The glass bowl in the center of the square contained only three slips of paper reading Finnick Odair. Slim chance for him to be called up onto that stage. That didn't stop Siobhan from attacking him with a wet comb the minute he stepped downstairs that morning.

"You can't wear that," she said as she brushed his hair. "It's practically see-through."

"So?" he said, trying to grab the brush from her. She sighed but relinquished it.

"Go put on a sweater," she said, her hands on her hips. Finnick opened his mouth to argue, but something caught the words in his throat. Arguing with your family on Reaping day seemed like bad luck. He went back upstairs and changed.

By the time he got downstairs, Neil was at the stove, frying up last night's fish. Finnick raised his arms to get Siobhan's approval. "Better?" he asked. She nodded tersely.

Breakfast was quiet, and before he knew it they were grabbing coats and ushering him out the door. "Isn't Dad coming?" Finnick asked Neil as he locked up.

"Not today," Neil said gruffly. Finnick knew better than to argue.

They were among the first to arrive. Finnick's finger was pricked and he was waved in with the other fourteen year old boys. He started kicking a rock for entertainment. None of the boys his age came over to talk to him. Finnick was never exactly liked by his own gender. He was too pretty, too chatty, and had beaten them all too many times to make many friends. Girls, on the other hand, loved him. Not that he really made friends with girls either, just fooled around with them for a while until he got bored and moved on. He wished that they would get a move on. He was already hungry and Siobhan had promised him a cake after dinner. It wasn't like there was any suspense in the Reapings in District Four. Whoever had the highest rank in the lists would volunteer and then he would go home and sit in the kitchen with Neil and Siobhan as the recaps played in the other room.

The town square slowly started to fill with people. He looked them over distractedly, wondering who was going to volunteer this year. Maybe they'd even win. It would be nice to have a victor from four again.

A hush fell over the crowd and Finnick looked up. The Panem national anthem began to play. One by one, the previous victors from Four marched across the stage. Finnick stifled a yawn. Finally the mayor stepped up and introduced Andronicus Fisher, the escort for District Three. His plastic surgery had gotten to the point where he'd started to look like someone drowned, bloated lips and stretched, unnaturally tinted skin.

"Happy Hunger Games!" he called out. His voice was oddly high pitched and sounded forced. All of the plastic surgery of his face couldn't hide the slight hunch of his shoulders or the tremble in his hands as he waved them around excitedly. "And may the odds be ever in your favor!"

Its an old line, one Finnick had been hearing since birth. He shifted slightly. Odds didn't have much to do with winning in a career district like theirs.

"Let us start," Andronicus wheezed, "With the gentlemen."

A ripple of excitement spread through the boys, but mostly died out by the time it reached the boys his age. They knew they had little to no chance of getting into the arena, no matter whose name was called.

Andronicus hobbled over to the bowl and dropped a claw-like hand in. He made a big show of fishing around for a name. The crowd was dead silent. You could hear a pin drop. Andronicus pulled out a thin slip of paper and crossed back to the microphone.

"The male tribute for District Four is Finnick Odair."

A buzz filled the crowd, but Finnick was scarcely aware of it. His heart was in his throat. He was Finnick Odair.

He had just been reaped for the Hunger Games.

Finnick scarcely had time to process this before someone shoved him forward. Stumbling, he made his way up to the stage.

"Lovely," wheezed Andronicus. "Now. Are there any volunteers?"

A wave of relaxation flooded him. Of course. He wouldn't be going to the games. Somebody would surely rise up to take his place.

But there was only silence.

No, he thought, no, I can't do this, don't make me- but Andronicus had already moved over to the girl's bowl on the other side of the stage.

What is happening? Somewhere very far away he heard Julia Chamodar called to the stage and from an even greater distance (it seemed) watched as a girl named Russet Taff volunteered to take her place.

He knew that there were those in his district who would have jumped at his chance. He saw them, the boys and girls who spent every Saturday training. They were watching him, their eyes cold and jealous. Then why didn't you volunteer? He felt like screaming. She did!

The tiny part of his brain still functioning rationally supposed he should be proud. Volunteering was considered a promise in Four. They had a rule about it in the training room. You don't volunteer for somebody whose beaten you in the lists. Volunteers who leaped up onto the stage only to die at the Cornucopia were scorned, not mourned. He supposed, in a very detached sort of way, it meant they thought he stood a good chance of winning.

