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.