"Do you want to talk about it?" Gale asks as we leave Command. His hand brushes over my lower back and I walk faster to get away from him.
"No," I tell him. I don't want to talk to him about it. I don't want to talk to anyone about this. About what I saw in Twelve or about what they're asking me to do.
"Maybe Haymitch can-"
"Don't bring that drunk asshole anywhere near me!" I snap. Gale steps back as I whirl around to face him. We both know that my anger at Haymitch has nothing to do with the meeting we just got out of, another session of everyone in District Thirteen's command structure trying to convince the unruly and murderous teenage girl that she should rise up and become the symbol of the rebellion.
"We couldn't tell you, Katniss. If it failed and you were captured-"
"But it was okay to leave Peeta behind to be captured? When he did know? What do you think they're doing to him right now, Gale? Feeding him champagne and caviar? Hourly back massages?"
"If we're lucky, they've already killed him quietly," Gale says and I release a squealing snarl of rage at his callousness. "He knew what he was doing when he volunteered, Katniss. You act like we somehow used him."
"No, both of you used me," I say before I leave him calling my name in vain. I find my air duct and climb into it, curling into a ball and closing my eyes. He's there as soon as I do. Peeta. His smile in the moment before the lightning hit at midnight. I twist the hospital bracelet still on my wrist.
Mentally disoriented, it proclaims. How painfully accurate.
Peeta knew about the plan to break us out of the Arena. He knew about the growing rebellion and even about District Thirteen. So many times in the two weeks since they pulled me out of that cursed jungle, I've thought back over our conversation on the roof, the things he said during training and in the Arena that made my hair stand on end, as though he were trying to convey a deeper meaning but couldn't. Or wouldn't. I don't know how I feel about him keeping me in the dark.
Then there's his final smile. Happiness that I was safe? The anticipation of a successful plan? Relief that I had clearly figured it out? Or something else? He was willing to die to get me out of there, and I can't help but wonder...Did he use me too? Was it all for the rebellion? I don't know and it's killing me.
Except Snow has him now. It would be better if he were dead. But Gale and I both know that if they were going to execute Peeta, it wouldn't be done quietly. It would be mandatory viewing. A warning to the rest of us.
I lace my fingers together and rest my forehead on my clasped fists. Thinking about Peeta and what's happening to him now, what happened between us or that last smile he gave me at the lightning tree do nothing to help me answer the question before me.
What am I going to do?
I could walk away from this. All of it. Into the woods and disappear forever. I don't care about their rebellion, but something seems to be keeping me here. They want me to become the face and the voice of the rebellion. Their Mockingjay. I'm not sure that I can do it. Don't they know they left their voice behind?
But I can still be the face.
I think of Peeta on the roof before each of the Games and I know, we can't go back. Giving up now would only make things worse than they already were for the Districts. Worse than watching their children die in the Games or working themselves to death in the mines and starving because there are others who take more than they need. Who take everything. If he were here, he'd want me to do this. Otherwise he wouldn't have tried so hard to keep Gale out of the Quell and then to get me out of there, too. To show the Capitol that they don't own us. And now, I want to do the same.
My head throbs a little with all the arguing. About what a disaster I am and how impossible I am to coach. How useless the footage they got is. Plutarch's face is turning red as he insists that having Gale and I together will be far more effective than filming us separately, despite the fact that whatever chemistry we used to have is clearly dead. Coin seems annoyed with the whole thing, mentioning for the hundredth time that they should've saved the boy, meaning Peeta. And even though I couldn't agree with her more, despite the implications that I am more useful as a martyr than a symbol, her nonchalance about the whole thing annoys me, especially since no one knows for sure if he's even alive still.
"Then why didn't you save him?" I ask and slowly, the conversation tapers off as all eyes turn to look at me.
"Soldier Everdeen?" Coin uses my name only to convey a request to repeat what I said. There are no wasted words or breaths in District Thirteen.
"Why didn't you save Peeta?" I snarl and nervous looks get passed around the room. "He was right there. Standing by the tree with me and Finnick and Beetee."
"We couldn't stay any longer," Plutarch says. I send my glare to his neighbor. Haymitch, who of all people, should've wanted to save Peeta, his first Victor, his family. Until Peeta came along, Haymitch had no one except his bottles of booze.
