Katniss leaned into his touch almost immediately. His soft hand sent a warmth throughout her body and she soaked it in. She missed his comforting touch.
"Thank you for coming," Katniss said quietly and met Peeta's concerned gaze. She attempted to smile, but her mind filled with her father, and with Peeta's touch clouding her thoughts, she felt it fail. "Uh, come in."
Peeta removed his hand from her cheek and made his way in, pausing to kick off his sneakers before continuing to the couch. Katniss watched as he turned on the lamp and folded her discarded blanket. He looked so right...so right in her apartment. He looked over at her expectantly, and she went over to him, taking a seat on the couch.
"Will you talk about it?" Peeta asked lightly, sitting down next to her.
Katniss cautiously met his gaze, she was preparing herself to be sucked in by the blue orbs. And she was. His eyes always pulled her and stripped her of all her walls. But sometimes that was bad, too. She didn't want to drag Peeta into her messed up life, she didn't want to lay all her problems down on him.
"I want to. I just don't want you to get involved in all my shit, Peeta." Katniss nervously twirled her hair around her finger. "And I've never...I never told you about any of this and you'll hate me for not telling you after all this time."
"Katniss, I don't care about that right now. I care about you. I want to make sure that you are okay, and I want to know what's got you so upset. So, for a little while, let's just forget about where we stand, and tell me."
"I don't know how," Katniss whispered. "If I tell you...Peeta, I'm scared- terrified. If I tell you, there's no going back. And forever is a long time."
Peeta shifted towards her with something close to exasperation written across his face. "I want forever with you! But if you can't or won't let me in, then I suppose you don't want forever. It's starting to sound like you don't, Katniss, and if that's the case, then please let me know."
"I'm not good at opening up to people! God, can you just give me a few fucking minutes, Peeta?"
"A few minutes? Katniss, I've given you months!" Peeta breathed in and rub his face tiredly. "I'm sorry...I'm sorry. I don't want to pressure you, I don't want to yell, I don't like any of this."
Katniss bit her lip and looked down at her lap. "I don't either."
The more Katniss thought about it, the harder she found it to come out and tell Peeta everything that's been on the tip of her tongue. If she told him, there was a slight chance that she'd scare him off, or that he'd be even more upset that she never shared any of her family's issues with him in the first place.
"Peeta...I can't tell you. Maybe...maybe I just need to figure things out on my own first."
She needed to talk to her father, to clear all the bad air. She needed to reach out to him, and then maybe she could finally open up to Peeta without any fear. Maybe all she needed was too understand her own problems before laying them down on Peeta. That might just be the way to make it easier.
"Can you please...can you give me a few days?" Katniss asked quietly, desperation creeping in her tone. Peeta's expression took on another one of sadness, and Katniss felt that familiar sinking feeling begin in her gut. With every last once of desperation and hope, she pleaded with a whisper: "Please, Peeta. Please..."
Peeta stood and headed for the door. He didn't say a word. Didn't even look at her. As he slipped on his sneakers, Katniss realized what was happening, and she scrambled up from the couch after him.
"Peeta! No, don't leave like this-"
Peeta opened her door, but turned to face her. His jaw was clenched and his eyes were blank. "Leave like what? Leave like how you did? You know, I can't figure you out anymore. You're playing games, Katniss, and I'm sick of being the pawn...I'm sick of you playing with me like I don't have feelings."
"I'm not playing-"
"You call me up in the middle of the night, you ask for me, and then you just shut me out! What do you want, Katniss? What do you want?" Peeta's eyes bore into hers as he waited for an answer, but Katniss didn't have one. Well, she wanted him, but he was beyond believing her at that point – she knew that much. After a moment of tense silence, Peeta breathed out loudly and gave a cold laugh. "I've waited on you for six months, Katniss. I can't do it anymore. We've run out of time, and maybe this was how it was supposed to be. You never wanted to be serious, did you? Now you've got your wish."
