A/N: Wow. I can't believe I'm actually writing the last chapter! It's about time for Katniss and Peeta's tale to come to a close.
Special thank you to all who read and reviewed, followed, or favorited. It means a lot to me.
Exciting news, though! I have the first chapter to a new story up: Tattered Slippers. It is a K/P romance with a twist based off the Twelve Dancing Princesses. I would love to hear your feedback.
Without further ado, the conclusion to Putting a Heart Back Together! It's in Peeta's POV. Happy Reading!
Madge dies at the bloodbath a week later. It's sad and gory, and leaves both Katniss and I in tears. We are forced to watch the best friend Katniss will probably ever know being bludgeoned to death by the mace at the hand of the girl from District One over and over again. Katniss buries her face into my sweater every time they show recaps of the games, and I put my arm protectively around her while she covers her ears from the screams and groans coming from the speakers.
Madge made sure not to go out without a fight, however. In her interview with Caesar, her stylist dressed her in a soft golden frock, complemented by her blonde tresses and girlish makeup. I suppose that was the plan- to reinforce in the minds of the capitol viewers that they are sending such a pretty young thing to the slaughter. Madge giggles as Caesar asks her what she thinks of the Capitol, and smiles when he compliments her on her 8 in training.
But the audience goes silent when she is asked about Katniss.
"Now, Miss Undersee, I have one more question for you. It's about the girl you volunteered for. Is she your friend?" Caesar asks gently.
Madge swallows tightly, nodding.
"So you didn't want her to steal all the glory, did you?" he asks, trying to appeal to the ignorant audience.
"No. No, Caesar, I did it because I didn't want her to be the girl from District Twelve to die in the arena. Sh- she's had a really hard life, with almost no food and an abusive mom… she basically is fully in charge of her little sister, and she has to make sure there's enough food on the table for the two of them," Madge says sadly. A small tear trickles down her face. "She's been alone her whole life and no one ever gave her a shoulder to cry on. Well, this past month, she found someone who understands her, someone who loves her for who she is and wouldn't have her any other way." At this, Katniss squeezes my hand. "After all she went through, she deserved to find some happiness."
The camera focuses in on the capitol audience, who are all teary-eyed and holding silk handkerchiefs to their heavily made-up eyes.
When the camera flashes back to Madge and Caesar on the stage, Caesar is about to say something when Madge interrupts. She stands and looks straight at the camera, her eyes gleaming. "Now, you all listen up. I am going to die tomorrow to let another person find happiness. But without these godforsaken games, no one would have to die at all! No one would be torn from his or her loved ones and no one would be denied a shot at a happy ending!"
You can tell the camera crews are getting nervous now. No one says this kind of thing in the games, no one. The technology crews are probably fiddling with buttons in the light and sound booth, they want her off the air and they want her off the air now. But for some reason, Madge is allowed to keep speaking.
"There's a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part. You can't even passively take part! And you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels. Upon the levers, and upon all of the apparatus and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to win the game for the people who run it, for the people who own it! And unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!" Then the video feed cuts to black.
I've heard rumors of uprisings in District Eleven, even some in District Eight, and I get this fluffy feeling inside. Maybe there will be a day when Katniss and I can have kids and not worry about their names being plucked from a reaping ball. Maybe someday there'll be a time when the electricity on the fence is always off, when the children in the square are well fed and happy, when it is more common to marry for love than for money.
After the games are over, I take Katniss to the meadow. We can spend a whole evening without worry about Cato returning from the Victory Tour, although he's probably haunted from his memories of murdering the five careers in their sleep. We don't think of uprisings, the Hunger Games, or my abusive mother. Looking at the sky, we can both trust that we'll find a way through all the obstacles life throws at us, because we'll always be stronger together.
I know Katniss agrees. After all her struggles, she's realized that life can go on. That the meadow will grow green again no matter how hard our losses. Our futures can be full of happiness. She kisses me passionately as we lay side by side on the soft grass, without fear of who is watching or how the world might try to drive us apart. And I know, deep down, that I've put her heart back together.
"There have been five great kisses since its invention. And the precise rating of kisses is a terribly difficult thing, often leading to great controversy... Well, this one left them all behind."