I do not own this story, its characters. I merely daydream about the world Suzanne Collins has created and like to play with the story some on my own.
Rated T for later content, and possibly M beyond that.
Well this is just great. I thought to myself as I strolled down the streets of District 12. By myself. Definitely not how I thought that would go. I continued walking, and avoiding everyone's mixed stares as I made my way through the streets, head mostly down. I wasn't sure what I expected when I returned hom after the games. It seems like the people here have mixed feelings about my actions with the berries, and the punishment I was sure to draw toward me from the Capitol. I had an odd sense that everyone wanted to scream in excitement with me, and celebrate to their heart's content. But thanks the Capitol, I bet their scared of showing any excitement until they know what my punishment's going to be. No doubt they're watching me all too closely, just like at the games. Who knows? I could have a million cameras pointed on me in this very instant and not even know what the Capitol might be seeing. I'm so damn sick of their stupid games!!!
This morning was one of those mornings where Haymitch warned me strongly that I had to keep my emotions in check. It's been exactly four days since I was first allowed to see my family, Gale, and everyone else that was remotely excited to see me. And even then, I don't think Gale was too happy, given the circumstances, I thought to myself. Sure, Gale was one of the first ones there to greet me when I was escorted home, but the moment I saw him, I was positive his being there had everything to do with expectations and duty, rather than actually wanting to see me. It was an awkward reunion with him, and definitely not what I expected. But can you blame him? He saw everything I was doing during the games and I got the strong feeling that he was not impressed by my actions. The look I'd seen on his face when reunited with him was one I hadn't seen in a very long time. He was disappointed in me. Is there possibly anyone who isn't?
Prim. She was happy to see me, but she was too young to understand the politics surrounding the end of the games and what I'd done. She was genuinely happy that I'd come home, where everyone else I wasn't quite so sure about. My mother didn't say too much to me, just that she was happy I came back in one piece. Over the last few days, I'd actually come to dread the moment I saw my family and Gale again. After Haymitch gave me the heads-up about the Capitol being very upset with my actions, I felt nervous all the time. But I didn't expect this. Everyone I ever new was afraid to look at me.
This morning I met with Haymitch once again, and got filled in on what to expect with the Capitol from here on out. In not so many words he told me to watch my back, and that I'd be stupid to think I could trust anyone. Well happy homecoming, Katniss!! The reason why I was expected to keep my emotions in check today was to prevent any spies from the Capitol from catching on that I was very angry with them and actually proud of how I humiliated them. This is rediculous. How can I let them have so much of a thumb over me?! But of course, I wasn't allowed to do a thing about it. At least not for a while, when things might possibly calm down and I can get my normal, miserable life back.
And then there was Peeta, still angry as ever with me of course. How did I come to screw things up so bad this time? He was there with Haymitch this morning as well, and didn't even try to make eye contact with me. At least I didn't think so. I tried to keep my head down as much as possible while Haymitch went on on his tangent about the Capitol and how careful we needed to be. I had a feeling Peeta was only invited so he'd at least have a heads-up about what I was being told, so that when questioned, he could pretend to be on the same page as me.
Haymitch had finally dismissed Peeta to go home to his family for the rest of the day, but held me back to explain a few things. "I only did it for your own good," he'd told me. Of course, he was referring to the trickery he had me under throughout the whole games. Manipulating me into showing affection toward Peeta so that we could win our sponsors over and keep ourselves alive. I still wasn't sure what he meant, and now I regret even asking him.
* * * * *
"What do you mean you did it for my own good? Did you think I wouldn't be able to survive out there on my own? I had things completely under control until you started filling my head with nonsense!! And what good did it do? Peeta hates me now, my own mother acts rather strange, and my best friend probably doesn't want anything to do with me!!" I tried so hard to not throw a fit right there and hit him with something. I was so angry at him for what he did, there were almost no words to describe it.
"Katniss, I merely gave you the push you needed, but most of your actions were purely your own." He said.
I just stared back at him with as much of a death glare as I could muster. "You played with my emotions, just so you can enjoy a stupid game of survival of the fittest." My tone was darker than I'd expected, but I couldn't help it. I was angry and hurt by all of it. "And now we find ourselves in trouble. With the Capitol!! How could you have possibly not seen this coming?"
