A/N: This idea has been on my mind ever since I read the Hunger Games. I've never been able to plan it out until now and I hope that it'll catch some of your guys interest. I can't explain it all now, but I'm hoping that you will be patient enough to wait for it unfold throughout the chapters. I disown the characters and I admit that sometimes it's a bit OCC, though I'm trying to keep it as straight as possible.

My main and most important concern is that I come across clear and LOUD when I say that I do not mean in any shape or form to insult anyone's religion, beliefs, or God in of himself. That's all I must say and I hope you enjoy the story. -Taryn(:


Chapter 1

Sunlight glints across the surface of a nearby stream, making it seem as though there isn't a world of shadows buried just beyond its beautifully illuminated surface. For a minute I pause in my brisk walk just to stare at this. It's not common of me to take any amount of time to admire anything of beauty, or to even notice. But this sight holds more. Shows the truth behind every tiny belief inside of me.

Just because something's beautiful on the outside, doesn't mean that inside it's whole. That it can't be corrupted.

Like every time this thought occurs to me, my stomach knots with guilt. I shouldn't think such things, I chide myself. It goes against His will.

I push the stream aside in my thoughts and take up my walk down the road once more. Gravel crunches under my feet, the air damp, due to the past few days of constant rain. I know I'm already late, I should have been here days before, checking on my charges. But as always, I tend to spend too much time not focusing on what He deems necessary, and instead I find myself wandering the woods with Gale.

Out of instinct I glance behind my shoulder to the edge of the forest, watching the trees that carpet the grass slowly grow distant the closer I get to District 12 and its people. I chose to approach the wrong side today only to make me go through town before I can maneuver towards the Seam, where both my charges inevitably live. Gale has more than two, but he's so uncaring I'm sure he hasn't been to visit them in weeks. Even today, when I told him I'd be going, he stayed behind.

It's noon and the sun is hot overhead, sweat clinging to my skin underneath the black cloak swathe around my shoulders. The second I can hear the voices of children and adults reverberating through the clear blue sky overhead I pull the hood of the dissemble over my head, withdrawling my face into its depth and shade; I must not be seen.

An effulgent wash of fresh air invades my lungs as I step free of the alley, that I passed through to reach town square. The market is flourishing today in the quadrate, the noises and colors vibrant on every side. Tables and awnings fill the area around the shops with open doors, and the aisles bustle with people of every class, all reaching and laughing and exchanging money. A delivery boy with an overflowing basket of flowers twirls through the crowd, and someone stops him to buy a tulip for their sweetheart.

The hubbub of noise is merry and full of life. I can't resist my instant cringe of jealousy. All theses people bursting from their seams with spirit, and freewill. Something I can not have, and will never even taste. It's awful of me even to think of it, to think I have the right.

So I bite into my cheek, absorbing the pen of squawking chickens at the edge of the pavings stones. Bright yellow and green fabrics wink at me out the corner of my eye, and the shine of copper pans over a nearby stand has my eyes darting from them to a group of teenagers, streaking after one another as they race toward the meadow.

More than one curious glace is given in my direction, but I walk as if I'm oblivious both to the attention and the world all together. Not one of the guardsmen at the edge of the town, that stood stiffly in their black uniforms, stops me on my way into the Seam, because my walk insinuates I know precisely where I'm going, and when to turn.

After a few minutes of steady walking, I slow pace, taking in the sight of the crumbling houses. They're mostly concrete, poorly built, and their yards full of unevaporated puddles. A fine layer of black, from the mines so close by, settles in the background only to make the place seem dual. I would have believed that if not for the shriek of laughter, animated to the fullest, that keens in the air. Bumblebee yellow jacket and boots so orange they could suit a sunset ensembles a little girl that leaps through the mud puddles, her father standing nearby holding her hand, two streaks of brown running down his unshaven face.

His eyes fly to mine the moment I approach, their storming gray depths matching his daughters to the last strike. It compliments their olive complexioned skin and black hair. Nothing but Seam, these two and as I slip around the corner, I know I feel his gaze burning a hole in the back of my cloak.

