Friday, December 28, 2012

Life Lessons 10: Silence

A/N: I think this is a bit different from the others since there's absolutely no dialogue. It's just Dani thinking. I hope you guys enjoy it!

Dani had been sitting in the living room with her father and brother for several hours now, and not one word had been spoken. She quite liked these silent moments. Their house had always been on the quiet side. Her mom was a quiet person, who only saw the need to talk when neccessary, and Dani supposed she had inherited this quality. They just didn't feel the need to constantly fill the silence. Her father on the other hand, enjoyed a good conversation, and her brother had inherited this quality. The two could strike up a conversation with just about anyone and could go on for hours. Still, at home they too often went about the day in near silence. That was just the way her family had always worked. They talked too each other all of the time, but they weren't afraid of silence either.

On this particular day, Dani's mother had gone to the woods to hunt. Nickel, now almost eight, had begun tagging along occassionally, but Katniss had asked him to stay here for the day, which he was still pouting about. Dani figured her mother wanted time to actually hunt instead of teaching Nickel how to aim. Still, from what Dani heard, Nickel was learning fast, and may even become as good of a shooter as their mom someday. Dani, unlike her brother, had never been hunting in her life. She didn't have a problem with the actual killing as much as she did the skinning and preparation of the meat. It grossed her out. She couldn't aim a bow and arrow anyway. She much prefered to spend her days painting or baking with her dad while her mom and brother went off to the woods.

Dani had been trying to read some teen romance book. She'd been really into it for most of the morning, but her mind had begun to wander sometime after lunch. She was currently staring out the window at nothing as she thought over things.

Dani enjoyed thinking. She figured that was probably why she enjoyed silence. You couldn't think well when it was loud. It wasn't that she had any particular troubling thought that she needed to think through. She just liked thinking about small, little things. She thought about the view out the window, her family, her small group of friends, and life. Nothing captured her mind for too long.

Dani wasn't sure how long it had been when she decided she'd been thinking long enough. It had felt like just a few minutes to her, but when she looked up and noticed the absence of her brother and father, she wasn't so sure. Then, she picked up on the scent of meat being cooked in the kitchen. A quick look at the clock told her it was almost supper time, and she smiled to herself. She always got lost in her thoughts. Dani wandered off to the kitchen to find the rest of the family. She was sure her father would make a joking comment about her being "lost in her thoughts again." Her silence would be broken. For now that was okay though. Sometimes noise was nice too, expecially when it comes in the form of family.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Life Lessons 9: Insanity

A/N: Merry Christmas, everyone! I guess we can consider this a Christmas present. I hope all of you had a wonderful day, regardless of whether you celebrate the holiday or not. I hope you all enjoy seeing Johanna for the first time in the story. You also get to meet one of Gale and Johanna's other kids.

"I'll never understand the appeal of District 12." Johanna looked at the town with slight disgust. Peeta, who had always found her hatred for the place amusing, grinned. "Gale always talks about it so fondly. It looks like a pit, and this is probably ten times better than before the rebellion."

"Maybe so," Peeta answered. "But it's home."

"You don't even have decent trees," Johanna grumbled, looking past the fence that still surrounded the district. "These all look like pathetic wimps compared to the giant evergreens in District 7."

Alder rolled his eyes at his mother as he followed along behind her and Peeta. "Mom, no matter how many times you insult District 12, I'm not moving, not even to District 7."

Peeta had offered to show Johanna around District 12 in order to give Katniss and Gale time to catch up together, and Alder, Linde, and Nickel had tagged along. Dani had taken Rowan, Johanna and Gale's daughter, off to meet some of her friends. For the past half hour, Johanna had done nothing but insult everything she passed in a futile attempt to prove to her oldest son that he had made a large mistake. Peeta had attempted to quell the growing tension between the mother and son, but had finally given up and decided to take it in stride.

Nickel and Linde didn't seem as amused by the conversation as Peeta. At fifteen years old, Linde seemed to have hit his teenage rebellion years, and he did not seem happy about being dragged all the way to District 12 to spend time with his family. Nickel, much to the teen's dismay, was almost as enthralled with Linde as he was with Alder, and he was quite enjoying having two older boys to follow around and emulate. He was happily occupying the space between Linde and Alder as they walked and seemed to hang on their every word and action. (Not that Linde was doing much but pouting.)

