Hello, Hunger Games fans! This is my first ever attempt at fanfiction. It's just a little story I've been thinking about and decided to give it a shot. This is going to be a Historical AU, though it definitely retains a fiction air and is going to be mostly cannon. It is also going to have a romance novel feel to it because I think they are really fun to read and write. Disclaimer: I, of course, do not own The Hunger Games. It belongs solely to Suzanne Collins. Happy Reading!
Prologue: Germany 1845
The little girl's ears perked up at the worried call of her name. Her head whipped to the side, wide, grey eyes scanning her surroundings for the voice's owner. She began to quickly navigate through the crowds of people filling the cobblestone streets, laughing and talking boisterously.
Heavy ruffled skirts swished and twirled by as young women towed their suitors to a new festival booth full of fresh treats, trinkets, and spirits that has caught their fancy. Katniss scowled at the giggling creatures that wore too much rouge and batted their eyelashes daftly up at their gentleman callers, who in return, smiled amorously back at them, hoping for a kiss or quick romp behind one of the many shops.
She continued her chase, her bare feet never making any sound, as if she were running on the air itself, trying to avoid broken bottles and splashes of ale from intoxicated festival goers. As she turns to throw a scathing look to the pub owner, whose face is flushed from spirits as he shouts at her to keep her filthy gypsy self away from his precious tavern, she feels her body collide into something solid.
"Oof—!" She falls backward, the wind getting knocked out of her lungs as her back hits the dirty street. While trying to regain the ability to breathe properly, she opens her eyes to see two of the shiniest, bluest eyes she's ever seen. She thinks about the tales her father regales her with at night about dragons guarding treasure; rubies redder than blood, emeralds the color of the leaves in their forest, and sapphires that make even the ocean jealous of their depth. The sapphires would be put to shame at the orbs looking down at her.
"Are you al lright?" The boy with the sapphire eyes asks her, his blond eyebrows pulled in concern. She doesn't answer, just stares, taking in his curly blond locks haloing his round, white face with cheeks and lips stained the most perfect shade of pink. He stares at her too, impossibly blue eyes as wide as saucers.
"Here, let me help you up," he says, face flushing brighter, as he sticks his hand out to her.
She eyes his hand with trepidation, then looks back up at his face. His lips part in a small encouraging smile and his eyes shine. She decides to trust him. His smile widens, showing off his white teeth and cheek dimples, when she places her hand in his. She looks away, her neck and cheeks feeling on fire.
"Thank you," she whispers, remembering what her mother taught her about proper manners. She eyes the boy's clothes, all silks and finery, and adds a, "Sir," to the end. At this, he laughs loudly, head tilted back and hand, the one not holding hers, on his stomach.
He's laughing at her!
With rising anger, Katniss tries to wrench her hand free from his grasp to run away and forget about this whole embarrassing encounter, but he grips her hand tighter.
"Stop that! Do not laugh at me!" She hisses, her eyes turning to slits and face pulling into a scowl. She seethes as she compares his new, clean clothes to her dirt strewn tattered skirts, angry that he is making fun of their obvious social difference. The boy quickly stops laughing, but a smile continues to play on his lips as he looks at her.
"I am sorry I offended you," he says apologetically, his eyes still shinning with amusement. "But, I am most definitely not a sir," he states with indignation.
"What are you, then, if not a sir?" Katniss quips back, raising an eyebrow and poking his cornflower silk cravat with her index finger. He smiles again, then leans in toward her face.
"Simple, I am just Peeta," he says, bringing her hand up to his grinning mouth and placing a delicate kiss on her knuckles. She gasps at the contact, then pulls her hand away quickly, her eyes widening and cheeks becoming an impossible shade of red. He grins even wider, a dimple popping out onto his right cheek. "Would you care for some bread?"
She eyes him warily, not knowing if the statement was an innuendo of sorts because of his namesake or actual bread. He answers by pulling some sweet bread, wrapped in baker's wax paper, out of his coat pocket. Katniss' mouth waters at the sight.