Does he know? Could he? Or was he just cautious to every disguised stranger slinking through his District?

Then I nearly laugh at my own paranoia. Know? He couldn't even guess, let alone know. Maybe I wish him to know. Not because it would matter, of course. Because it would anger Him.

The two stray beings float into the back of my mind as the house I seek comes into view. The same blue-painted door faces me, the house's windows thrown open and stitched curtains flutter in the breeze. My braid flutters against my back and my shoulders give a shrug of complaint as I heft my hands into the sill of one of these windows, my face peering through the opening.

Usually I didn't go by such sneaking methods to check on my charges, but I'm so frustrated after days of rain trapping me from the woods and from the bitter result of seeing everyone in the square smiling, the means of my checking in just did not matter to me in the slightest.

I knew better than to think my charges were out in the hustle of today's market, because they always seem to stay inclosed with their love. My charges are a married couple, in their early thirties, and the only time they left was either when she must go out to help someone sick or injured, or he must take up his twelve hour shift in the mines. Also, of course, mandatory Mass on Sunday. Otherwise it has always been that way. Always. Never were they gone when I came to peek into their life for their health status.

Except today.

Instead of the usual murmuring of their sweet nothings, or the smell of stew broiling on the stove there is only darkness and silence. Not even a whistle from the man who has always sung. Miffed by this, I stumble around to the back door to find it cracked open. One small push has it creaking on the hinges and the sunlight spills across the dented wooden floors of their kitchen, illuminating a trail of shimmering fragments.

"Glass," I mutter recognizing the tiny shards littering the ground, and that crunch under my feet as I swiftly pace inside. The room is stifling hot, and I walk all the way through without finding a light switch or candle. In an attempt to fill the dank house with more light, I shove the front door open watching the yellow luminescent stretch into the shadows.

It has a sense of abandonment and I know there's not one other living being in this building without evening checking the door to the bedroom. Shadows cling to the edges of the kitchen table, the long, holey coach in the small living-room that is just two steps from the kitchen, and they dance along the sides of the flapping curtains.

My fingers trace the edge of the counter as I eye the messy state of this home that I've never seen even a notch close to untidy. Danger seems to loom into the back of my mind, wondering what could have happened here. The glass is from the lamp that was thrown haphazardly against the floor. Streaks of coal dust mare the coach, as a wod of dirty blankets hovers around an area in the carpet where slits were carved, merely by, presumably, fingernails.

I right the knocked over lounge chair, before slipping into the back bedroom. It didn't seem evasive for me to be touching all their things and entering without invitation. I've known both these charges for years. It's almost as if all these things are mine in a strange nonsensical way. With that in mind, I smooth the edges of the sheets on their small bed, keeping my eyes sharp, looking for signs of blood or weapons.

There is only an even stronger sense of desertion in this room.

What could have happened? It can not have been more than a week since I last visited! I twist on my feet with a surge of frustration and panic. Did they move? Had I missed some sort of lovers quarrel? I dismiss the idea as soon as it forms. This couple is too perfect for each other. I made this match myself and I never make a mistake.

If He thought I've failed...

I shudder at the amount of unpleasant possibilities. Splotches of white-hot panic bloom across the span of my chest, quickening my pulse. Maybe they have split. Was it possible he lost his temper, and as a result threatened her with his fists as he thrust the objects of their home around the room? Could she have gone into a jealous-fed tantrum and stamping her foot, threatened to leave him as she thrashed around in a vexation of destruction?

This has never happened before. For a minute I stand at the threshold of their back door, knuckles white as my hands grip the edge of the door frame. I'm struck dumb, for the first time in my whole existence. What do I do, now? How do I fix this? Every charge I've ever had has never split. There has never even been a quarrel before. And this was my most promising couple. That is now gone, and I do not know where.

As the silence stretches on, I finally decide that the best course of action would be to check the town for them. Possibly they've actually made up already and he is at this very moment buying her gifts of forgiveness.

