Panem was at a stand still.

Everyone's heart, weather black or warm or made of ice, was pounding, steadily, deeply. Pulses roared in anxious ears, waiting for the clamoring death sentence. They waited, on their toes, leaning toward their televisions, for that final cannon shot that would confirm what they'd just witnessed.

Katniss was already crying. She knew. She knew. She didn't know what was wrong with her as she knelt there in the sand, uncontrolled sobs heaving up from the very pit of her being, threatening to bring her stomach up with their strength. There was a dull ache in her temples, radiating through her head, as she swooned above Peeta's body, the knife still thrust deep between his shoulder blades.

All she could think was that he deserved better than being stabbed in the back.

He deserved better.

Her fingers clutched at the boy's curls, cradling his head in her arms, pressing her cheek against his.

His killer laid motionless across from them, an arrow in his eye, blood bubbling from his lips. Gloss had been laughing triumphantly before her bow raised. For what it was worth, she'd not even aimed before she let the arrow fly. Katniss had been lunging toward Peeta, hoping to catch him before he collapsed. Really, she didn't. He only pulled them both to the ground, too heavy, and she threw her bow, savagely away from herself. Furious, thinking fleetingly of President Snow and the Gamemakers, she didn't care, if she found herself weaponless when they tried to send yet another wave of horror at her.

It was Rue all over again.

She'd come too late, she'd left his side for one second, and now there was nothing left.

"Peeta, please," she babbled in her hysterics. She knew the country was watching. That President Snow was laughing, and his cruel mirth rang in the back of her mind, taunting her, piercing her heart as sharp as a pick. "Don't die. Don't leave me here."

The answer to her pleas was the bang of a cannon and her sobbing harshened.

Their allies stood some way back, too stunned to speak, too appalled to move. Johanna was the first to recover. Cursing under her breath she went stomping around the perimeter of her alliance, an axe in hand, checking for any other Careers. But it seemed they all fled in the face of Katniss' anger, when she broke through the tree line, wielding her bow and inconsolable over the fact that Gloss managed to harm her boy with the bread.

Finnick went to Katniss. He walked carefully toward her from behind, his lips pressed into a thin line. The handsome, smooth panes of his face showed anxious and cautious when he fell beside her, on his knees, resting a hand on her back.

He was shrugged harshly away.

"Katniss.." He paused. "Katniss, we have to move. They need to.. to collect the bodies."

She clutched Peeta's body closer to hers, chest to chest, and her shaking hands found the knife in his back. With a heave, she ripped it free and then flung it away, like the bow. "No," she said, still sobbing occasionally, the sounds gasping and sudden. "They can't have him."

"Katniss.. they'll send him home. To his family."

"I'm his family," she said. One of her hands shifted, running over his face, closing his glazed eyes. They lingered over his pale lips. "They can't have him.."

..but they already do.

It became clear, rather quickly, that Katniss wasn't moving. Johanna tried dragging her and got a slap, that seemed almost revenge for the time Johanna had been giving the blows. Finnick coaxed with all his charm, and it did nothing. Her allies ended up settling near a tree not too far away, watching her, as she sat vigilant over the corpse.

Hours passed, or maybe only two or three, but nothing (no thing) came to remove them from the murder site. Apparently President Snow wanted everyone to see, the long, drawn out image of Katniss clinging to her dead fiance, whose child she was supposedly carrying.

The tears had ended by then, and she was silent, eyes screwed shut. Thinking, but not really thinking coherently. Still, there was something so miserable about her, the air around her thick with her grief.

Abruptly, and to almost everyone's relief, she drew in a breath, as though to speak. Her chest rose slowly, falling rapidly, as her eyes cracked open, raw and red and trained on Peeta's face. Then she took another breath, and it left her, a lot differently.

"Are you, are you,

Coming to the tree?

Where they strung up a man they say murdered three.

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."

Finnick exchanged a glance with Johanna. Heads, that had averted themselves previously, turned back toward the televisions in the homes across Panem. They took in the sight of her crumbling from her knees, onto her backside, a hand tenderly touching Peeta's cheek.

"Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Where the dead man called out for his love to flee.

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."

Her voice rang clear and sharp. Distinctive and illegal, but most of all, uncaring.

"Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Where I told you to run, so we'd both be free.

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."

Katniss layed her mouth to Peeta's, momentarily. It was a simple press of cold and chapped lips. A goodbye. Her eyes fluttered closed, then reopened as she drew back, his head slowly slipping from her hands and resting in the sand.

"Are you, are you

Coming to the tree

Wear a necklace of rope, side by side with me.

Strange things did happen here

No stranger would it be

If we met up at midnight in the hanging tree."

Her voice softened by the end, instead of growing more powerful.. and infinitely lento, Katniss rose to her feet, Peeta sliding from her arms and grasp and he is lost to her completely. They have him, but they will not have her, and that is why when she turns her back to him, her face is closed over and cold.