74th Hunger Games Challenge: We Always Were
By: Jamie Sommers
Synopsis: A retelling of The Hunger Games with Katniss and Peeta as a couple. Written in third person so that everyone's perspective can be given.
In multiple houses across District 12 children woke up in tears, screaming for someone to hold them. A sibling may comfort them. A mother. A father. But in three homes there are no screams. Only silence and fear.
For eighteen year old Gale Hawthorne, this is his final year his name will be put into the reaping bowl, but with the amount of times his name had been entered, there is a very good chance that his last year will be the one that he's chosen to fight to the death for the Capitol's amusement.
Peeta Mellark, 16, is only entered a handful of times, but a handful is still an uncomfortable amount as far as he's concerned.
And Katniss Everdeen, 16, is entered too many times for both Gale and Peeta's liking.
Fortunately her sister Prim is only entered once. And out of thousands of names, one is a very good thing.
The reaping started over seventy years ago after the Dark Days. The thirteen districts rebelled against the Capitol and lost the war when District 13 was destroyed leaving the country of Panem with only twelve districts for the Capitol to rule over. Each one with a specific task, Twelve's being coalmining, and all of them had to follow the strict laws the Capitol set in place. The most horrific of them was the yearly reaping in which every boy and girl from the age of 12 to 18 had their named entered into a lottery of sorts. The "winners" would then represent their district in the yearly Hunger Games where they would battle to the death until only one remained.
As Gale sat in the dark bedroom he shared with his brothers, he looked out the window, waiting for the clock to say 4:00am then decided that 3:26 was close enough. He reasoned with himself, thinking, 'it's a safe enough time to head out to the woods.' With all of the security their district would be flooded with that day he was a bit more cautious about heading into the woods, but in District 12, the forbidden woods were a source of food and it was either break the law and go into the forest, or starve to death in the safety of your own home. Since the Peacekeepers around 12 had no desire to starve either they tended to look the other way on most days, but a day like today was much riskier. It didn't matter though. Gale knew he'd brave the chance of getting caught. Being shot in the head was a hell of a lot better than being tortured in the Games, and with today being his final reaping day, he was fairly sure the odds were against him.
Though Gale knew his best friend, Katniss wouldn't be meeting him until a little later in the morning he was more than happy to take a short trip into the woods on his own. 'Maybe I can catch a squirrel and make a trade with the baker,' he thought to himself as he checked the fence for the electrical current that should have been flowing through it to keep poachers like him out. Finding it safe to enter, he stepped through, grabbed his hidden bow and arrow, and went on the hunt.
The sound of Katniss's name being called during the reaping caused the hairs on the back of Peeta's neck to stand, putting an end to his good night's sleep. "Katnisssss Everdeeeeeen." He shot straight up in bed, flattening the palm of his hand against his rapidly beating heart. 'No. That can't happen. They can't call her,' he silently told himself, but he knew they could and with the amount of times her name was in that reaping bowl…there was a very good chance that her name would be called. Katniss, like so many other poor families, had chosen to enter her name more than once in order to receive the tesserae.
Every child had to enter their name once on their twelfth birthday, but you also had the option to enter it for each member of your family, including yourself, in order to receive extra grain and oil. Since the entries for the reaping were cumulative, and Katniss had done this each year since the age of twelve, by Peeta's calculations her mane was entered twenty times that day
It was only 4:30 in the morning, which was late by baker's standards, but on reaping day his parents allowed Peeta and his brothers to sleep in. Peeta had two older siblings. One was too old for the reaping, and the other would be going through his last later in the day. Hopefully the odds would be in his favor and he wouldn't be called.
Though there were no cakes to be made that morning, Peeta chose to wake up anyway. It was much more preferable than falling asleep and watching Katniss being ushered to her death. "Morning, Dad."
"Morning, son. Couldn't sleep?"
His father took out an empty cup and poured Peeta some tea without asking. "Your mother's still in bed. The dough is rising." That was all that needed to be said. His father was never much for words.
