What if the Victory Tour ended with a wedding rather than an engagement? A story that explores what would have happened if Peeta and Katniss had been forced to marry. How does this change affect their relationship? District 12? The rebellion? Rated M for later chapters.
Author's Note: I own nothing but a healthy obsession with The Hunger Games Trilogy, which belong in their entirety to Suzanne Collins. No copyright infringement or disrespect intended.
"I'll be in love with him just as I was," I say.
"Just as you are," corrects President Snow.
"Just as I am," I confirm.
"Only you'll have to do even better if the uprisings are to be averted," he says. "This tour will be your only chance to turn things around."
"I know. I will. I'll convince everyone in the districts that I wasn't defying the Capitol, that I was crazy with love," I say.
President Snow rises and dabs his puffy lips with a napkin. "Aim higher in case you fall short."
"What do you mean? How can I aim higher?" I ask.
"Convince me," he says.
Am I convincing enough? Katniss Everdeen wondered as she stood looking at her reflection. She's certainly dressed the part of a blushing bride, wearing a white dress of heavy silk adorned with pearls, and with long sleeves that when outstretched could almost be the wings of bird poised to take flight. But Katniss is a caged bird. She will not fly from the Capitol's clutches.
Will the games never end? She silently asked her reflection. But Katniss knows the answer to this question before she asks it. She and Peeta have not really escaped the arena, nor will the games ever truly end. They are still the Star-Crossed Lovers of District 12, still the Capitol's playthings, and still very much in danger.
Ever since President Snow visited Katniss at her home in the Victor's Village upon returning from the games her every waking moment has been spent trying to keep her family safe. In other words, planning the biggest wedding Panem has ever seen. Immediately after her meeting with President Snow, Katniss, Peeta, and Haymitch devised a plan beginning with an announcement of their engagement and culminating with a Capitol wedding at the end of the Victory Tour. Which is why Katniss Everdeen, once the Girl on Fire, is now standing in a suite in the President's mansion, wearing the most beautiful wedding gown she's ever seen, trying to gather the courage to marry Peeta Mellark—her district partner, co-victor of the 74th Hunger Games, the Boy with the Bread.
Her prep team left moments ago to find their seats amongst the Capitol crowd, leaving Katniss alone in her dressing room with her mother and sister waiting just outside the door. Prim was delighted by the grandeur of the Capitol and the ceremony itself. Though she suspected her older sister's apprehension, Prim did her best to appear joyful for the occasion. Katniss knew her mother and sister approved of Peeta. Even if they did question the sincerity of her affections and the suddenness with which everything happened, they didn't question her judgment. Katniss reminded herself to find joy in the day despite her dread. She focused on the prosperity their victory in the games brought to District 12 and the extra rations that would arrive on the supply trains to celebrate her and Peeta's union, a silent nod of approval from President Snow for a job well done. She smiled thinking of Prim in the bridesmaid dress Cinna had designed for her. The pale blue shade matched her sister's eyes perfectly, as did the ribbons strung in her blonde hair.
Katniss looked at her reflection in the mirror once again. She marveled at how Cinna could make her look so unlike herself and yet so herself at the same time. Just as she thought of him, Cinna walked in holding a small box wrapped in silver tissue with a large bow.
"What is this?"
"An old tradition for weddings. The bride must have something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue."
He continued, "Your dress of course is new. This box contains others." He said as he handed it to her. Katniss opened the box tentatively, curious as to what strange Capitol contraptions she would find inside. Cinna sensed her apprehension and calmed her nerves by telling her it wasn't a Capitol tradition but one much older, before the time of the Capitol and the Districts. She looked at him worried, wondering what kind of trouble he could get into because of this. Anything from the before the Dark Days was taboo, a direct affront to the Capitol. But again, Cinna answered her questions before she could even ask them.
"It'll be our secret Katniss. Few people even know these traditions let alone would be able to piece it together." As he said this he opened the box and before Katniss on a bed of white silk lay three finishing touches that would complete her ensemble: a blue piece of fabric she didn't recognize, a beautiful hair comb laced with pearls, and her mockingjay pin.
