A/N: Wow, guys! Once again, you have completely blown me away with your reviews. Seriously, you need to tone down your awesomeness. I'm getting overwhelmed. But on second thought . . .
Yeah, keep overwhelming me. ;)
I am beyond thrilled that all of you enjoyed the first chapter. I've been getting a lot of questions about when Peeta will be back in the story. So I guess I'll answer that question now. Peeta will return in Chapter 11, I do believe. So . . . there's a little bit of a wait, but some things you just can't avoid. Regrettably.
Now, let us continue with the story! This one actually has a little bit of humor in it . . . at the very end . . .
Random Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games Series. As the past two stories show, my version of events would have been quite different.
Peeta: Chapter 11? I'm not back until Chapter 11?!
Me: Peeta, darling, you have to understand . . .
Katniss: What is there to understand? Do you like making everyone miserable?
Me: Well, if you remember our last conversation about this . . . yeah, I have that right.
Rye: Hey, guys! What's going on? This is cool! See? You think I'm talking right now, but it's really AC. Because, you know, we're not real. She decides everything we say.
Chapter 2: Hall of Fame
Standing in the Hall of Fame
And world's gonna know your name
Cause you burn with the brightest flame
And the world's gonna know your name
And you'll be on the walls of the Hall of Fame
When I enter the hovercraft, Maya standing loyally by my side, I'm met with an array of stares. Plutarch and Fulvia simply stare at Maya, awed and fearful. Gale is studying me, and I see a small smile tug at his lips. Rye looks at me, and for the first time in a month I see a glimpse of that playful sparkle in his eye.
Haymitch holds my gaze, expressionless, but I see the smile in his eyes. "Good to have you back, sweetheart."
I take my seat and Maya follows me. We're all silent as the hovercraft gets into the air. Everyone is a little tense. There were a lot of strings pulled to get me out here. A dozen invisible hovercrafts had floated around District 12 while I'd been on the ground. Tactical crews keeping an eye on me. After several minutes, Plutarch has a conversation with one of the pilots, who says that the airspace is clear. We all relax a little.
Plutarch then takes a seat on a cushioned bench under a window. He studies me and then glances at Maya. "Your dog?"
His reaction is comical, but he merely nods his head slightly and says, "Oh." Still, he and Fulvia stay on the opposite side of the hovercraft.
Rye leans down and whispers rather loudly, "I think they're scared of the big, bad wolf."
My lips twitch as I fight a smile.
Gale comes to sit by me and eyes my game bag. "What else did you bring? Aside from the wolf."
"My mother's wedding photo and the plant book," I answer. "And my father's hunting jacket."
I don't tell him about the handful of Peeta's shirts that I took as well. He doesn't need nor want to know. "How's it look down there?" Rye asks quietly.
"Couldn't be much worse." Rye, Gale, and I all share a look, seeing our own grief mirrored in each other's eyes. Our home is gone.
We sit in silence for the rest of the time, and my mind wonders to Peeta. Is he surviving? How is he coping? My heart aches at the thought of him alone in some cold, dank, dark cell. Bloody and beaten. Just hold on, Peeta. How I wish that he could somehow hear my thoughts. Live for me.
I wonder about the other captured victors. Johanna. Is she still fighting? I honestly can't imagine her doing anything else. Enobaria. Because she's a Career who obviously had no part in the break out, was she granted leniency? I don't know.
Then there's Annie Cresta. I didn't learn of Annie's capture until a week or so ago. That was the first time we had any new intel about the prisoners from Plutarch's sources at the Capitol. At first, I hadn't been able to place Annie, but after a moment's thought her image solidified. A beautiful, dark-haired girl screaming as they announced her name at the District 4 reaping. A girl who was driven mad when she saw her district partner beheaded in the arena. She only won because a dam broke, flooding the arena, and she was the best swimmer. My heart had wrenched for her plight.
But Finnick's heart had broken.
I didn't understand at first, why Annie Cresta's capture hurt Finnick so deeply, but Haymitch had filled me in. Finnick Odair, the womanizing sex symbol of the Capitol, was in love with a mad girl. Annie. He could have any girl he wanted, but he fell in love with Annie Cresta.
