Mockingjay: Broken Wings
By: Jamie Sommers
Third in the series of stories which begins with 74th Hunger Games Challenge: We Always Were, continues with Catching Fire: Rekindling (There are missing scenes for those of you that like rated M versions of things called Catching Fire: Rekindling Outtakes) and now the final story is being told.
In this version of Mockingjay: Broken Wings I will be following my own timeline, not the one provided in the book. Let's chalk it up to artistic licensing. I cannot promise to update four times a week, but you will get at least one update a week and I will shoot for two. I rely on others to complete this story and believe it or not, we dedicate an enormous amount of time on these stories. My betas ROCK! S and A are the best EVER! BB, thanks for listening to me ramble during my sickness. I was a feverish nightmare. If you have questions about this story, please ask them on my tumblr page as I will not answer them here. www dot jamiesommers23 dot tumblr dot com if you follow me on tumblr you will get updates as to what is happening with the story and previews to new chapters. Please let me remind all of you that I am writing a K/P based fanfic. If something else stems from it, yay! If not, so sorry.
Thanks to all of you that have been following me since the very first story and anxiously awaiting this one. I hope you like it. BTW... please remember while reading my stories, I love to tug at your heartstrings and leave you hanging at the edge of your seats.
Welcome to the world of...
Mockingjay: Broken Wings
He couldn't drag his eyes away from the spot on his arm that had been sliced apart only days earlier. Now it was healed and the skin was a glowing, a shining statement of how powerful the Capitol really was. One second you're taking your last breath and the next you're lying in a hospital bed, every injury...knife wounds...paper cut, hell, Peeta was certain if he got a splinter while he was in the arena it had been removed and after the Capitol works their magic on you they don't just stick you in a bed and say, get better soon, no, they take it one step further. In Peeta's case they may have taken it several steps further. He'd had a body polish, they had done something to his teeth so they were gleaming white, something to his hair, Portia said they didn't color it, but brought out his natural shades, his blonds looked a lot lighter and his browns a lot deeper. He wasn't sure what it was...he just didn't feel like himself. He began moving his fingers around, the two fingers that had caused him to lose his grip on the ladder. The feeling was back and would stay that way. The Capitol doctors had fixed it. They fixed everything. Peeta had wondered why they would do such a thing, repair him, and then they told him he would be doing an interview with Caesar Flickerman. 'Ah,' he had come to a conclusion, 'They want me to talk about how kind the Capitol was to me after rescuing me and so graciously saving my life...bastards.' He walked around the familiar quarters at the Tribute Center, Peacekeepers standing guard at the elevators and the doorway to the rooftop. Peeta walked into the bedroom Katniss always used, the one they had shared prior to entering the arena, and closed the door. He walked into the bathroom, sat at the edge of the tub and ran his fingers around the cool, smooth surface as he thought about their time together. 'Why didn't we leave? Why were we so stupid? Why was I so stupid?' "God!" He stood up and knocked over one of the bottles of oil that was left on a small shelf. 'I should have told you the moment I found out about that damn tunnel, but...' Peeta did everything in his power to push the tears back as he lay on his side of the bed, '...but your answer to everything back then was to run and I was so afraid you'd leave without me.'
They were shocked to see their friends from the Capitol show up the morning after they got married. Any other morning they would've been thrilled to be greeted with such a surprise, but on that particular morning...it was pure hell sitting in Katniss' living room with a group of people from the Capitol, sipping tea, nibbling on cookies and not thinking about everything that had transpired between them in the past twenty-four hours.
"Excuse me," Katniss stood up with an empty plate in her hand and walked past Peeta into the kitchen. She glanced down at him once, but that one look was enough to tell him, 'get your butt in the kitchen. Now.'
Peeta got to his feet, bent down at the waist and spoke softly to Effie, "Pardon me, Effie. I'm going to check and see if Katniss needs some help in the kitchen."
"Nonsense," Effie looked at him as though he were insane. "We've brought attendants along with us, they shall take care of the chores." She was just about to lift her fingers and summon them.
"No!" Peeta snapped and Effie startled. "I mean, it's okay. I'll um...uh..." he let out a sigh and gave his surrogate mother the God's honest truth. "We want a few minutes alone together. Especially today."
Effie grinned at him and said, "Well, darling, of course you do." She checked the time and told him, "You've got ten minutes. I shall keep these vultures," she winked, "at bay."
"You're the best." Peeta gave her a quick peck on the cheek and sought out Katniss who was pacing back and forth by the side door. "Hey."
"Geez, what took you so long?" She grabbed his hand and yanked him out the door. "Come on. We're getting the hell out of here. These people are not ruining today for us."
Peeta let out a chuckle and let her lead him through the backyards of the unused mansions. "Where we going?"
"Don't know." She paused and turned to him. "Where do you want to go?"
"Hmm," he made a face, looked around then scooped her up and took her to the side of a house. "This one's got a tree."
"Wish I had a tree in my yard," Peeta sat at the base of it with her in his arms. "Think about it. We could have our very own oak tree in the backyard." He ran his hand down her shoulder, arm then clasped her hand. "Our very own picnic spot each day." He placed a kiss against her temple.
She let out a small sigh and relaxed against him. "A place for the birds to gather and nest. Maybe they'd sing."
"You could sing to them." Peeta closed his eyes soaking up everything about her. The way she smelled, the texture of her skin, the feeling of her lips as they continually pressed little kisses against his neck and chin. Those kisses were driving him crazy. "Katniss," he whispered to her and tilted his lips down to meet hers. "We don't have long before they try to find us."
One of her arms was wrapped around his back, her body was practically coiled around his, her other hand was behind his head, encouraging him, telling him it was okay to do this now and her mouth was against his talking in a low hushed tone that stirred every emotion of love he had ever felt for Katniss in his life. "I don't care if they do find us, Peeta. All I want right now is for you to kiss me. Just kiss me."
The look she had shimmering in her eyes was more than he could handle. How did he say no to his wife...'Wow, she's my wife!' With that realization his lips collided with hers in a passionate kiss. He had her shirt clenched in his fists, could feel her hands holding onto both sides of his face as she repositioned herself and straddled his lap, their lips never breaking their connection. The vibrations of the tiny sounds she made trembled against his bottom lip and caused his heart to swell. Peeta always knew he was in love with Katniss Everdeen, but being in love with Katniss Mellark was oh, so much better than he could have ever imagined. He allowed his hands to roam over her body and smiled between their kiss when he felt her reaction to his touch, but she got her sweet revenge by doing the same to him.
"Let's get out of here, Peeta," Katniss suggested against his lips as she pressed her upper body against his.
"Oh, God." He was so tempted to do what she asked. "Where would we go?"
"My house in the Seam. We could go there."
"Think they'd find us?" He asked ready to make a run for it regardless of the consequences. Effie Trinket would be furious with him not living up to his responsibilities.
"Who gives a shit?" Katniss attached herself to his lips with gusto. "Dear God, Peeta, today of all days, are we seriously expected to entertain the Capitol audience?"
She had a point. "Okay. Let's go, but they'll find us at your old house. I know a place they won't find us." They stumbled to their feet.
"Where?" Katniss dusted herself off.
"Our oak tree," Peeta grinned at her. "None of them will even think about that place."
"And we can go into our house so I can grab a couple of things to build a little shelter...like I did for Madge and Delly during the winter..." Katniss had a look of excitement in her eyes that Peeta hadn't seen since she went into the woods.
"What do you say? Feel like making a run for it?" Peeta held a hand out to her.
"What do you think?" She grabbed his hand.
"I'll take that as a yes."
"You can take that as a hell yes," she gave him a small smile.
They had made it all the way to their side door entrance, which was locked, Katniss secretly made her way into the house through a back window only to be caught by Haymitch who had been sent to look for them.
Peeta could hear the man talking to Katniss the second she entered their living room. "Something wrong with the front door sweetheart?"
"I hate doors." Peeta could almost see the scowl on Katniss' face when she answered.
"Where's the boy?"
Peeta stuck his head in the window and said, "Right here." He let out a loud sigh and lifted himself up until he was able to enter the same way Katniss had done. "How long have you guys been looking for us?" He put an arm around Katniss shoulder.
"Effie thought the two of you were in another portion of Katniss' place. I told her I'd come here and check. You're lucky I found you. If I hadn't they would've had to call in for the Peacekeepers to do a search.
"What?" Katniss and Peeta said in unison.
"You two just don't get it." Their mentor's voice was filled with aggravation. "After all this time you still don't get it." Haymitch turned and walked towards the door. "You're victors...you belong to the Capitol, not yourselves. If you don't play their Games by their rules...there are consequences. Not just for yourselves either." He turned and pointed at them. "Think about that the next time you want to run off and have a little fling instead of fulfilling your Capitol duties."
Peeta shared a concerned and guilty look with Katniss. They walked over to her house, did what they were told and gave each other a chaste goodbye kiss until Katniss mouthed, "Can we go to the tree tomorrow?"
Peeta took her in his arms and kissed her thoroughly. "It's a date." One last kiss on the cheek. "See you later and try to have some fun."
Katniss' entire face morphed into one of disgust, "They're going to pluck me like a freaking chicken. Where's the fun in that?"
It was hard for Peeta not to smile when he thought of Katniss throughout the day. She hated going through prep, but she did it and she was stunning during too. He had to give her team credit, they sure knew their way around a makeup kit, but when it came right down to it, he much preferred her without all that crap on her face. Natural Katniss was the most beautiful creature he could ever imagine. 'Those freckles,' Peeta grinned when he thought about them dashed across her nose. 'I love them.'
