Prompt: Memorial day focused. Modern au, Katniss remembering and honoring her late father’s death as Peeta helps her cope throughout the week. [Submitted by anonymous]
Author’s Note: So I volunteered for this and didn’t know how hard it was going to be xD. I’m not North American so I had to do one heck of a lot of research and I’m sure there are a lot of mistakes still, so I apologize beforehand for it and I hope no one is offended by my lack of knowledge. Thank you!
Peeta had been working overtime for at least two weeks. While Memorial Day was usually a holiday for everyone, the bakery didn’t stop. Families poured in wanting to buy pies, cakes, cookies, cheesecakes and the like; it was a good day for the Mellarks. Even his brother Rye took a day off from work to help with the sales; he was rubbish at baking but good at convincing everyone to leave with at least one more product than they intended. Heck, even his mother dressed to the nines and put aside her usual attitude, for she knew that, aside from the usual holidays, Memorial Day was a day to earn good money.
The youngest Mellark didn’t mind the hard work; he had been used to bakery work since before he started school, trying out his frosting skills on stale cookies or measuring the ingredients so his dad could bake the cakes. What Peeta did mind, though, was not being able to be with his girlfriend today.
Peeta had asked his dad, and Harland had been completely okay with it, simply asking Peeta to be sure to bake enough for the sale day. His mother, on the other hand, had been livid.
“Why do you have to leave on one of the busiest days of the year just to be with that girl!? Doesn’t she know how this business works?”
“Mom, I already told you she lost her father last year and it really affected her.”
“And what, didn’t we lose Bran as well? You don’t see me crying in the corner because of it!”
The Mellarks had lost their eldest in the war as well, but that had been almost ten years ago, and they were all together. His father, mother, Rye, and Peeta had grieved and taken the time to visit his grave and put flowers on it. But, as with everything, life goes on. You still remember your loved ones, just not with the same pain as before.
“It was going to be his last year, Mom. He was 38, already a reserve, and they called him because he was an extraordinary man when it came to tactics. You know his unit name was on the news more times than we can count. He accepted out of love for his nation and countrymen. We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to every man and woman who has fallen in the name of our country, but I believe Graham Everdeen deserves a special demonstration of respect. I can’t tell you how proud I am to be able to be in his family’s life.”
“Hear, hear. Graham was a good man, the best man. I will never forget him. Just let the boy go; he already did everything we asked of him.”
Peeta’s mom didn’t like it, but she relented before her husband’s gaze and tone. “I’m blaming you if the sales this year aren’t as good.”
°•. ✿ .•°
Katniss had been a surprise baby.
Graham and Lavender had been high school sweethearts in secret, him being a scholarship student and she, the daughter of a member of the board.
As love stories go, theirs was the cliché after school special where Lavender found out she was pregnant at barely 16, Graham at 17. Not wanting her to get an abortion, they ran away together without finishing high school and prayed to every God out there that her family didn’t charge him with kidnapping, or worse. They were lucky, though. She had been disowned, and her family didn’t want to have anything to do with them or the baby to come.
As for him, his family tore him a new one but accepted them both with open arms. A few months later, Katniss came into the world, silently, but with that characteristic gaze of hers. Graham then decided the best thing he could do was to apply for the Navy as he was now 18. That way, he would be able to provide for his new family without having to impose upon his parents. So, leaving his very young, soon-to-be bride and newborn daughter, he set off to try his luck. Turns out, he was built for it. His Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery score was impressive, and his body, already used to rough sports, also helped him in quickly becoming one of the favorites in his class.
°•. ✿ .•°
As soon as Lavender turned 18, they got married in a small chapel, surrounded by a huge amount of love and joy from the people who truly loved them.
It wasn’t easy; those first few years were the hardest, but they both put in the effort and as parents, they were blessed with a quiet child in Katniss. Although she was a bit of a tomboy, she seemed to possess a greater level of understanding compared to other toddlers. Always serious, a perpetual frown on her face, Katniss Everdeen was often misunderstood as broody or difficult, but each and every member of her family knew she was a total daddy’s girl.
