I slump against the wall of the shower, my mind still racing, keeping pace of my heart. I try to stay zoned in on the emotions, the way the whole experience made me feel, because I know if I let myself think too hard about what just happened, I'll fall into panic.
The warm water feels nice against my bare skin. It's soothing. I'm tempted to stay in here forever, only I know someone will come looking for me eventually, and I can't leave it to Peeta to explain what I'm doing over at his place, in his shower. Because then he would have to answer questions about why I'm taking a shower, and that's a slippery slope I can't go down. Neither can he, really. Peeta is much better with his words than I am, it's true, and he can cook up covers for stories at the drop of the hat. But right now I think he's still too stunned about what just happened to be able to do a very good job at it.
I stay in until my fingers are prunes, the wrinkles deep. Then I force myself to get out, and towel off. I catch a glimpse of myself in the steamed up mirror as I'm drying my hair, and stop to take a good look at myself. I still look exactly the same. So why do I feel so different? What I just did… the girl staring back at me would never do. It's not me. I don't do these things. I turn away, and avoid looking at the mirror again.
Peeta sees me off at his front door once I'm finally dressed, my hair dried and braided so that you would never guess it had come undone over the course of our activities. There's no sign whatsoever of what we've done. But a part of me is still convinced the next person I see is going to know immediately.
It's clear Peeta doesn't know how to act. Neither do I, for that matter. He hovers near me, and I do pick up on his touching me more than usual, be it something as innocent as a brush of the hand while handing me my jacket from his closet, or the lack of space between us as he stands beside me. Knowing that anything I say would only turn out badly, I let my body speak for me and wrap my arms around him. He doesn't waste a second encompassing me with his own steady arms. I savor it, closing my eyes and breathing him in. I still feel safer in his arms than I do anywhere else in the world.
"I'll stop by later," I promise him as I pull away and peer up at his face. He nods, and plants a kiss on my forehead. Then I venture out from the warmth of his arms and house, and go to face the world.
"Katniss." I'm half-way between Peeta's house and my own, when I hear the very last voice I want to hear right now. Gale's. Now I really do start to panic. Gale knows my mind better than anymore. If I turn around now, is he going to know, with just one look, what I've just done? I know I'm angry with him for how he acted earlier, but I still can't bare the thought of hurting him with the knowledge that I just had sex with Peeta.
Instead of turning to face him, I take the coward's way out, and simply stop in my tracks, not looking at him while I hear the sound of his footsteps treading across the snow as he catches up to me. Even on snow, his tread is near silent. But I'm also tuned in to hearing even the slightest sounds, after all my years of hunting.
He waits until he's gotten directly in front of me to continue. "Katniss," he says my name again once he's finally in my field of vision. I force myself to look at him, knowing that doing otherwise would only make him suspicious. I do feel free to glare at him, though. He deserves that much, after that stunt he pulled in his yard.
"Did you just come from Peeta's?" he asks, and I can detect that tone of jealousy he's trying to conceal in his voice. Which only makes this whole thing all the more uncomfortable.
"Yeah," I say. I sound defensive, which could be both a good thing and a bad thing. He probably won't be surprised, when he already knows I'm already angry with him. On the other hand, considering I already have a guilty conscious, it just makes me feel all the more uneasy about talking to him right now.
I can see on his face the way Gale fights with himself over whether to make some comment over this . But I guess the side that encouraged him to let it go wins over, because he just ignores it. "I just wanted to talk to you. I felt bad about what happened at my house."
Is that all? Well, it's really too late for that, isn't it? "Oh," I say evasively, "it's okay. Don't worry about it." I try to move past him, to shake him off so I can go process things somewhere alone. Maybe I can't get out to the woods, but I can at least go to my room or something, where my mom and Prim won't bother me too much while I'm thinking. Gale is having none of that, though, as he just starts to follow me back to my house.
"'Please, can we talk?" He asks, sounding halfway annoyed, and half-way desparate. It's the very last thing I want to do, but the pleading in his voice gets under my skin, so I stop in my tracks with a sigh.
