A/N I'm SO SO SORRY for the long delay in getting this chapter up. As some of you may know, I literally moved out of the country during this time and started school and bunch of other major life changes that made updates a little difficult. So anyways, no more delays: here is the next chapter.
Chapter 36 – Katniss
It has become abundantly clear to me why women complain so much to my mother and Prim about morning sickness. Though it's less clear why they limit the name to just morning. I know from my mother that it is not uncommon to get sick throughout the day, that everyone reacts differently, but it seems cruel to trick people into a fall sense of "maybe it will go away later in the day."
Its mid-afternoon and I sit on the tiled bathroom floor of our suite, my head over the toilet and Peeta holding back my braid and the strands of hair that fell loose. He shouldn't be here; I put up my own hair so it wouldn't fall in my mess.
"You need to go back downstairs, she could wake up soon," Madge's heart rate had stabilized, they said they could see her brain waves and they were active, and that meant she wasn't brain dead. She could wake up. They had already made her body clean of scars and imperfections. There hadn't been any mention of body alterations except attempts to help her gain some of the lost weight back. Her face was less round now, her cheek bones harsher, and her arm felt so thin under my hand.
"We can go down together. Are you feeling any better?" he asks, he rubs his hand down my back and I hate to admit, it feels amazing. I spit the bad taste from my mouth into the toilet and take a sip from the glass of water that Peeta had poured for me as soon as he caught me vomiting. I take tiny sips while I asses what my stomach decides what it wants to do. It rumbles when it makes its final decision. It's hungry now and I guess it would be after throwing up my entire lunch.
It was the first big meal I had in days, the first time I felt famished since Madge's name was called and it only came after they reassured us that she would wake up. My weight hadn't gone up at all despite the pregnancy. Maybe the doctor's or my mother would be worried if I bothered to tell them anything. I will have to deal with my mother, and Prim, looking at them and saying I'm pregnant. Peeta's family, too and Gale. I wonder if Gale thought it was a lie, just like his engagement and now I have to watch him marry Madge. I don't doubt that Gale and Madge will be fine together. I would kick Gale's ass if he forced anything on her.
I don't let myself think about the fact that pregnancy actually leads to a child. Someone we have to care for and raise and love and watch as their name is put in a gamble for their life that has every single odd not in their favor. I let out a sigh and shake my head to clear it.
"I'm feeling fine, we should go back down. Let me just brush my teeth first," I push off the ground and Peeta's arms are instantly helping me up and I shove them away as nicely as I can. I can get up by myself. I can throw up by myself too, but I did appreciate the back rubbing. I shove my toothbrush too far into the back of my mouth in my rush to get the taste of vomit out of my mouth. Peeta's immediately at my side with a hand on my back, asking if I'm okay.
"I'm fine, can you just get out for a minute?" I try to say it as nicely as possible but it still comes out with an underlying growl. At least he listens that way, he walks out of the bathroom, closing the door soundly behind him. I know he's just leaning on the other side listening for what I do, if I get sick again. I spit the toothpaste out and splash water in my face. My eyes are in dark circles and my cheeks are thin. Maybe there is a reason Peeta is worried.
He stands right to the side of the door, like I knew he would but he also managed to grab and change his shirt, changing from a simple white tee into a soft blue button down. I try and remember if I got anything on it and hope that I didn't. He wouldn't say anything even if I did. He looks concerned and I try to smile but my annoyance turns it into more of a grimace. He drops his eyes sheepishly and offers me his hand.
We walk to the elevator together. Me, pretending not to notice his always-there-limp and him pretending not to be worried about the hand I press to my stomach, trying to calm it down. It's only a little wave of tension but it seems to get bigger as we get closer to the elevator and I know I can't blame this feeling on the pregnancy.
The light above the elevator doors turns red before we even press the button. A small ding fills the room and it seems louder than it should in the quiet. The door slides open and Effie rushes in, in a blur of garish green. She stumbles a little in her heels, so unlike her and practically falls into Peeta's arms. Her make-up has been getting lighter and lighter for days, so at this point I don't even know if she is wearing any. Her outfit remains ridiculous and her green wig is completely crooked, showing the light blonde hair underneath.
