Peeta stopped in front of the quiet house in the Victor's Village. A warm glow flickered inside the window. He exhaled slowly, relieved. Fire was a good sign. It meant she was okay. Katniss was okay, maybe not healed, but okay. He didn't even know if he was okay, but that would come in time. All they needed was time. In time they would heal and grow stronger and, perhaps-he felt the urge to stop himself before finishing his thought-fall in love again. He never stopped loving her, through the torture, the memory modification, through any of it. Yes, his mind and his memories had been corrupted, but that warmth had still been in there, buried deep where he couldn't reach it.
There was a rush of wind suddenly, and then a loud hum, and lights in the sky. The hovercraft that had dropped him off had left. He watched it go, slowly disappearing into the night sky, until it was nothing more than a pinprick, like a star. Peeta had practically had to beg Dr Aurelius to let him go. He spent many days trying to prove that he was well enough, physically and mentally. It hadn't all been miserable, though. He had kept in touch with Haymitch. He recalled a conversation they had towards the end of his time in the Capitol.
"She's not good, kid," he said. His voice was distant on the line. "Won't talk to me much, won't really talk to anybody." There was a long pause. Peeta didn't know what to say to him. "How are you? When's the doc say you're getting out?"
"He doesn't," Peeta said. But he would be getting out, and soon. "I'll talk to him. See what I can do to convince him."
Haymitch laughed heartily. "You always were good with words, Peeta." He cleared his throat, and there was a pause. Peeta assumed he was taking a long gulp of alcohol. "Keep me posted, kid. I want to see you when you come back."
"I will." And that was the end of it. There was a soft click, and Haymitch was gone.
Peeta turned away from Katniss's house and walked down the road to the village. His family was gone, killed in the initial attack. He had already shed his tears for them. He walked through the alley behind what used to be a row of buildings. The pen where they had kept the animals was gone. All the ashes had blown away. He climbed up the back steps, which was now all rubble, and entered the bakery. It was dangerous. Glass littered the floor, the staircase leading to the upper story had collapsed, big wooden beams were hanging down, threatening to fall down on him. He carefully walked over to the only intact structure: the oven. He bent down and stuck his hand into the ashes, pulling out a charred loaf of bread. Bits crumbled off in his hands. It brought tears to his eyes. This was all that remained of his family.
He tossed the loaf back into the ashes. This place would be rebuilt, but he could not do it alone. He wiped his hands on his pants and exited the bakery. Although Peeta had never been to the woods, he knew how to get there. He had watched Katniss slipping through the fence for years. He was pleased to see that the fence was removed in this area, which was now lit with the early morning sun, just peeking out from behind the horizon. There was a haze in the air and the ground was sprinkled with dewdrops. The brush crunched noisily underneath his heavy feet. He smiled, imagining the horror Katniss would be feeling at how much game he was chasing away. He wondered if she had come out here at all.
He walked on and saw a flash of pink a few yards away. Curious, he walked over and brushed the leaves away. They were primroses. Before he knew it, he was sprinting back into town where he knew he had seen a shovel leaning against an old wall.
By the time he returned to the Victor's Village, the sun was above the horizon. He started digging along the edge of her house, a nice long ditch. He had found several primrose bushes, all different colors: pink, red, white, and even a soft orange color. He continued to dig until, suddenly, the front door creaked open, and Katniss stepped out. When he looked at her, even though she did look terrible, and not well at all, he knew that things were going to be okay. They were together again, and they were home.