This takes place twenty years after after the last chapter (44). Also, Katniss and Finnick's older daughter would be about 16 and their son would be 12 or 13.
I receive the letter on a Monday evening, pushed quietly in the slot on the door. I recognize the symbol from the school, and immediate stalk up the staircase, into Maggie's room. "Margaret," I called, opening up her door, "what did you do now?" I ask her. She's been getting into all sorts of trouble at school, but nothing ever too serious - kissing boys in hall closets during free periods, passing notes, and dozing off in class.
Finn doesn't think it's that big of a deal ("Let her live a little," he always shrugs,) and he never fails to ask what we were doing at her age. I think it's different. She looks up from her notebook, and sighs, rolling her pencil-lined eyes. "It's not for me. Or even about me. If it was about me, it would say 'to the parents of Margaret Odair'. No, it must be to you." She turns the letter over in her hands and smiles a little. "It's weird. Look it's not for Katniss Odair. It's for Katniss Everdeen."
"Weird." I draw out the last syllable, feeling uncomfortable. Katniss Odair is who I am. That's safe. That's living in District 4 by the fish with the long beaches and beautiful sunsets and that's happy. Katniss Everdeen - that's not. That's who I'm distancing myself from, to the best of my abilities. I don't break laws, I don't lead revolutions, I don't hunt and I don't rebel and I don't kill. Katniss Everdeen was the starving girl-turned-celebrity-turned-whore-turned-revolutionary. Katniss Odair is a mother, a wife. She goes to a book club and goes on (consensual) dates and doesn't cake herself in makeup.
"Open it!" Maggie practically hops up. "I mean you never tell me anything about your life, before you got married that is. I don't know anything. And Uncle Haymitch won't spill either."
"What do you know about the Second Revolution?" I ask, taking the letter out of her hands a little rougher than necessary. My hands have killed. Her hands haven't even descaled a fish.
"Well, they mention your name and Dad's a lot. But they never say what you did. And they say they were these Games, these terrible Games that kids were picked to play in, and that society rebelled so they wouldn't have to do that anymore."
"So not much then." I point out.
"It can't be that bad. Want me to read it?" She offers, her tone a lot kinder. I just nod. "Okay, here we go. 'Dear Katniss Everdeen, In three weeks, there will be an assembly at our school wishing to commemorate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Second Panem Revolution. We plan on hosting an educational session for the older upper school students (ages fourteen to seventeen) and the finishing school students (ages eighteen to twenty-one) in which veterans would inform the students about what the war was truly about. The textbooks do not delve into much detail because of the graphic natural of any and all accounts available. We would love to hear a first-hand account and we think that this would be a great experience for our students to meet a national hero and the person who made everything that we live for today possible. Thank you for your consideration, and regards, The District 4 Academy.' Wow. What did you do?"
"I was a soldier." I tell her. It's technically not a lie.
"But that's not really it? I mean most people your age were soldiers. Dad and all your friends - Haymitch and Jo, Prim and Rory, Adrienne and Thomas, and Gloss and Annie? I don't think they all got like letters like this. Dad didn't even get a letter like this."
"Maggie, I really don't wanna talk about it. It was really bad. Worse than the scariest thing you could imagine. I'll do the speech, but that's cause it's different. If I looked you in the face and told you the things I did when I was the same age as you, you'd never look at me and your father the same way again." I sigh, running a hand through my braided hair.
"Well, at least tell me how you met everyone." Maggie pouts.
"Well, Prim's my little sister. Rory lived a few doors down. Annie grew up with your father, and Adrienne is his older sister. Thomas, his parents knew Finnick's stepmother. Also he was an actor when I met him. Haymitch grew up in the same District as me, and I met Jo and Gloss in the Capitol." I responded dully.
"Is that the best I'm gonna get?" Maggie whines.
"What are you asking your mother for now?" Finnick walks in, smirking. "Hey, honey." He puts down his bag and kisses me. I respond eagerly, and Maggie makes a fake gagging sound. "So, what's this?" He asks, and I hand him the letter. His face falls.
"Are you gonna do it?" He finally speaks after a pregnant pause. This is the first time he's looked scared in a very long time. I nod. "Katniss, what are you gonna tell them? I mean if you told them what you did, how would they look at the rest of us? Freedom comes at a cost. I mean if the games weren't bad enough, the stuff after was worse. And the Quell..." he trails off.
"I'm not gonna talk about the part in the middle, even though you did broadcast it as one of Beetee's propos. I'm gonna talk about my life in Twelve, the Games, and the War. In that order." I tell him, folding my arms. "They need to know how lucky they are."
"Twelve?" Maggie asks, "Like District Twelve? But there isn't a District Twelve."
"Not anymore." Finnick and I say at the same time.
