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Disclaimer: Books aren't mine. Title from Lissie's Record Collector.
Summary: Three times Peeta Mellark wondered about Annie Cresta. Mentions of Finnick/Annie, vague references sort of if you squint to Peeta/Katniss. Spoilers through Mockingjay.
AN: All I really have to say is this started out as a drabble about cake and ended up sprawling until it was 3000+ words and I never, ever, ever manage that much non-chaptered writing outside of a creative writing class.



1. When Peeta is 12, he gets to help with the cake for the Victor’s Banquet. His mother hadn’t wanted him to, but he was already better with the frosting than Lukas and Garrett, so his father said he could.

His mother hated the cakes, anyway. Hated that they were always for the children of other districts, hated that Twelve wouldn’t even make a good cake (how do you decorate with coal?), hated delivering the cake for a dinner she’d never be invited to. So his father bakes and he helps iced. Peeta doesn’t mind. It’s quieter that way.

The victor this year is a girl from Four, so the cake is like the sea. Peeta almost thought that was too easy, when his father said they were doing the sea, but he thought of flood in the Games, the way it surged and foamed, the way she had curled and moved with it. He mixes the icing in greens—seafoam and blue-tinted and dark and glassy. He layers them in messy swirls.

His father says it’s beautiful.

It’s not. Peeta doesn’t reckon the sea is, either.

The banquet isn’t for Twelve, but most things aren’t. Peeta goes with his father to take the cake to the Mayor’s. His father exchanges small talk with the Mayor; he hears himself get credit for the icing and smiles quietly. He sits at the table with Madge, the mayor’s daughter—they’re in the same class, but they don’t talk much. Madge doesn’t really talk to anyone, though, but not because she’s snobby, he’s pretty sure. She’s just different. He doesn’t mind it. She talks to him now, though.

“You did the icing?” she asks, her voice so quiet he almost doesn’t hear her.

“I did,” he says. He’s stammering. He hates his stammer. His mother says it’s ugly on a boy like him.

“It’s nice,” she says, and he knows she’s just being polite.

“It’s okay,” he says, giving her a smile. “I know it’s ugly. It’s sort of supposed to be.” He blushes. He doesn’t know how to explain that—but he doesn’t have to. Madge just nods.

“I’m meeting her tonight,” she says, after a long moment. Her is Annie, the Victor, of course. Peeta doesn’t know why she needed to say that when she barely bothers to talk at all. Madge always meets the Victors, is always at the banquets; they’re at her house. She still gets asked by some of the girls about Finnick Odair, even five years later.

“Oh. Are you excited?” he asks, because if nothing else, he’s polite. She just shrugs. He thinks he understands. Annie Cresta is scary in a way even Victors normally aren’t.

Peeta’s watched the Games every year, of course, because everyone has to, but this was the year he turned 12, the year the reaping started to matter for him and for everyone in his class. He’d never really thought about it before, but being able to go into the Games makes watching them different. All the Games before, within a few months the details of it—the deaths, the players, the particularly tragic tales—would all begin to muddle together. A flash of a trident, crying, blood, axes, boys who will kill you then eat out your heart. He doesn’t remember where they all go.

He doesn’t think he’ll forget this year, though. Peeta considers himself an observant boy—from what he can tell, from TV, this wasn’t a very popular Games in the Capitol. The two favorites—the boy and girl from One, who had just started to turn on each other—were both taken out by the flood when the dam broke. Annie wasn’t supposed to win; she’d been just hiding for a good three days at that point. He’d felt sorry for her because she was scared, and that probably meant she was real.

Peeta remembers her floating, remembers the mud and blood mixing together in the water, how sometimes her hair would snag on branches and she’d be caught until she came to her senses and pulled it free. She looked like she could have been dead, except the hovercraft never came. She just kept floating until it was just her and the girl from Five and then---she didn’t.