Her family doesn't starve, per se. But, she is not unfamiliar with hungry nights or going a couple of days without a substantial meal. That's one of the problems belonging to a gypsy family. Nobody wants to hire a gypsy who might "rob them blind and disappear into the night," never to be seen again. So, her father brings her family to travel around Europe playing his violin at festivals, like this one, to earn money while perhaps achieving a small, odd job on the side here and there.
"No thank you, just Peeta," she sneers defiantly, putting her hands on her hips and puffing her chest out. "I do not need your charity. I am quite capable of acquiring food on my own, without anyone's help."
It was only a half-lie. She did know how to work for her own money, that usually went back to her family to share, and her father taught her how to hunt game with her bow, but all was usually done with his aid. Though, Peeta doesn't know that, so she stands tall, eyes daring him to object.
"Oh, I have no doubts that you do indeed know how to take care of yourself," he says, eyes and voice mirroring the truth in his words.
"I was simply offering it to you as an apology of sorts, for being the cause of your tumble. Please, accept my sincerest apology?" He bowed at his waist, one hand behind his back and the other offering her the sweet bread in his open palm. His head tilted up toward her beseechingly, blue eyes staring into her own grey ones.
Katniss was about to protest, to say she was the cause of her own tumble by not paying attention to where she was running, but his face was pleading. Even his plump, rosy bottom lip pouted out, reminding her of a puppy she saw once in town that begged for scraps from its owner.
"Fine, I will allow it," she sighs begrudgingly, no longer able to deny his large and impossibly blue eyes shining at her from his cherub-like face. Katniss quickly accepts the treat after a little hesitation and an encouraging nod from Peeta.
He eyes her thin frame, threadbare clothes, and peculiarly bare feet. Everything about her was intoxicatingly fascinating to him. Her steel grey eyes framed by long dusty lashes, olive skin that was brown even though it was not summer, and thick dark hair pulled back into two braids with curls escaping everywhere.
With excitement, Peeta concluded that she must be a gypsy. He'd never met a gypsy before, but his mother often went on tirades about them. If there was one thing that Datura Mellark née Cromwell detested, it was gypsies. Thieving, murderous, scoundrels she called them. Infesting their nation with their filth.
Peeta did not agree with his mother's sentiments, though. Looking at the girl in front of him now, a smile on her full red lips and freedom radiating off of her like the sun's warming rays, he knew he was right in not listening to his mother. The gypsy girl was strong and independent, not hung up on the frivolities of society. She was alive.
She was the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen.
"What is your name?" Peeta asks as she finishes off the treat, sighing in contentment at having something in her stomach.
She looks up at him, mouth poised open and ready to respond when—
"Katniss! Where are you? Katniss!" A man burst through the crowd, his eyes looking frantically around for his daughter. Her head turned quickly to her right, braids whipping across her face as she spots the man.
"Papa!" She shouts back to him, his body relaxing as his eyes rest on his daughter, smiling and unharmed. His arms are around her before she can blink, her body crushed against his tightly.
"Oh, Katniss, puiule! Do not run off from me again. It is not safe to be on your own. Do you understand?" Her father's grey eyes mirrored her own, a stern expression etched onto his face.
"I understand, Papa. I'm sorry," she whispers, looking down with shame, tears stinging behind her eyes.
"It is all right, puiule. No tears from my strong girl," he says smiling kindly as Katniss sniffles and returns a small smile.
Peeta clears his throat, uncomfortable with intruding on such an intimate moment between father and daughter, but not wanting to part from his new friend just yet.
"Oh! Papa, this is Peeta. He helped me when I fell," Katniss said gesturing to Peeta with a small, shy smile. She had never introduced her father to a boy before. The experience causes her cheeks to feel impossibly warm and her stomach to flutter nervously.
Katniss' father smiles widely at Peeta and grasps his hand between his two, rougher ones. Peeta's dimples make a return at the man's kind gesture.