"Peeta..." Katniss tried to say more, but her throat felt as if it were closing.
"Deep down, I knew you didn't. But I was just so...I liked you so much, and we connected so well, so I ignored it." Peeta hung his head and gave a weak shrug, before lifting his head again. "It takes to two make a mess like this, I guess."
Peeta released his hold on the door handle and turned his back to her, walking down the hall.
"Don't go," Katniss called out hoarsely. "Peeta."
And, this time, she knew he wouldn't turn around. Though, that didn't mean it hurt any less when he didn't.
That night she laid awake in bed until the sun peaked over the horizon. She wanted to stay in bed forever, but the sun persisted in rising, so she made herself get up. Her mind was foggy and eyes were sore.
Katniss went through her usual Saturday routine which consisted of eating a bowl of yogurt and fruit, showering, and small house chores that took her to eleven o'clock. She spent the rest of the day curled up on the couch, wondering just how stupid she really was. It wasn't until much later at night when she saw something that made her brain start to function.
It was an advertisement of a father and daughter.
And suddenly she had a plan.
She had a plan. For Peeta, but also for herself.
Katniss waited on the front steps Sunday morning, her foot tapping impatiently. After what seemed like years, the door swung open and Katniss had to steady herself. She hadn't seen her father in a while, and it felt weird to see him again.
"Katniss?" He asked with disbelief and adjusted his glasses. "Look at you!"
Katniss ignored his greeting and crossed her arms. "I want you to tell me your side. I want you to make me understand why, Dad."
Katniss' father was a kind looking man, with dark, smooth hair that was greying, bright grey eyes, and a toothy smile that made people feel better in seconds. He was kind and funny, and Katniss remembered wanting to be just like him when she was younger. Funny how things change, Katniss thought.
Her father sighed and gave a nod. "Okay. Over breakfast? My treat," he offered with one of his kind smiles. Katniss exhaled and nodded once. "You drive." Katniss nodded again and headed to her car while her father got his things.
He came out a minute later and climbed into the passenger seat, smiling at Katniss. She only sighed and started up the car, pulling out of the driveway.
"You look good, dear."
Katniss focused on the road and swallowed thickly. "You don't look half bad yourself," she said. Her father was still in great shape.
"How's work? Are you still in design with your friend Johanna?" He asked kindly.
"Yeah, I am," Katniss said and turned into the lot of a breakfast restaurant.
"So, where do you want me to start?" Her father asked, taking a bite of his bacon strip.
"I don't know...the moment it fell apart?"
Katniss' father took a sip of his coffee and leaned back against his chair. Katniss waited silently, lamely playing with the syrup on her pancakes. Her father took of his glasses off and slowly began.
"Your mother...she had a tough life, Katniss. She was- is depressed and has been dealing with it since before you were born. You were so young, I don't think you knew what was happening to your mother." Katniss looked up and set her fork down. "She would stop taking her medication, stop eating...she would go into catatonic phases. And, Katniss, I swear to you I tried...I tried so hard to help her."
Katniss watched the distress unfold across her father's face in worried wrinkles and sad eyes. His bottom lip quivered, and Katniss bit her tongue to stop from saying anything.
"She was barely living, Katniss. There was only so much I could before things became out of my reach. And then there was you and Primrose. You were young and Primrose was even younger...and I couldn't have you girls growing up with your mother being like that, you have to understand that I wanted the best life for you girls. And maybe I went about it the right way, or maybe I didn't, but I damn well tried."
Katniss blinked a few times before finally speaking. "I know about all that, Dad. I've gone to see her. But I want to know why you abandoned her."
"That was not how it was, I swear to you. Your mother...she needed more help than what I could provide. So, yes, I got her medical help. I put her in a Psychiatric Unit. But do not think for a minute that I've stopped loving your mother, Katniss. I still love her with all my heart-"
"Then what about Lilia, Dad?" Katniss snapped.
