A/N: Hey, everyone. This is my first Hunger Games fanfic, and I hope I did the characters justice. I'm thinking this will be no more than 10 chapters, and it plays with the idea of Katniss's mother being abusive too. Rated T for mild romance and violence, but I might add in optional chapters with the M rating for graphic violence... not sure yet. I am already part way through writing chapter 2, and I hope to have a new chapter up each week. However, I can be busy or lazy or both, especially in the summertime, so I can't make any promises. My other fanfic, Surrender, for the Seven Kingdoms Trilogy, hasn't been updated in a while, and I have been meaning to, just bear with me. It's a lot harder to write than this one.
All that aside, Happy Reading!
The rain beats softly on the window at the front of the bakery. I sighed as I put the last dabs of icing on the first tier of the wedding cake the tailor had ordered. Closing off the bag of frosting with a firm knot, I make my way over to the large pantry to deposit the leftover ingredients. Once the heavy bag of flour rests securely on the top shelf and the utensils are in the sink to be cleaned, I wander over to the window that looks out onto the main street in town. The rain was soaking the muddy cobblestones, and street vendors hurried to shield their wares from the downpour.
Leaning on the windowsill with my head down and my blond hair flopping over my eyes, I remember that day years ago, the day the person I care most about in this whole world was on the brink of starvation. Her eyes were ravenous as she searched the empty trash bins, her hand clutched to her swollen stomach. Fresh tears stained her bruised face, and I remember the way she huddled against our scrawny little apple tree, hopeless. I remember stealing the fresh loaves of raisin bread from the cooling rack while my mother was drying off from the torrential rain. They felt crisp and hearty in my calloused hands, and I remember the feel of their weight leaving my palms. I never worked up the nerve to speak to her, to tell Katniss Everdeen I loved her. I was always afraid she would reject me, maybe for being a town kid or because I could have done more to help her. Oh well, at least she's alive and healthy and I can catch a glimpse of her every time she comes to trade with my father in exchange for a fresh squirrel.
I am about to turn away from the window when I see a shadow limping down near the butcher's shop. With a hand pressed over her bleeding eyebrow and her gait uneven, I can only think, please no. Please, don't let it be her. Discarding my apron, I bolt out into the thunderstorm and over to where the body has just collapsed.
And it's her, Katniss Everdeen, lying unconscious with blue lips and cuts all down her forearms. I inhale sharply as I see how bad her injuries look. Who would do this to her? I carry her wedding-style into the bakery through the back door. Kicking off my drenched boots, I sneak into my bedroom. I lay her on the bed, not even stopping to cringe at the mess her mud-soaked clothing will do to my comforter.
I'm no medic; I don't know the first thing there is to know about first aid. I am about to call for my dad when I remember that the family is currently living large in District 1, at least for the weekend. I would've been allowed to come too, but someone needed to stay behind to take care of the bakery. I've always been my mother's least favorite, so I was the obvious nominee for who would miss out on a few days of fancy kitchens, soft beds, and televisions that showed more than Hunger Games recaps. Cursing, I grab an armful of towels from the cupboard and hurry back to my room.
I try to put myself in Katniss's shoes. I'd be freezing from the wet clothing, I would probably have a massive headache from the giant bruise that's spreading on her forehead, and who knows what other wounds she might have underneath her clothing?
I wince when I realize the first thing to do is to wash her off and get her into a dry robe. I would never want to violate her privacy, but she's dying. I steel myself and bring her into the adjoining washroom. Trying not to look anywhere but her face, I remove her destroyed articles of clothing and set her gently into the now-filling bathtub. Sure, I've dreamed of her naked before- what guy wouldn't? But this was not how. She looks so thin and frail in the murky water of the tub, so fragile and helpless. I heat the water up and start by lathering some shampoo in her blood-caked hair. I watch the blue color leave her lips as I continue to soap down the rest of her broken body.
I begin to catalogue her wounds: two deep gashes right above her left knee, a formidable purple bruise over her ribs, shallow cuts on her arms, cracked lips, a long white scar going down her collarbone, and, of course, the bump on her head.
A tear trickles down my cheek when I see all these injuries this girl did nothing to deserve. Turning off the faucet and turning the knob to let the drain take away the garishly colored water, I run to my room to find a large t-shirt and a pair of sweats for her. Returning with my bounty, I carefully fit the loose clothing over her vulnerable figure. I hoist her over my shoulder and lay her gently down on the bed, pulling the sheets up to her chin. I toss the dirty comforter in the hamper and decide to take a quick shower myself before I get hypothermia.
The hot water works wonders on my own bruised and burned skin, washing away the chill that the downpour sliced through my skin. As I rub some soap into my arms, I can't help but recognize my own scars, injuries that look much like Katniss's will. I remember my mother, on a drunken rampage, beating me with a rolling pin or burning my skin with a hot poker. I have never met Katniss's mother, but surely she couldn't be as awful as my own? Or maybe it was the hunter I saw her disappear into the woods with every Sunday morning...
I get in and out of the bathroom quickly, and then go to find bandages and antiseptic. I know my mother used to keep a first aid kit in the laundry room closet, so I start there. I find a roll of gauze and a box with a bright red cross on the top. I take these back to my room and set them on the bed before pulling up a chair so I can get to work.
Katniss's color definitely looks a little better, but it's still not the olive tone I see on her each day in school. I dampen a bandage and lay it over her forehead to lower her fever, and put her on a heating pad to help with the horrible headache she'll wake up with. Then I smear her worst cuts on her leg in a sterile solution and wrap it up in gauze.
I can't give her the fever pills until she wakes up, though, so I rifle through Rye's bedroom closet for a spare blanket. I set up a makeshift bed on the floor and bring up a glass of water for when she wakes up.
It's late now, and I begin to wonder when the storm will stop. For now, I guess all I can do is wait for her to regain consciousness. My eyelids begin to flicker, and I plunge head-first into a dreamless sleep.