I AM SO SORRY! I have no reason big enough to explain my absence, all I can say was life got in the way. Forgive me! Again, thank you to CloudieKP for the quick edit time (mere hours!), I owe her sooooo much!
Without further ado, the next chapter!
Chapter 20 - Changes
The weeks following my confession to Peeta passed by quicker than I ever imagined they would. Despite my having to be confined to the bedroom for the majority of the time, Peeta has done his best to spend as much time with me as possible. With Brock's approval, Peeta began taking shorter work shifts down in town. While the construction of the wall is very important for the town, Brock, having spent so much time working with Peeta and I, knows how much I hate being cooped up in the house all day. Without Peeta's company I don't know what I'd do to pass the time.
After the initial attack and rescue, Haymitch went back to his old habits of drinking heavily and secluding himself. In many ways I blame myself for his current behavior; I nearly died out in the woods and there was nothing Peeta or Haymitch could have done to help. I think the whole ordeal reminded him of the loss of his loved ones, which then forced him back into his old routine. It's sad to think of Haymitch all alone in his house, surrounded by his geese with no one to care for him. Peeta has gone to check on him several times but each time Haymitch turns him away. I wish he wouldn't shy away from our friendship, but having lost those I love, I can understand his reluctance to get close to anyone.
Since the delivery of the letter, I haven't been in direct contact with Gale. With Peeta's encouragement, I wrote a short letter in reply, which Peeta gladly delivery to Gale in person. In the letter I gently stated that while I was glad to know how Gale felt about me, all I wanted between us was a friendship. I did however let him know that I am slowly coming to terms with Prim's death, and in time I hope to completely forgive him. I know it's not what he wanted to hear, at least not completely, but despite my wish for friendship I haven't heard from or seen him since. I know that he's busy with his duties around town but I had at least hoped he would come by to visit or talk.
It's hard to believe it's been almost a month since the attack, but with the amount of time Peeta and I have been spending together, the weeks have passed us by quickly and pleasantly. Thinking about him I smile only to hear the front door close, announcing his arrival home.
"Katniss?" Peeta's voice easily carries up the staircase, followed by the sound of his footsteps. Looking toward the door I smile when he enters the room. He's a bit dirty from work but he looks happy to see me.
"Welcome home." Smiling happily I try to hide my eagerness. We're due to meet with Dr. Jourdan soon. With his approval we'll remove the cast and begin my physical therapy and I can't wait!
"You can't fool me, Katniss." His laugh only makes my smile widen. Looking away I blush lightly in embarrassment. "I know you want to get me into the shower as soon as possible." Crossing his arms over his chest he turns his head slightly to the side, waiting for my answer.
"Well? What're you waiting for?" I burst out. Pointing towards the shower I motion him to get moving before I hobble over there and shove him through the door. "GO! Go! Go! Go!"
Laughing at my words and my gestures, Peeta turns to make his way toward the bathroom only to stop and look at me over his shoulder. I'm just about ready to shout at him to get a move on when he turns around and quickly approaches me. Before I know it he's kissing me, his arm wrapping around my lower back to hold me close as our lips mesh together in a loving kiss.
"I missed you…" He whispers as he presses his forehead against mine.
Smiling and a bit breathless, I chuckle. "I missed you too." Although Peeta's work shifts are only a few hours long I always find myself missing him when he's gone. It seems silly since I know he'll always come home but I can't help it and neither can he. Kissing his lips one more time I smile before giving him a playful nudge. "Get going. He'll be here soon!"
"Alright, alright! I'm going." He says with a chuckle as he heads to the bathroom to shower. It doesn't take him more than ten minutes to wash and dress but by then I'm itching to get down stairs. Seeing my excitement and eagerness Peeta merely smiles and reaches down to scoop me up into his arms. We're both looking forward to having my cast removed. "Are you looking forward to walking without a hobble?" He teases, knowing that it's been bothering me. I hate feeling unsteady on my feet.
"Of course! Then I can whip your butt in archery again!" I laugh, knowing that we both want to get back into the swing of things, archery lessons included. Now that the 'I love you' cat is out of the bag, Peeta's shown much more interest in learning archery. I think it's because he feels like we'll bond even more if we practice and hunt together; not to mention that he'll know that he can protect me if needed.