"I'm going to bed." I state, walking out of the room.
That night I dream of my mother and Gale and the Hob and days long ago.
The days leading up to the assembly pass quickly. Next thing I know, it's the morning of and I'm picking out an outfit. I feel nervous for the first time in a while. I decide on a pastel purple blouse and gray pants. My days of wearing revealing little dresses are long gone - I'm almost forty. I put on a little lipstick, and head downstairs.
"You nervous?" Finnick inquires, looking up from his coffee. He's sitting at the table with a newspaper in a bathrobe, and I'd still jump his bones all this time later.
"I've been through worse," I shrug. It's true. "And besides, this is a good thing to do, I think."
He stands up, and walks over to me, kissing me on the forehead. "You'll be wonderful. Shine bright, girl on fire," he teases me. I punch his arm gently. Nobody's called me that in years.
I walk into the auditorium, and the auditorium is about halfway filled. I notice Maggie's class in the upstairs section, and she waves at me. I pretend to not see it. The headmaster - a short woman with auburn hair coiled tightly behind her ear, greets me. "Anything off-limits?" I ask politely. I already know what I plan on saying, but I'd like to double-check.
"Not really. Just don't scar them, you know? I must have been six or seven during your Games, but I remember them clear as day. They changed everything, and I'd like for them to get a lasting impression. Just nothing too... much." I raise an eyebrow at her. "You know what I mean," she amends. "Just try not to go into too much detail about the murders." I give her a nervous smile that doesn't reach my eyes. "Break a leg!" She smiles. It's an old phrase that nobody uses anymore.
She introduces me as the woman who needs no introduction, and I have to bite my tongue. This feels too much like an interview with Caesar Flickerman, with people I need to impress. I take a deep breath, and wipe my palms on my thighs. "My name is Katniss Odair, but before I got married I was known as Katniss Everdeen. Most of you have probably seen me around the District, and if you don't live here, well then maybe I've come up in textbooks or videos. I grew up in a place called District Twelve. That probably sounds strange to you, since there are only eleven districts - but I'll get to that later. Many people call me a revolutionary, or a leader. But I won't start with the Second Revolution. I'll start at the beginning." A few of the teachers nod knowingly, and I notice glances towards where Maggie sits. She looks very much like me.
"People in the districts lived in poverty, and people in the Capitol lived in exorbitant wealth. Now, it's not like now where people who work in politics live in the Capitol. You lived on little-to-no food, with harsh winters and no heat, in almost all the districts, but people in Districts One, Two, Four, and the Capitol had more than enough money to buy everything you could possibly imagine. I lived in District Twelve, which specialized in coal production. It was dirty and everyone was poor. There were many accidents in the coal mines, and most people lost a brother or a father because of it. My father died when I was a bit younger than you, and my mother was so depressed that she couldn't work. At the age of twelve or thirteen, I would climb trees to get over an electrocuted fence to hunt game for my little sister and mother. Leaving a District for any reason is punishable by death.
And that's pretty bad, right? Well it gets worse. Seventy-odd years before my time, the districts rebelled against the Capitol, for crimes nobody knew. In punishment - and this was their way to keep us all in check - each year, one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen were taken to the Capitol, and forced to participate in what was called the Hunger Games. This was broadcasted in the Capitol and treated like a celebration. Back in the districts, people were forced to watch it. Does anyone know what the Hunger Games actually consisted of?"
I see a few of the teachers sit up uncomfortably. A small blonde girl raises her hand tentatively. "Were they like athletic competitions?" She answers unsurely.
My lips curl up into a small smile. "No, not really. I don't blame them for not telling you. I haven't even told my kids when they ask me. The Hunger Games was a- a fight to the death. Literally. They stuck twenty-four kids in the middle of nowhere with a few weapons and if they were lucky, sources of food and water, and made them kill each other." The room literally stills. The quiet murmur of kids not paying attention has completely seized. I don't even hear breathing.
"The kids from Districts One, Two and Four won most of the time. They were called the Careers by the other districts. They had special institutions to train these kids to be able to kill. Most of the other districts were pretty hopeless. And the worst, was the tessarae. If you were hungry or poor, you could opt to put your name in more times for a supply of grain and cooking oil. I put my name in a few times. The worst, was my close friend, named Gale. At the Reaping when he was eighteen, his name was in over one hundred times, when the average eighteen year old would have his name in seven.
But, back to me. The year of the Seventy-Third Hunger Games was nearing, and I was sixteen years old. I was nervous, as usual. Everyone was terrified. Coming from District Twelve - who had only had two winners in seventy-two years - basically meant a death sentence if you were picked. That year, my little sister Prim was picked. She was twelve and had her name in once. The odds of that happening were almost none. So, I did what nobody from District Twelve had ever done before, and I volunteered to take her place.
