Author: Chinchilla17 PM
Two chapters happening immediately after Peeta is rescued! He is a changed person from all that has happened - what will Katniss think about this new person and is there any hope of him returning to who he was before?Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Angst - Katniss E. & Peeta M. - Chapters: 2 - Words: 6,707 - Reviews: 15 - Favs: 19 - Follows: 8 - Published: 07-11-10 - Status: Complete - id: 6133918
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
These two chapters would be in the latter part of the book Mockingjay. After Catching Fire, The Capitol put the three they picked up (Peeta, Johanna, and Enobaria), plus other "traitors" into a previously used arena and made a Hunger Games out of it. The others included Cinna, Darius, and others we don't know. Peeta is so desperate to see Katniss again, that he changes in the arena, becoming a ruthless killing machine. He is rescued shortly after becoming the victor, and is on a hovercraft with Katniss, Gale, Haymitch, Plutarch, etc. The hovercraft is traveling to other districts to aid the rebels there, and then will return to District 13. Before Peeta was rescued, Katniss and Gale have been trying to have a relationship. They are busy with the revolution, and she is also being tentative. They are taking it slow.
The first day Peeta got back, I just couldn't stop throwing myself at him and hugging him, even with Gale looking on. I didn't care. I just couldn't believe he was alive and back with us. My enthusiastic actions ended, however, when I realized Peeta wasn't really hugging me back.
The second day after Peeta got back, no one even saw him. He never came out, not even for a meal. Gale started to watch me closely, wondering what I was going to do. But I didn't do anything.
It is now the third day since Peeta's rescue, and I've come to a breaking point. I feel there are things I need to say to him. Nothing easy to say, of course. In fact, I don't really want to have to talk to him about any of it. But, I know I have to. Of course, me being me, I don't have any formulated plan of what those words are actually going to be. I'm hoping the words will just be there when I need them.
I see Peeta heading down the hall for something to drink and seize the opportunity. I stop him with a quick tap on his shoulder.
"Hey, Peeta, could I talk to you for a minute?"
He half-turns, looks at me very quickly with no expression, then turns back away from me. That blank expression has been the norm for him since the rescue, and so different from the Peeta I thought I knew.
This isn't the place I want to have this conversation, though, so I suggest we walk to the back part of the hovercraft. There are a couple of chairs there and it's a little more private. It is completely awkward as we walk back there together with no words or communication of any kind between us. I'm starting to doubt my ability to find the right words in this situation.
We reach the spot and I sit down first. Peeta remains standing. I don't want it like this, so I ask if he'll sit. He does, but awkwardly on the edge of the seat and straight as a pole.
I figure small talk's the best way to start.
"How have you been feeling?" I ask.
"OK," is his curt reply.
"I mean, it must be weird to be on this hovercraft, you know, and knowing you'll be going to District 13," I say, forcing myself to be conversational.
He doesn't respond, so I just look at him.
Then, "Is there something you wanted to say, Katniss?" He looks bored, like he's just waiting for this to be over.
I don't like it either, but it has to be done. "Um, yeah, well, " I am hesitating. I realize I really have no words ready and not the faintest idea of what to say. I curse myself for thinking I'd be able to come up with something brilliant, or at least passable, on the spot. What I manage to spit out is, "I just wanted you to know that I am so thankful that you're back. And, um, Gale and I. Well, we're, uh, together now." I am not happy with how it comes out. I'm suddenly wondering why on earth I felt the need to tell this to Peeta in the first place.
Silence follows. Peeta just keeps sitting there with no change in his features. I don't know what to say next, but Peeta apparently does.
"Is that it then?" he asks.
"Well, I mean, I just…"
"Katniss, I figured it would pretty much be that way anyway, so what does it matter?"
"It just seemed like something I should tell you. Or you should know," I add lamely.
I am so completely unprepared for Peeta's non-reaction. I don't know. I think I expected some expression, like how it's tearing him apart, something emotional, heartfelt, even if it was anger or jealousy. But, he just looks apathetic.
"Thanks for the heads-up," he replies as he stands, and it sounds so cold. He walks out, and I'm left wondering what I was thinking.
