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[fic] the collective sanity, THG (2/2)
hwister
 
Title: The Collective Sanity
Summary: Three generations of Mellarks, the people they know, and the things that happen.
Warnings: Irreverent crack. That means everything is fair game.
Disclaimer: Suzanne Collins. Movie titles and other RL references. Also, some cues from the greatest crackfic writer in the known universe.

~.~

["Annie in Wonderland"]

This is the only statement Peeta allows himself to remember from his time in torture, amid screaming and glittery hallucinations chipping away at every happy memory in his mind and bite-sized low-calorie pieces of death being injected into his skin: Johanna's unhealthy voice saying to empty air –

"Just how insane are you, Annie Cresta? I know you have flashbacks and I know you hear screaming. But do you have, like, multiple personalities? Voices in your head? Delusions of grandeur?"

"Actually, you don't need that last one, do you? You don't need grandeur. Two words: Finnick Odair."

~.~

["The Thirteenth Fail"/"Memoirs of a Guerilla"]

This is what Johanna tells Peeta, basically, in not so many words, when she – in a severe glitch in logic – is granted access to his holding cell:

Everything is a spectacular bust. Katniss ridicules probability and funerary expectations time and again. But then, considering the strategical failure of the Capitol by letting the majority of their citizenry either grow immobilely fat or sympathize with The Enemy, probability is not all that reliable anyway. District 13, eager to claim as many unguarded souls as possible using the ruse with the Mockingjay, doesn't have a smidgen of credibility to its name as well. Too many brainbleaching propaganda, too many hidden agendas, too many underground operations, those hiding self-serving fuckers.

~.~

["How I Mêlée'd Your Mother"]

"How can you marry Seam?" Peeta asks Mrs. Everdeen one day, when he was allowed enough freedom to bash together a wedding cake. The words are gnarled and ugly. "You could have done a lot better than be one of those girls who open their legs for anything. Seam? My father loved you, even with that unrelenting stupidity. Baker's wife – your life would've been seamlessly perfect. But look at you, a crackpot barely hanging on. I pity – "

One of the guards, once of ambiguous morality, clocks him before he could finish.

"Look at my daughters now," Mrs. Everdeen says, after a long pause, long enough that Peeta had almost forgotten the original question, loathe as he was to interact with an extension of Katniss. Peeta looks.

Katniss – still disraught at having her moral compass hijacked – was having a screaming fit in the absolutely monastic cafeteria, sordidly loud as she refused to cooperate again, swaying with the morphling, screaming I'd rather chop off my father's hands! as though said objects weren't ash by now. Prim was chasing Buttercup, who was barreling down the corridors and planning violent assaults on unsuspecting military commanders. Prim had to enact a ritualistic apology, with effusive amounts of bowing, to the imposing Plutarch Heavensbee when Buttercup jumped his decidedly-Capitol face. Plutarch, who was the most understated master of revolutionary mindfuck, Head Gamemaker and the go-to person for bullshit, laughs it off and forgives all, channeling Santa Claus with razzle-dazzle. Freshly absolved, Prim then runs straight into President Coin's subtly-lacking bosom. Because Coin is without mercy even for the best of God's creatures, annihilative screaming ensues.

The picture of the sisters wasn't very promising, no matter how wrong she did by them. In fact, it was a whackjob. Unbelievable.

"Look at my daughters," Mrs. Everdeen repeats. "And tell me it wasn't worth it."

She misinterprets Peeta's what the fuck? face with divine enlightenment about the outstanding matrimonial quotient of the Seam.

~.~

["The Three Marketeers"]

Peeta watches from afar when Katniss – in full mockingjay regalia, which was fetching if brutally symbolic – springs past. The others – for whom versatility was a task, herculean in scope – pant after her, lugging equipment. Plutarch trails behind under a white umbrella to protect from the sunrays which were exponentially more criminal since the implosion of the ozone layer.

They're filming another propos and – amazing how he didn't see it before – Katniss looks like an elephant, hostile to photography and everything else. Her tusks stick straight out like hellish blades. The thick, rubbery skin. Shaggy whiskers on her face. Leave it to a prep team to think about fixing her snakeskin-shedding scalp amidst crisis. A fire-breathing demon elephant muttation from hell.

Then they take her away and a certain sense of numb vertigo – if that makes sense – settles over Peeta. It hurts - this divide of emotion for the girl.

He is much more genuinely sympathetic as he watches Finnick Odair take the stage, manly honor committing a vile and offensive death for the sake of the greater good: the victor – he who had so often exhibited more than a hint of theatrical, whether appropriate or not – dryly talks about the few tricks he still has beneath his belt, one particularly in the most literal and biblical sense. Capitol secrets pour from his pants.

