Summary: Katniss' father did not die in the mining accident, so her life has been different in some ways. She and Peeta are better acquainted by the time the 74th Hunger Games take place, which leads to many changes for them. Set during The Hunger Games.
Pairing: Katniss x Peeta
Length: Nine parts, approx. 30,000 words
A/N: Here's what I think could have happened if Katniss' father hadn't died in the mining accident. I'm assuming she would have a similar personality (quiet, strong willed, 'pure' as Peeta says) but might also be a bit nicer and less reserved, had she never come so close to starving and been forced to provide for her family at such a young age. And if Katniss was less aloof, maybe Peeta would have been braver.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
I climb out of bed and then change into some clothes before I make my way out of the room, all the while being careful not to wake my sister, Prim. It's Reaping Day and that means no school for us and no work for my father.
After I have washed my face and brushed my teeth, I head into the living room and pass my father in the hall. We greet each other with silent smiles as he goes into the bathroom. We always get up earlier than Prim and my mother on any day he has off work. After the accident five years ago in the mines, which killed some of his fellow workers, my father decided that it was immensely important for me to be a good hunter, just in case. That event was something of a wake-up call for me also. It's scary to think that if he hadn't been terribly ill that day and forced to stay home from work, my father would have died too.
I've come to love our hunts, though. It's so refreshing to get out of the fenced in District Twelve and walk in the woods. Sometimes my father tries to say that I've learned enough by now and should stay home, where it's safe. We would both be severely punished if we were found hunting, but I've managed to convince him that I need to stay practiced and we do need all of the meat that both of us can get. My father works long hours in the mines, so whenever we have the chance to hunt, the game that I get is helpful.
Besides, if a Peacekeeper were to wander out into the woods, I know what to do. I'm sure I would hear them coming and have time to hide my bow and game bag. Then I would claim I'm only looking for Buttercup, my sister's cat. It's a lame story, but the lax Peacekeepers in our District never venture out into the woods, anyway. Why would they? After years of hunting, I feel confident that I'll never be caught.
Once my father's ready, we head out to the woods together, making sure to check if the fence is charged before we pass through a weak spot in it. We make our way to the log where the bows and arrows are stored and get them out, then split up. I head north and get a squirrel right away. After a few minutes, I notice a snare that was set by Gale Hawthorne, who hunts in the woods, too. My father and I have run into him a couple of times. Gale's father died in the accident in the mines and now he's been left with the responsibility of taking care of his mother and two younger brothers and sister. We've talked a couple of times out here (always in the presence of my father), but have never acknowledged each other at school. I barely know him, really. I walk by the snare and hope it will be successful in getting some food for Gale's family. I bet he'll be out here to check it this morning, before the reaping. I'm glad he's not here now, though. I don't really want to face him after what happened last week.
I shoot a rabbit, then retrieve it and toss it into my game bag. I keep thinking of the reaping and though I know the odds of my being chosen are slim, I can't help feeling nervous. I'm sure everyone feels nervous about it, I mean, someone does have to be chosen. Luckily, my family has been able to manage without me having to take tesserae. My father works in the mines and hunts, and my mother works as a healer, so we have enough income to get by on without the extra grain and oil. My name will only be entered into the pool five times this year. I get another squirrel.
Content with my load, and hungry for breakfast, I make my way back to the log and stow my bow in it. Then I sit down and only have to wait a few minutes for my father to show up. As usual, he's gotten more than I have: a wild turkey, two rabbits and a squirrel. The turkey especially will come in very handy when he's trading. My father and I part ways in front of our house; I go inside, and he heads straight to the Hob.
In the living room, my mother is just starting to do Prim's hair. Prim sits on the floor in front of the couch, petting Buttercup. Her pretty face lights up when I come in the door. "What did you get?" she asks.
"Two squirrels and a rabbit," I tell her with a smile. Prim and my mother are already dressed. My mother wears a dress from her apothecary days and Prim is in my first reaping outfit, which is a bit big on her. A tub of warm water is waiting in the bathroom and I scrub myself down, then put on a pretty blue dress that my mother has laid out for me. By the time I return to them, Prim's hair is finished and she sits beside my mother on the couch.