News of her capture halted his recovery drastically. Although his body healed from the massive shock he sustained when the force field blew, his mind is full of torment, his heart full of a despair that I am all too familiar with. I visit Finnick in the hospital, in the psychiatric wing. He sits on his bed, his fingers constantly tying knots with a string of rope, staring into space. I simply sit with him. He knows that I'm there with him, offering support. We're both in the same situation. We both know how the other feels.
Although I see Finnick often, I can count on one hand the amount of times I've seen Beetee since the break out. The moment he was well enough to sit up on his own, they literally wheeled him down to the Special Weapons department. Beetee was more than willing, ready to invent anything useful to the cause. I've only ever seen him at meal times.
From the air, District 13 looks a lot like 12. The ruins are no longer smoking, but there is no apparent life above ground. No, for the past seventy-five years since the Dark Days, all work has been done underground. Apparently, there was already a substantial underground system that they basically inherited. It was supposed to be used as a secret hideaway for government officials in a time of war, or if life on the surface became unlivable. Now it is simply the home of the people of District 13. There have been a few times in the past where they almost died off, but they always managed to pull through due to frugality with resources, strict discipline, and constant vigilance against any other attacks from the Capitol.
I don't know how the people of 13 are comfortable with living almost exclusively underground. You can go outside for exercise and sunlight, but only at the specific time in your schedule. Schedules are very important here in 13. It's almost like a science. There's a machine in everyone's quarters that you stick the smooth side of your forearm under and then your schedule for the day is tattooed onto your arm in purple ink. It tells you exactly how you will spend every single hour of your day, and it's very important that you stick to your schedule.
So, naturally, I blatantly ignore it.
I don't think you'll ever do what anyone says. But that's only one of the many reasons why I love you.
My lips twitch as I fight a smile at the whisper, but at the same time my heart swells with longing. I want Peeta right beside me, to tell me these things himself. I'm tired of relying on memories. I want to create new ones, with him, sharing the moment. Flames of determination flicker within me. I will get Peeta back.
The hovercraft lands on the launch pad, and I immediately head for the stairs. Maya trots faithfully beside me, sniffing at her new surroundings. She gets wide-eyed looks but no one comments. I go down three flights of stairs before I stop and turn to face them.
"What's going on?" Rye asks.
"I'm going to be the Mockingjay."
Haymitch's expression doesn't change, but his eyes narrow ever so slightly in that calculative way of his. Gale has a small smile on his face in approval, while Rye is frowning in concern.
"What about the baby?" he asks. "You can't go out and fight."
"I won't." I'm not endangering my child like that. Besides, I'm only getting bigger as the days pass. I won't be too much good in combat a few months from now when my walking is more of a waddle. "But I can still do propos here. All they want is a face, right Haymitch?"
Haymitch nods. "Predominantly, yes. But you can't just accept this blindly, sweetheart. If you do you're just handing yourself over to Coin. You've got to show your power."
I frown. "What do I do?"
"You have conditions," he replies. "And you'll only be the Mockingjay if those conditions are met. If you're going to be a threat to Coin, then you need to come right out and show it."
"Threat?" Gale questions warily. "No offense to you, Catnip. But you're not much of a threat in your . . . condition."
My eyes narrow. From my perspective, I have never been more dangerous.
"Not physically," Haymitch snaps, as if Gale is focusing too much on the surface of things. "Katniss is the one who moved the nation to act. Not Coin. The people look to Katniss for guidance. They look to her for courage and hope. The people love Katniss, not Coin. If we win this war, a new government will be put into place."
"And Coin will want to be president," I realize.
"Exactly," Haymitch nods. "They say that if we win we'll revert back to the government of our ancestors. Democracy and elected officials and all that crap. But Coin? All she wants is power." Haymitch pauses to let his words sink in. "And you're the only one who could take that away from her. If we win and you speak out against Coin, who do you think the people will follow?" Me. "Coin knows that if you speak against her, she loses her chance. You're a bigger threat to her than Snow and all the Capitol."
Unease settles within me. Coin's cold, pale grey eyes studying me—calculating. She can't be plotting to . . .
As if sensing my train of thought, Rye says, "What? You think Coin will try to kill her?"
"Yes and no." Haymitch's hands twitch and I know that if he could, he'd have his flask in his hand. "Katniss is the face of the revolution. If she dies, especially since she's pregnant, the revolution will die." He looks at me. "You're their hope, sweetheart. And so is that kid," he adds, looking pointedly at my slightly distended stomach. "New life and a new world and all that sappy stuff. Coin can't afford to lose you right now."
