Katniss Everdeen walked along the pathway in the market that had been called 'The Hob' since she could remember. All over the Hob were posters put up by the enlistment bureau in the small town, announcing the war in the European countries that was raging. Beneath the sign was a sheet of paper filled with names of the enlisted soldiers who wanted to go off to war. She remembered instantly about her father, Jonathan Everdeen, who enlisted three years prior when the war had first started and how he died at the hands of a ruthless enemy soldier.
As she passed by another sign, it quickly drew her attention:
'SIGN UP FOR WAR! BE A HERO! SAVE YOUR COUNTRY! SAVE YOUR FAMILY! A SOLDIER'S FAMILY IS GIVEN EXTRA RATIONS AND CARE!'
When Katniss saw this, she knew this was the best way to help her mother and younger sister, Prim. She knew well of this bargain, for her best Gale had enlisted and his family of four had reaped the many benefits.
Katniss walked up to the makeshift booth and waited until the man at the table turned to acknowledge her.
"What can I do for you ma'am?" the man addressed her. He wore many war decorations on his woolen uniform coat, definitely showing his authority.
"I would like to sign up for the war, Corporal—Corporal Cray," Katniss spoke.
"As a nurse? Lovely, we always need more nurses back at them hospitals," Cray said.
"N-no, for actual fighting. That sign—o-over there, is it true that the families are taken care of?" Katniss corrected.
Cray guffawed extremely loud at Katniss' proposition and doubled over on the wooden crate he sat on.
Katniss seemed frightened by the Corporal's reaction. "I'm sorry, but what's so funny?"
"Women are not soldiers! They're not fit for the position, ma'am. They can go as a nurse, but their families don't receive the same benefits. Send your male of the family instead. Sorry about that ma'am. Take care of yourself now," Cray said, and sent Katniss off unaccomplished.
Katniss felt that the war was very sexist. Women were not just good for taking care of wounded men from the war. That wasn't very fair.
She quickly fled the Hob, not looking at where she went. This caused for her to smack into someone hard as warm and who was a young man. But she continued to flee, not stopping..
Almost another month had passed since Katniss fled the Hob from trying to enlist, and the rules had not budged—only men were allowed to enlist as a soldier.
But Katniss had come up with a plan. She was fit as any boy from spending all her time in the woods, hunting for food, that if she tried real hard, she could pretend to be a boy, so she did.
She had uncovered her late-father's trunk of leftover clothes from when he went to war, and took them in a little to fit her stickly, boyish-looking frame due to starvation. She had thought about chopping all her long brown locks, but decided against it. It would seem too suspicious if one had seen her with short hair before she had been enlisted. She had braided her brown tresses tightly and spun it up around her head, hiding all hair from view when she wore a cap on her head like all the rest of the soldiers and men in her town.
Her mother and Prim knew about her plan to get their family in a better place. So that morning when Katniss dressed in her disguise, they wished her well before she went to enlist and go for her physical training.
At the remembrance of the physical examination, she feared that she'd get caught and she would fail her family once more. But then she remembered that she could bribe the man in charge with money.
She set off.
The line was small at the enlisting booth. There were hardly any men in the Hob which was opposite to a time before the war started.
Cray was nowhere to be now, just a younger man who manned the booth.
"Excuse me," Katniss said in her deepest voice that she could fake. "I'd like to enlist for the war as a soldier."
The man nodded and handed Katniss forms to be filled out.
The first question at the top of the form was the hardest of them all. What was her name?
She could no longer be Katniss Everdeen while on the front—it was too much of a girls' name.
She bit down on her pen anxiously and then wrote down the first name that popped into her mind: Thom Brown. It was easy, not that questionable, and from what she knew, wasn't a name used in town.
A few moments later, she was finished her forms and handed them back to the man at the booth.
"Go on ahead through that set of doors and you'll do your physical, alright?" the man said, and pointed to the exact location to his left.
