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Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 12 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Repost: The Narrow Path, Chapter 12
Added some stuff with Sae, started cleaning up the back story stuff about Glen and Danny and Prim and the old rebellion (much more adjustment will be needed later). I think adding Sae's observations helps with why Haymitch has the dream he has and also why he's a little more confident in his caretaker role.

Chapter Twelve
About half an hour after Peeta drifts off, Plutarch opens the door and signals me to join him next door in observation. I straighten Peeta's blankets, smooth his hair back, and go.

When I go in, I'm not surprised to find several people there, the ones I've come to think of as Peeta's regulars. Plutarch. Prim. Delly. Sae. Finnick and Annie. One of Peeta's doctors, a decent woman named Feronia Marell, looks up at me and smiles awkwardly, and I realize she may have been here the whole time, listening to my ramblings and watching me try to get Peeta calmed down. That's a little more than I intended to share with a complete stranger. I nod at her and pretend that this hasn't occurred to me.

To my surprise, Ruth Everdeen joins us. She hasn't been angry at Peeta about the attack -- she understands the hijacking -- but he did try to kill her daughter, and she's been very ambivalent about the whole process here. Prim hasn't. For Prim, there is one simple thing she's been aware of for a long time: Katniss loves Peeta. I think Prim has been aware of this much longer than Katniss has. Her point of view from the beginning has been that we're rescuing the boy her sister loves from a monster that's captured him.

"I've been thinking about the story he told during the Games," she says as soon as Ruth takes a seat. "The one about when Katniss sang in school. That really affected him. I think he needs to hear her sing."

"She's not going in there to sing," Ruth says. "Absolutely not, at least not until he's gotten much better. And any records the school might have had burned with it."

"We have her on film," Plutarch says. "She sang for the Avox cameraman when we were in Twelve. Something about a man being hanged."

"The Hanging Tree?" Ruth asks, her eyes narrowing. "She was singing that song?"

"Daddy used to sing it all the time."

"I remember. I asked him not to. At least one of the whippings he took was from singing it. He wasn't supposed to teach it to her."

Prim grins. "Mom, you know he was singing it in the woods. And even if he hadn't, everyone in school knew it. People used to draw pictures from it."

Ruth grinds her teeth, probably picturing all the whippings that might have happened over the years. "Fine."

I look at Delly. "What will Peeta associate with it?"

"I don't know," she says. "It wasn't… well, a merchant thing." She looks awkwardly at Sae and the Everdeens. "We didn't… well, there were bad feelings about…"

"About broken shop windows and getting called names in the street?" Sae asks. "Can't imagine why there'd be bad feelings about that."

Delly nods a little bit, embarrassed by the subject. "Anyway, it's nothing that would set Peeta off particularly."

We're all quiet for a minute, trying to think of ways it could go wrong.

"They could have showed him one of the propos," Finnick says. "It could already be attached to... other things."

Plutarch shakes his head. "The segment was too long for airtime assaults. We never aired it."

He brings up the clip of Katniss singing, and silence falls. No one argues about how dark the song is. Her voice weaves through the room like magic. We decide to try it on Peeta tomorrow after lunch.

As we leave, Sae pulls me aside while the others go on ahead.

"I heard you talking to the boy," she says. "About Indigo."

I lean as far away from her as the narrow space allows. Sae was one of the few people who really knew Digger and me as a couple. "Just filling space. He needs to be talked to."

"I haven't heard you speak of her in a long time. I remember her, you know. I remember the way she used to sneak down to the Seam for you all the time."

I try to walk away, but Sae reaches up and pinches my earlobe, the way she might have cornered an errant child at the Community Home, back in the dim days when she worked there. "Hey!" I say.

She looks at me crossly. "I don't want to hear you talking that nonsense about not having loved her very well. I never saw any boy more besotted than you, and you were a good partner to her, and a good friend. She wouldn't have any patience with you saying differently."

"Yeah, well, she's not around to have patience or not, is she?" I pull away and start moving again.

