Chapter 25: Her heart beating faster
Author: Carla, aka cali-chan
Rating: Most likely PG-13. Nothing worse than what's in the books.
Genre: Adventure/suspense/drama/romance... again, pretty much what's in the books.
Pairings: Peeta/Katniss, Rory/Prim... and probably others. You'll see soon.
Canon/timeline: Same-context AU— this fic still happens in the same world as THG, but the actual events in the books never happened. I'm adding about five years to the characters from the age they were at the beginning of The Hunger Games. Katniss is 21.
Disclaimer: Yeah, just let me go get my transfer laser and switch bodies with Suzanne Collins. Until I find it in the mess that is my room, anything you can recognize belongs to her.
Note: I've never really tried this before (and I'm sure it will eventually come back and bite me in the behind), but each chapter will be from the PoV of a different character. You should be able to tell whose PoV it is fairly easily, though.
Summary: "Primrose Everdeen." This can't be happening, Katniss thought. She desperately pushed through the crowd. I volunteer!, she wanted to scream. I volunteer as tribute! But she couldn't, because she wasn't eligible for the reaping anymore. There was nothing she could do.
"The road to the future leads us smack into the wall. We simply ricochet off the alternatives that destiny offers."—Jacques-Yves Cousteau.
Katniss couldn't even know how many days had passed since they were captured.
She leaned her head against the wall behind her as she thought of where everything had gone wrong. Getting inside the Arena Visitors' Complex was the easy part: an Avox with the catering crew let them in, and they made their way through deserted underground service corridors until they reached the box they were supposed to occupy: an empty press box right below a section of audience seats. The wait was long, but everything went according to plan up until that point.
She got in position. She could hear the noise of hundreds of Capitol people chattering excitedly as they waited for the moment the Games would begin. The sound made the hairs on her arms stand on end. She saw Seneca Crane at the window before Boggs even pointed it out. The Capitol audience was counting down along with the clock.
It was halfway through the countdown that the utter panic set in. I'm about to kill a man, she thought as she pointed her arrow slightly above the Gamemaker's head, to account for the height. Not an animal, for food. I'm about to kill a man who is not immediately threatening my life. Premeditated murder. She took a deep breath and let it out, shakily. I'm about to become a murderer.
He might kill my sister. He has killed dozens of children before. He deserves it.
That doesn't make it right.
Boggs gave her the signal. Before she could convince herself this was all wrong, so wrong, she let go of the string, and the arrow was flying. She could've sworn she heard the sound of the glass breaking, almost like an out-of-body experience, like she was standing up there in the Control Room instead of several feet below. The arrow found its target, and Crane dropped to the ground.
The crowd above them erupted into shrill screams. Capitol people kept proving her disdain right, she mused in that split second; of course they would be terrified by watching one of their own die right in front of them, even if they were routinely entertained by (and even clamored for) the deaths of children from the districts.
Loud alarms started ringing all over the complex. The place was about to become pandemonium, and they had to get out of there, quick. Boggs directed them, their escape route guided by his communicuff, as they made their way down the corridors. The squad had guns. She had an arrow at the ready just in case. It was of no use: the first two were just looking around a corner when they were spotted by a group of Peacekeepers who were apparently leading a group of staff out to safety. She heard them before the rest of the squad saw them, but didn't have time to stop them as she was not at the front. Before any of them could open fire, Leeg 2 was taken out by a shot to the head.
It was chaos. They had no cover. A bullet hit Jackson in the arm. Mitchell received a blunt hit to the head with a rifle. They managed to bring down several of the guards, but within two minutes, another group of Peacekeepers approached from the other end of the corridor. They were cornered.
As they were disarmed, cuffed and led out, she caught sight of Leeg 2's body, which had been brutally trampled over by the frightened people trying to get out to safety.