"This is nice," I tell my mother, smoothing the dress down over my waist.
"I'm glad you like it," she says, then motions for me to sit in front of her. My mother brushes my hair out and then braids it up on my head. She's just finishing up when my father returns from the Hob. He washes up and changes his clothes and then we all eat together. Soon enough, it's time to head to the town square.
Without giving it much thought, I find myself looking in the mirror while we wait for my father to grab his coat. Prim looks up at me and says quietly, "Need to look nice for your boyfriend?" The remark might have been teasing, but I know Prim doesn't mean it that way. She's smiling and I know she thinks she's clever for saying something like this.
I smile back at her and say honestly, "I don't have a boyfriend."
I know who she's talking about, of course. But what I don't know is exactly what's between us. I don't know what could ever happen, since I don't want children (who would be subjected to the reaping), and I'm sure he does. Of course, I realize that it's a bit crazy to think about something like children at this point. It's so far down the road and will probably never even come up. Even if we did start going out for real, I doubt we would end up together. We're only sixteen. But…I do like him. I can't help liking him.
"Well, you look pretty anyway," Prim says.
"Not nearly as pretty as you," I tell her, leaning over to kiss her forehead.
Prim turns toward the door and I notice that the blouse she's wearing has come un-tucked from her skirt in the back. "Tuck you tail in, little duck," I say, smoothing it down. Prim quacks once and my mother and I both beam at her. Everyone loves Prim, but not as much as we do, of course. My father returns and we make our way into town for the reaping. When we arrive in the town square, Prim goes to join the twelve year-olds and I stand with some other sixteen year-olds from the Seam.
I see my supposed boyfriend and wave to him. He smiles and waves back, but doesn't make his way over to me. We wouldn't really be able to talk, anyway. The solemnity of the day usually falls over everyone quickly after arriving, and we listen in dead silence while the names are called. Effie Trinket, from the Capitol, is the one who draws the names. She talks all about the Hunger Games and how thrilled she is to be here, and then Mayor Undersee speaks about the Games. That's when Haymitch Abernathy, our only living victor in District Twelve, staggers to the stage and falls into his chair. As usual, he's drunk. Soon enough, the names are drawn.
"Ladies first!" Effie says, retrieving a slip. I keep hoping it's not my name…and it's not. It's Primrose Everdeen. But how could this happen? Her name was only on one slip. One in thousands!
Before I can react, I see her start to head up to the stage and her shirt has come un-tucked again. No, I think. No. Prim cannot participate…cannot die in the Hunger Games. Then I'm rushing up there and shouting, "I volunteer! I volunteer!"
Prim tries to tell me no, and clutches at me, but our father comes and picks her up, carrying her away. I can't even bear to look at his face. The worst has happened. I just have to stand here and try not to look afraid.
Before I know it, Effie is choosing the boy's name and I can't even think rationally enough to hope for anyone. "Peeta Mellark!" Effie calls. I turn toward her and gape, in complete disbelief.
Then I look over and see him, making his way toward the stage. Medium height, stocky build, with wavy blond hair. The moment he reaches the top of the stairs that lead to the stage, his blue eyes lock onto mine. Peeta is clearly trying to remain emotionless also, but he does look shocked. We continue to stare at each other as he walks to my side. But the cameras are filming us and we're supposed to be seen front on. I see Peeta tear his eyes from mine and manage to set his face into a composed expression for our close up. I follow suit, but all I can think is, No, not Peeta…
To think, I was worrying about the issue of my not wanting children coming between us. If only it were that simple, if only something far worse hadn't come between us just now.
A couple of weeks ago, my best friend Madge and I were walking home from school together. Her house, in town, is far closer to school than mine in the Seam, so I always end up walking a ways just with Prim. Prim walked ahead of us, as usual, picking dandelions along the way and making a bouquet. When we were getting close to Madge's house, she told me.
"So, someone likes you," Madge said.