"But after I have the baby . . ." I begin and Haymitch nods.
"You're fair game," he says, looking more serious than I've ever seen. "Soon as you have the kid, Coin will send you out in the field. Friendly fire is always tragic, but it happens."
Gale looks like he wants to argue. "I can't see Coin doing that . . . she's driven, sure. But we all are."
"Driven?" Rye questions Gale, raising his eyebrows. "Seriously? Look, I don't know people like my little brother does, but even I can see that she's too cold. She's just like the president but with a lot less flair . . . probably because of that stick that's so far up her ass."
I know that it's not the time to laugh, but I can't help the bubble of laughter that escapes me. Rye meets my eyes and gives me a smile. Since the bombing, he has mellowed out a lot. He's grown up. Of course, there was always a hidden maturity to him that was concealed behind his pranks and jokes, but now that mature side of him is much more prominent. But still . . . I'm glad that he can still make people laugh.
Haymitch nearly rolls his eyes at Rye's words, but nonetheless nods in agreement. "Mellark's right. Coin only wants power." He looks at me. "We may be out of the arena, but the Games are still going. We've just traded one lion's den for another, and we've got to play this right."
I nod. In the back of my mind, I'm wondering how long Haymitch has been analyzing our situation, looking for motives and duplicity. Probably since the moment he stepped into 13. He was already plotting while I was absorbed in grief and loss. I suppose Haymitch knows how to deal with loss much better than I do, since he's lost so many tributes to the Games. And even if he cares for Peeta as his own son, Haymitch is so analytical that he would have put all his energies into plotting to get him back and protect me than wallow in sorrow.
"Okay." I take a deep breath. Just another conversation about people wanting to kill me. "So what exactly do I do?"
"State your conditions," Haymitch repeats. "It's a small power play, but it shows that you won't roll over and be her puppet. Your main issue is that you can't let Coin realize that you know her endgame. Play up the grieving, pregnant widow act."
My eyes narrow. "I'm not a widow," I snap at him.
Rye raises his hand. "Sorry to interrupt your death glare showdown, but can we focus on the conditions?"
"Might want to make Maya one of them," Gale says, eyeing my pet. "They'll probably see her better as a stew than as a companion."
Maya whines, and I begin to absently scratch behind her ears. "Right."
"What made you want to be the Mockingjay, anyway?" Rye asks.
My eyes narrow as I suppress my rage. "Snow left me a rose."
Gale frowns in confusion. "What?"
"In 12," I explain clipped. "He left a rose on the bed. He's taunting me."
"So what's your final condition?" Haymitch asks, though I know the he already knows.
"We rescue Peeta," I reply determined. "And all the other captured victors."
Rye whistles. "That's a tall order. Think she'll go for it?"
"She doesn't have a choice if she wants a Mockingjay."
Suddenly, Gale's communicuff begins to beep. It looks like no more than a large, metal watch, but a communicuff receives printed messages. They're only given out to important people, a status Gale achieved by saving so many people in 12. He looks at me and Haymitch. "They want us in Command."
"Perfect," I reply. "Let's go then."
We find the nearest elevator and then descend down to the correct floor. For the first time, as we traverse the winding hallways, I feel confident. Maybe it's just the sheer level of determination and anger that is fueling me, but I feel as though I'm in control. I want Peeta back. I need him. Despite how brilliant Peeta is, engineering his own escape from the Capitol prison is probably nearly impossible. If I want Peeta to keep his promise to me, then I'm going to have to be proactive.
I'm organizing how I'm going to present my arguments to Coin when we step through the door of Command. It's a large rectangular room, full of blinking lights and moving images. The walls are covered in bright, talking computer screens that show troop movements and electronic maps of each district. In the middle of the room is a large, shiny metal table that's covered with control panels I'm not supposed to touch.
I expect to see the war council and Coin and all the other higher-ups sitting around the table, but instead they are all standing huddled under one of the television screens; one that is always tuned into the Capitol's programming. They usually reshow the bombing footage of District 12 and other war propaganda, so I'm wondering what could be so important that everyone has left their seats to get a closer look.