~.~

["The Lord of Nothings: The Two Powers"]

"We are all countrymen here," Plutarch says – like they had a choice – as he keeps morale from slipping further down. A more Sisyphean battle Peeta has never seen. Plutarch would have delivered dazzling reports of beauty and adventure had there actually been beauty and adventure to deliver, rather than breathtaking horror. As it was, his optimistic account of battlelines and casualties were too efficient to be honest.

He wasn't just fudging the truth, he was decapitating it. Not that it worked.

"If morale is low, does that mean immorale is high?" Peeta asks maliciously. Predictably, there is not laughter but instead an attempt on his life. The war yielded little room for humor and much for unavoidable stupidity, it seemed.

Peeta knows he should have stopped himself. Even hijacked, war is still disgusting. What little he knows of it he hears from Prim, the repository of human gossip, as no one thought she could do something as deceptive as rat them out, this kind girl with a satanic sister. She works and she talks, with the competence and kindness that made her Medics-Without-Borders material, really too good to live.

Prim says, together with many tangential observations on the zeniths and follies of human nature in its desperate quest to survive, of which her sister was prime example of: she agreed with what he said before about people killing people, because everything's wrong, everything's dirty, everything's just awful.

Prim says: Firebombs rain down on the Districts everyday, with threats of leaders going nuclear.

Prim says: The District where Katniss is, still unstable, still appallingly immoral.

Prim says, in not so many words: The war meetings are taking on an almost comical turn, as was wont when teamwork was based on shared vendetta rather than common goal. Gale Hawthorne's lost in the cold mathematics of war, crushing below-par strategies, for more pragmatic if cold-blooded schemes. Haymitch went from alcohol straight to preserving liquid.

Prim says, most euphemistically: This would all end in genocide.

Peeta laughs, thinks to tell Primrose that she's safe, because anyone who knows Katniss Everdeen knows where her heart lies. They'll keep Prim safe the way they'd kept him safe.

He's wrong and the war ends with a blast strong enough to cauterize the square in general and his brain cells in particular. There is a smoldering pile and Primrose Everdeen is ash. There is Katniss, brave defiant Katniss, keening like a wounded animal in the wreckage.

The entire scene bears feeble resemblance to victory.

~.~

["Breaking Down"]

The culmination of the war in five words: Shit, there's not enough alcohol.

In four words: It shouldn't have happened.

In three words: Bring it on.

In two words: That bitch.

In one word: Owwwwwwwww.

Otherwise: a whimper.

~.~

["Zombieland"]

When the rebellion ends, they – characteristically neurotic – return to District 12 together with a host of sadomasochistic families, despite solid reasoning that their lives would be more secure elsewhere. The city of ashes and bones and (not really) glass is in shambles, and seemed determined to remain that way, despite the insistent cajoling of the rebuilders.

During the day, men and women and the in-between work amid unrealistically happy worksongs; children, terribly cheerful, plant with a gusto unheard of. Primroses, blooming ungracefully and relatively useless, planted only due to sycophancy, abound. In the night, there were plumbing accidents and animal-related catastrophes as God's creatures vied for potable water. The Meadow, never having needed human intervention in the first place, attempts to restore itself. Every now and then, a carnivorous butterfly would perch on a stray firebomb and set the whole field alight.

In that time, the economics of the District were superlatively terrible, of course, for reasons too numerous and mind-numbingly obvious to mention. Most peole had resorted to trading in their fattened black market – black in the shallowest sense of the word, seeing as no other market existed.

In Victor's Village, Peeta tries to keep it together.

He and Katniss work on the picturebook, which was often more snot than plot. What most content lacked in living counterparts was made up for by sheer detail, most of which they had a grand time arguing about: the exact length of Prim Everdeen's beatific smile, the extent of Finnick's muscle definition (Peeta won this one, suspiciously enough), whether or not Glimmer was a natural blonde.

Katniss leeches from him, day by day, in addition to ink and bread and many expensive toiletries, the ability to be hopeful, which seemed concentrated in townies and downright distilled in Delly.

When Haymitch – ever used to the sudden sadistic turns of fate, being the architect of his own misfortune – deigns to ask how she is, Peeta struggles for a word that wasn't catatonic. Passive would be well north of where she is.

"Amoeba-like?" Haymitch supplies. Peeta has to nod.

Buttercup continued to live off them, giving tirelessly of his snark and scorn – as Haymitch did, under the guise of parental concern, which they only allowed because there was nothing as sad as a melancholic drunk, who's also a hugger – the cat is as favored by the gods as ever.

