Disclaimer: All Hunger Games characters and uses of the original sentences or paragraphs are the property of Suzanne Collins. I own nothing, nor do I plan on profiting from using her work. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: First of all, I just want to say this will probably be the only chapter with familiar material, seeing as this is the only place that Katniss visits in both the original Mockingjay and my version of this story. I apologize if you've already read ahead and this is old to you. All I can tell you is I've changed the ending of this chapter a bit. And to those who have read this story before it was deleted; it'll be different in many ways. Maybe not as vastly as Catching Fire and Burning Down, but different. Better development. Maturer. Thanks for reading. Sorry for typos. Reviews are updates. (Please tell me if you think Katniss is not Katniss!) -Taryn(:
I stare down in the vain hope that somehow I'll see my shoes and watch as a fine layer of ash settles on the worn leather. Instead, my sight is blocked off by the bulge in my abdomen. Somewhere, down there, remains of the bed I once shared with my sister, Prim, stirs among the other crumpled pieces of home. Over there was the kitchen table. The bricks of the chimney, which collapsed in a charred heap, provide a point of reference for the rest of the house. How else could I orient myself in this sea of gray?
Almost nothing remains of District 12. Two months ago, the Capitol's firebombs obliterated the poor coal miners' houses in the Seam, the shops in the town, even the Justice Building. The only area that escaped incineration was the Victor's Village. I don't know why exactly. Perhaps so anyone forced to come here on Capitol business would have somewhere decent to stay. The odd reporter. A committee assessing the condition of the coal mines. A squad of Peacekeepers checking for returning refugees.
At the thought of them I lift my chin. Eyes seeking the familiar blinding white uniform of those who hover around me at every hour of the day. One of my guards is kicking over a pile of fire-ravished logs, and they crumble from the inside out in a whirl of chipping mulch. Another, the closest one to me, meets my gaze and returns it with a sneer. He's a tall man, but his face is plain, hidden behind a face-protecting plate of plastic. A gun, slung around his shoulders, is repositioned. I know though, what that meant, the message is clear, as if he has shouted the words aloud. Don't even think about it.
Where would I go? No one is returning. Not with two Capitol hovercrafts hanging over our heads, and the sum of nearly twenty Peacekeepers circling the grounds surrounding me. District 13 may not even know we're here at all. Might not even consider the thought that Snow would ever let me venture so far from his lair. They would view this as a costly and pointless journey, given the amount of effort my guard must show and that there's absolutely no intelligence to be gained.
Before actually seeing this new world, that is now the District 12 I used to know, I had thought it would help me. To see home again might give me some strength to draw from. I made it a condition of me aiding Snow. That is how much I had wanted to visit District 12, if only to see something familiar. Instead, I stand among a gray unmoving sea, knowing... I did this. I killed them..
After the initial wave of guilt, hatred swarms to take its place and I recall the smile on Snow's face when I requested to be brought here. I had been confused about it, uncertain if this was a trap. And now I know.
He wanted me to see. Would have forced me here, eventually, if I hadn't intervened. The words he spoke are clear in my mind, ringing with that tone of utter authority he got when he knows he's just won. "Fine, I'll let you go," Snow told me. "A little sun exposure will do you good, and walking, for the baby, too."
The way he brought up the child in every conversation angered me. He did it to remind me of the things he holds over my head. The same way he used to do that to me before the Quarter Quell, concerning Gale and my family.
Thinking of them now, a pain livens at the base of my skull and I press my hand against it. It's right on the spot where I'd violently hit the water, head first, Enorbaria's hands clawing at my shoulders. The memories swirl as I try to sort out what is true and what is false. What series of events led me to be standing in the ruins of my home? The harder I tried to recall everything, the more the effects of the concussion the fall gave me rear their ugly head and jumble together any memories and thoughts. Also, the drugs they use to hype my hormones and lessen my pain have a tendency to makes me see things.
I'm not entirely convinced that I was hallucinating the night the floor of my hospital room transformed into a carpet of snakes. Who knows what Snow is doing to frighten me into submission?
Most often when I have to question myself, I use a technique one of the doctors suggested. I start with the simplest things I know to be true and work toward the more complicated. On instinct, the list begins to roll in my head...
My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am seventeen years old. My home is District 12. I was in the Hunger Games. I escaped. The Capitol hates me, wants to use me. Peeta's somewhere in District 13. I'm four months pregnant. President Snow likes to feel it kick...
