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Hurry Hard

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“HARD! REAL HARD! YES, KEEP GOING! COME ON, HARD!”

I awake to the sounds of a man screaming, and wonder what kind of porn Johanna has convinced Prim to watch with her on a Sunday morning. Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I pad into the living room to find my sister staring intently at the television, her pink snuggie pulled all the way up to her chin. As my eyes adjust to the light, I realize that Johanna is nowhere to be found, and that Prim’s not watching porn, she’s watching…wait, what is she watching?

“Morning, Katniss,” Prim says, not bothering to look away from the screen. “There’s a plate of waffles on the counter if you want them. I was going to make bacon too, but I got kinda distracted…”

“Clearly. How long have you been sitting here?”

“Um, well I think it was the 2nd end when I switched on the TV, and it’s the 6th end now…so maybe an hour? It got really exciting during the 4th end, ‘cause Team Canada stole three from the Norwegians, which is apparently unheard of. I’m still trying to figure out how it works, but it’s oddly mesmeriz- ooh! I can’t believe Jacobs got a triple takeout!”

I don’t have the chance to ask Prim what she meant by anything she just said, because I lose her to the duo of sports commentators that appear on screen.

“That certainly was an exciting shot by Jacobs, wasn’t it Caesar? I was worried it was a little too tight, but in the end it was perfect. It will be hard for Norway to come back after that one.”

“Not exactly, Claudius. Don’t forget that they have the hammer. All they have to do is bury their next one deep in behind Jacobs, and they can put pressure back on the Canadians…”

A giggle bubbles up without warning. Prim tries to shush me with a glare, but it only makes the compulsion to laugh stronger.

“I’m sorry! I can’t help it. I mean, I woke up thinking you were watching porn, for God’s sake. And seriously, are you even listening to the commentary? Or the grown men screaming ‘Hard!’ at the top of their lungs? It’s like the sexual puns just write themselves!”

“Katniss, get your mind out of the gutter. This is curling, and it’s the Olympics. The players have to yell because there are four other games happening at the exact same time. Besides, the game is like, 200 years old. It’s not like the commentators made up the terminology – they’re just speaking the lingo of the players.”

“How very…cunning of them.”

“Oh my God, get out. You’re ruining my viewing experience.”

I smirk. “What’s there to ruin? You’ve got middle aged men in jester pants playing what looks like shuffleboard on ice and yelling bad sexual innuendos at one another. And - wait, are those brooms? How does this even qualify as a sport, much less an Olympic one?”

Prim adjusts her snuggie with a sigh. “Yes, yes, I get it. You disapprove of any extracurricular activities that wouldn’t give you the skills needed to survive the zombie apocalypse. But that cross-country skiing archery thingy event isn’t on until 2, so you’ll have to wait. In the meantime, can you keep the snark to yourself while I finish watching this game? Please?” Giving me the best puppy-dog face she can muster, she clears off a space on our tiny couch as a silent invitation for me to join her.

Smiling, I respond with a fake sigh of my own as I head into the kitchen to grab the plate of waffles and a couple of forks. “Okay, I’ll be good. But I still contend that curling is not a real sport.”

“Ha! You have much to learn, young Padawan,” Prim yells from the sofa. “Once you get the hang of it, you’ll get sucked in just like I- oh, nice shot by Norway!”

And here we go.

---

It’s official: Prim is obsessed.

For the past two weeks, we’ve had pretty much nothing but curling on TV. Not only does she watch every possible Olympic curling match, but she even goes online and starts streaming games through some Canadian sports website. Even Johanna has had to sit through of them, though she’s been surprisingly calm and snark-free about the whole situation. Given that I can’t wrestle control of the remote away from Prim, I might as well watch. But I won’t make it easy.

Cue the questions and commentary.

“So, let me get this straight. The object of the game is to get rocks onto the target.”

“The house, Katniss. That target is called the house. And you don’t just want rocks in the house, you want them as close to the button as possible.”

“The button? Why do they call it a button? Everyone knows the center of a target is called the bulls-eye.”

“Yes, thank you, Robin Hood. But this is curling, not archery.”

“I prefer Merida, if you don’t mind. And believe me, I know this isn’t archery. It’s more like glorified shuffleboard. Seriously, why do they have to slide those rocks down the ice? It would be far more impressive if they threw them instead.”

“Uh, because this isn’t bocce-”

“Another non-sport,“ I point out.

“Stop interrupting! What I meant to say is that those rocks are actually granite, and each one weighs more than forty pounds. And it might look like it’s not a very long distance, but the houses are 150 feet apart. That’s why they slide the rocks instead of tossing them.”

Oh. That actually makes sense. Undeterred, I continue. “Yeah, but what are the brooms for? To make sure the ice is clean and shiny?”

