Disclaimer: I own nothing. If I did, thsi would be canon. I'm so sorry about the wait, but here's the new chapter. I solemnly swear that I'll try to update more often, you people probably hate me for the ridiculously long time gap, but I've been running out of inspiration every now and then. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this chapter and thank you for all the reviews and favorites, every single one brightens up my day more than you can imagine.
For some reason, Effie remained somewhat distant for the rest of the trainride. Katniss tried to talk to her on several occasions, but Effie flat out refused to. Eventually Katniss had to give up, as little as she wanted to. And so, she remained in her room, staring at the view from her window, wondering if Effie would speak to her during the next Hunger Games. A sigh escaped Katniss' lips, echoing in the quiet room. She turned around and stared intently the crumpled bedsheets beneath her.
On the other side of the train was one lonely Effie Trinket sitting in front of a mahogany desk in her room. She was in her thoughts, her lips formed into a thin line and her eyebrows crinkled. She was upset about many things, the main one being Katniss Everdeen. There wasn't even one moment when she wasn't thinking about her, in one way or another. She had realized that when the 75th Hunger Games would come, she would have to discuss mentoring and other similar subjects with her, and so she would have to stay in control.
Her lower lip trembled at the thought of the marriage between Peeta and Katniss, but she would have to deal with it. Effie held her head in her hands and tried to think of anything else, but the marriage. If only the images of Katniss in a wedding dress, sharing a kiss with Peeta and their children weren't invading her mind she may have been perfectly fine. If only.
Katniss was leaning against the window, her eyes searching through the landscape outside. They were close, she knew it. Her steps sounded muffled in the stuffy room as she got up and walked to the door, not really caring about the slight mess she'd made. The door gave a little squeak when it slid open, it was a noise that Katniss had gotten surprisingly used to.
She wandered through the train and ended up in the Dining Car. She picked a normal looking apple from a metallic bowl and took a bite. Fortunately it was a regular apple and she took another bite, sitting on a stool right beside her. District 12 was faintly visible from the window and soon Peeta came to the car as well, followed by Cinna, Portia and Flavius. All of them took a seat next to Katniss, but none said anything to each other.
A few seconds later Effie came to the car as well, her shoulders a little slumped, and her trademark smile wasn't decorating her face.
"Are you okay?" Cinna asked. All of them turned to see why he'd asked, but were soon gifted with an answer.
"I'm fine. Just a little tired from all this." Katniss knew she was talking about something more than just the tour, but she didn't bring it up. Effie took a seat next to Cinna, much to Katniss' dismay and everyone was silent again.
Suddenly the train slowed down and everyone looked outside. There was a small crowd waiting outside in the snow, including Katniss' mother who was holding Prim, the baker and Gale. A ghost of a smile lingered on Katniss' face when she saw Prim alive and healthy, and this didn't go unnoticed by Effie.
"Happy to be home?" she asked. All she got for a reply was a nod, but it was enough. Everyone got up and went outside, picking a coat from a pile that Haymitch had carried in when he joined them at the train's exit.
Greetings were given, but Effie shooed everyone to the mayor's house, not giving Katniss any time to catch up with Gale, or even give Prim a hug. She felt a little sour after, but her mind quickly drifted off as she slowly began to realize that she was home again.
Katniss and Peeta were ready too soon, and as Katniss was heading to Madge's room for a conversation, she saw how terrible the situation was at District 8. She was still a little shaken up by it, and tried to push it out of her mind for now.
Madge opened the door of her room almost at the very second Katniss had gently knocked on it. She was pulled inside and the door let out a loud creaking noise when it was closed behind her. Madge's room was a little messy, and a layer of dust was covering several surfaces.
"It's good to have you home, Katniss." Madge said and sat on the bed. "I've missed you."