~.~

["V for Velveeta"]

Peeta finds comfort in the familiar: the town's roads he could map in his head (despite how convoluted they were), in the fraternity of flour and sugar, in fat and lemony tarts – the bread, not the anthropomorphic – filled with eggy custard and fruit, mouthwateringly good.

On good non-homicidal days, he would slave at his kitchen, stewing and baking, roasting and slicing, loafing around, experimenting like a madman and unleashing them on the hapless population.

The first time Katniss runs over, it's because his oven exploded. She finds him on the floor, sans eyebrows, hair on fire, covered in crush and raspberry filling. After checking to see that he was more or less alive, which should've been instinctive knowledge by now, she yells at him for his stupidity and snarls why can't you just prepare food as ungarnished as god intended? and she storms out, tripping on cookie dough as she goes.

She starts inviting herself over more often after that, on the pretext of concern, at first begrudging, then curious, then predatory on the baked goods. She helps herself to everything: wafers so thin they broke in her hands as though knowing of their brutal fate and commiting suicide regardless; milk-sweet cakes Peeta was going to pass out to the children; experiments with herbs and chili and electric eel; even the hundred-day-old eggs, which Peeta was sure were more ancient than that, and scarcely palatable to his horror – but her stomach is cast iron incarnate (he surmises it would have braved even nightlock).

She has her favorite, simple fare: Panem et DeMilkeCurdes.

"This is amazing," Katniss remarks on the cheese buns, warm and flaky in her hand, with cheese so rich and golden she was essentially being fed a side of beef, probably an entire herd by now.

"Estrogen bait," Peeta winks and Katniss even smiles back.

~.~

["Artemis Foul: The Lost Cottontail"]

Katniss, now with assassin in her résumé, tries hunting. Trying, as sightings of the Mockingjay aroused entire circuses to follow, until with amazing accurazy and even more amazing lack of grace, she threatened to bludgeon, pro bono, all who followed.

After that, hastily left alone, she spends hours in merciless pursuit, stalking prey of the most burrowing kind. In the thrill of hunting small defenseless creatures, historical violence could recede far back and she would be free to as magnificently bloodthirsty as she truly is.

Peeta, better versed at stalking than generations of Mellarks before him, follows the wild child and sees Katniss cornering a truly unarmed rabbit, talking in a voice that is several notches than is safe.

The rabbit, perhaps knowing in its soul that it was a goner, bares its tiny teeth and seems to decide that heroically pretending to be a muttation was its only chance. Without further ado, it charges the Mockingjay.

Katniss startles and backs up a few steps, stumbling into Peeta who thoughtfully remade their trademark lunch – however Katniss denies needing it and the accompanying joint therapy – into a picnic-appropriate spread and together they go down in a burst of chips and mayo and a lovingly-prepared carrotcake.

The rabbit gets away. With the cake.

~.~

["Haymitch's Moving Castle"]

Haymitch takes to raising geese with the vindication of the dying, treating them as though they were his tributes, plying them with food and survival advice ("Avoid Everdeen") and shady sponsorship packages. Katniss opposes the practice and this, like the Hunger Games, was a fight to the death, with neither side showing signs of yielding and both trying to recruit like another war was afoot. And while Peeta would rather cut off his tongue than lean to either side of the bitter conlict, he mindlessly tries his hand against the legendary Seam pigheadedness.

"If you could get them to lay eggs, Haymitch," He reaons, after enough liquor to make him confrontational and Haymitch agreeable. "Maybe Katniss wouldn't be so antagonistic. You know how she is."

Haymitch only shakes his head.

"Don't you know what these are? A memorial to the fallen." Haymitch holds up the fattest, juiciest piece of goose they've ever seen. It was named Maysilee Donner. To honor her. Somewhere, the point got sidetracked and went missing entirely. "You have your pictures. I have these."

They were shouting louder now than they ever did in the war, falling bombs and all, Peeta realized with the rare note of self-pity, feeling like the hapless groom squeezed in between primordial forces called bride and mother-in-law. Oh why him.

Their tiny, snarking war, however, raged on with Peeta demoted to maintaining the demilitarized zone, attacked by both. The last straw occurs when during the early morn, Haymitch paraded his geese outside the house Peeta and Katniss vehemently deny co-habiting; Katniss woke up, panicked, stumbled from the bed to the bow unnervingly close by and took up position by the window, ready to shoot. Peeta – sleepy, rolling pin in hand – managed to stop her from sniping Haymitch. As Haymitch snarled – watch it, sweetheart. I've only got a few lives left – Peeta decided that that was that.

Haymitch was put on a bread embargo until they reached a truce.

