Author: iam97 PM
Today, when Katniss enters the forest, there's a cry. A cry for help. And help is what the strange boy with the blond curls needs more than anything else. AURated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Katniss E. & Peeta M. - Chapters: 15 - Words: 47,899 - Reviews: 154 - Favs: 73 - Follows: 148 - Updated: 09-11-12 - Published: 05-21-12 - id: 8136916
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
She's unable to tear her eyes away from his when he states this. Katniss doesn't know what to make of it. Her gray eyes, out of all the important, great things he could be remembering? She is sure if it was her lying there, she would not recognize some random, in her opinion boring, eyes of a person she didn't even know.
The boy, Peeta, however, looks about as confused as she feels. He seems to try to figure it out, but no matter how much his nose scrunches, his brows contract, or his eyes close; even when they're fully shut, the light of knowledge and remembrance never brightens them up, they keep their clouded appearance.
Katniss has rarely ever felt as thankful as she does for her little sister when she decides to clear her throat in order to get the elder's attention.
"Well, Peeta, I'm glad I can at least call you by your name now and I'm sure you're going to get your memory back. We'll help you in any way we can." Her eyes suddenly fill with an emotion that can only be described as shame. Katniss doesn't understand why, though. She makes a mental note to ask her sister later.
"This is my older sister, Katniss," she tells him, but her eagerness to cover up whatever flaw she noticed is evident in her slightly too bright voice.
Peeta, who either politely doesn't pretend not to detect the change or is still too drowsy to do so, nods his head. "Nice to meet you, Katniss."
Since she is standing right next to him, shifting a bit uncomfortably about the attention her person is receiving, she decides to act on her -what she hopes to be and likes to think of as; it was her father's responsibility after all- good education and reaches out with her hand for his half outstretched to take it. Usually, she doesn't give much about other peoples opinion, but she doesn't want to mess things up with someone who may stay at her home for a while at the very first opportunity she's given.
But when she does so, his reaction isn't at all what she was expecting. He does take her hand, but very gently, in a feather light touch -not with the firm shake she thought he would- and brings it to his lips. Her eyes widen as she realizes what he's doing; she's heard about this before, although there's no one in Twelve who would greet someone like this.
He keeps eye contact as he softly, almost impalpably, in a fashion that somehow reminds Katniss of what she believes the wings of a fairy would feel, presses his lips to surface of the back of her hand. Much too surprised, she doesn't rip her hand away as she probably would when someone from her village would be touching her.
"Although…I must have already met you, haven't I?" He's smiling, obviously trying to charm the young girl. But, Katniss detects with astonishment, there's also real wonderment in his words.
He then looks at Prim, not giving her a chance to reply, for once an emotion Katniss actually knows - and all too well- in his blue eyes. Guilt. "My apologies. I should have treated you the same way. I must have been too distracted your kind way of taking care of me. Allow me to fix my negligence?"
The younger, who is much easier to impress and charm than her sister, giggles and nods, out of her healing mode. The smile never leaves his face as his lips ghost over Prim's hand like they did over Katniss', and she can literally see how their kindness and way of drawing people to them equals. They won't have a hard time getting used to each other.
"You can stay with us for a while," Katniss offers. She's aware she has to do this; Prim wouldn't, not without her sister's allowance. Still, it does make her uncomfortable, inviting a complete stranger, even if he is technically a patient at the moment. Her stomach knots; she tries to reason with herself. He won't do any harm to them, he physically can't. He's a patient who's life she saved. But he's also a patient who kissed her hand. It's different to her and for this reason, awkward.
"Actually," Prim adds, sensing her sister's discomfort and wanting to help out, "you have to. You can't just go outside with your whole body covered in injuries and on top of that, a memory loss. As your…" She bites her lip, hesitating, not sure what word to use. "…doctor, I refuse to let you gamble with your health."
Peeta looks at the girls with regret. "I'm sorry, but that's too much. I don't want to bother you. I'm perfectly fine. I'll just go find a place to work until I have my memory back and know where I belong. Since you didn't know my name, I assume this place isn't my home. And as long as I don't know where it is, I'll have to stay here. If I don't ever regain my memory, I'll be forced to live here until I die. Better find something as soon as possible. Sleep…there surely is some empty hut or at least a shed or a tree."
The sisters stare at him in disbelief, eyes wide open and lips streched as wide as they will without ripping. Katniss is sure her ears are betraying her. What she is hearing -what he is saying- just can't be true.
