Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games or any of its characters.

Chapter 1

She was seven years old when she stopped abruptly outside the big house in her neighborhood that belonged to the baker and his wife hearing the crashing and cursing coming from inside.

She had heard stories before about the awful witch that lived in it. She was five the first time she believed the stories. And she had believed just because she had witnessed how the witch slapped the boy from her class across the face just because he had given her two more cents than he should have.

Well, at five years old you shouldn't be handing back change in a bakery…she blamed the witch.

As she grew up she noticed more and more how the boy came to school bruised. She knew everyone else saw it too and she wondered too often why no one did anything. Not even the teachers or the principal who were adults and were supposed to protect children.

As she grew older…because seven years old is older…she realized that money too often meant more protection and benefits than it should. No one would ever mess with the baker and in consequence no one would mess with his wife.

It is ironic, she thinks how the baker can be such a kind and friendly person and his wife is the complete opposite.

The door opens suddenly and out comes rushing the boy from her class. Her immediate reaction is to hide behind the bush on the sidewalk and as she does she hears a thud close to her.

"I told you that you are worthless! That you should not try and mess up with me but you never listen! You never do!" the woman yelled as, Katniss couldn't believe it, she kicked the boy on the ground. "Answer me!" she yelled but the boy only kept his eyes squeezed shut as the woman kept on her kicking.

Katniss could see his face from where she was kneeling on the ground. She could almost feel his pain as he just squeezed his eyes, if it was possible, even more.

"Don't come back until I tell you to! Worthless son of a bitch!" she told him as she kicked the earth in his direction.

Katniss didn't know what to do. She just kept looking at him and his eyes squeeze shut on the ground. She could hear him wheezing as he lied there on the ground, his arms engulfing his middle. He looked in a lot of pain.

Katniss reached his hand across the roots of the bush and touched it. She was too afraid to round the bush and come to him since the awful witch might still be watching and if that were the case she probably wouldn't let her help him.

He tensed at her touch as if the contact could only mean some form of pain.

"Are you okay?" She asked and he opened his eyes.

She gasped. His eyes were the color of the sky and so beautiful. She didn't think she had seen eyes like those before. But at the same time she could see the pain in them and the unshed tears that covered them.

"Fine" he managed to say in a whisper but she saw him wince.

"You need help!" she told him as she saw him struggle to get up but not being able to due to the pain.

"No, go" he managed to utter.

But he didn't know that Katniss Everdeen would not leave anyone behind. She was stubborn and she had something within her that always made her worry about others and their wellbeing. She would definitely not be leaving him there.

"I can't leave you here! I can't leave you alone! You can barely breathe!" she told him but she just saw him looking back to the house and then back at her.

"Go" he said again. He was growing breathless as he struggled to move and she worried more. She was not her mother so she couldn't possibly know what was wrong with him but she knew it was wrong so she did the first thing she could and stood up running to Gale's house which was closer. He would know what to do.

"Open up!" she yelled as she pounded the door. "Gale! Come on! Open up!" she kept pounding until she was her best friends furrowed brow.

"What?!" he asked rudely and she frowned back. If someone didn't know them they would think they were siblings. As time passed they turned just into that. Blood doesn't always is the strongest bond.

"Help me! I need your help!" she said as she took his hand and ran back two houses away to where the boy was lying on the ground.

When they reached him again Katniss' heart broke. He was still there in the same position but now tears were streaming down his face.

"What the hell?" Gale uttered in disbelief kneeling next to the boy.

"No, go!" the boy managed to utter but his words were no more than a whisper.

Gale was big and strong and seemed to know what to do better than her since next thing he did was rid up the boy's shirt.

She gasped. It looked awful. An assortment of green and purple and recently made red marks was all over his ribcage and his stomach. Gale touched the boy's ribs and he uttered a cry. Katniss bit her lip.

"He needs a hospital" Gale said.

"No, fine", the boy said.

