Saturday, January 5, 2013

Untitled AU Project



Posting this to see if there would be an interest in my continuation of it.  Please let me know : ) 

Summary: Katniss Everdeen is living in District 12 with her little sister after the death of her parents.  When her healing business fails to put food on the table, she has no other choice but to ask for help.  The town mayor enlists the help of runaway District 11 felon Peeta Mellark.   Katniss is hesitant to accept help, especially from a criminal, but her luck has run out and has left her no other option.  Will Peeta be able to give her the helping hand she so desperately needs, or is he a bad boy forever?

x-x-x-x-x-x-x

Katniss Everdeen stared at the dirt that seeped up through her fingertips.  It was cold and half frozen, still rough with winter.  Spring was near.  It had to be.  The winter they had just survived was the hardest she had seen yet.  What if the ground never thawed all the way?  She knew it would when spring came, but that seemed so far away.  Her eyes down the hill towards the dried up creek.  The willow tree her parents were buried under was bare this time of year, and hanging over the freshly dug up dirt like an old woman clinging to her crutch.  She turned away before her eyes could focus on the crosses with their names printed on them. 
“Do you think these will grow?”
Her younger sister’s voice cut through her thoughts.  Looking up, she was met with Prim’s light blue inquisitive eyes.  She watched as her golden haired sibling looked down at the rough dirt and carefully patted it around where they had planted the row of potatoes. 
“They might.  It might be too cold yet for them to do much,” Katniss admitted.  She didn’t miss the fleeting look on panic as it crossed Prim’s features.  “But they might.”
Her sister nodded.  “The onions Sae gave us look so small.”
“She gave us what she could.”
Prim nodded.  “Was it charity?”
Katniss sat back on her heels and began digging at the hard earth with her rusty spade.  “It’s only charity if it’s from a stranger.  Sae’s just bein’ friendly,” she lied. 
Prim, satisfied with her answer, nodded and kept digging.  Their neighbor Sae had come by a few days before to check on the two girls, leaving them a few squirrels her husband had shot and the starts for onions and turnips.  Katniss had been just desperate enough to accept the food without argument.  Her father used to bring home meat all the time and she could still practically taste the venison stew her mother used to make.  They hadn’t had meat in ages; much less good meat like her mother could cook.  She could take the simplest ingredients from her herb stores and add it to the meat to make any cut taste juicy and tender.  Katniss had relented and accepted the food from her neighbor.    Now they were out in the garden plot attempting to dig up the stubbornly cold earth to get the turnips seeds and potatoes into the ground so that they could have food.  She wouldn’t have normally accepted the help from Sae, but they were starting to get desperate. 
“Your momma done fixed enough broken fingers and snake bites for my kids in her day.  I want you ta’ have it,” she had explained. 
Sae had been sort of keeping an eye on them since their parents had passed away in November.  It was her husband and son who had braved the cold, rainy day to dig through the frozen ground beneath the willow tree for their graves.  Their first winter without their parents had been long, lonely, and bitterly cold.  According to Sae, District 12 hadn’t seen a winter like that since before Katniss had been born. 
It was just her luck they would get another one like it so soon after her parents had died.  The fever had taken them quickly.  Their father had fallen ill just as the weather had started to turn cold.  Mrs. Everdeen had been tending to him only a few short days when she fell ill herself with the influenza.  It swept through District 12 like a winter wind; quick, unyielding, and terrible.  Their father had died on a Sunday; their mother the following Thursday. 
Katniss looked up to see Prim staring down towards the creek where her own eyes had been not minutes before. 
“Don’t carry the weight of the dead,” she reminded her. 
“I know. I just miss them.  Wish we at least had some flowers to put on their graves,” Prim sighed. 
“Soon we will.  Spring is coming.”  Katniss’ voice sounded tight and rehearsed, but she couldn’t help it.  It was all starting to be too much.
She had just turned eighteen and Prim thirteen.  Their mother had been the town healer before falling ill, and Katniss was trying her best to learn what she could from the faded books in her mother’s drawer.  She was beginning to understand that most of what Mrs. Everdeen knew was from memory.  Her tips and tricks of the trade had died with her last fall, leaving Katniss to learn on her own.  So far, she wasn’t having much luck. 
