A/N: Sorry it took so long for me to update. I would also like to say two things. 1) I hope I got Peeta's POV as good as I can and that you understand he won't be exactly the same, just as all the other characters won't. 2) Every District worships 'God' (Snow) in different ways. Usually tied into their production thingy. Like District 12 is coal and fire, so they worship a fire-related God. While District 4 will worship the Drowned God or District 10 will worship a livestock related God (as they are livestock production). Okay, thanks for your time. Enjoy. -Taryn(:
The sound of someones footsteps on the front lawn has me jolting upward. My eyes fly from the ceiling toward the thrown open window. The first light of dawn spills into the dank house. For a moment I forget why I'm here. I don't sleep in houses. Then I glance at the slumbering woman across the room, lounging across the couch with heavily bandaged hands.
The night rushes through my mind in small little images. Blood stained rags, pieces of glass pried from mutilated palms. A broom haphazardly sweeping up shards, clothes that saturated every last drop of a rain puddle underneath the windowsill. Mrs. Everdeen's pale face, contorted in nightmare, her limbs thrashing. A clear, syrupy fluid I slipped into her water, and that led up to the past few hours of silence.
By the time I piece it all together, the footsteps have reached the door steps. I stand, hear them hesitate, and then they rap their knuckles sharply across the wood.
I walk over silently, and pick up my discarded cloak and wrap it around myself, pulling the hood on with on hand on the door. Whoever it is, I can't ignore them. Maybe it is one of the Everdeen's friends and they have finally decided to check on them. If I don't answer I risk the person going to the guard to report Mrs. Everdeen missing.
A deep orange illumination catches across the horizon, silhouetting the person standing before me. It's not an Everdeen friend at all. Instead, they're wearing a similar black cloak to mine. Their lean figure wasn't Prim. Could this angel be here to bring me back to Him? Do they know what laws I've broken? My cheeks pale of blood. It'd be suspicious if I turned them away, and my eyes scan the streets outside while I step aside to give them entrance.
Upon sweeping through the threshold the person peers left and right mistrustfully. What were they hoping to see? They spot Mrs. Everdeen sleeping and their shoulders noticeably sag before swinging back around. "Where have you been?"
His voice registered in my thoughts instantly. "Gale! You scared me, I thought He'd sent someone to get me."
"Why would He?" Gale asks. He knocks back his hood with ease. "It's not like you've a record on returning every night, if that's what you're worried about."
Gale doesn't even suspect me able of breaking a law. He only thinks I'm troubled by the fact that I didn't return to the Capitol last night. If Gale doesn't expect the law breaking, when out of everyone I know, he's the only one to know how bitter I really am, then maybe I don't have to distress very much over what happened at all. As long as Peeta keeps his mouth shut.
Gale paces around the small living room, then falls into the arm chair I'd been sleeping in before he showed up. Grey eyes, speckled with violet flicks up at me, and I found myself wondering if this is the sight Peeta had faced. "So why didn't you come home, Lu?"
Lu. Even he could make my name sound childish, and Gale's a fairly serious person. I remember the first time I met him, in the woods, and though it's not really common for me, at my status, to talk to people of his status, we started off our friendship from his erratic distaste for my name. Lucifer.
I had just been visiting District 12 for the first time in a long time, and departed from the house of my charges. They were, as suppose to be, cuddling in their backyard basking in the sun. Completely and totally untouched, stealing each others kisses and soft hands gliding over each others arms. I spotted the tall black cloaked figure slipping into the edge of the woods, and I followed. Much better at stealth than I am he almost immediately twisted around, looked me over and demanded my name.
"Are you sure that's your name?" he asked me, tilting up his chin, those serious gray eyes boring into mine once I answered him.
But as he asked me that question, if it was certainly mine, I saw the hint of a smirk tracing across those perfectly bowed lips. He was mocking me, and I would mock him right back. "Well isn't Gale a girl name?"