"Are you ready to go home, Miss Everdeen?" A soft male voice reaches me through the headset around my ears. They had to wrestle me in it, because I could not stand the thought of the Head Peacekeeper up in a hovercraft chattering away into my ears. I know he's watching me carefully, ready to swoop in if anything goes amiss and I realize I'm crouched down, elbows on the slope of my abdomen, my head braced between my hands. I must look on the verge of some kind of breakdown. Just what Snow may be wanting. This won't do. Not when it'll fulfill something on their morbid little checklist.
I straighten up and wave his offer away. "No. I'm fine." To reinforce this, I begin to move away from my old house and in toward the town. I stumble slightly, though, on my way past the threshold and one of the Peacekeepers around the area jerks forward to steady me. Once I shove away his gloved hand, he scoffs, and my teeth grit in frustration, overly aware of every step I make. I'm so awkwardly pregnant now that graceful, silent movements that my body's always achieved are completely unattainable.
It's not just that fact that upsets me. More of it has to do with the mere act of the Peacekeepers being there at all. They don't understand. I don't want anyone with me today. Not even a friend. Some walks you have to take alone.
The summer's been scorching hot and dry as a bone. There's been next to no rain to disturb the piles of ash left by the attack. They shift here and there, in reaction to my footsteps. No breeze to scatter them. I keep my eyes on what I remember as the road, because when I first landed in the Meadow, I wasn't careful and I walked right into a rock. Only it wasn't a rock–it was someone's skull. It rolled over and over and landed face-up, and for a long time I couldn't stop looking at the teeth, wondering whose they were, thinking of how mine would probably look the same under similar circumstances.
I stick to the road out of habit, but it's a bad choice, because it's full of the remains of those who tried to flee. Some were incinerated entirely. But others, probably overcome with smoke, escaped the worst of the flames and now lie reeking in various states of decomposition, carrion for scavengers, blanketed by flies.
I killed you, I think as I pass a pile. And you. And you.
Because I did. It was me that brought on this firestorm of retribution. That sent the whole country of Panem in chaos. In my head I hear President Snow's words, spoken the morning I was to begin the Victory Tour. "Katniss Everdeen, the girl who was on fire, you have provided a spark that, left unattended, may grow to an inferno that destroys Panem." It turns out he wasn't exaggerating or simply trying to scare me. He was, then, perhaps, genuinely attempting to enlist my help. But I had already set something in motion that I had no ability to control. And even though he's got me at the end of his rope now, there isn't anything I think I could do to stop it.
Before I even reach town, I'm panting from the effort it is to haul around all the new weight I've gained. I pause to span a hand across my stomach. The baby's moving... stretching actually, the doctors tell me. I close my eyes. There is no longer an image of a little girl, with Peeta's blue eyes, because the longer I spend in the Capitol's clutches, the more my memory of his face seems to fade. In the place of the child is something far less cute and far less loved.
It has become a parasite, of some sort. Over the weeks I've grown larger and larger, my shoulders beginning to slope with the load it is on me. Since I starved the fetus for days, almost weeks, during the first trimester they say it's better to heap on mounds of nutrients and proteins now, that, surely, the fetus must be craving. Already I've been told I'm bigger than any normal women whose four months pregnant. My waist has thickened in anticipation for the birth, my breasts are bigger than I ever thought they could be and my thighs have pinches of skin that weren't there before, which makes me wonder, how does any woman get around like this? Who would willingly become this ungainly... and more than once, at that?
Hunting like this would be impossible, I know. And if I truly knew where to go in an attempt to escape from the Peacekeepers, I know that I won't get far because running would be difficult and diving to avoid capture makes me think of the back pain that would inevitably result.
All the thought of how trapped I am makes me feel restless. In the past month I've been awake after my three months pause of action from escaping the arena I have had little time to move about. So much time spent idle. Too much. It's hard to wrap my head around. Four months, since I last saw that one glimpse of Peeta's terrified, helpless face. Four months, since I saw Johanna thrown over the edge of the cliff by Gloss' powerful legs. Four months, since I've seen Finnick, the tribute who I'd originally mistrusted, now consider some sort of friend. And longest of all, four months, since I've seen my family. One long month of wondering if Prim and my mother and the Hawthornes are all dead; because of me.
