A/N: Okay...so I know I said I'd update with the revised chapters soon, and that was definitely probably over a month ago. I've been busy and I got quite distracted over the last couple weeks. But, as promised, here is the first chapter, revised and better than before! I know a lot of the content in this chapter you've already read, but there is new stuff and I really recommend reading it. There's a completely different mood set in this one than the other. See if you can find all the differences(;
Thank you all for your support and patience! I finished this chapter awhile ago, but I either didn't have the chance to upload it, or I was just too lazy. I suck, I'm sorry. But I'll have the next ones up shortly!
To add for all the new readers; this fanfic is based in the seventy-fourth Hunger Games, and Katniss and Peeta won the seventy-third instead.
So thank you all so much for reading/re-reading! And please review! I'd love to know what you guys think of the revision(:
Heart on Fire
Chapter 1: The Reaping
As usual, I wake shaking and dripping with sweat from another nightmare. The kind so familiar to me after Peeta and I left the Games. They haunted me just about every night, and he wasn't there to chase them away. In fact, he hasn't really spoken much to me after the train ride home. After I told him the way I acted in the Games was just that; for the Games. I still don't fully understand why he's so upset about it—wasn't the way he acted just an ultimate plot to survive? Hadn't it been that way from the beginning? From the moment he decided to declare his love for me—real or not—to the whole entire country?
A plan which he hadn't bothered to tell me one word about, and then just so happened decided to leave me out of every single other decision he made. Like joining the Careers to supposedly "save me". I had a right to be angry too, and so I will be.
This nightmare was different though; it didn't have any blood-thirsty muttations, or tracker jackers, or even deadly fireballs. No fallen tributes come to forever haunt me in my unconscious, not even the death of Rue to replay through my head a thousand times over. This one was about today, and the events that would inevitably happen. Today is reaping day for the 74th Hunger Games, where the tributes Peeta and I will mentor this year will be chosen. This year, I should have nothing to fear, but I'm completely terrified. Much more than I was last year. Last year I was only concerned about my own name being drawn—not in my wildest dreams had I imagined Prim's single slip would be chosen. But it's not Prim's name I'm worried about this year either.
Of course, his now forty-two slips already put him at a disadvantage, but even that doesn't matter this year. Because the boy tribute has already been chosen. Every single slip in the boy's reaping ball is probably rigged to bear the name "Gale Hawthorne." After all, President Snow said so himself. Or, I understand him enough to know what the consequence of my unorthodox victory last year would be.
I can't bring myself to say I regret the stunt with the berries. After all, it was the right thing to do. I could never forgive myself if I just waited for Peeta to bleed out and die. How could I come home after doing such a thing? I couldn't kill Peeta, nor could I let him die. But I also wouldn't let him die for me. He may do it in extremely infuriating ways, but he's saved me more times than I can count. I had to repay him, and I still do. There was only one choice, really. To both die and leave the Hunger Games victorless. We didn't know the consequences of our actions, but we still would have done the same thing even knowing them now. There was nothing else to do.
But, instead of simply endangering our lives—or more, my life—I've also endangered Gale's. I've practically signed his death sentence. President Snow's words replay over and over in my head; "Him I can easily kill off if we don't come to a happy resolution. You aren't doing him a favor by disappearing into the woods with him each Sunday"
Some friend I am.
And I suppose that kiss did nothing to help my case. What kind of girl in love wanders off into the woods and kisses another boy? It was just once, and neither of us has mentioned it since, but it still happened. And apparently President Snow is well aware of it, too, and he sees right through my "innocent girl in love" act. To him, Peeta was willing to eat the berries simply out of being foolishly and hopelessly in love. But for me…I was trying to incite a rebellion. And in the irony of it all, I was only trying to bring us both home alive, or…not. What was I trying to do? Show the Capitol we aren't pieces in their Games? Which is all rebellious behavior. Do what I thought was right? This sounds more like me, but it just doesn't seem to fully cover it. Was I doing it out of love? Maybe, if only I was actually in love.
I groan and press my face into my pillow.