Over the years, after her father's death, Katniss has made a discovery. Humans are, in every sense of the word, selfish. Whatever crosses their way, they take it to themselves. They'd do anything to make life easier for themselves. People who help, she realized, don't do it because of kindness. Even if they may think so. They do it to gain something. They do it to make someone else owe them. They help and expect help. They don't give anything for free. They want something back. Humans also don't have a natural enemy. A rabbit has a wolf. A songbird has an eagle. But humans, they only have themselves. Individual cases, like Peeta, of course, can be killed by an animal. But the human species is strong enough not to have real enemies that are animals. And because they don't have them, they manufacture them. Self-destructiveness. This word is a result of human's brutality, which comes from their selfishness. So in the end, even destructing themselves is selfish.
So why, why can't this boy decide do stay with them, for his health and his comfort, as he should. His not wanting to accept their offer doesn't fit into Katniss' view of life at all. The only people who fit the other category, the one where the people who were misplaced in their species belong, are Prim and her father. And Katniss knows Peeta far too less to grant him a place in that special drawer.
She fiercely searches her mind for a possible explanation. Does he not trust them? But why would he kiss their hands and let Prim treat him then? Can it be her appearance? She tries to slip into his shoes; how would she feel if she awoke at the house; different smells and foreign images, of a complete stranger with no memory of anything but her name and the eyes of someone who just happened to be standing next to the table she was lying? And if the stranger asked her to stay with them, at their home?
Katniss snorts. She knows exactly how she'd feel. Helpless, but not wanting to be. She'd do anything to hide her need. And especially, she'd never take the offer. Katniss isn't naïve. She'd never been able to afford owing anyone, and if she had any say in it, she would never pass an opportunity to escape the possibility of owing. She's given up on depending on someone else a long time ago; she learned all there is to know about it. Depending on someone else but yourself will only hurt you in the end. It makes you weak and fragile. And Katniss doesn't want to be either.
And maybe, just maybe, this strange boy thinks exactly like her. Maybe other things have happened to him, things he doesn't remember, but things which keep him from depending on Prim and Katniss. To her, this is what sounds most realistic, and it's a way of thinking she actually understands.
Luckily, however, Prim doesn't. Her voice almost cracks as she angrily tells him how he mustn't leave, how she has to take care of him until he functions again, how it's her duty and how she simply won't allow him to leave the table, let alone the house. "You are my patient, and I'm not going to let you die because of your own stupidity."
Today, Katniss decides, something is wrong with the people. She, herself, strangely cares for a random person she prevented from being eaten by a wolf. Sae doesn't know the answer to a question, and Sae knows just about everything. Prim gets upset enough to call someone she just met stupid and Katniss can barely refrain from grinning thinking about it. It's like some kind of spell was cast over their village and now this spell is changing people and making them feel strange.
She discreetly glances at the window; the on a beautiful, bright day blue sky is hidden by gray clouds, which not only promise rain and coldness, but also create an illusion of bleakness and deadness, which lingers over Twelve and, if Katniss really thinks about it, isn't an illusion at all. It's just a mirror of their lives. The sky is reflecting their eyes; gray, dull and ugly
That is the way Katniss pictures them. That's what she sees with her ignorant-to-beauty mind. In reality, though, if anyone else was asked the question: what do you think of Katniss Everdeen's eyes; they would say they look like diamonds. Uncut, natural diamonds, still beautiful because of their variableness. Real, not fake. And not at all like a clouded rain sky.
The Everdeen herself, however, comes to the realization that a spell can't have anything to do with this. There are no witches and no wizards, even if there may be more things between heaven and earth than humans can give an account of. And of course, she hadn't expected anything else. She just doesn't like not having an explanation.
Peeta facial expression is critical and torn. He's debating with himself whether to take up on their offer or to follow his plans. His nose, Katniss notices, does that scrunching again, and the wood of the old table makes a crunching sound, like teeth, as he tries to sit upright. Having been in the lying position for a long time, it takes him more afford to get up than it usually would. He reminds Katniss of a bug on his back, trying to turn around and get to his feet again. He struggles, gives up for a second to catch his breath, and tries again. Although, unlike most bugs, he succeeds eventually.
But when he does sit upright, his eyebrows are knitted together. Discontent fills his voice as he tells the girls through his teeth, "Alright, I'm going to stay with you. But only for a short period of time. Only until I manage to get up like a normal human being. And I will repay you. As soon as I'm fully healed, I'm going to earn some money I can give to you." He sighs, only then really looking at them.
"I'm sorry. I don't sound as grateful as I certainly should; as I am. Oh yes, I can't thank you enough. I just don't want to be a burden to you. You're two young girls and I'm just wondering how you manage to get by. I don't want to make a scrape by out of it. But know that your kindness is very, very appreciated. I'll be deeply indebted to you forever." The words are filled with so much sincerity; even Katniss, who trusts no one and nothing easily, wonders if they can be faked. She asks herself: why should he?