"You are definitely not fine and you need a hospital. Come on!" Gale said as he managed to position the boy on his arms and carry him the couple of houses to his. Gale was strong and since he was older too, bigger so it wasn't a difficult task to carry the boy to his house. It helped a lot that the boy seemed to be skinnier than he should have been.

"MOM!" he yelled. "Call Mrs. Everdeen! MOM!"

Mr. Everdeen drove them to the hospital as the boys head was on her lap and her mother made sure he was still breathing. She sang a little and that's all she likes to say about that.

Peeta Mellark. The boy's name according to her mom and Mrs. Hawthorne was the baker's boy. Peeta Mellark had two broken ribs on his right side, bruised ribs on the left side, a twisted ankle and a broken wrist. Hence his difficulty breathing and the pain he seemed to be in.

"Stay with him Katniss, while I go to talk to the doctor" her mom had said and so she had stayed.

"Thanks" he uttered in a whisper, his eyes closed. Tears started streaming down his cheeks and they turned from ghostly white to splotchy red. He sobbed and winced all at the same time.

"It's okay" she had said soothingly and in an uncharacteristically act of her she had started to caress his forehead moving his blond bangs from his forehead. She even hummed a little as it seemed to calm him down. "Everything it's going to be okay" she repeated as he cried. "You are not alone Peeta" He fell asleep before her mom came back.

At age seventeen she couldn't help but to think back to that day and how it irremediably had changed all of their lives. She sometimes wished she hadn't made that promise that day since she wasn't able to keep it. Not for long.

After Peeta's dad arrived they had to leave. He didn't go to school for a couple of weeks and when he did show up he had a new assortment of bruises to show.

After that day Gale had taken it upon himself to protect him the way his brothers and his father should have. They became best friends and even when Katniss felt left out most of the time she was glad Peeta had someone who cared about him now.

"Do you want some?" he asks Katniss as he offers a piece of bread and brings her back from memory lane. "Katniss?" he asks again in front of her. She blushes.

"Umm sure" she answers and he smiles. Prim kicks Katniss, she doesn't even know how since they are sitting away from each other on the couch. Peeta goes to the kitchen to keep helping Hazelle and Prim chuckles. Gale turns to look at her and smiles.

"Can you try not to be that obvious?" she tells her sister and Katniss blushes. Katniss turns to look at Gale but his eyes are focused on the TV so she is not sure If he is listening or not.

"I don't know what you are talking about" she tells her little sister as she focuses her eyes on the TV.

"Sure…you don't know" Prim smiles and turns to talk to Rory.

"So funny", Gale mutters but his eyes are still trained on the TV so Katniss doesn't really know if he is talking to her.

They hear laughter coming from the kitchen. Hazelle Hawthorne fell in love with Peeta Mellark when he was seven years old and she saw him on Gale's arms. She's never admitted it but all of the Hawthorne boys and the Everdeen girls suspect that she wishes he was her son too.

Peeta is always around helping in the kitchen, helping the younger boys with their homework, helping Gale at the car shop and even taking care of Posy whenever is needed. On top of all of that he is always helping at the bakery and getting excellent grades. Katniss knows it's not official but he is a Hawthorne. Even when he is not her son Hazelle is proud of him as if he is. She is always taking care of him and miming him. She's the one after all that made sure to help him gain the weight he needed to be healthy after they found him.

It's not only in the Hawthorne house that he's earned a place. He's got one in the Everdeen's heart too. He is always helping around when he can, even when Katniss is there. Peeta's and her relationship has always been awkward. It is a 100% Katniss' fault. She can't look at him for more than a minute or feel him close to her without turning into a blubbering mess.

"Can I?" he asks motioning to the seat next to hers and she turns away blushing. She can feel the blush and begs to God that he can't see it.

"Sure" She answers and she feels him sit beside her. He smells great. Like sugar and cinnamon and something else that is just him.

It's crazy but that day she found him…when he opened his eyes and looked at her…she knew she was a goner. After all the time she's gotten to spend with him even if it is not directly with her but through Gale or Prim or any of them she's been able to see his flaws as well as his virtues and she doesn't think there's a thing that is wrong with Peeta Mellark.

