The Grounded Mockingjay

Part 1: Flightless

1. Reach

It's been 6 weeks since they dropped me off in District 12. Mostly, I lay awake thinking until sleep forces itself upon me. Sometimes I think of all of those who died; the innocent bystanders, the victors, the war casualties…even our enemies. And District 12. Always, the people who were bombed to death in District 12. It's like a counting game trying to see how many of them I remember, how many I knew personally or spoke to, until I fall asleep. It is a morbid counting game of course, but it's almost become a strange comfort at this point. Something that I can always depend on; anyone who is gone tonight will still be gone by morning.

But more than anything, I think of all those who once belonged to me who are now gone: Prim, My mother…Gale. And Peeta. Always Peeta.

The difference is that everyone else is really gone. Prim is of course completely out of reach. Then there's my mother. She is closer because I could always call her, but I am sure that I would never know what to say. Really it's that I don't want to talk to her. I want to rest my head on her shoulder and cry. I want her to hold me in her arms and brush my hair. Tell me that I am just a girl. Her girl and not some Hunger Games-created monster. Not a mockingjay who's lost her ability to fly. But I know she never will. And the phone call can never give me that, so the phone just rests there in its beige bed taunting me.

Then there's Gale, who I have no desire to reach. His name hangs over me in a mist of pain, fear, and a twisted and unholy relief. Though I can't say what he means to me now, there is no denying that he was once so large a part of my life that thinking of him now is more than involuntary, it's ingrained.

But Peeta?

Peeta Mellark is just two houses down. So why is it that he is the one who feels farthest from my reach?

Like most nights, I wake up in the middle, and the only thing louder than the voices in my head, is the sound of my scream. But it's the name that I am screaming that startles me most.

"Peeta?!" My breath is ragged and I am sweating and feel a little sick as I realize that it was a dream. My black surroundings and the eerie glow of the moon make me immediately aware that I was asleep…dreaming.

The Hanging Tree.

Fit with two nooses, but Peeta's body hanging lifeless was the trees only occupant. His eyes were open staring down at me, filling me with that all too familiar emotion: Guilt. It's because of me that he was tortured. Because of me that he's a fire mutt now. But in the dream I couldn't cut him down. Shot arrow after arrow but every one missed and his eyes still stared down at me.

I shiver just thinking of it, and I try to calm myself the way Peeta used to. "It was only a dream Katniss. Just a dream." I feel crazy talking to myself this way. I also realize that maybe I am.

I whip the covers off my shivering legs and get out of bed. I wear a plain white t-shirt and a loose pair of light green pants that I think belonged to my mother. Reaching over to click on some light, I glance up and the clock on the wall tells me that it is 1:35 am, but it's of little consequence. I stand up, the floor cold beneath my feet sending chilly icicles stabbing into each toe, but my steps are still sure. I know that I am going to find him awake. To talk to him. After all, he is the only one who I have left who might have any answers. The only one I have left at all, really.

The smell of vodka hits my nose and I instinctively turn away from it. Haymitch's house is worse now than ever before. I think he got so used to having Gale's mother, as his maid that now he just tosses things into the floor, possibly imagining some fairy maid will come and pick them up. Gone is the pretense of any semblance of cognizance and instead Haymitch seems to relish in his filth now. Like some self-satisfied pig.

"Sweetheart!" Haymitch's voice trails out from the hallway, and I can't tell if I'm imagining things or if he is really here until he stumbles forward. His clothes look more unkempt than usual but his smile is fairly bright which is a good sign; Haymitch rarely smiles. "Couldn't sleep either I see? Being haunted by "The Ghosts of Hunger Games Past"?" he says with air quotes that seem out-of-place in his hands.

"Not exactly," I say, settling into the only un-covered cushion of the couch. "It's about…P-Peeta…" The words stumble in my mouth, his name unfamiliar to my dry tongue. Well, unfamiliar in consciousness, at least.

"What about him?" Haymitch says, his voice tired and ragged. He hasn't been to sleep at all, I see, noting the heavy bags beneath his eyes, the red web-like veins that cover them.

"It's just that I haven't spoken to him…at all. Not since we've been home really. And I don't really know how to." I say. I recall the few times that I saw him orchestrated by Greasy Sae who cooked breakfast for me for a month before I finally told her it was okay to leave. That I was fine cooking for myself. I haven't seen her since. Nor Peeta really.

Haymitch settles into a lazy lean on a seat that is crowded with trash and bottles but seems unbothered. For some reason this annoys me. "Again, with the boy problems, Sweet-"

"Katniss." I hiss. Haymitch's patronizing nickname is all too familiar to me, but I have never liked it. During the games and the war, I never had any control over it. But, now? Now that everything is over, now that he will never again be more than my next-door neighbor, I know that I don't want him calling me that ever again. It only reminds me of the same Haymitch I first met; my deceitful drunken sponsor. Maybe the same Haymitch he still is; the drunken, filthy Haymitch who seems so unchanged by all that's happened when the rest of us have had no choice. We wear the scars of the Games, outwardly and inwardly. Well, he will change at least this, I decide. Whether he likes it or not.

Haymitch stares at me, as if trying to determine whether or not I'm serious. Finally he says slowly, "Katniss…" and then leaves the silence for a while before saying calmly with a sullen shrug. "Fine. Kat. Niss." I ignore his butchering because I know it is his way of protesting my request, but I don't care, as long as he calls me only by my name. Instead of looking at Haymitch, I glance about the dark, dirty room and wonder absently if he has stepped foot outside in over a month.

"The boy was just in here an hour ago asking me about you." Haymitch huffs out in a low tone and my eyes fixate on him.

"He was?" I say, startled.

"Yes. Actually, he said something about hearing you…calling his name?" he says a knowing smile creasing his chapped lips. I shudder, and the color in my cheeks makes no sense. I have slept in a bed with Peeta, probably more than 100 nights, but for some reason knowing that he heard my involuntary cries brings me unease.

I wrap my arms tightly around my bare shoulders saying, quietly, as though not at all embarrassed "Oh…That…"

"Point is." Haymitch says cutting me off as he shifts upward a little awkwardly, "Just go see the boy, since it seems that you both want the same thing."

I am nodding but confused. I stare out the window into the darkness, before asking quietly "Which is?"

Haymitch shakes his head and leaning back closing his eyes he says in a tired voice,

"Each other."