|The Way I Loved You
Author: Owlowiscious PM
"I know right now it feels like everything is falling apart, but I promise... one day it won't hurt as bad." Peeta is killed before he can be rescued from the Capitol and Katniss finds comfort in someone unexpected.Rated: Fiction T - English - Friendship/Romance - Katniss E. & Finnick O. - Words: 10,364 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 28 - Follows: 7 - Published: 08-02-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8385472
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: This is the reposted (redited) version of my story. This is my first fanfiction and I certainly welcome reviews! =] I'm sorry to those who read this before and favorited it before it got deleted! I've made it a little more crisp than it was before. (Banner: Sail to the Moon by molokolo, deviantart)
I don't own The Hunger Games!
I'm surrounded by chaos. People frantically run in and out of the room; carefully avoiding my frozen figure. This cannot be happening. The piercing blue of his eyes before they were clouded by darkness is still flashing in my vision. He can't be gone… not now. Someone stops behind me and calmly places their hands on my shoulders. I jerk away, unable to stand human contact now and run from the room.
I don't stop until I'm far enough from the room no one could easily find me. Ducking into a storage closet, I curl into a corner, resting my head on my knees. The tears come, stinging my eyes, but I don't even try to stop them. Moments ago he was within reach, now I'll never feel his strong arms wrap around me to keep away the nightmares.
Haymitch had come running into my quarters. I knew something was wrong by the way the man's eyes were glassy despite the lack of liquor in District 13. We arrived in Command to be greeted by a mass of people crowding around the single television. Plutarch spotted me standing in the doorway, unable to bring myself further into the room. This has to do with Peeta, was my only thought before the Gamemaker took my arm and guided me to the front. The image on the screen was my worst nightmare brought to life. Peeta was on his knees in the middle of an almost empty stage.
President Snow stood slightly to the right, "…for the crimes committed against the Capitol. Peeta Mellark will be executed…" He continued on but I couldn't hear him. I fell to my knees in front of the screen and couldn't move. I searched Peeta's face. His expression was as blank as he could make it in the situation. Those blue eyes that I knew all too well were trying not to betray his fear. Peeta was going to leave this world with more pride than his captors have ever shown.
Snow stepped off stage; I assume he had completed his speech. Movement in the room around me had completely ceased; everyone seemed to be holding their breath. A familiar hand found mine and I made no effort to move away from him. I watched as a Peacekeeper moved into the view of the camera, taking his place directly behind Peeta. In a too-quick moment, Peeta looked directly into the camera and his lips moved, forming "I love you" before the bullet shot through his head.
I gasp violently, sobs wracking my body. I love you too. I lay on my side against the cold cement floor. It's uncomfortable, but at least I can feel something other than emptiness. I close my eyes; maybe if I just wake up he won't be gone. If I just go to sleep now, he'll be trying to wake me from this nightmare and I can tell him how sorry I really am. I can tell him what I was too afraid to tell him before now. I can't believe how selfish I really am.
"Katniss." His warm hands move from shaking my shoulders, to cupping either side of my face. "It's just a nightmare, please wake up."
I open my eyes and gaze into his blue ones, so very close to my face. A smile creeps across my lips as I raise a hand to brush the curly blonde hair off his forehead.
"Hi," he whispers.
"Hi." The tears I felt forming behind my eyes begin to fall, "I thought I had lost you." He shakes his head as he moves his thumbs across my cheekbones.
"Never. I'm always going to be here with you."
I'm crying openly now, because I know it's a lie. Peeta doesn't lie to me, but I let him this time because the truth is too hard to face. I whisper, "I hope so" before leaning up to kiss him.
"Katniss!" I'm jerked awake by people moving loudly up and down the halls, yelling my name. Oh no, the Mockingjay has disappeared before we can tell her it isn't as bad as it seems. I roll my eyes as I watch shadow, after shadow pass by the door. I just want to be left alone. I just want to go back to sleep, go back to where Peeta can hold me again.
I stay hidden in the closet, going in and out of restless sleep, for an unknown amount of time. I don't care at all, though. Let them worry and search for me. None of them are the person I want to see, none of them can possibly understand. Not when I barely understand it myself.
More tears are threatening to fall when one of the shadows stops in front of my door. I can hear a deep voice whispering, but I can't understand what is being said. Quickly, the door opens and then closes softly. Finnick's shadowed figure crouches in front of me and reaches out a hand to place on my shoulder. I let him, there's no reason he can't at least try to bring me out of the numbness. I doubt you can, but try if you must, Finnick. He sits down beside me eventually. He doesn't stare at me, or pat my back in a comforting manner. He just sits with me while I shake with silent sobs, lost in my own grief.
Eventually, he speaks. His voice is quiet when he says, "It isn't your fault, Katniss. Snow was going to kill him in the end. He was never going to let him walk away." I don't look at him, don't give him any indication that I'm listening, but he continues anyway, "I know right now it seems like everything is falling down around you, but I promise… one day it won't hurt as much." I close my eyes and turn my head farther away from him. I don't believe that at all.
"Nothing could make this hurt less." My voice is a harsh whisper when it escapes my lips, and I'm as surprised as Finnick that it even came out.
He sighs softly, and pauses for a few minutes as if he's seriously considering whether or not to speak. "If anyone in this maze knows how you're feeling, it's me." I look at him then, staring at his profile until he turns his gaze back to me. "They did the same thing to me. It still hurts when I think about her… but it does get easier."
