Author: cali-chan PM
"Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do. Peeta/Katniss and other pairings, AU.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Peeta M. & Katniss E. - Chapters: 30 - Words: 161,992 - Reviews: 626 - Favs: 288 - Follows: 539 - Updated: 05-09-13 - Published: 01-23-12 - id: 7768246
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Chapter 21: Exit strategies
Author: Carla, aka cali-chan
Rating: Most likely PG-13. Nothing worse than what's in the books.
Genre: Adventure/suspense/drama/romance... again, pretty much what's in the books.
Pairings: Peeta/Katniss, Rory/Prim... and probably others. You'll see soon.
Canon/timeline: Same-context AU— this fic still happens in the same world as THG, but the actual events in the books never happened. I'm adding about five years to the characters from the age they were at the beginning of The Hunger Games. Katniss is 21.
Disclaimer: Yeah, just let me go get my transfer laser and switch bodies with Suzanne Collins. Until I find it in the mess that is my room, anything you can recognize belongs to her.
Note: I've never really tried this before (and I'm sure it will eventually come back and bite me in the behind), but each chapter will be from the PoV of a different character. You should be able to tell whose PoV it is fairly easily, though.
Note 2: I've paraphrased a quote from a late-90's romantic comedy in this chapter. If you can spot it, you'll probably know who my take on Madge is (partly) inspired by.
Warning: This chapter marks the start of the Games, so it does include the expected violence and some gruesome imagery.
Summary: "Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do.
"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers." —Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
The countdown came down to zero... and nothing happened.
Madge took a cursory look at the people around her before turning back to the big screens. It was obvious, from the murmurs suddenly emerging from the crowd, that everybody was confused by this. It was obvious, from the tributes' worried and anxious expressions, that they were just as confused as their audience was. She could see it in their eyes: Could they get off their platforms safely now? Should they wait until the gong rang? Would the gong even ring at all? What was happening?
One, two minutes went by and the cracks started showing. The girl from Nine collapsed to her knees and started crying, wailing hysterically, visibly upsetting the tributes nearest to her. The boys from Five and Eleven seemed to decide, around the same time, that just because the gong hadn't rung, didn't mean the mines hadn't been deactivated. So, almost in tandem, they each took a step off the platform...
She was just fast enough to cover her eyes when the explosions came. The screams from the crowd said it all. The anguished screeches of the girl from Nine became even more strident.
It was almost a full minute later that the gong finally rang, and Madge told herself, reluctantly, that she had to watch. Some tributes, the Careers in particular, jumped off their platforms right away, without a problem. Several others, however, seemed to still be confused about what happened and it took them a second to realize that the Games were officially on. Unfortunately for them, one second's hesitation at this point was one second too long, and they were easy prey. Nine's shrieking got cut off abruptly as the boy from Two snapped her neck.
Madge wrapped her arms around her torso to keep herself from shaking, and instead focused on Prim. She started running away from the Cornucopia just around the time the first tributes made it to the weapons stash. There wasn't as much action on her side, so the cameras weren't on her as much, and sometimes she had to switch from screen to screen to catch a glimpse of her.
This arena was different than most she'd seen in previous years. At a superficial glance it looked like a forest, which was a true and trusted option the Gamemakers didn't mind falling back on. Upon closer inspection, though, one could see it wasn't your usual forest arena. The Cornucopia and the tributes' platforms were located in a small clearing, but it was actually an island, a small patch of land surrounded by clear water. Out of that water rose the trunks of incredibly tall, imposing trees, the likes of which she had only seen in books. Each plant had to be over 200 feet in height and 15 feet in diameter, with a tall canopy of wide, green leaves that kept the area among the trees under permanent shade. If there was any solid ground further into the trees, she couldn't see it.
Prim was almost to the edge of the water, and Madge's heart was almost beating out of her chest. Was she going to climb the nearest tree? Higher ground was usually safer, but it would hinder her mobility, which could be fatal when she was so close to the Cornucopia. But could she risk going into the water? Did she even know how to swim? Few people in Twelve did.
Prim seemed to stop for a moment, contemplating just that, and Madge grew anxious by the second. Don't pause! She was too focused on Prim to even pay attention to the rest of the bloodshed happening at the Cornucopia, but she knew hesitating even for a moment could make the girl a sitting duck. Climb or swim, it doesn't matter, as long as you get away now!
