A/N: Dreadfully sorry, everyone. I unfortunately had a death in my family and have been so caught up in mourning and details, that I had been negligent…again. And for that I do apologize. I really am trying to get these chapters up ASAP.
And please for the love of things, write a review for me. I really would love to know how you feel, what you are thinking and what you want to see.
Disclaimer: Don't own it, ya know who does thouuugghh or else you wouldn't be here!
The screams tore me from sleep, sharp and clear. For a moment I paused to swallow. My throat wasn't raw, so I could at least rule out that it wasn't my own scream. The second scream launched me from my bed. I recognized the voice. I was out of the room and running through the hallways of the shelter, my feet bare and dread inflating in my chest. I'm vaguely aware of the sound of Peeta's heavy footfalls behind me, but I can't turn around or stop to wait for him. I'm getting closer to the agonized voice that could only belong to Prim.
How could I have left her unguarded? I should have been there. Now they have her and it's my fault.
I don't know what I will do when I get to her, I don't have time to consider if there will be any chance of me doing anything other than watching her being tortured to death. Possibly they won't kill her, but then she will be turned into an Avox. They'll make me watch as her tongue is cut out of her mouth. My stomach twists painfully at the thought and I push it away. Get to Prim first, process later.
As I come to the exit of the building the screams seem to become infinitely louder and like the calls of the owls from last night. It isn't just Prim's voice I hear. When I step into the sunlight I begin to whip my head around wildly. People strange and familiar are gathered around the building. None of them are the source of the sound, but they are all looking beyond me. I turn to follow their eyes, to see what they are seeing and find the source of the cries. And though it is Prim's tortured voice I am undoubtedly hearing, it is not her screaming or anyone else for that matter.
High above our heads on the ledge of the roof of the shelter perched stoically is little feathered creature upon feathered creature. The mixture of relief and terror hits me so quickly and drastically my head began to swim. Jabberjays. As if on sight, the moment of recognition passed and the flock unleashed their chorus simultaneously. Only a few of the birds had Prim's voice recorded, those had been the ones to draw me out. The rest of the Mutts were other voices, one that I had no trouble knowing that I would have known if my ears were not securely trapped beneath my hands as they focused on crushing my skull the instant the first bird had opened its black, shiny beak.
I collapsed the soft flesh of the inside of my cheek between my teeth and bit until the bitter taste of blood began to seep into my throat. The message could not have been louder if President Snow himself was standing in front of me shouting in my face the way the Jabberjays currently were. They know where we are and they know I'm awake and they are coming. They'll kill my sister first. Or maybe last, depending on the angle they decided to play.
My Games are beginning again, and I have a whole new set of rules for you, Ms. Everdeen.
The voices still weaved a path through my hands and into my ears when I opened my eyes, choosing the horrors of reality to the ones my imagination was conjuring up. Gale had materialized at my side with a bow loaded and drawn. I was just in time to watch him free the arrow into the bird nearest us. He wasn't the only one. All around me people were shooting at the Muttations. It took me several beats to realize that Peeta was tugging at my hand, attempting to remove it from my ear. I recoiled from his touch before I understand that he is trying to press a bow into it. I hesitate, every fiber of me wanting nothing more than to keep the barrier between my fragile mind and the fabricated screams of loved ones. The sight of the bow made me feel strong. Once it was in my hand, the cacophony that threatens to crush my psyche ceases to matter. Nothing in the world matters except for the bow that is clasped in my fist, then the tension in the draw and my target. It's a Jabberjay that is about to take flight as many of the flock have already done. I know the bird will begin to flap its wings by the sudden awkward stiffness, an obvious tell in many birds. It's about t just take to the air when I release my breath and with it, the arrow which finds a home in its throat. The Jabberjay is forced backward by the impact of the arrow and its wings beat frantically in the throes of death. It drops from the sky and lands at my feet, but I hardly notice. I was already releasing a second arrow, then third and fourth, and on continuously.
I'm no longer aware of the screams. The blood thundering in my ears is all consuming. Gale is matching my kills, I vaguely notice. I don't know how long we shoot for, only that we have emptied several quivers that I don't even remember touching. The feathery black bodies of the birds are piled so densely around us that it seems they make up the ground. Air pushes out of me in heaving breaths and my fingers are tingling and raw from the drawstring. That is the only way I can tell it has been a long time since I have shot a bow, my calluses on my fingertips have softened away to nothing. I hadn't bothered to confirm that my arrows had all found their targets. I didn't need to. After the first kill, the rest had been muscle memory. The hatred for the Mutts had helped too.
Silence fills the space where the screams had just been. It is a heavy, dangerous silence, that is accompanied as friends or neighbors or schoolmates from District 12 and others complete strangers stand watching us. All have the same small range of emotions on their features. I'm not sure what I should feel. Or the response the Jabberjays were intended to provoke. Fear, is probably what they were trying for. But rage white hot and louder than all of the thoughts in my conflicted mind, boils up like a ferocious wild animal. My limbs quake, but not in the wave that has become familiar since I have rejoined reality. This isn't weakness. It's energy, burning through my being and I can no longer differentiate between right and wrong. All that matters is that Snow and Coin die.