"We got as many of you out as possible. If we hadn't left when we did, we wouldn't have made it out of there at all," Boggs chimes in. His usually calm gray eyes ask a question I'm not prepared to answer… Who would I have left behind instead? Finnick? Beetee? I can't bring myself to wish that on either of them, but that does little to soothe the fury I feel that this group stacked and ranked our lives in terms of our usefulness to their rebellion, that they felt it was alright to decide who would live and who they would leave behind to die. It makes them no better than Gamemakers.
The conversation shifts from there, back to the business at hand. How to get usable footage out of me.
"I'm not finished," I snarl and Gale stiffens next to me as I bargain for lives and barely gain an inch. I refuse to film another second unless they listen. In the end, it's a hollow victory.
Prim keeps her cat. The Victors will not be rescued from the Capitol. I do manage to get an agreement in writing that they will reconsider after we take District Two. But that's such a long ways off.
It's decided that I need to be somewhere I can genuinely interact with people. Gale will go with me; he's not to leave my side if we're beyond the borders of Thirteen. Of course, we can't have the Star Crossed Lovers of District Twelve apart now that they are finally free to be together. And we are to get our shit together and stop acting like we'd rather rip each other's throats out than kiss.
Anger simmers in my periphery as they plan our excursion to District 8. Anger that they still treat me like a chess piece. That they can dismiss Peeta's life so easily. The assumption that Gale and I will continue the star-crossed lovers act for the sake of the cameras. At this point, I'm just lucky they haven't forced me to marry him.
We're whisked off to District 8 and while I fight back nausea the whole time, Cressida and the others assure me that they got excellent footage. At what cost, I wonder as I watch the final cut. The propo is incredible, unlike anything I've ever seen before. Yet I can't get the sight of the burning hospital out of my head.
Then Peeta appears on the screens throughout Thirteen. Healthy and whole, if a little tired looking. I spend hours debating if it's a trick of the light or if he's lost a little weight. His voice seems fine, unhurt, and I wonder if he's somehow talked them into treating him like the beloved Victor he is rather than a prisoner and a rebel.
Until his words contradict everything we've been trying to do and the shouts ring through the District, branding him a traitor and calling for his death. As I duck my head and hide in a supply closet, I am glad he's not here, for the first time since I found out he'd been left behind. But if he were here, he wouldn't be saying those things.
I rock on my haunches and scoot to the side when Gale joins me in the dark. I don't say a word, waiting for him to say it first.
"So he's alive," Gale says and I nod. "Are you going to say anything?"
"He's not a traitor."
"Probably not," Gale admits, plucking at the hem of his pants.
"Why do you think he said those things?" I whisper.
"I don't know. Maybe he was forced. Maybe he's trying to make some kind of deal to barter for his release. He didn't look like they'd been torturing him, though."
"His foot was bouncing," I say and Gale stares at me. I sniffle and wipe my nose. "He doesn't...he doesn't get nervous like that in front of cameras."
"But at least we know he's okay. For now."
"For now," I repeat. I can hear the question Gale doesn't ask. Are we okay now that we know Peeta's alive? Will we stop fighting all the time?
"But people believe him. He could've done a lot of damage today," Gale says and I nod. "They're going to want a response from us tomorrow. Maybe today."
I nod again and Gale leaves me with a heavy sigh. After dinner, we don't talk about Peeta as Cressida runs us through some ideas for a propo we plan on shooting on our upcoming trip to District Seven.
Unease and nausea become my companions as I provide the rebellion with propos and watch Peeta spin words that are the antithesis of everything I say. Everything I know he believes. I watch his gradual deterioration through his appearances on Caesar Flickerman's new show and wonder if the lies are slowly killing him. No one else seems to notice or care. And I start to wonder if maybe I'm imagining things and never really knew Peeta at all.
Gale and I are allowed to hunt, as long as we give our catches to the kitchen. In the woods, we're able to regain some of what died in the Arena. While we sit on a fallen log to rest one afternoon, and I chew on a mint leaf, he sits heavily beside me.
"You're angry with me," he says. Slowly, I open my eyes and look at him. "Katniss, I know this whole romance thing has upset you and you know the last thing I want is to do anything for the Capitol. But it's not for them anymore."
I mull over his words for a moment before I finally shake my head. "Now it's for the rebellion. Is that any different?"
"Of course it is," he insists, laying a hand over mine. "When we talked about leaving Twelve, after our Games...and you said that maybe you could be different somewhere else...this is somewhere else. Here, it could be just for us. If you let it be."
He's right. It is somewhere else. And yet, it still doesn't feel right. It's not really just for us. I still can't see myself married or having kids. The rebellion could still fail. Snow could still kill us all. And the cameras would keep filming.