My shoulders fall, I had completely forgotten about Annie. Suddenly I'm feeling selfish as well as depressed. "I'm sorry, Finnick… I didn't remember," I whisper, turning my gaze back to the floor.
"It's ok. I know that she would want my life to carry on, and I know that Peeta wouldn't want you to be spending days at a time locked away in a closet." He gives me a soft smile, obviously attempting to get one back from me, but I don't give that to him. I just stare at him for a moment, before he starts to speak again, "You've been in here for almost two days, Katniss. You need to get something to eat. Everyone has been worried about you."
I turn away again, "I don't think I'm ready to face everyone." I'm not ready to be treated like a widow.
Finnick places his hand back on my shoulder, "I'll take you back to your quarters and at least you can be somewhere more comfortable," he pauses, as if considering himself before, "I'll stay with you if you want me to."
I sigh heavily, noticing then that my stomach is rumbling. "Fine." A light smile comes across his features again as he stands and extends his hand for me. When we step out of the closet, I'm pleased to see that the hall is deserted. We quickly walk to my quarters, and thankfully manage to avoid the people walking through 13. Once we reach the small room, I fumble with the door and open it to find that my mother and Prim are not inside. I have a little more time before their interrogation.
Finnick stands near the door as I move further in the room. I look back at him once I sit on the bed and try to smile. "Do you want me to stay?" he asks, looking a little more nervous now that we aren't in a dark closet.
I only nod before staring down at my shoes. A scraping sound tells me that Finnick has moved to a chair at the small table, but I don't change my gaze. "How long did it take before you felt like doing more than crying?"
Finnick takes a few minutes before he answers, "I guess that feeling takes a while to fade, but soon you'll find something to occupy your mind and you won't want to cry as much." I look up at him and he smiles again when I meet his eyes. "No one thinks less of you for being upset. You just lost someone you loved."
He says it so simply, but I still feel the burning in my throat. "I never even told him," I say this so softly that I'm not sure he can even hear me, dropping my gaze back to the floor. "I never told him…"
The room is quiet for a few minutes, and then the bed shifts as Finnick lowers himself to sit next to me. He hesitates a moment before putting his arm around my shoulder and pulling me against him. Normally, I would have shrugged him off, but I hurt too much to manage it. "He knew, Katniss," he whispers into my hair. Silent tears start to fall again, soaking into Finnick's shirt. He moves his hand up and down my arm. "Now, you get some sleep and I'll see if I can convince the ladies in the cafeteria to let me sneak some food out." He has another smile on his face, like he's trying to replicate his Capitol smile to make me happy. It doesn't work.
My mother and Prim return to our quarters after dinner has finished and pause on the threshold when they see me sitting on my bed. I haven't looked up; I can't seem to find the strength to do even this. How will I survive the rest of this? I finally give in and look up when Prim comes to a stop directly in front of me. She offers me a gentle smile that speaks thousands compared to any "I'm sorry" ever could. It's this, that makes me break down again, allowing the sobs to completely shake my body. Both Prim and my mother sit on either side of me, wrapping their arms tightly around my body, trying to convey how sorry they are without speaking. They both have lost Peeta too. They both loved him too.
"It's going to be ok, Katniss," Prim whispers into my ear. "You're going to be ok."
I can only nod, tears still streaming down my face, splashing onto my lap.
It takes an hour or more to calm me down enough that I can even consider going back to sleep. Prim decides to stay with me in my bed for the night, just in case I need something. I know it's because she wants to be able to mourn him with me. When I finally drift to sleep, I realize that I may never want to wake up. At least Peeta is still alive when I close my eyes.
He's sitting in the room where he does all of his paintings in his house in District 12. Once he notices that I'm there, he turns and smiles widely at me. "Hi, there."
My voice seems to be caught in my throat and I have to swallow hard before I can manage to say, "Hi."
"I've missed you." He gets off his stool and walks over to me, wrapping his arms around my waist like that night on the train to the Quell. He pulls back, pushing hair out of my face and frowns. "What's wrong?"
I realize I'm crying and hastily try and wipe the tears away. "Nothing, nothing. I'm just… I've missed you too. Things haven't been good…"
He kisses my forehead before taking my hand in his and leading me over to a new painting he's been working on. When we stop at the canvas, I nearly scream. It's him, on his knees in that black Capitol suit, right before he dies.
"Peeta…" I look back at him; he's just standing still behind me. I turn back to the canvas, and then glance back to him only to discover he's gone.
I jerk awake, fresh tears crawling down my cheeks. Prim rolls over to look at me and instantly there is a saddened look in her eyes. "I wish it had been me," I whisper to no one really. "I wish it had been me."
Prim is obviously shaken by my words but she doesn't say anything, she just shushes me and moves to wrap an arm around my shoulder.
Finnick quickly becomes the only person in 13 that I never tire of. I spend all of my time in my room either with my mother and Prim or with Finnick. He frequently joins the three of us and blends easily into our family, making me feel a little better as the days go by.
When he managed to get me to emerge from my room, we almost immediately ran into Gale. Despite being my best friend back home, Gale has grown more distant than ever after what happened. I think it's because I chose not to confide in him. That first time he saw me after it happened, still makes me cringe -
Finnick finally had me agree to come out of my room. He said that it would be good to air out the room a bit, especially since I'd gone almost a week without a shower. I glared at him and he just looked pleased with himself. We made it to the end of the hallway before coming across someone. I stopped in my tracks when I saw his dark features: Gale.
