This is my first fan fic ever, so I am really eager to get any feedback you can offer me! This isn't a new idea, obviously, but it has been doing circles in my mind for a few weeks so I thought I should finally get my thoughts out on paper.
All credit goes to Suzanne Collins for her amazing stories and characters. My first chapter does reference events on pages 380-388 of Mockingjay (hardcover edition). I have added and omitted some things, but I felt that I needed to start here in order to really get into the story. Thanks :)
The fading sunlight glistens off the twisted fragments of metal; the debris littering the yard. Smoke drifts lazily towards the darkening sky, its slow pace in perfect juxtaposition to the chaos below.
I whirl around- left, right and back again- eyes constantly searching, frantically seeking out that yellow coat, those golden braids. All around me I see nothing but pain. Hands groping. Eyes pleading. Fires burning. I hear nothing but a faint, faraway whistle as the silent mouths cry out at me for something, for anything, to reassure them.
In the distance, about fifty feet away, a patch of yellow grabs my attention. I spring forward, my feet flying across the wreckage and all I can see is her, Prim, the only person that I have always been certain that I love. My heart leaps to my throat as I gulp down mouthfuls of ash, seeking oxygen, but more desperately seeking any sign of movement or life from her tiny frame.
It's too late. I'm too late.
I cling to her lifeless form and silently rock her back and forth, back and forth. There are no tears, only wild and tiny wails escaping my mouth without permission from my brain. As I stare at her blackened skin, at her singed braids, at the dark and bloody pool on her stomach, a familiar scent drifts towards my nostrils.
And I hear his voice, his serpent tongue, as he whispers in my ear, "You. You did this. You, Katniss..."
I wake abruptly, gasping for air, his serpent tongue still hissing in my ears. My arms are pinned to my sides, frozen in fear and in pain and in grief. I try to focus on breathing, as I count, slowly, backwards from ten, as Dr. Aurelius suggested. With each ingoing breath I can smell it, the roses mingling with blood and ash, but with each outgoing breath I release the scent and escape its clutches. As I count it weakens until I reach zero and finally, blissfully, I taste the still night air once more.
As I slowly open my eyes I gaze around the room for something, anything, to focus on and banish the image of her singed and smoking braid. Through the filtered sunlight my eyes rest on a ceramic vase that has been left abandoned on the mantle. Its lines are simple, its design classic, but dust has settled unhappily on its base. It stands tall but empty; it is a mere vessel, waiting to be able to fulfil its purpose.
For now, though, it has drawn me back from my nightmares with its simplicity and strength. After all, it has survived, when so many other things have not.
I turn and place my feet on the floor, wincing at the cool wooden boards beneath my feet, and slowly make my way down the hall.
The kitchen table has been cleared and wiped down, and sitting atop it is a bowl filled with grain and dried fruit. Usually I hear her, quietly tidying and cooking, while I lie in bed blankly, staring at the ceiling. Today, I heard nothing.
I pick at the dried fruit in the bowl, and can hear her voice in my mind, lecturing me about not eating enough. But I can't stomach any more than this.
I sit. The fire crackles and pops as I stare into its depths before in fades to glowing embers and then, finally, to shades of grey with streaks of black. I make no move to stoke it. As all fires do, it burns itself out and together we are left as mere memories of warmth and light. We are still one, myself and the fire, but now we lie quietly, waiting for the light to return.
Days, weeks, months pass, and nothing changes. I wonder why I am left here alone, why I am still alive when I can't be expected to live without them. There is no hope, no light, just darkness.
I stare at the fire, day after day, barely eating and barely moving. The burning amber, with flicks of blue, leaps and dances in front of my eyes but I don't see it. I see smoke and ash. I see the fading sunlight glinting off the debris. I see flashes of yellow. I see silent faces screaming at me.
At night, the images blend and flow and dance fluidly around in the forefront of my mind. Each night it is different, but it is still the same. The faces of those I have lost, those I have killed, come to me and bury me deep in the ashes of my grief. I see Prim and Finnick and Boggs and Rue and Clove and Thresh. I see them all and I feel their blame weighing heavily on everything that I am.