It had been a mislabeled exit, Boggs told her later. The positioning system in his comunicuff had the door marked as closed, yet the Peacekeepers had used it as an emergency exit. Someone had to have either gotten the information wrong, or transmitted it wrong to them. Katniss listened to him without comment, but privately thought there was no point in thinking about it, anyway; what could go wrong had already gone wrong, and knowing where the mistake was couldn't bring Leeg 2 back.
They'd been taken somewhere else and shoved into individual holding cells. She took in the small space for the hundredth time. Four concrete walls, barely six by four. The only entrance was a heavy metal door which remained locked at all times except when a guard shoved in a tray with coarse bread and water. The lighting was dim and a sickly yellow, there was no bed, and there were no windows either, not even a hole in the wall anywhere. The only opening apart from the door was a very small vent, high up in the wall, which connected to the cell Boggs was being held in.
She'd barely seen the sun since she'd embarked on this journey to the Capitol, she realized. First the box, then the Training Center, the safe house, and now the cell. She missed it. She didn't feel herself when confined. If things kept going the way they had up to that point, she might just end up developing a phobia of enclosed spaces, after all.
The thought reminded her of Peeta, and thinking of Peeta hurt.
"It won't be much better when we get back to Thirteen, I'm afraid," Boggs had replied when she bitterly mentioned it to him. Of course it wouldn't; Thirteen was fully underground. But it didn't matter anyway. They'd kill them soon. They were taking their time with it for some reason, she didn't know what that was, but they'd get to them soon. They would never make it to Thirteen.
Did she even succeed in killing Seneca Crane? Surely he had to be dead after that injury. She could only hope that was enough for the rebels to be able to get her sister out of the arena. She didn't care what happened to her so long as Prim made it out alright. But she didn't know what was happening with the Games, or if Prim was even still alive.
The only way Katniss had of measuring the passage of time was as morbid as everything else around her: by the deaths. The first day, after all the adrenaline, and the fear, and fighting, she basically passed out in exhaustion. She didn't know how long she slept, but she assumed it was already the next day when she was woken by Jackson's screams.
She couldn't see them, but she heard them struggle and fight as Peacekeepers dragged them through the hallway in front of her cell. They must've tortured them, or killed them in a slow and painful manner, because the screaming usually went on for a while. It was always horrible to hear, and she would curl up in a corner of her cell, trying hard not to imagine what might be happening to them.
It took a long time for Jackson to quiet down; it felt like hours. She spent the whole time bellowing from the pain but to her credit, she never once begged them to stop. Leeg 1 was the hardest to hear; they took her some time after Jackson, which Katniss guessed to be in the afternoon. The entire time she cried for her family, especially for her father who was waiting for her to go back. It hit Katniss so close to home, she pulled off clumps of her own hair in her attempt to shield herself from the sound. Thankfully she went fast.
That morning, it was Mitchell. He kicked, and pushed— she could hear the sound of the struggle and the clanking of his boots against the metal of her door when they dragged him by— and as they began to inflict their torture, he took every chance he got to curse the Peacekeepers and the entirety of the Capitol to hell and back. She hoped the Peacekeepers who were hurting him would never forget every single word he spat at them.
During the silent periods, sometimes Boggs would make a comment here and there. He wouldn't talk about the death of their fellow squad members, which she appreciated and understood; not only had he known them better, because they'd all been soldiers (unlike her, who got thrown into their squad barely a few days previous), but he was their commander. If she felt horrible about their deaths, she couldn't even begin to imagine how he felt.
He talked a lot about Thirteen, though; about how things were back there: the system, the people, the technology. Sometimes he asked her how different things were in Twelve. She rarely answered, because thinking of home hurt, too, but he didn't seem to mind. There was a wistfulness in the way he spoke that reminded her of her father, which was why she listened even though talking did them no good.
Sometimes she heard him speak to someone else, probably Homes, who was likely in the cell adjacent to Boggs. Dimly she wondered which of them would be the next to go. She was just trying to discern what Boggs was saying to the other man when the door to her cell opened and a man came in.