Sae comes around in front of me. "No, she's not. But that's not your fault, and it's not your fault about whoever else you're thinking of. Is it the Trinket woman? There were always rumors."

"Effie," I say. "Her name's Effie. Not 'the Trinket woman.'"

Sae cuts me off impatiently. "The point is, Haymitch -- and Indigo would be the first to tell you this -- that what happened to them had nothing to do with how well or how badly you did at loving them. You got your faults, and we all know them, but being unloving ain't one of them. Anybody who thinks different only has to watch you with that boy in there." She nods at Peeta's door. "I think he's going to make it back, you know. He's a strong boy, and just as importantly, he's got you to lean on. He knows it. He wouldn't feel safe throwing bile at you if he didn't." She takes a deep breath. "All right. I've said my piece."

I nod. "Thanks, Miz Sae."

"Ain't nothing to thank me for. It's just the truth." She walks off.

I head on to the dining hall.

As of this morning, Annie is allowed to go to the dining hall to eat, and we all treat it like a celebration. Since she doesn't have quarters, she comes to eat with my crew, and brings Finnick along with her. Soldier Kinney (today, we've decided that her first name is Millicent) makes a great fuss over her hair, and how she wishes her own were so long and beautiful. Dalton falls into a conversation with Finnick about the shared history between District Four and District Ten. Apparently, Ten was settled initially by restless wanderers from Four who jumped at the chance to build a whole new district -- one that, of necessity, needed to be huge, and would take time to explore. They discover many similar customs that remain, and Annie becomes very animated when she hears Dalton talking about a penatta, a kind of party game for children where they whack a ball with a stick until candy falls out of it. (Or, in harder times, pretty stones that they have found in the fields.)

"We say it differently," she says. "But I know the game! We used to hang one from the rigging on Daddy's boat. I always got the candy out." She claps her hands, and I can almost see her as the child she once was. Rich, by district standards (the fact that she only thinks of candy is a dead giveaway on that; most people in the districts couldn't afford it for a game), and good hearted. Happy. I hope I'll see more of this Annie.

Felix Bonnet, who lives next door to Dalton and me, is very interested in this, and wants a demonstration. We get strange stares from other tables when they start to pantomime the game. It is apparently more fun than is proper or customary in the dining hall.

The younger Hawthorne boys and Prim come over and we end up clearing a little area, with all of the children (including Annie and Finnick, who have reverted to childhood entirely) taking blindfolded swings at a pair of napkins Dalton has hung from the ceiling. Other local children meander over to watch. Annie starts to get a little nervous at the crowd, but Finnick keeps his arm around her to steady her, and tells a story about her when she was little and sailing in the Ghost Gulf. The children want to know if there are really ghosts in the Ghost Gulf, and seem a little disappointed to hear that it's only called that because the outlines of so many drowned cities and towns can still be seen under the clear water. "There are places," Finnick says, "where you can swim along a road!"

I figure it can't last, but it's allowed to go on until it looks like they mean to start a sing-along around the table. We're not told to refrain from singing, but it is strongly recommended that we stick to District Thirteen songs. I ask if someone can teach the one about the flying grizzly bear, but the reprimand seems to take the fun out of the whole business.

Back in the apartment before lights-out, Dalton tries his hand at drawing Annie. "There's nothing wrong with that girl," he says, "that can't be fixed with a little fresh air and sunshine and a lot of love."

"Fresh air and sunshine are in short supply around here," I say.

"Looks like she's got enough of the other to be going on with, though," Dalton says, grinning. "Well, as much as you can say you can have enough of it."