At the reminder of them I start up the walk again, sweat clinging to my skin like a second layer of clothing. A slight discomforting twinge runs along my groin in protest. President Snow's suggestion to walk hangs in the back of my mind. He must know I don't get up much when strapped to a hospital bed.
Without knowing it, my feet come to a place I know well. There, right at the tips of my toes, should be an apple tree. The same apple tree that sprouted out of the ground a few yards from the bakery's back door. Shudders work their way throughout my body when I turn, unbidden memories roaring up to the surface of my mind. I feel suddenly like I just can't do this, or be here.
It was so simple, then. Even if I was starving, struggling for life and my father had been taken from me. All that was preferred to now with the country in chaos. Never did I dream as a girl that I would someday wake every morning to President Snow and to see his hands grappling at my bulging stomach, as if I were some incubator growing inside me his hopes and dreams. The constant stream of plans he's trying to force upon me, usually choke me, because most of them involve actions that'll hurt my fellow rebels.
Embarrassed by the sudden urge to break into tears, I cover my mouth to hold the in sobs that rock throughout my ribcage and shake my chest. Pregnancy has my emotions out of line, making them seem stronger, everything constantly covered in a layer of dread. Sometimes I feel things that I don't think are truly rational. I know I could have handled this entrapment better if I felt more like myself. But everywhere I turn there is an unfamiliar face, places I've never been, and I must walk it alone. I'm alone. So alone. There is no one with me but the kid. And it's on their side.
It hurts me more than anything. I grow weaker and more vulnerable each day, and it uses my body for itself. They use it to manipulate me. I may have not come accustomed to it yet, like I thought might happen, like my mother once said to Prim when my little sister had gotten curious about babies and where they come from. With that old delusion striped from my eyes I do not aspire or force myself to grow affectionate of it. Yet, still, I can not bare to harm it. No one can win in this situation; not me, not the child. Only President Snow.
With a new sense of hopelessness I trudge further down the path behind the bakery, cutting through a building that I once knew as a flower shop, until the surface beneath my feet hardens, and under the carpet of ash, I feel the paving stones of the square. Surrounding the perimeter is blackened rubble where the shops stood and a large heap signifying where the Justice Building had once towered.
I walk further out, then find myself, inevitability, at the front of the bakery Peeta's family owned this time. Nothing much left but the melted lumps of the oven. All I can feel for a moment is satisfaction. No more closet. Then, did Peeta's family make it? Does he have someone looking after him? I wonder if they blame me. Me, Katniss Everdeen, the Mockingjay, that wrecked their homes. That ripped away the lives of people they knew and, possibly, loved.
Snow didn't say how many survived, yet, he said District 13 intervened at some point after the attack. It would be impossible to pick through the remains and try to find the corpses of my family, or the Hawthornes, so I stand here, wondering if I have also slaughtered all those I loved.
The citizens of District 12 didn't deserve this. No one in their ranks organized a rebellion, not truly. They only had the misfortune to have homed me. They'll probably never forgive me. And I don't blame them, because I find it exhausting being myself.
There are many buildings in town that still have their basic concrete structures showing and I examine their blackened, flame licked surfaces on my passing toward the mayor's home. I remember suddenly a time in training when Beetee and Wiress inquired about my home district. I had told them I knew nothing about town, really, and now I think that's wrong. I knew plenty...
Like the butcher, who would pay me handsomely for no more than a fresh rabbit, when it came down to it. He had a son, I remember, who I had not known well, but he could not have been much older than Rory. Prim's friend from school, the daughter of the miller, used to have a stray cat that followed her around the way Buttercup had followed Prim... I wondered now, where those two little beasts went off to, as I scan the grounds. Were they mourning the death of those two little girls that were their own, or had they wailed and burned just like everyone else?
What was left of the Undersee's house seemed worse than the rest. I squatted down to run my fingers through the piles of black specks, and roused dust, that I sucked in and being hacking. I stood back up to move away from the complete havoc. Were they all dead? Madge? Mr. Undersee? His poor, sickly wife who lost her twin so long ago?
I mulled over where my Mockingjay pin had went. Did Snow take it? Or was it dropped, forever lost within the arena that I never mean to return to? That means no matter to me, because I hate what it represents now, but I keep thinking that it was a gift. A gift from Madge, something I never paid her back for. Now, she's most likely gone, thanks to me and I'm left thinking that maybe Madge really has been my friend all along.
