so this was going to be a one shot but then I got ~8000 words in and decided to do chapter by chapter.
everyone needs a post-rebellion pre-epilogue fic amirite?
In my dreams she comes right up to me, arriving unexpectedly, just like always. Determined look on her face. "They let you wear one thing from your district in the arena. One thing to remind you of home. Will you wear this?"
I looked away from Madge's pleading eyes, her two delicate hands held out in front of her in a ball, hiding whatever was in her hand, and looked around. We were outside in the square, and the entire town was staring at us. Watching, unmoving. I look back at her, her eyebrows furrowed in a way that most people were used to seeing mine. "Will you wear this?" Madge pressed. I looked down at her hands, fitted over something and not showing it to me. I nodded. She smiled. I held out my hands and she opened her hands to lay them on top of mine. There was nothing in her hands though, no pin or anything. Except blood. Blood was pouring onto my hands and it all looked so red. I looked up at Madge in horror and she smiled at me.
"Here, I'll put it on your dress, all right?" Her voice was so light and almost a song. She placed her hands right over my heart and blood seeped down my dress. I stared at her and she stared at me smiling, until the blood started pouring out of her eyes and mouth. I stepped back and looked at my hands, red. I turned myself all around in the square, red. Red. Everywhere.
Everyone was bleeding.
Soon everyone collapsed on the ground in moans from the dead and twitched. I stood there watching and staring at my red hands. Madge's blood was on my hands. All of their blood was. My fault. My fault.
And then Prim appeared in front of me, smiling and untouched. I wanted to hug her but I didn't want to get any of the blood on her and her untucked shirt. I'm about to say something – Little Duck maybe, or just her name, Prim – when she smiles wider and let out an airy "Katniss" as she erupts in flames. She smiled the whole time, didn't fall into a moaning heap of death like the others, and soon enough there was only ash. The only thing that made sound was me, and I yelled gibberish, just wanting to block my view somehow with sound. My sister was a bunch of ash, and it blew into my face.
I woke up screaming, still the taste of ash in my mouth. Running to the bathroom, I threw up. The taste was horrible, the burn painful, but it was better than the taste of ash, the taste of my dead sister, on my tongue.
I wouldn't get sleep again the rest of the night, so I laid my head on my bathroom tile and forced my mind into a catatonic state. The world blurred in front of me, making it so I couldn't attach to any detail or anything. This was the closest thing I could get to sleep usually. Just existing: mind blank, eyes not seeing, no hearing, nothing.
At some point two feet came in my vision brought me back down to my reality. I blinked, not knowing how long I was laying there for. I stared at the shoes, which made me take in the tiled floor of the bathroom, which made me take in the fact that I was laying on my bathroom floor, which made me take in the fact that I still had the taste of bile in my throat, which made me think of ashes and blood. Not yet, not already. There's feet in front of you, there's someone here. The cameras are on. You can't let them know you're weak, you can't let them know your-
Oh. I wasn't in the games. I rubbed my eyes and managed to pull my body into a sitting position thanks to the toilet. I looked up, getting dizzy, to see Greasy Sae looking down and tutting.
"Come on, darling. My old bones cannot pick you up and carry you around. Pull yourself back up. I have breakfast waiting for you." She said soothingly, her hand on my arm. I stood up, wobbling a bit, and followed her downstairs where a plate was set with my breakfast. I sat, ate, not tasting anything really. The food might have been hot, but I couldn't really tell. Nothing really registered about any of it. A loaf of bread was in front of my plate.
I reached for a piece before I knew what I was doing. I stared at my hand, going for the bread, and then looked up at Greasy Sae. She was looking at me smiling. "Well, eat up girl. He didn't bake it for nothing." I was thinking more than I allowed myself to think the entire breakfast. My hand clutched a piece of bread, and it was still warm. Still warm, he made it today then. I ate the piece of bread in silence as Greasy Sae cleaned up my things. She made small talk I think. She's used to me not answering so I didn't bother to listen. When she left I ate another piece, and another. He made the bread, and it was for me. He made it today, it was still warm. But he wouldn't deliver it to me. He wouldn't see me and wouldn't deal with all the hurt that I've brought to his life.
I took another piece of bread and found my way to the coat closet in the living room just nearby. The stairs were too far, too many. I sat in the closet and closed the door, eating the piece of bread. I was the worst thing that ever happened to him.
I was the worst thing to ever happen to myself too. To my family, to my neighbors. To all of Panem. I stopped eating the bread and laid it in my lap; I didn't deserve it.
Time passed and I sat in the dark. The doctor told me that it'd help to make lists of truths that started out simple and went towards the more difficult things. I decided to listen to the advice. Cleared my throat. "My name is Katniss Everdeen." I said aloud. I forgot what my voice sounded like. There was too much gravel, too much harshness. It fit what I've become. "I am seventeen years old. The war is over. My sister is dead. My mother may as well be. Everyone is dead, everyone is hurt. I am the face of the war. I am the face of everything that was lost. It's all my fault." My voice gave out, and my mind brought in a mantra of my fault, my fault, my fault that pounded through my body like a heartbeat.