"I've missed you too." It wasn't entirely a lie, she had given a thought or two to Madge, but her mind was far too wrapped up in Effie to wonder how things were back home. She felt a little bad for not thinking about the situation here, and she dozed off for a second while imagining horrible things that could've been waiting back home. Katniss sat next to Madge and smiled. Aside from Gale, Madge had been her only friend- sort of. They had gotten closer during the time Katniss was back from the Hunger Games, and she could safely say that Madge was her friend.
"You know.. When you were gone, a plenty of things happened." Katniss was slightly surprised by this, she hadn't been gone for such a long time.
"Like what?" she asked. Madge fidgeted and played with a ring on her finger, a tint of red coating her cheeks.
"Like.. Uhm.. A boyfriend kind of thing. I know you dislike such subjects, but I thought that since you are my closest friend, you should know."
"Oh. Well, congratulations." Madge smiled at her friend before Katniss questioned further. Who is it?" she asked, feeling a little awkward.
"Just someone from the school. I think you've seen him once or twice. Red hair, bright green eyes." Katniss nodded.
"Out of curiosity, and I swear this will be my final say about this, you didn't possibly meet anyone during the tour?" The color on Katniss' face could have matched the one of a tomato. She tried to desperately think of anything but Effie, failing horribly.
"Yes, you did. I can see it from your body language, and your face reveals quite a bit too. So, who is it?"
"Someone who I most certainly should not care for."
"You don't want to know." The curiosity in Madge's eyes was making Katniss uncomfortable, and she really didn't want to spill this piece of knowledge.
"Is it a girl?" she suddenly asked and Katniss gasped, while Madge gave a knowing smirk.
"So, it is." Katniss could only nod and look away. "I can see the problem, but people could deal with it in time, I guess. Does she like you back?"
"I.. I think so. We've had our share of moments."
"Well then, why aren't you two together already?"
"I wish it was that simple." Katniss said with a sigh. "She's from different.. circumstances than me. She doesn't want to put me in danger."
"But you're Katniss Everdeen! You won the Hunger Games! What could possibly-"
"I think you know exactly what. Your father would be stupid for not informing you about the things happening all around Panem, and the fact that I'm supposedly an.. an icon of the rebellion or something of the sort."
Madge frowned and brushed a few stray hairs away from her face. "You're correct. I'm well aware of everything that's happened, but.. You should still take advantage of the time you still have left. You don't know when you'll be able to talk in private again, and you should do what you need to now that you still can."
The determination in Madge's voice made Katniss feel a little more confident.
"Thank you, Madge. I really needed that." she said and smiled softly.
They both glanced at the clock on the wall and Katniss excused herself, the prep team had some small details to finish before the dinner.
Effie was sat between Haymitch and Venia, the other blabbering enthusiastically about a new way to stylize eyelashes, and the other one hitting on her to no end.
"So, whaddya say? After dinner you and I could go get some beer and maybe a little-" Haymitch wiggled his eyebrows and Effie shivered in disgust. The other side of the table was caught up in a friendly conversation, but that didn't stop Katniss from giving a glare to the drunk.
"Eh.. No thank you Haymitch. I am busy tonight, I must prepare for the next annual Hunger Games. There is a plenty to be done, after all." Effie explained, and Haymitch backed off, for now at least.
"So, Katniss, Peeta, how does it feel to be back home?" the mayor asked suddenly. Katniss was a little unsure and poked her food with her fork, letting Peeta do the talking.
"It feels good, we were starting to get tired of all the cameras and the action."
Katniss nodded and everyone fell back to their previous conversations, with the exception of Haymitch who excused himself because he was feeling sick. Katniss tried to listen to Flavius, but she was very intent on catching Effie's eye. She was avoiding her, and suddenly she felt another pair of eyes land on her. Madge was staring at her with a grin on her face, her eyes continuously flicking towards Effie, like she was asking: 'Is that her?'. The color of Katniss' face deepened and she looked down, making Madge's smile even wider.
The rest of the dinner moved on far too slowly for Katniss' liking, and she was only relieved to be able to return home. She had taken barely two steps when Effie stopped her.
