[AN: If you are in the legal field then I apologize in advance because Panem OBVIOUSLY had different rules for the courtroom / evidence than you will be used to seeing. Hee, hee.]
I'd rarely seen Gale since the war ended. He looked less confident than usual, tapping his foot nervously in the witness box.
"And what did Soldier Everdeen do and say in District 13 after her arrival?" the lawyer asked him.
"She didn't talk much. She mentioned District 12 being gone. She wanted to know who had survived the bombing. She asked about Peeta's family specifically, and she was distraught when I told her they'd been among the first killed.
I thought of Graham, Becki, Papa, the baby, and even Mama. Katniss had cared about what happened to them. She cared.
"What else?" the lawyer asked.
She said, "we have to stop Snow before he kills us all. I told her I agreed and that I'd been working with the District 13 military on plans to further support the districts in their efforts to overthrow the Capitol. Katniss didn't respond to that much. She went back to talking about Peeta's family, mentioning their names and saying their deaths were her fault."
"And what of Katniss' baby?" the lawyer asked.
"The medical people examined her when she first arrived. They told her about the baby…" Gale explained as he squirmed in his seat.
"Told her what?" the lawyer asked.
"They told her bloodwork indicated that she was not pregnant and that they'd need an untrasound to confirm whether she needed any surgery," Gale said in an uncharacteristically quiet voice. He cleared his throat before continuing. "Katniss refused to cooperate and told them she knew she wasn't very far along. So, they gave her pain pills to take with her and sent her to her quarters."
"What happened then?" the lawyer asked.
"Katniss started mumbling about Peeta, saying she would never be able to have his baby. She said…she wished she could, but that she couldn't now that Peeta was gone."
Gale seemed to force the words out of his chest, his shoulders visibly falling forward a bit.
I looked around at the spectators. Nobody seemed surprised by any of this, but I was. If what Gale was saying was true, it was a shock to me. I knew that Gale understood that the baby was a fabrication, but he could be telling the truth about Katniss saying she wanted to have my baby. Kantiss had told me on the Victory Tour that she didn't want kids with anyone. She was too frightened they'd be reaped or otherwise killed by the Capitol. How could she have thought even for a moment that she wanted to have my child, who would be at increased risk simply because of who we were? Aurelius had to be right. She must have been out of her mind.
"She also said the Capitol had taken everything from her, even Peeta," Gale continued. "And she said she was afraid for him. I understood that."
"What did you understand?" the lawyer asked.
"I understood that Katniss was afraid that the Capitol would torture and kill Peeta. I'd grown up seeing people who opposed the capitol butchered on television."
"So, Katniss was very upset about the deaths of those who were killed in the bombing in 12, and she was upset about Peeta's family being killed. She was very worried about Peeta being tortured and killed. So, what did you do about this, if anything, Soldier Hawthorne? the lawyer continued.
"I helped Katniss' sister Primrose get her in bed, but Katniss didn't fall asleep. She was still very upset when her mother got home late in the night."
"Did you see Katniss anymore after her mother got home?" was the next question.
"Yes, Katniss' mother, Prim and I talked for a while when Katniss finally fell asleep from the side effects of a pain pill. Then Katniss woke up screaming. Prim and her mother tried to calm her, but she was…I don't know how to describe it. I just watched from the door. It was…heartbreaking really."
"Was she saying anything, Soldier Hawthorne?" the lawyer asks him.
"She asked for Peeta as if she didn't remember that he wasn't there," Gale said. "I've never seen anybody grieve quite like that. My mother lost my father, and that's the only time I ever saw anything close to it."
I took in a shuttering breath and sensed Johanna turn to look at me.
Grief. For me.
"And what happened after that?" the lawyer asked.
"Prim told me to hold Katniss," he breathed out. "She said that Peeta would hold her sometimes during her nightmares. Prim had already tried holding her, but she thought maybe it would feel different to Katniss if I held her. Maybe more like Peeta."
"And did you do that?" the lawyer asked.
"Yes," Gale said, nodding his head thoughtfully. He looked down at his folded hands.
"And what happened?"
Gale shifted in his seat and took a moment before answering.
"Nothing changed. She knew I was the one holding her, and it didn't help. She kept asking for Peeta, so I let her go. Finally, she fell asleep again. I think she was exhausted. I left after that. I couldn't watch any more. Prim said she woke up a few more times. The next day she disappeared for a while and the thirteen leadership asked me and some other people who knew her to help look for her. I found her hiding in an air conditioning vent," Gale explained. "When I asked her what she was doing she told me she felt safer there."
