Author: aimmyarrowshigh
Illustrator: everybodysbadintentions
Fandom: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Story Title: "The Tiny Peeta Diaries; Or, Five Times Peeta Made People Say 'Dammit'!"
Summary: A series of events around District Twelve as seen through the eyes of five-year-old Peeta Mellark, the earnest and inquisitive son of the baker.
Notes: A side-shot for The Five Places Cinna Came From: District Twelve (The Girl with the Boy), but you do not NECESSARILY need to have read that to understand this. Although there is more bbPeeta being bb in it.
Character/Relationships: Peeta, Madge, Haymitch, Mags
Rating: PG (for the word "dammit," obviously.)
Warnings: None, really. I guess see the "rating," lol.
Wordcount: 3,500/9,000
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All characters, settings, and proprietary language are owned by the author of the work from which this is derived. This is Part 5/5; we're AIMING to get one Part posted every night for the next five days.

! THIS IS ACTUALLY NOT THE COMPLETE VERSION OF THE TINY PEETA DIARIES! READ THE FULL, ILLUSTRATED VERSION AT http{colon} {slash (slash)} aimmyarrowshigh [dot] livejournal [dot] com {slash} 73247 [dot] html !

The Tiny Peeta Diaries; Or, Five Times Peeta Made People Say 'Dammit'!

005. School Time

Peeta mussed at his damp hair nervously. He had never been forced to take a bath during the week before, but his mother said that he had to be clean for school and couldn't show up looking like a damned coal-monkey; now button your shirt up right.

Now, freshly bathed and feeling just a little sweaty under his stiff school clothes due to the late Indian Summer heat wave scorching the District, Peeta sat on the bakery countertop, swinging his feet and letting his boots thud heavy against the cabinets.

He mussed his hair again.

He bit his nails.

"Nervous for school, Peets?" Lavash asked, glancing over to his little brother as he flew down the stairs in a rush.

Peeta's mouth twisted. "Yeah. A little." He paused. "I mean, I just don't know any Seam kids and I don't want them to be mean to me."

"They're not mean," Lavash said absently, picking a week-old blueberry muffin out of the larder and crossing to the sink to cut away some fuzzy pink mold. "Mom's just – she just doesn't like the Seam. But they mostly just keep to themselves."

"Oh," Peeta said, thunking his feet again.

Lavash paused with the muffin mostly in his mouth and looked at his little brother. Peeta looked so small and so sad with the faded remnants of his black eye still discoloring his face. Lavash checked over his shoulder, then ducked around to prep table.

He picked out a soft cornmeal cupcake studded with red raspberries and frosted with a swirl of creamy, vanilla-sweetened soft cheese and wrapped it in white paper. Then, still chewing, he smiled at Peeta, chucked his chin, and tucked the cupcake into Peeta's lunchpail.

"Don't tell Ma," he whispered. He patted Peeta's shoulder genially, and then flew out the door as he shrugged into his jacket. Peeta heard him yell, 'Wait up!' to someone down the sidewalk.


Maybe school wasn't so bad if he got a cupcake.

Peeta picked up his lunchpail and peered inside. Nobody had remembered to pack him anything else, and now he was stuck on the counter. He sighed and looked across to the breadbox and really, he ought to learn how to jump down if he was going to keep getting stuck in this predicament. Maybe Madge would lend him that rope.

Barm's loud, steady footsteps ka-thumped down the stairs. He whistled cheerfully, tossing an apple from hand to hand.

"Barm!" Peeta called. "Help!"

"You stuck again, Peeta?" Barm asked, coming over to lift him down. "You really gotta stop climbing until you learn how to come back down."

Peeta frowned. "Mom said that it keeps me outta the way." He tugged at the tail of Barm's shirt. "Barm? Nobody packed me no lunch."

"Nobody packed you any lunch?" Barm asked, correcting Peeta gently. "Well, let's get you settled. What do you want?"

"Jam sandwich?" Peeta asked hopefully.

Barm rolled his eyes. "Only because it's the first day of school. But you have to bring carrots and nettles and eat them all."

Peeta wrinkled his nose. "Can I put cheese on 'em?"

"Cheese or jam, Peeta," Barm said. "Can't have both."

"Jam," Peeta sighed.

Barm bustled around the kitchen, still whistling, as he prepared Peeta's sandwich, which he wrapped in wax paper, and a little tin of peeled carrots and bitter nettles. Then, he crossed to the prep table and selected a gooey groundnut-butter cupcake with a little dollop of strawberry jam in the center and a thick pink dollop of marshmallow frosting on top.

He held it out for Peeta to inspect.

"If you eat your greens," he said sternly. Then he wrapped it in paper and tucked it into Peeta's lunch pail. "And don't tell Mom."

Peeta's blue eyes widened.

