"This year, for the third Quarter Quell," he speaks as he opens the card. "to show that even the strongest of them can't overcome the power of the Capitol this year tributes will be chosen from the pool of existing victors. Since, District Twelve has no real female victors the female tribute for District Twelve will be chosen out of every female in the district from ages twelve and up." His words take a moment to register and when they do I feel as if the air has been knocked out of me.
The pool of existing victors.
Two District Twelve male victors.
This can't be happening.
He can't go back. I just got him safe.
This can't be real.
The only real father figure I've ever had.
Peeta or Haymitch.
One of them is going back in the arena.
The boy I love more than my own life, or the man who was like a father.
And there's nothing I can do to save them.
Unless I volunteer to go in with them.
I hear the glass shattering before I realize it's slipped out of my hand. Peeta stays frozen staring at the screen in front of us in shock. My father truly is the devil in disguise. Without thinking I jump from the couch and run out of the house. I find myself running in the direction of the woods without really realizing where I was heading. I pause for a moment listening for the hum that would signify that the fence is electrified as Coal had taught me to do. When I hear silence I slip under the fence and run for the concealment of the trees.
I press my back against a tree letting the full weight of the news hit me. Peeta. My Peeta, was being sent back into the games. I wrap my arms around my torso as I slide down into a sitting position letting the tears slide from my eyes. I swore to Peeta that I'd keep him safe, that nothing would happen to him and here we are. With him having a fifty, fifty chance at going back into the arena.
I pull my knees to myself wrapping my arms around them tightly. My father would stop at nothing to take Peeta from me, to make my life completely and utterly miserable. I should've seen something like this coming though. All these years my father had made my life as miserable as possible. If I were to step out of line he'd force me to watch people be killed and tortured and turned into avox's. He never inflicted physical pain onto me, but he struck me where it hurt most. My feelings, and my emotions. I am the complete opposite of my father. I despise the games, I despise the Capitol. I feel for the people in the Districts. I love. I was stupid enough to let him see that.
I bury my face between my knees choking back the tears that try to force themselves out. I try to push down the guilt building inside of me with little success. If I had just kept my mouth shut to my father about Peeta, would he be in this mess? If I had tried harder to keep it a secret that I wanted to save Peeta maybe he would've never noticed I had feelings for him. Those are all what if's though, and that's all they'll ever be. What if's, because I can't change what I've done. I can't fix things for Peeta. I may be the president's daughter but that doesn't mean a damn thing. Not when your father disliked you so much he wanted your life to be a living hell.
"Katniss!" I look up at the sound of my name quickly trying to clean my face of tears. "Katniss, I don't know my way through these woods. Come out before something eats me." Peeta.
"Peeta. I'm over here," I call from my spot not ready to leave. I look around the dark woods. The moon casting light here and there between the concealment of branches and trees. Peeta's loud tread get's louder and closer by the second.
"Katniss," he breathes my name as he steps into the clearing where I sit. He runs over to me, plopping down beside me and takes me in his arms where I break down.
"Peeta, I'm so sorry. So, so, sorry," I say between tears, my face buried against his chest. He strokes my hair gently.
"Katniss, what do you have to be sorry for?"
I look down at Katniss, her shaking form held tight to my side. I find myself very confused as to why she's sorry. She didn't write that card. She didn't plan this. The thought of going back into the arena frightens me to my core, but there's nothing I can do about it. There's no chance in hell Snow would let Katniss get anywhere near the Capitol to help me this time. I'm as good as dead this time around, and Katniss would have to accept it.
"Because if I had just made a bigger effort to keep my feelings for you a secret this wouldn't be happening. My father wouldn't be trying to kill you to hurt me. Just because I'm the worst daughter in the world. He doesn't strike at me, he strikes at others. In this case, he's hitting me where it hurts the most. You. " Katniss's voice breaks from the crying.
