Disclaimer: Hunger Games is not mine; this story intends no copyright infringement.
Katniss Gets Fat... and reads books
"Er, Katniss," Peeta says. She glares at him. The kind of glare that says, Don't say it. He says it. "Don't you think you should buy some new pants –"
She throws her pants at his head, and steals a pair of his instead. For good measure she takes one of his shirts, too. "I," she says, with great dignity, "Am going for a walk." She sets off with a slight, but definite, waddle.
Peeta falls back on his pillow. He turns his head to watch her go. It takes him a few minutes to work out why his face is aching: it's the smile, stretching it. He touches it. Real.
He rolls over, lands in the warmth she left in their bed. Nuzzles against it. It's almost as good as her touching him. He pulls the blanket up, over his hips and back, over his shoulders, over his head. Maybe if he lazes enough she'll come back in. Fifteen minutes later Haymitch stomps up wrecking that plan.
"Your crazy wife," he says, probably the only person who can get away with calling either of them crazy, "Slapped me for saying –"
Peeta sits up. "You said she was getting fat," he guesses, calm.
Haymitch looks confused. "No," he says.
"That's what she's calling it," Peeta explains.
Haymitch rolls his eyes. "Oh," he says, getting it now.
"Exactly," Peeta says.
Because Haymitch is in the house and there's no getting rid of him until he decides he wants to go (like a pet or a toddler, Peeta muses), Peeta gets up. Haymitch follows him downstairs, bitching about the train being late. All his liquor's on it, but he's dried out a bit, so withdrawal isn't as harsh as it has been in years past. Peeta settles into the kitchen and makes quick biscuits, flaky and golden, and cooks some bacon. He cuts apples and pears. He finds the good jam and puts it on the table with the rest of breakfast. Right on time, Katniss comes home.
She looks good in his clothes. Or out of them, the more lecherous part of Peeta's mind notes. He says 'part' but it's more like 'majority', really.
She glares at Haymitch but doesn't seem surprised to see him, and thumps down at the table. The way she turns to Peeta is expectant, like she doesn't understand why he doesn't have a plate prepared for her already, and he chuckles as he serves her. He remembers Buttercup looking at Prim that way, years ago, before their Quarter Quell. Haymitch must read his mind because he snorts, too.
Katniss looks between them. "What?"
Haymitch and Peeta trade amused glances.
Neither man is brave enough to tell her.
The train comes in and brings Haymitch's booze. It brings in other things, too.
Katniss pokes around in the box Peeta hauls home. It's filled to the brim with paints and brushes and paper. And books. She looks at the covers.
"I ordered from a catalogue," Peeta tells her, mild, pulling the book from her hands into his.
"Renaissance art?" she asks.
Peeta shrugs. When he was first starting to paint, after the 74th, Portia and Cinna had sent him a joint gift of artist's manuals and history of art texts. A lot of his work is unstudied and raw, but he's good enough at it that he wants to learn techniques, wants to expand his repertoire. "You should see what they did with light," he says, instead of explaining everything else. How it makes him ache to look at beautiful things. How it connects him to something else, something deeper and older, and true, when he paints and studies paintings. "I ordered some textbooks, too," he says.
Katniss makes a face. She was always a good student but never an enthusiastic one.
"They're not about coal," Peeta says. "In the Capitol, I guess you could learn about whatever you wanted. Now so can we."
That appeases her some, enthuses her enough that she starts pulling the books out of the box, running her hands over the titles, scanning the words. It surprises Peeta when she pauses over an anthology of poems, though it shouldn't: she's a singer, after all, and songs are poetry married to music.
They get everything squared away before dinner. Haymitch is off getting happy-drunk, so they don't expect him to come around like he does every so often. Katniss decimates a loaf of bread all on her own, eating slice after buttered slice. He keeps her plate full.
"What are you going to paint?" she asks him abruptly as he's clearing the dishes.
Peeta doesn't startle. It's hard to surprise him now. "I was thinking of still lifes," he says. "Nature studies. You know."
She fidgets. "I could help you find some spots," she says. "In the woods. I mean. There's the lake."
This is the first time Peeta's ever heard of a lake. He turns his head so she won't see his smile; rethinks it, turns back. He smiles a lot now. Seems he can't stop. "That would be good," he says. "Thanks."
She settles back in her chair, and he doesn't know how he can tell, but she's pleased.
Later that night they sit on the couch together, with the lights dimmed a bit but bright enough to read by, books spread open on their knees.
Peeta's mother used to call Katniss a slut. Or, she'd call all the girls from the Seam of reaping age sluts.
His mother's eyes were always flinty and unforgiving, but they were harder for useless people, and hardest still for those she considered leeches. "Those girls are nothing but whores," she'd tell Peeta's big brothers. She didn't bother giving Peeta any of her wisdom. "They try to trap you between their legs, keep you with children. If you must bed them, use their mouths." She was crude, in word and thought, but in her own way she thought she was looking out for her sons. She wanted them to find good merchant girls, have rich father-in-laws, live long prosperous lives.
She talked about what a girl would do, to land a soft life in the bakery, to take advantage of the baker's sons. She was so explicit in her warnings that Peeta, too young to know what she was talking about, lost a bit of his innocence at hearing her so blatantly lay down the facts of life and sex and manipulation.
Years later, Peeta laughs at Katniss' red face and calls her pure. She thinks it's an insult, but it's not. Mostly, it's wistful relief.
I always knew she was wrong, he thinks, smiling at Katniss.