Two cupcakes! He should probably tell Barm, since they weren't supposed to eat the pastries themselves, but… two cupcakes! Just for him! He'd never had two whole cupcakes before! School really wasn't so bad after all if it meant he got two cupcakes.

Peeta took the pail from Barm and peered inside in wonderment - jam and two cupcakes! Even if he did have to eat stinky nettles and carrots – before pulling at Barm's shirttails again. "You walking me to school?"

"Barm's got marzipan to mould," Farll answered. He stooped over the sink to wash his hands free of flour, then held one out for Peeta to take. "I'm going to walk with you today."

Peeta beamed up at his father and took his hand. The heavy lunch pail swung from Peeta's other fist, and his lucky wooden boat was bulky in his shirt pocket. "Okay!"

Farll and Peeta started off across the Quarter towards the schoolhouse. Peeta jumped the stairs like a frog, trying to skip every-other step, jostling his lunch around in the silver pail. He checked inside surreptitiously on the sidewalk to make sure that his cupcakes weren't squashed.

All around them, from all over the District, older children walked towards the schoolyard in knots of three or four: the boys laughing and shoving each other; the girls giggling and shoving the boys. The Merchant girls all wore pale new dresses with Cinder's trademark embroidery and lacework at the collars and cuffs and the Merchant boys all dressed like Peeta, in their best pressed pants and buttoned shirts. The Seam boys and girls were tall and rangy and their clothes older and careworn: Peeta saw one boy run past with bright red patches sewn onto the elbows of his jacket, and he liked that very much and wished he could have a red jacket, too.

"Are you excited for school, Peeta?" Farll asked, swinging their hands.

"I don't know," Peeta said honestly. "I'm not not-excited. But I'm not excited neither."

"You'll have all your friends there," Farll reminded him. "Madge and Delly and Tate. And you'll make new friends, too."

"What if nobody likes me?" Peeta asked quietly, squeezing his father's fingers.

Farll stopped and knelt down to Peeta's eye-level. "Why would anybody ever not like you, Peeta? Just be nice and be kind and people will like you just fine."

Peeta's mouth twisted. "I never met nobody from the Seam before. 'Cept Magdalen, and she's different."

"No, she isn't," Farll said. "Special, sure. But she's no different from anyone else from the Seam, because they're really no different from any of us who live out here. People are people."

Peeta bit his lip, considering. Then he nodded. "'Kay. I'm ready to keep going to school."

Farll smiled and patted Peeta's hair. "Before we do, I've got a surprise for you." Farll Mellark reached into his apron pocket and pulled out a chocolate cupcake with fluffy white icing and handed it to Peeta. "You can have this after you eat your lunch, since it's your first day of school."

Peeta's eyes were wide as serving platters. "Really? Chocolate? Are you sure?"

He had never had chocolate before, except the tiny tastes he'd sneaked off his fingers in little smudges when he and Barm worked on icing and moulding the fancy cakes for Mayor Undersee and the Peacekeepers' celebrations. It was too precious and too expensive to go to waste on Peeta.

Farll's blue eyes twinkled and he nodded. "Of course. We can always spare one chocolate cupcake on the Mellark boys' first days of school." Then he paused. "Although, don't tell your mother."

Peeta nodded, eyes shining, as he tucked the cupcake into his lunch pail beside the first two.

Three cupcakes? That would be his secret forever if it meant he got to keep them all!

Peeta galloped the rest of the way to the schoolyard, clacking his boots as loudly as he could against the gritty sidewalk and pulling on his father's arm. The schoolyard was a ruckus of children and parents milling about. Peeta waved to Madge, but Madge had her face buried in her mother's skirts, too shy around all of these new kids. Peeta saw Delly, too, but hid behind Farll's legs so she wouldn't drag him over to play already. Peeta wanted some adventure first. He wanted to meet new people.

But he didn't know where to start.

"How you doing, Peeta?" Farll asked, looking down at the little boy clinging to his leg.

Peeta shrugged. "I don't know who's nice."

"Hmm," Farll hummed. He surveyed the schoolyard and his eyes lit then dimmed, simmering with a low-burning, secretive, sad smile. Then he scooped Peeta up to sit on his hip and pointed subtly across the way. "You see that little girl?"

Peeta looked. She had two long black braids and a red plaid dress. A lovely, smiling blonde woman in a blue dress knelt beside her, holding a tiny fair-haired baby so that the little Seam girl could kiss its head adoringly. "Who is that?"

"I wanted to marry her mother," Farll murmured, more to himself than to Peeta as they watched Larkspur smile at her daughter's enamored care of the baby. "But she ran off with a coal miner."

Peeta's brow furrowed. "A coal miner?" He looked to the little blonde baby again. "Why did she want a coal miner when she coulda had you?"

Farl shrugged and Peeta giggled as he rose up with his father's shoulders. "Because when he sang, even the birds stopped to listen."