"She's awake! She woke up!" I let out a sigh of relief, I had been expecting the worst, her death, maybe brain dead, but the feeling is brief before the sick feeling in my stomach returns. She is awake. Now we have to tell her everything and she has to listen and fake acceptance of it all in a matter of days before her interview. She has to watch everything that just happened to her again, vividly live through memories that are still open and fresh and painful, and then instead of being able to fall into her parents arms she has to fall into Gale's and pretend she belonged there the whole time.
"How long has she been awake?" Peeta asks while Effie pulls on my arm to move me forward, my feet have rooted themselves but they topple and step forward at her command. Effie is a flurry of hand gestures and colors and words spoken too fast in that high pitched Capital accent that only gets worse the more stressed she is. I manage to catch only a few seconds of her story before the rest turns into meaningless chatter.
The elevator goes back down past the first floor and there are no longer any lights or signs to signal our progress into the underground of the Training Center. The air seems to get thinner as my breaths come in more shallow and quick. The fake windows in the hospital and other areas are enough to trick my body into forgetting we aren't so deep below the surface, but I can't lie to myself as the elevator descends.
The elevator light turns green and the shiny silver doors open to reveal the well-lit halls of the hospital. I let go of Peeta's hand, and realize mine had become stiff and sweaty. He's already three steps ahead, walking towards Madge's room. We should have been there right when she woke up but maybe she was like me and found a strange comfort seeing Haymitch again.
Peeta stands in front of the door a few steps ahead of me and makes no move to open it. Effie fell behind by a few steps and sat in a waiting chair instead of approaching with us. This is for District 12. I reach for the door which slides away at my light touch. Peeta jumps along with me, we still haven't gotten used to the automatic doors of the Capitol. We walk in together but don't reach for each other going separately into the room, trying not to overcrowd her.
Haymitch sits at her bedside, leaning towards her and has one of her delicate thin hands in his. She isn't gripping back though. She stares at blank spot on the wall with her blue eyes unfocused. I look to Haymitch and he mouths "morphling" and the cloudy look in her eyes and hair messier than I even ever saw in the arena are suddenly explained.
Peeta sits in the chair next to Haymitch and I sit at the edge of the bed on the other side at Madge's feet. Her eyes glance down towards me but never look at my face and I wonder how much they gave her. She might not even process anything we tell her at this point. I look to Haymitch and as soon as he catches my eye, he nods. Our own little secret language that tells me we have to tell her. They will ask her questions at the interview and she needs to answer with careful lies and half-truths and no wayward emotion that will bring Snow's anger down again on District 12.
We can talk here though, Snow might have ears everywhere but it's not him we need to hide the secret from. He knew our secret before and as long as everyone else didn't figure out, he remained in control. The only threat is if the secret gets out.
"Ma-Madge?" I get out and Madge's eyes snap up from where they were looking at my hands to stare at my face. And that's all I can say. Her face is too distant, too broken and I can't break it anymore. I look to Peeta and see his shoulders collapsed down, staring at his own intertwined hands. He saw that same thing I did.
"Sweetheart, we've gotta tell you a few things, and you gotta listen, alright?" Madge's head turns towards Haymitch slowly this time, looking at his face and glancing back down to his hand that holds her own.
"Alright," she speaks to his hand, instead of looking at any of our faces, and grips his hand back for the first time. Haymitch sighs and my heart beats faster thinking he can't say it either but he's given bad news before. He's looked at more dead tributes families and crumbled under it with waves of liquor but still did it for years. We did it twice, once on the victory tour and again when we mentored and both times I hid behind Peeta's words and Peeta himself. The realization that I'm even more of a coward than Haymitch hits hard and gets my own words out.
"Madge, your father," I start.
"They killed him," she finishes, "and my mother, too." Peeta's head shoots up in shock and I look panicked at Haymitch. He hadn't told her yet!
