A/N: The time line of this story take place during pages 446 to 455 of Mockingjay. It will be an expansion of this time in novel, but the events themselves are not exactly as was written. I do promise though that they will have the same conclusions. Please keep that in mind when reading.
Thank you so much to Bookgeek80, Goldenhair2 and Rae Cullen for their beta and pre-reading skills.
I hope you enjoy the first chapter.
Their tendrils had an odd, fascinating colour. Root to tip, they wind for life and substance, not used to the light and air that they've been forced into. I found myself clawing at the ground, hands covered in earth and ash, creating an underground cavern to lay them to rest. I couldn't let them die, so I had to trap them, push the flowers back into the depths of the ground, deeper and deeper.
I gagged, a reaction so common I barely moved. I closed my eyes and tipped my face to the sun, feeling the burn on my still singed skin, revelling in the knowledge that I am above. I waited until the urge disappeared, before lowering my head focusing this time on the pattern. They were evenly spaced, my obsession of the morning demonstrated in the neat row of evening primroses that now fenced the house. Peeta's constant shoveling had been too much, so I'd told him I didn't want them the day before. He had left without a word, the brushes still there and the pattern barely started. I'd awoken today with an uncontrollable urge to plant them, to stop them from dying, to put them back where they had been ripped from, without warning or reason. I'd cursed the boy that had done it, drained them and removed them as I tore holes for them, graves or homes, depending on how you looked at it. Could something grow and live in soil where so many had died? Could they survive in a place that had been destroyed and flushed out by fire and carnage? I didn't believe so, but I couldn't take the chance I might be wrong.
"Do you need help?"
His voice was a break from my mind, something I wasn't sure I was ready to listen to. He'd been back less than two days and was walking, talking and functioning. This was the first time I'd voluntarily performed an activity that wasn't essential to my continued existence. I didn't want help.
I could see his shoes, black and artificial in the garden, and too clean when put against my hands. It wasn't right. He needed to leave. I wasn't sure what I would do if he didn't, but I wasn't able to send him away.
"Katniss... your hands..."
I paused, lifting them, focusing on the burn and black and flesh. No nails; rough skin covered in ashes and decay and dead things. The dirt seemed to cluster, move and twist. It began to spread, over and over, covered and swarming over skin and burn, clutching and taking...
I dropped my hands, looking up for the first time at Peeta; his form blocking the light. It was just the shadows. Shadows and dirt, nothing more.
We stared at each other, just staring, nothing exchanged or given.
"Why are you using your hands?" he asked, kneeling down to my level, meeting me back on the ground.
I shrugged, not really wanting to explain that I didn't have answers for any of my actions. I wasn't in control of what my body did, it moved and functioned as it saw fit. Peeta didn't reply, so I continued to create another hole, before collecting another primrose to add to the line. Once I'd packed the soil around it, secured it and made sure it had the best chance I could give it, I started again. I moved the same distance along and began to dig. Dig, plant, pack, move, dig, plant, pack, move.
I didn't notice when Peeta left.
I woke up as pain and blinding noise combined. I managed to crouch into a clumsily defensive position before I realised that the noise had been a glass smashing as I had fallen out of bed and crashed to the floor. My head must have borne the brunt of the impact as everything was darkened with static as I stood. I shouldn't have put the glass so close to my bed, nothing so close to my bed stands a chance. My throat was scratched and dry, a sure sign of screams that didn't even register in my subconscious. I occurred to me that I was probably keeping Peeta awake with my constant dreams, but there's little I can do to change that, and I didn't want to ask.
I checked the flowers as soon as I was able, making sure that I'd not destroyed them in one night. They were still standing, my barrier of primrose. I felt relieved, different from how I'd felt when hearing of Gale's new life, but relieved all the same. My attention was drawn back by the familiar sounds of the cat's need for attention, and something inside my chest caught. The tears of the night before resumed as I tended to the bedraggled creature that was once my sister's, and increased when I spoke to my mother. By the afternoon I was drained and tired, but strangely alive. I realised that it was good to feel, feel something now that I had given the time to do so. But only for a while. After that I became forced into feeling, and recalling things that my mind doesn't ever want to reach. So once the phone line are dead again, my eyes were closed and I was cleared of everything.
A noise at the door forced me to move myself from my slump, and I grudgingly went to answer it. Peeta was there, with bread that smelled like the town, the past, and something too sweet and too good to make sense. I smiled, and moved out of the way to allow him in.
We moved around the kitchen, silently and knowingly collecting all we needed to make a meal. It reminded me of when this house was full of people, when this place was a home and I'd contemplated running. But that memory was wrong and disjointed in my mind, as if belonged to a different person. The people in that home were dead, or dead to me, and Peeta had not been a part of that. He'd been in his own home, with his own family that are now the ashes that salt our earth. It occurred to me then that I'd never visited his home. I'd never turned up with something to offer and been welcomed as he had. I realised that for all I knew about Peeta, how he lived his daily life was not something of which I was aware. I didn't know why that suddenly bothered me so much.
"Eat," Peeta said, gesturing to the bread and cheese that had appeared on the table while I'd been lost in my mind.