“That’s actually partially true. I saw one game where apparently there was some lint on the ice that the sweepers missed and the rock ended up catching on it and changing direction. Totally ruined the shot.”

“Must be a very fragile game, if a piece of lint can bring the whole thing down,” I say in mock-seriousness.

Prim giggles. “I guess so! But anyway, the players sweep the ice to keep the rock going straight. The sweeping melts the ice a tiny bit, and the lack of friction keeps it sliding in the same direction. As the rock slows down, it starts to curl to the left or right, depending on the way the player threw it. Hence, curling.”

I have to admit that I’m a little impressed that she knows so much about this game after just a couple of weeks. “Wow, Prim. You really are a curling expert.”

“Not really,” she replies. “I think I’ve got the basics, but the strategy is still a bit unclear to me. The commentators keep saying stuff like ‘Jones needs to know her angles’ and I don’t have a clue what that means. But maybe that’s because I was terrible at Geometry back in high school.”

“Don’t worry, I won’t tell Mrs. Paylor,” I say with a laugh.

Prim laughs along with me, and reaches over to give me a hug. “Thanks, Katniss. I know I’m totally geeking out, but I appreciate you indulging me as I fangirl.”

My sister is adorable.

“As long as you don’t mind me mocking you for fangirling over curling, of all things, go on ahead,” I reply. “But at some point, you will have to surrender control of the television. The Games won’t last forever, you know.”

“Good thing there’s more curling in Canada. There are at least three major tournaments lined up after the Olympics are over!”

“No way, kid,” I say. “I haven’t been able to watch the archery biathlon once since you discovered this newfound love, and the DVR is starting to fill up. Once the Olympics are over, you’ll have to find somewhere else to watch your precious curling.”

“Actually, that’s a good idea. I wonder if there’s a curling club around here…they’d probably have the games on all the time!”

Something tells me I’m going to regret planting that idea in her head.

---

The Olympics have come and gone, but Prim’s curling obsession is still going strong. So I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that she’s gone looking for opportunities to try curling for herself. Why she feels the need to drag me along with her, however, is a totally different story.

“Katniss! Katniss!” Prim exclaims, waving a piece of paper above her head to get my attention. “You will not believe this – it turns out that there’s a curling club just 15 minutes away from us, and they’re having an open house this Saturday!” Beaming, she shoves the flyer in my face so that I can get a closer look at it.

“Capitol Park Curling Club Open House from 10am to 12pm…$20 for a curling lesson and four-end game. Spots also available for 6 week beginner’s league. Great opportunity to meet new people and try the sport that has taken the Olympics by storm...space is limited, sign up today…” I look up and notice that my sister still has a silly grin plastered on her face. “That’s great, Prim! Sounds like fun.”

“I know, right? I called right away to sign us up. Peeta, the guy who’s organizing the event, was super nice over the phone and started telling me all about the club and the beginner’s league, and –“

“Wait, what? What do you mean you signed ‘us’ up?”

Prim’s still got the smile on her face, but her eyes tell me she knows she’s been busted. “Yeah, I signed up you, me, and Johanna! I figure that it’ll be a great opportunity for us to meet new people. I mean, we moved to Panem what, six months ago? We barely know anyone in the area except Johanna…and she doesn’t even count because she’s our roommate! Besides, you said the open house sounded like fun.”

“Yeah, but I meant fun for you. Not me. I’m more partial to the kill-to-survive sports, remember? Your words, not mine,” I point out.

Not to be put off, Prim wields the puppy-dog face once more. “Pleeeeease, Katniss? I’ve already paid to reserve our spot, and I really don’t want to go alone. Or alone with Johanna – she might bring an axe and insist on using it instead of a broom. Also, Peeta sounded cute over the phone…maybe he’s single?”

“You realize that trying to lure me to a curling club with promises of meeting a cute boy isn’t actually going to work, right?”

“Whatever. Come on, Katniss. A little interaction with other humans, male or female, isn’t going to kill you. I really, really want to go, and I really, really want my favorite big sister to be there with me to witness my first steps on the long march to curling Olympic gold.” She grins. “So…?”

Reluctant though I may be, I can’t help but smile at her enthusiasm. “All right, Little Duck.”

Letting out a squeal of delight that only dogs can hear, Prim claps her hands excitedly and engulfs me in a bear hug. “Yay! Thank you! It’s going to be so fun, I can’t wait!”

“Just one question – how on earth did you convince Johanna to come too?”

She shrugs. “That was really easy, actually. Peeta told me that pretty much every curling club you’ll find also functions as a bar.”

“So basically, she’s coming for the alcohol.”

“Yup.”

“At 10 in the morning.”

“Yup.”

“Okay then.”