Hey, guys! I'm back, from my super long hiatus that ended up being way longer than I had planned, which, by the way, I am super sorry about. But, I'm back now, and I am ready to start posting my newly updated chapters to this story! If you haven't read this before, I will post a better discription below this. If you have, you can just skip over that part, but I do highly suggest that you read the chapters I will be posting. I took down all the old ones because, quite frankly, I changed a lot and they just didn't match up at all anymore. Trust me though, I think you guys will like these one better - I know I do! Anyway, enjoy!
Summary: Katniss is no longer the Seam girl that was forced to grow up starving and practically raising her and Prim by herself. Instead, Peeta is the one with a sibling to care for and Katniss is the Town girl who seems to never have to worry about hunger. The story will loosely follow canon, but overall I've changed a lot. Personalities will change as well - I believe for the better - but nothing too drastic. Just minor tweaks that make more sense with the change of their environments. But, be warned, these personality changes may have more drastic changes on the plot of the story. If you are looking for a story that word for word follows canon, this is not the story for you.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games. All characters and plots belong to the lovely Suzanne Collins.
I jerked upright in my bed as a hacking cough pierced the air of my bedroom. I took a moment to attempt to rub the sleep from my eyes before I got up and stumbled my way through the dark. I sat down on the bed across from mine and placed a hand on my brother's back. It heaved violently beneath my touch as I rubbed circles into it. It killed me to know that there was nothing I could do for my brother as he suffered like this. The best I could do was be there for him emotionally.
Once the majority of his coughing subsided, I stood and whispered, "I'll be right back, Rye."
I shuffled into the kitchen, not wanting to turn on any lights in case it would wake my father. The last thing he needed was even more to worry about. Besides, he had put in extra hours in the mines yesterday to get some extra cash, and he needed all the rest he could get.
It didn't take me terribly long to find the only glass my family owned that wasn't broken around the rim and fill it with some water from the tap. I had made this trip too many nights to count, and I had every step memorized. By the time I made it back to our bedroom my eyes had adjusted to the darkness fairly well. I could see well enough to make out Rye sitting up, his legs slung over the side of the bed. He hadn't started coughing again, so I took that as a good sign.
I sat down beside him and carefully placed the glass in his shaking hands. His fits always left him weak and trembling. He quickly gulped down the water, then handed the glass back to me. "Thanks, Peeta," he said, his voice hoarse.
I glanced at the glass in my hand. The rim of it was stained dark. I knew even in the dim lighting that it was most likely blood that had clung to Rye's lips as he coughed it up. "No problem," I replied, my voice just as weak as his.
We sat in silence for a few minutes, neither of us in the mood to talk, but also not in the mood to go back to sleep just yet. Eventually, Rye broke the silence. "Are you scared?"
It took my tired mind a moment to process his words. At first I thought he was asking if his fit scared me, then I recalled what day it was. Reaping day. "No more than usual. Are you?"
Rye bit out a humorless laugh. "Little brother, you must be crazy to think that I would be afraid of a silly reaping. Besides, my name is only in there the minimum requirement of seven times, thanks to you." His tone had taken on a slightly bitter edge by the end of his statement.
I rolled my eyes in the dark even though I knew Rye couldn't see me. "Rye, you're sick. Of course I wouldn't let you take tesserae."
"That's not your problem to worry about," Rye spat.
"You're my brother," I shot back. "You know good and well that you wouldn't make it a day in the arena. I wasn't about to let you increase your odds of dying."
Rye's voice was void of all emotion when he spoke again. "Didn't anyone tell you, Peeta? I'm already dying."
There was a part of me that would've sat there all day and argued with him, trying desperately to convince him otherwise. But there was another part of me – the part of me that had seen more death in my sixteen years than most had seen in a lifetime – that knew he was right. My brother was dying, and no amount of hope or kinds words would change that. The only thing that could save him now was high-tech medicine from the Capitol. Stuff that we could never in a million years afford. So instead of arguing with him about it, I stood and said, "I'm going to get an early start. Try and get some sleep."
My walk through town was silent. Normally, the streets would be filled with miners heading to work, but the entire country had the day off today so that they could be ready to watch the Reaping. How generous of the Capitol to do that for them.
I reached the weak spot in the fence that I normally used to sneak into the woods. Like always, I paused to make sure that I didn't hear the telltale hum that meant it was electrified. Unsurprisingly, I was met with silence.