"It's not the same, I know," Peeta said, breaking the silence that we'd fallen into. I looked up, wondering what he was talking about, only to see him staring at a slice of his bread, studying it carefully.
"It's not right. The texture's too rough, the dough hasn't risen enough and the taste is too salty."
I swallowed the lump of congealed mixture within my throat, unable to come up with a complaint. I couldn't remember the last time I'd really concentrated on my meals, but I was sure that fresh bread was been a luxury that I'd not experienced in a while.
"It tastes fine," I answered, but he didn't remove his eyes from his slice. I watched warily as his lips moved silently, his eyes scanning the bread and seeing nothing real. I stood slowly, but didn't dare move to him. He'd not had a negative reaction to me in so long, but my mind still had a problem reconciling that part of him. I'd run into his arms without caution once, and now I couldn't persuade myself to do it again.
"Peeta..." I whispered carefully, trying to pull him back from where he was.
He didn't reply, his lips still moving silently as his hands crushed the bread between his fingers. His knuckles were white, blood draining and pooling, fragments of food falling and moulding into the shape of his palm.
He stopped, dropping the pulp of food instantly, his eyes focusing at my raised voice. He closed his eyes and touched his temples, before excusing himself. I watched him leave, unable to take my seat again until he returned.
"Thank you," he said softly as we resumed our meal, and I nodded. We didn't mention it again.
"Is it even worth trying? I doubt there's much a doctor can do for me over the phone," I said, not voicing the fact that there was nothing to be done, period.
"Well tough luck, sweetheart, it's what you have to do. Pick up the phone, talk, and do as they tell you. Unless you'd like to go back to the Capitol?" Haymitch asked sweetly, pouring the amber liquid into a beaker clearly not intended to house alcohol.
I glared but didn't reply, knowing that it was true. If I didn't start answering the phone, I'd be dragged back to the hospital before I knew it. Haymitch took a swig of drink, a satisfied smile surfacing as his old comforts returned to him. I didn't even want to ask what his new poison was; the usual clear liquid being nowhere in sight. As long as I didn't make the mistake of drowning my own sorrows again, everything would be fine.
"You checked on your boy today?"
I ignored him, pretending to busy myself with clearing the table. There wasn't really any mess there, Haymitch having suddenly developed some sense of pride on returning to his old living space. Perhaps the destruction of twelve and the alternative of thirteen had made an impression.
"I wouldn't leave him alone for too long, if I were you. Your mind plays tricks when you're by yourself. Easier for the voices to come back, to let the memories in. Why do you think someone's always knocking on your door? Do you think you're the only one who gets visitors?"
I turned slowly, not expecting to hear that reasoning. I'd spent my days consumed by my own mind, unable to break out enough to think of anything more. It had been easier to see the interruptions of my solace as an annoyance, and not something that I should be doing myself. I hesitated, not sure if I should be checking in on Peeta anyway. I still wasn't sure what to do about him at all.
"I don't know if it's a good idea," I answered, this time taking a seat rather than pretending I was otherwise occupied.
"Because of things he said to you? Because he tried to kill you? Or because the other one's gone off and left you?"
Anger. Blinding, aggravating, and oh so familiar surged, and I was on my feet, the chair on the floor before I even realised what was happening. Once I did, I stopped, the feeling disappearing instantly. I closed my eyes and willed it to return, the constantly empty ache taking it's place.
"It's... I just don't know if I should," I said, unable to really understand why I thought that way and where the sudden anger had come from.
"Remember what I told you about helping? He's constantly looking out for you, yes? So do the same. There's nothing more to it than that."
These occasional pearls of wisdom from my drunken ex-mentor were alarmingly accurate. I wasn't going to doubt him, knowing the trouble that disagreeing with him would lead to. I was sure that even without devices where he could talk into my ear constantly, he'd find a way to make my life hell if I didn't take his words on board.
I left him to his drink, and slowly wandered back towards my own house. My skin stung and I shrank away, the clouds having cleared since I'd left. I hadn't bothered with any salve to protect myself, forgetting that I was more vulnerable than ever. The winter wouldn't be any better either.
Instead of turning towards my primrose surrounded house, I walked slowly to Peeta's trying to think of a reason for being there. I had no flowers of food, nothing but instructions and a small flicker of responsibility. What could I say, that Haymitch reminded me that I owed him? That I'd seen him crush bread with his hands and was worried it would spark a chain reaction that would end with his hands on my neck once more? No.
I sighed and decided to knock anyway. I wasn't going to suddenly come up with a reason, and standing out in the heat wasn't an option. I waited, the sound of my knuckles on wood fading away. Nothing happened. I stared up at the house in frustration, waiting for a sign of movement. I received none. It wasn't early, so I doubted he was still asleep, but he could always have left the house. Not that I'd seen him leave his house recently, but I couldn't say that I'd been watching.
I waited for a few minutes longer, then gave up, unwilling to stay out much later. As I turned, I glanced into the window, only for second. I stopped, catching sight of something that looked out of place. I turned back, not wanting to stare into someone else's window, but unable to simply leave.
Within a few seconds I was running, going back the way I came, a scream rising in my throat as I approached Haymitch's door.