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Challenges 4 - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Challenges 4
One of the stories Dannel tells Peeta about Ruth/Katniss/the Everdeens, or something with Peeta telling a story for jedi_chick

The train track story Peeta's referring to is this one.
-----
"Tell me about olden days," Peeta says, turning out a bowl of dough for kneading.

I still get a kick out of the idea that my childhood constitutes "olden days" to my seven-year-old. When I was little, I used to use that phrase with my great-grandfather. It just doesn't seem the same… though I wonder now how Grandy-Peet felt about it. "What do you want to know about?"

He pretends to give it thought, for about three seconds, then says, innocently, "Something with Katniss Everdeen's mom?"

"You're not giving up on that any time soon, are you?"

He frowns.

I roll my eyes. "Fine. But don't let your mom hear you ask."

"Got it." He mimes locking his mouth up.

"What do you want to know about?"

"The day with the train tracks!"

"I told you that one already." Even now, when I've hunted through the bakery for bugs about a hundred times (three times with paranoid help from Haymitch) and not found any, when it's so far removed that it doesn't matter anyway, I find myself looking nervously over my shoulder, sure that I'll get in trouble for my long-ago foray beyond the fence. When I did tell that one to Peeta, we were actually walking outside.

"But what happened after you went home? After the Peacekeepers found you? Did you get in trouble?"

"Not as much as we would now," I tell him. "Our head Peacekeeper back then had a nephew just our age, and he went light on us. Our parents got a fine, though. They didn't go light."

"Did you get hit?"

"No." I frown, wondering if I need to pursue this. I don't like that his mind went there, not after that business when he was three. Mir swears she hasn't hit him since -- and that she only just grabbed him too hard once -- and I've never seen any bruises, but now that he's bathing himself, I could be missing them. Still, I doubt he'll tell me. He was the one with bruises last time, but he was also the one who cried every night we spent in the empty apartment over the old clothes store, the only place I could get on short notice. He was the one who finally begged me to bring him back to his mommy, though the other two weren't exactly sorry about the development. He won't tell me anything.

I decide to get to the story. "All right. The Peacekeepers brought us back and we all had to work off the fine -- me, Ruth, Eli… that's Delly's daddy, he was with us."

"What did you have to do?"

"We all had to work in each other's shops, along with our own. So I had to get up early -- just like you do -- and help Mom and Dad in the kitchen, then for three weeks, we all had to work at the apothecary after school, then three at the shoe store, then three here."

"You know how to make shoes? And medicine?"

"I know how to man the counter, anyway, and do inventory…"

Peeta makes a face. "Inventory!"

"Inventory. And cleaning. And sorting things. If we'd been bigger they probably would have inflicted the worst of all punishments."

"What's that?"

"Doing the books!"

Peeta puts his hand to his head and swoons melodramatically. "No! Not that!"

"Yes. The books. And counting money, and paying taxes."

"Eww!"

I laugh. "You don't the half of it yet. And the dough still needs kneading."

He goes back to his kneading. "Did anything exciting happen?"

"Nah. We just worked until we were ready to drop for three weeks."

"Oh."

He sounds so disappointed; I search my brain for anything else to tell him. "Okay," I say. "We did go back under the fence."

"You did?"

"Yup. When we were doing inventory, we were short on yarrow, so we had to go get some. So we waited for midnight, and whoosh… under the fence with us."

"After midnight?"

"Yeah. We didn't go too far, but we found some out in the prettiest meadow I ever saw. And Ruth found a whole family of geese. We couldn't very well bring them back, or everyone would know we'd been out, so we just watched them for a while. They were supposed to be sleeping, but those little goslings were like you and your brothers. They just getting up! Ruthie named every last one of them."

"What were their names?"

"I don't remember."

"Not even a little?"

"One of them was Featherface."

"Featherface," Peeta repeats. "That's a funny name. Did you ever see them again?"

"Not for sure. But that fall, I saw a whole family of geese taking off to fly away. I bet old Featherface was with them, and the flew away someplace wonderful."

"Where could they fly?"

"Oh, birds can fly to a million places. Sometimes they fly to District Eleven, or District Ten. Sometimes I think they fly out over the ocean, and they find a whole island, where there are only geese in charge."

"Is there a King Goose?"

"Oh, yes. And you, know, I bet it's Featherface. I bet he found himself a nice Queen Goose, and they have three little Prince Geese, who'll go out and make goose islands of their own someday."

"Really? What's it like? What are they like?"

"Well, at night, when they're supposed to be sleeping, they fly back up here, just so they can check on us."

"They do?"

"Absolutely. And some night, you might just see a Prince Goose outside your window, looking in and wondering what it would be like to be a little boy."

Peeta grins widely, and disappears into his imagination while he finishes up with the bread.



I want something with either Gia post-war (if she survived) or with Mimi the capitol actress post-war. (if she survived) for nevrafire

-----
I tell myself that I'm going to visit Annie, nothing more.

I have a standing invitation, and she has plenty of room. She's got a big house, and the children she brought with her from the Capitol have moved on to lives of their own. It's just her, and Finny… and Finnick's mother, Carolyn Odair.