I dream of District Twelve. Glen Everdeen and Katniss are singing "The Hanging Tree," and I'm sitting with Effie on the porch of the bakery. She's a solid, warm presence against my side, and I have my arm across her shoulders. Peeta comes out to join us, carrying a few loaves of bread, and Effie fusses over his collar, which she thinks is off-balance somehow. Delly and Ed walk by, looking deliriously happy, and my brother Lacklen -- still twelve years old, but healthier and safer than he was in reality -- plays with the Hawthorne boys. I know without seeing that Dannel is back in the bakery making cakes, and that Maysilee is running her stationery shop, while Madge Undersee runs the old family sweet shop next door. Caesar Flickerman is on television, interviewing Cinna. There have never been any Hunger Games (my drifting mind wonders where I know Effie from, or Finnick, or Johanna -- I certainly do know them; I understand that without seeing them -- but it doesn't seem to be a pressing concern).

I wake up on my own, feeling oddly happy, then I realize that it's all impossible. I think I have dreamed things like this before, and woken up like this before, but it's very fleeting. By the time I get to the hospital, I am feeling cheated, and I bark at the techs getting ready for Peeta's test. I want a drink. I think I usually have started drinking after dreams like this before the sense of injustice even kicks in. Just to take the edge off.

Of course, if I had it all, I'd probably want a drink to take the edge off the terrible boredom. If it managed to be exciting, I'd want one to keep my nerves steady. Drinking serves many purposes.

There's a message from District Two. The brains are meeting today for an extended strategy meeting. I'm glad to hear that Katniss has been invited, though this information is delivered with an eye roll from Plutarch. "She's not exactly a war strategist," he says. I fight the urge to point out that his war strategists haven't been half as effective, and the campaigns we've won haven't been the particularly well-planned ones.

I put a headset on and claim to be reviewing the video. Mostly, I'm just listening to Katniss sing. I wish she'd do it more, but I wouldn't ask her to do it for a propo. I remember her walking down the street with Glen, not just in my dream, but in the past, singing at the top of her lungs and not caring who was listening. Once I've calmed down a little, I go into Peeta's room.

He looks up suspiciously. "What do you mean to do to me?"

"We want to try another experiment. Like the one with the goat story. Give you some morphling and let you watch something."

"Something about her?"

"Yeah."

"It's not going to change anything. You didn't see the file. They killed her. Right after she shot at them in training. The thing they sent back up was a mutt."

"Peeta, she was at dinner that night. Even the Capitol can't make mutts that fast. It takes at least a few weeks."

"They got Thresh into a wolf fast enough."

"The wolf was already made. It was just a question of a few cosmetic tweaks. What you're talking about -- I’m not even sure it's possible with a lot of time. It's definitely not possible in the time frame they had. Even if they'd spent every second since she volunteered working on it, there wouldn't have been time."

Peeta considers this carefully. I don't know why no one has tried just saying that before. We've all been concentrating on how it all feels. But the logic gap is there. Peeta is miles from stupid, and he's forced to acknowledge that the timeline just doesn't work. He bites his lip. "Maybe... maybe it wasn't then."

"Isn't that what the file said? Why would they make a secret file with wrong information?"

He does the strange, fish-mouthed gape again for a few minutes, then says, "Will they give me drugs before I see it?"

"Yes."

"Is it anything bad? Is she hurting anyone in it?"

"No."

"Am I in it?"

"No. She's just singing to a friend."

"Gale?"

"Not Gale."

He's quiet for a long time, then says. "All right. You can try it."

"You sure?"

"You think I like being afraid of her?"

It's not exactly the answer I want, but it's consent. It's even reasonably informed consent. Maybe I should have tried this earlier.

The doctors come in and inject him with the mild dose of morphling, and give him a cup of Ruth's calming herbal tea. He asks if Delly and I can come in and sit with him while he watches. We go.

He flinches when the video screen comes up, and I guess that it'll be a while before he can see a screen without thinking of his time in the Capitol. Plutarch waits until he relaxes before he cues up the video. He's taken out the Rebellion symbol at the beginning of the propo, and it just starts in the clearing by the lake. Katniss points out a mockingjay to the Avox Pollux, and gets it to repeat Rue's tune. Pollux tries it, then writes, "SING?" She sings a few notes, which the mockingjays copy, then smiles and says, "Want to hear them do a real song?"

I glance at Peeta. He is watching her curiously, like he's never seen her before.