I shimmied under the fence, having to bend uncomfortably to fit my broad shoulders through. The physical exertion of hunting combined with finally being able to fill my stomach had allowed me to finally get some muscle on me. It was important to be in good shape when you spent most of your time in the woods. You never knew what you would have to outrun, or when a pack of wild dogs would chase you up a tree.
I retrieved my bow and quiver from inside a fallen tree then made my way to the clearing where Gale and I usually met up. I wasn't surprised to find it vacant when I got there. I was here even earlier than normal, and Gale usually didn't get into the woods until after sunrise. I didn't mind the solitude though. I parked myself on a soft patch of grass and watched the sunrise. I loved sunrise, the way the lights gave everything a soft glow. But I loved the colors of sunset even more.
I never would have admitted it to Rye, but I was terrified for him. Regardless of how much he downplayed the Reaping, seven was still too many slips of paper with his name on them for my liking. Rye couldn't even walk at a normal pace without soon doubling over in a fit of coughs, let alone run away from the cornucopia. No matter how painful the thought was, I knew that if he was reaped, he would be an easy target, taken out minutes into the games.
Panic was starting to gnaw at my gut. Seven slips may seem like a lot, but it was still only seven in thousands, I reminded myself. The thought did little to make me feel better.
A twig snapped behind me. I spun around to face my attacker, an arrow already strung and aimed to kill. However, when I discovered that my "attacker" was only a startled looking Gale, I quickly lowered my bow and placed my arrow back in my quiver. "Sorry," I said, embarrassment coloring my cheeks.
Gale shrugged. "It's okay. Everyone's a bit on edge today." I sat back down in the grass and Gale came to join me. "How's Rye?"
I sighed. "Sarcastic. I know he's scared, but he's too proud to show it. I'm just so glad it's his last year."
Gale huffed. "I know what you mean."
"You're so lucky that next year you'll be in the mines making money. I still have two more years with my name in that ball."
"How many times is your name in there today?"
I picked at a blade of grass beneath my feet. "Twenty-one. How about you?"
Gale must've had some kind of luck, going so long with so many slips and not getting reaped. I was glad that I didn't have so many family members to take tesserae for, but I knew that even if I had twice as many siblings as Gale, I still would've taken tesserae out for every single one of them.
We were quiet for a while until Gale spoke up again. "Have you ever considered it?"
I met turned to meet Gale's gaze, only to find him staring out across the horizon. "Considered what?"
I scoffed. "To where?"
I assumed this was Gale's attempt to lighten the mood, but his voice was completely serious. "The woods. We could make it out there. We know how to take care of ourselves."
Gale was a good friend, someone I could rely on to always have my back, but he was also an irrational lunatic sometimes. "And what, abandon our families?"
Gale glared at me. "No. We would take them with us."
I shook my head, not in the mood for one of Gale's tirades. "Seriously? You think Hazelle and all the kids would make it out there? And what about Rye? He would die of asphyxiation before we even made it to the fence."
Gale got to his feet. "It's better than just sitting here and letting them control us."
I stood too, crossing my arms over my chest. "I would rather have my family alive and be dictated than have them dead and be independent. If you don't agree, then by all means, go run off into the woods. I won't stop you."
A muscle twitched in Gale's jaw, then he spun on his heel and stalked off into the woods without another word.
I wasn't really in the mood to hunt anymore, and I knew I needed to get back into town soon. But before I could head back I needed to collect the herbs for the apothecary shop owner. A few years ago, after she had discovered that I was going into the woods, she had made a deal with me. In exchange for Rye's medicine, she would give me a list each week with herbs that grew in the woods and she needed for her shop. It was a pretty good deal, considering I normally had to trade at least three squirrels to get enough money to buy the medicine.
It only took me about a half an hour to collect all the herbs on the list, and soon I was wriggling my way back under the fence. I was running late, but I wanted to make a quick stop at the hob anyway. I had shot a squirrel on my way back through the woods. It wouldn't get me much, but it would be enough to trade for a few candies for Rye. He deserved something for making it through the Reaping unscathed, which I was now convinced he would do.