As much as it is crazy it is sad too. She knows he won't ever look at her that way. He is handsome, popular, athletic and a straight A student. She is just…plain Katniss.

Prim stands up as the song of the Hercules movie starts playing and she starts singing aloud while Peeta and Gale laugh and Rory and Posy chime in. She blushes. She knows that look on Prim's face even if the rest of the people in the living room doesn't.

She sighs. Peeta Mellark would never chance a second glance her way.

He's got those blue eyes that melt anyone, a built body due to wrestling team, working with Gale and working at the bakery, a blond hair that shines with the sun and a beautiful smile. He has a way with words that tells her that he could sell ice to an Esquimalt and well, he is practically perfect. It's not a wonder that so many girls are crazy about him. He only seems to have eyes for Delly and even though she knows they are not a couple she still feels jealous of the way he is with Delly. The way he is never going to be with her.

It's okay. She tries to convince herself. As long as the only person who knows is Prim it is okay. She knows that Prim knows because Prim pays way too much attention to her.

She hears him chuckle next to her as he joins Prim, Rory and Posy on the song.

"Who'd'ya think you're kiddin'. He's the earth and heaven to youuuu! Try to keep it hidden Honey, we can see right through you!" they sing along to "I won't admit I'm in love" from the Hercules movie that Posy loves so much. Prim smiles widely as she looks at her sister with a knowing smirk and Posy places her hair brush in front of Peeta's face as if it is a microphone. He concedes and sings with her.

She can't keep her eyes off of him and as he looks at her smiling she wonders if there's going to be a day in which she finally will let Peeta Mellark know how she feels about him. As for now…she doesn't think it will happen.

They are waiting for him outside of his house. Gale clenches his jaw as he hears the cursing and yelling and suddenly, much like all those years ago, Peeta comes out the door tumbling.

He's got a big bruise on his face and she suspects that there must be more hidden. Peeta used to make up stories to cover the bruises and stuff. He stopped after Gale couldn't put up with it anymore.

This isn't the first time he comes out tumbling out of his house in order to avoid being hit. It's sad that he seems to be used to it and never fights her back. Katniss has always wanted him to fight back. Gale wishes Peeta did too.

She knows for a fact that Peeta is counting the days until he can leave for New York on his fancy scholarship. It's sad to Katniss and all the Hawthorns and Everdeens, but in a way they couldn't be happier for him. He is going to be able to run away from this before it is too late. It's only a year away since they are graduating early.

"Hey!" He greets. But it is not good today. Gale is mad so he just clenches his jaw and starts walking. Peeta sighs.

This is always a sore point between the two friends. Gale has always wanted to call social services or to at least threaten the woman but Peeta refuses. He is always saying it isn't that bad. They know it is bad. They know it's getting worse. It is as if the woman is making up for the time she won't have him close to him hit.

They all engage in conversation as they walk to school.

When they get there Peeta goes to his locker and starts talking with Delly as Katniss watches him from her locker.

"Are you listening to what I'm saying?" Gale asks turning to look to where she was looking. He sighs.

"Sure" she answers blushing.

"Why don't you just tell him once and for all Catnip?" he asks and she blushes even deeper if it's possible.

"What?" she asks pretending she didn't understand his question.

"We all know that you like Peeta. Maybe the only person who doesn't is him. Why don't you tell him how you feel? You know him" he tells her and smiles ruefully.

"I don't know what you are talking about Gale" she answers as she puts some books inside her locker.

"Catnip…seriously. What are you waiting for? For him to go to college and never come back?" he asks. And even when Katniss knows that that is exactly what is going to happen and she´s thought about it before it sends a jolt of pain through her chest to hear Gale say what she fears.

"I…" she looks up at him pleadingly. "Don't say a thing Hawthorne" she says scowling and her friend sighs.

"You ready guys?" Peeta asks approaching them.

"I gotta go" Gale says and Katniss smiles at Peeta.

"Yeah, just a second" she says.

She sees out of the corner of her eye as Gale rounds the corner. He probably is going to go looking for Madge or something.