Plutarch looks up and notices me, waving me over hurriedly. Warily, I make my way through the throng of people until I'm right in front of the screen. I'm surprised to see a very familiar figure. Caesar Flickerman, the host of the Hunger Games, sits in his chair on the stage, wearing his eternal blue, twinkle light suit. Compared to what I've seen on the screens, this is almost entertaining.
Until the camera pulls back to show his guest. A strangled sound between a gasp and a sob escapes me, and one hand touches the screen while the other comes to rest on my stomach.
Caesar's guest is Peeta.
Similar gasps of shock echo around me, but I barely hear them. My entire focus on the screen. Peeta. I study him intently, looking for any sign of the torture that the Capitol has surely inflicted on him . . . but I see nothing. He looks stronger than ever and his skin is glowing and flawless in that full-body-polish way. However, there's something in his eyes; a haunted, weary look that only I can probably see. Outwardly, he looks very composed. Serious. But he can't hide from me. He may not look like the battered, bloody man that haunts my mind, but he has suffered. My heart clinches.
Caesar gets the ball rolling. "So . . . Peeta . . . welcome back."
Peeta gives Caesar a small smile. "I bet you thought you'd done your last interview with me, Caesar."
"I confess, I did," Caesar admits. "The night before the Quarter Quell . . . well, who ever thought we'd see you again?"
You weren't supposed to. We were supposed to escape together. He's supposed to be with me.
"It wasn't part of my plan, that's for sure," Peeta says ambiguously with a frown.
Caesar leans toward him slightly. "I think it was clear to all of us what your plan was," he says. "To sacrifice yourself in the arena so that Katniss Everdeen—"
I can't help but smile slightly at the correction. "Forgive me," Caesar apologizes. "So that your wife and child could survive."
"I wasn't going to let them die," Peeta answers seriously, his eyes still shining with determination.
"Naturally," Caesar agrees before pausing, letting the silence settle, and then saying, "But it appears that other people had plans as well."
Yes, we did, Caesar. The rebels.
"Why don't you tell us about that last night in the arena?" Caesar suggests. "Help us sort a few things out."
Peeta nods, but doesn't jump right into things. He takes his time. He paints a picture. "That last night . . . to tell you about that last night . . . well, first of all, you have to imagine how it felt in the arena. It was like being an insect trapped under a bowl filled with steaming air. And all around you, jungle . . . green and alive and ticking. That giant clock ticking your life away. Every hour promising some new horror. You have to imagine that in the past two days, sixteen people have died—some of them defending you. At the rate things are going, the last eight will be dead by morning. Save one. The victor. And your plan is that it won't be you."
The room is utterly silent as Peeta speaks, absorbed in his words. No one has ever described what it's like in the arena, and certainly not with so much description. The way Peeta speaks, his words prompt your brain to imagine every detail. Everyone is equally eager and anxious to hear more.
"Once you're in the arena, the rest of the world becomes very distant," Peeta continues. "All the people and things you loved or cared about almost cease to exist. The pink sky and the monsters in the jungle and the tributes who want your blood become your final reality, the only one that ever mattered. As bad as it makes you feel, you're going to have to do some killing, because in the arena, you only get one wish. And it's very costly."
"It costs your life," Caesar says, but Peeta shakes his head.
"Oh, no. It costs a lot more than your life. To murder innocent people?" Peeta pauses, letting his words sink in. "It costs everything you are."
I'm thrown into memories. The two times I've comforted Peeta in the Games after he killed someone. The boy from District 4 in our first Games and then Gloss in the Quell. You'll always be Peeta, I would assure him.
"So you hold on to your wish," Peeta says. "And that last night, yes, my wish was to save Katniss."
A hot jungle full of flame and exploding earth. Panicked, yet determined words. Tears from both of us . . .
Please. Be safe. Let me do this. I'll come back to you, I promise. But you've got to let me go.
"When that wire was cut, everything just went insane. I remember everything in flashes. Trying to find her. Watching Brutus kill Chaff. Killing Brutus myself. She was calling my name . . . and then the lightning hit the tree, and the force field around the arena blew out."
He doesn't go on to say what else happened. How we ran from the Capitol hovercraft and then how Peeta left me to draw them away so I could be safe . . . because Panem doesn't know that it happened. The Capitol cut the feed as soon as the District 13 hovercraft was spotted, taking Finnick from the arena. As far as Panem knows, Peeta and I were never reunited, however briefly.