"Madge, how did you…" Peeta doesn't finish the statement, as if maybe it were untrue.
"I had a dream. They came to hug me and say goodbye after I fell. They thought I was coming with them but told me to stay," she looks far off, back onto the space of the wall. Then burst into laughter making us all jump, "Or maybe the nurse apologized for my loss while Haymitch was passed out in the chair," her giggles cause her to hiccup and her eyes are filled with tears that don't fall.
"Madge, they are going to say your father is a traitor. They are going to have a new mayor to greet you in 12 and you are going to have to pretend that you are fine with it." Haymitch shakes his head as he speaks, the horror of his own words settling into his body and feeling so very wrong.
"Or what they'll kill my family? They'll send me into the arena?" her body shakes and breaking into sniffles.
"They could starve the district, plan an accident in the mines, there's still the little Hawthorne's to throw into the arena" she pulls his hand from Haymitch's and wraps her own fingers around her thin wrist, staring at them like they weren't her own.
She doesn't respond and Peeta speaks up, "There's something else, Madge,"
"Please, no," her voice cracks and she slowly closes her eyes as a few tears fall down her cheeks.
"It's not…it's not that bad, Madge," Peeta struggles for words and Madge just shakes her head, sending the tears out faster but keeping her eyes screwed tightly closed.
"They sell Victors, Madge. Snow sells them and we couldn't let that happen to you. They like love stories and we figured if you were a part of one they would leave you alone. So we said you and Gale were engaged. That you were planning on getting married once you were out of the reaping and didn't want to tell anyone," I speak fast. None of us seemed to be able to get anything out slowly. I can't really tell if she understands it, but she stops shaking her head.
One blurry blue eye opens and her face scrunches in confusion, "I have to marry Gale?" she asks.
"Yes, or they might want you to come back here," Haymitch coughs to interrupt his own words, "for them."
Peeta said it wasn't that bad but it's still falling into another game where you are just a piece. Madge has to marry Gale or face the consequences and even if they were together for a short time before this that doesn't mean that's what they would have decided for themselves. They didn't get to choose. We chose for them. Peeta and I chose to force a marriage on someone who didn't want to. We are all just pieces.
"Oh," Madge replies. She lets her head drop backwards onto the pillow with her eyes closed again. The tears have slowed down behind her eyelids, but the sadness still shows through her whole body. "I want to sleep. Can you leave? I want to go to sleep," she waves her hand lightly above the bed towards the door. Haymitch has already stood up and seems to kick at Peeta, frozen in his chair. I haven't seen Peeta so lost for words before. He grabs my arm and pulls me off the bed. It moves Madge's feet but otherwise she shows no response.
We leave together in silence and as I look at Madge one more time before we leave out the door. I see her adjust the little knob on IV leading the drugs into her arm and watch as the drip gets faster.
"They want to do the interview tonight," Haymitch speaks up as soon as the door shuts at our exit.
"What? They can't interview her tonight! She still medicated and won't have had time to process!" Peeta snaps up and it's the first time he seems to be able to speak properly since we saw the broken version of Madge in that hospital bed.
"Maybe, its best that way," Haymitch shrugs and reaches into his inner coat pocket. His hands come up empty for his flask and he sighs in frustration.
"She could freak out, say something wrong! We set this up, what would happen to everyone we care about if she messes something up?" Peeta let his voice get panicked for the first time I have ever heard and I realize that we put our families' lives on the line for this, too. We made the lie, and we will suffer if it falls to apart. Prim could be back into the line of fire that we just got her out of. I reach out for his hand.
"It's doubtful they'll let her say anything at all, at least for this one. Remember Cresta's interview?" I try and recall the mad District 4 girl's time spent after the arena and struggle with it. She made no impression at all, almost the same as in the arena.
"She was drugged," Peeta answers, "she barely said anything. They didn't even do both events; they just asked her a few questions after the recap. None of which she really answered coherently."
