A/N:What if Peeta bled to death and Katniss didn't think of the nightlock? Galeniss. Slightly altered in that, in this verse, Gale was never brought in front of the interviewers, and as such was never made Katniss' cousin. Starts from the lake scene in Hunger Games.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games. EDIT: I had forgotten to put it here before, but in chapters one and two there are several quotes or descriptions taken directly from the end of the Hunger Games. This is partially as a tribute to the books, but mainly to maintain the sense that the universe slowly branched out from the canon one, not all at once. If it bothers you, please contact me, and I'll be willing to take them down.
Disclaimer Two: This is an old story, one I wrote in sixth (or seventh; it is not entirely clear to me) grade. While the reviews have been largely positive, I would like to remind you that I was twelve writing it, and the scenes/characterization obviously reflects that. Again, if there is anything OOC or poorly written that bothers you, shoot me a PM and I'll do my best to fix it.
Okay! Now that that's over with, here it is!
"No," he says. "Do it." Peeta limps towards me and thrusts the weapons in my hands.
"No! I won't!" I feel desperate. I don't know what to do- and then it dawns on me. If he won't kill me I'll kill myself.
I yank an arrow out of the sheath and string it on the bow. Awkwardly, I point it at myself. I'm about to shoot and-
The weapons are gone. Peeta has already yanked them from my grip. He quickly tosses them in the lake, where they disappear with a splash. "I'll die faster." And he yanks off the bandage too.
"No!" I cry, and I'm on my knees trying to plaster it back on. He leans down and gently takes it from me. He makes a move though as to put it back on, then suddenly his hand jerks upward and now the bandage is lost in the lake too.
"You can't die Peeta," I say stupidly. "You just can't."
His leg is bleeding heavily. I look at the ground and see a growing pool of blood. Suddenly, his knees buckle, and he's on his back, down, but still with me.
"Katniss," he whispers. "I want you to live, Katniss. Don't be wrapped up in sadness. Live. Think of Prim, Gale, your mother. Live Katniss. For me." I do. I think of Prim, dancing merrily in the meadow. I think of Gale and me together, hunting in the woods. I think of my mother, watching her kids starve. I know I can't do that to Prim.
"I will," I tell Peeta. "I swear."
Peeta takes one last deep breath, then went still. The cannon booms.
I don't know what to do with his body. Flowers don't seem his thing. I finally find some camouflage things and do his body. Browns and greens cover him, obscuring most of his features. I know this is the way he would want to be. I kiss his forehead once, barely noticing the dirt that rubs off on my lips, and go to stand a distance away.
The helicopter comes and gets his body, and the trumpets boom.
I listen to Claudius Templesmith's voice. "Ladies and gentlemen, I am pleased to present the victor of the 74th annual Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen. I give you- the female tribute of District Twelve!"
I hear the sound of a hovercraft and suddenly I am being lifted up on a ladder into a gleaming copter. There is a plain white room with soft couches and fluffy rugs. I glance around, taking in everything around me.
I've done it. I've won. The euphoria that should accompany the thought doesn't come. My mind is too focused on Peeta- peetapeetapeeta- for me to give much attention to anything unrelated.
An attendant comes in and gives me a glass of orange juice and a plate of delicacies. I take a few bites and almost vomit. My stomach is not used to such rich food. I settle on sipping on the orange juice but after a few minutes of that I feel queasy and set it down on the table.
The whole ride to the Capitol, my mind is on Peeta. I can't help thinking of what he said- 'Live Katniss. For me.' But what does living entail? Am I supposed to forget him? Despite myself, I know that the day will never come where he fades from my mind completely. He will always be there, even as a faint memory, that reminds me of the horrors of the arena.
I get off the hovercraft in the Capitol and they take me to a small hospital room. They stick me with a needle before I can protest and I am knocked out within seconds.
I wake up periodically to find an empty room with a tray sitting on my lap and a band around my waist restraining me. I eat the sparse meals they give me.