Maysilee Donner finally did get to live in Victor's Village. In the house farthest from theirs, coralled and thoroughly self-satisfied in a wide open field. Haymitch moved with them and Katniss did eventually warm up to the geese, watching with particular flair whenever Haymitch had to chase them down when they escaped, as per their armistice, tired and panting and thirsty. All she needed for total vindication was a button for a silver parachute. She would cheer, with casual savagery: close one, sweetheart! You nearly got it! A little more effort there!

~.~

["A Song of Frost(ing) and Fire"]

Sometimes Peeta has this nightmare. They are in the Hunger Games again. The arena is a giant cake in the sky. It is lusciously multilayered – the Cornucopia gleaming gold at the very top, with globs upon globs of sugary froth raining down on the tributes, who are all grimly decked in wedding dress and wearing stilettos. The heels sink into the ground which had all the consistency of chocolate mousse. Truly dreadful strawberries, boasting rabies, form blockades between layers.

When the gong sounds, a marzipan volcano spews out a flood of hot caramel. Peeta takes Katniss' hand and runs as deftly as he can towards a trellis of crystallized sugar, determined to get them to higher ground. Katniss, not as adept on heels as he, sends them both tripping and getting a mouthful of frosting which, in his expert's point of view, looked exceedingly dubious. Sprinkles rain down on them, in bright candy colors and the size of boulders, quashing tributes right and left, putting the die in diabetic. FinnickandAnnie – in the dream an indivisible if grotesque-looking entity – run ahead of them, battling gummy bears; Rue bounces from flowerette to flowerette, escaping a giant knife blade that continually sabotages the topography of the cake; Foxface runs among the candy corn, chased by juicy nightlock berries with glasgow grins; Johanna and Maysilee – Maysilee? – are on the run from pink-striped candles which fired lightning down on everyone who went close.

Looming above the cake is a faceless Capitolian, with an abundance of fat that is normally attributed to congenital diseases but in this case can be said to be leeched from the blood of the poor and oppressed.

Peeta digs them both out and forces Katniss to scale the next layer before the caramel floods the ground, which begins to fall down in chunks. The icing is so fluffy on the second layer that they sploosh down to their waists. Somewhere along the line, as they bulldoze through the cream, Peeta had acquired a mint sword and Katniss a bow of toffee and liquorice. Together, they forge their way to the top where a flock of mockingjays screech carnival songs in murdered dulcet tones.

They are almost there when Katniss, completely glooped with milk chocolate, sugarcoated to the likes of which Delly Cartwright cannot hope to emulate, loses her grip on the moist chiffon crust and falls to where muttated gingerbread are on the warpath. Death by chocolate at its most literal.

Buttered, battered, Peeta despairs. No! No! No!

He wakes up shaking and cradles her breathing form hungrily to himself.

~.~
 
["Meddler On The Roof"]
Peeta finally decided to pop the question during his umpteenth walk of shame – and does it count as a walk of shame if the only one watching possibly manipulated the romance into being in the first place? – when Haymitch had flashed him a hideous leer and said, very smug, "Mags mentioned how Finnick once had to jump bare-assed from Annie's window and swim back to his place every time he was in. I had no idea it was so hilarious." Peeta had good-naturedly and generously responded with a one-finger salute and decided then and there that Katniss' ladylike honor – nevermind that it was fictional in all aspects of the word – was at stake.

~.~

["Conception (The Dream is Unreal.)"]

The sun seems to sparkle off their skin as they get off the Hovercraft. Their smiles are white and bright, their profiles perfection, their bodies lithe and polished as stone, their entire aura as if engineered to cater to a certain demographic. They wave for all the world as though they've won Mr. And Ms. Panem (Panem couldn't do away with reality entertainment completely, shows included: HungerGames' KitchenCinna's Runway, and Amazing Race: Panem). The man strikes a pose on the tarmac. The woman tosses her hair back and peels off the sunglasses.
 
Peeta cannot at all associate this sophisticated, elegant creature with the hit-me-with-your-best-you-bastards axe-crazy revolutionary who hurled endless insults at those with more than enough will and motivation to kill her.
Then she speaks, and it's more than easy.
 
"Peeta! How nice to see your naivete alive and well again," His former cellmate greeted with her usual delicacy. "I thought they'd hijacked that out your ass."

It is Gale and Johanna.
 
It is Gale and Johanna who grew together or rather, collided worlds in apocalyptic proportions after a long and painful series of situations, including diplomatic hysteria, rampaging cannibals on the road, and both of their houses blown up. By each other no less.
 