"And how did Soldier Everdeen fare after the first twenty-four hours or so?" the layer asked.
"She got a little better at times," Gale said, picking at his fingernails, his eyes still cast down. "But the second night she woke up screaming about snakes being in her bed. I was there that night also. I didn't want to leave Prim alone to deal with any problems Katniss might have, and their mother was at work."
The lawyer nodded.
"And that's the night Prim and I called the hospital," Gale continued. "Dr. Aurileus first came to see Katniss that night. He gave her some medicine, and it seemed to help her."
"Help her how?" the lawyer asked.
"She seemed calmer, but she was never like the old Katniss. She was always on edge, often hiding from us, and sometimes completely withdrawn into her own world," Gale explained.
"What do you make of all this, Soldier Hawthorne?" the lawyer asked. "You've been Katniss' good friend for six years."
Gale cleared his throat and looked at the judge, "I think she was the most distressed girl I've ever seen. She'd lost so much: her home, her hope, and most importantly Peeta."
Gale turned back to the lawyer as he started to ask another question.
"Why do you say 'most importantly Peeta?'" the lawyer asked.
"Because she loved Peeta," Gale said, lowering his voice. "She really loved him."
I exhaled deeply. Johanna didn't turn to look at me that time.
I noticed Gale's use of the past tense. If Katniss loved me then she loved the "old" me, a person who was gone. I only hoped Katniss and I would both heal a little, enough to survive. "Love" and "happiness" represented unattainable goals.
Gale's cross-examination by the prosecutor quickly brought me out of my imaginings about the future.
"Soldier Hawthorn, didn't Soldier Everdeen go with you to other districts and participate in battles there?" he asked.
"Yes, she did."
"Didn't she shoot down planes in battle? Didn't she make impassioned pleas for District residents to join the revolution through the media?" the prosecutor went on, smiling a bit at his own cleverness.
"How do you explain the broken woman you describe doing that?"
Gale paused for a moment.
"She was protecting people. Katniss could do almost anything when she thought she was protecting somebody else."
Gale was using the past tense again.
"So, if she's protecting people she can bring herself out of this supposedly uncontrollable mental illness? Is that what you are saying?" the lawyer asked.
Gale tilted his head a little, obviously annoyed.
"This whole thing started because she was protecting somebody. Somebody who ended up dead anyway. Prim. Nobody had ever volunteered from 12 before. Obviously Katniss was unusual in her protectiveness…"
"That'll be all, Soldier Hawthorne. Thank you," the prosecutor interrupted. The judge wouldn't let Gale continue.
The lawyers called Haymitch to testify next, and they asked him many questions. The part that surprised me most concerned how Katniss responded to my warning that the Capitol was about to bomb District 13.
"Peeta warned us about the bombing by saying we'd be 'dead by morning.' The message from him was very clear," Haymitch explained.
"And then what happened," the lawyer asked.
"They yanked Peeta out of his seat. Then they beat him with their fists and with clubs. They kicked him with their boots," he continued. "Blood splattered on the camera lens and the floor."
"And how did Soldier Everdeen react to seeing that?" the lawyer asked.
"She turned to me for support, eventually hugging me. She whispered in my ear 'I can't watch them kill Peeta, Haymitch. I can't.'"
"And how did she behave after that?"
"All of District 13 was on lockdown during the bombing, and Katniss complied with the lockdown. After the bombing was over she resumed hiding and showing her grief in the ways Soldier Hawthorne described."
"Thank you, Soldier Abernathy," the lawyer said.
Annie came next. She laid her hand across her pregnant belly and even patted it several times during her testimony. I wondered if somebody had told her to do that.
"Tell us about the vote, Soldier Odair," the lawyer asked.
"President Coin suggested reinitiating the Hunger Games using Capitol children as tributes," Annie explained, her voice clear and full of sincerity.
"She asked all of the surviving victors to vote on whether or not we supported that idea at a special meeting just before Snow's execution was supposed to take place," she continued.
"And how did Katniss vote?" the lawyer asked.
"She voted in favor of holding the games, but she said it was for Prim," Annie said.
"What was the overall outcome of the vote?" the lawyer asked.
"There were more votes for having the games than not having them."
"And this happened just before Coin was killed by the arrow?" The lawyer asked in clarification.
"Yes, the victors walked out onto the platform right after the vote," Annie went on.
