A/N – presenting to you more unbetaed shit. Slightly AU.
by midnight pixies
Hathor, goddess of beauty, was sent to destroy mankind.
She stands before him, bruised and bloody and broken, but to him she's as beautiful as ever. She squares her shoulders, jaw clenched, grey eyes blazing, as her arrow tip quavers, aimed at his heart.
He wants to laugh at the cruel irony of it all, but he's in the Hunger Games and nothing, nothing at all, should be remotely amusing. As they stand there, facing each other down, she coughs, slightly, and turns her head to spit something over her shoulder.
Blood. The crimson liquid flecks the sun-softened gold of the Cornucopia beneath them, and he involuntarily thinks, Hathor. The goddess of beauty - the goddess that was sent to obliterate humankind. He stares at the blood, and slowly, feels his grip on his knife grow slack. It clatters to the ground beneath him, leaving him defenceless and vulnerable.
The light in her eyes is shocked, and then morphs into something else - suspicion. She's wary of him, her mind working through the possibilities of why he had just dropped his knife, knowing that she could kill him any second. Her eyes are dangerously bright, full of dancing flames.
Katniss Everdeen; the Girl on Fire.
Peeta Mellark closes his eyes and smiles.
Winter in District 12 seemed to be particularly long, the year of the 64th Hunger Games. Hugging his knees to his chest and curled up on the heath, six-year-old Peeta Mellark shivered despite the hissing flames in the fireplace. But he knew to count his blessings. At least we have food, he thought to himself, silently. And fire. I wonder how the people in the Seam are coping.
The fire crackled; ash flew into Peeta's lap. He jumped, startled, and his older brother Taftan scowled at him, gesturing for him to keep quiet. Sheepishly, Peeta sat back down, this time joining the huddle around the base of his father's armchair.
"It was said that Hathor arose from Ra's tears, and hence was known as 'the Eye of Ra'." Lavash Mellark read to his three sons, voice soft, pale-silver eyes scanning the pages of the thick manuscript he held in his hands. Rimless reading glasses were perched on the crook of his nose, and his lips shaped the words almost tentatively, careful not to mispronounce any of them. "Ra sent Hathor to destroy humankind, convinced that they were plotting against him. And so Hathor went down to Earth and killed men, drinking their blood."
"Ew, sick." Eleven-year-old Taftan made a face. "Why would she drink blood?"
"Because she - " Lavash thought for a while. "I don't really know, son. She was a little mad, I suppose. But Hathor started to get out of hand, and Ra decided that he needed to put a stop to it. Hence he filled the wheat fields on Earth with - "
"All the wheat fields?" Zoph, Peeta's other brother, asked curiously.
"Yes, Zoph, all of them." A small smile played on Lavash's lips as he went on. "He filled the fields with beer - "
"Beer?" Zoph was astounded. "But that's ridiculous! Why would he fill the fields with beer?"
"That's part of the story, Zoph," Lavash chided his nine-year-old son. "Now, if you want to find out you'll have to stop interrupting me, okay?" His second-oldest son nodded mutinously and Lavash regarded him appraisingly before going on. "So Ra filled the fields with beer dyed red to look like blood - " At this point, Zoph looked on the brink of exploding with questions, " - and when Hathor saw the beer, she thought it was blood and drank it."
"And she got drunk?" Zoph smirked knowingly.
Lavash resisted the urge to roll his eyes. "Yes, Zoph. She got drunk."
Taftan raised an eyebrow. "And what happened after that?"
"She became intoxicated, and hence never completed her deadly task. That's why we're alive today." Lavash closed the book with a smile.
"That stinks! You mean she became drunk and never woke up?" Zoph wrinkled his nose. "That's not what's supposed to happen, innit?"
"I guess the moral of the story is to teach young kids not to get drunk, because they'll never wake up." Lavash shrugged. "And that's it for today, boys. Now quickly into bed, or your mother will kill me."
"But that's a sucky story!" Zoph protested. "Aw, come on, Daddy. That story really stinks. Can't you read us another one? I can't sleep unless I hear a nice story," he whined, tugging on his father's sleeve.