"Thank you very much Peeta, for helping my daughter," he says, looking between this boy and his daughter with a small grin and a shine in his eyes.
Peeta blushes. "It was my pleasure, sir. Your Katniss is quite the spitfire." Peeta says, grinning and cutting his eyes over to Katniss who scowls with a huff in return. They both chuckle.
"It was very nice to have met you, Peeta, my boy, but we must be on our way. It is time for the show to start," Katniss' dad says with a wink at Katniss, who grins back.
Katniss turns back to Peeta, ignoring his confused expression, and smiles. "Thank you again, just Peeta," she teases, grinning wider. "It was nice to make your acquaintance." Katniss gives a little curtsy, just like her mother taught her, her eyes shining with amusement. At his confusion or in mockery, he isn't sure.
"You're welcome, Katniss. The pleasure was all mine," he returns, grasping her hand and kissing her knuckles again. He laughs softly when her cheeks become flushed and her eyes widen at his gesture.
He misses the warmth of her small hand when she pulls back from his grasp and walks with her father back into the crowd of people on the street. Peeta sighs, but can't help the feeling of excitement that courses through his veins as he recalls his encounter with the beautiful gypsy girl. He is very glad now that he decided not to stay inside his quarters at his uncle's country home, where his family was residing during their visit to Germany. He had originally planned to stay inside this night, drawing some of the surrounding landscapes. Now, he was itching to go back and sketch a certain dark haired, grey eyed girl.
As Peeta began wandering about the booths set up, watching couples kiss and men drink as their wives roll their eyes with disdain, the sound of a violin cuts through the air causing him to stop in his tracks. He turns his head and follows his ears to a small clearing where a caravan is situated. There are shimmering curtains of fabric hung off the side with a pit of fire roaring in front.
Next to the fire, standing in the glow of the embers, is Katniss' father, violin pressed under his chin and bow poised above its taut strings. He starts to play a intricately woven jig as people begin to gather around, intrigued. With a flourish, he ends the song, taking a small bow to the few applause he receives.
"Greetings to you all! I am Nicolae Everdeen, violin extraordinaire. I am proud to welcome tonight my daughter, Katniss, who will be accompanying me. I invite you all to enjoy the music and, if you feel so inclined, to dance as you celebrate the fall festivities!" His smooth, commanding voice echoes into the crowd as he grins and poises his violin back onto his shoulder.
Peeta's eyes are drawn immediately to the curtains fluttering closed as Katniss makes her way out from behind them. He can't help the sharp intake of air as his eyes settle onto her. She no longer wore her old, worn clothing, but donned a shimmering red frock that flowed around her body. Her ebony hair was no longer in its twin braids, but cascaded freely down her back in waves. She was stunning. His heart was hammering in his chest. He was certain he couldn't fall any more in love with this girl, that is, until she opened her mouth.
"Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And, when again they open, the sun will rise..."
It was a hauntingly sweet lullaby that caused a hush to fall over the crowd. Peeta imagined that the angels in Heaven that he learned about in Sunday mass could not sound more beautiful than her clear, perfect voice.
He watched, entranced, as her eyes closed, getting lost within the song. She began to sway her arms and pick up her feet, a gentle ballet forming as the words seemed to whisk her off into another world. His eyes hungrily soaked in every move she made, every note that pushed passed her full lips.
"Here your dreams are sweet, and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you."
The last note hung poignantly in the air, as both musician and songstress concluded their piece. Katniss opened her eyes, a new shine lighting them from grey to silver. Her cheeks turned rosy as she gave a slight bow.
The crowd began to clap and whistle noisily, seemingly all at once. Peeta could only manage to stare at the gypsy girl with the angelic voice, his heart hammering wildly within his chest.
He was brought back to reality as Nicolae Everdeen began to play another fast, dancing song. The pride in his daughter was shinning out of his eyes as he smiled widely at her, her returning smile just as radiant.
