a/n: This is a fluffy, holiday-themed "We Have Brought Peace Onto You" outtake that I started writing nearly two years ago. I finished it yesterday for tumblr's Prompts in Panem holiday challenge. Obviously, this outtake occurs very out of order with the chapters that came before it, but it just didn't make sense to me to post it anywhere else but here.
Thank you all so much for the support you've shown me and this story over the past year and a half, and I hope you enjoy this little addendum. And if you celebrate Christmas, happy holidays. :)
December, 1927, Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany
It's very early in the morning. So early, in fact, that the rooster that batty old Frau Schmidt keeps locked up in a pen next door hasn't even started crowing yet.
But nine-year-old Peeta Mellark has already been awake for hours, working in his family's bakery with his older brothers, Rye and Streusel, before school.
This is always their busiest time of year. With Christmas just two weeks away they have so many orders for cakes, cookies, and other treats that they all have to work extra hard. It means Peeta can't play ball with his friends after school but he doesn't mind. He gets to make lots and lots of cookies in December, and cookies are his very favorite things to bake. And Mother actually gives him a little money to spend in December for all the work he does.
Peeta plans to take the bus to Frankfurt's city center next week with his friend, Cato, all by themselves, and buy some fancy sweets from the sweet shop there. Peeta loves the way the rock candy they sell looks, all white and sweet and crystalline.
Normally Peeta doesn't have extra money for things like sweets. But every year around Christmas, he does.
Peeta is just about to finish his last batch of cookies for the morning and go home for breakfast when his brothers start talking about girls. It seems like Rye and Streu are always talking about girls. Peeta doesn't mind so much when they do (even though he doesn't always understand exactly what they're talking about). But they usually talk about one girl one week and another girl the next, and that confuses him.
Because there's only been one girl Peeta has ever wanted to talk about. Katniss Everdeen, the butcher's daughter. Peeta has liked her ever since he was a little boy. And she is the only girl he has ever liked.
Peeta doesn't tell his brothers about Katniss because they would tease him. And what would he even say to them about her? Peeta is too nervous around Katniss to talk to her. So he never has.
She might not even know he exists.
Because of all of this Peeta usually tries not to pay too much attention when his brothers talk about girls. They never include him in the conversations anyway. Today, however, the subject is an unusual one and Peeta cannot help but listen.
Streu and Rye are discussing what they should get their girls for Christmas this year. They sound frantic, which Peeta finds strange. His brothers agree that the gift has to be gotten exactly right. But neither seems to know what the right gift is for his particular girl.
Peeta stops listening after a few minutes. He can't imagine that any girl worth having would stop liking a boy just because he got her the wrong thing for Christmas. And besides, the only girl he would ever want to get a present for doesn't even celebrate Christmas.
Without another word, Peeta takes the last cookies off the tray and goes home for breakfast.
He hopes Mother made cinnamon buns today. She doesn't make them often – they're a lot of trouble to go through for just the five of them, she explains whenever Peeta asks for them in March or June or September. And the ingredients are expensive.
But sometimes, around Christmas, if Peeta's been extra good and especially helpful around the house, Mother will make cinnamon buns for him as a special treat.
The next morning, Peeta and Streu are about halfway through their weekly Saturday deliveries when it begins to snow. The day dawned cold, but clear, when they left the bakery two hours ago, and the snow takes them by surprise.
At first the snow is nothing but flurries that flutter and sparkle as they fall through the air and land on their thick winter coats. Easy enough to ignore. But soon enough the flakes grow bigger and wetter and fall faster and more heavily. It isn't long at all before snow piles up on the ground all around them in big, drifting mounds.
They're on their bicycles for today's deliveries, just like always. But the going gets difficult once the snow begins falling in earnest. When Peeta skids on ice for the fourth time in less than an hour Streu suggests, kindly, that their bicycles are just slowing them down. Peeta cannot argue with this. They prop their bicycles against a nearby post and agree to make their few remaining deliveries on foot.
As the snow continues to fall, Peeta is glad they are almost done with their deliveries for the day. His boots are bulky but they do little to keep out the damp and cold. Now that he is trudging through the snow on foot his woolen socks are getting more sodden by the minute.
They save the stop Peeta looks forward to, but also dreads, all week for last.
Herr Everdeen's butcher shop.
Peeta swallows the lump in his throat and tries to ignore the familiar funny feeling that's started up in the pit of his stomach. Clinging to the cold steel railing, he carefully follows Streu up the icy porch steps and into the very warm front room of the Everdeens' shop.