"Katniss blew it out, Peeta," Caesar reminds him. "You have to admit, it looks slightly suspicious." Like the tactful host that he is, Caesar allows his statement to ruminate before asking the million dollar question. "Was Katniss part of the conspiracy?"
My heart pounds in my chest. What will Peeta say? Will he tell the truth? Will he give a partial truth? Or will he lie? He must have anticipated this question.
Peeta takes a deep breath and looks down at his feet. Then, he looks Caesar dead in the eye and says, "Yes. We both were."
This sends the audience into a state, though it's not angry necessarily. There are no shouts of fury, but rather confusion. They don't understand why Peeta and I would be rebels. I can hear the people behind me murmuring, but I don't pay attention to them right now. I'm wondering how Peeta is going to play this.
Caesar gets the audience to quiet, and asks, "So you knew of rebel's plan to break out of the arena?"
"Yes, but nothing more. We knew that the force field had to be brought down, but we didn't know exactly how."
"Katniss knew," Caesar tries to argue gently, but Peeta shakes his head.
"Katniss is a smart girl," he says with a small, fond smile. "You could see how she was trying to figure out what to do with that wire."
Caesar seems to accept this before asking the question that must be on every Capitol citizen's mind. "Why join the rebels?"
Peeta sighs, looking tired. "I shouldn't have," he says, shocking me and everyone in the room. "We shouldn't have, but you've got to see things from our perspective. We survived the Hunger Games, and everyone seems to love us and is happy that we're together. Then we get engaged and later had our toasting. Everything seemed to be going right . . . and then the Quell was announced. Katniss had no choice but to go back into the arena, and I wasn't about to let her face it alone. Both of us were determined that the other was going to be the victor." Tears glisten in Peeta's eyes. "And then we found out about the baby. I was more determined than ever that Katniss be the victor, but there was still a chance . . . there was still a chance that in the arena, maybe I wouldn't get to her in time. Maybe I wouldn't be there to save her. Maybe she'd get caught by surprise and then not only do I lose the only girl I've ever, or will ever love . . . I lose our child as well. The idea that Katniss could escape the arena, that she and our child could be safe . . . it was hard to ignore."
"But you said that you shouldn't have become a rebel," Caesar points out and Peeta nods. "What are your thoughts on the war, now?"
Peeta looks directly at the camera before he begins to speak, his words laced with so much persuasion that even I'm inclined to believe him. "I want everyone watching—whether you're on the Capitol or the rebel side—to stop for just a moment and think about what this war could mean for human beings. We almost went extinct fighting one another before. Now our numbers are even fewer; our conditions more tenuous. Is this really what we want to do? Kill ourselves off completely? In the hopes that—what? Some decent species will inherit the smoking remains of the earth?"
"I don't really . . . I'm not sure I'm following . . ." Caesar stammers confused.
"We can't fight one another, Caesar," Peeta explains. "There won't be enough of us left to keep going. If everybody doesn't lay down their weapons—and I mean, as in very soon—it's all over, anyway."
"So you're calling for a cease-fire?"
"Yes," Peeta answers tiredly, and I see the haunted light return to his eyes. I know automatically that these aren't Peeta's words. He's been forced to say them by President Snow. Because even though most rebels will simply let his words pass, some of the other district's support is more tenuous. They might be swayed by Peeta's words. They sound so reasonable coming from Peeta, which is exactly why Snow is using him to deliver his message. "I'm calling for a cease-fire."
"Now can I go back to my quarters?" Peeta asks. His hesitation is only fractional, but quarters appears to be synonymous with cell.
"Alright." Caesar looks toward the camera. "I think that wraps it up. Now, back to our scheduled programming."
The music of the anthem plays and then there's a woman reading off the shortages in the Capitol. Fresh fruit. Solar batteries. Soap. But I can't focus on that. I can only focus on Peeta and his words. Peeta admitted to being involved with the rebels, that we were both involved. It's not that much of a big deal, really. It's the cease-fire he's called that worries me, condemning both sides of the war. With only minor victories by the rebels so far, a cease-fire would only result with a return to our previous status under the Capitol. Or worse. There is no way that Peeta could have protected me with his words this time. If the rebels lose, I'm dead. Not even the image he's painted of me, a desperate, young mother trying to save her unborn child, will save me from Snow.
