Hey, guys. I know most of the people who have me on author alert are watching for an HP fic - sorry! I've had Mockingjay on the brain since even before the twenty-fourth, but I haven't had the inspiration to write a fic until now.
Anyway, this is something that came to me after some obsessive thinking, when I wondered about what happened after Mockingjay. Introducing Katniss & Peeta's daughter.
I can only dream of affecting people like Suzanne Collins has. So, no: I'm not her, and the Hunger Games is not mine.
Mother rushes out of the house, eyes wide. I turn to Father, who shakes his head, as if telling me, "Don't worry about it."
I frown, and turn my head slightly. My eyes are still on him, though, and I notice that his eyes – my eyes – are now averted to my brother, who munches on some biscuits. I look down at my book, looking at the words but not really reading. In a few moments, my mother comes back. She looks calm. A bit windswept. But calm.
She turns to me, says my name, and she begins talking like she didn't just run out into the Meadow and start crying. I've seen her do it. I wish she'd tell me. She says, "New book?"
I nod curtly. "Yes."
Mother doesn't miss my curtness. Father notices, too. They exchange glances, and immediately I know they're having one of those parent moments. Or a husband-wife moment. They don't say anything, though, so I stand up and go into my room to do some unfinished homework.
Later, when my brother leaves to go play with our neighbor, I sit on my bed, just waiting. I know today is the day.
Mother and Father never tell me about the "Games".
The mysterious Games.
I learn about that at school, obviously, and I know that everyone in the neighborhood knows something about it that I don't.
I know Mother and Father were involved in it, somehow.
… I just want – need – to know more.
I pretend to immerse myself in my homework, listening for Mother's footsteps. She knocks on the door frame, saying, "Knock, knock."
I look up. "Yes?"
Father is standing behind her, holding her hand. With his other hand, he holds the book. The book! It is most definitely the day. The mysterious "book" has proved it. They always avoid showing me the book.
Mother pulls him forward gently, and she sits on the chair near my bed. Father sits on the armrest.
"We need to tell you something," he says calmly.
"What is it?" I ask. For some reason, I don't feel excitement about this... but I look at their faces and I know why.
Mother looks nervous. This is not like Mother. She's always the one who is strong. Well, Father is, too. A different kind of strong. Mother's strong is the one that makes me feel strong, too. I suddenly move over and take her other hand. "I want to know. Please."
All the times she has woken me up from her waking up screaming, all the times Father has had little fits... I've never believed that I would have to be the one holding their hand for them. But here I am, and I don't mind. After all, I have woken up from nightmares about skeletons and ghosts and evil men under my bed or in my closet, and they have always helped me. I am their daughter. I am strong.
She smiles a little, and says, "Tell me what you know about the Hunger Games."
"Before you were born... the Capitol was very corrupted," I say, remembering my teacher's words and simply repeating them, "and they forced District Thirteen to hide, but they told the rest of Panem that it was destroyed. To remind them that they... 'destroyed District Thirteen', they created the Hunger Games."
Father nods. "And..."
I recited: "Two children between the ages of 12 and 18 – one boy, one girl – from each District, will be forced into an arena to fight to the death. The last one standing is winner." I pause, looking at their solemn faces, and ask, "You were in them, weren't you?"
"Yes," they both reply together, and I notice that Father's jaw is set. He looks away for a moment, closing his eyes and shutting them so I can see little wrinkles. Mother looks up at him for a second, and then back at me.
"We were in the 74th Games together," Mother says, and she seems to be back to normal.
"But..." My lips push over to one side, confused. I had always presumed that they were victors of different times. "I thought... there was one winner?"
She smiles grimly. "In the middle of the Games, they said that two tributes could win. From the same district."
"Why?" I ask, hiding my eagerness. Years of curiosity has gotten the better of me.
"Because I loved Katniss," Father cuts in. His eyes are still tense, his brows are still furrowed, but he is almost smiling. Then, he corrects himself: "I love Katniss."