She smiled tentatively, realizing the lengths Cinna had gone through to make this day her own despite the Capitol's involvement. She knew that his dress combined with her pin would give her the bravery she needed to face the cameras, crowds, and President Snow.
"This," he holds up the blue, lacy piece of fabric, "is a garter. It's to be worn around your thigh and to be removed by the groom." Katniss blanched at this bit of news.
"It's a symbol Katniss."
"Of what? What could I possibly want to symbolize with that!" She said, looking as if she'd rather shoot it with one of her arrows than wear it.
Cinna narrowed his eyes at Katniss and she felt the silent reprimand. "Its history is rather complex, but just know this: what I want for it to mean Katniss is that you trust Peeta. But what it will show to the audience—and more importantly to President Snow—is that you welcome Peeta's affection."
Cinna hated to remind Katniss of the role she must play, hated to remind her that today was a charade. He, Peeta, Haymitch, and even Effie had tried to keep everything as genuine as they could, but sometimes the truth had a way of rearing its ugly head.
Katniss accepted the garter as he helped her into it and then she looked back at the rest of the items in the box. "Ok, so the garter is blue. Which of these is which?" She asked pointing between the comb and the pin.
"None of these are your something old. That is a surprise. And while this comb may be an antique I doubt the owner is ready to part with it. So let's call it 'something borrowed.'"
"Who's was it?" Katniss asked as Cinna placed the lovely comb at the crown of her skull. The silver and pearls stood in contrast to her dark hair, which was done in the braided style she first wore at the Reaping. She silently appreciated all the little touches Cinna had made to ensure that she felt like herself.
"If you can believe it or not, Haymitch. He asked me that you wear it today." Katniss knew then that it must have belonged to his girl, the one he lost after not bending to Snow's will after being crowned victor. She didn't know what to make of the gesture but she was honored.
"And my pin? What is it then?" Katniss asked, not quite sure if she understood Cinna's intentions, if it was neither old, new, borrowed, nor blue.
"It's your talisman Katniss. It is something entirely your own. You wear it to remind yourself why you're doing all of this and who you're doing it for." With that Cinna placed her mockingjay pin on this inside of her dress, fastened to her slip and resting just above her heart. It would be their secret. With the pin in place Cinna stood back and smiled approvingly at Katniss, his dark eyes and gold eyeliner taking her in one last time.
"I'm still betting on you, Girl on Fire. You're the most beautiful bride Panem has ever seen."
Katniss grimaced. "Thanks to you."
Tilting her chin up, Cinna made Katniss look in his eyes before telling her, "Your beauty is all your own Katniss. You're radiant and you've always been radiant, long before I got my hands on you. You were a diamond among the rough in the coal district."
"Thank you. That was lovely," she said shyly.
"I know. Peeta certainly has a way with words."
"What?" Katniss asked, confused.
"I went to see Peeta while your prep team finished with you. I told him he was marrying the most beautiful girl in Panem and he told me to tell him something he didn't already know." As he put the finishing touches on Katniss' look, he remembered his encounter with the young man just moments before.
Cinna walked into the room just as Portia finished adjusting Peeta's opalescent silk tie. He admired his partner's work; she had translated the look of Katniss' dress into a masculine elegance that suited Peeta. Standing at the altar they would complement each other perfectly.
"A handsomer groom I have never seen." Cinna told Peeta as he helped him adjust his coat.
"Then you haven't seen many grooms have you?" Peeta said jokingly. Cinna admired the boy's efforts to always put those around him at ease. It would serve him well with Katniss.
"I just came to see how you were doing."
"I'm fine. I'm getting everything I've always dreamed of and all I never wanted in one day."
"You're a very wise young man, you know that Peeta?"
"If I were so wise, I would know how to get Katniss out of this mess."
"How can you be so certain that's what's best for her? What if exactly what she needs is to be thrown into this 'mess' as you call it?"
"Cinna, you know she doesn't want to marry me."
"No, I don't. All Katniss knows is that she doesn't want to be married."
"Isn't that the same thing?" Peeta asked his confusion and frustration mounting.