Annie sent me a picture. I can tell that Carolyn was trying to hold the baby up so I can't see her face, but Finny was having none of it. I see Carolyn's face full on.

And I know her.

I know I should have figured it out years ago. Finnick always looked familiar to me, especially his eyes. He even told me once that his mother said he could trust me, but I wrote it off as a mother playing the intuition card.

By the time I met Finnick, after all, it had been almost fifteen years since I kissed Gia Pepper goodbye in a lagoon on River Bay. It had been a solid six years since even Snow had asked about her. The last time was the thing with Ausonius Glass.

But I recognize her, even now, twenty-eight years later. Her red hair is liberally threaded with white, and years in the sun have left her skin almost leathery, but her eyes are the same. Finnick's eyes.

I can't imagine why I didn't recognize them.

To my surprise, she is waiting at the platform when the train comes in. She smiles at me.

I smile back.

She leads me away from the station, stashing my bag unceremoniously in an anonymous car. She's wearing jeans and a comfortable looking work shirt, and her feet are in beat-up leather sandals. "You might want to take your shoes off," she says. "We're heading down to the beach before we go to Annie's."

I nod and sit down on a low stone wall that faces the sidewalk. On one side is the struggling main town of District Four, with its battle scars still showing. On the other is a long stretch of sand that goes down to the sea. Though several of the arenas we destroyed were either near the ocean or had simulated ocean fronts, this is the closest I've come to the real water. It stretches out forever. It's almost frightening. It makes the Capitol Lake seem like a toy.

I take off my shoes and socks and roll up the cuffs of my pants. I leave the shoes on the wall. If someone wants to steal them, I guess they need them more than I do.

Gia leads us to a long pier, and we sit down on a pair of rocks beneath it, in the shade. The ocean reaches for me tentatively, tasting my bare toes. I imagine it washing the shores of every other land on Earth.

"I wasn't sure if you'd recognize me," she says. "I figured if you didn't know who I was at the station, I'd just take you to Annie's and keep pretending. But you obviously did. You knew."

"I recognized you in the picture."

"I didn't know she was going to send it to you."

"Why didn't you want me to know?"

"It's not you. It's them. Everyone." She sighs. "I've been Carolyn Odair for more than half my life. I barely remember Pelagia Pepper."

"I remember her. I loved her."

"She loved you, too. And probably, if I'd stayed…" She looks at me and smiles. "I imagine things might have been very different."

"But there wouldn't have been Finnick."

She nods and looks at her hands.

I take them. "I'm so sorry, Gia. I should have kept him out of things. I shouldn't have let him --"

She looks up, blinking at me in a confused way. "You couldn't have… Oh, Haymitch, you didn't think that was why I --"

"I did think it."

"Don't. Please don't. Finnick fought for what he believed in, and he died on his own terms. I'd have rather he lived on them, but to not fight, after what they did to him? He had to fight." She squeezes my hands. "He loved you so much. He told me how you helped him through the worst of it, how you protected him whenever you could. I wanted so much to tell him that I knew you, but I couldn't."

"Why not?"

"I didn't want to end up executed. I was already in jail."

"But you never did anything except hide a stupid poem book!"

"Well, before I left. But you know about dear Ausonius."

"I know they tried to frame you for --"

She throws her head back and laughs suddenly.

"What?"

"Oh, Haymitch. You really think I was framed, don't you?"

"Well, I… Snow said someone put your name on his body. You weren't framed?"

"No. They tried to transfer him to us. Caesar got word to Ollie -- he'd figured out that Ollie probably knew how to reach me, and that I was most likely in Four, since it was always the most porous place -- and Ollie got word to Doolin, telling me to keep a low profile in case he recognized me. Or maybe he wanted me to do what I did; I don't know. I knew a lot of what Glass did. And I guessed a lot more that you ended up confirming in that article you wrote last year. So I put a trident through the bastard. And I signed my work. I should be overcome with guilt, but I never have been."

I don't know what to say to this.

She smiles. "Oh, Haymitch. You really have to stop thinking I'm perfect."

"I just… I never thought it at all."

"I could probably argue self-defense. He did have the gall to grab me and threaten to drag me back to the Capitol. And he did try to force himself on me. But that doesn't change the fact that I planned to kill him that night one way or the other. And here's the problem: Gia Pepper is fully guilty of that crime. Carolyn Odair's DNA cleared her of the charge of being Gia Pepper. Thanks to some records meddling. Thankfully, Ollie knew how to cook record books as well as he knew how to cook a roast of lamb."

"I'm sorry about Blight, too. We'd fallen out of touch -- "

She holds up her hand. "Haymitch, it had been years. You were in better touch with him than I was. You don't need to offer condolences."

"But you loved him."

"With my entire soul. But I was so young. I thought I was so grown up. But I was barely more grown up than you." She looks out over the ocean. "He sent Finnick the trident."

"What?"

"His tributes from Seven died at the Cornucopia. He disguised the money as a fish order that just never got delivered. Doolin shifted it around until it looked clean, and we got Finnick out of there." She grinds her teeth. "I should have thought what would happen next. I should have warned him. But they made such a fuss about having put a stop to that! And I believed it!"