The other girl had started it, realized they were it; she’d grabbed Annie’s leg. Peeta doesn’t think he’ll ever forget the way her eyes changed—alive, but filled with anger and hate and fear. She’d pulled the girl under, held her up just to pull her back down, again and again and again until the canon shot; it mixed horribly with Annie’s screaming. He still sees her eyes in nightmares, sometimes.

The entire district has to go to the ceremony for the Victor. Twelve’s ceremonies are really not anything special, just a few banners in the square while they all gather in a sad excuse for revelry. Jack and Annaliese’s families are seated on small platforms on either side of the stage; Peeta tries not to look at them. The mayor does an introduction, the Victor does her speech, and then it’s done. He’s about follow his mother home when the Mayor stops his family, asking him and his father to please follow him.

The mayor wants to introduce Peeta and his father to the Victor, let her know they made her cake. He thinks she’ll like that. Peeta thinks of her scream, hollow and awful, and wonders if she can really like anything anymore.

She’s small, smaller than he realized even standing in the crowd for her speech. He’s already taller her, if he stands up straight, even though she’s probably four or five years older. She’s thin, not Seam thin, but small, like you could knock her over. Her mentor’s got her by the arm, almost like he’s keeping her steady. Peeta walks up to her as the mayor nudges him forward.

“Hi,” he says. He’s mumbling. When he mumbles at home, his mother yells. “I’m Peeta. I did the frosting. For the cake, at your dinner.” He doesn’t look at her, not directly. He’s seen enough of her in his nightmares.

It’s okay, though, because she doesn’t look at him either. She turns to her mentor, shaking her head so quickly the ends of her hair almost hit Peeta’s face.

“I don’t want to go to the dinner, don’t make me, Finn,” he hears her murmur. Her mentor grabs her face, holding it still. Peeta recognizes him as Finnick Odair; he’s big in person, has muscles you don’t notice on TV. Annie looks like even more of a child next to him.

“You know we can’t cancel, Annie, I asked. It’ll be small, just the mayor’s family, I asked,” Finnick says to her. He looks frantic and sad at the same time. Peeta didn’t notice that on TV, either. Annie makes some horrible, sad sound in the back of her throat, and he can’t stand it anymore.

“It looks like the sea,” he blurts out. Finnick turns to look at him, but Annie doesn’t move. “The cake, I mean, it’s iced like the sea. Or I hope it’s like the sea. I’ve never actually been,” he shrugs.

Finnick just stares at him, but then—Annie turns. It’s quick, and Peeta doesn’t have time to look down, so they lock eyes. The fear is still there, but it’s not scary; it’s a little sad and a little defeated. It reminds him of some of the kids at school, of Katniss Everdeen, hungry and scrounging behind his house. This is almost worse: he couldn’t stand it on Katniss, and he doesn’t like it now.

“No, you couldn’t have really seen it, could you?” she says, finally, voice soft and low. “They wouldn’t let you.” He doesn’t know what to say to that. She grabs his hand and squeezes, slightly, quickly before letting go and turning back to Finnick. “I want to go now. “

Finnick escorts her off the stage then, arm tightly wrapped around Annie’s shoulders. Peeta swears he can see him mouth ‘thank you’ as they walk past.

Peeta nods. He thinks what for, and ignores the unsettling feeling in the pit of his stomach.

2. When Peeta is 16, he goes to District Four for the first time. It is his Victory Tour, his and Katniss Everdeen’s. He doesn’t have to worry about how his family’s going to make a cake for Twelve; he knows now the Capitol provides for the Victor’s district. It’s thoughtful of them.

Effie’s not happy. She hasn’t been exactly thrilled most of the tour, but she seems particularly upset about Four. He doesn’t blame her; Four is lovely, and he doubts they’ll get a chance for more than a quick boat tour.

“You’d just think, these two, rising from the coal district, of all places, would deserve a little more…novelty,” She complains to Portia, as she’s doing a last minute fitting on Peeta’s suit for the night’s banquet. “Being shuffled around like this, without the courtesy of even meeting the other victors—it’s uncivilized.