"It's really not Peeta. Her objection isn't to you. It's to the process, to the event, to the Capitol's interference in your lives. I'm not entirely convinced that given the chance, this wouldn't have happened on its own—eventually."
"You really think that?" Peeta asked, unable to mask the hope from brightening his blue eyes.
"I think that you and Katniss are bound in a way few of us can understand."
With that Peeta nodded, and he resumed checking the groom over once more. He felt the young man's nerves return as the silence mounted and decided to give him a distraction.
"Your bride looks beautiful, you know." Cinna smiled as he heard Peeta murmur the words "my bride" in a wondrous tone before catching his eyes in the mirror.
"Of course she does. She's always beautiful. She's always been beautiful. Even at 11 years old when she was nothing but nothing but skin and bone and a long braid she was still beautiful." Peeta paused and got a faraway look in his eyes. "Have you ever been to District 12, Cinna?"
"No, not personally."
"Well, over time no matter what you do or how hard you try everything just becomes a shade of grey from the coal. Even the people, miners sooner than others, but it catches up to everyone eventually. But Katniss was always different, always radiant. She'll never fade to grey. You of all people know this."
"I do Peeta. But you knew first, didn't you?" And with that he left the younger man alone with his thoughts.
Soon after Cinna also left Katniss alone as thoughts of Peeta swirled in her head. She knew that today might even be more difficult for him than for her. He loved her. She knew this, but she also knew that he never wanted for anything between them to be a fabrication, to be playing pretend for an audience. Katniss wondered if this sham of a wedding may very well be what it finally took to break his heart and cure him of his love for her. The rational part of her hoped so; it would make everything so much easier for him. However a larger, deeper part of Katniss prayed that he didn't ever fall out of love with her. She blamed this incomprehensible notion on her own selfishness.
Katniss was broken from her silent reverie by the sudden appearance of her sister and mother bursting through the door with good cheer. Cinna, in all his wisdom, knew that her family was what she needed right now.
"Hey Little Duck!" Katniss said, hugging her little sister to her tightly.
"Katniss! You're beautiful! I mean, I know I saw it at the photo-shoot and everything but it's not the same. Wow!" Prim said with breathless excitement. Katniss smiled at her little sister, hoping her joy would be infectious and she could absorb some of it before facing the cameras.
"Thank you Prim, but I don't look half as pretty as you do today." Prim preened from her sister's compliment, twirling so the satin skirt billowed out to its fullness.
"Madge and Posy are waiting outside. Vick is with the Mellark boys. Effie is lining everyone up as we speak." Katniss nodded along to her sister's chatter. She asked Madge to join her bridal party because she was the closest thing she had to a girlfriend. That and she needed someone besides Prim considering Peeta's two brothers would serve as groomsmen. President Snow had thought it would be delightful if her cousins the Hawthornes were involved as well. So little Posy would be the flower girl and Vick would serve as the ring bearer. Katniss thought it was a cruel barb on President Snow's part—to have Gale's siblings fill the same roles in her wedding to Peeta that they probably would if she had ever married Gale instead.
Regardless of who she married she never would have had a wedding like this without the Capitol's influence. She had never wanted to get married at all. If she had it would have been small and in keeping with the traditions of District 12. Whatever dinner could be scraped together between family and a few friends, maybe some fiddles and dancing. Then at night, she and Peeta would toast the bread in private.
Startled, Katniss realized the implications of her thoughts. She hadn't meant to envision a toasting with Peeta, but then she couldn't really imagine it with anyone else now could she? Not after her stunt with the berries.
"What was that Prim?" Katniss asked distractedly.
"I said Effie's dress is about the funniest thing I've ever seen. It's made of feathers, actual bird feathers. She looks like she got attacked by a flock of magenta birds."
"Well then she must have won if she's wearing them, right Little Duck?" Prim giggled, but had the good sense to blush for laughing at Ms. Trinket's expense.
"Well, at least you and your sister look lovely Primrose. Now would you please go grab the bouquets? I'd like to talk to Katniss alone for a moment."