He looked sour for a minute, and I crossed my arms over my chest, in a sign that I wouldn't step down. After a minute of staring each other down, Gale burst into a long, throaty laughter. Once sobered he pushed himself up from the tree and held out a hand for me to grasp. "It's nice to meet you Lu, or should it be Lucy?"
"Lu," I had said, hastily, scowling at the thought of being known as 'Lucy'. I took his hand that day and he proceeded to feed my need of adventure and freedom. He would show me the best places in the woods, where odd sorts of foods could be found, how to make nifty little traps. I liked him a lot more than all the other angels of my own status.
And I still do.
"One of my charges was hung last week," I say to Gale, honestly, disregarding the fact that it was my responsibility to make sure that the death of the human never occurred. Gale wouldn't look down on me for failure. "I dug around some of the papers on their counter and he received the warrant of his execution three days ago. He missed Mass last Sunday."
Gale sat up straighter. "'Missed?'"
"Purposely protested against going. In the streets. To anyone who would pass him by." I sigh, picking at a broken seam on the edge of my cloak. "No one listened, of course, he must have looked stark mad. Skipping Mass? It's suicide. If by some miracle the law enforcements down here didn't take care of it, He'd only send one of His lackey angels down to take out the rebel. I just can't believe it was one of my charges."
"Worried it'll damage your image, oh, great, Anointed One?" Gale taunts, suddenly laughing, despite the need to be serious.
I sock him in the arm. "Shut up, you dolt. You'll wake her." I motion to Mrs. Everdeen, but I know she wouldn't wake if a train came crashing through the wall. When I look back up at Gale he's smirking. "What, now?"
"Well...I was just thinking that I've never actually seen the big, bad Lucifer take care of a human. Do you know how much all my fellow low ranking angels would pay to see it?" He gives a loud bark of laughter. I scowl. He's too chipper this morning.
"Don't you have charges to check on?" I ask.
He debates that, some of the laughter draining out of his face, then purses his lips decisively. "Already did. Apparently my District Twelve charges just had their third kid. First, they had two boys, Rory and Vick, and now they've got this girl, Posy. What are they trying to do? Swamp me with charges?"
I can't help but give him a little sympathy for that. Everyone knows that each angel gets two charges from the districts. I have couples from District 1 through 12, all perfectly well off. I've got only a top extra load of two children, from the couple in District 5. The rules state that if your charges have kids then those same children become your charges as well. So, technically, everyone has their own amount of charges, no one has the same number. The children will be under your watch until they're married off, by the faith and guidance of the church, and they become someone else's problem.
"But at least they all attend Mass," I say.
He snorts, rather indelicately. "There's that."
"So, you went back to the Capitol last night?" I ask, to broach the subject. It's obvious he went there because he knew I hadn't. "Did you see Prim? How was she?"
"Fine as always. She asked me where you were, and I told her probably here, in District 12. Strangest thing happened though, you know that one guy? The cranky cherub? Haymitch Abernathy? He asked about you just before I left to see you." It's obvious by the way Gale looks around the house as he says this, that he thinks nothing of if, but I feel the blood pick up pace in my ears. "What's that about, do you think?"
"Who knows?" I say, weakly. "People are always trying to get in contact with me."
Gale notices the difference in my tone. "You feeling okay?"
He shakes his head, reaching a hand out to me. "Come on, you need to get out of here. It's not good for angels to be gone from the heavens for so long." This is said bitterly, because he hates the reminder that we don't have any freewill of our own. Gale knows that He makes it this way. We have to depend on Him for survival and He controls us, because He's our God, ruler of the Capitol, and many other names to the people of the Districts, but all-powerful nonetheless.
The humans may be our charges, but we are no better than them in God's eyes.
I had a dream. A beautiful, intricate dream that was so vivid I swore it could have been real. The feel of the rain was so authentic. Cold, icy fingers crawling down my back and slipping through my hair, devouring the dry stitches of my apron. The thwack as my mother's rolling pin struck my jaw. Sopping piles of trash, and her.