“I met Finnick Odair, once,” Peeta says, idly. Portia stops hemming so abruptly she manages to jab his ankle with a needle. “Ow,” he murmurs, but it’s good-natured; he’s somewhat glad he can still feel pain in one leg, if he’s being honest.

“And how did you manage that?” Portia asks. Her voice sounds careful; he’s not sure why, but wonders for a moment if it has something to do with Katniss and their trouble. Are they not allowed to interact?

“Annie Cresta’s victory tour,” he shrugged. “I met her, too. I did the cake for her banquet. Well, the icing. He was her mentor.”

Portia looks down, murmuring a “yes, of course;” Effie squeals delightedly.

“I hear he’s lovely, I always manage to just miss his appearances in the Capitol,” Effie gives an almost wistful sigh; Peeta just manages to catch Portia’s eye roll. He feels grateful, not for the first time, that she is his stylist. “Is he as charming as he is interviews? That’s how I talked you up to sponsors, you know. I said ‘well, he’s no Finnick Odair, but he has at least 60 percent of the charm!’”

“That’s sweet of you, Effie,” he says. He’s a little earnest about it, because it’s Effie, and really, she does mean it as a compliment. “I only met him for a second, though. Say, have you checked in on Katniss? I know she was worried about walking in her heels for tonight.”

Portia gave him a Look as Effie hurriedly left the room. Peeta shrugged; he’d figure out a way to make it up to Katniss later.

“Why haven’t we met any other Victors, Portia?” he asks, quietly. “I’ve seen Haymitch meet the Victors on their tours ever year. I know he goes to the dinner.”

“There’s a packed schedule this year,” Portia says, tightly. She’s sewing too fast; she stops and takes the last few stitches back.

“Is it because of what happened in Eleven?”

“Peeta—“

“Or…or because of Katniss? Because of how we won?”

“Peeta,” she says it sharply this time. He looks away, a little sheepishly—he didn’t mean to upset Portia, not really. He just wishes someone here would trust him enough to tell him things. But he drops it, and lets Portia work.

“So, Finnick Odair,” she says a few minutes later, glancing up at him. “What did you think of him?”

“He was nice,” he says politely, automatically. He thought for a second, then shook his head. “Actually, I don’t know. I only met him for a second, he was helping Annie. He’s not very…he’s not much like he seems on TV, is he?”

“In my experience, no,” she shakes her head.

“You know him, then?”

“I’ve met him a few times,” she smiles and looks at him like there’s more to that.. “He’s a friend of Cinna’s.”

“Oh,” he feels frustrated, again. There’s that thing, again, that feeling that he’s not being told everything.

“There, perfect,” Portia says, pulling her needle away, standing up. She rubs his arm lightly. “You look handsome.” He gives her a smile, because that much is her doing, no matter what she’s keeping from him.

“Portia? Whatever happened to Annie Cresta? I haven’t seen her at the Games since she won,” he bites his lip. It’s not really like he cares. He doesn’t know her, she barely said two sentences to him. He’s just noticed.

“She’s still here, in Four,” Portia gives him a smile he thinks is sad. “I’ve never met her myself, but if I had to guess, I’d say she doesn’t want to be seen.”

Peeta nods, because that much makes sense. He doesn’t ask but why.

3. When Peeta is 16, he makes Annie Cresta’s wedding cake. Nobody means for that to happen, he’s pretty sure. But they’re letting him out of the hospital now, in small doses, and She won’t be anywhere near the kitchen, so it’s safe. Nobody tells him this, but they don’t have to.

They’re baking, a lot, and he’s not sure why at first—he just knows he wants to help. He can’t tell much anymore, but this he’s pretty sure he can still do. It’s not until he asks to do the frosting that they tell him it’s for Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta’s wedding.

That stops him for a second, because he’s pretty sure something about this is familiar. He remembers Finnick and Annie, and Annie and the sea, and Finnick with Her, but he can’t piece them apart. He insisting on helping; he couldn’t tell you why.