She sings "The Hanging Tree."

I continue to watch Peeta, and for the first time, I hope. I can see the boy inside him, the boy who once heard Katniss Everdeen sing and fell in love with her on the spot. That boy is watching, wide-eyed. The battered young man he's trapped inside can't seem to decide whether to shrink into the pillows or sit up straighter. He keeps going back and forth.

There is silence for a moment when she finishes the song, then the mockingjays pick it up. Plutarch fades the video out before the burning gold pin comes up.

Peeta is as silent as the mockingjays were, then says, quietly. "I know that song."

"It was an old rebel song," I say. "You may have heard it -- "

"I heard Mr. Everdeen sing it."

I stop explaining. Delly and I look at each other.

"Go on," I tell Peeta. "When did you hear it?"

"I was... six, maybe? In school already, because Dad had told me about how the birds stopped singing for Mr. Everdeen. He came to the bakery to trade for some bread." Peeta closes his eyes and goes deep inside himself, painting the picture fully for us.

It was a Sunday, the day off at the mines, and it was afternoon. His chore was sweeping up behind the counter and making customers laugh. No one exactly said the latter was part of his job, but he knew there was a reason he swept out front while Ed and Jonadab worked in back. ("Jonadab said my whole job was getting my cheeks pinched," he remembers.) The Peacekeeper Purnia Britten had just bought a dozen cookies, and, in a moment of good cheer, paid for a thirteenth for Dannel to let the boys split. Peeta was nibbling on his third of it -- a fresh, sweet cookie that had only just been taken out of the oven that morning, an unheard of treat -- when the door opened and Glen Everdeen came in, carrying two rabbits and a bag of mint leaves.

"Dad and Mr. Everdeen talked for a while," Peeta says. "I'm not sure why. The trade didn't take very long. It was for a little cake for Prim's third birthday. I don't know why, but they kept saying it was for Prim's birthday, like they wanted to make sure the other customers in the bakery knew what it was about."

I don't explain, but I guess that, behind the glass, Ruth knows. After her little blond-haired, blue-eyed daughter came around, the whole town seemed to remember that she and Danny had been in love once. They suddenly discovered a talent for math, trying to work Prim's conception into a time when Danny had gotten fed up with Mirrem and applied for new housing for himself and the boys. Ruth went to check on him a lot, then turned up with a blue-eyed baby who looked more like Danny's boys than Ruth's other child. No amount of denial on everyone's part did any good.

I know Glen fumed a lot, though I got most of that second hand. He sometimes passed me inventories from the mine, and occasionally just came up to check on me, but we were never close. It was Danny I heard from more. He was angry that the town didn't believe Ruth, but for some reason, he was shocked that Mir didn't believe him. "I've never cheated on her!" he said, tearing through my kitchen. "I never cheated on my wife. She thinks…" And he swept aside some knickknacks on a shelf, then growled at the wall.

He never admitted it to himself, but I always thought the reasoning was perfectly obvious: If Mir believed (or pretended to believe) that Danny was unfaithful, then she became the injured party, and she could play him like a fiddle over it.

At any rate, Danny and Glen finally came up with a novel strategy: To be publicly friendly at every opportunity. I can't say they were ever exactly friends, just on the periphery of one another's lives, but now, they were going to appear inseparable. Glen would repeatedly stress his trust in Ruth, and Danny would renounce any kind of emotional claim on Prim. Ruth refused to have anything to do with it -- probably wisely -- and maintained a complete break with Danny, and after a while, Danny and Glen drifted off in separate directions again, but for a couple of years, they were one another's personal fan clubs.

It worked, for the most part. People seemed to realize that a man who'd been cuckolded wasn't likely to become the bosom friend of his wife's lover, and talk casually about a child whose paternity was actually in any dispute. The only person left in District Twelve who doubted it by the time Peeta and Katniss would have been old enough to understand was Mir… if she really doubted it at all.

I decide this is a bit more than Peeta needs in his head. "So he traded for the cake," I say. "And then he sang?"