I looked over at her, taking my eyes off of Prim. I knew what she was implying, but it was hard to believe. I never really talked to anyone but Madge at school. And we only became friends because we were both so quiet and didn't have other friends. That's how it started at least, but I'd come to like her a lot and was glad to have her friendship. "Who?" I asked, in disbelief.
"Well, you know the baker's son?" Madge smiled.
I smiled back. I assumed she was referring to the one who's our age, but asked, "Which one?"
"Peeta," she confirmed.
Peeta Mellark. That seemed strange, I was pretty sure I'd only ever spoken to him once, and that was years ago. He had plenty of friends, so why would he be interested in me? It didn't make sense and I felt suspicious. "How do you know?"
"He told me," Madge said.
"He told you?" I was still incredulous.
"Basically," Madge said, nodding. "He came up to me and said, 'You're…good friends with Katniss, right?' and he seemed nervous. I told him 'Yes,' and then he said, 'Is she…I mean -' and I felt bad for him so I just blurted out that you don't have a boyfriend and he looked really happy and thanked me and walked away."
I was speechless. My stomach started to hurt and I felt incredibly nervous. "What do you think is going to happen?"
"Well, I think he's probably going to ask you to go out," Madge said knowingly.
I swallowed hard.
"He's cute, don't you think?" she asked.
"I - I guess."
"Just go for it, then," Madge said. "It was obvious by the way he was acting that he really likes you."
"But I don't even know him!"
"Well he knows you, apparently."
The next day at school, Peeta Mellark said hello to me in the hall, and I said hi back. It wasn't until he walked away that I realized I'd smiled at him, too. After that, he talked to me once while I was waiting for Madge after school. We didn't have much time before she showed up and he left. But it was nice, he was nice. After that, we spoke a couple more times and even took a walk together once after school.
It's those experiences that I'm thinking about as we're taken to the Justice Building together, and then shown into separate rooms.
My family comes to see me, and Prim and my mother are crying as they hug me. Through her tears, Prim implores me to try my hardest to win, and I assure her I will. "You can - you can hunt," she sobs out.
I kiss Prim's cheek and squeeze both of her hands. "That's right," I say, trying to sound hopeful.
Then my father hugs me tightly and whispers in my ear, "Remember everything I've showed you. Get your hands on a bow if you can, and never give up." When we pull away, I wonder if he's going to cry, too.
I'm still in shock; I feel too numb to display any kind of emotion. I keep asking myself how this can be happening, and if it's real. But as more time passes, the more clear it becomes that this is not a nightmare I can wake up from. I am going to the Capitol.
My family leaves reluctantly, and my next guest, Madge, comes into the room.
She's not crying, instead there's an urgency about her. "Will you wear this as your token?" she asks, thrusting her hand out toward me. I look down and see a circular gold pin with a small mockingjay bird in it.
"Your pin?" I ask, surprised and confused. But she's already fastening it onto my mother's blue dress.
"Promise you'll wear it, okay?"
I nod, and Madge steps toward me and hugs me tightly. I tentatively put my hands on her back, then she pulls away to look at me one last time. She presses her lips together tightly, then says, "You're a great friend."
"So are you," I say.
Madge gives me a single nod, then turns and leaves. I don't blame her for hardly saying anything. What is there to say? What would I say to her, if she'd been reaped? We both know I'm going to die, but if she'd said goodbye, it would have felt like she was hexing me or something. My family didn't say it, either.
I'm lead out of the visiting room and am only vaguely aware of being put on a train with Peeta and Haymitch and Effie. I can't even bear to look at Peeta again. I know if I look at him, I'll see that he's thinking the same thing I am: How could this happen to us? and I'm afraid I'll start crying now. When I do steal a glance at him after we've changed clothes and sat down to eat, it's obvious that he's already been crying.