Katniss, she asked me to call her, and I could never forget the name.
"Katniss," I whisper. The word tasted strange on my tongue. It's not a foreign concept to me for children to be named after plants, especially here in District 12, so that was not the strange part. Was it because the name simply couldn't attribute to a person such as her? Could it be that it was not merely good enough for a face as blinding as hers? Yet, there was no other name in my mind that would suit it better. I tossed around Sugar, because as a baker's son sugar is about as sweet and good as it got, but it didn't fit right at all. Something about her fierceness, the stubborn way I watched her drag Mrs. Everdeen home, that could not be sugar. She was made of something much tougher, and still heart-melting. Lucifer came up once, she said that was her real name. Lucifer just didn't sound right, like all the other names I put out for opinion that simply seemed too plain or too normal to be hers.
I had to settle on Katniss, so all through the night that evening after meeting Katniss, I memorized it. That morning I was woken by a stirring dream of her face, and something about rain and shattered glass and bread. That one dream made it seem like I dreamed it all, every last bit, even the part about the promise of keeping my mouth shut. Why would she ask that if she was only the Everdeen's daughter? Who was she really? I would have known if the Everdeen's had children, I was sure of it. Everyone must attend Sunday Mass, or it means their death. God does not smile upon the faces of those unfaithful.
Granted, the church next to the Justice Hall is huge and it is possible that through the rows and rows of benches and the chance of those standing at the back corner in the dark could be obscuring her from sight through all the years, there is still the reaping that she could not have hidden from. Maybe I've been blind for years and she has been there. Either way, I get a sudden uneasy from thinking of Katniss and reapings.
I push it from mind, push her out as far as she'll go. Father moves around the kitchen at my back and I turn away from the dough I've been kneading, whispering to it at random the name that tastes so sweet and strange on my tongue. "Are we leaving soon?" I ask.
"Your mother is on the front steps. Tie up that apron and we'll start walking."
I throw the dough back in a bag, tie it and clap the flour from my hands before hanging the apron back on its hook. Today, I will notice. I follow my father through the front shop and out the business door. She can't hide from me now that I know about her. I can inquire after her mother and smile at her when she tells me that she's getting better. After the death of Mr. Everdeen it must be hard. I don't like the thought of her suffering. One step after another down the crowding street, I mentally put a reminder down to myself that I could probably make something to give them. That's what people do, right? After a death in the family you give them food and prayer, and stuff like that. I could do that for her, and maybe she'll smile at me. I would love to see her smile, instead of the scowl that she'd given me last time.
Big and ominous, the church rose before me. Dark wood made up the sharp angles of the building, one layer after another, with few designs but the splintered roses etched and twisted across the walls tangled by vines and black, chalky petals. The roof stood thirty feet higher than any other building in town, while at its feet was a garden of roses, their sharp, sickly scent overwhelming the entrance.
Entering I touched my lips with the three middle fingers of my hand, a sign of respect. Around me people from the Seam to the town to the beggars that live in slag heaps milled in side by side, eyes on nothing and no one except the large ball of blinding yellow, blazing orange and fiery red, filtering and rising before the glass plane window at the head of the church hall. Sun, our savior. Dazzled by the light, my eyes see spots of black before me when I attempt to sweep the room for her or Mrs. Everdeen. I come up empty and my family drags me to a row close to the front, and I dutifully pick up the heavily bound book full of our prayers.
As every day the same priest steps up the steps toward the plane of glass illuminated by the dawn. So long as the sun is shining in, we must be here. The sun is our the gift our God sent to us. Our God, the Lord of Light, the Heart of Fire, the God of Flame and Shadow. He gave us the warmth of the sun that gave our lands life, he breathed the warmth of our breath into our stoney lungs, granted us the hot blood that runs through our veins. It was He who held off the worthless, heartless God, whose name shall never be spoken, since the priests and God himself has not deemed fit to share his name with us. The God of the night is our God's worst enemy, his opposite, and the death of anyone who turns to him.