There are a lot of students still out in the hallway which is normal since summer is coming soon. The air gets warmer and warmer every day.

Laughter booms across the hallway.

"It sounds like Cato" says Peeta turning to look to where the voice is coming.

"Something's wrong" she says and Peeta turns to look at her with a strange look on her face.

"It's just Cato" he says. But she can see on his face some sort of uneasiness.

The laughter booms again and she turns so fast that her braid whips his face and she sees him wince.

"Sorry" she says but he just smiles.

"Let's get this party started!" Cato yells and she honestly doesn't know what is wrong with him or what the hell is going on until she hears the gunfire.

There's nothing crossing her mind. She freezes for a moment too long and the next thing she feels is Peeta jumping on top of her bringing them both down to the floor. His head is next to hers and she can hear his shallow breathing and a whimper. She is scared, he probably is too.

They can hear Cato's laugh and the quick steps that pass running by them. Then a door opening and finally closing.

They don't move for a few minutes until they hear people moving around them. Crying and yelling. They both sit.

"Are you okay?" he asks frantically taking her by the arms and searching her body with his blue eyes for wounds or blood or anything. She nods and they both stand up. The hallway is chaos and she can see people on the floor and a lot of blood. She is used to see dead or shot animals but people…that is another thing.

"We have to get out of here Katniss…we have to hide" he tells her and she can see the panic on his eyes. He takes her hand in his big warm one. "Everything will be okay, do you understand? Just follow me" he tells her and she must be in shock still because all she can do is nod.

They start walking; Peeta has his hand on hers and the other one on the lockers like leaning on them. She doesn't think anything wrong from that action. He seems calm and calculating as he guides them but she knows he isn't. She can feel the slight shaking in his hand and while she is reserved he is an open book.

She slips and somehow Peeta manages to keep her on her feet. The small squeak that leaves her lips has them both frozen. Silence is an essential part of their survival right now. She doesn't want to look down. She knows she slipped with blood.

All she can think right now is that Prim is in another building and that the older Hawthorne's are not here today because of Posy's chickenpox. Gale leaving before it all started gives her a sense of relief that she never thought she could feel under these circumstances. Peeta pulls her hand and stops suddenly which makes her crash with his back. She is thankful that he is with her right now, because otherwise she doesn't think she would be standing here right now.

"Here! We'll be safe here!" he says as he opens the door to their right. She's never been in these classes before. It doesn't really matter. As we enter I can see tons of art supplies and canvases all around us. Peeta takes us back to the room and leans against the closets where they probably have the rest of the material in this art class. We are hidden behind big canvases inside this big room which means that to someone who hasn't been here before we are invisible.

The lights aren't on but this room in particular has especially big windows on the ceiling part and the upper part of the classroom. They surely are very helpful when drawing and stuff but it really isn't helpful under these circumstances. There's no way out but the front door.

"Are you sure you are okay Katniss?" he asks her again and she notices for the first time that they are alone and that they are most likely spending the next few hours like this.

"I'm okay" she answers nervously. She doesn't want to look at him because she knows how she's going to get and honestly in this place there's no way to cover it up.

"Good" he says and she can hear something else in his voice this time. Something she can't identify. She hasn't asked him if he is okay and she feels stupid and selfish at having him so worried about her but not having asked him at least once if he was okay.

She turns around to ask him and that's when she sees the small smudges of red leading to where he is sitting now. Words die on her mouth and she feels as though she is choking. It's not a massive blood stain but it means that he is hurt because she sure as hell isn't. She looks at him and she sees his eyes squeeze shut. The leg of his jeans has a trail of blood in the back part and his white converse seem to have a line of blood that reaches the floor staining it with a few drops of blood.

No! This can't be happening! She looks at Peeta and she fills with dread…please no…is all she can think.

AN. I hope you like it! It's going to be very short...and it is mostly written so I won't leave you hanging too long! Also, I tried to contact my old beta but couldn't reach her…so I take full responsibility for my grammar and well, you know! Hope to hear from you guys!