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Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 27 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
Repost: The Golden Mean, Chapter 27
Okay, I did these two as a batch, since I was changing the order of things. (So much for my little continuity edit, eh?) Sorry to flood you. I'm going to edit up "Gramps" (ETA: edited, if you want to see it) to add as an appendix and bring the story up again, so people will know it has significant edits.

Anyway, this is less radical in change than 26, but I did change the end of the chapter to bring the focus back to Katniss.

Chapter Twenty-Seven
We have stopped to re-charge when I wake up. Finnick is already gone. The dot indicates that we're on an island south of Panem, but to the east, and I'd guess we're going to be making our way north today. A helpful program that sounds like Plutarch wrote its scripts tells me that we are on Jamaica, which was a thriving country until the catastrophes came. It does not elaborate.

A few hours of rest seem to have at least temporarily put off the shakes, though I'm pretty sure they'll be back, and I can almost feel my brain making emergency preparations while I take a shower and change into a gray pantsuit that's been left for me. I put my regular clothes in a bag and hide them. I don't know why, but I want to hold on to them.

I go up to check on Katniss and Beetee as soon as we take off. They are both still sleeping. I can't stand seeing Katniss's hands tied, so I take the restraints off of her.

A medic in a white shirt and gray pants comes up to me and says, "You're needed in control, Mr. Abernathy." He starts to put the restraints back.

I grab his wrist. "Leave her be."

"She has tried to injure herself twice. The first time, she pulled out her IVs. The second, she threw herself into the table and aggravated her concussion."

"The restraints didn't stop either."

"Well... no."

"I'm her mentor. Her legal guardian until her mother comes. If she comes. You'll do as I say. Leave them off."

This obviously doesn't sit well, but he agrees and goes about his morning check-up. I head out, and lights in the wall lead me to command -- actually, a pleasant looking room with curved windows, probably meant as a luxury lounge. Plutarch has taken it over and is staring intently at a computer screen. Finnick is at the table, looking beaten. I sit down across from him and wait for nearly ten minutes before he even acknowledges that I'm here. I nibble a little bit at the breakfast that's been laid out, but no one seems really interested in it.

"What's the news?" I ask.

"I'm getting reports from the Capitol," Plutarch says. "The news is reporting a terrible fire at the Viewing Center. Only a few of the mentors escaped it."

"Don't tell me -- it was set by a drunk from District Twelve."

He nods. "During an assault on the electronics involved in the Games."

I close my eyes and take a deep breath, trying not to feel anything. "How many?"

Plutarch looks like he's contemplating not telling me, but ultimately, he just sighs and says, "We lost sixteen victors in the fighting. Eighteen in the arena. Six made it out of the Viewing Center, and six from the arena."

I start to ask who died, then realize that it's easier to get the shorter list. "Do you know who got out of the Center?"

"Will Norton and Darla Grimes from Nine. They played it like their Games and stood out the fight. The Capitol escorted them to the train and sent them home under armed guard."

"That's not going to go over well in Nine. Nine doesn't much like its victors, anyway."

"I'm sure that's why there's a guard. They'll probably get their things and be moved back to the Capitol. Lucanus Bazzett from Two is reported to be training for war with the Peacekeepers, not that anyone remembers him anymore. Otho Magro slashed his way out. He's at large in the Capitol as far as we know. No idea which side he'll end up on. Verge Gatty shot Toffy Taggart, so I'm guessing he'll be fighting with the Capitol. Diamond, from One." He checks a list. "Those are the ones we know about. Plus three taken prisoner from the arena, three here, and Enobaria… who knows where Eno will end up."

"Only six…"

Plutarch winces. "There's more. The ones who weren't in the Capitol. Hennesy Doolin died in the fighting in Four, trying to get Annie out. Sandi Matta's been arrested for inciting rebellion. She's scheduled for execution. And in One… " He sighs. "Most of them who weren't mentoring or in the Games stayed home this year. Ravish was shot by the Peacekeepers when he tried to keep them from dragging off a girl who cheered when Katniss shot out the forcefield. The other four -- split loyalties. They went into melee. Two dead, one dying, one arrested."

