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Chapter 20- Day one.

Peeta-

"Good afternoon Panem!" I shouted in to the microphone.

The audience roared in response, and I smiled.

Glancing to my side, I saw Katniss' pale face smile slightly.

I squeezed her hand, and she un-tensed a bit.

"Well, as you all know, today is a very special day in the history of our nation. Today is the rebirth of our country." I paused and waited for the crowd to stop howling.

"Today is the day, that we put an official stop to unnecessary punishment and fear towards our people, and embrace our union as a country. We are one, and today we stand next to each other, hand in hand, and with justice on our side. Today, we honor the fallen, appreciate the survivors, forgive those who went astray, and look toward this new beginning without fear, and with equality."

The crowd roared and I smiled.

"So ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I present to you two victors. Honorary rebel soldier, Johanna Mason, and one of the brains behind the whole rebellion, Haymitch Abernathy."

I handed the mic to Katniss and she spoke in to it, looking a little nervous.

"These former victors will be telling us briefly of each Hunger Games." She smiled, and then clasped my arm.

I felt a light tap on my arm and it was Johanna claiming her spot in the center of the stage.

"And now, here is Miss Johanna Mason!" Johanna took the microphone from my hand greedily, and yelled in to it "Good afternoon Panem! Ha ha!"

We turned and found Haymitch making his way to the center, looking like he had better things to do than this.

Katniss and I stepped off the stage, Gale trailing behind us.

When we were off stage, we headed towards our front row seats.

Originally, we were supposed to sit back stage, but since this part of the event is particularly extensive, Katniss requested we watch it, so we were granted front row seats, that were close to the stairs to the stage.

After every victor mentioned, there was light clapping, but after that, there was no noise at all, except for the alternating voices of Johanna and Haymitch.

After Haymitch was introduced, the screen behind them lit up and an unfamiliar seal flickered and was replaced by the first Hunger Games images.

I dully remembered the faces of victors and tributes I knew once upon a time.

One of the faces I recognized and felt my stomach drop was Mags'.

Her sweet face and arena appeared on the screen, and along the bottom of the screen, were pictures of all the tributes of that year.

Seeing Mags' huge picture in the top-left hand corner, I could remember the way she let herself be swarmed by the lethal fog in the clock arena.

I didn't know her very well, but witnessing her valiant death, links you to that person, especially if that person died just so you could be saved.

Face after face and arena after arena, we neared the first quarter quell and then the second.

When we got to the 50th games, Haymitch was applauded loudly, but he waved it away.

"Is he blushing?" Katniss asked laughing. I shrugged in response.

I saw the arena in the top right hand corner, and recognized it from the tapes we watched with Katniss, and it seemed to be a lifetime ago.

The same happened with Johanna's year.

Images of each year's arena, tributes and victors, flashed on-screen, while they went through them.

Once, I caught myself staring at Katniss, and I noticed she had tears running down her face.

I glanced towards the stage, and I saw an enormous portrait of Finnick on the screen.

He was smiling as brilliant as ever.

Memories started to pour in my mind and I couldn't help closing my eyes, and balling my fists, to control myself.

The arena, the mutation monkeys, the curling fog, and his trident, I could see it all clearly.

Finnick had saved my life one too many times, and I never got to truly show my gratitude.

He had left an unborn child and wife all alone.

He was such an admirable man, with all the best qualities, and to have his life taken like that was just unbelievable and downright unfair.

If I closed my eyes again, I could see the lizard mutations that tore him to pieces, I could smell their rose scent and I could hear the blasting sound of the holo as it exploded.

As soon as I regained control of myself, Finnick's year and arena had passed.

I leaned towards Katniss and kissed her lightly, glad to have her by my side.

After many familiar faces, we were approaching our years.

When our faces appeared, and our arena, I got chills down my spine.

My skin prickled and my head started to hurt.

In the corner of my eye I could see Katniss staring at me.

She then grabbed my hand, and started to coax me, to regain myself.

"Damn." She muttered, patting her hips "This is why I hate dresses. No pockets."

After deep breaths, and one sweet kiss on the lips, I was good enough to return to the stage.

