On April 8th, the delightful LadyAngel-LadyDeath left a sweet little review for Heir to Panem that concluded with "I wonder what would happen in the rebellion if Katniss was Snow's daughter."
I couldn't resist.
Katniss and Snow are OOC, as they must be for such a premise, and I've had to alter a bit of Peeta's past for character motive. I tried to leave the rest alone and let it build from there. As always, immense gratitude to my tireless beta eeg01 and much thanks to DarkenedRuby for the encouragement! Thank you, indiecullen for your clever nicknames :)
Chapter 1: A Tribute is Chosen
The sunlight was in her eyes. She furrowed her brows for shade and focused. The target was bright red. She heard the instructor in her head.
Mind the wind. Keep your shoulder low. Relax the elbow. Breathe.
The arrow flew. It pierced the bull's-eye.
She smiled and tossed her long, black hair behind her proudly.
Katniss turned to the sound of her father's praise. "You are a natural, my dear."
"And to think I wasted all those years on dancing lessons," she laughed as she handed her trainer the bow and quiver to meet her father. He jogged lightly down the marble steps to the back grand patio of the sprawling manor and onto the lush green lawns of the garden.
"How was your trip to Two? I missed you at breakfast," she pouted as he embraced her.
"It was boring, as usual," he grinned, pinching her cheek. "I can't wait until you come with me. You'll liven up the place."
She laughed. "I'll bring my bow. No one will disagree with you then."
The clock tower struck ten. It echoed up the hill from the City Center.
"It's time for the Reaping," her father announced. He gave her his elbow. "Shall I escort you to the viewing?"
"Yes, please," she grinned.
President Snow led his daughter into the Presidential Palace.
Peeta Mellark watched his little sister glance over her shoulder at him for the eleventh time. He nodded reassuringly. She won't get picked, he told himself again. Her first Reaping. One slip in thousands. One.
She won't get picked.
Effie Trinket's cheerful screech was at the microphone. The citizens gathered in the center of District Twelve fell silent.
He held his breath as the emissary's hand dipped into the bowl with their names.
Please please please please please.
Leevy's knees buckled and she immediately started to weep. He felt weak with relief it wasn't Prim, horrified he could be glad while a girl he knew from a few years behind him in school was hauled to her feet by Peacekeepers. Leevy was openly sobbing as she was hurled up the steps to the stage.
Effie Trinket looked annoyed. "Now, now," she clucked. "It's a big, big day!" She turned to the audience, wrapping a hand with bright green, claw-shaped fingernails around the girl.
"Leevy Bancroft!" Effie announced. The cluster of children applauded weakly.
Effie released Leevy's shoulder. She fell to her knees to cry again. Effie gave her an irritated look and strode purposefully to the glass sphere holding the names of the boy Tribute candidates.
He thought he must have misheard. It couldn't be. His family saved up a lot of grain and fuel that winter so he'd only have to take two tesserae this year, his next to final Reaping year. Just seven slips. Seven.
But then Prim was running across the aisle screaming, clutching onto his shirt while Peacekeepers chased after her. Her clawing hands were hauled off of him. He looked over his shoulder and nodded to a sorrowful face behind him.
Gale Hawthorne ducked forward and collected Prim from the Peacekeepers to take her to safety away from their batons and guns. Peeta hoped his best friend would be allowed to come say goodbye to him.
The closest guard grabbed his elbow and dragged him to the stage. He stumbled on the stairs. He couldn't feel his legs as he straightened up and stepped over to the woman with a stripe of grass green dye running through sky blue hair.
Effie chirruped at him. "Our male Tribute, Peeta Mellark!"
Peeta looked over at Leevy; a crying, huddled mass on the stage to this right. Her hair was in two braids. Just like Prim's. He stepped over to her and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. "Come on, Leevy," he whispered. "You get to see your family now." He helped her up and held her against his side to keep her from collapsing again.
He faced the audience with her. Effie gestured for applause.
It was deathly silent, save Prim's screams from the distance.
Effie pursed her lips angrily. "Always the same in Twelve," she muttered away from the microphone.
She plastered on her smile. "And they're off!" she called out.
The sobbing girl and distraught boy were led off to the Justice Building.
"Very undignified," her mother sniffed from her armchair in their theater room.
"What?" Katniss asked around her mouthful of popcorn.
"Crying like that in public," Esmeralda Snow answered. She nodded towards the girl Tribute on her knees in District Twelve. "Always remember, Katniss, a lady-"
"Shows decorum under scrutiny and stress," Katniss recited. "Yes, Mom."
Her mother nodded proudly. "That's my girl."
Katniss turned back to the screen. A tiny blond girl was screaming and hanging on to an older boy who looked just like her. "Very undignified," she parroted.
The boy stepped up to the stage and helped the crying girl Tribute to her feet. Katniss stared at his quiet, gentle face.
"That was very nice of him," she murmured.
"What was nice, dear?"
She looked to where her father had summoned the Avox with a glass of strawberry milk for her.
"Peeta?" Prim's tear-streaked face rounded the door in the Justice building.
"Hey, baby bird," he smiled at her. She burst into sobs and ran to him. "Shush now," he murmured to her golden hair. "You're going to make Dad cry."
But it was too late. His father was already crying when he pulled Peeta off the bench and into his arms.
"Not my boy," he was weeping. "Not my sweet boy."
"It's okay, Dad," Peeta sighed. He heard his voice quiver and he swallowed back his tears. "You've got Prim, what else could anyone want?" he laughed miserably.
"I want my boy safe at home," he wept into his son's shoulder. "I want my children safe."
