A/N: This is an outtake from My First Date with Katniss Everdeen immediately following the end of chapter 11. And to make things really fun, instead of Peeta's POV this outtake is in the POV of his faithful wingman, Prim. It's just a little snippet that I couldn't get out of my head and thought I would share.
Always Trust Your Wingman
Momma tells me to blow the candles out before I go to bed. I change into my nightgown. Rinse my face and hands in the sink. I already checked on Lady and left her a blanket. It's a touch chilly outside. Buttercup is waiting for me at the foot of the bed. After Rory and Gale left for home he finally returned from wherever it is he hides. All that's left is to blow out the candles.
I decide to wait. Just five minutes more. Katniss hasn't been gone long, but it's dark and she won't wander around at night. She knows it would worry me, and I am worried, but not for any reason she might guess.
I think Momma meant to stay up and wait for Katniss, too, but she had three house calls today—one was for a baby who had what Momma called, whooping cough—and she fell asleep when her head hit the pillow. It's okay. It's better if I wait up for Katniss. Momma doesn't like Peeta as much as I do.
Sometimes, I think no one likes Peeta as much as I do.
And there happens to be several valid reasons to like him. Peeta's kind, like his dad who gives me generous trades for my goat cheese. I get better trades than Katniss gets with her squirrels sometimes. She says it's because he likes me better, but I like to think my cheeses are just that delicious. And Peeta is funny—sort of. That type of funny when someone makes light of themselves, rather than try to impress you by taking digs at other people. I hate when boys, or girls for that matter, do that. Peeta's nice looking, too. I'm not the only one who notices that. Marilyn tells me over and over again how jealous she is that one of the Mellark brothers walks me home from school. She begs me for details. I don't say much. To her. Or anyone from school. It's not something I wish to brag about and with the school year out, they'll stop asking. Peeta is my friend. I'm positive of that, but I'm not blind. I mean, there's a smile he shares with me, and then there's a smile he shares with my sister. They are not the same.
Buttercup strolls out of the bedroom. He lazily hops onto the threadbare couch and immediately head butts my elbow in search of a scratch. "I'm coming to bed soon." I comfort my kitty with a liberal scratch behind his bad ear that coaxes a healthy purr from his throat. "We have to wait for Katniss." And while I've been told many times that cats cannot understand language, at the mention of my sister's name Buttercup's purr lowers to a growl that shakes his skinny little body. "You are an exhausting cat, but I love you." I tuck my nose in his fur and give him a kiss. Katniss tells me not to do that as I put myself at risk of catching fleas, but Katniss isn't here.
Five more minutes. I'll wait five more minutes.
I settle back against the couch cushion. It's been a strange day. A strange week. Katniss came home damp and shivering last Tuesday. She said she tripped and fell into the creek, nor did she return with any game. Both of these things are very unlike her. Momma seemed skeptical, but she didn't say anything. Katniss was quiet as she warmed up in bed, wrapped in the bedclothes and sipping hot tea. That wasn't so odd. But I'm quiet, too, and I noticed the way she repeatedly touched her fingertips to her lips, the way she'd stare off at nothing, the tiny smile she hid behind her mug.
Those things all but disappeared over the following seven days, until today, when I saw not one of those gestures.
The door wrenches open suddenly, and although I've been waiting for Katniss' return, I still jump. Katniss says I've all the bravery of a duckling that hasn't yet lost its down. I hope I outgrow that. A little bit at least.
Katniss is equally surprised to see me awake and waiting for her. She startles upon seeing me, but rights herself almost instantaneously. Buttercup doesn't appreciate the commotion and scurries off the couch back to the safety of the space under our bed.
"Prim. What are you doing up?" Katniss scolds. Before I can answer, she notices the candles. "Why are these still lit? It's wasteful." Again, she doesn't wait for a response. She blows out the candle sitting on the television. Then she crosses the room and extinguishes the candle on the table. I barely catch a glimpse of the red flush staining Katniss' cheeks before the room is blanketed with darkness, save for some moonlight coming in through the far window.
This is the side of my sister which has been prominent for the past few days: biting, guarded, and…unhappy. That is, when she's around. She spent most of her time in the woods over the past week, only coming home for dinner. She's not usually this way. Yes, Katniss can be rather frank at times and yes, she is guarded, but she never lets anything get to her, for lack of a better phrase. Sometimes I wish I could be more like that. The dumbest things make me cry.
Katniss collapses into one of the dining chairs—the one Buttercup sharpens his claws on. She rests her head in her hands. She's not crying. She's just very still.
Tentatively, I stand up and take two steps toward her. "Katniss? Are you alright?"
The distant cry of a whippoorwill interrupts the heavy pause that follows the question.
"I'm fine," Katniss murmurs.
Two more steps. "Did you have a nice time with Peeta?"
"It's late. Go to bed," she says flatly.
I'll take that as a no.
I love my sister, but sometimes I wish she'd tell me things. Secrets. Like sisters are supposed to. I slip into an empty dining chair. Katniss' face is hidden in shadow behind her hand and behind the hair that's fallen free from her braid. Questions burn on my lips, questions I doubt she'd be willing to answer. She's my sister and I trust her with everything. I wish the feeling were mutual. I wish I weren't such a timid duckling all the time.
"Can I ask you something?" I say, barely above a whisper. I take a breath to collect some courage. I'm not always a baby duck, I tell myself. I've been to town by myself. I go with Momma on her house calls. Katniss doesn't do that. I feel my pretend feathers ruffling with the thought. "Do you think Rory likes me?"
"Everyone likes you, Prim."