Before long their walk had brought them to the meadow. This was the one place Johanna didn't make a comment about. She knew the place held significance for Katniss and Peeta, and she knew the place doubled as a burial ground. Not even Johanna Mason-Hawthorne would insult a graveyard. The children had never been informed of the meadow's second use, and all three had played in it over the years. Even Linde seemed a little more peaceful in the beautiful meadow as the five of them lounged underneath the shade of a tree. It was only Johanna who seemed slightly uncomfortable.

"How do you deal with coming here all the time?" she whispered to Peeta. The kids looked slightly confused. This question hadn't been asked with the same bitter tone her past insults of the day had used.

"We focus on the beauty," was Peeta's simple reply. "If we did otherwise, it would drive us to insanity."

Johanna chuckled, "I think you've both already reached insanity." Peeta agreed and began to laugh as well. No matter how odd the children found this exchange, they quickly turned their attention from it in favor of more amusing things. Before long all five of them were pointing out pictures in the clouds.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Life Lessons 8: Memory

Nickel was enthralled with the book he held in his hands. It had sat on a shelf in their house for as long as he could remember, but he'd never felt the slightest bit of curiousity as to what was inside of it. Then, earlier that night he'd been bored. Haymitch was over for dinner, and Dani was spending the night at a friend's house. This meant Nickel had to find a way to occupy time while his parents and Haymitch discussed boring adult things he had no interest in. He'd been wandering around the house in search of some form of amusement when his eyes landed on the book.

It was out in the open, but Nickel had been unsure whether or not he should pick it up without permission from his parents. Once he thought about it, it seemed a bit odd that it was there. It was the only book on display in the house except the plant book that Nickel and Dani had been permitted to flip through many times before. Nickel suddenly became curious as to why his parents had never shown him this one before.

After debating with himself a few minutes Nickel decided it couldn't be that off limits if it was left out in the open. He grabbed the book off the shelf. It almost left his hands after he underestimated it's heaviness. He set it gingerly on the table after that. Right away he could tell this was homemade, just like the plant book. His curiousity was at an all time high as he flipped to the first page.

Nickel hadn't been sure what to expect, but it certainly wasn't pictures of people he'd never seen before. He looked closely at the picture of the blonde girl on the first page. She seemed to be a year or two older than Dani. The picture seemed to have been drawn by his father, and the girl resembled him in a way. Her blonde hair and blue eyes were just like his dad. His sister had inherited the same blue eyes, and he had gotten the blonde hair.

After looking more closely at the words written in a familiar handwriting Nickel discovered the girl's name was Prim. He'd only heard the name a handful of times, but he knew it belonged to his deceased aunt. Nickel didn't know much about her except she'd been young when she died and his mother seemed to become sad whenever her name was mentioned. Nickel assumed he probably could know more if he'd ever bothered to ask, but he'd never thought to. Looking at this now, he finally became curious about what happened to this girl.

He knew before he began reading that her death could probably be contributed to the war, but skimming the page, he realized he'd have to ask his parents to confirm that as nothing about her death was written on the page except a date. A date that Nickel was surprised to see was exactly fifteen years before Dani's birth. Dani was born on the fifteenth anniversary of their aunt's death. Nickel had never suspected that.

Nickel quickly became immersed in the things his mother had written about her sister. They were such small things, things that were needed to completely picture someone in your mind. Nickel looked at the picture his father had drawn and thought about the various things he now knew about his aunt. Nickel thought he could picture her clearly in his mind. From the vivid picture he now had of her, he knew it was a shame that he would never get to meet her. It sounded like she would have been a nice aunt. Besides that, she could have given him cousins. He had always wanted another boy in the family.

A lot of time passed before Nickel remembered there was more to this book than just the first page. The man looking up from the page reminded Nickel of his mother immediately. When he noticed the last name Everdeen written underneath he knew this had to be one of his grandfathers. He took his time to take in all of the information on the page. All the while he couldn't help but dream about what it would have been like to know the man. Then, he turned the page and found another picture of a man, this one resembling his father. Nickel's eyes scanned the page just as eagerly as it had the previous ones.