Yes. That's it. There's absolutely nothing to worry about.

The travel is a blur as I strut through the Seam and past the guards once more. I could hear the noise of the market before even seeing it. I look around at the passing people, in the shop windows, and even crane my neck to scan the opposite row of citizenry. This only gains me more and more glances of peculiar interest, and I hasten to cover myself with my hood. There is no sign of my charges anywhere.

The longer I cut through the hot press of bodies the more time that passes beneath my notice. Time usually never has mattered to me, not until now, as it counts down the seconds of time I think of failure. How could I fail? Me? Everyone will think I'm joking. No...probably not. They won't even take it as a joke. They'll be too shocked to speak, especially as their thoughts turn to what He will do to me once he finds out about such a thing.

Barrels stand full of cabbages and potatoes, and a stall is hung with dainty blue and white dresses for toddlers. I can see the delicate smocking on the front of one. Prim would love those, I think. She'd relish in the feel of the market, merely enjoying herself because she sees all the charges enjoying themselves.

Then there is me, who finds their happiness insulting.

Part of me wishes I had her here now, to ask her what to do with misbehaving charges. She must have had this problem once or twice, and if there is one person who wouldn't ridicule me for this then it is her. My hesitations sprouts from the fact that I don't want her to look down on me, for failure, and I wouldn't want to burden her, so I continue to trudge past the market, clutching a hand to the hood of my cloak as I sweep toward the meadow.

"Mummy!" cries a child. I shrink away as a woman swivels past me to embrace the young boy with freckles and sandy curls. A father joins the picture, and tucks them into his chest. I'm too far away to hear their words, but for a minute I'm burning under my skin with envy.

Whose charges were they? Not only could I feel the seamless match of the man and woman, but the child is a blessing to the match. I try not to stare as I track them down the street, until I lose them among the others who all herd home.

Thick gray clouds gather overhead, brought from the breeze that has been increasing steadily for the hour I've spent wandering and looking for my charges. Tides of people bustle home to beat the incoming precipitation, but instead of being put out by the shutting in they are still beaming, happy for the morning they've had out in the open. It's nearing springtime here in District 12 and it's hard to find one whole day without rain, so this sun soaked market day has fulfilled some of their wildest hopes.

Would my charges run home, now, too? It seems like a good assumption. I'm not good with people, and I never have been, so I pace around the edge of the meadow, intent on cutting toward the Seam, when a startling groan catches my notice.

My eyes find a lump in the grass some feet away. Blond wisps of hair fleeing from the pins of her bun I catch the pale face of my female charge. I rush over, dropping to my knees at the sight of her weakly trembling shoulders, only to realize she is crying. My hands brush the dirt from her cheekbones, there's blood blossoming from gashes across her hands that press softly into the pale lavender fabric of her dress.

"Mrs. Everdeen!" I whisper, overcome with so much shock I toss aside the rules of distance. Technically I should run for help, but I musnt directly tell an authoritative about her. That could lead to questioning on my part. Instead, I'm to lead a stranger to my charge without drawing their notice at all and then I must compel them to find help, hide nearby, and make sure she receives the attention she needs without getting directly involved.

After all, the charge can't know of me, or I'm completely breaking the laws of everything I know.

That all doesn't matter when I take in her fragile, bony wrists. She hasn't eaten in days. I can tell by the gaunt look of her face, that is normally round and smiling, and the skin usually a pinched pink, now sheet-rock white.

"Mrs. Everdeen, what's happened? Where is your husband?" I ask her, hands grasping her shoulders tightly.

I give her a slight shake. Nothing happens. Another shake and her chin lulls to the sky like her neck is made of rubbery. Another groan issues from the woman's mouth and my own throat thickens. What do I do? Where is Mr. Everdeen? He wouldn't leave her out here, would he? No, never. "Mrs. Everdeen!" I hiss now, completely beyond composure. "Where is your husband?"

"Gone," she finally says, her voice a broken whisper.

Her eyes are still closed and I struggle to capture her meaning. "Gone? Where? To another District? That's illegal, he knows that."

