Category - "AND THEN THEY LIVED..."

My Best friend turned 30 just after the release of The Hunger Games' final book Mockingjay.

When she expressed her dismay with the lack of closure at the end of such an involved series,

I decided my birthday gift to her would be to write out the vision that I consoled myself with.

May you find it as beautiful and healing as I did.

And please review :) ... I have outlined adding more scenes to the final few chapters but I'll only follow through if someone else cares too.

The Hunger Games and any of its characters belong to Suzanne Collins. They are not mine. This is not a work for publication or resale; just-for-fun fanfiction.



Continued from pg. 386 {Scene with Buttercup}

Because hours later, when I come to in my bed, he's there in the moonlight (darkness). Crouched beside me, yellow eyes alert, guarding me from the night. that has progressed into a midsummer storm. A "Katniss-perfect" day now drowned in a streaky black as clouds blot out most of the moon's light and smear it down the window pane.

I adjust into a more comfortable position which elicits a deep growl from Buttercup. "No one is forcing you to stay there." I mumble into my pillow and force my eyes closed against the light that flashes with the thunder outside. As I give in to sleep, my dreams adhere to the nature of my surroundings and eventually I am lost in the smoky horror of a district being bombed.

Although I was not here when it happened, I have had enough experience courtesy of the Capitol to see it well enough. Gale, leading the hundreds of refugees out of the city limits while others are trapped, searching, screaming all around. Victors' Village, the only haven against the barrage of explosions, saved to allow me in my nightmares to observe the annihilation of my home. Hovercraft fill the sky, an air force bent on complete eradication of the pronounced vermin of District 12. No longer worthy of support or protection from the Capitol; a danger to the empire.

As the thundering blasts rocket through my frame I watch from my window as a mute prisoner; a sole witness against this monstrosity. Faceless figures scramble through the streets. Although, I am sure, with a closer vantage point I could name them. My village, my neighbors, my friends, my family, my… victims…suffering in my name… all because I live.

A face turns toward my watch tower in the night, a lighthouse to the chaos below, and recognition dawns for us both. Peeta. So, he is not in the Capitol safely distanced from this death sentence. Nor is he confined as I am. Going to the aid of his fellow villagers and helping as is his nature. In the distance I can see the shapes in the sky unite. An imposing fleet melting from the clouds bent on converging on this spot.

My hands must register the impending devastation before my mind does because I am already pushing the window open to the rain beyond. As the words move through my chest to span the void between us, my hands, still on the sill, are caught by a feverish pain.

Strange vines with vicious thorns have found their way up the bricks of the building and work against the torrent to dominate the view. Spreading like vipers around the second story framework they force their entrance into the room. I slam the window back into place and risk more damage from the serrated leaves and spines as they claw through.

A wailing that matches the intensity of the storm is caught in the fresh silence against the window pain. I see my own contorted face screaming back at me. As the vines make headway toward breaking the frame, the bombers arrive in the square below. All at once, through blinding light, shattered glass and freezing evidence of the storm outside, I am thrown backward off my feet. Then just as quickly my lungs are assaulted with a much stronger version of the distant village smoke.

Peeta. The one person I have left in the world who truly knows me and was willing to fight for me. The only strong arms that have ever supported me through the pain.

Flames eat at the vines as they fall through the gaping hole in my wall threatening to consume the rest of the space. Despite the mix of ice and fire that shove me away, I have to see. I advance across the room toward the scene below.


Nothing but the appearance of hell; black and smoldering into the night. With each step I can feel myself screaming but I no longer know what may be issuing from my mouth. It doesn't matter, there is no one left to hear me. I take another step and hope that I have reached the threshold of my pain, that with another step, the numbness will take over in preparation of landing in the darkness below. And I must be right...'s gone.

With a quick jolt it is all over. No cold. No pain. No Smoke. Only the sensation of being held by hands that know more than mine. Twin heartbeats twining together against the rain.

Ever so slowly I register the familiarity of my surroundings. No bombs, just distant thunder. No fire just lightning driving the fading rain across the night. And something unexpected. My senses know him before I recognize his voice. The comforting scent of flour, warmth and salty skin. The undeniable catch in his breathing, issuing familiar concern for me. Arms that I have known, loved, missed, regretted, sought and been denied. Hands that have helped, healed, and crushed me.

I would know him anywhere and yet would never expect him here. Here in this tormenting ritual of restless sleep and demons. Demons that are now my constant companions in his place. I sink into his comforting embrace that used to be mine. It has come to hold me again but as if at a distance, miles from where we used to be. As if the emotion, as well as its owner had been hijacked.

"You came." I whisper into his neck. At first no response only a cessation of the rocking I had been unaware of. Then...

"Even if it hadn't been my name you were screaming to the world, I would have come. I couldn't ignore how frantic you sounded." Even though the message was tender, his tone was so unlike the Peeta I had come to know in times like this. "It's not usually my habit to leave a nice warm bed and run out into the worst storm of the season. Quite the welcome home present."