Before her mother’s death, she had no interest in learning about the art.  Now, when they needed money and food badly, she wished she had paid more attention.  Her limited knowledge could be the difference of life or death for her and her sister.  Doctors were few and far between in their tiny district, so many poor and middle class people used healers like her mother.  Her list of clients had been quite long before her death, and Katniss knew she needed to learn the trade and fast.  Spring approaching meant that customers would be venturing out for herbal concoctions to heal their ailments.  If she had nothing to offer, people would look elsewhere.
They would take their money with them. 
“Lady will give birth soon,” Prim hummed.  “I wonder if it will be a boy or a girl?”
Katniss looked over to the barn where Lady, Prim’s goat, her head head poking out the small gap in the door.  She was chewing something with disinterest, watching through the crack as the girls worked. 
“Maybe it will be twins,” Katniss laughed. 
Prim had several goats, but Lady had been a gift from their father and was Prim’s favorite.  She was due in the spring, and Katniss silently hoped the goat had a smooth delivery.  Prim couldn’t stand another loss in her life. 
“Come on.  That’s the last of it,” Katniss announced covering up the last onion.  “Let’s just hope for warmer weather and rain.”
Prim stood and brushed the dust off her worn skirt with a sigh.  “I hope they grow.  It would be nice to have onions and turnips.  Do you think maybe this spring we could get some beets or…or maybe some cucumbers?  Remember when mama made those pickled cucumbers one summer?”
“I do.  And maybe we can get some.  I’m going to need your help in the gardens this spring.  Think you can do that for me, Little Duck?” she asked as they walked towards the house. 
Prim rolled her eyes and swatted at her.  “Yes.  I’ve been reading papa’s book about what plants we can eat out of the woods.”
Katniss stopped abruptly and shook her head.  “No, Prim.  We can’t go out into the woods.  You hear?  The fences are on.  They keep us safe.  You wouldn’t go into the woods, would you?”
Prim sighed and looked at the toes of her boots.  “No,” she said quietly.
Katniss sighed in relief and let her eyes quickly flick to the horizon.  The large, electric fence ran around the entire district.  It kept wild animals out of their crops and away from their livestock.  An electric current would fry anything that even so much as brush against it.  It would kill a human with only one quick zap. 
“Good.”
“But poppa-“
“But nothing,” Katniss snapped. Prim’s eyes fell as she followed her sister into the house.  “Go wash for supper,” she said.  Prim hurried off to her bedroom to clean up from the garden as Katniss watched.  Her sister was much thinner than she ever been.  For the first time in years, Prim wouldn’t need new clothes for spring.  In fact, the ones she had were starting to blouse.  Food had been scarce; the stores from their summer garden had either spoiled or were gone, and there hadn’t been meat on their table for longer than she cared to remember.  They would occasionally make cheese from the milk of Prim’s goat, but most of that went to the Hob to sell.  Lady and her family were their only source of income. 
She knew she had to think of something, and fast.
She looked to the woods, her eyes narrowing at the fence.  “If only,” she muttered.  The thick, lush forest was teeming with edible possibilities; nuts, berries, greens, meat.  She salivated at the thought before quickly pushing it from her mind. 
Katniss walked to her room, closing the door behind her.  She lifted up the corner of her mattress and spied the long, beautifully arching piece of wood. It still smelled of the fine oil her father had used on it just weeks before he died.  Crouching down, she ran her fingertips along the curve of the bow, appreciating the memories associated with it.  The Everdeens had always been poor, but that bow was what kept food on their table. 
But not without a price.
Hunting in the woods was strictly forbidden in all twelve districts of Panem.  The Capitol claimed that it was for their safety; everyone who worked should have more than enough money to feed and clothe themselves; there was no need to enter the woods.  The electrified fence reinforced that notion. 
District 12 was surrounded by lush, thick green forests as far as they eye could see.  The tall trees towered on the other side of the electric fence, taunting the starving people that dwelled there.   She was sure that there was much to be gathered and hunted behind the fence, but she dared not risk it. 
Behind their house was a small pasture for the goats and a few chickens they owned, and then the sparse woods began.  They were hardly considered woods; a few brambles, a young sapling here or there, and underbrush that grew up and died back every winter.  Then, there was the fence.  It was at least twelve feet high and lined with jagged looking barbed wire.   It started several hundred yards behind their house and stretched around the entire district.  Since unapproved travel between the twelve districts was forbidden, not many people knew what was behind the fence.  People speculated, but no one knew for sure. 
