Finally, here is the last chapter of The Trouble with Betrothals. Thanks for sticking with it; I hope that you've enjoyed it! Thanks to my reviewers, favorites and follows! You guys are awesome, you've inspired me so much.
Thank you to kismet4891 for being my beta. If you haven't read her stories yet, you should look them up.
"What have I managed to get myself into this time?" I ask aloud, inside my empty cell. I know full well that sounds like I'm crazy for talking to myself but I want some noise in this cell. "Well, what do I expect for killing Coin?" Man, I must be really going crazy answering my questions with more questions. So instead I decide to replay the events that lead up to this moment in my mind.
Exactly one week ago today Peeta and the others saved Finnick and I from a Capitol execution. Our elation was short lived though. A few hours later Coin landed in District 12 and she called for Finnick and me to come have a meeting with her inside of the Justice building. It was the first time that I had ever seen her in person. She was in her late fifties and there was nothing extraordinary about her looks, other than her emotionless expression and perfect white hair; so perfectly coiffed that I had to wonder if it was a wig. She sent her guards away with a wave of her hand. Her demeanor was cold, but I could see the anger in her eyes, it was clear to me that she was not pleased with the situation.
"Congratulations on your survival." She told us, the words seemed genuine but her expression did not. "You're lucky to have such good friends and loved ones."
I was glad Finnick was there and I hoped he'd do most of the talking. I didn't think that I could speak to her respectfully.
"We are very lucky indeed." Finnick said brightly, his sarcasm was apparent. Maybe letting Finnick speak wasn't such a good idea. "Who knows what would have happened to us if they hadn't of showed up. Oh, that's right we would have died!"
Coin seemed to ignore Finnick's comment as she continued. "It would be a shame to see Mr. Abernathy, Paylor, Mr. Hawthorne, and your beloved husband, Mrs. Mellark, be charged with treason for their brave acts." Coin looks directly at me; I was forced to meet her eye so she knew that she had my attention. "Although I think that there is way that we can get around this."
Finnick looked at me with his eyebrow cocked. "Okay, we're listening." Finnick was speaking for both of us.
"After Snow is tried and found guilty, he will be executed by a firing squad of thirteen gunmen, one from each district." Coin looked us over. "Mr. Odair, I would like you represent District 4 and you, Mrs. Mellark, to do the same for District 12."
There are two things that I knew: I didn't want to leave my home and I didn't want to see anymore death anytime soon. Thinking that I had a way out of this, I quickly said. "But we've not been trained on how to use rifles very well; we couldn't be trusted to hit Snow."
"That didn't stop your friends from saving you, Mrs. Mellark." Coin told me in a slightly irritated tone. "Besides I've already thought of that, I have Beetee working on a targeting system that will make it easy for you, just point in his general direction and shoot. Let me make myself clear, if you cooperate with me, your saviors will go unpunished and will in fact be praised for their bravery. The members of the 'fake' Capitol firing squad will face a trial and possible execution themselves. That is if…if you don't do as I say, exactly as I say it, then there will be repercussions for them all, including the other three hundred who helped, will also face punishment. If I'm not mistaken Mrs. Mellark, your brother-in –laws helped in the mission too, did they not? I may even consider including everyone who knew about the plot, such as Mrs Annie Odair, Mrs Johanna Hawthorne and Mrs Lily Everdeen."
Glancing at Finnick I noticed that his jaw is clinched and eyes are wide. I nodded, in response, to let her know that I had understood her. 'Is she really threatening everyone I love?' I wondered to myself.
She hands us a script. "You will endorse my presidency on national TV, go to District 13 and be on that firing squad or else! Do I make myself clear?"
Finnick and I both replied 'yes'. Although as I glanced through the script my anger arose upon seeing terms such as 'complete trust in the new government', 'for the greater good' and 'sacrifice for a better tomorrow' struck me as being the same sort of lines that Snow would spout.