"I'm sorry. Okay?" He says. "I know I should have listened to you. We can still make a plan to run, if you want."
"It doesn't matter, Gale," I snap. "The fence is turned back on anyway."
"We could," he says quietly. "If we tried. You and I could get over it."
"What about our families?" I ask, growing more annoyed with this conversation by the minute.
He doesn't offer up a solution. "You're the one in trouble, aren't you?" he asks instead. "You're the one who needs to get to safety. We can figure out how to come back for our families after we get you out of here."
"What about Peeta?" Finally, I whirl around and look him dead in the eyes. Daring him to go on. I can tell it catches Gale off guard, but he's never been one for backing down. "Why is it so important to you that he goes along?" he snaps, at last coming out with the question I know has been hanging over his head this entire time.
"Peeta's going through the exact same thing that I am!" I practically yell at him. I'm furious by now, because if Gale can admit that what's happening to me is so bad, why can't he put aside his differences long enough to see it's the same for Peeta? There's no way I could leave him behind. Especially not now…
Gale looks ready to fire back, but he swallows his anger and attempts to remain calm. "Maybe we should go inside to talk about this," he says. "This isn't a good place to talk."
"It's as good a place as any," I say. And really, it kind of is, when you consider that the houses are most likely bugged. "They'd just hear us more clearly if we went inside."
"Maybe so," Gale actually agrees with me. "At least here. But my house would be safe."
"I'm not sure any place is safe anymore," I say, more quietly now.
"Well, we can't stay here, Katniss," Gale says. "We're out here in the open."
"We were out in the open when we were talking in your yard, too," I counter.
"You know that's different," Gale says.
"Do I?" I'm not sure what Gale is implying, but I don't think I like it. Does he really think Peeta or Haymitch would be any danger to us, if they overheard what we were talking about?
"The Seam isn't as monitored by the Capitol as Victors Village is. You know that."
Oh. He's got a point there, I have to admit. At least up until recently, the Seam had all but been ignored by anyone in the Capitol. Even the peacekeepers here in 12 would likely ignore it, if it weren't for the Hob, and the fact that the sellers there are all from the Seam. "Look," I say with a sigh, suddenly feeling overwhelmed with exhaustion. "Now's not a good time. I'll come by later."
"Later tonight?" He asks.
"I don't know. Maybe." The thought of trekking all the way down to the Seam again, when really all I want is to sleep for days, doesn't sound like a whole lot of fun. But it might be for the best. I don't know. I really just need some time to pull myself together. So much has happened in the last couple of hours that I don't know what to do. What to think. What Peeta and I did was supposed to be the act of rebellion. Because we didn't think we had any other choice. Now Gale is here saying he wants to help come up with ideas for something else. Should I accept his help? Is there even a point in doing so? Maybe; maybe not.
Gale sighs loudly, frustrated. I can tell he thought he was going to get a different reaction out of me. The Katniss he knew would have gone off to plan some sort of escape with him in a heartbeat. But I don't think there's any denying I'm not that person now. I barely know who I am anymore. "All right, Katniss," he says. "I'll see you later."
I watch him take off across the courtyard. A part of me says I should be going after him, apologizing, trying to work things out. But I'm so, so tired. All I can do is watch him leave.
Shaking off my mother and sister is a little easier, once I finally make it back home. "I ate at Peeta's," I tell them when they offer me dinner. "I'm just going to go up to bed." They share a glance; I can tell they think something is up, because this kind of behavior normally isn't like me. But whatever they suspect, they don't voice it. Instead they let me slip upstairs, change into a nightgown, and slink down into the warmth of my bed, wondering what on earth will happen next.
I'm not surprised when the call comes in the following morning. Another trip to the Capitol is scheduled for next week. No further details are given, but it's safe to say Peeta and I are expected to "perform" for some new client again. I only hope it's not the same woman from last time.
"They sure seem to request your presence a lot," my mother comments over a cup of coffee as I tell her about the phone call.