And then there's what happened between Peeta and me. I no longer know what to think of it. I thought maybe he loved me. Maybe I loved him. But now the Capitol has taken away the chance for me to find out if it was real.
Gale sighs when I don't say anything right away. I think about our days in the woods and how essential he's been to my life. We were the key to each other's survival in so many ways and yet I let the Games and his unexpected confession of love come between us.
"Maybe," I finally manage to say. He doesn't look convinced, but he nods in acceptance.
We shoot footage in Twelve and I sleep on the hovercraft on the way there. My mother is worried about how much I've been sleeping during the day and how little at night. The nightmares that haunt me, and refuse to go away without Peeta's arms to protect me, keep her and Prim awake too. Pollux asks me to sing and I dredge up an old song my father once taught me. The Hanging Tree. Of course, they catch the whole thing on camera.
Gale asks me to marry him once more and kisses me in the kitchen of my house in Victor's village while the camera rolls and my eyes wander through the window, across the street to the pile of rubble that was once Peeta's house. Tears sting my eyes and the kiss tastes of misery and ash.
That night, Thirteen broadcasts to the Districts that it controls, announcing the Capitol's failure in stamping out love and togetherness. Our kiss is the centerpiece, along with the joyous news. I'm supposed to marry Gale the first week of October. The entire nation will be watching.
I don't know what to do.
The nausea wins the second Peeta's blood spatters on the tiles and the screen turns to fuzz. I retch into a trash can while everyone else argues about what he can possibly mean.
"He's warning us!" Haymitch insists. "Katniss - tell them!"
My knuckles turn white as I force myself to stand and face the expectant eyes on me. "Haymitch is right. I don't know how he knows, but if he says they're going to bomb us, then that's what they're going to do."
When the sirens start, I go looking for Prim. Eventually I find her, coaxing the cat out of an air duct. I grab the foul beast by the scruff, not even flinching at his claws on my skin, and shove him into her arms. We descend with the crowds, orderly and neat until the first bomb hits, making all of Thirteen quake. Sometimes, training means little in the face of real attacks.
Fear rises up in a tidal wave. The sea of fleeing humanity pushes and shifts. I try to protect Prim as she shouts in distress. My foot catches on a slit in the metal grating and then I'm falling, rolling and protecting my head.
I land hard, the world spinning and my back aching with a splintering pain. Feet pound over and around me. Hands grasp me and I hear my name, muffled under layers of nausea and confusion. Gale hauls me to my feet and I puke at the foot of the metal stairs. He drags me the rest of the way to the bunker. As soon as we find my mother, she takes me from him, insisting she'll check me over while he makes sure his family made it safely to the bunker. Settled in a corner, I obey her every command. Prim asks how she can help and my mother sends her away to get the damn cat settled.
"Are you tender here?" I nod. "And here?"
The bunker shudders as the distant rumbles of a second bomb hit. I try to stand and my mother forces me to lay back down.
"They've built it to survive. How long?" she asks after examining me for a few minutes and I shake my head, raise my hand to it to try and clear the cobwebs.
"How long what?"
"The nausea and the exhaustion. How long have you had them?" she prompts and closes a curtain between us and the rest of Thirteen. A camera crew tries to join us and she yells at them to leave.
"Since after the Quell, I think? Because of the concussion."
"Get some sleep," she tells me as she tucks me in. I wander in and out of dreams, feel the deep shudders of the bombs as they hit and wonder if Peeta's alright. If they only hit him for the cameras and stopped as soon as the broadcast ended. But then why torture him at all? He looked awful. Sunken eyes, pale skin, dull hair. He's lost so much weight and no amount of makeup or fancy clothes could cover the awkward way he moved. Like a person in extreme pain. No, I was right before. And so was Gale. It would be better if he were dead. Better if they had just killed him quietly.
Plutarch stops by to talk wedding plans, but I can't say a word. The pain has become too much. I'm seeing things. Snakes writhing on the floor. I cover my body with the thin blanket and call for my mother. Peeta whispers that he'll get her then kisses my forehead. I murmur his name and ask him to stay. He falters but leaves to find my mother anyways. He doesn't come back, just Mom and her prodding hands and whispered words of concern when I tell her that I'm having cramps and think I'm bleeding. That my cycle has started.
"When was your last one?" she asks and I shake my head, trying to remember.
