Hi guys, summer has finally arrived and it has given me time to write and think. Whoo, I thank all of you who continue to read and still stand by me. ;P The tenses are weird in this chapter and there's probably a plethora of mistakes, but I'm tired and I wanted to post since I haven't done so in like forever. I'll fix it later. I still hope it is readable. So, without further ado enjoy the latest chapter of Fragments. Chapter fifteen is almost done~!
...if my crushie knew I was writing a HG fanfic... jeebus.
Chapter Fourteen: I'm Back
"I swear," Peeta mumbles as he watches the screen, "he's all brawn and no brains." Peeta shakes his head. Cato was being stupid, his actions were centered on killing, surviving, and ordering the Pack around. Even after yesterday when the huge fireballs flew through the air like a volley of mini-suns, Cato only occupied himself with destroying the competition. He honestly needed to sit down and relax for a day or two. Peeta seriously doubts that anyone in the Games is preoccupied with winning after that life- threatening ordeal. Peeta rolls his eyes and situates himself in the couch. Under Cato's command the Pack was searching for Katniss, and by the looks of it, they just found her.
"My, my, look what we've found," Marvel says as he stands directly in front of a large pine tree. Katniss sits on a high, sturdy branch. Her pale skin is blackened by soot, her hands are burnt horribly. She's a survivor.
"Hello Cato, useless minions, and Roti," Katniss greets amiably. She waves down below ignoring the scowls thrown her way. Roti wears an indifferent mask. His hand circles his waist, fingering the gun in his holster. Peeta catches the minute glance Cato gives to Roti. Would he kill his family or leave her to die as another victim, Cato doesn't know, and Roti's probably chewing on it.
"Hey, Fire Girl, are you prepared to die today?" Cato asks and Katniss pretends to think.
"No, not really. What about you? I've got a pretty good picture of you from up here, I'm sure I can shoot you down," Katniss says, grinning. Momentarily, the Pack freezes but Roti sees her bluff.
"No, you don't, and even if you did you wouldn't be able to use it. Your hands are useless to you," Roti says. Katniss glares at Roti, she hides her hands in her thin red jacket.
"Shut up, traitor! How dare you join them over your own District— family," Katniss spits.
"Come on, Katniss. The family card is low. Surely, you understand that even if I joined up with you we would've had to kill each other in the end. This is better. We are enemies on opposite sides of the playing field. You hate me… and I, well, you understand," Roti says.
Katniss huffs. She lays back against the tree, closing her eyes. "We could've found a way."
"Lies," Roti says.
Glimmer steps from behind Marvel. She holds up her silver bow she acquired from the Cornucopia and notches an arrow from her quiver. "Enough talk!" Glimmer shouts and points her arrow toward Katniss. She draws the string back and lets the arrow fly. The arrow hits high into the tree, but nowhere near her intended target.
Katniss eyes Glimmer and the arrow stuck in the tree's brown trunk. She leans to her side and laughs loudly. "You should give the bow to someone who can actually aim and shoot!" Katniss says in-between giggles.
"I hate to agree with the rat, but she's not wrong," Clove growls.
"At least, I'm trying to kill her. I'm not all talk like you guys who see fit to converse with the enemy!" Glimmer retorts sharply. Marvel shrugs, Clove narrows her eyes marching up to Glimmer, and Cato and Roti blink. Peeta agrees with Glimmer. She's right; there have been too many passed words between enemies. Katniss has to die! As much as Peeta hates to admit it, he knows she's a worthy adversary in the Games. She may not exhibit Vixen's innate cunning, but she knows how to survive in the forest. She is at ease alone.
"Look," Roti points at the darkening sky, "it's practically nightfall and we're all tired. I doubt any of us will be going anywhere. I say let's set camp up for tonight and figure out everything tomorrow," Roti suggests. Glimmer and Clove mirror each other, both of them turning toward Cato in protest. Marvel sets down to the ground, he takes off his backpack and rummages through it until he founds a cloth. He pulls his spear onto his lap and begins cleaning the blade.
"Cato! Don't listen to worthless coal. We've been running through this stupid forest for her, and now that we have her, we just drop it until tomorrow?! You can't forget about Glimmer's pet watching camp! He's a weakling, I doubt his traps will work against anybody!" Clove says, agitation clear in her voice.