"Yeah, well, you know what it's like there in the Capitol. We're practically celebrities to them," I laugh nervously, hoping it's convincing enough.
First thing after breakfast, I'm bundled up and out the door, planning to get to Peeta's house as soon as possible. I'm waylaid by Haymitch, however, who happens to be on his way over to see Peeta himself.
"Got the phone call, too, huh?" He asks me gruffly as we meet up on the pathway.
"Yeah," I say, "early next week. Do you know what they want us to do?"
"Just the usual," he says. He follows me up the steps to Peeta's front porch. I rap on the door, wishing Haymitch would change his mind and decide to go home and drink, annoyed that he has to be here in the first place. Because what I really want, what I really need more than anything right now is some time with Peeta alone. Especially since this will be the first time I've seen him since… since what happened yesterday.
Peeta opens the door after a moment. A smile lights up his face when he sees me standing there. Then he notices Haymitch standing behind me, and while he does a good job maintaining his friendliness, I can tell he's about as happy about his uninvited guest as I am.
"They called me, too," he tells us as we each take a seat around his kitchen table. I noticed Peeta seemed to avoid having us sit in his front room. I wonder if it's because it's where we slept together yesterday. There is something kind of awkward about the idea of Haymitch sitting there, when just the day before we had been… well, I'm glad we're in the kitchen, anyway.
"Is there anything we can do to get out of it, Haymitch?" Peeta asks as he settles in a chair across from him.
"Doubt it. Unless you can settle things in the districts and ensure total allegiance to the Capitol. I think you know how well that would turn out."
"Is there anything we can do at all?" I ask, knowing how hopeless the situation is before I even get an answer.
"Just stay in love. Keep the act up," Haymitch says as he begins picking away at a tray of cookies Peeta has on his table.
Peeta and I exchange a look.
"Is there something I should know about?" Haymitch asks, looking between both of us.
"No," Peeta says quickly. I shake my head in agreement.
Haymitch eyes us both suspiciously. Something tells me he doesn't quite buy it. But if he does or if he doesn't, he doesn't push the issue any further. "They're going to want your presence these next few months," Haymitch continues. "Since it is a Quell year. Normally they like to bring all the Victors to the Capitol, parade us around to promote it. I haven't been around for one as a Victor before, but I've heard the stories. And you can bet there's going to be plenty of bidders on time with you two. Snow will only be too happy to fulfill their requests."
I'd nearly forgotten about the Quarter Quell. This year will be the third one ever, marking the 75th anniversary of the Hunger Games. Normally there is some extra twist to the rules. One year, they made everyone vote on who was going to be selected to go into the Games. Another, twice as many tributes were selected than normal, which meant 48 tributes were put into the arena. That was the year Haymitch won.
Another thing it means, Quarter Quell or not, is that this is going to be the first year I'm going to have to play mentor to some poor girl selected to be 12's tribute. Just the thought alone is enough to make me sick on any normal year. But on a Quell year to boot? Just knowing there will be some twisted take on the Games in order to make it "special?" And knowing that even if you do somehow make it through and become a Victor, that doesn't mean you're out of anything? Knowing the life Peeta and myself, and who knows how many others, are forced to go through?
"So get ready," Haymitch says, rising from his chair and starting for the exit. "The fun is only just getting started." The door closes behind him, leaving Peeta and me to just stare at each other, trying to process everything Haymitch has put into perspective for us that we hadn't quite put together yet for ourselves. A small part of me can't help thinking Peeta will have it a little easier than I do. He, at least, will have Haymitch to help him coach the boy tribute from 12. I'll be by myself to deal with the girl. Then I shake my head, because what am I even thinking? It's going to be awful no matter what position we're in.
"Do you think it's true?" Peeta asks. "About them wanting us in the Capitol more than usual now?"
"I don't know," I say. "Probably." It seems like something they would do. Parade us around like it's actually something any of us in the districts would be excited about. Make it look like we're supporting something as horrible as a Quarter Quell, instead of being against it, like we really are.