Once I see the Avox girl come in to give me food, and I ask her if I can see the others soon. She nods and leaves, and I go back to sleep.
I wake up again a little later to find the band around my waist previously restraining me gone. The outfit I wore in the arena sits at the bottom of my bed. I put it on and head out the open door. I try the first door and find it locked. Same with the second and third. I head down to the last door in the hall and find Haymitch seated at a long, oak table with Cinna, Portia, and Effie with my prep team in the corner. I can't imagine what Portia's for considering Peeta's- I cut off the thought as a fresh wave of pain rips through me.
I sit in a chair at the end of the table without anyone noticing. Suddenly Haymitch looks up from his spot at the other end and sees me.
"Hello, sweetheart. Glad to see you're finally awake," Haymitch says with a smirk.
Effie gasps and looks up. "Katniss! Congratulations!"
Cinna stands up and gives me a hug; Portia smiles and grins at me as my prep team bursts into tears and give me sloppy hugs.
"Well, sweetheart, you seem to be back to your previous state."
"Looks like they did a full body polish," Portia notes. "Like a newborn baby; flawless."
I look at my hands and find not only my new scars gone but all the old comforting hunting ones missing as well. I feel lonely and for some reason I long for Gale.
"Almost time for dinner." Cinna says lightly and leads me out of the room, almost as if he can sense my distress. I am glad to get away from them- I need time alone.
We have chicken breast and miniature corn cobs and cornbread, but I pick at the food, my ever-present appetite mysteriously missing.
Well. Not mysteriously to me.
After dinner Cinna leads me back to my room with the prep team, then disappears while they get me ready.
I look at myself in the mirror and instead of noting the lack of scars and injuries, I see my sunken cheeks and prominent ribs. I'm thin- too thin.
I get in the shower and they do my hair and nails. I don't listen, instead watching as Flavius slowly coats each of my nails with a deep crimson nail polish. I can only think of Peeta lying on the ground as he bled out, and I stood there, helpless.
Cinna comes in with a garment bag that contained what I assume is my dress.
"So," I say, trying to turn my mind to anything that doesn't even remotely involve Peeta. "Are you still going on the girl on fire thing?"
"You'll see," he says vaguely. "Close your eyes."
I close my eyes and turn away. I feel a dress falling over me and I am tempted to peek.
"Ok, you can look now." Cinna finally says.
I look in the mirror and see an alien. I am wearing a softly glowing dress made of yellow and white fabric that glows like candlelight. It hangs to right below my knees, and is loosely fitted, obscuring my thin frame.
"It's wonderful," I say honestly.
Cinna leads me to the area right behind the stage where Haymitch is waiting with the prep team.
"You'll be fine, sweetheart. Just try not to let them see how openly you despise them." I flash back to the beginning of the Hunger Games when he said something similar. It seems like it was so long ago.
Suddenly I hear trumpets blare and the prep team leaves the stage. Then Cinna leaves, and finally Haymitch. I'm standing alone, listening to the crowd roaring over my mentor. Finally, the applause dies down and the trumpets sound again. My cue. I take a deep breath and press my shaking hands against my dress. I slowly walk out onto the stage, and suddenly the crowd goes wild.
I see one throne-like chair sitting alone in the middle of the stage. Screens face the chair, and a few cameras are trained on it. I slowly walk to the chair, my knees knocking together.
I sit down and the lights dim. The TV turns on. Every year they have a story about the games- it usually lasts about three hours. Of course, it's hard to compress several weeks into a show spanning three hours. So every year they tell a story. This year, a tragic love story.
It alternates between shots of Peeta and I together and the dead tributes. Then, at the end, they show Peeta's death. Him on the ground, and me next to him, almost beyond crying.
I barely make it through the recap. The image of Prim watching me is the only thing that keeps me from falling apart.
I notice they show me singing to Rue, but omit the part where I cover her in flowers. Right. Wouldn't want anyone to get the wrong idea.