"He protected me from Careers, he – do you know what Careers are?" Mother looks at me, raising a brow. I shake my head. "Tributes who trained their whole lives for the Games. They were usually tributes from District 1, 2, and 4."
"Like Annie?" I ask. Then I have to remember his name. Mother, Father, and Haymitch talk about it, when they think I'm in bed. Or they think I'm not listening. "And... Finnick?"
They both smile. Almost. Father replies, "Sort of."
Mother continues. "He whispered my name in his sleep."
I am almost accusing when I ask, "Why didn't you?"
This makes them laugh, and I'm probably supposed to be offended that they're not taking my question seriously. "This woman can take some convincing," he explains.
I shrug. "Okay..."
"But to protect me from Careers, he had to be with them himself. When the leader of the Careers caught Peeta protecting me, the leader cut him," says Mother. She sees my eyes widen and her sentence cuts off short.
"Are you all right?" he asks gently.
I nod. "Of course I am."
She hesitates before saying, "So, when I found Peeta, he was wounded."
I listen as they take turns talking to me about it all. From the moments in the cave up until Aunt Prim, and President Coin's death. Mother goes out to greet my brother when he comes home, distracting him. I understand why. Father shows me the book, the pictures and the words. I can feel him watching me as I flip through the pages of it.
The information overwhelms me, but it explains so much, so I am mostly grateful. I can remember standing outside their bedroom door, listening as Father soothes her as she gasps or cries or screams, not even being able to imagine what horror can make Mother – independent, fiery, strong Mother – like that.
Eventually, Mother returns to us, and she joins Father in watching me look at the book. I glance up at last and whisper, "How... how do you stand it?"
"On bad mornings," she says slowly, "it feels impossible to take pleasure in anything because I'm afraid it could be taken away. That's when I make a list of every act of goodness I've seen someone do. It's like a game. Repetitive. Even a little tedious after all this time..."
Father seems to smile. He finishes quietly, "But there are much worse games to play."
I don't respond, closing my eyes and processing this all.
She asks nervously, "Are you... okay? Are you afraid?"
"Why would I be?" I ask, baffled, opening my eyes at her.
This answer surprises her, but she composes herself. "Tell me how you feel."
I smile and hug the book to my chest. "I feel... thankful. For knowing this. For you, for what you did for everyone who's alive. I am sorry that you have those bad mornings, Mother, but those bad mornings for me! For everyone like me... I am..." … inspired, now. "I'm where it's safe, and warm, where the daisies guard me from every harm. Where my dreams are sweet, and tomorrow brings them true. Where you love me."
Mother and Father are smiling truly, now. Father takes me in his arms, putting me on his lap like when I was smaller. I curl up in his lap like I used to, and I look up at her. She kisses my forehead. "I'm so glad. And I do love you, very much," she says, and I remember what Father told me, while she was out. How hard it was for Mother to learn love after my grandfather's death.
"What were you frightened of?" I ask, still slightly perplexed. "Why did you ask me if I was 'okay'?"
"I was afraid that you … would be afraid," she replies awkwardly.
I shake my head vigorously. "Of course not. Well, I am afraid, but that's not all I am. I'm more than that." I grin and lean upwards to hug her. I kiss her cheek. I feel like a little girl again... except not really, because "I'm your daughter. I am strong."
Hey! I'm glad you read all the way through, but don't just leave me now! Please review? ;D
Also, I know this works fine as a one-shot, and while it'd be totally fine if you didn't continue, I thought that maybe you'd like to know what lies ahead. I wrote this snippet on my Tumblr:
I AM STRONG is a sort of "epilogue to the epilogue". In it, I introduce my version of the next generation in the HUNGER GAMES: Katniss and Peeta's kids, Gale's kid(s), and their friends, with appearances from old characters like Haymitch and Mrs. Everdeen. It tells the story of Tara Mellark, Katniss' eldest, as she struggles to live under the shadow of the girl on fire, at the same time learning to find the line between friendship and more-than-friendship, and maybe - just maybe - that the line doesn't have to be there at all.