Peeta just rests his head in his hands for a very long time. I stare out into space, thinking about everything and thinking about nothing all at once. Even if I could make sense of my thoughts, would it really be any good? There's nothing we can do at this point. We are trapped. Nothing we can do except for the one thing we've already done.
Peeta looks up at me. I can tell he's thinking the same thing I am. I drop my eyes, feeling, I don't know, shy I guess, for some stupid reason. But when I get up to leave, and he follows me to the front room, somehow I end up in his arms, holding on tight.
"Do you regret it?" I ask. It feels like such a weird question to ask, considering I'm wrapped in his arms right now. But given everything, I guess it's not that weird after all.
"No," he says after a moment. "Not unless you do."
I take a moment to think it over. "I don't," I say at last.
"Then neither do I," he shake his head. And it's the truth. I don't regret what we did yesterday. It's something we've done together already as it is. At least this time, it was on our own terms. And it was actually pleasant, which took me completely by surprise. For a moment, I'm tempted to kiss him, to start up with him all over. But I fight the urge, and settle for giving only a peck on the cheek as I leave to go check up on the traps in the woods.
When I return that evening, however, it's another story. I make my usual rounds, dropping off food to those around the district I can't stand to see without enough to eat. Gale isn't home when I stop by the Hawthorne's house, which is a relief, I won't lie. I know I need to talk to him, to resolve the issues between us. But I'm not ready to do it just yet.
When I finally make it back to Victor's Village, I stop by Haymitch's house first, making sure he hasn't killed himself yet with alcohol poisoning, that he's actually bothered getting something to eat, and okay, maybe to make sure he won't disturb us on my next stop. Because when I'm done there, I head immediately to Peeta's.
I've brought a squirrel over for him to have for his dinner. I tell him I'll stay, skin it for him so he doesn't have to, because it keeps my mind off of things to do it. Then one of us - I'm not even sure who, at this point - grabs the other and initiates a kiss, and it's all downhill from there.
Forty-five minutes later, I'm naked, lying on top of his equally naked body on his kitchen floor. We didn't even make it out to his front room this time. We're both panting, and I think how funny it is to feel the rise and fall of his chest against my own as I do the same. Sometimes we're in sync; others, we're so off, our chests bump into each other. Peeta strokes a hand languidly through my hair, almost like he's not even aware he's doing it. But it feels good, so I don't point it out, in case he stops.
"Do you think they heard us this time?" He asks me. It takes me a second to realize he means the Capitol.
"I hope they're the only ones who heard us," I say. We're already getting better at this. There were points this time around where I was honestly afraid that Haymitch or, worse, my mother or sister might have heard us all the way from the other houses.
The week comes and goes, always faster than we want it to.
We find ourselves on the train, heading back to the Capitol. This is starting to happen so often, you'd think it would be second nature by now. But it's still just as scary as it was the first time. At least Peeta and I have each other now, though. The very first night, we fall into the same pattern as on the Victory Tour, with Peeta joining me in bed. Only this time, something does happen.
"I wonder if Effie heard that," I say when we're finished.
"I was kind of making an effort to be more quiet, actually. Do we want to be heard here?" He asks.
"No. I don't know. Effie just made a comment to me about our sleeping arrangement during the Victory Tour. I thought it would be ironic if she heard us now that there actually is something to hear."
Peeta laughs. "Seriously, though," he says. "Maybe it is good if they hear us. It's just as likely to get back to Snow as it is back home, isn't it?"
"Yeah. That's what I thought when she confronted me on the Victory Tour." Look how well that turned out for both of us, though.
We're not even given time to settle into the Training Center when we reach the Capitol. We're whisked away to our next client as soon as we arrive in the station. It's every bit as horrible as other times - the client makes Peeta watch as he has sex with me. Horrified, and feeling more violated than ever, if that's even possible, I clench my eyes shut and try to imagine it's Peeta on top of me instead.