Peeta waited for his tea before getting to work in the bakery's kitchen and made certain to be as quiet as possible so as not to wake his mother. His goal was to have a somewhat peaceful morning, which was working out quite nicely, until a knock on their backdoor came. The sight of Gale Hawthorne lit Peeta's face up. 'Maybe Katniss is with him,' he hoped.
"Morning, Gale." Peeta's father spoke.
"Morning, Mr. Mellark." Gale stood a few feet away from the door.
"How are you doing today?"
"Fine sir. I uh…"
"Bring something for me?"
"Yes sir." Gale held out a squirrel by its tail.
"Well that's a fine one. Hold on a second." Peeta's father turned to him and said, "Peeta, grab me one of those fresh loaves there, will you?" Peeta raced to the baking rack that held the fresh buns and handed his father a steaming loaf then stood to the side to watch them finish their trade. "Here you go." They made the swap. "Good luck today, Gale."
Peeta kept looking out the door to see if Katniss was with him, but he couldn't tell.
"She wasn't there," Peeta's father said as he closed the door.
Peeta's father turned to him and said, "Katniss. She wasn't with him."
The heat of Peeta's blush crept up his cheeks. "Oh."
His father decided to give him a break and switched topics. "You're still going to make those deliveries for me later?"
Peeta's eyes lit up as he said, "Absolutely!" Peeta's dad had asked him to bring the Peacekeepers some bread later in the day. Normally he'd do it himself, but for some reason, Peeta got to do it that day. It was an excuse to escape the bakery and he didn't question it.
Katniss didn't hear her sister Prim wake up and crawl into bed with her mother, but she felt the emptiness shortly after her sister left her side. She felt the cool mattress and got up to check on her. Seeing her mother and sister curled together in sleep, provided her with a false sense of security. Even though it was only for a second, she reveled in it. She had to for Prim's sake. She tried not to concentrate on the fact that it was Prim's first reaping that day. The thought of it made her stomach churn. 'The first of many,' Katniss thought as she turned away from the innocent scene in front of her and went to her room to change into her hunting clothes. 'I've got to get out of here,' she thought to herself. Making an escape, though brief as it would be, was a necessity that morning. There were too many people to worry about and nothing she could do to help them.
Katniss walked along the fence that kept District 12 separated from the woods. It was supposed to be electrified twenty four hours a day, but they barely had electricity in their district. So if the fence was on a few hours a day that was a lot. Just in case, she held out her hand and listened for the familiar hum that signaled its power. It was off. She entered in a gap at the base of the fence, hidden by years of overgrown brush, closest to her house. Once inside she looked for her best friend, Gale.
They had gotten to know each other over the worst of circumstances. Death. Both of their fathers had died in the same mine explosion five years earlier. Gale had to provide for his family of five and Katniss for her family of three. Too much responsibility for such young children, but so was fighting to the death in the Hunger Games. They met in the woods on accident. Katniss taught Gale how to use a bow and arrows. Gale taught her how to set snares. They showed one another their secret spots. Where to find berries. Where the lake was. How to fish. And eventually became close friends.
Gale, a boy from the Seam, looked a lot like Katniss. They both had dark hair, olive skin, gray eyes. The difference was where Katniss was petite; Gale was built like an ox; standing over six feet tall and quite muscular. Katniss on the other hand was on the small side. Though she was strong from all of her hours spent hunting in the woods, she was still malnourished which gave her a slim frame.
The morning was bright and sunny, but the significance of the day left a somber cloud of despair hanging over them. They spent a few hours gathering berries, fishing, and of course eating.
"The baker gave me something today." Gale pulled out the fresh loaf of bread.
At the sound of the word baker, Katniss' stomach fluttered. She wondered if Gale had seen Peeta. "Oh my God!" 'He had to have seen Peeta if he got that,' she thought to herself as she eyed up the fresh loaf of bread.
Gale ripped it in half and said, "Can you believe he gave this to me for a squirrel? I think he was feeling a bit sentimental today."