Finally, it's over and I stand to applause. I nod to the audience, barely managing a faint smile, and am allowed to go back to my chambers. I order my favorite foods from the menu- puffy bread rolls and hot chocolate- and sit on my bed, staring out the window as I eat.
The red-headed girl comes in and takes my empty mug and plate and tucks me into bed. I let her, and, feeling like a four year old, I drift off to sleep.
The next morning I wake up to the sound of Effie tapping on my door, telling me to wake up and get ready for my 'big big day!'
I slip on a white shirt and brown pants and head down to the breakfast hall. I grab a plate and load it with eggs and fried potatoes and some fruit and sit down to eat. I listen to Haymitch and Effie argue about something, and I grab another plate of rolls before I'm pulled into the conversation.
I glance around and see Haymitch waving his hand in front of my face.
"Come on, sweetheart. We need to talk about your interview. It's at ten. There's no live audience- just Caesar and the cameraman."
I nod absentmindedly as the prep team tugs me up and yanks me down the hallway.
It's the first time I have really talked to them since I got out of the arena. When they got me ready earlier, I wasn't really in the mood to talk.
They seem to be a mix of extremely excited and torn up about Peeta's death. I sit in the chair provided and they go to work.
Halfway through, Octavia bursts into spontaneous tears. "It's just so sad!" she sobs. "No more lovers from District Twelve!" She has to take a break to sit down for half and hour before she is calm enough to continue. When they're almost finished, Cinna comes in and dismisses them. He finishes my makeup himself. Finally he let's me get up and picks up the black garment bag on the ground. He makes me close my eyes and slips the the dress over my head.
I turn to the mirror, eyes still closed. "Can I open my eyes now?" I ask, trying to put just enough of an impatient whine in it.
Evidently I succeed, because Cinna laughs. "Yes."
I open my eyes and find a completely different outfit then I have seen yet. It is a dress, but black, as if I was mourning. It seems dirty, like coal dust is scattered across it. I am wearing flat black shoes and and very dark makeup. Purple lipstick, black eyebrows, and dramatic highlights make me look a few years old then I am. I look dangerous, and when you recall I just won the Games, I look more deadly still.
"It's perfect Cinna," I say.
He nods in thanks and takes me to the elevator. We head down to the room where the interview will be taking place and find only Haymitch, Caesar and the camera crew in there. There's a chair set up for Caesar and a throne similar to the one I sat in last night for the recap of the Games.
I sit nervously, perched on the edge of my chair. Caesar smiles and says hello. We exchange a few pleasantries, and then the real questions begin.
"So, Katniss, how was your time in the arena?"
I fight back a grimace. "It was okay. I can't wait to go see my family though." There. That's true and not too terrible. Well, it's partially true.
"I would too... did you learn anything in the arena?" And on it goes. I think I manage to answer them okay. At least Haymitch keeps from scowling. And then he comes with the worst question of all.
"Now Katniss, I know this might be a sensitive subject for you, but I fell obligated to ask. How do you think your life will continue without Peeta?"
I fight back the tears threatening to overflow. I take a few deep breaths. " I- I don't really know." Tears burn at the back of my eyes, and there's a lump in my throat that keeps me from continuing.
Cesar gently places his hand on my knee. Despite the oddness of it, it calms me a little bit, until I realize he's waiting for me to continue. "I- Peeta would have wanted me to live," I whisper, letting a single tear fall from my eye.
"I'm sorry," he murmurs, almost too quiet for the camera to hear. Then he turns to the camera and signs off, looking slightly apologetic as the tears continue to stream down my face.
I feel gentle hands on my shoulder and turn to see a hazy Cinna through my film of tears. He gently leads me out of the interview room and takes me up the elevator. As soon as we reach floor twelve I wiggle out of his grip and bolt to my room. I lock the door behind me, and collapse on my bed.
Finally I calm down and find I am starving. I order roasted chicken and a frothy creamy soup and sit on the edge of the bed eating them. I set the bowls on the dresser and strip down to my underclothes. Even though it's only one in the afternoon, I lay down and take a nap.