Later that night, long after we've returned to our floor on the training center, and everyone else has gone off to bed, it is Peeta on top of me, as he tries to help me forget how terrible the experience earlier had been. This time, it's hard to truly enjoy it to the extent that I have before. But just the feel of Peeta moving inside me, of knowing it's him and not anybody else, anyone who is unwelcome, is at least comforting. When we're finished, I stay wrapped in his arms for the rest of the night. My sleep is fitful, but at least I feel safer in his arms than I would otherwise. And when I sleep, I'm not haunted by nightmares.
There are no plans for us the following day. At least not during the day. The evening has us slated for another appearance, just as Haymitch had said. We have the whole rest of the day to ourselves, though. But they won't let us leave the Training Center. They won't make that mistake twice.
They do, however, allow us down to the training floor of the training center. It's hardly ideal, but at least it's something to do. As soon as we step off the elevator, a shiver runs up my spine as the memories from training before the Games hit me. It feels like at any moment, Cato or Glimmer, Foxface or Thresh should come around the corner, fresh off one of the stations. Or Rue will go gliding across the practice nets, like she's practically flying…
I have to get my mind off the ghosts. I grab Peeta's arm and drag him over where the archery supplies are stored. For the next couple of hours, I attempt to teach him how to shoot.
It feels so good to lose myself in the activity. At first, while I'm demonstrating for him, I get so caught up in it that I actually forget what I'm supposed to be doing, shooting arrow after arrow at the targets instead. It helps me clear my mind, to focus. It isn't until Peeta comments about my performance that I remember myself with a jump.
"Sorry," Peeta says with a smile. "I didn't mean to startle you."
"It's okay. I got kind of caught up in it. I'm sorry too." I say, honestly feeling a little bad because I was supposed to be teaching him how to shoot, not shooting for my own benefit.
"Don't be," he says, still smiling. "Watching you shoot is something else."
"Here, you try it out now," I say, feeling my cheeks burn. Peeta makes a comment about not being very good, but I dismiss it quickly. "You just have to try it out, and practice," I tell him. "I wasn't any good when I first started, either."
"Somehow I doubt that," he tells me. "I think you were probably good from the first arrow you shot."
"No, it's true," I tell him, laughing a little myself. "I had to practice a lot before I could even hit the side of a tree."
I make Peeta take position, circling around him to correct his form, pushing an arm into place there, nudging a foot further out there. He pulls the string all the way back to his ear, just as I tell him to, and holds it, waiting for my command.
"Go," I tell him, when I'm finally satisfied.
The arrow flies, sailing through the air. It doesn't have enough force driving it, though. He didn't release the string quickly enough. It lands a few feet short of the bullseye.
"Not bad," I say.
"That was better than I thought I'd be," he admits.
"Next time, be a little quicker on your release. Then the arrow will fly further," I tell him as I walk over to pluck it up from where it fell on the floor.
He follows my instructions, and on his next try, the arrow does indeed make it to the bullseye, though it still hits on the very edge of it.
"See, you're getting it," I say.
He gives me a grin as he lifts the next arrow up and places it in his bow. "Soon I'll be joining you in the forest," he says.
Not with that leg, he's not. And I can just imagine how much Gale would love that. Peeta replacing him on all those days he's stuck working in the mines. But I don't voice either of these concerns to Peeta. "Well, we won't be able to make it out there anymore, with the fence turned on," I remind him instead.
"Oh, that's right," he says.
Did he really forget? That seems like an amazing feat to me, considering the fact that I can never seem to shake that particular memory. It's lucky I no longer need to go out there anymore to keep my family alive. I can only imagine what it would be like if different circumstances had caused them to do this when we were still living in the Seam. Peeta, on the other hand, always had enough to eat. Not being able to sneak off into the woods to hunt wouldn't have affected him at all, save perhaps the squirrels I would trade with his father that I know he ate occasionally. And he wouldn't have been able to see me as often, either…
I catch the glint in his eye as he smiles at me. Maybe he did remember after all. I can't stop the smile that spreads across my own face, and instead turn back, forcing myself to concentrate on our shooting.