Once downstairs, Peeta sets me down at the kitchen table before moving to the fridge to begin preparing lunch. In no time at all there's a knock upon the door. "It's open!" I call eagerly, knowing it'll be Dr. Jourdan. But as the door opens, the very last person I expect to see walks through the door. "Gale?" Confused and clearly a bit taken aback, I don't know what else to say. I haven't seen him since the attack and with his lack of communication after my letter I'd assumed I wouldn't see or hear from him for some time.
"Good afternoon Katniss, Peeta." He looks stressed, wary. I don't know why but this immediately sets off an internal alarm; something's wrong.
"What happened?" The question is blunt but the situation seems to call for directness. There's no real reason for Gale to be here and with the way he's avoiding my gaze I know something is wrong. From the corner of my eye I can see Peeta moving toward me, but I refuse to look away from Gale. "Gale, what happened? Where's Dr. Jourdan?"
After several agonizing moments Gale releases a sigh and looks to the ground. "There was an accident in town." Swallowing the growing lump in my throat I try not to think of the workers, the men and women Peeta and I have come to know and love, but it's impossible. Someone's been hurt or worse, why else would Dr. Jourdan have sent Gale in his place? "Just after the lunch break, the workers headed back to the work site and discovered the pack of wild dogs prowling the area. They tried to scare them off, but they attacked. Several have minor injuries, but-" Releasing a heavy sigh he stops, as if he can't go on.
"Gale, what happened?" Frantic to know if everyone is all right I practically scream at Gale for the answer. "Gale!"
As Gale looks up into my eyes, I can see his pain and his sadness. "Brock was attacked by several of the dogs. He's being treated by Jourdan now, but he's in critical condition and we don't know if he'll make it." Gale's words instantly force all the air from my lungs. My throat, tight with emotion nearly cuts off my airway as my eyes fill with tears.
"Brock?" It can't be true. Brock is one of the strongest men we know. Looking up at Peeta I can see the same anguish in his gaze and the same disbelief. Looking back to Gale I steel myself against my emotions. "Where is he?"
"They've set up a medical tent in town but Jourdan is afraid to move him." Gale's voice is now nothing more than a whisper and he still can't seem to look me in the eyes.
"Gale. Why were the dogs in town?" It's been weeks since there's been even a sighting of the pack. The only signs of their presence have been on the far outskirts of the district. So why would the pack be lured into town now? "Gale?" He swallows hard and shakes his head, refusing to speak. I know that he's hiding something. There has to be a reason for the pack's presence. But even as I try and drag the answer from Gale, a small part of me knows that I'm just looking for an excuse; for someone to blame, just like with Prim. When he doesn't answer my question I turn to Peeta. "I want to see him." I state evenly while trying to hold it together. Brock is like a father to me. To lose him would be devastating.
"Alright." Peeta says with a stiff nod before he reaches down to scoop me up into his arms. While I would be able to walk into town it would take too long and there's no telling how much time Brock has left. Moving past Gale, I don't say anything as we head out of the house and down the street. Walking in silence we both look toward the town, hardly noticing that Gale has decided to follow us. All I can think about is Brock, tall and strong and so full of life. It makes me sick to think of him injured and possibly dying while I can't do anything to help him.
In no time, Peeta and I enter town and easily locate the medical tent. All the workers are gathered around it; some pacing, some sitting on the ground, their backs hunched, their faces in their hands. A feel of dread washes over me at the sight. Catching sight of us several run over to give us the latest news.
Peeta is the first to speak up. "What happened?" I can tell that despite his composure, he's upset. The attack must have occurred just as he'd left.
"There were dozens of dogs in the town square when we came back from the lunch break. We did our best to run them off but the larger beasts weren't having it. They went after Brock as one force. Before we could get them off they'd torn huge chucks from his thighs." The explanation horrified me. I know what the bite of one of those dogs feels like. I can only imagine what Brock went through when attacked by several of them at once.
