Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games series. Suzanne Collins, however, does.
He had given her bread. A food she could never afford. Not legally, anyway. But he had given it to her. No trade, no money. A gift. A debt.
Katniss held the bread in her hands protectively, it was so precious. A precious debt.
More precious than she knew at that point.
Later that night, after some of the bread had been eaten, Katnas lay awake and waited longingly for the next day of school.
While Katnas waited alone outside the school building, the boy joined his classmates lining up.
She decided to approach him.
Katniss held her hand out to the boy, who sported raw handprint on his cheek.
"I'm Katniss" she introduced.
The boy shook her hand.
"I know. Peeta" he gestured to himself.
"I know." Katnas said quietly.
Together they waited for the day to begin
"I haven't seen your mom around." Peeta said after school. They were walking in the town.
"She's sick." It wasn't a lie, Katniss supposed.
"Oh." He sounded curious, but didn't press the matter.
"Sorry about your dad" Peeta offered instead.
"So am I" Katniss whispered. Her stomach rumbled.
Peeta took her hand into his own and let go very quickly.
As he entered his parents' bakery, Katniss stared curiously at the piece of bread in her hand before eating half.
Prim would like this treat. She didn't have to know it was a debt.
"It's illegal you know, the hunting" Peeta was saying dully. He had tried again and again to convince her not to go.
Katniss rolled her eyes.
"My mom and Prim need food. Burned bread can only last so long" she said sadly
Peeta now had a hand print on his other cheek too.
He nodded and cupped his hands in front of him
"I still can't believe I'm doing this" Peeta said as Katniss stepped into his hands. With the extra boost, she had no trouble getting to the other side of the fence.
"Thanks" Katniss whispered, and made a run for it.
She made a mental note to bring back a squirrel for Peeta. A way to repay, she told herself.
"I'll be waiting" Peeta whispered
She didn't really mind repaying.
"May the odds be ever in your favor." Katniss whispered to Peeta.
It was the day of the reaping. Their first reaping.
"They're not" he whispered back "You have one chance in a million of getting chosen."
"I have a lot more chances in a lot less than a million"
Peeta heard the quiver in her voice.
He'd come hunting with her. Just this once. They were both filled with senses of great dread.
Not a wonderful time to be alone.
"Let's stop talking, it will scare away the animals, right?" Peeta said quickly.
Katniss took a deep breath.
"Damn right." a voice whispered from behind them.
Peeta jumped with the fear of being caught.
Katniss only rolled her eyes.
"Gale, give him a heart attack, why don't you?" she said.
"Catnip, I believe I did."
He smiled at Peeta, whose heart was still beating rapidly.
"This is Gale?" Peeta questioned, eying the boy with something akin to contempt.
"No. The president of Panem, little baker's boy." Gale drawled.
Katniss rolled her eyes again.
"Let's hunt" she muttered and stalked off.
After a lingering look of annoyance at one another, both boys followed her.
Later Peeta and Katniss help each other over the fence. They slowly began to walk to their homes.
The sooner they got there, the sooner their names may be called
Peeta breaks the silence surrounding them.
"If you get picked, I'll get my dad to give your sister a job."
He asks for nothing in return.
Another gain less promise, for him. Another debt, for her.
Happy Hunger Games.
This wasn't happening. This couldn't be happening.
It's not true.
Not true at all.
But it is.
Why Peeta? Why Prim?
They were her weaknesses. Her only weaknesses.
And now, she'd have to fight one of her only friends to the death.
She couldn't do it. She wouldn't do it.
She had to do it.
What about the debts? Katniss owed him her life ten times over.
She had no doubt her family would be cared for in the event of his win.
Could she die? Purposely?
Maybe she'd have to.
These thoughts swirled around in Katniss's head, as she and Peeta stood side by side.
In other districts, they'd be considered the winners right now. Envied for their courage and possible honor.
Peeta wouldn't look at her. This was no honor.
"I just want to thank you" Peeta's father was saying.
For being given the responsibility of killing your son? Katniss wanted to ask. She refrained from doing so.
"I've done nothing to deserve these cookies" she said, looking down at them.
"Yes you have, all that fresh meat you gave my son was a great treat for my family. It kept our spirits high on the worst of days." Peeta's father said gratefully.
Again, Katniss managed not to speak her mind.
"You're welcome" was all she said.
"That sister of yours will most definitely have a full stomach." the father assured Katniss.
Before she could say thank you herself, he left.
"Did you visit Peeta?" Katniss asked Gale. He scoffed.
"Why would I?" But there was a smirk on his face.
"He helped you take down that deer, and you know it." Katniss reminded him.
Gale nodded "Yeah I know" he said quietly. He looked sick
"Will you kill-"
But Katniss cut him off.
"I don't think I could."
Gale looked at her sadly
"But what if-"
Again, Katniss cut him off.
"No what if's, OK? I don't want to think about it" she shook her head, not feeling to well. She owed him. He was her friend.
"I don't think Peeta could kill you either" Gale pointed out.