"I have utter confidence in my pet," Glimmer sniffs, "but she's right, Cato, she'll kill us as soon as we let our guard down. We should end her now and be done with these frivolities," she tacks on.
"Listen to them," Peeta murmurs. They were right: That dream from all those years ago with little Cato dying because an arrow to head; the fierce Kentauride that resembled Katniss in so many ways, all that bubbles back up. A foreboding feeling pools in the pit of his stomach, Cato was playing with snakes' eggs. They couldn't be allowed to hatch. Peeta eyes Roti, many emotions play across his face in the span of a minute. He sees the way his hesitant eyes flicker upward to Katniss and then back at Cato.
"Cato." Roti steps forward. "I know Katniss and lived with her for years, remember? She's not so much a fox that she'll kill us in our sleep. His tongue darts up to lick his upper lip. "Trust me, please."
Finally Cato talks, he sizes his brother up, crossing his arms, "Why should I listen to you? True, everyone's tired and its getting dark, it doesn't mean I can't climb up the tree and you know," he nods toward her.
"Why can't we leave her for a couple of hours," Roti says, his voice hitches.
"Why though?" Cato presses. Roti runs a lone hand through his hair.
"She's weak, tired, and on the brink of death! I would guess you would want to fight her with some sort of dignity, or do you want everyone to see you as a big, bullying coward. Well, do you?" Roti appeals to his sense of honor.
Cato glares at Roti. "Fine," Cato complies. He drops his scabbard and backpack to the forest floor. "Consider yourself lucky, girl!"
"Thanks!" Katniss calls from her spot. Roti pulls Cato down to the dirty forest floor before the blond can lash out. Both Glimmer and Clove settle down to the ground. Glimmer and Roti begin scavenging through their packs for food packages and Cato helps Clove with the fire. The sky morphs into a deep purple, artificial stars glow and the fake night animals begin their prowl throughout the forest. The Pack goes through the motions of eating, squabbling, and voting of lookout for the night.
Too much time has been spent on viewing their actions. The camera moves up the bark until its rests on Katniss. She mutters under her breath angrily, glaring up at the sky. She holds up her hands, yelling, "Haymitch!" She continues her rant under his breath gingerly setting her hands on her lap, probably wondering about her death. She can't fight with her feet, can she? Peeta grins, perhaps, it really was no big deal she's going to live to see another sunrise. He sits back on the couch and crosses his ankles together.
The anthem begins to play. As usual, the night sky lights up in preparation for the fallen tributes. Surprisingly, no one has died today. However, the Gamemakers see it fit to run through the deaths for the past days. The pairs from District 6 and 7, the boys from District 8, 9, 5, and 4, and the girls from 3 and 10 make up the deceased. Fourteen left, or rather thirteen, counting Katniss' sure demise tomorrow.
Not bad, not bad at all. When the anthem dies out, Peeta makes a move to get up from his seat but a silver package descends from the sky and lands onto Katniss' lap.
She blinks at it curiously and holds it up, wincing at its sharp edges. Carefully, she unties the box from the parachute. She opens the box, grabbing the small silver-stained jar and notecard held within. She squints through the dark to read whatever is scrawled on the paper.
"Haymitch, I bet Effie put you up to this," she says tiredly, settling the card in between her legs after she's done. She opens the jar to reveal a custard-colored ointment. Peeta forces back a gasp. She has somehow acquired Capitol quality medicine for her wounds! The cost had to be astronomical for that type of medicine, which healed wounds almost instantaneously.
He thought her mentor was a drunkard. There's no one way he gathered enough sponsors for that, unless… Peeta widens his eyes to the size of the saucers, Effie Trinket is the conclusion. That infuriating woman is a socialite; she probably spent her entire time spouting praises about Katniss and Roti every damn chance she got to the Capitol dogs.
His face darkens at every low pleasured sigh Katniss makes onscreen. The Pack slumbers below. She's healing up right before them and they don't even notice. Peeta shakes his head. He refocuses on the screen when the camera decides to creep to the right of Katniss where another tree sort of intertwines with the branches of hers. A quiet rustle catches Katniss' attention. She closes her small jar, pocketing it. She's tense, her fingers clench into fists.
"Who's there?" she whispers. An owl hoots and then there's another rustle. The moon seems to shine more brightly focusing on Katniss and her potential enemy. A small head pokes from behind a bushel of leaves.
