Disclaimer: All characters and things associated with The Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins and Lionsgate. This writing is for pure entertainment only.
Summary: Peeta's lie about Katniss' pregnancy is tested by the Capitol, leaving the Lethal Lovers only one option going into the Quarter Quell.
We land in District 12 and there is a pit forming in my pregnant stomach. Unlike last time, I know exactly what to expect. I know what I will be facing the second the doors open. I know I am not here to gain closure, I am hear to show Peeta and show the rest of the Districts what the Capitol actually did to District 12.
"Ready to go?" Cressida asks. She and the rest of the team are there to film all of this as well as Boggs and Gale.
I nod and the doors open. Gale offers me a hand but I ignore him. I am still so angry with him for how he acted about Peeta the other day. It seems the longer Gale is around Coin the more he acts like her, and the further we grow apart.
I step down onto the same field of charred bones and rubble that I did months ago but this time I do not flinch. I expect them, but I do all i can to avoid stepping on any bones, stepping on the mass grave.
I am not shocked, but Cressida and her team seem to be. I hear Castor gasp and Cressida stops dead in her tracks, her eyes seeming to be unable to register what is in front of her. However, it only takes her a moment before she remembers why she is with us.
"Let's get Katniss in a wide angle shot so we can see...whatever that is behind her," Cressida instructs.
"It was the Justice Building," I say with no emotion as I try to get my footing on a piece of rubble. The weight of my hardly pregnant stomach seems to be throwing my balance off and I don't like it.
"Okay, the Justice Building," Cressida nods and then continues. "Katniss, i want you to talk about what happened here...we need to show the other Districts."
I glance behind me at the yard of bones and again feel sick to my stomach. The truth is, I don't know what happened here. I was trapped in the arena while my District burned to the ground, probably because of me.
"I…" I take a deep breath and try to figure out how to explain all of this.
"It was right after the Games ended...or right after Katniss shot the arrow. The arena went out, so did all the screens around the Justice Building," Gale starts talking as he moves to stand next to me. His back is to Cressida, his hands in his pockets, and his eyes are locked on the one single part of the Justice Building still standing as he speaks. I find myself turning to look at the building as well, but Gale does not look at me.
"We were all out here...watching the Game and then...as soon as the screens blacked out...the Peacekeepers sent us all home. They cut the electric and we all just sat in the dark for hours. it didn't feel right but no one knew what was really going on. No one knew what happened in the arena…" Gale continues.
And now I notice Cressida directing Pollux to film Gale instead of me. Part of me is relieved, but part of me doesn't care, only wanting for Gale to desperately continue, so I can know what happened to my home.
"After awhile, I heard the Peacekeeper's trucks moving out. People were excited, but I knew what that meant. I knew if the Capitol was telling them to leave it was for their protection and not for any other reason," Gale says with a sigh as he kneels down, so that he is nearly eye level with the bones of those who died here in District 12.
"I got a few guys from the Mines together and we tried to get as many people to the woods as we could but…" Gale chokes on his words now, and I can see the tears forming in his eyes.
Tears are forming in mine too.
"People have always been afraid of the woods, you know? Most of them have never been there...they didn't want to follow me. A lot of them took back off up this road...hoping to get out…" Gale points ahead to where all the burned bodies lay now.
I feel my hands move to his shoulders to comfort him as tears roll down his cheeks now. I realize that his burden has been on his shoulders since he got to District 13 and I feel sorry for him. I realize I am crying too.
"The road wasn't safe...of course it wasn't. It's too exposed...the Capitol came in with bombs so quickly no one could get out of the way. So many died...so many kids I could have carried. I should have just scooped them up. I should have made them come with me!" Gale is crying now but the anger in his voice is so relevant. He is blaming himself for all of this.
I want to comfort Gale because despite how mad I have been with him recently. I cannot be angry at him right now, not when I know what he has been through. But as usual, I don't know what to say. I have never been great with words.
"Gale, this isn't your fault. You saved so many lives, you're the reason there is anyone even alive from District 12 right now," Cressida reminds him.
"I could have saved more," Gale says fiercely, wiping up the tears from his cheeks.
"You shouldn't have had to save anyone. This should have never happened," Cressida says and gently pats Gale's back.
I glance up at her and realize she is seemingly a better friend to Gale right now then I am. She seems to understand him, or be able to comfort him in ways maybe I never could. I even notice how he gently squeezes her hand on his shoulder for comfort and I wonder when Gale and I lost each other. We are not the friends we used to be.
"No, it shouldn't have," Gale agrees with Cressida and now his voice is strong as he gets to his feet. "But it did...because Snow made sure it did. Snow killed all of these people."
Gale stands fiercely and turns to lock eyes with the camera filming him. His voice is lower now but just as steady as he speaks to the camera. "Snow did this, and he's not going to stop."
A moment of silence fills the air and then Cressida nods. "That was good. Cut it."
