Chapter 1

Disclaimer: I don't own The Hunger Games

Katniss' POV

I woke to the sound of my father's hunting boots rambling across the kitchen floor early in the morning. I sat straight up in the bed, desperately trying to get out of it before my father left. All while trying not to wake up Prim. I stepped over her tiny, sleeping form and silently got dressed in my hunting clothes. As I ran into the kitchen, I weaved my hair into a braid. My father hadn't left yet, he was packing some bread, water, and dried meat we had into a satchel.

"Are you ready to hunt today, Katniss?" he asked me quietly.

"Yes! I am totally ready!" I whispered in an excited tone.

"We won't be able to spend such a long time in the woods today because of the Victory Tour but we'll do our best. You remember last year's tour, right?" he asked me.

Of course I had remembered. That was the year that the winner from District Two was announced. I think his name was Brutus and his mentor was Enobaria. It was a violent year when Brutus played the Games. My parents made Prim and I leave the room when we were all watching the small TV in the living room.

I nodded to my father and laced up my boots. The Victory Tour consists of all the mentors and the one victor of that year. I don't exactly know why all these people visit the Districts each year but they do.

"You ready?" he asked me and held out his hand to help me up off the floor.

"Ready," I told him, smiling.

We walked out of the house and down to the meadow that was right next to the fence that outlined District Twelve. No one was out yet; it was Sunday and everyone had off work from the mines today. Coincidentally, the Tour happened to be on Sunday. I think they did that on purpose.

The Victory Tour was a week in each District. So the whole Tour lasted thirteen weeks. The thirteenth week was spent in the Capitol. The only person who had ever won the Hunger Games in our district was Haymitch Abernathy. He won in the Quarter Quell. I have never seen one before but I heard they are very intense and bloody.

My father held the barbed wire up for me to pass under and he followed. We walked hand in hand towards the spot where we kept our bows and arrows.

As we walked, I saw a flock of mockingjays up in the trees. I let go of my father's hand and stood still. He walked on a little further until he turned to see why I had stopped. I motioned for him to be quiet and gazed up at the trees. He grinned at me as I began to sing.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow

A bed of grass, a soft green pillow

Lay down your head, and close your eyes

And when they open, the sun will rise

Here it's safe, and here it's warm

Here the daisies guard you from every harm

Here your dreams are sweet

And tomorrow brings them true

Here is the place where I love you

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away

A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray

Forget your woes, and let your troubles lay

And when again it's morning, they'll wash away

Here it's safe, and here it's warm

Here the daisies guard you from every harm

Here your dreams are sweet

And tomorrow brings them true

Here is the place where I love you

Here is the place where I love you

My father stood there, smiling proudly at me, and looked back up to the mockingjays when I was finished. They were silent for a moment and then they started to sing the song. I smiled up at the trees and walked back to my father. I grabbed his hand and we continued along, listening to the lovely chirp of mockingjays.

When the log was in sight, I let go of his hand and ran. I grabbed my small bow and my miniature quiver of arrows. I then handed my father his bow and arrows and we set off. We would be provided food at the Victory Feast for lunch but dinner was something that my father and I would have to hunt. I had gotten very skilled at using the bow; I could shoot rabbits and squirrels now. I'm still working on shooting birds, they just move so much and I can't seem to predict their movements.

Throughout that morning, I had shot two rabbits and a squirrel while my father had shot a rabbit and two birds. That should be enough for a few days. We would stop at the Hob to trade for some necessities that my mother had been asking for. My stomach rumbled as we sat down near a pond to eat our breakfast.

"So, who won the Games this year?" I asked while munching on a piece of bread.

"I think that his name is Finnick Odair from District Four. He's only fourteen years old. Can you believe that?" he asked me with amazement in his voice. I shook my head thinking about how in two years, I will have to put my name in the reaping bowl to be picked for the Hunger Games.

I'm ten years old and Prim is six. I couldn't even begin to imagine what it would be like when Prim turned twelve. I want to protect her from the Games but there's no way I could protect her from the reaping. I would not allow her to get tesserae, only I could do that. That would help her and put the odds in her favor.

After eating our modest breakfast, we packed up and headed back to the log. Along the way, we took turns choosing what song to sing. My father knew a lot of songs, his family had been passing them down for generations. Some of them had been before the Dark Days and even before there was even a Capitol or Districts. And of course, the mockingjays joined in right after we sang song after song.