"Good, you and the others leave for the Capitol by hovercraft in twenty-four hours, make yourselves ready. You are dismissed." She told us coldly.
Finnick and I left the room quietly. "Out of the frying pan and into the fire!" Finnick whispered to me when we are well away from Coin.
"We're not going to be any better off with her than we were with Snow." I replied.
Finnick pulls me aside and looks strait in the eye. "You can't tell the others what she said about punishing them." Finnick told me seriously. "We need to seem to cooperate with her, but I've got an idea."
"Well, tell me what is." I said expectedly.
"Let's just say, it's our turn to save the ones that we love." Finnick gives me his most mischievous smile. "Sorry, but I can't tell you about it until I have all of the kinks worked out of the plan…I've got to go see Beetee and a few others." The next thing I know Finnick is running out of the building. "Just trust me!" He calls back to me with a smile on his face.
I told Peeta that I was to be on the firing squad, and he was not happy about it, he didn't think that I was well enough after my torture and captivity to leave home yet. I thought that too but I could not let him know that or I would have to tell him what the alternative was. One day later I found myself on a hovercraft with Finnick, Annie, Haymitch, and Peeta. I was nervous, Finnick had not let me in on his plan yet and I was still scared that if we did not please Coin then she would arrest them all. Finnick had told me earlier that the only reason that our spouses and Haymitch were told to come along too, was so that our full cooperation would be insured.
Upon our arrival Finnick and I were separated from our loved ones and taken to the location of the execution. Along with us the eleven other gunmen were shown how to use the high tech rifles. The firing squad was filled with rebels from the districts. I recognized a few of them: Gloss from 1, Dalton from 10, Thresh from 11 and a couple of others. I suspected that Gloss and Thresh had been threatened like we had been to join this firing squad.
What Coin said about the guns had been true, they were easy to use. All we had to do aim the gun and pull the trigger and the heat seeking bullet found the target, we practiced on a dummy. It was totally obliterated.
"It seems like a bit of overkill." I said to no one in particular, taken aback by the carnage.
Boggs who stood next to me, being that he was the gun man from District 13, replied to my comment, in a rather loud voice. "Well, not everyone's gun will be loaded, only seven of the thirteen will have bullets. It's part of an old tradition. Not every gunman gets a loaded gun, that way no one can claim all of the credit or guilt. It's all done randomly, so it will never be known whose bullet takes out the tyrant. Coin wants it that way."
As we turned to leave, Boggs waves Finnick and me over to where he stood. Upon approaching him he told us in a quiet voice as Boggs pretended to inspect his gun. "You know what ever she has you do, that it will never be enough, right?...Don't answer, just think about it."
The trial of President Snow was speedy; it had to be if he was to be executed before he died of natural causes. During Snow's trial Finnick and I were dressed in the dull grey uniforms of District 13 and interviewed by Plutarch and his crew. We dutifully recited the script word for word. Plutarch did not seem like his typical self, I noticed, he was subdued. After the interview I asked him what was wrong.
"Coin is planning on dropping bombs and invading the Capitol, even though they are willing to surrender, and they don't want to fight. I thought that Coin was going to put an end to this, but she's just going to keep it going and going." Plutarch told us sadly. "All of my family and friends are in danger."
"Don't worry. We are going to take out the tyrant." Finnick pats him on the back and looks me in the eye. "This will all be over soon."
As Finnick and I leave I asked him in a hushed tone. "What is your plan? What are we going to do?"
Finnick just smiles at me and says quietly. "I'm just aiming at our future's biggest threat." I knew what Finnick had planned; he was going to aim for Coin.
Snow was convicted and was to be executed immediately; in private with only the firing squad, a film crew and a few dozen soldiers present. A large open lot is being used for the execution stage. It all seemed so strange, me standing in the above ground remnants of District 13 and being on shooting side of a firing squad, especially considering that a few days before I was the target of one back home. I absolutely despised the role that I was being forced to play in execution.