"First he asked if he could meet with some people on the porch. Dad said it was okay" -- I wonder if this sort of thing is why Danny assumed he'd been found out -- "and Mr. Everdeen went out and sat on the steps, and he sang that song. I listened really hard, because I wanted to see about the birds. It's a really beautiful song."

"It is," Delly says. "And do you... " She looks at me. I have no idea how to ask what she means to ask either, so I shrug and let her think of something for herself. "Do you like it when Katniss sings it?"

He doesn't fly into a rage at the sound of her name, but that could be the morphling, which is gripping him more tightly as time passes. He says, "Can I hear it again?"

Plutarch re-starts the video. Peeta closes his eyes to listen, not looking at the image of Katniss. He falls asleep before the song ends.

Delly and I leave. Neither of us knows what to make of what just happened. We are settling down at the table in the observation room to talk about it with Plutarch and the doctors and Ruth and Prim, but we don't get a chance. Plutarch and Fulvia and I are called to an emergency meeting in Command.

It's already in full swing when we get there, with a video connection to District Two. Boggs, Beetee and Lyme are in a large meeting room alone, but the detritus from lunch and snacks suggests that the meeting was originally a good deal larger.

"Of course it would be effective," Lyme is saying when I come in. "But that's not the question here."

Coin hands Plutarch a small screen filled with diagrams, and he shows it to Fulvia and me. The diagrams are fairly simple, and all too clear: Someone has decided to bury the Nut alive. The plan is to blow the earth itself to bits along the avalanche paths, and seal the mountain. It's a plan for a mine disaster, the kind of thing that we were raised to fear every morning when our parents went to work.

"Before we get started," Coin says, "let's be practical. Can it be done, Soldier?" she asks Beetee.

Beetee nods. "It wouldn't even be particularly difficult. We may not even get much return fire if we're not targeting the entrances or the vehicles. They might not even notice."

Coin taps a pencil on the table thoughtfully. "We might not be able to get in and claim the facility."

"We wouldn't be able to," Lyme says. "That was what made this plan different from everything we've tried. I'd been asking people to come up with something new. Soldier Hawthorne suggested giving up on the idea of possession of the facility. To just destroy it outright."

"Wait," I say. "This is Gale's idea?"

She nods. "It was the first workable thing we'd gotten. I don't think I'd have wanted to be up against him in an arena."

She says it lightly enough, but it carries a lot of weight. I see Beetee flinching at it as well. The idea of Gale, so angry and so brilliant, dumped into the arena, is chilling. He'd have been a victor for sure, but I'm not sure I want to think about what the arena would have done to him.

Then again, the rest of us aren't exactly models of good adjustment.

"It sounds like a mining accident," I say.

Beetee nods. "That's what Katniss said."

"You have Soldier Everdeen at strategic planning meetings?" Coin asks, then tempers it. "She hasn't shown any special gift for it."

"She has a perspective I value," Lyme says. "Maybe you need to listen to her more in Thirteen."

I knew I liked Lyme after this summer's mentoring, but the look on Coin's face at being told she needs to listen more to an unstable teenage girl wins me over for life.

The problem is re-focused on whether or not we need to possess the Nut. The ethical question of burying hundreds of people alive is tabled entirely until, as an afterthought, Beetee brings up leaving the trains free to get them out after they surrender.

Coin and a few of her top officers look confused by the thought, and I have a feeling one of them is actually gearing up to ask why we would do such a thing when Boggs says, "It will help the transition if we're not shown to be as ruthless as the Capitol. And Katniss's participation will certainly be more enthusiastic if she doesn't think we're causing a mine cave-in. Apparently, that's how her father died."

"It's how Gale's father died, too," I say.

"So she pointed out. It was quite the argument between them."

"And that," Coin says, cutting off the connection, "is why teenage girls do not belong in serious strategy talks. Using that time to pick emotional fights with another soldier was counterproductive."

"It's not an emotional fight," I say. "It's an ethical one. And one we're going to have here, without benefit of a single teenage girl in the vicinity."

