A/N: I know that this is something long overdue, and that my hiatus has lasted almost a year. But I do have good news: over that past year, the depression that I have dealt with for five years has gone. I've beaten it. And I've also been writing so many original things it's ridiculous. But after looking back at all that I've done on FF, and still receiving story favorite/follows and author favorites/follows, I decided to fit FF back into my writing schedule. So, here's the first, and next up will be Clove for all of you! I hope you enjoy.
"Katniss! Peeta! What… how… Peeta, what are you doing in here?!" My eyes fly open at the sound of the horrified, high-pitched shriek. Rubbing little grains of sleep from my eyes, I look up and see Effie's shocked face, painted into such a mask of incredulousness that it's almost comical. I slowly stretch, using my arms to ease myself up into a sitting position, not realizing what could possibly be wrong.
At my side, Peeta beings to wake up as well. He doesn't see Effie at first, just me. He flashes his wonderful, brilliant array of white teeth up at me, and I can't help but shyly smile back at him.
"Peeta, Katniss, this is entirely inappropriate conduct," Effie says, regaining her composure and directing our attention back to her. "I honestly expected more sense from the two of you. I know that you're in love, but you know that this sort of… behavior… is frowned upon. Think of how your parents would react if they knew about this!"
"Effie, calm down!" I say, finally understanding her implications. "I had some nightmares last night, and Peeta heard. He came in here to calm me down, because I couldn't face the nightmares without him here. Nothing else happened."
"She's telling the truth Effie," Peeta adds in his much more calming voice, as opposed to my frantic tone. "Katniss and I would never do... that, until we'd gained the consent of our parents and were formally married. You don't have to worry about us. I just didn't want her to be scared of sleeping at night."
Peeta's words are extremely effective in calming Effie down. I see her shoulders relax most of their tension, and she actually puts her hand above her heart, as though that would help slow the pulse down. "Alright. If that's all that happened, then I suppose it's acceptable. And I completely understand that you're in love. It's natural to want to be with each other, I assure you. Just make sure that you're being careful, and don't get too carried away. But anyways, up, up, up! It's a big day, and you have to be prepared for your final interview! Peeta, your team is waiting for you in your room, and Katniss, yours are right outside. Peeta, please come with me dear." Peeta steals one quick kiss just before Effie whisks him away, and they're almost immediately replaced by my prep team. All I have to say is, "The crowd loved you!" and I can doze in my seat because they're too busy chatting.
Venia purses her lips when she sees my prosthetic leg, right as they're finishing up with me. "It was such a stroke of disaster in this wonderful situation," she says. "How are you adjusting Katniss?"
I shrug, still tired from the night before. "I'm getting used to it, which is good, but obviously I'm going to miss my real leg. But Peeta's life was in question, so, considering the alternative, I'm fine with it." My prep team members all sigh, and Octavia actually has to brush a tear from her eye.
Thankfully, Cinna comes in the next moment, and my prep team is dismissed. Cinna dresses me in a very simple pink and white dress, with another breezy, short skirt, so that it will not get in the way of my leg. He hands me my cane again, which I'm already getting tired of using. But to my delight, I find that today, walking is just the slightest bit easier. Improvement is a good sign.
Everything happens rather fast. Right as Cinna is finished with me, I'm whisked away to the sitting room to stand by Haymitch, with Cinna right behind us. Portia and Peeta are there as well, and Caesar Flickerman is getting a final makeup check. Peeta smiles the instant he sees me and walks to my side.
I lean into him, throwing away my cane and using him for support instead. I would be content in this moment, which is supposed to be perfect, if not for what I notice. Haymitch, Cinna, and Portia are all smiling, but the lines around their mouths are tight, and their eyes betray hidden concerns. I nudge Peeta with my arm. "Look at their faces…" I whisper. It wouldn't bode well if anyone overheard. Questions would be flying everywhere.
"I noticed that with Portia earlier," Peeta breathes back. "Do you get the feeling that they know something that we don't?" I study the three adults again, and nod my head. Something sinister is happening as we speak, and neither Peeta nor I have any knowledge about it.