She nodded, and felt all her nervousness bloom even more at the possibility of her cover being blown. She walked with purpose to that door and knocked once, then waited to be answered.
When the door opened, she was surprised. She thought that the man in charge of deeming her fit was from the soldiers and war committee. If wasn't. In fact, it was a good friend of her father's. It wasn't just any friend, it was his old best friend, Mister Cinna.
"Hello, let's get you all ready to go to the front. Why don't you have a seat on the examining table," Mister Cinna said.
Katniss didn't move, but she pulled out a bag of coins and pushed them towards Mister Cinna with shaky hands.
"What's this for?" Mister Cinna asked, surprised.
"I'm not going to pass my physical, but I really need to be out on the front to support my family," she said.
"M-mister Cinna…it's me, Katniss―" she confessed, and let her voice appear since she knew that she could trust him.
"Jon's eldest—ohh...I see why...I'm sorry you had to do this, you could've gone to ask me for help if you needed it—you shouldn't go out there, Katniss—Jon wouldn't want this—" Mister Cinna said, after he understood what was going on.
"But father's not here anymore and you need to take care of your family as well. It's perfectly fine. Just please let me go to the front," she pleaded.
After a moment of thought, Mister Cinna spoke. "Alright— you can go—I'll fake your records. Promise one thing—don't let them know the real you—not at all. They'll ruin you out there. And if they find out you're a girl—I'm sure you can handle yourself. Keep the money—it'll be our little secret—give it to your mother and Prim."
"Can you give it to them please? I'm heading out now," Katniss said. "Thank you very much, Mister Cinna. You're a life saver."
"Oh how I wish," Mister Cinna said. "Go through those doors and they'll take you to the train so you can board to go to boot camp."
Katniss quickly gave Mister Cinna a hug then walked calmly like a man through the doors and was met by the same man from out front, except there were more soldier-to-bes' waiting in line too.
The same man acknowledged her and pointed her to a group of other young men who were in her new company. She joined them and silently prayed that she would survive and her gig would not be discovered.
After they arrived at boot camp, they were all forced to learn obedience and skill, and how to march and move on a dime without thinking twice about the commands. She was lucky not to be singled out like some of the company members had, and she had to thank those many trips out to the woods back home with Gale and their fathers.
She was able to run fast through the mud pits, shoot a rifle which she found a lot like shooting her old bow and arrow, and how to fight in hand to hand combat.
It was only a month into training when the company was sent off to Europe to fight.
Grenades went off at all times in the city's main streets and tried to kill as many enemy soldiers the other side could which was them.
At the sound of the blast, Katniss jumped and bumped into another soldier from the existing company. She looked up at him and notice that he looked very familiar, like someone that had lived in the town before.
He was somewhat cute looking, but Katniss couldn't focus on that—she was pretending to be a boy and that would be just plain weird otherwise.
Her company was to join this other soldier's company and fight alongside one another in the trenches at the front.
Out of all the members of his company, he seemed the kindest―like someone who didn't belong fighting in the terrible war―yet he was.
Spending many months with a crowd of miserable men was hard effort for Katniss. Having to change at odd times, or shower when others were out shooting. But she kept up her façade. She fooled everyone, even that cute young man from home; Peeta Mellark was his name. They had actually become good pals. That is―Thom Brown and Peeta Mellark. Just two young soldiers from the same small town, just trying to survive the war.
One cold blistering evening, the company decided to hide away from the fighting deep underground in their secret bunks beneath the trenches. Most of the company sat at the small tables drinking away the cheap alcohol that they had and shared stories about their loved ones.
One the company members turned to Katniss. "Got a sweetheart back home, Thom?" is name was Finnick, a soldier from the richer towns who liked to flirt with all the nurses.
Katniss took a small timid sip of her drink like she always did to warm herself up and answered using Thom's mindset.
"Nah, never had time to think about that. Had to take care of my family first," she said.
