Author: whatsgold PM
It's funny how quickly I could force something like love out of my life, as if it wasn't even important in the first place. How I could keep everything at a distance, keep everything outside the impenetrable walls I have constructed around me. It's the only way I manage to wake up in the morning. Modern day AU.Rated: Fiction M - English - Peeta M. & Katniss E. - Chapters: 22 - Words: 57,900 - Reviews: 605 - Favs: 288 - Follows: 531 - Updated: 01-22-13 - Published: 07-28-12 - id: 8367887
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I have spent the past five years on the brink of death. Every minute that ticked away could have been my last. For some reason, I have been spared.
Others weren't so lucky. If you can even consider me lucky. I left to find some greater purpose for myself, to try and make some sense of this cruel world. I left angry, bitter, and cold. I am afraid I am returning even worse for the wear.
It's a funny thing, death. It comes so swiftly to some, those who run from it. Those who seek it find no reward. Death took everyone I loved, but spared me. It took my father, the most honest man I will ever know. It took my mother and my brother. It took the only girl I've ever loved. My first love. My first everything. I never thought I would be like this. So open to the thought of dying. I guess once you see enough of it, you lose the fear of the end. The unknown.
It's strange to watch the life leave someone's eyes. It's even stranger when you are the cause of it. I was the cause of it. More times than I can even remember anymore.
I made a promise to myself once. I promised that I would never again watch the life leave the eyes of someone I loved. It's funny how quickly I could force something like love out of my life, as if it wasn't even important in the first place. How I could keep everything at a distance, keep everything outside the impenetrable walls I have constructed around me. It's the only way I manage to wake up every morning. The only way to fulfill the duties bestowed upon me by the greater good. The only way to survive this hell I call Earth.
"Sir? Excuse me, sir?"
I wake disoriented, my vision blurred from sleep, and find the source of the voice that had infiltrated my dreams. The flight attendant has her hand gently placed on my shoulder, her expression similar to that of someone approaching a wild animal.
She might be onto something with that.
"Sir, we will be landing shortly. Would you mind putting your seat up for me?"
I simply nod, and she gives me a sad smile before scurrying off back up the aisle.
The fifteen hour flight had passed by faster than I had anticipated. Of course, with a healthy dose of Ambien, I was barely conscious for any of it. Ambien. One of the many benefits of having night terrors.
As we neared Dulles Airport, I began to feel a sense of dread slowly creep up on me. It would happen soon, it always did.
The PA system clicked on as one of the flight attendants rattled on about landing procedure. The cabin began shifting around in preparation, and for a second I thought I was in the clear. One measly second of relief was all I got.
"Oh and before we land, ladies and gentlemen, let's give a big hand to those passengers in uniform who have so bravely served our country. We thank you!"
And there it is.
I would give anything to sink down and hide, but the fatigues covering my body act like a scarlet letter, drawing the eyes of my surrounding passengers to me.
As if clapping is going to make any of this better.
I plaster on my practiced smile and nod back at them, appeasing this inane tradition that is supposed to 'honor the troops'.
Honor my ass.
When all of the pomp and circumstance is finished, I return my gaze to the window and see that we are landing. I would commend the pilot on his smooth entry, but I doubt he has ever tried to land in the middle of the desert in an all-out firestorm. I wonder how smooth it would be then.
I gather my things as quickly as I can and disembark the plane. Heads turn as I walk by, but that is nothing new. I maintain a steady pace heading for baggage claim, where hopefully my duffel will be waiting and I can be on my way.
I am almost to the carousel when a familiar face catches my eye.
"Mr. Cartwright?" I can hear the disbelief in my own voice.
I haven't seen Delly's father since my last tour ended almost 4 years ago. After she passed, I couldn't bring myself to see her parents again. Too much unconfronted grief on their part, and too much anger on mine.
"Peeta. So good to have you back." He sticks out his hand to shake mine, and I notice his is shaking.
"Is everything alright, sir? I didn't expect to see you here..." My voice trails off, the question hanging between us.
He shifts back and force, eyes avoiding mine, clearly uncomfortable and hiding something. Years of military interrogation have me honed into the body language of others.
He swallowed thickly, and finally met my gaze. "There's something we need to tell you, son."
What else could you possibly have to tell me?
As he says this, Mrs. Cartwright, the spitting image of her daughter, sidles up next to him. I can barely look at her without thinking about Delly. He continues to speak, but my eyes are focused on her hand. But it isn't her hand that concerns me. It is what her hand is holding. The hand of a little boy.
This can't be what I think it is.
His bright blue eyes flicker up to meet mine, and I know in that moment exactly who this is.
He peers up at me, his little brow furrowed together as if he is trying to figure out a puzzle.