A few more days before we're back in District 13, and I can't bear for it to even be that long. I feel trapped, confined in this hovercraft. Maybe if I were with one big, happy group who enjoyed each other's company it would be different. But, instead, there's Plutarch, obsessed with planning and scheming. Haymitch, drinking himself to death. Finnick, retreating for long hours alone. Gale, oblivious to all else except the revolution. I actually find myself irritated with him because he doesn't seem to notice that anything is upsetting me, he's so focused on the "cause". With me by his side, and a full-blown revolution happening, it has given him a purpose I don't think he had before. I guess he has found his calling, but it makes me feel a distance between us. Of course I also care greatly about the revolution. I dream of the world we could have without the murderous cruelty of the Capitol. But the difference is that I am tired. Tired of feeling angry, tired of the bloodshed, tired of hiding, just tired.
Then there's Peeta. Just thinking his name fills me with a mixture of fear and sadness. Fear in that after watching him in the games and witnessing his detached emotions, I wonder if he can ever be the boy he was before. Sadness, of course, comes from the very same reason, because I miss that boy terribly.
Then there's me: confined, heartsick, angry, and exhausted.
I find myself walking the hovercraft most nights, happy for some quiet so I can think. The days are filled with conversation, and when we reach a district, often frantic and chaotic energy. Sometimes what we see is enough to turn your stomach inside out. We aid the people in the districts, and I am supposed to take on my mother's healer role when we arrive at a district. I am getting better at simple healing, but I know I still don't have the stomach for the rougher stuff that we see. I can't control the feeling of overwhelming guilt that hits me each time, as I still feel like none of this would be happening, these people wouldn't be risking their lives, if it weren't for my berry stunt. It leaves me sickened, drained, and longing for the woods and a quiet hunt. But, there aren't many opportunities for quiet here, and there are definitely no woods.
Tonight I am dwelling on my earlier conversation with Peeta, although I realize it wasn't actually a conversation at all. I knew he wouldn't like it that Gale and I were together, but he said he figured it would be that way. In my mind I see his cold and detached look, and I am suddenly shaken because I realize there is more to that look. Those eyes that always looked at me before with love now look at me with what I can only describe as loathing. Somehow, everything has changed. After all his declarations, all the times he told me how he felt. Even in the recent games, the moment he threw out his arms and yelled my name. It doesn't matter how many times it made me uncomfortable when he spoke of his undying love, at this moment I would rather have that than hatred. But if that's what I want, what am I saying? My brain suddenly shifts to thinking of Gale, and that just makes everything more muddled.
As I roam the corridors, I know that Gale is sleeping contentedly in his room, having been a hero to the rebels once again. Before he went to bed, he stood in the doorway of his room and wrapped his arms around me. He kissed me fiercely, lifting my chin with his strong hands. "I love you, Katnip," he told me again. I think he knows by now that for some reason I can't say it back. I don't know why it's so hard for me. I've come to realize that it will just take time, but I'm wondering how long it will take.
I am lost in my own thoughts as I walk the corridor, but as I pass one room, I hear a kind of growling inside. It stops me short, because of course I know whose room it is. Peeta's. I stop to listen for a moment, and along with the growls, there are groans, gasps, and strangled yells. It is not peaceful sleep in there, I know that. I hesitate. My mind takes me back to the horrific nightmares I have been frequented by so many times, and the one person who was able to help me get through them. And here he is, obviously suffering alone. I stand and listen for a moment, knowing the agony going on in there. No one else is around, most people asleep by now. There is a brief silence, but it is suddenly broken by a muffled cry. Whatever that was that happened with Peeta and me earlier doesn't matter right now. I know what I have to do. I also know Gale won't like it. But, really, what choice do I have?