It wasn't long before Nickel had worked his way through the entire book. With each page he got a little less invested as the people became less familiar and the stories went back farther. When he was finished reading, he found himself in a bit of a daze. Not one page had made a mention to death, but Nickel could still tell what this book was by the death date included on every single page right next to a birthdate or a note saying the date of birth was unknown. Nickel had heard of many of these people before. His parents often told stories of the people he'd seen on the beginning pages, but there was something that saw it written down in a book full of other deceased that made Nickel feel a bit odd. He didn't have much experience with death. In fact, he wasn't sure if his seven-year-old mind could completely grasp it. All he knew was that the feeling he was getting in his stomach was unpleasant.

Nickel knew he wouldn't be able to hide his new knowledge from his parents. He'd let it slip like usual. Nickel glanced towards the kitchen where he could still hear his parents and Haymitch conversing. After a few moments of thought, Nickel headed for the kitchen, book in hand. There was a slight moment of hesitation when he actually laid eyes on them around the table, but he continued walking until he stood between his parents.

Katniss and Peeta's eyes immediately fell on the book. There was a moment of silence as everyone looked at the book, unsure of what to say. Finally, Nickel spoke in a soft voice, "I was bored, and I found this on the shelf." He looked up at his parents nervously.

Katniss sighed before pulling him up onto her lap, something she hadn't done since he declared himself too old for it a year earlier. He didn't complain though as he sunk into his mother's embrace. If there was a time he needed a bit of comforting, it was now.

Peeta picked up the old book and began to flip through it even though he knew exactly what he would see. Nickel figured his dad was trying to figure out just how much of the book Nickel had read. Nickel turned to look at Haymitch to see the old man watching the scene awkwardly. Nickel half expected him to bolt out the door at any minute.

Nickel found himself being the one to break the silence once again. "They seemed like good people. All of them." It seemed like such a generic, simple thing to say, but Nickel wasn't sure what else to do and didn't like the silence. When he got the courage to look at the adults again, he thought he saw tears being held back in all of their eyes.

"They were," Katniss whispered in his ear. The silence returned and this time Nickel didn't break it. He just sat there on his mom's lap, while his father continued to flip through the book and Haymitch sat in silence. It wasn't until about half an hour later that Haymitch announced he needed to be heading back to feed his geese. From the slur of his words, Nickel could guess the geese shouldn't be getting their hopes up for a meal tonight.

Things returned to normal as his parents saw Haymitch off, making sure he made it to his door as usual. There was no more mention of the book that night or even in the next week, month, or year. The book didn't need words. It spoke for itself.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Life Lessons 7: Breathe Again

A/N: An update just a day later! I'm proud of myself. Haha. I also plan on having at least one more update before Christmas.

I didn't realize that I'd basically written about Peeta's feelings about having kids right after Katniss' until now, but I guess that makes sense. It kind of connects them together at any rate.

Peeta had waited a long time to have children. Somehow he had always known that Katniss would come around. He hadn't pushed her. There had only been a few times he'd mentioned it over the years. She knew it was what he wanted though, and he had known that she was struggling over it in her head. He had expected her to come around, but it had still been a shock to him when she had told him they could have children.

Now, as he sat in the meadow next to his wife and watched his children run through the tall grass, he still couldn't help put marvel over the two children that seemed to be the perfect mixes of Katniss and him.

Dani bent over to look at something in the grass before running towards them with something yellow in her hand. "Look what I found!" In her hand was a yellow dandelion. Dandelions had been Dani's favorite flowers her whole life, as she had been named after them. Peeta was fairly sure that she had managed to find the last yellow dandelion in the meadow as many of the scattered flowers had turned feathery and white by this time of year. "Can you hold it for me while I play?" She held the small flower out to Peeta who took it from her and began to twirl it around in his hand.

"What are you thinking about?" Katniss suddenly spoke up. Peeta turned to see her lounging in the grass beside him. At his questioning look she responded, "You look like you're thinking about something. And you're being quieter than normal. What is it?"

"I was just thinking about when you finally agreed to have kids," he explained. Katniss looked at him a moment before turning to watch their children.

"I'm glad I did," she sighed before leaning against Peeta.