"Rue," Peeta echoes Katniss. He's happy she's alive and somewhat well. He didn't want her to die quite yet.
Her dark brown eyes shine. She points in front of her to a lone branch that hovers over the sleeping Pack. Katniss' eyebrows dart up. She plasters herself against the bark of the tree, heaving. Peeta sucks in a deep breath. It's a trackerjacker nest. Rue fully reveals herself. She stands up on the branch and makes a sawing motion.
It takes a while for Katniss to catch on, but when she does she's agile. She moves like a shadow to where the nest is located; the sound is disquieting, it's the agitated buzzing of hundreds if not thousands of tiny beasts, slumbering in their hives like dormant monsters, waiting until a fool awakens them. Katniss is playing with fire, ironic considering her nickname. She yanks a familiar knife from her slighted jacket and begins to saw furiously through the thick branch.
Every now and then she turns her hesitant gaze to the Pack below, Peeta breathes through his nose keeping his emotions at bay, he feels like a little kid all over again rooting for his favorite tribute. He wants to jump from his seat and grab the TV screen, yelling for them to get their asses moving. "Danger! Danger!" he mentally screams.
Then, his stomach plummets.
Katniss lets out a cry as she flies down the bark of the tree, furious trackerjackers follow her while the rest of the nest becomes a falling bomb; the imaginary whew sound of bomb accompanies it and then KA-BOOM! A cloud rushes out from the broken hive to the previously sleeping Pack. Katniss glues herself against the base of the tree, she watches in frozen terror as chaos reigns.
"Bloodbath," Peeta murmurs. It's bound to be another bloodbath; Peeta's never met or heard of anyone who has survived a full on trackerjacker attack. Peeta's eyes travel through the flailing Pack members, he looks for his Cato and Roti, only barely making them out through the thick haze. "Get to the water," yelps someone, it's their only chance for safety.
"Baby, come here," Peeta beckons Trajan sitting on the floor. His sharp green hues glance at Peeta minutely, but he understands. His tiny legs guide him to where Peeta sits. He trips over his feet, tipping into his arms. Peeta catches him easily, sitting him on his lap, he holds him like one would do to a teddy bear. Trajan is his teddy bear. Peeta buries his face into Trajan's curls until only his eyes are visible. He pursues every movement and grimace of his beloved duo, luckily the camera remains on them until they stumble into the surrounding trees.
The trackerjackers still thirsty for vengeance they don't bother with Roti and Cato any more than they have too. They focus on their victims at hand like Glimmer and the girl from Four; the girls screech in frightening agony as thousands and thousands of small yellow and black dots cover their bodies like grim costumes. Their incessant buzzing is the chorus to their never-ending wails of pains. Peeta gets chills as he's reminded of the banshee's melody of death. It's a mind numbing twenty minutes until the trackerjackers settle down.
The cannon for the Four girl has long since rung. Her body slumps to the ground, she's unrecognizable as a person or even a human. Glimmer on the hand isn't so lucky; Peeta sniffs his little master. The smell of clove and honey fills his nostrils, its rather like a calming draught and because of it he's able to relax; it enables him to focus. The former blonde bombshell is akin to a waterlogged corpse, her skin is accented by coin-sized craters leaking bright green pus, she convulses on the ground choking on her own bile. It's disgusting, so much so, that he has the overwhelmingly urge to retch where he sits. Another whiff of Trajan saves him, and keeps him rooted to his spot.
Katniss stumbles into the camera's viewpoint. She's breathing raggedly, speaking utter nonsense like the Mad Hatter from the forbidden books. Her face is set with a task, despite being stung several times by those infernal mutts. Peeta gives her kudos, not many have her will. Katniss drops to her knees near Glimmer's disfigured body, she gropes the cadaver until she manages to extract the beautiful white bow. She shakily gets to her feet much like a toddler who hasn't quite gotten the hang of using their legs. Katniss jolts at the sound of Glimmer's cannon.
She sways again on her feet, once... twice... three times... and then she falls flat onto the forest floor. She shakes like she's one of those Specials in the District, those who froth from the mouth and have no control over their movements. Katniss grabs at her face and scratches her arms like a madman, a pitiful keen escapes her. It's like the whole forest trembles with her hallucination-induced visions.