The shine sneaks up on him. Sometimes he doesn't notice it building until his eyes are full up and everything is tainted, tainted. Wrong. There are bugs in the walls with cameras for eyes and they're spying on him. She's a mutt, a monster engineered to destroy him, he has to – first, he has to – before she can –
Everything is poison, everything he touches, everything she's touched – she wants to poison him, her ugly face is snarling at him, a mutt, unnatural and inhuman, she's a mutt –
His hands are clenched and his shoulders are rigid and he can't move. Not a single muscle. He makes his body into a prison, locked up tight. Otherwise, what would he do? Anything.
Any horrible thing.
"You can't ever leave," Peeta says. "You – you can't go. I don't trust anyone else – I don't, I can't."
"I know," Haymitch says. He takes a long drink from his bottle. Offhand, he adds, "If I thought you were a danger to her, I'd kill you myself."
Peeta nods. "That's why you have to stay."
The best thing about Haymitch, he never flinches. Maybe all the booze has wrecked his reflexes; maybe he's really just that much of a son of a bitch. It doesn't matter, he's theirs.
"Go home to your wife," Haymitch says.
She darts ahead of him on soundless feet. Even with the extra weight awkwardly positioned she's graceful.
The ground is edged with frost. It cracks under his steps where it stays whole for hers, and, all right, it's been a while since he really did anything physical, but he shouldn't be getting out of breath this easily.
They get there eventually. There's the wreckage of an old stone house they could shelter in, but instead they rest on the lake's bank. She sits easily next to him. He takes her hand in his, laces their fingers together. She lets him.
"You didn't bring anything to draw with," she says, not quite questioning.
"No," he agrees. "I thought it might be good to just. See."
He feels rather than sees her nod. They watch the lake's surface move. Slow-motion waves. It's somehow more private here than in their home. He feels the hush sink into him. The air is expectant, made for keeping secrets, and he's not surprised when she starts to talk: half apology, half explanation, for the way she is, the way she was made.
"I learned how to swim here," she says. She says, "My father taught me." She slouches against him. Her body is warm, light weight thickening every day. Her voice gets gentler. It's strange, how it can do that, how she doesn't even notice. "He would bring me into the forest and show me. Everything. He." She turns her head and buries her face against his neck and breathes, hot. She's been easier to move to tears lately, though she tries to hide it.
After a moment she lifts her head. "We couldn't get fat off the land, but we could live," she tells him, terribly earnest. "He taught me how to do that much. I remembered his lessons eventually, when losing him got quieter in my mind." She puts her hand on her belly, low against the burgeoning swell. "I was little, when my mother – with Prim. I remember being shocked at how big she got. I thought she had extra food, somehow, I thought she was getting fat." He laughs, and she smiles, but there's something off about it. "I hated... anyone who could be fat. Who could have that much extra. I was so angry at the thought that they could..." she shivers. "I remember starving."
He catches her shiver. "I remember you starving too," he whispers.
"I got so angry with my mother," she says, very quiet. "I screamed at her that it wasn't fair. Why did she get to be fat? I was so sure that every time my back was turned, she was sneaking cakes and cookies." She pauses, then admits, "I don't think I've ever been very fair to her."
He squeezes the hand he has in his grip. She squeezes back.
"I was always expecting her to fail me," she says. "And then I was so betrayed when she did. And then I was so angry. And then – I couldn't forgive her. And now. Now, she's not here. I want her here, but, I – I don't know what I would do if she came. And what if – what if, I – what if our child – "
It's the first time she's said it, our child, and it makes him happy even though it's terribly inappropriate because she's sitting next to him, practically in his arms, crying.
Now she says it: the hardest thing. The words almost choke her as they come out. "I'm scared."
She still calls it getting fat, but she starts ordering maternity clothes, too.
"Oh," Katniss says, startled.
Peeta looks up from his book of Van Gogh prints. His eyes question.
"Um," Katniss says. "There's a poem. Here –" and surprises him by reading it aloud.
It's soft and rolling and lyrical. Something about the quality of light, waves, how things seem underwater. It loops back on itself like a knot, invokes salt and movement: two bodies swimming.
Katniss is quiet a moment after. "It's titled Marriage," she says. And, "Finnick wrote it." Her brow furrows. "It says Annie sent it in when they requested more of his work – poetry was his Talent, did you know?" Peeta shakes his head, solemn. "It says that he wrote this for her, before – before the Quarter Quell." She frowns. "He read a poem out loud. I remember now. During our interviews with Caesar Flickerman. I thought he was just playing into his heartbreaker image, but now, who knows. Maybe it was the last time he thought he could tell Annie he loved her." Her fingers rest against the page. Quietly she asks, "Isn't it beautiful?"
Katniss looks at him. Her grey eyes are luminous. "He could have been anything. He was beautiful and brave and brilliant and he could have been anything, but instead he's dead."
Peeta takes her hand. Her grief is an old friend, a constant companion, gentler with her now than it has been in the past. It's not just Finnick, he knows, but everyone who died with Finnick. The constant parade of names and loss. "Yes," he says. "But we're alive. And we can be anything."
"I like this weight," she says in their private dark. She lets him encircle her from behind with his broad arms. Their bed is warm. She puts his hands, baker's and painter's touch, against the curve of her growing form. He nuzzles the back of her neck, breathes her in.
He whispers, "Let's get fat together," half-joke, and she chortles. He feels her laughter as it shakes them both.
"Let's eat until we're full, every day," she whispers back.
He continues the game. "Let's smile at something beautiful."
"Let's read lots of books." She settles into him.
He kisses the edge of her ear. "Let's write some, too."
Author's Note: This is a prequel/companion to my other story, Follow, that you don't have to have read. I just sort of realized that Follow was about Katniss, and had more of her perspective and presence - which short changed Peeta a little. Granted, this is all about Katniss too - but Katniss as seen by Peeta, as is relevant to Peeta. And things about Peeta all his own too, hopefully. If that makes sense? Reviews would be pretty sweet, ngl, so please tell me what you think!