This idea stemmed from a roleplay session with a good friend of mine. It's nowhere as dark as The Death of Peeta Mellark, which I'm still working on by the way. I'll be alternating between both. The writing for this is simpler, since it's in Katniss' POV, as opposed to an omniscient view.
I do hope you enjoy. Please review and comment. Don't be shy!
Chapter 1: Catching A Mockingjay
I hit the wild turkey in the eye. Clean shot.
It's taken me months of practice to catch up to the archery skills I once possessed, and even then, I've been missing more then I used to. Either I catch the animal in an awkward way that makes it less appealing to buyers, or I miss altogether. Still, it's better then three months ago when I grasped my bow for the first time since the end of the war. Pulling the string alone was exhausting and painful. Now it almost feels natural again.
I set the turkey into my game bag with the other one I caught. Squirrels have been more evasive, though Peeta reassured me it's likely only a matter of time. After all, hunting is in my blood.
Murder and destruction also flows through my blood. It's like black smoke filling my veins, overflowing my mind. I can cast off the horrors I've lived, the horrible things I've seen and done, but it's short lived. It returns with the force of a heavy mace. I'm reminded of it all as I cross the Square of District 12. Most of the Square has been rebuilt. It's brand new, yet already the walls of the new buildings, the shops, the Memorial Center and the Justice Building are already covered by a fine, dark dust. It's as though the old remnants of what we used to represent - starvation, death, pain, fear - refuse to be ignored, coating all that is new to remind us where we came from. Honestly, it sends chills up my spine. For all I know, some of this dust could still be remains of the people who lost their lives during the bombing.
The thought has my chest tighten and I rush across the Square, feeling eyes on me. Most are apologetic, kind or even seem to venerate me in some way. I was the Mockingjay, their deliverance, the symbol of a war won against a force once thought unstoppable: the Capitol. I was the Girl on Fire, with the burns to prove it, though I wear what needs to be worn to conceal most of the scars across my body. Others hold a gaze of hatred. Even though they are free, they despise me. I was the Mockingjay, their deliverance, but I was also the symbol of death, their families and friends burned by the bombs meant to hurt and shame me. They are few in between, but those are the ones I feel the most. They're the most powerful ones and even as I try to ignore them, they bore through me like burning stakes.
I'm thankful to reach Greasy Sae's home and restaurant, away from casting eyes. It's more like a small place where people eat then a full on restaurant. After seeing the luxurious restaurants in the Capitol, even this rebuilt place doesn't come close. Maybe I should compare it to a small dinner or a bar. Either way, people have found a nice refuge there, and at night, they gather to laugh and play table games. I suppose it's good for morale, but I want no part of it. I don't go through the restaurant itself because there will be more looks from customers. Instead I go through the backdoor where I find her cooking something that makes my stomach growl and my mouth water. I don't know what it is, but it smells amazing. I set my bag on the counter.
"Two of them this time", I say. "But I couldn't catch more, sorry."
"Oh, don't apologize, dear girl", Greasy Sae assures me with a wave of the hand. "Two's well enough, thank you. How much do I owe you?"
I cut her off. "Nothing. They're scrawny, and I couldn't get the first one in the eye like I wanted so the meat will be stressed and tougher."
I hear her sigh as she returns to her stew, adding herbs, mixing them in. The smell becomes even more invigorating and my stomach growls loudly. Immediately I feel a blush of embarrassment creep up my cheeks as she looks at me, her head tilted curiously.
"You always have a reason," she shakes her head. "And apparently you're all sorts of hungry. At least let me serve you something before you disappear for the day."
I want to protest but already there's a plate of that delicious stew set on the counter in front of me, and my hand moves on its own accord, going for the spoon, dipping it in the thick broth and bringing it to my lips. It's almost scorching hot, but I take it in anyway, and as I guessed from the aroma alone, it's heavenly. She's come a long way since her wild dog and mint leaves watery soups. This is not make believe beef, this is beef.
"Why won't you let me pay you when everyone else does", she asks me as she sits beside me on a stool.