The Twelve girl writhes like a snake, rapid tears falling down her heated cheeks creating smudges of dirt: She pleads for her father, her life, a primrose, and for her mother to wake up and notice her, and Peeta swears one of those sobbing pleas are for his brother. Peeta doesn't want to listen anymore -Trajan is almost crushed with his hug - it's too much. She's an enemy, and perhaps if Peeta was in the Hunger Games he would have tried to save her or kill her in one mercy blow; no, that goes against everything he was taught in District Two. Show no mercy to your enemies. Katniss would die under him if he was in the Hunger Games without a shred of generosity.
His thoughts continue to betray him though. He's too soft, it's his basic human instinct to feel empathy for the pathetic, admirable girl still bawling on a mess of leaves. Peeta spots at shadow from behind a tree. Please be quick and painless, Peeta thinks, she deserves that much. Too his pleasant surprise, Rue turns out to be the shadow.
An indiscernible expression races across her delicate features, Peeta contemplates if this innocent girl could kill. He quickly dissolves the question from mind; she hauls Katniss by her armpits, dragging her through the forest, she periodically glances from side to side for any sign of enemies. Peeta finds it cute when she breathes a small sigh of relief every time she finds none.
Eventually, Rue pulls Katniss into a quiet field where she steadies her down onto a canopy of fresh grass. She flits to the farthest corner of the field, and then, comes back with handful of cactus-like plants with bright, sunny yellow flowers sprouting on its arms.
Aloe Few, he believes it's called (if his brief lesson on plants is anything to go by). A mutation on Aloe Vera and Feverfew, ignorant Capitolites probably had no clue that the plant was one of the treatments used against trackerjacker stings. She pulls off an arm from the plant, throwing it in her mouth, chewing the plant rapidly until she spits out a gooey mint-colored paste into her hand. She then eyes her with certain keenness, most likely trying to spot the most critical spots on the Twelve girl. Rue nods once and begins with Katniss' throat, she tilts up the limp girl's head and starts to work.
"Well, that was certainly a heart pounding turn of events, Claudius," Caesar says, touching the left side of chest mimicking the beating of a heart, which earns a laugh from his partner, Claudius Templesmith.
Peeta makes a face at the hour-long commercial break that airs after a full day in the Hunger Games, which is basically, an overdramatic summary of the day. He hates the twosome more than ever. How melodramatic these pampered pooches were. They are a despicable bunch! His Cato and brother were being ridiculed by people who hadn't ever gotten a single-piece of dirt under their fingernails.
"I must agree with you," Claudius hums. "That Katniss and sprite of a girl make a formidable tag-team. What cunning it took to release the hive on their enemies," Peeta scowls at his words. His ire is growing and it's getting late. He doesn't think his little master will quite calm him anymore.
"Messalina, put Trajan down for bed," Peeta orders to the Avox in the corner of the room. Normally, Mistress would do such a task but his Mistress is off for District business, probably making potential funeral pyre plans and Sir is off doing business only known to himself. That leaves him and Hannibal alone when Trajan is out of the room. "Aren't you supposed to be doing some sort of Peacekeeper work?" Peeta asks.
Hannibal sticks out his tongue. "I'm supposed to be, but I don't feel like it. Jove is filling in for me."
Peeta shakes his head. "You have got to be the laziest person I've ever know."
"I don't know about that, what about that Avox of ours? Temujin?" Hannibal says with a resounding laugh Peeta just groans. His attention is back on the glowing screen. Claudius and Caesar are busy listing off the perished tributes for the day, their bios, and head shots following afterwards.
Peeta easily spots how scripted the whole thing was. The way they wax praise and shed tears over people they barely knew for a week. Revolting really. "Cutie, what's got you so dark?" Hannibal asks, leaning in closer to him. Peeta glances at his friend, the answer spilling out.
"Nothing aside from the usual."
"The usual being?" Hannibal prompts him.
"Caesar and Claudius are the usual, the wretches. I have no respect for these spoiled buffoons!" Peeta explodes. "I want to see Cato and Roti, or even the girl from Twelve. Anyone, anything, but dumb and dumber! He levels a shaking finger at the laughing duo.
"Who's dumb and dumber?"
Peeta glares at Hannibal for the poorly made joke. "S'not funny."
"On the contrary, cutie, I think it's hilarious how easily you're getting riled up over something so small."