"Me too," Peeta smiled. "I think they've helped. I thought I was mostly over the hijacking before them, but there's something about them that makes life easier. It's as if each year it got a little bit easier to breathe, but I wasn't breathing normally until they came. There are still the occassional asthma attacks, but overall, my breathing's normal again." He paused a moment before laughing. "That sounded ridiculous."

"No, I get it." Peeta looked down to see Katniss watching him with understanding in her eyes. He leaned down to kiss her before they both turned back to their laughing, playful children.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Life Lessons 6: Innocence

A/N: Sorry for the ten days between updates, everyone! I'm not really sure how I feel about this one. I don't know if it's the shortest one so far, but it's definitely one of the shortest, and I'm just not sure how I feel about it at all. I hope you enjoy it though!

Usually Katniss was able to admit to herself that refusing to have children for fifteen years had been a mistake. She would often watch Dani and Nickel and wonder how she could have denied Peeta, and even herself, this for so long. Then, out of the blue, the fear would hit her again. Suddenly she'd remember exactly why she'd been adamant about having no children. The fear would often make its reappearance when one of her children was hurt or showed signs of growing up too quickly.

When Katniss walked down the hall one day and heard a small, sad voice that she knew belonged to her son whispering quietly to someone that could only be her daughter, it didn't take long for the fear to begin creaping up on her again.

"I guess I knew," the small voice whispered. "I just never thought about it that way." Katniss didn't know what had made Nickel so upset. She longed to enter the room and try to make it better, but instead she forced herself to stop and listen for a moment.

"I understand," Dani wrapped an arm around her younger brother. "I went through the same thing. I mean, we learned about the games at school, but since we didn't live through them, I guess we don't really understand." Katniss froze at the mention of the games. "It wasn't until Haymitch said something offhand that I realized that Mom and Dad, and even Haymitch and the other former tributes, are only here now because they killed. It was obvious once I realized it, but I'd never really thought about it before."

Nickel nodded in agreement. "It's not that I don't love Mom and Dad anymore. It's just hard thinking about them killing people."

Katniss backed quickly away from the door. They had never hidden anything from their children, but they hadn't exactly sat there and told them everything either. She had figured that they would learn everything on their own soon enough, and she'd been right. To hear her children talking about her and Peeta committing murder terrified her. She didn't know how she could face them. She hurried towards the stairs, as quiet as always so they'd never know she was there.

Her plans to slip out the door unnoticed were thwarted when Peeta stepped in front of her at the foot of the stairs. He didn't ask her any questions as she threw herself into his arms. She cried for what seemed like ages. For years she'd relished the fact that she was like a hero to her children. They knew she'd been important to the rebellion sure, but more importantly she'd been their mom. Now, they knew the horrible truth. Katniss wasn't quite sure who's loss of innocence she was crying over: theirs or hers.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Life Lessons Chapter 5: Break Away

A/N: It's been about a week, but here's the next chapter finally! It's finals week, and I go home on Thursday, so I'm going to say the next one will be up sometime next week. I'm definitely not putting another one up during finals.

Just so everyone knows before reading, Gale and Johanna are married in this story, and you meet their oldest child in this one. The rest of the family will make appearances later.

Dani stopped abruptly after spotting someone familiar in the distance. "Dad," she called. Her father stopped and put a hand on her brother's shoulder to stop him as well. Peeta turned to Dani with a questioning look. "Is that Alder Hawthorne?" She pointed to the tall, dark young man who seemed to have just left the market.

"I think it is." Peeta seemed just as curious at the boy's presence as his daughter. He began leading the way towards the nineteen-year-old. "Alder," he called to get the young adult's attention.

The young man spun around. "Mr. Mellark," he remarked. Alder seemed slightly surprised to find the three of them there, but he smiled slightly at the look of surprise on all of their faces. "It's nice to see you guys. I was going to come and visit soon."

"If you don't mind my asking," Peeta began slowly. "Just what are you doing here in District 12? Gale and Johanna haven't said anything about visiting recently."

"Oh, Mom and Dad aren't here." Alder began walking again and motioned for them to follow him. "I'm living in District 12 now. Just arrived yesterday. Grandma found me a place before I even got here and had it waiting for me."

