Chapter 1. In Time
Flames everywhere. Gray eyes identical to hers, boring into her soul, as fire consumed him. His perfect, handsome face disappearing. His hand, fitting perfectly in hers, slipping away. Him, slipping away. Pain.
Fire. Even the Girl on Fire wasn't immune to this. This undeniable, excruciating pain, torching her soul. Destroying everything.
Everything she was, everything she lived for, everything she needed.
Katniss Everdeen snapped up in her bed with a scream. It was like this every night, without fail, for the past year. After the morphling finally got her to sleep, she would awaken after only a few hours. The only time she would utter a sound, speak a word, was in her sleep. It was always a scream and it was always one name. Gale.
I am Katniss Everdeen.
I am nineteen years old.
My home was District 12.
District 12 no longer exists.
I am the Mockingjay.
I am a symbol of rebellion and war.
Gale is dead. My best friend. My lover.
Gale Hawthorne is dead and he's never coming back to me.
I need him.
The girl set a skinny hand over her collar bone, trying to catch her breath. She rarely ate, having no appetite. Even on her 19th birthday that had recently passed, she refused to leave her room, not even for the lamb stew that Peeta had attempted to recreate for her. She would only take in enough water and food to keep her alive, and sometimes that was a struggle to get her to do. When that was the case, a medic would be called with bags to force the nutients into her blood stream.
She pushed her loose hair off her face. She had refused to braid her hair since the incident, just like she refused to do most things. She glanced over at Finnick, beginning to wheeze slightly as a panic attack threatened to overtake her senses. She had these at least once a day, if not more, but Finnick always helped her. Peeta tried as well, but he couldn't really understand like Finnick did.
Since returning to Bonum, she had shared a room with the District 4 Victor. Putting the crazies together, she figured. She held her hand out wordlessly to the man who was watching her, concerned, and he instantly handed her a length of worn out rope. She took it thankfully, instantly working an intricate knot into it. Moving in with Finnick had taught her this useful skill, at least, and it did help her keep her mind off her life. Or what was left of it.
The past year had been, by far, the worst of her life. That was saying something since she had a lot of bad years to compare it to. This was worse than when her father died and she hadn't been quite good enough at hunting yet. It was worse than when she had to figure out how to be a child and support both her depressed mother and small sister to make sure they didn't starve. It was worse than when she was Reaped. It was worse than the feeling she had when Gale and Madge were Reaped.
This time, she didn't think she could come back from such a blow to her already fragile emotional and mental status.
Finnick eyed the former Mockingjay sympathetically. While he had been getting better with Johanna's help, she seemed to be getting worse. At least he would get up occasionally and he had even gotten used to the climate in Bonum, due to his walks in the snow several times a week. Looking at the snow made him think of Annie and now, instead of making him depressed, it made him happy. It made him remember the times they had together and, while their time had been cut short, it had meant everything to him. She was always on his mind and she always would be. Annie had taught him how to truly love and, while he would still get into moods sometimes where he would rage or sulk in quiet depression, he knew he had to be strong for Katniss.
A light knock emitted into the room from the door, but the one behind it didn't wait for an answer. The knocks of the now fifteen year old Primrose Everdeen only served as a warning to the two of her entrance since she didn't want to startle her damaged sister. The blond girl walked in the room. A tray was in her hands of both food and medical supplies and the ugly tom-cat trailed closely behind her.
Prim's once innocent eyes and softened face had since hardened from the way she was one year ago. At first, Prim did nothing but cry over the way Katniss acted and became. Countless days passed as she would desperately try to get a reaction from the Mockingjay, but after awhile, she had almost given up. Almost in the same manner Katniss had given up on their mother when their father died. No, exactly how she had.
Prim walked over to the small end table next to her sister's bed, Buttercup loyally at her side and hardly even paying attention to Katniss. The younger sister pushed back her braided, long blond hair before looking towards her older sister. "It's time for breakfast, Katniss."
Katniss didn't glance at her sister for a moment. She was focusing on her shaky breathing, quickly tying another knot in the rope before looking up at Prim, holding up a finger shakily from the rope. It was a code Katniss had created, the only way she communicated with anybody in the house anymore. One finger meant she didn't want anything, two meant she was thirsty, and three, a gesture she hardly used, meant she was hungry.
"I don't care," Prim spat back to Katniss as she pushed the plate onto her lap. Under her harsh tone, Buttercup gave an almost frightened sound, still getting accustomed to this hardened side of Prim. "You'll eat or I stab a needle in your arm. Your choice."
Katniss, however, didn't cringe under her sister's anger. She just looked down at the food in front of her, tears instantly flooding her eyes. Instead of the usual choking sounds Katniss used to make as she cried, her tears now were silent, melancholy, and tracking down her cheeks quickly. Prim clenched her fists slightly upon seeing Katniss, but it wasn't out of anger. The blond felt bad for her sister, but she just couldn't help but snap at her sometimes. Prim rolled her eyes slightly, trying to hide her guilt before taking the plate away from her, putting it back on the tray. "Fine, you can eat it later. But you better eat it this time, not Buttercup."