I wake up at eleven, screaming. I slip on some clothes and head to the dining room. I guess there will be a Capitol attendant who can get me some warm milk or something. I find a brown-haired boy in there who I ask to get me hot chocolate. I hear a TV in the other room, and I head in there to see Haymitch sitting on the couch, drinking from a bottle of wine. I slump in and sit next to him. He looks up, surprised.
"What are you doing here, sweetheart?" He says with less then his usual hostility.
"I-I can't-" I can't finish. But I don't need to.
"I know. Pretty soon, you'll be just like me. Although for your sake, I hope you don't turn out to be an alcoholic." He laughs and takes another swig from the bottle. Just then the attendant with my hot chocolate comes in.
"I added some cinnamon," he says, handing me the mug. I nod and wait for him to leave. He lightly bows and leaves the room, and I turn my attention back to Haymitch.
" Haymitch?" I ask. "What's it like, being a mentor?" I sound small, like a five year old.
"Well, certainly not good. Every year, you watch the kids you try to keep alive die. Of course, just you winning doesn't get me out of mentoring. I have to mentor the boy- you only have the girl. It should be much easier for you. It's definitely going to be easier with someone to help- and to have someone to tell you about it. I had no mentor at all... By the time it made it to my Games, the other victor from Twelve had died. Overdose of drugs."
I sink back into my chair, sipping my hot chocolate. I turn my attention to the TV... and find I am watching the Hunger Games. I see a boy with dark hair who looks a lot like Haymitch running through the forest with a strong boy on his heels. Suddenly he turns and throws a knife at the boy. It hit right in his neck and he falls.
I turn back to Haymitch and see he's staring at the screen, a blank look on his face. Right behind the carefully plastered nothingness is something though- remorse. I grab the remote from the coffee table and click off the TV.
He turns angrily. "What the hell did you do that for?"
"I-I couldn't- why do you watch that, Haymitch?"
"I don't know. Why not?"
"It's not healthy, Haymitch. It's bad enough you had to live it once. Do you really want to live it over and over again?"
Haymitch sighs and sets the bottle of wine on the coffee table next to where I put down my hot chocolate. "What else am I supposed to do? I'm stuck in that arena, Katniss." I realize it's the first time he's actually called me Katniss, not sweetheart. "If I watch it enough times, maybe I'll find a way out. One I missed before."
I see the look of pure- I don't know, sadness maybe, on his face am I feel a great wave of sorrow for him. "Can I watch? The whole thing?" I ask quietly.
He thinks for a moment, then nods. "You should know what I did. I'm sure when you see it you'll understand why you haven't seen it on TV much."
I nod, though I have no idea what he's taking about. I'm fairly certain I haven't seen it on TV, but you never know. I grab my hot chocolate and sit back on the couch as Haymitch turns the TV back on.
It's terrible. That's the only word I can use to describe it. I see President Snow announce that for this year's Quarter Quell, double the kids will be going in to the arena. Then come the reapings. By the time it gets to District Twelve, I am overwhelmed, simply by the sheer number of kids being sentenced to certain death. I watch as one, two girls are called. As I see the second one, Maysilee Donner, go up to the stage, I notice two girls clinging to her. One looks a lot like Madge. Then it hits me. Her mother. I vaguely remember she had a sister... I just didn't know she died that way. Then I see the other girl. I recognize her immediately. My mother. I notice no one has exaggerated her beauty. I watch as she and Madge's mother grip each other for comfort.
Next, the boys. I watch a big blonde boy get called. I see Haymitch a few people away from him, smirking. I look in his eyes and I can see he's hiding something. I just don't know what. Then he's called- but the smirk never disappears. It stays there, making him look like an idiot.
It flashes to him departing the train at the Capitol. He wears his arrogant smirk, and once and a while it flashes to a grin as he looks around at the ladies. For the first time for a District Twelve tribute, I see they actually like him.
