It isn't real, you know." she states simply.
"She didn't exactly try to stop it."
"Because she was on TV; she knew it was all for show. But she didn't like it. She wanted to hit him, not hold his hand. You saw her face, you should know what she was thinking, Gale."
I sigh and finally look down at Prim. "Sometimes with her I have a hard time telling if I really see things, or just wish I did." It's been a worse and worse problem for the past year or so. A hazard of one sided love. I'm not even sure when it started. I'd always thought she was pretty, graceful with a bow, poetic even (yeah, bet you never thought you'd hear me use a word like that, did you?) And certainly I always wanted to be around her, especially in the woods; it just didn't feel normal if she wasn't there.
It wasn't that we had some wonderful heart to heart talks or any nonsense like that. Part of what's so great about her is that we can talk without saying a word. Every twitch of a facial muscle, every nod, every motion of the eyes, they all mean something, and we know it all perfectly. We've been able to talk like that for years, and we've both known when there's no need to say anything at all. Sometimes talking is just some fake filler for silence people can't handle. But Catnips never been like that. She just sort of has always known. I don't really know exactly when or how it happened, but one day it just was so obvious: a life without Katniss Everdeen wasn't worth living.
Prim puts her tiny hand over my huge one. It's kind of silly, but comforting none the less. "It's both. You want to see things, and you actually do. For once it's not all some lie or trick; It's just… you have to be patient with her."
"How are you so sure?"
"Um, Hello? You're talking to the Everdeen who actually has a clue about feelings. Trust me, Katniss will figure it out eventually. It's just she's really dense about this sort of thing. But give her time, she'll get it: the only guy she feels like that about, the only guy she ever will feel like that about it you." She gives me a few minutes to consider what she said before she adds more. "You should come inside. You already missed President Snow's speech, and I know that's your favorite part." I just roll my eyes at her before heading back into the house.
So far this plan is actually working out ok, which is a miracle considering I made it up on the spot. Oh sure, all that stuff I told Katniss about the breakup of Career packs is true, but I hadn't come up with a plan for how to handle it. Ever since I got to the Capitol I knew it'd be a problem.
Marvel's an ok enough guy I suppose, but I knew when push came to shove I could handle him. I'd assumed District 2 would have one serious tribute, one lighter weight one, but just my luck it's two hardcore killers who each scored a 10. The District 4 kids weren't anything special (One even died in the bloodbath) but District 2 alone was a major problem, regardless of how weak or strong the rest were.
I don't know where I came up with this idea; maybe all the staring that love sick idiot Peeta was doing got me thinking. Seriously, I don't know who that kid thinks he's fooling. A stunt like that interview and then we're supposed to believe he's on our side? I don't think even Cato's that dumb. But when the time came I'm sure he'd have made a good hostage, I know Clove would have loved that. Sadist bitch. I may be in this to win and know what it takes, but I'm not doing it for the sheer pleasure of the deed like she is.
It's odd what a contrast Katniss is from Clove. Both brunette, both like ranged weapons, both short, both have almost identical scores. But Katniss is actually… normal. Which to a girl who's been in an academy since she was 7 like means she's damned weird.
She seems almost incapable of deception; even a poker face is tough for her. When I fired that arrow up at her in the tree the look on her face was plain as day: the look of someone who can do a thing well watching it done poorly. Yeah, I'll admit it, I suck with a bow. As a Career I've learned to use basically every weapon there is, some a lot better than others, but I never much was into the ranged stuff; it just isn't my style at all. It's just so much more elegant and gratifying to fight face to face.
Just dumb luck the weapon I pick, my worst, happens to be Katniss' best. Even better is the fact she can hunt (or so she claims, and since I don't think she can pull off a lie, I believe her). I'm thinking what I did won't be popular with my mentor, and she may take it out on me in the form of no more parachutes, so I'm dependent on Katniss for food once what I'm carrying runs out.
It's a bit of an uneasy situation between Katniss and I; we both know these Games only end one way, and sooner or later (unless something bad happens first) we'll be enemies. But for now we're not focusing that far into the future. Instead the beginnings of trust are holding this weird little alliance together, but I'm not really sure how to build on that. Katniss doesn't seem to say much, and trust isn't really my thing to begin with, so I've got no idea where we go from here. Maybe over time it'll grow? Hopefully enough that we can work together, but not too much; it'll just make the end that much harder. But if it does come down to Katniss and I at least it'll be a fight worth having, not some pathetic slaughter; at least one fight in these Games can have some pride associated with it.
God, I really need to stop over thinking all this. After all these years it's so much easier for me to be around people you can't trust. Figure out when I need them, when they need me, see the angles, be ready for the attack and make sure I hit first.
I just plain need to stop all this nonsense about trust. Katniss and I will work together because it's good for both of us, we'll deal with all the other tributes then we see who's the better girl. Gotta just stay focused on that. Come on Glimmer, don't lose it here. Keep your eyes ahead! You wanted this for years, trained for it all your life, don't get lost in your own head!