Katniss was sure her father knew.
Mr. Everdeen had been no stranger to the wilderness.  At least once a week he would rise before dawn, taking the bow and slipping into the night.  He would return with game every time; a small deer, a beaver, maybe a wild turkey.  Their house was surrounded by sparsely wooded, rolling hills with little cover for wild animals.  The small ones that could slip through the electric fence were not the animals he would bring home.  Katniss knew her father had ventured into the wildness past the fence on more than one occasion.  She had tried to ask him how and where, but the fever from the influenza had taken him too quickly. 
That too had died with her parents. 
She let the mattress fall back onto the frame with a soft thump.  The bow was a beautiful token and a reminder of a simpler time; nothing more.  It was useless to her now.  He had let her shoot it a few times, practicing on the hay bales behind the barn.  He darned not make a real target to practice on for fear the peace keepers that patrolled the area would find it. 
Katniss had been a decent shot the few times she had worked with it.  The bow was another haunting reminder of what she was missing now that her parents were gone. 
x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Peeta Mellark crouched on the ridge, his eyes scanning wildly for his companion.  They were being chased; a hovercraft had caught them poaching on Capitol lands.
This was bad.
It was rare that someone outran a hovercraft. 
He stilled his breaths, listening carefully.  The machines made next to no noise when they paused in the air just above the trees.  It was unnerving how quickly they could appear and disappear without a sound.  His eyes scanned the area around him he searched for Cato.  His cocky friend was becoming a bit of a nuisance.  They had been friends since they were kids, and Cato had been getting Peeta into trouble for just about as long.  Everywhere Cato went Peeta had followed along with him, getting into mischief.  When they were eight, they had enjoyed scaring the chickens in the hen house.  When they were thirteen, they had gotten a kick out of lifting vegetables from the peacekeepers’ gardens.  Now at nineteen, they had left their home of District 11 and were getting their thrills from poaching on the Capitol’s land between districts. 
Actually, Peeta was growing tired of constantly running from all the trouble Cato wanted him to cause. 
He was tired of running.  He wanted to settle down and finally live.  He hadn’t slept in the same place twice or had a real roof over his head since he was sixteen.  Being out in the wilderness, one step ahead of the law was fun when you were seventeen.  Now at his age it was becoming quite tiresome.  He longed for the normalcy that his life didn’t include.
Of course he didn’t want to return to District 11 – nothing waited for him there.  The bakery his family had owned had exploded when he was eleven.  He had been out on a random errand for his mother that morning and hadn’t been there when it happened.  He was the only Mellark left alive.  He guessed that was part of the reason he had left; District 11 was full of nothing but emptiness and memories so harrowing it brought him to his knees.  No, there was nothing left for Peeta Mellark in District 11.
He heard a whistle. 
Looking to his left, he spied Cato across the creek and up a ways, his head poking out of a rock face.  Peeta glanced up, checking that he was clear before running like his ass was on fire towards Cato.  His friend laughed loudly as Peeta ducked into the rocky cave, the sound echoing off the flat rocks around them.
“Close one!” he hollered.
Peeta gave him a panicked look.  “Will you shut up already?!”
Cato sniffed.  “Whatever man.  You love it.  Close one!”
“Too close Cato.”
“Nah.  We had them.”
“They had a hovercraft!  They know we’re out here.  They’re going to catch us! Are you insane?”
“Bullshit.  We’ve been one step ahead of those peacekeeping fuckers for years now.  We’re a day’s walk from Twelve.”
“How do you know?”
He shrugged.  “Land’s changing.  We’re not near eleven anymore.”
Peeta frowned.  He knew Cato’s well-to-do father had a map of the nation of Panem, but this was one of the few times he had mentioned it.
“How?”
Cato took out a lighter and flicked it to get it to start.  The orange flame burst up, casting a glow on the cave’s walls.  “The further north you go, the land changes.  It’s not flat like home; it’s hills, trees, mountains.  Used to be something called ‘Appalachia’,” he explained, taking out his knife.  He grabbed a few twigs that looked dry enough and began gathering up some dried leaves for kindling.  Peeta held the lighter for him as he got that going, adding a few pieces of wood to the small flame.  Someone had obviously stayed in the cave before them.