Haymitch, our only hope of survival, is still drunk. Peeta and I try to ask him if he has any advice for us. "Yeah, stay alive," he says, and laughs. Looking over at Peeta, I see that he's just as angry as I feel. He slaps the drink out of Haymitch's hand, and then Haymitch punches him in the jaw. I stab my knife into the table, barely missing Haymitch's fingers. Apparently, this intrigues Haymitch, because he says, "Well, did I really get a couple of fighters this year?" and starts asking about what, if any, skills we have.
"Katniss is good with a bow and arrow," Peeta says quickly.
For just a moment, I feel betrayed. Peeta promised not to tell anyone about how I hunt, but then I realize that I'm not going to get in trouble for it now and he's trying to help me.
"I'm okay," I say casually.
"She's been hunting for years," Peeta says, then looks at me. "You must be great by now."
"Well, what about you? I've seen you lift hundred-pound bags of flour in the market," I say to Peeta, then turn to Haymitch. "He's very strong. He came in second, only after his brother, in wrestling at school."
"You can't wrestle someone to death," Peeta says, but he gives me a small smile. It's now that I ask myself why I would remember this. It happened months ago, if memory serves. I find myself thinking of the first time we spoke, years ago, and wonder if I have kept track of him because of that day when we were children. Because of the kindness he showed me.
Haymitch tells us that, as long as we don't interfere with his drinking and we promise to do as he says, he will stay sober enough to help us as much as he can. He also tells us to trust our stylists implicitly; no matter what they do, we are to go along with it. That means being adorned in matching black outfits that have artificial fire coming from them, because District Twelve specializes in coal, which you set on fire. Cinna, my stylist, also gets Peeta and I to hold hands. For our first presentation in the Capitol, we ride in a chariot, waving at everyone, and I see us projected up on the screens around the crowd. We look spectacular, glowing in the night air. It's incredibly nerve-wracking, knowing that every single person in Panem is watching us, but Peeta's hand around mine is surprisingly comforting. At least I'm not alone. Not yet, anyway.
I don't know what Haymitch has planned, presenting us this way. It just isn't done. We may have to kill each other and we both know it, so it's hard to pretend to be friends, when we can't be anything to each other anymore.
After this, we go back to the Training Center for dinner with Haymitch, Effie, Cinna, and Peeta's stylist Portia. The food is delicious and there is plenty of it, but all I can think is that we're being fattened up for the kill. At the end of dinner, Haymitch tells us that tomorrow morning is the first training session and we're to meet him for breakfast so he can tell us what to do.
Peeta and I return to the hall outside our rooms after dinner. I'm just about to open my door when he speaks from behind me. "Can we talk?"
I turn around slowly, trying to remain as evasive as I've started being with Peeta. I look up at him and know my face must be a picture of confusion and sadness. I try to set it into a calm expression as I say, "Why?" My voice sounds colder than I had meant it to, but maybe that is for the best. We can't be friends anymore and we certainly can't be whatever else we were back in District Twelve.
Peeta looks surprised and I know I've done the wrong thing. "Because…" he says, clearly unprepared to even have to answer such a question. "Because you're the only person here who I know and I want to talk to someone."
I can understand that. In fact, I realize I don't want to go back to my room and sit there alone, either. I'm sure I wouldn't be able to sleep. "Okay," I say, still hesitant. "Do you want to come in?"
"No, not here," Peeta says. "Have you been up to the roof? Cinna showed me and it's great, you can see practically the whole city."
"Oh, okay," I say. I follow Peeta up a flight of stairs, then we step out into the windy night air. The bright lights of the Capitol buildings around us sparkle like fireflies. Peeta and I both head toward the edge of the roof and stand side by side, resting our hands on the railing as we look out over the Capitol. "Wow," I say. The view is incredible.
"So, who came to say goodbye to you?" Peeta asks.
"Just my parents and Prim, and then Madge," I say.
Peeta looks over at me and I look back and see that he's smiling. "Right," he says, "Madge."
I know he's thinking of how instrumental Madge was in our starting to spend time together. "Don't," I say, suddenly realizing we're standing very close to each other and our faces are only about a foot apart. I step back and face Peeta front-on, leaning my hip against the cement wall that comes up to my rib cage.
