Title: "After the Quell"
Summary: Katniss and Peeta are both rescued by the rebels at the end of the Quarter Quell, resulting in various changes in their story. Begins with alternate Catching Fire ending, then set during Mockingjay.
Pairings: Katniss x Peeta, Finnick x Annie, Gale x Johanna (mentioned)
Length: Four parts, approx. 20,000 words
A/N: This is my take on what could have happened if Peeta, rather than Finnick, had been rescued by the rebels along with Katniss and Beetee. Contains K/P fluff.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
A second cannon fires. Brutus, Chaff, Johanna…two of them are dead already.
"Katniss!" Peeta shouts again and this time his voice is startlingly close. I forget all about trying to shoot Enobaria and causing Finnick to duck for cover and get electrocuted when the lightning strikes the tree. I lower my bow and twist my upper body around, to face the direction from which Peeta's voice came. I never should have allowed us to be separated, that was a huge mistake. We're both so incredibly vulnerable now that the alliance with Johanna and Finnick is obviously over. I have to reach Peeta but I feel sick from loss of blood. Johanna must have cut very deep. I can't even find the strength to stand up.
"Peeta!" I call out, as loud as I can. I hear the crashing sound of footsteps coming rapidly toward me. For a moment I think it couldn't possibly be Peeta, that he can't move that fast on his prosthetic leg, but then I see him. Frantic and wide-eyed, he's emerged from some nearby trees. The burst of effort that allows him to rush quickly to my side seems to cause him to lose his balance and almost immediately he's crashed down on the ground beside me. He must to be wounded too, because he's wincing in pain, but he manages to sit up.
"Katniss," Peeta says, pulling me into his arms. I feel myself slump against him and that horrible sinking feeling in my stomach starts to dissipate. He's here, he's really here. Peeta pulls away to look at my face and starts at the sight of me. "What happened?" he asks, then looks down, probably having felt blood leak out of my makeshift bandage and onto some part of him. He grabs my arm and holds tightly, in an attempt to slow the bleeding.
"It was Johanna," I say quietly, conscious of the fact that there are still three people out there who are trying to kills us. "She cut me and then ran off. Do you know who either of the cannons were for?"
"Brutus is dead," Peeta tells me, with a glance in the direction he came from. That's a relief. After Finnick, I would have said that Brutus was the most dangerous opponent left. Though Johanna is clearly not to be overlooked. She's nearly killed me already.
I look down at my arm. Peeta's attempt to stop the blood flow seems to be helping, but a tight grip can only do so much for a wound this deep. I need stitches. I've already bled a lot and can feel that I don't have much time before I lose consciousness. I fleetingly think that I was right all along in my weariness over making an ally of Johanna. She turned out to be a very dangerous enemy.
Enemy. The word brings back Haymitch's last bit of advice to me: "Katniss, when you're in the arena…just remember who the enemy is." The enemy…the real enemy. I know who the enemy is and it's not Johanna, or any of the other remaining tributes. Looking down, I see Beetee's knife and am able to put the pieces together in my head. I know what he was trying to do. What he would have done, if he was still conscious.
With all the strength I have left, I take hold of Beetee's wire and wrap it around one of my arrows. I pull away from Peeta, force myself up onto my wobbly legs and look up at the forcefield.
"What are you doing?" Peeta whispers.
I shake my head in response, because I don't have time to explain it to him and I'm not even sure of what's going to happen myself. I hitch the arrow into place and aim for the flaw, the chink in the armor, then let the arrow soar. It vanishes, out of the arena and into the real world beyond. Moments later, the lightning hits the tree and a bright flash runs along the wire. My legs give out on me and I fall back down, my tail bone painfully making contact with the ground. Peeta's arms are around me again and together we watch as the dome that is the arena bursts into a blazing blue light. We're thrown down, flattened to the ground. Before the explosions begin, my eyes lock onto Peeta's, which are wide and seem to glitter.
I feel so exhausted and my vision is blurring. I'm only vaguely aware as the earth explodes around us and the trees burst into flames. Peeta's holding onto my forearm again and he rolls over me to shield me from the matter that rains down.