"That's enough already." Arepa Mellark, the boys' mother, stood in the doorway scowling. All four looked up from their storytelling session. "Into bed now."
Taftan and Zoph scurried away without second thought, not wanting to be on the receiving end of their mother's blows that day. She seemed in a particularly foul mood. Peeta, on the other hand, hesitated.
"I don't understand, Papa," he said, his voice soft. "I don't understand the story. Is it really about not getting drunk?"
Lavash sent a glance in the direction of his wife; her hands were on her hips and she didn't look happy at all. He returned his gaze to his youngest son. "It's a warning, son." He touched Peeta's cheek. "It's a warning not to trust anything beautiful. Because Hathor was beautiful, so everybody was so charmed by her that they let her get close enough - close enough to kill them. There's a quote that represents this fairly well - beauty, the most deceiving and dangerous weapon and defence. You must be able to look past the beauty, Peeta. Don't be taken in by it."
Peeta nodded seriously. "I won't."
"Maybe District 12 will have a winner this year," Arepa muses, more to herself than to him. Peeta arches his eyebrows. He didn't expect this kind of support, not from his mother of all people.
"Mm-hmm. Don't you think she's decent looking to at least fetch a few sponsors?" She asks him, gesturing to Katniss. His eyes wander over to her, and then it hits him. She's not talking about me.
"She's beautiful," he whispers, when he finds his voice.
"Exactly. I think she has it in her to win." She considers his district partner with appraising eyes. "She's a survivor, that one."
Tears well up in his eyes, but he blinks them back furiously, not wanting Arepa to see him cry. "Well, thanks for the support, Ma," he gabbles, wanting her to leave quickly. "Bye. I'll see you if I ever do."
His mother rolls her eyes. "Peeta - "
"That's quite enough," says Lavash, in his usual quiet manner, gently pushing his wife towards the exit. "Go wait outside with Zoph and Taftan." When she merely glowers at him, he sighs impatiently. "Go."
Arepa sniffs contemptuously and stalks away. Awkwardly, Lavash shuffles forward and holds out his arms.
Peeta stumbles into his embrace, the tears escaping his eyes. He begins to sob, burying his face in his father's collarbone. "Hush, now." Lavash rocks his son back and forth gently, whispering words of comfort and reassurance.
"I want to come back, Pa," Peeta murmurs, his voice muffled. "But then I'll have to kill her."
"She may be beautiful, son," Lavash brushed fine gold hair back from his son's forehead, "but she never did anything for you. You don't owe her anything. Think about Hathor, son. How everybody was so taken in by her beauty that no one thought she would try to kill them." He plants a kiss on Peeta's temple. "She's going to try to kill you, Peeta."
The first flames catch on her fluttering headdress. Slowly, they begin to lick up the entire headpiece, and soon Katniss Everdeen is on fire.
Peeta knows that he is, too, but she's so beautiful he can't take his eyes off her. She's flickering, burning, and more radiant than the sun. He doesn't know what's better - the fact that he isn't burning up, or the look on her face as she takes in her own blazing appearance. Her expression is shocked but pleased - maybe she's happy to find that she's still alive despite the fire.
He hears someone shouting, and half-turns to see Cinna cupping his hands over his mouth, his lips shaping words. Katniss cocks her head. "What's he saying?"
"I think he said to hold hands," he says, and he feels strangely numb. The words rush from him before he can stop them. "Well, that's if you don't mind - "
"I don't," she says immediately, holding out her small hand and wriggling her spindly fingers. Peeta reaches to take it, and when his fingers weave through hers, they fit perfectly. Almost like they were meant to be.
"Thanks," Katniss says, for no particular reason, and then blushes. She looks beautiful.
Hathor, he reminds himself. She's in this to kill me.
"You're welcome," he answers, and then he tears his eyes from her, not wanting to look at her anymore.
"Hello, Katniss Everdeen." He laughs hollowly, glancing down at his knife, clutched between slippery, bloody fingers. "Have you come to kill me?"