"A lot of it did stop. Just… it changed. It turned into Snow's game."

"Played with my little boy."

"I'm so sorry. I should have been protecting him."

"Okay. I'll let you have that 'sorry.' But it wasn't your job. You did as well as you could."

I take her hands again. "So, what do we do now?"

"Nothing." She leans across and gives me a kiss. It's soft and gentle, and not entirely bloodless. "But you have a new life now, Haymitch. A real one. Don't think I haven't noticed over the years exactly how close you were getting to the fair Miss Trinket."

"We are together. I know the rumors are a little confusing on that."

"Not as confusing as you're pretending. I am wondering about the secret toasting rumors…"

"I don't know where that rumor started. Maybe Peeta got bored and made it up."

"Mm-hmm."

"When I marry Effie -- and I think I will eventually, if she'll have me -- it'll be big. And I hope you'll be there."

"I will," she says. "But I'll be there as Carolyn Odair. And I'm here as Carolyn Odair. Do you think I can be Carolyn to you?"

"Yeah. I guess so." I stand up and hold out my hand. "Mrs. Odair? Haymitch Abernathy. I was a friend of your son's."

"It's nice to meet you," she says.

We stand up together and go back up the beach. My shoes and socks are long gone, so I just walk barefoot to her car. We drive to Annie's, and spend the evening getting to know each other.
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Comments
beceh From: beceh Date: March 31st, 2014 09:12 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh my. I loved both of them. Particularly the last one.

The first one... how horrible to be married to, and raising children with a person who you can't trust not to be violent to your children... and can't trust their promises when they say they don't.
I imagine they was a rather nasty fall-out after Peeta gave Katniss the bread... am I remembering correctly that he got a black eye out of that?

Asides from that, it just melts my heart, reading your loving fathers. Danny and Glen in particular.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
It really is horrible. And while I don't hold with the idea that Mir is viciously abusive at all times, I don't think it's in doubt that she's cruel and emotionally abusive at least some of the time.

What happens with the black eye may depend on whether or not Peeta tells the truth... not always a given with Peeta.
redrikki From: redrikki Date: March 31st, 2014 03:27 pm (UTC) (Link)
I liked both of these. How great is it that Gia killed Glass? Never has murder warmed my heart so.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I liked that, too.
From: (Anonymous) Date: March 31st, 2014 05:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Wow

Gia being Finnick's mother?! I never saw that one coming! Such a lovely moment between them. I love these little challenge fics-always so surprising and thoughtful. Keep them coming!

~mad en
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:07 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Wow

Two more coming!
sonetka From: sonetka Date: March 31st, 2014 07:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
I like them both (and young Peeta reminds me a lot of my eight-year-old; he LOVES hearing stories of how we acted up or got in trouble when we were his age!) but I really like the last one. Gia's old life is so far away now that it's hard even for her to remember much about the people who were in it. Loved that she got Glass -- between him and the guard when she escaped, I'm kind of seeing where Finnick's arena talents came from.

About Gia -- how on earth did she stay under the radar when Finnick started getting a lot of attention during the Games? Once it became clear that he was the favourite and the number of contenders began dropping, the cameras must have been all over the place looking for family to interview, and presumably Gia really did not want to appear on television. Did she take to her bed and pretend to have spattergroit, or what?
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: March 31st, 2014 09:08 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'll have to figure it out. Maybe she had the boat out, since the people have to keep paying taxes?

Yes -- she is definitely the source of Finnick's, erm, pragmatic attitude toward this talent.
mirandabeth From: mirandabeth Date: April 2nd, 2014 12:55 am (UTC) (Link)
That second one was like reading a summary of a whole bunch of full length stories you haven't written yet, and it was so overwhelming in awesomeness. I think I'll have to read it about three times before I stop trying to figure out the timelines in my head. Gia killing Glass is just about the best thing ever. LOVE. IT.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 4th, 2014 12:48 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm glad that went over well. I have to figure out how to work it into the timeline of the next big story (aargh, timelines!).
jedi_chick From: jedi_chick Date: April 4th, 2014 05:30 am (UTC) (Link)
Thank you so, so much!! I adored the Danny and Peeta one :) It breaks my heart that Peeta asked if his dad got hit as a punishment :( Mirrem really is one of those people who never should have had kids...but then again, we wouldn't have gotten Peeta. I love Danny encouraging Peeta's imagination at the end, and though Peeta got his acting skills from Mirrem, I can see where he gets his storytelling ability. :) Thank you so much, again!

Like everyone else, I LOVE that Gia got to be the one to kill Glass. I loved all the hints of stories you placed throughout too. And there was something about the way that it ended, with Gia reintroducing herself as Carolyn and Haymitch introducing himself back, that felt like the characters had come full circle, and I love that they have this chance to be friends now that the war is over.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: April 4th, 2014 12:47 pm (UTC) (Link)
Glad you liked yours! I always enjoy a chance to do some Peeta. :D

I hope they will be friends. That would be nice for them both.
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