Suddenly, there's an aircraft above us and a claw dropping down. I don't think I've ever seen two people picked up at once in this way, but the claw opens and closes around Peeta and I both, perfectly accommodating. At the thought of what they're going to do to us, I feel numb with terror. When Plutarch Heavensbee's face enters my continually darkening field of vision, my worst fears are confirmed. He and I will surely share the blame for the mess I've made of his pretty arena and I know he'll see to it that I am amply punished.
I look back over at Peeta, who has me in a vice grip, and then my eyes fall shut.
When I regain consciousness, I'm aware of a hard surface below me. I'm on a thin mattress in a poorly lit room. I sit up, pulling wires off of me, and see Beetee on another table, unconscious. Memories come back to me disjointedly. Being separated from Peeta and then attacked by Johanna. Finding Peeta, shooting an arrow and then what? What did I do? Is it possible…could I really have destroyed the clock arena?
I climb out of my bed. Each footfall feels heavy and sobering as I make my way out of the room and into a hallway. Where is Peeta? What are they doing to him? I know that I've failed him again. I know that, at this very moment, something unspeakably horrible is being done to him because of me. All because of me and those berries. A small handful of poison that I've been carrying around for the past year while it slowly seeps into me and those I love. I'm suddenly aware of voices. Someone's talking about communications being down in several of the Districts. I follow the voice to a nearby door and push it open without hesitating, and without worrying about what I'll find beyond it.
I can hardly believe my eyes. Haymitch, Plutarch and a very beat-up Peeta sit around a table full of untouched food. I can see daylight flooding in through a window and in the distance are the tops of trees. We are flying, but where to?
"There she is. Feeling better, sweetheart?" says Haymitch. His mocking tone of voice confirms what I hadn't even dared to hope. We're not being held by the Capitol. We're safe, for the moment at least. Plutarch must be on our side, somehow.
All eyes are on me as I stagger forward and take a seat at the table next to Peeta. He has a bandage around his good leg and it's propped up on a spare chair. I feel his hand take mine and can hardly believe that he's here, that we're both here. Haymitch says something else, but I barely hear him. I can only stare at Peeta's bruised and tired face. There's so much to say but I can't find the words. He's just as speechless as I am.
Looking into his eyes again, I find myself thinking of that delicious feeling of happiness. After our night of kissing on the beach, I woke up feeling like I've never felt before and knowing it was because of Peeta. The rational, logical part of my mind was quick to squelch the feeling but I remember it well. At the time, I was expecting that I would be dead by the end of the day, if I was lucky and able to carry out my plan to get Peeta crowned as victor. But somehow, we're both alive; we both got out of the arena again. And now a question is nagging at me, and I seem to be incapable of pushing it out of my mind. I can't help wondering what might happen between Peeta and I if we could somehow…I don't know. I don't even know what to hope for.
Peeta's mouth curves up into a smile and I quickly avert my eyes, hoping he can't tell what I'm thinking about. I'm sure that night, and the subsequent morning, didn't feel any different to him. There's no reason to let him know what I'm thinking, especially when so much is still up in the air. That irrepressible feeling of duty returns to me, reminding me that there is so much else to think about besides Peeta. There are always more important things to think about. I turn to look at Haymitch and Plutarch.
"What happened?" I ask.
Plutarch places a bowl of broth and some bread in front of me, telling me to eat. Then he returns to his seat and together he and Haymitch explain everything. There's so much to say, so many things I don't know, and I have to struggle to take it all in. There was a plot all along to keep me and Peeta alive in the arena. Many tributes in the Quell had varying degrees of knowledge on the matter. They agreed to keep me alive for the sake of the rebellion. The rebellion is real and while I live, it lives. I am the Mockingjay, symbol of the rebellion. We're on our way to District Thirteen, which was not completely destroyed in the Dark Days. At times, Peeta joins in on the explanation, clearly already having been enlightened about the whole situation.
The food sent from sponsors was a code telling when to destroy the arena. Beetee was planning the stunt with the wire from the first. It's all so incredible. I can hardly believe it when I'm told that Johanna only attacked me so that she could cut the tracker out of my arm, and then she deliberately lead Brutus and Enobaria away from me. She and Finnick did so much for Peeta and I. It's only because of them that we're here. We owe them everything.
"Where are Finnick and Johanna?" I ask.
"They were picked up by the Capitol, along with Enobaria," says Haymitch.