But just as it seemed she had finally decided how to move, she fell face down into the sand. Several people around Madge gasped, as did she, and she felt her heart jump up to her throat. The camera panned out to reveal that someone had thrown a weighted rope that coiled itself around her ankles and tripped her. The source of the attack was the girl from Ten, who was now walking up to Prim carrying a full length of rope on her shoulder.
Prim turned to look over her shoulder, and upon realizing who her attacker was, her eyes widened, her breath quickened and she started hurriedly pushing herself toward the water with her forearms, a slow crawl the best she could do with her legs bound together. The girl from Ten approached her slowly, her steps more of a saunter as if she was wholly unconcerned with the carnage happening around them.
Madge was holding herself so tightly, her fingers were digging into her sides painfully. Please, no, she thought, unable to tear her eyes away from the sight of Prim's terrified expression on-screen. Please don't kill Prim. Not Prim. She doesn't deserve this, please... The huge girl stood only about ten feet away from Prim and Madge was sure it was all over, when something that looked like a heavy metal rod hit Ten on the side of her head, hard.
It was KJ. The cheer that erupted from the crowd at the Town Square was deafening.
He didn't say anything, just rushed to try and get another hit. It was a testament to the superior constitution of the girl that she was already starting to get up when he swung again. Prim remained on the ground, pale and with her mouth open, almost like she wanted to scream, but it seemed nothing would come out of her mouth— whether that was out of fear, or shock that he had apparently saved her, they couldn't be sure, but it could be either.
She stared at the two of them grappled for the metal rod. The hulking girl was stronger than KJ; the struggle wouldn't last too long, but he gave back as much as he could. But suddenly he dropped into a crouch and rolled off to the side. The girl was pushing at him so hard, the moment the resistance disappeared, she tumbled to the ground, smacking right into the rod she couldn't let go of fast enough. The crowd was still reeling when he turned his head toward Prim. "I can take her, dammit! GO!"
The audience resounded with exclamations of disbelief; one of them was Madge's. KJ actually got into a scuffle with one of the most feared tributes this year to help Prim. She couldn't remember something like this ever happening in her lifetime; tributes from the same district teaming up was rare. District loyalty could only get you so far when you were fighting for your life.
Surprising as it was, his exclamation shook Prim out of her daze. She sat up and started tugging at the ropes on her ankles, trying to get free. Once she was finally out of the hold, she took one last look at KJ, who was still struggling with Ten for the rod, and took off at a run toward the trees.
She made it to the edge of the sand and was about to go into the water when she noticed someone else had the same idea: the girl from Four, who could probably swim better than she could run, and was carrying something that looked like a complicated rifle. In the split second it took Prim to look in her direction, she was already executing a perfect dive between two tree trunks and disappearing under water. In the blink of an eye she had resurfaced.
Her anguished howls came out among gurgles as the liquid corroded the inside of her throat.
It wasn't water.
The sight stopped Prim dead in her tracks, barely a foot away from the edge of the liquid. Her face went ashen— a little green, actually. It was an expression Madge wasn't used to seeing on the girl's face, given that she worked with injured people all the time and years of doing so had made her immune to sights that would have most people reaching for a bucket. But Madge couldn't blame her; the skin was literally peeling off the poor girl's body while she was still alive to feel it, and it was just about the most gruesome thing she had ever seen in her life. She felt she might be sick herself. Several people in the crowd had run off to retch in a corner; she knew because she could hear the Peacekeepers ordering them to come back and keep watching.
She could see the helplessness in Prim's expression. She had an inherent instinct to help people in pain, but this one was out of her hands. Don't try to save her, Madge thought desperately. She could see Prim start to inch her way toward the blistering mess that was the other girl. You can't save her! But she seemed to have learned her lesson about hesitating, so she turned with an audible sob, and made for a tree trunk, making sure not to touch the liquid below her as she started to climb. Soon she was out of sight of the wide-shot cameras, and they didn't bother following her as she got away from the Cornucopia.
After getting the girl from Ten away from Prim, KJ continued fighting her, the struggle taking them to the opposite end of the clearing. The girl was bleeding profusely from the side of her head, ear and mouth, and she seemed to be favoring her right arm on purpose— perhaps her left shoulder was dislocated. KJ's nose was broken and bleeding as well, and a darkening in his jersey (which was what all the tributes were wearing, long-sleeved fitted jerseys and functional trunks), on his right side, prompted Caesar Flickerman to conjecture that he might have one or more broken ribs. And still both kept fighting.
