|The Phoenix and the Snare
Author: Rose Evanescent PM
Broken and widowed Katniss Mellark sets off from District 12 to her daughter Primrose's birthday party in New Capitol. When the hovercraft she rides in crashes into the forests of District 7, Katniss finds she really does have something to live for when a surprising man saves her. Please R&R!Rated: Fiction T - English - Hurt/Comfort/Romance - Katniss E. & Gale H. - Chapters: 5 - Words: 11,505 - Reviews: 9 - Favs: 5 - Follows: 13 - Updated: 04-13-13 - Published: 08-14-12 - id: 8429368
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
"Cheer up, sweetheart," Haymitch laughed, failing to comfort me and playfully chucking my chin up with his rough index finger. "You haven't been this somber since the Games interview. Remember how you spun in that silly dress? Ha, and you slugged Mellark after? God, Katniss, you were a riot!" He laughed as if he'd told some hilarious joke, but Johanna Mason jerked him away by his blonde hair, causing him to yelp. She glared at him with ferocious eyes.
"Abernathy, you leave her alone," she snapped, angry at him. "You're being an insensitive, unfeeling ass. Just leave Katniss be." Haymitch took one last look and went into the cockpit of the hovercraft to check on our pilot, leaving Johanna to lean against a wall and stare at me silently, her arms crossed over her chest, her short black hair set in softened spikes.
Gripping the railing of the hovercraft, I sat on the edge of the open door, leaning back carefully against the door, my slender braid of brown hair whipping in the wind that tore past; I twisted by wedding ring absentmindedly, an unconscious habit of mine. Much had changed in the years after President Snow was overthrown, many things had occurred. Most changes were good, but, as always, some bad always hung along for the ride.
As for the good things, Peeta and I married, later giving birth to two beautiful children – Primrose, the girl we called Prim, after my sister, and Marzipan, the little boy who we affectionately called Marz. Haymitch, though his usual unmoved self, has been sober for ten years now, and he has cleaned up well, losing his scruffy facial hair and beer paunch – especially with the aid of his new wife, Effie Trinket, who keeps him in check from New Capitol. Annie Odair has been raising her son, Neri, happily, with my mother to check up on her often, as Annie and Neri work with mother in her hospital. Johanna Mason had no home to go to after she returned to her District 7, so she has stayed in our house in District 12, playing with the children and healing her fragmented soul, if slowly. Now, Haymitch, Johanna, Annie, Neri, and I rode on the hovercraft piloted by a veteran airman towards New Capitol to celebrate Prim's seventeenth birthday.
As for bad things, my husband, Peeta, died a mere three weeks ago – I was off in the woods with Johanna when our neighbor ran out, screaming for me. We ran back to town to hear that Peeta had heard a call for help from the coal mines, so he dashed there to free a man from a pile of rubble that had come loose. My husband managed to free the miner and send him out before the mines finally caved in, taking Peeta with them. Finally the mines were finished, but they stole one more person I loved.
When I learned the news, right in the middle of the town square, I was so broken I couldn't weep, just felt my knees give out from under me and found myself against the stone, crying without tears, imploring without words. I knew how my mother felt when she lost father in the mining accident, and I withdrew into myself despite the coaxing of Johanna, braiding my hair again and hating the dark. Primrose and Marzipan moved to New Capitol with Effie, so I was left in an empty next that, fortunately, Haymitch, Effie, and Annie visited regularly. Luckily, Prim was hosting her seventeenth birthday ball in a few days, so we were flying to New Capitol now to celebrate it with her and Marz. Still, some heavy though blurred the corners of my mind, a piece of the puzzle not found.
Hunting companion, protector, friend.
He hadn't spoken to me since he left for District 2, even before Peeta and I wed. Gale left a void in my heart not even Peeta's immense love could fill – Gale leaving me was like losing my childhood, my innocence. Now, with neither Gale nor Peeta by my side, everything looked as black and as menacing as the stormclouds building on the horizon...
Stormclouds? I wrenched myself back from the edge of the hovercraft, my stomach tightening in cold knots – I saw Johanna had retreated to the quarters, quiet as a cat. Quickly I ran to the cockpit and burst through the door, my face clammy and pale. Haymitch looked at me suddenly.
"There are storms building ahead," I stuttered, fear freezing my blood. My throat tightened instantly to keep the cries from clawing out.
The pilot looked back and grinned below his bug-eyed helmet. "Relax, Ms. Everdeen – this baby can slice through storms like a knife through butter."