"Do you mean to derail this meeting?" Coin asks.

"No. But I also want to make sure that survivors of the attack have some opportunity to surrender and get to safety."

"If they're alive, they're quite likely to want revenge," one of the commanders says. "It could be asking for trouble to let them leave."

"They're human beings," I say. "You don't know why they're working there. Some of them are our people."

The debate circles for more than an hour. Thirteen's Command is stiff and awkward; it's clear that they haven't had a lot of arguments. Things in Thirteen happen because Coin decides they will happen. Ultimately, that's an advantage, since Plutarch and I have both done our share of arguing and convincing with Gamemakers, sponsors, and even Coriolanus Snow. The ethical angle may be incomprehensible to Coin, but she has at least a rudimentary concept of image. We decide to go ahead with the plan, but leave the trains as an escape route. Plutarch even gets them to let me be in contact with Katniss the whole time, even though I won't have any special view of the battle, on the grounds that she might suddenly need to be coached through an appearance.

She suits up and puts in the earpiece, but, beyond a test and a hello, we don't talk through the entire attack, which we observe from the roof of the Justice Building. One of her cameramen is on her (just in case she does something wonderful, I guess), and I can see how pale and drawn she is. Both of her hands are clamped over her mouth, like a little girl trying not to scream.

"Katniss?" I say into her earpiece. She doesn't answer, but between her hands, I can see her lips moving. She looks like Peeta when he's scared and confused. "Katniss!"

She takes harsh, sharp breaths. Her eyes trace the line of the mountain. "I want everyone inside," one of the Commanders says. "In case the Capitol has more hovercrafts to use."

"Katniss," I say. "Are you there?"

Finally, she drops her hands. I can see the red imprint they leave on her skin. "Yes," she says shakily.

"Get inside," I tell her. "Just in case the Capitol tries to retaliate with what's left of its air force."

"Yes," she says again, dully. I watch as she makes her way down the stairs into the Justice Building. She looks like she's been on a morphling drip. She keeps pressing her hands against the stone walls. Boggs finds her and tries to reassure her that the trains will be allowed to come. He tells her the plan isn't to shoot everyone leaving the facility, but I somehow doubt that she's especially calmed by this, since soldiers are very obviously going out, armed to the teeth, to wait in the square.

Sounding more like a father than a commanding officer, Boggs says, "You're cold. I'll see if I can find a blanket."

She looks more than cold. She looks beaten. I can see other people in Command looking irritated with her. I do the only thing I can think of. I distract her by telling her about the test we did with Peeta, about how he was able to remember her father without going into a delusional rant. I actually am hopeful about this, and I think she picks up on it, though the best that can be said is that she seems less likely to slip into a catatonic state when I'm done.

Hours pass. Night comes to District Two. I can see on the monitors that nothing is going on at the mine. A few soldiers are engaged in fights with locals, probably relatives of the people in the Nut. One of our soldiers is disciplined harshly for attempting to abscond with a local girl he's managed to subdue. There are many things I don't like about the regimentation in Thirteen, but I'll give them that: They don't approve of abuses by their military.

I stay on the earpiece with Katniss, never turning it off, even though we only talk now and then. Occasionally, one or the other of us will ask, "Still there?" She is sitting in the entry hall of the Justice Building, pressed against the cold stone, her eyes haunted. The occasional reassurances that she's not alone seem to at least keep her grounded.

The small skirmishes continue. The local fighters are fierce, many of them trained to volunteer for the arena. Now, they're defending their homes.

"We need to get her out there," Coin says.

"Katniss, I'll be right back, I promise," I say, and turn off my microphone. "What?"

"We need her to address the fighters, tell them that they're beaten."

"It'll save lives," Plutarch says. "If we show that the rebellion -- the mockingjay herself -- is speaking from the main square of District Two, and is perfectly safe to do so, then maybe..." He shrugs.

"Come on. Look at her."

Coin looks. "I see a volunteer in this war effort who is suited up for the duty she agreed to do."

