Sister of the Accident
"Cause you and I, we were born to die." – Born to Die by Lana Del Ray
The day her sister is Reaped, she does not cry.
Okay, a lie. She cries—very much—not prim, ladylike little tears but huge heaving wails that result in snot and mess. But she cries secretly, away from her mother and definitely not in front of her sister, for her sister must already be hurting and she must offer strength. She tries to tell Katniss that she can win, and she makes Katniss promise that she will win, and she tells it to herself and Katniss so many times that she almost believes it.
But in reality, it's her first real encounter with death, and she's terrified. Of course, her father did die when she was young, but she was so very young that she does not remember it too much. This—the prospect of losing Katniss—is her first real encounter, one that she feels like a staggering blow. Katniss, strong and lovely Katniss, invincible Katniss, could die. And that was when Prim knew that anyone could die. That everyone would die. That they were all born to die.
Things somehow go on after Katniss is Reaped. The watching of the Games is always a painful reminder, but her mother, thank goodness, seems more or less still alive. She runs the apothecary to get extra money in, and Prim helps as much as she can. Gale drops by every week or so with some extra meat and perhaps some herbs to boost them. Every time he comes, Prim can't help but to notice the gray circles around Gale's eyes and the hunger that must be affecting him too. But they need the extra food, so she takes it with a smile and as genuine of a thank you as she can muster.
Sometimes, Gale sends his brother Rory to drop off the extra food. Prim finds that when Rory comes to their door, her smile is wider and her thank you is more genuine.
Katniss becomes the Mockingjay, something Prim finds funny, because in her mind, Katniss was never a Mockingjay—an accidental bird that imitated the call of others. Katniss was never a follower, more of a leader, someone independent and proud and fierce. But maybe, in the eyes of the Capitol at least, she was an accident. Someone that Capitol never wanted but got anyways.
Prim doesn't know what to think of the "star-crossed lovers" routine.
It's obvious from Peeta's face that he genuinely cares for Katniss, the way his eyes shine when he looks at her and the gentle way he kisses Katniss's forehead when Katniss is asleep, but she isn't too sure about Katniss.
Katniss doesn't look at Peeta the same way, nor does she touch him as gently. Besides, the Katniss that Prim knows would never let herself fall victim to love so easily. It's an act, she realizes. But why would Katniss act such a way? All for the sake of survival?
The Capitol, she thinks, is making my sister into something she is not.
But when Katniss runs to the feast and risks her life to get Peeta's medicine, Prim realizes that not all of it is an act. Maybe Katniss doesn't know yet, but she does love Peeta in her own little way.
By some miracle, Katniss manages to come back.
Or maybe not completely back. When the train arrives and Prim rushes up to her and hugs her, Katniss stares at her hollowly and then robotically moves her arms to hug her back. Then her sister seems to regain her senses and hugs Prim properly, except the hug is too tight and too desperate and different, not Katniss.
Katniss is different. Prim can feel it in her hug, see it in her eyes, hear it in her voice. Gale is different too—his relationship with Katniss is no longer the easy-going partnership they had before. Everything is different. They move into a new house, which Buttercup severely dislikes and has this odd smell about it. District Twelve itself changes, with a new squad of strict Peacekeepers arriving.
Something huge is going on. As she strokes Buttercup and milks Lady and goes about helping with the apothecary, she can't help but to feel as if they're on the brink of something huge.
When Katniss is Reaped again, she cries (again).
Forget strength and everything—Prim had thought Katniss was safe and safe for good, and when her sister is Reaped again, she breaks down and has a good cry.
When she stops crying, she dries her tears and resolves not to cry again, at least not in front of Katniss, and most definitely not in front of her mother.
And she can't help to think that they were all born to die.
The weeks of the Quarter Quell games are the craziest weeks of her life.
Peacekeepers are everywhere, and whippings are becoming a common public event. More people file into the apothecary, but the thing is, half of them can't pay. Her mother begins working for lower costs now and hardly sleeps but instead throws her heart and soul into her work. Prim helps too, although some days she wishes she didn't have to. It's depressing being around people that are dying all the time. And even though most of the time she and her mother can heal patients, every now and then, it will have been too late and the patient will die, right in their house.