"Perfect!" A man called out from across the room. "We're all done. Thank you."
Peeta just stood there in front of the backdrop thinking about Katniss...Katniss, once again he let out a sigh.
"Wow, you've got it bad." Portia ran her hand over his shoulder. "What do you say we get you out of these clothes, clear these people out of here and try and get you and Katniss back on your schedule instead of the two of you being on ours?"
Peeta nodded absently, a look of love plastered on his face, sheer adoration for the woman he married the day before magnified the vivid hue in his eyes. "What do we do first?" He was a work machine for Portia and Cinna, staying away from Katniss so as not to distract her from her shoot, but he could hear her yelling and complaining. He entered her home through the side door they had exited through earlier, removing three large empty trunks, that weighed a ton, and bringing them to Peeta's house to really empty them. Then there were Effie's trunks and Peeta's trunks. In total, eight trunks with false bottoms that held a remarkable amount of supplies.
"Have you dismissed everyone?" Effie walked into Peeta's home with a stiff spine, quite properly.
"Yes," Portia was tucking the last of the bedding into a trunk. "Effie how did you get these sleeping bags and pillows?"
She flapped her hands at Portia. "Oh, it was no big deal. The moment I found out about the house I gave Plutarch a what for," she pointed her finger as though she was currently scolding the man, "and he provided me with the name of a black market distributor. Well," she tugged on the hem of her jacket, "it's amazing what you can get from a black market sales person simply by supplying large sums of money to him. It seems that's really all they're interested in...that and trading for better goods, which I have," she picked up a jar of anti aging cream, "One of these got me fifty sleeping bags and pillows. I'm truly disgusted at how vein the people of the Capitol are." She blew out a huff of air. "Oh well, pish posh. Their vanity is to our benefit." Effie walked up to Peeta and slid a key out of her glove. "There you are darling. Keep it somewhere safe...somewhere...away from you and Katniss. Definitely away from Haymitch. Perhaps hide it next to the house itself, but if you're searched for any reason and they come across this key, they will know after trying it, that it does not belong to your home."
"Who's home does it belong to, Effie?" Peeta asked.
"Has Portia not explained it to you yet?"
"No," Portia shook her head. "We've been a bit busy."
"Well, I must head back to Katniss and make sure we don't finish too early. Though that girl does have a tendency to drag things out," Effie grinned. "Oh, how I've missed the two of you. Still, I wouldn't want anyone to give in to her temperament too quickly." Effie addressed Portia. "I shall leave it up to you to explain. Everyone is either on the train or in Katniss' home. I have made it perfectly clear that I will leave them behind if they are not in their assigned place when it's time to leave."
Peeta let out a little laugh. "That should scare the hell out of them. Being left in District Twelve."
"Oh, darling," Effie turned and walked towards the door. "I find your district charming. All it needs is a little more...nourishment." With that she went to Katniss' house.
"Did Effie Trinket just compliment District Twelve?" Peeta turned to Portia with a look of disbelief on his face.
"Effie has changed, Peeta. The woman...you wouldn't believe what she did to Plutarch Heavensbee over that key you're holding." Portia bent down and took the handle on one side of a trunk. "Come on, we have to get this moved. I won't have time to take all three trunks...we'll probably have to dump some of this stuff out. Maybe you can get a hold of some boxes or something."
"My dad runs a bakery. I can get boxes."
"Great. You'll need them so you can pack up this stuff and put it into storage." Portia made a small grunting noise as she lifted the handle of the trunk.
"Want me to carry this myself?" Peeta asked.
"No, it's too heavy. We need to go out the back way." Portia began walking towards the side door. "This is the only other doorway, right?"
"Yeah...other than the one that leads off of our bedroom, but that just walks out to the balcony." Peeta answered.
"Okay, come on." Portia took Peeta to another mansion in Victor's Village. Once they were inside Peeta was shown the series in which to push the buttons inside of the workbench. It should have surprised him to see the shelving move to the side and reveal a staircase cut into the packed earth with wooden planks on each step, but after seeing the Capitol hideout, nothing came as a surprise to him anymore. "These tunnels were put in when the houses were built. It took awhile from what we gathered, after Effie..." Portia hemmed and hawed, "Well...we didn't get much more information out of Plutarch about the tunnels after Effie had her little dispute with him, but every district was supposed to have one put in. They don't all have one, but I believe most do."
Peeta took the trunk on his own and carried it down the steps, "Talk me down, will ya, Portia?" He stuck out a foot, tentatively reaching for the next step while following her voice. The moment he reached the bottom, hitting his head on the ceiling in the process, he asked, "Why did Effie fight with Plutarch?"
"We told him that you and Katniss wanted to run away right after the Victory Tour. He knew about Snow's plan to make you a co-host alongside of Caesar Flickerman and one day we were talking, Cinna, Effie and myself, about a way for you to escape...it was right before you and Gale were whipped, talking about a way for yours and Katniss' families to get out of Twelve. We thought if you could somehow make a break for it and get through the woods...make it to Thirteen on foot then you'd have..."
"Thirteen!?" Peeta interrupted. "It's real then?"
"Yes," Portia glanced over her shoulder, but continued talking and walking down the dimly lit tunnel holding onto the handle of the trunk. "It's real and the president there is very concerned about you and Katniss. Your survival is of the utmost importance to the rebellion, Peeta."
"Katniss told me Thirteen wasn't gone...it wasn't destroyed by the Capitol. We were going to ask Haymitch about it, but we sort of got sidetracked with the wedding and all."
"He wouldn't have admitted to it anyway." Portia adjusted the trunk. "It was only hours later that Effie came back all worked up. She had gotten the call from Haymitch about you getting whipped and let me tell you...I would never want to be on that woman's bad side when it came to hurting her babies."
"Her babies?" Peeta could feel himself blushing.
"She loves both you and Katniss, I'll admit that," Portia said, "but when it comes to you...I don't know what you and that woman share Peeta, but I've never seen anything like it. I mean...I've seen a mother's love, but Effie has seemed to take it one step further when it comes to you."
Now Peeta felt his cheeks burning, not with embarrassment, but flushed with the fact that Effie Trinket loved him as much as his own mother hated him. "So she had a fight with Plutarch?"
"Not a fight really," Portia grinned. "She got angry with him when he said, 'Perhaps I should have suggested they use the escape tunnel that led to the woods in District Twelve,' then...Oh, my!" Portia let out a high pitch laugh. "Effie walked slowly up to Plutarch and asked him, 'Do you mean there's a way Katniss and Peeta could've escaped that hellhole called Victor's Village?' and Plutarch kind of bristled a bit...he knew he had said too much, but there was no getting out of it at that point." Portia stopped walking. "I've got to set this down, it's so heavy. I just need a minute. Wish we had some water or something in here," she ran the back of her hand across her forehead and Peeta pulled out a few scraps of paper he had in his back pocket in case he saw something he wanted to sketch and handed it to her. "Thanks." She patted it across her brow. "Well, Plutarch had no choice but to tell us about this tunnel, admit that Haymitch had known about it for years..."
"He has?" Now this shocked Peeta. Haymitch was aware of the tunnel yet never told Peeta about it. Then again, Peeta always got the feeling that Haymitch would put the rebellion before he and Katniss so why should it come as a surprise. "Never mind," Peeta rolled his eyes. "Go on with your story."
"Haymitch has known about it for years." Portia went on. "The tunnel comes out deep enough into the woods that it's past the surveillance, but not so far that you have to walk for hours and hours to get to safety. The storage area," Portia giggled, "is a rock."
"The opening is a rock, beneath it is storage that was dug out by a small machine, similar to the tunnel itself, but none of these things are lined, just packed earth. Inside of the tunnel we should come across the actual machine that did the work." Portia stood up and took the handle of the trunk. "Let's see if we can find it. Apparently if it's still functioning it will sense whether or not the ground is unstable and begin repairs or start digging a new tunnel, and use this one to store the soil from the new one. Pretty ingenious isn't it?"
"Portia?" Peeta wiped the little bit of dirt out of his hair. "Can you please get to the part where Effie fights with Plutarch?"
"Sure," she smiled. "After Plutarch filled us in on the details Effie started doing that little walk of hers, you know the one...she did it when we were in the hideout before you proposed to Katniss. I think that's when she gets all of her genius ideas, and she started mumbling to herself about the two of you being safe long ago, how you would've never gotten hurt by the new Head Peacekeeper, Gale would've never gotten whipped, Katniss could finally sleep peacefully...work on having dreams like a girl of her age should, that both of you could battle your nightmares under a physician's care instead of having to keep it under wraps. I could see her working herself up into a little frenzy and the next thing I know she walked up to Plutarch and said, 'How many years have we known one another?' she started taking off her gloves, one finger at a time and Plutarch answered her by saying, 'We've known each other for too many years my dear friend.' Then Effie said, 'Do you consider me trustworthy?' And he answered, 'Why of course.' Then...I swear to you, never in my entire life did I see this coming and I know that Plutarch Heavensbee didn't either. Effie Trinket took her right hand, made a proper little fist and socked the Head Gamemaker square in the nose. She made him bleed, Peeta." Portia started to laugh to which Peeta joined in.
"My God, I can just picture her doing that. I bet she checked her hand to make sure she didn't get any blood on herself and then put her gloves right back on too."