"Yesterday before the ceremony, I overheard Haymitch and Cinna discussing something, but they stopped when they noticed me," I say in the lightest of whispers. "All I got out of them is that Cinna was asking Haymitch if he was going to tell someone something, and Haymitch said there was no point. But I got the feeling they were talking about us."
A small little crease forms between Peeta's eyebrows, but we can't dwell on whatever's going on. Besides, we'll have time to learn in District 12. I'll force it out of Haymitch if I have to. I can't think on it at the moment, for the cameramen begin directing everyone into their places for the final interview until the Victory Tour six months away.
Caesar takes his seat across from us. I'm curled up next to Peeta, waiting to see if Caesar objects, but he just smiles warmly at us. "That looks very sweet," he comments just before the camera starts shooting. Caesar is immediately in his element, starting off with a few jokes, and then turns his attention to us. He and Peeta instantly still have that easy banter between them, and he answers the first few questions, which is fine with me. I still hate being in the spotlight, and this way, I don't have to concentrate too much on all the horrible things that occurred in that dreaded arena.
It's agonizing, reliving certain moments in the arena that Caesar brings up. The tracker jacker night is one the first topics. "So, Katniss," Caesar starts, "how did you feel when you knew Peeta was working with the Careers? Were you planning on specifically hitting him when you cut the nest down?"
That question I can answer. If Caesar keeps playing on the romance and ignores the gorier details, I can survive this. "I was never really thinking of Peeta when I cut down that nest," I reply. "I felt betrayed obviously, because I didn't know if his declaration of love was just a ploy to lure me into a false sense of security, to make me trust him. But I was definitely more concerned about Cato and Clove and Glimmer. I was always thinking with how to stay alive, and thoughts of revenge on Peeta definitely weren't playing in my head at that moment."
"And what about when he came back and saved your life by telling you to run?" Caesar asks, pressing the topic. "You were obviously in a very fragile state of mind because of the venom in your system, so did you even remember that moment?"
"I did," I answer, and with a light laugh I add, "Though I wasn't sure if I was imagining it at first or not. I was so intoxicated by the venom I didn't know what was real. And when I thought back to that moment, I remember that his skin was sparkling, which didn't seem like a very good sign. But when I heard Cato mention that he'd wounded Peeta, I could just feel that he really did save my life. I think that's when I felt I could trust him, and it helped me make up my mind to go after him."
Caesar seems very moved by this, and Peeta throws a grin in my direction. I only have time for one quick smile in return before Caesar asks yet another question, which is clearly going to require a lengthy answer. "Well, Peeta, we know, from our days in the cave, that it was love at first sight for you from what, age five?"
"From the moment I laid eyes on her," Peeta confirms.
"But Katniss, what a ride for you. I think the real excitement for the audience was watching you fall for him. When did you realize you were in love with him?" Caesar probes.
Oh, I was right about a lengthy answer. But I know exactly when this moment was. "It was when he kissed me the day after I woke up from the feast," I reply, sure in my answer. "I knew I had feelings for him, obviously, but I wouldn't have said I was completely in love yet. But that kiss stirred something up inside me that I hadn't known existed. And from then on, I just knew that I had to keep him with me, no matter what the cost."
Peeta leans down close to my ear. "So now that you've got me, what are you going to do with me?"
I look up and him and stare into his beautiful blue eyes. "Put you somewhere you can't get hurt." As we kiss, I hear the contented sighs from many of the people in the room. But just as he pulls away, I see Haymitch out the corner of my eyes, releasing a breath he'd been holding. This just about confirms my suspicions that there's something more going on. But what does the interview, and that specific answer, have to do with anything?
But this interview's not yet over. Caesar goes over all the ways we were injured in the arena, which Peeta mostly talks about. I'm content to rest into Peeta's shoulder. But there is one question that I know Caesar will inevitably ask, and I don't quite know how I'm going to answer this question.
"Before this ends," Caesar begins, "I've got to ask. Katniss, the moment when you pulled out those berries. What was going on in your mind… hm?" And when he says it, I see the scene before my eyes. Standing at the Cornucopia, knowing that we won't be able to win together… I couldn't bear to lose Peeta.