Coin decided that no other witnesses were needed since it would all be filmed and then televised. She stood a short distance away from Snow, so she could be in the camera's sight, sending a subtle message that she was the one responsible for his death. She read out the list of his crimes and the terms of his conviction, I examined Snow, he looked worse than he had a few short days before, he coughed and blood dribbled down his chin. The only reason that he was still able to stand was because he was tied to a post.
I made a fateful choice; I've decided to aim for the most dangerous tyrant of all, Coin. I can't leave Finnick be the only one take the blame for her demise. It was the only way that I could think of to protect Peeta and all of the others, not to mention all of the innocent people that will be caught in the cross fire of the battles yet to come. I just hoped that my gun was one that was loaded.
"Ready!" a District 13 officer called out.
"Aim!" I trained my gun on Snow, but my hunter eyes looked at Coin with my peripheral vision.
"Fire!" I turned slightly and shot my gun; the sound of the simultaneous gun fire pierced the air. I noticed the look of shock on Coins face as she fell.
"No one say a word!" Boggs told us just loud enough to hear. I looked in Snow's direction, he was dead too, blood drenched his shirt. The entirety of the firing squad was quickly taken into custody. Each of us taken to an individual cell and made to wait. The only way to tell the passage of time was when a meal was brought to me. The next days passed slowly as I had nothing to do but pace my cell, eat, sleep and ponder what would be done to me later and how Peeta would handle it.
So here I am now, two days later when my cell door opens and a guard tells me. "There was a hearing and you and the other gunmen were exonerated of all charges, you're free to go home." Then I was directed to the end of the hall way.
I am greeted by a smiling Peeta, Haymitch, Annie and Finnick. I throw myself into Peeta's arms and he kisses me enthusiastically.
"Okay you two; you can do that later when you get home." Haymitch tells us gruffly, as he rolls his eyes. "Gosh damnit! How come I have to babysit all of you horny kids? I already had to watch Odair damn near dry hump his wife."
"Awe, I think that Haymitch is just missing Effie and he's just jealous. Maybe Effie will help you blow off so steam when you get back." Finnick teases Haymitch, who just stalks off. I have to smile to myself, I've never been so happy to see Haymitch be so pissed off before.
After we load onto the hovercraft bound for home, Peeta grabs me and pulls me into his lap. As soon as we take off Haymitch closes the door that separates us from the pilots. Then he and Peeta tell Finnick and me what had happened while we were locked up.
District 2 was now in rebel control and the Capitol has declared its surrender. Paylor was immediately chosen as interim President, she had a group of investigators try to find out who had shot had killed Coin, who had been shot seven times. Snow had not been shot at all but was also dead. The investigators had a hard time proving anything, since no one really knew which of the gunmen had real ammo and who had blanks. Another problem was that all of the footage of the execution had been lost, the camera had been broken. In the end it was determined that the heat seeking ammo had been faulty. A fact which Beetee had informed Coin of repeatedly before the execution, she didn't care apparently. The theory was that Snow's dying body had dropped in temperature, and that the heat seeking bullets found a warmer target instead, Coin, who had insisted that she be close by as Snow died. Everyone seemed satisfied with that explanation and all of us on the firing squad were cleared of all charges.
"That all seems to be awfully convenient." I say suspiciously, I still can't believe that we were let off so easily.
Finnick told Peeta, Annie, and Haymitch about our meeting with Coin and her threats on them and our other loved ones. Next we told them about Coin's plans to attack the Capitol and how he decided that she had to be stopped. What he told us next was a surprise. "I asked Beetee and he reluctantly agreed to make sure that one rifle had ordinary ammo and make sure that I got it."
"Finnick that was a terrible idea! What if you had been caught?" Peeta harshly lectures Finnick, I'd never seen Peeta so mad. "You're so lucky that the rest of ammo was faulty!"