"Do you think Soldier Everdeen was truly in favor of reinstituting the Hunger Games?"
"No," Annie quickly answered.
"Why not?" the lawyer asked.
"Because she said it was for Prim, and Prim wouldn't have wanted to reinstitute the Hunger Games. I thought about what my husband would have wanted before I voted, and I knew I had to vote 'no.'"
"So why did you think Soldier Everdeen voted as she did when you say that's not what her sister would have wanted?"
"I think she was stunned by what President Coin was doing. President Snow's death was supposed to end it all, and Katniss knew that wouldn't happen as soon as President Coin mentioned a new Hunger Games. If we still held the Hunger Games in the new Panem then the revolution had changed nothing about how we viewed people as individuals with a right to live. If that were true then Katniss had lost her sister for nothing. She had lost everything for nothing. That's why Katniss mentioned Prim. Her thoughts were with Prim the most. It wouldn't have mattered how we victors voted, Coin would have found a way to have those games. Katniss knew it. Her vote was just a reaction to the sheer shock of it all."
"That will be all. Thank you, Soldier Odair."
After two more emotional days at the trial we waited. The television stayed on at the apartment day and night because the judge could announce his decision at any time. Johanna said he was most likely to reveal the decision overnight. The second night after the trial ended the phone rang at about 4 am. Clumsily ?I picked up the receiver and was startled to hear Haymitch's voice. The television suddenly flashed some words on the screen about "breaking news."
"Peeta," Haymitch said, "the judge believed Aurelius. He's sentenced Katniss to exile in District 12. The judge is calling it "exile," but I think 12 might actually be the place where she's the safest. Maybe he does too. I'm going with her. Somebody has to look after her. He chose me."
Worry laced every word he said, and he seemed to be in a hurry.
"I want to go with you," I told him.
"I knew you would, Peeta. But Aurelius said 'no.' He says you need to stay here. I think he's right."
I stood up, raking my fingers through my hair and leaning over to make an emotional plea that I should be allowed to go home with them. Vick walked up behind me.
"But she needs help. Please, I want to go. She needs me. I need her."
"I believe you, boy. I do. But you have to get better before you can take care of her. Just stay a little longer. Listen to Dr. Aurelius. He's been right so far."
"What is it?" Vick asked. I pointed to the television where some gaudily dressed Capitol woman was explaining Katniss' sentence.
"Can I see her?" I asked.
"I'm already on the hovercraft with her. I just wanted to let you know what was happening. The news wouldn't have told you that much. Paylor said we needed to get Katniss out of the Capitol before the announcement. You understand that it's safer for her that way, right?"
"Yes. Yes," I said, my voice cracking.
I understand. She's leaving, and I'm not going to get to say, "goodbye."
"How is she?" I asked.
"Sort of confused looking, but a little better than when we visited her. Definitely better than she was in that video that they showed in court. She seems to understand some of what's happening. I'll call you when we get to 12. Thom's taking some people back soon. I called the District because Thom already has a relocation prep team in place there. They know we are coming, and Thom says they want to help with Katniss. They all love her, Peeta. You know they do. Thom says people don't blame her. He says Paylor is right to send Katniss home."
I felt the catch in my throat when I started to speak again, and I stopped.
"They love you too, Peeta. Get better and come home if that's what you want. They'll always be a place for you there."
Vick looked at me and then back at the television.
"Okay," I whispered.
"Good," Haymitch said. "Are you alone?"
"No," I choked out. "Vick's here."
"Good. Take care, Peeta. I'll talk to you again soon."
Haymitch hung up the phone.
"Who was it?" Vick asked.
"Haymitch," I answered. "He's already on a hovercraft with Katniss. They're leaving right now for District 12. They are sentencing her to live there."
Vick's expression tightened, "funny how they think that's a punishment."
"I wanted to see her, you know?" I explained.
"Course you did," Vick sympathized.
"Haymitch says he'll call me."
I nodded and sat down on the sofa in front of the television.
"The Mockingjay will be exiled to a location that is undisclosed at this point. She will not be allowed to travel or return to the Capitol for the foreseeable future. We're told that she is tolerating the transport well despite her medical condition. I'll repeat that the judge has ruled that she was legally insane at the time of President Coin's death…"
Vick watched with me in silence. I suppose this was the best we could hope for.
[AN: I am working VERY hard. Write me some reviews, please! I realize that this is not necessarily the "best" part of Peeta's story, but it's part of his story none-the-less]