I stand with everyone else when I must and bow my head, as our priest, silhouetted by the sun throws up his arms and cries, "Lord, cast your light upon us!"
"For the night is dark and full of terrors," I and the whole room replies.
I stare at the priest more than I hear his prayers and tales. He start by telling the first story of history, about the Dark Days, the one I've heard more times than I can count; the Lord of the Light looked upon a frozen and barren earth, ruled by his opposite and took it all on himself to give it warmth. From that we rose, the Twelve Districts, and from this day we must worship Him in thanks.
As ever, the priest wore red head to heel, a long loose robe of flowing silk as bright as fire, with dagged sleeves and deep slashes in the bodice that showed glimpses of a darker blood red fabric beneath. Around his throat was a red gold choker, ornamented with a single great ruby, crafted into the shape a rose. The forbidden fruit, the flower of our God, the rose that lives even through the cold winters and thrives in the summers.
The choker is the symbol of a man's, or even a woman's, choice in becoming a faithful priest and worshiper of our God. Anyone could do it, but they must be sent away. From those volunteers they take away their right to come to the church on their eighteen birthday, to be joined by the District's red priest to a chosen spouse, and have children. They will come back changed and all in red. Some say that they make you stare into fires for days, gazing into the eyes of our God, they call it, searching the ashes and flames for a sign. Some sort of glimpse in the future.
I wished I could see the future. So many things can happen in those times ahead. Only two more years before I must go to the church in search of my chosen spouse. Who would it be? I know there is a high chance that it'll be someone in town, since they generally don't approve of marrying Seam and town citizens, but in the pit of my stomach I find that I wish that rule could be bent.
I shake my head to clear it, for the second time this morning. This is far out of hand, when have I ever been hung up on a girl like this? Sure, there was that one girlfriend in third grade, but that was so short lived and she left me for a kid that didn't smell so much like bread. How come I can't remember her name? Delly would know, I'll ask her after the service.
Out the corner of my eye I see my mother whack my father on the shoulder. My brother on her side leans away subconsciously. A wave of uneasy throws my stomach in turmoil. Two more years. Two more years until I'll go to the church and some random girl will be handed to me, whether she be awful and likely to hit me and my children, or she's caring, quiet... beautiful.. kind... kind enough to drag their grieving mother back home during a rain storm.
I try to recall all I can on the Everdeen's, but all I remember of them was that my father liked to buy Mr. Everdeen's squirrels that he shot and Mrs. Everdeen had once come to take care of my brother, at which time I was too young and oblivious to recall her for any other aspect. Mr. Everdeen, I suppose, showed a new side of himself the other week and I do remember that time clear as day.
It is your damnation to skip church, for any reason. If you can not walk, then you call a friend to carrying you. If you don't have friends, you crawl. By happenstance you are too ill, or in labor, all the more reason to come! God will be with you, heal you, bless your child on a Sunday. A missed church day, can't be ignored. A missed church day, spent sitting outside the chapel, shouting out the falseness of our God, is execution at the nearest day. It was sunny the day they hung Mr. Everdeen, and I remember thinking that this is not funeral weather, until my mother reminded me that that only proved the Lord of the Light has come to observe the death of an unfaithful man, who surely worshiped the unnameable God of darkness.
Suddenly I found myself thinking of darkness. The thick black material of a cloak, hell bent on covering a dark skinned girl with her long black braid and steely grey eyes. Dark. The sun wasn't out that day, the rains brought in a tide of smoggy clouds, choking the sky and sun. Had she been waiting for that day? Mrs. Everdeen had been lying in that meadow for more than three days, and all those days before that one had been sunny, warm, and the moon and stars bright throughout the night. For the night is dark and full of terrors and the Lord of the Light gifts us the illuminations of star and moon to keep it not so. But that night, that day when the rain... it was dark...
A shudder racks through my body, and I force my hands to clasp behind my back, in an attempt to still myself.
She's the Everdeen's daughter, nothing more. But why was it so hard to believe that?