"Aren't we all?" The tone in her voice was disappointment.
"Happy Hunger Games!" Gale called out in a false Capitol accent.
Katniss matched the accent and followed up with, "And may the odds be ever in your favor." Gale tossed a blackberry into the air, which Katniss caught in her mouth and they chuckled together. What choice did they have? To sit and dwell on the day would do no one any good. They sat and talked for a bit. When Gale had mentioned running away together, Katniss laughed and pushed the thought out of his mind. Prim in the woods was a joke.
When they were finished Gale said, "Should we head to the Hob first?"
"Actually. Can I meet you there?"
"Meet me there?" Gale had a quizzical look on his face. "Why would you meet me there? We can just go together."
"I just need a few minutes alone, Gale," it was the only thing she could think of as an excuse.
"Oh. Okay, Catnip. I guess. Want me to wait outside the fence for you?"
"NO! No…just go ahead without me. Maybe you could…you can just go to the hob without me. Or Just start walking there and I'll meet you. I just want some time to myself, Gale. Geez!" She knew she was acting defensive, but if Gale knew why she wanted to be alone, he'd start lecturing her and she wasn't in the mood for confrontation.
"Fine!" As Gale left, she could hear him muttering something about women. Then she heard them talking.
"Hey, Gale. How's it going?"
"Pretty good. Considering."
"Yeah. Hey…I wanted to tell you earlier…good luck today." Peeta sounded quite genuine to Katniss.
"Thanks, Peeta. I appreciate that. Good luck to you too."
"See ya later."
Katniss listened as the pair went their separate ways. She stood silently against the tree. Holding her breath. Then suddenly she heard a rustling of branches. Someone was sliding underneath the fence. Was it Gale? Her heart began to pound in her chest. 'Please don't let it be a Peacekeeper. Not today of all days.' She closed her eyes and waited for the white uniformed guard to take her into custody, thinking it had to be one of Snow's men ready to bring her to justice. They'd probably rig it so her name was called out at the reaping and she'd have no choice but to go into the arena after all. When she felt the hand come down on her arm she knew her time was up. She was caught.
"Peeta!" Her eyes flew opened and her arms wrapped around his neck.
"You okay?" He could feel her heart pounding a mile a minute.
"I thought you were a Peacekeeper."
"Why would you think that?"
"Because…you never come into the woods."
"Didn't we plan this? Didn't you ask me to meet you here?"
"Yes, but I didn't think you were going to actually do it."
He rolled his eyes and said, "Thanks for the vote of confidence."
"Oh that's not what I meant. I just didn't think you'd be able to get out."
"Well I did."
"So I heard. It was nice of you to wish Gale luck."
"I'm kind of worried about him."
This took Katniss by surprise. The entire time she and Peeta had been seeing one another, he had been jealous of Gale. For him to be worried about her friend was a shocking twist. "You're worried about him? Normally you're just jealous of him."
"Yeah…well. Not today." He thought for a second and then asked. "How many times is his name in there today?"
"I know. I'm sick just thinking about it."
"Guess the odds aren't exactly in his favor."
"Are they in anyone's favor?" She asked with disgust.
"I hate this."
"Me too." Peeta pulled her into his arms and let out a sigh when she squeezed him tightly.
"Let's just run away, Katniss. Let's disappear into the woods so no one will find us."
Katniss laughed softly. "That's the second time today someone made that offer to me."
Peeta pulled his head back and gave her a discerning look. "Who made the first offer?" Like he needed to ask.
"I'm starting to feel that whole jealousy thing again," he said with a suspicious tone in his voice.
"Oh, Peeta. Stop it. There's nothing to be jealous about. Gale's just a friend."
"In your mind maybe, but not in his."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Katniss, a man doesn't ask you to run away with him because he wants to spend his life being friends with you."
"Peeta, you're being ridiculous. Gale was just… he's just…scared. It's reaping day." She began picking at a stick she found on the ground. "We're all scared."