Finnick nodded and tipped his glass towards Peeta. "What about you?"
Peeta hesitated a moment and then shook his head. "Nah," he said.
"Come on, a guy like you; what girl wouldn't want you?" Katniss urged, surprised at herself as well for pressuring Peeta.
"Yeah, tell us about that girl back home that you're like, in love with, lover boy," Finnick said, his words slightly slurred.
Peeta finally agreed and went to a pocket inside his jacket and pulled out a single photo. He didn't show anyone the photograph, but instead spoke. "She's beautiful, has a wonderful voice that is beyond what I can explain. I doubt she knows I'm alive though…she is perfect," he said with such awe that it made Katniss' heart ache for an unknown reason.
"Well, let's see her!" Finnick shouted and ripped the photo out of Peeta's vice-like hands.
When Katniss looked, instead of meeting some girl of Peeta's dreams, she came face to face with a photo of herself.
Katniss could not remember where the photo had been taken or how Peeta could have gotten it. In fact, she didn't care. All she wanted to know was why her. She hadn't even known that a Peeta Mellark lived in her town, let alone know that he loved her―much more than a crush.
With a shaky hand, she passed the photo to another soldier beside her and took a large gulp of her drink, as she tried to make sense of it all.
The soldiers who sat in the group crowded around the soldier who held the photo and let out wolf whistles, and rambled drunkenly about her photo to Peeta, and gave out lots of advice and suggestions on how to get her to notice him.
She thought she would cringe at the thought, but she didn't. Peeta sat there and looked sheepishly at his pals who continued to admire the photo. Little did he know that the girl of his dreams was sitting right across from him.
As the months wore on, Katniss' nerves wore too. Ever since Peeta's declaration about his 'sweetheart', Katniss had seen Peeta in a different light. Although she didn't want to admit it to herself, she had let her feeling for Peeta enter her mind on more than one occasion. Sometimes during their breaks in the bunks or when they were waiting for their turn to shoot at the enemies.
She would sometimes try to calm her mind to sleep by remembering the consistent golden shine of his hair just peeking out from under his helmet no matter what he was covered in―whether it be mud, snow, uniform, greasy from not getting a chance to shower on his overtime shifts.
Other times she let herself unconsciously marvel at his jaw whenever he would prepared himself for the release of his rifle against his shoulder, even though she should have been paying attention to her post. Other times it would be seeing a glimpse of his muscles under a shirt of his when they were in the bunks area, off duty.
Either way, it took a lot of Katniss' energy not to pull down her braid and exclaim to Peeta that it was her―his sweetheart―who was on the front lines along with him.
But even with the new feelings, Katniss was unsure about what it exactly meant.
Their companies had gone through the city nearby on their way to the off-duty location where their companies were going to trade places with the new soldiers for a week or two.
They normally had travelled this well used road whenever they were on their way to go off-duty before, so all the occurrences of war were pretty usual.
Except this trip ended up being filed with bombs igniting from their hidden enemies.
Their shared truck that carried the soldiers to base shook with every rumble created with the explosives. They watched as their driver swerved around the now dirt path, dodging unfortunate soldiers and flames from the fires spread all around the city.
Suddenly they heard a whizzing sound and the engine of their truck blew up, and threw all of the soldiers like rag dolls through the air and onto the hard ground.
When Katniss fell, she smacked onto her shoulder on the cobble stone ground. A little shaken, she scrambled upon her feet and quickly scanned for Peeta; her first thought.
He laid not too far from her, unmoving.
She ran to him and slid on her knees to his side.
"Peeta―Peeta!" she cried to him, trying to gain his attention.
She looked to his leg suddenly and noticed his leg―a huge gash in it―right to the bone and bent at an obtuse angle, blood surrounded the wound.
"Oh my―Peeta―" she could barely form any words correctly.
"What? What's wrong?" Peeta groaned in pain.
He's oblivious, Katniss thought to herself.