I gently reach for the door handle and discover that it is unlocked. There is no real excuse now to stay in the hall, so I open the door and tiptoe in. I close the door softly behind me, and I don't know why, but I click the lock. There have been so many times in the past couple of years when I knew I had no privacy – I guess I feel like this cannot be one of those times. The hovercraft rooms are small, and with the slight glow from the light outside the hovercraft, I can just make out Peeta. He is writhing in his bed, as though he's wrestling demons away. I remember that back when we helped each other through our nightmares, Peeta's were silent. I thrashed and yelled, but he never changed position, made no sound. Those nightmares used to be about losing me. I know that now they are about much more than that.
I approach slowly and whisper his name. It's not enough. I try again, louder. "Peeta." I am beside him, and I gently place my hand on his shoulder as I say his name. He starts and gasps, then slowly shakes his head and looks at me with unfocused eyes. After a few seconds, there is some recognition there.
"Katniss," is all he says.
"It's okay, I'm here," I whisper as I kneel down beside the bed. As his eyes become more aware, his expression shifts as well, and I start to see the look. The look that makes me think that Peeta Mellark, of all people, has grown to hate me. But, I won't let that stop me. "Peeta," I say softly, "I'm here, it's going to be okay."
He stares at me for a few seconds, then curls onto his side and faces away from me.
I'm not sure what to do, but I try again. "Peeta, I know it's hard, okay? But I'm here, I want to help."
I stand up, and then scoot myself so I'm seated on the edge of his bed. I take a hand and place it on his head, moving just a small section of hair off his forehead. I can just barely see his face from this angle, but I see that his eyes are open. His face looks so hard-edged, his eyes cold, not like the boy I was in the cave with, not like the boy who eased away my nightmares.
We sit in silence like that, me stroking his hair, until I don't know what to do. I'm not my mom; I'm no good at this sort of thing.
"Do you want me to leave?" I finally ask. I find myself afraid of the answer.
Peeta doesn't answer right away, then says in a monotone, "It doesn't matter."
I start to stand, but then instead I place my hands gently on his shoulders and try to turn him so he's facing me at least a little. "It really will be okay now, Peeta," I whisper. "You're back and you're safe." I let go, turn, and start to go. Before I get to the door, though, his voice cuts through the air like a knife.
"No, Katniss, it's not going to be okay."
I stop and turn back towards him. "What do you mean?" I ask.
"Never mind," he says after a pause.
"No, come on, Peeta. Please, talk to me." I am running out of patience, and want to see that there's someone alive there, because I'm starting to wonder if only his body was rescued, not his whole self. Silence continues, my jaw tightens, and finally I can't wait it out anymore. "Sorry, Peeta, I'll just go, " I say, mimicking his uncaring tone.
I turn back towards him. "I'm sorry," he says.
"I don't know what to do, Peeta! Do you want me to stay or go?" I am speaking louder now, almost too loud for this little room.
"Whatever you want, Katniss," he replies.
"But what do you want?" My tone is more shrill than I intended.
Then, after a pause, he says with an odd casualness, "I just want to be Haymitch."
"What?" I yell out at him, frozen in my tracks. Is he actually trying to be funny?
"You know, Haymitch. Drunken, surly fellow," he responds in a deadpan manner.
"What the hell does that mean, Peeta?" He has shocked me enough over the last two years with his gift for surprise announcements, but this one really takes the cake. I start to wonder if he completely lost touch with reality in the games.
"It must be great to be Haymitch. You know why, Katniss?" Peeta asks. "He has this remarkable ability to just get himself so completely tanked that he doesn't even know what's going on. He absolutely obliterates every cell in his brain that might think, every cell in his body that might feel. Gone. Just gone. And I have to say, I admire that. That sounds good to me. So, I guess you could say I've discovered my new role model. I'm hoping to get started right away." I am startled by his glib recitation of the merits of Haymitch and his drinking problem.
"Haymitch is your role model now? Give me a break, Peeta." I head for the door, only to discover that he has infuriated me so much that I'm shaking all over. I struggle with the door handle, and I hear a humorless laugh from the bed. I turn and lay in to him. "What? What, is this just a joke to you? Let's trick Katniss. See if you can get some caring and sympathy, and then just make sick jokes and laugh?"
Peeta's face has the smallest trace of concern cross it, and he answers softly, "I'd never do that to you, Katniss."
"Then what are you doing?"