Peeta hugs them both. Katniss, never prone to hugging, nods. She is obviously wondering what brought on this sudden invasion, as if the hatchet could be buried through shock therapy – which Johanna was clearly well-versed in – but manages a smile after much provocation.

"Gale, wow, look at you," She exclaims awkwardly. "Who knew you'd take the world by storm?"

"Nobody did," Johanna answers bluntly. "Jury's still out on whether he can. If it counts, he banged me. Not the same way he banged Pri – "

Peeta, having shared the same psycho-crucifixion as Johanna and understands her intents – whether he wanted to or not, more often not – clamps her mouth shut. Prim is a name associated with angels and demons both and still a sore opponent to contend with. But Katniss doesn't even seem to hear it.

She's actually twitching. "You're..."

Gale winces. Johanna Mason, resistant as ever to the succumb to the pretext of propriety, despite the world's efforts, never did develop the most appropriate timing, or attitude at that. "Surprise?"

Katniss ogles.

"We're helping with the population problem. You know, our duty as a species," Johanna barges in, with little embellishment and little invitation. "Patriotic duty."

~.~

"Let me help with that," Peeta offers for the third time, as he was wont to do in the presence of gestation, eyes keeping time to the axe Johanna swings like a metronome.

"Peeta, much as I appreciate your misguided chivalry, I'm can still take you."

"Let her be," Gale advises sagely, nodding to him with absolute conviction. "Better for your health."

Katniss, still maladjusting as she was wont to do whenever the past asserted itself nonsensically in their face, speaks up for the first time. "Does anyone else know?"

"If you picked up a paper, then you'd know it's all Panem is talking about." Johanna snipes. "But I won't blame you if you don't. I, frankly, could stand not hearing for a day about whether or not the girl they picked from Ten would do you justice in a movie adaptation of your life."

W-what?

Johanna whips out a small magazine – which should have spontaneously combusted the moment it found itself in her possession – and quotes, "Hennifer Cowrence, to portray the Mockingjay Katniss Everdeen, will have to reach at the limits of her ability to adequately exudate the heroism... I don't think she'll have to reach at all. Anyway, going back to The Point, yeah, people know. We ducked in with Annie just last week, 'cause she's almost as bad as you with communication with the outside world –"

"She's doing swimmingly," Gale deadpanned.

"- and everything was stable enough when we left," Johanna ploughed on, a mile a minute, as though all pregnancy excitement channeled to her mouth which was already prominent in the first place. "Ports rebuilt. Water detoxified. Baby alive. Fry – that's his name, hilarious yeah – drives her crazy. Well, crazier. He's so... finicky. Okay, that pun was bound to surfacesomewhere. But we had a blast and it made me reconsider about parenthood being as bad as the Games, and without the alcohol."

~.~

Peeta watches. Gale doesn't flirt with Katniss at all.

If anything, it's Peeta he talks to, about building and philosophy and baking, as their dainty womenfolk discuss – as uncivilly as possible – at last count, the conversation was about the best way to maim a bear with your bare hands (currently, Johanna was screaming something that could either Afferteevereen!Or Up you tree, Everdeen!).

"It's over then?" Peeta asks lightly, in between normal topics (Gale's and Beetee's crackdown on the military and Peeta's District-themed crème brûlée). "I can sleep better now?"

The elephant in the room swells and huffs. Nostalgia shimmers in the air, mixing with the scent of something burning in the generation direction of the females, who were talking about Enobaria of all people - traumatizing yes - the talk punctuated by words non-repeatable.

Gale makes a seriously thoughtful face then he grins. "Yeah, I really have no need for another at the moment. Or the rest of my life. If I live that long." Gale sighs then, happy as he holds out to Katniss the three-finger salute. A goodbye to someone you love. "I would say she's all yours but it's always been you, Peeta. Even if it's ridiculous. Katniss had always been weak for you merchants."

~.~

["The Spousetrap"]

Peeta wonder if they may have, in a rare fit of insanity, sent the invitations for their first wedding by any chance – the one which ended tragically before it even started and bamboozled an entire nation. Somehow, friends and family, including Katniss' cousin Gale who couldn't be persuaded by Johanna to boycott the event in the case of possible snipers, became two entire hotels of Panem citizens.

District Twelve, used only to either isolation or firebombing, flex their heckles at the invasion of wellwishers.

Haymitch – who'd arranged the details of their faux wedding down to the number of feathers the bridesmaids would wear, and couldn't care less about the real one – mentions how, if it didn't already happen, he would've looked forward to the pending apocalypse.

In a show of impeccable class and bridal decorum, Katniss suggests eloping to the wilds and threatens a fresh breakdown if Peeta doesn't concur.

