Word Count: 1000
Pairing: Katniss and Darius
Let It Go, You'll Be Okay
It's such a strange insult that Darius actually has to turn to see who would even say something like that. Of course it's a 16-year-old girl. He shouldn't be surprised.
"It's okay to say 'frigid bitch'," her friend says, sniffing.
He feels an uncomfortable tug in his chest when he sees who they're looking at—Katniss. He's only been in 12 for a year and a half, but he knows the story about Katniss and he knows that if she's harsh, or even cold, she has reason to be. Her life has been harder than most.
And he can't help but feel a little bit of fondness for the girl who sells him rabbits.
He thinks about walking over to the pair of girls who are still muttering insults about Katniss, just to talk to them and freak them out a little. They're girls from the town (which further explained the way they were looking down their noses at her) and if he started asking them questions, they'd get paranoid and think they were in trouble.
But he lets it go, because Katniss has just sent them a glare, like she can tell they're talking about her, and both of them shut up, cowering a little.
He grins and walks away.
That night, he teases Katniss during one of their trades. "I'll give you a kiss, and you give me a rabbit. That's an excellent trade."
Sae and Katniss laugh. Katniss's cheeks redden a little, but it's hardly noticeable on her dark skin.
He feels that tug in his chest again, but this time it's a good feeling.
"Really!" he protests, leaning forward and tickling Katniss' chin with her braid. "Everyone knows redheaded men are more virile!" He looks around, and points at a random woman from the seam. "My kisses are more than satisfactory, and she can prove it."
Then he sees Gale glaring daggers at him, laughs, and hands Katniss the coins. Because he knows that Gale loves her, and she loves Gale. And he's too old for her, isn't he?
He lets it go.
Katniss comes home from The Hunger Games alone and shuts everyone out—including Gale. Darius overhears Mrs. Everdeen telling Sae that Katniss hasn't said a word since her interview.
He thinks about going to see her, but that seems like a monumentally bad idea. He lets it go.
The first time he sees her again, snow is on the ground and he's walking a patrol circuit. She's standing outside of her new house, barefoot and wearing loose clothing. She looks the same way she did before the Games—hungry and too skinny.
"Hi, Katniss," he says, stopping, because they're sort of friends. He always gave her more money for the rabbits than she asked for and she always skinned and gutted the rabbits for him.
She blinks at him, shaking.
He can see frost on the windows behind her, and maybe on her fingers.
"Where's your mom?" he asks carefully. "Or Prim?"
She shrugs, and a violent shiver wracks her body.
"Okay," he says, starting to worry. "Let's get you inside." He moves toward her and carefully takes her hand. He pulls her gently toward the house and opens the door for her.
She walks inside but doesn't let go of his hand, so he follows her in. She stops just inside the door, though, and tilts her head to the side ever so slightly.
She reminds him of a bird.
He closes the door, and says, "Go sit on the couch, Katniss."
She obeys him, still clutching his hand tightly.
He wraps a blanket around her and sits next to her, because she's not letting his hand go.
She keeps shivering and her head ends up knocking into his shoulder.
He curls an arm around her, holding her head there, and doesn't say a word when she starts to cry.
Somehow, it becomes a routine thing for him to save her from frostbite. He worries about her on days he isn't on circuit patrol, and hopes whoever's doing it forces the traumatized victor back into her house.
The fifth time it happens, she whispers, "Thank you."
He says, "You're welcome."
The eleventh time, she says, "You're the only one who doesn't mind touching me when I'm like this."
And he wonders if Prim is too scared of hurting Katniss and if her mother just doesn't know how to show her affection any more.
He pulls her into his lap and tucks her face into his neck. "It's okay."
And it is. When she ends up falling asleep on him, he takes her up to her bedroom and lays her down in the bed, gently tucking her in. He slips out of the house and keeps patrolling.
The next time he comes, Katniss is wearing a coat and boots, and she says, "Can I walk with you?"
He nods, and when they're isolated on the path between Victor's Village and the town, she tugs on his hand to stop him.
He turns to look at her expectantly, but instead of the communication she favors (dramatic eyebrow movements and hand motions with the occasional word thrown in for clarification), she just looks at him for a moment, and steps close to him before asking if she can kiss him, and he nods, kind of dumbly because he should be saying no (she's a victor she's seventeen she's damaged) but all that flies out of his head because her lips are touching his and it doesn't matter because he loves her and he's only six years older; it's not that big of a deal, and his heart might pound right out of his chest—
She pulls away, tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, and smiles at him. "Thank you."
He stares at her reddened lips and shakes his head to clear it. "Yeah," he whispers, and then he tugs her close to kiss her again.
They'll be okay.
Disclaimer: I don't own The Hunger Games.
A/N: This is my first published piece of Karius fanfiction, and maybe you can tell that I get really emotional about them because...feelings okay. Feelings. They are so OTP and I don't care if you disagree. Anyway, written for the 25 Days of Ficmas (link on profile).