"Hey, Catnip." His light tone seemed more than forced and he eyed Finnick angrily. "Can I talk to you? Alone."
Finnick glanced down at me, a questioning look in his eyes. I nodded, staying silent as he walked away. The lack of his presence left me a little empty, he had been a constant figure in my life for the past few days - playing with Prim and smiling sweetly at my mother's attempts to cheer me up.
My eyes snapped to Gale when he started to speak, "I've been wondering when you would finally come out of that room." He doesn't sound sorry or sympathetic at all, and it shakes me a little. Everyone I've spoken to since then has talked to me in a tone that just drips with concern. When I didn't respond, he continued, "I guess Odair has been keeping you company?"
I nodded, still refusing to say anything to him. There was no doubt in my mind that he had hated Peeta, and I wasn't ready to face that. "He's been really nice to me, and my family," I whisper.
He scoffed at my words, making my eyes narrow. "I'm sure he has," he muttered bitterly. "I'm sorry all of that happened, Catnip," he says after some time. "I know Mellark was a close friend."
Peeta. I didn't say anything to him, just looked down at my feet, willing the tears to not make an appearance. Gale stepped closer to me, his feet coming into my vision. He placed his hand under my chin, moving my face so that I met his eyes. While mine were surely full of sadness, Gale's held something else, something that made my stomach turn… I closed my eyes and turned my head away.
He sighed, "Katniss, it's going to take time but you have to put yourself back into the world. They need you here, not locked away with Odair for days." I looked back at him, my gaze certainly burning. He waited a few minutes before carefully saying, "If you want to make Peeta's death mean something, you have to bring yourself back."
"Don't talk about him." I could only muster one short sentence; the meaning behind Gale's words was not left unheard. I turned to walk away, not sure where I was going to go, but Gale grabbed by arm and held me there. "Gale, stop it," I hissed at him.
He pulled me closer to him, wrapping his arms around me in an awkward hug. "Catnip, I'm sorry. I really am, but we need you. I need you." I stopped struggling and just looked up, into his eyes. He ran his hand down the side of my face, and I hate that I leaned into his touch.
His lips met mine suddenly and my eyes snapped open. I pulled away quickly, "No, Gale." I stared at him for a minute before whispering, "Peeta…" my voice came out strangled and I could feel tears beginning to roll down my cheeks. "I don't want this," I said motioning between us. "I'm sorry."
He glared at me for a moment, "I hope you say the same to Odair when he tries this. You need to figure out if you want to help this cause and end this war. Mellark is dead now, we need you to help before more go the way he did." He walked away after that, in an angry huff.
- It took me a few weeks after the run-in with Gale to realize that I did need to bring myself out of the depressed daze that I'd been living in. Peeta really wouldn't have wanted to know that I was lying around, doing nothing but staring at the ceiling and occasionally walking to Command with Finnick, only to stare at the table or wall.
"You were right about Finnick, he isn't such a bad guy." We're sitting at the table in my dining room; a plate of cheesebuns sits between us.
"I told you. You just needed to give him a chance," Peeta smiles at me, his blue eyes shining.
"He gave me a necklace… with your pearl on it," I smile sadly. Peeta in my dreams knows he's gone, knows that this is the only place we can see each other.
"I'm sure it's beautiful, just like its owner." He brings his hand up to stroke down my cheek, and it makes my heart skip a beat. "It's ok to let him in, you know. I won't be mad. I still have you here."
"I'm going to be the Mockingjay again," I say, clearly ignoring his statement.
Peeta just shakes his head and smiles at me again, "Good, they need you. They can't win without you."
"Are you sure you want to do this, Katniss? You don't have to." Finnick is standing with me outside of command; I'm about to agree to come back as the Mockingjay.
I sigh and press my fingers against the single pearl on a silver chain that hangs around my neck. Finnick looks down at me and offers a gentle smile when he sees my actions, only a few days ago he gave me the necklace with the pearl Peeta had given me in the arena. "Something to remember him by," he had said. The kind gesture is one reason I have changed one of my original stipulations to being the Mockingjay.
"I need to do this, Finn… If anything, I need to do this for him." Finnick nods solemnly, and walks in with me after I push open the door. Everyone in the room turns to look at me, it's rare that I actually make it through the door on my own accord so they must view this as a milestone in my mental health.
"Miss Everdeen, what can we do for you?" President Coin speaks from near a monitor that shows various maps of the Capitol. She doesn't look up at me but to briefly meet my gaze, before turning back to the screen.
"I wanted to come back and be your Mockingjay. I've realized that nothing can be accomplished while I sit around depressed." Most everyone sighs in relief at my words, but Coin just straightens up and looks at me, a quizzical look in her glare.
"I see. I am glad that you've decided to take back the role you abandoned." There is no pleasure in her voice. "I assume that your previous - demands, still hold in this agreement? The release of the captured Victors and the presence of Mr. Hawthorn?" She always sounds so clinical when she speaks, how can anyone stand it?
I nod, "But I think I would rather have Finnick with me in the field. If it matters." Coin nods and returns to her previous work, I wonder if she even heard me. Finnick elbows my arm softly and grins at me.