Or so I thought.

"C'mon." Katniss ordered, as she stuck her hand out towards me.

I reached out and touched my fingers with hers, and stared at them for a while.

"Peeta we have to introduce the president. Let's go." she spoke in to my ear.

Nodding, got to my feet, and together we walked towards the stage.

I had to shake my head to be able to clear away my blurry vision.

Waiting back stage, I saw Katniss whisper something to a member of the organization crew, right before we were reunited with Haymitch and Johanna.

Haymitch raised an eyebrow in my direction, right before Katniss pulled me forward, on the way to the stage.

We stepped towards the center, smiling and waving, one of her hands tucked in my folded arm.

"Well, that was…gloomy." She started.

Even though my head was pounding, I couldn't let her face this crowd by herself, especially knowing she's not very skilled with words.

Before I could even start to form words, she said "But we mustn't focus on the death of these excellent people, but honor their memory. We should rejoice their life, even smile if we got the chance to meet any one of them. Of course we all hurt for their loss, but we shouldn't just center on minds on that. I wanted to say a few words, before we introduce a very special person."

She paused and looked towards me, and I could barely manage a smile, my head was aching, and I was starting to re-live a feeling I hadn't felt in so long.

"But I can't right now." She smiled towards the crowd, nervously.

I started to breathe heavily, and I could feel my knees start to buckle.

Wide-eyed, she rushed "So now ladies and gentleman please give a warm round of applause to the president of Panem, President Paylor."

The multitude did just that, as the President of Panem strolled out from behind the stage, towards the newly placed podium, a couple of feet from where we were standing.

"Peeta… no." she whispered, but it projected into the microphone, accidentally.

The crowd gasped and I could feel myself slipping away. I could see mutations, and the faces of the people who had tortured me.

I haven't seen them in such a long time, I almost forgot the hooked nose of the male, or the round eyes of the female.

I blinked and saw Katniss, she was grasping my arm, hauling me away from the audience, but I resisted.

I didn't want her to touch me.

I could hear a woman's scream, Johanna's, as I struggled against whatever was holding me back.

As soon as the force stopped pulling me away from the audience and to what I realized was back stage I heard "His pills! Where the hell are they?"

It was Katniss' voice, frustrated, threatening to break down, to lose its steadiness.

Part of me told myself to run away, because she was the danger, and the other wanted to comfort her.

To hold her and tell her that everything is going to be alright.

I remembered people trying to shove something down my throat, but I ended up biting the person's finger, cutting the flesh and tasting the metallic tang of blood.

That's when I felt a nick in the arm and I blacked-out completely.


"Peeta! Peeta!" I could hear a high-pitched voice call.

Effie.

"Oh stop fussing Peeta." She scolded.

She shook my arm, before I heard Katniss say "Be gentle!"

I would have laughed at hearing them nag over how I was being handled, if it wasn't for my throbbing head.

I groaned as I sat up, and Katniss rushed to my side.

As I opened my eyes, I saw I was still backstage, but with a curtain around the bed I was in.

When I finished scanning my surroundings, I glanced at Katniss, whose eyes were trained on me.

"How are you feeling?" she asked, worried.

I sighed and said "My head hurts, but I'm fine. Was I out long?"

She shook her head, and told me "You passed out right before they brought you this stretcher to lie in. Probably about ten minutes."

I nodded in response and said nothing.

Sitting there, with my girlfriend at my side, I just realized what I did.

I basically went irrational on stage and then passed out.

'A scandal.' Effie would say.

"I ruined everything Katniss." I said, not looking at her.

"No you didn't. It's not your fault okay? Maybe we shouldn't have watched the introduction; we should have just stayed back stage, I'm sorry I insisted."

I looked at her gray eyes that started to tear up.

"Well, it's not your fault either then. Don't cry, your makeup will run, and then we'll have an angry Flavius to deal with."

"I'm not crying." She laughed and leaned towards me, and pressed her lips to mine.

I closed my eyes, taking in her warmth.

When she pulled back, she ran her thumb across my lips, removing any red lipstick she left.

"So, when do we go back on stage?" I asked.

"In about 10 minutes" answered Effie.