How had I made my life so complicated this quickly? This time last year I was only worried about making it through another reaping, and now I'm not only fearing for my life, but my family's, Gale's, and Peeta's. All these people I've endangered because I pulled out a handful of stupid berries. Because I volunteered in order to save my sister's life, only to be trying to save another...and now another. Why must I always choose to be the protector, and never the one being protected? It sure would make my life a lot easier.
The house is silent around me, still too early for anyone to be up and moving yet. A dress is laid out for me as usual on this day, only it's a dress made from Cinna's hands, not one of my mother's old hand-me-downs. It isn't his typical glamorous work, however, but more simple for the occasion. I ignore it for now and cross the hall to hop into the shower.
The water helps to calm my nerves, but it doesn't completely drown them like I want it to. My mind drifts over to Peeta. He's probably still sleeping. That or he's just now waking up from a nightmare. Sometimes I worry about him—actually, more often than not. He's all alone in that house with his nightmares to haunt him every night. I don't see him out much either. Or maybe that's just because I hardly leave the house anymore. Only on Sundays really when Gale and I go hunting, or occasionally to do errands. My mother is starting to worry about me.
When the water goes cool I decide it's probably time to get out. But even then I only wrap a towel around me and curl up on the floor, resting my head on the cool bathroom tile. I close my eyes and try to relax, but I don't make much progress.
There's a soft knock on the door a few minutes later, and my mother pokes her head in. I sit up against the counter and give her a small smile. But she's smart enough to know when I'm faking it.
"Feeling okay?" she asks me.
I simply shrug and let out a sigh. She takes a seat beside me, closing the door behind her.
"Turn," she murmurs, so I do. Her hands begin to work through my hair, braiding it in the updo she did last year that Cinna enjoyed so much. "Do you want to talk about it?"
I shake my head.
My mother and I's relationship has begun to improve. She isn't the lifeless mother who let her daughters starve after my father's death and for years after that. After I left, she picked herself back up and started to be herself again. She took care of Prim when I wasn't around to. After Gale was whipped—or more like tortured—and she treated him, she's even begun to get back into doing the same for the sick and injured around town, as well. But I most love the times when she's around to talk, or when I don't want to talk. When I do, she sits and listens, and when I don't, she simply nods and tries to comfort me in other ways. Like now. It's what I really need.
"Peeta brought over some cheese buns earlier," she says conversationally, her precise and delicate hands working so swiftly through my hair.
"Peeta was here?" I ask, suddenly sparking my interest. Why didn't he ask for me?
"Mm-hm. Said he couldn't sleep and thought he'd bring us over breakfast. He's really a sweet boy."
I can't help but feel a little upset he didn't even say hello to me. Then I remember we aren't really speaking, which is much more upsetting all on its own. He's one of the only people I can actually talk to, and that I enjoy talking to, and he's not around. Which is my fault, of course. As usual, no surprise there.
When my mother finishes my hair she pats my shoulder and kisses my cheek. "Get dressed and come downstairs for breakfast, okay?"
"Okay," I answer.
She leaves the bathroom then, returning only to hang my dress on the doorknob and head right back out, closing the door behind her.
I sigh and pull the soft blue dress over my head. It really is a pretty dress, but I don't want to wear it. I really want to just crawl back into bed and stay there all through the reaping, but I can't. Snow himself would probably send Peacekeepers to drag me out just to make sure I'm there to watch my best friend get thrown into the slaughter. He'll probably have the cameras trained on my face moments before Gale's name is even called—never wanting to miss a moment of my agony.
I brush my teeth and then head downstairs for breakfast, though I really don't feel like eating anything—except Peeta's cheese buns. They're my favorite, there's no way I could resist. Especially knowing they were made by Peeta's hands.
My mother has made several other dishes for breakfast, but my hands only reach for a cheese bun. That's all I want.
As I eat, Prim comes down the stairs. She's still dressed in her nightgown with a sleepy Buttercup in her arms—who narrows his devious little yellow eyes at me.
"Morning, Little Duck," I say to her.
"Good morning," she yawns.