She pushed herself as far back as she could against the wall. The man didn't seem threatening, but she couldn't be sure. He was plump, and middle-aged— probably older than her mother would've been if she were alive. He was obviously Capitol, from the outlandish way he was dressed, but he carried no weapons.
He pulled a chair from the hallway and set it in front of the door as he closed it behind him. Katniss watched him carefully. She wasn't restrained, so maybe she could take him on and try to escape. "Good afternoon, Katniss," he said amenably, like they were old friends. She had nothing to say to that— her afternoon had not been "good" by any stretch of the word. "I would not recommend attempting a breakout. There are two Peacekeepers stationed outside your door; you wouldn't be able to escape even if you could overpower me."
She narrowed her eyes at him. For a moment she wondered how he knew that's exactly what she had been contemplating a minute previous, but then she figured it probably wasn't hard to guess. "And in any case, if you try to hurt me, they will surely notice. All the cells are under surveillance," he said as he sat down on the chair. He pointed somewhere above the frame of the door. She couldn't see anything there, but perhaps the camera was disguised somehow.
There was silence for a moment after that last affirmation. She realized she couldn't hear Boggs speaking anymore, and she wondered if he was listening in to her unexpected conversation, instead. "What do you want?" she asked the man, bluntly.
"My name is Plutarch Heavensbee," he declared in an affable tone. The name didn't ring a bell. "You probably haven't heard of me, I've only come to prominence very recently," he admitted. She glared at him. Of course she hadn't, she was locked in a jail cell. "I've quite a busy schedule these days, you see," he started again, fiddling with his ridiculously expensive-looking cufflinks, like she cared one way or another what his schedule looked like. "But I thought I should do the polite thing and take a minute to visit you and thank you."
She frowned at him, not understanding what he meant. She didn't know what someone like him would possibly have to thank her for. He seemed to notice her confusion. "I have recently been promoted to the position of Head Gamemaker for the Hunger Games," he clarified.
Katniss felt her heart start beating really fast, like she was back at the Visitor's Complex, still halfway through her mission. Somehow it hadn't occurred to her that Seneca Crane might be replaced after his death— at least not this soon. She realized then how stupid she had been to think that way. But surely the rebels had to know something like this would happen? How the hell were they going to get her sister out of the arena if there already was a new Head Gamemaker in place?
Moreover, there was something creepy about this guy. He had to know she had killed the previous Head Gamemaker— maybe he had even been there to see her arrow catch Crane straight in the chest— yet he was thanking her. "And you're not afraid I might kill you too?"
He smiled at her. Yes, very creepy. "The way I see it, Katniss, you did me a favor," he quipped as he crossed his legs, apparently very comfortable in his current position. "See, the competition is usually very tough for a position such as mine. But after what happened to my predecessor, well... let's just say there weren't many takers for the job."
He didn't seem the least bit concerned that getting promoted meant he had just put a big target on himself. "And since you did me a favor, I guess I can do something for you as well," he said, leisurely. She only glared at him; she didn't want anything he could give her.
He wasn't intimidated, though. "Don't worry, it's nothing that might get you in further trouble," he assured her. "But I thought you might like to know that your sister is still alive and well." Katniss tensed immediately at the mention of Prim. "In fact, I dare say she's thriving in the arena."
If her heart had been beating faster before, it was now threatening to burst out of her chest. Could it be true, or was he just messing with her? Prim was still alive? Maybe there was still a chance, maybe Haymitch or Finnick or someone could still do something to get her out of there even though there was a new Head Gamemaker already in place...
Before she could open her mouth to say anything else, the man pulled a gold watch on a chain out of a pocket in his vest. He opened it and, frowning down at it a little, ran his thumb over its face as if to clean it. "Well, it's getting late. I'm afraid I don't have much time to chat with you today. I'm sure you understand." He smiled at her again and turned the watch in her direction so she could look at it.