"Yes," Portia's laugh grew. "I know she must've hurt herself, but you'd never know it. That woman didn't flinch. She simply looked over her shoulder at Plutarch and said, 'I want the keys. Now!' and he practically ran to get them. He had them hiding somewhere in the passage between his house and the hideout. Then she started talking about stocking this place up, what we should get for it, supplies your families would need and what if it was more than just your families? What if there was a full on uprising? We'd need to stock you up with supplies for the people of your district. There was no way we could have enough for thousands, but a few hundred...children maybe...anything we could do to help." The humor was gone from Portia's story and the seriousness of the items they carried inside of the trunk now weighed even more.
Peeta had spent a few hours with Portia traveling back and forth with her, the last box of supplies was in fact stacked up against the wall, not having time to take them all the way down to the storage facility. He couldn't wait to tell Katniss about the area, she'd want to go see it right away, but it would be dangerous to go at night. 'Hmmm,' Peeta thought to himself. 'Maybe it would be best to wait until the next day.' The night their friends went back to the Capitol he ran a bubble bath for Katniss, let her relax and soak in a tub filled with her favorite scent. He promised her that night that he would pamper her, spoil her rotten for the rest of her life. It was something she deserved. His wife had spent her entire life having to provide for those around her, essentially having to be the man of the house. It gave Peeta great pleasure that night making her feel like a woman. Running a tub for her, leaving a fluffy robe at her fingertips for the moment she stepped out, preparing a tray full of her favorite cold meats, cheeses, fruits and bread for a light dinner and filling their bedroom with candles. Their first day of marital bliss may not have been everything they had wanted it to be, but there was always the night.
They had wanted to go to the oak tree the next day, had spoke about it before getting out of bed in the morning, but the news of the mandatory television viewing put a damper on it.
"We could still go, Katniss." He couldn't take her to the tunnel to see the woods like he had wanted that day, but they could go to the oak tree. "It might take this television thing off of your mind."
"I just hate it when they make us watch something. I mean, why do we have to watch it? If it's us in our wedding clothes...we wore the crap, why do we have to watch it?" Katniss was standing next to the washing machine as Peeta was unloading it into the dryer.
"What are they supposed to do say everyone has to watch it except for Katniss and Peeta?" he pushed up his sleeves and pressed the button on the dryer which didn't start. "Damn it. Not again."
"What's wrong?" Katniss asked.
"Can you go flip that light switch for me please?" Peeta was well aware of what was going on. The Capitol was trying to figure out why his surveillance didn't work, it was wired throughout the house via the electrical system, but his didn't work. If Katniss turned on the light and it didn't go on then they had failed to get the surveillance up and running.
"Do you need me to keep flipping it?" Katniss asked.
"How many times have you done it?" Peeta asked from across the room.
"About a half a dozen times."
"We're good," he lifted the corner of his lip in a grin at her. "Got to go to the basement." He held his hand out to her. "Come on. I'll show you the box."
"What box?" Katniss walked alongside of him down the stairs.
"It houses all the main electrical power supplies for our house. I just need to push a couple of buttons to get the dryer up and running again." He placed a kiss on her temple. "Next month it'll probably be the fridge I'll need to restart."
"Maybe the television will go out," Katniss said flatly. "We could leave that one out and blame it on the crappy housing."
Peeta let out a little burst of laughter. "Yeah, that'll go over really well."
Was it hours...minutes? It most certainly wasn't days, but their lives had been turned upside down and into a frenzy. All signs of laughter was gone. Whatever joy he had found with Katniss as a newlywed was nonexistent the moment the president of their country ripped apart their little bit of happiness and threw them back into the arena. Peeta had almost forgotten about the tunnel that led to the woods...until Katniss went missing. He literally had to stop and dissect their conversations since he found out about the tunnel the day prior. Had he told Katniss about it? Was she gone? Did she leave him? Did she run? 'Dear God, Katniss' Peeta was racing towards Victor's Village with Gale somewhere close by, in search of Katniss who had mysteriously disappeared after the reading of the card, 'Please don't leave me. I cannot do this without you. We're not strong enough to face those woods yet. Not where we have to go. We have to prepare ourselves for that kind of trek. We need to...my God...I can't live without you.' His hands were trembling when they entered Victor's Village and an intoxicated Katniss collapsed into Gale's arms.
"She's drunk," Gale announced.
"I'm going to kick Haymitch's ass." Peeta was more than happy to do so too. The man was their mentor. He should know better than to let Katniss get inebriated. Peeta held out his arms, "I'll take her."
Gale shook his head from side to side. "That's okay. I can carry her."
He let out a little breath in hopes to relinquish some of the stress that was consuming him. "Mind carrying her home for me?" Peeta asked Gale.
"Nah," Gale turned towards Katniss' house.
'Damn it. Tension's back,' Peeta thought to himself as he hurriedly walked towards Gale who was heading for Katniss' mother's house and stopped him before he got too far away. "Gale. She doesn't live there anymore." Peeta's eyes flew to his and Katniss' front door when he saw the questioning expression cross Gale's face.
"Oh." There was disappointment clearly written in the man's eyes.
Peeta led Gale into their home and thought to himself, 'We'll make it through this Katniss, but if I tell you about the tunnel right now...you'll run. You'll endanger yourself...the people we love, and I can't let you do that. Please forgive me for what I'm about to do to you. I swear, you will not have to go back into the arena again.'
Peeta opened up his eyes and stared at the ceiling of the room he and Katniss shared at the Tribute Center. From the moment he decided to become a Career he began hording the extra supplies Effie had sent through the black market distributor with their special food orders. It was the reason they were unloading all the merchant's supplies back in Twelve. Peeta had been in touch with Effie only twice during their training, they had always planned on stocking up for the possibility of an uprising in Twelve, but after the reading of the card things got a lot more serious. She got in touch with him to tell him when the camera crews would be coming and that they should concentrate on their strengths with weaponry. In other words, stay away from the extra stock. Fortunately no deliveries came when the camera crews did. The next time Peeta spoke to Effie was when he called to tell her that they were no longer training for the Games. In other words, stop sending stuff to us. Peeta and his father spent many nights hauling boxes into the woods, his father more than him since Peeta hated leaving Katniss alone at night. If only he had done what they had set out to do...leave. Just get their families and go. Never let Katniss see the inside of the arena again. 'You didn't keep your word,' he hated himself for this. 'If you had just kept your word and not let her go back into the arena you'd be safe right now. They still would've bombed Twelve, but with you and me together, Katniss...maybe...' There was no stopping the tears this time. Thoughts of his friends and family being burned alive...charred to a crisp, combined with Katniss' absence. Not knowing if she was dead or alive. Hoping she was alive. That the baby was okay. That they were both... Peeta punched the pillow to his right with his newly functioning hand and curled onto his side, drawing his knees to his chest. "Son of a bitch! Katniss! Katniss!" He screamed out her name as the tears and pain consumed him from the inside out. He cried out her name until his throat was raw and scratchy. He ignored Darius' attempts at helping him and Portia's words of comfort, but the moment he felt a delicate gloved hand curl over his shoulder he sprung out of the fetal position he was balled into and proceeded to cry like a baby on Effie Trinket's shoulder. "I miss her, Effie. I miss her so much," he choked out. His body racked with grief, shaking...shuddering. He had done everything the president wanted him to do during his interview with Caesar that day. Effie told him what to say, and he said it, even though he hated it, he said it, but he also did what she suggested, something the president would never understand. He mouthed something very simple and basic to Katniss and all Peeta could hope was that she would be alive and well enough to understand the meaning when she watched it. "Ma...mma...my bba...baby...mmy..." he clutched at Effie, trying to hold onto her, clinging to her, drawing as much strength from her as he could.
"I know darling. I know." She stroked the back of his head.
"I miss her so mmmuch...mmmomm." Peeta had thought of Effie as his surrogate mother for awhile now, but he'd never actually called her by the name, and he hadn't realized he used the word then either. The only saving grace was that it came out sounding like he was simply mumbling.
"Oh, Peeta," Effie couldn't react to his words. She wasn't allowed.
"I want to go home. I want to go home. Please...ppplease. Tell him I'll do wwwhat...whatever he wants. We'll disappear. All...all we want is to bbbe a...a family. That's all. That's all." Peeta pulled back and screamed at the ceiling, "THAT'S ALL WE WANT! JUST LEAVE US ALONE!" Then he buried his face in Effie's shoulder.
"Shhh, dear one. Things will work out. You'll see." Peeta hoped Effie's words were a prophecy, but he didn't see her glance to the side, avoiding any form of eye contact, accidental or purposeful with him, nor could he read her mind...see the things that she knew. He could sob all he wanted that night. Mourn for those he lost whether they were dead in a district that no longer existed, or alive in a district that was no longer supposed to exist. Tomorrow a whole new Games would be starting for Peeta Mellark. He would be thrown into a new arena without an alliance or weapons to defend himself.
