Title: She Was

Characters: Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen.

Notes: A one-shot on Peeta Mellark's life watching the girl he could never have before the Reaping that would change everything. I hope you enjoy!

He had loved her eyes first.

He watched her, when they were little. He was enraptured by her, the way she talked, the way she talked. Her two separate braids used to swing as she walked, did you know? She used to hum everywhere softly, and watch the world with wide, grey eyes.

Peeta did love her eyes.

She was so observant, for a seven year old. Nobody paid any attention, back then, to anything but toys and games and their mother's kisses. Apart from those two little children.

And Peeta Mellark didn't usually just sit by and watch, but when it came to Katniss, it was all he could do.

She was beautiful, though. The boy didn't know about love or heartbreak, yet, but he knew she was beautiful in her own special way. Her skin was the colour of creamy tea, and so soft. At least, it looked soft. Peeta had never touched her skin, so he couldn't know.

Maybe he'd never know.

But that didn't make him any less pessimistic, because he was seven years old, and Peeta Mellark didn't love.

He had loved her voice first.

Katniss came up to him, one day. His heart had soured and his breath caught in his throat. His hands had thrummed a magical beat on the table.

They were eight years old now, and Peeta was sitting in class, just watching her. He should've been paying attention, but he was going to be a baker when he was older. He didn't need to learn history.

As he watched her, she rose slowly from her small, plastic seat. She was so graceful, for an eight year old. Nobody moved like that, back then, because eight-years-old was all about running and screaming and fighting and being a child.

She sauntered over to him, braid still swaying. It was like he was hypnotised, watching the dark cascade with wide, vibrant eyes.

"Can I borrow a pencil?" was all she asked. She stood patiently, watching him as he had watched her. Not saying a word for fear of his voice breaking mid-speech, he bent down and rummaged in his bag. He couldn't find that little piece of lead, and told her so.

"Sorry, I don't have one," he mumbled, not looking into her stormy eyes.

She blinked slowly, nodded, and replied, "I'll just go and ask someone else." And with that, she walked away.

He wanted to call out to her, say, "You have a beautiful voice!" because she had sung in music class the day before and he still couldn't get the tune out of his head. But he stayed silent, and let her walk away.

Those were the first words Peeta Mellark and Katniss Everdeen from little District 12 ever said to each other; and those words were never going to be the last.

He had loved her smile first.

Katniss, before the age of eleven, smiled in that way only children (and Haymitch) could. It was small, hesitant, but happy.

She laughed at something a girl next to her said, and was quiet once more. She didn't laugh uncontrollably, or show off. She was so disciplined, for a nine year old. Nobody cared for rules, back then, apart from those two little children, because nine years old was a time to break rules, to play in mud and scuff your shoes.

Peeta knew he couldn't like like her, and so he really tried to move on.

He spoke to Delly, his work partner, and smiled with her. Her blonde curls were too light. Her blue eyes were too plain. Her dimples were too childish, her smile too wide. Excuses, excuses.

But none of that mattered. The only thing that counted was that she was never going to be Katniss Everdeen.

She would always just be smiley, chatty Delly Cartwright. And so Peeta smiled and laughed with her, knowing his mother would approve much more than she would of the braided girl.

He didn't love Delly's smile though, and he never truly would.

He had loved her quiteness first.

He watched her walk around town with her father, on one of those rare occasions that the miners had a day off. He was covered head to toe in black soot, but Katniss, his daughter, didn't seem to mind at all.

She was so caringly quiet, for a ten year old. Nobody thought of words, back then, when words were yes! and no! and again, again!

Peeta knew the wisdom of words. He knew how much he could change with a few sentences; Katniss didn't appreciate that, but he didn't mind. He had enough words for the two of them; the silent girl with a beautiful voice and the chatty boy with a small smile.

He had enough words, if he ever had the courage to say them.

"Katniss-" He started, passing her in the hallway one day. She looked up at him, and he could see the gears turning in her head.

Pedro? Peter? Philip?

Peeta stuttered slightly, losing track of his words. Her hair was even longer now, her face older and her grey eyes wiser. The quirk of her lips was just as quiet, though.

"Never mind," he said, shuffling down the corridor with his head bent and shoulders hunched. He could see, in his peripheral vision, Katniss watching him go with a bemused expression on her face. She shook her head, and turned in the opposite direction.

Maybe, one day, she would speak, and he would speak words that mattered.

He had loved her bravery first.

He was there, that day. The whole school had filed out of the building, walking calmly. People were joking around, thinking it was a fire drill. He always wished, to this day, that it could have been just that.

Miners stood, their clothes ripped and blood dripping from wounds, at the entrance of one of the major mines in the District.

There was a look in their eyes, on that Peeta had seen in various tributes of the Hunger Games. It scared him, that haunted look. It made him wonder what had happened; he also realised that he might not want to know.

Katniss was so brave, for an eleven year old. Nobody knew what to do, back then, not even the adults, who whimpered and cried and collapsed in on themselves, pictures of the mine itself.

She walked to her mother and her sister and held them. Katniss did not smile.

She stood on stage, with the other eldest children, and received a medal. Peeta watched that, too. He saw the tears that welled in her eyes for just a moment before she wiped them subtly away.

Katniss lifted her chin, and dared anyone to give her sympathy.

The thing was, people couldn't help it. Their sadness and sympathy was just to mask the guilt they were feeling. Because they were so glad that it was not them on that stage.

To this day, Peeta marked it as the beginning. Of what, he couldn't tell you. But it was the start of something.

He had loved her determination

She was shaking in her ruffled blouse and skirt. It seemed too big for her, and her blouse stuck out form where it was tucked into her skirt. She smoothed it down again, an annoyed expression on face. It stuck out like a duck's tail, but Peeta wasn't going to be the one to tell her that as her grey eyes hardened into a glare.

She was so determined, for a twelve year old. Nobody was like that, back then; eighteen year olds quivered in their mine boots and pulled at their play-bows.

Katniss blinked as Effie Trinket came on stage. The pink hair could render anyone silent, Peeta guessed. She snorted and looked away.

Peeta didn't want her to be picked, and he didn't want himself to be picked either. He wondered what would happen if one of his brothers were picked. Would Grane or Rye volunteer if one of them were chosen?

Somehow, he doubted it. And there wasn't anyone to volunteer for Katniss, either.

He watched her breathe a quiet sigh of relief as the names were picked with careful precision, and the two other crying families were escorted to the Justice Building.

Her determination would save her. Katniss Everdeen would not go down without a fight, and Peeta wouldn't either.

He had loved her first.

She had the most beautiful slate-grey eyes he had ever seen, and a beautiful voice she rarely used. Her smile was small, hesitant, and not really anything, really, but it belonged to Katniss, and that made it special.

Her quiteness was thoughtful, and her bravery and determination would keep her alive, if Peeta couldn't.

Katniss Everdeen was so perfect, and Peeta Mellark was far from being faultless.

He was stupid enough to watch and love the girl he could never have as she began to sour, fly, a Mockingjay in the horizon, where Peeta could not follow. And all he could do was watch her fall.