Peeta shifted his weight as he followed his childhood friend further into the cave.  His homemade bow he had crafted was slung over one shoulder, his pack with a few meager survival supplies on the other.  He was out of arrows, and the only knife he had was a small one.  They needed supplies and time to recuperate before moving.  “We lost all our pelts when we ran.  What are we going to do once we get to twelve?  We’ll have nothing to trade.”
Cato shrugged.  “We’ll figure that out when we get there ‘spose.”
Peeta’s shoulders slumped in defeat.  “Man, aren’t you getting tired of this?”
“Of what?”
“Of running.  Stealing.  Poaching, running.  Don’t you ever get sick of not sleeping in a bed?”
Cato’s jaw clenched in the dim light of the cave.  “You want to go back to that wasteland? Fine.  Eleven’s waitin’ for ya Peet.  Just go.  You want to be a fuckin farmer for the rest of your life?  Turn all your profit over to the Capitol?  Have nothing to show for it?  Fine.  You go back to Eleven.  But don’t come crying back to me when it sucks the life out of you.”
Peeta sighed.  “I don’t want to go back to eleven.  But it will be hard to blend in if we don’t have anything to trade.”
He had bought silence and friendship on more than once occasion in a strange place.  Folks were kinder to them if they had a few pieces to offer or a fur to trade.  They would be wandering into District 12 with nothing to offer and Peace Keepers on their tails.  It didn’t look promising. 
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Katniss removed the tea kettle from the stove and pulled her thin shawl tighter around her shoulders as she hovered over the worn pages of her mother’s book.  If she could learn this remedy for the aching joints of the old, she would surely secure more than a few customers.  Even Greasy Sae was starting to show the signs of the ailment; arching in the joints, gnarled, misshaped fingers and bones.  Many of the older people in the district suffered from it, and she was determined to master the faded directions from the book. 
She had to.
Failing at this wasn’t an option.  Prim watched with interest, doing her best to help as she could.  The small girl had always wanted to be a healer, just like their mother before she had passed away. 
“Ground that up real thin,” Katniss urged.  The white willow bark was the main ingredient, and it was important to make it as small as possible so that the essence would coat the other ingredients. 
“Do you think this will work?” Prim asked hopefully.
“Let’s hope.”
“The herd is jumpy.   Barely any of them gave milk this morning,” Prim fretted as she ground the bark.  “Do you think Sae would trade us medicine for some squirrel meat?”
“That’s the plan.”
Prim glanced at the hearth where their father used to skin his kills and roast fresh game.  “Do you think you could shoot an animal?”
Katniss paused mid-movement, her eyes going blank.  She was sure if she could practice with the bow she would be good; but that was dangerous. 
“It’s against the law Prim, you know that.”
“But what if it was in the yard?”
Katniss paused.  “Maybe.  Dad let me shoot a few times, but…I’m not sure.”
Prim hummed from her spot at the table where she was grinding the white oak bark into a thin powder.  “Squirrel meat would be nice.  They actually taste quite mild, I like it.”
Katniss paused to ruffle her little sister’s hair before continuing on with her work.  Suddenly, there was a knock at the door.  Both girls tensed for a second before Katniss shuffled her feet enough to get her to the door.  She peered through the small opening on the side and winced at Prim.
‘Behave,’ Prim mouthed to her.  Katniss nodded before opening the door. 
“Cray,” she responded flatly.
The middle aged Peace Keeper nodded and leered at the two girls from the doorway, his dark brown eyes practically black as he observed them.
“Ladies,” he grunted, pushing past Katniss.  She felt her jaw clench angrily as the Peace Keeper strode forward, the stench of whiskey and body odor following behind him in an invisible trail of filth. 
“Making some medicine I see.”
“Yes,” Prim replied.  “From mother’s book.  Katniss is learning to be a healer,” she explained politely.  Cray leered at her, making Katniss jump forward and place herself between the Peace Keeper and her little sister.  He was in a position of power having a job from the Capitol as Head Peace Keeper, so he had money.  That was pretty much the only reason anyone was nice to him in District 12.  It sickened Katniss that the people of the district had to be polite and accommodating to the monster just because of his job, but such was life.  Cray had always had a taste for venison, liquor, and women. 