"Shh, its okay, just stay still…hold on," Katniss cooed.
She waved to another soldier to fetch a medic.
Then she pulled off her helmet, acknowledged her risk―she just had to help him―and pulled off a handkerchief that was on top of her hair to soak up the sweat.
She took the handkerchief, ignored the slight dampness of it and opened it, then wrapped it tightly around Peeta's leg to soak up the blood.
Then she moved towards Peeta's head and placed his head on her lap, stroked his face and cooed to him, trying to calm him from the blinding pain.
Peeta tipped his head back and his eyes met Katniss'.
"Katniss?" he whispered incredulously and reached a hand up just by her shoulder and picked up a long piece of brown hair. Her braid.
Her eyes widened at his discovery and her hand reached for her braid, not believing her hair's betrayal just as she felt the pressure of someone's hand on her shoulder. She looked up at the person behind her: Finnick and their company's Sergeant, Haymitch.
She froze in place.
They moved her away from Peeta and carried him away to the medic truck.
Suddenly she noticed that Peeta's face turned extremely pale. His eyes had slowly rolled back into his head.
"Peeta! Peeta!" She screamed.
"Stay with me!" She ordered. "Stay with me!" She dove for him, but Haymitch and Finnick held her back.
He groaned again, but added, "Always," just ad more bombs began to explode.
Haymitch picked up her helmet and placed it back on her head, then, with Finnick's help, dragged her out of the open space and into hiding until they could safely pass out of the bombed city.
"Talk Brown―or is it even Brown?" Haymitch spoke to her in the far off corner of the field where they all were stationed along with Finnick during their off-duty time.
Katniss looked shamed, not making eye contact with the men in front of her.
"Speak―Katniss, is it?" Finnick said instead.
Katniss nodded sheepishly.
"Katniss what?" Haymitch asked.
"Everdeen," Katniss said and carefully pulled of her helmet, revealing her long brown braid.
"You're Jon's daughter, aren't you. He spoke so much of you―your spunk, your will; I can see already why you're here…but really, explain the whole scenario, will ya?" Haymitch said in awe, then in question, sipping from his flask.
"I am. Well―you see, after my father's death, my mother had not dealt well with the loss, and so she was not able to care for my sister and I. So I ended up having to work to make ends meet. Soon my work that I was doing couldn't make ends me; I saw the enlistment advertisement and knew that this would be the only way to ensure care. I've sent letters to Prim and she says that they are receiving wonderful care back home," she said.
"What about the thing with lover-boy?" Haymitch questioned.
"I don't know―I don't want to talk about it," Katniss finally said and then placed her helmet back on and fled their seating area.
They decided on their last day before heading back to the trenches that they'd go visit their buddy, Peeta.
Katniss stayed back the whole time and waited until the lot of them headed down another wing to go find another buddy of theirs.
She went up to Peeta's bed and sat down.
"Peeta?" she called to him.
He looked past her and was quiet.
"How is your leg? I'm sorry about what happened to it," Katniss said, acknowledging his missing leg.
Peeta nodded curtly.
"What's wrong? Tell me, Peeta," she pleaded.
"You want to know? You really want to know Thom? Or should I say Katniss?" Peeta said harshly. "It's you that is wrong!"
Katniss flinched at the tone of his voice.
"Why? Well maybe because you lied to me and I trusted you! I thought you were my friend! I told you, thinking you were someone else and I confessed that I was in love with you! That's not right! I can't trust you now! I can't believe you!" he shouted, his face flushed with anger.
"Do you still love me?" Katniss asked suddenly.
Peeta, in the heat of the moment spoke, "I loved you," and looked away from Katniss, emotionally hurt.
Katniss suddenly reached behind her neck and unclasped a pearl necklace, then placed it in Peeta's hand.
"I am sorry. Remember me by this?" she murmured.
It was the pearl necklace a young boy had given to her after the first day of school when she they were just five years old.
