Katniss woke up screaming and covered in sweat. Panting, she swung her legs out of bed and rested her aching head in her hands. After her Victory Tour ended, the nightmares had only intensified again leading up to the new reaping, the Quarter Quell.
When President Snow had read the card, she was sure her heart had stopped. As the only two surviving victors in District 12, both she and Haymitch would be returning to the arena. The first night following the announcement, they got drunk together. Since then, they'd been getting in shape and Haymitch was sobering up.
Quietly, so as not to wake her mother or sister, she dressed and slipped out into the darkness. The village was silent, as everyone slept in, on Reaping Day.
"Where are you going?" Gale asked, stepping around the side of her house.
"Needed some air. You hunting?"
"Maybe." But instead, he moved forward to hold her. "Last chance to leave," he whispered into her hair.
"It's too late for that." She buried her head in his chest. "You know I'm okay with you and Madge, right? I want you to be happy."
"...I know. But I-"
"Don't. This is hard enough; I need to know that you'll take care of them, all of them. I need to know that you'll be happy."
He nodded his acceptance. With a kiss to her head, he moved quickly away, wiping his face as he went.
She watched him disappear into the woods. The rest of her morning was spent watching the sunrise and listening to the surrounding families wake up. At some point, both Prim and Haymitch had joined her. Slowly, they began moving with the crowd heading to the center.
"I love you, Prim," Katniss said softly, kissing and hugging her sister. "Go find Mom."
Together, she and Haymitch went into the small roped off section, reserved for them. They waited impatiently through the annual speeches, aware that Effie's smile was a little less bright, her voice a little duller than normal. She reached into both huge bowls and pulled out the single piece of paper in each and called their names, one at a time.
On the stage, Katniss kept her face carefully blank. But Haymitch didn't disguise his scowl and practically snarled at Effie when she asked him how he was feeling; sobriety did not suit him.
Finnick sat back with a casualness that he did not feel. He wasn't surprised when his name was pulled from the bowl, but he did wish someone, besides Mags, had volunteered for Annie. He would be hard-pressed to keep her alive until rescue came, assuming the rebel plan even worked, that is.
He watched silently through the reapings, as friends and co-conspirators were selected or volunteered. There were only a few victors chosen that he didn't genuinely like, and there was no way that all of them would survive to be extracted. But he kept his face impassive, even when the girl they'd placed all of their hopes in, walked onto the stage. He wondered if she had any idea.
He crunched on another sugar cube as he watched Katniss form the corner of his eye. She did a pretty good impression of him to Haymitch, making the older man snort loudly and pat her roughly on the shoulder once.
"What?" Johanna asked, also studying the girl.
"I thought Chaff was the only person that Haymitch actually liked."
"Can't blame the guy; he mentors two tributes every year for twenty-four years. Doubt anyone could resist the one kid that finally came back out."
"Yeah. She's likable too; if you can get passed all of the glaring."
Johanna rolled her eyes and straightened her leaf headpiece.
"You just don't like that she looks great, and you're a tree."
"Oh, but this year, I get to be a sparkly tree," she pretended to be excited and left for her chariot.
Grinning, Finnick double checked the placement of his knot and helped Mags onto their chariot, silently grateful their stylists hadn't dressed the old woman to match him. He loved her, but there were some things he was better off not seeing.
"What's the problem?" Mags asked him, over a small fire in the Training Center.
"We're supposed to become her allies," Finnick answered softly, adding another stick.
"So, she doesn't like me. At all. Whenever I talk to her, she blows me off."
Mags laughed. "Which is a first for you."
"Not a first," he grumbled, but shrugged his broad shoulders.
"But it's rare. And it is the first time that you've continued to make an effort afterward."
"Probably. So what do I do?"
"You could show her the real you, instead of the victor act."
He took a deep breath. "Doubt she'll give me the chance."
Mags grinned at his pout and patted his cheek. "Introduce me."
Finnick flopped down and stretched out on the sofa, shaking his head at Mags.
"Talked to Haymitch," he began. "He says that the girl wants Nuts, Bolts, and you."
"Considering who she chose as an ally last year, guess I shouldn't be surprised."
"Oh, you're just disappointed that she doesn't like you yet. Give her time. Besides, we're a package deal; she gets me, she's stuck with you too."
"Finnick, she doesn't have to like you, she doesn't need to trust you. She just has to let you protect her." She patted his knee. "Things'll change when we get to the arena. That's when she'll be forced to rely on you. And learn that she can."
He rubbed his forehead, trying to relax. He wasn't used to people disliking him, especially women; it was strange. He had tried to be friendly, flirtatious, charming, strong, knowledgeable, he had even tried to go through Haymitch, but nothing worked. In three days, they would be in the arena; he had to figure her out.
He thought about what he knew of her and what he had seen in the Training Center. She didn't want to be protected, she wanted to do the protecting. She knew she was strong and capable, and she wanted to help those weaker than herself. Perhaps a little flattery, let her teach him something... Besides, she really was an excellent shot.
A/N: Thanks for reading my first Hunger Games fic! Don't forget to review.
I have half of the next chapter written, so it shouldn't be a very long wait for #2.