She caught a glimpse of the time— it was nearing five in the afternoon. But there was something else she noticed in that very quick movement: when the yellowish light reflected on the surface of the watch, an image appeared on it, almost like it was glowing on the surface of the glass. It was a mockingjay. In fact, it was the exact same figure of a mockingjay as in the pin she had asked Finnick to give back to Prim over a week previous.
He closed the watch a second later. "I should get back to the Control Room now," Plutarch said as he stood up from the chair. He gave her that creepy smile again. "It was very nice talking to you, Katniss." With that, he opened the door again, and requesting for the Peacekeepers to help him get the chair out, he left. Just like that.
She let herself relax from her previously tense position when the sound of footsteps down the corridor could no longer be heard. "Why do you think he did that?" she asked Boggs, still baffled by the random visit and overwhelmed by the information she'd gotten from it. She hoped he'd been listening.
"Maybe it was some kind of intimidation tactic," came the commander's response a few seconds later.
True, that made sense. She could see how Snow's government benefitted from pretending the death of Seneca Crane did not shake them as the rebels hoped it would. They needed to put on a guise of stability against further attacks. "He had a hidden design of a mockingjay. In his pocket watch," she added, though she knew Boggs would likely not understand the significance of it because she'd never mentioned Prim's pin to him.
He was quiet for almost a whole minute. Perhaps he was giving it some thought. "Probably just some new Capitol fashion trend," he said eventually. "You know how those people are."
She had no comment to that. Frankly she thought it too much of a coincidence, but at the same time, it had all happened so quickly, she was beginning to think she had imagined the almost ghostly image. The lighting in the room was really poor and she was tired; maybe her eyes had played a trick on her. She pushed it to the back of her mind for the moment.
Shortly after, she heard the now-familiar sounds of someone being roughly pulled out of a cell. It was Homes. There was screaming and resistance at first but it subsided very suddenly; all she could hear as they passed in front of her door was the telltale sound of something heavy being dragged. They probably had to knock him unconscious. She figured after Mitchell, they weren't very keen on listening to these soldiers' dying words.
The next morning, she was woken up not by screaming, but by her door opening. She sprung backward on instinct, her heart in her throat. They were coming for her. She was going to die.
She thought her fears were confirmed when a Peacekeeper made his way into the cell, but then she saw he was pulling things inside: first, the same chair Plutarch Heavensbee had brought in the day before, and then a small folding table which he opened and set up against one of the walls. A second Peacekeeper set a portable computer down on it, then left. The first Peacekeeper moved to stand beside the door, closing it after a third person walked into the room. She didn't need to wonder who it was; every single person in Panem would be able to recognize the man who stood in front of her.
President Snow's snakelike eyes took in her demeanor. "Don't worry, miss Everdeen. It's not your turn yet," he assured her. He sat down on the chair, the Peacekeeper keeping guard behind him. A strong scent filled her nostrils, and more than ever she wished her cell could have a window; the smell was making her nauseous. The aroma of roses, likely from the flower pinned to his lapel, but stronger than any rose she had ever smelled. And just under that, the distinct metallic tang of blood. She didn't know where that could be coming from. "I am only here to ask you some questions."
She did not ease off her posture. He noticed. "I think it's fair to say everybody in the districts now knows there is a seditious faction trying to get their attention," he started, his tone business-like. "What I would like to know is how you and your... husband..." The emphasis on the word let her know he was well aware the whole thing was a ruse. She also didn't miss the fact that he had addressed her as "miss Everdeen" instead of "Mrs. Mellark." He finished the thought promptly: "...How you two first got in contact with the rebels in Thirteen."
Her heart started pounding heavily in her chest. It didn't matter how he knew, not really; a simple order to look up their marriage license back in Twelve's records would be enough to confirm that it was all pretend. But she didn't know how he found out about Peeta. Had the others said anything when they were being tortured?
