AN: If you're here, you were intrigued by the summary. If you're here, you're not afraid of dark fics. If you're here, you're probably going to see if I can deliver on the summary. Let's find out if I can, shall we?
His Deadly Game
Prologue: Secrets For Lies
Katniss wacked at the earth as though the one she wanted to kill was right where her spade landed each time. Trying to grow a garden in the infertile soil of 12 was a fool's mission but it's all she worked towards these days. The hard work was the only thing that pushed away the horrendous reality that had become her everyday life. She used to escape to the forest and hunt. It used to let her feel free and alive. Now she avoided the land beyond the fence like one would avoid a tracker jacket nest. The warm, calming feelings that her home away from home once elicited had evaporated the moment she arrived back after winning the 74th Hunger Games.
"Katniss." She looked up to see Peeta coming up the walk. "How's the… garden coming?"
Oh sweet, mostly oblivious Peeta, her husband. It hurt to look at him. To know the things she knew and not be able to tell him; to be forced to keep him in the dark. She managed a weak smile. Even though he didn't know, she knew he suspected something was wrong. He likely thought that she was unhappy about their marriage. The one Snow had insisted they go through with. If only that were the extent of the president's cruelty.
"Just trying to get this," she turned back to her work, taking another whack, "earth," another whack, "loosened up."
"Well don't work yourself too hard." He sounded sad. She didn't reply but just kept hitting the ground as hard as she could. She didn't even hear his awkward steps as he walked away; she was too absorbed in destroying the cracked, barren earth beneath her. Several minutes slipped by before she screamed and threw the implement to the side.
She stalked up the steps of their house and shouldered passed her concerned looking husband.
"I'm fine. I'm going hunting."
"No I don't need anything Peeta." She cut him off before he could even begin to try to be helpful. She hated how nice he was and she hated herself for hating it. He deserved so much more than her. For that matter, so did Gale.
She pulled off one shirt and pulled on another after she entered their bedroom. She tried to push the thought of that other tortured soul out of her mind. She knew she wouldn't be successful. After all, she was about to go 'hunting' and Gale was an integral part of that. She couldn't put on her hunting boots or pick up her bow without thinking about him. The stringed weapon was just for show these days. She hadn't killed a single piece of wild game since before the victory tour. She grabbed her satchel. Gale would give her something to put in it so it actually looked like she'd hunted.
She trotted down the stairs like she always did lately when dressed like she was now. She heard Peeta say something about being safe as she pushed out the door and ran. She wouldn't stop running until she got to the fence. Lately, she didn't even bother checking to see if it was on. She wormed under her customary place and each time she wished it would switch on. It was a fool's wish. Snow would be sure it was never turned on again as long as she kept playing his game. His deadly game. His game where the lives of Prim, Peeta's family and Gale's family all hung in the balance. Hell, even Haymitch's life was at stake.
He'd become the only person in all of Panem that understood what she was going through. Snow had incorporated him seamlessly into his plans. With all the secrets going around these days, the only way she could possibly receive the Capitol's messages without suspicion was through the former victor, her mentor. He'd been the one to deliver this morning's message.
'Seek out your cousin today and take him to your customary meeting place. See to your husband's needs later that same day.'
That was how these messages read these days. She wished she could say that she was becoming numb to them but each one made her stomach twist in the same painful way as when she'd received Snow's first message in her study.
"That trick with the berries, very clever." She remembered that sickly sweet smell. She still broke out in a cold sweat if she even thought she smelled it. She hated all flowers these days. "My former gamemaster was, how should I put it, an idiot." He'd walked up to her then and that's when she smelled the blood. "But he's made for an interesting after story." He chuckled for a moment, bending his neck to sniff at the rose in his lapel. Then he'd retrained his focus on her. "I'm no fool. I know you don't love the baker's boy but you'll make the rest of the country believe you do. If you don't… everything you love," he took hold of her chin and forced her to look directly into his snakelike eyes, "everything you hold dear…" he crushed the cookie he'd been holding in his other hand and let the crumbs drain out of his hand and onto the floor. "I own you Ms. Everdeen. You will do everything I bid or… that little girl downstairs, I'll make her suffer in ways you've never even begun to imagine." He'd let go of her chin then and moved to the study door. He turned his head only marginally when his hand touched the doorknob. "Your mentor will deliver the rest of my messages. I suggest you heed them to the 't'."
Katniss pushed away the memory. It was one she recalled often despite all her efforts to forget it. She wanted to kill him. She could think of nothing she'd rather do. When she didn't have nightmares that centered around her time in the arena or of Prim being taken away from her, she had dreams of firing the finest arrow she'd ever seen into the face of President Snow. The only times she were truly happy were in the few minutes after waking from one of those rare treasures.
She jumped over the small creek and looked up at the sky. He'd still be there, in the spot they'd designated as their 'secret' meeting spot. She wondered for the hundredth time just how many cameras were in these woods. How many were centered around the area Gale thought was their special place. The place he thought he'd finally won her. He knew she was married to Mellark. He knew her marriage was a requirement of the Capitol but he didn't know everything.
Just like Peeta, Gale was only told what she was allowed to tell him. She told him that she lived in the same house as Mellark but he thought they slept in separate rooms. He didn't know…
She squeezed her eyes shut and stopped to lean against a tree for a moment. She needed to steel herself against the inevitable. She would need to lie to him again but not with words. She'd have to lie to him with looks and sounds, with her body. He thought she loved him.
But he thought she loved only him.
He thought he was the only one that knew her intimately.