"Why are you so easy-going all the time? This is not one great big joke. Aren't you worried at all about Cato?" Peeta says crankily. His emotions are running high. The peals of laughter, the small jokes made at the tributes expense, these only serve to supplant to his irritation.
He shivers when Hannibal lays a hand on his shoulder. "Maybe you should take a short nap, cutie," Hannibal advises.
"No, no, no, you aren't even answering my previous question and I'll miss Cato and Roti." Peeta shakes Hannibal off, tilting closer to the screen. Hannibal nods, humming under his breath.
"We can do this one or two ways, cutie. I'll wake you up as soon as they are shown, promise," Hannibal says standing up. He offers the younger boy a hand, but Peeta merely grumbles as he stands up. He starts trudging toward his bedroom, an aching urge builds up inside him as walks further and further away from the television. He has to go back! What if he misses something important like another death or maybe the Gamemakers decide to change the arena somehow; perhaps, Cato dies from the stings or Roti kills him, or maybe Cato in a dazed confusion does away with his brother. There are billions of possibilities! So many scenarios!
A shrill cry rips through the air and Peeta jolts. He spins on his heel, intent on heading back to the living room, but another cry startles him. He looks over his shoulder where the cry originated, stopping for moment and then breaking into a breakneck run. His running slows to a walk, and then to a halt. He kneels right in front of a pale-faced Trajan, clutching the hem of his white t-shirt.
"Baby, what's the matter?" Peeta switches over to paternal (maternal…) mode. For a still second Trajan seems to consider Peeta and then he snaps, heading head first into Peeta's chest. He lets out huge heart-rending sobs, any words that come out of his mouth is a blubbered mess.
Cato, Roti, and the Hunger Games fade from Peeta's mind. He stands up with a bawling Trajan wrapped around him. He pads softly down the hallway, soft words spill form his tongue as he gently transforms Trajan's sobs into small, mournful cries.
His bedroom is dark when he enters. He heads straight toward his bed barely sparing a glance to Cato's side of the room. He blindly uses his hand to push the covers back and then he slowly eases onto the bed, sighing when he hears the mattress' squeakily creak at his added weight. He lays back and pulls the covers over the two of them.
He coos and rubs soothing circles on Trajan's back, using everything in his arsenal to try and stop his baby's cries. But, the cries don't stop. Trajan's red-rimmed eyes stare at him with such sadness and loss, Peeta can only stare back, helplessly. "What's wrong, baby?" He pets at Trajan's fiery hair. "Tell me, what hurts my little Eros?"
A fresh wave of tears washes over Trajan, he starts whimpering, burying his head in Peeta's chest. Peeta feels small lips on the thin fabric of his shirt – words, he realizes. Trajan is speaking. He coaxes his little Master to his lift his head up. "Ta!" Trajan bawls. "Scweri deam! Scweri deam!"
"Oh," Peeta softly remarks. He easily guesses the dream had something to do with the Hunger Games, the toddler's been exposed to only that for the past week or so.
"Catoe bye-bye!" Trajan blubbers. Peeta shakes his head. Poor baby was having the same fears as he. He holds Trajan closer, shifting into a more comfortable position.
"No baby, no baby," Peeta shushes. "He's going to come back safe and victorious." Peeta's repeats until Trajan quiets down and falls into a peaceful sleep. Even after, Peeta repeats it over and over again. He tries to assure himself of the truth found in his words. Cato will come back safe and victorious.
He has too.
"This was so much easier when you were a child," a familiar voice groans while a hand accompanies the voice. Peeta swats the hand from his shoulder, groaning.
"Go 'way, five more minutes, please!" he grumbles. Peeta pulls the covers over his head and shifts to his side determined to stay asleep.
"Cato might be dead and you missed it because you wanted –,"
Peeta's up. He scrambles out of bed, blinking at Hannibal for a second. He tries to make sense of what's going on and why there's a lack of warmth and weight on his chest. "Where's Eros?" Hannibal gestures to the open door. That still doesn't answer his question but Peeta can't be bothered to say anything against Hannibal. He rubs the sleep out of his eyes. Somehow, he manages to stumble into the living room, slumping down into the couch.
Cato's on the screen lying prone on the ground, Roti beside him, watching him with a new calculating glint in his eye. Peeta can do nothing, but sit and watch events play out, hoping, his brother wouldn't do the smart thing and kill Cato while he's weak.