He's quiet, though devoid of his kindness and warmth I had come to expect under previously similar circumstances. Almost defensive and unsure; abused. I know I am the reason for this shift; well, me and the residual effects of the hijacking, but in my exhaustion and emotional state I adopt his tact.

"So sorry to have bothered you!" I try to lift myself out of his arms with the words and the gesture fails as pain shoots through my palms. Gasping I try to see through the dark what has caused such burning. Bloody hand prints ink themselves across Peetas chest and he holds my wrists tightly.

"Stop moving Katniss. You've lost the bandages again." With care that his tired words don't register, he replaces thick gauze on my shredded hands. He must see the look of shock on my face because he adds with a bit more patience, "You really did a number on yourself after you threw that chair through the window. From the looks of it you would have thought the demons were inside the house instead of..." He lets the sentence die. Instead of outside? or instead of inside your head...

Slowly I realize the reality and the embarrassed defensiveness fades. "Thank you Peeta." I hope my whispered thanks makes it across the widening space between us as I collect myself on the other side of the ... bed? My mother's bed. I take in the room around us in the faint metallic light of a rainy night fading into a rain tinted early dawn. He must have removed me from the scene of the crime. Oh well. At least someone is using the space. I'm doubtful my mother will ever see the walls of this house again.

A little louder this time, "Thank you. I'm sorry." ...Sorry for the blood soaked through your shirt, for the complete failure of a fiancée and friend I have turned out to be, for dragging you back to this awful place where everyone who cared for you is now gone. Sorry for not always speaking the truth to you that I know you should hear...

"Peeta, how come you came back to 12?" I ask it tentatively, softly, carefully without a plan.

In the darkness it is challenging to read his face but not the words that accompany it, "You know why Katniss."

"No. I really can't understand that you would do it for me. I know the Capitol filled your head with a lot of lies, but through them you finally did discover the real me. I'm selfish, guarded and broken." I wave my hand to silence any protest and continue to think what I should be saying…I am not a kind person. I often put myself first. I don't easily let others into my life. I am quick to be offended and slow to forgive. I silently criticize to the point of disdain. I never give anyone the benefit of the doubt and I have abused your incredible nature repeatedly. A nature that is the exact opposite of what I have just described. But all that comes out of my mouth is "Why?"

It's a long time before he turns away from the glow growing through the windows to face me. I watch the hazy pink shadow slowly coming into focus on the wall above his shoulder. I don't think I can look in his eyes but knowing that he is probably waiting for it, I eventually see them; reflecting my sorrow and self-loathing.

"I came back...for many reasons. It's the only home I've ever known and my last connection to my family… and you. But, you're going to have to meet me half way this time Katniss. I could say I came for dandelions. For a cure. For memories and hope. But mostly… I came for time." Not knowing if he was finished, I let that most eternal of words hang between us. There was nothing I could say either way.

"Dr. Aurelious worked pretty hard with the doctors who hijacked me to reverse all the damage done. And in the end I was hoping for this great release, a grand lifting of the burden that has been so strategically placed on me. But it didn't come. Not completely. I watched the untainted versions of our time together in the arenas and on tour and realized so many things."

Looking through his lashes at me he dryly adds, "I felt like I fell in love with you a long time ago. A small desperate girl trying so hard to help her family survive. And fueled that love with every moment we counted down our lives in the games. But I held you on that pedestal for so long I may not have noticed anything else. Ever. I am not sorry that it came to that, only sorry for where we are now.

"As my therapy came to an end and I felt so raw and empty not knowing where I belonged in this new empire. I tried so hard to visualize what it was I wanted. Where would I be in the years to come? And even though it came with fresh aching feelings, I couldn't see any future without you. You're the closest thing to family I have left. It was that thought that made me think I could come here and try. I know that there are no strings attached to that effort. I cannot force anything on either side. We have both been through a lot. Both our families... And Gale...he has much more claim on you than I ever did."

Now it is his turn to wave through my interruption. "Don't say it Katniss. I have watched our tale from every perspective possible and can truly observe as someone apart from the events. Snow even had footage of your first kiss. I know what he was to you. Is to you and if it is any consolation, I am willing to challenge that without the pressure of desperation, health, survival, media and Snow breathing down our necks.

"But it's a two way street and you can make all your own decisions for the right and sincere reasons this time." As he says the last words he pulls himself to his feet. He looks so tired and I have no idea how to bridge the river of words between us. His back turns to me as he struggles with the last of his thoughts.

"I know, more than anyone, that you can be unforgiving, critical and selfish, but you are also brave, resourceful, tender, loyal and one of the best people to have around in a crisis. The problem is the crisis is over. The nightmares are no longer out there Katniss.

"When you find your place and peace in this world, you'll see that more clearly. And maybe, you'll also be able to see why I chose to be here. Waiting for you." His words finish and send him down the hall without looking back.