Young women.
“I’ve come to check up on the Everdeen girls.  Make sure all is in order,” he said, his dark eyes shifting around the room.  They searched for anything out of place that he could potentially fine them for.  One of the many awful perks of his position was the ability to fine the tenants of District 12 for anything he saw ‘unfit’ or as a threat to the Capitol.  The money supposedly went back to the Capitol as penance for the wrongdoings, but Katniss was sure the disgusting bastard pocketed it.  She had long suspected him of it but had no proof. 
“Yes, we are doing well.”
“Any goat cheese?” he grunted, peering into the bowl she was mixing.
“Er, no.  The goats haven’t been giving the past few days. Upset about something.”
“Hmm….storm is comin.  It’ll bring in the spring weather, but you ladies best be prepared.”
“A storm is coming?” Prim asked. 
He nodded.  “Sure is.  Can feel it.  That’s why I wanted to do my duty and come check on things.  Make sure everything was in order before it hits.”
Katniss felt her stomach clench.  She doubted the validity of his story as his eyes raked over Prim. 
“Primrose, you sure do look…fit,” he observed in a low voice.  “How old are you now?”
The bile threatened to make an appearance as Prim shakily answered him.  “Thirteen.”
“Hmmm,” he grunted, leaning over the table.  “Just about a lady now aren’t we?”
Katniss watched as Prim seemed to shrink back into her chair, her blue eyes wide and rimmed with fear.  It was no secret that Cray would pay a hefty price for the virtue of any willing participant that was motivated enough.  And by motivated, that actually meant starving.  He would pay a few gold coins in exchange for an hour with them in his bed.  It was a small price, but was often enough to save a starving family. 
He had many customers in the winter months. 
“Well, as you can see we are doing quite well,” Katniss lied.  She hoped the sound of desperation and hunger didn’t seep through in her determined tone.  Cray huffed in approval at Prim and turned to Katniss. 
“I can see that,” he replied slowly.  “I’ll take my leave now.  But don’t forget – your Head Peacekeeper is always here if you ladies find you…need…anything,” he said in his low voice.  Katniss watched as he nodded and slowly made his way to the door.  He turned and gave them a creepy chuckle before closing it behind him.  They were silent until they could hear his horse galloping away. 
“Katniss-“ Prim shakily said, tears filling her eyes.
“No, Prim.  You will never do that.  I promise you that.  Neither of us…ever,” she said firmly, walking to the table.  She knelt before her sister and took Prim’s shaking hands in hers.  “Never.”
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Katniss inhaled deeply, imagining the air in her lungs would somehow fill up her stomach.  She was so hungry; today was clearly a ‘hollow day’, as Gale used to call it.  A pang shot through her at the thought of him, adding to her discomfort of being hungry. 
Beside her, Prim shifted miserably from her place in the rocking chair.  She was darning socks, trying her best to stay busy.  Staying busy and keeping your hands occupied sometimes helped with the hunger.  Katniss’ heart broke for her sister as she realized they would have a lot more hungry days before them before anything would be better. 
The sound of a carriage outside made her look up from the book on herbs she was studying.  Prim tensed, her blue eyes going side with a muffled whimper.
“Cray doesn’t have a cart, Prim,” Katniss gently reminded her, standing to go to the door. She exhaled when she saw who was pulling up to the front of the house.  Haymitch wasn’t the most welcomed guest, but his presence wasn’t one to be feared either.  He clamored down from his wagon as Katniss and Prim moved to stand expectantly on the porch.  She hoped his bleary eyes couldn’t see how thin Prim was or how her blouse had become billowy on her frame.  As the mayor of District 12, Haymitch had the right to take Prim and put her in the community home for children.  There, the children were forced to do labor to ‘earn their keep’.  She had seen the way their battered faces looked when she had passed on the streets. 
No food she could bear; not having Prim under her close watch would kill her for sure. 
“Everdeen girls,” he slurred.  Her shoulder slumped slightly when she realized he had been drinking.  At least it would make him a tad less observant. 
“Yes?” Katniss asked.  She winced as her voice cracked nervously.
