The days in the Capitol don't pass as quickly now, each one punctuated by Katniss coming back to me a little more. Since that first time she called my name, I've seen bits and pieces of the woman I fell in love with return. It's never there all at once, but it's there and I can't help but be happy about it every time I see it. Just knowing that she's there, that she's coming back to me, it's a bit inspiring. I will never tell anyone that, but it is.
I think my favorite of the little moments was when I found her curled up on top of the wardrobe in Snow's old bedroom. She'd abandoned her room again, just like always, and I took an obscene amount of joy in dragging my feet before looking for her. I had decided she needed a few hours without being watched, and that was what I was going to give her. When Haymitch finally managed to drunkenly shout me into action, it took me no time at all to find her. She'd started leaving little clues behind, almost like it was a game to her now, and being a hunter of sorts just like her, I could follow them. So could anyone looking for them, but I always knew to look.
She was in the corner over my head when I walked into the room, an eerie little grin on her lips and a light I hadn't seen in ages dancing in her eye. I didn't actually see her up there, but I've decided that's what she looked like while she was hiding, because that's what she looked like when she tackled me with a flying leap. Anyone else would have thought that she was assaulting them, especially considering that she was growling and snarling when she did it, but not me. I could hear the playfulness in her vocalizations, the joy and thrill in her cute attempt at being scary, the child-like attachment in it.
We tumbled and wrestled for a few minutes, laughter ringing out from her throat for the first time since Prim's death. I'm not sure it was really Kat laughing, she still never seemed to be herself, but it was good to hear. When she finally allowed me to pin her, our faces so close I could taste her breath on my lips, she gave a sigh I hadn't heard since before the Quell. That one little sound spoke of how she felt with me: safe. When her steely eyes opened again, her voice was just as small as it had been since her recovery, but she whispered, "It's my birthday."
It seemed an inconsequential piece of information, a superfluous detail that didn't matter in this time, this place, but somehow those three words electrified me. Not with exhilaration or desire, but shock at how much time had passed. We had been fighting and training and running for so long that we hadn't noticed nearly a year pass by. When she kissed me however, then I was filled with desire. Since we were already in a bedroom, I figured we should use it for one of its intended uses, and the fact that it used to belong to the deposed President Snow just made it sweeter. It didn't occur to me then that it was the first time we'd been intimate since before the assault on the Capitol months before. All that mattered to me was the feel of her skin, the taste of her arousal, the scent of her sweat. The sounds she made as I pushed her higher than ever before, and the mewls as I brought her back down gently.
Every day since then she has looked at me with more love and adoration than I know what to do with, and the way she smiles at me and only me makes me feel something I'd started to lose hope I'd ever feel again. Hope. Hope that she will heal, hope that she will be okay, hope that we will have both made it through this.
She has no idea, the effect she has.
I wake up in my bed alone, a state of affairs that wouldn't distress me if Katniss hadn't been remanded to my care three days ago. Judging from how cold her side of the mattress is, she's been up a while and that's even worse. What if she needs me, what if she's gone wandering again, what if, what if? I'm so groggy that I'm not actually growing distressed very quickly, which ends up being for the best. Slowly the sound of running water filters into my brain and I know where she is. The thought that for the first time since we walked through hell, Katniss has gone to take a shower on her own is actually exciting. She's coming back to me, the Girl on Fire who loves to play in water.
My thoughts are interrupted by a heavy banging on the door to the bedroom, so I grab a robe and shuffle across the floor to see who it is, still tying the sash as I open the portal. Standing on the other side is Cashmere, healthier than I've seen her in a long time and looking happy. I can see why when I look over her shoulder and notice Cressida with a smug smirk on her face and deep blue eyes staring unashamedly at her ass. Turning my attention back to the statuesque blonde I grin and cock my hip out to the side.
"What can I do ya for Cash?" I make sure that my voice comes out a purr, reaching for the blush I know she's capable of, but it's Cressida who gets it to appear, and not just on Cash as I feel my face flame up. "For one night with Kitty Kat, Cash is all yours. Offer's good until she convinces me to keep her." I can tell that we're both wide-eyed at that, Cashmere's voice high and squeaky as she rounds on Cress who is still smirking, "You can't say things like that! You just can't!"
Turning back to me, her face still burning, Cash answers me more calmly, "Plutarch is in the meeting hall, wants all the Victors there soon. Something about justice? I don't know, but get your...girl..." Her eyes glaze over when the door to the attached bathroom in my quarters opens up, so I'm pretty sure that Kat just walked out naked and dripping, and Cressida's curiosity about why her lady blushed again brings her forward only to be trapped in the same fate. Now it's my turn to smirk and chuckle, "See something you like? Hands off girls, that's all mine." Still laughing, I shut the door in their slack faces and turn back to my Mockingjay, chewing on my lip as I drink her in.
Gods how I love her.
Queen Bitch Coin is glaring at me, though this time I really don't know why. Well, not just at me, but I still don't know why she's so fucking upset or even what set her off. It doesn't matter though and she shakes it off to speak like she always does, all business and no heart. "Well done all of you. The Capitol is ours, though we lost a lot of good men and women to take it. Now, we have a decision to make regarding the citizens here." I can see the confusion on everyone's faces, everyone except Beetee who simply looks resigned.