I try to absorb it, but I can't make sense of it. "What about the captives?

"Peeta is in the Training Center under guard. There's no news about Johanna."

Finnick makes a choked sound. "Annie?"

"They're holding her in Four. I expect they'll move her to the Capitol."

"And Effie?" I ask. "The one who wasn't in any danger in the Capitol? Or Peeta's preps. Or Portia."

"No news on any of them," Plutarch says. "I'm sorry, Haymitch. But there was nothing we could do."

"What about survivors in District Twelve?"

Plutarch smiles. "We're cautiously optimistic that there may be some. Surveillance shows a long section of the fence that has been trampled, but we can't tell where in the woods anyone might have gone. Whoever it is, they must be skilled at hiding in those woods."

Gale, I think hopefully. He knows the woods even better than Katniss does, and Hazelle knew to be prepared.

"There's no communication, of course," he says. "Even if the power structure hadn't been destroyed, I can't imagine where they would have gotten equipment."

"So, no direct news," Finnick says.

Plutarch shakes his head. "Communications are down in Seven, Ten and Twelve." He again looks hopeful. "But Eleven has control of transportation now, so there's at least a hope of them getting some food out."

"Can we get to Four?" Finnick asks.

"No, I'm sorry. There's no way I can get you to Four. But I've given special orders for her retrieval if possible. It's the best I can do, Finnick."

"I should kill myself. They'd leave her alone if I weren't here."

"Don't be stupid," I tell him. "That's the worst thing you could do. Get her killed for sure. As long as you're alive, they'll keep her alive for bait."

The door slams open suddenly, and there is Katniss, wild-eyed, her thin nightgown sticking to her, a syringe held tightly in one hand. She's completely feral, a creature of pure vengeance, though she obviously recognizes us.

I can think of a few ways to handle it. I can already see Plutarch reaching for a medical bag, but I hold up my hand. could attack and try to subdue her before she hurts someone, then explain things. I could just try to hold her and calm her down.

Or I could be her mentor, the one she expects, the one she knows.

"Done knocking yourself out, sweetheart?" I ask. I suspect it doesn't come out sounding quite as light as I meant it to, because Katniss raises the syringe and starts lurching into the room.

She means to start killing people, I realize. Killing them because she thinks they're in the hands of the Capitol.

I know this with absolute certainty, though Plutarch looks utterly confused. Before she can overcome her own confusion, I grab her hand. "So it's you and a syringe against the Capitol?" I ask, trying to reach her by treating her as I always do. Trying to find Katniss in the crazy girl standing here. "See, this is why no one lets you make the plans." She stares at me. I force her hand open and say, "Drop it."

The syringe falls. I set her down beside Finnick, and try to explain what's happened as well as I can while Plutarch tries to get her to eat. The longer I talk, the more I see her eyes grow cold and far away.

"You didn't tell me," she says at last.

And of course, this is it. This is the moment of betrayal. I consider fobbing it off on someone else, but not telling them was my call, in the end.

But before I can confess, Plutarch steps in to take the blame, trying to sound jovial and kind, even referencing a hint he gave her about the arena.

Katniss is having none of it. "I still don't understand why Peeta and I weren't let in on the plan."

"Because once the forcefield blew, you'd be the first ones they'd try to capture, and the less you know, the better," I say bluntly.

She doesn't understand. She thinks Johanna turned on her. Finnick and I try to explain that it's not true, that Jo saved her.

Plutarch just ignores most of this and, quite suddenly, flat out says, "We had to save you because you're the mockingjay. While you live, the revolution lives."

I can see that Katniss is less than impressed by this. She looks at me, puzzled and betrayed, then light dawns on the most horrible thing… at least the most horrible thing she has a reason to think about so far. "Peeta," she whispers.