After we hid our weapons, we went to the Hob. We traded two of the rabbits and one bird, leaving us with one rabbit, one squirrel, and one bird. It was plenty of food, we had gotten lucky. We traded for some cloth, thread, spices, and herbs for my mother.

Walking in the streets with game was dangerous, especially with so many Peacekeepers around for the Victory Tour. So we put the game in our hunting bags so no one would be suspicious.

As we walked, everyone was wearing their nicest clothes for the arrival of the victor and mentors. It reminded me of Reaping Day. I walked even closer to my father, nearly brushing my arm with his.

"We're home!" I yelled as I opened the front door to our house. I saw my mother cleaning in the kitchen and Prim getting ready for the Victory Tour. I dumped the contents of my bag on the kitchen table with a proud smile on my face.

"Katniss! You know better! Don't dump that bag on the table," scolded my mother. She turned to my father with a smile and kissed him. "Welcome home, you two. Did you have a good hunt?"

"Yes, we did! Katniss shot down two rabbits and a squirrel. She's becoming quite a shot," he answered and I grinned even wider, proud of my kills.

"Great job, honey! I'm so proud. Now, I need you to go get washed up. You spend so much time in the woods I believe that you are becoming part of it," she told me, pulling a leaf from my hair. "The bathtub is already filled with water, hurry before it gets cold."

I nodded and headed to the bathroom. The toilet was a pot that we had to empty every time we used it and the tub was just simply wooden. There was a water basin that we filled with water to wash our hands in and a cracked mirror resided over it.

Stripping my hunting clothes and boots, I stepped into the tub. At least the water was still warm. I scrubbed myself clean, making sure I would look presentable for my mother. She was strange about those kinds of things. I scrubbed the dirt from my feet, hair, and under my fingernails. When I was finally satisfied, I got out and dried myself with a towel. The water had turned a light brown and like the irresponsible child I was, I left the dirty water in the tub. I left the bathroom and went to the bedroom to get dressed.

"The bathroom's open!" I yelled to whoever was in the house.

After shutting the door to the bedroom, I dropped my towel. My mother had already put my outfit on the bed. It was a brown skirt and a white blouse, I always wore it on special occasions. I was about to put it on until someone knocked on the door. I grabbed my towel and wrapped myself in it. When I opened the door, my mother came in holding a pale, blue dress. It looked new.

"I got this for you. You know the neighbors were expecting a little girl but Samael was born. They gave it to me, I thought you'd like it," she said, smiling at me.

"Thanks, Mom," I grinned and hugged her.

"Call me when you're ready for me to do your hair," she said and shut the door behind her.

I put the dress on and it was beautiful. I had never worn something like this before. Mrs. Pennington was a wonderful seamstress and was so looking forward to having a little girl to dress up. I guess Samael would be the one getting dressed up now.

I twirled around for a little bit, admiring how the skirt spread out around me.

"Mom! I'm ready!" I yelled. She came in and saw me twirling around. Even though dresses weren't my favorite thing to wear, I enjoyed them.

"Whoa! Slow down, there. Don't want you to fall over," she laughed and grabbed my arm as I almost toppled over.

I giggled and sat down on the bed, facing away from her. She sat down behind me and ran her fingers through my damp hair. I loved when she played with my hair, her hands were always so soft and it felt good against my scalp.

"Hey, Mom?" I asked.

"Yes, Katniss?" she responded.

"Can you just do a regular braid today? I want to look like myself," I asked timidly.

"Of course, dear," she replied, sounding a bit surprised. Whenever I wanted her to do my hair, I always wanted it fancy. I guess she wasn't prepared for me to ask for something normal.

When she was done, I looked in the mirror and saw my normal braid coming down over my shoulder. I smiled at myself, glad I looked somewhat like myself. The dress was a change from my normal pants and shirt.

"Thanks, Mom," I said, giving her a hug.

Prim walked into the room, also wearing a new dress that must've come from Mrs. Pennington. She looked so pretty. Her hair was in two braids, like my mother used to do to me when I was younger.

"You look so pretty, Katniss," she told me.

"You're the pretty one, Prim. I wish I were as pretty as you," I declared. She just rolled her eyes and hugged me.