All of District Twelve helps in restraining her until the ceremony, which was as bad as their first interviews before the 74th Games, only a lot hotter for the candles – unnecessarily shaped like them in the chariots, emitting fire, and worth bearing only because the end justified the means.

Katniss is Peeta's wife. He is her husband. For a while they are very happy, flying soaring freewheeling happy, until they realized they were completely high for the sweet morphling wafting from the candles, drugged good by any of a number of crazed suspects they called their friends.

Despite the number of things wrong with the entire scenario, enough to fill a novella and not limited to ninja assassins, an audience far from well-behaved and Buttercup cannonballing into the truly lovely wedding cake, people thought it a glorious occassion to celebrate.

As the newscaster read out "the bride, whom we all know sparked an entire nation to war and bloodshed...", all around Panem, people could barely contain themselves for this glimmer of hope and made no efforts to do so, instead breaking out in unrestrained carnage and euphoria and other inhumane emotions.

Finally, finally, the fraud was complete.

~.~

["To Kiss A Mockingjay"]

The worst that happens is he pushes Katniss off the bed on their wedding night, just as they were... stoking the fire... very well, hands trembling around the neck of a wraith, unhappily derailed from their original cause. Belatedly, he realizes it's not a comeback of Peeta: Berserker Edition, but a love so fierce he has to cry it out.

Katniss, put out, annoyed, looking fit to tear someone's liver out, stalks from the room. "Excellent performance, baker boy, you'll never put a bun in the oven that way."

The taunt was oblique (or, more likely, as it was Katniss direct-shot-to-where-it-fucking-hurts Everdeen Mellark, not).

~.~
["Flight Club"]

Ever since Katniss had looked both at them in the eye and growled her recently-acquired maternal state into existence, proving that she did have it in her – to be a mother, that is – Haymitch, ever the expert at self-preservation as evidenced by the constant pickling of his liver, had suddenly acquired the preternatural ability to vanish into mist at will.

He then turned up so rip-roaring drunk that Peeta was forced to relocate him for fear of (1) the alcoholic fumes triggering a terotological catastrophe and (2) Katniss, more inclined than ever to bare her fangs, murdering him outright. (Gale had been right about the thin line between happy and homicidal regarding pregnant victors.)

Peeta, teetotaller and coincidentally father, having no excuse as mundane as alcoholism, has to stay, risking death and evisceration and vertigo-inducing mood swings. But it's okay. It doesn't matter, how dangerous or spitefully scathing or emotional (or emotionally-lacking) or monstrously big she is – his heart had always been made in her size.
 
 
~.~
III. Eclaire Mellark
~.~
 
["Star Wreck: The Next Generation"]

Haymitch had vanished at some point in their conversation, in which he'd put forward the suggestion that the mother-to-be be completely knocked cold once her consciousness wasn't mandatory, and was nowhere to be found. Peeta imagined early on the old man would rather brave another Quell than Katniss in a delivery room.

"Peeta! Peeta!" Katniss screams in the highest octaves he's ever heard – which was saying a lot, considering the flavor of his experiences – a range once thought only possible in bats.

He rushes to the delivery room, a mishmash of excitement and panic. Peeta can only hope he does better in parenthood than he had done in everything else in his life, praying he and Katniss repeat none of their parents' apocalyptic childrearing.

He takes a deep breath, not unlike the one he took before charging the Cornucopia – the world begins and ends here – and enters Maternity.

~.~

Peeta Mellark had survived two Hunger Games, torture and hijacking, a war, a great martyric love, and an overbearing mother. Peeta, survivor extraordinaire, is no stranger to blood.

He faints dead away.

~.~
When he wakes, Peeta sees her: downy hair, face mottled red, tinyOh.

All the hope Katniss siphoned off him is given back tenfold as he watches mother and daughter.
"She's so...small, but beautiful and golden like the summer, like the dandelion." Katniss says softly, the words foreign in her mouth. She continues in a bewildered soliloquoy which buoys Peeta's heart like a great wave, all flowery imagery which would've sounded superfluous to anyone else.

Peeta has only ever known her to romanticize about food – her only religion – so that's how he knows he has been solidly trumped in her eyes.

~.~

The name Peeta suggests for the girl has Katniss staring at him as though he'd suggested resurrecting President Snow.

"You want my daughter to be a cream puff?"

She finally agrees with the stipulation that she gets to name the next kid Anything. She. Wants.

~.~

["The Godfather"]

Haymitch, whose one-time priority had been the procurement of enough liquor to last the rebellion and under whose care a prominent number of children had died most macabrely, is named godfather. While this would normally suggest a certain lack of parental good sense and spur the well-meaning into action, the district population merely nodded in approval like it was to be expected.