Instead of acknowledging her sister, Katniss just scooted down, laying back down and setting her head back on her pillow, her hands clenching uselessly against the rope in her hands. She pushed the end of the rope into her mouth, chewing on it to offset her anxiety. Of course, she was going to give the food to Buttercup. Regardless of how she and the animal still hated each other, they had a mutual understanding. Prim ignored her sister's actions before grabbing another plate from the tray. She walked over to Finnick, handing it off to him. "Johanna and Peeta are going to come visit you two before we all go to training this afternoon."
Finnick took the plate gently off Prim, furrowing his eyebrows a little at the sisters' interactions. "Thanks, Prim." He lowered his voice slightly, concerned. "Don't be so hard on her, okay?"
Prim ignored his comments as well as she walked back over to the tray. She pulled her medicine box from it before heading out of the door without another word to either of them. He watched her go before sighing heavily and beginning to eat his food. Sticking up for Katniss was becoming increasingly more difficult when she wouldn't even try to survive on her own.
Only an hour passed before the door thrust itself open again, this time with no warning knocks. This behavior was, of course, a sign that Johanna was barging in. It seemed that each of the three who visited them the most had their own ways of walking in - Prim knocked before entering, Johanna simply entered, and Peeta would knock as well but wait before entering, usually leaving the door open behind him. Today, however, Johanna and Peeta both decided to visit together.
The older woman stepped in the room, immediately discarding her fur lined jacket to the corner of the room. She had, over the year, restrained herself as best she could from walking around in the nude and was actually beginning to show a vague interest in some styles of clothing. Particularly, she grew a fondness to the baggy long legged snow pants in Bonum, but occasionally would forget to wear shirts with them.
Peeta had probably changed the least out of the three. Other than the fact that he had quit being a soldier and starting training with the medic squad alongside Prim, he still remained the same heavy footed, sensitive painter he once was. Since Katniss had become so fragile after losing Gale, Peeta had taken full charge of the broadcasts televised over Panem. He had done roughly twelve filmed segments over the past year, but he knew none got the same reactions as Katniss's had in the past. He was just an accessory to the Mockingjay. Without her, he couldn't fly.
Johanna walked over to Finnick, tucking her now medium length hair behind her ears as she sat on the bed beside him. "Morning, Fish."
Finnick smiled at Johanna, pulling his knees up to his chest so she would have more room to sit. Being in a particularly good mood, his smile almost seemed to gleam, his attractive appearance and personality on full display. "Johanna Mason. Might I say, you are looking stunning this morning."
"You should know by now that your flattery doesn't do anything for me, Fish," Johanna waved his comment off, but she couldn't help but crack a small smile.
"Lies. My flattery works on everyone," Finnick smirked, poking Johanna in the side with his toe.
As Katniss's eyes fell on Peeta, she held a hand out from under her covers toward him weakly. It was the only action she would perform and it was only always toward the painter. Peeta walked over to Katniss, immediately taking her hand in his. With his other hand, he softly ran his fingers through her hair, giving her a gentle and comforting smile.
"Hey, Katniss. You doing okay this morning?" he cooed with the softest of tones.
Katniss just closed her eyes as Peeta stroked her hair. She sniffled slightly, curling her hand weakly in his.
The District 4 Tribute turned his eyes slightly toward Peeta, answering for Katniss, as he had become prone to do. "She had another nightmare and a panic attack. And Prim yelled at her again."
Peeta looked towards Finnick to acknowledge his words before turning his full attention back on Katniss. His smile never faltered though as he wrapped his arm around her shoulders, hugging her soothingly. "It'll be alright, Katniss. I'm here for you and Prim is too. She's just going through a bit of a phase right now, you know she doesn't mean to be mean to you."
Katniss just pressed her eyes against Peeta's shoulder, which was more than she usually did when he hugged her. Usually she just sat still, staring at the wall. She clearly needed a little bit more comfort today than she usually did. Peeta was more than willing to give her it. He let go of her hand before beginning to run his fingers through her hair with his now free hand. "Do you want me to stay with you today? I can skip out on medical training, they'd understand."
Katniss suddenly looked alarmed at being asked a direct question. She looked quickly to Finnick for guidance, her eyes going wide as her breathing began to shallow out. Being so close, however, Peeta noticed the change in her breathing. He pulled back slightly, putting his hands on her shoulders and looking down at her, his smile still strong. "I'll skip medical training today. The instant you want me gone, just tell me like how you do when you don't feel like eating," he proposed as he held up a finger in the same fashion she had earlier with Prim.