Castor puts the camera down and Cressida orders the film crew to film other areas of District 12 to be able to use in the propaganda films. Boggs follows them leaving Gale and I alone.
"Gale, I'm sorry-" I say after a long moment.
Gale just shakes his head. "It's fine."
I am not sure what Gale is referring to that is fine, but nothing feels fine.
"Do you want to go back to your house? I think we have some time," Gale says.
I nod. There were a different vials and jars of medicine that my mother and Prim asked me to bring back and I know Cressida will want to get some shot of my house and probably Peeta's. The thought of seeing Peeta's house in rubbles makes me a bit nauseous and my hands move to my pregnant stomach as if to insure that Peeta's child is still alive in there.
As odd as it sounds, the more pregnant I get and the longer I go without seeing Peeta, the more I find comfort in the baby I am carrying. I am still unsure I will make a good mother, and I hate the attention I get for being pregnant but I do like having a piece of Peeta with me.
Gale and I walk silently to my home in the Victor Village. I do all I can to avoid looking at the rubble that was once Peeta's home, hoping it isn't a sign for things to come.
We get into my home and I move toward the kitchen. Gale follows me in but I can see he is still hurting. His head is hung low and he leans his hands up against the large wooden table in our kitchen.
"You know...this is where you kissed me," Gale points to the table.
I glance over my shoulder, surprised by his words as my eyes go between him and the table. I remember what he is talking about. After the whipping, when I thought he was dying, I kissed him. However, I am surprised he remembered. "I didn't think you were awake for that."
Gale gives a small laugh. "Well, wasn't completely conscious, but I think that kiss would have woken me from the dead."
I am not sure what to say to Gale. He looks so broken, so young, so sad. He shouldn't have to go through all he has been through, all he has seen. And I feel guilty because part of that sadness is because of me. I am causing him pain. I am the reason that District 12 was attacked, that Peeta is being starved to death, that their is a revolution. Me and my berries, me and my arrow, me and this baby.
I move up toward Gale and without thinking wrap my arms around him, burying my head into his chest.
I feel Gale's hands move through my braid and down my back. However, he stops when he feels the pull of my jacket over my pregnant stomach. He even pushes me away from his slightly and glances down at the bump that separates he and I now.
"I will never get you back, will I? No matter what...he has you," Gale says as he glances at my baby bump. I know he is speaking of Peeta, he doesn't even need to say the name.
"Gale…" My voice is a whisper but I don't know what to say. The right answer will surely break his heart and I can't do that to him right now. So instead, I lean up and give him a quick kiss.
Gale gently pushes me off of his lips as quickly as mine touch his. To be honest, I don't know why I kissed him. I don't have feelings for him, not the way I do for Peeta, and I have already learned so many times that kissing him only hurts Gale in the long run.
"Katniss...don't do things you can't promise later," Gale says cryptically but I know he is speaking about the kiss.
"Gale, I didn't mean-" I try to get out but then stop. I don't know what to say.
"You love Peeta. I know you do. The way you kiss him...you never kiss me like that," Gale says, dropping his hands from my shoulder.
I open my mouth to speak but then close it. All I can do is look up at Gale with what I am sure are sad eyes. I only make things worse.
"Don't worry, Katniss. The pain will pass for me," Gale says with a sigh and moves back out to meet Cressida and her crew, leaving me alone in the kitchen, staring at the table I vividly remember Gale nearly dying on.
The interview with Caesar ending mere minutes ago and I am already being strapped down to a table while a few doctors work around me. They pull out the same needles and vials that they have been pumping in me for weeks.
I flinch as they move around. I don't know what they are doing to me but I know that ever since they started pricking me with those things my memories have been confusing.
Whatever they are pumping into my blood is making me confused about Katniss.
"What are you doing to me? What is that stuff?" I shout at the doctors, knowing nothing worse except maybe death can happen to me anymore and I have one thing on my side; Snow still needs me.
He murdered Portia in front of me to show me he is calling the shots but he hasn't killed me yet because he is still using me. I am still a valuable piece in his game.
The doctors ignore my question as they plunge one of the needles into my arm and focus my eyes on a video of Katniss from the first games murdering Marvel.
The film is just her shooting him over and over again and if you didn't know the context, that she was defending Rue, she does look like a cold blooded killer.
"Katniss is a murderer...she is a mutt. She murders children and she will murder you, Peeta. She will murder your child. Watch her!" One of the doctors says as the film continues to play.
At first I know his words are lies but as he repeats them it's harder to remember the truth about Katniss.
"You're wrong!" I fight back but my memories of Katniss seemed so blurred now.
I try to take my eyes off the screen but I cannot.
"What are you doing to me?" I scream and trash.
"Hold him down! Double the dosage!" I hear Snow's voice and move my eyes just enough to see his face.
"What are you doing? What is happening to me?" I grunt at the old man.