We practice for at least another hour. After I'm satisfied that Peeta is grasping the basics, I pick up another bow and begin shooting myself. Peeta makes a comment about how bad his looks next to mine, but laughs it off. After a while, though, he sets the bow down and wanders off towards the camouflage supplies.
"This seems more my style," he tells me. I let him start working with the supplies while I shoot, but eventually my own curiosity wins out. I put my bow back and head over to where he is to watch him.
"Do you think they'll be okay with this?" I ask, watching him as he works with the paints. The archery station was one things - you can't really use up any of the equipment, and it doesn't leave a mess behind. But over here, clean up is require. Though I admit I'm not really all that concerned if they have to pay to order more supplies to replace what we use up. Goodness knows they can afford it.
Peeta just shrugs in answer. If he has any further opinion, though, he doesn't offer it. Eventually I sit down cross-legged to watch him work. I've seen him do this before, in the training sessions last year when he replicated that bark from a tree that had me so irritated. But I've never had a chance to actually watch him work.
"Do you want to try something?" He asks, turning towards me.
That's a laugh. "This is your area of expertise," I say. "I would be horrible."
He just smiles. "You have to start somewhere. Just like I did with the archery."
"Yeah. But that's easy," I counter.
"That just tells me how natural it is for you in the first place," he laughs. "It's not that easy for me. Here, why don't you try?" He hand over a brush. I hesitate before taking it, but decide to go ahead and give it a try. He's right about having to start somewhere, and what's the worse that could happen, anyhow? At worse, we'd just get a good laugh at my pitiful attempts to be an artist. But I could also get a feel for why Peeta likes this so much. I take the brush from his hand. We work for the next hour, painting on some practice scraps that the tributes can use to practice on before they attempt to camouflage themselves that we use. In the end, my attempts aren't as bad as I had thought they would be, but they're also no where near up to Peeta's skill.
"It's not bad at all," Peeta says, taking my painting of a yellow blossom from me.
"It's not good, either," I say.
"You're being too hard on yourself. It's good," he tells me. "Mind if I keep it?"
"Sure," I say, looking down at the floor. For some reason, I'm blushing. Maybe because I feel like such a fraud for painting something someone wants to keep in the first place.
"We should probably get back," Peeta says as he looks at the clock on the wall across the way. "Our style teams are probably going to be here soon to get started on us."
We clean up after ourselves, then head back to our floor. On the elevator, I watch Peeta as he examines my painting. I still think it's nothing special, but he's giving it such close, careful attention, you'd think it was done by one of those fancy Capitol artists or something, instead of by me. I wonder if this is how Peeta looks at all art. Again, I think about how I've never really watched him with this stuff before. Oh, I saw him at the camouflage station last year in the training center, and I've seen enough of his finished products between his decorations for the bakery and the paintings he showed off on the Victory Tour. But before today, I've never actually seen him in the process of painting. Even now, though he's not working on something, it's like he's somehow still in the process. His face takes on a special look, like he has an entire world locked away inside of him. I've seen glimpses of this before, in the arena. But this is something else entirely.
When he moves forward, I nearly jump out of my skin. I'd been paying such close attention to him, it didn't even register when we reached our floor. Peeta gives me an amused look, quirking an eyebrow at my jumpiness. I don't offer any explanation, though. Just follow him off the elevator.
Effie makes a beeline for us the second she lays eyes on us. "Oh, thank goodness!" she says. "I was just about to send someone out to look for you. Hurry back to get ready; we'll be late enough as it is!" She practically pushes Peeta and I down the hallway. We give each other a look, barely stifling laughter for some reason. We part ways when we reach our rooms.
Inside, my prep team is already waiting. They launch themselves on me before I barely get a word of greeting in, making comments about the state of my hair, my nails, my eyebrows, though they are happy to say they're no where near as bad as they've been before. I listen quietly while they talk, nodding at the appropriate times. But the longer I sit there, the less attention I pay. Because the impending night and its likely activities are starting to creep up on me. What on earth does Snow have in store for us tonight?