Left unspoken are the terms of the agreement. I see Peeta there, helpless against anything they might do to him in the hospital if Katniss doesn't play along.

I turn my microphone back on and break the news to her. While I'm talking, Fulvia hands me a script for her. I don't bother to pretend she's going to do something on her own, and wouldn't ask her to. If she can choke out words I feed her, it will be enough. It's the image they need.

She goes to the steps. I start feeding her the speech. Her voice is shaky, and she looks about as inspirational as Coin generally does.

Before she can get much further than an introduction, there is a loud screeching noise in the square, as the trains finally come out of the Nut, packed with wounded. They pour out of the doors, surrounded by smoke from the mountain.

Katniss loses her apathy and rushes down the stairs, screaming at the rebels to hold their fire. A wounded man comes out ahead of the pack and she goes to him. I think we are about to see her do something extraordinary.

Then he pulls a gun on her.

"Freeze," I order her.

She does.

The man says, "Give me one reason I shouldn't shoot you."

She says, "I can't."

"What's she doing?" someone in Command whispers as she goes forward.

"I can't," she says again. "That's the problem, isn't it? We blew up your mine. You burned my district to the ground. We've got every reason to kill each other. So do it. Make the Capitol happy. I'm done killing their slaves for them." She drops her bow and kicks it to him.

"Cut her mike!" someone yells. "What the hell is she doing?"

Plutarch has the controls. He doesn't cut her mike or take the camera off of her. I move away from the table, so I don't have to worry about anyone trying to grab my mike.

"I'm not their slave," the man says.

"I am. That's why I killed Cato... and he killed Thresh... and he killed Clove... and she tried to kill me. It just goes around and around, and who wins? Not us. Not the districts. Always the Capitol. But I'm tired of being a piece in their Games."

There is silence around her. Both sides of the skirmishes are watching her intently.

"Keep talking," I say. And I realize what she most needs to talk about, what the people from the Nut need to hear. "Tell them about watching the mountain go down."

She does. All of her war-weariness, all of her Games-weariness, comes out, all of it focused on one wounded man holding a gun on her. It's real. It's all real. I can hear her life in her words -- her life as someone always divided, someone who belonged to two worlds and never fit in either. She begs the people from the Nut to remember that the rebels are their neighbors, and asks the rebels what they've become, standing there ready to shoot a wounded man just trying to reach safety. She's just a step away from the point of things, the same step away that she was in the arena, when she was holding her bow on Enobaria.

"Who's the enemy?" I prod her.

She nods, her eyes fierce. "These people are not your enemy! The rebels are not your enemy! We all have one enemy, and it's the Capitol! This is our chance to put an end to their power, but we need every district person to do it! Please, join us!"

I smile. This was what she needed to do. It's what she should have done all along. Rallying angry people to express their anger has always been easy. Getting people to understand who their enemies are is infinitely more difficult.

The man in front of Katniss lowers his gun, and a cheer goes up in command.

It's so loud that I don't even hear the gunshot that sends Katniss, limp and bleeding, to the ground.
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Comments
redrikki From: redrikki Date: November 16th, 2015 04:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like the additions with Sae.

One quick correction. "I've never cheated on her!" said, tearing through my kitchen. You are missing a pronoun here.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 16th, 2015 05:40 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oops, how'd that happen? Thanks; I got it.
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 17th, 2015 04:10 pm (UTC) (Link)
Re reading mockingjay along with your rewrite. Have you ever done a Gale POV of the time Katniss was in 2 and he was still in 13, or right when he got to 2? I looked and didnt see one but admittedly i have a hard time finding all your challenge stories and may have missed it. If not, I've got an idea for your next challenge call ;-)
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 25th, 2015 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't done much with Gale, one way or another, so probably not. :D
From: (Anonymous) Date: November 19th, 2015 07:28 am (UTC) (Link)
Amazing, as always. I love your writing so much. I love the stuff with Sae, especially because she was one of the only people that knew Haymitch when he was a kid, as an adult figure. Just one comment, or maybe question. When Haymitch has his dream sequence he mentions all of the people he sees, then mentions he doesn't know where he knows Effie, Johanna and Finnick but the only one actually mentioned in the dream was Effie. Were Finnick and Johanna supposed to be "seen" by Haymitch or was it more that he had a feeling of everyone he cared about being around him, without necessarily seeing them?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 25th, 2015 05:41 am (UTC) (Link)
He just knows that he knows them... the way you know things in dreams.
From: queen_bellatrix Date: November 22nd, 2015 06:27 am (UTC) (Link)