Katniss continually floated between two different stages of life, consciousness and dream-state. It was the only way she could define her life since leaving the arena. Consciousness consisted of time periods in which she ate, walked around with Lavinia's help, she had never known the Avox's name, but learned it after getting to Thirteen. For some reason she thought the girl's name was Darius, but that was the concussion playing tricks on her mind. Sometimes when she felt well enough, she'd sneak out of the medical bay and find a tiny corner to hide in. A dark closet or quiet stairwell, but her doctor kept getting worried about her, was constantly checking on the baby afterward, even though the baby's heart rate was just fine after Katniss' little excursions. And then there was the dream-state stages of her life. Those were causing problems for the baby...for Katniss. She couldn't' seem to tell the difference between the dreams and reality. She could swear at times when she had dreams of Peeta that he was there with her...sitting with her in the room, laying in bed with her and ever since she heard the baby's heartbeat Katniss swore it wasn't the baby's heart at all. It was Peeta's. The doctor kept talking about how it was beating twice as fast as an adults, but all Katniss heard was Peeta's heart and every single time the doctor turned up the baby's heartbeat Katniss closed her eyes and waited to hear something fast, but all she could hear was the strong and steady beat of its father.
Each day she spoke to the doctor and her husband Justus, an Avox, but she mostly spoke to Peeta. No one heard her talk, all they saw was Katniss moving her lips and staring into space. Haymitch came to visit her, so did Plutarch...Finnick, but she had nothing to say to them. She was too busy talking to Peeta at the time. Couldn't they see she was in the middle of a conversation with her husband? "I swear these men are so rude, Peeta. Effie Trinket would shit a ring around herself at the way they behave. Okay, maybe that's not the proper term to use when talking about Effie, but she would. How's she doing anyway? Haymitch was just here and he's a mess without her. He looks like crap. I think he needs a drink and they have a strict no alcohol rule here. The next time I see him, I'm planning on laughing in his face about that, but he's trying...not that I care. Rat bastard. I really need to watch my mouth. Banana nut's going to hear me talk like this pretty soon. Crap, I better get it all out of my system now then." She let out a little laugh and saw Justus smile at her. "Hey, I've got to tell you about my doctor and her husband, you are not going to believe it. My doctor is married to her Avox husband. You heard me." considering he was across the country and the only thing coming out of her mouth was air, obviously Peeta couldn't hear her, but it made her feel so comfortable...normal, talking to Peeta like he was sitting right next to her. "Apparently he was the very first rebel in the Capitol. Built some sort of underground hideout...like our tunnel, in Twelve. He and his wife, her name's Regina his name's Justus, they talk to each other with their hands. Sign language they call it. I see them teaching Lavinia, that's the redheaded Avox girl's name, she's here, Peeta and she's still taking care of me. I told her she didn't have to, but she won't stop. I'm not sure, but...I think she's sort of...sort of my friend or something. Anyway, they're trying to teach her how to talk with her hands too. It's kind of different I guess, but who are we to judge...we talk without words." Katniss yawned and pulled the blankets up to her chin. "Know what I was thinking about this morning? Remember all of those things Cinna designed for me to wear after our Capitol wedding that never took place?" She grinned. "Yeah, I know you remember those. I started thinking about them because...I wore that first one the day you gave me my present. It was right after we made up...right after we made..." Katniss sighed, closed her eyes, cupped her hand over lower abdomen and thought, '...right after we made banana nut.'
"Katniss," Peeta's lips were pressed lightly against hers. "Wake up." He kissed her gently. "Katniss."
She opened one eye and saw one gorgeous blue eye staring back at her. She was willing to risk opening up the other. Two stunning blue eyes staring back at her. "Mmmmm," she wrapped her arm around his neck, "God how I've missed this. You're not allowed to sleep on the sofa anymore."
"I'm fine with that," he spoke against her lips, "but I don't want to sleep right now, Katniss."
"Did I give you the impression that I wanted to sleep?" She began kissing him, but he was hesitant.
"No...mmm...no...mmmno...Oh God..." Peeta pushed her gently back by the shoulders. "You are not making this easy."
It dawned on Katniss that it was dark outside. Not just dark, but pitch black. "What time is it?"
"Well, that depends," Peeta kind of twisted his face into one of child like innocence.
"Depends on what?" Katniss craned her neck around until she saw the clock on their nightstand. "For the love of...Peeta!"
"Yes, for the love of me," He smiled brightly at her. "And remember, you love me, Katniss. You love me sooooo much. So it's either really late at night or the start of a new day." He started kissing her again. Lots of little kisses all over her neck, her favorite place, and talking in between. "There's something...I want...to give...to you...but...you have...to get...out of...bed...and...get...dressed..." he stopped at her lips, "...I have a present for you Katniss. Will you let me give it to you?"
Her face was completely deadpan. "At two in the morning, the only present I want doesn't' require me to leave my bed and getting dressed."
Peeta clamped his lips together, Katniss could tell he was trying not to laugh. "That's fair, but I promise, once you see this present, you'll be so happy...so..." he sat on the edge of the bed and rested his elbows against his knees. "Do you ever feel old, Katniss? Like we've aged in the past year?"
"Yeah, like we've aged a decade in the past year," she answered and watched him carefully, still not too thrilled with the thought of getting up at two in the morning.
"Well, I want to give you back your youth. Not all of it. I can't do that, but I can give you a little bit of it. Maybe bring back a small portion of your life...like...like," he turned to face her, "when we used to meet for lunch at the oak tree. Our biggest fear back then was getting caught by your mom or not seeing each other often enough." He took her hands in his. "I remember how nervous I was just to hold your hand that very first time."
"I remember when you gave me my first kiss," she tilted her head and pointed to a spot on her forehead. "It was right here."
"Don't you miss that? Miss those moments? When life was carefree? Full of nervous jitters?"
"It wasn't exactly carefree, Peeta, but...yeah...sometimes I do." She studied his expression. "What's going on? Do you want to go to the oak tree?"
"No," he shook his head. "I want to give you something better than that. Will you let me do that, Katniss?" Peeta was practically begging her.
She nodded her head. "Yes."
"Good," he jumped off of the bed. "I put your clothes on the chair for you. All you have to do is get dressed and meet me downstairs." he headed for the doorway.
"Hey," Katniss called to him, hopped out of bed then ran and jumped into his arms, wrapping her legs around his waist in the process. "Let's get one thing straight. I miss a lot of things about our lunches under the oak tree, but I don't miss nervous hand holding or forehead kisses." She placed her lips against his and flicked her tongue against his bottom lip. "I happen to like being your wife and I love the perks that come along with it, so if it's just the same to you, I'd rather not go that far back in time."
Peeta pulled her body close to his and finished the kiss she started. "I have no problems with that."
"As long as we're clear." She dropped her feet to the ground. "All right, go downstairs. I have a date to get dressed for."
There were two separate dressing areas in their walk-in closet, a his and hers. The hers was much larger than the his, and even though Peeta had lived in the house alone prior to her moving in he chose to use the his side of the closet and left the hers side empty and untouched. Whenever Katniss spent the night he'd always tell her to put her things on that side of the closet, it was a room actually, and after they were married all of her things were immediately moved into that dressing area. There were drawers built into the walls that stretched sixteen feet across the room, shoe racks that worked like carousels, though she only wore three or four pairs of shoes or boots and they were usually left by the front door which drove Peeta nuts. A section of the room was designated for outerwear, Spring jackets, Fall wraps, Winter coats...fur lined... Cinna had kept her closet fully stocked with beautiful garments and she never wore them. There was a stand up hand carved mirror, two of them, two chairs, two chaise lounges, a vanity with an oval mirror and wall mirrors everywhere. Jewelery boxes that Katniss refused to fill and a wall safe for their valuables. Again something Katniss didn't use. Then there was the wardrobe with the peach and tan colored boxes stamped 'Designs by Cinna.' They varied in sizes, some had shoes to go with them, some didn't, but they were all named by the designer himself, Cinna. Katniss had seen some of the items once when he had come to their district for the wedding shoot, but she was so embarrassed back then when he lifted one of them out of the tissue paper inside of the decorative box that she turned beet red and locked herself in the bathroom for ten minutes until her color turned back to normal. Now however, she ran her hands over the different sized boxes and saw one that said "Peeta's Sunset." Katniss arched her brow in curiosity. She gingerly pulled the small cardboard container out, lifted its lid, saw that there was no tiny card inside of it that would designate matching shoes, lifted the ivory colored tissue paper up...the crinkling sound echoed throughout the empty dressing room causing Katniss to check over her shoulders for curious onlookers, then a breath caught in her throat.
"Oh, Cinna. This is lovely," Katniss whispered as she lifted the silky garment out with two fingers and marveled at the way the colors changed. "It's his favorite color, but it's awfully...skimpy." She bit her lip until she noticed that there were two pieces and she was holding the top part. "Good. Okay." Katniss blew out a tiny breath and laid out the top of the garment across one of the chaise next to her vanity then did the same with the miniscule bottom part of the garment. "I guess we're both giving each other gifts today, Peeta." She sat at her vanity, brushed out her hair and began to braid it down the side of her head, scolding herself the entire time. 'You better be careful, Katniss. You're sitting in a lavish dressing room, at a vanity, brushing your hair with a silver handled brush, getting ready to put on silk undergarments...Peeta's right...he's spoiling you rotten.' She lifted the corner of her mouth in a grin. 'This isn't you. You are not this person. You are the kind of girl that brushes her knotty hair with her fingers,' she told herself this as she finished banding her hair with a special elastic band Peeta got her that prevents breaking the ends of your hair and doesn't rip any hair out when you remove the band. 'You bathe in ice cold water...and you're lucky if you have soap!' She remembered the warm shower she and Peeta shared the night before beneath their giant rainwater shower head and the lavender scented body wash he loved to use on her. 'You most certainly don't wear silk undergarments...and for a man!' She slid the tiny bottoms over her still smooth legs from the last treatment she got with the prep team. Cinna insisted she get depilatory rip. It was painful, but it lasted over three months and Peeta seemed to appreciate her sleek legs. Katniss looked at herself in the mirror before placing the top over her shoulders. 'Who are you?' She wondered. 'You are not Katniss Everdeen.' She looked at the girl in the mirror and came to a realization. 'You're not a girl at all are you? Maybe some parts of you still are, but...' Katniss ran her fingertips over the waistband of the little garment Cinna designed and noticed that it came just below the freckles on her left hipbone. 'He's going to love that.' She pulled the top over her head and took a few seconds to appreciate Cinna's handiwork. "Thank you, Cinna."