~.~

["The Mommy"]

Katniss' fears regarding their sanity partly turned out to be for naught. The children, whom many feared would grow up inherently dysfunctional as though trauma resided in the blood, grew up well and good and certainly better-adjusted than they had ever been.

As would eventually happen in a generation that have never known war and the sacrifices it involved – and never would know war, if Peeta had a say – stories of it became less High Octane Nightmare Fuel and more speculation, more documentary, more heroics. The Mockingjay herself had been scrambled into a selfless girl whose boundless love for humanity pushed her to brave the odds. No wonder they never associated it with their mother.

In fact, thus far the only reason they have to fear the revolution had been Katniss herself, losing it one morning over breakfast when the kids fussily picked at their Woof Wheaties, which, frankly, did sound like dogfood. Nonetheless, it was the height of criminal offense and borderline (actually, scratch that) heretical.
 
Fire (and brimstone) in her eyes, Katniss had threatened: "Eat or I will show you exactly why am the face of the revolution."

~.~

["He'll Sing"]

Notwithstanding the persistence of memory and severe PTSD, in which case living is a most distressing experience, the intricate absurdity of parental love still surprises them day to day. A driving force more powerful than rage, so sweetly corrosive, empowering them to do what should never be done otherwise.

Katniss, who once could be invariably be depended on to quash the spirits of the local community, bravely took on the torch of role model. The mockingjay becomes mother hen, somewhat. At Peeta's suggestion, she invites women in the District to, norminally, a Garden Club and Knitting Circle which is rapidly exposed to be Survival Training 101. Following several stray arrows, Peeta takes over, braving his wife's displeasure, and saves the womenfolk with eclairs and ruggelaches.

Peeta, already saddled with most domestic duties such as laundry and cleaning and making sure Haymitch hadn't corrupted the kids (Katniss does the manly jobs, including pummeling Haymitch should their kids happen to show certain mannerisms, this was understood), is pushed to be acting mayor by an unwavering population, despite numerous pleas of permanent insanity. Justified pleas.

He suspects ulterior motives; people were in it for the dough.

He takes to the job as he does to everything else: optimism, determination and more than a hint of resignation, scything his way through discontent – not really, the afterglow of the rebellion still persisted – and taxes and animal control and youthful indiscretions – so rampant that teenagers giggled of a Banging Tree lurking within the District – all of which were not mutually exclusive.

In between helping people – an occupational hazard – he makes time to do fun things with the family while the kids are young and sufficiently malleable: swimming in District 4 where Peeza (Katniss' chosen name, after him, proving that she had no creativity whatsoever, leading people to believe they were a very hungry family) fell into hero worship for Fry Odair who demonstrated how to bash open a lobster using his head; trying their rusty Training Center skills at making a boat, which turned out as sea-worthy as Johanna Mason; spying on Katniss as she hunts; cooking, singing ("We want Papa to sing!" "Uh...""Peeta." "...I'll sing."), mudpies, paint (In his Mutt collection, a portrait of Katniss turns up every now and then, to their chagrin). They go camping in the fearfully rustic cabin by the lake. He teaches them how to trim topiaries of Primrose Everdeen to perfection and, in the winter, snowmen of the dead. In remembrance.

~.~

["The Delusionist"]

As she grows older, Peeta – who knows well the propensity of teenage boys for girls with braids and outlaw dispositions – worries that his daughter, like her mother before her, unconsciously gobbled up hearts. Eclaire is Katniss all over again, rebel and wit, and this magnifies the horrors of adolescence twice over. Adolescence. How Peeta hates the word.

The rebellion starts at school, when Delly Cartwright calls about Puff turning up very late for class, smelling of blood and gore, bearing a note of excuse. The writing is, naturally, forged. They find her hanging from one of Katniss' snares in the woods. The Mockingjay makes a comeback that night, doing what she does best: intimidating people into giving in.

It doesn't work as effectively as it did igniting a war. Puff and Peeza, subversion apparent in their blood, take to wearing rebel fashion – however tasteless it was to the Starvation Generation, but that was the point – and one day, Peeza comes home with a comical hairstyle, like something the species of stylist would've grown if they were not already extinct as proof of the world becoming a better place, free of that flamboyant disease.

Peeta deludes himself to thinking this was the worst of it until they find Puff one day, in her room, doing unspeakable things with a boy.

"Oops," Puff says, disentangling herself remarkably quickly. Well, considering they were only linking fingers, this is not of note to anyone but fathers... and Katniss, who lunges while Peeta still gapes like an Avox.