Nickel was hanging on Alder's every word, having long immulated him. "Why would you want to move to District 12?" Nickel asked. "It's so far away from your family."

Alder smiled down at the young boy and ruffled his hair. "I got a job here," Alder explained. "I've loved District 12 ever since I was little. It's always been more appealing to me than District 2. Mom and Dad didn't seem to mind my moving. I think Mom's a bit disappointed I chose Twelve instead of Seven though. She'd love an excuse to move back there, but I'd much rather be here. We only visited Seven once, and I wasn't a fan of the weather. Too much rain up there. Twelve's nicer when it comes to climate, and I have plenty of family around if I ever get lonely."

"I can't imagine," Dani breathed as she looked at Alder in awe.

"You two are young," said Alder. "Of course being away from you parents, let alone your home district would sound scary. Wait until you're older. You'll be dying to get away." His chuckling ended as he stopped outside of a small house just on the outskirts of town. "This is it," he brandished his hand in front of the house.

"You'll be living right down the street from Posey then," observed Peeta.

Dani noticed Alder roll his eyes slightly. "Yeah, I think Mom and Dad have ordered her to keep tabs on me actually. She keeps popping up at odd times with different excuses. It's driving me mad. No matter how many times I tell her I can take care of myself, she always comes back."

"She'll calm down soon," Peeta assured him. "Especially if the famous Mason hostility shows itself."

Alder's face contorted, no doubt thinking of how scary his mother could be when provoked.

Peeta clapped a hand on Alder's shoulder. "We'd best be going. I told Katniss we wouldn't be long, and we still need to get a few things. I'm sure she'll be thrilled to learn that you're here. Why don't you come by for dinner tomorrow. You remember where the house is right?"

"Of course," Alder smiled. "I'll be there."

Alder waved farewell as Peeta guided his children back towards the town. Dani and Nickel were still in awe of Alder's significant move. "Can you imagine leaving home forever?" Dani asked her little brother, who vehemently shook his head no.

"Someday you will though." Dani thought she detected sadness in her father's voice. He looked down at them softly. "When you're older you'll leave home too. I hope you stay in District 12, but you'll still be away from your mother and me."

Dani had never really thought about it before, and neither, it seemed, had Nickel. Neither of them said anything as they continued to walk side-by-side with their father. Dani could only hope that the day she left home would be a long, long time from now. She couldn't bear the thought of leaving her parents, especially if it caused her father any pain.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Life Lessons Chapter 4: Seeking Solace

"Why do you think Haymitch is like that?"

Dani turned from her spot on the back porch steps to find her little brother standing behind her. He was staring at Haymitch's backyard where the old man could be seen feeding his numerous geese.

"Like what?" Dani was honestly unsure of what her brother was implying. "He's just feeding his geese. You've seen him do it a million times before."

"Yeah," Nickel agreed. "But only for a week once a month or so. There are long periods of time where he just sits around drunk. I asked Mom about it once, and she wouldn't tell me anything."

"Maybe he's just a drunk." Dani didn't know all of Haymitch's story, but she knew there was more to it than that. She'd learned enough about the old games Panem used to hold to know that they were horrible enough to turn any living victor into a drunk. Nickel, however, didn't know as much about the games as Dani. In his two years of schooling, he would have only learned the general history. He knew Haymitch and their parents were victors, but Dani didn't think Nickel fully realized what that meant.

"It helps him forget," Dani told him. "It's his solace."

"Forget what?" Nickel seemed confused. "His games?"

Dani nodded. "Of course. Can you imagine having to kill and then being in charge of tons of kids over the years who end up dying? Anyone would want to forget."

"But Mom and Dad don't drink alcohol. At least I've never seen them drunk before." Nickel seemed to be struggling to wrap his mind around what his sister was saying.

"That's because they've never been drunk before. At least not since I can remember." Dani thought for a moment before adding. "They must have different ways of forgetting."

"Like what?" Nickel looked up at his big sister.

"I don't know. Us. Each other, maybe."

Nickel looked back at Haymitch as he turned his sister's words over in his head. "But Haymitch has us too. Plus, Mom and Dad. He lives right next-door. He sees us all the time."