"Peeta, my boy, it is truly amazing what tracker jacker venom can really do to someone. What it can actually make you believe...don't you agree?" Snow sneers at me
And then I feel another prick of a needle into my arm and I realize the truth. Snow is poisoning me and he is poisoning my memories of Katniss.
Cressida spends another hour or so filming District 12 before Boggs suggest we stop for lunch. Truthfully, I am not very hungry and I really just want to get back to District 13. I want to lay down and sleep for days. Between the day in District 12, Gale, and my pregnancy I am truthfully exhausted.
We sit for lunch and I notice that Gale sits far away from me, picking at his sandwich and avoiding me. I don't blame him and really, now that some time has settled in after our short kiss earlier in the day I feel sick to my stomach. I feel like I betrayed Peeta on some strange level and that is something a kiss with Gale has never done to me before.
I balance my own sandwich on my four month pregnant bump. It's not huge, but it's enough that you can see it in my lap now. Pollux sits down next to me and I smile at him. I like sitting with him because he doesn't talk, but his silence is peaceful.
Pollux smiles and begins eating his sandwich. He seems to be nearly as tired as me and I wonder if the day has been stressful for all of us.
When we are nearly done with lunch, Pollux snaps his finger at me to grab my attention. I glance at him to notice he is pointing to a few birds sitting on a rock not too far from us. He then smiles at me and points at my Mockingjay Pin.
I smile back, understanding what he means. Sometimes, speaking with Pollux is like speaking with a small child and a strange part of me is grateful that I can communicate with him. Maybe it is a good sign; maybe I won't be the awful mother I envision.
"Yes, those are Mockingjays," I point to my pin and then to the birds.
Pollux nods and touches his lips before whistling. Instantly, the birds mimic his whistle and then he points to me.
I realize what Pollux wants from me.
"You want me to sing?" I ask.
Pollux nods with a big smile and even though I am tried, I don't have it in me not to provide Pollux with this simple request. He too has lived through so much because of the Capitol.
And so, I sing a song I haven't sang in years. A song my father taught me but a song I was never allowed to sing because it was forbidden. I sing "The Hanging Tree".
I haven't sang the words in over ten years but I remember every syllable like it was only yesterday. So sweet, so sad, I sing the words about the lost lover and i close my eyes. For some reason, the lyrics mean so much more to me now. They remind me of Peeta.
When I finally finish and open my eyes I realize everyone is looking at me, and that Cressida has made sure to get the song on camera. I wipe my tears and stand, wanting to be alone right now.
I head back to the Hovercraft and realize that the rest of the team is right behind me. I realize the isolation I seek I will not be allowed and so I quickly get into my seat and close my eyes. I don't want to talk to anyone.
However, as we start to take off from District 12, the silence on the Hovercraft makes me realize that no one seems to want to talk. I imagine that all of us have been touched by the visit to District 12 in different ways.
At some point I do manage to find the sleep I seek and eventually am woken up to Cressida shaking me gently.
"Katniss, we are back in District 13," Cressida's voice is soft in my ear.
It takes me a moment but I do wake up and am eager to get off the Hovercraft. I want to get back to my mother and Prim and curl up for another few hours of sleep.
But nothing is as easy as I think and when I move off the Hovercraft I am met by Coin, Plutarch, and Beetee.
"Katniss! The footage was marvelous! Gale, excellent job telling the story. Truly touching," Plutarch says, motioning for both Gale and I to stop.
I am slightly confused as to how Plutarch could have seen any of the footage from District 12 but I quickly realize that Cressida must have sent it ahead of us. Sometimes I forget how advanced the technology we have available to us in District 13 is.
"Uh...thanks," Gale says awkwardly and I can tell he does not appreciate Plutarch's words. Plutarch seems to think Gale's pain is the perfect spectacle.
"We were able to edit the singing and Gale's story together and we already sent it out to a few District, and they love it. We are gaining momentum!" Plutarch seems so delighted that he hardly notices our pain.
"Yes, it was very helpful. Thank you both for that," Coin says coolly.
I eye Coin hard. She is not someone I can ever figure out. She seems hardly interested or impressed by the video, at least not the way Plutarch is. I wonder if she just does not care or maybe she understands the pain that going back to District 12 may have caused Gale and I. Certainly, she has lived through her own pain.
"I am working to get the feed into the Capitol. if we can manage that...well...maybe we can reach Peeta," Beetee says looking up from his wheelchair and directly at me.
"You mean get him out?" I say, hopefully.
"Well reach him first...but yes, the goal is to get him out as soon as we can," Beetee says with a smile.
I can feel Gale stiffen at Beetee's words while I have the opposite reaction. I throw my arms around Beetee's neck in a rare moment of hope. Suddenly, I feel invigorated. The thought of being able to reach Peeta, for him to see me, for us to potentially save him, is overwhelming.