"Katniss…" Gale's voice is distant, miles and miles away. "It doesn't mean…"
I don't recognize my own voice it's sharp, quiet, and lethal. "The message is loud and clear." I slam the toe of my boot into the side of one of the dead bodies.
I can feel eyes on me. It is no coincidence that they sent Jabberjays, just like in the Quell. Everyone knows that the Refuge's chance of survival would be better without me drawing the watchful eye of the Capitol down on them. Even the mammoth trees and thick vegetation isn't enough protection. I would wonder why they hadn't blown me to bits yet, seeing as I was a walking explosive and all, if I wasn't so incredibly used to these games.
I'm moving before anyone else. The entire population of the Refuge is gathered around the shelter and all are quietly watching Gale, Finnick, Peeta and I were standing in a line, presented before everyone. I had to move quickly, the bodies of all of the downed birds made my balance far from reliable. The sound of crunching bones under my boots was unsettling and the unevenness the Jabberjays' lumpy bodies made for an awkward retreat from the shelter and the prying eyes of everyone. After I had cleared the scattered bird bodies I was able to break into a full run. I heard Prim call my name, but I didn't slow or turn back. I just needed to be away for a moment.
The woods beyond the boundaries of the Refuge swallowed me welcomingly into its wild arms. I could be out of sight and see everything. My hunter's senses kicked into high gear the moment the vegetation began to sprout up in unruly, barbed tangles. I continued without any real destination set to my mind. All the powered me was putting as much distance between the dead Jabberjays and myself as I could manage.
I stopped at a particularly large tree, with a trunk three times as thick as the ones around it. It had to have been impossibly old. It stretched up and up and up until I couldn't tell where it continued on and what were the branches of other trees jumbled into indistinguishable masses of brown and green.
"Is this the part where you tell me everything is going to be alright and there is some secret plot that the Capitol doesn't know about?" The dry, sarcastic words are tumbling from my mouth before I even know who it is that followed me. My bet is on Peeta or Gale, but it could potentially be Haymitch or Finnick too. I wonder if they ever got tired of coming after me, or if they even knew that I run away to be alone… not to be pursued.
Peeta. Looks like instinct is ever the truest impulse. I don't know whether to be relieved or annoyed. Really, it's hard to be anything other than sickeningly tired. My emotional scale is not a vast one to begin with, but more than ever it seems to be reduced to confusion, anger, and fear. On rare occasion something other than those three will sneak in and pretend to be something akin to happiness or hope, but those were such fleeting, tiny moments that they were hard to call up.
"Then why did you follow me?" Annoyance is so heavily lacing my words that I nearly flinch from their sting, and they are my own.
Peeta's eyes are unreadable. They are still the kind eyes that naturally belong to him, but there is no hint of what is going on beyond them. He came to a stop less than five feet away from me. A gust of wind rustles the limbs of the trees surrounding us and our hair. Any loose pieces I haven't managed to secure back into my braid whip about like angry snakes snapping at the air. Silence drags out between us, filling up with all of the things we aren't saying. I can feel my anxiety building amongst the writhing eels that are in the pit of my stomach.
"Saw the look on your face back there." Peeta broke the silence just as I was about to repeat my questions in a far more demanding tone. I swallowed the words. "Katniss, don't do anything rash."
A bitter smile found my lips, "When have I ever done anything rash?"
He waved away my poor attempt at humor, "Don't, I mean it."
"What could you possibly be concerned about me doing, Peeta?" A frustrated hand pushed at the tendrils of hair still billowing in the breeze. "Even before I was no match for the Capitol, do you think I'm eager to relive everything I thought I had already been through? Do you think I'd even be capable of surviving it? Because I don't."
"I'm worried because I know what kinds of plans you come up with." Peeta said tiredly.
"You have it all figured out, don't you?" I don't want to snap at him, but I am regardless of what I want. "If they can send a flock of Jabberjays after us- that was just a warning. Do you have any idea what could be next?"
"We were in the same games." His reply was short.
"All I can think about it what they're going to do next—" The tears came without warning, hysteria demolishing the dam I had so carefully constructed. My voice was still stony.
"Stop." Peeta said harshly, he closed the space between us with such speed that I was momentarily startled. I stumbled back into the trunk of the tree, trying to replace some of the space between us, but he had already eliminated that as well. His lips were on mine, unyieldingly moving against mine. I gasped into his mouth confused if it was from the shock or a sob turned into something else. He pushed my body solidly into the tree, all of his weight crushing into me.
My thoughts evaporated and the hysteria momentarily subsided. I was wholly stunned. His hands were pinning my shoulders against the tree. Rough bark bit at my skin through my shirt. I'm kissing him back before I'm able to process whether or not I want to shove him away. No, I decided, I want this closeness with him. I need it. I encircle my arms around his waist and pull at him.
"Whatever happens, we'll face it Katniss," He breathed against my lips and cheek, then the nap of skin behind my ear and down to the curve of my neck. His teeth nipped at the skin there and I felt the electricity again. "Together. Don't give up. Not now."
And then his fingers curled under the hem of my shirt and began to draw it up, and while I searched his eyes I lifted my arms.
A/N: Don't make me be one of those people who begs for reviews or does mean things in order to get them. Be a lovely and write me.