"The others kept Peeta alive because we knew if he died, there'd be no keeping you in the alliance, and we could risk leaving you unprepared," I say. It's a harsh way to say it, and I know it, but I can't seem to think of anything else. I think about Danny burning up. About the fire rushing through the square. She can't handle it right now. I have to stay on task. I'm trying to figure out how to tell her what I know she's going to ask next, the thing that may take her out of the alliance now that she has no one else, the ultimate betrayal.

But she beats me to it: "Where is Peeta?"

I'm too tired to make up a long-winded explanation. "He was picked up by the Capitol, along with Johanna and Enobaria."

Her eyes widen, and her mouth tightens in an unvoiced scream. I look away.

She screams and lunges across the table, claws out. Before I know what's happening, she's ripping at my face. Blood fills my eye. She calls me a Gamemaker... worse than a Gamemaker. She says I betrayed Peeta. She calls me a liar and a cheat and tells me that she hates me and is going to kill me.

Something in me breaks, and I feel it like glass shards in my head. I grab her arms and push her away. "You're the one who was going to break the alliance!" I yell at her. "He'd be fine if everyone had stayed together!"

She screeches and takes another swipe at me. Finnick grabs her and drags her from the room. I grab her kicking feet. We get her back to the hospital ward, and this time, I help tie her down. She slams her head on the table again and again, no longer cursing me, just crying for Peeta.

The medic sticks her with a needle and she curls up into a voiceless ball.

Finnick has taken a few hits, and the medics install him in the bed next to her for observation. They take me to an exam room to bandage my face.

"You can't start accusing the mockingjay of making a mistake," Plutarch says when I come out.

"I know."

"Then stop it."

He storms off, leaving me alone. I sit down. I want a drink. It's getting to a point where I need one. I've lost my balance. The line has moved again, and I'm completely lost. I ask the medic about detox pills, but he considers them little more than alcohol in pill form (which may be true, for all I know) and tells me that District Thirteen is not going to "enable" me that way. I will have to "be a man." In some corner of my brain, Brutus smirks and says, "Good luck with that."

When I come out, Finnick has gone to sleep. Katniss is in a drugged land where she doesn't even seem to see me.

We arrive at District Thirteen late in the afternoon.

I don't know what I expected -- some subterranean version of the Capitol, I guess -- and I'm not sure what to make of what I see. The hangar we land in is utilitarian and featureless, and nothing I see as we are walked briskly to the hospital is any different. Gray halls, lined with gray doors. The people are dressed in gray clothes, except for the medical staff, who wear white shirts. We're separated for our examinations. Someone takes my bag. I lie about who scratched my face, claiming it happened in the fight with the Peacekeepers. I doubt Katniss has anything more exotic under her fingernails than they did, at least not after being treated on the hovercraft. They examine me for other injuries from the fight and find none. I assume I'll be released.

I'm not. Another doctor comes in after and hooks electrodes up to my head. He claims to be checking my nerve responses.

"I don't have any nerve damage," I say. "I wasn't in the arena when the forcefield blew."

"As I understand it, you've found other ways to damage your neural network," he says coldly.

"My brain's fine," I grumble.

"Well, I don't see any shrinkage or lesions... yet." He scans whatever is coming out of my brain. "But there's neuroinflammation, and your dopamine uptake receptors are severely out of balance..." I tune out as he describes whatever he has decided I have wrong with me. It always boils down to the same thing: Quit drinking.

"There are pills," I try. "And I know, you don't like them here --"

"They are against the law. They may not impair your mental functioning, but they maintain --"

"Right, I know, they enable the addiction. Your guy on the ship told me. But if I don't take them, I'll get the shakes. Someone in Twelve died from a heart attack during the shakes."

"Which is why we will keep you under medical supervision as you dry out, Mr. Abernathy. You have enough left in your system to linger for a few days, according to your bloodwork, but after that, you will be dealing with rather severe withdrawal."