When I got to the Capitol, they treated me like a celebrity - they did my hair and makeup and put me in dresses that cost more than my mother could make in a year, and we had interviews to show us off to potential sponsors who could give you things during the Games, like food or medicine. I'm not gonna go into what happened that Games. I mean I'm sure you can figure it out. But basically, I was the Victor." I let that sink in. The woman they saw at the Supermarket, the one they said hello to in the streets, the one who hosted the Book Club most of their mothers went to was a killer. At their age. I want a few moments before continuing.
"They say that you win, but they don't say what you lose. The people who win are isolated. My own family was terrified of me. My best friend wouldn't speak to me for a few months. The victors - most drank too much or messed with... substances. And the worst was every year, most of them have to come back to mentor the next tributes. And they have to relive those memories every year. Most of the younger victors, including myself had to make frequent visits to the Capitol year-round to meet with potential sponsors. That was the worst part for me. But, I messed up in that year between my Games and the next. The President, he would blackmail the victors into doing what he says and supporting his causes, or he'd kill your loved ones. I didn't think he was serious, and I fought back. That's just my personality. And the next year, my best friend was reaped. And it was my fault. I made him choose between death and a fate worse than it."
I take a deep breath. "Maybe I'm selfish, but I'm glad he made it out alive. I don't think he was. To sum up half a year: things got worse in my family, my mother and I stopped speaking to each other, and I rarely left the house. The next and last Hunger Games were the 75th. Every twenty-five years, they do something special. And by special, I mean unusually cruel. They announce it a few months in advance to get people in the Capitol excited. That year, only previous victors can be reaped. Everyone was in uproar, since the people in the Capitol had grown attached to us, and not only did we all know each other, but we had families, and some of us had grandkids. And I was the only female victor from my district, which guaranteed that I'd be going back."
"Any questions so far?" I ask half-jokingly. They're all stunned into silence. I shrug, and continue, "So yeah, my second Hunger Games. And this time, they didn't let me say goodbye to my mother and my sister. The rest of my family was in that arena with me, my best friend growing up, my boyfriend, the victor's I had befriended, and people who I shared this connection with. Being an outsider was bad enough, but having only seventy-three people like you, and knowing that most will be dead soon? It was a nightmare. But there was a plan. We had people who were high-up officials to break us out of the arena. But of course, things weren't that simple. In all honestly, I was in the dark about most of it. But most of the people in that arena died. But we got out, and broke the signal playing it to the districts. In retaliation, the President bombed District Twelve, and only three people survived. You know the rest - District Thirteen's broadcasting center, the physical revolution.
In the spirit of being completely honest, I'm not telling you all the details. As a matter of fact, I'm not even mentioning the worst parts. But that's a private matter. Everyone's entitled to their secrets. The point of me telling you this was supposed to be for you to understand how bad things were, and how good they are for you. I have a feeling a lot of your parents are trying to drill that message into you. Ask any of them about the Games, and you'll probably make them very uncomfortable. But that's not the point. I want you to know, that you can survive this. Sure, you don't have to kill anybody, but that doesn't mean your problems are illegitimate. Whatever you're dealing with, you can get through it. If I could, then you can. Thank you so much." I exhale, and it feels like a huge weight has been freed from my chest. Just talking about it has made things seem so much lighter. It feels like I'm moving on.
Maggie asks the last question. "What happened to your boyfriend?"
"I married him." I smile. Her face lights up with some mixture of happiness and an emotion I can't put a finger on.
"Hey, mom," Maggie stops by my room later, while Finnick is in the shower. I smile at her and she sits down next to me. "That was really... wow. I had no idea. You weren't kidding when you said you've been with dad since forever."
"We didn't meet until after I had won my games. He was there, and helped me with a lot of stuff." I tell her, being careful to omit a lot of details.
"What was the part you didn't tell? I can tell you left out a lot about the whole blackmail and in general."
"I don't think she's ready to hear that." Finnick comes out of the bathroom in just a towel wrapped around his waist. Twenty years and he's still kept his figure.
"Me neither," I agree. "I'll tell you one day, Maggie. But I don't think you're ready to hear it."
A/N: So, this is it. Secrets is officially complete! This last chapter was supposed to bring closure to Katniss, since now she's gotten a lot of this off her chest, she's sort of at peace.
Thanks to everyone who's reviewed (or just read it at all). Next up is going to be a bit of Supernatural fanfics, and then maybe another THG-verse story. I'll be updating here, but ao3 is a lot better. A revised version of Secrets is also up at my ao3 (same username), with fixed grammar if you want a re-read.
As always, PM me if you have any questions, or just want to talk. I'm here for all of you if you ever need someone who won't judge.