Notes: Written for kolms comment ficathon; prompt: "prim; she left a week to roam; your protector's coming home."


She resigned herself to Katniss dying a long time ago. She resigned herself to it pretty much the second she heard those fateful words - "I volunteer" - and all of District 12 stretched out their arms in grief and love. She's always been light on her feet, and she cycled through the stages in a second; the guilt, the pain, the anger, until Katniss was dead and they all just had to move on. She told Katniss to come back, certainly, but not because she had a chance of winning - because she had a chance of coming close, of being remembered, and that was the least she deserved. No-one was letting Katniss Everdeen die unmourned.

Katniss's done what she wanted. She's close to winning. So close it's scary.

Don't you want her to come back? she asks herself, and yes, of course she does. So you want her to win.

That's not what you asked.

Since she's been watching the Games... She's sort of forgotten it's Katniss up there. Well, she knows, certainly, but it all seems so distant and Katniss has been dead since the reaping, so it's not getting through. It's probably a good thing; if she felt it all that personally she'd never see anything for crying. But she doesn't know this girl on the screen; who drops trackerjacker nests on people's heads, who's so in love with Peeta Mellarck they had to change the rules of the Hunger Game for them. She didn't know Peeta and Katniss even knew each other. She barely knows Peeta.

It's not that she doesn't like this girl, or that she doesn't care about her - she cried like a little girl (which she is) when Rue died, and Katniss sung her to sleep. But none of it's real, none of it's right. It's probably just editing. She knows the Games are manipulated to tell the story the Capitol wants (and she's always wondered if it's slightly different in the Districts than the Capitol, or even between Districts, but she'll never know). It's still her Katniss up there. But it still feels like everything's changed.

If Katniss wins, what does that mean? That she killed a lot of the other tributes, and consented to the death of the rest. She remembers the things her District has said about Victors before - not just Careers, who were trained for this (but they didn't have a choice, did they?), but anyone who had the audacity to kill one of theirs. That's what people will think of Katniss; not in 12, in 12 she'll be a hero (mostly just for bringing them food), but everywhere else... Prim can't stand the thought.

It boils down simply: if/when Katniss comes back, she'll have changed. And Prim doesn't know she could handle that. She needs the old Katniss, her protector, her guardian, the one who saved her from the reaping. Mother and her are getting by, but that's not enough. They need Katniss back, and they need her the same.

And, no matter what she wants to think, Katniss won't be.

There are three opponents left: the sneaky girl, the huge boy and the monstrous boy (Peeta doesn't count, obviously). Can Katniss kill them all? Okay, most likely some will wipe each other out, but - she's not sure she wants the sort of sister who could win the Hunger Games.

She suddenly feels incredibly guilty. Katniss saved her life. She's fighting to get back to Prim. Wouldn't Prim do the exact same thing if she was in that position? So how can she judge; she can't be that naive.

She needs her sister back. She'll have to be grateful if she gets that, in any form.