With heavy footsteps I approach the road, ignoring the bodies, and find myself in the untouched Victor's Village. There is my house and Haymitch's directly across from each other, but they both looked so unlived in. Cold, unused, unloved... empty shells that went with our empty titles; victors. Peeta's stands next to mine, when I passed mine I never so much as raised the thought of entering but now I wonder... and I find myself twisting the knob of his front door before the Peacekeepers behind me can object. I open it, turn, lock it, and listen to them pounding at the wood furiously before I shoot up the stairs.
It's cooler inside, away from the sun and sweltering heat of this summer. Like drinking a glass of iced water. There is a smell of bread, embroidered into the house's walls, too, from his constant baking, and when I close my eyes, ignored the sound of my guard, it feels like none of it ever happened. No Quarter Quell, no failed escape, just this.
"Katniss," the headset sounds, in a burst of static, "if you don't unlock the door, I'll order them to shoot it open. Snow has given specific orders not to let you out of sight."
"I'll only be a minute," I say, climbing higher up the stairs, clutching the hand rail. "I'm not doing anything wrong.."
Head Peacekeeper sighs. "How do I know you are not lying?"
"You don't," I tell him, honest, and there's no further comment. A few minutes later, the knocking has stopped.
I'm standing in front of Peeta's closed bedroom door, when I finally make the courage to open it. Part of me hoped fleetingly that maybe he could be in there, waiting to rescue me, to take me to District 13 and to see my family, but all I see is his neatly made bed, the cluttered surroundings of easels and scattered paintings, papers filling most of the walls of various Game related grotesque scenes. Soft, dim sunlight illuminates the white curtain pulled closed over his bedroom window and the streams fall across the paint splattered floor and sprawls on top of the sheets of his bed.
I hesitate only a moment before I move to sit on the edge of the bed. One of my hands move across the top blanket slowly, and I sigh. I don't know what to do, anymore. I want to deny President Snow everything he asks, but I want my child safe. But you're safe, I think. Peeta.
Are the rebels, now, as I speak, plotting someway to rescue me? Is he urging them on? And if they aren't and he can't help me, "What am I going to do?" It comes out no more than whisper, because I really don't know.
Snow keeps talking at me, talking, talking, talking. Tells me his plans to rally up the Capitol first, and his desire to have me on air, telling the country it's all a mistake. A few mismatch threats to the child and taunts about the possibility of my dead loved ones. That locket he keeps in his pocket, never allowing me to hold, but swinging at me whenever possible.
That is enough to drive anyone mad.
Hours later, when the sun hangs low on the horizon, they find me, buried underneath the blankets, holding a framed picture of him and his family to my chest.
"Come on," says one of my guard, taking me roughly by the upper arm. His strength outweighs my own and he pulls me from the bed effortlessly. One of them takes the picture from my hands, as he begins to drag me towards the door. There's no use resisting. No reason I should stay longer and agonize my conscience, so I let them take me outside, and toward the landed hovercraft in the center of the Meadow.
I know what they really want me to do is become the Mockingjay. Embrace the title. Be the symbol of the rebellion, than harshly reverse its purpose. Claim all that it should be, not just some girl in the arena with berries who defied the Capitol. Become the leader, the face, the voice, the embodiment... then correct it. Control everything, gather in the rebels, and tear them down. Leave them with nothing as they initially rip apart their own districts in protest to the Capitol.
I don't want to, of course. If anything this rebellion may just be what I need. To keep my child safe in the long run. Enable me to actually have a life once this mess clears up. That is, if it does clear up.
A sunset sits against the tops of the trees beyond District 12. The sight of it brings the remembrance of District 3 in rebellion violently back to life.
Somehow the citizens found out I had been kept within their Justice Building, and this snapped whatever hesitation they'd been holding to beforehand, even after their first revolt. This one was worse. I remember the way the machine guns rounded off, repeatedly banging. Banging like a fist beating against my mind. The way bullets tore apart people's chests. Alcohol bottles that were set afire and thrown through the Justice Building's windows.
The worst part was when we were evacuated. Head Peacekeeper Leon, the person who dictates me the most, rounded up a hovercraft and shuffled me out the back of the building. It was only a small glimpse between the figures of the men forming my path, and my eyes were streaming with the smoke that chocked the atmosphere, as the district I had at first thought colorless and serene, turned into a world of fire, destruction, and hate. A wild, insane cry of a man had drawn my eyes towards the back of the square initially, where Peacekeepers were tying peoples hands, shoving their faces heedlessly into a brick wall, then sending rounds of bullets into their backs.