I feel a rush of anger. How could that have happened? How could Haymitch and Plutarch have let that happen, when we have them to thank for so much? I start to feel weak again and lightheaded at the thought of what must be happening to them. They were both in on the rebels' plan and I shudder to think of what will become of them now. I remember Johanna's sarcastic remark about not wanting to incite rebellion, spoken while we were in the arena. I can almost hear her voice: "Whole country in rebellion? Wouldn't want anything like that!"
"I -" I start to speak but suddenly it's as if the tiny amount of strength that carried me into this room has completely evaporated. I slump back in my chair, seeing stars. Plutarch helps me back to the room where I woke up and into my bed.
"Will he be all right?" I ask, glancing at Beetee.
"Sure," Plutarch says in a placating tone. Before I can protest, he's stabbed a needle into my arm and I start to feel very drowsy. I should not have gotten up so soon. After this I'm kept in a half-sleeping, half-waking world in which I only have strength enough to eat. I don't know how much time passes like this.
People come to visit me but I don't listen to their words, I only make noises of discomfort until more painkiller comes and knocks me out again. Peeta is the only one who seems to understand that I don't want to be talked at. When he sits at my bedside, he just looks at me and holds my hand in his. He's the only one I like seeing and staying awake for. I'm so glad I didn't fail him in the arena. I'm so glad he's here.
It might be my imagination, or a result of the drugs, but I feel like there's something different about Peeta. He's wounded of course, but still seems more subdued than I would expect him to be over something like that. His broken leg is nothing compared to what we went through during the Hunger Games last year. Also, there's an odd look that comes into his eyes sometimes and I wonder if it could have anything to do with whatever happened to him while we were separated in the Quell.
At some point I realize I've been moved to a new bed and I have a new visitor, one who I couldn't possibly ignore. I remember how upset I was when I didn't get the chance to say goodbye to him before the Quarter Quell and now it's such a relief to see him again.
"Gale," I say, taking in the sight of him sitting in a chair at my bedside. But he's also a reminder of my home and all the other things I have to worry about. "Prim - is she -"
"She's fine. I got her and your mother out in time." In time?
Then he starts saying things, impossible things that I can hardly make sense of in my addled state. I shake my head and try to stop him from talking, because I can't stand the thought of what his words imply. But Gale isn't one to keep things from me. "Katniss," he says, "there is no District Twelve."
Even after I've been through the place, it's still hard to believe that District Thirteen is real. I hate the oppressive, confining feeling of being underground like this. It makes me think of my father and the mines. But it's not as if I have a choice. I've been forced into hiding by my actions in the Quell and as the Mockingjay I am certainly at the top of the Capitol's hit list. Although, even if I weren't the symbol of the rebellion, it's not as if I have a home to return to. District Twelve is gone and so are most of its residents. More casualties of the war, more deaths caused by me.
But Peeta says I can't think like that. Whenever I make a remark about all of the destruction I've caused or how guilty I feel, he's quick to insist that I am not to blame. He tells me there's no way I could have known that, by saving the two of us, I would (indirectly, he says) be causing the deaths of so many others. He also assures me that another rebellion was bound to happen some time. If not now and because of us, there would have been another spark eventually. Another spark that would turn into the inferno that the rebellion has become. His words are always consoling but they never obliterate my feeling of responsibility.
In Thirteen, I'm assigned to live in a compartment with my mother and Prim. However, after a couple of restless nights in which I wake up terror stricken from nightmares of dead tributes and scorched residents of District Twelve, I start to sneak out.
The first night I go to Peeta's room I feel a little nervous. On some level, I know there's no reason for this. What is there to be nervous about? We've shared a bed before and he obviously cares about me as much as ever. Maybe it's because I've been feeling just a little differently about him ever since that night in the Quell, when we kissed. That night that I can't help thinking of whenever we're together.
It's about a week after our arrival in Thirteen. I've suffered through too many nightmares on my own and the thought of staying in the compartment with my sleeping mother and sister is unbearable. Silently, I climb out of my bed and walk across the floor, then slip out the door and shut it behind me. I make my way to Peeta's compartment and knock softly on his door, fearing that in such close quarters someone else might hear. At first I think I've been too quiet and even Peeta hasn't heard me, but then I hear some shuffling around within his room. When the door opens, Peeta's standing there. He smiles at me but the smile doesn't reach his eyes, it stays confined to the lower half of his face. "I was hoping it would be you," he says.