The shop is very crowded for so early on a Saturday. Herr Everdeen is waiting on an elderly customer as Peeta and Streu enter, kicking the caked snow off their boots. But he looks up at them at the sound of the jingling bells above the front door, and he smiles broadly at them.
"Boys," he says, loudly enough that they can both hear him easily over the din of the shop. "Please. Come in and out of the cold."
Herr Everdeen motions for Streu and Peeta to take a seat by the door. They do as they're asked without another word.
A moment later, Katniss Everdeen – nine years old, just like Peeta; with two long, dark brown braids that trail halfway down her back; and the most beautiful singing voice Peeta has heard in his entire life – approaches them with a steaming mug in each hand.
"From Papa and me," she explains, handing them the hot drinks. Her voice is bright and clear; Peeta stares straight ahead and over her shoulder at the far wall of the shop as she talks. She smells like soap and spring flowers, even though it's the middle of winter, and suddenly the strange feeling in the pit of Peeta's stomach is back again.
"Because it's so cold today, and snowing, we're giving some to all of our regular customers and vendors," she continues. "And also because of the holiday."
"Ah, of course," Streu says. Peeta can never find his voice around Katniss. He's grateful Streu is talking for the both of them today. "Is tonight the first night of Hanukkah?"
"Yesterday was," Katniss says. "And this hot cider is our gift to you." Peeta glances up at her, but she's looking at Streu, not him. She's smiles, and Peeta has to look away again or else he knows he'll start blushing.
"Well thank you, Fräulein Everdeen," Streu says. He holds the mug in his hands and blows on the hot cider to cool it. "This is exactly what we needed on a day like today. But I'm very sorry, we don't have anything for you but the bread we always bring you on Saturdays."
Peeta's heart lodges in his throat. Because Streu is right. Katniss has given both of them a present, but they haven't given her anything but what her family paid them for. He puts his mug down on the floor by his feet and rests his head in his hands, ashamed.
"Do not worry about that, Herr Mellark," Herr Everdeen says from behind the counter. The elderly customer he was waiting on collects her packages and walks towards the door, just as the next person in line approaches the counter. "Chag Sameach to you and your family."
"Chag Sameach," Streu tries to say. Or at least Peeta thinks that's what Streu tries to say. In truth it doesn't sound much like what Herr Everdeen said to them at all.
But Herr Mellark and Katniss both smile broadly at Streu's attempt all the same.
"May your new year be very sweet," Herr Mellark adds, before turning to wait on the man standing in front of him.
"Happy New Year, Peeta," Katniss murmurs very quietly. He realizes, suddenly, that she's standing next to him now. She presses a small object into his hand.
Peeta looks up at her, surprised. But she's already walking back towards her father.
Peeta looks at what she's given him. It's a small wooden figurine. A tiny wooden boy, carved or whittled out of a small piece of oak.
She must have made this, he realizes. For him.
"Come on, Peeta," Streu says. Peeta looks at his older brother nervously, preparing himself for merciless teasing. But if Streu saw what Katniss did he doesn't act like it. Streu finishes his cider in one large swallow and stands up, setting his empty mug on the chair where he'd sat. "We should be getting home."
His hand still tingling from when Katniss pressed his gift into his palm, Peeta nods. He carefully places his present – something she gave to him and him alone – inside his coat pocket.
His stomach is a mass of knots the rest of the day.
Warm in his bed that night, his blankets tucked snugly up to his chin, Peeta thinks about what happened today in the butcher shop.
He's felt badly all day that he had nothing to give Katniss. That cider was warm and delicious, and Peeta had never been more grateful for something warm to drink than he'd been that morning.
He turns his head to look at his nightstand, where the small wooden figure she made him sits next to his stack of American comic books. He bites his lip and closes his eyes, ashamed all over again.
Peeta needs to give Katniss something. It's what any nice boy would do.
He could always make her cookies, Peeta muses. But he decides right away that's a bad idea. His family sells the Everdeens cookies all the time.
No. Cookies wouldn't be a very special gift at all.
He thinks of the money he's saved for his trip to the candy store. That should be enough for something. He hopes he can sneak away from Cato long enough tomorrow to buy Katniss something without him realizing he's gone.
Cato would make endless fun of him if he knew Peeta was buying something for a girl. And Peeta does not want that. Not at all.