Whenever Graham would come home, the first woman he would crumble before was his little flower, his Katniss, the child who had forced him to become a man much faster but who had also shown him that there was no limit to the love one could feel towards a little human being.
°•. ✿ .•°
Lavender loved her husband with all of her being. The few friends she still communicated with had told her the spark would die, that the child would change everything, and they were right‒but only about the last part. Katniss had changed everything, but for the better, and she still felt the same spark within her body whenever Graham caressed her skin. He was also the greatest father he could be whenever he was home. He loved Katniss to death, and although he realized she already had him around her tiny little finger, Graham didn’t mind one bit.
He did several tours, and things started looking better, financially. They were able to finally move out of his parents house, although Lavender always visited regularly. Prim came as another surprise four years later, Lavender finding out about this pregnancy while Graham was away in some foreign country, no less, but he was still ecstatic at the news.
Primrose Everdeen came loudly into this world, the spitting image of her mother, and for the third time in his life, Graham fell in love. His unit friends would joke around, telling him he would have to try for a boy the next time he went home, but he always said he was more than happy being surrounded by his beautiful flowers. There wasn’t a single man who didn’t know about Petty Officer Second Class Everdeen’s love for his daughters. Even his superiors always asked him about his girls back home, and everyone gathered around him to hear about Prim’s first steps of Katniss’ latest knee scrape.
°•. ✿ .•°
Time went by, and Graham did his time, always coming back home. He was a blessed man.
Even if the beginning of his life hadn’t been what he had planned, he really couldn’t complain. His wife adored him; his youngest loved him, and his eldest idolized him. And even if Graham claimed to love both of his daughters equally, everyone knew Katniss was his favourite. Katniss was the rowdy girl he could teach to wrestle or to punch, explain how navy tactics worked, or sometimes, open up to about a fallen comrade. Katniss was the light in his eyes and the smile on his lips whenever he saw her.
“I’m gonna have to buy a RGM-84 harpoon in a few years just to keep them at bay, Lav. She’s gorgeous,” he told his wife one night.
“Oh, I think there’s still time, don’t you think? Katniss is only twelve.”
“You didn’t see the baker’s boy looking at her this morning. Poor boy stuttered through the whole interaction and even gave her a free cheese bun.”
“What will you do when Primrose turns twelve, then?”
“I think an AIM-7 Sparrow to begin with, and then…an entire fleet!”
And Graham had been right about Peeta. When Katniss graduated college‒the first Everdeen to do it!‒she brought Peeta home to meet her family.
“You all know Peeta. We’re dating now. What’s for dinner?” Typical Katniss.
Unfortunately, it was that same year that Lieutenant Everdeen was called back to action. He was a reserve, technically not obligated to do it, but he chose to, for his countrymen and his comrades.
That day, he kissed all of his girls, shook Peeta’s hand, and went to war.
Graham Everdeen never came back home.
°•. ✿ .•°
“Katniss?” Peeta entered the Everdeen’s home with the spare key Lavender had given him last year.
It was a quaint home with pictures all around, the biggest one, of course, being of Lieutenant Everdeen in his navy uniform, surrounded by flowers and a candle. Surely Prim’s doing. Speaking of the youngest Everdeen, she must have gone to Rue’s house to finish up her paper due next week, but she would undoubtedly be back for lunch. Lavender must be at her in-laws, as she wouldn’t be able to stand being alone with the girls today, of all days. Graham’s departure had been almost a death sentence for her, and it had been Katniss who stepped up to take care of her broken family.
Peeta put his backpack and the pastries he had baked for her in the kitchen, and then he went to look for his girlfriend. He found her in her bed, tear tracks on her face and still in her pajamas, although she did have her father’s navy working uniform jacket on.
“Hey…have you eaten anything today?” Katniss shook her head, and Peeta was glad he had prepared tea before coming here. “I have some of that red berry tea you like. I’ll put it here so it stays hot, okay?” She nodded.
“I bet your mother was thrilled about you staying with me today.”
“You know her so well.” Peeta smirked.