"Katniss, wait!" she shouted and the younger girl turned around, instantly finding herself lost in those pale blue orbs. "Walk with me?"
They were silent for a few minutes, only the sound of the snow under their feet could be heard in the otherwise quiet district.
"Effie.. Shouldn't you leave?" Katniss asked and immediately corrected herself after seeing the hurt in Effie's eyes. "I mean, to the Capitol!" That didn't make it any better. "To prepare the Hunger Games. I mean- I-" she finished.
"I see what you mean. And, yes. But I wished I could spend the last few moments with you." Effie's smile would've given Katniss enough strength to run to the Capitol and back. Instead, she replied to the older woman's smile and linked their hands. They kept on walking, Effie admiring the snowy District in its winter beauty. Suddenly something buzzed in Effie's handbag and she had to draw her hand back to reach it. Katniss immediately missed the contact, letting out a tiny whimper which drew a smirk out of Effie. She mentally slapped herself for letting her emotions control herself so easily. What had happened to her? 'Effie happened.' Her mind replied. She was so in her thoughts that she'd entirely missed the phone call Effie had just finished.
"Katniss, I have to leave. Just like you said, I'm needed in the Capitol, so I have to get going." she stated with a frown. Katniss felt her smile melt away at the very second and she nearly didn't catch Effie. She had a firm grip on her wrist and she wasn't even nearly ready to let go.
"Effie, I.." she mumbled and they were both feeling awfully warm in their winter coats.
"What is it?" Effie inquired while biting her lip. Katniss swallowed and took a deep breath.
"I.. I'm going to miss you." were the words that Katniss' mouth had formed, when her heart was ready to spit out a very different sentence. She felt Effie's arms around her and her heart jumped to her throat as she tried to keep her nerves in check. Katniss gently hugged Effie back, but they had to separate far too soon, both of them feeling sour.
"Well, I'll see you soon! May the odds-"
"-Be ever in your favor." Katniss finished Effie's trademark words and smirked at the rosy color that had appeared on those snowy white cheeks.
Katniss waved one last time at Effie and felt guilty about wishing that the Hunger games would come a little sooner.
The time on District 12 seemed to fly by. Things had only taken a turn for the worse, new guards, the electric fence was turned on again, Katniss had found out that maybe District 13 isn't what it actually seems to be and Gale had been beaten up really bad by the new head of the guards. Katniss was walking in the forest, it was one of the very few times she was able to sneak in there. Only the biting cold was occasionally able to shake Katniss from her thoughts.
'People say that there's always light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe my life isn't a tunnel, it's more like a cave with a dead end and I have to drill my way through the solid rock to find the light.' she thought and kicked a tree out of frustration, instantly regretting it as the searing pain entered her toe. The area was filled with hushed cursing as Katniss sat on a tree stump and waited for the pain to pass.
Her breathing was slowly even again and this time Katniss was only looking around. She didn't have to hunt anymore now that she had won the Hunger Games with Peeta, but she missed it. Not fighting for her life, but the thrill and satisfaction of a succesful hunt.
A squirrel dropped down from a tree and Katniss' hands made the automatical move of grabbing an arrow from her quill, only to once again realize that she didn't have any with her. A little foolish, yes, but that morning she felt that she wouldn't need them today. Her eyes traveled around the snowy clearing and suddenly she felt sick. Snow. It was so beautiful, and yet the enemy of all of Panem was named after it. Soon she imagined rose petals on the white substance and she immediately felt the need to leave. Katniss was only slightly out of breath as she ran to the fence and was surprised that it wasn't turned on. Without hesitation she used her opportunity and slipped back inside District 12.
The wedding photoshoot. Katniss had nearly forgotten about it entirely, but she had been harshly reminded of it as the entire prepping team came knocking on her door at five in the morning. The only good thing that came out of it was the kiss on the cheek from Effie as an apology. Suddenly everyone was pushing and pulling her from here to there, slipping her into different dresses and in the end it was all just a blur.