The boy from One, who was skilled at knife-throwing, attempted to take out one or both while they were distracted with each other, directing one of his heavily serrated weapons to embed itself in the girl's already injured shoulder. This alerted KJ to the danger, however, and his second and third shots got dodged. He was not nearly as good when it came to close-range combat, so when KJ came at him with the metal rod, his knives didn't help him much. That was new as well: it was the first time a tribute from Twelve killed a Career tribute since... possibly since the time Haymitch Abernathy won his Games.
Just as the boy from One lost consciousness, a rope wound itself around KJ's neck. The girl from Ten had gotten up, savagely pulled the knife out of her shoulder and, making use of her one uninjured arm, lassoed KJ and started strangling him. The boy could not get out of it, the knot was too sturdy. He had nothing he could use to cut the rope. His struggle was short-lived.
It was one of the bloodiest bloodbaths of all time. Fifteen tributes died in total.
Once the broadcast was over and the Peacekeepers started herding everybody back home, Madge tried to push the horrible images of that night out of her head. At least Prim was still alive. Fifteen tributes— fifteen children— were murdered in cold blood not just by other children, but by a bloodthirsty government that used them to deliver a sadistic message. Nothing could make that better, nothing ever did, but at least Prim still stood a chance.
It being the first day of the Games, there was a section at the front of the crowd reserved for the tributes' families. During the broadcast Madge had tried not to stare at the seat where Katniss would've sat, had she not left the district. Now, she found herself staring hard at it, to avoid having her gaze fall on KJ's mother, a frail-looking woman who was sitting just a few seats away, crying hysterically as she repeated "My baby! My baby!" over and over.
As she waited for her father, who was speaking to some merchants, she discreetly looked around, searching for a familiar figure. It had been over ten days since she'd last seen Gale. She hadn't been able to catch anything new on her father's closed-circuit TV, so she'd had no reason to search him out, and she hadn't seen him around town either, probably because the fence around the district was now permanently electrified and that meant he couldn't hunt.
It's not that she was expecting him to randomly stop by just to say hello; a couple of civil conversations didn't exactly make them friends. But she couldn't help but be worried: just two days previous there had been a massive cave-in at the mines, which affected several tunnels and trapped hundreds of men. Rescue crews were still working to get many of them out.
Her father had warned her to keep a close watch on the names of those confirmed deceased, because they needed to have a complete list for the medal-awarding ceremony which was customary when there were accidents in the mines. So every day that list grew, and she was scared Gale's name would wind up in there eventually. She didn't even want to think what would happen to his family if he died; it would be too cruel. She could only imagine they were already devastated by the situation with Prim and Katniss.
She looked around for a few more minutes. He shouldn't be that hard to find, he was taller than almost everyone in Twelve, after all! But there was no sign of him (or his mother, or siblings) anywhere. As her gaze swept past the edges of what remained of the crowd, she saw a large group of people gathering to the back of the square. These kinds of scenes were happening far too often for her liking.
"The Peacekeepers are settling a fight," her father commented as he came to stand beside her, his vision static on the commotion ahead. Madge nodded. She could hear the sound of the batons hitting flesh as the Peacekeepers brought them down hard against whoever it was they were punishing, the screams of the people who were observing the event directly. Even though she couldn't see because of all the people around them, she had to avert her eyes; it was almost like watching the broadcast of the Games all over again.
Her father went to try and stop the aggression or at least find out what it was about. He told her to go straight home, and she was feeling so bad already, she couldn't muster a protest. As she was walking away from the square through the few yards that separated her from her house, she took a look back and saw the Peacekeepers parting the crowd and pushing two men, hands held behind their backs, toward the Justice Building. They'd most likely spend time in jail until the Peacekeepers decided they had learned their lesson, or maybe they'd be put in the stocks for the night.
She was still walking forward while looking behind her, so she wasn't expecting it when someone grabbed her by her elbow. She couldn't help but let out a yelp. If her mother ever asked, such an unladylike noise never came out of her mouth. "Gale!" she exclaimed when she saw who her sudden companion was. "Goodness, you scared me!"
He looked down at her with something akin to amusement. "Were you expecting to get mugged right in front of the square, in broad daylight?"
She thought she was justified in being a little jumpy, given that she'd just watched fifteen kids be killed violently, but she wasn't that morbid as to bring it up, let alone in front of Gale Hawthorne of all people. "Sorry, you just... I'm still shaking from the nerves, I guess," she admitted. She tried to still her agitated heart. "I'm glad to see you're okay," she told him, sincerely. "I was worried, you know, with the cave-in."
