She was dead, and she didn't care.
He was dead, and she cared even less.
She was dead, and it was everything.
Nothing really mattered anymore.
"You have to stay here, sweetheart. They want you to do counselling. Talk about feelings and shit. Get yourself better."
She didn't reply. Stared out the window a little more. The people below looked like ants.
"You gotta do what they say, or you'll never go back to Twelve. That's the proviso. They'll send you to Thirteen if you don't. Work with me here. I've tried my best, tried to work it to the best of your advantage."
She still didn't say anything.
But she stayed. She didn't have much of a choice. Twelve was the only home she'd known, the only home she'd ever had. The memories would be hard enough.
Never going back would be harder.
So she stayed.
They moved her to the mansion. At first she fought it, her weak and fragile body kicking and beating against them. She didn't want to go there. Couldn't go there. Couldn't they smell them already? She could. From miles away. It permeated the air, it's strong and bitter fingers reaching out, curling around her throat, ready to choke the little life she had left out of her.
They took her anyway, Haymitch looking on with guilt in his eyes.
She wrapped herself up in a blanket and locked herself away in a wardrobe she remembered from what felt like another lifetime.
"What do you feel when you think about him?"
"I don't care."
"About him, or about thinking about him?"
She sighed. Her fingers twitched against the arm of the chair. "I don't care that he's dead. I hope he's rotting wherever it is evil people go when they're dead."
"Is that what it's called? I don't care. I just hope he's burning in a ball of fire. Slowly."
Like me, she thought. Like him.
She looked out the window again, at a skyline that wasn't as impressive as it once was. At people who weren't as spectacular as they used to be. At a sun that still glowed that perfect shade of orange as it dipped below the mountains.
For the first time in weeks, a single tear tracked down her cheek.
She missed him.
She tried to stop it, tried to avoid it. But Aurelius told her she couldn't go home until she ate properly, so she did. She could do it for now, appease his orders. But he couldn't watch her when she got home. She could do what she wanted then. Not eat, or drink, or take her medications, until her body was nothing but an empty shell, a bag of bones. Until the life was gone from her body and she didn't have to think or talk or feel anything ever again.
Maybe she would let the roses to choke the life out of her. It was better than this.
"Where is he?"
"He's here, Katniss, and he's safe."
"Here? In the Capitol?"
"Yes. In the mansion, to be exact."
Eyes narrowed, lips firmed. Fingers clenched against her knees.
"I want to see him."
"No. It's not a good idea at the moment. For either of you."
"You don't know what's good for me."
He'd made a mistake.
It was a maze. A maze of halls and doors, walls that once proudly displayed images of the Hunger Games and portraits of him, now empty and bare.
She didn't know where she was going. But she'd find it eventually.
She'd keep looking until she did.
She poked at the pink, tender skin of her arm. Wondered if she poked at it hard enough, it would simply flake away. She thought of him, of the evidence he had of flames licking up his skin, marking the soft, pale flesh of his forehead, of his hands.
Hands that, once upon a time, encircled her neck, with the intention of taking her life.
She hoped he'd changed his mind.
Effie came, nattered about the changes in the Capitol, what her plans were now that escorts were no longer needed.
She didn't really listen.
Haymitch eventually came and saved her.
She almost felt bad.
"Do you want to talk today?"
They both fell silent. She preferred that.
It took another month. She knew she hadn't explored this part of the mansion yet. There were guards, and that was her first indication.
Her years in the woods weren't for nothing.
She waited and watched, learnt their schedules, their habits. Determined when she'd have the best chance of getting past them.
A week later, she found herself in his quarters. Staring at him from the open doorway.
He sat in a chair, by the window, the sunlight filtering through and glancing off the hair that looked like spun sugar. He focused intently on the paper he held in his lap, his hand moving frantically across the page. His foot twitched and tapped madly against the wooden floor.
Her throat closed, constricted. Her heart pounded, so loudly it hammered in her ears.
He looked up, and their eyes locked. His mouth dropped open in shock, surprise…hope?
She turned on her heel and ran.
But she ate with a little more interest.
Brushed her hair.
Stopped poking and prodding at her skin.
Not intentionally, anymore, at least.
"I feel we've turned a corner, Katniss."
She went back to his quarters, again and again. Made sure he didn't see her.
She wasn't ready for that again.
But she watched him, peering around the edge of the door.
If he knew she was there, he never acknowledged her.
It felt so real.
The feel of her flesh burning, watching as the horror unfolded in front of her eyes.
The sound of his cackling in her ears, the choking sounds as the blood caught in his throat.
His eyes as they seared into her.
Their smell, as they surrounded her, swamped her, drew her into their thorny arms.
Then a gentle kiss to her temple, soft lips taking away the pain.
She woke, with an ache in her heart, fury in her mind and a determined resolve.
She retraced steps she'd taken so long ago. There were no guards this time.
She pushed apart the glass doors at the end of the hallway. The air was still damp and mild, just like she remembered. The smell was still strong, pungent. She hated that they were still beautiful.
Row upon row of lush blooms, the palest of whites to the brightest of oranges to the deepest of reds.
While these lived, so did he.
She waited until it was night, until everyone should have been asleep.
She went back, tore one, then two, then three blooms from their stems, crushing them under her feet. The thorns tore at her fingers, at her arms as she reached up again and again. Blood trailed down her fingers, her wrists, down her arms, but she didn't feel it. Her hair hung limply over her shoulders, torn petals catching in the tangled strands.
She didn't stop until the ground was a blanket of torn and crushed roses.
He'd taken everything from her.
She'd taken the final thing from him.
She went home a week later.
The boy with the bread gently held her hand on the train.