I could tell Haymitch was ready to make his point. I could see it blazing in his eyes. And I knew it was going to make me feel stupid once again.
"Katniss, do you actually believe I had control over your feelings for Peeta? I don't think so. That was all you. And you'd do well not to deny it yourself. I only gave you the push you needed to have something to fight for, for a reason to stay alive out there. I guided you at first, yes, but how you solved the problems with Peeta and his sickness was all your doing. Your sponsors did not respond to you gushing over Peeta. Those feelings were not a game! What they saw in your eyes when you watched over Peeta were genuine. You were fighting so hard to keep him alive that it kept you alive as well. So don't stand there glaring at me, blaming me for everything that went wrong, when in reality it is your own actions and free will that kept you alive out there." He finished his speech rather calmly and just crossed his arms over his chest and waited for me to calm down and see the light. That's how it always was with Haymitch. He always had a point on something, and made them rather well. Still, I felt stupid like I knew I would. All I could do was stare back at him.
"You say it wasn't just some stupid game to get the sponsors to respond to my needs." I ground out between clenched teeth. "Then how come every time I played into their stupid game, by kissing and flirting with Peeta, they sent me the gift I needed most?" he just stood there looking at me. I couldn't take it anymore. "Tell me!!" I yelled.
He took in a steady breath and released it. I was almost as if he was trying to tell me something, without exactly saying it. I could see the impatience in his eyes.
"Because, Katniss. The sponsors send you gifts when you really need it, when they think it's going to make the difference between life and death. You should have seen them. They weren't standing around taking bets on when you were going to kiss Peeta next or hold his hand. They were waiting for your decisions, for you to show the raw emotions of someone desperately trying to save not only herself but Peeta as well. You can't seriously be thinking they threw down heaps of money to send you gifts, just because they wanted you to kiss some boy. Oh no. They did it because they saw that you truly cared, and that if you didn't get those gifts, neither of you would have survived." He paused for a moment. "Whether or not you want to see it yourself, Katniss, you were falling for Peeta of your own accord, and no amount of sponsor-pleasing could have pushed you to that unless you actually wanted to do it. You're that stubborn. But lucky for you, that helped the sponsors see another side of you, one that kept you appearing human while everyone else in the arena were going around like animals killing each other."
I had heard enough. I just threw my hands up in the air and let out an exasperated breath. I was so frustrated I didn't know what to say back. Instead I turned around and burst through the doors, not paying attention to my surroundings. I slammed into someone pretty hard as I pushed my way through the hall outside. I was so fired up I didn't even bother turning around to shoot out an apology. I just started running, fast as I could, until I could get some of my frustration out.
I started running low on energy and finally slowed to a walk, kicking rocks out of my way to get some of the tension out. And here I am, walking through the streets like a big nobody, watching everyone pass me with their heads down.
I caught the attention of a little girl walking with her mother, but when she saw me make eye contact with her, she hid behind her mother's dress and kept on moving. Real cute, I thought to myself. Everyone in this place things I'm a total whack job. I sighed and just kept moving.
My head snapped up at a familiar scent, and after taking in my surroundings I realized I was right outside Peeta's family's bakery. I ducked behind some empty crates in the corner when I heard someone coming out. The voice I heard wasn't Peeta's, but his father's. He was talking to someone but I couldn't hear what they were saying. It's gotta be Peeta. But it wasn't. Peeta's father, and what appeared to be a customer, left the shop and went on their merry way down the street. I decided to stay crouched behind my crates in case Peeta really did come out. It would be all too awkward if he saw me now. It would be best if I just remained completely unseen.
The shop sounded quiet, and when I thought it was safe, I stood up and darted down the street. Hopefully he didn't see me.
I had forgotten how big District 12 seemed. I'd been walking for hours when I realized the day was almost over. Soon I'd be close to the woods I loved so much. I hadn't set foot in them since coming back, and this would be my first time in a while enjoying the secluded atmosphere. Just what I need.
I slowed my walking some more, feeling like I was no longer in a hurry to get anywhere. I just wanted to be away from anyone and everyone, and this was the best place to do it. Gale never comes out here at night, so I wouldn't have to worry about that. I stopped to look at the sky, all red and purple as the sun started disappearing from the horizon. That's when I heard it.