Didn't matter anymore, who or what they were. Any person without the daring white Peacekeeper uniforms were being pushed against the back wall, standing over the bloodied corpse of the last victim. All sizes and shape. Of all ages. I recall a small girl, with black braided pigtails and small, skinny arms. She was forced to her knees, sobbing, the barrel of a gun pressed into her forehead.
And it was me who killed her. All of them. Even if I didn't pull the trigger. I didn't have to pull that trigger to kill them. All I had to do was exist. The Mockingjay. Never had I loathed a title so much, and still, I don't hate it as much as I hate myself.
I should have died in that arena. The Capitol fished me out, though, with Johanna and Enorbaria. Johanna I haven't seen more than once or twice and each time seems to be different. Her state growing worse, and her bruised face increasingly battered. The only thing she gives me is a look of regret, and no words, not even a few curses. Everything she worked for in that arena was in vain. All those times she and Finnick, and the other victors, saved me in that arena was for nothing.
Enorbaria was never in District 3 with Johanna and me, she went straight to the Capitol. She's never been on my mind much and I've only see her once, when she was talking to Snow. From what I've gathered she's not against them, but it's not like she's taking up a gun against the rebels at the moment, either. I didn't have time to ponder her position much after District 3's riot. From that point on, since the time it took to move Johanna and I into the undergrounds of President Snow's mansion, Snow's efforts to turn me increased overbearingly.
To say the least Johanna, Enorbaria, and I aren't living the luxury life. I know those taken by the rebels are better off. Peeta, of course, must be safe. Not happy, but safe. I can't know what they'll use him for, but I have a feeling that they'll figure out what a good mouthpiece he is soon enough. Beetee, the older inventor from District 3, must be a beneficial addition to the rebels weapons. He's very smart and very willing to help the cause, but not really firebrand material.
Then there's Finnick Odair, the sex symbol from the fishing district, whose hope nearly outshone everyone elses in that arena. They'll want to transform Finnick into a rebel leader as well, but for some reason there hasn't been any show in the last four months from him. Or anyone. The rebels are silent, laying in wait. Only the regular districts revolt. District 9, I hear, is lost to the Capitol. President Snow is hoping the people of District 13 have been discouraged already by the mere fact that they failed to obtain me. The other and weaker districts will fall in time, without their help. Head Peacekeeper Leon on the other hand isn't so whimsical and never neglects to point out how determined that may make them in the alternative.
I'm in the hovercraft, feet dragging over the metal, walking over to the window to watch as the district grows smaller the higher we get. When it's just a blur of trees, I turn away, tearing the headpiece from my face. The last wisps of hope that the rebels would somehow take advantage of my return to the hot, devastated district evaporates.
Instead, Leon straightens in his captain's seat, and I instantly take in the white of his uniform and the gun slung along his back. Lights from the control panel seated before him illuminates the underside of his jaw and the wide brim of his hat, leaving his eyes in shadow. It makes him seem empty, obedient and hollow. A playing piece.
The others of my guard stumble out the control room, fanning their faces with their hands, glad to be let out of the sun and my range. I slip over to my designated seat beside the Head Peacekeeper. There's a tremble running in my hands that I'm helpless to stop, and I watch the sun dip into night out the hovercraft's pilot window passively.
"Any other stops you'd like to make?" Leon asks after minutes of thunderous silence.
The control lights flicker. He's taunting me; cruelly and just after I've left the remains of my home behind. My family could have been in that mess of gray. Yet, he is so skilled at doing it, without show or drama, I can see why a man so young can get a job as important as watching the Mockingjay. His voice is cultured, low, patient, and even if you look at him more closely there is no trace of evidence giving away to his tease.
"No," I say. "This was enough."
"Enough to convince you the rebellion needs to be stopped?" he retorts.
I force myself to stay calm. If anything this has made me hate the Capitol more. I will with every fiber of my being that it'll fall. Before I'm forced into action. My instinct warns me to cooperate with Leon just enough that I wouldn't bring more trouble on myself or on the baby. At the same time, I want nothing more than to unleash my frustration on him.