She couldn't let them target Peeta; they would capture him and kill him, just like they did all the others, and she couldn't let that happen. As much as it felt like her voice had disappeared, she had to divert Snow's attention from him somehow. "Peeta has nothing to do with this," she stated, finally finding words, and she feared she sounded anxious, but she couldn't keep it down. "It was all me. I got involved with the rebels. He didn't do anything wrong."
He stared at her for a second, his puffy lips pursed. It only made him look more grotesque. It was so out of place for him to be down there, she thought, with a backdrop of grey walls and not much else, when every other time she'd seen him, he had been surrounded by splendor and grandeur. The very representation of the power of the Capitol.
"I'm afraid it's a little too late for that, miss Everdeen," he sentenced and lifting his hand, he signaled to the Peacekeeper behind him. The uniformed man moved closer to the table and pressed a button on the computer, which promptly came to life. Straight away a video started playing.
For the first few seconds there was only a grey background, which confused her a little, but then none other than Peeta sat down in front in front of the camera. Her breath caught in her throat. What did it mean? Had they captured him? Apart from the obvious dark circles under his eyes, he didn't look hurt or mistreated. What was this?
He leaned his weight forward, his forearms resting on his thighs, and gave the camera a small nod. That was a signal, because a moment later a female voice spoke up from out of frame. "So, Peeta," she began, and Katniss recognized the voice as Cressida's. That was good. It meant the video was manufactured by the rebels, and that meant Peeta was still safe. "Why did you come to the Capitol?"
At the question, he looked down at his hands and for a heartbeat she felt like her entire being was hanging onto his answer. What were the rebels planning with this mock interview? Was he going to tell the truth, that they'd come to the Capitol to save Prim from the Games? Why?
He didn't leave her hanging for long, as he then took a deep breath and, his blue eyes moving to look straight at the camera, let it out in what was almost a sigh. "I'm here because... the person I love the most in the world has someone she loves most in the world," he started, speaking slowly. "And that person is in danger."
The word were so carefully crafted, she almost didn't understand. But then she realized he was talking about her. Who else could he "love the most in the world" if not his "wife"? It had to be some kind of strategy, some plan by the rebels, because Peeta wouldn't be saying any of it on his own. He wasn't really in love with her. They were friends. That was all.
"You mean your wife, right? Katniss?" Cressida asked from off-camera, just to clarify. "The person you say is in danger is her sister Primrose, who got reaped for the Hunger Games." Peeta nodded. "Wow. You must really love her a lot, to risk your life like that to help her sister."
Peeta shrugged. "I do. I... She needed help. I couldn't not be there for her." He shook his head ever-so-slightly. "I would do anything for her. For both of them, really."
Katniss felt something clench in her chest. He'd told her before that he had decided to come with her because he felt stopping the Games was worth the risk, but she still felt like it was her fault he wound up smack in the middle of this mess. Coming to the Capitol was her idea; he wouldn't be here if not for her. Somehow hearing it from his lips, even if it was a rebel scheme, made it all the more real.
There was a pause then, like Cressida was letting his words sink in. Then she piped up again: "How did you two fall in love?"
Katniss was almost annoyed by the line of questioning, but as Peeta's expression changed, she realized Cressida was trying to get him to spin a story, like he had the night on the train when they'd gotten caught. Getting him to use words to convince their hypothetical audience just like he had convinced Cressida and her crew that night. Convince them of what, she wasn't sure, and she right then couldn't see how sounding like a sappy Capitol soap opera could benefit the rebellion at all, but there had to be a point to all of this.
He let out a chuckle. She found that even with the President of Panem sitting right in front of her, likely to kill her soon, her attention was transfixed on the screen, on Peeta. She knew he was just playing the audience, but she was blown away by how genuine he seemed, how much he could transmit with just the smallest gesture. Clearly the rebels had the right idea, putting him in front of the camera. He had a way with words.
"Well, I can't speak for her," he started, a sweet smile settling on his lips. She was glad to see it. He hadn't smiled yet, and for some reason it made her feel like something was off. Smiling was almost the natural state of being for Peeta Mellark, and she appreciated that now. "But for me that would be... the first day of school."