"Peeta," I call for his attention, when I get it I admit to him. "I aimed at her too. If the camera hadn't been broken you probably would have seen me turn to shoot her too." Peeta's eyes go wide in shock, he is struck speechless.
"The camera wasn't broken." Annie's gentle voice breaks in, surprising us all. Annie is so quiet that you can sometimes forget that she is even there. "I convinced Plutarch, Castor and Pollox to 'damage the footage'. I know Finnick and I could see that he was going to do something drastic." Annie looks into Finnick's shocked face. "It really didn't take too much to talk them into it."
My previous assessment of Annie has just been blown away. Annie may not be the damaged shell of a woman that we all thought she was, she's really a rebel too, like the rest of us.
Haymitch shakes his head and crankily shouts out. "Well, the joke's on all of you! There never was any heat seeking ammo in any gun on that firing squad!"
"How do you know?" Finnick asks Haymitch. "I swore Beetee to secrecy."
"Let's just say that you weren't the only ones who knew that Coin wasn't the hero that we all had hoped for." Haymitch tells us somberly. "Everyone on that squad aimed for Coin, if you'd all been given real bullets then there would have been thirteen wounds in her body. Most everyone knows what really what happened, but no one really cares to punish you for it. Some have even said that Coin unknowingly committed suicide by firing squad; there wasn't a person in that line who didn't have a reason to kill her. Coin was arrogant, she thought she had you all by the short hairs and never thought that you would strike back…She threatened you two with the arrests of you loved ones, she threatened the others too, and Boggs was disillusioned with her and wanted to put a stop to the war. You may have just saved countless lives with your acts, and I must say that I'm proud of what you did out there."
There is an awkward silence. I take the opportunity to mull over ever thing that I've heard. "So what do we do now?" I ask.
"All of us agree to never speak about what really happened in District 13 ever again. It was faulty ammo, a tragic mistake and that's our story. Now we go all go back to our homes and live life." Haymitch tells us, we all agree.
A short time later we land in District 12. "We're home!" Peeta whispers in my ear as the hovercraft touches down.
I'm surprised by our welcome party; it looks as if nearly everyone we know is here.
"Katniss!" Prim screams and runs to me and captures me in a hug, my mom is close behind. I can feel the tears in my eyes. It's only been nearly two weeks since I'd last seen my family but it feels like a life time ago with all that has gone on. Gale and Johanna greet us with baby Hunter in tow.
I do a double take when, I see some little woman with bobbed blond hair throw herself on Haymitch. Peeta who is a surprised as I am asks. "Who is that?"
"Oh, don't you recognize Miss Trinket?" Gale laughs.
"It seems that Finnick was right, Effie really does have a thing for Haymitch." Johanna chimes in. "Apparently she likes rehabbing things and Haymitch is just the biggest project of them all."
Without high heels, a wig, and a thick layer of makeup Effie was unrecognizable, after she lets Haymitch go she gathers Peeta and me into hug and squeals. "Oh, my dears I was so worried!" Her Capitol accent was as thick as ever, it was Effie after all.
Peeta gives Haymitch a 'what in the hell' look. Haymitch just shrugs and says. "What can I say? I've always had a thing for blondes." Then he adds under his breath while Effie fusses over Annie. "Although I didn't know she was a blonde until she got her skirt off. Damn wigs!" Peeta and Finnick laugh, I can feel my face get red as I try to rid myself of that mental image. Then Haymitch throws his arm around Effie's shoulders and announces. "Come on! Let's go home, I need a drink!"
As they walk away we can hear Effie lecture Haymitch about the dangers of over indulging in alcohol.
"She might be good for him." Peeta muses. "That or she'll kill him."
We spend an hour greeting family and friends. All of my in-laws give Peeta and me hugs and kisses, even his mom seems happy to see us. Delly tears up in happiness, Hank swings me around, and little Jack squeezes my neck so hard that I can barely breath.
"Where's Madge?" I ask Delly.