People began to dance and clap their hands with the folk tune, raising their ale in cheers to the talented duo. Some stepped forward and deposited coins into the violinist's empty case, a token of thanks for the hearty entertainment. Katniss smiled excitedly at her father, then began to dance and twirl around the fire to the music.
Peeta quickly took his velvet coin bag out of his trouser pocket, then placed the generous sum into the violin case. He wished he had brought more to give. A voice like hers was worth all of his Queen Victoria's gold, back home in England. He looked up to see Nicolae smiling gently down at him and his selflessness.
Katniss, feeling rather dizzy from her dancing, stole a glance toward her father, catching Peeta's eyes. His quickly flitted away, his cheeks turning pink, only to glance back at her again a second later with a grin on his lips. She smiled shyly as she began to make her way toward him, navigating around dancing festival goers.
She was just about to reach him when a hand jerked him roughly by his collar out of sight. Alarmed, she quickly raced over to his no vacant spot, worried that someone might be hurting her boy with the sapphire eyes, that had shared with her his bread.
She stopped short when she saw a robust, gaudy woman with silver blonde curls piled atop her head slapping him hard across the face with her thick, folded up fan. The woman continued to berate him, spit shooting out of her mouth like venom. Peeta's head was cast down guiltily as she hit him again.
"Out of the goodness of my heart, I let your father sweet talk me into letting you go to this disgusting farce and what do you do to thank me? Go out gallivanting with gypsy filth, giving them our family's hard earned money?" She screeches, face purple with rage as she grips him by his hair and pulls his face up toward hers.
He whimpers as her fingers pull tightly at his hair, his scalp stinging. Katniss gasps, hands quickly rising to cover her mouth. How could a mother treat her child this way? Her own mother would never hurt her like that!
"Those no-good gypsy rats are an infestation that need to be exterminated! You never listen, you stupid boy! Murderous, thieving, disgusting..." Her hand tightened its grip on his blond curls, causing him to wince in pain.
Katniss' stomach dropped as she watched the scene in front of her. His pain was her fault; she was the cause of this onslaught of punishment. With tears welling up in her eyes, she quickly runs to her father's violin case and picks up the velvet coin purse she saw Peeta drop in it. Perhaps, if she returned the money, it would spare him anymore punishment?
"Get your worthless self back to your uncle's house before you continue to shame our family even more! Your father is going to receive an earful when we return!" The woman shoves his head back, ripping her fingers from his hair before she begins to stomp away.
Peeta turns his head quickly to the side, sensing eyes on him. Katniss can't help the tears that spring free when she sees the giant red welt on his cheek, his blue eyes no longer shining as they meet hers. She holds up his coin purse, gesturing for him to take it back, eyes pleading to help him.
"Peeta, come now! Stupid, worthless boy!" His mother shouts, his shoulders tensing.
He quickly looks back to her, eyes flitting to the change purse. She takes a step toward him. His head shakes minutely, a warning reflecting in his eyes for her to stay out of his mother's sight. Katniss steps back in fear of incurring the woman's unforgiving wrath upon herself.
Peeta musters up a small smile for her before turning and running toward his mother's demanding voice.
Katniss did not see Peeta again as the festival came to an end and her family was packed up, ready to travel away. She will never forget the boy with the bread and the sapphire eyes. The boy whose kindness alone gave her family months worth of food when work became almost impossible to come by. No, Katniss will never forget him, nor will she forgive herself for his pain.
Peeta thinks of his strong gypsy girl with the beautiful voice often on his journey back home to England. He sketches her, paints her, sees her in his dreams when he closes his eyes. He hopes to never forget her. He promises himself that he will find her again someday.
But, life goes on; tragedy strikes and war breaks out. The world has no use for childhood promises and dreams.
Note from the author:
With Spring semester starting next week, updates will probably be uploaded once a month. I want the chapters to be high quality, so I'll probably be working on them every weekend until I deem it publishable. I do love reading feedback, so don't be afraid to give me your honest opinions! Thanks for reading!