Logan and I sit there quietly whilst my mother hurries around us, making us each a cup of coffee. Next to me, Prim, with her soft smile and eyes, looks carefully between us and holds her gaze over Logan. I wonder what she's thinking, watching him like a bird with a broken wing. Maybe she's wondering if she should say something. Maybe she's thinking there might be something she can whip up to try and help him.
She doesn't have to say anything in the end.
"Where's Haymitch?" Logan asks. He looks at me with heavy eyes; they look bruised and his skin is pallid, as if he's suddenly been struck with a terminal illness. "Drunk?"
Haymitch is drunk. We all know it. We're just… not about to give him a hard time about it. Let him kill himself if that's what he wants; we all cope in different ways, after all – except, well, I guess he's not coping. Actually, there's nothing to guess. He's not coping. It's so obvious; he's been drinking so heavily recently that I've actually been concerned, as opposed to what's normal for me: biting back an extremely hostile remark and settling on something bordering on sour.
Haymitch seems to find it funny.
"Thanks," I say to my mother when she sets me and Logan down a drink.
She smiles at me in response, tight-lipped and restricted - because of Logan, no doubt. Her gaze flickers to Primrose who immediately understands and gets up, following my mother into the lounge.
"You look like death," I say to Logan immediately.
He scoffs. "Oh, I wonder why."
"Have you been eating?"
Logan takes a long drink, not meeting my eyes. Eventually, he sets the cup down and simply admits, "No."
I went through a stage of barely eating when Peeta died but, compared to Logan's relationship with Fiona, I barely knew Peeta. That's why Logan's answer doesn't surprise me.
"When did you last eat?" I ask.
The fact Logan has to think about it instantly makes me wary, and I stare at him expectantly.
"Yesterday morning," he says finally. And then, before I can ask: "A bit of leftover stew."
A scowl immediately drops on my face and I direct it towards him, watching as he scowls right back. "You need to eat," I say. "You can't just let yourself die."
Logan shrugs, taking another drink. "Sounds like a good plan to me," he says casually. "Why? Who would miss me?"
"Your parents," I say immediately. "Logan, you're not selfish. You know why you're alive right now."
"Do I?" he asks. His eyes meet mine directly for the first time in the past hour, and I stare right back, unperturbed by his question. "Is there a point in living for someone else?"
That gets me thinking. Having lived in 12 my whole life, I know the feeling because I have lived for the sake of living and keeping others alive for as long as I can remember. Even when I was in the Games, I fought so I could win for the sole purpose of keeping Primrose and my mother alive. In some ways, it was worth it in the end. In other ways, it wasn't, because my life endangers them constantly. If I make one wrong move…
Yet knowing all this, it helps. It helps me to see things more rationally; to see that sometimes, living for the sake of someone else is better than living for yourself. It gives you purpose. Yes, maybe it's not as happy as living for yourself – but it is better.
So I try to tell Logan that, too. "Isn't that what you were doing in the Games?" I ask him. "Living for Fiona? Living to keep her alive? Living for someone else?"
Logan doesn't answer. He doesn't answer because he knows it's true.
"Why is this any different? We're still in the Games, Logan," I continue. "Snow is always watching; he will always see us as the players in a larger game. And he will always try to control the Victors."
For a while, Logan is very silent as he thinks. Then I watch the skin around his eyes crease; I watch his expression darken, harden, and turn sour in realisation. He shoves himself up from the table and tugs at his hair and kicks the chair back, suddenly instilled with a lash of anger. He stares at me afterwards with cold eyes as his chest heaves with each breath, and it feels like he does so for an eternity - but it is only for a second.
"Fine," he says. "Fine, Katniss, I'll go and eat. I'll go and see my parents who can't stop crying about the fact my twin sister was beheaded but as long as I'm eating, what the hell does it matter?"
"Fine," I say. My lips purse after I tell him, "Come see me later," and watch his jaw tighten. We look at each other for a moment more.
Then he swallows and looks away, his figure sagging.
"I'll come see you later," he mumbles, the fight drained from him.
I nod. "Good. Bye Logan."
Logan mutters a goodbye and I watch him go. It's not until I'm sure he's gone five minutes later that I allow myself to slump down in my seat, and let my head fall forward.
Staring into my coffee as it lies motionless in the cup, watching the steam slowly fade as the heat is drained from the drink, I sigh. I can't help but draw a comparison between it and Logan; his anger is dissolving as he grows cold and wastes away, reducing to doing nothing but what others tell him. He barely snaps at me anymore, which is worrying because he was constantly angry and bitter when he came out of the Games. Now he's just... submitting. To everything.
If I don't help him regain his spirit, he's going to submit even to the Capitol. If it gets to that point, he won't let me fight against Snow; he'll tell me to let him become what I am. Owned property.
They'll probably make a video of him, too.