Larkspur Everdeen looked over then and rose gracefully, holding the tiny newborn baby close. She laid her other hand gently over her dark-haired daughter's head and led her over to the First Schooler line.

Farll shook his head as though clearing it of water and smiled and Peeta, tickling his ribs. "And you know me – I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket!"

Peeta laughed and squirmed. "Remember when I fell in the well? You carried me home in a bucket."

"That's right," agreed Farll, settling Peeta down again. "I think that very bucket is your lunch pail today!"

Peeta laughed. "I was never this little."

"No, you weren't," agreed Farll, still looking absently towards the Everdeens ahead of them in line. "I'm just being silly."

Then he ruffled Peeta's hair. "It looks like the teachers are coming out to get everyone now. Are you okay to stand in line by yourself?"

Peeta nodded. "That's not hard."

"Okay," Farll said. He bent down to give Peeta a scratchy kiss on the top of his head. "Barm will wait for you right by the gate after school, and then you're going to Cinder's shop for your painting lessons. Don't leave without Barm, though."

"I know how to get to Cinna's house," Peeta insisted. "I can do it."

"Don't leave without Barm," Farll repeated. "Promise?"

Peeta sighed. "I promise, I guess."

"Okay," Farll said. "Have a great first day of school, bub."

Once Farll had turned the corner away from the schoolyard, Peeta dug into his lunch pail and took out the cornmeal cupcake. He ate it quickly and licked some cheese icing from his nose before Delly came bounding over and tackled him with a big hug. They stood together in line behind the Everdeens, watching as Tate, the undertaker's son, made a skinny Seam boy eat two rocks. The teachers came out of the building just as Tate was holding out a third, and he got a slap across the back of his hands with a ruler.

Peeta thought he deserved it. There was a reason he only played with girls, even if they were boring and stinky. At least they weren't bullies like Tate. Peeta never wanted to hurt people for fun.

The entire school crowded into the assembly hall – youngest to the back, oldest to the front, just like the Reaping ceremony – and Peeta dutifully tore the raspberry cupcake into thirds to share with Delly and Madge. He thunked his boots on the floor in a little rhythm, making up a song in his head, as some big girls in the front of the hall stood and taught everyone the words to the Pledge of Concession. Peeta, fairly bored now with his song, and with a dozy Delly leaning heavily on his shoulder, reached sneakily into his lunch pail and pulled out the final cupcake.

He wasn't sharing this one. Not with anybody. It was his one chance to try chocolate. He peeled back the paper and sucked crumbs from his finger: delicious.

Then the teachers at the front of the crowd asked if any of the new students knew the Anthem and would like to sing.

A few seats away, the dark-haired little Everdeen girl raised her hand and stood, proud, on her chair in her red plaid dress.

Peeta took a big bite of his chocolate cupcake.

And Katniss Everdeen began to sing.

Peeta looked up. His heart was bursting, warm and bubbling and bright and rich and smooth and for the first time in a long while, Peeta Mellark sat perfectly still and perfectly quiet, entranced by Katniss Everdeen's song. The light broke in the window overhead, shining over Katniss like a spotlight, and at the edges of the window, Peeta could see the dark shapes of the mockingjays sitting on the sill, their heads tilted, silent too as they listened.

All the birds stopped to listen, Peeta thought, moving in a trance.

I am going to marry that girl.

Peeta spent the rest of the morning staring at Katniss Everdeen. She sat quietly by herself in the corner of the classroom, building with the blocks, and Peeta thought, I should go play blocks.

But then Delly came over and dragged him over to play house, so he played house. He thought about how Katniss' mother seemed so nice to her, not like his own mother who hit him or Madge's mother who cried all day sometimes, and how Katniss' father could sing and how Katniss had a baby sister with pale yellow-blonde hair like his. He touched the almost-faded bruise at his eye self-consciously, and wondered what Katniss thought if she looked at him.

At lunch, Peeta sat between Delly and Madge again, eating his jam sandwich so deep in thought that he barely tasted it. He even ate the carrots and nettles without wincing.

Katniss Everdeen sat by herself again at the end of the lunch table, eating her grayish soup out of a thermos.

Peeta had an idea.

The chocolate cupcake! He'd only eaten one bite; he could break it in half and give it to Katniss, and then maybe she would love him even though he couldn't sing. And then he could tell his father that he was going to marry the coal miner's daughter, and that he'd seen all the birds stop to listen. And he knew that everyone would be happy.

Peeta's little heart fluttered as he reached into his lunch pail –


It was empty.

Just a crumpled cupcake wrapper.

Oh, no! He must have eaten it while Katniss was singing, and he hadn't even realized.

Peeta stared into the empty lunch pail, a frown creasing his little cherubic features.

He looked up in time to see Katniss clamber off the bench with her thermos and head, alone, back into the schoolhouse with her thermos.

Peeta wrinkled his nose. He lifted the cupcake wrapper and scraped some of the chocolate residue off with his teeth.