"Gone," she says. "Dead."

It's as if someone has kicked me in the stomach. "Dead?" I whisper. My charge is dead. One of my charges is dead. When? Why have I not known? How could I have let this slip my notice? Why have I been so careless and let Gale drag me in the woods everyday instead of checking on my charges?

Then my cheeks drain of color at the thought of all my other charges. How many of them are dead without my knowledge? What if one of them is dying at this very moment? Maybe one of them is, and that one is here, lying in the middle of this meadow.

"Mrs. Everdeen you have to come with me. Your hands are covered in glass. I'm going to help you, okay?"

I'm not sure if she nods or not, but she presses her lips together and still her eyes have failed to even flicker. Part of me feels as if she isn't actually with me. She's off in her own dark world. A world where maybe, possible, Mr. Everdeen isn't dead and she's happy. I won't pry her from it and I'm glad for it, as it saves me from explaining anything or covering with lies.

It's just starting to mist as I haul her out of the meadow, one of my arms is wound around her waist and hers is thrown around my shoulder. Her legs don't work to help me in the least, so I'm limping awkwardly to support her weight. The only show that she's even conscious is the bite of her fingers on my shoulder as she grips it like I'm the gravity keeping her on earth.

Our hobbling walk isn't something I want the guards to see, so I veer us away from the square and I find myself stumbling along a muddy lane behind the shops that serve the wealthiest townspeople. The merchants live above their businesses, so I'm essentially in their backyards, but I can't find any of them out as the rain picks up in tempo. The noise of the market has dropped to such a stillness it makes me restless, listening to Mrs. Everdeen's shallow breaths and watching the puddles that ripple softly after every particular speck of water that shatters its shallow cloudy depths.

I try not to trod past the outline of garden beds as I go, attempting to respect these other charges' property as long as I'm willing to spare the thought. A goat bleats at me, and this sets off a dog that is tied to a nearby post.

He barks at us, friendly and demanding attention. The canine nips at my cloak as I pass and it tugs at it, loosen the clasp around my neck and I rip it out of reach. Hurrying to get out of sight before the dogs' meanderings brings out its owner, Mrs. Everdeen slips in my grasp and with her fall, her hand whips away my cloak.

All forms of revealing myself, no matter accidental or not, is forbidden. Punishable by death. He would have me killed within the moment, if He knew, and even me, with my status, it would only add influence to the rule. He'd like the example I could represent. "Not even the strongest among you can evade my laws," I hear His voice in my head and my blood pounds inside my skull.

I snatch the cloak from her hands and the muddy puddle underneath her. It's damp and clumps of mud streak across my clothes as I fasten it back on, my hands shaking, and when the hood is finally replaced my eyes fly around the area. Finding no one, I finally allow myself to worry about something else. Like breathing. Or the charge I have let drop to the ground.

It's a trouble getting her back up, with the rain falling heavier to make our bodies slick and her limp deadweight is not helping the matter. It's like trying to cup water in your hand with your fingers open.

"Mrs. Everdeen, stand."

There is still no reaction from the woman. How is it she is so crippled by the loss of her husband? I try to shake her some, but it's useless and I end up taking her by the shoulders and dragging her toward a nearby apple tree, behind a pig pen. I drop her back to the sticky ground, collapsing against the trunk and bracing a hand on my knee.

I haven't worked this hard with a charge before. Was this like everyday for some of us? If so, Prim and Gale have never mentioned anything like this before. I can't get Mrs. Everdeen to the Seam all by myself and it would take too long to get Gale from the woods. She has to help me do it.

Sheets of gray reach beyond the edge of the thick leaves over our heads, but water still splatters down my cheeks and slips down the edge of my hood. Mrs. Everdeen begins to shake, and then whimpers, lifting her head slightly to sniff.

Sniff?

For the first time since passing the bakery I notice the smell of fresh bread devouring the crisp, cold air. The ovens must be in the back of the shop for it to be so overwhelming, and Mrs. Everdeen whimpers like an infant begging for a bottle. She's hungry, I realize. How was I to know the last time she ate? A week? A little more than that?