"March, I think." I moan in pain and then manage the rest. "But I've never been regular."
My mother banishes everyone except one doctor that she swears she trusts, insisting that only the two of them be allowed to care for her daughter. I'm surprised Plutarch and Coin allow it, but my mother seems to have some sway with Plutarch and he manages to keep out the rest of Thirteen.
Her hands on me are gentle and loving. Her words are not.
"Katniss, you're having a miscarriage," she whispers. "Do you want me to get Gale?"
"No, I'm not pregnant. That was a story we told them. For the Games," I say, gritting my teeth through more pain.
"Are you sure?" she asks and something in her tone cuts through the agony and makes everything lucid for just a few minutes. I think of Peeta and the night we spent together, the whispered words of love he gasped into my ear, the feel of us joined as one and his face as he came inside me.
"No," I whisper, then louder with each crescendo of pain in my body as I realize what she's saying. "No no no no no. It was only once."
"Sometimes once is all it takes. I'll get Gale," she murmurs and brushes hair back off my forehead. I grab her wrist and squeeze.
"No, Peeta," I whisper. I repeat his name, hoping she'll understand because I can't seem to find the words I need. She stares down at me, purses her lips, and although I expect judgement, I only see sorrow. "I need Peeta. Can you save the baby?"
I have always feared losing my children to the Reaping. To the Games. But as I lay there crying and hurting, all I can think is how unbearable it will be to wake up from this nightmare and know that I lost Peeta's child without any help from the Capitol. That I couldn't keep her safe at all.
"I can't," my mother whispers. She injects medicine for the pain into my arm and eventually, I sleep. There's no relief in dreams.
Haymitch crosses his arms and stares down at me while my mother sees to other patients. "You gonna tell me what the fuck is wrong with you?"
"Fuck off," I mutter and he bends over to smile in my face. Even sober, his breath still reeks and I blanch at the stench.
"I'll find out, sweetheart. It's my job to know what my Tributes and Victors are up to. Like the night before the Quell...I know you weren't in your room until close to dawn. And I know it wasn't Gale who put you there."
Bile rises in my throat at his insinuation. I glare at him and he nods.
"Think you oughta do something about this predicament you're in? Meathead isn't actually stupid. In fact, he's damn smart. I imagine he knows enough about the birds and the bees and the flowers in the trees to-"
"I'll tell the medics who's been siphoning off their morphling," I rejoin and his eyes narrow at me.
"I want him back, too, Sweetheart," he growls, and I think of the way he couldn't even look at me when he told me that the Capitol had Peeta. Of all the nasty words we threw at one another on the hovercraft while Gale and Finnick and Plutarch watched, stunned for a moment before they managed to separate us. "That's not gonna happen if you don't play by their rules here. They've got no good reason to go after him. So I suggest you figure something out. Soon."
"Doesn't matter now. I've lost it anyways," I mutter and roll away from him, curling in on myself. "Now at least part of the lies are actually true."
Plans begin for the wedding. Finnick retreats further into his knots. Peeta doesn't show up on the broadcasts anymore. I recover anyways, despite my best efforts. Slowly. At least physically. I come up with the crazy idea that if I play the part they want, if I am madly in love with Gale at all hours of the day, maybe they'll do what I ask and rescue Peeta.
We head to District Two and make plans that keep failing to crack The Nut. Gale and Beetee have the only idea Lyme or Coin want to hear. We argue. It seems to be what we've become best at doing, but eventually, Gale and Beetee's plan is accepted. We attack tomorrow.
That night, I sneak into his tent. It won't be the same. It takes me a moment to work up the courage, but eventually, I slip beneath the blankets with Gale. We're quiet and I focus on the feelings, if only so I can feel alive for a moment.
But as he undoes my pants and slides his hand between my legs, something in my face must stop him. I stare at the side of the tent a second too long before looking up at him to figure out why he stopped.
"What are you thinking?" he asks.
"I don't know," I tell him. He shakes his head and rolls away from me.
"Then it's like being with someone who's drunk. It doesn't count. Did you bring a camera with you?"
"Why would you say that?" I ask and he glares at me.
"Because you only do things like this for them. Never for me."
I try to argue, but I can't. Instead, I head back towards my own sleeping area.
We destroy The Nut and I hide from Gale while memories of my father's death and then of my nights on the train or in the Capitol with Peeta distract me. I wonder what he would say about this. Somehow I know that he would be able to articulate why it's so wrong to be shooting at one another while people are clawing their way out of a mine. Why it's wrong to remove all of their exits or wait for them with guns and violence instead of care and hope.
