Title: People of The Meadow
Summary: District twelve wasn't just starving, and being a young woman in a forgotten district is far from easy. Prim wasn't reaped for the Hunger Games.
Longer summary: When Prim wasn't reaped Katniss never volunteered for the Hunger Games, leading to a completely different future for not just herself, but for everyone. Katniss now has to struggle to survive in the district of the starving, and learn how to cope with being a young woman in a place where women have it tough. Trying to navigate through her life dealing with what life throws at her, the changes in her district, the changes in her own life and those lives around her, she must fight hard to keep herself and her family afloat. Sacrifices must be made, and some things are unavoidable.
A/N: This story will be centered a lot around Katniss growing up, so it's a coming of age story. With some violence, death, sex, grief, sexism, and other mature subjects. I will warn you of them as they happen. It's a look into the district 12 that Katniss was still too young to see before the Hunger Games in the book. I'm being completely frank with the fact that this WILL be dealing with mature subjects, not as far as the reader requiring to be of a certain age, but it might require some maturity to be able to understand and grasp some of them. I base this world on how the world has looked in the past when it comes to poor and dictatorial nations.
I MUST MENTION that the opinions reflected through this story does not always reflect my own. There is blaming for mental illnesses, and other things that would be spoilery to mention. But please, bear in mind that shaming opinions and such in the story do not reflect my own, and if you are very bothered by it this is the warning I will give.
This first part is short and concise to set the ground work for the rest of the story.
You cannot put a fire out;
A thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a fan
Upon the slowest night.
- Emily Dickinson
74th annual Hunger Games / Prologue
The square is quiet as the door shut in front of them, containing the two tributes of the 74th Hunger Games; a thirteen year old girl named Raven Gabriel, and a sixteen year old boy named Peeta Mellark. Raven had been crying up on the stage, but Peeta only stared at the ground in front of him. The chances were not big that either one them would never look upon this square again, never see a familiar face again.
Katniss stood still on the square, safe and sound, watching the closed doors for only a moment before she sprung into action, desperate to find her younger sister Prim, who was closer to the stage with the younger girls. When Katniss found Prim she was crying, tears streaming down her face as she explained that the girl who had been chosen had been her classmate, she had turned thirteen just two days before, meaning that because of her bad luck she had her name entered an extra time. Then they would never know if she had taken any tesserae for her family. One extra name slip for a meager supply every month of basic grains that kept them alive another year. Katniss had her name in twenty times, she had tesserae for herself, her sister and her mother for each year she had been in the hunger games. It was twenty seven times less than her hunting mate, and nineteen more times than her younger sister Prim.
Though she knew it would be of little comfort, Katniss pulled her sister into a tight hug, kissing the top of her head. That was when she caught Gale's, her hunting mate, eyes across the square. He was safe, it was his last reaping, he would never have to compete in the hunger games. She was jealous, jealous that he could breathe out that sigh of relief that it would never be him. They wouldn't ever stop worrying though, not until all of their siblings were out of that bowl, and it would be six years until Prim was out, and fourteen until all of Gale's siblings were safely out of that bowl. Too long. At least she could go to bed that night knowing she'd never see him die on a television, and that all of them were safe for another year at least.
Peeta wasn't, though. Peeta had saved her life years ago by tossing her bread when she and her family were on the brink of starvation, almost dead. Her father had died, and her mother had been catatonic, not moving from her rocking chair in front of the fire. After that day she had taken to the woods to hunt, but she'd always remembered the debt she had to him, a debt she would never be able to repay now that he would be lost in the arena. District 12 hadn't had a winner for twenty-four years, not since Haymitch Abernathy, the constantly inebriated man that would only stray into town if he needed more alcohol, won the second quarter quell, and she didn't believe he was much of a mentor to those kids after having seen forty-six of them die, one after another.
She thought about going to visit him, but knew that he wouldn't have much time to see his family, and she'd rather him have his time with his family than to waste it with a guilted thank-you. She decided that she would let him have his time with them, and try to convince herself that it was the way she would say thank you to him. Although he would never know.
It was because of this she would never be able to have kids, she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she brought a human being into this awful place, and then have the risk of watching the child be sent away and risk to be slaughtered. She didn't understand how people could bring children into this world, why people didn't stop. Even if they didn't have a choice in the games, they did have a choice in bringing children into this world. Gale had said he might've wanted kids in the woods earlier that day, but after the reaping she understood his desire even less. Even in a world without the games, it would still be a world where the risk of the games starting again. It had been once, the idea and the option was there, and it wouldn't leave anyone's mind.
Gale walked over to them, now carrying his four year old little sister Posy in his arms. Since he was working long hour shifts in the mines, and hunting during the weekends, he had gotten strong and the muscles were bulging underneath his blue shirt. The smile he wore lit up his whole face, and Posy was giggling as she held on to him with her arms around his neck.
"Finally out of the bowl," he said, still smiling brightly at her. She smiled back, thinking she had never seen him smile so genuinely before, like he had something to live for now. And he did, he finally would be able to plan ahead for the future, for his life, without having to worry about becoming a participant in the hunger games.
"Must be a relief," I said, though my mind was still on Peeta, the boy who saved my life but would probably not live to even see seventeen. I was the one who had the odds against my favor, I was the one who was starving to death at twelve, who had my names entered so many times, not him. The odds were against him, he was picked despite the fact that there were people standing next to him that had their names in that bowl over fifty times. It shouldn't have been him, it should've been someone else, someone like Gale. But Gale, for once in his life, had the odds in his favor.
