Last Chapter folks! Seriously this time, no more I promise. I'm just going to get on with it.
Warnings: None really, just read on.
Disclaimer: I don't own anything.
Chapter Twelve – Epilogue
It's been five years since the uprising in the Capitol. Five years exactly today.
Every year the anniversary is celebrated as Freedom Day. There's food, dancing and music in the streets. People bring anything they have to spare and everything's shared. It's a nice atmosphere, something we've been lacking for a long time.
Since the uprising things have taken a turn for the better. Shortly after Coin shot me in the arm, one of the Capitol citizens shot her straight in the head. Her armed guards didn't even dare to leave the aircraft with the amount of weapon-wielding people in the crowd. My wound was pretty superficial; Johanna got a kick out of me telling her that her handiwork with a knife back in the Quarter Quell did more damage.
Of course that meant we were left with the decision of who our next leader was going to be. Which I think went better than I could have hoped.
First we had to move everyone out of District Thirteen, there was no point them hiding underground without the threat of Snow. Haymitch lead the majority of the move with very little objection from the Thirteen Citizens. After all, they had all dreamt of freedom their entire lives. Other than the few worries about leaving their home and the availability of supplies in the Capitol, the arguments against leaving Thirteen were slim.
A handful of people stayed, we needed some of the technology there and to completely abandon it would have been foolish. But within a few months all the main equipment had either been sent over to the Capitol or copies had been made.
Once everyone was in the same place I made a quick speech, Cressida had made sure sound equipment was brought over and a microphone was set up in the centre where most people not native to the Capitol had taken up residence, either in abandoned houses, with other families or in shops.
I let everyone know that we needed a leader and for anyone interested in taking the position to take to the stage at the same time in twenty four hours.
A day passed and four people took to the stage. They each made a speech then everyone was given a slip of paper. We didn't have to write anything on it, each candidate had a box in front of them. The candidate with the most slips of paper won.
I put my slip down in Paylor's box. Maybe my actions did affect other citizen's choices, maybe Paylor just made the best speech. But whatever it was, she won by a landslide victory.
That day, she got to work on organising how to rebuild Panem.
For the first year most people were living in the Capitol. Experts in each District were offered very hefty payouts to go to their old Districts and stay there to direct repairs. I don't know all the ins and outs, all I know is that within a year and a half, Peeta and I had moved back to District Twelve which had been built back up well.
My Mother didn't join us, she went to work in Eight; it was in desperate need of Medical staff after the Hospital bombing. She still visits every couple of months by train.
Prim followed us along with a train full of ex-residents but also a few people from other Districts. Now that they were free to live where they liked, people started to choose places based on things like what job they wanted to do, what food they wanted to eat, some even came purely because of the climate.
In the second year we elected a Mayor in Twelve. Owan Tyles, a man originally from District Six, won most of the population's votes, he focused heavily on getting good transport links with other Districts. Within six months people were coming and going thanks to the new train lines, and we had deliveries from all over Panem.
Haymitch moved back to District Twelve to 'keep an eye on' Peeta and I. We knew he was just getting tired of Effie nagging him all the time. So we did the right thing. We invited her to Twelve every chance we could get and told her Haymitch had a spare room she could use.
He scowls and kicks up a fuss every time but we all know he needs someone to pester him.
Peeta and I get a house close to the centre of the District. It's based on the old Merchant houses with a store on the ground floor and the home area on top. The top was plenty big enough for us and Peeta was quick to organise construction of a bakery on the ground floor. Soon Mellark's Bakery was up and running bringing in plenty of customers thanks to jobs that paid fairly enough to allow for surplus cash.
By the third year all the Districts had regained their former glory and then some, we were all free to do what we wanted. I got a job training Game hunters, this profession got popular pretty quickly and soon enough things like squirrel and deer were being sold in every food store.
Peeta was contacted by a specialist medical team from the Capitol. They had developed a prosthetic tongue. It was made from a rubbery material that definitely looked like a tongue but the similarities stopped there.
It didn't feel right. Because Peeta would have little control over it, it was much firmer than a real tongue. We asked if he'd be able to speak with it, the Medics were a bit vague about the effects. They told us he'd be able to form more letters than he would have been able to without a tongue, but it wouldn't be clear like before.
Peeta asked me what I thought and I told him the truth. I told him I couldn't imagine him with that thing in his mouth. I was used to him without a tongue. Peeta told me about his worries about not being understood when he spoke. It was a definite risk but I told him I'd support him with whatever decision he made.
We still sign to each other to this day. Maybe one day when technology advances enough to make a fully functioning tongue prosthetic we'll reconsider. But for now we're quite happy with Peeta just having his fake leg which he acquired a couple weeks after the uprising.
Beetee joined us in District Twelve, said he wanted to live out the rest of his life away from heavy workloads. He still fiddles around with computers a lot but now he does it for pleasure. I'm still not sure how he can tell the difference; it all looks the same to me.
Finnick and Annie moved back to Four, we keep in touch, Annie became pregnant two years after the uprising, now three year old Garrett is well versed in both spoken English and Sign Language.
