Katniss sits down on the bench in the locker room, leaning over to tie the laces of her skates. They're relatively new – not so new that they haven't been broken in, but she's only been skating on them for a month or so – and she despises them. She can still smell the leather-cleaning solvent, and the bright white colour is practically blinding. Her publicist, Effie, is allergic to scratches and discolouration, and absolutely refuses to allow Katniss to step onto the ice with skates that look anything less than perfect. Katniss despises Effie, too.
She doesn't actually despise Effie, per se; rather, she hates everything the woman stands for, but secretly appreciates everything she's done since Katniss entered the world of professional figure skating. Her dad used to coach her, spent countless hours with her on the frozen pond behind their house back home in Michigan. He never went pro, but knew more about the sport than anyone else in the state. He died when she turned fourteen – a fluke accident – and she was left without anyone to guide her through the competition.
Katniss had been skating alone in the local rink after school one day when Haymitch Abernathy approached her. She recognized him right away – the washed-up 1980 gold medalist was (and still is) revered by everyone in Ann Arbor.
"You're putting too much pressure on your toe, sweetheart. That's why you're not hitting the triple," he had said, smelling of the cheap beer he most likely smuggled into the family-friendly centre.
She had simply ignored him, skating away and attempting the jump once again. She missed it and fell on her butt, much to the amusement of Haymitch. It took her six more failed attempts before she raced to the edge of the rink where the older man still stood.
"Show me," she commanded, mouth set in a hard line. She refused to admit defeat.
Haymitch chuckled, pausing to sit on a nearby metal chair and pull on a pair of beat-up skates. He stumbled over to the edge of the rink, but regained his balance once he stepped onto the ice. Skating made him seem … graceful, almost. He went around in circles a few times, warming up, before moving down the centre of the ice at top speed. Katniss watched as he lightly pressed the toe of his blade into the ice, leaping into the air and spinning three times before landing and continuing to glide around the rink.
Katniss eventually landed the jump and was rewarded with a few gulps of Haymitch's alcohol, which she gladly accepted. They never verbally committed to any partnership, but he was always present at the rink to teach her new tricks. By the time she turned sixteen, he introduced himself as her coach before every competition.
Effie entered the picture just before the 2012 US Championships. Katniss had been too young to go to Vancouver, but she and Haymitch were both eyeing a spot on the team for Sochi. The only problem – no one knew who she was. And if the name Katniss Everdeen ever rang even the tiniest of bells, it was only as part of a statistic – no meat, no emotional connection, no reason for anyone to root for her. Haymitch, understanding the necessity of the public's support, made a few calls to old partners and acquaintances. A week later, Effie Trinket was walking into Ann Arbor, Michigan's fifty year old skating rink wearing a designer pantsuit and six inch high heels.
Her main duty was to make Katniss likable, while also inserting her name into the media. While many publicists held onto the belief that no publicity is bad publicity, Effie wanted nothing more than for her new client to have manners. Unfortunately for her, Katniss had no intention of playing along. She was a grump throughout every press conference and interview, if she even showed up at all. Despite her superb skating skills, no one wanted to support a snarky, steely teenager.
"You need to make them like you," Haymitch had told her after an argument with Effie. Katniss had skipped out on an interview with E!News, instead choosing to skate on the pond her dad used to teach her on. It didn't take very long for him to find her – as much as she is loath to admit it, Haymitch is the closest thing she has to a best friend.
"And how am I supposed to do that?"
"I'm pairing you up," he responded, casually gesturing behind him. "You're ice dancing now, sweetheart, with a nice fellow from a few towns over. The press loves him. Maybe if we're lucky he'll rub off on you."
Katniss glanced over Haymitch's shoulder and came face to face with Peeta Mellark, the youngest record holder the sport of figure skating has ever seen. Blonde, built, and beautiful, he was any female skater's wet dream – if said female skater actually wanted a partner to perform with, which Katniss absolutely did not.
It took an extremely long time, but eventually Katniss warmed up to the idea of skating with Peeta. She wasn't used to relying on someone else to keep her from falling, but Peeta had plenty of practice when it came to partners – his previous one had left him for an older skater named Cato, who was also rumoured to be preparing for Sochi. According to Haymitch, Peeta had seen Katniss skate multiple times before and formally requested the chance to work with her.
They didn't actually make it to the 2012 US Championships. Katniss was too inexperienced, too distrusting. She refused to let Peeta lift her, and without at least one higher level trick, they would never in a million years receive a medal. At the last minute, Haymitch pulled them out, claiming an injury as an excuse. (Though the only injury was the one to Katniss' pride).
A year later, however, Katniss and Peeta are deemed prepared enough to compete at the 2013 US Championships. Twelve months of rigorous practice has left its mark – both skaters are stronger, faster, better. Not only can Peeta lift Katniss over his head without her attempting to claw his eyes out, but they can also perform most of their spins and jumps at the exact same time, a feat not many other pairings have been able to accomplish.
A soft knock at the door catches Katniss' attention. "Come in," she calls, and Cinna enters. Cinna has been her costume designer ever since she paired up with Peeta, though this is the first time his masterpieces (and they truly are masterpieces) will be seen by the public. Katniss stands, turning in a slow circle like a trained dog. Cinna smiles as he walks closer, touching the braid that has fallen over her left shoulder.