Well, they'll be sorry, he thought with a slightly hysterical humor. I'm fourteen years old, no one's ever won that young. I'm going to die. I'm fourteen years old and I'm going to die.

Someone kicked the back of his chair and he stood, dazed. The mayor had finished his speech. Andronicus grabbed his hand a raised it, already triumphant, into the air.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," he called, "Your tributes in the Sixty Fourth Annual Hunger Games!"

The peacekeepers showed him into a little room off the great hall of the Justice Building and told him to wait here for visitors.

Neil didn't say anything at first, just wrapped his arms around him so tight Finnick almost couldn't breathe. Then he pulled back.

"When you get in the arena, don't do anything stupid, you hear me? And play to your audience. The more popular, the easier it'll be."

"Right," he said, slightly hazily. He couldn't decide whether it was nerves or lightheadedness left over from Neil's hug.

"You're gonna be fine," Neil said, but his eyes were wet and panicked. "Fine."

They showed Siobhan in next. She looked pale beneath her tan, but her jaw was set in the firm line that always told Finnick not even charm could wiggle him off the hook.

"Are you okay?" she asked right away.

"I'm going to miss your wedding," he mumbled.

"Don't be ridiculous," she said. "We'll just hold it when you get back."

He looked her in the eyes for the first time since she'd walked in. "I'm fourteen, Siobhan. I'm practically cannon fodder."

Her hand cracked across his face faster than he could dodge it.

"Snap out of it," she growled. "You're Finnick Odair, alright? You can do this. You want to know why nobody volunteered for you today? Because you're a victor. You've been top of everything since you were ten years old. Since when have you ever let a little thing like nobody's ever done it before stop you?"

Finnick's cheek was burning. So were Siobhan's eyes. He suddenly remembered something she'd told him a long time ago, that when she was fifteen years old her eighteen year old sister had volunteered and had her throat cut open by a boy from District One.

"So here is what you are going to do," she said. "You are going to march up to the Capitol. You're going to turn on that patented Odair charm. You are going to make each and every person in that city love you. And then you are going to do everything it takes to get back home to us, do you hear me?"

He nodded.

"Good," she said harshly. Then her voice and face softened. For a moment Finnick thought he saw his mother somewhere in her face. "I'll see you when you get home."

She got up, her hand trailing along his for a moment, then left. Finnick's vision swam with tears that had nothing to do with the ache in his cheek.

Was it true, what she said? Could he really win the games? It wasn't like he hadn't imagined it. He went to the training rooms on most nights, learned to kill a person hundreds of different ways and survive in a hundred different situations. He could not deny ever lying in bed and hearing Ceasar Flickerman introducing "Your victor, Finnick Odair!" Not like he didn't want the glory and honor. But that was child's stuff, from before he'd gotten old enough to realize what "keeping the districts in line" really meant. That was before Neil's name had to go into that glass bowl again and again to keep Finnick from starving. Before he'd watched Neil's best friend Tempest's guts explode all over his TV screen.

But why couldn't he win? He had been toppling children twice his age since he was three. He was hardly inexperienced. And it was also true that the capitol's favorites had the easiest time. With their weakness for beauty, there was no way he couldn't win them all over.

I could win, he realized. I could do it.

"Mr Odair," a peacekeeper said from the doorway. "Is there anyone else you'd like to see?"

My father, he opened his mouth to say, but then closed it and shook his head. His father was safe at home. Best to just leave him.

"In that case, please come with me to the train."

Finnick rose unsteadily to his feet and followed the peacekeeper through the justice building. It wasn't going to be easy. He'd need a high score from the judges or nobody would be betting on him, no matter how pretty he was. Most times an eight was considered solid, but as a fourteen year old he'd need at least a nine. He wondered fleetingly who his mentor was before the peacekeeper lead him up to the door of the train.

"Your compartment is down the hall," she said, not unkindly. Finnick just nodded. He thought she looked a little put out by his silence, but there was to much going on inside his head to risk opening his mouth. He shuffled down the hall and pushed open the compartment door.

Apparently the capitol had wanted to make it look more homey. The walls were painted like waves, light blue with white caps, and holographic seagulls glimmered in the air above him. Finnick thought it all looked patently ridiculous, but the bed was large and inviting, and he fell right into it and a deep sleep.