Greasy Sae, the "cook" of the hob gave me a few coins for the squirrel. It was more than she usually gave me, and when I tried to tell her so, she said that this one was shot exceptionally clean, straight through the eye. I easily saw through her lie – all of my squirrels were shot through the eye – and I knew that she was actually feeling generous on account of it being Reaping day. Everyone got a little nicer on Reaping day.
With my coins jingling in my pocket, I strolled through the dusty old warehouse, looking for someone selling those peppermint candies that Rye loved so much. I finally found some at a table run by an old man named Torus. I had dealt with him on many occasions. He was a kind man that had a particular taste for strawberries. My few coins only bought me two candies, but it was enough that I knew Rye would be excited.
Just before I walked away from the table, a glint of gold caught my eye. Next to his assortment of candies, Torus had a box of small trinkets he was selling. I picked up the object that had caught my eye. It was a necklace, the chain plain, painted to look gold. Hanging off of it was a circular pendant with a bird inside. On closer inspection, I realized that it was a mockingjay, just like the birds I often ran into in the woods. The woods, my safe haven. It would be nice to have a reminder of the woods with me, even on the days I wasn't able to escape.
"How much for this?" I asked Torus. I think I had a few extra coins in my back pocket.
Torus looked me up and down. "How old are you?" In contrast to his kind personality, Torus's voice was gruff.
Torus continued to examine me. "And how many times is your name in there today?"
"Twenty-one," I responded, confused as to where this conversation was headed.
A sympathetic look overcame his features, his voice softening slightly. "Just take it," he said. "As a good luck charm."
I nodded and slid it into my pocket. "Thank you. Next bucket of strawberries are free."
"Yeah, yeah. Just get out of here before I change my mind," Torus said, waving me away. But just before I left, I detected a hint of a smile playing on his lips.
My next stop was the apothecary shop to trade for Rye's medicine. I pushed through the door and a bell chimed delicately above my head. Previously, I had only dealt with Mrs. Everdeen, the owner of the shop. However, today I found her oldest daughter standing behind the counter in her place. I froze mid-step.
Katniss Everdeen was in my class at school. She had the Seam looks of her father, but she had grown up a town girl. I had only ever spoken to her once before.
No one who lives in District 12 can ever say that they're well fed, and those from the Seam have it even worse than those from town. However, my family always had a little more than the other Seam families when I was a child. My father made the standard miner's wage, but it was the extra cash my mother made doing the washing of some of the more wealthy people from town that made the difference. Our bellies were never truly full, but we were by no means starving.
When my mother died six years ago, we still should've had enough to survive. My father didn't make much, but he picked up all the extra shifts he could to make sure we still ate. It would have been enough if Rye hadn't gotten sick. The doctor's weren't sure exactly what happened. Rye had minor asthma as a kid, but nothing like he did now. Their theory was that the thin layer of coal dust that seemed to cover every inch of the Seam had finally become too much for his already weak lungs to handle. Rye could hardly breathe, and he was in terrible pain every time he coughed. It killed my dad to see him suffer that way, so he took the money that should've been used to put food on our table and used it to buy him medicine. Even the homemade remedies of the apothecary shop were bordering on being too expensive for us.
My oldest brother, Chibs, my father and I all knew that Rye needed to have enough to eat much more than we did, so we gave him as much food as we could, only saving for ourselves what we absolutely needed to survive. Of course, Rye never knew what we were doing. He never would've allowed us to make that sacrifice for him. I was starving, slowly coming a little closer to death each day.
One day, my dad had picked up an extra shift in the mines, so I went to get Rye's medicine instead. It was a terrible night, freezing and pouring rain. I walked out the door of the apothecary shop and slipped and fell. I was so weak and tired, I couldn't get up. I didn't want to get up. All I wanted was to sit there and die. I was so tired of waking up every morning with an empty stomach, fighting every day just to stay alive. I was ready to die. And then the door opened and an angel came out.
Katniss came and sat beside me, seeming not to even notice the rain. She studied my face, took in my hollow cheeks, my sunken in eyes. Everyone in District 12 knew what a starving person looked like. Anyone with eyes would've been able to see that it had been months since I had had enough to eat.
Katniss pulled something out of her coat. A loaf of bread, still warm from the oven. Before I knew what she was doing, she shoved it in my frozen hands. "Take it," she said, her voice soft but firm. "My family had extra."