"Did they sever an artery?" Peeta asks, knowing that if they had then Brock's chances of surviving would be much slimmer. Grim-faced they both nod, confirming our worst fears. Depending on how much blood Brock lost during the attack, there may be no hope of saving him.
With grim resolve Peeta and I head over to the unfinished bakery, which has begun to take shape. Now with walls and a roof it offers some protection from the sun, but neither of us seems to care about the weather. Taking a seat on the steps I remain silent as I look toward the medical tent. The silhouettes of several people can be seen, but there's no real indication of what's going on inside.
"I can't believe it. I could have helped him!" Peeta's irritation and frustration are understandable. But a part of me is relieved that Peeta had left just before the attack. If he'd been in Brock's place, I didn't know what I'd do.
"It'll be alright, Peeta. Brock is a fighter, he won't give up." While my words are confident, I don't fully believe them myself. Brock is strong, one of the strongest men I know, but everyone has their time.
Nearly an hour goes by before Dr. Jourdan emerges from the tent. Blood stains his uniform and his hands, but he hardly seems to notice. Noticing his presence, the men as well as Peeta and I immediately approach him. The silence is deafening as we all wait for the news.
"He's stable." A collective sigh of relief is released, but as we all feel that wave of relief move through us, I can sense that there's more. "However, he's lost a lot of blood. He'll need a transfusion immediately." As soon as the words leave his lips nearly every man begins to pull up his sleeve to present his veins. Awed by their dedication to Brock, I can't help but begin to tear up. Holding up his hands, Jourdan urges them to wait. "He needs a specific blood type. I'll need to check your files before I can determine who can donate." He explained in an even tone. Clearly disappointed, the men lower their arms. "I'll get started immediately." As he moves to go back into the tent, he looks to Peeta and me. "I need to speak with you two, follow me."
Confused by the sudden request, Peeta follows Jourdan inside. Setting me down on one of the few chairs, my eyes immediately find Brock. Lying prone on the gurney he looks too pale, too still. Swallowing the growing lump in my throat I have to close my eyes in order to look away from him.
"Katniss, your mother is currently living in District Four, correct?" Caught off guard by the question I merely nod in response. "Can you get into contact with her?"
"Of course, but why?" I don't like the idea of contacting my mother, but if it would help Brock then I'll do whatever it takes.
"Brock will need more than a blood transfusion if we hope to keep him alive." Caught off guard by the statement, Peeta and look at one another, both confused and a bit panicked. "I need a lot more supplies than what we have available here. I'm afraid that if we wait for the Capitol to send the supplies I need, that Brock won't make it. District Four isn't too far from here and has access to everything that I require to treat him. If we can get into contact with them then we may be able to save Brock's life."
Looking over at Peeta, I give him a small nod of approval. He knows how I feel about contacting my mother. Since returning from the war I've only spoken to her once or twice. After being abandoned by her for a second time I don't feel very inclined to reconnect with her. Even after the recent attack, when she called the house several times a day to check on my recovery, I refused to speak with her. If she was so worried about me she could have come to check on me herself; she didn't. "We'll head back to the house immediately. With any luck we'll have the supplies by morning." Although District Four isn't too far away, the train or transport would have to leave almost immediately to get here by morning.
Nodding in approval, Dr. Jourdan hands me a list of supplies that he'll need to treat Brock properly. "Please let me know how it goes." We both nod in agreement and without another word Peeta leaves the tent with me in his arms. We immediately move past the curious and concerned glances of the others. While I would normally stop to reassure them there's no time.
As soon as we reach the house Peeta takes me into the living room and places the phone by my side. Taking a seat next to me he takes his hand in mine. Looking up at him I merely shake my head. "It'll be alright, Katniss. You won't have to talk with her for long, just long enough to tell her what's going on and what we need." It seems like a simple task, but confronting my mother isn't something that I had ever planned on doing. With a heavy sigh I dial her number and place the receiver up to my ear. At first the phone just rings and rings and just when I'm about to give up and hang up the phone I hear her voice.
At first, I don't say anything. How can I? What do I say? How do I begin?
"Hello? Is someone there?"