Katniss worried, she didn't know what her mother was going to say. Ever since the Reaping her mother had seemed more awake and alive and yet there was still an uneasy distance between the two. Their relationship would never be what it ought to have been but Katniss was grateful her mother kept her promise and took care of Prim in her absence. Upon her return from the games they had slowly begun to relearn how to be mother and daughter. Slowly began to rebuild trust. She didn't think things would ever be same the between them, but she was glad to have mother here for her on her wedding day.
The willowy blonde woman spoke, revealing just how perceptive she was to her daughter's dilemma. "I won't pretend that I don't know that you are doing this—at least in part—for Prim and me. So please just know that I'm so grateful to have such an incredibly strong, incredibly beautiful daughter." Katniss was worried that her mother would cry but she was proud when the older woman threw her shoulders back and began speaking again, this time more forcefully.
"I know you're young Katniss and this isn't exactly what you wanted for yourself but even if it weren't for the Capitol I don't think you could better. Not even Gale."
Katniss looked up at her mother shocked, eyes wide, mouth agape but her mother continued before she could speak. Mrs. Everdeen continued in a wistful voice, "He looks at you like your father looked at me. That boy—that young man will make you a great husband."
And with that her mother handed her a handkerchief. It had once been white but now faded into a dull, greyish yellow from years of sitting in a box in their house in the Seam. Katniss realized from the quality of the fabric and stitching that it must have been from her mother's merchant days. Upon further inspection there were two sets of initials and a date embroidered on the finery. The initials belonged to her parents and the date was their wedding day. Something old.
"I made these for your father and me the day of our toasting. They were one of the few fine things I took with me when I left my parents' home. And I'm sorry I hid them from you all these years Katniss but I honestly don't think two pieces of old silk would have fetched us much and I couldn't part with it. It-it meant too much." Her mother paused to blink back tears but bravely continued on, "I gave Peeta the other one. They're a matched set. Your father and I each had one. I embroidered them with song birds for him."
Katniss was stunned by her mother's words and actions, they were so thoughtful and motherly. In that moment she felt the pain of her father's absence so acutely she couldn't breathe but then Prim walked back into the room holding—of all flowers—roses. But not any roses, they were pale pink Primroses. Katniss silently thanked Haymitch for craftily compromising with President Snow's generous offer to have the wedding greenery provided from his private garden. While the rest of the ballroom would be covered in his sickly sweet, genetically enhanced, snow white and blood red roses the bridal party would wear boutonnieres and carry bouquets of Primroses. She hoped Snow didn't kill the gardener because of this. The entire purpose of this wedding was to avoid having more blood on her hands.
Effie immediately followed in behind Prim, hurrying them along. "Sorry to rush dears but I'm afraid Haymitch won't stay sober much longer. And he just cannot drunkenly wander down the aisle! Why then, Katniss dear, you might never make it to the altar." Effie said in her clipped Capitol accent.
Katniss followed her mother and Prim to the end of the aisle where Haymitch was waiting for her. He looked surprisingly well-groomed and sober. She was flattered.
"Thank you." She whispered to Haymitch. She didn't need to say what for. He understood.
"You're welcome. Now don't you go thinking we're going to hug and cry after this, Sweetheart. It's a one-time deal. Next time you see me this sober is when you start poppin' out Baby Mellarks." Katniss paled at the comment.
"It's a common side effect of marriage Sweetheart."
"It's not a real marriage, Haymitch." She hissed at him.
"Oh it better be real, or the Capitol's going to eat you alive. You remember that. You're one half of the Star-Crossed Lovers of District 12, not the better half but half nonetheless. His family is just as liable to get killed if you don't pull off this charade. So you better put a smile on that pretty face of yours and cotton to the idea of being Mrs. Mellark because it's the only thing that's going to save your ass Sweetheart."
"Dammit, I was just trying to say thank you for not being a complete jackass for once and you have to go and ruin it."
"You're welcome, I wouldn't be your mentor if I didn't."
Katniss took in a deep, calming breath. "Thank you. For helping us get this far. And for the comb, it's lovely. I-I...I'm sure she was too."
"She was. She really was. Now don't let what happened to her happen to your boy in there, ok?" Haymitch sighed.