He rolled his eyes, and she had the feeling he didn't buy that she cared enough to worry. "Yeah. The tunnels we were working on collapsed later. My crew managed to get out in time." He ran a hand through his hair. "Lucky me, I wouldn't want to miss any of this spectacle," he added, signaling behind him toward the screens where the Games were shown.
She didn't know what to say to that, but she understood that the horrible broadcast they'd just seen was enough to put a sour note on anyone's day. Her own stomach was still rolling, and she wasn't the only one who had someone she cared about in the Games. "How's Rory doing?" she asked. The last time she'd seen the boy, he'd been visibly upset. She couldn't imagine how he was feeling now, having to watch the girl he loved run for her life in the arena.
Gale frowned. "Not good, I guess." His expression morphed into a grimace. "He hasn't been speaking to me all that much. At least Prim made it out of the bloodbath." It sounded like he was speaking to himself more than to her. "I don't even want to think what's going to happen if she doesn't..." He trailed off, almost angry at himself for even saying that much. Like voicing the fact that Prim might die somehow made the possibility more real.
"She'll be alright," she said, out of reflex laying a hand on his arm in a comforting manner. When she realized what she was doing, she pulled her hand back. "Two thirds of the tributes are already out of the running." It was so wrong to say that, mention these children's deaths like nothing but a statistic, but it did make Prim's chances greater and that was about the only positive aspect of this whole situation.
His expression immediately turned stony. "But she wasn't supposed to go in at all," he snapped at her. "That's what Katniss was supposed to—" He cut himself off abruptly, realizing that he was about to say too much. He paused, took a deep breath, and started again, in a lower tone this time: "The whole idea of Katniss going there was to make sure Prim wouldn't have to go into the arena. If she still had to go in, then that means Katniss..."
Once again he didn't finish the phrase, but she could follow the thought: it meant Katniss had failed. That's what really scared him. She was scared of that, too. As much as she kept telling herself that no news was good news, the reality was that they had no idea if Peeta and Katniss had even made it to Prim at all. Maybe they'd been found out and captured. Maybe they were already dead. They could be lying in a ditch somewhere and no one would be the wiser. But it was another one of those thoughts that were too painful to voice aloud.
"Well, it wasn't very realistic to expect her to do such a thing in two weeks," she said, trying to give it an optimistic spin.
"I know that," he glared at her. "It was the only way she could—"
Obviously he had misunderstood her. She immediately clarified: "What I meant was, maybe she's still working on it. Maybe she's still trying to get Prim out somehow, but it'll take some time. They've obviously got people helping them now, but the logistics for the Games are really complex." She shrugged. "We have to believe they're still trying."
He seemed to still be biting back whatever it was he was going to say before, but managed to keep it in. Instead, still frowning (but when was he ever not?), he huffed a little and shoved his hands in his pockets. "Look, I just wanted to tell you that I'm leaving."
That was the last thing she had been expecting to hear from Gale, and her immediate reaction was to question his bad timing. There was no way he could get to the Capitol at that point: the train with the mail had come and gone, and the next train (mostly imports from other districts) would not be coming in until four days later, and not leaving until the next week. The Games usually delayed all train schedules.
But then he said he wasn't going to the Capitol but to District Thirteen and— looking more excited than she'd ever seen him, which was actually kind of bizarre— started going on about video feeds, and nuclear weapons, and mockingjays flying over Justice Buildings, and she thought that maybe she should've questioned his sanity, instead. She knew doing so would only make him angry, though. "Maybe they're reusing footage," she suggested, trying to sound helpful. "It's happened before."
He scowled at her for a moment (right, she'd made him angry anyway), then shook his head. "What if they're not?" The usual edge of disgruntlement was creeping into his voice again. He stepped closer to her so she would hear his words through clenched teeth. "What if there's something out there and they're trying to hide it? Even if people wanted to check, they wouldn't survive in the forest. But I can. So I have to."
She wondered at how adamant he sounded. She didn't know him that well, but she knew he, like Katniss, was very rational. He wasn't the type to be reckless... not with his family's well-being on the line. Not unless he was doing it for a reason he considered equally important. Usually Katniss. But going off to look for dead cities in the wilderness was not something he was doing for Katniss. Or was he? "Does this have something to do with what Peeta—"
"This has nothing to do with Mellark, okay?" he cut her off a little too quickly, and it was that, more than anything, that told her yes, this had everything to do with Peeta. "He can say whatever he wants, I don't care," he continued, cutting in his dismissal. "All I know is, there's a rebellion going on, and for some reason they're using Katniss to get the districts' attention. But it hasn't touched Twelve yet. The only way to get involved is to go to it, and I think Thirteen has something to do with it."