But I have more important things to worry about right now. The present. And at present, the higher-ups of District 13 are tossing about words like traitor, liar, and enemy. All of them are accusing Peeta of betraying 13. I feel a hand wrap around my arm and pull me up. Haymitch's calculating eyes meet mine.
"If you don't do something, Peeta's dead either way," he says to me. "Make your demands."
I nod curtly, filled with determination. I'm getting Peeta back. It's not up for debate. Everyone is still arguing and condemning Peeta. They've moved to surround the main table, and I see Coin sitting at the head, her face an emotionless mask as she talks to those around her coolly.
I'm wondering exactly how I'm going to get everyone's attention, but when I hear yet another person call Peeta a traitor, I snap. "No he's not!"
The fact that my voice is strong and I'm not mumbling incoherently is what causes everyone to pause and stare at me. "He has called for a cease-fire," Coin says in her cool, calm tone. Steely. "He is a traitor to the cause."
"Not he's not," I nearly growl. "Snow made him say all of that. Everyone in here knows that Peeta can sway a crowd. Anything he says seems reasonable. Every single one of you in here knows that."
"Well, it's obvious he isn't being tortured," one of the war commanders says. "He's no prisoner of war."
"Yes, he is," I say firmly.
"And who says that this was filmed live?" Haymitch speaks up in his best 'you're all idiots' voice. "It could easily be old footage and they're just airing it now. The kid had that full-body-polish look. Same treatment you get right out of the arena."
"His words can still carry consequences, whether forced or not, and we have no intel that tells us he is a prisoner of war," Coin says impassively. "This could easily sway some of our more timid districts."
"I want him back," I say firmly. "Send in a team and rescue him."
Coin's gaze hardens, probably because I just have her an order. "No."
My fists clench, and I'm about to shout at her when Haymitch intervenes. "Fine," he says and I glare at him. "Don't send in an extraction team. Instead, promise that when we win the war, he will be pardoned."
Everyone is silent, watching the tense battle unfold. Me and Haymitch against Coin. "No form of punishment will be inflicted," I say, breaking the tense stalemate. If I can't get her to rescue Peeta, at least I can get him immunity. "The same goes for the other captured tributes: Johanna, Enobaria, and Annie." I can't forget them. Especially Johanna and Annie. I miss my new friend, and I can't stand to see Finnick cry.
"No," Coin says flatly.
"Yes!" I slam my hand down on the table, startling everyone. "It's not their fault you abandoned them, and it's certainly not Peeta's. He's the one who ran toward the Capitol hovercraft to draw them away from me. To save me."
"Then he made his own choice," Coin retorts coolly. "They'll be tried with other war criminals and treated as the tribunal sees fit."
"They'll be granted immunity!" My voice is stronger than it has ever been, resonating throughout the room. "You will personally pledge this in front of the entire population of District 13 and the remainder of 12. Soon. Tomorrow. It will be recorded for future generations. You will hold yourself and your government responsible for their safety!"
Coin's eyes narrow dangerously, but I hold my ground. Finally, she says, "And why would I do that?"
"Because," I reply evenly. "If you agree, I'll be your Mockingjay."
A buzz of excitement fills the room. I will give them what they want . . . but only if I get what I want.
Plutarch is the first to speak. "What do you say, President?" he asks. "You could issue an official pardon, given the circumstances. The boy . . . he's not even of age."
I continue to glare at Coin as she stares impassively back at me. Finally, she says, "Alright. But you better perform."
"I'll perform when you've made the announcement," I shoot back.
"Call a national security assembly during Reflection tomorrow," she orders. "I'll make the announcement then. Is there anything else, Katniss?"
"Yes," I say, though with a little less intensity in my voice. "I get to keep Maya."
It's as if everyone in the room just noticed her presence. They stare at her, sitting almost regally by my side, meeting their gazes unfazed. I feel the urge to smile at the sight. Coin's lips purse. "Only if we can use her. We have our own K9 unit, bomb sniffing dogs most predominantly. If she can't be trained or causes any problems, she'll be shot."
"I can teach her," I tell them and Coin nods.
"Fine. Anything else?"
I think quickly. Is there anything else? What else could I possibly want? If there's anything, now is the time to ask. I won't get another chance. All my brain can think of is Peeta, and how I want him back. Suddenly, my mind is filled with the image of a single, white rose lying on our bed in 12.