"They will do something similar, at least for now. Dress her up in finery and send her out to look nice and then throw out an excuse that she still had some head trauma if she acts less than normal. They've done damaged Victors for years now; they know how to take care of it." Haymitch discovers his flask in his left pants pocket and takes a long swig. We don't bother him about it this time. His words are comforting though. He has watched these Games for years. He knows all the steps and we are just learning. No one outside of the Capitol watches the after Games interviews.
"Katniss, you should check on CInna. I'm sure he's making her outfit, maybe you can help him," Of course I can't help him but it's something to pretend to do instead of sitting here. Waiting for Madge to wake up out a drugged stupor so we can explain how to walk properly across the stage and smile and wave at the audience will only drive me insane.
I look towards Peeta as he slowly sinks into one of the uncomfortable hospital waiting chairs, "I'll stay here, see if she needs anything when she wakes up." I try and catch his eyes, but they stare at the tiled floor between his knees. It's so strange, to see him so distant and without his ability to control words. He has handled himself so well up until now. I know Madge is our friend, but he was still comforting me while she was being threatened, he was still smiling at the audience while she suffered through surgeries. Was something else going on or did he finally just break?
"Well, are you coming?" Haymitch breaks my thoughts, he's already walked several strides ahead towards the elevator and I jump after him in surprise. Leaving Peeta with a small wave that he doesn't see and making me feel like something is really wrong.
The elevator moves up quickly and I hold onto the rail instead of the slightly swaying Haymitch, "Where are you going?" I ask.
"Got some stuff to take care of, sweetheart, don't worry your knocked up little butt about it." He stares at the moving buttons instead of even looking at me so I let myself punch him in the arm instead of just the usual glare.
He gets off before I do, stumbling a little over the divide and walking in the wrong direction apparently before turning back and walking the other way. I get off in a few floors, where CInna and the other designers have their studios. Cinna and Portia are both in there, talking over a length of black fabric. They both smile and Portia whispers something in Cinna's ear before walking towards me and giving me a small friendly hug and then walking out the door I just came through.
"Katniss, great to see you, what can I help you with?" I head over to the couch and let myself collapse on it, kicking off my silly Capitol shoes that feel a little too tight and painful right now.
"I'm here to help you actually. Haymitch thought you could use me,"
Cinna smirks, "Oh, of course, I suppose I can find something for you. There's actually a sandwich you can eat for me right over there," he points to a table behind the couch and I see a perfectly uneaten sandwich surrounded by potato fries.
"Why does everyone keep forcing food down my throat?" My stomach growls like a horrible traitor and Cinna's smirk gets larger. He walks behind me to the table and grabs the plate placing it in front of me on the coffee table before returning to the black fabric. I pick up a fry and eat it slowly.
I look at the fabric, the dress I suppose, and change the subject away from my eating habits before another lecture comes up, "How is it going?"
He doesn't turn back but lifts up the dress and brings it over to a mannequin. "I had to resize it, Madge lost a lot of weight in the arena." He pulls the dress carefully over the mannequin and I'm suddenly shocked into silence. Cinna had always gone for dramatic and eye catching and absolutely beautiful but this was something different -still beautiful, but in a completely different way.
The dress was coal black, floor length and with lace sleeves that covered everything up to the mannequins neck. The lace was patterned into a dancing flame that stretched out and burned across the mannequin's chest and arms. The train of the dress stretched out the back, more lacey flames that would chase after the wearer. There wasn't a hint of color anywhere, just blackness. Madge would be covered completely in black. It's a dress of mourning, a dress for a funeral, and the Capitol probably will never notice.
"She can't show it on stage directly, but this is a dark time. I didn't think my normal work was appropriate," He fixes something that I couldn't notice was wrong with the train while he speaks, never taking his eyes of his creation.
"It's perfect, she will appreciate it," Madge lived in the richer parts of the District, the parts that did recognize the wearing of black during a time of mourning. The part of town where they could afford different colors of clothing, and where everything wasn't already smudged black with coal.