There is no opportunity to argue, and no compassion offered. I am assigned a bed, nowhere near the others. Finnick is ambulatory (though apparently under a suicide watch), and he comes to see me, psych nurse in tow. Katniss is refusing to speak or even acknowledge anyone, except in her sleep.

"She did sleep for a little while," Finnick says. "But she woke up screaming for that pearl Peeta found for her. I got it out of that parachute she was carrying things in. She stopped talking as soon as she had it. They took the burn ointment for the hospital."

"They just took her things?" I ask.

"I doubt she'll care about the ointment. They had to make sure the spile wasn't a weapon."

"Good thing you already checked."

He smiles faintly, then sighs and puts his head in his hands.

Plutarch comes in after a while, bouncing around jovially. I'm not sure why. His report isn't exactly the stuff of optimism. Peeta is still at the Training Center, and Caesar Flickerman has visited him. Plutarch anticipates that the Capitol will use him for propaganda. Personally, I don't care if it includes Peeta being on television. He can ride around on a unicycle singing the national anthem with a performing monkey on his head as far as I'm concerned, as long as Caesar keeps him alive. Annie is in the Training Center as well now, and Effie is in minimum security. Johanna is in maximum security, and none of us mention the possibility that they'll kill her there. There's too much information they'll try to get out of her first.

She'll be a hero, Plutarch assures us.

There are no resources available for a mission to the Capitol to rescue them yet.

Plutarch purses his lips. "I did ask, you know. President Coin wants to do it, of course. She would have preferred we rescue Peeta in the first place. But we are not in a place to risk jeopardizing our agents." He seems to expect us to nod and acquiesce, and sounds a bit peeved when we don't. "We have been given a great deal of aid already, and there is still a war to be fought."

"I'll go back myself," Finnick says. "Give me two weeks, a hover-bike, and a trident."

"You'd never get in, let alone get them out."

"I have plenty of very close friends in the Capitol."

"Absolutely not," Plutarch says. "And there is another rescue operation being planned. Haymitch, they are going to send hovercrafts to District Twelve."


"Unfortunately, the airspace is still in Capitol control, so they can't mount an extensive search. You know the area. The fence was knocked down on the west side of town, near the mines -- "

"The Seam," I say.

"All right. The Seam. Where would people from the Seam have gone if they were able to get past the fence?"

"I don't know. Most of them don't go into the woods." I think about it. "And if they did -- if they broke the fence and headed into the woods -- it'd be with someone who knows them. Someone who thinks of them as a safe place."

"I assume you're thinking of Miss Everdeen's cousin?"

"I hope so." I try to imagine where he'd go, but for some reason, all I can think of is Digger. Digger in the golden sun, saying that we weren't always poor. "The lake," I say uncertainly.


I nod. That's why I thought of the lake. A safe place to go if anything happened. A place Katniss would know, which means that Gale has a good chance of knowing about it. "They'll need water, and heavy woods for cover. And hunting. There's a lake. It's west and a little bit south. It has everything they'd need."

I hope I'm right. It would be just my luck if Katniss hadn't ever thought to take Gale to the lake her father once pretended to own. But I'd guess the hunting and fishing are good, and there's shelter under the trees, and water.

"It's a start," Plutarch says. "I'll take it to Commander Boggs."

He leaves, strutting around importantly.

"I hope they're there," Finnick says.

"Me, too."

He stays until lights-out, when he goes back to the part of the hospital meant for people whose injuries aren't self-inflicted. He promises to talk to Katniss, even if she won't reply. He also means to talk to Beetee, but that will have to wait until he's out of intensive care.

I dream about Peeta. He and Caesar are in an arena that seems to be a mix of every arena I've ever seen. They fight, but there's no escape. Caesar does better than I would think, but there's too much for him.

I wake up in silence. Underground, there's no way to tell what time of day it is other than by the arbitrary lighting, but I'd guess it's still night by that. I see a nurse working at a desk at the end of my ward. I feel like my heart is beating too fast, and when I lift my hand, it's shaking. I can make it stop if I concentrate, but I know that won't last forever. The shakes are coming.