Katniss thought back to the boy with the bread.
Gale was probably right.
This was going to be a long Game.
They held hands, it wasn't that big of a deal.
Katniss and Peeta had held hands before.
Well, not in a few years….
They avoided talking about the Hunger games at all times.
Especially on this chariot.
It was a hard feat considering, that everyone else made it their duty to do the opposite.
Instead, hunting was the topic.
Like, the big deer that had caught months before. Laughing, they recounted how Gale had stumbled in his effort to catch it.
Even as they left the chariot, they continued to hold hands while laughing.
As Katniss smiled, she counted the debts in her head.
Pretend to be in love? With Peeta?
That could only end in tragedy.
Maybe it would get them some sponsors. Maybe some food. Maybe some medicine.
But it could only end horribly.
One of them had to die.
If they were a team, who would kill the other?Their manager didn't know what he was talking about. Did he even know of their friendship?
But maybe it was better this way.
Maybe if she had Peeta with her, she would live to the end.
There were thousands of ways to end her own life.
Peeta would win.
Her family would be taken care of.
Her debts repaid.
If worse comes to worse……….
She knew Peeta better than that. He wouldn't join up with a gang for survival. No, she'd taught him to do well enough on his own.
Katniss smirked toward the cameras. She'd show the audiences that she knew what was going on. Even if they didn't
Katniss blew a kiss down the tree, for Peeta.
She knew the tracker jackers wouldn't get him. He would be awake, feigning sleep.
Katniss had taught Peeta about them, he'd get away.
There could be two survivors.
"Peeta!" Katniss called out.
Of course he didn't answer. He was asleep, in Katniss's sleeping bag. Dead asleep, it seemed. So pale.
From her position, at the mouth of the cave, Katniss gulped down.
She'd come after him when he'd been injured, and was in the process of healing him.
It wasn't going so well.
The boy with the bread was the one in trouble now, but something was wrong with him on the inside.
Katniss couldn't just shoot it with an arrow.
She couldn't shoot him.
"What was that?" he asked, groggily. Katniss sighed.
He agreed readily, but not before saying.
"I'm cold Kat"
To Katniss, that was hard to believe, judging by his fever.
"Ok, I'll be there in a minute."
Sure there could be two survivors from District 12, but would there be?
Katniss wasn't ready to start doubting it.
She'd never doubted Peeta before, and now wasn't the time to start.
Not while she was repaying these debts.
"Let me take care of you" Peeta was saying.
You've been taking care of me for years, Katniss wanted to say. However, the pain in her head prevented her from doing so.
"Don't try to speak" He whispered. Leaning over, he lay a kiss on her lips.
Katniss's first kiss.
If she was right, Peeta's too.
But, supposedly, they were in love, right?
They had to have done this hundreds of times before.
Peeta's lips had been cool.
He pulled away quickly, a tiny bit of surprise etched on his face.
Peeta recovered and looked as though they'd been doing that for years.
"Go to sleep" he said quietly.
Katniss obeyed, with thoughts of debts going through her mind.
She'd healed him
But he healed her.
They cancelled each other out.
More debts left unpaid.
She felt his lips on hers, still, and thought that maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.
They were like the bread in some ways.
They couldn't both live, Katniss knew that.
The game wouldn't let them.
Better that she eat the berries, and fall to the mutants.
It would distract them from Peeta. He'd win. Her family would be taken care of.
Though Prim would be upset. Gale too. Her mother, probably.
But everything would be repaid.
Her family would be well off if Peeta came back a winner.
Peeta was yelling.
"Kat! Those are poisonous, what are you doing?"
But he knew. He knew the same way he knew that he'd never talk her out of hunting.
Peeta knew her so well.
He loved her.
She only wished that she'd figured that out beforehand.
Peeta's eyes were wide and frightened.
Yes, he defiantly knew.
Katniss closed her eyes, she couldn't look at Peeta anymore.
This berry, would it be sweet?
Or like the sourness of death.
Katniss supposed she'd find out soon enough. Just a few more inches, and it would be in her mouth….
Just a few more…
The Berry was snatched from her fingers.
The mutants made sounds of blood thirsty delight.
Katniss opened her eyes.
Peeta was gone.
Her heart drops painfully to the ground with her knees.
Peeta was dead.
Katniss was proclaimed winner.
There was no honor in it.
"How did u feel about what Peeta did?" Caeser Flickerman was asking her.
Katniss didn't want to speak, but she had to.
"I don't know"
"If you could do it all over again, what would you change?"
"I don't know"
"What did you love most about Peeta?"
"I don't know"
Caeser was looking slightly aggravated.
Katniss couldn't blame him, she wasn't exactly be cooperative. He was doing his best.
"Is there anything you would want to say to Peeta?"
Katniss swallowed hard, a single tear went down her cheek.
She hadn't cried yet.
"I'm sorry" was all she said.
"For what?" Caeser asked carefully.
Taking every move and action you made like debts, instead of friendship, she thought to herself.
"I don't know" Katniss lied.
But they were precious debts, all the same.