Signing is being taught throughout Panem so that Avoxes can finally have a voice. Thim started by teaching anyone interested in teaching Sign Language, then thanks to extra resources, learning materials like books and worksheets were made, classes became larger and spread across Panem. We're hoping for at least ten percent of Panem to be fluent in Sign Language within the next ten years.
In the fourth year everything was going smoothly, Peeta and I are settled in our jobs, life was slower than it had been for years and I was enjoying it.
Then Prim brought up the subject of marriage whilst having tea with us one afternoon.
I told her Peeta and I had already had a Toasting in private but Prim wasn't impressed.
"You need to have a proper Toasting!" she had argued. Peeta chuckled to himself in the corner while I tried to come up with a way to get out of marriage talk.
"Peeta and I are married," I tried. "Just because it was a bit unorthodox,"
"Unorthodox?" Prim had snorted. "You didn't even have a fire,"
I asked Peeta what he thought about all this, he shrugged and told me if it made his sister-in-law happy he was willing to go along with it.
I really do have a suck-up for a husband.
So we had a proper Toasting, with a fire and everything to appease my sister.
That night Peeta joked about us living in Sin before then.
'Imagine if Prim hadn't made us get properly married,' he had continued. 'Having kids born out of wedlock used to be a big no-go,'
We'd both stopped when he signed that.
'You've been thinking about kids?' I asked. Peeta nodded, he looked quite nervous. 'Good, me too,'
I don't think I've ever seen Peeta happier than he was then.
And that's how I ended up bloated as I am now, six months pregnant with our first child. We don't know if the baby's going to be a boy or a girl but I don't think Peeta would mind if it came out unisex, the fact that he's going to be a father has had him in his element since we first found out I was pregnant.
'Stop fiddling like that,' Peeta scolds. I've been picking at a few of the feathers on my dress. It's a dark red with fine feather sewn into it; it flows to past my knees. But the familiar bump is more than visible under this thing, it looks a bit like I've stolen a balloon and run out of good hiding places.
'Easy for you to say,' I reply. 'You haven't got to be dressed up like a turkey every year,'
'Mockingjay, Katniss,' Peeta smiles. 'It's called a Mockingjay,'
'I will hurt you in a minute,' I glare at him. This is the only part of Freedom Day that I can't be doing with. Every year some stylist from the Capitol will send me over a dress to wear, there's no rules saying I must wear what they send me apart from the obvious obligation that it's the only thing I'm sent and there will be more than a few cameras around Twelve tonight.
It's seven o'clock in the evening. Peeta's dressed in a simple suit so we haven't got an excuse to not leave the house. It's around this time that the real festivities begin, I've already heard a few fireworks being let off now that the sun has set. Music is starting to be played louder and judging by the sound of the cheers and laughter outside, more people have gone out to enjoy Freedom Day.
'Right, come on,' I sigh. Peeta offers his arm which I take happily. "No getting drunk on my behalf,"
Peeta chuckles and signs back one-handed.
'I can't promise that,' There's always alcohol at these sort of events and Peeta has been teasing me mercilessly about not being able to touch a drop of it. I'm not a huge fan of alcohol but a few swigs of white liquor can definitely help.
The streets are lit up with lights of different colours and intensities, I'm guessing some have been brought from people's homes.
The centre is buzzing with life. District Twelve is at a population of about four thousand now, less than it was before the Rebellion but not bad to say only eight hundred survived the bombings.
People are dancing, there's food laid out on tables along with plenty of alcohol. Peeta made sure a stall was set out from the bakery this morning, filled with some of his best bread and cakes, they were probably all gone by now. People don't waste time in getting their hands on free Mellark Bakery goods.
"Hello Sweetheart," Haymitch walks up to us with Effie. She's obviously been having a few strict words with him this morning because he's had a shave, haircut and he's wearing a suit. He's got a drink in his hand but I'm sure he's under an agreement of how many glasses of liquor he's allowed. Effie really is a miracle worker. "Nice dress,"
"Oh it's fabulous," Effie coos and gets me to turn for her. I do so to keep her happy and elbow Peeta when I notice him chuckling.
'How are you Effie?' Peeta asks.
"Fine thank you Peeta, yourself?" Effie and Haymitch have both picked up a lot more Sign Language since the uprising but they struggle to talk and sign at the same time.
We make small talk for a lot of the evening, Peeta occasionally asking me to dance. I'm vaguely aware of cameras flashing every now and again but I'm not bothered. It really does turn out to be a good night.
It's about two in the morning when I'm helping Peeta back to our house. He's had a bit to drink and he's just past the tipsy stage.
We get into bed – eventually – and Peeta starts to sign to me. It's funny how even Sign Language can be slurred.
'I love you,' Peeta smiles, nearly slapping himself in the face when he makes the sign for 'love'.
'I love you too,' I reply. 'Now go to sleep, you're drunk,'
'Am not,' he signs back nearly getting me in the face with his right hand. His eyes flutter shut anyway and I cuddle up next to him.
I'm woken up the next day by Haymitch knocking at the front door.
"This had better be worth me getting woken up at nine," I grumble.