I don't know what else to do, so I ask if I can go sit with Katniss and Finnick, and he says it's all right with him, but I'm to check in with their nurse before I talk to them.

When I get there, I see why. Katniss, at least, is attached to all sorts of things that would be very helpful to me right now. The ward nurse stations herself at the foot of Katniss's bed for the duration of my visit to make sure I don't take advantage of any of them. This makes me a little self-conscious about saying anything out loud, so I just sit there and hold her hand. Her eyes are slightly open, but she doesn't acknowledge me, even to pull her hand away. Finnick joins us after the daytime lights go on, and tells her a disjointed story about the fishing boat that Annie's father owned.

Just before breakfast, I see something moving along the wall at the edge of my vision. When I turn, nothing is there.

Pretty soon, I guess I'll see it full on. My guess is that it will be one of the bugs that ate Jack Anderson. Or maybe the snakes that Brutus and Enobaria ran into. Or tracker jackers. That would be sufficiently terrifying. As the Muttation Appreciation Society reminds us every year that they appear in the arena, you have to appreciate the classics.

Breakfast comes on metal trays. We each get a bowl of oatmeal, which is mushy and soggy. Finnick has more than I do, since it's been determined that I need to lose a few pounds and he needs to gain them.

"I'll give you some of mine," Finnick says, wrinkling his nose.

"No. That's okay," I say. I take a spoonful, and let it pour back into the bowl.

Looking peeved, Katniss's nurse tells us that our nutritional needs have been very carefully calculated, and we are getting what we require.

I stare at it for a while and decide that I'm just not hungry enough.

At eight-thirty, I am collected by three soldiers, who escort me up to a room full of screens. I half expect to be told to sit by a phone in case a sponsor calls. Instead, I am led to a conference table. Plutarch is there, along with a man he introduces to me as Boggs. Boggs is accompanied by a young woman named Leeg, who gives me the first real smile I've seen here. She pulls out a chair for me.

A door opens, and a severe looking woman comes in. She seems to be all gray. Her hair, her clothes, her eyes. Even her skin seems a little gray. It's like she's been shot in black and white, while everyone else is in admittedly dingy color. She extends her hand slowly, like she thinks I might be contagious, and says, "I am Alma Coin, president of District Thirteen. Please be seated, Mr. Abernathy. Your expertise on District Twelve is needed."

"Katniss knows the woods better than I do."

"Katniss Everdeen is not in any psychological state to be of use to us."

We spend the next hour looking at maps. The lake is not properly marked on any of them, and I have to find the place from memory, though Boggs has a program that extrapolates the land forms enough to help. I am told to think of alternative destinations, in case my guess is wrong. I suggest the river that runs northeast of town. A lot of kids used to be stopped by the trestle going over it, at least until the fence started being more regularly charged and it stopped being a common bit of childish rule-breaking. If they followed the train tracks, it would get them there.

But I don't see them following the train tracks.

My hands are shaking again, and it's taking a lot more concentration to make them stop. When I suggest going with the rescue party, Boggs looks at me, disgusted, and says that he'd prefer not having medical emergencies on the way to a rescue.

I want to argue, but I can't hide that I'm starting to sweat pretty badly, and the headache is already setting in. I am taken back to the hospital, where they feed me ice water. An older man who is cleaning the floor waits until my nurse is gone, then quickly slips me a white detox tablet. He winks, then goes back to mopping. I don't know or care where he got it from.

I chew it gratefully, and my head clears for a little while.

Finnick comes back to see me. He doesn't have much to say, but for some reason, he seems to want to have me around. He asks if he can tell me a story.

"Since when are you a storyteller?" I ask.

"Peeta," he says. "It helped to tell a story, that night in the arena. It makes more sense of things. Can I tell you about what Annie and I were going to do after the war?"