One morning I wake with a start, but the nightmare doesn't end. I can still hear the sounds of death, the scraping at the raw earth as all those I have killed hurl ashes onto my writhing body as they punish me.
The sound leads me outside, around the side of my house, where I come to a sudden halt. All I can do is stare. His cheeks are pink from the effort of scraping, digging and pulling at the earth, and the sunlight in his hair shares his warmth with all that is around him. He places his foot atop the blunted blade as he leans on the shovel and looks up at me.
"You're back." It is all that I can think to say. It doesn't feel like enough, but even this meagre offering is hoarse and wavering.
"Dr. Aurelius wouldn't let me leave the Capitol until yesterday," Peeta says calmly. "By the way, he said to tell you he can't keep pretending he's treating you forever. You have to pick up the phone."
I say nothing. I stare at him, searching him, to see who he is now, who it is that has returned to me. He looks well. He is thin and his burn scars match mine, but it is his eyes that draw my attention. They have lost that clouded, tortured look that possessed them when I last saw him. The sight of those familiar eyes is the best thing my eyes have feasted on in months, maybe more.
My hand reaches up instinctively to smooth my dirty, matted hair as I notice his scrutiny. His forehead knots into a slight frown as he takes in all that I have become, and his foot shifts slightly, reverting my attention back to his task. "What are you doing?"
"I went to the woods this morning and dug these up," he says, gesturing towards the five scraggly bushes in the wheelbarrow alongside him. "For her. I thought we could plant them along the side of the house."
My mind whirls as I register the roses and I fight back the urge to retch at thought of the smell that has been haunting my dreams. And then I realise that these blooms aren't a product manufactured by the Capitol, but rather a picture of beauty and innocence. The evening primrose. The flower my sister was named for. My heart stills as I remember her soft skin, her creamy complexion, her delicate beauty, all replicated so perfectly in a single bloom.
As I stand, my gaze flowing over the plants, and I realise that he is still watching me; awaiting my response. I can't. I don't know what I can say that will stop the pain in my heart that is threatening to overflow. So I simply give him a nod of assent and run towards the house.
Once inside I am overcome with an urge to be free, to rid myself of Snow's clutches. Trembling with weakness and anxiety, I run up the stairs. My foot catches on the last step and I crash onto the floor before forcing myself to rise and enter my room. Its there. Sitting in a crystal vase, surrounded my dried flowers, sits Snow's cultivated rose, shrivelled and fragile. I grab the vase and stumble to the kitchen, throwing its contents into the embers. As the flowers flare up, a burst of blue flame envelops the rose and devours it. Fire beats roses again.
Making my way around the house I throw open every window, releasing the scent and allowing the breeze, with the hint of spring grass and dandelions, to join the pale morning sun inside. For the first time in months there is light, real light, inside these walls and I feel a flicker of something inside me. It is only small, but it is a flicker of hope, of life, of survival.
Upstairs, I stand under the streams of water as I scrub the roses, the ash, the months of despair from my hair, my body and my mouth. Bright pink and tingling, I find something clean to wear, and feed the clothes I had shed to the fire. I watch silently as they are engulfed in the flames.
The coming days bring a wealth of experiences that are old and welcoming, but feel so new after months in isolation. I slowly begin to eat small meals, and when Greasy Sae brings a treat, fresh eggs, I work up the courage to ask about Gale.
"District Two. Got some fancy job there. I see him now and again on the television," she says.
I dig around inside myself, trying to register anger, hatred, longing. I find only relief. I will not be forced to see him, or to speak to him. There is time.
I arm myself with a bow and arrow and resolve to hunt, making my way through the ruins of District 12 to the Meadow, stopping only at the mayor's house. I see Thom, Gale's old crew mate, who tells me of the family's death. I swallow hard, thinking of Madge's kindness and bravery. She gave me the pin that gave me a name, and I couldn't give her anything in return. Hers will join the faces that will dance in my mind tonight, of that I have no doubt.
It is an unlikely source, the old orange cat whom I always detested, that brings my tears to fruition. The tiny and wild wails turn into wracking sobs for my sister as I see the embodiment of her compassion in Buttercup. He circles me, just out of reach, as wave after wave of sobs wrack my body, giving voice to my despair. And then, on the damp floor of the woods, I sleep.