As I sit straighter, I realize my whole arm is shaking now, both of them, and I hide them behind my back. I don't reply to Leon and he sighs heavily. To my surprise, he sets the hovercraft on autopilot, takes the gun strap off his shoulder, ducking his head beneath it, and props the thing against the control panel. It's almost as if he were showing a sign of defeat, or exhaustion, as if some innate courtesy is overriding his formal training. Or he's deliberately manipulating me to try to put me more at ease.
I haven't spent much time with Head Peacekeeper Leon. I know he was in charge of District 3 before the riot. Beginning from the point in time President Snow had been called away for more important business in the Capitol, rather than being stuck dealing with resisting me, it was then Leon was given the unfortunate task of making sure I didn't get myself killed or managed to escape.
"How are you feeling?" Leon asks. I glance up at him, noting his straight nose and brown hair cut in the neat military style; short in back and a bit longer over the forehead. I don't know what I hate more, the way he speaks or the others who spoke to me with pity and hatred.
"Fine." Not fine. I need to escape. Then I realize how levelheaded I am, the morphine I'd taken before the trip is dulling, causing the emotions to be sharper and vivid. I felt like doubling over with loss. For everything; Peeta, Prim, Gale, Mother, my home. "Dizzy," I add, in hope it'll mean drugs are the first thing given to me upon arriving back in the Capitol.
One of his arms swings around the back of his seat, and when it comes out, he's holding out a rag. It's not clean, but he's tossing it onto the edge of my chair, urging its use. "You're sweating."
I wipe my face with it, glad for the excuse to hide my expression. Despite his gentle tone and considerate manners, I felt deceived by him. He's the Capitol through and through. A child that grew up there, trained to hate the districts and think us savage and uncivil people who deserve to die in the Hunger Games. Even more, a Peacekeeper, who whips those he decides deserve it.
He can't be older than nineteen. Twice, if not three, times younger than others within my Peacekeeper entourage. But there was something about his voice and manner that spoke peremptory control. I have the distinct feeling Snow left me with him on purpose. Not only does he have an abiding way of voiding my barbs, but he's so sincere with his want for me to reverse the rebellions effect on Panem, sometimes, I almost want to help.
Then, at those moments where I almost give in, I realize how heavily sedated I am, or how much I should fear him. His gun may not be pointed at me, but it's there. Always there and ready to be used by his trained hands do to so. How much fight can a seventeen year old pregnant girl really put up?
Part of me wishes I could have stayed in District 12 a bit longer. Visit my own victor house, collect a few remembrances. Something of my mothers old possessions. Maybe even one of Prim's hair ribbons. But what's the point? They'll only remind me of them, their loss. What am I going to do?
Is there any point in doing anything at all? My mother, my sister, and Gale's family could, for all I know, be dead already, which is irreversible. If they are alive, than they have to be safe and protected by District 13. Leaving me with no worry for them at all. That leaves the rebels in the districts. Of course, I hate the Capitol, but I have no confidence that my being the Capitol's Mockingjay will benefit those who are trying to bring it down.
How can I help the districts when I'm trapped? When every time I make a move, it results in suffering and loss of life? The old man shot in District 11 for whistling. The crackdown in 12 after I intervened in Gale's whipping. My stylist, Cinna, being dragged, bloody and unconscious, from the Launch Room before the Games. Brilliant, enigmatic, lovely Cinna could be dead because of me. I push the thought away because it's too impossibly painful to dwell on without losing my fragile hold on the situation entirely.
What am I going to do?
To become the Capitol's Mockingjay... could any good come from it? Would it only double the damage I've already done? Who can I trust? No one in the Capitol. Not Snow. Never Snow. No Peacekeepers. The deceptive Leon isn't an option, no matter how gentle he seems. Other than the doctors those are the only people I've been permitted to seeing. Could Johanna forgive me long enough to talk to her, if the option were ever opened?
I swear, now that everyone I care for is either dead or safe within District 13, I could die almost happy. Except for one unfinished piece of business. The child. If I knew for sure that I wouldn't end up a murderer, of a child, Peeta's child no less, and that I wouldn't become no better than President Snow himself, I would somehow throw myself at this control panel and crash this hovercraft here and now. But that's what stalls my hand: the child.
Before any really plan forms in my head a beeping sound starts to emit from Leon. My hand begins to twitch again, a strange feeling creeping up the back of my neck. Leon picks up a small device, presses a few things and holds it up to his ear.
After a few moments, to whoever is on the other side of communication, Leon says, "No, of course. She's fine."