"Because you took care of me when I returned", I respond simply, not looking at her. I despise owing people, but Greasy Sae is one of those I'll likely never repay in full in my lifetime. She brought me meals and tended to me while I let myself descend into oblivion when I returned to District 12. She cut my hair evenly as it grew back and applied moisturizing cream to my charred, scarred and dry skin, making sure none of the battle wounds would re-open and become infected. When I came down with pneumonia, she tended to me like I was her own daughter. More so then my mother, who remained in District 4 despite news that I might not make it. As the odds appear to be constantly in my favor, I survived even though I was hoping I would finally die. But today, I owe her my life and everything that I am. I don't regret living despite the nightmares and the glares I get. So no, I won't have her pay a dime even if I bring her a horde of elephants. Also, there's the fact that she doesn't really need the game. Not under the new regime of Panem. But it helps me. It's therapeutic to be hunting again, and bringing food to someone, apparently, makes me feel like a good person.
I hear her sigh again and I shrug. It's the same old song, same old scene each time I bring her game. A broken record, as they used to say. I finish my plate and already I regret eating it so fast because it was so good. I could have a second or third bowl. Probably a forth. I'm not starving like before the days of the Capitol's control. I'm just so used to being hungry - my whole life, in fact - that sometimes I forget to eat until I realize it's essential. People have been eating much better these days, with weekly deliveries, which used to be reserved for the wealthy Capitol region alone. Now every District gets its share of food, and people are more plump, healthier, and generally happier.
As if she read my mind, she offers me a second plate and I can't say I'm disappointed. I take a few sips, and on the fourth, I hear the introduction music of the newscast on the television in the restaurant. It's not a big television, not like in the Victor's Village, but because it's morning and there's not a lot of people in yet, the sound easily reaches us. I don't like it. I don't watch the news, or television much for that matter. Peeta will watch some of the cooking shows when he has time, but even that gets on my bad side. Maybe it's because people in the Capitol still look like the overly colorful cupcakes they make - and even casters from other districts, looking tern and grey in most cases, leave a bad taste in the back of my mouth.
Or maybe it's because I remember the overexposure I got during the time of the Games and Rebellion. Whatever it is, I hate the blasted things and it's only still in my home for Peeta... or Haymitch, because he broke his during a drunken fit.
Greasy Sae leaves her stool and leans on the door frame leading into the restaurant. As she watches the images and listens to the newscasters, I keep eating greedily, drowning the noise from the other room.
"Dear lord", I hear her sigh. I see her shake her head, her fingers drawn against her thin lips.
Immediately I become tense. Every little thing sets me off these days. A glass falling. A child's shriek which I'll realize later really was just laughter. Now, Greasy Sae's concern.
"What is it", I ask, though frankly I'd rather not know. I'd rather cast it out and ignore it all.
"President Paylor was attacked this morning during a conference." I give her a long, hard look. No, I don't like the news. I don't like all that is bad that comes with it, because there's always a bigger ratio of bad news to the good ones.
Paylor... I remembered her fondly. I wanted nothing to do with politics, but when I heard she'd been elected, I remember feeling happy for her and for the whole of Panem. Paylor was a good woman. "They say she's in intensive care right now, but other then that, nothing else."
"Oh", is all I manage to respond. What else am I supposed to say anyway? It's not like I can be of any help from where I am, and besides, I don't want to be helpful. Whatever I had to do with the whole of Panem, I'm done and over with. Greasy Sae makes no comment on my indifference. She knows me well enough by now to know my train of thought.
I finish my bowl and thank her. I don't really want to overstay my welcome, and this talk of Paylor has made me uncomfortable. I'm about to walk out the back door and return home when Greasy Sae's voice interrupts me.
"You should stay home tomorrow. They just mentioned District 12 is next in Haven's path", she warns me. Haven is the name that was given to a rather large storm that has been devastating Panem this last week. It was named after the first Victor of the Hunger Games. Apparently, in the old days, they used to give names to storms, and because we're trying for an approach that resembles this when and where, we should also name storms as though it's as important as everything else. I think it's useless, but whatever floats New Panem's boat.
"I'll keep that in mind", I say and step out back into the square.
As soon as the sole of my boot touches soil, I feel something's off. I can't exactly pinpoint what it is or how I know. It isn't the wind that has picked up, mysteriously following Greasy Sae's warning; there wasn't a single breeze when I walked into the restaurant. It could be that there's suddenly hardly anyone around when it was relatively crowded earlier. Wait, where is everyone?