There's a brief moment of silence in which she contemplates her response, finger tightening on her bowstring. Then the light in her eyes hardens, and her grip on her bow steadies. "Give me one reason why I shouldn't."
Hathor, the voices in his head whisper. Hathor, goddess of beauty.
Hathor, goddess of beauty, joy and music.
Hathor, goddess of love.
"Peeta, see that little girl?"
"Where?" Peeta perked up, looking to his father, who was pointing at a little girl with two braids. "Papa, that's a Seamgirl. Why are you looking at a Seamgirl?" he slurred the two words together, making them sound like one. "Mama said never to look at Seamgirls." To prove his point, he covered his wide blue eyes with his pudgy fingers.
Smiling, Lavash knelt down and gently prised his son's hands away from his eyes. "I wanted to marry her mother, but she ran off with a coal miner."
Peeta's eyes were as round as dinner plates. "Coal miner? But why did she want a coal miner if she could've had you?"
Lavash shrugged. "Because when he sings, even the birds stop to listen."
Peeta peered up at him curiously. "Really? Birds?" When Lavash nodded, Peeta sank into thought, considering. "Papa," he said suddenly, "am I going to marry that Seamgirl?"
At this, Lavash laughed out loud, ruffling his son's hair. "That depends, Peeta. That depends."
"Go on, Katniss." His throat is dry. "Kill me." And he's willing to die, to let her be victor, because he loves her beyond belief, so he drops his knife and closes his eyes, bracing himself for death.
Seamgirl. He sees her rummaging through their trash through the bakery window, thinner than he ever though possible, pale and weak. She looks starving and possibly on the brink of death. His heart clenches painfully as he watches her sift through the waste they'd thrown out, searching for food.
Arepa grumbles under her breath. "Filthy pigs," she cursed, and stalked to the door, throwing it open and yelling at her, waving her wooden spoon. "Go away, you filth! Leave!" Katniss stumbles away, and Arepa returns to the house, flushed with anger.
"That scum from the Seam, always digging through our rubbish - "
Peeta looks down at the two loaves he has in his arms. This isn't right, he decides, we have so much food, but she's dying and has none. He moves forward, towards the ovens, pretends to trip and drops both loaves into the fire.
"Peeta!" his mother shrills. "You clumsy oaf, you worthless scoundrel!" There's a lashing blow across his cheek from the wooden spoon, and then his mother is fishing the burnt loaves out of the flames, shoving both into his arms, scalding him. "Feed them to the pigs, you useless bastard! They're not fit for human consumption!"
Not believing this stroke of luck, he staggers to the door, emerging into the yard. His nails dig into the burning bread and tear away little pieces that he tosses to the pigs that are rolling around in the mud. Once he's sure that his mother's back is turned, he glances to Katniss. She's still there, staring at him with wide eyes. Hurriedly, he tosses both loaves to her, and her surprise is blatant. Their eyes meet, and an understanding passes between them.
For a long while, they just stand there, staring at each other.
She whispers two words, and despite the distance, he can hear her, loud and clear. Thank you. He nods, then turns and pushes the door open, returning to the bakery.
He can still feel her eyes on his back as he walks away from her.
His eyes are closed, but she's not shooting him. In surprise, he lifts his lids just a crack, so that he can see what she's doing.
To his surprise, she's walking towards him, bow lowered, scrabbling for something secured around her belt. Finally she reaches him, and then produces a velvet drawstring pouch. Loosening the mouth of it, she gestures for him to hold out his hand, and when he does, she tips several dark-purple berries into it. His eyes widen as he recognises them. Nightlock.
She pours three berries into her own cupped palm and points to the sky. He understands quickly and nods. They need a victor. We're not going to give them one.
They stand back to back, and spread their fingers so that the world can see those glistening, deadly berries in their hands. Their free hands find each other, melding together as they did during the Opening Ceremony.
She squeezes his hand and whispers a single word. "Together."
Hathor, goddess of love, failed to destroy mankind.
Hathor, born from the tears of Ra, symbolised rebirth.
A/N - sucky, I know. but I'd love reviews anyway. XD