"Huge," he smilesd "you should come over for dinner tonight, mom is doing her stew, to celebrate." She nodded quickly, thinking about the last time she had tried that stew. She had barely been thirteen, and it was to celebrate Posy's second birthday. Back then Posy had been chubby cheeks and huge smiles as she would crawl up in your lap just to get another hug. Of all babies she had been around Posy was the only child she thought was cute. The stew was luxurious by district twelve standards, Hazelle, Gale's mom, told her that originally it was made with cow's meat, but it was far too expensive now so she would use rabbit, which was fine with Katniss.
"I will," Katniss said.
"Bring your mom and Prim too, if we add one of your rabbits in the stew we'll get more meat."
They walked out of the square, Prim under her arm hugging Katniss' waist, and Gale walking close to the two of them towards his siblings. Rory had already made his way back to Hazelle, Vick and Posy, he was hugging them with a relieved look on his face. While boys and men in the district often boasted about their masculinity, no one ever blamed a boy for hugging his mother after a reaping.
"Congrats Hazelle," Katniss said in a low tone after Hazelle had hugged and kissed her son Gale twenty times, tears streaming down her face. It was something to celebrate, something to congratulate; your child never entering the hunger games. Hazelle offered a warm smile back, reaching her hand out to stroke Katniss' cheek.
"Soon it will be you we are celebrating," Hazelle said, then kissed Katniss forehead. "You will be bringing your family to dinner tonight at our place, right?"
"Yes, and I'll take an extra rabbit with me."
The hunger games were an odd event that had the districts both hating and fearing the Capitol, and cheering on other people's death so that someone from your district would be coming back. That night after dinner the TV sparked to life to show the reaping from that day.
District one and two had their usual career tributes that burst towards the stage volunteering without question, and the same happened in four. But the other districts the ones who walk up to the stage were on the verge of crying, or too shocked to show any emotion. Most of the tributes were above fifteen this year, aside from twelve's 13 year old tribute, and a small little girl from district eleven. At least it wasn't like the year when all but the career districts had tributes under fifteen, that year had been particularly rough to watch, Katniss thought.
When they started commenting about who they thought would win, they all turned away, their morbid fascination had been sated, but Gale was shaking his head, unable to contain his anger. While he may have been out of that reaping bowl, he still had three siblings that weren't out of the woods yet.
As Gale started going on about the unfairness of it all, in a quiet tone so it couldn't be heard from outside, Katniss started to think about Peeta again. Seeing his face on the TV being reaped again, and then stepping on that train, had brought back the guilt. She wished there was some way for her to repay him, but she would never be able to. Maybe she could add a coin to send him something during the games, but it still wouldn't be what would ease her guilt. It wouldn't be eased unless she told him in person. She didn't like owing people, and she wanted people to know when she was giving back. She was wishing she could tell Gale about it, but it was a complicated story, a personal story, one she wanted to keep to herself even more now that he'd been sent to his death.
When the screen went black Prim was half asleep in her mother's arm, as was Posy in her mother's. Katniss and Gale both carried them to a small cot at the far end of the room, so that they could sleep undisturbed, and then the two of them went outside, walking towards the hole in the fence without having any intention of sneaking out when it was dark out.
"Katniss," Gale said suddenly when they were outside of hearing distance from the front porch of his house. She stopped to look at him, expecting him to start talking about the capitol, or expressing relief of how he would never be sent there, but instead he was looking at her with a burning gaze, it captured hers and didn't let her look away.
He didn't say anything for a long while, just letting her name hang in the air like a sigh, before he stepped closer towards her, taking her hand in his.
"I know you don't want a family, but maybe you'll consider a life with me, the two of us… it wouldn't be so bad, would it?" His voice was shaking as he spoke. "I think it would be pretty good, once you're out of the bowl," he added.
She stared at him, confused about what he was saying, about what she wanted because she had never once considered this before. A life with Gale wouldn't be so bad, she thought, they would be able to provide for both their families, and she would have him as a constant companion without worrying someone else would come and sweep him away. She did not have feelings for him though, not like the ones married couples should have, but maybe that was because she never allowed herself to let her thoughts drift, drifting thoughts could be dangerous.
"Yes," she said awkwardly before she could think any further. His eye widened, he had not expected her to say yes, he had expected to have to ask her again later on, after her final reaping. He'd been planning on letting her see how good of a match he was for her, and then ask her again.
"Yes?" He didn't wait for an answer before he hugged her close, closer than Katniss had ever been hugged. It was her first real hug from a man, and it felt nice, like a warmth spread through her. The kiss he placed on the top of her head made her feel so warm inside, so she thought that this must be right, no other decision could have been right.
Surely it must be right, Katniss thought.
Raven died within the first few minutes of the game, but Peeta survived three days before the boy from district eleven killed him. Both of their deaths are quick, and it's all you can ask for in the games. No one really cares for the winner, the district two boy, and when Raven and Peeta return in casket with a drunk Haymitch, few have the energy for tears. Their burials are somber, Katniss tell everyone that she's going for Prim, so that she could say goodbye to Raven, but Katniss goes to say goodbye to Peeta. He was too good for this faith, and his goodness showed through in the games. Neither Raven nor Peeta died killers, and the districts comforts itself with that. The winner of the games was responsible for ten deaths, the most of all in this year's hunger games.