A/N: This is from ages ago, but I had it, so…here it is.
This snippet is dedicated to debzzz. This was a scene debzzz requested to see from Katniss' point of view. It takes place in Chapter 9, when Peeta is trying his hand at archery for the first time. Un-beta'd.
Common Archery Injuries
The woods are nothing new to me. I easily keep to the path while still keeping one eye out for potential prey and the other on Peeta. Considering the way he continues to stare up at the sky with his mouth open, he's likely to walk himself right off a cliff. I don't know if I've ever seen such a look of wonder on someone's face. On Prim maybe—when she's admiring the cakes in bakery window or the new dresses at Fielding's. Certainly not on those few occasions I've taken her into the woods. She's too busy looking over her shoulder for unseen predators to be anything other than terrified.
Peeta can't be bothered with stories of muttations or the perilous surroundings. He's too engrossed in the newness and freedom of it all to be scared. Watching Peeta take in the scenery—the trees, the sky, the birds—reminds me of walking through the woods with Dad. He had a much better eye for hunting than Peeta does, but he loved the landscape, too. He'd always bring flowers home for my mother when he could. Most were for remedies, but one was always just for the kitchen table.
I try to find that same aesthetic appreciation my father had for the woods. I have to. There's definitely not going to be any game today. Not with the way Peeta walks,I think to myself as I retrieve my bow from its hiding place. Peeta has no sense of stealth. Even now I can hear him practically marching nearer.
"Wow," Peeta says when he reaches me. "So that's the bow that brings me squirrels."
"This is it," I say with some pride. The soft, worn grip sits comfortably in my hand. A familiar and calming feeling of security fills me. To have this bow means food. Survival. "I have a hand in it as well."
"Can I try it?" he asks hopefully.
I bite back a grin. Archery might look easy, but it takes a finessed hand and a great deal of practice. Peeta did have an archery primer back at my house last week, however. Practical application is the next step. I hold it out to him. He takes it carefully. His hands flex around it as he learns the weight of it. "It was my father's," I say quietly, surprising myself a little. I don't usually blurt out personal things like that. The fresh air must be getting to me.
Peeta's eyes crinkle with concern. "Uh, maybe you should take this back. I don't want to break it." He tries to press the bow back into my hands. I take a step back, waving him off.
"You're not going to break it," I assure him. He'll be fine as long as he takes the proper care to shoot correctly or somewhere near correctly. I can't help a smirk, thinking back to the first lessons I had with Dad. I couldn't count the number of arrows I lost to the woods even after I had a handle on my form. Peeta will be lucky to send an arrow ten feet from his nose. After retrieving the quiver, I lose the smirk and relax against a fallen tree. "I'll be surprised if you can nock it."
Peeta scowls at me—his version of a scowl, that is. It's more playful than menacing.
"I carry tremendously heavy bags of flour every day. I'm not weak." Peeta stands up straight and tall. His stance displays the broadness of his shoulders usually concealed by a self-deprecating slouch. The determination in his eyes holds my gaze for a moment too long, and I grab an arrow and press the sharp tip against my finger to distract myself.
"Archery calls for flexibility, strength, and concentration. Not just brute force."
"I play soccer. That takes agility. And I wrestle. That takes flexibility," he says with a shrug.
I saw his wrestling match last fall. Part of it anyway. Prim begged me to stay after school like most of her friends who were staying to watch. I only agreed to stay because the weather was bad, too rainy for hunting. So, I sat with Prim in the gymnasium watching Peeta narrowly lose a match against his brother. His brother used an illegal move that the referee ignored.
"Fair enough, you're athletic," I admit. He's trained to wrestle boys of his weight class and skill level, but it's not hard work. It's not survival. It's just a game. I push up the sleeves of my coat and stand in front of him. "But you are soft. Look at your hands and look at mine." I hold open my palms before him and wait for him to do the same. "Yours are soft." It's no surprise to me that his hands are clean and pale. His nails are short. Maybe he bites them. But this is as it should be for him, for a merchant. Why should his hands have string scars and freckles from too much sun?
I glance up at Peeta. His mouth sits in a grim line.
Suddenly, he sets down the bow, drops his bag, and throws off his jacket. With a look of determination he holds opens one hand and says, "Give me a chance to build up some calluses. Can I have an arrow, please?"
I twirl the arrow and pretend to think about it. To be honest, part of me wants to see this. "Fine," I say, pretending to be disinterested. He reaches for the arrow, but I keep a hold of it. "Move your feet shoulder width apart," I remind him. Beginners always forget to set up a proper foundation.
Peeta offers a determined nod and takes the arrow. He awkwardly shifts his body into position. The arrow skims off the top of his hand, but eventually he holds it steady. "Are there any deer around? I'd love some venison for dinner." He laughs.
"We must have just missed a herd," I say. Or you scared one away. "Besides, you should aim for something that isn't moving. Try that oak tree." What we really need is a cloth bag stuffed with grass to hang from a tree branch. It would take some precision to actually embed the arrow into the tree, but if he gets anywhere near it I'd call that a success.
Peeta steadies himself twice more and takes two deep breaths to match. His strength stutters momentarily as he draws back the bow. I can already tell he's not using his back muscles as much as he should. Everything about his posture is tight, but he holds on. Let it go, I think. If that tree were a squirrel it'd be half a mile away by now. But his eyes are on the arrow, not the target. I stop reviewing his form and keep watch on his eyes. If he'd just look forward…
"GAH!" Peeta suddenly yells, clutching his arm to his chest. The bow is at his feet and the arrow has disappeared. I jump up from the log just as he shouts, "What the hell?!"
"Let me see! Let me see!" I tell him, tugging at the arm he has cradled against his body. A red welt is already rising on the inside of Peeta's arm. The damage isn't bad, but I know it hurts. I've done it to myself a few times. I notice Peeta's got his eyes squeezed shut and I almost laugh. All it needs is some aloe and maybe a cool compress. I'd tease him for being a baby, but for some reason I can't bring myself to do it. If this were me and Gale I wouldn't hesitate to hold back. "Sorry," I say quietly. Peeta opens one eye slowly. Then the other. "I should have warned you. String snap. You probably drew back too far." I skim my fingers near the welt.
"Don't touch it!" he pants as he pulls away.
But I keep a hold of him. There's something else there next to the welt from the bow. Marks. Thin, white streaks. Dozens of them blending into his pale skin. "Sorry," I find myself murmuring.
"You said that already," Peeta mumbles back.
Without thinking, my fingers float over the scars. How did he get so many? He doesn't hunt. He doesn't leave town apart from today. I can't make sense of it. Are they from his awful witch of a mother? I wouldn't be surprised. Are they just from working at the bakery? Even if they are, the battered look of his skin couldn't have happened overnight. Even I can see this is from years of burns. Unless he's as clumsy with a baking sheet as he is with a bow, and I doubt that considering how talented he is at painting the cakes, it just doesn't…fit. Peeta lives a better life than most people. He shouldn't hurt like this.
"Is this where you tell me I'm soft again?"
Peeta's voice wakes me from my staring. I quickly let go of him arm, hoping I wasn't staring for as long as I think I was. "It's a common error," I say, picking up the bow from the ground. "Happens to the best of us."
Peeta takes a step closer. All afternoon he's been staring at the treetops. Now I can feel the weight of his gaze on me. "Has it ever happened to you?" he asks.
"Sure." I shrug without looking up.
"What, when you were ten?"
"Somewhere around there." I can, in fact, remember a time when my father was caring for my archery injuries. And before I can stop myself, I glance at him arm again and wonder, who, if anyone, takes care of Peeta?