Dani had to refrain herself from rolling her eyes at her naive little brother. "It's not the same, Nickel. Mom and Dad are married. Haymitch doesn't have a wife, and he's never even had a girlfriend that I can remember. We're Mom and Dad's kids. Haymitch doesn't have kids."

Nickel still didn't seem to get it. "But we still love Haymitch too."

"Yeah," Dani tried to quell her frustration. "But you love Dad more than Haymitch right."

"Of course, he's Dad."


Nickel thought maybe he was beginning to understand. It was sad, he thought. "Hey, Dani."

"Yeah, Nickel?"

"Do you think we could find Haymitch a wife, so she could be his solace and he wouldn't have to drink anymore?"

Dani smiled at her brother's innocence. "You could try, but I doubt you'd be successful. Good luck though."

"Yeah," Nickel sighed. "No one would want to put up with those geese."

Dani laughed. "Right. The geese are the most annoying thing about Haymitch. They're definitely keeping Haymitch from finding the right woman."

Monday, November 26, 2012

Life Lessons Chapter 3 Dark

"Can I keep the light on tonight?" Nickel asked his father as he pulled the blanket up to his chin.

Peeta, who had been about to flick the light switch off, stopped and turned toward his son. "Why?"

Peeta walked over to sit beside Nickel as the boy sat up in bed to share his fears with his father. "I think there's a monster under my bed," the seven-year-old whispered in his father's ear. "He makes noises when it's dark, but I think he's scared of the light. If I keep it on, he won't hurt me."

"Really?" Peeta was almost amused. He could somewhat relate to his son's fears. After all, he and Katniss had been trying to get away from their own nightmares for over twenty-five years. Luckily, Nickel's nightmares seemed a lot easier to vanguish, and Peeta hoped they would always stay that way. "Are you sure the monster's really there? Have you gotten a good look at him?"

Nickel shook his head back and forth quickly. "No! If I look at him he could jump out and get me!"

Peeta pretended to think for a minute. "I've got an idea. How about I look for him under the bed, and if he tries to get me, you can save me. Okay?"

"Okay!" Nickel agreed somewhat hesitantly. He clambered to the edge of the bed, ready to pull his father from the monster's grasp if needed. Peeta made a show of getting down on the ground and hesitating before lifting the bed skirt in one quick flash.

Peeta's eyes swept across the space underneath Nickel's bed before he looked up and announced, "Nothing there."

Peeta got up and sat down on the bed again, facing Nickel. "Still think there's a monster?"

Nickel thought about it for a moment before replying, "Maybe not?"

"I don't think there is," Peeta assured his son. "I bet you just heard something else and thought it was a monster."

"Maybe," Nickel agreed.

Peeta stood up and made his way to the door. Stopping next to the light switch he asked, "Still want the light on?"

It took Nickel a few moments of consideration. "Yes, please. Just in case. There's probably not a monster, but I want to be prepared."

Peeta smiled warmly at his son. "Of course. If a monster does show himself, just yell for me and Mommy, okay? We'll come get him."

"I know," Nickel replied as he laid down and tucked the blanket up to his chin again. "Good night, Daddy."

"Good night, son."

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Life Lessons Chapter 2: Light

Author's Note: I'd planned on getting this up yesterday, but I ended up being out with my friend Ji for longer than I expected. I wasn't sure if I was going to have time to get it up today either, but luckily, I've managed to get it up! The theme for this one is light. I hope you enjoy it!

"Why are we out here so early?"

Peeta chuckled at his daughter's questioning as he watched her rub the sleep out of her eyes. "If we're going to paint the sunrise, we have to be up to see it."

Dani turned from the easel she was setting up to look at her mother who was currently lounging on the steps of their back porch. "And why are you up?" She couldn't understand why Katniss would willingly leave the comfort of her bed at such an early hour.

Katniss smiled sleepily at her daughter. "Couldn't sleep," she said without elaborating. Her and Peeta shared a look. Dani still didn't understand why her mom would wake up so early just to watch her and her father paint, but she knew that no amount of questioning would get her an answer.

"Whatever," she sighed as she began setting up her paints.