Mother grabbed one of her dresses and put it on. Then she put her hair up in her usual bun and straightened her skirt.

"Let's go, ladies. Time to go greet the victor and mentors," called my father.

My mother took my father's hand and they walked out of the house. Prim and I followed, holding hands as well.

"Act nice even if you don't like them, okay?" I told Prim. I disagreed with the Games, mostly because I had overheard my parents expressing their opinions. I also disliked the victors because they had killed people.

Prim nodded to let me know she understood and gripped my hand tightly. I don't know why she was so nervous. Maybe she didn't feel comfortable being in the presence of killers.

We followed my parents into the town square and showed up just in time to see the train come rolling in. I walked with Prim closer to the front so she would be able to see. My parents stood back to watch.

The first person to walk out was the victor, Finnick Odair. He was strikingly handsome and looked older than he was. His deep, blue eyes met mine and I blushed. His smile was huge and stunning. It was hard to imagine him as a killer. He walked off the platform and down the stairs. A group of girls older than me squealed when he smiled at them. Peacekeepers kept the fans back and led Finnick away from the crowd, toward the Justice Building.

All the other mentors filed out of the train, mostly sticking together and looking rather disgusted by the people of District Twelve. Some children followed them. This was strange, maybe they were the mentors' children? Some were older than me, some were younger, and some were my age. I would ask my father about them later.

I noticed Brutus and Enobaria, remembering them from last year. A dirty blond-haired boy was at their side. He had large muscles for his age and he looked menacing. He was definitely older than me. I planned on staying away from him. A smaller dark-haired girl was at his side. She carried a knife with her and my eyes widened.

More children came out, following the mentors closely. They looked like they were training for the Games based on their stature. Maybe they were the kids that my father always talked about when the Games came on. He called them the Careers.

I kept my eye on the blond boy and the dark-haired girl. The boy had dark, blue eyes and he kept looking around in horror. Maybe he didn't like our district. The little girl just stood there playing with her knife, she had brown eyes. She looked more my age.

I went to look for my father to ask about the children here, pulling Prim behind me. When she saw the bakery, she dragged me over to look at the cakes in the window. I sighed at her and continued scanning the crowd of my father while Prim gazed into the window, gushing about how pretty the pastries were.

The Victory Feast was already in progress so I decided I would look for my father later.

"Prim, let's go eat before the food's gone. We can come back; those cakes will be here later," I told her and walked her to the buffet.

We were one of the last ones to the Feast so I made Prim her plate without having any trouble waiting in line. Most of the food was gone and the citizens of District Twelve were eating ravenously at the benches set up in the square. I spotted my parents and sent her in their direction before making my plate.

I saw a chocolate chip cookie, a rare treat in District Twelve, sitting on one of the platters and reached to grab it. It was the last one. But another hand suddenly reached before mine and took it. I frowned and looked to see who took my cookie. I looked up to see the blond boy, supposedly from District Two. He just smirked at me when he saw the scowl on my face.

"That was my cookie," I told him, still holding my plate.

"You snooze, you lose," he answered, taking a bite out of the cookie with a smug look on his face.

"I saw it first, I should have it," I insisted, trying to contain my growing annoyance. Who did this boy think he was? Coming to my district and stealing my cookie? I was a Seam girl, shouldn't I be the one eating? He looked healthy enough anyway.

"Oh yeah? Then come and get it. I bet that no one from this disgusting district would have the guts to try," he cackled.

"Watch me," I growled before throwing my plate of food at his face.

The food dribbled down his face and onto the ground. I laughed until I saw his face. There was absolute rage and fury written all over it. I knew I had made a big mistake.

"I'll kill you!" he yelled and I started running like there were wolves on my heels. He chased after me. "Come back here, Twelve!"

By then, many heads were turned and watching us. Some Peacekeepers tried to chase after us, yelling at us to stop but we were too fast. I looked behind me to see how far away he was and tripped on a rock. I stumbled and he caught up to me. I let out a yelp as he tackled me.

We rolled down a dip in the road and he ended up on top of me. He began punching me in the face and I struggled beneath him until I finally pushed him off of me. I may be small but I have some muscle from hunting and climbing trees.

I jumped on top of him and began returning the punches. I had never been in a fist fight before so I had no experience. I was able to get in a few good punches but he blocked most of them.