Peeta was nervously playing with something between his knees, his elbows resting on them, his back arched. When he turned his head to look at Katniss as she walked down the stairs his whole face lit up. "I wasn't sure if you went back to bed or not. Thought you might stand me up or something."
"I was going to, but then I remembered this rumor I heard about you being a pretty good kisser so I thought..." she gave her shoulder a shrug, "...might as well go and see if the rumor is true." Katniss walked towards him wearing the clothes he had laid out for her.
Peeta met her halfway. "Who said I'm going to kiss you," there was a cheeky grin plastered across his face.
"Think you can keep your lips off of me?" She took a step closer to him.
He took a step closer to her. "Probably not." His nose brushed up against hers.
"Got five bucks?" her breath was beating hot against his skin.
"Yeah, why?" His lip began to brush against hers, his fingers found her waist.
"Bet you five bucks you can't keep your lips off of mine before we reach our destination." Katniss pulled back, "Which reminds me...where we going?"
He blew out a huff of air and said, "I hate taking your money Katniss and I'm not telling you." He let go of her waist. "I'm going to win this bet. I think we should make it ten bucks." He walked towards their back window.
"Told you, you were arrogant that day we were in the elevator," Katniss followed him, not thinking it strange that he used a window to leave their house. She used them all the time. "Make it fifty. In fact...let's sweeten this deal a bit," she was almost smiling when she said, "I bet I can keep my hands off of you longer than you can keep your hands off of me."
Peeta was whispering now that they were walking outside, "Oh, that's a good bet, but I'll win Katniss."
"Dream on, Peeta." Katniss had a secret weapon hiding underneath her clothes that he knew nothing about. She hadn't planned on using it that way, but this could be fun.
"Forget the money...let's make it something really good. Loser has to do what the other person says the entire day...no arguing," Peeta gave her a warning stare.
"Deal," Katniss gave him one back.
"Shall we shake on it?" Peeta asked.
"That's up to you," Katniss wasn't going to be the first one to put out her hand and be caught on a technicality.
"How about the bet hasn't officially started yet?" Peeta suggested. "Not until we get inside this place I want us to get to, okay?"
"How long will that take?"
"Longer if we keep talking." Peeta rolled his head towards Katniss telling her with his expression to shut up. "Good. Follow me and be very quiet." It only took a few minutes for them to get to the other mansion and there were no Peacekeepers on duty patrolling their village. There was usually only one at the entrance and he started around midnight. Once inside of the basement of the other mansion, Peeta said, "I'm going to teach you how to use this, but first...come here." He hugged her close to him. "I love you. No matter what you see today remember that I love you and that's why I'm showing this to you today. I'm going to kiss you now and after that," he got a playful look on his face, "our bet can start.
Katniss was confused as to what he was going to show her, but she pushed it aside the second his lips found hers in a soft kiss. His hands against her face, cupping her cheeks, his lips caressing hers with his own and love, she could feel it, feel all of his love for her. "Sure, do that to me and then expect me to act like nothing happened." She scowled at him. "Go ahead and show me what you want to show me so I can get my mind off of that damn kiss otherwise I'm going to lose that bet before it even starts."
Peeta let out a little laugh then brought her over to the workbench and showed her how to press the buttons, told her to watch the shelving unit and watched Katniss' whole face change when it moved and she saw the staircase appear. "Don't scream," he whispered to her. "Don't make any noise." He led her to the steps. "Come on. I'll show you how to shut this." He taught her how to shut the wall with the shelves. "Be careful walking down these stairs, they're not stable."
Katniss' eyes were looking from side to side...front to back. Her head whipping around trying to take in all that she could. Peeta was picking something up from the ground, some sort of torch, but the flame wasn't real it was... "Synthetic! That's Cinna's fire."
"Yeah," Peeta said quietly. "He figured out a way to make our fire into little torches. There's a few more hanging on the walls down the tunnel a ways." He was staring at her. "I know this is a bit shocking, but I'll explain it to you as we go. Think you can lift that end of the box and help me carry it?"
Katniss noticed the brown cardboard box by his feet and nodded. She picked up the end of it and began walking with him down the long dark tunnel, listening carefully as he told her where it came from, who had told him about it... "Effie! Effie knew about this? She punched Plutarch?" Katniss let out a snort of laughter as she imagined her ever so proper escort letting the Head Gamemaker have his just dues. "I'd have liked to see that."
"Me too," Peeta gave her a quick peek over his shoulder. "Look, I know I should've told you about this awhile ago, but...we're almost to the end of the tunnel, we should be quiet now. I need to make sure there's no one up there, okay?"
"Okay," Katniss whispered. She wondered where the tunnel let out. Peeta hadn't told her that. He told her where it came from, about the other districts and how it got built, even showed her the piece of machinery that built it when they walked by it. It looked like a flat ball on wheels, but Peeta picked it up and showed her the area where the tools came out, they were a form of holographic tools, light and energy, Peeta had said, that were being tested at the time and had since been scrapped as useless, but the Capitol had no idea that the holographic tools actually did work. They could be designed to have things go right through them, like light and energy should, or they could be switched into a solid and used like matter...like any other regular...thing. In this instance tools to dig a tunnel. Katniss was amazed. It took years for the small machine to create the narrow walkway, but it completed its mission and was still going strong. Many of the other districts had malfunctions with their machines, or their tunnels collapsed on it, but more than half of the districts had tunnels. Only three of the districts had homes with no surveillance that led to the tunnels and only District Twelve had an empty home that led to the tunnel.
"Let's set this box down," Peeta whispered to her.
Katniss gulped and mouthed to him, "Is there someone up there? Is this dangerous?"
He mouthed back, "Don't know. I have to check and see, but...will you do something for me, Katniss?"
"Anything," she answered.
"Will you kiss me? I'm so afraid that once you see what's up there...you'll get so angry with me...you'll be furious and you won't want to kiss me ever again and I don't think I coul..."
Katniss stopped his words with her lips. She didn't care what was above their heads. After the Career training Peeta had put them through she never wanted to be apart from him again, and if he thought she was going to get angry with him for something, chances were she was. Yes, she'd kiss him and she'd made it a damn good kiss too. Peeta was hunched over, he was standing two steps higher than her. Katniss was on her tiptoes, her head bent back by the neck, her hands hooked over his shoulders from behind while he pulled her up to him, ravishing her mouth with his own. As their kiss slowed down, Katniss felt his hand running up her arm, reaching for her hand. She laced her fingers through his and whispered against his lips. "Let's just go out there together. Whatever's out there, we'll face it as one...the way we always do, okay?"
"I love you, Katniss. So much," He pressed his lips hard against hers.
"I love you too. Now let's do this."
"Let me take a quick peek first. It should be fine, but just let me take a look," Peeta insisted. "You stay down there." She waited at the bottom, unable to see out the door that he opened, then heard him shuffle down the stairs. "Okay, coast is clear. You've got to do me a favor," his whole face was lit up with excitement, "close your eyes."
"What?" Katniss began shaking her head. A moment ago he was checking for life threatening dangers and now he wanted her to go out there with closed eyes? "Are you insane?"
"Come on," he took her hand in his, "close them. I'll talk you up the stairs."
"I married a lunatic." Katniss closed her eyes and listened as he called out step, step... When she finally made it to land she was taken aback by the pungent scent of pine. "Peeta? Where are we?" She knew these smells..these wonderful beautiful noises.
Peeta took both of her hands in his and said very quietly to her, "What makes you happy Katniss?"
"Oh my God," her mouth went dry, her heart began to race and her eyes filled with tears. "The woods." She opened her eyes up very slowly. "The woods. Oh, Peeta, you gave me the woods!" She threw her arms around his neck and took in the beauties of nature. She didn't care why or how Effie chose to give Peeta the key that led to a tunnel which brought them to the woods, but she was thankful.
"I thought you might like this," an impish grin danced upon his lips. "I have to get the box of supplies up here, so...you just stay right here. Don't go anywhere. I need to give you the safety zones." He darted downstairs and back up again.
"There are safety zones?" Katniss asked with a huge smile on her face.
"Yes, areas the Capitol can't see. I'll need to lay them out for you, okay?" Peeta set the box down and said, "Come here. Let me show you how to seal this. You need to do that the moment you step out of the tunnel in case anyone comes along so they don't find out about it."
Katniss nodded, "Got it." She stood up and followed him towards a large flat rock she had used many times to eat lunch on, organize the items in her game bag.
"This is the storage unit," Peeta bent down and began feeling for something. "Here," he reached for her hand, "feel this?"
There were four jagged edges protruding from underneath the stone's surface. "Yes."
"You need to press these buttons in a certain way," Peeta taught her the pattern and the rock's flat surface slid to the side revealing a well dug storage unit inside.