Haymitch squinted in the bright sunlight of midday, his eyes bloodshot.  “I was just comin’ around to check on you.”
“We’re fine,” Katniss said sharply, holding Prim to her side.
Haymitch raised an eyebrow.  “I see that. Say um…would you mind stepping outside with me?”
She nodded, patting Prim on the shoulder and leading the sheriff out to the porch. 
“How’s the healing business?”
Katniss swallowed, knowing she could fake a lot of things but a stream of customers was not one of them.  “It’s…fine.”
He shot her a look that said he clearly didn’t buy it. 
“We need a healer in town.  Spring time.  Lots of folks took ill over the winter.  I need to be able to tell them you can heal em.”
Katniss glared at him.
Haymitch sighed.  “Folks are nervous we ain’t got affordable healers.  Ain’t no one gonna go to the Capitol,” he said, stepping closer.  Katniss noticed the pleading look in his eye.  “I’m mayor, Katniss.  I gotta be able to tell these people somethin’. And soon.”
She sighed.  “I’m working on learning everything, but my mother wasn’t training me to be an apprentice when she died.  I think she thought Prim would do it, but….ma died before she could teach her.  I’m…I’m doing the best I can, I…I’m running low on supplies.”
He looked at her.  “If I front you a loan to help you get back on your feet, can you get the business started again?  I gotta do something, Everdeen.”
She chewed her lip and looked at the desperate town mayor in front of her.  “I don’t want to be in debt.”
“You’re lookin thin.  If I can send you business, you’ll have money to afford food.  I ain’t gonna take that girl if I dun have to,” he said, motioning back to the house.   
“You won’t take her anywhere anyway.”
He heaved a sigh.  “I’m tryin’na help you, girl!  I need a healer, and you’re the only one that would be someone people could afford, God damn it!  Now just listen to me.  You gotta get this up and runnin again so I can tell people.  You’d have customers!  Money.  Food.  Just do something,” he pleaded.
Katniss evaluated the desperate look in the man’s eye.  She swallowed nervously and nodded. She swallowed her pride and asked, “What do you suggest?”
“I suggest you let me get you a bit of hired help.  I’ll help foot the cost of it.  That way, you could have a man around helping out with the day to day things while you figure out this healing business.  Meanwhile, I can give the district a little peace of mind.”
“Why are you so worried about the district?” she wondered.
Haymitch muttered a single word.  “Uprisings.”
“Here?” she breathed.  Her first thought was of Gale.  He had been waiting for word of an uprising in their district ever since he could understand the meaning of the word.  Gale dreamt of someday living in a world that didn’t have peacekeepers, districts, the capitol….she knew he would have been all over that.  She wondered where he was that second; did he have something to do with the uprisings elsewhere?  It was a dangerous word, no matter what district you lived in. 
He shook his head.  “No.  Other districts.  Just…you didn’t hear me say that, Everdeen.  Now, your pa was a good friend of mine.  I know he’d want me to look after ya.  Will ya just take the help?  Jesus, I’m offerin it!” he snapped.
She shrugged.  “I can’t afford to pay a decent wage to any man.”
“You just let me figure that out.  You’ve been needing help around here for some time.  You just need someone who’s done it before to help you get back on your feet.  Just until next winter.  I’ll figure out someone, just agree to it girl!”
Katniss shifted her weight and chewed her bottom lip.  She didn’t have much choice.  Things couldn’t get any worse than they already were, so what did she have to lose?
“If I say yes, how long will it take you to find someone?”
He shrugged.  “Problem is, all the good able bodied men that don’t have families have….relocated elsewhere, but I don’t have to remind you of that,” he said shortly.  She watched his face as he spoke, knowing he was refrencing Gale and the group of young men he had left with.  He didn’t want to outright say they had run off with hope of causing an uprising, but that was clearly the underlying meaning.  Katniss’ breath caught in her throat. 
“Oh. Okay.”
“I’ll keep my eyes open for you.  I’ll come back in a few days,” he said, tipping his hat. 
She nodded, pulling her shawl tighter around her body.  “That’s fine.”
“Good day,” he said simply.  After Haymitch had gone, Katniss went back inside. 