Delly Cartwright seems to have passed on her otherworldly optimism to her offspring because the boy was still smiling despite two war-hardened victors – each one fully capable of castration and then some – bearing down on him. He flinches, but morbidly stands his ground, his audacity unbelievable.

~.~

"We were only promising!"

"You have all the time in the world, you shouldn't have to," Katniss asserts. "Your father worries."

"I do?" Really, he's experienced so many horrors the emotion worry is alien to him. Peeta doesn't worry anymore, he obssesses.

Katniss growls in frustration beside him.

"Yeah, I do. Your mother is absolutely right. You are so much luckier, Puff." He repeats, more firmly. Picking up speed, he exclaims, hypocritically, "You can't dedicate your life to a boy!"
 
Peeta had lied so smoothly on national TV with death hanging overhead – possibly literally – this was a disappointing hiccup. He is a mere shadow of his former self.

~.~

["Fry Odair Must Die"]

Fry Odair, oozing pheromones au naturel, is charming his daughter.

The sweet little infant who'd adorably called his terminally-late father "Phink!" had grown up to be Finnick Odair, as if the original had clawed himself out from his dubiously honorable grave – sewage, seriously – to beguile and break another generation of Panem hearts. Karmic justice should've decreed that Finnick Odair have a daughter, but no. He had Fry Odair who had hands like the sea anemone, just as tentaculous, just as invasive, motion uncharted: thumping his bare chest that called attention just by existing, rumpling his godly hair to astronomical levels of debauched, travelling everywhere on skin, feeling up his baby girl... Oh fuck no.

(Real or not real? Not real. Fry didn't actually do any of these things. It was the distilled essence of Fatherly Protectiveness intermingling with tracker jacker venom residue. A potent mix, and not at all helped by glittering pyrotechnics in Fry's riotous hair.)

~.~

After Peeta was forcibly removed by Katniss for a psychotherapy video conference before he could slaughter anyone – anyone bronze-haired – Puff resumes history lessons with Fry Odair, who had firsthand information of reknown revolutionary and hooker – interpret as you will – Finnick Odair.

"Daddy can be melodramatic at times," Puff huffs.

"You think?" Fry raises an eyebrow. He turns another page ands read off, "And then he said to her, his broken tribute and hidden lover, 'I could drown in your eyes.' At which, Annie Cresta would begin to wail again... Wow, is this for real? Was he crazy? Talk about shame and fame..."

"They all were, I think," Puff shrugs.

Fry returns to the textbook, goes white-faced. "Okay, skipping this part... this too... we've already seen the Games in school... okay, In his last correspondence before the Third Quarter Quell, Finnick Odair writes to Cresta: 'Annie, my light, my harbor, my pearl, heart of the sea, loveboat. I have met and made a fool of myself in front of the hottest girl in all Panem. I only hope my devastating sexy wit saved the day again. You are still the sea turtle that swam off with my heart. This shipwrecked wretch only longs for you and your –' I...can't read this anymore. I think he's talking about your mother," Fry stops being green and grins appreciatively. "Hot, huh? Must be in the genes."

Peeta, hiding not at all clandestinely, listens with coiled hands as his little girl gets stars in her eyes. Katniss' apparent lack of acting ability was inherited by his daughter. Her adoration was genuine.

~.~

So when Fry finally writes of a girl back in District Four – a letter composing of histrionic odes to sea-green eyes and sun-kissed skin and something about the mating season of crablets, which people acquainted with Finnick Odair had imagined themselves finally free of, all those inane metaphors – Peeta sends a prayer to all eight-thousand-plus dead of District Twelve.

~.~

["The Chronicles of Riddickulous"]

"Hey," Peeta hears Haymitch asking one day, an edge of the notorious badass he once was in his voice. "Do you know how the blonde got a 12 in training?"

Katniss voice is the perfect mix of resigned and voracious. "How?"

"She was Five, and the first thing she says is "so I'm the tenth tribute you've seen?' The Gamemakers all sit up and ask 'you've noticed?' She answers, 'No, Icalculated.'"

Peeta's dignity threatens to join his jaw on the floor. Dear god. His spleen hurt from just thinking about the juvenility, bigotry and bad taste. The amount ofcorn alone was enough to repopulate District Eleven.

Peeta knew and even understood, over the years, that the collective sanity of Panem wasn't much – barely a thimbleful, honestly speaking – and he didn't yearn for miracles, but he expected better than this from his own family. Katniss says another one, even worse it didn't bear thinking about, and they are going on and on, the jokes escalating, making it a game to trump each other at his expense – and her son's in case Katniss didn't realize – and they go at it like fiends.

No matter, there are much worse games to play.

~.~
~.~
~.~

 

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