"I couldn't stand the thought of being without him," I say. "Not being with him was a much, much more horrible option than death. I couldn't have gone on, couldn't have lived with myself, if he died. And I knew he felt the same way about me."
"I did, and still do," Peeta adds. "I love Katniss more than anything, and I can't believe my good fortune that she loves me as well." As I kiss him, Caesar signs off, and the entire camera crew plus Effie are laughing and crying. But as I pull away from Peeta, I see Haymitch let out a breath, as if in relief. I can only wonder what this means for now. I am determined to get answers once we arrive back in District 12.
I hobble back to my room, where I am left to collect my mockingjay pin before our train ride home. I run my fingers over the smooth gold, thinking of when Madge gave it to me, and how much it reminds me of Rue now. I always see her in mockingjays. And this pin will always be a reminder of her. It hurts, but I know that I never want to forget Rue and how good she truly was.
I make my way back out, and am distraught to find that we barely have enough time to say goodbye to Cinna and Portia. I know that we'll see them soon, but I will miss Cinna's company. I give him a long hug before I am made to let go. Peeta, however, puts his arm around me as we head to our train, and that makes saying goodbye just a little easier.
When we are on the train, I begin to transform back into Katniss Everdeen. I find that I can change out of my dress and into everyday wear by myself, though I do have to do this task much slower than previously. But something is different. Even as I look into the mirror, I see this. I am now a girl that has fallen in love. Peeta is now a part of me. And that has always scared me before. I had always pushed that part of life away. But love has found me now, and has a grip on me so tight that even me, cynical me, doesn't want it to leave.
The others watch the recap of the interview, but my thoughts are on home. On Prim and my mother. On Gale. I can't wait to see them, and I want things to return to exactly how they were before the Games, but of course I must factor Peeta into my life now. I know that Prim will love him, but will my mother approve of me loving the son of a man that was in love with her? Will my friendship with Gale change because of Peeta?
No. I won't let my love for Peeta change my relationship with Gale. There was never anything romantic between us anyway. I have no reason to worry, and Gale has no reason to object to Peeta in any way.
The train takes a quick stop, where Peeta and I take a walk, and I find it ever easier to handle my cane. I still can't travel as fast as I used to, but I am determined to improve as much as possible. When we arrive back in the train, Effie makes sure we are in separate bedrooms this night. I groan internally, but I know that she won't be able to watch us when we're back home.
Home. I can feel it the next morning, and am so anxious to get back to District 12. I stand on my tiptoes, using Peeta for support, as we come into the station. I hold his hand firmly in my own, dreading the cameras. I want a moment alone with him, where we can just be together without someone breathing down or necks, and definitely not with the entire country observing our every move.
We pull in, and at the sight of the cameras, I wave with my free hand. I opted to use Peeta for support instead of the cane, so it's slightly awkward to have it in the crook of my elbow as I try to wave to the crowd. But none of that matters when I see Prim, riding on Gale's shoulders, and my mother right next to them. As soon as they are allowed to, they come rushing forward to meet me, as do Peeta's family.
I relinquish Peeta's hand for a moment only so I can put my arms around Prim. She hugs me back with all her strength, and I hear her crying into my shirt. I put one hand in the back of her hair to comfort her, and hug her back just as tightly. I hadn't known just how much I missed her up until now, and I didn't want to ever be separated from her like that again.
My mother is next, and to even my own surprise, I hug her just as long as I did Prim, enjoying the comfort her arms bring me for the first time since my father died. "Your cousins can hardly wait to see you!" she says after I release her, with a meaningful look at Gale and his family. I don't know why she says this, but for the moment I have to play along. But that doesn't mean I won't hug Gale, won't be happy to see him.
And finally, I reach Gale. I throw my arms around him before he can say anything. Remembering what my mother said about cousins, I don't linger with him the way I did with Prim and my mother. When I pull back, I finally look at his face, and see only one thing in his eyes.
A/N: I hope you all enjoyed this chapter, and don't forget to review! All your support has been so wonderful, and I can't thank you enough. I don't know when I'll have more of this particular story, because I am writing about ten others, but my other stories are up next, if you want to check those out. Hopefully, I'll see you all soon.