I yanked one of the coats that were hanging above my head down and wrapped myself around it. I tried not to think of what corpse the coat belonged to. That's all anyone was now. Corpses in the ground or corpses still walking around and existing. I lived in a town of ash and ghosts. I didn't deserve anything better. I didn't deserve peace or death or hope. I should be dead, I thought to myself, but knew that was a lie. Prim, perfect Prim was dead and she didn't deserve it. But she at least was at peace. I do not deserve peace, I thought to myself as I lowered myself into a laying down position, the jacket over my face. I deserve every nightmare, ever tear drop, every scar. Knowing that I deserved it though didn't make it easier. It made it all hurt more. When did I make the transition from a kid just trying to help her family survive to a monster?
I got up and out of the closet in just a couple of minutes before Graesy came back for dinner, along with her granddaughter. I stood in the kitchen with a glass of water when she came in, glaring at the distorted reflection I could see of myself within the glass. I was thankful that she didn't have to find me laying in the closet; Graesy already has enough to deal with by coming here for me, she doesn't need a game of hide-and-seek with a depressed girl. I wanted to be able to pull myself together a little bit, at least for Graesy, to make her life a little easier.
"Out of the kitchen now dear, I have to get dinner started," She told me, lightly pushing my back out of the kitchen and into the living room. Her granddaughter was sitting there, playing with a doll that she brought with her and mumbling. I sat next to her, horrified for a moment that I was expected to entertain the girl. After a couple of minutes though, I realized that she was plenty fine entertaining herself and I sat beside her watching as the smells of dinner hit my nose. Soon enough the three of us were at the table and Graesy Sae fell into a conversation about her day. Her granddaughter hummed to herself as she ate. I ate in silence, sipping the stew in front of me. I suddenly realized that it was silent around me, so I looked up, and saw the two of them looking at me. Graesy Sae cut a piece of bread as she told me, "I said, it tastes just delicious when you dip this bread into the stew. Would you like a piece, Katniss?"
"No," I muttered, going back to eating. She had a piece in her hand, outstretched to my bowl. Her eyebrows cocked, looking at me confused. "No?" I repeated the word again. I ate more stew. "Why don't you want bread, Katniss?"
I paused taking a sip and put my spoon back down. I can't remember the last time I tried to form my thoughts into a coherent sentence, besides me mumbling to myself. Why don't I want a piece of bread? I ask myself. I do want a piece. I want a piece of bread badly. I look at the loaf, and I can only imagine how delicious it'd taste with the stew. This isn't about wanting though, it can't be. My life never has never been and I am not about to fall into wants now, when I least deserved it.
"I can't take the bread," I said my voice cracking from lack of use. I cleared my throat, and went on. "I can't take the bread. Can you tell him that? I understand that he thinks he owes me but-" I stop, catch a jerk in my voice that was about to come. I breathed deep, willing myself to not be overcome by any feelings. Feelings are for when you're alone Katniss. Feelings are for when you're laying in the dark and are stuck in your head as if it's a cage. Feelings are for when you can burn and drown all at once with them, and all alone. I looked up at Graesy Sae, making sure my face was completely blank. "There are no debts. There are no dues. Please tell him that." I looked away and stood up and said an "excuse me," as I walked up the stairs. Graesy Sae looked at me as if she was disappointed at me for some reason, and I almost wanted to scoff at her. Get in line, I wanted to tell her. I let down everyone, I let them all die.
I sat at the wall by the staircase as I heard them clean up. The girl started singing as song, and Graesy Sae would chime in every now and then and help with a verse. And then they were out the door. With them gone, I realized that I started singing along as well. I was startled, forgot I could sing and have my voice carry a tune or beat. I considered stopping, but I couldn't find it in me to stop. I got up slowly, considered for a humored second just throwing myself down the stairs. Instead I made my way to my room. Still singing, I opened my window and let the cold air of the night hit my face. It was soon to be spring, but the air held a chill as if winter was giving all it had to stay. I quieted down and then stopped singing while I stood at the window, looking at the stars and moon. The moon was far away from the land, an immeasurable distance. I folded my arms on the window sill and wondered if the moon ever felt lonely. I was almost feeling at peace, staring at the moon. I almost felt a kinship to it and it's loneliness.
My calm state was destroyed at the moment when I heard a crash echo into the night. I panicked and looked around for where it came from. Haymitch's lights were all off, he was probably passed out and hopefully not in his own vomit, and the geese were all sleeping. I turned to Peeta's house and saw that there were a good amount of lights on in his house still, along with windows opened. It wasn't too late into the night, so it wasn't surprising that he was still awake. I looked through each of his windows searching for movement and found none. Did he drop art tools? Or maybe he was having a flashback. Maybe he was hurting himself, or his shiny memories were clawing at him, hoping to take him over. Maybe he was dreaming of me killing him. Maybe he wanted me dead, and wanted to be the one to do the deed.