I stand, intent on my new objective, and with disappointment I find her pockets completely devoid of coin. Mine are the same. Stealing in District 12 isn't allowed and He demands we follow every law of theirs just as soulfully as we follow His laws. What can I do? As I stagger over the mud, the souls of my boots slipping in the fluid, I cross the path of two trash bins. With little hope I lift the lid of one. I thought, perhaps I'd find a bone or rotted vegetable. I don't think Mrs. Everdeen would mind just what she eats, she seems desperate and I'm desperate to have her out of the open.

Unfortunately, my thought is moot because they're bare.

Suddenly I hear a voice come from inside. It's a woman and I duck under the rim of the trash, watching with intent eyes as she opens the door and hands two boys a set of trash bags. My hope peaks and I streak back to Mrs. Everdeen, managing to get partly out of sight before the two boys turn around.

As they hurry to get out of the rain the two uncaring boys run out, lift the lids and toss the bags in without so much as a moment of hesitation. They're back inside, the door slamming shut just as I jump over to the bins. I dig through the first one to find nothing but empty sacks of flour and broken measuring cups. I move to the next one without replacing the others lid, and I didn't realize this until I took a step, my toe stubbed on the edge of it and with the loudest clash of metal the two bins went falling over before me.

In a moment of frustration I give the fallen trash bin a good, loud kick.

Another scream from the woman reaches my ears. "You useless stupid creatures! I told you to tie them down against the wind, did you listen to me?" There is a sound of a blow, then another and I hurriedly start to toss the heaps of trash back into the metal bins. "Peeta, you go back out there and fix it!"

Those words didn't register in my mind right away, not until feet sloshing in the puddles behind me come to my notice. I stand in a flurry, twirling up to face the person who approached and they stop dead at the sight of me; soaked to the bone, my cloak hiding every feature, and inevitability, digging through his trash.

Startling blue eyes peer at me through strand of dripping gold. My knees buckle, I've never been so close to a charge before, besides just a few minutes ago, with Mrs. Everdeen. But she's my charge. This guy could be anybodies. Also unlike Mrs. Everdeen he's completely conscious and capable of logical thought.

With that realization I scramble to back away, pulling the hood around my face tighter, but this turns out to be the worst idea I could have ever thought of. The second I step three times my heel jams into the back of one of the fallen trash bins and I fall over it. A high pitched squeak escapes me as I throw back my hands to catch myself and to top off this awful, dreadful day my cloak catches under my feet, ripping off of my shoulders and face, leaving me without it.

Immediately I let my back smack in the muck, sinking into the mud, just to throw my arms over my face and twist myself away, away from the boy who could see me and kill me by the action. I'm frozen, and I feel heat crawling up into my cheeks. If anyone ever saw this I would never live it down. Gale would be in stitches if he could forget the fact that I might very well die for this one mistake.

"Don't look at me!" I cry. There's no way I'll know if he's listening. There's no reason he should listen to me really, because I've just been digging through his trash, and now, I'm acting like some insane person. He's probably about to call for the guards or his mother.

At first I can't hear what he's doing over the rain, but I pick up on the sound of him throwing the sopping trash back in the metal bins swiftly. Then he picks one up, I hear the clank as he replaces its lid. Dripping wet, he tosses the cloak over me, and I'm grateful, my whole body uncoils, my back stops arching over the earth as the icy surface of the cloak covers my face.

The sound of him moving the garbage back into the second trash bin pauses, then softly, in a low, gentle voice, he whispers, "Are you hungry?"

"Not me," I say back softly, scared to let him know my voice. I struggle to sit up without reveling something of myself, but when I manage to replace the cloak around me and the hood is hiding my face I turn to the boy and take him in fully.