Abruptly, I shudder, closing my eyes and calming my heart. I know why I'm suddenly like this, of course, no matter how unpleasant it is: my video. The video that was released yesterday.
So far, it's mostly being sold under the table but I know the press have gotten their hands on it. And I know it will eventually be spreading like wildfire around the Districts.
Mother and Primrose leave the house after a while, knowing I've invited Gale around; knowing I need privacy with him. They're good like that. I don't know how – after all, I've never been like that. I always want to know what's what and have never been able to understand subliminal messages, which annoys people at times but I can't help it.
Thinking about Gale makes my mouth taste bitter, like I've bitten into a lemon. Then I think about why I need to speak to him and the taste gets worse. Then I think about why.
I've not been home a week and I already miss him like crazy. I think of our last day together – he'd kissed me until I had to push him away – and feel sad. If only I could see him one more time. It felt so quick; I'd confessed my feelings, then got minimal time to be with him how I'd wanted to be. How I still want to be.
Only when my coffee has gone cold does Gale arrive, and I open the door to him to find him looking at me like he's never seen me before.
"Katniss," he says.
I smile at him. "Gale."
He steps in and closes the door behind him. Then, his arm loops around my waist, and he kisses me.
Before, when I kissed him, I was only betraying myself; betraying my feelings. Now, kissing him feels acidic in my chest and I have to push him away, the guilt clawing at my stomach.
"What's wrong?" he asks.
I don't know how to say it but Gale has always appreciated honesty, and I've never been one to say things carefully. I prefer to rip off the bandage. "We need to talk," I say.
Gale smiles crookedly.
It throws me off-guard.
"We do, huh?" he asks. "I wasn't sure you were going to tell me."
"Tell you?" I ask. The feeling of dread that has overcome me is cold, and gradual, as it feels to slowly step into the cold water of the lake my dad showed me. It's a worse feeling that the one I got when kissing him. "Tell you what?"
"About the video," Gale says, as if it is something he says every day. "I've heard about it. You and Odair."
My blood runs as ice doesn't.
"It's a rumour," I deny.
His eyebrows quirk up. It's then I notice the unnatural hardness to his eyes; the strain to his smile. "You giving yourself to another man – and not just to another man, damn it but to that sleaze ball – is a rumour?"
"I – Finnick is not-!"
"Oh, and you're defending him." Gale laughs tightly, and the sound grates against my skin. "Of course you are. You and Odair are in love now, aren't you? Showing your love to the world? Damn it, I waited for you – I did what you wanted – and then you just go fuck some other guy?"
"I just go and…?" My breaths are harsh and they taste acrid, as if the feel of kissing him still burns in my lungs. I am furious. I can feel it boiling in my blood and stabbing through my stomach. "You're angry that I had sex with Finnick before I had sex with you?! That's why you're angry?!"
Gale's jaw clenches. "You told me to wait, only to go and cheat on me with the Capitol's whore!"
"That's what a whore does!" I shout at him. "Do you think I chose to sleep with him, Gale?!"
"From the way I hear it, you didn't look like you were rejecting!"
"I had to do it, Gale! It's called putting on an act so I don't kill everyone I ever cared about!"
The silence is deafening. Gale is staring at me like he's never seen me before, as he was when I first opened the door but it is different, now – disgusted, somewhat. It's a dark look and is filled with, what I now realise, is lust.
"You saw it," I say, "didn't you?"
He nods once. Curtly. "One of the Peacekeepers was watching it. He was showing it around like…"
Gale seems too disgruntled to even finish his sentence. He takes a deep breath to try and calm down and I mirror him.
"I didn't do it willingly," I say.
A little voice inside of me asks how willing I was to have sex with Finnick all the other times, and I force it down.
"You were doing it to protect Prim?" he asks. "And me? Your mother?"
"Everyone," I say. "Even Greasy Sae."
Gale still looks upset by the video but angry now, too, with the Capitol. "You shouldn't have," he says.
"I had to," I say. "I couldn't let them harm any of you. Besides, they threatened me as well."
They pulled through with those threats, too; because of my throwing up that first time around, Finnick and I were given twice as many clients to please during our last week in the Capitol. It was miserable and bleak, and my body ached by the end of the week – but after confessing to Finnick and hearing him return my feelings, I began to think that it was all worth it… in the end.
Who am I kidding? The end is nowhere near.
"You're something else," Gale says. He still looks angry. A sort of resigned angry, now. "I'll kill him."
My self-control wavers. I shake my head. "No, Gale; he was forced to do it, too."
"What does a person like Finnick Odair have to love?!"
My heart thumps. My jaw tightens. I resist the urge to spit out "me!" and instead still my tongue, my hands balled into fists by my side.
"It's not him you need to kill," I say. "If it's anyone, it's Snow. And I reserve that right."