"Aren't you frightened?"
He took her hand and said, "I'm petrified for you. I'm so scared they're going to call your name. I even had a nightmare about it."
She dropped the stick and threw her arms around his neck. "Oh Peeta. What if they call you? What if it's you?"
"My name is barely in there."
They held onto each other for a minute…two…
"I have to go. Gale's going to wonder what's taking me so long."
"So let him wait." Peeta spoke into her neck. "We don't get much time together."
Since she wasn't quite ready to leave the security of his arms, she quickly agreed, "Okay. Just a couple more minutes. Then I have to go."
"How's Prim doing today?" He asked.
"She had a nightmare last night. I found her asleep with my mother this morning."
"Poor thing. She must be petrified."
"I wish she didn't have to go through this."
"I wish none of us ever had to go through this," Peeta added.
The idea of sending children off to the slaughter had Katniss vowing aloud, "I'm never having kids."
"Me neither." They smiled sadly into each other's eyes.
"That's good to know," Katniss felt a bit of relief. "I was afraid you'd want some."
"No way. I'd never put a child through this." He turned them around and rested his back against the tree then pulled her into his embrace. "If we lived in another world. In a world where there were no Games, then maybe… yeah… I'd have kids. But until that day… I could never have a child. It would be cruel."
They stood in silence. Holding one another.
Though he hated to admit it, Peeta finally said, "You should go, Katniss. It's getting late."
"Yeah." She didn't want to leave the security of his arms, but he was right. "I'll see you later." They pulled apart. As they walked their separate ways she felt a sick feeling in the pit of her stomach. Like this would be the last time they would see each other. "Peeta!" She ran to him and crushed her lips against his. They had never kissed before. Not like this. Though they had come close many times their lips never actually puckered and pressed. He had brushed his lips across hers a few times, kissed each other's cheeks…hands…heads…neck, pretty much anywhere they considered safe, but never flush on the lips before.
Their mouths were closed. Her breath was held. When she felt the tip of his tongue flick against her bottom lip she took in a burst of air. Her lips parted and her tongue mimicked his. Like this? It asked. Yes, like this, his answered. Their mouths opened and their tongues softly explored the other's mouth in a slow and curious dance. Their heads moved back and forth. Their hands roaming, memorizing each curve of the other's back…waist…hips… when they pulled apart, their lips were moist and swollen and his forehead rested upon hers.
"I'll see you after the reaping," Peeta said. "No matter what." If her name was called or not, he would be with her. He had made the decision after he had the nightmare and he wasn't going to let her talk him out of it.
"I'll see you after the reaping." She shimmied out from under the fence and he squeezed out through a hole further up along the fence line so no one would see them exiting together.
When she got to the Hob Gale was waiting for her.
The Hob was a black market of sorts. When her father was still alive he had taken her there. He had traded game for things like thread, candles, material…anything that they needed to survive. Now that he was gone it was up to Katniss to do the trading. She and Gale usually did this together. They brought this morning's loot to the different booths and got what they needed for both of their families, keeping what they needed for themselves. Greasy Sae, a woman that was known for her outrageous cooking, had given them a bowl of stew. She said it was beef stew, with a wink. Most likely it was wild dog, but Peacekeepers will eat anything when they're hungry and as long as you tell them it's beef they don't question it.
They went to the Mayor's house and knocked on the backdoor. They knew from experience to always go to the backdoor. The Mayor had a fondness for strawberries so they sold him a bushel full. When his daughter Madge came to the door she was dressed in a pretty white dress with her hair curled and arranged in a delicate style. She too was dressed for the reaping. No one was exempt. Granted Madge didn't need to put in for tesserae like Gale and Katniss, but that wasn't her fault. She had as good of a chance at being called as the rest of them did. Gale was a bit snippy with Madge, he was resentful towards her because her name was only entered five times as opposed to his forty two, but she couldn't help that and Katniss didn't hold it against her. Maybe she would have had Madge not been a sort of…friend to Katniss. Since they were both loners they seemed to seek each other out for school activities. Neither one demanded conversation from the other and the arrangement suited both girls quite well.