"Kat, please don't blame yourself. Look at me." I pull my arms back and cup her face with my hands forcing her to look at me. "Trust me when I say, I wouldn't change anything that happened. My getting reaped, was luck. Call me crazy but it was. It brought you to me. It gave me you. I don't care if I'm going back into the arena, because for a moment - even a short one - I got a life with you. I got to marry you. I got to tell you I love you, and hold you when you sleep. I got to wake up next to you every morning and see your beautiful face.
"I got to hear your laugh, and see your smile and know I'm the one that put it there. I got to hear you tell me you love me. I got you, Katniss. That's all I've ever wanted since that day with the bread. So, it doesn't matter if I'm going to die because for a moment I had everything that I ever wanted. My life was - is complete." More tears stream down her face and fight back my own.
"Peeta don't say that. What about me? I can't - " She stops swallowing hard trying to speak between her tears. "I don't think I could ever fully live without you, Peeta. Look at who I was before you were reaped. I was no one. I didn't socialize, I didn't try to make friends, I didn't even notice any of the guys that wanted me. It's because after I met you, I fell for you. I wanted you and I couldn't have you because I was just some girl from the Capitol.
"Yes, I had Haymitch and Seneca and Cinna and Portia, but so what? You gave me something to live for. Before my life was hell because my father made me watch things that - that never should happen. It was constant and I was waiting for the day when he did those things to me so I wouldn't have to see them anymore. But then I had you to save and suddenly I wasn't waiting for those things to happen to me. I had a purpose. I wasn't just there to watch people be tortured and killed."
Her words strike me, and take me back. She'd never told me before that her father had made her watch these things. She'd never told me her father made her feel worthless. Although, I guess if I was stuck watching those things happen as well with no power to stop it, I'd feel pretty damn worthless too. Suddenly my mom seems like the best parent in the world compared to Snow. Snow. The only person I would willingly hurt. I would hurt him for what he's put Katniss through. Hurt him for making her watch those things, making her feel worthless, and taking her from me.
"Kat, maybe I won't get reaped...you never know," I say as a feeble attempt to make things better.
"Then what? Haymitch gets thrown into the arena? He's the only real father figure I've ever had. He may act like a drunken sarcastic asshole but he never was to me. He'd come visit the Capitol often just to check on me. Haymitch isn't the tin man he makes himself out to be. He cares about me, and I know he cares about you too, Peeta." I sigh leaning my forehead against hers, my hand caressing her cheek.
"One of us has to go in, and it's up to which one of us that is." She jerks away from me like I'd slapped her in the face.
"No! Neither of you. That's who I choose! You can't ask me to choose that Peeta." She looks at me looking more defeated than I'd ever seen her.
"You're right. I'm sorry. I just - I just saw Haymitch before I came after you. He told me it's up to you. He said he'd volunteer for me if I were reaped. I told him I would never ask him to do that, though," I say letting out a sigh.
"But he knows I would. If I were selfish enough, I probably would. I can't be that selfish. I want to, Peeta. I do. That part of me is my father's daughter. I keep telling myself Haymitch can win the games. He can. I keep trying to convince myself of this, but I can't. I'm lying to myself. I won't ask him to do it." I pull Katniss back towards me holding her tightly in my arms as if she'll disappear.
"I don't believe there's any part of you that's like your father. Love does things to you, Kat. You willingly put everything at risk to help me out of the games. Seneca. Yourself. Every gamemaker that was in that room. You put all those lives on the line. Let me tell you something though. I would've done the exact same thing if I were you. Love is crazy, and makes you do crazy things." She looks up at me from under her wet eyelashes.
"You're so good with words," she says. "I may actually feel a little better about all the stupid shit I've done lately. I still don't feel better about the Quarter Quell though."
Peeta's right. Love is crazy and love makes you stupid and reckless, but love is worth it. When you love someone like I love Peeta there's nothing you wouldn't do for them. I should've known that without Peeta having to tell me. I keep quiet about my plan to volunteer to go in with one of them. He'd try to talk me out of it. He'd try to reason, and he'd feel twice as miserable.