Placing it in hand gave her a shock.
Peeta was the young boy.
She didn't know why she had asked him the question or gave him the necklace back.
Katniss quietly got up and walked away. She stopped just outside the room and looked back in.
Peeta stared at the wall away from the door.
She took a deep breath and closed the door.
Peeta looked to his hand and rolled the pearl between his fingertips. He remembered the memory well, and couldn't help but feel his heart ache and love her again.
It was a few weeks later when they were back in the trenches once again that the company had gotten word that Peeta was going to be sent home due to the fact that he now had a prosthetic leg.
Finnick had watched Katniss just standing with her rifle at the 'stand to' position, yet nothing had happened yet.
"Hey, Everdeen," Finnick called when he was right behind her.
Katniss jumped in her spot, keeping a hold of her rifle the whole time.
"Finnick! Don't scare me!" she replied, and looked around to the other soldiers, nervous.
"Sorry Katniss. I know you're probably wondering, waiting for someone to call you on your lie. Don't worry though, only Haymitch and I know out of the whole company about your secret," Finnick said.
"Thanks," Katniss replied, and then turned back to pay attention to her post.
At night, in the bunks of the trenches, Katniss laid in her bunk, sad, and her thoughts turned to Peeta once again.
But not for long.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Finnick asked. He was kneeling beside her bunk.
Katniss sat up a little in her bunk and turned to Finnick. After she had looked around at her company, pleased with what she saw, she spoke.
"Peeta," she whispered.
"Do you love him?" Finnick asked quietly.
"I don't know. He told me he used to love me. I don't know what to feel now," Katniss replied.
"But what do you feel inside when you think of him?"
"I feel butterflies, and that I've screwed up his dream and if I ever loved him―" Katniss said.
"Hey, don't give up on him; he's still in shock from this unintentional confession from you, not including the fact that his leg is now gone."
"Wow, Finnick, I never thought of you as the kind of person to give me this advice; thanks," Katniss said thoughtfully.
"I do have a heart and a girl back home. We're to be married as soon as I get home," Finnick said and pulled out a picture of his girl.
Katniss smiled when she saw the photo.
"When this is all over, go find him, Katniss."
"I will, and congratulations, and thanks," Katniss said.
They had just been given the non-negotiable order to go 'over the top', when a white flag from the enemies on the front lines showed up on the soil, and messengers from the communication trenches had arrived.
Bursts of cheers erupted slowly as the news spread throughout the front lines from soldier to soldier.
The war in Europe, known as World War One was finally over after four long years.
Katniss had not failed after all.
Soldiers quickly packed any of their belongings that had survived the war and boarded the trains and boats that would bring back their war-damaged minds and bodies to their families.
Heading home, she wondered how things were going to be now that she was back.
But that all disappeared when she heard the train whistle twelve times, announcing she was back home.
She turned to Finnick who bid her goodbye with the promise to write each other often.
Katniss stepped off the train and onto the station platform. Her eyes scanned the crowd for her mother and Prim. When found, she dashed to them and enveloped them, thinking it was all surreal.
After many moments of hugging, they let go, and Prim shyly smiled, then pointed behind them.
Katniss looked, and saw Peeta, gently smiling at her, leaning on a cane in one hand.
Butterflies erupted in her stomach. She ran to him suddenly, and he caught her, hugging her tightly.
"I'm sorry," she breathed.
"I'm sorry too. I never meant it―I still love you," Peeta replied.
"You do?" Katniss implored, looking into his eyes.
Peeta removed her helmet and let her braid lay down her shoulder. He played with it and leaned close to her. "I do," he said and pressed his lips to hers sweetly.
Finnick, who watched from the train smiled and longed for his sweetheart, Annie.
After a moment, Katniss pulled away and whispered, "I love you too. I was too stupid to realize it."
They hugged again, as Peeta placed Katniss' necklace back on. She looked up to him, eye to eye, face to face…once again.