"We have two choices, though I'm sure you will all agree on the choice that results in fewer casualties." What the fuck? Fewer casualties, the hell is she talking about? "Choice one, we can hold one last Hunger Games, this time with all the Tributes being reaped from the Capitol. Obviously, with only eight of you left we would need to gather a few extra mentors from within the populace if we chose to do this." All of us start to yell at her at once, our voices creating a discordant cacophony that ends in fits and starts when she raises her hands. "I know you do not like this idea, but I think you will agree that it is less... extreme than the second possibility."
Her fingers skitter about for a moment before the holo projects the layout of the city in front of us. For a moment, I don't really get what I'm looking at, and then I see it. Surrounding the entirety of the Capitol is a force field just like the one around the arena for the Games. "Our second option is to simply drop bombs through this barrier and reduce the city, and its occupants, to rubble and ash. Tabula Rasa, a completely clean slate." Now silence is all that can be heard in the room, all of us simply staring at her with shock frozen in our eyes.
Before we can gather our thoughts, she pushes on. "The choice belongs to you, the remaining Victors. Vote how you will, but remember that the good of the many should outweigh the good of the few. It is up to you to decide who fits into those descriptions." Our eyes flicker around the room, unsure of where to look or what to think until mine settle on Beetee. His hands flicker through the signs for what he's thinking almost faster than I can follow, then my eyes jump to Coin to see if she understood what he said. She doesn't even seem to be looking at him, instead staring at Katniss, so I nod and sign back haltingly.
This isn't what I signed up for. I joined the rebellion so that we could stop this from happening.
I know that. She is the same as Snow, power is all she knows or wants.
We have to do something. You know we can't let this happen.
I do indeed. Vote how you are expected, I will bring all of us together after this to discuss our options.
Returning his attention to President Coin, Beetee pushes his glasses up his nose and speaks in his measured manner, "I vote no to the Games. We did this to end them, to stop the senseless loss of children. To perpetrate another atrocity simply because it was done to us makes us no better than them." I can see in her eyes that she expected him to say that, and suddenly I understand what he meant. I have to vote yes, and I have to hope that if enough of us do, she will wait until after the execution and her swearing in to organize it. I have to believe that we have a chance to stop it.
Cashmere glances at me with a faint smile on her face and I'm left wondering why until she answers, "I vote yes. The Capitol betrayed us all when they put us in again, and I lost my brother to the Games. They should learn what that feels like." She saw the short conversation between Volts and myself, and more than that, she understood it.
Annie glares at her and hisses out, "I vote no. No one should have to live through that, and even if someone made it out, that's not living. It's cruel to put someone who doesn't understand that the Games are wrong into one." I'm forced to remember what happened to her when she says that, and suddenly I want to throw twenty-four Capitol kids into an arena and make them suffer. I know that Beetee has an idea to stop it, but some part of me is happy with the thought of forcing someone else to experience our pain.
Finnick votes next, his hand wrapped around Annie's. "I vote no too. This is what we were fighting against, these kids did nothing wrong. They were brought up thinking of the Games as sport, they don't understand that this is just Panem's gladiator ring." I know he's right, I know this is still cruel and wrong, but I shake my head at his naivete. A man like him, used and abused by the Capitol, should understand a little bit better the anger and hunger to make them pay.
Lyme doesn't waste any time putting in her vote. "I say yes. The Capitol had the Districts choked so tight that they did nothing for seventy-five years. I want them to hurt." In her eyes I can see that she is angry over the devastation in Two, and something more. I wonder if she lost someone to them? It takes a moment, and then I remember a hazy conversation over drinks about a younger cousin who went into the Peacekeeper academy. Guy was the little brother she never had, funny and kind and with coppery red hair, said his name was Darius. Katniss said he died in Twelve.
Haymitch looks thoughtful for a few minutes, then with a frown on his face, tosses his hat in the ring. "I vote yes. Snow took the woman I loved away from me twenty-five years ago, and the Capitol let him. Maybe they should be taught what that's like." I understand where he's coming from, gods do I understand, and this quiet anger looks good on him. Maybe he's not just a worthless drunk after all.
Now that it's my turn, I find it all too easy to sneer and speak harshly about what I think. "Hell yes. Everything they took from us, they definitely deserve it. Snow has a pretty little granddaughter who's about the right age doesn't he? Wouldn't it be amazing to have him die with the knowledge that she could be following right after him?" Coin smirks at my vote, proving once again that she's just on a massive power trip, and I know that no matter what Katniss votes, this Games is going to happen now unless we stop her first.
The Girl on Fire doesn't even look at any of us, her eyes staring through the wall to somewhere else, but her fingers slipping into mine let me know she's still here. Annie and Finnick are glaring at us all and I just hope they let us explain. When Kat speaks, it is with a heaviness that none of us are used to. "Yes. For Twelve." She doesn't say anything else, just those three words, but it's enough. Coin looks so triumphant that I only hope we get a chance to wipe it off her stupid, smug face.
