A/N: Taking a wee break from my multi-chapter fic (which I'm really not all that proud of anyway), I decided to write something not involving Haymitch?! GASP! I used a song like I did in my other story, Hush. This one has lyrics from Franklin by Paramore. Lyrics in italics.
Do You Remember That?
And when we get home, I know we won't be home at all. This place we live, it is not where we belong.
The tracks disappear with the sparkling city lights as the train leaves the Capitol behind and speeds towards District 12. The sky overhead is a deep indigo dotted with twinkling silver stars, but my vision is spotted with red. I see blood and death everywhere now. It follows me.
"Katniss." I hear a voice from behind me.
I stay where I am, curled up against the window, bare feet tucked underneath me, arms hugging my knees to my chest, forehead pressed against the glass. The outside blurs past beyond the window, but my eyes are unseeing, blank.
"Hey," it says gently, closer this time, and then Peeta is beside me, wrapping his arms around my tense shoulders and kissing the top of my head tenderly. "Are you okay?"
No answer comes to my lips. I can't tell him I'm fine and I can't pretend everything is alright. Because it's not. I'm not. It feels like I never will be again. There's a place in my chest where my heart was once beating, but it feels hollow now. My heart might as well have stopped with the Hunger Games. I might as well have died in that arena with everyone else. Part of me is still back there, buried in the dust and injustice of it all.
"Katniss," he says again, softly. "It's going to get better. We'll be home soon, and everything will go back to…the way it was before." He tastes the lie as it leaves his lips. He knows that's not true. Nothing will ever be how it was before.
Home will never feel like home. The people we know will become people we knew, because no one will understand this. I will scream myself awake from the same nightmares every night, Peeta will try to act as if he isn't broken, and Haymitch will keep drinking himself to death. That's who we are. That's how we deal with the Games' repercussions. In our own ways. Alone.
The Hunger Games ensure that everything we do from now on we do on our own, in the most painful way possible. The Capitol makes sure we suffer.
"You know that's not true," I tell Peeta. My voice sounds tiny, a million miles away. "We don't belong there anymore." I bite my lip and blink back tears. I can feel him staring at me, but I refuse to meet his gaze. "We don't belong anywhere."
"You know I'm right," I mutter, resting my forehead on my knees. "We belong with the other tributes. We should be dead."
And I miss who we were in the town that we could call our own. Going back to get away after everything has changed.
"No we shouldn't," Peeta says desperately, lifting my chin up in his warm hand. "Don't talk like that. We got out of there for a reason."
I shake my head and turn away from him. The inky night sky drips from above; everything is in darkness. I'm drowning.
"It's not going to be how you think," I whisper. "It's not going to be the same."
"It doesn't have to be," Peeta tells me, pulling me into him again. "We have each other now. We can get through it. The Capitol can't hurt us back home. We're safe."
I give in and look at him, my grey eyes turning to stone in the moonlight. "We're never safe," I declare slowly and evenly. "And we aren't who we were before."
"We are." Peeta gazes at me, yearning and remorse shimmering in his eyes. "I'm Peeta," he says, "and you're Katniss."
The train hums below us, and I turn back to the window. Someone, a long time ago, took a handful of stars and scattered them onto a black canvas, the same one I'm seeing now. Who's to say those stars are the same as they were all those centuries ago? Surely they've burned out and lost their will to shine like they did when they first appeared. Maybe they're not even alive anymore. Maybe we're only seeing what's left of them, their last moments still traveling to get to us. One of the stars winks out, and I close my eyes forlornly.
"No," I sigh. "I became someone else in that arena, and so did you." Peeta buries his face in the crook of my neck and shakes his head, but I go on. "We are killers now. Murderers of children. The Capitol's playthings."
"I know. We both survived. We both escaped with our lives." The tiny lights of faraway planets flicker in my eyes. "But we took many as well. We're no better than they are."
Peeta strokes a lock of my hair between his fingers and lifts his face to mine.
"In fact," I continue solemnly, "we're worse."
"Because," I interrupt, run over his pleading words. "Because we're alive and they aren't."