I smile back at him tentatively. What right do I have to ask anything of him? Why should he let me into his room? He wants me here, I tell myself, he needs me as much as I need him. "Can I -?"
Peeta nods his head and steps aside, holding the door all the way open. "Come in," he says.
I enter his room and hesitate for a moment. There is only one chair in the tiny space and his small bed pushed into a corner. The bed looks so comfortable and I feel so tired that I decide to just sit down there. Why pretend I've come here for anything else?
"Couldn't sleep?" Peeta asks, hobbling over to join me. He sits down and props his crutches against the wall. I shake my head. "Want to talk about it?" he asks, reminding me so much of that night on the train before the Quell, when I woke up from a nightmare and then found Peeta and we watched those tapes of past Hunger Games, curled up together on the couch.
I shake my head once more. "Can I just…stay?"
Peeta smiles again, this time more sincerely. "Of course." After a moment he adds, "As long as I won't get in trouble with your mother over it."
I start to smile, but then I think of his family and feel myself frowning again. Peeta no longer has parents to try to guard his innocence and virtue. I wonder if that is why he's seemed different lately. It would make perfect sense. He may have told me that I am his whole life, but those were just words. He must be devastated over the loss of his father and brothers, and maybe he even misses his mother, too.
"She doesn't have to find out," I tell him. And even if my mother did find out, I don't really have to answer to her anymore. After everything I've been through, I think I deserve to make my own decisions and sleep wherever I please. Besides, I like to think that my mother knows me too well to misunderstand the kind of relationship that Peeta and I have. We certainly aren't going to do anything other than sleep.
That look of weariness comes over Peeta's face again and I feel compelled to ask him about it. "This might be a stupid question, but is there something wrong? Beside the obvious, I mean?"
Peeta's eyes meet mine and he seems to hesitate. But then he shakes his head slightly and says, "No, it's just…everything. What happened in Twelve, and in the Quell. And I worry about Finnick and Johanna."
So I'm not the only one who keeps thinking of them. "So do I. But they could be dead by now for all we know."
"I don't think so," Peeta says, "I don't think Snow's that kind."
He's right, and is voicing exactly what I've been thinking, but to hear it out loud makes the whole thing worse. "I wish there was something we could do for them, but I can't think of anything. I feel like all I can do is hope that they're not being harmed -" too badly, I was going to say.
"We know that's not true, Katniss," Peeta says, callously cutting me off.
"Fine, then," I say, annoyed. "I guess we don't have anything to hope for and we should just try not to think about them."
"No," Peeta says, seeming to return to his old self. "I'm sorry, you're right. We have to hope and try to come up with something. But short of a suicidal rescue mission, I don't know what can be done." He takes one of my hands in his and soothingly stokes the back of it with his thumb.
The thought has crossed my mind too, but it is true that it would be suicidal to try to get them out of the Capitol. I can't imagine any prisoners are more well guarded than Finnick and Johanna. We're both silent for a minute or so, while Peeta's half-hearted suggestion hangs in the air.
"Do you mind taking the back?" Peeta asks, referring now to our sleeping arrangements. "My leg - it's still sensitive."
"Sure," I say, scooting over to the side of the bed that is pressed up against the wall. Together, Peeta and I pull down the covers and slide under them. He lies on his back, my head quickly finds its way onto his chest and his arms wrap around me. I still feel upset over our conversation and thoughts of the rebellion and warring in the districts, but I fall asleep faster than I have in a long time.
This becomes our regular, nightly routine. I sneak out, Peeta expects me and waits for me. We talk for a little while and then go to sleep. His arms are my refuge from the world and the only time I feel any semblance of normalcy or peace of mind is when they're around me.
If Prim or my mother ever wake up in the night and notice I'm gone, they don't mention it. I've always gotten up earlier than they do anyway, so I doubt they give much thought to my absence in the mornings. They probably just assume I'm off wandering the corridors or showering or something.
About a month after the Quell, I decide that I need to see Twelve again. I need to see, with my own eyes, just how serious and real the war against the Capitol has become. Gale and I, and a couple of others, take a hovercraft to Twelve, but I'm the only one who disembarks and walks around the ruins. I want to be alone.