Pushing away my fear and anger I sigh and begin. "It's me, Mom."
"Katniss? Are you alright? I've been so worried about you!" While she genuinely sounds like she's concerned for my welfare, I still can't move past the fact that I haven't seen her since the bombing in the Capitol.
"I'm fine mom. I'm calling because I need your help." I know that she'll want to talk more about what has happened since I've returned to District Twelve, but I also know that at the mention of the attack her instincts as a healer will kick in.
"What happened, Katniss? Is everything alright?"
"Some of the workers here were attacked by wild dogs and we don't have the supplies we need to treat them." I'm tempted to add in the fact that the District doesn't have a proper physician aside for Dr. Jourdan, but I don't want to make her feel anymore guilty than she likely already is. For years she acted as District Twelve's healer, and since she'd left we have no one. I don't know how guilty she feels about that, but I hope she now realizes how much we all relied on her.
"What do you need? I can have a transport sent as soon as I gather everything." She stated evenly, her tone purely professional.
After listing off the list of supplies I let her know Brock's condition, or as much as Dr. Jourdan would let on. "He's in bad shape mom. I'm not sure if he'll last the night, but we'll do our best to keep him going."
"I'll send everything as soon as I can. With any luck the transport will arrive right around dawn."
Despite our history and the distance between us, both emotionally and physically, I do miss my mother, even if I'm not fully willing to admit it. "Thank you, mom. I'll call you as soon as it arrives."
"I'll talk to you soon…I-I love you Katniss."
Not willing to say those words back, I give her a simple, 'Good bye' and hang up the phone. Looking over at Peeta, I don't have to say anything. He immediately wraps his arms around me and lets me cry as much as I need. "It was harder and easier than I thought, not that that makes any sense."
Chuckling lightly, Peeta rubs my back and holds me a little tighter. "You did very well and I'm sure she was glad that you called her." I know that Peeta's right, she was glad to hear from me, but I'm not ready to put the past behind me. Pulling away from Peeta I wipe my eyes and look out toward Haymitch's place.
"You should go let Dr. Jourdan know about the transport. My mother said she'd send all the supplies we need and more. It should all arrive by dawn." Releasing a heavy sigh I lean back into the couch and just close my eyes. It's been an emotional day, and not one that I was ready for. I had hoped that I'd be trying to walk on my own by now, not running around worrying if one of my good friends would live or die.
"I'll go tell Jourdan and see what he wants to do with Brock. We can't just leave him in that tent overnight, not with those dogs wandering into town in broad daylight," Peeta says with a frown as he stands up and heads for the door. "I'll be back soon." With one last glance he moves through the door and down the road toward town.
Still looking over at Haymitch's place, I have to wonder how he's doing. Has he finally given in and drank himself to death? Or are his geese giving him a run for his money? I hope it's the latter. Moving off of the couch I hobble my way over to the door and pull it open. It's a relatively nice day despite all the drama that's been going on. The sky is blue and the paths are dry, which means I can move around with relative ease without dirtying my cast too much. Slowly making my way over to Haymitch's I knock on the door and wait for an answer. When one doesn't come I push open the door only to find more of the usual. Geese and empty liquor bottles litter the floor. The geese, used to my presence, honk in greeting and waddle over to meet me. With the way they're nipping at my fingers it's likely that they haven't been fed in some time.
After setting out some feed for the birds, I head upstairs, which turns out to be no easy task, to search for Haymitch. It doesn't take long to find him. He's passed out, in bed, fully clothed and mumbling in his sleep. Judging by the number of bottles on the floor and in the bed it's obvious that he's been drinking himself into a stupor for some time. Taking a seat on the edge of the bed I take the time to look Hatmitch over. He's unshaven to the point where he's begun to grow a good sized beard and his cheeks are hollow enough to suggest that he's lost a good amount of weight. If Brock wasn't hospitalized I'd ask him and Peeta to drag Haymitch out of bed and into the shower for a good cleaning. But Brock isn't okay. With the possibility of losing Brock hanging over my head I can't help but want to help Haymitch. My family may be makeshift and thrown together with a random assortment of people, but Brock, Haymitch and Peeta are all that I have.