Am I? Really? Almost as if he heard my thoughts, Leon's piercing green eyes flash to mine. He's overlooking my persona. "No... nothing that I see," he says in the phone.
"What?" I snap, when he still doesn't look away.
"You didn't take anything with you, did you?" he asks me.
One of his eyebrows arches. "You're certain? I don't want to have to search you."
"What are you afraid I took?" I say in response, but it doesn't matter because he's suddenly standing and sweeping out of the room, talking quietly and quickly into his communicator.
Logically I don't see what he, and whoever it is he's speaking to, are so worried about. I suppose it's possible that I may have picked up some rebel microphone or spying instrumentation. Though, how could I ever organize something like that? Especially if I hardly know a thing about District 13.
As the time passes, the sky beyond the hovercraft's window steadily grows darker, my limbs beginning to grow heavy. I'm slouching, nodding off between nightmares in the dim control room when Leon returns. Calm as ever, he comes to sit beside me, picks up his gun and slings it back over his chest just as he turns off autopilot. I watch the stars and moon overhead beginning to blur as he picks up the speed.
"We're landing in five minutes," he says. "Better wake up quick, because Snow's waiting for you and he has made it crystal clear how impatient he is."
I thought Snow wanted me to visit District 12. "What do you mean? What happened?"
There's only silence, broken occasionally by the noises of the control panel and it's flashing red lights. Eeriness stirs in the air around us and I sit up straight, pressing my palms into my stomach for leverage. "Was it District 13?" I ask, hardly daring to hope.
Leon's lips press into a tight line before answering. "Yes, it was District 13."
It has been long since they've done anything. So long. I'm not sure whether to cringe or smile. If I should worry or be elated. What has Peeta done? I want to ask, but I know President Snow will fill me on the details. Instead, like the last month I've been awake, I'm sent into spiraling thoughts wondering what Peeta's doing. Those three months I spent unconscious, what was he doing? Had he been hurt, too? The snakes were confirmed poisonous by one of the nurses I'd interrogated. Another one, a male Peacekeeper let slip that even after the screen cut black once we escaped the arena, he'd been in the Mayor's office, and the taping continued. Finnick took a snake bite to the bicep and thigh. Peeta fended off a few with his prosthetic leg, metal stronger than teeth, but he'd thrown himself into their midst at the end, at the chance he might reach me before I fell.
Guilt blooms inside my chest. Always, again and again Peeta never fails to surprise me with his determination. His pure will to protect me. Sometimes I wonder if it is foolish of me not to expect it by now. The lengths he would go to get me back. And I can not even dream of what he would do, if he knew I was pregnant... that's why I've assumed President Snow has been hesitant to put me on the television. This is a secret he has. Everyone knows he has me, but they don't know about the baby, not truly. Not unless they believed the lie Peeta told, and were ironically correct to assume. District 13 certainly won't. Not with Peeta oblivious to the truth.
"Katniss?" I hum a response, narrowing my eyes at Leon. "Watch what you say to him."
"Why?" I find myself snapping. "He's already taken my home. My family.. Prim.." my voice cracks there. "And its too early for the baby to fall into his hands. If he kills me, good. I'll be glad for it."
There is a glamor of something that crosses the man's face, then it becomes smooth. "He won't kill you, Katniss. That mercy is already gone. You had a chance at it in the arena.. but now.." Leon shakes his head sadly. I see his hands grip the control panel tighter, knuckles white. "President Snow is a powerful man who will do anything to save our country. If he must go to ugly means to do so–and he will if you refuse to be obedient–then I fear you will not be able to handle it. Not as you are now. If you are willing to let this tragedy overcome you, then you will lose your fight, too soon. Snow will break you at your weakest, when you turn your back on living, as you have now. You're losing sight of the bigger picture. Don't let this failure change you into a person of defeat, learn from it. Be who you were before," he pauses and his eyes peek at me out the corner of his sight, "just be for the Capitol. That's all."
And this is how he does it. Leon tugs, tugs, tugs at my heartstrings, rallying up my spirits and trying to warn me friendly, all the while converting me to the Capitol's side. I don't know what to say to him at these moments. Only no. I can see what he says is true, most of it anyway. I can't be this weak, hopeless creature. Especially not now. I can't give into that dark place inside me because of Prim and my family and recent failures. Personal tragedy aside, there is a country out there, needing me. A baby inside me, needing me. Peeta, waiting for me.
"I know," I tell Leon. And there is no further discussion.