Prayer ends with the final tale, about the night that will never end. One day, when the Lord of the Light deems time, those who have been faithful will join him in his heavens, in his world of fire and warmth and shadow, while those unfaithful will remain behind on the earth, where the dusk will come, the sun will fall, and no moon nor star will rise. Total and complete darkness, destined to be cold and lonely, for the rest of time.
The red priest throws out his arms, chants under his breath, and cries, "Lord, cast your light upon us!"
"For the night is dark and full of terrors." As one the people of the District rise. My knees ache in silent complaint, but it's not over, the sun is still gleaming through the plane of glass, blinding anyone who dares look too closely. God is still here with us, and we must not leave, else He will leave us when the night that never end comes.
We all line up along the aisles awaiting our turn. A basket of fresh plucked roses is passed through our midst and when it comes to me I reach in unconsciously, hiss at the prick of stray thrones and come up with a white rose. Peculiar, since my whole line has roses of reds or pinks and a few yellows, but none so pure as mine. I study the petals curiously as the red priest lights a fire at the head of the chapel where we must throw it.
The edges are flawless and the stem a shocking green, it seems almost a shame to burn. Then I remember that once as a child I was told the more beautiful the tribute to the Lord of Light was, the more he appreciates it.
I watch as the three lines of people merge into one at the head of the hall and in front of the fire. I try to look at the people as they step forward, instead of the flames, because they always remind me of the reapings. Every time I light an oven I give thanks to the Lord of Light, but every time I look at the fire, I also shiver, thinking of the last two sacrifices of District 12.
It's almost my turn. I watch my brother step forward, kneel, throw the rose into the flames and share an exchange of prayer with the priest. Followed after, the man behind him, that jumped in at the merge. Another group of people slips into the line in front of me, throughout the people of my family, and one of their faces hits me. Mrs. Everdeen steps between my father and my mother, and the person leading her there, to my sudden disappointment, was not her daughter. Instead, it was a Seam looking woman that I could only name as Mrs. Hawthorne, the washer woman.
The line that they left from doesn't have Katniss either. Where was she? Could she be outside, shouting and fighting our God, just as her father had? My stomach tightens. Why would that upset me? It's her choice. She shouldn't go against our savior.
Without realizing it I slip in front of my father and my hand brushes against Mrs. Everdeen's elbow. She turns, and her face, though pale, shows nothing of a hard night or week, or the shadow of grief I expect to see in her eyes. "Yes?" Her bright blue eyes look me over, then she smiles ruefully. "Did I cut you off? I'm terribly sorry, I can–"
"No," I say, fumbling, "no that's not it. I was just wondering... where your daughter might be?"
"Daughter?" Mrs. Everdeen shakes her head. "You must have me mistaken for someone else. I don't have any children."
Disappointment and unease sinks in me like a stone in water. "Oh.."
She gives me one more bright smile, turns, and goes to her knees before the fire. I hardly hear her words of worship, or notice the color of the rose she'd given. She doesn't have children. I knew they didn't, why did I ever believe that she had? Because you're fool enough to believe anything a pretty face tells you, Peeta. I'm no better than my brothers. Surely they haven't faced a girl like that though...right? Katniss – Lucifer – must be a whole different case. What was she, though? Worshiper of the dark? A kind girl who thought to help the woman with a damned husband? No one else would help Mrs. Everdeen with the knowledge that they could be damaged by the association.
"Kneel, Peeta! You must kneel." My father grabs me by the shoulder and pushes me to my knees before the pit. Heat reaches out to me, fans across my skin and my eyes find the white rose balanced between my fingers.
"The night is dark and full of terrors," the red priest says above me. I look up at him, through the flames and see only a fat man with a ruby around his throat, and a wicked shadow playing across his face.
"The night is dark and full of terrors," I agree, and the rose slips from my hand and burns almost instantly. It withers, as if in agony. The petals blacken and shrink from the heat, while the stem curls around itself and crumbles into a pile of ash.
Maybe it was a dream after all.