When we're ready, we're all ushered back downstairs, where cars are waiting to cart us off to the event. I'm not really sure what to expect. I know it's some sort of gala that has to do with the Quarter Quell. And there's a good chance that Peeta and I will be sold. But whatever else happens at these things is anybody's guess.
The event isn't being held at President Snow's mansion, for once. Instead, it's at some fancy large building in the middle of the city. I don't know why this place was chosen instead. All I can think about is how many more bedrooms a place like this might have. Or if there are none, then how many more private rooms. It doesn't really matter what they're technically meant for. These people in the Capitol will make do with anything, as long as there's some privacy. I'm surprised they even bother with that, to be honest.
An awful thought occurs to me. Maybe some of them don't. Will some Capitol citizen with an especially exhibitionist taste force us to do something in public one day?
Inside, things are exactly what you would expect from this kind of an event. Wall to wall people, extravagant displays of food, musicians performing for the crowd. Near the back of the hall is a giant stage, which is clearly being set up for something, but what I don't I know. It seems we're going to be a part of whatever it is, though, because this is the direction Effie ushers us.
Milling about just to the side of the stage is a virtual Who's Who of recent Hunger Games history. I recognize everyone from Gamemakers to stylists to victors from other districts. Johanna Mason, a victor from District 7 who won a few years back, stands chatting to Finnick Odair. He makes eye contact with me from over her shoulder; she sees, and turns to see who he's looking at. I duck my eyes and shuffle forward in the crowd before anything else can happen.
A few minutes before 6, we're all ushered up on stage. There's a very specific order we're meant to follow: the Gamemakers sit clumped together surrounding the center microphone, with stylists and other important people sit off to the side of them. Victors are placed on the other side. I take a seat between Peeta and Haymitch, and try to tune out as much as I can of what's going on around me.
Fortunately, not much is being asked of us victors tonight. We're mostly here for show. The star of tonight seems to be Plutarch Heavensbee, who is officially being introduced as the Quarter Quell's head gamemaker in what's being broadcast to the whole of Panem. Nothing is said about Seneca Crane.
After the whole thing is over, Peeta and I barely have enough time to get in a quick drink of water and bite to eat before we're whisked away to some private room above the bustle of the main ballroom. Effie leads the way. She seems unnaturally excited. "Well, this is a special treat," she twills as the three of us step onto the elevator. "Plutarch Heavensbee himself has requested some time with the two of you!"
Peeta and I immediately share a silent glance; in his eyes, I see the same alarm I know must be reflected in my own. Plutarch Heavensbee. Of course, it makes sense that the star of the evening would want the stars of last year's Hunger Games. But this is different for us. We've met Plutarch before. And this will be the first time for either of us being forced with someone we've actually spent any time with before. I think back to that night at Snow's mansion, when Plutarch insisted on dancing with me. A shiver runs down my spine at the memory.
We exit the elevator and follow Effie down the hallway in silence. Just as she comes to a stop in front of a door, I feel Peeta's hand slip into mine. Then the door is opening, and Effie is bidding us goodbye while Plutarch's face, smiling and sleazy as ever, comes into view, opening the door wider to allow us entry. I guess there's no getting out of it now. Peeta leads us inside.
As Plutarch shuts the door securely behind us, Peeta and I stop in our tracks. Neither of us are prepared to see Finnick Odair, draped across a chair in the room.
Thank you for your patience in waiting! I've been overwhelmed between working full time and taking a full time load in school. But never put in a full eight hours for someone else, and forget to come home and work on your own goals, am I right?
Today is the five year anniversary of when I finished reading the trilogy for the first time. Crazy!
Things are starting to pick up. What does Plutarch want with Katniss, Peeta, and Finnick?
Thanks, as always, to feeding_geese/bigbigbigday006 for her help on this story, for putting up with my shenanigans, and listening to me ramble about my crush on Jemaine Clement.
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