"Ok." Katniss solemnly swore.
"Good. Now let's get you married. I need a drink."
With that Katniss and Haymitch proceeded down the aisle on cue. The ceremony was too lavish and crowded for her liking but Katniss surveyed the room nonetheless. She saw her mother sitting next to Hazelle, Gale, and the rest of the Hawthorne brood. Then she spotted the Mellarks. Mrs. Mellark's perpetual frown was firmly in place but Katniss' heart softened when she saw the baker's misty blue eyes. So kind and gentle like his son. With that thought her gaze snapped to Peeta. She took in the way his tuxedo hugged his broad shoulders and his golden curls grazed the back of his collar. Her father's handkerchief tucked neatly in his pocket caught her eye before her gaze wandered back up to his full lips. Lips that were parted in a rueful smile—he was offering her a silent apology. And she hated that he felt he had to apologize for this, as if it were somehow his fault. Didn't he see that the blame was entirely her own? But all the worry and guilt was wiped from her mind when she saw the look in his eyes. Katniss wasn't a woman of words and so she had no way of describing the look he was giving her, was it longing? Adoration? Love? Whatever it was she felt it in her bones, a sudden warmth and lightness radiating through her, pulling her to him. Haymitch had to hold her arm a little tighter so as to keep their pace, her desire to reach Peeta was so strong.
When she was finally before him and his hand clasped around hers she released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding. His hands were warm and though the scars and callouses he had from years of working in the bakery were removed after the games; she could already feel new ones taking their place. Evidence of the work he did with the same steadiness and care he brought to everything.
Her gaze flicked from their joined hands to his eyes as the ceremony began. Peeta tried his best to ignore the Capitol official's speech, which he knew would be filled with rhetoric and propaganda and nothing to do with the love between a husband and wife. All Peeta wanted to do was promise to love and protect the woman before him, so while he waited for his turn to speak he studied Katniss.
She was a radiant vision of beauty. Peeta would have happily married Katniss if she were wearing her father's hunting jacket and scuffed boots. However, Peeta liked this alternative as well. He found that despite the opulence of the dress it somehow suited Katniss. The creamy pearls contrasted with her olive skin and dark hair. Hey grey eyes shone with intensity and her lips were forming a very small smile, which he realized was for him. The warmth he felt at her small sign of affection moved him and he smiled just a bit wider and grasped her hands just a bit tighter.
It was time for their vows and neither of them had never been more nervous to speak.
For Peeta it was because the words were overwhelmingly true, he'd always been a goner.
Katniss simply feared the words and the promise they held.
"I, Peeta Mellark, wed thee Katniss Everdeen..." The Capitol wouldn't allow them to speak their own vows, but somehow Peeta made the ancient words sound all his own.
As he spoke the finals words, he motioned for Vick to step forward. Grabbing the smaller band he held it up to Katniss' finger. Her eyes widened when she noticed an engraving on the inside of the band, a small heart with an arrow through it.
She looked at Peeta and the question was obvious in her eyes, did you do this? He nodded a yes in reply and Katniss smiled at their small secret. She took the larger ring from Vick's pillow and saw a matching heart pierced with an arrow and it gave her the courage to begin her vows.
"I, Katniss Everdeen, wed thee Peeta Mellark..." The vows promised to honor and cherish and even obey, but made no mention of love. She was grateful for that, she didn't know if she could promise to love him. The only person she knew for certain she loved was Prim And she definitely did not feel for Peeta the same way she felt for Prim. In fact, nobody made her feel the way Peeta did.
With their vows said and fates sealed Peeta kissed his bride. When their lips met it was warm and wonderful. Peeta's arms wrapped around Katniss' waist as her arms wound around his neck and she felt that lightness in her chest radiate throughout her whole being. As quickly as the spark between them was lit though, it went out as Peeta pulled away. They walked back down the aisle hand in hand and inexplicably the scent of burnt bread and rain washed over Katniss.
Author's Note: Also, this is my first ever Fan Fiction but I didn't want to put that at the top in case it discouraged you from reading. What did you think? I'll probably continue no matter what but reviews are lovely and encouraged.