“You don’t have to do this, you know? I don’t need a babysitter.”
“I know. I just want to stay close to you, as always, but especially today.” He kissed her forehead and she rose up to hug him.
Katniss rarely let her guard down, but with Peeta, it was a usual occurrence. He had managed to tear down her walls, brick-by-brick, throughout the years. Of course, the cheese buns always helped.
“Someone came yesterday.”
“A friend of Dad’s. He said he had been in the same explosion but had been lucky. He lost a leg, though, and the physical therapy, plus the fact that he lived far from here, prevented him from coming to visit sooner.”
“He must have been a good friend of your dad’s, then.”
“He…He had my dad’s letter.”
Peeta didn’t have to ask what that letter was. Every man always left a message for his loved ones with a friend before embarking on a difficult mission, and Graham would have been no exception.
“What did it say?”
“I don’t know. I haven’t opened it yet.”
“Do you want me to give you some space?”
“No, I- Could you stay? I don’t think I can read it alone.”
Katniss pulled a yellow envelope out from under her pillow. It was a bit wrinkled but still in good condition. After opening it, they found three more envelopes inside, smaller and white, one for each of the women of the Everdeen family.
“This is for your mom, this one for Prim, and this is for you.” Katniss took it with trembling hands and fresh tears in her eyes.
Peeta had loved his brother Bran and had cried when he died in combat, but Katniss had lost something much bigger. She had lost a father, the first man she had ever loved and her best friend, all at once. Graham had been her superhero, and Peeta had always been nervous about proving himself worthy of her because of all the love the good man had showered on Katniss. They were both very much alike, even if Graham hadn’t been home during Katniss’ first years, and whenever he returned, Katniss wouldn’t leave his side.
When he heard a chuckle, he turned to see Katniss, the sheets of paper in her hands, avidly reading her father’s handwriting amidst cleaning her tears. Peeta hadn’t even peered in on Graham’s last words, out of respect. He would stay with Katniss and be her support, but he wouldn’t intrude into this special last moment she had been given with her dad.
“He mentions you.” That comment surprised him.
Katniss proceeded to show him a paragraph that made his chest swell with pride.
“I’m glad, though, that you chose a good man to start dating. I’ll always have a tiny spark of hate for Peeta for stealing my girl, but I know it could have been worse. Don’t be afraid to rely on him; you’ll need his love and his support. Although, please, do your old man a favor and always, ALWAYS use protection. I’m not going to pry into your private life, but I wouldn’t want you to have the same rough start as me and your mother did.
I know Peeta is a great guy, and I knew he would sweep you off your feet from the first day he gave you a free cheese bun. I may be gone, but I’m relieved to know I couldn’t leave my girl in better hands.
Love each other, respect each other, and when he asks for your hand in marriage, let him know he has my blessing.”
Damn, that was touching. Peeta knew Graham liked him, but knowing he already had his blessing for when, not if‒he would definitely marry Katniss Everdeen down the road‒Peeta decided to pop the question, meant the world to him.
“Well, there you have it. Now there’s no way you can say no to me, Everdeen.”
“I wasn’t planning on it.”
“Good to- Wait, what?”
It was so bittersweet, seeing Katniss’ face red and blotchy, exhausted from the night she had undoubtedly spent crying, remembering her father, but also smiling back at him with a tiny glint in her eyes, a glint that spoke of her love for him.
“I wasn’t planning on looking for someone else. You’re stuck with me, Mellark, so when we get married, you’d better be ready. Okay?”
“I think I can drink a bit of tea now.”
“Alright, I’ll get you a piece of pie, too.”
And so, Graham Everdeen was gone, but he would always be remembered, both in this house and in the one Peeta would share with Katniss. This, Peeta vowed in his head right at that moment.
Going to the kitchen and uncovering the striped pie he had brought, Peeta made sure to cut an extra slice and put it next to Graham’s picture.
“Graham, I will always admire, remember, and respect you, not only on Memorial Day, or when the calendar tells me to, but always. Thank you for your service to our country, and thank you for trusting me with your daughter. I won’t let you down, sir.”