He's not angry or frustrated with my strange behavior, but there's a welt of red across his cheek. The woman must have struck him. And she struck him because she thought he'd left the trash bins to be knocked over, but really I did it. Guilt seeps into the exterior of my heart and I bit back any further thoughts of that before it could grow to more. I couldn't waste my time loitering in his hasty presence.

"Wait here," he tells me and he picks up the second bin, turns on his heels and jogs back into the bakery.

I'm not sure what to say, or do. Or that if I trust that claim. He's probably getting the guards to arrest me for touching their property. No one just hands out food. Either this boy is living such a luxurious life as a baker that he's failing to realize he shouldn't waste it, or even far less likely, he's simply too kind. The second I get back home I'm going to find his charge and suggest that they find a way to toughen him up. He won't make it in this world if he's got this sort of attitude of hand outs.

I stand, holding tightly to the hood as I move over to the apple tree, but still in sight. Mrs. Everdeen is absolutely soaked and shaking in her thin cotton dress, her lips turning an odd hue of blue. My fingers stroke awkwardly at her dripping locks of blond and her mouth parts to give off a sound of such pitiful loneliness that I clutch one of her frozen hands.

The blond boy comes running back out of the bakery, thankfully alone and clutching two, flawlessly crisped loaves of bread. He stops at the edge of the tree and his eyes widen at the sight of Mrs. Everdeen curling around herself in the mud.

"Will she be okay?" he asks, handing me the bread without turning his eyes from her. "Should I call for the healers?"

"No," I say, all too fast and his gaze snaps to mine as I tuck the still warm loaves into my cloak. To avoid looking into those brillant blue eyes, I rip a hunk off one of them and hold it to Mrs. Everdeen's lips. "It's bread," I bait her. "You need to eat."

She doesn't really need my command to do it. Her eyelids flutter to reveal dual, vague eyes that don't see anything at all. Where is the life of the woman I once knew? I shake the bread and she moves her trembling fingers to take it from me and slowly devour it. I give her another when it's gone, and then a third.

"You can go now," I mutter quickly, barely glancing up at the boy. It's rude, but the faster he leaves the safer we'll both be.

His foot taps in the puddle; nervous. "Are you sure?"

I nod curtly, still refusing to look at him. My shoulders relax at the sound of him walking away and as soon as Mrs. Everdeen finishes her fourth piece I see how swiftly that some of her strength returns. Another awkward flurry of grasping, clutching, and pinching before I can get her up and leaning into my side. As soon as she is steady I take off in the direction of the Seam, but there is only a foot or two of distance covered before she's slipping.

"Mrs. Everdeen!" I hiss. "You have to help me!"

I stiffen at the feel of two hands over mine. My gaze snaps up to see the baker boy taking the woman out of my grasp and easily lifting her into his arms, like cradling a child. He holds her as if she weighs nothing more than a sack of flour. He's just as sopping as us now and he gives me a long, straight look as he holds her in front of me, expectantly.

"You said Mrs. Everdeen," he says. "The woman whose husband was hung in the meadow last week. She helped cure one of my brothers once, when they'd gotten ill. I can't leave her alone in the rain, it's not right."

Despite the mention of my other charge all I hear is the last of his words. My cheeks flame. "She is not alone! I'm here for her, who do you think drug her away from the meadow in the first place? I don't need your help."

The boy doesn't even falter to reply. "I just told you. I'm helping her, not you."

But that's not true. We both know it's not true, but now that he's said it I'm inclined to feel that way. For a minute I have every intention of arguing, except it would be stupid, because we also both know I can't haul her all the way to the Seam and I grab tightly at the edge of my hood, taking off in the right direction, hoping he'd struggle a little to follow behind.

That's not the case. He keeps up the whole way. Doesn't complain or curse when Mrs. Everdeen struggles, and the moment we reach the house, I push open the door to lead him to the couch where he sets her.

It's dark inside, without the sun outside, and the windows have left water pools all over. I run around shutting them, throwing whatever piece of fabric I can find into the puddles. Mold could follow if I'm not sure to clean it later. One more thing I must do, I think exasperatedly. With my haste to get everything done with, I bustle into the kitchen to light a stray oil lamp and my muddy boots slip over the hardwood floor. I catch myself, but kick off the boots with irritation.