My first task as returned Mockingjay is to make a visit to District 12, broken and smoldering. Finnick and Gale both come with me on this trip, but I'm not sure I want either of them to be with me for this.
The camera crew takes us through the town. We pause where my old home in the Seam was, but I can't muster up any words to give them and we move on. Soon, too soon, we come to what remains of the Mellark Bakery. My breath catches in my throat when I see the stump of the tree I sat under on that fateful day… I can't get away from it fast enough and end up running to the Victor's Village. I get there before I realize… it will be here.
I come to a stop directly in front of his house. Even with no one here to tend to it, it still has an air of home about it. Peeta was proud of his new house. I can't help myself and I'm inside, locking the door firmly behind me, before I know it. I gasp when the smell of cinnamon and dill hits my nose. How can it still smell like him?
I frown as I walk further in the room, running my hand along the back of the couch as I make my way to the stairs. I lift my foot to ascend the stairs and then falter. "I can't do this."
I take one last look around the bottom level of his house, smiling sadly as I know this will be the last time I really smell this and walk back out to the porch. Despite the damage done to the district, Victor's Village is unscathed. I shake my head and wonder if, maybe after this is done, I will come back and live in this empty place. Will my mother and Prim be here too?
I touch my hand to the front door. It's almost like his ghost is in here, baking and painting… the things he loved the most.
A few weeks after my return to the role of the Mockingjay, it becomes clear that this war will not be won from the dim bunker that is District 13. Boggs, a kind-hearted man that I've taken a liking to explains that there is a plan to begin sending me out to the districts to try and rally support for their cause. I welcome the chance to get out of 13 and breathe more than stale air.
Finnick has been a constant companion and I can't imagine I would have the nerve to go into District 8 and face sick and dying people without him beside me. Peeta is never far from my mind and when we arrive at the makeshift hospital, his image resurfaces as person after person apologizes to me and offers sympathy for his death. Finnick places a hand on my shoulder when a woman inquires about our lost baby (the miscarriage rumor must have spread) and I tear up remembering that I really have no piece of Peeta left. I know that the people here mean well, and only want to offer their sympathies to try and make me stronger, but it only serves to break me even further. I keep my composure, however, and only allow tears to fall once we've left the hospital.
"I don't know if I'll be able to see this through without him…" I whisper into Finnick's shoulder behind the barn.
He pulls me back a little and runs his thumbs under my eyes, and tries to smile at me, though I know that he misses the blonde baker too. "You'll pull through this, Katniss. You are stronger than you think, even right now," he says with a serious expression on his face. "And if it counts, you have me here…" He lifts the corners of his mouth in a half-smile, the corners of his bright green eyes scrunching.
I give him one of my first genuine smiles since Peeta died and hug him tighter, linking my arms behind his neck. "Thank you, Finn," I whisper against his neck. "I'm really glad you're here."
We break apart when the bombs begin to fall, both of us shocked and confused. Making our way back to the group, we see several people from 8, along with Gale and others from our group, run by with weapons and begin climbing up to the roofs. I look over at Finnick and he nods his head briefly before we sprint in the direction of the buildings people are currently climbing up. Haymitch is screaming in my earpiece to stop and go to the hovercraft, but I easily ignore him and begin helping to take down the Capitol aircraft. Finnick and I manage to take down a few of the hovercrafts before the bullets begin to fly down at the roof we're on. Finnick pushes me out of the way, taking a bullet in his own arm rather than letting in hit me. When the bombing ends, most of the district is spared by the quick actions of Paylor and the people in the hospital could even be saved before too much damage was done.
Finnick grabs my hand as we make our way back to the hovercraft. I look over at him, but he just smiles and I lace our fingers together. I mouth, "Thank you" at him before he is taken to a medical area of the hovercraft, he nods his head at me and is lead away. I continue to stare after him, even when the door is firmly shut.
Once we're back in 13, Gale seeks me out in my quarters. I'm almost thankful that Finnick had been in hospital for the past few days instead of sitting here with me. Gale's snide comments have not fallen on deaf ears. I'm twisting the pearl between my fingers when he comes into the room. "Odair is going to be fine. I was asked to let you know," he practically spits the words at me.
I roll my eyes at his lack of even attempting to keep the venom out of his voice. "That's good to know, I was getting worried." I look up at him in time to see something dark pass over his features.
He stares at me for a few minutes, and it seems as if he's debating with himself about whether or not to speak what's on his mind. He takes a step forward, moving closer to me. "I thought that it would take you longer to get over his death, honestly."
I let the necklace fall back around my neck and my eyes snap back to his. "What?" I stand up before he can move to take a seat next to me on the bed. "I've told you before that Finn is just my friend. This jealousy act is really wearing on my nerves, Gale. First Peeta and now you think anytime a male comes near me, he wants to jump into bed with me!"
He sneers, "I've seen the two of you, when you think you're alone. He holds your hand and you look at him like you used to look at Mellark." I just shake my head and don't even answer him, I'm sure whatever I had to say would come out in a yell. Gale considers me for a moment and then continues, "I'm leaving for District 2 today. They need help with a situation there."
I nod, "Be safe. I'll see you when you get back." I watch quietly as he turns and leaves the room. I don't understand where this has come from, he used to be able to put his feelings aside but now - I can hardly stand being near him, lest he fall into these moods where every man near me is in love with me. He did kiss me that time after Peeta died and I thought that my rejection would lead him to move on, but I guess it didn't. My friendship with Finnick has certainly only fueled the fire.