There were six dresses in total, but only one of them truly caught Katniss' eye. It was white and simple, there were different sized pearls all over it, and it was quite beautiful. Effie noticed Katniss' lingering gaze on the white dress and demanded it to be tried on next. Katniss spun around a few times in the dress and even had a small and honest smile on her face. Effie did her best to cover up her blush, but she couldn't help smiling back at the girl. Her smile faded as she remembered that Peeta was waiting for Katniss on the isle, not her. Luckily Katniss had been too caught up with listening to Cinna to notice Effie's sour expression. Octavia wasn't as ignorant though, and she sent her a symphatetic smile and mouthed 'It'll be okay'. Effie nodded and turned back to Katniss, shouting instructions to Venia and Cinna before sitting down on a chair to shamelessly stare at the bride-to-be.
Effie unconsciously licked her lips before telling everyone to take five, maybe only to talk to Katniss or not. She spotted the girl heading to the kitchen and followed her, her heels clicking on the wooden floor.
Katniss filled two glasses with water and handed the other one to Effie. Their fingers briefly brushed against one another, nearly making the glass drop to the floor.
"Sorry." Effie said and took a small sip. "So.. How are things going? I've heard some rumours, but I don't know what to believe."
Katniss sighed and put the glass on the counter before motioning Effie to sit down in front of the table. She quickly took a seat after her and started to explain.
"Well, as you probably know there are new guards around, an Gale.. Was punished for not following the rules." she had almost slipped and said 'was whipped and nearly bled to death'. She knew that she could trust Effie, but she was still from Capitol and there were things that city didn't need to know.
"That's not all, now is it? It's okay, I can't expect you to tell me everything. All I need is for you to be allright." Effie stated and carefully took Katniss' hand into her own. "You are okay, right?" she asked hesitantly.
"As okay as I can be in a situation like this. I mean.. Marriage? I'ts just not something I would do and there are many things I'd rather be doing than fake devoting myself to Peeta." she sighed after her confession. Her eyes immediately sprang to Effie's as she squeezed her hand and offered a smile.
"Everything will work out in the end. I know it will." her smile turned even wider and she patted Katniss' shoulder, kissed her cheek again and whispered in her ear: "Let's get things going again, hm?"
She couldn't stop smirking at Katniss' blush when she realized the innuendo in the sentence. Katniss was quickly dragged away to be shoved into another dress and Effie was left with the others and the thoughts in her head.
The prepping team was left to stay in the District until the next reaping. They stayed surprisingly quiet, putting aside the occasional burst into Katniss' house with a basket of food. Once they even threatened to break through the door when Katniss hadn't heard them knock.
One morning, at half past seven in the morning, Katniss, Prim and their mother were gathered in front of the television to see Caesar Flickerman blabbering about the wedding. This did nothing to lift Katniss' already low spirits.
"Yes, exactly. This year is the year of the 75th annual Hunger Games, and it means that the third Quarter Quell is coming up!" he said and everyone seemed confused.
"What are they up to now?" Prim asked. "It's many months away."
They both turn to face their mother.
"They're probably just telling us about the upcoming program." she said and everyone's eyes were back on the screen again.
The national anthem starts and they're just sitting there silently, waiting for the program to continue. President Snow stepped on the stage with a young boy following him, holding a box made of wood in his hands. As soon as the national anthem stops he begins his speech. He reminds everyone of the dark times before the Hunger Games and this time he tells a little more about the Quarter Quell, which is held every twenty five years. The Hunger Games were more festive during the Quarter Quell to work as a memorial to the people who had died during the rebellion of the districts.
President Snow carries on by informing everyone about the past Quarter Quells.
"On the 25th anniversary the rebels were reminded that their children died because they themselves had decided to settle on violence. Each District had to hold an election to choose the tributes."