"I got something for you, too," He pulls a dress out from behind his work bench and I frown. Another black dress, but it's much less demure than I am used to, with a low cut top and cut above my knees. There seems to be something strange with the bodice, too. Cinna brings it closer to me and my frown deepens.
"Don't look like that, your friend needs less attention on her and you can help with more attention on you," I reach out and touch the bodice and realize that the belly and breast are filled with padding and instantly snap my hands away.
"The people will love it my dear. You aren't showing nearly enough for their satisfaction, this will make them happy," and keep eyes off of Madge is implied and I keep myself from rolling my eyes. He's right but stomach padding seems ridiculous.
"You know best, I guess," Cinna smiles a little and takes away the dress, "You need to eat that," he points back down to the sandwich and this time I do roll my eyes before taking an overly large bite and chewing it with my mouth open. Cinna doesn't even react, "Good girl, out little Phoenix needs to get fed."
I stop chewing, "Phoenix?" The word sounds familiar but I can't place it.
Cinna smiles again, "It's a legendary bird, reborn from fire and ashes,"
"You named the baby?" Is that what that means? A boy named Phoenix. Born from the Girl on Fire, from the star-crossed lovers of the arena, from the coal of District 12.
"I thought it was appropriate," he shrugs a little, moving back to put my dress on another mannequin. I can see the bulge in the belly and breast when he situates it and wonder if people are going to try and touch my stomach like I see done to so many mothers.
"But it's a girl," or at least that's what we said it was.
"Oh, is it now?" Cinna had caught one of the lies. The baby being a girl was just a fifty-fifty guess on Peeta's part but still, that didn't mean that it wasn't going to be a girl anyways.
"It could be," I reply. Fifty-fifty still, even the Capitol can't predict it this early.
"Fine, then, Serafina, the girl version," I think he might have rolled his eyes but he's too busy adjusting the hem of my dress to make it even shorter for me to see.
"Serafina?" The name rolls of my tongue beautifully. It sounds better than most District 12 names, it sounds like something beautiful and hopeful, like Primrose.
"Yes, born from fire," Born from destruction and awfulness, but still beautiful and strong.
"I like it," a small smile slips onto my lips and I take an even bigger bite of the sandwich to hide it.
"I knew you would," Cinna tosses a smile from behind the dress and laughs at my full mouth. It's a nice moment, but it passes too quickly. The memories of why we are here and even what we are really talking about hit back hard and after that I sit and somberly finish eating, worried about keeping it down. The rest of the day is spent on adjustments to Madge's and my dress. Hers had to be brought in and it was worrisome seeing how much so, and mine actually had to be brought out.
At one point, I flip on the TV to see Gale of all of people talking to reporters about how excited he is to have Madge back. Apparently, he learned to play along recently. They ask him about wedding plans and he answered that it was up to her. Even though we all know it's really up to the Capitol now. I turn it off, knowing that if Gale says anything wrong I will hear about it but not wanting to hear him waxing on about his made up engagement.
When its time to help Madge get ready, Cinna hands me my dress and shoos me off, trusting me to get ready on my own. I know he will send one of the prep team over for hair and make up later, my only job is put the dress on and not mess it up for a few minutes. Peeta comes to the suite as well with Portia and his prep team following him, not having a victor of their own to care for this time. They help me get ready instead of mine and it's strange again to be dressed up like a doll by these strangers. Peeta looks down at my fuller breast and belly and then pokes it. He laughs as the padding squeezes inward and I smack his hand away when he goes to do the same thing to my chest.
Madge's eyes are foggy when we meet her under the stage –the blue almost invisible against her dilated pupils. Her blonde hair is wrapped up, intertwined with black lace. Her golden hair is the only color on her whole body. Her eyes are framed in black shadows; they almost make it impossible to see the natural dark bags underneath them. When she sees us she doesn't smile or even acknowledge anything. Just looks past us and then picks at her black nail polish.