"The first day of school ever?" came Cressida's question.
He laughed at her obvious disbelief. "Yeah," he admitted with just the right balance of charm and embarrassment. "Kinda pathetic, isn't it?" She felt a rush of warmth pass through her, but at the same time it hurt, because she hadn't heard him laugh since... probably since before the Reaping. She hadn't known back then that hearing him laugh would become so comforting for her. If she had known, she would've treasured it more.
"The first time I saw her, we were waiting to line up before class started," he began, his expression turning wistful. "My father pointed her out to me, actually, because he knew her mother. They dated when they were younger, but it didn't go anywhere, because she fell in love with Katniss's father." She couldn't help but frown. She had no idea how he came up with this stuff, but it was a very elaborate story.
"So there I was, five years old, at an age when my father was my greatest hero." His gaze was far away, like he was back at that moment instead of just remembering, and she knew he was thinking of his father, missing him. She knew because she felt the same way whenever something reminded her of her dad. "So of course I couldn't understand why any woman would choose to marry a coal miner over him." He shook his head. "But when I asked, he told me it was because... when he sang, even the birds stopped to listen."
She could've sworn her heart stopped for an instant. That was true, what he said about the birds. She could remember many days in the forest with her father when he'd be singing her some happy lullaby, and everything around him would go quiet. It was part of the reason why she was so reluctant to sing after he died, she realized; because it made her miss her father even more.
"And did Katniss inherit this trait?" Cressida asked.
"She did," he answered, smiling again. "But I didn't find that out until later. For the rest of the day I just stared at her, intrigued by this pretty little girl, whose father apparently had a magical voice." He licked his lips, almost like he was nervous. "I remember she was wearing a red plaid dress. And you know how she wears her hair in a braid? Well, back then she wore it in two braids. I remember thinking she was cute," he laughed. "High praise, considering I still believed girls had cooties."
Cressida laughed as well, but otherwise let him continue. "Later on, in music assembly, the teacher asked who knew the Valley Song. Her hand shot right up in the air." He still sounded amused as he recalled this part. "I remember how brave I thought she was. I would've never put myself out there like that in front of a bunch of kids I didn't know. But she didn't care. She was going to do something she loved, and she was going to do it proudly."
His eyes closed for a moment as he spoke his next words, almost reverent. "And when she opened her mouth to sing, I swear, every bird outside the windows fell silent." He breathed in, deeply, his eyes boring into hers through the screen. "That's when I understood why Mrs. Everdeen married Katniss's father instead of my dad. It was then that I knew... I knew that I would love her for the rest of my life."
Her heart was beating so hard, she could almost hear it pulse against her ribcage. She felt so unexpectedly moved by everything he said, and at the same time so confused, because she knew it was a fabrication. But even then, there was a ring of truth to it. The detail about her father's singing, Mr. Mellark could have told him that at any point, but that dress he mentioned? She remembered it; not only did she use to own a red plaid dress, but eventually she passed it down to Prim, for her to use until it was worn down to rags. And she vaguely remembered singing in front of her kindergarten class, though she couldn't remember the song.
She knew when Peeta was making up a story, he liked to insert little bits of truth, to aid the veracity of it. But these details were so insignificant, and it all happened such a long time ago, she barely remembered it herself. How could he remember all of that? Could he... could he really be in love with her? No, he wasn't. He couldn't be.
But it would explain so many things, like why he always thought the best of her. Like why he risked his life to come with her to the Capitol... Why he took a beating from his mother to give her the bread that saved her and her family. Could he truly have been in love with her for over fifteen years?
Suddenly, it was like her entire world had turned upside down. She was so stunned, she almost missed Cressida's next question. "Does she still sing?"
"Not that I know of," Peeta replied, his smile fading slowly. Of course he wouldn't know; the only times she'd ever sung since her father died was to Prim, when she was younger and would have nightmares. Cressida wondered why she'd never sung to him. "I've never asked her to," was his answer. "Actually, I've never even told her any of this."