She only nods, though, not keen on showing any emotion. She's shown enough today, especially to him, even if he doesn't remember. She plans on keeping it that way, too. Katniss doesn't want to be reminded of the cold, merciless panic she was feeling, experiencing because of a complete stranger.
Prim, being the talkative type who likes cheering her patients up; she's good not only at the practical but also at the emotional stuff; doesn't choose silence as her acknowledgement. "If that'll make you feel better, we're going to accept it. We'd be doing it without the money, though." Katniss can barely keep herself from snorting at that. It's typical her sister. Not taking money. She almost shudders at that thought, followed by a rush of self-disgust. So that's what she has become; on of those monsters that care about money money money. No kindness. Selfishness. No help without gaining something. Sooner or later, everyone seems to become like that. But that's just how it rolls, isn't it? Who is a man without money? A lost cause, that's reality. Not taking money means starving. And Katniss simply can't afford to die. If only everything in life was as simple.
"By the way." Prim clearly is in her chatter mode now. Carefree and happy. How Katniss wishes she could be. "It's not only the two of us. Our mother lives here, too. But she's still sleeping. She's had a…," She hesitates. Telling him about their mother's episodes would be cruel to both parts; their mother, because her secret would be shared with this young man, someone they barely know, and Peeta himself, because he wouldn't know whether to fully trust her or to be aware it could happen any moment. "…rough night. You came in the middle of the night, and she's a hardworking woman, so she needs to sleep longer this morning.
His guilty expression returns at her words. Katniss can't honestly say she's surprised. Prim's choice of words, although contrived carefully, was rather unfortunate. It's times like this where she actually believes there's a chance for them to be related. Usually, this hope doesn't last longer than a minute.
"I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have deprived a lady of her well-deserved sleep. Much less three ladies. I don't have the right to. Is there anything I can do to make up for it?"
Prim had been pleased with herself -her way of hiding her mother's problem- until she heard his reply and -again- apology. Of course, him feeling guilty and worried hadn't been her intention at all. Clearly struggling to find the right words this time, she opens her mouth to explain, her eyes not like usually fixed on her interlocutor, but having taken a sudden interest in the wooden wall, counting the years the tree it was made of had lived.
"No! I didn't mean it like that. Our mother wanted to help you, it's what she does. She's fine with losing an ounce of sleep in order to save someone's life. We all are. And if you want to 'make up for it', you just make sure our effort hasn't been in vain. Meaning you don't get yourself killed by overestimating yourself."
Finally tearing her eyes away from the planks and focusing them on his, she glowers at him, obviously still upset over his earlier stubbornness.
Peeta can barely withhold a chuckle, Katniss can tell by the twitching of the corners of his mouth. Upon seeing the blonde's serious expression, though, his becomes the same, the amusement hidden, but still laced with it. If Prim notices, she doesn't decide to act on it. She doesn't like troublesome arguments with anyone, also Katniss has a strange hunch in her gut, telling her this isn't necessarily about fighting; it's more like brotherly teasing. How odd it feels when she finds it doesn't seem to bother her all that much.
"Yes, ma'am. I'm not going to defy your rules." Prim, unfortunately, can't suppress the smile sneaking across her face anymore. She gives him one last visibly fake frown before allowing it.
Katniss, however, is quite distracted by something in his voice. A seriousness, almost aristocratic undertone. She wonders if it is just made up, or something he actually was used to talking with. She doesn't like aristocrats, as most of them maintain the reputation to be bloated, something better. What did Sae say? Class distinction. An extreme form of it.
What is it with this boy? Is he playing, or is he actually some kind of noble, even aristocratic? She remembers the hand kiss. He didn't appear to feel awkward touching his lips to two strange girls' hands. It was like it was the most natural thing in the world, as though he did it every day. And sometimes, his parlance has been rather idiosyncratic too.
She eyes him carefully. Blond, tousled hair. It looks unkempt now, but she can imagine it having been smooth once. Curly, maybe, but smooth. She hadn't noticed before, probably too occupied with her bug-comparison, but while he was sitting up, the blanket her mother had carefully draped across his body to keep his warmth shifted down and bared his chest and shoulders. Like his face, they do show the first signs of starvation, being slightly too flat, slightly too unmoving. But Katniss can also see how well-defined they are; no doubt trained. The lack of food and the efforts of last night have done their deed, of course. He's weak now, weaker than he should be and was before. But Katniss also knows how well the crutches worked, and she remembers her assumptions about him not having starved ever before.
No, her theory isn't as erroneous as its first impression seems.
No, don't worry, Katniss won't figure it out soon. By the way, have you? I don't think I made it that hard, so if you did, that's not me not being carefully.
Thank you for your amazing reviews for the last chapter, they made my day kept me going; they always do!