Rage flared behind my eyes. "Captain, I've seen crafts as big as these taken down by a hailstone in the engine. We need to land now and wait for the storm to pass."
"Lady, I promised I'd get you to New Capitol in time for your girl's party. If storms scare you or something, go to your quarters and snuggle with your security blanket."
Peeta was my security blanket once, I thought dumbly before lunging forward in anger to hit the pilot. But Haymitch had stopped my fist and started to escort me back to the quarters, gripping my arm tightly. "Ever heard not to bite the hand that feeds you, sweetheart?" he growled, amused. "Keep that in mind and don't kill our designated driver, okay?"
"You would know plenty about designated drivers, huh?" I retorted sourly, shaking loose of his grip. Haymitch looked wounded at first, but then his face slid back into its usual smirking expression.
"Sounds like you need rest, Katniss," he said, popping open the door to the bunkroom. "Go in there and don't worry about anything, and that's an order. Just sleep." Once I was inside, Haymitch shut the door with a bang. Swallowing my pride, I turned to see Johanna sharpening her axe blade atop her top bunk perch and Annie sitting with her son, Neri, below; the young man curled up next to her, playing with his mother's waves of long brown hair. I watched his fingers working adeptly to create complex weaves and braids in her locks. Neri looked up to see me with his shocking sea-green eyes and withdrew shyly into the shadows. The young man was almost nineteen, but had collected Annie's severe shyness, distrust, and insecurity even though he looked just like his father, Finnick Odair, with bronze hair, muscular build, and identical eyes. Annie saw me staring and smiled kindly, the edges of her mouth crinkling.
"Hello, Katniss," she said, admiring the elaborate ties in her hair. "Neri was just finishing the knots in my hair – aren't they beautiful? He's so talented."
Neri continued to stare at me like cornered prey looking at a predator; the shade of green in his large eyes made me tremble, and my throat dried. Visions of me tossing the grenade at the mutts and decapitated Finnick, with his dead green eyes, tore through my mind, sharp and precise. Those words stuck in my mind, exactly like I had whispered them.
An ocean of light washed over Finnick, drowning him forever.
The visions faded, and I swallowed hard, still looking at Neri. "Very talented," I choked out, "just like his father."
Annie saw the pain in my eyes and took Neri in her arms, comforting him to reassure me. "I'm sorry you hurt so," she murmured. "Maybe some lunch will help you." The beautiful unstable woman handed me a basket wrapped in a happy orange bow – the contents smelled delicious. "Neri and I packed it for you before the ride. Why don't you go and eat it on the roof?"
Nodding, I muttered the thanks and climbed up a ladder of steel rungs, fluorescent lights burning my eyes as I pushed open the door in the ceiling leading out onto the top of the hovercraft where wind blasted my face. A harness waited for me, attached to the hovercraft railing to ensure I wouldn't fall, but I ignored it. Care had abandoned me ever since Peeta died.
Closing the door behind me, I sat down on the top of the hovercraft, on the cold expanse of metal, gazing at the cloudy sky around me, so comforting in its grayness, like the gray wool blankets at home in my childhood; the forests of District 7 passed below, and I remembered Johanna's words: "They can't hurt me. I'm not like the rest of you. There's no one left I love." Now everything everyone said or did came back with a certain agonizing clarity. But I just sniffed angrily at myself and opened Annie's basket, even though I really wasn't hungry.
I saw the basket contained some pieces of whitefish covered in a dill-cream sauce and a little bushel of cooked broccoli. Also, an object sat there at the bottom, wrapped in a checkered orange-and-cream cloth, which I picked up gingerly with both hands. Unfolding the covering, I saw the object was a little cookie, frosted like a dolphin. My stomach, if it hadn't been gone before, was definitely gone now.
Ever since Peeta, I couldn't bear to eat anything without thinking of him. I couldn't taste sugar, couldn't buy birthday cakes, couldn't eat the tiny maple candies I had as a child from my mother, couldn't even walk past a bakery, because the warm, homey scent of bread would remind me of him, my sweetheart, my blanket to hold onto at night, one who was as hurt and as broken and I. Honey, sweets, and cookies only held terrible eating-acid memories now. I stared at the dolphin cookie for a minute, thinking of how Annie's blue and white strokes of frosting weren't as perfect as Peeta's, but then I dismissed it, knowing it was the thought that counted. I wrapped the cookie carefully in its cloth and held it in my lap, savoring its familiar texture, its nice smell. I twisted the wedding ring on my finger, feeling it and reminding me of Peeta.