"What made you decide to say it now?" Cressida continued questioning.
He was serious again, almost grave. "Because I needed to remind myself of why I'm fighting," he stated, with his usual conviction. "Everybody needs to remember why we're fighting. It's not about money, or food, or about commodities. It's about not living in fear. The Capitol threatens to take the people we love and hurt them, maybe even kill them, like they mean nothing."
His fists clenched visibly, accentuating the emotion in his words. "But I won't let them hurt Katniss, or Prim, or any of the people I love, and neither should you." He was no longer talking to Cressida, but addressing the audience directly. "But we can only take them on if we work together. All of us, all the districts. We can fight."
That was their angle, she realized. That's what the rebellion wanted with Peeta; to use his words of love and devotion to remind people of all those they loved, and use that love to fuel their desire for a revolution. It was a strategy after all, but did that make Peeta's story, and all the conflicting feelings it inspired in her, any less true?
"We must fight," Cressida agreed readily. She thanked him for agreeing to being interviewed, and he echoed her, grateful for the opportunity.
That's where the video ended, but even as it faded to black, Katniss was feeling so many things at once, it was almost like being snapped out of a trance. She was slightly disoriented as she looked around at the grey walls of her cell, even though she had seen nothing but those grey walls for almost three days.
Then her eyes fell on President Snow, who still sat in front of her, watching her coldly. "As inspirational as that was, I hope you understand why I am not overcome with emotion," he said. His words sounded benign, much like Plutarch's had, but his expression did not match his tone. "This clip aired in the districts a few days ago, so you see why your attempt at defending Mr. Mellark is quite futile."
He crossed his legs, getting comfortable, and she had the jarring thought that, even though he was the President of Panem, and she was a prisoner, she was the one who would always be out of place. "Your... colleagues," he continued, obviously referring to the rebels, "found a way to override our live feed yesterday. They aired this clip in the Capitol. Our experts were not expecting their propaganda to target the Capitol this early, so we couldn't stop it in time."
She recognized, despite the pleasant tone, that there was a certain sincerity to his words, and she was taken aback by his directness. The government of Panem did not usually recognize when they made an error, particularly not to criminals. He must want something from me, very badly. Maybe that knowledge was the reason she had the guts to say her next words: "Perhaps instead of wasting your time visiting me, you should be putting more effort into hiring better experts."
His bloated lips stretched out into a sneer. "I assure you that the issue of our experts has been... taken care of." Once again she sensed there was more to what he said than the words alone, and she had no doubt those "experts" who had made the mistake of not stopping the rebel transmissions on time were now dead. "But you are right, my time is valuable. So let me make my point: I need you to do something for me, miss Everdeen."
She said nothing, only stared back at him, tense as if he were a real snake about to lunge at her any second. She didn't need to ask what he wanted; he would tell her. And he did. "I want you to appear on a live interview that we will air nationwide."
"And say what?" she asked. Obviously he didn't mean to put her in front of a camera because of her charming personality.
"The truth, of course," he replied straight away. He wasn't put off by her reticence. "That you didn't intend your altercation with that Peacekeeper as a seditious act, that you didn't mean to join a rebellion and that you're only being used for their treacherous plans."
Her jaw tensed. That was the truth. But that wasn't all he meant for her to say. "Should I also suggest that the people of the districts not get involved if they don't want the same to happen to them?" she asked, knowing very well that was implied.
"You understand where I'm coming from," he confirmed, with a single nod of his head. He uncrossed his legs and made as if to stand up. "My advisors were concerned you would be difficult, but I am sure you're reasonable enough to know that would not be in your best interests."
The threat was clear: he could forfeit her life at any point, just as he had his "experts," just as he had her squad. But he just said he needed her to bring down the mood in the districts, so why should she take his threat seriously? She was about to bring this up when he continued: "Of course, remember I know exactly where your dear sister is right now."