Without waiting for a response, she ran back inside. With a renewed sense of energy and hope, I gathered all my strength and ran back home. For the first time in months, I went to bed that night with a full stomach.
"Um, can I help you?" Katniss asked, snapping me out of my reverie.
My cheeks flushed with embarrassment as I wondered how long I had been standing there, staring at her like an idiot. "Yes, sorry." I walked up to the counter and placed my bag on it. "I have the herbs your mom asked for."
Katniss peered in the bag, as if to make sure they were all there. "Good." She reached under the counter and retrieved a small container. "She said to give you this."
I grabbed the medicine and put it in my bag with Rye's candies. It wasn't very big, just a small vile of cream that helped to keep his airways open. "Where is you mom?" I asked casually.
Katniss looked suddenly uncomfortable. "Getting my sister ready for the Reaping." That explains it. "It's her first one."
I nodded. "Well, good luck to both of you."
Katniss scrutinized me, as if to see if I was being genuine. She must have seen something that convinced her I was, because eventually she graced me with a small smile. "Thank you."
I nodded and turned around toward the door. I was running very late by now and would have to hurry to make it to the Reaping on time. Just as I was about to walk out the door, Katniss's voice stopped me. "Peeta?" she called. I turned toward her. "Good luck to you and your brother too."
I smiled and pushed my way back through the door.
"Rye!" I called as I walked into the house. "I got your medicine!"
Rye strolled into the room with a grin on his face. He had already bathed, and he was dressed up in Chibs's old dress clothes. "It's about damn time," he huffed.
I rolled my eyes and placed the container in front of him. "I'm going to go get ready. I'm already running late."
Rye grinned at me. "You're lucky. The bath should still be warm."
I quickly stripped and scrubbed the dirt from my skin. Rye had lied; the water was ice cold. When I got out, I discovered that my dad had laid out some of his old dress clothes for me. They were a bit too small, but they fit better than Chibs's would have.
When I came back into the kitchen, Rye was sitting at the table still, his head in his hands, a slight snore coming from him. I snuck up behind him as quietly as I could, then smacked him upside his head.
With a snort, he jerked awake. He turned around and glared at me, rubbing the back of this head dramatically. "What was that for?!" he exclaimed.
"Lying about the water. Come on, we have to go."
Rye grumbled, but stood and followed me out the door nonetheless.
Our walk through town took longer than mine had earlier, because Rye had to walk at a slower pace. He would have trouble standing for the duration of the Reaping, but luckily Gale and he were the same age and would be able to stand together in case he needed help.
When we finally got to the square and had to separate, I turned to Rye with a firm expression. "You're going to stay with Gale the entire time and let him help you when you need it."
Rye rolled his eyes. "Jeez, you would think I'm the younger sibling."
I narrowed my eyes. "Rye."
Rye groaned. "Sir, yes, sir." I turned to go to my section, but Rye caught my arm before I could take a step. "I'll see you after, right?" For the first time in a while, I saw genuine fear in his eyes.
I gave him a reassuring smile. "Right."
The ceremony began just as I made it to my designated section. It seemed that I wasn't the only late arriver. Haymitch Abernathy, the lone surviving victor of District 12, stumbled onto the stage and plopped into his seat just as the Mayor went to the microphone to begin his speech. Effie Trinket, the Capitol escort, glared daggers at him.
I tuned out the mayor's speech, having heard it so many times it was practically burned into my brain. How Panem had risen out of the ruins of what was formally North America. How the 13 districts had rebelled against their wonderful government that was the Capitol during the Dark Days. How District 13 had been obliterated and now the annual sending off of our children to slaughter was our punishment.
All too soon, the speech was over and Effie Trinket took her place at the microphone. She cleared her throat, then chirped out in her high pitched Capitol accent, "Ladies first!"
Woo hoo! A super long chapter to start off the story! All chapters probably won't be this long, but I will aim to keep them all above 2000 words. So, what did you guys think? Should I have kept the old chapters? Was I right to rewrite them? Let me know with a lovely review! ;)
P.S. Not exactly sure when I will update again, but it will probably be next weekend. Right now, I only have the first 5 chapters written. I had really wanted to wait until I had the whole story typed out and edited before I posted it, but I was just too excited to share this with you guys to wait! So, like I said, no promises, but if I am seriously encouraged, I might be willing to post the next chapter tomorrow... ;)