Gale's lips twitch. He's calming down, finally. He's so unreasonable; so quick to anger. Like me.
"You should kill him," he says freely. I would be wary of what he says, were it not for Haymitch and I scouring my house every month for any cameras or microphones hidden within, and removing them. "You should be able to kill him."
I nod slowly. He's getting closer. Something in me is telling me to let him – the guilt over him seeing the video he should never have had to see – but the other part is telling me to shove him away, to denounce my love, to tell him that that Finnick is a person who is made of more than anger, more than hate, more than jealousy and love; that Finnick is made of so many layers that Gale could only wish to have, and that, if anything, he has the most to lose out of all of us.
I want to tell him that Finnick is not a sleaze ball.
Instead, I let him kiss me.
I don't know why. The guilt, yes. The lost expression he looks at me with. Maybe, too, as a goodbye – a final kiss. That's what it's meant to be, anyway. Then I feel Gale's hands moving from my face to my waist, then playing at the hem of my top, then sliding up underneath, skin to skin-
I break away. "What are you doing?"
Gale smiles lazily. "Kissing you," he says. He leans in and kisses me again before I can protest.
Shaking off my odd feelings, I let him do it, just this once more. We kiss for a while, calmly, and I try to ignore the churning of my stomach. Then, just like last time, Gale's hands start to wander - but this time, they begin to play with the waistline of my trousers, then begin to undo the button.
I slap his hands away and shove him off me, sure I am not going crazy, now. "What are you doing?!" I ask angrily. "You think that just because I've had sex I'm suddenly crazy about it? Why do you even think I want to have sex with you?! Or do you think you can just take it, however you want, because I'm some kind of – of whore?"
Expression hardening, Gale says, "Aren't you? Don't you want sex? Can't you have sex? Because, from the way I hear it, you'll have sex with everyone but me!"
And there it is. The underlying point. The paranoia.
He knows – he's found out – about all the Capitolites. Just as I was afraid he would.
"Get out, Gale," I tell him, feeling cold deep inside. And exhausted. Like nothing matters anymore. "Just get out. We're through. How dare you throw that in my face!?"
"So it's true? You've been screwing how many men behind my back?!"
"Women too," I say, then I shrug. "I don't know. I don't count."
If he wants to be an ass about it, and not think it through, I'll let him. Why let him make me feel bad? Why let him control me? I don't even love him like this – in my heart, I'm not betraying him when I sleep with my clients. If anything, I'm betraying Finnick – but it doesn't even feel like I'm doing that.
It feels like I'm betraying myself.
"Do I really mean that little to you?!" he asks, just as I open the door. "Are you really that heartless?!"
"If I was heartless, Gale," I start, "I wouldn't have slept with them in the first place."
Gale holds my stare. His muscles, under his dark skin, are flexing. Eventually he swallows and clenches his jaw. Then, he has stormed out and I have slammed the door behind him.
Once he has gone, the shock reverberating through my system, I feel myself go numb. And then, surprising myself completely, I lash out with my foot and kick the wall. It feels good; better, like I am unleashing my inner beast.
For a moment, I simply look at the mark I've left on the wall, feeling my heart pound nonsensically in my chest. Then, before I know it, I am kicking the wall and screaming like I have gone mad and turned rabid, uncontrollable under the lure of my rage. When my foot gets tangled in a wire, I cry out and rip it free – then I realise that it was the phone's wire, and I stare and I stare and I stare.
I'm glad Primrose isn't here to see me like this – Mother, too but mostly Prim. I've always looked after her. I don't want her to have to look after me.
The phone looks foreign to me. Foreign but friendly, like Finnick, who is from a District so different to mine that it feels like a whole other world.
Without realising it, I have picked up the phone. The number is dialled before I can even think what I am doing.
"Finnick?" I say, once he's answered. "Gale - he saw the video. And he knows about all the people I've… entertained."
Finnick's voice is soft when he replies. "Are you all right?" he asks simply.
He's not beating around the bush. I like that. He's not trying to sugar coat things or trying reassure me because, well, he knows it probably won't be all right.
Suddenly, I feel like that's okay. I feel like that's okay right now because Finnick is here.
"I'm okay," I tell him. "He got angry."
"I'm sure he would. You said he's got a quick temper."
"He was jealous," I say. "He wanted me to have sex with him. He thought I just would."
Finnick inhales audibly down the other end of the line and, before I can comfort him, he says, "Did he…?"
"No, no," I say quickly. "No, he didn't touch me. He wouldn't."
"It doesn't sound like he exactly waited for your consent."
"He didn't," I tell him, "but I got the point across before he could touch me."
Finnick laughs, and it's so free all of a sudden that it makes me feel lighter, better. "His touch couldn't do anything for you, anyway," he says, and I can almost imagine him winking as he continues, "Not now that you've had me."