Dani and Peeta painted in companionable silence for a few hours as Katniss quietly watched on. Dani tried her hardest to make the sunrise look just right, but no matter how hard she tried it just didn't look as good as her father's. Peeta had assured his daughter many times that it just took practice. After all, he'd been painting much longer than she had. Dani supposed she was pretty good for her age and level of experience, but she longed for the day that she would come even close to being as good as her father.

Dani hadn't realized just how difficult it would be to capture the light correctly. Most of her outdoor paintings took place in the afternoon, and she'd only ever painted the sun itself once or twice. She'd underestimated the difficulty of capturing the many colors of the sky and how the sun beams poked slowly over the horizon. She glanced quickly at her father's canvas to see that he had captured it almost perfectly. Dani felt slightly disheartened when she looked back at her own canvas. The colors weren't exactly the right shade even though she'd probably spent more time mixing them than actually painting. Peeta, on the other hand, had seemed to know exactly how much of each paint to mix together and had created colors, in just the right shades, before Dani had even decided on what colors of paint to mix.

Peeta seemed to notice her frustration, and he glanced over at her painting for the first time. "It looks great." And his smile was so genuine that Dani almost believed him. In fact, she didn't think he was lying at all. Her father seemed to like all of her paintings. She could probably throw random blobs of paint on a canvas, and he'd still praise her.

"It does not." Dani began to let out all of her frustration. "Everything looks wrong. This bit right here should be yellower, and the sun beams aren't hitting this tree just right. Plus-"

"Dandelion," Peeta cut her off gently. "It's okay. It's your first time painting a sunrise. No one paints something perfectly the first time. You'd never done something like this before."

"I know," Dani's agreement only came from the knowledge that her father would never see it differently.

"Here," Peeta moved over to her canvas. "Let me show you how to fix the shading of the tree."

Peeta spent the next hour teaching Dani how to show the light hitting the tree just perfectly. By the time Peeta had finished his lesson, Dani's tree was on its way to looking almost as good as her father's. She beamed with pride as her mother came over to check out her work. There was a lot more work to be done on the painting, but Dani felt a lot more confident in how it would turn out. It still wasn't as good as her father's, but with a bit of work, maybe Dani really could be as good a painter as her father some day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Life Lessons Chapter 1: Love

Author's Note: I've been working on this story since January of this year, so I'm very excited to finally be posting it! As it says in the summary, this was written for the Hunger Games 100 theme challenge. Each “chapter” is a different theme, and that theme will be the chapter title. This first one is love. This isn't really a chaptered story. It's more a set of one-shots, but they are chronological and they each focus on Katniss and Peeta's children. I hope you enjoy it!

“Mom, can I talk to you?”

Katniss looked up at the sound of her ten-year-old daughter's voice. “Sure, Dandelion,” she smiled. “Come here.” She patted a spot on the couch beside her that Dani promptly filled. “What did you want to talk about?” Katniss asked as she watched Dani wring her hands in nervousness.

“Oh, it's nothing important really,” Dani glanced around the room as she spoke. She didn't seem to want to look at Katniss.

“Then why do you seem so nervous?”

Dani sighed, “I was just wondering...” She cut herself off as if she was unsure whether or not to continue. Katniss sat patiently, not trying to pry it out of her. “How will I know when I'm in love?”

Katniss was a little shocked. It definitely wasn't something she'd been expecting her daughter to ask quite so soon. After a moment or two she finally answered, “Well, to be honest I really don't know what to tell you. I wasn't the brightest when it came to realizing when I'd fallen in love.”

“Really?” Dani asked in curiousness. She'd never really heard the story of how her parents had gotten together. She did know about the games and some of the details. For instance, she knew that her father had announced his love for her mother to all of Panem before their games, but that was about it. Katniss and Peeta had never felt it necessary to tell their children about the lying that had taken place, although Haymitch had almost let it slip a few times. Most of Dani's knowledge about the 74th Annual Hunger Games had come from lessons in school.

Katniss chuckled to herself, “Absolutely not.” After a few moments, it because clear that Katniss wasn't planning to continue.

“Mom! You can't just tell me that and then not explain!”

Katniss looked conflicted. She'd never thought about having this conversation with her daughter and wasn't sure what she should or shouldn't say. Finally, she said, “It's a long story.”