Katniss shuddered at the thought of getting voted to be a tribute. That must've felt absolutely terrible.
"On the 50th anniversary we wanted to remind everone that two rebels died for one resident of Panem and that each District had to send twice the usual amount of tributs to the games."
That was the year Haymitch had won. Katniss' mother's friend had also been in the games, only her time there didn't end as Haymitch's.
"And now we are celebrating our 75th Hunger Games." The president says. The small boy clad in white inches closer and opens the box he is holding. Everyone who's watching could see clean row of envelopes. President Snow picked up the envelope that had a large 75 written on it. He opened the envelope and pulled out a small paper.
"As a reminder to the rebels of the fact that not even the oldest of them could defeat the power of Capitol, on the third Quarter Quell the two tributes will be chosen from the existing winners."
For a while Katniss' brain tried to access the information, but within minutes she was running out of the house and she collided with Effie as soon as she got out of the door.
She didn't even apologize as the hot tears fell down her cheeks when she just ran. She didn't know where she was going, but all she knew was that she would be a tribute in the Hunger Games again. She heard someone yell her name in the distance, but she didn't bother stopping. When she had come round to a cellar of one of the houses in the Victors' Village did she finally stop. She slipped down the wall she was leaning on and curled into a ball, her quiet sobs echoing slightly in the cold room. She shook with fear and anger, not knowing if she should scream or laugh.
Katniss didn't hear someone coming down the steps to the cellar and wrapping a soft fur coat around her. She gripped the fabric like her life depended on it and she felt warm arms wrap around her and she leaned into them, not really caring who it was. If it was someone she should've been afraid of they would've already killed her. Through her blurry eyes Katniss looked up to see the glossy eyes of Effie Trinket staring back at her.
"I'm so, so sorry Katniss." she whispered to the girl and squeezed her tighter. Suddenly Katniss stiffened and ripped herself away from her.
"No. This.. This is your fault! You knew about this didn't you!" she screamed, blinded by the hatred she felt towards Capitol.
Effie looked like a kicked puppy.
"No, I swear I had no idea. I had nothing to do with this, Katniss." she tried to reason with her.
Katniss shook her head feverishly and looked at Effie with a raging fire in her eyes. "Don't lie to me."
"I'm not lying! I swear through.. Anything that I, Effie Trinket din't have the tiniest idea that you would ever have to- to-" Effie bit her lip hard to keep herself from crying. She took a deep and shaky breath before continuing. "If I had known, I would've helped you escape. I would've done anything to keep you safe. Katniss, please."
Katniss still looekd suspiciously at her, her eyes narrowing.
"How do I know you're not lying. What if all you've said to me was made up so I could trust you? I bet you don't even have any feelings for me, that was all Capitol, wasn't it?" Effie's breath quickened and her cheeks were stained with mascara-filled tears.
"No. I don't care what you have to say, just go. I'm going to die anyway so it doesn't even matter."
"KATNISS, DON'T!" Effie screamed, refusing to accept the fact that Katniss might actually die. The floor felt suddenly much more inviting as the world began to spin around Katniss and she fell on her knees.
It was quiet for a while, neither woman knowing what to do. Effie was still standing a few feet away, wondering if she should just leave. She knew that Katniss was just taking her anger out on someone, but that didn't make her words hurt any less. She was well aware that she shouldn't bite back, that she shouldn't make the shattered girl's world any worse than it already was, and she really did her best, but it wasn't enough.
"I just wanted you to know that I'm still here. I really thought that there could be something between us, Katniss, but now I see that is not the case. If you ever need me, please contact Venia, Flavius, Octavia or Cinna." she said and walked out of the cellar, sobs wracking her body as she went.
Katniss was left on the floor, regretting every single word that had left her mouth the moment she saw Effie take the first step away from her, but she couldn't bring herself to call her back.
"I'm sorry.." she whispered to the now empty cellar and felt more tears spring into her eyes as the cold fact hit her.