Finnick leaves the hospital a few days later, his arm in a sling. Apparently the bullet managed to break the bones in his left arm. At least he didn't suffer more damage because of me, like so many others have.
We're sitting in his quarters after a meeting in Command where they informed me that I will be traveling to District 2 in preparation for the fall of The Nut and the District being put into rebel hands. Finnick is not allowed to go with me this time because of his injury and neither of us are really taking it well.
"I can't believe they're making me stay here while you go into that district…" He looks up at me for the first time since we left Command. He's obviously been holding back his true feelings about the situation.
I smile at him, "Finnick, it will be ok… I'll be ok. I'm only going to be there as a symbol. I'll make a speech after it falls and then come back here. I doubt it will even take more than a day or two."
One side of his mouth twitches, he's trying not to smile. He sighs, "I know. I just… I don't know, it feels weird staying here while you go. You never know when you'll need Finnick Odair's charm." He waggles his eyebrows.
I laugh and find my hand reaching out to caress his face. I pause suddenly with my hand in the air; my eyes get a little wider. "Um…" I drop my hand into my lap and look down. My cheeks redden as the silence stretches. "I… uh… I guess I should go… Um, get ready."
I move to stand, but Finnick gently grabs my arm, pulling me back down. He looks into my eyes, his green ones meeting my grey. "It's ok," he whispers. My heart starts to beat faster as our hands meet. He reaches up and brushes a piece of my hair out of my face and tucks it behind my ear.
I nod and bite my lower lip, lacing our fingers together against his knee. Suddenly the room feels impossibly hot. I look back up from our joined hands and find that I've moved closer to Finnick. He's still gazing into my eyes and I notice that he looks like he wants to ask permission, to make sure the next move is ok. To make sure I will be ok. I nod my head slightly and move closer to him. I close my eyes, the weight of the pearl around my neck is much more noticeable in this moment. Would he be angry with me?
Our lips meet. At first, his move softly against mine as I try to shut my brain off and just enjoy being here and then we both allow the heat to take over. I bring my hands up and link them behind his neck, threading my fingers through his hair and he moves his free hand to my waist, pulling me a little closer to him.
This feels impossibly good and the thought that I haven't felt this fire since the beach in the arena somehow reaches through my clouded mind.
A harsh knocking on his door breaks us apart. My face and neck are surely a deep shade of red and it only deepens when Haymitch bursts into the room. "Come on, sweetheart. We've got to get you to the hovercraft." He looks between the two of us and quirks an eyebrow at our close proximity. "Uh-huh… I'll be waiting outside." He chuckles and backs out of the room, closing the door behind him.
I bite my lip again. My shallow breathing caused from more than just Finnick's lips recently being on mine. I don't want to look back at him as I stand up and start to move toward the door, but he catches my hand. I stand still, resolutely not turning back to him while he speaks, "You know it's ok to move forward."
I close my eyes and shake my head, "I have to go." I free myself from his grasp and exit the room. Haymitch is waiting for me outside the door. He gives me a curious glance but I don't respond and he, uncharacteristically, doesn't press the issue. I'm trying very hard to even out my breathing as we make our way to the hangar, suddenly very glad that Finnick isn't coming with me.
One thing does stick in my mind as we board the craft - he didn't say, "move on" he said, "move forward."
The ride to District 2 seems to take forever. I suppose it's because I've spent the entire time trapped in my own mind. Haymitch hasn't tried to bring me out of my silent world since we boarded, but I should have known that he would speak up once we got close to our destination. "You know you'll have to keep a straight face once we land, sweetheart," he whispers to me. I look up at him; his voice is softer than usual. I guess when your almost-husband, fake fiancé dies you get a break. "I don't care if you and Odair are fooling around, but you know the rebellion will, and honestly, you know he will."
I look back down at my hands. I know he's not talking about Peeta, but instead about a certain dark haired man waiting for us to land. "We aren't doing anything. He just… we just…" I trail off, not really knowing what to say to the man who has become more like a father to me than just drunken mentor.
Haymitch holds up his hand, "Like I said, I don't care. Sweetheart, as long as you're happy and getting on with your life, my opinion doesn't matter."
I shake my head, "But what about Peeta? It was just two months ago, Haymitch… He would… he would be mad at me." I knot my fingers together and squeeze my hands.
"Look, I knew that boy too, sweetheart. And I know that all he wanted was for you to be happy. Yeah, he wanted you to be happy with him… but I know he would have just let everything go if it made you smile. He wouldn't have expected you to sit around crying over him forever."
The rare moment of clarity from Haymitch makes me smile a little. When he continues, I know that he's been holding back his feelings for Peeta too. His sad smile makes my heart ache a little. "Peeta may not have known it would all end this way, hell, none of us thought it would end this way… but he fought hard to keep us all alive, and you know he wouldn't be holding any debt over our heads, especially yours."
"I never expected this to be so hard. I never expected to miss him so much." I watch as the sun begins to set outside the hovercraft. Haymitch pats my shoulder as he gets up to find something to eat.
When we land in 2, everything is already breaking into chaos. They've decided to bomb The Nut and cause it to cave in on itself, trapping the workers inside. I don't like the idea; being trapped underground is my greatest fear. I don't see how this was Gale's idea.