She relaxed very slightly at Peeta's solution to her problem before turning her eyes back down to her rope, instantly beginning to work knots into it again, trying to distract herself from the panic still in her chest. Peeta backed away from her slightly, letting his hands fall from her shoulders as he sat at the foot of her bed. One thing that Peeta had gained quite a bit of over the past year was patience. He was afraid to push her when she was in her panic attacks and learned with some difficulty that it was best to let her take her time with her thoughts. All he could do was wait for her to be ready to interact with him again.
Johanna turned her attention away from the two, lowering her voice slightly so she could have her own conversation with Finnick. "She improved at all?"
Finnick tore his eyes from the small Mockingjay curled up in her bed. He looked back at Johanna and shook his head, lowering his voice as well. "She's getting worse. I don't know what to do anymore."
The woman crossed her arms tightly, annoyed by his answer. Her eyes shot a slight glare towards Katniss before turning them back on Finnick so the girl wouldn't freak out or something. "She acts like she's the only one who's lost somebody..."
"Johanna...," Finnick began softly, setting his hand over her crossed arms. "We all handle things in different ways. Gale was her-"
The man's voice was cut off by Katniss's scream. Unfortunately, they hadn't been quiet enough. As soon as she heard her best friend's name, her hands clasped tightly over her ears in an Annie-esque move as she tucked her face tightly against her knees, the rope falling uselessly to the ground. Peeta's eyes shot wide open as he immediately leaned back towards her. His arms wrapped around her tightly as he rubbed her shoulder a little, trying to calm her down. "Shh, Katniss, it's okay."
She thrashed against the bed desperately as soon as Peeta grabbed her, feeling more panicked at being restrained. She pulled his arms off her roughly before backing away from him, letting out a a loud sob, before falling out of the bed and to the ground hard.
"Katniss!" Peeta fell to his knees beside her, but stopped himself from touching her. He bit his bottom lip hard, uncertain of what to do for her.
Katniss grasped her messy, tangled hair in her hands tightly, pulling it as she sobbed silently, tears soaking her shirt. Finnick instantly got out of bed and held the rope toward her, but this time she ignored it. He widened his eyes, alarmed, as the girl began to gasp for breath. She'd never turned the rope away before.
He turned his eyes toward Peeta. "We need to sedate her. She can't breathe. Oh, God, Katniss, I'm so sorry. I wasn't thinking..."
"Keep her here, I'll get some," Peeta nodded towards him before immediately standing up.
Finnick nodded quickly, kneeling next to Katniss. He touched her back with one hand, delicately, but she didn't acknowledge him. As Peeta ran out, Johanna's glare only grew more intense. She immediately stood up, grabbing on to Finnick's arm. "There's no use, she's lost the will to even live at this point."
Finnick turned his wide eyes onto Johanna. "Don't say that."
"It's true!" she barked. "And, quite frankly, it's disgusting. Peeta is here nearly everyday for her and she still can't get over him. You said it yourself, she's worse now more than ever! Here's some news, Katniss. You're not the only one who lost someone close to you! But the least you can fucking do is acknowledge the people who want to help you and the boy who loves you!"
Katniss began to gasp harder, grasping the front of her shirt desperately, leaning back against Finnick's chest as she became weaker.
Finnick's eyes turned to a glare as he looked at Johanna. "Stop it! Johanna, shit! Not everyone can be as strong as you are and, frankly, I'm sick of everyone, especially you, being a bitch to Katniss! She can't help it!"
"And I'm sick of being the only one who can actually tell her the truth! She's not getting better and she's being selfish! And-!"
"Shut up, Johanna!" Peeta's voice boomed through the room. Johanna paused before looking back towards the door at the angry blond. Never before had she even heard him get close to the volume he just yelled at. Peeta's eye twitched slightly, obviously wanting to yell more and vent his anger towards her but he stopped himself. He bottled everything back up inside as he had been for the past year before walking towards Katniss. He had to put her first before himself, as he always had.
Finnick fell quiet as well, eyeing Peeta silently. For the past year he had been observing the boy, he had never heard anything come from his mouth but the soft, comforting voice he used with Katniss.
Katniss looked up at Peeta with streaming eyes as she continued to gasp for air desperately, clutching her chest as it began to burn from lack of oxygen. Peeta immediately rushed to Katniss's side, placing his medical box on the floor. He pulled out a syringe with a dose of morphling inside before gently pricking the needle into her thigh in the same way he had for her while they were on their mission one year ago. As he injected the liquid with one hand, he reached up to her with his other, his fingers lightly trailing down her cheek. "Just relax, okay? I promise, everything will be okay. Don't listen to her and don't worry anymore..."
Katniss's gasping slowly turned into normal breaths as the morphling entered her bloodstream. Her hand relaxed from her shirt and fell back to her lap as her pupils dilated and she fell a bit more against Finnick's chest, surrendering instantly to the soothing feeling the morphling always gave her.