Peeta smiles at her though, and it's more natural than before. Cinna grabs her hands to stop her picking and holds them there. She doesn't seem to notice either way. A stage hand gestures for each of us to get into position. Officially, I was the mentor for Madge this year, but the Capitol always wants Peeta and me together. Haymitch is probably somewhere in the audience, most likely with a drink in his hand.
The countdown starts and suddenly it feels like I'm entering the arena again. Five, and my breathe escapes my lungs and doesn't come back. Four, Madge could say anything and we could all suffer. Three, Gale. Two, we pulled Gale and his family into this too many times already. One, the platform lifts Peeta and I up to the stage and he tugs at my hand, reminding me to smile. I raise my hands and wave, putting on the Capitol mask that still so uncomfortable and resist pulling my dress down as it rises up my leg.
They set up the couch for us, off to the side of the stage, and we sit and wait together waving to the screams of the crowd while Cinna, the prep team, and Madge come out onto the stage. Madge's entrance brings the crowds to their feet again and I'm surprised to see a smile plastered on her lips but she doesn't greet Caesar even when he offers her his hand and collapses hard into the chair. Then bursts into laughter. They might have overdone the drugs.
Caesar takes it in stride, and begins recapping the Games with Madge beside him. She nods along blandly even when he stops talking and Caeasar asks questions that don't really need responses and it's amazing how well he can dance around the fact that Madge probably can't even speak coherently.
They put the recap on the screen and it's horrifying as always. Madge had turned out to be an amazingly deadly tribute with a high kill count of seven, almost one-third of the tributes in the arena and the theme this year was deadly beauty. Madge rested her head in her hand and then promptly, closed her eyes. I think she might have actually fallen asleep because she only opens them again when the bright stage lights turn back on and it's to look around in confusion before slumping back into her chair.
Caesar doesn't ask her any questions that she can't just nod along to and smile. She does that just fine though he asks a question about a kill and she suddenly starts shaking her head vigorously, letting a strand of hair loose, and emitting a kind of low whine. Caesar puts a hand across hers and she rips it away but he talks calmly and she moves on. Goes back to smiling and nodding at whatever is put in front of her as long as it's nice and nothing to do with what she just went through or her family.
That limited it to about three questions asked in a different way each time. Some about Peeta and I, a lot about Gale, a few for Haymitch, several about District 12, and nothing about anything important or life crushing.
But she makes it through, at least this step. We all make it through safely and I try and let myself hope that we are through the hardest parts, that we might be safe now. But I know there is still more to come and we are all going to hate and fear every second of it.
A/N Again I'm really really sorry about the update delay. I feel really bad, it was just impossible to find the time to write and when I could it was impossible to write Katniss POV so I feel like this chapter is a little off. I'm very sorry if this chapter totally sucks.
Anyways, thank you for all the support and thank you for coming and reading this story and following it even when it hadn't been updated in a while. I will try not to let it happen again.
Follow me on tumblr at mellarks-hotbuns for updates on writing.
Anonymous Reviews: Guest 1: I did write more about Katniss's pregnancy, yay! But remember she is in really early pregnancy so don't expect much more from it. I'm doing my research on symptoms and trust me, you don't want me to talk more about them.
Guest 2: Thank you for being so understanding about reviews. I really do enjoy writing but getting reviews makes me happy dance around the room haha I wrote a piece on Peeta swearing on my tumblr that I am not going to write out here but here is the link: post/27928006591/anon-question I hope that answers your questions!
IlovePeetaMellar: I'm trying! Everlark is a realistic couple in my story and realistic couples react to the situation around them. Peeta and Katniss aren't going to be suddenly all over each other in a bad situation. They are just going to help each other out and I try to showcase that. I'm sorry this update took so long.
Guest 3: OMG I'M SO SORRY PLEASE DON'T BE DEAD.
ILovePeetaMellar: I'm sorry : ( I remember you! I promise. I just was very busy. You should follow my tumblr and you can yell at me on there and possibly see better explanations of where I am at.
Sprksflyx: I know I'm sorry : ( please forgive me.
Ilovefinnick123: I'm so sorry. I'm collecting quite the body count here.