One would think that after the horrors of the arenas in the Games last year, and the Quell, there wouldn't be much that could shock or terrify me anymore. But the remains of my old neighbors and acquaintances are sobering and terrifying. I walk around the charred ruins, scarcely able to believe my eyes. Gone. It's all gone, except for the Victor's Village. I go to my house there and find a single white rose. It smells sickening and I'm unnerved to know that Snow suspected I'd be back here.
But the rose also causes me to feel angry. His antagonism makes me want to work even harder to defeat him. So I train, day in and day out. Gale and I, and the others from Twelve who are able-bodied and over the age of fourteen, are given the title of 'Soldier' as we prepare for the war. Peeta's leg will take some time to heal so he can't train right now, but he keeps insisting that the moment he's able, he'll be right there beside me, preparing for an assault on the Capitol.
I wish I could see Peeta more often during the day but for the most part we're only together at mealtimes. I'm kept to a rigid schedule that includes training, meetings, and now we've started shooting propos which Beetee broadcasts for the cause of the rebellion. I don't particularly want to be seen as the symbol of the rebellion but I feel obligated to do what I can, for Johanna and Finnick, and everyone who died in Twelve and in the Games. If appearing in propos is the way in which I can most effectively work to overthrow the Capitol, I am willing to be a part of them.
We realize pretty quickly that I'm horrible on camera and completely useless in a rehearsed, safe environment. We then decide it would be better to shoot the propos away from Thirteen. This is dangerous because it requires a team, which includes me, Gale, President Coin's guard Boggs, and the film crew to go out to the warring districts. I don't tell Peeta about the propos beforehand because, knowing him, he'd probably drag himself onto the hovercraft with us and then insist on following me around on the ground, which would be ridiculous. But after he learns of just how close a call we had when a hospital was bombed in District Eight, Peeta gets angry with me for keeping something so important a secret.
"I knew you'd try to stop me," I say, when I see him in the dining hall for the first time after my return from Eight. "And there wouldn't have been any point. I have to do this. I have to do anything and everything I can."
"You promised you wouldn't keep things from me anymore," says Peeta.
"Wh -" At first, I don't recall making any such promise, but then it hits me. "You mean in Eleven during the Victory Tour?"
"Yeah," Peeta says curtly, reminding me of how angry he was that day.
I really didn't think that counted anymore. After all, Haymitch and I were supposedly conspiring to protect him during the Quell and we kept that from him…sort of. And besides, I couldn't think of a possible downside to keeping my propos travels a secret from Peeta. This is nothing like what happened in District Eleven.
"It just doesn't have anything to do with you, Peeta," I say.
Peeta's eyes widen and he leans back in his chair. Was that the wrong thing to say?
It's Gale, from his seat beside me, who puts an end to the arguing. He looks at Peeta and says sharply, "I won't let anything happen to her."
Peeta looks from me to Gale, hesitates, then nods once, still upset but seemingly appeased for the moment. I know what Gale really meant. He meant that his presence, by my side, is as good as Peeta's would be when it comes to protecting me, and that my safety is just as important to him as it is to Peeta.
I hate the way they're looking at each other and am angered by both the implication of Gale's words and Peeta's reaction to them. I'm the one who survived the Hunger Games twice and destroyed an arena, I remind myself defiantly, not Gale. I don't need to be protected.
"I can take care of myself," I say icily, as I glare at each of them. I quickly finish my small, mushy meal and leave the table without saying another word. I also have every intention of staying in my room with Prim and my mother tonight. Peeta thinks I need Gale to protect me? I'll show him just how little I need either one of them.
That night, I'm still angry over the way they insulted me, but the Capitol is retaliating by airing a propo of their own, and Peeta and I (among others) wind up in a room together watching television. When I arrive I take a seat in a chair next to Boggs. It's not long before Peeta shows up and sits on the other side of me for some reason, even though there are plenty of unoccupied seats in the room. I feel myself go rigid and I refuse to look directly at him. He's wise enough to refrain from speaking to me during the small amount of time between his arrival and when the propo starts.
I was expecting to see something infuriating, something that would inspire me to train harder and put myself in harm's way again for the sake of shooting our own retaliation, but I'm so shocked by what the Capitol airs that I only feel fear and sadness.