I turn back around to go back to Mrs. Everdeen to find the baker boy standing in the middle of the room, staring at me. I stall instantly, my hands flying up to make sure that my hood is still in place.

"I didn't know the Everdeen's had a daughter," he confesses.

What? No, they don't. I look around for an excuse. But there is none, and he's supplied me with the best one. Only that would explain why I am trying to help her, why I've been the one to care enough to get her out of the meadow, and why I'm acting as if I'm at home in here.

There is another explanation, but it'd be just as bad as showing myself to him, to tell him that one.

"Not many people do," I say.

He looks to Mrs. Everdeen. "Are you sure there's nothing I can do?"

Part of me wonders what kind of life this boy has lived. What has made him so heartfully kind and helpful? I must find his charge and learn their techniques. For now, I'm stuck in his presence, and I swallow thickly. "Yes. I can handle it from here."

There's a drawn-out silence after my statement and slowly he walks toward the door, but upon reaching it one of his hands grasp the frame, much like I had, and he mutters, "I know it's not my business, and I betrayed what you asked, but..." he pauses, uncertain, and looks over his shoulder so that our eyes meet, "you shouldn't hide your face."

I pale. That makes no sense, what makes him say that? "Why would you say that?"

"You're not ugly, if that's why you hide. Or why your parents don't tell anyone about you," he says, sincerely.

I try not to blotch with horror as I let the minimal denial sink to the bottom of my stomach. He did see me. Probably as I fell, or through the crevice of my arms as they covered my face. That explains why he helped me. This also means he must really have known my charges beforehand, because I don't resemble this pale blond woman at all, and anyone with a right mind would figure that I'm not her offspring. Problem is I look just as her husband, and all the Seam men and women of the area, more or less.

My hairs isn't as straight as most of theirs, as it falls in a braid down my back, strands of it curl at the nape of my neck and against my forehead. Olive complexioned skin that hasn't one mark or line or scar, stretches around my small frame. The cherry on top of it all isn't that I look just like the male charge, it's that this boy probably recognizes my steely gray eyes as Seam. But they're not Seam, not entirely, there is flecks of violet in there that nearly everyone of my kind have.

Terror squeezes my heart the longer I stare at this boy. This boy that could kill me with the information he has. If his charge were to overhear him talking about me to someone they will report me. He will kill me. There won't be a Trial, nothing that matters, because I don't have the right to such a thing, the freewill, and my temper peaks as the thought forms behind the fright.

"You can't tell anyone," I say before I can stop myself. My fists ball up at my sides, waiting for his reply.

"I won't."

I'm thrown by how easy he agrees. "Why?"

The boy shrugs, and for a moment I see he's very confused, but he reels that in with a calmness I wish I'd possessed. "I guess I'm assuming it's your choice to participate in society, that's all."

I should thank him, I think. I don't know how I would have managed to get Mrs. Everdeen here without help. He gave me the bread, that is still warming the inside of my cloak. At the thought of it, I turn and take it out, place it on the counter and half hope this would give him a sign of leave. It doesn't. When I glance back up he's still standing there in the door frame, and for the first time I notice more than just the fact that he's there.

He's got a white T-shirt that's clinging to his chest, and a small white apron tied around his waist to cover the thighs of his black trousers. The boy's stockier than most and broad shouldered. I suppose my eyes linger too long on his chest before raising my head again because when I do I find his cheeks pooling red.

He's not the most handsome or beautiful man I've ever laid eyes on. In fact, I'm sure Gale is taller, leaner, and his skin is clear. I recall it shimmering in the sun just this morning. His eyes are gray. Stormy with flecks of violet in them that appear nearly blue, complimenting his sharp angled face. Gale is handsome. A lot more than this boy, with unremarkable features, but waving golden hair and startling deep blue eyes that I note to with a surprising shudder of need.