The first time it happens, Prim can't help but to cry. But when it starts becoming less uncommon, Prim stops crying. And this worries her, because she remembers that behind every death is someone with a story—with a family—with a possible future—someone who deserves tears.
But the tears don't come out anymore.
She doesn't catch the last part of the Games because the day the last episode is supposed to be airing, bombs fall from the sky.
Bombs fall from the sky—affecting everything and everywhere except Victor's Village, and it's absolutely crazy, and people are dying and she doesn't even have the decency to cry, and somewhere through the haze Gale comes with a crowd of people and they all head for the forest. She and her mother run, coughing and screaming but not crying for some reason, and when the bombs stop falling, almost nothing is left.
It isn't until District Thirteen picks them up that Prim realizes that Buttercup is gone.
Before, it had been too chaotic, with all these injuries to mend, and trying to gather food and everything, for Prim to notice that she had forgotten Buttercup.
For some reason, this realization is what drives her over the point, and, now in the safety of their assigned compartment, she cries. She cries for all the ones that died that she couldn't save, she cries for the forever gone District Twelve, she cries for Katniss and Gale and Buttercup—oh poor Buttercup…
Her mother is in the hospital unit, already helping with the healing, and Prim wishes that she had some sort of outlet to get her stress into. But she doesn't want to be around dying people right now.
Suddenly, arms are wrapping around her and she's crying into a warm chest, and when she stops crying and looks up, she sees Rory.
"Gale told me to check up on you," says Rory. "And I saw you crying. I-I'm sorry, I didn't mean to—" He leaves.
She must be going insane.
But apparently, not as insane as Katniss.
Katniss was rescued by District Thirteen from the Games, and she has been even more changed. Katniss's condition worries her. She's not being given details, despite that fact that she's her sister and a junior nurse for that, even. Prim can imagine how her sister would feel, though—it's obvious that she loved (loves?) Peeta, and Peeta's far away, most likely being tortured in the Capitol. Not only that, Prim doesn't like how the people in Thirteen are treating her—crowding her with plans and demands and calling her insane—can't they tell that Katniss needs some space?
Katniss comes back from her visit to District Twelve, and with her, she brings Buttercup. She strokes Buttercup and almost cries with joy, for her cat is back and it's wonderful seeing that as everything else changed, Buttercup didn't. But out of the corner of her eye, she watches Katniss, wrapped in her old hunting jacket, who seems pale and jittery.
That day, a Capitol video airs, one with Peeta and Caesar who are telling Katniss to stop fighting. A few days later, Katniss agrees to be the Mockingjay.
Prim's still worried.
Buttercup brings some sanity into her life, and in a way he's a lifeline. She remembers a story Katniss told her when she was young, about a crazy old cat lady, and wonders if she's going to end up like that. But it's so difficult finding people to talk to, for everyone is preoccupied with the Rebellion, and they all have something better to do than with the thirteen-year-old sister of the Mockingjay (accident, she thinks in her head). Even Katniss herself is a scarce face, and she's her sister. Buttercup doesn't scoff or scold or judge; he just listens.
Not that it's Katniss's fault, she reminds herself. She tells Buttercup of a patient that died today. It's much rarer for a patient in Thirteen to die than it was in Twelve, and especially because of population decreases, the loss is more widely felt. Prim, who had been part of the squad in charge of the patient, had been reprimanded by the President for letting the patient die. Apparently he was a very valued war strategist.
Prim didn't cry.
She tells Buttercup that she isn't getting a particularly good vibe from the President, who seemed more concerned about losing a war strategist than an actual person—living, breathing, with a wife and family.
That night, bombs fall from the sky.
The night the bombs fall from the sky (again), she has to get Buttercup.
Buttercup, her confidant and one familiar pet, the one she abandoned once, is not going to be abandoned again.
She nearly dies for it, but Buttercup's safe and she's alive and that's what's important.
Maybe it's something about her almost dying, but Katniss talks to her for the first time in what seems like eternity. She tells her older sister of her plans to become a doctor with faked chirpiness, and tries to give Katniss advice, but she keeps the conversation light and lively. Nothing too heavy, like the patient that died; Katniss has enough weight on her shoulders.