As Katniss and Gale went home it was difficult not discussing the impending doom drawing near, but neither one of them wanted to dwell upon the inevitable. All they could do was expect the worst and hope for the best.
"Well, I'll see you soon," Gale waved as he headed towards home.
Katniss walked into her house and saw the fair-haired Prim standing in front of her mother. Her big eyes filled with panic and fear so it was of the utmost importance that Katniss didn't show the same to Prim. "Don't you look beautiful?" Katniss said as she walked over to her sister and engulfed her in a comforting embrace. "Let me see," Katniss held her at arm's length and watched as Prim did a slow spin in front of her. The hem of Prim's shirt stuck out of her skirt which Katniss fixed, "Tuck in that tail little duck." The sound of Prim's soft giggle brought a hint of a smile to Katniss's lips.
"I laid something out for you too," Katniss's mother spoke quietly from a few feet away.
"Okay." Katniss' words were cool, but she tried to be kind to her mother today. It was going to be hard on her mom for the next few hours. She tried not to be resentful towards her mother, but it was tough. Prim had forgiven her mom for the things she had done…or not done in the past, but Katniss had a difficult time overlooking how neglectful her mother had been.
After Katniss' father had died in the mines, her mother checked out. She went to bed and stayed there. The district had given them a month's worth of salary, thinking that would be enough time for Katniss's mom to get a job, but she didn't. She had spent that time staring into space. Sitting in a chair or huddling under the covers, not saying a word, letting her children practically starve to death. If it hadn't been for the kindness of strangers. One stranger actually and the sheer determination to survive engrained within Katniss, she and Prim would've been taken from their home or worse yet, they would've actually starved to death. So yes, Katniss was very apprehensive when it came to forgiving her mother, but today of all days she tried very hard to be kind.
Katniss, bathed, got dressed and sat as her mother weaved her hair into an intricate braid on the top of her head. As she stood in front of the mirror, Prim stared at her and told her that she was beautiful. When they heard the steam whistle blow, they knew it was time for them to gather in town.
As they walked to the square they saw parents hugging their children with tears in their eyes. Katniss held onto Prim's hand, trying her hardest to protect her from the grim images. "Just look straight ahead, Prim. Don't worry. You'll be fine." She tried to keep her voice bright. "You're going to be fine. You'll see. Then later on we'll feast on fish stew and strawberries."
The lines of children in front of them made Katniss think of cattle being herded for the slaughter, but Prim's question quickly pulled her from her murky thoughts. "What's that?"
"They're just going to prick your finger," Katniss answered. "You need to go stand over there with the little kids. I'm going to be right there. You just watch me, okay?" Katniss gave Prim a little nudge. "Go ahead. It'll be over in no time at all and then we'll be home eating strawberries." She hoped the idea of food would help ease some of Prim's fears, but knew that nothing ever could. Katniss watched as Prim was swallowed into the group of children. The moment she disappeared Katniss's mind went to straight to Gale and Peeta.
She started wishing for their safety. 'Please don't let them be called. Gale's in there forty two times. Peeta's only in there five times. But still that's five times. But Gale's in there forty two times. Forty two times! Oh God!' Morose thoughts continued to fly through her mind as she took her spot in the midst of the 16 year olds.
From the moment Peeta entered the square he scanned the crowd for Katniss, but failed to see her. The entire day he worried about her. Something in his gut kept saying the odds were not in her favor. He just knew she was going to be called. She was going to be in the Games. All he could do was hope that he was wrong. If she was called he was prepared to volunteer and go in too. He had to make sure that she came home. He didn't tell his family this, though somehow, he knew that his father would suspect it. As he was silently wishing she wouldn't get called he noticed Gale sticking out of the crowd like a sore thumb. Following Gale's line of sight, Peeta blew out a cleansing breath when he saw that Gale was looking at Katniss. 'There you are,' he thought. 'I've been worried sick about you.' He noticed the concern written on her face and knew she was worried about Gale. Heck, Peeta was worried about Gale too, but Katniss and Peeta would take care of Gale's family if he went into the Games. They had made that promise to each other a couple of months ago without Gale's knowledge. Just then Katniss's eyes locked onto Peeta's and her entire face transformed. There was a gentle gleam in her eyes and a tender smile lifting at her lips. Peeta mouthed the word, "Hi," wishing he could make his way across the crowd and stand with her.