“So?” Dani asked, “I have time.” She pulled her feet up onto the couch and made herself comfortable.

“Okay,” Katniss sighed as she leaned back into the cushions. “But you're getting the short version. I'll tell you more later.”

“Just tell me!” Dani exclaimed in exasperation.

Katniss hesitated slightly before beginning. “Do you remember learning about how the tributes were interviewed before the Games?” Dani nodded slightly, becoming fully engrossed in her mother's words. “Well, the female tribute of the district always went before the male. When your father had his interview right after mine, he revealed that he was in love with me. I was shocked at first, but I assumed it was only a publicity stunt to get more sponsors. It took me a while to realize that it had all been true.”

Dani gasped in shock, “But how could you not have believed him? It's obvious how much Dad loves you. At least, it is now. I can't imagine Dad not being madly in love with you.”

Katniss smiled down at her daughter, “I know, but at the time I was determined that I was never going to get married or have kids. I wasn't expecting something like that. I was just focused on getting out of those games alive. Someone falling in love with me was the last thing I expected. I was blinded, I guess. I just figured Peeta was a very good actor.”

Dani mulled over the new information as her mother paused. She never would have believed any of this. Her parents had always been one unit to her. They were inseparable in her mind. She could barely imagine them not being together.

“Are you surprised?” Katniss asked with a small smile on her face.

“Well, yeah,” Dani admitted.

“It gets worse,” Katniss sighed.

Dani had no idea what that meant, but it just made her even more eager for her mother to continue.

“You know that Gale and I were best friends when we were younger?” Dani nodded. She'd known Gale her whole life. He lived in District 2 but came to District 12 with his wife Johanna and their children regularly. He mainly came to visit his mom and siblings, but he and Johanna also managed to visit her family at least once while in District 12. Her parents had told her that he was her mother's old best friend, but she hadn't really believed it at first. While they were friends, Gale and her mother (and father for that matter) had always been kind of closed off around each other. Katniss had always seemed closer to Johanna than Gale. Their past had always been a mystery to Dani.

As Katniss continued, she seemed to avoid looking Dani in the eyes. “After the Games, I discovered that Gale loved me too.” Dani's eyes widened in shock. She'd never considered that. It just seemed so impossible to think of her mom with anyone but her dad, and Gale and Johanna seemed happy together. She'd always figured they'd had a huge fight or something but nothing romantic. “I became confused,” Katniss continued, “I didn't know what to do. I think deep down I always knew that I loved you father more, but Gale had been my best friend since I was fourteen. Gale was my past, and I wanted that past more than ever after the games.”

“How did you end up with dad then?” Dani questioned.

“There's no clear cut answer to that,” Katniss finally met her eyes. “I don't think there ever are good answers to those types of questions. I'm not even sure what the exact moment was that I finally admitted to myself that I loved Peeta. Maybe it happened slowly over time. Maybe it was in one moment, and I hid it from myself. I don't know.” Katniss was smiling at Dani now. “Do you care if I ask, why the sudden interest in love?”

Dani felt a blush creep across her face. “There's this boy...” she muttered quietly.

Katniss smile widened. “Really?”

Dani just nodded, her eyes on the floor. “He's really nice, but I don't know if it's just a crush or something more.”

“You're only ten, Dandelion. You have plenty of time to figure it out,” Katniss assured her daughter. “Trust me. At some point, you'll just know.” After a moment of thought, she added, “Hopefully, it's easier for you than it was for me. At least you're not trying to figure it out while fighting for your life and the future of your country.” She actually chuckled at the thought, something that surprised Dani slightly.

“You and dad make it seem so easy,” Dani laid her head on her mom's shoulder.

Katniss smirked a little, “After everything I just told you, you're honestly saying that?”

“Yes, I am,” she closed her eyes as she spoke. “Anyone with eyes can see how in love you guys are. I want that.”

Katniss kissed the top of Dani's head. “You have plenty of time. Don't worry about it.”

“I guess you're right,” Dani agreed as she felt her mom wrapping her arms around her.

Someday she'd find someone who would love her as much as her mom and dad loved each other, but for the moment, she was content. Her mom and dad's love (maybe even her brother's annoying as he was) was worth way more than a guy anyway.