I scowled at the moon, thinking how ridiculous it was that I felt calm before because of it. Nothing so beautiful as the moon could ever get lumped into a category with me. I thought of how my scars most likely were glowing in the moonlight, as if alerting everyone how damaged of a person I was. I slammed my window closed and collapsed face-down on my bed. The bed was too big, too cold, too empty. No, I told myself. No.
I am the face of the war. The face that promised people to their gravestones, but I did not kill him. I did not kill Peeta. My mind goes to the primrose bushes that he planted for me, and I almost want to smile for a second. But it hurt almost more than anything to know that right now he could be sitting, clutching his hair, seeing fake images of me with claws, me trying to kill him. I was not a monster then, not then. That's when I still just wanted to survive, and to have him survive too. Well he was still alive, dammit. I had a part in that, a weak voice within me speaks up. The monster of what I really am snarls at it, not looking for an excuse out of how I destroyed the boy. I had a part of keeping him alive, of bringing him back. I was also the reason for his life being risked so many times, his soul broken to tiny mosaics, so I couldn't really allow myself to dwell on those thoughts of saving him.
I couldn't go to sleep. It was too early, the night would be too long and dark and full of terrors if I went to bed now. I stood at the top of the stairs and my mind went back to its thoughts before, and saw an image of me falling and helplessly sprawled at the bottom of the stairs for Graesy Sae to find in the morning too late...
I sit down at the top step and slowly crawled down the steps while holding onto the bannister with white knuckles, so as to not tempt myself. I couldn't have Graesy Sae walk into that, and what if her granddaughter was there?
I shuffled to the kitchen, staying away from the utensils. Put on a pot of water to boil, and then I fixed myself a cup of tea. I went into the living room and set my tea on the table as I rushed over to the windows and shut all the curtains. The rest of the world was too close, too vivid. I needed it gone. When the curtains were closed I made my way back to the couch and settled in, my legs on the edge of the coffeetable, my hands holding my cup of tea atop my knees. I closed my eyes, my forehead resting against the warm mug. I wasn't even thirsty, or craving tea. I just needed to do something to occupy time and thoughts. Tea. Tea leaves. Hot water in a mug. Take a sip. Tea tea leaves hot water in a mug sip. Teatealeaveshotwaterinamugsip. It became a string of words that repeated in my mind over and over until I was finished with the cup. I stared at the television without turning it on. I couldn't remember the last time that thing was on. My mother and Prim were probably the last to watch it, watched as I played in the Games and almost died on television time and time again for another year in a row.
I try and imagine it. Sitting here and watching a family member on public television almost die and go through pain, and all for entertainment. I think about how it'd be if I watched Peeta and me, with our love story almost dominating all of the violence.
Without realizing it the mug was out of my hand. I looked, and saw that I threw it to the ground with a crash. Oh well. I had more than too many mugs for just one person; that's one way to get rid of the extra. Leaving the pieces on the ground nearby I laid my self down on my side on the couch and pulled the blanket around me. More often than not I ended up on the living room couch rather than in my bed to sleep. Well, really, I'd just lay anywhere and sleep. Sometimes closets or cabinets if I was having a bad day. Sometimes this couch. I once ended up in Prim's room and ended up locking myself inside for the whole day, laying on her bed. A couple of days I woke up underneath my bed. Graesy Sae always knew how to find me, eventually. She once said that I left a trail of grief behind me, and my sadness was so thick it could be felt. I just nodded, accepted it. She wanted me to smile and get better. I wanted to lay down and never move again until I just completely decomposed.
I closed my eyes and tried to gulp away tears. Nights were always hard to get through.
I felt the bow hum in my hand responding to me, it's only owner. In front of me there was the crowd, and to my side Coin was counting off all the acts against humanity Snow pulled. She gave the word that I was to shoot him. Before I do though, I took a rose out of my pocket. A white rose, something he'd surely love to to die with, and fixed it onto his jacket, right at his heart. I looked up at his face abruptly, hoping to catch him off guard and get the satisfaction of seeing remorse or terror or something of the like on his face. But he smiled, and even went as far as to let a chuckle escape his mouth. Furious, I look back down at the white rose that I fastened to his jacket – only no, it wasn't white, it was pink. I barely paid it any mind, and instead raised my bow to him, to the rose in his pocket. As I let the arrow sing, I realized it all too late. It wasn't just a rose, but it was my sister's. A primrose, and I shot right at it. I looked up at his face a split second after I let the arrow fly and cried out. It wasn't snow dying, but Prim. I shot her, I shot my own sister. She was dying. She fell to the ground and right next to her was another kid who looked just about her age that writhed with a spear through her middle and a net tangled up in her. Prim. Rue. Dead. My fault