Honestly, she couldn't blame him for being upset over the unexpected revelations the day the training scores were announced, so instead she tried to remain conciliatory and appeal to his rational side. "So you're going to risk your neck by going across the very electrified fence and into the forest... because of a bird?" Her tone conveyed the absurdity of this plan in what she hoped was a careful manner. "Did you not see what happened to those men a few minutes ago?"
He scoffed. "Katniss managed to get out just fine."
"That was before Thread," she pointed out, smartly.
"Listen, I didn't come here to get your permission, alright?" he threw back, clearly exasperated. "I just thought I'd have common courtesy and let you know that you don't need to keep your ears open anymore." The emphasis was unnecessary; she remembered she had demanded just that from him, common courtesy, days ago. He clenched his jaw. "I'm taking things into my own hands now."
Clearly, the more she tried to convince him this was a bad idea, the more determined he would be to go through with it, and frankly she was getting a little irritated herself, so she stopped pushing. "Alright. How will you get across the fence?"
"I'll figure it out," he replied, crossing his arms.
She held back the urge to roll her eyes. "What about at work? Surely someone will notice you're missing."
He shook his head. "The cave-in was really big, affected several tunnels. The mines will probably stay closed for two or three weeks. I should be back before then." He paused to take a look around, then continued speaking, apparently a little less agitated now, and thus better at keeping his tone in check. That was good, at least it wouldn't look like he was snarling at her anymore. "If I miss any mandatory viewings, they'll assume I'm still trapped down there, or probably dead," he added.
She had to admit that was probably what they would do. The Peacekeepers, and even her father's office, only received notice of miners confirmed dead, not those rescued alive or still missing. "When are you leaving?" was logically the next question.
"Tomorrow. Early," he said, with a small shrug. "I can only avoid Peacekeepers for so long. Don't wanna give Thread a chance to remember I lied to him about the whole Katniss running off into the forest thing." Once again he looked around, like he was trying to find someone. "I have to talk to Thom, see if he'll help out my family for a few days. Or maybe Bristel; he owes me anyway."
She knew how people from the Seam were when it came to other people giving them stuff. She'd sat with Katniss at lunch for years and the girl never accepted when Madge offered her some of her own food— even when she brought too much. It was a question of pride for her: what for Madge was generosity, Katniss saw as charity; like accepting help meant she failed at providing for her family. She knew Gale would be the same. But she would feel like the lowest person on earth if she didn't at least offer: "I can take care of your family."
As expected, he seemed galled by this. "What? No. I just said I'd ask Bristel." He was looking at her like she'd grown a second head. "You don't have to be involved in this."
"It's not a problem, really," she insisted. He shouldn't be getting more people mixed up in this, his plan was risky enough as it was, and it was unfair to trouble his miner friends with having to support four more mouths when they barely made enough for themselves. She could help... she wanted to help. "I've been taking care of the budget for the house lately, no one will even notice if I spend a little more—"
"If you have enough money that you can afford to just give away food, then you should give it to someone who really needs it," he interrupted her roughly. "My family will be fine without your help." She knew it had been the wrong argument to use, that he was sensitive about her being well-off while his own family struggled, but once again he was talking down at her like she'd insulted him when she didn't mean it that way.
"Would you stop being on the defensive for just one second?" she finally snapped. She hadn't meant for it to come out so harshly, but his attitude was so frustrating, she couldn't help it. Here he was, planning to get out of Twelve and leave her not only with guarding Katniss's secret all on her own, but also his own when he suddenly went missing, and he couldn't even have the decency to take her offer as the sign of good will she meant it to be? "I didn't offer to rub it in your face that I have more money than you, or to imply I'm superior in any way. And it's not charity," she added as he opened his mouth to object, knowing very well that's what he'd been about to say.
"I'm not doing this for you, I'm doing this for me," she stated, trying to hold on to her determination. She could feel her irritation giving way to anxiety, but she needed to get this out. She needed to say this. For possibly the first time in her life, she knew exactly what she wanted to say and she was going to say it. "I... I'm not like Katniss, Gale. I'm not like you. I'm not much of a rebel—I'm not even much of a spy. It's been like two weeks, and how much information have I produced? Barely anything." She sighed.