"No. I mean, does he like me?" I emphasize. Katniss tilts her face toward me. The moonlight reflects in her eyes, which have narrowed into slits. I feel a warm rush flood my face. I quickly look down at my lap—feathers unruffled. "It's just…sometimes Rory…is so sweet," I fumble, twisting the fabric of my nightgown. "Like when he made the game board and when he gave me a flower at the festival." I almost laughed when he offered up his flower. He just thrust it at me and said, "Here. I won this." And nothing else. It looked wilted somehow, despite being made from paper. Apparently, it had been stepped on by accident. I loved it anyway. How could I help loving it? "But other times, he's not nice at all, like when he ignores me in front of his friends." That is annoying. No, infuriating.
Katniss rests her arms out in front of her on the table. Her shoulders sag with fatigue. "You're too young to date," she says.
"I'm not asking to date," I mumble. If I ever wanted to ask for permission to date, Katniss is not the person I would go to.
Katniss rests her chin on folded arms. So much of her hair has escaped from her braid it seems silly to have it pulled back at all. I stand and take a place behind her, one I know well. I untie her braid at the bottom and gently pull each section apart. I love doing Katniss' hair, though I'm not as skilled as Momma. My hair would be just as long as Katniss' except when I was eight years old I got it in my head that I wanted short hair, as short as Rory's. And he volunteered to do the job. Momma found us just as Rory was about to make the third snip. I swear, all the times in my life I've ever gotten in trouble, Rory has been involved.
"It makes me think of what Peeta said," I say as the last of the braid is undone. "About how a boy should always be nice to a girl, especially the girl he likes." I really like that idea. It should be simple. If you like someone, be nice to them, always. I search out the snarled parts of Katniss' hair and comb them out with my fingers. "Peeta is always nice to you." At this, Katniss rubs her fingers over her eyes. She takes a deep breath that might be calming to her, but it bothers me. Oh, I wish Peeta hadn't come in. I told him not to. Something was off when Gale and Rory stopped by. The glances Katniss and Gale shared weren't…well, they weren't nice. Why didn't Peeta listen to me? He did all the other times. What happened on that walk?
My hands come to a halt in her hair. "Isn't he?" I question.
Katniss sniffs. She could be holding back tears or it might be the cool, night air. "Yes. He is," she mutters.
Katniss doesn't talk about Peeta…ever. She usually changes the subject when I bring him up or talks in short, patronizing sentences, like she did just now. I don't give that much significance because Katniss doesn't talk about boys in the same way my friends do. Or at all. I put stock in other things, like when she laughs at something Peeta says, or when she sneaks glances, or when they left the festival together. She doesn't know I saw that either.
I wonder if she knows that on the day of the festival, Gale asked where she was.
"Gale's nice, too," I say, slipping my fingers through the final knot at the ends. Gale is nice, if also awfully serious. He and Katniss are very much alike that way. Down to the scowl. I'm sure Katniss likes him or is, at the very least, protective of him. Why should she be? They're best friends. But Gale…Gale I'm not sure of. "Last year, Rory once told me he thought Gale was going to go into the woods and never come back." He told me strictest confidence. He'd hate me if I knew I told someone. Thankfully, Katniss is good at keeping secrets.
Katniss sits up and twists around in her chair to face me. "Gale would never do that," she states earnestly.
I slide back into my seat. Katniss watches me closely. "I know," I reply with a gulp. "And Rory knows that, too. They're honorable men." I smile. Katniss gives a little nod, but doesn't smile in return.
I don't mean to betray Gale. He does so much to help us and I care about him. It's hard to explain. We've known him for years and when I was younger I thought he and Katniss were perfectly matched. They're similar in personality, equally brave, and best friends, but… "But sometimes I wonder where Gale's heart is," I think aloud. The fact is, while they might be perfectly matched, neither one has shown the other any affection other than to offer up the last dregs of squirrel stew. Nothing ever changes or has changed between them.
And then, Peeta was there. Standing in the hallway in front of Katniss, sweating bullets, and sputtering, and looking at her like she was the only girl in the world. He needed help, so I helped him. He gave me cookies, so I helped him again. He made my sister smile. Almost no one does that, so I'll always help him. "When it comes to Peeta…I don't wonder at all."
In the dim light I see Katniss blink several times. Wetness on her lashes sparkles in the moonlight, but not a single tear falls. She inhales several shallow breaths, keeping her face from betraying what she's feeling. She doesn't open up or tell me what happened with Gale tonight or what happened with Peeta after they left. She stares at something over my shoulder. The cabinet? Maybe she's hungry. She didn't eat much at dinner. She didn't have any bread either. The bread.
"Did you want some bread?" I ask. "You didn't have any." Before she can answer I jump from my chair and open the creaky pantry. The bread rests on the middle shelf wrapped in the paper bag it came in. The paper crinkles loudly in the otherwise quiet room. I retrieve an already cut slice and a dishtowel and lay it all out in front of Katniss.
She looks up gratefully at me, the moonlight draining all the color from her face. "Thank you," she whispers. The exhaustion in her eyes breaks my heart. If she were a sick animal I'd know what to do. I'd wrap her in a blanket, feed her honey, and drip water in her mouth until she felt better. But for my sister, I have no remedies. She takes care of me, not the other way around. And she takes such good care of me. Maybe one day she'll let me take care of her.
When Katniss says nothing else I decide it might be better to leave her be. There will be more opportunities to talk this through. Tomorrow even. "I think I'll go to bed," I say. I lean down and kiss Katniss just above her temple. "I love you."
"I love you, too," Katniss replies.
When I reach the doorway I look back upon my sister. She has yet to take a bite of the bread. She stares at it like it's a fragile treasure likely to break at her touch, and in some ways, I guess it is.
A/N: Oh, Prim. You were wise beyond your years. I don't have any plans for other outtakes, but this one wasn't planned either. I'm open to suggestions. Thanks for reading.