"Haymitch." The only response I receive is a loud snore and a muffled mumble about geese and pie. Amused and a bit curious about what he could possibly be dreaming about, I try and rouse him by shaking his shoulder. "Haymitch, it's time to wake up and rejoin the rest of the world."
"Watyawan?" His slurred response means progress but unfortunately it looks like he's still drunk.
"It's time to wake up."
"Idunwanna. Goway." Turning over he gives me his back and proceeds to get comfortable again. Normally I would give up but I'm on a mission.
"Haymitch, the geese are raiding your cupboards. If you don't get up they'll eat all your food."
"Iduncare, let 'em eat whatever they wan'." While this answer is a little more comprehensive than his last answers, he still won't budge.
"It's too bad that you won't get out of bed. Greasy Sae just got in a new shipment of liquor and she doesn't have the space to store it. She was hoping you might want to buy some off of her."
"I'm up! I'm up!" Sitting up in his drunken stupor, he looks like he's ready to throw up but he seems determined to go meet up with Greasy Sae instead. Within seconds Haymitch is leaning over the bed and throwing up into what I can only hope is a trash bin. Rubbing his back lightly I stay with him while he empties his stomach.
"I'll make a mental note not to have you sit up too fast when you're drunk." I say with a frown. If I had known, I wouldn't have lied to him about the liquor supply. Sitting in silence, Haymitch lets his stomach calm down while I try to figure out a way to get him out of bed, but all I can think about is Brock and the reasons for Haymitch' s alcoholism. Maybe I shouldn't tell him about Brock's condition; it might do more harm than good. And honestly, can I say that I wouldn't become a raging alcoholic if I'd lost every person I had ever loved or cared about? No, I can't. Haymitch has his reasons for being this way, even if Peeta and I don't approve.
With his stomach settled, I help Haymitch roll over and sit up against the headboard. "So what are you really doing here?" He slurs while looking me dead in the eye. I should have known he wouldn't fully believe my lie. He knows Peeta and I wouldn't willingly encourage him to buy more alcohol.
"I came to check on you. You haven't been around and I was a bit worried."
"That's true…I've been busy." We both know what he's been busy with, but I don't question his answer.
"Where's your boy?"
"He's in town." Looking away from Haymitch I catch sight of the houses outside the windows. I want to tell him about Brock, but there's no telling how he'll take it. However Haymitch is an adult and Brock's friend too, he deserves to know. "There was another attack." Looking back at Haymitch I gauge his reaction before continuing. "We don't know if Brock will make it through the night."
The look on Haymitch's face is one of shock and resignation. This is a man who fought through the Hunger Games, who lost his family, who fought a war and through it all came out alive, but broken after each event. He looks like a man who has seen too many deaths. He looks like a man who welcomes and yet fears death. "So why did you come to get me?"
The emotional distance he's showing hurts, but I can't say I expected him to jump up and rush out the door to go check on Brock. Shrugging, I look down at my hands. "I thought that you'd want to know, I mean, he is your friend. Right?" When Haymitch doesn't answer immediately I look up at him and immediately see the pain in his eyes.
"Yes, he's my friend, and a good man. But I've watched too many of my friends die, Katniss." His voice, just barely above a whisper, is filled with more pain and more emotion that I've ever heard from Haymitch.
"I know Haymitch. We've all lost friends, loved ones and comrades, but we can't give up on him. He didn't give up on me when I was out in those woods, and he wouldn't give up on you either." Swallowing the lump in my throat I reach out to take Haymtich's hand in mine. Squeezing it tight I feel him squeeze back. With a small nod he sighs and moves to get out of bed. "Let me get cleaned up."
It isn't until the bathroom door is closed and the sound of the shower can be heard that I release a sigh of relief. Hopefully this will serve as a sort of a wakeup call for him; if he shuts himself away from everyone in his life all he will experience is loss. With all that Haymitch has been through he deserves so much more than the life he's living. I can only hope that Brock pulls through and shows Haymitch that we don't always lose the people that we care about.
END Chapter 20 - Changes
Story Continues in Chapter 21