"She's on her 'honeymoon'." Delly whispers in my ear and giggles. "She and Tiberius toasted last night. They wanted to married before Tiberius has to take Brutus back to District 2 for his trial."
I smile to myself, I am happy for Madge, she finally has someone who was worthy of her love.
Peeta and I pull away from the group as the welcome party breaks up so people can go back to the cleanup effort. Merchant and Seam work side by side to clean up the rubble and wreckage. I'm surprised to see that Peeta's mom is helping Greasy Sae serve lunch to the workers.
"I really hope that the topic of breadsticks doesn't come up." Peeta tells me under his breath as we pass by and wave, Sae gives Peeta a saucy wink in return. I try to fight a laugh, but I'm not successful and end up with a terrible case of the giggles. It just reminds me of why I love Peeta so much, he makes me happy.
Paylor has pledged to bring new industry to the district and reopen the mines. People will be free to travel from place to place for the first time in seventy-five years. Finnick and Annie will go back home to District 4 soon, but they'll be free to come back and visit and we can go see them, whenever we like. Maybe this really is the start of a new way of life like Peeta told me.
I'm still in shock at all the events and changes that have happened. So when we approach the bakery I have to ask Peeta. "Is this for real? Are we really home to stay?"
Peeta kisses me sweetly, picks me up and starts to carry me up the stairs and tells me with a big, boyish smile on his face. "It's real, Mrs Mellark, we're home!"
"I love you, Peeta." I tell him because I truly do and I know he loves to hear it and he deserves to hear it.
"I love you too, Katniss." He tells me, because he truly does.
10 years later
Peeta watches the children play intently, even though our daughter, Olive is only five, he's already watching out for boys. She's playing with Hunter and Archer Hawthorne and her three year old brother, Deen.
Peeta chose our children's names; he liked the name Olive because it was a plant (well, a tree actually), a food and a shade of my favorite color. I had suggested that if we ever had a boy that we should name him Rye or Wheat, but when our son was born Peeta took one look at him, smiled, and said. "Hello Everdeen Mellark." It just seemed right, so it stuck and was shortened to Deen as a nick name. Olive is my miniature with blue eyes and Deen is Peeta's very likeness with grey eye.
I tell him teasingly. "You're being paranoid, Hunter is far old for her and he has only got eyes for Ginny. Besides Archer and Olive are in kindergarten, they don't even think like that yet."
"True love has been known to start that young." Peeta reminds me and kisses my check. "It did for me."
I just shake my head and roll my eyes. "It still sounds a bit farfetched to me. Anyways, I think Olive has a thing for red heads. Did you see her chasing the Odair boys around the last time we went to the beach?"
"Yeah, but they're only around a couple of weeks out of the year, I'm more worried about the boys she sees every day. That Archer has got Gale's looks and Johanna's flirtatiousness, that's a bad combo if you ask me." Peeta tells me half seriously.
"He's six, give him a break." I laugh. Then I decide to change the subject. "Hey, I've got a surprise for you."
Peeta turns his attention from the kids playing outside and gives me his still boyish grin. "Oh really what's that."
"Prim and Rory offered to take the kids overnight. They want some practice before the baby comes. So we can have an extra special dinner just the two of us. I would like to get my hands on your buns tonight." I wrap him in a hug and let my hands fall to his ass and I naughtily grope it.
"You haven't gotten tired of those things yet?" Peeta teases me. "I'm getting older now; I think that they might be going stale."
"No, I'll never tire of them. In fact if anything I think I appreciate them more now than I did when we first got married." I tell him truthfully. Over the years we've come to discover new and wonderful things about each other's bodies. Due to the presences of our children and all of the extra energy we it takes to care for them we're no longer able to go for hours at a time like we could years ago. Although, we've traded quantity for quality and variation, our love making is more intense and satisfying. Every time I think that our love life can't get any better we discover something new and wonderful, that comes from out of our mutual love and trust for one another. I know that I could never feel this way about any man other than Peeta.