At least the Peeta I knew would say that. I don't even recognize the one I've seen on the TV for the past few months.
Maybe I'm naive. Gale tells me that wars aren't won that way. I'm not sure that I care about winning anything anymore. But when the first train arrives in the square, carrying survivors from The Nut, I abandon my speech and my post next to Gale and for the first time since they fished me out of that Arena, as I reach towards a wounded and frightened man with Peeta's words in my mouth, I feel whole and alive. Like maybe I am the Mockingjay instead of pretending to be her.
And then I watch myself get shot on television.
"You've missed a lot," Haymitch informs me when I wake up, groggy and aching.
"I feel like I should be dead," I tell him. He scoffs and stands up to ring a bell, to let the horde of doctors know that I'm awake.
"Cinna designed your armor too well for that. Ruptured spleen and broken ribs. That's it."
"Do we have Two?"
"We have Two," he confirms and I think back to the deal I made.
"Then they should be planning a rescue mission," I murmur as I hear the doctors descending. Haymitch shakes his head.
"They reconsidered for five minutes. Coin vetoed it. We're close enough that it was deemed not worth the risk. They're on their own until we get to the Capitol."
"Peeta could be dead by then, if he isn't already," I say and Haymitch winces. He escapes under cover of the space being too crowded once the doctors arrive.
Annie somehow escapes. They find her in District One, badly injured and half out of her mind with fear. It takes them days to calm her down enough to learn anything about how she got out, and even then only Finnick seems to be able to fully understand what she's saying. All we know for sure is this...the three of them were scheduled for execution. A very public execution. Annie, Peeta, and Johanna. They somehow escaped when they were in transit from the prison where they were being held, but they were separated somewhere in the Capitol. She's almost certain that Peeta, at least, is dead. He was the distraction meant to buy the other two some time.
I will kill Snow.
Weeks pass and there's no word of Peeta or Johanna. They're believed to be dead. Gale and I train in preparations for the Capitol. We kiss for the cameras. We stand up and say the vows from Twelve. From home. There's a dance and food, and everyone tells me it's a beautiful ceremony and that the food is excellent. I can't recall. By the time Gale asks if I'm ready for the Toasting, I'm sick to my stomach and have a headache that distorts the vision in my right eye. Everything in a strange shade of brown and gold, speckled like a toad.
We don't have a toasting. Instead my mother gives me sleep syrup and sends me to bed. In our compartment, not the newly assigned one that I'm supposed to share with Gale. The next morning, we leave for the Capitol.
Gale sits at the other end of the train car, as far away from me as he can. That night, when we stop to refuel the train, Gale and I slip into the trees to hunt. When I lean against a trunk and stare up at the stars, Gale grabs my face and kisses me. I drop my bow and rest my fists on his chest but otherwise can't move. When he lifts his head, there are tears in his eyes. Real tears.
"You thought I was him. In Thirteen, when you were sick. You asked him to stay and then kept saying his name. What happened to make you shut me out and let him in?"
"It doesn't matter anymore," I whisper, not sure what I mean. Gale probably has no idea just how far or how deep things went between Peeta and I. Maybe he suspects, but he doesn't know about the night before the Quell or all the kisses that I wish weren't secrets or about the child I lost. The one I didn't even know about until it was too late. The child I named Daisy after she'd already been scooped from my body and discarded like trash. The child who would have been born in May if I'd been able to protect her. The dancing girl I see every night in my dreams before a fire consumes her. Another ghost to haunt me at night.
My mother managed to fabricate a lie and a story to explain my illness during the bombing and afterwards — a lie worthy of Peeta's skill. Fitting since it was the very existence of his lost child she was covering up.
But it doesn't matter now. With every passing day with no word of Peeta, the odds that he's still alive dwindle and tick away. Tick tock. Just like our lives in the Quell Arena, under that pink sky.
It's in this moment, with Gale crying in the moonlight and hollow wedding vows between us, that I accept that Peeta is truly gone. Whatever we had is gone now too.
"You're a real piece of work," he says and leaves me, his footsteps silent as he returns to the train. When I climb back into the car, I sit at the opposite end of the train again, my knees pulled up and my arms crossed on top of them, face buried in my elbow to hide my tears.
Somehow, I've lost them both.