They want a nautical theme, since it’s District Four. He snaps “but that’s too easy,” but the Thirteeners in the kitchen look down at their feet, and the guards look like they might want to bring him back to the hospital—so he shakes his head “never mind” and asks what they were thinking of.

It’s a beautiful cake, in the end. It doesn’t look like it belongs here, underground and surrounded by concrete. This makes him hate it.

He doesn’t go to the ceremony, of course, he’s not trusted enough yet. He watches from the kitchens. He waits. He speaks to Her, and of course that goes horribly. She looks upset; part of him is glad, and part of him thinks (knows?) once upon a time, he would have felt badly about it.

Peeta is not, frankly, in the best of moods after the wedding, after that conversation. He is allowed to sit in the kitchen for a while longer; this is how he sees Finnick Odair.

Finnick doesn’t notice him at first, he can tell. He walks in smiling, calling out. He sounds happy.

“Is anyone still here? I wanted to wrap up a bit of cake for Ann, I know that’s normally hoarding, but it’s a special—“ he cuts himself off and stares at Peeta. His expression drops, a bit. Not by much, but enough to tell. “Oh. Hello. You’re out.”

“For now,” Peeta shrugs. He stares back. “They let me help with the cake.”

“Oh!” Finnick smiled, maybe a real one—Peeta couldn’t be sure. “Thank you, it looked beautiful. Annie loved it. That’s why I came in here, I wanted to sneak her some for later, if there were extras.”

Peeta does not say anything, at first. He stares at Finnick, trying to place his memories of him, trying to place something. And then:

“You’re wearing my suit,” he says. He’s sure he’s right. That Portia’s style—he thinks, fleetingly and gladly, that he feels something like sadness, seeing her style again. Finnick looks at him like he’s confused for a moment before nodding slowly.

“I am,” he says, watching Peeta warily. “It’s from your Victory Tour, we just borrowed it for the wedding. Annie wore one of Katniss’ dresses, a green one,” he says, his voice careful.

Peeta tries to ignore the word Katniss and place Annie instead. He remembers Annie; it’s not pleasant, but he’s sure he’s right.

“Annie,” he echoes. “She’s a victor too. She won the year with the flood, didn’t she? District Four. The sea, that’s easy.”

“Not easy,” Finnick says, quickly; it’s more of a snap. Peeta notices something in his eyes has changed. “But yes. She was.” Peeta thought for a moment longer.

“We’ve met before,” he said, resolutely. Finnick gives him a strange look.

“Of course we have, in the Quell,” he says, slowly. “You remember, Peeta, we were allies—“

“No, I know that,” Peeta shakes his head, dismissively. “Before that, when Annie won. You were with her on her Victory Tour, and we met in Twelve. I made the cake.” Finnick’s silent for a minute or two.

“I hadn’t realized that was you,” he says, finally, quietly. He’s lost somewhere, Peeta can tell. Remembering, or trying not to.

“Did you love her then, Finnick?” he asks, voice steady. “You looked like you might. You held her like you were protecting something. I couldn’t imagine what, then. She was a Victor.”

“I did love her then,” he says it quietly, and he’s not looking directly at Peeta. “And I guess I was. Protecting her.”

“Why?”

“Because she felt like she needed protecting,” he shrugs, like it’s simple. Peeta shakes his head, frustrated.

“No, I meant why do you love her?”

“Because I do,” Finnick said, evenly. “Why do you love Katniss?”

“I don’t,” he scowled, tensing. Finnick raised his eyebrows.

“You protected her,” his voice is careful. “Like I do, with Annie. You’d have died for her, in both arenas. And I’d have held myself under the water along with everyone else, if I had been in there with Annie.”

“Well, I was wrong,” Peeta raises his voice; Finnick doesn’t show it if he notices. “And I don’t. I don’t trust her. How do you…how do you know you’re right, how do you know she’s Annie? How do you know she’s not still in the Games?” He stops, taking a deep breath. “How do you know you won’t kill each other?”

Finnick looks him in the eye before he talks this time.