“What did he want?” Prim asked, rushing to her side.  Katniss busied herself with making more tea, hoping that busy hands would help her keep her mind off Gale.  And the uprisings.  Uprisings.  It didn’t seem real.  Could it be?  Was it possible for the Capitol to ever fall?  She shook her head at the notion and tried her best not to get her hopes up.  She had a sister to feed and a business to start.  She didn’t have time to worry about things she had no control over. 
x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x-x
Peeta peered through the opening in his hooded cloak, his eyes scanning the area.  The rain had been coming down steadily for a few hours now, and he and Cato were making a last ditch effort to hunt before they were to be confined to the cave.  Judging on the look of the clouds rolling in, it would be a few days before they saw daylight again.  Thunder sounded in the distance as the rain beat down against the bare branches.  It was cold – colder than he could ever remember.  His home district of Eleven was hundreds of miles south and it never got this cold there.  He shivered beneath his coat made of hides; even the fur-lined cloak was letting the chill through to his bones that day.  His breath came out in small puffs of air as he gripped his homemade bow in his hands.  Movement caught his eye; a rabbit!  He took aim and fired, hitting it square in the eye.  The animal fell to the ground with a muted squeak.  His stomach grumbled in protest as he leaped forward to grab his kill.  They had been hiding in the cave for almost a week now, and this was his first chance in fresh meat in nearly that long.  He moved quickly forward, not noticing he was being followed until it was too late.
He made it back to the cave, extra thankful for his kill when he saw Cato sitting on one of the large rocks by the fire, empty handed.
“No luck?”
The other blonde man shook his head.  “Nah.”
Peeta went to work skinning the skinny rabbit, preparing the pelt in hopes to sell it when they got to town.  They would need to venture into District 12 and soon – he didn’t know how much longer he could handle being cooped up in the cave with Cato. 
“So what are you cooking up for supper?” Cato asked, peering at the rabbit.
Peeta grunted in annoyance.  “There’s plenty of game out there, why don’t you get your butt out there and find something?”
Cato guffawed loudly, pounding Peeta’s back.  “Not in the sharin’ mood, Peet?”
When Peet didn’t answer, it didn’t faze Cato.  “Shoot…when I get to 12, there’s gonna be plenty of pickings.”
“We’re in 12 now, Cato.  At least I think we are,” Peeta said.  “It’s not that different from home.  Just colder.”
“Well, we’ll camp out here-“
“Don’t you get sick of campin?”
“Do I look sick of it?” Cato snapped.  “When I get a good haul, I’ll go into 12 and make a killin in the market-“
“Cato, you can’t just walk into another district and cause that much attention to yourself.  Peacekeepers pay attention to that stuff.”
“Peacekeepers shut their mouths if you have a few gold pieces.  They look the other way if the price is right!” Cato snapped.  “Besides…I’m gonna get me a little wife and settle down and live the good life.”
Peeta rolled his eyes as he jammed the rabbit meat onto a spicket.  “And how do you plan to do that?  12 is no different from 11.  We couldn’t do it there, we can’t do it here.  Besides…you’d get bored in about twenty minutes like you always do.”
“You’re not listening, Peet.  This is North!  Animals up here are bigger.  Pelts worth more.  Up north they have things like wolves, bears, cougars, foxes.  Not stupid little armadillos,” he sniffed.  “The selection is better.  You can make a killing with meat and pelts.”
“I hope you’re right,” Peeta mused.  “I’m getting sick of running around like this. “
Cato sniffed.  “You homesick?”
He shrugged.  “Just sick of moving around is all.  I want my own bed, and…”
Another crack of thunder sounded from above, making them both jump as it echoed in the cave. 
“Well…you do what you want,” Cato mused.  “But I’m just fine making due here, sleeping under the stars.”
“I just want more for us,” Peeta said.  “When we left, I just…thought things would be different.”
“You sound like my momma.  Always lookin out for me like a damn mother hen.”
“Someone has to,” Peeta chuckled, breaking his hard fa├žade. 
They ate in silence, chewing the lean rabbit meat with grimaces.  It wasn’t much, but it was food.  They were about to make beds for the night when there was movement at the mouth of the cave.  Peeta heard the click of a gun and his stomach dropped. 
“Fuck,” Cato muttered, glancing up.  There, in the mouth of the cave, stood three men.  All with guns. 
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Thoughts?