She felt her heart rate speed up again; it was one thing for him to threaten her, and another thing altogether for him to threaten Prim. She couldn't let him touch her, not when she had survived three days in the arena so far. "You can't kill her. It would be too obvious, and it would only make things worse," she replied. She knew she shouldn't be antagonizing the man who could have her killed with the flick of a finger, but she couldn't hold it back. She didn't even want to fathom the possibility of Prim dying, so she was hoping to correctly call his bluff.
"In the environment of the Games, it would not be out of place for her to... submit to her circumstances." He would not be caught off-guard. He finally stood up from his chair, looking in her direction with his dark, reptilian eyes. "Do not test my patience. You forget I can have planes ready to go and drop bombs on Twelve at my command."
First Prim, and now the entirety of Twelve. Was there a limit to how far this man would go to keep the power he had held for so long? "You won't do that," she shook her head emphatically. There was no way; it had to be an empty threat. "You can't risk another Thirteen."
"Do not presume you know what you're talking about, miss Everdeen. There is nothing in Twelve that could possibly be a threat to me," he denounced. His tone, once again, was merely conversational, but he was looking down at her with open scorn. "You are under the impression that District Thirteen 'survived' the Dark Days. They did not," he sentenced. "They came to an agreement with the Capitol for a ceasefire, as long as they left the other districts to their own devices." His white eyebrows rose on his forehead. "They're not doing this to help you, or they would've done so decades ago. They want power. That's all there is to it."
He signaled to the Peacekeeper to hold the door open for him, and was already turning to leave when Katniss spoke up again. "I don't believe you," she said, and tried really hard to mean it. Even if what he was saying was true, even if this rebellion was nothing more than a power struggle, it was still worth going through with it, because things couldn't be worse than they already were.
His steps paused, and he turned to look at her over his shoulder. "That's a pity," he uttered, almost managing to sound like he was truly disappointed at her refusal. "Because I'm not lying to you, and I believe things would be much simpler if you had the same courtesy with me."
That said, he walked out of the cell and as he crossed the threshold, he signaled to two other Peacekeepers who were keeping guard outside. They nodded and rushed down the corridor to the right of her cell. It was only when she heard the struggle begin that she remembered Boggs' cell was directly to the right of hers.
The grunts and yelling moved closer as they dragged him just as they had the others. President Snow remained standing in front of her doorway, impassive, not even flinching as the Peacekeepers pulled the bloodied soldier right in front of him. Boggs' eyes caught hers through the open door. "Everdeen! Don't do what he says! No matter what he threatens, there's still people watching out for—!" Soon he was out of sight, and his words gave way to screams of pain amidst the blunt sound of a human being beaten down.
The Peacekeeper closed the door behind him, leaving her locked in, just as she had been for the past three days. She tried to yell over and over again that she'd do what Snow wanted her to do, call their attention away from Boggs, but it was useless. No matter how hard she banged against the door with her fists, Snow was long gone, and the pained bellows continued. She slid down against the cool metal, raising her arms to her head, attempting to cover her ears. Trying to block the noise somehow.
Other than that, she didn't know what to think. She didn't know what to do.
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am twenty-one years old. My home is District 12. My sister, Prim, was reaped for the Hunger Games. I came to the Capitol with Peeta, to save her. I got involved with the rebellion. I was taken prisoner. I may never see Peeta again. I may never see Prim again. I will probably be dead soon...
First chapter from Berlin! Sorry it took so long, but sleeping in the same room with my mother for a month wasn't exactly conducive to my writing. I've started classes now and my schedule is ridiculous, but I'll still try my hardest to update as fast as I can.
Anyway, I hope you all liked this chapter as much as I loved writing it— it's a definite turning point. Lots of parallels to the original in this one, and there's lots more BIG events coming up soon! In the meantime, please review, and don't forget to follow me on twitter and/or tumblr if you're on either of those sites. (The links are in my profile).