It is well executed and when the workers begin to use the train to escape the mountain, I am brought out to the square. I'm to make a speech for peace and try to calm the fallen district. While this idea sounds wonderful in theory, it is sadly not wonderful in practice. A stray bullet finds its way to my stage and while I should be seeing myself speaking words of peace and bringing the workers to the rebellion's side, I see the gun cocked and fired in my direction and the impact. I fall back, unconscious.
White mist fills my vision, I'm not even sure I'm seeing anything… I can feel warmth somewhere near me, but I can't reach the source.
"You're always getting hurt, Katniss… I don't know what to do with you." Peeta's smirking face suddenly swims in front of me. I reach out to try and touch him; it's so much more vivid than my regular dreams.
Has he come back? Was he not really shot?
"Peeta?" My voice is thick, scratchy from disuse. I look around me, and I can vaguely make out the hospital in 13. I sigh and close my eyes. "Are you going to leave me again?"
"I never left you. I'm right here." He ghosts the pearl that's still around my neck. He smiles a little, "Please don't be afraid to move on. It took you so long to let me in, don't do that to yourself again."
I'm too tired to even feign insult at that. His words hold truth in them, and I think that's why they sting.
"I don't think you need me here anymore." I look back at him, confusion etched on my face. His smile falls a little, "You need to live for more than dream encounters with someone who's gone…" He touches the necklace again, "Keep this and remember, but please, go forward with a lighter heart than what brought you here. For me. I'll always be here if you need me, but just try to make a better life…"
I feel the now familiar sting of tears when he leans forwards and brushes his lips against my forehead. I put my hands on either side of his face and bring his lips down to mine, one last time. "Thank you," I whisper, "for loving me the way you did."
I wake up with dried tear tracks down my cheeks and my hand held tightly in Finnick's. A smile finds its way to my face when I see that he's fallen asleep, his head resting on the side of my bed. Ok, Peeta… I'll try…
I squeeze Finnick's hand, "Finn… wake up."
He starts to stir and when he looks up at me, his eyes are red and there are dark purple circles under them. Has he slept at all? "You're awake." He smiles and I can't help but return it.
"Yeah. Thank you for being here."
"I didn't want you to… wake up alone. It wasn't terrible, but… yeah…" His cheeks redden as he moves his hand from mine and scratches the back of his head.
My eyebrows raise, Finnick Odair blushing. I shake my head, "I'm sorry about… before. I was afraid… afraid he would have been upset…"
His voice is gentle when he replies, "I understand. I honestly do. We shouldn't have… I shouldn't have responded that way."
I sit up in my bed, thankful that I can. Finnick sits up straighter too, reaching over to help me. I grab his hands and pull him to me, and he situates himself to sit on the side of my bed. I take a deep breath before I place my hands on either side of his face and press my lips softly against his.
His breath hitches before he responds to my actions. He pulls me closer, wrapping his arms tightly around my waist. The kiss is gentle, it says so much more than I could ever convey with words. We break apart and he rests his forehead against mine, I can see the smile playing on his lips. I reach up and run my thumb along the curve of it.
"I know I can't replace him -" I place my fingers back on his lips again and shake my head.
"I'm not asking you to." My free hand goes to the pearl necklace. "He's here, but… I think I'm ready to try and move forward." I echo his own words and smile. "You're the only one who can really make me smile anymore…"
Finnick and I try to keep quiet about anything happening between us.
I know that my personal life isn't the main focus of this rebellion, but after being pulled aside by Haymitch and Plutarch and both of them giving me pointed stares and Haymitch explaining that, while Peeta may be gone, the people of Panem still see him as fire in this war. "Basically, sweetheart, keep your head down and your hands to yourself in public."
I had rolled my eyes at them and walked away toward my compartment, but as I reached the door and was greeted by a not-so-happy looking Gale, I knew Haymitch's words held some truth.
"Not now, Gale." I cut him off before he could even open his mouth.
"I only wanted to congratulate you," his smile doesn't even attempt to reach his eyes.
I turn around. If he's going to block my way into my own compartment, I will just go to the subject of his new anger. I don't think he planned to follow me until I hear his footfalls getting closer to me. Finnick's compartment is not far from mine and it only takes me a few minutes before I'm nearing the door.
Gale's hand finds mine and he turns me around to face him. "Listen to me. I hoped that you would let me be the one to get you through this, considering I've been your friend for so many years."
"Gale, stop it. This isn't about you at all. He understands what I'm going through…"
"I'm sure he does. I'm also sure this has nothing to do with you becoming the next notch on his Capitol Whore belt."
I raise my hand instantly and make hard contact with the side of his face. "Leave me alone. Now." My voice is low and laced with hatred. I didn't even notice that the door behind me had opened.
"I do think it's time for you to go," Finnick's soft voice doesn't waver. He pulls me in to his room and sharply closes the door and locks it.
"You didn't have to say anything," he's not looking at me but instead down at the floor.
"Yeah, well, I don't think it would go over to well were I to let you kill him in the hall." He tries to make light of it, but I know Gale's words have rubbed him wrong. It's a few minutes before he speaks again, "You know I don't see you that way… as a notch on my belt."
I sigh softly, "I know, Finn. He's just… angry. He thinks it should be him."
Finnick is with me throughout my recovery. He's like a breath of fresh air in 13. We train hard during the day, preparing to go to the Capitol to finish this war. At night, we sit either in his quarters or mine, sometimes talking and sometimes just sitting with each other in the quiet, too tired talk.