"Hi," she mouthed back.
With the…festivities about to begin, neither one of them noticed Gale's curious gaze or the questions written on his face.
Every eye in District Twelve, as well as the Capitol, was on the Justice Building. In front of it stood a stage with a podium, a giant glass bowl on each end of the stage and chairs which sat the Mayor, the only living victor, Haymitch Abernathy and he seemed to be missing in action, and Effie Trinket the Capitol assigned escort of District 12.
Effie Trinket was an odd looking woman with a stranger sounding voice. Wearing an off colored pink wig, outrageously high heeled shoes and clothing is so tight a person's mind must wonder how she breathes. 'Perhaps that's why her voice was so peculiar,' thought Katniss, but her thoughts were interrupted by the sound of Mayor Undersee's voice as he begins to read.
The Dark Days. Every Year the same story was told. Blah…Blah…Blah…droughts…blah…blah…disaster…storms…uprising…Capitol… Then the districts rebelled. They lost. As punishment every year each district must send one girl and one boy to fight to the death, until only one is left. They're known as tributes. The arenas can be anything from a desert to icy tundra. Anything really. It usually last for a couple of weeks and once in the arena, there are no rules. These are known as the Hunger Games. If you are the winner of the Hunger Game then you will live a life of luxury. Riches, food, oil, clothing. You want for nothing for the remainder of your life. And your district receives extra food, grain and oil for the next year as well.
When Mayor Undersee finishes with the reading of the History of Panem Katniss can hear the shuffling of feet amongst all of the children. Thousands of them are roped off and praying that their name is not going to be called, including Katniss. Twelve and thirteen year old girls are in one section. Twelve and thirteen year old boys, in another. And so on and so on. On the edge of the square are those Katniss considered the scum of the earth. The people who will bet on whose name will be called into the arena. Who will survive the Games? The scourge of District 12. In the back of the square were the parents. The ones that were wishing someone else's children would be called and not their own.
On the stage sits two giant glass bowls filled with slips of paper. Inside one bowl are the names of girls. Thousands of names. Twenty of which say Katniss Everdeen. On the other side of the stage is an identical bowl. Forty two of the names say Gale Hawthorne. Five say Peeta Mellark.
If Mayor Undersee's monotone introduction doesn't get people's attention when he announces District 12's previous winners, Haymitch Abernathy's, who is inebriated as he stumbles across the stage and lands on Effie Trinket, will. Katniss held back her smile as Haymitch attempted to hug Effie, causing her wig to go askew. Though Effie tried to straighten it out, it was useless. It took a few minutes, but Mayor Undersee was finally able to get Haymitch in a chair. Though Effie's wig seemed to be a lost cause.
With the excitement over, Effie's heels began to click as she made her way across the stage and stands before the microphone saying in her odd Capitol accent, "Happy Hunger Games! And may the odds be ever in your favor!" Prior to making her way to one of the glass balls she said, as she did every year, "Ladies first!" Her fingers begin to do an odd little dance as she chose a white slip of paper with someone's name printed on it.
Katniss held her breath, hoping it wasn't her.
Peeta silently wished for someone other than Katniss to be called.
Gale's hands turn into fists as he hung his head down waiting for an innocent girl to be thrown to the wolves, and hoped it wasn't Katniss.
A gush seemed to empty Katniss's lungs. Effie Trinket didn't call out her name.
Effie called out, "Primrose Everdeen!"
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