I'm not one to care for such things as desire. I've said this so many time before to the offers I get it should annoy me, but now that I study this boy there's something about him...something compelling...

"What did you say your name was?" I ask.

"I didn't," he says. "It's Peeta Mellark, yours?"

I ignore his question, instead I just frown. I know that name. I should have known all along. My hands grip the edge of the counter, and I force down a moment of uneasy. His charge won't care that I'm here at all. His charge wouldn't have been here to check on him in years, let alone in the next few days. Haymitch Abernathy is one of the worst of my kind. If not the worst and I'm bewildered as to think this could be his charge. The same cranky, rude, disobeying man I know could not have a charge that's better than my own, can he? I have always wondered why He has never punished or killed Haymitch, and now it seems to become clear, as it is possibly Haymitch's ability to groom perfectly perfect charges without much trouble.

As I'm too shocked to speak the rain ravishes the rooftop. Its prattling fills the room and I push out a long breath, trying to figure out what I should do next. Today is not a normal day. This should never have happened. I'm still not sure why one of my charges is dead or why the other is nearly catatonic. Not only that, but I've come to face a person for the first time in my life and I now don't wonder why Prim has always been so terrified of such a thing. It's exhausting, it's hard, and thrills of fear keep surging throughout my limbs.

He smiles the longer I stare. It gentles his face further, and I turn my eyes from him, surprising myself further as my stomach knots at the sight. He's not that pretty, I tell myself. And maybe he truthfully isn't. Maybe it's the knowing that this is completely and totally forbidden, that makes him so desirable, that makes me want to talk to him, and that causes me to knock back my hood, just to see what he would say when getting the full view of my face.

There's a intake of breath, and nothing more. When I look back to him he's staring intently and I know that we are warned constantly what the trouble is of letting humans see us, because we're too perfect for them. Or, well, that's how I summarized the long speech about rules and protocol and the differences between our kind and theirs'. Yet knowing this, it still surprises me that he seems to not comprehend, and I shift uncomfortably for a moment.

"What's your name?" Peeta finally asks. I'm surprised by how even his voice is.

I hesitate. I've just broken the biggest law, and for the oddest reason I'm trusting a human to keep it secret. Either I'm completely idiotic or...well, no, that's fairly the only reason this could make sense as to why I'm doing this. Except for the flare of anger behind the surface of my mind, the pent up wish of rebellion towards Him and His restricting cages that bar me in. That keep me from ever feeling anything, from living, from holding freewill. And like usual this deems to the question I always have: Just because something's beautiful on the outside, is it possible that inside it's not whole, and that it can be corrupted?

Is that what I am?

I shouldn't want to rebel, and I know I shouldn't so I feel guilt, like fiery snakes coiling inside my stomach. I replace my hood, and sigh swiftly, "My name's Lucifer, but don't call me that. Call me..." I look around and my eyes land on a vase of herds across the counter, a tangle of katniss roots on top, "Katniss," I say. "Call me Katniss."

Now that I'm hidden again Peeta seems to compose himself better, and he clears his throat, nodding. "It was nice to finally meet the Everdeen's daughter," he says, polite. "I wish your mother well, God knows she deserves to get better."

Does He? I respond internally. No, God doesn't know and doesn't care. I met Him, I must stand under him. I must be his soul protector and cherub. God, with his bleak snake like eyes, thick lips, and white hair, only wants to make sure he holds power over the districts with his religion, and with us.

I nod despite my thoughts and stay silent. There is only a slight pause before he continues to say polite things, compliments 'my' home, welcomes us to the bakery because he's probably suppose to advertise for business all the time. He charitably, like a good Capitolite young man, tells me he wouldn't mind hauling my mother to mandatory Mass this Sunday and offers once more to get the healers. Then finally says a small goodbye, disappearing into the rain.

I close the door behind him, sagging into the wood.

What did I just do? I could have sentenced us both to death by that one stupid decision, and he may have said he wouldn't tell but how could I trust a stranger? A human stranger, no less? And why, out of all these worrisome demands, all I can think about is how I didn't even thank him.