“Because she’s real, and I’m real,” he says, steady. “We were real before the Games, and we’ll be real after. We’re real. The Games are the trick. “

“They feel real enough when you’ve got a knife in your thigh,” Peeta scowls. Finnick smirks; Peeta doesn’t know why, and it’s infuriating.

“That’s the trick part. It’s easier to believe in them hurting you, isn’t it?” He shakes his head. “You’ll learn, kid.”

Peeta stares at him. He wants to protest. He wants to yell at him for calling him kid, after all he’s been through. He wants to ask but how does that mean it’s real?

Instead, he says “go ahead and wrap up some cake. I won’t tell anyone you took it,” and watches Finnick smile, wide and grateful. He doesn’t ask; he’s sure Finnick would give him some ridiculous answer.

He’s sure he would be wrong.

Comments

( 15 comments — Leave a comment )
zorabet
Jan. 30th, 2011 02:59 am (UTC)
Hello. You are fucking really good at writing, jsyk.

Peeta and Annie are the loveliest people in Panem. And omg Finnnn HE JUST WANTS HER TO HAVE CAKE!

And Peeta's mom is rude. RUDE.

EVERY TIME YOU TALK ABOUT THE OCEAN WIH YOUR PRETTY WORDS IT'S NICE FOR ME. And about Annie winning by drowning the girl

PORTIA TOO I LOVE HER AND THIS BITCH SO KNOWS ABOUT THE REBELLION.

YOU'RE SO GOOD AT WORDS.

lol tl;dr I stan you.
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 03:09 am (UTC)
loooooool i love you.

HE JUST WANTS HER TO HAVE CAKE is like the best comment I've ever gotten.
zorabet
Jan. 30th, 2011 03:12 am (UTC)
IT'S SO TRUE THO
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 03:25 am (UTC)
ALSO LOL THE MAJOR DORK IN YOUR ICON. SIR. OH, SIR. THE GLASSES.
zorabet
Jan. 30th, 2011 08:53 am (UTC)
I AM LITERALLY VERKLEMPT BC YOU HAVE COMMENTS TINA LOL I AM A MESS. BUT THIS IS SO LOVELY ND I JUST REALIZED THAT THEY ALL ALSO END WITH A QUESTION HE DOESN'T ASK AND :DDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD
aimmyarrowshigh
Jan. 30th, 2011 03:32 am (UTC)
Oh, wow... this is really wonderful. I've never read an iteration of Annie that gave her any violence, so this was really jarring and I appreciate that in a THG fic. Great, great job.
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 04:01 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I've seen a couple of things that make Annie's win more violent--and I just don't think that "she went mad" necessarily has to mean she won passively, so I've been playing around with the idea of it.
maynardsong
Jan. 30th, 2011 04:09 am (UTC)
Love this! And I love that you gave Portia an active role! <3
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 04:55 am (UTC)
Thanks!
liliaeth
Jan. 30th, 2011 11:12 am (UTC)
This was lovely, I loved your rendition of Peeta, all three versions, and that you had Portia in it.
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 02:32 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
puella_nerdii
Jan. 30th, 2011 10:36 pm (UTC)
Oh, this is awesome! Like another commenter above, I love that Annie isn't an entirely passive victor in her Games, and I love how she's both elusive and real (and through her elusiveness, Peeta starts to piece together what's really going on). And my heart basically turns into a giant puddle any time I read Finnick looking after Annie, or getting protective of Annie, or -- anything involving Finnick/Annie, really, so. Really lovely work!
fragilesymphony
Jan. 30th, 2011 11:57 pm (UTC)
Oh, thank you! I'm really a little obsessed with Annie's victory, probably because we know so little about it, so playing with that's really interesting to me. And I adore Finnick/Annie ridiculous amounts.
(Anonymous)
Feb. 16th, 2011 04:42 am (UTC)
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cindella204
Jul. 20th, 2011 01:03 am (UTC)
Wow!
Wonderfully written! I love Finnick and Annie and Peeta, so I obviously enjoyed this story! You are a talented author! :D

-cindella204
( 15 comments — Leave a comment )