I see the chariot races- nothing special. Haymitch didn't have a stylist as good as Cinna. Then they go right to the interviews. They only show bits and pieces of the other tributes, but since Haymitch will be the victor, we get to see his whole interview. I love one line.
"So," Cesar says. " What do you think of your chances with there being one hundred percent more tributes then usual?"
"I figure they'll be one hundred percent stupid as usual, so I think my odds are roughly the same." He flashed a snippy smile at the crowd. Indifferent, arrogant. I bet he didn't have to go deep to get that angle.
Then they flash right to the games. It's a beautiful arena with a blue sky and green grass, a meadow filled with flowers, a silvery mountain, and a wonderful woods. When the gong goes off, most of the tributes are mesmerized and stay on their plates, but not Haymitch. He's up at the Cornucopia and has a backpack full of supplies and all the weapons that he wants and is off into the woods before most of them know what happened.
Haymitch seems determined to get away from the Cornucopia. Everything in the arena seems to be poisonous. Fruit, water. Butterflies are deadly. It is only safe to eat the food and water brought from the Cornucopia.
I see the scene where Haymitch takes out the large tribute. Then the volcano erupts and takes out a bunch of tributes, as well as all but five of the Career pack. Then he gets caught by three Careers and has killed two when the last disarms him. Suddenly, a dart pops out and hits him in the neck. Maysilee jumps out, holding a dart gun and a poisonous fruit. Her darts are all dripping wet- it seems she soaked them in the fruit juices.
"We'd live longer if we paired up," she says.
"Guess you just proved that," Haymitch replies. "Allies?"
She nods, and they're drawn into a pact you'd be cold-hearted to break. They trudge forward the way Haymitch was heading. Maysilee asks why, but Haymitch won't answer until she threatens to break their alliance.
"The arena has to end somewhere, right?" Haymitch finally answers. "If we get to the edge, who knows what we'll find."
What they find is a tight hedge that none of their weapons can cut through. They circle around, but the whole area behind the woods seems to be protected by the hedge. Finally, they make it through with a blowtorch from one of the dead Careers packs. They find a cliff with a sheer drop. Haymitch goes and sits on the edge.
"Come on Haymitch," Maysilee says. "There's nothing here. Let's go."
Haymitch shakes his head. "No, you go. I'm staying here."
She shrugs. "Okay. There's only five of us left and I wouldn't want it to come down to you and me."
He nods and before he has a chance to say good-bye, she leaves. He picks up a pebble and chucks it into the abyss. A few seconds later it pops back out and Haymitch starts laughing. It's a force field, like the one of the Training Center's roof.
A few seconds latter a scream pierces the air. It's a girl's voice, and only one person in the arena is capable of making that noise. The only other girl is far to old. It Maysilee.
Haymitch runs to her voice to find she has been skewered in the neck by candy-pink birds. He quickly kills them and kneels by her side, watching her die. He was too late and unable to save her. Just like I was too late to save Rue. And how I was unable to save Peeta.
I finish my now cold hot chocolate. I watch as he fights the last obstacle- a girl from One. She accidentally chucks her ax into the abyss. Haymitch is now weaponless. She's thinking she can outlast him when the ax comes flying back out and buries itself in her brain. Haymitch struggles away from the body and the trumpets blare. He won.
I don't get to see the interview. It ends with a picture of Haymitch staring at the girl from One. And then the screen blacks out.
"There you go," Haymitch says flatly. "The entire span of the 50th Hunger Games, all wrapped up in two hours."
"You used them against themselves," I noted.
"And you wonder why you never see it on TV." He laughs once, coldly, then sets the empty wine bottle down on the coffee table. "If there's one thing I learned during my time- no just during the arena. My time alive. It's that no matter what you do, don't upset the Capitol. My- well, it doesn't bear thinking about. But I warn you- upset them, and they can do worse things to you then death. Remember that."
He leaves the room before I can respond.
A/N: Review and PMs with comments are all welcome :)