A Few Catches/Feedback

came the bakery Just missing a to before the.

like little girl trying Just missing an a before little.

It real. Think the it should maybe be it's?

Gaaah, this is just such a phenomenally good chapter. That added conversation with Haymitch and Sae was a fabulous use of the back-story material you've given yourself! And what she's saying is a truth Haymitch will never not need to hear, and it comes at such a pivotal moment. :d

It's fascinating to watch Gale through Haymitch's pov. You were talking a while back about how Katniss drifting away from Prim was one of the worst things in MJ, because fundamentally, it was Katniss drifting away from herself. I think one of the real advantages of an alternant pov of MJ--and especially one as perceptive as Haymitch--is that we get to see Gale's drift so much more clearly than Katniss can.

I'm still just blown away by how you took these very sparse descriptions from MJ of the attack in D2 and fleshed it out to be as horrifying and riveting as an atrocity like that should be. The moment when Katniss finally confronts the wounded man was incredible in the books, but it's even more incredible here. Because Haymitch is aware, in a way Katniss just isn't in a mental state to be, of just how much hinges on this attack and of just how fragile Katniss herself is. And so to see her overcome that and halt what could have been a massacre was beautiful and profoundly moving.

Will also always love that dream Haymitch is, where there's peace and so much less carnage. And yeah, I can see exactly why he starts drinking after them. It's fascinating watching his self-awareness with enforced sobriety. I won't say watching it grow, because there've always been moments where he knows he has a drinking problem; he just then promptly drowns them with more booze. But watching it actually become an influencing factor on his life, now that he can't just block it out: that's been very interesting to trace through this piece. And it spirals back to what he was saying about Thirteen: it's great that they help alcoholics; but just like with the discipline in the military, they've set it up to come with a cost. For the military, it's regimentation; for alcoholics, it's a total lack of consent about their own sobriety. Thirteen, for me, is such a prime example of the road to hell being paved with good intentions; because it's still the road to hell, y'know?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: November 25th, 2015 05:49 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: A Few Catches/Feedback

Some of their intentions might be good, but I'd take some convincing on a lot of fronts. In the case of the alcoholics, their goal is right: Get them off of it. But they don't really have much understanding of the psychology or physiology of the disease, and, yes, of course, the whole issue of consent is alien to them. You do things their way OR ELSE.

I think that scene in D2 is when Katniss begins the process of really growing into who she'll be as an adult (and it's not accidental that it's around the same time Peeta starts to think about baking again). It's when she absolutely chooses Peeta's way over Gale's, at any rate.

We see a lot of Gale in the world -- anger that never ends, that just eats away until the whole focus of life is nurturing that anger. And it's easy to slip into, because a lot of the time, the anger is perfectly justified, and totally understandable. What Collins did with Gale was very much what I wanted the SW prequels to do with Anakin Skywalker: Make every element of his decision making completely comprehensible, even sympathetic, and in the end, pointing out that it doesn't matter that it's comprehensible and sympathetic, because it destroys him and everything he loves in the end. (Instead, of course, they decided in RotS to go with, "Yup, he sure was a psycho, good thing you're not like him at all." I am not at all bitter about this, of course.) With Gale, there's no point where his actions don't make sense, where his anger isn't justified. It's not about whether he's right or wrong to hate the Capitol. It's about what all of it is doing to him. What he's letting it do to him, and what Katniss rebels against.
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