Suddenly, a bolt of white lightning forked down not too far from us and struck a tree, making the fine hair on my arms crinkle. To my terror, the lightning preceded a horrifying loud roar of thunder that shook the entire hovercraft and sent Annie and Neri's basket of fish and vegetables sliding off the flat metal, falling into the forests below, orange ribbon flowing out behind it. I grabbed the railing of the hovercraft just in time, for the machine thrummed violently and tossed my body. It began to rain, so I scrambled across the wet, slippery metal, gripping to the rail, to see the little door. Before I grasped the handle, a fleeting thought stuck in my mind for a moment, a thought that said if I flung myself off the craft right now, I could end the pain of memory right here, right now, and they would just think I was taken by the storm, a retired hero blown away like a leaf on the wind. But as I clutched the cookie to my body and instinctively shifted my grip on the railing to make it more secure, an overriding sense I'd had all my life took over: the intuition to survive. I opened the hatch and swung inside, my rain-soaked braid flying behind me.
In their bunk bed, Annie and Neri were huddled together like scared children frightened of the storm. "Thank you for the basket," I told them softly, as if I were comforting my own children. "Awful storm outside, but you don't need to be afraid. Where is Johanna?"
Annie's green eyes were the size of dinner plates. "Cockpit, Katniss."
Nodding, I made my way to the door, then turned back and gave Neri the cookie gently. "Thank you, but I don't need this any longer," I murmured before I left.
In the cockpit, I was reintroduced to the sight of Johanna nose-to-nose with Haymitch, so enraged she could spit fire.
"It is hell outside, Abernathy!" she barked, spittle flying. "We should not be flying through this! Land immediately!"
"Relax, Mason, it's just a storm, you hothead!" he replied angrily. "The pilot said we could make it, and he's a veteran! How many years have you had up in the air?"
Johanna's brown eyes narrowed, and tendons sprang up in her neck. "I've spent no time flying a hovercraft, but I've seen more than my share of death in my life, and I will not allow Annie, Neri, and Katniss die just because an old drunkard and a cocksure airman bet they can make it!"
Haymitch wrenched her wrist into his hand angrily. "You shut your mouth, Mason, unless you want me to mess up your face."
Johanna glared and hissed, "Only if I may return the favor, Abernathy."
Haymitch, obvious to his brim with irritation, drew back his hand for a hit, but I flung myself between them, saving Johanna and taking the full brunt of his blow. Pain tore through my face, especially on the blaze of my left cheekbone where Haymitch's wedding band had ripped my skin, but it wasn't a pain I hadn't felt before. Actually, it was a nice pain that took my mind off my inner torment.
When Haymitch noticed it was me he hit, he back up three full steps. "Katniss – I – I didn't mean to..."
Furious, Johanna stormed out of the room. "Abernathy," she tossed behind her as she went out the door. "Either way, you tried to hit a girl."
Haymitch's eyes flickered to her. "You're not female, Mason!"
"You wouldn't know the difference between a woman and a goat, you old drunk!" Johanna yelled as she disappeared into the quarters.
Returning his attention to me, Haymitch's face fell as he examined my face. "Ooh, that's going to leave a mark," he said, running a finger across my cheekbone to see me wince. "Geez, that looks bad. I'm sorry, sweetheart."
Bile rose in my throat. "If you're truly sorry, you won't be childish and pick fights like a schoolboy, and you will land us now," I commanded. "It's not safe here."
"That's a tall order," Haymitch muttered, rubbing his stubble-covered chin. "Well, we can't land here, Everdeen. There are too many trees and too much rain to land safely. But I'll see if I can manage to grow out of being a schoolboy to you." He gave me his photogenic sarcasm smile, but I just left for the quarters.
Huffily, I walked the open space between the cockpit and the quarters, noticing the storm had only intensified, the rain pounding away in sheets. All of a sudden, a huge white light blinded me as it streaked from the sky and hit the side of the hovercraft causing the machine to jerk manically and for me to fall to the slippery metal, gripping and grating at the edges with my fingernails as my temporary blindness wore off. The second I could seem I noticed the whole side of the hovercraft was torn by the lightning, including the engine that sputtered and was then slashed off by a gale of wind. I was so frightened that I froze, paralyzed at the sight, until Johanna burst out of the quarter, horror in her wide-set brown eyes that were usually so full of venom instead. "Katniss!" she screamed, throwing herself forward and grabbing my arm, hurling me into the rooms. Just in time, for the second the door shut behind me, the sound of the remaining engine sputtered and died, and the hovercraft tilted, falling from the heavens.