When the time comes, we both hold on to each other and board the train that will take us to the Capitol. Finnick has his hand in mine the entire time we sit in camp. He understands that this place reminds me of Peeta. This place is what brought us together, however sick it is.
We break away from the group after the explosion that blows Bogg's legs off happens. Gale and several others follow us. We make it to the city center before anything terrible happens. Silver parachutes float from the sky and blow up a barricade with children hiding behind it, terrified to move and terrified not to. When Prim appears with a group of medics from 13, I scream and try to reach her through the crowd but Finnick pulls me back.
The roar of the crowd is too loud for her to hear me, but when I see dark hair running toward her and sprinting back to us with her locked in his arms, I almost cry in relief. I pull Prim into my arms as we are knocked off our feet from the second explosion. Finnick and Gale cover us from the falling debris, all four of us feel the intense heat from the fire. In the confusion, rebel soldiers make their way to Snow's mansion, take him hostage in his own home and, just like that, the war is over.
We are housed in Snow's mansion to await his trail. I take to wandering around the huge place alone. Finnick busies himself with interviews about the ending of the Hunger Games and how he feels now that the war is over. Where will he be heading when we're free to go?
I find myself in a rose garden. They are truly beautiful, but the smell overwhelms me and only reminds me of the night they put a bullet through Peeta's head. I start to feel like I can't breathe when a snide voice hits my ears, "Miss Everdeen… I was wondering if you would find me in here. They are exquisite, aren't they?"
I glare at him, "I suppose."
He smiles, "I know what you're thinking. That night, though so long ago, must still haunt you. I, honestly, hated having to do it but he gave me no choice. Warning you in that bunker about my bombing, trying to leak other Capitol secrets… Tsk, tsk… He basically begged me to do it."
I can feel my anger at this man coming to a boil at the surface. Being here, safe in his private quarters is one thing, mocking me about his murdering Peeta is another. "It's too bad his death didn't win you anything but more fire from the nation." I try to keep my voice in check, not wanting to show how much talking about Peeta hurts.
"I suppose you still wake up hoping to find him here. Unfortunately, he is not. Rest your mind that was no Capitol trick. Does poor Mr. Odair know that you still dream of finding him?" My eyes flash and his grin only widens, "Ah… I guess I've found some vein of truth? The first love is the hardest to forget, I commend you on your wonderful performance though. You managed to convince even me."
I grind my teeth together, and turn to leave. "You have no power over me, just like you had no power to stop this war."
"But Coin does, does she? She has power… Yes, the power to rain bombs down on innocent children." I stop in my tracks and turn to look at him, a question in my gaze. "I speak the truth, Miss Everdeen. We never lie to each other."
I stand at the entrance to Snow's mansion, waiting for my cue to make the last shot of this war.
How symbolic. If only they had berries sitting in front of him. I scoff and roll my eyes. There are still several minutes before the "event" is to take place. All around me, people are setting up cameras.
I turn my head and see Gale standing with his hand on Prim's shoulder. My protests that she should not be in attendance fell on deaf ears. I suppose she's gained my stubbornness.
To Prim's right I see Finnick. They've dressed him up in a suit with a crisp white button down. "Mr. Odair must look his best if we wish to maintain some of our former image." I smile as his eyes meet mine and he shakes his head slightly.
I hope you won't hate me for what I'm about to do.
They bring Snow out, his hands tied behind his back, and lower him to his knees. My stomach turns at how familiar this feels. His eyes lock with mine and his ever-present smirk only widens. "I understand that you will be the one to, ah… 'finish the job' tomorrow. I do hope you've made the right decisions."
As the time ticks closer, I see President Coin take her place in a balcony above Snow. My eyes flicker back to Snow and it seems as if he already knows what is going to happen.
I pull back on the string and, at the last second, tilt my bow up and let my arrow fly directly at Coin. I do not miss.
Everything slows down - I drop my bow to the ground and don't make an attempt to move from my spot as dozens of security guards rush to my position. My eyes search for Finnick's in the crowd, we lock gazes with each other and just stare before I'm pulled away into the mansion.
I pace the room that I'm forced to stay in for the duration of my trail. I can't find the want to even care about what the verdict might be.
I've been kept here for almost a week. I know that Finnick has tried to see me, but they won't allow any visitors. All I was able to hear was his raised voice and someone's attempt to stand up to the Victor. I couldn't help but laugh, the first that I let out in what felt like weeks.
After spending 14 days in this room, I'm visited by Plutarch Heavensbee. "Miss Everdeen! You've created quite the stir, if I may say." Funny, you don't sound so upset by it. "However, I come with good news. You're being let go. On the condition that you spend at least one year in District 12 under closer observation, at which time your case will be revisited and a new decision may be reached."
I just stare at him while he speaks. I get to go home… I get to go home to District 12. To a place where more than ghosts of miners walk the streets. Plutarch leads me through the halls and up to the roof of the former President's mansion where a hovercraft is waiting for us. I pause before boarding, looking behind me across the city. I sigh with relief that this is finally over, yet I'm saddened by the absence of so many that didn't live to see this beautiful day.
Haymitch is already on board when I arrive on the hovercraft and I can tell that he's already broken into the store of liquor. "Don't give me that look, sweetheart. Wars over. I can celebrate if I like."