"Dad," Peeta pulled back and tried to look stern while his eyes watered. "I'm not coming back. You know that." Prim cried harder. "But it's okay!" he insisted, trying to hold back the panic. "Without me there will be enough food for Prim; you won't have to take any tesserae. Don't ever take it, Primrose. Promise me."
"I promise," she whispered.
"Dad, don't forget to dampen the coals in the bread ovens when you go to bed," he smiled weakly. "You always forget. And don't give Prim too many sweets; she'll get a toothache."
His father yanked him in tighter. Peeta felt Prim's arms around his waist. "I love you both so much," he told them.
"I never deserved children so good," his father cried. "Your mother would be so proud of you."
Prim pulled on his hand. He kneeled down and hugged her too tightly.
"Please try to win."
He sighed and pressed his forehead to hers. "Prim-"
"Please," she cried. "For me."
He felt a tear escaping him. "Okay, baby bird. Okay."
She kissed his cheek.
And then they were gone.
He started to cry.
The door opened.
"You've got to win."
Gale's jaw was clenched and he could see the vein twitching as he tried to fight the terror.
Peeta shook his head. "Gale, I couldn't even shoot one squirrel all the times you tried to teach me. You told me yourself I'm no good," he tried to smile.
"This is different than a doe. This is someone trying to kill you. You've got to fight, Peeta!"
"Gale," Peeta murmured. "We can't pretend I'm coming back."
"Do it for Prim. She needs you."
Peeta nodded morosely. "She has Dad."
"He needs you more."
Peeta broke. Gale yanked him in to hug his closest friend. "You can beat them."
"You're smarter than everyone," Gale told him. "You study hard and you're the best in school. You learn everything you can and you take it with you into the Arena."
"You're going to win, Peeta," he insisted. "You're going to come back."
Then he was gone too.
Peeta held Leevy's hand as they boarded the train station; he could see her little sisters and her older brother crying with her parents. Gale was stone-faced watching him leave. Prim's eyes were streaming onto his father's shoulder where he held her in his arms, dampening the shirt with a large puddle. His father's collar was soaked with his own tears.
Peeta gave them the brightest smile he could summon and waved to them. He leaned in to Leevy. "Wave to your family, Leevy," he murmured kindly. She sobbed and waved, calling their names.
Effie Trinket gripped onto their shoulders and guided them into the car.
They shuffled along awkwardly as they train began to move. Peeta caught the side of the door to the dining car as he ushered Leevy ahead of him.
Effie left them just inside the door to summon their mentor. The train pulled out of District Twelve's station and began to pick up speed.
Stepping into the dining car, Peeta grinned. He squeezed Leevy's hand. "Look! Chocolate cake. You love chocolate cake, Leevy."
The thirteen-year-old opened her swollen red eyes and looked over at the dining table laden with sweets and beverages of every color. "Chocolate?"
"Remember? Your mother got a little cake after your brother's final Reaping? You came with her to help pick it out and you wanted chocolate everything."
Leevy gave him a little smile. "I do like chocolate."
"Then you should have some chocolate."
He pulled her eagerly to the table and pulled out a chair for her. He took two small cakes off the tray and put them on her plate.
"Two?" she asked with wide eyes.
"Why not two?"
She bit her lip as she smiled at the cakes. She wiped her nose on her sleeve and picked up a cake. She took a big bite and laughed around her full mouth. "It's good!" she muffled.
He sat down next to her and eyed a shiny glass pitcher in front of him. He pulled the pitcher to him and looked inside. He sniffed the liquid.
"I think this is orange juice," he whispered excitedly. Leevy's eyes grew wide.
"Real oranges?" she whispered through a mouthful of cake.
He nodded and poured a small glass. He tasted it. His eyes shone. "It's real orange juice!" he whispered. He poured them each a tall glass and slurped his down to make her smile.
"Oh my stars!" Effie had returned. She was gawking at Leevy's chin covered with chocolate icing and crumbs down her Reaping blouse. She had brought with her a disheveled man Peeta recognized as their hapless Mentor.
"Looks like you're enjoying yourself," he smirked. Peeta wiped his orange juice mustache away.
"She likes chocolate," he muttered.
"Mmph," Haymitch grunted, dropping into the chair opposite Leevy. He took a chocolate cake from the serving tier and starting shoveling it into his face. Leevy winced and wiped her mouth with a cloth napkin.
Peeta looked at Haymitch. He could smell the stale liquor emanating from his rumpled clothes and unwashed skin. He crammed the last bit of cake in his mouth and took a flask from his pocket. He took three long drags and then belched loud enough to make Effie groan in displeasure.
Peeta looked at Leevy. She looked at the uneaten cake on her plate sadly. "Are you going to help us?" Peeta asked softly.
"That's my job, isn't it?" he spat at the boy.
Peeta looked at his hands. "What do we do?"
Leevy started to cry.
"Stop it!" Peeta hissed. "You're scaring her!"
"You should be scared," Haymitch laughed bitterly. "The kids you're up against have better food, better skills, better training. Your best bet is to hide and hope they kill each other," he snorted.
"Fine!" Peeta exploded. "Then tell us where to hide!"
Haymitch was silenced. Peeta gave him a meaningful glance and jerked his head to the sobbing strawberry-blond girl with icing on the fingers covering her eyes. He mouthed "please" to his Mentor.
Haymitch took Peeta in for a long time.
"Okay," he finally said. "Fine. Get cleaned up. Looks like you could use some rest."
Effie gingerly helped Leevy to her feet, carefully holding her wrists to keep the smeared cake and icing off of her own terrifyingly green skirt suit. Haymitch pointed Peeta in the direction of his own sleeping car.
He stepped inside the beautiful cabin; rich royal blue satins and silver fixtures and tailored accents surrounded him. He flung himself down on the bed, gripped the pillow over his face and screamed.