At first, there had been anger. It was immediate and harsh, and it burned her throat when she screamed of injustice. She frantically looked around the room, gray with ceiling to floor cold cement, crowded with district thirteen advisers who surveyed her meltdown with a prickling uncomfortable silence. She was enraged, and in danger of losing her wits. Peeta had the opposite reaction. He stood stony and silent, his arms folded in disapproval.
"It is for the best, as you very well know." Coin spat, and her arms mimicked Peeta.
"There is nothing you can do to make me stay there. I'm not going to hide like a coward!"
Katniss shrieked, her silver eyes flashing with malice and slight manic. This was absolutely ludicrous. Katniss was actually shaking from the ridiculousness of it all. She darted a look at Peeta. Would Peeta approve of this botched plan? Possibly. It guaranteed almost certain safety for the both of them. Katniss already knew as long as the possibility of one of them being safe was a probable outcome, Peeta would agree to it. He was only truly concerned about one of them. She studied him for a moment, judging his reaction to the news.
Peeta stood, solid as stone. Arms folded. Mouth in a tight line. His hair dusted past his dark eyebrows, hanging just above his bright eyes. She watched as his jaw subtly clenched, as it always did when he was swallowing an unpleasant urge or thought.
That's it. He's repressing. He's not going to agree with me. Katniss thought, her rage boiling over again. Just as she was about to open her mouth to argue once more, Peeta caught the entire room by surprise by flipping over the heavy table in the center of the room with his left hand. It was fast, and had the effect he intended for. The council was clearly startled and unhinged.
"We're not going." He hissed, as loose papers fluttered to the concrete flooring.
"You most certainly are!" Coin sputtered, clearly flustered.
"No. We're not. You need Katniss. And I still am not fully treated. How do you know you can trust me to be alone with her for God knows how long? I could snap her neck in her sleep."
Peeta said, in an almost bored tone. Katniss fought the urge to shiver at his nonchalant reference to her violent death. The council also appeared alarmed at this recent declaration of Peeta's unstable sanity.
"You won't. We will take measures to ensure both of your safety. Don't think we haven't thought long and hard of this arrangement. This isn't some crock-pot idea that we hatched to make your life miserable, Miss Everdeen and Mister Mellark. This is entirely to ensure that you even have a life." Coin said, regaining composure from Peeta's uncharacteristic meltdown.
"We have also," Coin continued, "Informed your mother as well as Primrose of this decision. They agree it is for the best."
Katniss felt a rush of emotions. Confusion. Hurt. Fear. Anger, always. And for once, defeat. It would be exactly like Coin to bring up what made Katniss most vulnerable. It was a low blow. A last resort measure to ensure that Katniss understood the full weight of the current situation. Slowly, tears of frustration sprang to her eyes, and a painful lump formed in her throat. The last thing she wanted was to cry in front of the District thirteen council. The council observed her reaction with thick tension. She fought to keep on a neutral facade, but her neck was beginning to hurt, her eyes were burning from fighting back tears, and swallowing while holding back tears felt unbearably thick and painful. It was pathetic, but Katniss felt utterly trapped. There was no way they could be convinced to keep her in the rebellion plans. There was no way they would allow her to shadow along missions. They probably even packed her bags and had a hovercraft waiting while Coin distributed the information. Any way she looked at it, she began to see the walls forming and doors closing, until she was completely surrounded from all sides. Add the news that her own mother and sister agreed with Coin, and the floor was dropped right out from underneath Katniss. She was completely vulnerable, and at the will of the thirteenth district.
"It's what's best." Coin repeated, this time, with more security.
"Explain. Explain to me again, the plan." Katniss whispered, willing her voice to remain steady.
"You and Peeta are not safe. And if we want to win the war against the Capitol, we need your cooperation. We are in the thick of battle, and Snow is playing dirty. It's too dangerous for anyone, especially you two. In order to win, we need you to stay alive, and hidden from Snow. We have a safe house in an undisclosed area. There, you and Peeta will live, until further instruction. All necessities are provided, and we have already taken measures to ensure the safety of you both."
Katniss let out a slow breath and rubbed her temples. The room knew they were at an impasse, and a sudden stillness washed over the group as they observed Katniss' internal struggle.
"Excuse me." Peeta's deep voice said suddenly. "But, what makes you think I want to go?"
"Pardon?" Coin rasped.
"I said, what makes you think I want to go to the safe house. You've done nothing to convince me I should go."
Slowly, the council began to look at each other and murmur their confusion as Peeta's words were slowly digested and understood. Katniss tried hard not to let her face burn. It was shocking to hear Peeta's argument, and she already knew why the council had not tried to gather leverage to convince Peeta to go. They assumed, like everyone else including Katniss, that if she agreed, it was a package deal. If Katniss went, Peeta would follow.
"Katniss will be going." Coin said, her eyebrows scrunching together.
"Why would I go just because Katniss is?" Peeta argued, his eyes suddenly flashing.
"Because...because you love Katniss." Coin murmured, at a sudden loss.
The room held its breath. Katniss suddenly felt ill. It hadn't been the first time Peeta's love for Katniss, it was a subject generally known to be awkward for all. Katniss felt Peeta's eyes turn to her, and burn into her profile. She fought for the strength to look at him, but all she could do was slowly turn her head further away from him to the side.
"So I've been told." He whispered.
Katniss slowly closed her eyes, as if shutting them could make her disappear. A sudden urge for the old Peeta washed over her body. Peeta, who laughed and could make anyone fall in love with him with a single conversation. Peeta who was warm like the bread he baked, with soft eyes and big gentle hands. Instead, ever since his time at the Capitol, he had pushed away from everyone, doubting everything he knew. Cynical and slightly cold. He was rough and accusatory and more definite in his wants and needs. When he came back from the Capitol and it's torture, he had lost all the innocent and pure qualities that clung to boyhood adolescence. Now, he was a man, and he looked it too. Katniss often felt that she had lost a friend without a single goodbye, despite his presence. He was not the Peeta she knew. She felt as if she were in mourning for someone she lost a long time ago. Pair this with the recent inability to control her own personal life, and Katniss was overwhelmed. She had no control over her choices, her home was destroyed, and Peeta...her Peeta, had vanished.
Katniss' head shot up as she looked at Peeta in disbelief.
"I'll go if Katniss goes." He said again, staring at Coin.
The council turned their attention to her direction. She swallowed, accepting what she knew had to be done.
"I'll go." Katniss spoke to the group.
"Great." Coin smirked before the room could form a reaction. "You'll be leaving now."
Blue eyes met gray, as Peeta and Katniss searched each other for some sort of solid ground. But before Katniss could find anyone familiar in his eyes, his gazed dropped to the floor.
It was final.