I merely cock an eyebrow and take my seat next to a large window. I watch the Capitol city disappear on the horizon and just sit in silence, my head leaning against the cool glass. After a little while I speak up, "Who is going to be there?"
Haymitch tilts his head to one side and considers me for a moment, "Your mom and sister left after they announced you were free to go back. They're getting things in order back there. Odair decided to go back to 4. There was some damage done there and he wanted to assist in the clean up." I just nod and continue looking out the window. "You'll understand why he didn't want to be there when we arrive, sweetheart. It wasn't because of you."
I turn my head and stare at him for a few minutes. Great, what could possibly be waiting for me now?
My mother and Prim are waiting for us in the open area near the Victor's Village when we land, sometime close to midnight. They both look happier than I've seen them in a long time, even though District 12 held so many memories for them both. They rush forward when we step out of the craft and each give me hugs.
None of us speak on the way back to our house and I force myself to not look at Peeta's empty one. Once we're inside, I can't believe how different everything feels. Before the Quell, this place seemed terrible - a gift for my participation in the Capitol's sick games - but now, it isn't so bad. Prim and my mother have managed to make it feel more like our actual home and I find myself glad to be back here instead of stuck in 13.
"Tomorrow, we'll go to the Meadow, Katniss… There are some things you need to see there." My mother's voice is soft and it sends small waves of fear through me but I just nod.
"It's late… I'm going to go to bed." I head up to my old room and frown as I remember the time Peeta carried me up these very stairs. Will thoughts of him always be with me now? I sit down on the edge of the bed and lay down before I notice an envelope sitting on my bed stand. I smile when I recognize Finnick's handwriting.
I'm sure it's going to be hard for you being back in 12. I'm sorry that I didn't go with you but once I was certain your mother and Prim would be there, I decided to make a stop in 4 for a little while. I'm planning on coming to see you soon, if you want me to that is, and hopefully we can talk about everything then. I want you to know now that I'm not angry about anything, and I'm honestly just relieved that you're safe. Now, if I know you at all, I'm sure that you'll be spending the next few days sitting in your room thinking about Peeta. That's ok. I know I spent at least a week locked in my own house after what happened to Annie. Don't think for one second that I will care at all. You need this closure with him, and I want you to take it.
I will see you very soon.
It's been almost two weeks since I've been back in District 12. More people have come back and some aspects of my life have gone back to something that resembles normal.
I spend most of my time in the Meadow. The residents who came back before I arrived began turning the place into a graveyard. I'm sitting with my legs stretched out in front of a grave marker that reads "Peeta Mellark" when Finnick finally arrives in 12. I come here almost every day and just sit in silence, staring at his name.
Finnick sits down beside of me and places his arm around my shoulder, pulling me closer to him. I lean against him and he rests his cheek against the top of my head. "Your mom said I would find you here," his voice is light. "Do you visit often?"
I nod. "Almost every day… I can't seem to keep myself away from it." I sigh and shake my head, "I'm pathetic."
Finnick shakes his head, "No you aren't, Katniss. You just miss him."
I tear my eyes away from Peeta's name and look into Finnick's eyes, "How can you even stand this? All I did for months in 13 is walk around and cry… and now that I'm back here, I sit out in this graveyard and stare at his name on the ground! How can you come here to see me?"
He pulls me close to him again; I feel his breath ruffle the hair on top of my head. "I came back because I know that you felt such love for him, and while you may think it won't pass or that how you may feel about me is an insult to his memory, I know it isn't. You're waiting for someone to tell you you're doing something wrong, but you aren't. Going on with life, loving someone new, is not something wrong. And I know Peeta would agree."
I sigh, "Finn… I don't want you to think that I… don't feel anything for you, I do… I just…" Why can't I ever form the right words?
Finnick pulls away from me slightly, enough so he can look into my eyes. He's smiling; of course he's smiling. He tilts my head up and brushes his lips against mine. I look at him again, and then lean forward and bring our lips together.
Finnick visits at least three times a month, and my mother and Prim are no longer the only ones who count days until his next arrival after he departs. When there are only a few days left until my trail is revisited, my mother brings up the topic of a new hospital being built in District 4. It isn't the first time, but now that there is a real chance that I may be able to leave 12, she brings it up again.
I can't deny that the idea of moving to where Finnick is doesn't make my stomach twist in an undeniably pleasant way. But I can't stop myself from wondering what would happen to Haymitch and the rest of 12 and if I would even know when something does happen… And I don't want to leave Peeta. I don't even keep myself from admitting it. Even though I know that Finnick and I are moving forward, I still go to visit Peeta's grave every week. I bring flowers and just sit in silence, allowing myself to quietly miss the baker.
The decision of my release comes quickly and it seems like after, everything falls into place. It takes us only a week to pack everything from our house to take with us. Even Haymitch has decided to make the move (although I'm sure that he's lying when he says it's because he's always wanted to live by the ocean).
On our last day in District 12, I find myself sitting in a very familiar place. For the last time. I sigh as I place flowers against the headstone. "Know that I'm not abandoning you… Know that you're always going to be with me." I stay out there for at least an hour saying goodbye before it's time for us to take our final look around the house. Of all the places that grew back in the District, I'm going to miss that dandelion-covered spot the most. I smile softly and whisper, "Goodbye, Peeta."
That night, we board the hovercraft that will take us to District 4, to a brighter home and to an actual future. I touch the pearl that still hangs from my neck and smile as I look out over 12 one last time.