He does. He does better than he did this morning with Katniss. I think of Peeta. I wonder if they've shown him video of his family dying. I wonder if he realizes I knew it could happen.

Finnick finishes his story in about ten minutes. They have three children by now, and a boat like her dad's. He is teaching the children to swim. She weaves nets. She's "more herself." He never has to look at some miserable rich old woman again and pretend to find her interesting, or tease a groping old man with bad breath. "And we'll have a house," he finishes. "Maybe a dog."

"That sounds nice," I tell him, though I don't think it will ever happen. Annie's too damaged, and Finnick has too many horrors chasing him. It does sound nice, though. Maybe they can manage the dog.

I know I'm going to throw up only a second before I do. I have no idea what I'm throwing up, since I haven't eaten much. Finnick gets the pan from the table and holds my head. He tells me I'll be okay.

Plutarch comes to update us on the rescue mission. Boggs is controlling it from Thirteen; Leeg is leading it on site. They have found a sizable group of District Twelve residents in the woods by the lake. Gale Hawthorne is, indeed, leading them. Primrose and Ruth Everdeen are with them. No other names come up.

Mentally, I thank Digger for the tip.

I insist on being up and about when the rescue mission returns. Plutarch objects on the grounds that I look like hell and am already starting to see non-existent bugs at the edges of my vision again. I tell him that I still have a day or so before the real problems are going to start. I can ignore the bugs and control the shakes for a little while.

He gives in. Maybe it's compassion, maybe he just doesn't feel like arguing with me. Either way, I go with him down to the hangar, where he leaves me in the control booth and goes off on his own business.

In the control booth, Boggs is in contact with the three hovercrafts that went to District Twelve. He looks at me distastefully when I come in, then goes back to a conversation with a captain. "How many? Can you fly with that many?"

"There are a lot?" I ask.

Boggs doesn't answer, but he gestures to a young soldier sitting beside him. The young solder stands at attention and studiously avoids looking at me. "Reports indicate shy of nine hundred survivors," he says. "They were at the location you suggested."

"Nine hundred?" I repeat. I want to celebrate -- nine hundred? Then I realize, it's less than a tenth of the population of District Twelve. More than eight thousand people are dead -- people I know, people I care about. Everything is gone.

"Take it slow," Boggs says. "These people don't need a hovercraft crash. But you should be able to fit three hundred into each. If you need to jettison cargo, do it. We can go back for anything important."

Yeah, right, I think. Anything important except for Peeta Mellark. Or Johanna Mason. Or Portia and Peeta's prep team. Or Effie Trinket.

I think Effie's cat, staring up from under the television. I should have at least taken the cat. Maybe I could at least be trusted to competently rescue a cat.

My hand goes to the bandages on my face, where Katniss clawed me. If it scars, I'll leave the scars alone.

Teams of medics and soldiers are assembling in the hangar, and I go to join them, feeling out of place among the grim ranks of citizens of Thirteen, though I guess I don't look much different now. While we wait for the hovercrafts, I help them set up several identical triage areas. A few minutes before the hovercrafts arrive, Alma Coin appears on a catwalk above the hangar, flanked by Plutarch and Fulvia. Someone sets up a sound system for her.

The soldiers and medics and I clear the floor as the hovercrafts enter, landing softly on their launch pads. These are huge cargo crafts, and the exits are meant for large vehicles and equipment. There are no ladders with handy electric cling on them. These have large ramps, which lower from the cargo bays to the floor.

It seems like a long time before people start to come out, but when they do, it's a flood. The survivors of Twelve are dirty and frightened, and many are injured. It's hard to tell who's who. Almost everyone seems to be from the Seam.


I look up at the voice. Prim Everdeen limps out of the crowd and throws her arms around me. "Sweetheart, are you all right?" I say.

"Katniss," she says.

"She's in the hospital. She took a shock. But she'll be okay. They're looking after her. Your mom?"