"Then, once Katniss somehow comprehended the mission, she fired the arrow with the wire attached towards the sky and it shattered the force field, thus letting the hovercraft do it's work." Beetee explained into the microphone.

We were on the center of the stage once again, Katniss and I standing slightly towards the left and Beetee and Plutarch towards the right.

I was still feeling drowsy, but Beetee and Plutarch had taken it upon themselves to explain the whole process of escaping the arena of the 75th Hunger Games, thankfully.

Behind us, pictures of the arena lit up the screen.

The fog, the giant wave, even a picture of Katniss, our allies and me, looking down at a leaf were displayed.

"Now, this was the trickiest part; saving the tributes. Only half of us were retrieved; Katniss, Finnick Odair and I, most regrettably, and we were taken to district 13 afterward. Peeta, Johanna and Enobaria, alongside Annie Cresta, were taken captive by the Capital." Beetee paused, and the crowd was completely silent.

"After the broadcast was terminated, district twelve was immediately bombed, and there were not many survivors." Plutarch said.

I felt a pang in my chest, as my father's face rose up in my mind.

"I am so sorry Peeta, but your family didn't survive." The woman had told me, and I remembered how I wept that night.

I found myself lost in thought, swimming through memories, of my brothers, my mother, and my father.

Of the bakery, the mouth-watering smell, the cakes, the pastries.

Chasing my brothers around the bakery when we were children, and having our mother screech at us to stay still, and how my father would wink at me playfully, which only made me grin and she would get even more furious.

I started to recall recipes, techniques, and even some odd ingredients' names, when I felt Katniss tug on my arm.

I began to focus and I realized Beetee was talking now.

Though listening in, I heard he was talking about the district uprisings.

'I really did wander off.' I thought, as Beetee finished and handed Katniss the microphone, before walking off stage with Plutarch beside him.

Katniss and I skimmed through the later uprisings (since Beetee had taken the earlier ones) and bombings of the districts, starting with the bombing of eight and ending in the bombing of district thirteen.

When it came to my warning to district thirteen, I received a huge round of applause and I couldn't help but blush.

"We wouldn't be here without you Peeta, without your sacrifice and your bravery. We understand what you had to endure to pass on that valuable information, so once again, thank you." She said, smiling at me.

She then turned towards the crowd "Now we'll show you some of the propaganda that were filmed during the chaos." She said, flatly.

I knew she didn't want to show them, but she really didn't have a choice.

Katniss' propaganda were played and I just awed at them.

The audiences' eyes widened when a particular propaganda was displayed

"If we burn, you burn with us." Katniss had said.

I looked toward and saw her eyes harden.

She was angry.

Pulling her close, I whispered in her ear "It's okay Katniss."

She flashed her gray eyes in my direction and narrowed them.

"I know." She said flatly.

Once we were done speaking of this subject, the faces of Cressida, Messalla, Castor and Pollux, were shown on the screen.

"What interesting videos. Please welcome Cressida and Pollux everyone!" I said, waving my arm in the direction of which they would come on to the stage.

Cressida and Pollux stepped out, and the audience cheered.

I stared at them both, and they were still the same, they hadn't changed.

Cressida still had her head shaved and Pollux's beard was as red as ever, though it was shorter than last time.

"Thank you!" Cressida said, as Pollux waved.


We took our seats in the audience, as Haymitch and Gale took center stage to talk about our rescue.

"With the help of Beetee and mostly Finnick Odair, we were able to distract the people of the Capitol and safely get in and out, with Johanna, Peeta, Enobaria and Annie." Haymitch said.

"Yes." Gale agreed.

This is the part I was mostly dreading.

Would they mention that I was hijacked? And almost strangled Katniss?

"Well." He continued. "So our victors are back and safe…"

"Of course…" Haymitch said.

"And, should we tell them about the mission into the Capital, Haymitch?"

"I really could care le-"he started, but then said "Sure."

Just then, from behind the stage, Johanna came bursting out, sprinting towards them.

She ripped the microphone from his hand and said "Boy, I remember that. Water, I hate it still… And no! Because we are out of time. 'Till tomorrow folks!"