Peeta's attention returns to the children playing outside. "You know if this was the old days, we'd might be trying to find Olive a betrothed pretty soon?" I nod in response.
All of this nostalgia makes me think about all of the things that are different now. It has been a decade since the rebellion and I still can't believe all of the changes that have been made to our nation and our lives.
Right after the Paylor's election as president she started a massive rebuilding effort. The Seam was rebuilt with better houses, a medicine factory was build and eventually the mines were opened back up with better cleaner technology. For months people lived in tents in the meadow as things were being rebuilt. The merchant and miner classes mixed more than they ever had because they had to, so they could survive. Merchants had relied on the mines too it turned out. Eventually lines got blurred, as people picked up new job skills and new vocations. When the district was back in full swing wages were better, life in general was easier, and marriage was no longer the only path to prosperity.
Haymitch found himself more or less out of a job as marriage broker, as the practice fell out of favor; he wasn't too upset about it though. He had already made his fortune so he took up raising geese as a hobby, it drove Effie nuts. She had taken a job with the new government doing more or less the same thing that she'd done for the old one, cleaning up the district. It kept her busy enough to only hen peck Haymitch part time. Their relationship still shocks the shit out of most people but hey, it works for them.
Effie was not the only Capitol citizen who decided to stay here. The Baley family packed up and left as soon as they were allowed to, so the district was in need of a new tailor. Portia and Cinna, took over as the district tailors. They stayed because they had fallen in love with the people here and were eager to start a new life.
Madge and Tiberius came back after Brutus' trial and execution in District 2. Tiberius works as a mining engineer and Madge raises the kids and does charity work. They are very still very much in love and very happy.
Darius was made the district's new head Peacekeeper and is well respected for his firm but fair handling of the law. Peacekeepers are now allowed to openly date and get married so the need for 'educational videos' has greatly decreased. (Although, I've heard that a certain video staring a green woman is still circulating within the barracks.)
My mom opened midwifery and she and Prim are both able to make to respectable livings. Prim and Rory were one of the few couples who actually went through with their marriage contract after the rebellion. They are expecting their first baby in a few months.
Gale and Johanna now run the butcher shop. They thought briefly about going to District 7 but stayed because all the people they love are here. Johanna still teases Gale relentlessly, but I think that he secretly loves it. Apparently they've still got the hots for each other because Johanna just gave birth to a pair of twin girls, Willow and Ash.
Peeta's family is doing well also. His brothers and their families have all managed to be successful within the system. Hank and even occasionally Elba still work in the bakery but Peeta and I are in charge of the day to day operations.
I still hunt once or twice a week and Peeta joins me often, although the woods aren't as lonely as they used. It's now legal to hunt and the woods are open to everyone. We never did move into a house, we still live in the bakery apartment and we're happy there. The lake is like our second home, we put windows and door into the old lake house. The government had given to us as a 'thank you' for what we did for the rebellion effort.
After eight years as president of Panem, Paylor stepped out of public life and Boggs was elected as the new President. In the new democratic republic term limits and checks and balances keep any one person from gaining too much power. Peeta has been approached by several people asking him to run for an office, but he always declines, for which I'm thankful for.
The children's shrieks of joy bring me back to the here and now. Hunter is giving Deen a piggy back ride while they are being chased Archer and Olive. I have to laugh as I look at Hunter and a funny thought strikes me. If it wasn't for him, none of this would have happened. His conception caused the breakup of my first betrothal and pressured me into my engagement with Peeta. Being betrothed to Peeta caused me to eventually fall in love with him and the rest is history.
Peeta gives me a funny look as I chuckle to myself. "What's so funny?"
"Oh, nothing. Just funny how life works out some times." I say lightly and I kiss him.
Peeta wraps me in a tight hug and tells me happily as if he could read my mind. "Yeah, I know what you mean."
That's all folks! I hope that you enjoyed it. Reviews as always are greatly appreciated!