"Oh my God!" Katniss couldn't believe what she was seeing. "How on earth did you do all of this?"
"I didn't dig it or anything. The machine did that. It finished the tunnel then dug the storage unit. It was programmed to do it. I've just been stocking it so we could make a break for it."
"Make a break for it?" Katniss asked. "You mean...leave? Leave Twelve?"
"Where...where would we go?"
"That way," Peeta pointed towards the mountains. "To District Thirteen."
"District Thir..." she gasped. "Thirteen?" Katniss took a step towards the mountain terrain. "You mean...it exists?"
"It does." Peeta placed a hand on her shoulder and looked off into the distance with her. "It's out there."
"I knew it. I knew it was real, Peeta." She turned to face him. "We could go," her heart began to race. "Pack up our families and head for the hills."
Peeta's whole face lit up. "What do you think I've been packing up for?"
Katniss bent over the storage unit and looked inside. "You mean you've been planning on running away? To Thirteen?" She turned to him with a furrowed brow. "Peeta, how long have you know about this tunnel? These supplies...you couldn't' have done this overnight and you sure as hell couldn't' have done this alone. Who helped you? Haymitch?"
"No." He waited a second then said very carefully, "This is the part where you'll probably get mad at me, but remember, we just made up and you don't want to go back to the way we were before."
"Just tell me Peeta." She stood with her hands on her hips, her feet planted on the ground.
"Portia told me about this place the day of the wedding shoot." He held his hands up before she could start attacking him. "Now, let me explain myself before you kill me. That was the day before the reading of the card and I had every intention of telling you that night, but your foot was still a little sore from your injury and if I had told you that night, you would've wanted to walk all the way out here, plus we were a bit..." he blushed a little, "...look Katniss, we had just gotten married the day before and we had spent our first day as husband and wife apart." He kicked at a tiny pebble and dug the tip of his boot into the ground. "We missed each other and...well we were...um..."
Katniss had remembered the night of the wedding shoot all too well. "Yes, okay, I remember. I understand why you didn't tell me that night, but what about the next day?"
"We found out early that morning about the mandatory television viewing and you were very stressed out over it and...I thought if we could just make it through that day, then the next day I'd tell you and you'd be able to enjoy it, but then Snow did the reading of the card and..." Peeta sighed.
"Why didn't you tell me then?" Katniss threw her hands up in the air. "That's when you should have told me Peeta. When that white haired old goon did the reading of the card!"
"I couldn't' tell you then Katniss. All you ever did back then was run away." Peeta stepped in front of her. "Think about it. That night, if you had known about this place, would you have stayed in Victors Village or would you have run through the tunnel and into the woods?"
She didn't have to think, she knew exactly where she would've gone. To the woods! "Don't try and make some sort of lame point. You knew about this place and you didn't tell me."
"For good reason. If you had come here you would've endangered everyone..." he gripped her upper arms and lowered his voice, "everyone, Katniss. All you did was run." He dropped her arms and sat on the edge of the storage unit. "You didn't care who you hurt as long as you didn't have to face your problems, and it suited you just fine at the time." He looked up at her, "But you're different now...at least I think you are."
The light Cinna had created for them wasn't quite dim enough to hide the anguish crossing Peeta's face. "Yeah, I'm different now and yes, I probably would've run here back then, but I would've come back."
"And if you had crossed one of the Capitol's cameras in the process? How would you explain getting into the woods? Think they'd torture you? The woman they needed inside of the arena or maybe Prim...your mom...Gale...one of his baby brothers or Posy?" Peeta was making valid points and it was pissing Katniss off. "That's why I didn't tell you back then, and I had to tell you now because I want to run Katniss. I want to take our families and get the hell out of Twelve. Plus...I needed to give you the woods. Just one more time I wanted you to feel like that little girl that used to go to the woods with her dad again." His face flushed slightly. "I know it sounds stupid, but I wanted to give you that."
Katniss had to sort through the mixture of emotions coursing through her veins. Sure she was angry with him for not telling her sooner, but he was right, she would've run here many times and probably put...no, definitely put all of their loved ones in danger for her own selfish reasons, but she was also upset because she would've helped him prepare for an escape instead he had to do all of this on his own, but there was no way he could have gotten all of these supplies by himself...stocked this unit... "Peeta? Who helped you with this? How did you get these supplies? Store all of this stuff?"
"Effie arranged the supplies to be shipped via a black market merchant at the Capitol...the stash was hidden amongst the deliveries we unloaded."
"Is that why we unloaded them?" Katniss asked through narrow, accusing eyes.
Peeta nodded. "Yeah, one of the reasons, but the other was to train, just in case you did want to enter the arena, which I was going to talk you out of anyway. Some of the stuff came the day of the wedding shoot in the trunks Cinna, Effie, Portia and Flavius brought with them. They all have hidden bottoms and while you were being tortured, Portia and I were unloading items that Plutarch and Effie got a hold of at the Capitol. One bag has some weapons in it, some things my dad's been sneaking in from our training like a spear or a knife...things like that."
"Oh my God!" Katniss stomped over to him. "I knew I wasn't losing my mind last week when I asked you about that damn sword. I couldn't find it anywhere."
"Yeah, my dad had hidden it between two large sheet pans and brought it to our house in the morning, then we brought it here that night." Peeta grinned a little. "You looked pretty frustrated that day."
"I swear Peeta, I thought I was imagining things. I thought, I know Peeta had a sword, but maybe I was thinking of you in the first arena and not during training," Katniss' voice turned more conversational. "So your dad, huh? Is that why he's been spending some nights in our spare room?" She took a seat on the ground next to the fake rock.
Peeta gave her a guilty look. "That and...he's going to leave my mom. I'm not sure when, but he's been talking about it since the day after the reading of the card."
"Good for him," Katniss crossed her arms and lifted her chin in the air. "He deserves a lot better than her. No offense."
"None taken." Peeta reached for her hand which she automatically took. "I'm the one that encouraged him to leave her. If only we could get my brothers to do the same. We keep trying to get them to come over for dinner or something, but they won't." He shrugged. "They think I'm going to the arena to die and they still won't leave her side to have a meal with me."
"Can't force them into something they're not ready for, Peeta." She lifted his hand to her lips and placed a kiss on his knuckles. "It'll happen in time." She blew out a breath and said, "Okay, so tell me how this escape plan is going to work."
He grinned. "So you don't hate me?"
"No I don't hate you. Tell me how we're getting the hell out of here."
Peeta settled himself next to her on the ground. "First off, these are the people we need to bring with us, your family, my dad and I'm hoping my brothers, but if they won't say yes to a dinner than we leave them behind, Gale and his family, Haymitch and... Gosh Katniss, I really wish we could bring our family from the Capitol."
"Me too," she rested her head against his shoulder. "I wish I could bring Madge and Delly. Sounds stupid, but...I'd bring them if I could."
"Yeah, I had to think long and hard about them. Madge has been such a great friend to us, but with her father being Mayor and all... but Delly... Katniss, Delly's like...well, she's like my Gale. She used to be anyway. After you and I got together and I went into the arena, I sort of pushed her away for her own protection. She never loved me the way Gale loved you so I knew she'd be okay with it if I sort of ended our friendship. I know I hurt her when I did it, but... she knew it was for a good reason." Peeta rested his head on top of Katniss' "I love her though. Not like I love you, but I do love her."
"You want to bring her, don't you?" Katniss understood. If she had to leave Gale and his family behind she didn't think she could do it. "Do you think they could make it, Peeta? Could they survive out here?"
"That's not the problem. The problem is...if we suddenly started having dinners with the Cartwright family and the Hawthorne's...they'd know something fishy was up." Katniss could feel her hair stir from Peeta's breath as he spoke. "No, one of those families has to stay back and we have a better shot of making it to Thirteen with Gale's family so..."
"Okay, then what about just bringing Delly?" Katniss suggested.
"She'd never be able to live with herself. Could you do that? Leave your family behind?"
"Right. Dumb idea," Katniss knew it was stupid, but she had to suggest it. "Delly's a good person."
There was a long pause before Peeta asked with a great amount of pain in his voice, "Think they'll torture her after we leave? Try to get information out of her about our disappearance?"
"Doubt it. If you cut all ties with her after the Games, they'll know that." Katniss said it, but she didn't believe it.
Peeta nodded his head, then went over the plan with Katniss. "Dad's been joining us for dinner and Gale's been eating with us every now and then after training sessions. You're going to invite him to stay for dinner and I'm going to say the whole family should join us. We'll make it sort of a family dinner type of thing. Won't be too odd considering you've spent so much time with the Hawthorne's and where we're supposed to be going in less than a month. Plus Hazelle's working for Haymitch so she's already in Victor's Village..."
"Prim goes to school with the rest of the kids," Katniss added.
"Exactly. We could be sharing dinner with them every night," Peeta said. "And then on Saturday night we'll take it to our house...let the kids stay up late...bring blankets...play boardgames, dominoes, cards, chess..."
"A sleepover!" Katniss snuggled into his arms. "Prim would love that. Oh, and Gale's off on Sundays so that would be perfect and we only have a few Sundays left here."
"Exactly. Now the first time we do that, our village will probably have a few Peacekeepers nosing around, but the second time they'll probably just send someone to check up on us and the third time..."
"The third time is when they won't think anything of it and we make our escape," Katniss liked this idea. "Of course that will be our only chance. The fourth time will be too late. We'll be on our way to the Capitol."