"We're okay," she says cautiously, looking over her shoulder. "We were watching at the Hawthornes' house. Gale got everyone out. Or... everyone he could..." She starts shaking. Not crying, just shaking wildly. "Haymitch, the Mellarks were in town. They didn't get out. Ed was in the stocks for hitting Thread."

"Why did he hit Thread?"

"One of the Peacekeepers hit Delly Cartwright."

"Oh. Delly's dead, too?"

"No. She's actually here. She and her brother were with the Cooleys. Ed made her leave because she'd been there all afternoon. He said she needed a break. Leevy's her friend. She's been trying to keep people's spirits up."


"Yeah. I think it's the only way she can deal with what happened to Ed."

There is a feedback whine from above, and everyone looks up at President Coin. She waits until the hum of conversation fades, then says, "I am President Alma Coin, and I welcome our friends from District Twelve. Like you, we in Thirteen have suffered at the hands of the Capitol, and like you, we have survived. Like you, we are angry. Like you, we want to take the power of the Capitol, and put Panem back in the hands of its people!"

This gets a cheer, but it is mostly from the workers in Thirteen. The survivors from Twelve still look tired and beaten, and like they'd rather have a hot meal and a bath than a war.

"Together, we are strong! We have allied with other districts who are fighting as we speak, and the days of the Capitol are numbered! With the voice of the mockingjay, we will rally Panem together, and with the strength of arms, we will overthrow the tyrant who murders our children. Welcome, my friends. Welcome home."

She spreads her arms expansively, but there is nothing generous about her. No wonder she needs a mouthpiece to spread the word. Even her own people aren't especially inspired, and she can't read the crowd at all. I can't help but think of Peeta -- how he would make everyone feel safe, how he would be going among the survivors, speaking softly to them -- and again I see him in my mind, pulling back Brutus's head, slitting his throat, then screaming... screaming until the Capitol took him...

Prim touches my hand. "Haymitch, what is it?"

"We lost Peeta," I tell her. "The Capitol got to him first."

She presses her hand to her mouth. "Oh, no. Does Katniss know?"

I nod, and lift up my bandages. "She wasn't happy with me."

"It's not your fault," Prim says. "None of this is your fault."

I have a feeling that this will not be a majority opinion. Someone calls for Prim and she waves. A moment later, the crowd parts. Ruth Everdeen comes forward, looking as absent as she did after Glen died. Prim guides her to a chair and sits her down. Behind her, Gale Hawthorne, his arm in a makeshift splint, is leading Posy, who is clinging to him. Vick and Rory, looking as cut up as they'd be after an arena knife fight, are flanking him. Hazelle comes up slowly beside them. Her eyes seem sunken, and her arms are folded across her chest.

I reach out, and she flinches away.

"Hazelle, I -- "

"It's all gone, Haymitch," she says. "Everything's gone." She looks at me blankly, then turns and walks away.

Gale shakes his head. "You did what had to be done," he says. "What Snow did is on his head."

There is a commotion, and a sharp looking young soldier appears and salutes Gale, who doesn't seem to have the slightest idea of how to respond to it.

"Soldier Hawthorne," he says. "President Coin has been told of your leadership. She would like to meet with you."

"Can I clean up first and get my family settled?" Gale asks, handing Posy to Rory.

"Facilities will be provided for everyone. Please come with me."

Bemused, Gale follows him away. Rory and Vick take Posy to follow Hazelle.

I sit between Prim and Ruth Everdeen. A girl with a huge gash on her head is brought into our triage area.

Ruth blinks slowly, then says, almost too softly to hear, "I can help with that." She moves out of her seat like a woman in a dream, kneels beside the girl, and starts cleaning the wound. "Primrose," she says. "See where we're needed."

Prim squeezes my hand, then goes off to seek out the wounded.

I stand uselessly in the strangely silent chaos, watching the remains of my people wandering, shell-shocked and numb, strangers in a strange land.