There's only one shop close enough to the candy store that will allow Peeta to manage sneaking out without Cato noticing. An all-purpose goods store he's been inside two or three times before with Mother. Peeta has no idea what sort of present a girl like Katniss would want, but Fräulein Gottlieb, the girl who runs the store, was always nice to him.
Maybe she can help him with this.
And she does help him.
"Can you tell me a little about her?" Fräulein Gottlieb asks kindly, pen in hand. She smiles at Peeta, which helps calm him down. "So I can help guide you to the right section of the store."
Peeta can think of lots of ways to describe Katniss. Strong. Brave. Beautiful. But he can't say any of that to Fräulein Gottlieb.
"She's… a very nice girl," Peeta stammers. He cringes a little, because he knows he's blushing, but he needs Fräulein Gottlieb's help so he pushes on. "She has long, dark hair…"
"Some hair ribbons perhaps?" Fräulein Gottlieb suggests.
Peeta thinks about that for a moment. He doesn't think Katniss is the sort of girl who cares much about hair ribbons. But she does have very pretty hair, and it's long, and it looks so soft. (He's wondered more than once if it feels as soft as it looks.) And he's definitely seen her wear hair ribbons before. Simple hair ribbons in basic colors, tied around the ends of her braids, on special occasions and on school holidays.
Maybe she'd like to have fancier hair ribbons but her family can't afford any. Maybe she'd like it a lot if she got a nice pair as a Hanukkah present.
Peeta knows this probably isn't the best gift idea in the world. But he and Cato need to catch the bus home in a few minutes and he doesn't have much money to spend.
"Hair ribbons is a good idea," Peeta finally says, nodding. "Do you have any green ones?" If he's going to get her something for her hair it needs to be in her favorite color.
"I think we do," Fräulein Gottlieb says. She puts down her pen. "Come with me, Peeta. I'll show you where we stock them."
To his relief, the store actually carries hair ribbons in three different shades of green. He picks the darkest green – the green that reminds him most of a forest, because he knows Katniss likes forests, - and pays for them with the coins in his pocket.
He won't have anything left for candy today but he doesn't mind.
Peeta carefully puts the green hair ribbons in his pocket and jogs over to the candy shop to meet Cato. Peeta hopes his friend will let him have a bite of whatever it is he got.
They take the bus home together. And Cato shares.
The next Saturday morning, Peeta wakes at dawn, just like always, and gets ready for the morning deliveries with Streu.
He's giving Katniss her gift this morning. Peeta cannot remember the last time he was this nervous.
Peeta spent at least an hour last night wrapping the ribbons up in a tiny navy-colored box Mother planned to throw away. These hair ribbons aren't much of a gift – certainly nothing at all compared what Katniss gave him – and so Peeta wants the presentation of the gift itself to be perfect. The ribbons are curled up very neatly inside the box on a bit of cotton cushioning from Mother's medicine cabinet that she'll never miss. He wrapped the box in neat brown paper, and tied a bow around it with some of the bakery's fanciest green string.
Ten minutes before it's time to leave, Peeta takes an ink pen from his nightstand and, as carefully and neatly as he can, writes For Katniss across the top of the box.
He hesitates for a moment after that. He was up most of the night worrying over whether or not to sign his name to the gift.
Peeta chews on the end of the pen and closes his eyes, thinking.
He likes Katniss a lot. More than any other girl he's ever known. He wants her to know how much he appreciates the gift she gave him last week.
But he doesn't know if Katniss even likes hair ribbons. What if he got her the wrong gift? What if she thinks this gift is stupid? He doesn't think he could bear it if she laughed at him or wrinkled up her nose at him.
Sighing, Peeta pockets the small unsigned box. He'll sneak it in among the breads they're bringing her family and she'll open it, later, not knowing who it's from.
Someday, maybe he'll be brave enough to tell Katniss Everdeen how much he cares about her. But right now, he just isn't.
"Ready to go, Peeta?" Streu calls from downstairs.
"Just a minute, Streu," Peeta calls back.
He grabs his winter coat and boots. He runs down the stairs two at a time as he pulls on his jacket.
"We should probably walk again today," Streu suggests, pulling on his own boots. "It's snowing."
Peeta nods. He opens the front door, each of them now carrying a very large sack of breads and other baked goods for delivery today.
They walk outside and Streu pulls the door shut.
"Ready?" Streu asks.
"Ready," Peeta confirms.
And they walk wordlessly about town, snowflakes landing on their coats and in their hair.