"Yeah, we won't be here that long," Peeta said with confidence. "We'll tell Gale only, on the second Saturday, but not Hazelle and definitely not Haymitch. He's not going to know a thing until we're throwing his ass into the tunnel and dragging him through the woods."
Katniss let out a little giggle. "Oh, I like that. Let's keep him in the dark for a change. Good idea otherwise he might try and talk us out of it or tell those stupid rebels what we've got planned."
"Won't matter," Peeta pulled her against him. "Effie knows what we've got planned. That's why she's been sending me stuff. That and because she wants to prepare for an uprising. She's even got stuff in hiding in the Capitol for us just in case. God, I love that woman."
"She does try to mother you, doesn't she?" It brought warmth to Katniss' heart.
"Wish she was my mother," Peeta said under his breath. "Then I wouldn't have to worry about my brothers coming with me. They'd be there for every meal. They'd be loved...my dad would be loved."
"Hey," Katniss turned to him, "Your dad is loved. I love him." She ran her fingers playfully up his shirt like a young girl and grinned. "He's my pops."
"He likes being your pops, you know." Peeta tucked some loose strands of hair behind her ear. "He loves it actually. He's crazy about you."
"Well, I'm crazy about him too. He's like a big ol' cuddly version of you, only not sexy or anything like that."
"Hmmm," Peeta wrapped his hands around her waist, "Am I sexy Mrs. Mellark?"
She nudged her shoulder into his chest, "Shut up. You know you are."
"Yeah," he looked up at the sky, "I know...just wanted to see you blush."
Katniss gave him a playful smack. "If you're not nice to me, I'm not going to give you my present for you."
"Wait a minute. I have a present?" He grinned. "I do love presents."
"Got any blankets in that storage thing we can use?" Katniss stood up and dusted herself off. "Or do we have to get back?"
"Nah, we've got some time yet." Peeta stood up and found their trunks. "We've got two trunks in here. We're the only ones that can open them, they're voice activated so I'll have to set it with your voice before we go, but I've got our stuff in there."
"What do you mean our stuff?" Katniss asked.
"More like...stuff for you...things I know you like and I promised myself you'd never have to be without." He kissed her temple. "Told you I was going to spoil you rotten."
"Yeah, about that...you really should stop. I don't like getting used to things like...like..."
"Like down comforters, feather pillows, luxurious bubble baths drawn by the man that loves you?" Peeta pulled out the trunk and spoke into the lock, the top popped open. He pulled out a plastic bag which had a compressed blanket of some kind in it then locked the trunk back up, pushed a few buttons then programmed Katniss' voice into it as well as the second trunk. "We'll need a tarp too. The ground is still moist from last night's storm." He took out everything they needed asked her where they were going, pointed out the areas where the Capitol's surveillance could spot them, which was pretty far off in the distance and walked to the cluster of willow trees Katniss wanted to watch the sunrise from. "This is pretty. Wish I had my sketchpad with me."
"Is it packed in one of those trunks?" Katniss joked then saw him blush a little. She tilted her head back and said, "We sat under the oak tree...I can't even remember how long ago it was, and you were trying to convince me that the Mona Lisa...a piece of art was something of value. I didn't understand why anyone would bother saving it from before the Dark Days."
Peeta threw down the tarp then opened up the plastic bag, once the air hit it a puffy goose down comforter exploded from it and he placed it on top of the tarp making sure it didn't touch the moist earth. "You said, why save art, you can't eat it or anything."
"And you said, 'art feeds the soul.'" Katniss kicked her shoes off and stood at the edge of the blanket. "I never understood what you meant by that until you drew that sketch of you and I together and signed it, 'you feed my soul.' There are some things in life Peeta that certain people need. I need this," she extended her arms out as she stood below the hanging branches of the willow trees, the sounds of morning were just starting. "I need nature...the woods, and you need art. We each have our ways of...feeding I guess. Our own ways of surviving."
Peeta took his boots off and set them on the ground, he sat in the middle of the puffy blanket and stared up at her, surrounded by everything she loved and wished he did have his sketchpad in hand. "I don't need to sketch Katniss. I don't need anything but you."
"Shhh..." She was staring at something through the trees. "It's time." Katniss pulled her shirt over her head and revealed the silky top Cinna had designed, then quickly removed the rest of her garments before she chickened out. She heard the catch in Peeta's breath when she tossed her clothing on top of the blanket and started explaining. "Did you know that the people at the Capitol take something called a honeymoon after they get married? It's a vacation of sorts that starts the night of their wedding and lasts for a few weeks. Apparently the most popular spot over the past year has been our cave and the riverbed where I found you disguised in the mud. Those people actually reenact our..." Katniss' jaw was trembling, "...they reenact those moments." She hated that the people from the Capitol acted out their life like it was some sort of tragic romance. "Anyway, we were supposed to have our own honeymoon while at the Capitol, orders of President Snow, though I'm not sure it was for our benefit, and he ordered Cinna to design two dozen plus items for it." Katniss held her arms out. "This is one of them. He needed to stock up the trunks he was bringing here, when he came for the wedding shoot and he brought them for me. He was going to bring them back with him, but then he found out we really did get married and he thought he'd leave them here...maybe we'd use them or something. I told him he was nuts, but" she shirked a shoulder. "Each one has a name and this one is called 'Peeta's Sunset.' This morning when you woke me up and told me to get dressed..." she had yet to look him in the eyes, "...I don't know why I put it on, I thought maybe...after we got home you might like to see me in it, and we had such little time left together, but now...we're in the woods...and the sun is going to rise any minute and I wanted you to see it...and...and..." She could feel the heat radiating off of her skin. "I'm an idiot. I have no idea why I did this."
"Katniss," Peeta said very quietly. "Shut up. Just...wow. Do me a favor, move your braid behind your back and lift your chin." He was looking at her with that combination far off look and total bewilderment. Katniss did what he asked. "That strap is crooked, can you fix it for me please?" Katniss looked at her shoulders and adjusted the twisted strap. "Turn around...very slowly." She turned in a circle and heard him catch his breath. "Holy cow. Okay...stop. Step to your left. Turn towards me a little...stop. Now, look at me." Katniss turned her eyes to his and her heart sighed. "The sun is coming up...Dear God this is exquisite. I've never seen the sun rise and set at the same time before, but that's what I'm looking at right now...it's amazing...the colors are so..."
"Describe it for me," Katniss knew from her many times posing for him, regardless of whether or not he held a piece of paper and pencil in his hand, Peeta was sketching her, memorizing every color, curve...everything about her pose and the imagery around her.
"You can barely see the sky through the trunks of the trees, their branches are weighed down by the heavy white wisps burgeoning with blossoms. Between them a combination of colors...streaks of deep saffron, persimmon...gold...blended with soft, yet bold shades of Persian rose and the most beautiful cerise pink. It's a striking contrast to the...I'm not sure what to call what you're wearing, that Cinna designed."
"Lingerie," Katniss said in a trance like tone.
"It's a fancy word for women's underwear." Katniss blushed a little.
"I like that word. It suits what you're wearing. A striking shade of orange that's darker at the top then slowly fades to a soft glowing yellow at the hem. Like the sun is setting on your skin." He studied her. "Peeta's sunset. I can see it, the little bits of dogwood rose used as stitching...the hints of brushed indigo woven throughout the lace in the back...blending carefully into delicate champagne then muted gold and buttery yellow." Peeta held Katniss' gaze. "Cinna is a true artist. I don't think I ever appreciated his work before, but these...you said he did more than two dozen pieces?"
"Yes," Katniss swallowed.
Peeta just nodded. "I'm afraid I made you miss the sunrise."
"That's okay." Katniss still held her pose.
He stared at her like he was trying to find the right words to say then began to recite something from memory, "Every time you touch me. Don't you feel it too? The gentle hand guiding us, you to me, me to you. After all the might have beens, the close and distant calls. After all the try agains, don't be afraid to fall. We're on the side of angels after all."
Katniss felt her mouth go dry at his words. "That's beautiful. Did you...did you just think of that?"
He let out a little chuckle. "No. I'm an artist not a writer." The smile left his face. "After the Games, when we were apart, Effie bombarded me with all sorts of literature...music...you name it. Said she was broadening my horizons. One of the things she sent to me was a music chip that held songs from before the Dark Days. Those are the words of one of the songs I used to listen to. Kind of became obsessed with actually." His glance faltered then met hers again. "I used to imagine you singing that to me...those words. Telling me that something more was pushing us...guiding us towards one another and no matter how much people tried to keep us apart...no matter what came between us, we'd make it. That we didn't have to be afraid to fall in love. We had something...special on our side."
Katniss thought about what he had said and asked, "You don't actually believe in angels, do you?"
Peeta gave her a loving smile and answered, "Kind of hard not to when I'm staring right at one."
No one actually believed in things like that. They were fantasies, like fairies, dragons and the right to eat without being punished. She had no clue what to say to his sweet sentiment so she did what she always did. She avoided the topic of conversation."Can I move now?"
He lifted the corner of his mouth in a grin. "Yeah." He held his arms up to her. "Come here."
She was more than happy to oblige. "Can I get dressed now too?"
"Not quite yet. I'd like to hold you first then you can get dressed." Peeta kissed her forehead. "Thank you for my present. "I loved it."
"You're welcome." Katniss curled closer to him. "If it makes you feel any better, I felt just like I did when you held my hand under the oak tree, or when you hugged me for the first time. I was petrified."