"Just fantasizing. That's all." And his glibness and all signs of life are gone.
I exhale and try another tactic. "Look, Peeta," I say, "I know what you went through in the games was just horrible, and…"
"Oh, I didn't know you could watch the games from District 13. Were you lucky enough to catch some of that great entertainment?" he asks sarcastically.
"Yes, I, uh, I did watch, at least some of it."
"Did you see me out there, Katniss? Did you watch me?" It's like he's giving me a test and waiting for me to slip up.
Timidly I answer, "Yeah, Peeta, of course I did."
He is now starting to sit up a bit in his bed. "So, you saw it. Peeta, the killer. No, that's too gentle. Peeta, the Murderer. Peeta the Slaughterer. Peeta the…"
"Stop it!" I yell. "Stop it, Peeta! Yes, I saw it, I know what happened. I…"
"No, Katniss, it's not what 'happened'. It's what I did. What I chose to do. It didn't just happen."
"But, you, you didn't really have a choice, "I say. "You know that. It's the games, Peeta. That's what they are."
"No, the games didn't make me butcher all those people, Katniss. I chose to do it. And, do you know why? Do you want to know?"
I can't answer that. I just stand there, hovering still by the door, as he sits in his bed, eyes blazing like a madman.
"I did it for just one reason. Just one thing, really."
"You don't have to tell me, Peeta," I say.
"No, Katniss, I think I do," he says. He pauses and then, "I did it because, well, because I simply was desperate to see you again."
Now that he's said it, his face relaxes a little, he slumps down deeper in the bed, and his eyes are empty again.
I stand there, trying to keep a grip on myself, my limbs trembling, and I feel my eyes filling with tears. "Peeta…" I start.
"Don't, Katniss. Please, don't. There's nothing you can say that changes anything. I did what I did because of that. It's just ironic that it, well, that it turned out this way."
As I don't respond, he just goes on.
"The irony is, now that I got my wish, it doesn't really matter. Because I can't even look at you." As if to prove what he's saying, he turns his head away and looks out at the darkness outside the hovercraft window.
"Why? Why can't you look at me, Peeta?" I ask quietly, as I am fearful of his answer.
He doesn't answer, so I ask what I am afraid of. "Is it because you hate me?"
"I don't hate you, Katniss." The words don't match the way he says it, which is cold, removed.
"Then why can't you look at me?" Again, he doesn't answer. I move closer. "Peeta, please, just talk to me, okay? You can tell me anything. Don't you remember what we went through together?"
"I remember everything," he replies.
Is this supposed to be significant?
Then it starts with Peeta reciting in a monotone. "I remember you singing when you were six. I remember giving you the bread. I remember you taking Prim's place in the reaping. I remember you finding me in the mud. I remember you kissing me in the cave. I remember every moment from the Quell. I remember everything about you, Katniss, every little thing you ever did and you ever said. I remember them all. Unfortunately, sometimes memories aren't enough." He pauses. "If I could have just been content with the memories, content to let someone just kill me while I was thinking of you, well, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?"
"And that's why you hate me?" I ask. It doesn't make sense to me, my brain buzzing with confusion.
"Hate you? I just told you, I don't hate you. I could never hate you. I love you. I have always loved you and will love you until I take my last breath." He is started to get more riled up again, sitting up straighter, his blue eyes hardening. "That's my point, Katniss. A lot of people died because of that simple truth, that I love you. That I couldn't imagine never looking into those gray eyes again."
And I say all I can think of to say, which is the truth, "But I wanted to see you again too, Peeta. I needed to. "
"But what about the others? Why is it okay for me to do that, to do anything to see you? What about them? What about Cinna? Did he have someone he was desperate to see again? Or Darius? Was he desperate to have one last moment with someone he loved? Why should I be the one who gets to win and see you again? What makes us more special than anyone else in this whole damn world?"
I am overwhelmed with the bitterness, the anger in his voice and on his face. His whole face and body are filled with a tension that makes him appear to be on the verge of absolutely exploding.