"Kat - " I cut him off as an idea forms in my mind.
"Let's go see Haymitch. I have an idea and since he's stuck in the same position, he needs to hear it too."
I walk with Peeta out of the woods and back into District Twelve. The whole town seems empty, but everyone's just in bed relieved to be safe from the reaping this year - well the guys at least. Peeta and I walk to the Victor's Village hand in hand towards Haymitch's house.
"Did the news finally sink in for her?" Haymitch slurs out a sarcastic comment the moment he opens the door.
"It sunk in the moment I heard it." I push past him into his house with Peeta right behind me. I look around the place disgusted by it's state.
"What are you two here for?" Haymitch turns around and follows us to his kitchen. I sigh and stop keeping a firm grip on Peeta's hand.
"Look, Haymitch. One of you two has to go back into the arena and I say we train like Careers. I add myself into the equation as well because I don't want you two doing it alone, and I'm good at archery. I could teach you two a thing or two about it. I'm sure Coal would be willing to help as well. It would give one of you an advantage over the others." I look between the two as they let this sink in.
"I say it's a brilliant idea. What do you say Haymitch?" I give Peeta a small half smile.
"Alright, but only for you two. I don't give a damn if I die. The arena has caused me enough hell." I look at Haymitch with a frown. I know very well what happened to him after he won. It was his story to tell though. So, if he wanted Peeta to know he'd tell him, himself. "Feel free to tell lover boy here what I mean. We'll start tomorrow." Haymitch echo's my thoughts and walks away leaving Peeta and I alone in his kitchen.
"What does he mean?" Peeta looks at me confusion in his eyes. I let out a sigh.
"Let's go home, and I'll tell you there. It stinks in here." I wrinkle my nose in disgust causing him to chuckle just slightly. We walk back home in silence. Once we get home we go straight to our room and climb into bed. Peeta holds me close as if we may not get another chance to be like this.
"Are you going to tell me?" Peeta's voice breaks the silence and I sigh as I pull away slightly.
"Haymitch won the games in a way that - that made the Capitol look like fools. My father was outraged. So, he left Haymitch with nothing to come home to. He had his girlfriend, and family killed, but he made it look like an accident." I look down at my hands intertwined with Peeta's as the silence drags out.
"So, that's why he's so miserable all the time." I nod silently as the facts add up for him. "I already have enough reason to hate and want Snow dead. If he were to kill you and my family..." Peeta trails off and I look up to find his eyes squeezed shut.
"Peeta, that's not going to happen. My father isn't going to strike out at you. He's striking out at me, but using you to do it. My father will try to kill you and the few people I love." Peeta's eyes open, his blue eyes boring into mine now.
"If I were to ever see him. I - I would probably try to hurt or - or maybe even...kill him for the things he's done to you and is doing to you. They're terrible thoughts, and I hate that I have them, and that I actually want them to happen but I do." I can't help the rush of complete and utter love for the boy in front of me that overcomes me at this.
"Peeta, I love you so much. Please don't ever forget that," I whisper softly.
"I love you beyond words, Katniss Mellark." I sigh borrowing into him feeling safer as his arms wrap around me tightly.
"Stay with me," I whisper on the verge of tears.
"Always," he replies as he drifts into sleep. I let a tear escape from my eye. Our nights like this are so limited. There can only be a handful more. He believes there's a chance that if he's reaped he'll come out alive, and we'll have countless more nights like this. He doesn't know that I don't plan on living past the Quarter Quell. I plan on telling Haymitch my plan and trying to get him to be the one in the arena with me so Peeta doesn't have to go back.
I can't stop the Quarter Quell. I can't change the card. I can't keep both Peeta and Haymitch from the arena. I may not be able to stop it from happening, but I sure as hell can make sure they come out of this alive. Even if it costs my own life, because a life without Peeta is almost pointless anyways.
A/N: I know first chapters are usually boring, but I hope you liked it regardless of it not being all that interesting. Please leave a review and let me know what you think! :)