The words slip from my mouth unthinkingly, "I kill Snow."
Coin actually smiles slightly. "When the time comes, I'll flip you for it."
I guess that's the best I'll get, so I nod in reply.
"We'll start work tomorrow morning," Plutarch says to me. "We've already got a propo lined up."
"Okay," I agree before casting a look around the room. "Is that all?"
I walk out of the room quickly, Maya trailing after me, along with Haymitch, Rye, and Gale. Once we're in the elevator, Rye presses the button for our floor, and I slump tiredly against the wall. "You did good, sweetheart," Haymitch praises gruffly.
"We'll work on getting Peeta out of the Capitol," Rye says. He's just as determined to get Peeta back as I am. "At least we've got him immunity. That's a step in the right direction."
"Nice idea with forcing her to make the announcement public," Gale says. "Makes it that much harder for her to go back on her word."
We're all silent for the rest of the ride. Gale and Rye's respective compartments are closer to the elevator, so they say goodbye first. Then it's just me and Haymitch when we stop at the door to my compartment. My mother and Prim are in 307, just a few doors down. 13 wanted to put us all in one compartment, but I had refused. One, because I didn't want to wake them up with my nightmares. And two, I am counting on the fact that Peeta will be sharing my compartment with me when I get him back.
"Get some sleep," Haymitch orders gruffly.
"Right," I agree before adding in my best Effie Trinket voice. "Because we've got a big, big, big day tomorrow!"
Haymitch struggles to keep a straight face, trying not to show his amusement, but it's a losing effort. Finally, he allows just one chuckle to escape him, and honestly it's the first true laugh from him that I've ever heard. Not filled with derision or cynicism.
But his moment of lightheartedness passes quickly and then he's scowling like normal. "If you show up in a big-ass wig tomorrow morning and four-inch heels, I'll disown you."
I just smile. "Get some sleep, Haymitch."
Haymitch scowls again before passing me and continuing down the hall, but I swear I see his lips quirk up in a ghost of a smile.
Once I'm in my compartment, Maya starts sniffing around before finally hopping up onto the bed and lying down, right in the middle. I roll my eyes. She's such a bed hog.
I let her be and step into the bathroom, turning on the shower. As I stand under the hot spray, I can't stop thinking about the recent turn of events. So much has happened today. This morning when I woke up, I was still focusing and relying on the whispers. Then I saw the ashes of District 12. The rose on the bed, fueling my fire to fight. And now, I've guaranteed Peeta's safety . . . if we win the war . . . if he survives the torture chambers . . .
I remember his interview with Caesar, when he'd talked about his plan for the Quell. I wasn't going to let them die. Me and the baby. He's always so willing to sacrifice himself.
"I never asked you to die for me," I can't help but whisper aloud.
You didn't have to.
When I step out of the shower, I dry off and move to my game bag. I take out the blue shirt, pull it on over my head, and then climb into bed beside Maya. However, before I allow myself to sleep, I reach over to my government-issue nightstand and take out a silver parachute. Inside used to be three things. The ointment, the locket, and my pearl. I only have the pearl, now. District 13 confiscated the ointment for hospital use, and I gave the locket to Rye because it held a picture of him with Chris and his father.
I roll the pearl in my fingers, mesmerized by the smoothness. Peeta's little token of love. My hand fists around the pearl, and I lie back against the pillows. The scent from Peeta's shirt slowly begins to envelope me, so comforting that I can almost pretend that he's lying right beside me instead of Maya.
Go to sleep, Katniss.
And I do, knowing that I'm one step closer to getting him back.
Ta da! Peeta now has immunity. It wouldn't at all make sense for Coin to automatically give in to Katniss's demands, especially rescuing Peeta. That's why Haymitch cut in, because he saw that was what would happen.
So, this chapter wasn't nearly as depressing as the last! That's a plus, right?
Alas, the summary for this chapter is as follows: Katniss is back in black and has dreams of becoming the next Effie Trinket, Gale is still stuck in the middle, Haymitch thinks everyone around him is an idiot, and according Rye, Coin needs to make an appointment with her doctor to remove the stick up her ass . . . that's probably turned sideways . . .
So! Quote from next chapter comes from . . . Prim!
"I know this is hard to hear . . . but even if they break his body, they'll never be able to break his spirit."
Lots of love,