Then I felt a pair of hands grab me and pull me off of the boy. I kept glaring at him but I let the hands drag me away. The boy glared back and spit some blood out of his mouth. His nose was bleeding and my lip was bleeding. My cheek ached as well.

I tilted my head back and saw the victor of District Twelve, Haymitch, holding my arms. He was laughing in his usual drunken manner. I looked at the person who was holding the boy and saw the mentor from District Two, Brutus, frowning at the boy.

I stood up and yanked my arm out of Haymitch's hands. I glared daggers at the boy and brushed the dirt off my dress. My knees and elbows were skinned and my braid was becoming loose. I adjusted my hair and began to walk away when my father raced up to me. He gasped in horror at my face and the boy behind me.

"Katniss Everdeen! Were you fighting this boy?" he asked. I just nodded and kept walking away from him. I was still furious. "You get back here this instant! You will apologize to this boy."

"What!? Why? He started it! He called our district disgusting and said that I didn't have the guts to take my cookie back!" I yelled, wiping the blood that was running down my chin.

"Katniss! You will apologize. Now," my father said through gritted teeth. Apparently my father hated fighting. I never knew that. Maybe because he never had to deal with me fighting.

"Fine." I spat. Haymitch stood there watching me with a look of amusement on his face as did Brutus. My father did not look happy with his arms crossed over his chest. The boy stared at me curiously. "I am sorry for punching you and throwing food in your face."

With that, I spun on my heel and strutted away to go find Prim and my mother. I was still hungry, maybe they had some leftovers.

Haymitch's POV

I watched as the little girl who had actually beat up Cato walk away. She had a fire in her eyes, it shone even when her father forced her to say sorry.

That girl was going to be something special.

"Sorry for all the trouble. She usually isn't like that. I hope he will be okay. I should go get her," said the girl's father in a rush before chasing after her.

I turned back to look down at Cato. He was training to be a Career in the Games. A horrible thing for a child to want.

"Boy, you better watch out for that girl," I told him and walked back towards the liquor table. That was probably the most sober thing I had said all day.

Cato's POV

I couldn't believe that girl. She had the guts to beat me up. I was beginning to feel sorry that I hadn't apologized and that I had actually punched her. Her eyes were so pretty; they were sleet gray but seemed to gleam. Her hair was a beautiful, dark brown. But her eyes were my favorite. Her name was beautiful too. Katniss Everdeen. Like the sweet plant that we would occasionally eat back in Two.

I took Brutus' hand as he reached down to help me up. I brushed off the dirt on my shirt and pants while wiping the blood from my nose away. Without a word, I headed towards Victor's Village to the house that District Two was assigned to stay in.

The house was like any other in Victor's Village. But this one had been untouched until the maids had come and stocked the house. I had only seen a victor's house a few times. District Two's Village was huge compared to Twelve's. The Capitol had to add on to our Village while Twelve only had one victor.

My room wasn't big but it wasn't small. I thought it was perfect. I had my own bathroom which I had been worried about not having. When I arrived, I kept to myself until I was called down to dinner. The rest of the day had been me thinking about Katniss.

"Hey, Cato. I heard that a District Twelve girl beat you up today," Enobaria said, chuckling at me. I turned pink and immediately denied it.

"Uh-uh! I won! I beat her her up," I responded, annoyed that she thought this was funny. She just laughed again while I stabbed my fork viciously into my vegetables. Clove watched me curiously, she obviously hadn't heard about my fight with Katniss today.

The adults continued on with their daily gossip and adult topics. I just sat there thinking about Katniss as I had been doing all day. Her hair, her eyes, her voice, her name. I was intoxicated, I barely knew her and my heart flip-flopped when I thought of her. While the adults were distracted, Clove started to ask me questions.

"So, a girl beat you up today? And she was District Twelve?" she chortled. "Wow, Cato. You're losing your touch."

"I was the one who beat her up. I gave her a bloody lip," I boasted. I didn't want to look weak in front of Clove even if I felt back that I had hurt Katniss.

"Whatever," Clove said and went back to her knife.

When dinner was over, I excused myself and went upstairs. I took a shower and went to bed. I definitely would be going to see Katniss tomorrow. Maybe we could hang out or something.

It didn't take me long to slip into a Katniss filled sleep.