"Perfect," he whispers in his rough voice that calms Katniss more than anything else. She hasn't seen much of Cinna's work, but this has got to be his magnum opus. He's cloaked her in a short, shimmery red competition dress with both the back and the deep v-neck in the front a skin-coloured mesh. The sleeves are also skin-coloured, but are adorned with red, yellow, and orange jewels to give the effect of flames. The flames travel up her arms, neck, and onto one side of her face. Her eyes are heavily lined in black kohl eyeliner, and her eyelids are weighed down with voluminous fake eyelashes. In contrast to her flashy costume and heavy makeup, her dark brown hair is French braided plainly down her back. However, it's been sprayed with sparkly hairspray, and, as a result, reflects off of every light that shines upon it.
Another knock comes from the other side of the door, and a few seconds later, Peeta enters the locker room. Katniss runs her eyes over his costume – similar to hers but far simpler in comparison. His pants and muscle shirt are black, and his arms are coated in fiery jewels just like hers. The tips of his hair have been dip-dyed orange and red, so that they fade into the blonde almost naturally. He's also wearing black eyeliner, though not drawn on nearly as thick.
Cinna waves Peeta over, taking both of their hands in his soft, warm palms. Peeta tentatively touches Katniss' fingers with his own, and the three of them stand in a silent circle for a moment or two before Cinna speaks. "I'm not allowed to bet," he says. "But if I could, I'd bet on you two." Katniss and Peeta both smile back at him. He squeezes their hands and exits the locker room, leaving a slight cinnamon scent in his wake. It's ironic. Katniss loves it.
"You look nice," Peeta says.
"Thank you. You too."
Katniss never knows what to say to Peeta. For someone in such a competitive sport, he's a fucking flower. Maybe she should have expected it, considering that he smiles at Haymitch, of all people. Apparently Peeta never knows what to say to her, either; of courseshe looks nice – that's the point. No figure skater ever goes on the ice without looking nice. Luckily for the two of them, Effie totters in, teetering on her high heels.
"Come on, you two!" she scolds, pursing her bubble-gum pink lips. She looks absolutely ridiculous with the matching pink highlights in her platinum blonde hair. Combined with the baby blue pantsuit she's sporting, she looks like a giant batch of cotton candy. Katniss thinks she looks like a thirteen year old girl, rather than a thirty year old woman with a fiancé. Regardless, Katniss and Peeta follow Effie as she leads them towards the rink while continuing to berate them for being late. "I expected this from you, Katniss, but, Peeta, I never! We'll barely make it on time, and we can hardly afford a point deduction for punctuality! We're lucky if they don't disqualify us!"
They reach the rink with about seventeen seconds to spare. The other teams are lined up by the entrance, ready to warm-up on the ice before the competition actually starts. Katniss pulls the protective guards off of her blades, handing them to Haymitch. He gives her a nod – his version of a good luck wish – and Katniss returns it, her lips set in a grimace. She goes to stand next to Peeta, and the other teams begin to step onto the ice.
Katniss and Peeta are just about to step into the rink when Effie shouts something – "Hold hands," she assumes later. Peeta slips his fingers between her own, practically pulling her onto the ice behind him. The screams coming from the crowd are deafening, and Katniss can just barely hear the announcers commenting on their outfits. Haymitch had instructed them not to practice their big tricks – "Work on the simple jumps and sequences, save the crowd pleasers for your program" – but Katniss can see some of the other duos rehearsing their lifts. They're not nearly as impressive as hers and Peeta's.
After a few minutes of warming up, Katniss notices an older blonde boy glaring at her and Peeta. A petite brunette is slightly behind him, looking simultaneously smug and guilty. A light bulb goes off in Katniss' mind.
"Peeta," she whispers. He looks up, eyebrows crinkled in confusion. "That's Clove over there, isn't it? And the boy is Cato?" He nods. "Do your spin." Peeta starts to protest, already shaking his head, but Katniss cuts him off. "He thinks he's better than you because your partner left you for him, but he's not – he's not even close to being as good as you are. Prove it to him." Peeta thinks over her words for a moment, working his lower lip between his teeth as he does. Then, he skates away from Katniss, building up momentum. He begins to spin, turning faster than ever before, and once he reaches his desired speed, he holds his skate in one hand and pulls it up towards his head in a scorpion position, still spinning. Once he finishes, letting go of his skate and returning to Katniss, Cato turns away, fuming.
When the competition actually starts, they're the last duo of the night. Clove and Cato are better than Katniss was expecting, but their jumps aren't in sync. They'll lose points for sure. Haymitch has been drinking from a flask all afternoon, especially in the minutes leading up to Katniss and Peeta's program. Effie has worked herself into a tizzy, flustering over Haymitch and his alcohol problem, while also repeatedly making sure her competitors look absolutely dazzling.
Katniss and Peeta are called to the floor, and they skate to the centre of the rink. The announcer is talking about stats while tech sets their music up, and all Katniss can think about is her dad. It hits her like a hurricane – hurts like one, too – and for a moment the entire arena begins to spin around her. It's absolutely ridiculous – he's been gone for years now and she's never had a problem before. Briefly, she wonders if this is what Haymitch feels like twenty-four-seven. Then –
Peeta is whispering, touching her arm, her cheek, her shoulder. She focuses on him. She focuses on his voice, soft and full of concern. She focuses on his face, all blue eyes and pink lips. She focuses on his touch, cautious yet grounding.
"I'm okay," she answers. (And for the first time in years, she actually means it).
The music starts and they skate.
When she and Peeta are standing on the platform, receiving their gold medals, Katniss reaches over and takes Peeta's hand firmly in her own. He gasps, just a small intake of breath, but Katniss ignores it. They can deal with that later – after all, they've got Sochi to strive for.
A/N: absolutely 100% of this was made up okay i know nothing about figure skating
Disclaimer: THG belongs to Suzanne Collins
Note: i have a follow-up to this already planned out, and hopefully it'll actually be posted soon