For a while, I wander from group to group. Gray eyes look up at me dully, only some with any recognition. Old Sae gives me a fierce hug, but can't seem to think of anything to say. She has her granddaughter with her, but not her daughter or son-in-law. I look for Jonadab Mellark, who I didn't actually see burn, but I don't find him. River Boldwood's sister asks me if we are in a real place, or if we've reached some kind of afterlife. I tell her it's real enough. She cries. I don't see any of the other tributes' families here.

The group slowly thins out as officials from Thirteen lead them off to their living quarters, and by sunset, which I can see in a twinkling red light, I'm all but alone. I go back to the hospital, since I have no other place to be, but I don't go down to my drunkard's ward. Instead, I go back to Katniss's bed. Gale has been to see her, the nurse tells me. She knows. She had to be sedated again.

I look at her there, buried in the blankets. She looks like the others, like all of them, the ghosts in my head, the ghosts up in the hangar. She could be dead, for all she's seeing or feeling. Her hands are limp by her sides. I take one of them.

"I'm sorry," I tell her, then kiss her cheek. She doesn't magically awaken. The words feeling strange and foreign on my tongue, I say, "I love you, sweetheart. I love you a lot."

It doesn't change anything.

I wait beside her in the night, as the shakes start to creep up on me, holding her hand while the ghosts crowd in around us.

The End
6 comments or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 2nd, 2015 08:10 am (UTC) (Link)
Never apologize for more story. :) This...this killed me a little but I love the little touches you added. The part about River's sister. The description of Katniss with the syringe was point on. The deaths of various tributes was hard of course. Poor Toffy. Liked the way you set up the District 9 Victors a little more. You added the bit about how they behaved during Katniss and Peeta's Victory Tour (how they treated their people). Now this. It'll lead well into NP when their district kills them.
The end was heart-breaking. I'm glad you didn't change it too much but I really, really liked it. Probably the first time he's told anyone he loved them since his mom and Digger.

"but I hold up my hand. could attack and try to" Think a word or two's missing there.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 2nd, 2015 09:53 pm (UTC) (Link)
How in the world did I miss the first word of a sentence? :headscratch: I moved it around a little, tweaking the graph. I must have accidentally erased the pronoun in one of the moves.

I wasn't sure how much I wanted to change the end, except that, with his comment to Katniss no longer even being the end of a chapter with a straight rearrangement, I definitely needed to give it more focus. Through the whole story, he hasn't really been able to save anyone (as he sees it; Finnick would argue with him), and he's been dealing with his general sense of worthlessness, but the one thing that's always true is how much he loves Katniss, Peeta, Finnick, Jo, and Effie... I wanted to end the action story with a little nod back to that as the most important thing, because of course, as the war keeps demanding things of him "for the greater good" in the next story, the more he needs to remember the smaller ones.
From: (Anonymous) Date: August 5th, 2015 02:56 am (UTC) (Link)
I haven't commented in awhile, but I've been re-reading your updates and have been very much enjoying them. This is one of the most thoughtful Hunger Games fanfics I've ever read, and I've read a lot of them! And it seems that fewer fics are being written now (justifiably, since it's been awhile since the books were published, I guess), so I'm just reminded of how much I like your story every time I see an update.

You've mentioned some original writing, so I'm hoping you'll share a bit of that before you send it off to publishers etc.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 5th, 2015 07:40 am (UTC) (Link)

I'm mulling a few different ideas, though I've noticed that the further I get from canon-era canon-compliant fics, the fewer people seem to like them, which doesn't bode well for original fic!
redrikki From: redrikki Date: August 3rd, 2015 07:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I don't really have any specific comments on this chapter, but have I mentioned lately how much I love this series? 'Cause I do.

Will you be adding these edited chapters up on AO3? What happens to the original versions?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: August 3rd, 2015 07:24 pm (UTC) (Link)
The original versions have been getting replaced as I go. These two chapters are the only ones left. Like I said, I'm going to add "Gramps" as an appendix, to bring it back up so that people know I've made some significant changes.
6 comments or Leave a comment