We're finally coming to the clearing around the Cornucopia (thank god!) so it's time to focus; time to act. All the rest just gets in the way now. I stop and turn to Katniss, speaking in a low voice. "Stay here, this shouldn't take long." She give me a skeptical look. "If the Career pack was here we'd have seen or heard them by now; it looks like we beat them here. That means as far as anyone knows, I'm still a loyal Career. Trust me, this will be easy. I'll meet you right back here in a few minutes."
It's pretty clear Katniss is suspicious, but seriously, what's her plan? We walk into the Career camp together? Yeah, that's smart. The Careers (with a possible exception or two) aren't idiots; there's a guard left here: Vera, the District 4 girl.
She sees me soon enough and waves, clearly bored. All she's had to do all night is watch for an attack (extremely unlikely) or theft attempt (also unlikely), and make sure that kid from District 3 that claims he can rearm the mines doesn't double cross us. Lousy job. Glad it wasn't me.
Vera walks over to me, smiling. "Hey, Glimmer, what are you doing back? Where's everyone else?"
"We found fire girl, chased her into a tree. But my stupid bow broke, so I need a new weapon. Cheap string, probably made in 12 or something like that." I roll my eye for dramatic effect. I know Katniss heard that and is doing the same. She's way too fun to tease.
"Well ok. But are the others going to be back soon? This guard duty is boring! I want to go out and do something. Anything is better than this!"
"Yeah, seemed like they were gonna break camp and get back here soon, one way or another." I head into the Cornucopia, grabbing a sword with a long, slightly curved blade. Feels good to have a weapon I actually like in my hands again.
"What about fire girl? I haven't heard her cannon yet."
I shrug and put the sword and scabbard on my hip. "No idea. Should be done soon though. Cato's way too impatient, you know." I'm about to head out when on a whim I grab some prepackaged food to take with me.
Vera gives me a disapproving look. "Seriously Glimmer? You eat too much and you're gonna get fat!"
"Me? Never!" I give Vera my best friendly smile. "It's for Clove. I think after she saw me at the interviews she's given up on her figure. She totally knows I've got her beat."
Vera giggles and waves goodbye to me as I head back to the woods. "Yeah, she looked ticked when she saw that dress. Take care of yourself out there, Glimmer! Good luck!"
I walk back into the woods and find Katniss right where I left her. She falls into step next to me (The girl moves real quietly through the woods, a lot quieter than me. I'm sort of jealous.) and we head deeper into the woods. After several hundred yards she looks at me. "What, big bad Career girl had a chance to kill a fellow tribute and didn't take it?"
I stop and look at her coldly. "Shut up." And I was starting to like her too.
I'll never understand how sweetheart manages to make friends with that personality of hers; I've always figured her and the kid get along and hunt together due to mutual surliness. That one's not too hard to see honestly. Why bread boy would fall in love with her though? Who the hell knows. I don't even know how a townie would see her enough to fall in love. What, he all big and doe eyed staring at her in school or something?
You do this long enough and you see a lot of weird shit and people actually liking sweetheart is no exception. Hell, the Capitol fell in love with that whole star-crossed lovers shit, those suckers. I wonder what they'd have said if they saw sweetheart take a swing at bread boy in private afterwards.
Just goes to show what bullshit these Games are. Doesn't matter who's in them, what they're like, what life they used to have; it's all just drama and bullshit to look better on TV. I just wish those kids would read the damned script I've written for them. Pisses me off, because for once it's actually worth the effort to do something; they both have some sort of chance to win.
Those outfits at the parade were great, so was the hand holding thing (even if sweetheart hated it) and his whole declaration of love played great. Sweetheart was too stunned to manage much of a reaction, which looked perfect for the cameras. After all, with her looking stunned is as good as it gets for her acting skills.
When they went into the Games though, things went sideways fast. Sweetheart got out of the bloodbath like a told her to, but bread boy actually stayed, waiting around for the Careers wanting to join them. And somehow the crazy kid actually managed to talk his way into the alliance! I couldn't fucking believe it; District 12 tributes never make deals with Careers; they get killed by them. He claimed he could help them find sweetheart, sold them a bunch of bull about what she could do. I'm not sure they bought it, but they kept him around anyway.
He didn't seem so thrilled when the alliance actually found sweetheart; sucks when your plans come back to bite you in the ass. And when all your lies fail it's even worse. If it wasn't all life and death and shit it'd be funny.
Next it was princess from over in District 1 that went off script, betrayed the whole alliance to team up with sweetheart. Man, her mentor was pissed. I didn't know they taught those beauty queens some of those words. Looks like sweetheart and princess are a pretty stable team for the moment too. Weird. Well, all this crazy shit has everyone's attention at least, and that means two things: sponsors and Gamemakers staying the hell out of things. Good thing about the sponsors too, I somehow doubt princess will get too many parachutes sent her way, no matter what the money situation is over at the District 1 mentor station.
Hmm, what's that on the monitor? Oh joy, they're about to run into another friend. It's so much easier when I can just get shit face drunk rather than catering to difficult women.