The next day, she tells Buttercup what she's really thinking about the bombings, and how she's insanely worried for Katniss and the whole Peeta-with-the-propo thing, and how although she's always wanted to be a doctor, in reality, she's starting to get tired of being around hurting people all the time and with the stupid barking President; for goodness's sake, she's only thirteen…
The door opens, and suddenly, there's Rory in the doorway, staring at her talking to her cat.
"I—I can explain," she begins, imagining how stupid and silly she must look talking to her cat.
Rory shrugs. "What is there to explain? You were talking to your cat." He laughs, and Prim looks down and feels her cheeks heat up, absolutely mortified.
"Hey, it's okay," he says. "Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I talk to Erry. You know, Posy's stuffed bear. There's no one else to talk to."
She looks up and cracks a smile. "Maybe you could tell me?"
"If you talk to me," he answers, his smile growing wider. He pauses for a while, searching his brains for a suitable subject. "So. What are you thinking?"
She looks at Rory, wonders how much she can tell him that he will really listen to, and she decides to get the most insane thing out first. "I think we were all born to die."
A squad rescues Peeta from the Capitol, and Peeta arrives in the District Thirteen hospital. But he's changed too, like everything else. Except his change seems more major than some. She's told that the Capitol "hijacked" him. The doctors try many things with him—medicines and prescriptions and drugs—but in the end it's decided that this hijacking isn't something that can be fixed with a formula. It's personal. In other words, they need someone close to him to watch over him.
Katniss, of course, is out of the question. Peeta's hijacking caused him to hate Katniss with a vehement passion. She and Delly Cartwright, one of Peeta's childhood friends, are called to help him with his condition. They get along fairly well, and Peeta does seem almost normal sometimes. She and Delly will begin hoping, and then, offhandedly, one of them will mention the magic word, Katniss, and Peeta will jump into a maniacal frenzy.
Of course, on the rare occasions when she speaks to Katniss, or anyone else for that matter, she tries to paint a rosy picture. The only person she's truly honest with is Buttercup, of course, and recently, Rory. Rory tells him that he's worried too—about Gale and his involvement in the war ("It's an obsession now.") and how Gale is nagging at him to join the army and fight.
Their conversations aren't always just complaints and worries, though. Sometimes they speak lightheartedly, about normal teenage issues like school and gossip. When Prim finally gets around to asking him why he was visiting her compartment the day he caught her talking to her cat, Rory reddens, refuses to answer, and hastily changes the subject. She doesn't push it; they have plenty of time. (Or so she thinks.) Sometimes they will speak of District Twelve. When Rory asks her about life in the apothecary, she tells him on how gloomy it was being around dead people all the time.
"Huh," he says when she tells him, "I thought you loved healing."
She sighs. "I do, I suppose. But sometimes I wish I could have a break."
And for the first time, Prim sees Rory get angry. It's not the way Gale gets angry, which is explosive and frightening and hot. Instead, it's steely and cold more than anything else. But underneath the anger, it's just concern. "You wish you could have a break? Prim, don't you understand? It's war, and people are dying out there, and you have the power to stop that. And you want a break?"
She bites her lip and tries to hold back tears, because it really is too much. Rory's tone softens and he quickly corrects himself.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean it to come out so harsh. I just mean that you don't heal because it's enjoyable and you love it and it brings you joy to help people. You're not doing it for yourself—"
He breaks off abruptly and says, "No, I won't lecture you when I'm so hypocritical that I don't want to go out to war and fight even for the sake of freedom. You're only thirteen."
In response, she quietly says, "No, you're right. I-I think I understand."
This is why, a few weeks later, she finds herself buttoning up the nurse's uniform.
Her hands shake, and she's nervous beyond belief, but she knows she is doing the right thing. Like Katniss, who is off doing good things for the Rebellion and has lost so much for the sake of the rest of them.
They were all born to die, but these children didn't deserve to die. Not so early. Even if they were Capitol children. They were helpless, and she was there to give them help. Like Rory had said. And somehow she knew that she wouldn't regret her choice.
"I'll be back soon, Buttercup," she says, giving her cat one final hug. "Wait for me, okay?" The cat purrs.
(Even when the parachutes fall from the sky, she doesn't regret her choice.)
Written for Caesar Palace's monthly prompt: "Born To Die" by Lana Del Rey. I do apologize that the connection to the prompt was a little (haha, there's an understatement) incomplete. Feedback would also be great; specifically, I'm looking for ways I can add more detail to improve this.