The sound of a snapping twig turned me around so fast I hardly remember it. But there was nothing but a bird perched in a nearby tree. I really have to get a hold of myself! This isn't the arena anymore, I'm perfectly safe. The games had changed me that much was obvious. I felt like I was always watching my back, waiting for the next person to show themselves before they attacked me. But I also had to remind myself those days are over, and I'm back home now, victor of the Hunger Games.
But still, my instinct told me to run, so that's exactly what I did. The sun was mostly gone now, so I took off into a sprint, into the woods. I ran as fast as I could, weaving myself in and out of the trees with an ease I'd forgotten I had. I was headed for my favorite spot, a small meadow-like clearing behind a hill, surrounded with dense trees. Only Gale knows how to find me there, but even he wouldn't be out here this late at night.
There were all sorts of sounds in the woods at night. Mostly owls and birds, or the occasional squirrel skittering across the ground to get out of my sight. It was peaceful, but something about it still reminded me of the arena. It mostly reminded me of hiding in the woods at night, sleeping in trees, trying not to be seen. It reminded me of the time I overheard the Careers talking with Peeta about finding me. And in the next moment it reminded me of when I found out two tributes would be able to win this thing, if they're from the same district. I found myself thinking more and more of Peeta, and it started to get me down. Get out of my head, Haymitch! I said to myself, and kept on running.
Finally I saw the clearing up ahead and slowed to a walk again. I made it to the top of the hill and looked down. The moonlight was streaming in through the trees, illuminating the clearing perfectly. I realized then how much I missed this place. When I got to the bottom, I just gazed around, turning myself slowly in a circle to take in my surroundings. I closed my eyes and tried to think back to a happier time, when I first showed Gale this place. I remember him being impressed that I'd found it before him. Every bad day since then, he usually found me out here trying to escape the mundane life I lived.
The area itself wasn't overly huge. You could probably fit a small house in this clearing, and it would be hidden well amongst all the trees. It was as if someone had cut out the area just for me, so that I'd have a quiet place to think when I needed it. I suddenly remembered I probably shouldn't be out here, since crossing the fence is illegal. But somehow, I found myself not even caring if I got in trouble. I needed a place to think, and this was probably as good as it was going to get. No one else around to hover over me and drill me with questions.
The night air was cool but not freezing, so I took off my jacket and found a soft spot on the grass to lay it down. Then I plopped myself on my back on top of it and just gazed up at the sky. I could see twinkling stars above me, through the trees. The air had a fresh scent of trees. I closed my eyes to take it all in and relax myself. Then I heard a noise.
I bolted up right and twisted on the ground to look behind me but nothing was there. Probably just another deer. I thought to myself.
I turned back around and stayed sitting up. Suddenly I found myself thinking of everything. Everything Haymitch said to me this morning, the look on Gale's face, Prim's happy squeals when I was finally able to see her, and of course, Peeta. The next thing I knew, everything that happened in the arena before we won came flooding back to me. I remembered the moment I finally found Peeta, practically bleeding to death all alone in the middle of nowhere. Then I thought back to when we found the cave, and how sick he was before getting the sleeping syrup from the sponsors. Then I was at the moment when I kissed him to shut him up.
My fingers automatically went up to touch my lips, trying to remember what it was like to kiss him. Then I was remembering how he'd taken care of me when I basically cut my head open trying to get the antidote he needed from the feast. I sighed and brushed my hair away from my face. I felt something wet and pulled my fingers away, but didn't see any blood like I was expecting. That's when I realized I'd been crying. The tears started to flow freely now, and I could feel them tracing hot trails down my skin. Now is as good a time as any, I thought to myself. I didn't try to stop the tears now. Instead I just let them come and take over me completely. Everything I'd been feeling since the games ended just came out on the forefront. It would be embarrassing for anyone to find me like this now, but it was a relief to finally let the pressure out. I hadn't allowed myself any time for tears, much less allow myself to just let go like this. There has hardly been even any time to just let myself think. And that's exactly what I was allowing myself to do.
I had been crying for what felt like forever. But really it had been only close to an hour since I let the emotional trip begin. I heard another noise. It sounded like twigs breaking on the ground.
I turned around, not expecting to see anything other than a deer or squirrel, but this time I did see something and it was neither of those. It looked like the shadow of a person. Someone had followed me out here.