Sheer fright electrified the air, and I slammed and rolled all across the room, along with Annie, Johanna, and Neri. Images flashed through my mind, of my mother and my sister, Prim, of my father who died when I was young. Of young Peeta tossing me a burnt loaf of bread to fill our bellies for the night. Of me throwing myself forward as tribute for the 74th Hunger Games. Of Rue dying in my arms as I sang her a lullaby. Of Peeta and I and our kiss in the cave, on live TV. Of surviving the Careers. Of killing the mutts and Cato at last. Of Peeta and I standing face-to-face, holding our handfuls of nightlock berries, star-crossed lovers. Of Peeta gently touching my braid like he loved me. And he did love me. He told me so.
Here, the visions sped up until they blurred like the scenery outside the windows of the train to the Capitol.
Returning to District 12. Reptilian eyes of President Snow and how he reeked of blood and roses. Touring. Rebellion. The Quarter Quell. Crying in the snow. Finnick offering me a cube of sugar in exchange for secrets. Cinna's bloody body in a lump on the dressing room floor. A clock island. Previous victors perishing one by one, each dying more horrible deaths than the last. Fireworks exploding as I burst the force field.
Now everything sped by in frames, and I could barely keep up.
District 13. Peeta captured. President Coin.
Peeta trying to kill me. Annie and Finnick. Second Rebellion. Sewers. Blood. Hate. Darkness. Disembodied heads. My little sister meeting my eyes right before she died. Snow. Roses. Rich children Games. Arrow through Coin's heart. Falling down. Getting helped up again.
Real or not real?
Peeta, my darling, I couldn't tell you if I knew the difference between fantasy and reality these days.
I remembered in length Peeta's marriage to me, with the biggest, most beautiful wedding cake, frosted green as the forest, my favorite color. I recalled how Peeta smiled so widely whenever he saw me, broad shoulders thrown back proudly, his china-blue eyes glittering; I saw that unruly scrap of blonde hair always falling across his forehead so I could push it back in place. All his little motions came back, small touches – even if he put a hand on my shoulder, it felt like he put it on my heart. Last, I saw the children, Prim and Marz, running through the tall golden grass to him as he played with them – piggyback rides and silly games Peeta and I never had the time or the freedom to play as a kid. This made my heart ache until I swore it squeezed smaller.
Peeta never treated me like a basket-case though everyone else did – he treated me like he loved me. And he did. Peeta loved me with all his soul, all his being, and though I never admitted it as profusely as he did every day, deep inside I knew I loved him fully with all of my self. But I never got to tell him enough, and that's what killed me.
With a thud, the hovercraft hit the ground, and everyone fell. My head whacked hard against a metal pole that held up a bunk bed, and I crumbled into a ragdoll, blackness and blood edging my vision. To keep myself awake, I told myself my children's names.
Primrose Rue Mellark.
Marzipan Cinna Mellark.
My Prim and Marz.
I didn't know if I was awake or asleep or in between, but my last vision came to me, quietly, without noise and chaos. It was one of the peaceful beginning.
Gale and I hunting in the woods, the only place where I felt like myself, where he made me laugh, taught me to survive, and taught me how to trust him, no matter what. The sunlight filtered yellow as butter between the lush green leaves, birds whistled, wind hushed, and the stream burbled, leading to the calm expanse of our lake where I first learned to swim. Gale teaching me how to draw my bowstring, how to shoot clean through the eye of a squirrel. Gale promising to take care of Mother and Prim as he held me close like it was our last embrace. Gale's wounded look when I returned from the Games, alive, but with Peeta on my arm. Gale kissing me tempestuously in the forest, showing me his love even though he knew I didn't love him.
Gale getting whipped in the town square, blood running down his bare back. Me kissing Gale to keep his mind off the pain.
Gale holding me to keep me from falling apart, showing us we were not children anymore, and maybe, we never were.
Gale telling me he loved me.
Me replying "I know."
How I woke up one day and he was gone to District 2, given a fancy job there.
Gale gone, and me, for some reason, missing him.
Then, those words, spoken from his mouth.
"We could run away, you and I. We'd make it, you know."
If I had run away with Gale, would none of this agony have ever happened?
I succumbed to the pain, and knew no more.