Short drabble; just trying to work out the cobwebs for a longer piece in the future.
There was a moment when he considered volunteering.
Fleeting, barely there, it crossed his mind.
Mostly, the thought of Prim in the arena made him feel scared. So of course he would volunteer. It was a gut reaction, and therefore took barely any kind of processing on his part. It would be so easy, just to step up and shout the words—
And he is in shock, because he hears those words. But they aren't coming from his mouth.
And suddenly the world isn't spinning anymore; District 12 has come to a standstill. Maybe he looks just as shocked as the rest of the crowd—or were they surprised at all? A little girl like Prim should not have to become a tribute. But neither should Katniss or any of the others.
He understands, as she treks up to that stage, that this is about to change his decision. He can't volunteer anymore. He can't willingly go into an arena where his best friend would be one of the 23 others vying to stay alive. She's too stubborn and so is he. So he stays silent.
Guilt swims around, eats him alive. But he can't open his mouth when the baker's son walks up on stage to shake her hand—they both look dead inside. He feels the same way. His thoughts reduced to the cinder and smoke that lit the fires in the houses in District 12.
He prays she would understand. He can't volunteer because he knows it would come down to just the two of them.
And he knows he can't kill her, but he also knows something else: he doesn't want to die.
So he can't decide why he tastes bitterness in his mouth when Peeta and Katniss become the victors. There's a guilty conscience on him, watching as the events unfold before their lives. They get houses in the village—not that he cared. They got rich, but they would share. He wasn't bothered by their exclusive looks toward each other, something that clearly said I know what kind of hell you've been through. He hates their story.
In the recesses of his mind, he knows. And as he watches Peeta take her hand when they return, he understands.
That could have been him.