"But you had no choice, Peeta. It was kill or be killed. Someone had to win." I am rooted to the spot, knowing I can't possibly turn and leave, but fearful of getting closer to this person I no longer know.
"I told you, there's always a choice, Katniss!" He is spitting out the words like venom as he speaks. "The things I did, there's no excuse for that. I can never live with that! All for the chance to look at you, like I'm looking at you now. But, I can't even do that. I can't do that without seeing those people, the faces of those people as they were dying. As I murdered them. As I mutilated them. I look at you and I see them. I look at you, and I see the look in their eyes, how they go from eyes that shine with life to dead, lifeless eyes. That's what I see, Katniss! How could you possibly know what that's like?" he yells accusingly.
His words hit me right in the heart, like getting the wind knocked out of you. "Actually," I whisper coldly, "I do know. I do know what that's like."
He's about to yell again, but recognition slowly washes over his face. He looks at me, and says, "Yes, you're right. You do know."
"Yes, so I know the pain you're in." My words back to him are biting, as I'm unable to conceal the hurt. "But, Peeta, you have to go on with life. You can't be Haymitch." And I look into those blue eyes, those eyes that are dead with self-hatred. "Look at me, Peeta." I hold his face firmly in my hands. He tries to turn away, but I will not let him. "Really look at me. Tell me, is that really what you see? Is it really?"
And then, as he looks into my eyes, his defenses crumble. I see the tears start to well up in his eyes, his stony expression is suddenly replaced with what can only be called overwhelming grief. As the tears start to run down his cheeks, all my anger and frustration are gone. I pull back the covers, lay down beside him, wrap my arms around him, and pull him to me. He buries his face in my chest as he convulses with sobs. I am stroking his back, murmuring to him, comforting him. It's like how I hold Prim when she is overcome with sadness. As I rock him, I realize my face is also wet with tears as my heart breaks for Peeta.
I kiss the top of his head, as I would kiss Prim's. I smooth away his hair from his forehead and kiss it. As I would kiss Prim's. But then Peeta looks up and into my eyes, and when I look back I see so many things. Things I didn't see before. And I realize this is not anything like comforting Prim. The blue eyes, reddened, wet, and puffy, the look of pain on his strained face, but with it another look. The look I always used to see on Peeta's face. And I know he doesn't hate me, that he would never hate me, just as he told me. But I know something else now. And it's time he knew it too.
"I love you, Peeta," I whisper.
And there it is. The words I had never been able to say before, not to Peeta, not to Gale. The words I thought only time would give me. But, as they tumble out of my mouth before my brain has a chance to stop them, I know that it is the truth. That I am finally understanding what I couldn't see all this time. And, after all my fear of those words, I find I actually feel freer having said them. It feels right.
My arms are still wrapped around Peeta, and his eyes show the obvious question. Am I telling the truth? For he has every reason not to believe me. After all, I have broken his heart before. So, I stroke his face and realize that despite all the horrors around us, I am smiling. Smiling because I am looking at the person I truly love. I tell him again, softly, a whisper: "I love you, Peeta." And then Peeta is kissing me, and we can't stop. They are kisses like I have never felt, and I don't ever want this to end. I pull myself closer to him, and I feel him do the same. We are wrapped so completely around each other, and he gently rolls me onto my back. He is saying my name between kisses, and then he stops, his face only a fraction from mine. "Katniss," he whispers. "Please, stay with me. Stay with me tonight."
I have stayed with Peeta many nights. I couldn't even possibly count how many. But, I know from the way he is looking at me that he doesn't mean just to stay together like we have before. He means more. And, I desperately want to say yes. But, instead I say, "I can't." He says, "I know", but then gives me a long kiss that is impossible to resist. We cannot separate. I know, however, that reality will hit…and hit hard. I pull myself away from him.
"Peeta, I want to…."
He stops me, "I know Katniss. I understand."
It takes quite awhile before I am actually able to leave. Just one more kiss, followed by just one more. I don't ever want to leave. But, this isn't yet the time we can be together. There are other things to face before this will be okay. Finally, I am ready to leave, and I know the boy I'm leaving will not be suffering any more nightmares tonight.