"Beetee's dead," Haymitch sighs. "I always seem to be the messenger for these kind of things, huh?"
"What... how?" I ask. Surely I saw him last night, I wrack my brains for when I might have been talking to him but nothing springs to mind.
"I went to check on him on my way back," said Haymitch. "It's not like him to miss out on something like that. The door was unlocked so I let myself in; he was just sat at his desk. Head was on the keyboard like he'd fallen asleep. Called in some Medics, whatever got him got him quick,"
I invite Haymitch in so we can talk more comfortably, I make up a pot of tea and we got through the finer details.
The Medics hadn't suspected any foul play. It looked to them like a sudden heart attack. Sad but at least he wasn't in any pain.
"They're going to have the funeral here," says Haymitch. "And District Three are going to hold a ceremony too,"
That's usually the way funerals work now unless someone states that they want their funeral in their home District.
It's two weeks later that I'm walking with Peeta towards the new Justice Building. It's still used for formal events like weddings and funerals but it's a lot less daunting than the old one. It's not guarded and anyone can visit when they wish. The fact that names of tributes aren't read from there every year helps too.
The ceremony's quite brief then a few people take to the stage and say their part about Beetee.
Finnick's reading out a speech about our time in the Games together, I notice he keeps looking up to a particular spot in the crowd. Something's bothering him, there's an almost imperceptible frown on his face whenever he looks over.
I crane my neck and have to suppress a yell.
Gale is sat in the crowd not too far from Peeta and I. He's alone as far as I can tell, dressed in a plain suit and focusing a bit too hard on what Finnick is saying.
I heard rumours that he moved to District Two after being offered a job in defence design. That had given me a good enough reason to forget about him completely for these five years and focus on things that actually matter to me.
He had better not be making a long trip out of this visit, there are only so many days I can lie low.
The ceremony ends and I make a quick exit with Peeta, he hasn't seen Gale so he doesn't understand why I want to leave so suddenly.
I'm walking home when Peeta grabs me and gets me to face him.
'Where do you think you're going?' he asks. 'The reception is over in the old Victor's Village,'
'Gale's here,' I explain. 'I can't be around him,'
Peeta laughs in my face, I fail to see what's so amusing. I move my index finger from side to side to ask 'what'.
'You can't be around him?' he repeats. 'Katniss Mellark, the woman who helped bring the Capitol to its knees and survived the Hunger Games twice can't brave a little awkward situation,'
'He tried to kiss me,'
'Only tried though. I could try to take up ballet, doesn't mean it would work out well for me,'
He has got a point. I chose Peeta over Gale, the only person who should be nervous about this thing is Gale.
'Come on Katniss,' Peeta gives me that encouraging smile he usually gives to new employees at the bakery. 'I'll protect you from the big bad Gale,'
He winks at me and I'm remembering our Propo shoot five years ago. When Gale lured me out away from the others and turned on me.
'Remember before the uprising,' I say. 'When we were shooting our last Propo and I ended up in the clearing with Gale,'
'You asked me what he'd said,' I stop for a moment and take a deep breath. 'I forgot to tell you what happened,'
'It's not like we didn't have a lot going on,' Peeta jokes.
'That's true. But I still think I should let you know.' The memories are fresh in my head like they had happened a few hours ago. Most of that time is a bit hazier but that memory – along with a few others - has stuck in my brain. 'You know he tried to kiss me already,'
'He tried bargaining with me,' I tell him. 'Asked me why I chose you over him,'
'What did you say?'
'The truth,' I reply simply. 'That you're a better person than him in every way I can think,'
'He told me you'd always be a liability, and that you'd never be able to tell me how much you love me. I told him he was wrong. And I think this,' I gesture at my stomach. 'Will tell him how much you love me,'
'You are amazing, you know that?' Peeta grins. 'So what happened then?'
'He got closer, practically begged me to kiss him, I told him where he could go, and you know the rest,'
'And you don't want to give your last respects to our friend because you'll spend a couple hours in the same room as him?' Peeta looks astounded. 'Come on Katniss, let's go,'
'And if he tries to hit one of us?' I ask, I know that's a ridiculous excuse. I'm pretty sure even Gale wouldn't stoop so low as to hitting me while I'm pregnant, and even then there'll be more than enough witnesses to keep him in his place.
'Easy,' Peeta grins and smacks the thigh connecting to his fake leg. 'This thing's made out of steel, I know who'll come off better,'
I laugh. Any worries about Gale are out of my mind now. I'm going to go pay my respects to a good friend.
And I'm doing it with the man I love.
And that's all she wrote. Well, for this fic anyway. Hope you've all enjoyed what you've read, I've definitely enjoyed writing it. To everyone who has reviewed I want to say thank you so much! You've all spurred me on to write more. I'd also like to say thanks to anyone who has added this fic to their alerts or favourited it. And to anyone who has added me as a favourite author or put me on their alerts. It means a lot to know you appreciate my work.
There's not much else I can really say. I won't be adding anything for a while because of other commitments but hopefully I'll be back with a vengeance after September. Until then take care everyone, thank you!