We are all sequestered in another wing of the Mansion when Finnick and Annie storm through the door. His eyes are boring into me from across the room and all I can do is cross my arms defensively. "You better have a fucking good excuse for this. Katniss I can understand, Haymitch I can understand, even Johanna wanting to make Snow pay, but we're about to kill him so why the hell would anyone vote yes for another Games?"
Beetee takes center stage immediately. "Simple, Mr. Odair. While I couldn't be certain it would happen, with enough of us voting yes we could guarantee the survival of the citizens until after President Snow is publicly executed. That should also give us a window of opportunity for, shall we say, a sudden coup. If Alma Coin does not survive to inaugurated, then there will be no Games."
In the stunned moment he looks to Volts, my Katniss speaks up with far more presence than she had in the meeting hall. "Coin dies when Snow dies. Snow took our families, our lives away from us, but Coin took my sister from me." We all stare at her now, surprise on every face as I sputter out, "W-what? What do you mean she took Prim from you?! That was Snow, the hover that dropped the parachutes has a Capitol hover!"
When she looks at me, I can see a conviction that has been missing for so long. "No it wasn't. It was marked as one so that anyone watching would believe it was, but it wasn't. You saw how Gale reacted when they dropped, and you saw how he knew what was going to happen before it did. He knew the parachutes that were left were going to detonate. How could he know that? How could he know unless it was his idea? An idea that Alma Coin used in the center of the Capitol to draw in medics while the whole fucking nation was watching. She put my sister on that craft, knowing that her death would cause a public outcry for blood. She took my sister from me, and now she is going to pay for it. With her life."
I don't want to admit it, but that anger is really hot. Seeing that determination in her eyes and hearing her swear to kill a bitch I hate anyway is making me want to take her right here on the table in front of everyone, and I make a promise to myself to give her the ride of a lifetime later. I'm chewing on my lip when Beetee speaks up again, "I've taken a look at President Snow's medical records. Without the medication he has been taking for the last several decades, the poison that he has used to eliminate political enemies will kill him in a matter of days. The execution is scheduled for tomorrow, and they stopped giving him the antidote four days ago. One way or another, his time is up. What do you think we should do?"
Cash and I lock eyes and the answer is obvious and she is giving it before I even open my mouth. "The Victors rise. Beetee, that means you need to be ready to do whatever it is you need to do to get Katniss out as soon as she makes the shot. Haymitch, you and Lyme need to be in the crowd as close to Katniss as you can get. I'll get Cress to help me take a hover, Johanna will need to be ready to take down any Peacekeepers that try to get uppity. Finnick, Annie, I want you on that hover with Cress and I, just don't do anything. Stay out of trouble, stay out of harm's way, and we'll be good. We pull this off, Katniss can stick an arrow in Coin, Snow will probably choke to death on the blood in his lungs having a little giggle about that betrayal, and we can extract the Mockingjay with a minimum of fuss. Beetee, I'm assuming you have someone you think should take the mantle of president, so good luck." We all nod and put our hands in the middle of the table. "For freedom."
Katniss pulls back on the string, arrow pointed at Snow's forehead. I wish in this moment that she was really going to shoot him, but it doesn't matter. We all know he will be dead soon, all of his time is spent. In the blink of an eye, she shifts and lets the arrow loose, the ebony blur almost too fast to watch as it buries half its length in the throat of Alma Coin. Watching the body tumble off of the balcony is strangely satisfying, but then the chaos begins and I have no more time to gloat.
I see soldiers of Thirteen surging towards the Mockingjay, but the towering form of Lyme pushes them back. One tries to circle around, only to run afoul of a rather large hunting knife that Haymitch found somewhere. The Peacekeepers try to wade into the crowd as well, but they don't have a chance of getting there in time, especially with me slowing them down with leg wounds. I've killed enough Capitol slaves, I think I've earned to right to try and not kill any more.
Katniss makes me proud when she pulls out a small handaxe I didn't even know she had and sticks it in the face of someone who got past her two protectors, and then the hover is here. I can hear Cressida swearing over the external speakers, and in this moment that sound is sweeter than birdsong. A running start, a leap of faith, and several fat Capitol citizens breaking my fall, and I'm sprinting to the ramp to get the hell out of Dodge. My Girl on Fire reaches it first, and with Lyme facing our rear we all make it into the hover. Cash bellows out from her position back here with us, "Go go go! Fly us the fuck outta here baby!"
We are free.
A/N: Okay, there we go. That's the end of Mockingjay, more or less, and from here on out the last bits of the story are all about rebuilding after the end of the war.
For those of you who have been reading this far, I'm sure you've noticed but we have some points here that don't quite meet up with the original storyline. If you are confused as to where Cashmere came from, or anything else doesn't quite add up to you, I encourage you to go back and reread the story. I spent yesterday editing this beast and adding some depth that I realized was sadly lacking.
On that note, please give me some reviews! I'd greatly appreciate some feedback, both on this new chapter and on anything you noticed from the edits. I am also curious about what else you'd like to see happen here, and other things, other ideas or prompts you want me to write out. As I said in my last update, Hunger Games and Mass Effect are pretty much going to be what I write from now on.