"Why?" Peeta pulled back and looked at her. "You're telling me you're still scared of me?"
"No, but...let's face it, this thing really isn't me." Katniss reached for her clothes.
"Hey, Katniss?" Peeta pulled her back and kissed her. "What would you say if I told you that thing might not be you, but it's definitely me?" He wagged his brows at her. "I'd be very interested in seeing the rest of Cinna's designs Mrs. Mellark."
"Oh, Lord. I've created a monster." She stood up to get dressed but his arms went around her waist. "It's not happening Peeta."
"I believe you lost a bet, Katniss and you have to do what I say."
"I did not lose that bet!" She turned to face him. "You lost that bet!"
"No I didn't. You were the one that kissed me. I asked you to and you caved in." He gave her a smug look. To which she responded with a couple of fish like open, close mouth moves. "Told you I'd win."
"That's not fair...I...you...but I..."
"All's fair in love and...well when it comes to you and me definitely war." Peeta ducked when Katniss smacked the top of his head. "Ouch," he chuckled. "I didn't try to win on purpose or anything. I really did want to kiss you in there. If you hadn't kissed me, I would've kissed you."
"Then you should relinquish the bet."
"Hey, I'm not stupid. Have you seen yourself in this thing?" Peeta gripped her around the waist as she pounded against his shoulders. "God, Katniss I love it when you get feisty."
"Stop it. I'm mad at you."
"Yeah, I know you are." He trailed kisses down her neck. "You're furious."
"I am," God she loved it when he flicked his tongue against her earlobe. "I didn't wear this so you could have your way with me. I wore it so...so...oh, right there," she dropped her head back.
"Tell me why you wore it," he nibbled that little spot she loved so much.
"Shut up and kiss me Peeta."
"I thought I was the one that got to tell you what to do today."
Katniss ran her foot up his calf, "You really want to make that point right now?"
Peeta pulled away from her and met her gaze, "Sorry I fought with you. I was just being stupid. I didn't mean it."
"I know," she ran her fingers through his hair. "Me either."
"I should've told you about this place sooner."
"You did the right thing."
"You can win the bet if you want," he wrapped her braid around his hand.
"That's okay. You won fair...okay you were sneaky about it, but you won," she unbuttoned his shirt.
"We don't have much more time out here." He pulled his shirt off and threw it down next to her clothes.
"So we'll hurry."
"Sorry you missed the sunrise, but I did describe it for you," he breathed against her lips.
"I didn't really understand anything except for the words pink, orange and gold, but it sounded breathtaking." She felt herself being lifted into his arms.
"You were the most breathtaking part of the morning...you are the greatest work of art I have ever seen."
"Peeta... I love you," Katniss wrapped her arms around him and felt herself being lowered to the soft goose down comforter, heard the sounds of the woods surrounding her, felt the love of her husband fill her soul and for the first time in her life experienced a form of freedom she had never known existed.
"Hey," Peeta was packing up the comforter. "I think you forgot something."
Katniss finished tying her boots and looked up at what Peeta was holding. "Nope. Wrap that up in the blanket or something."
"Don't you want to bring this back home?" He held Cinna's creation in his hand. "Personally I'd like it if you wore Peeta's sunset again."
"Which is why you're putting it in that blanket and packing it up with the rest of that stuff. Just make sure you mark the box with my name or something so no one goes opening it up, okay?"
"Now look who's spoiling who," Peeta grinned.
"Yeah, that still doesn't mean I'm wearing the rest of those things he designed. Some of those are a little..." Katniss shook her head, "...let's just say, I don't think Cinna was sober when he designed them."
"What makes you think that?" Peeta packed up the quilt. "This isn't going to fit in that trunk again. I don't have that thing to take all the air out of the packaging. I'm going to have to shove it in a box."
"Like I said, make sure you put my name on it." Katniss pressed the buttons and opened the hatch to the tunnel. "Hey, got it on my first try. Your wife is brilliant."
"Why do you think I married you? Lord knows it wasn't for you cooking skills." Peeta laughed.
"Do not start with me and my cooking. Shut that thing up already so we can go. If anyone came to our house, they're going to wonder where we are." Katniss rushed him along.
"Yeah, I know. I know. Do you always have to get so superior and bossy?" He closed the storage unit up and the woods looked like the woods again.
"Yes, I do." Katniss walked down the stairs. "Be careful on those with that leg of yours, though I don't know why I'm telling you that. Your leg works better than mine does. Hey," she called behind her, "are you listening to me?"
"I married Effie Trinket," Peeta mumbled. "She's nagging at me like Effie nags at Haymitch."
"I can hear you."
"It was meant for you to hear," Peeta called to her as she jogged ahead of him giggling.
"Come on," she held Cinna's light ahead of her so she could see her way back in the dark tunnel. "Hurry up Peeta." Katniss pressed the buttons to exit the tunnel and raced back home, leaving the synthetic torch behind for Peeta to take care of. She opened the window in the back of their house and ran up the stairs to their bedroom, "I knew I'd beat you here. Hey, where are you?" She threw herself down on the mattress and waited for him to show up. She was exhausted. She kicked her boots off, stripped off her clothes and pulled on one of his pajama shirts. Their big plan for the day was to stay in bed unless someone bothered them, otherwise...they weren't moving. "What the hell is taking you so long?" She walked down the stairs and towards the window which was closed. Peeta's boots were by the front door, there was bread in the oven, but the house didn't smell like cinnamon or yeast it smelled like the bread was burning. Katniss checked the oven and called out, "I don't bake! And you're burning whatev...oh," there was nothing in the oven. In fact, it was ice cold, but the stench of fire was in the air. "Where are you?" She looked around the room and wondered if maybe he had burnt something and was throwing a load of laundry in the wash, but then she saw him.
"There you are," Katniss wrapped her arms around his neck and pulled him close to her. She didn't know why, but she felt like he wasn't supposed to be there with her. "I...I didn't know where you were. I've been worried and..." she started to cry and she had no explanation for it. "Don't leave me again." She kissed his cheek. "I love you. I love you so much," she whispered in his ear.
"Do you mean that, Katniss?" he asked.
"Of course I do." She closed her eyes tightly just trying to hold onto him. She was floating between a world of sleep and consciousness, but things were still so hazy. Katniss knew she wasn't in District Twelve anymore, she was in Thirteen...with Peeta. They had made it to Thirteen. At least she thought that's what had happened. "Where are we?" She whispered quietly in his ear, hoping she wasn't at the Capitol.
"Thirteen," he said. "Tell me you love me again."
"I love you," she was thrilled when she heard the word Thirteen and trailed kisses across his stubbly cheek until she met his lips. 'Strange,' she thought, 'when did you get stubble. Your skin is always so smooth and your lips don't feel right...your kiss is a bit...' "Slow down," she said against his mouth. "You don't need to devour me like I'm your last meal."
"Sorry. Guess I'm just a little excited at the thought of you finally saying you love me. I've been waiting a long time to hear that, Catnip." He kissed her again.
"Do not call me that," she threaded her fingers through his hair and it was wrong...all wrong.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to offend you," Gale said brusquely.
Katniss sat up and looked around the room. "Where am I? Dr. Valero? Dr. Valero!" From around a corner of the room the doctor and her husband entered.
"Katniss, are you alright?"
"Where am I?" Katniss asked.
"The same place you've been since you left the arena," Dr. Valero walked slowly up to the hospital bed and removed an electronic device from her jacket pocket. "Why don't we check your vitals? See how you and the baby are doing?"
"Where's Peeta?" Katniss began raising her voice. "He was just here."
"No, Katniss. Peeta isn't here. As far as we know, the Capitol hovercraft picked him up." The doctor looked at Gale and said, "You'll need to leave now."
"You...Gale? You're real?" Katniss was sure he was a figment of her imagination.
"Yeah, Catnip. I'm real," he answered. "I'm here." He tried to hold her hand, but she pulled it away.
"Where's Peeta, Gale?" Katniss pleaded with him. "Did you see him? Is he in Twelve?"
"Katniss," Gale started shaking his head, "Didn't anybody tell you?"
"Mr. Hawthorne," the doctor's voice raised, "you need to leave this very minute."
"I'm not going anywhere until someone tells her," Gale insisted.
"Tells me what?" Katniss began looking back and forth between Gale and the doctor.
"Katniss, you need to relax," Dr. Valero had the little device over her abdomen and the baby was being displayed. "Please, Mr. Hawthorne, this isn't doing her child any..."
"She'd want to know!" Gale yelled out. "Someone has to tell her. Katniss," he turned to her as Justus began removing him from the room.
"What? What does he have to tell me? What are you keeping from me?!" She yelled at the doctor. "Is it Peeta? Wait! Gale! Why are you here? Why aren't you in Twelve?!"
"There is no Twelve," he called out to her as Justus forced him from the room. "It's gone Catnip! Twelve is gone!"
"No," Katniss could feel her heart start to race, heard the doctor scream for her husband to hurry up and come back and then she heard a high pitched beeping noise coming from the machine that monitored the baby's vitals. There was no more District Twelve.
"JUSTUS!" Katniss heard Dr. Valero call for her husband, saw the doctor race around the room for different medications and noticed the Avox' expression when he saw the screen that featured her baby's image and the ear splitting beep that was coming from the machine resting against her stomach. The last thing she felt was a needle being pressed into her vein. The last thing she saw was her mother and Prim watching her through a glass window and Peeta's father yelling at Gale. The last thing she heard was, "We're losing the baby!"