"We could still be happy," Peeta says, frantically holding me to him now, begging me to listen. "You and me, we could be happy. We could. We could fix each other, fit together the broken pieces." I raise my eyes to his, so sad, so full of longing. Moisture swims behind my own, but I hold the feeling back. I've become very, very good at hiding my emotions. "I love you, Katniss," Peeta murmurs. "You know I do."
"You love who I used to be, maybe. But everything has changed. I'm not the same person. Not after that."
"I love whoever you are."
I turn away from him again, unable to hide my tears anymore. If only that could be true.
'Cause you remind me of a time when we were so alive. Do you remember that? Do you remember that? Could you help me push aside all that I have left behind? Do you remember that? Do you remember that?
"You think you do, Peeta," I say softly, shaking my head, still facing away from him. "You want to love me, but you don't. Not really."
"I do, Katniss!" Peeta takes my hands gently. "I do love you. I always have."
A choking sound rises from my chest. "How can you?" I cry in a strangled voice. "How can you love me? I'm a monster." I lose my composure and pull my hands from his, covering my face, shoulders shaking.
Peeta rubs my back soothingly and presses his lips to my head again. "No, Katniss, no," he moans, sounding truly pained. "You aren't, you aren't."
"And how can you expect me to love you?" I blubber. "How can I possibly love anything?"
I fold myself into Peeta's comforting embrace, melting into his arms and crying harder than I have in ages. Sobs wrack my body and tears begin to stain the front of Peeta's shirt. I'm clinging to him, his collar balled in my fists, as I weep for all the things I've lost.
I've lost my humanity. I've lost my innocence. I've lost myself altogether.
I wish things were as simple as Peeta tries to make them. I wish we could go back to District 12 and pick up our lives where they left off. I wish we could love like we used to, but that part of us perished in the Games as well. Once we've seen the arena, once we've killed innocent children, we lose the capacity to love like regular people. We become less human.
"I don't know," Peeta says helplessly. "But that doesn't change how I feel about you. Nothing will. We've been through everything together, and I will not abandon you. I know what you've suffered—better than anyone, maybe—and I will stand by your side as long as you want me here. I'll help you get through this."
Peeta rocks me slowly back and forth, and I close my eyes, drifting off to sleep, trying to make myself see the future he has drawn out and trying to believe what he says.
So we stand here now and no one knows us at all. I won't get used to this. I won't get used to being gone.
Morning came. I don't know how the sun found the courage to climb over the hills on the horizon to face this ruined world—I couldn't have done it—but now it's here, and I find I am not ready to face it.
Peeta stands beside me, solid as a rock, his fingers intertwined securely with mine, as we step from the train onto the platform. We are back in District 12.
Once I get past all the cameras and reporters and flashing lights, I see the people that were once part of my everyday life. My mother and Prim of course, who look a bit lost, and certainly overwhelmed with relief. The mayor is standing beside Madge, who looks bewildered and curious, as if she's watching people she's never met unload off the train. And I suppose she is. There's Greasy Sae and everyone else from the Hob. They look alien too. Gale is here. He looks empty, and maybe even angry behind the cold mask. I see flickers of fear, regret, confusion, jealousy. I bite my tongue inside my mouth.
The rest are faceless blurs as I'm led into the crowd.
They don't know me.
I don't know them.
We are strangers in a familiar place.
And going back won't feel the same if we aren't staying. Going back to get away after everything has changed.
"Why are we here?" I ask, barely audible. I squeeze Peeta's hand weakly before letting mine go limp. "This is not our home."
He squeezes back and replies, "Yes it is, Katniss. Like it's always been."
But it's not. And it won't be.
Something undeniable has changed inside me. I'm not the Katniss I was before I took part in the Hunger Games. I'm not the Katniss that hunts to feeds her family and barely scrapes by. I'm not the Katniss that was born to survive in District 12.
I'm led away from the crowd into the rest of this place, smiling at the cameras and waving at the starved figures of the inhabitants of the Seam. I was one of them before. I keep up the charade, latched onto Peeta and acting genuinely thrilled to be home, but something just beneath the surface keeps pulsing, throbbing painfully, reminding me:
I don't belong here.
'Cause you remind me of a time when we were so alive.
Do you remember that? Do you remember that?
A/N: Hit? Miss? Let me know what you think! REVIEW!