I look around the deserted market area, stroll past vendors who have literally abandoned their shops. Since the fall of the old regime, there's been quite a few people who have taken to looting and stealing. Stray Dogs, they're called. Now that there's no restrictions to go from one District to another, some people have taken to traveling between them by foot as groups, terrorizing the populace, mostly small town markets. It's never happened in District 12, but it's just a matter of time in my opinion. For shop keepers to leave their precious belongings unattended rings alarm bells for me.
I feel my chest tighten painfully. For some reason I know. I know where everyone is and as I skip into a jog, then a run, I feel my temples begin to throb. My instincts tell me to turn back. My instincts tell me there's danger ahead and lord knows I should trust them by now. Yet it's a pull, a calling. Stronger then me by a mile.
I find the crowd, easily fifty folks, stacked in front of Mellark's Bakery like a bunch of sheep. They stay a distance and soon I understand why: something crashes through one of the windows, followed by a blood curling scream of agony from inside. It hardly sounds human. There's so much pain laced with that shriek that I visibly shudder, my feet rooted like the rest of the crowd.
"Peeta...?" My voice hardly sounds like my own. It's low, trembles, swims in my head and sends a cool wave to the tips of my fingers.
One by one, they turn to look at me. I hear a few whispers, hush hush and oh look, it's the Everdeen girl; it's Katniss; miss Mellark is here, (they never know what to call me these days and frankly I'd rather they didn't address me at all) and one by one these people, some of which have moved to District 12 recently and whose names I don't care to learn, look back at me. They wait for me to do something. I just stare back at them in disbelief. Why has no one done anything? Why has no one moved? Why are they waiting on me?
There's another cry from inside the bakery. Another window breaks with the weight of what I assume if a bag of flour. The sound of Peeta's mewling acts like a switch to the crowd, and they make way for me. They're not even looking at the bakery anymore. It's me they're looking at. It's me they wait on.
That only angers me further.
I huff and pace through them as they scatter out of my obvious trajectory. I send each one of them an accusing glare. Each and every one. They look as though I stunned them, next gazing at their feet. And then I realize that what I saw from them wasn't expectation. It wasn't like the looks I get from people who see me as Panem's circus attraction. What I saw there, plastered all over their features, was white fear.
And then I know. God, I know. It's us they're afraid of. Peeta and I. And why shouldn't they be? I killed on countless occasions, for the games and outside the games. Some for my survival... others on impulse. There was reasoning behind each and every death, I tell myself, but even I don't fully believe it. So why shouldn't they be afraid of me? And Peeta... Oh, Peeta, who deserves none of this, a moment away from a flashback or a blackout at every hour of the day, every day, for the rest of his life. And here he is, thrashing the bakery he rebuilt only months ago. I wonder what triggered him this time?
So why shouldn't they be afraid? To even lifelong residents of District 12, we're freaks. Muttations of the Capitol. Brainwashed or used. We can't be trusted.
I give them a hard, long glance as I walk among them, still clearly not belonging, and make my way to the building. I hear Peeta inside, wonder if anyone else is in there. I don't bother to knock. No good would come of it. It might just unnerve him twice as much, make him think he's hearing gunshots instead of my fist on the door.
I have no time to assess what I see. I'm sucked in, pulled inside by near inhuman strength. The world spins with dim and bright colors, some of which I hardly have time to associate with frosting, when I'm hurled to the floor violently, straddled. I hear a laugh, something off-key, something alien. It rings high, spreads into the bakery, makes the flour dust scatter around us.
And then Peeta's nose is hardly an inch from mine, hands tight against my shoulders, keeping me pinned to the wooden floor. His breath is warm, burning, and his eyes are wild. The eyes of a lunatic, eyes I can only associate with venom, which I'm sure I can smell on his breath. Acidic; lemon like. It makes me scrunch my nose.
He lifts my shoulders and slams me back down so hard I hear my right shoulder pop and my head spins.
He snarls, his voice low, grating. "Hey, Mockingjay. You here to finish what you started?"
End of Chapter 1