The rest of the morning goes by much too quickly. Haymitch stops by and rambles on and on about how Peeta and I still have to act in love for the cameras and Effie frets about the dark bags under my eyes and that I should really get more sleep on such a big, big, big day. As if every day wasn't "big, big, big!" to her. She looks extravagant as usual with a light orange wig this year—probably something to do with the whole fire thing I started last year, among other things. Peeta arrives shortly after, and we silently hold hands all the way to the town square. It's only for the cameras though. I can tell by the way his hand barely wraps around mine, and the limp way he holds it, as if he can't stand even being next to me.
Effie directs us up on the stage, and I sit between Peeta and Haymitch as we wait for the reaping to begin. I spot Gale as he makes his way to the male section of the square, looking surprisingly calm.
I never told him about what President Snow said, because I don't need anyone else to worry for him, especially not himself. Well, actually, he probably wouldn't even worry about himself. He'd worry for his family and how they'd stay fed if his name was drawn. Exactly the reason I told Prim to make sure they never went without food or supplies if that were to happen—hypothetically, of course. In fact, knowing Gale like I do, it would probably make him want to be in the Games. Just to prove that Snow and the rest of the Capitol were beneath him, and he would beat them at their own game. If, somehow, he didn't get chosen, he would probably volunteer anyway, and I can't have that. I haven't actually told anyone about what President Snow said and the likely results of this year's reaping except for Haymitch. I might have told Peeta if we were speaking right now.
Effie skips up to the podium, greeting everyone with her signature, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Then she introduces Mayor Undersee, who once again recites the History of Panem speech. All too soon it seems it's time for the drawing.
"And now the moment we've all been waiting for," Effie giggles, even though no one in the audience is remotely close to how excited she is. "Ladies first!"
My heart begins to pick up speed as she crosses over to the glass bowl filled with the girl's slips, and plunges her hand in. I can't even bear to think how much of a heart-wrenching twist it would be if she were to pull both Prim and Gale's names. Especially now that I can't volunteer for her. Either way I'd lose one of them, no matter which way you spin it, and I'd bet money which one it would be. Gale would gladly die if it meant Prim could come home. Sweat begins to bead at my forehead, and Effie takes her time fishing around the bowl, though I wish she'd just get it over with already.
Finally, she pulls a single slip out and slowly unfolds it as she heads back to the podium.
"Maisie Farrowe!" she announces. There's a collective sigh of relief from the remaining teenage girls and, somewhere in the square, a family bursts into tears.
I watch Maisie as she makes her way to the stage, eyes wide with fear. She's in my grade at school; a very pretty girl and daughter of the couple who owns the sweet shop in town—their only daughter, to my knowledge.
Effie welcomes Maisie to the stage, and then calls for applause. Like every year, only a few people clap—which then dies out as quickly as it started Except for last year of course, when every person held up their hands in a three-finger salute to me. But no one would dare do that now. For us in District 12, being chosen for the Hunger Games is no achievement. It's a death sentence. You'd think the District 12 tributes were being punished for something—being so ill-prepared for the Games. The children even eligible for the Hunger Games are still too young to get any training for the mines, so even that advantage is out, if you could even call it an advantage.
Effie awkwardly clears her throat. "And now it's time for our male tribute!" she says in her ridiculous Capitol accent. I may have come to like her a bit more in the past year, but the accent is something I can never get past.
My stomach churns and Peeta's cheese buns threaten to make their reappearance all over the stage as Effie proceeds to the boy's reaping ball.
"Hold it together," Haymitch mutters under his breath, earning a curious yet suspicious look from Peeta.
Hold it together, as if it were possible.
She pulls out a slip, then crosses back to the podium. I resort to digging my nails into the palms of both of my hands.
"And the male tribute for the seventy-fourth Hunger Games is…"
I find Gale in the crowd, and my heart is hammering in my chest as I try to swallow through the thick lump in my throat. He meets my gaze and sends me a small smile. But…I can't bring myself to smile back, knowing what I've done to him. I know whose name is on that slip. I know the name about to be uttered from Effie Trinket's lips. I know the face every camera in the vicinity is going to be zoomed in on in a matter of seconds. The same face that'll be replayed over and over on the recaps of the reapings later tonight. So I don't smile back at him.
A/N: Thanks for reading, and please please review!(: