Disclaimer : I own nothing, the characters all belong to Suzanne Collins.

Title : "Next time"

Rating : T

Summary : Effie Trinket always said that "next time", she would reap a victor.

Next time…

"I can feel it! Next time will be the one! Next time, I'll reap a victor!" I say to my friends with as much conviction and excitement as I can muster. They each of them tell me how good it is that I keep on being so optimistic. They reassure me : of course, as soon as I reap someone with real potential, he or she will get sponsors and he or she will be a victor.

The Victor's party is not one I attend for fun – that ship has sailed long ago, and I focus on maintaining my bubbly, oblivious, excited – you name it – front. I try to create a web of connections, support for my team. I flirt, flatter, dance, act interested, and make a list of any shadow of information that could help me secure sponsors. I flirt with the Gamesmakers, I flirt with Seneca Crane and do no miss the opportunity to remind them that we were at school together. Schmoozing, schmoozing and more schmoozing, hoping – against all odds, really – that I might secure some support for my team next year, for my tributes, so that they might have a chance of living a little longer.

However, as soon as I may, I get out of there and go back to my flat. There is only so much you can accomplish in one night after all. And there will be many parties throughout the year to strengthen my connections, many interviews and photo shoots.

It is only after I am in my bed, all layers of my full body armour removed, that I can admit it to myself.

I did not really believe this year's tributes had a chance. I do not really believe the children I will reap next year for the 74 th games will have any more chance to come back alive.

I really do not believe in sending children to their deaths as a reminder of a war nearly 75 years old. I do not believe in reaping children, tearing them away from their families, and putting them in an arena where they will fight to their deaths for the people's amusement. And certainly not as a way to maintain peace and order.

I do not believe I can do this for much longer. I do not believe Haymitch can, either.

Another thing I don't admit to myself – except when the dark is my only companion – is that I actually care about the tributes, and that I care about Haymitch Abernathy. Not that I do it constantly, and not that it makes any difference to our relationship, anyway. It does not make us friends. We are not friends. Besides, worry, concern and fear are three things that I am forbidden to show in public.

Nevertheless, after working with someone for twelve years, even one as rude, unkempt and cruel as distrustful Haymitch, one cannot help but see them as they are : a constant in one's life.

I sigh as I open the bottle of my nightly shame. I take one of the sleeping pills and swallow it quickly with some water. My head is fuzzy from the exhaustion, the party, and the fear, but I am entirely unable to sleep without one dose of the blue substance. They are the only thing standing between me and nightmares.

As I lay back on the pillows, trying to help sleep's arrival by recalling happier and simpler times, I think maybe, just maybe, next time…