"You can afford to leave your family now, because you know even if things will be tough for them in your absence, if the rebellion wins, they'll be better off, and that's worth any risk. But I can't do that," she admitted. "I can't put my father's position in jeopardy like that." She shook her head, sadly.
"But just because I can't go and fight doesn't mean I don't see what's happening all around me. It doesn't mean I don't want to make things right. So if making sure your family stays safe and fed while you're away is the only thing I can do, then that's what I'm going to do," she marked those last words with as much resolve as she could muster. "Because I have to do something— I can't just stay here feeling useless, Gale." She looked up at him, feeling like she had had a breakthrough even though her eyes were starting to water from the intensity. "I thought you of all people would understand what it feels like to be left behind."
He didn't say anything for what felt like a really long time, only looked back at her, his brow knit ever so slightly— not in his usual hostile manner, but more like he was thoughtful, or trying to figure something out. She took a small step back, realizing how close they really were standing. There was always a fervor to Gale's presence and attitude, but now he was looking at her like he was seeing her for the very first time. To have that intensity directed at her was... a little unsettling. "What?"
"Just..." he narrowed his eyes just the tiniest bit, like his attempt at figuring her out had led him to a conclusion he couldn't quite believe. "Just don't tell them anything, okay? Tell them I went to look for Katniss, or something." She guessed by "them," he meant his family, and she recognized that as an indirect acceptance of her offer, which she appreciated.
His mother and siblings would be hurt that he left without an explanation, that much she knew. But again, it was probably better not to involve them in this. Knowing too much was dangerous. "Everyone will buy that," he added. "They all think I'm pining for her anyway," he finished, sounding disgruntled.
She simply nodded. The situation had to be hard for him. She wasn't one to gossip, and she'd never inquired about the nature of Gale and Katniss' relationship, although she'd always thought it ran deeper than just friendship. Either way, she wasn't completely clueless: she knew most people certainly thought they were an item, and that many expected they'd get married eventually. Even if it was just a lie, and even if he did it to help Katniss, it must have hurt, having to tell basically the entire district that she'd "run off" with another man, and having to endure the pity that followed.
She looked behind her and noticed that the square was almost empty now. It wouldn't be a good idea for them to keep going with this exchange; not if Gale planned to lay low until the next morning. With less people around, there was more of a chance of a Peacekeeper catching sight of him, so she pointed out that it was better if he went home. He agreed.
He started walking toward the Seam, intending to take a back road to ensure he wouldn't be seen. She took a few steps toward her house, coming to a stop in front of the gate. She hadn't meant to say anything else, not really; but just as he was about to take a right at the tailor's, she found herself calling out to him. "Gale. Are you?"
He turned back to look at her. "Am I what?"
"Pining for Katniss."
The words were out of her mouth before she could stop them. She knew she shouldn't have asked; it was none of her business, and it didn't change anything, anyway. But she couldn't help herself. She told herself she wanted to know because she didn't want him to hurt; she wouldn't tell anyone he went "looking for Katniss" if it would make even his family look at him with sadness. It wasn't fair to him.
He remained quiet, just looked back at her without any particular expression on his face. Then he put his hands in his pockets and turned on his heel, heading home. She pushed her gate open and walked down the path to her porch, reflecting on their entire conversation.
She'd have to think of a different cover story for him.
1. This sounds horrible, but I always wanted one of the tributes to get blown off by stepping off the platform too early. I felt Suzanne Collins set it up but then never used it... thought it was a missed opportunity. So I had to use it here.
2. I was THIS close (-raises index and thumb about half an inch apart-) to actually making the arena a gigantic cake. No, really. I was honestly tempted. I managed to reel it in, though. Sorry, Peeta, bb! :P
3. I know many of you were expecting KJ to last longer in the Games. Truth is, from the beginning I intended for him to die in the bloodbath, but then I was too much of a sap and gave him more of a backstory than I was supposed to. Sorry about that! You can rest assured, though, that his influence on the story is far from over. I promise.
4. Go ahead, tell me how crazy Gale's plan is. I'll be inclined to agree with you.
5. As of this chapter, Ricochet is officially over 100K words in length. Lord have mercy...
In the meantime, though, I can't believe this fic has reached over 400 reviews! You guys! I don't even know what to say except thanks, and I hope you keep supporting this story as we go along. Still plenty of plot to go through! Next up is Prim's PoV, so get ready to dive fully into the arena. Don't forget to review! :)