"Don't what?" he says, his eyes searching my face.
"We can't -" I start, then get tripped up on my words. "We can't be friends, anymore," I say.
"We were never friends," Peeta says flatly. I know it's true, but at this point I don't want to think we were anything else, either. "I just can't believe this happened to us." He sounds so defeated.
"Well, it had to be someone," I remind him, annoyed. He's only voicing the same thing I've been thinking over and over, but I don't like hearing it out loud.
"I know, but…both of us?"
"There is no us," I say, stepping farther away from him.
Peeta sighs. "All right, Katniss," he says tiredly. He turns away from me again to look out over the Capitol.
I remember that I did want someone to talk to, and I try to think of something safe to discuss, something that doesn't make me want to cry and throw a fit. "Who came to say goodbye to you?" I ask.
"My parents and my brothers, and a few friends," he says.
I think of asking him about the friends, but don't really need to hear about how many he has. I hope none of them were girls. Ugh. Why would I hope that? It doesn't matter anymore.
We're both silent for a while. I realize that maybe he is not interested in talking about things like this. I wonder what he was expecting when he asked me up here and tried to talk about us. He looks sad and resigned, as he stares out at the city. I find myself stepping toward him. A part of me thinks I should just be nicer to him. Why not? With twenty-four tributes, the odds are that neither of us will even get the chance to kill each other. I reach out and rest my hand on the back of Peeta's. He quickly turns it over and then our hands are cupped and he's squeezing mine tightly. He turns and his eyes meet mine again. He still looks sad, how could he not be? I know I'm sad. In spite of myself, I lift my free hand up and gently graze my fingers over the spot where Peeta's jaw is bruised from when Haymitch hit him. I've never been hit in my life, and I'm sure it hurt badly.
"All the things I hoped for," Peeta says, "the things I pictured, none of it can happen now."
I really hope he's not talking about things he pictured happening between us in particular, because the thought of that is devastating, somehow. I take a deep breath and lower my eyes from his. This was a bad idea. I thought talking to someone might make me feel better, but it's only making me feel horrible and angry. I feel so angry that Peeta and I are going to die, before we've even lived. But that's the idea, I suppose. That's the whole point of the Games.
I raise my gaze up to his again and can't bear the way he's looking at me. "I'm tired," I say, pulling my hand away from his. "I want to go to bed now."
I quickly turn and head for the door, hearing his footfalls behind me. We return to the hall outside our rooms, say goodnight, and then I go into my room. I take a shower, change into some sleeping clothes and lie down in the bed. I find myself brushing my hand across the big, empty space beside me and thinking of Prim. My little sister, who I love more than anyone else in the world. I miss her and can't believe I'll never see her again. At least she's safe at home. I remind myself that if I wasn't here now, Prim would be, and I can't stand the thought of that.
I think of my parents. I wish I could hug my mother one more time, and I wish my father was here to sing me to sleep. I remember my mother brushing and braiding my hair for the reaping. It feels like that was a thousand years ago. I think of my father's last words to me: "Never give up." Of course I'll never give up, but neither will the other twenty-three tributes.
Next, I think of Madge. She was teaching me a new song on her piano at home. I'm not very good; not nearly as good as Madge, but it's fun. She's always nice and tries to be encouraging, even though I play nothing but mistakes. I can't help picturing her eating alone at lunch time and walking home from school alone. Or, will she still want to walk with Prim? I don't know. Madge is an only child, and I know Prim likes her, so maybe they can be friends. In fact, I hope they'll become as close as sisters.
And…Peeta. In some ways, it is the worst to think of him, because I can't hope for the best for Peeta. I can't imagine that he'll get over losing me, and be able to move on with his life and be happy again one day. Because Peeta is going to die, too. He's never going to see his family again. Someone, some other victim of the cruelties of the Capitol, will kill him. A hovercraft will come to collect his body, and that will be it. No more Peeta. And after, or maybe before, there will be no more me, either.
Eventually, I cry myself to sleep. I have disturbing dreams filled with memories of things that I've seen happen in past Hunger Games.