The trip to the hospital in District Eight went so well that they insist I visit the one in the Capitol, right on the edges of the city, as soon as I arrive. Gale tries to tell them that I'm too tired, and I probably am, but I go anyways. They won't care. They'll actually prefer it. The scars, the fatigue, the weariness that won't leave my eyes...this is why I belong to them.
We wander up and down the aisles of cots while I speak to soldiers from Thirteen and every other District in Panem. There are even a few from Districts One and Two, although not as many. There's only one section left for us to visit when Gale gets called away for some kind of strategy meeting with Boggs.
"Are you coming?"
"No," I tell him. "I'll finish here. You go ahead. It's not like they need anything from me other than my pretty face and my singing voice, right?"
Gale opens his mouth to say something but thinks better of it and mumbles under his breath. After he's gone, I turn to continue down the aisles when a voice reaches out to me from the past. A voice I never thought I'd hear again.
"Am I lucky enough to witness the first marital spat?"
"Peeta," I say and drop to my knees next to his cot. I can't believe he's here. Alive and safe. All the pain of the past few months begins to lift off my shoulders. His back is to me and I reach out, brushing my hand over locks of filthy blond hair. His clothes are just as dirty and ratted, and when he carefully turns over to face me, I gasp in shock.
"Here to finish me off, Sweetheart? It wouldn't take much at this point."
His eyes are hard and empty, his body emaciated. Bruises and scars, new injuries and old litter his skin where I can see. A pair of manacles clanks ominously as he moves and rage fills me that they've chained him to his cot. This isn't the healthy, steady boy who held me on the train or coached me through my first Games, or made me feel more alive in the moments when I was sure I was about to die than I ever have before or since.
"What did they do to you?" I whisper.
"Only what was to be expected," he says. "How's your husband?"
It's not a fair question. Not after what I've been through. But Peeta doesn't know any of it. He might not even know that they bombed Twelve into ash and his family didn't make it out. Only a handful of his friends from school did. I turn my head and find the cameras still beside me. I share a look with Castor, and he seems to somehow understand. With a tap on Pollux's shoulder, they wander away to shoot footage elsewhere.
I take Peeta's hand in mine and catalogue new scars and burn marks that weren't there the night before the Quell. And that's just one hand. Strange, striated burns streak across his temples from his eyes. I feel sick at the thought of what else they've done to him because of me. Of what lurks beneath the tattered clothes and the filth.
"We didn't have a toasting yet," I tell Peeta. He'll understand. Official papers or not, no one in District Twelve feels married until they have a toasting.
"Only a matter of time," he says.
"I thought you were dead. We all did." My voice breaks and I cover my mouth, willing the tears burning up my eyes to stay put.
"Like I said, only a matter of time," Peeta says and extricates his hand from my grasp. He closes his eyes and rolls back over, dismissing me. "Go away, Mockingjay. You probably shouldn't be fraternizing with a traitor."
I badger first Jackson and then Boggs when she doesn't budge. And when I finally get Haymitch on the phone, I yell until I'm hoarse, demanding that they actually take care of Peeta and not try him as a traitor.
"He saved the life of everyone in District Thirteen, remember?!" I screech. "Remind Coin of that little fact when she hauls out her fucking tribunal! It's not his fault you all left him there to die! You didn't try Annie. You can't try him! They did what they had to do to survive!"
When I finally finish and turn around, Gale is standing there, watching me with his jaw clenched. He walks away without a word.
No matter what I do, I'm hurting someone I care about.
Only I'm not sure I care about anyone's hurt feelings except my own when Peeta walks into our encampment two weeks later. Still thin and moving like he's in pain, but he's clean and dressed in a gray military uniform of Thirteen with a rifle hanging over his shoulder, Squad 451 stamped on his wrist. The ice a seemingly permanent fixture in his blue eyes until the camera turns its eye to him and he lays on the charm, spinning a story of daring escape in such a way that makes the Capitol seem incompetent and on the verge of failure.
"He's here and not shackled like he should be because he spent a fair amount of time in the President's mansion after the Quell. They think he can help us get to Snow faster. If you ask me, they ought to be stringing him up like they planned," Gale says and Peeta overhears as he walks by.
"I made myself too valuable of an asset for that," Peeta says with a shrug and keeps walking.
"Or he's leading us straight into a trap," Gale mutters. "How else do you explain all three of them escaping like that?"
I shake my head in denial. Peeta wouldn't do that. He wouldn't betray us. But as I watch him flirt with the Leeg twins and the food curdles in my stomach, I can't be sure anymore.