Her father rubbed the bridge of his nose. "I love her too, Katniss. But your mother will always be the love of my life, and Lilia knows that."
Lilia. Lilia Paylor. Katniss couldn't help but associate that name with bile. She first officially met her when she was ten years old, the same year Katniss' mother "went away for a while." Katniss remembered Lilia coming by the house more often, and her father would always get a babysitter to watch over her and Prim on certain days. Katniss caught on quickly, she was sharp for her age.
"Did Mom ever know about Lilia or Clove? Did she, Dad? Is that what made her so depressed!" Katniss asked loudly, feeling hot anger run through her.
"Katniss, no! She never knew about them..."
"So, they were your side family. They were your picture perfect family, your pretty little life."
It wasn't until she was sixteen when her father sat her down and explained everything. Her mother's mental health, his affair with Lilia, and his daughter with Lilia. Katniss was thoroughly surprised when he father announced they'd be moving in; Lilia and Katniss' new ten year old half-sister, Clove.
"Make me understand, Dad. Make me understand why this was all okay!"
"It wasn't, Katniss! Your mother and I hadn't been happy for years. Things were hard and though I did – and still do – love her deeply, it wasn't enough to fight everything. But I found a new way to restore happiness. I found it in Lilia, in all you girls. And I hope you can see past the bad...and try to understand why I did what I did."
Katniss was silent for a while, filling the silence with her knife and fork scraping across her plate as she stuffed her face with pancakes. If love wasn't enough, then her and Peeta proved that. Wait, did she love Peeta? Her mind clouded over, but slowly she began to understand her father. It made her upset, but his solution was better than what she'd ever do. She would've ran the moment things got tough, if she were in her father's shoes.
"Have you seen Mom?"
Katniss' father smiled a gentle smile that made his eyes light up. "Every Sunday."
"I haven't gone in a month," Katniss admitted ruefully, shoving her plate off to the side while her father finished up his breakfast. "Last time I went...she just sat there and stared, like I wasn't even there."
"I know, dear. She hasn't acknowledged me in years. But I still visit her every Sunday...because deep down I think she knows." Katniss' father shrugged simply. "I promised her forever on our wedding day, and though we're no longer together in a sense, I'll still keep my promise."
Katniss felt the smallest of smiles tug at her lips.
"You ready to get out of this place?" He asked, and Katniss nodded.
"So, now I told you everything, I think it's time you told me what's going on with you," Katniss' father said as they walked up the front steps. "Come on, I noticed the bags under your eyes. I may be getting old, but I'm not blind yet."
Katniss paused by the door and looked away, the memories of the night before still raw. Peeta surely didn't mean what he said, right? He still wanted to be with her, she knew it. But a part of her wondered: what if I messed things up for good?
"I'm fine," Katniss mumbled, blinking rapidly because she did not want to cry. Crying was weak and she could not afford to be weak at that moment. She needed to be strong and independent because Peeta needs someone who is strong and capable to deal with things. Yes exactly, she thought.
"Is it a guy?" Katniss' father asked dumbly. "Are you pregna-"
"No, Dad! No..." Katniss felt something rise in her as she frantically denied his assumption. Tears pricked at the back of her eyes. And she couldn't hold it in any longer. The small, salty droplets slowly leaked out of her eyes and glided down her cheeks. "I-I'm not."
"Katniss," her father said softly under his breath, and he wasted no time in pulling her into a bear hug. Katniss wrapped her arms around him and rested her cheek on his shoulder and he gently rubbed her back like he did when she was younger. "What's wrong, dear?"
Katniss wiped her tears and pulled away. "I've lost the best thing that has ever happened to me. And it's all my fault."
Yes, Peeta was the best thing to ever happen to her. He made her feel safe, he motivated her, he cared so much for her. He was funny, the kind of funny that was underrated and witty. He was also so passionate about everything; about baking, painting, sports, family. Everything. Peeta's motto was if you're going to do something, you do it right and properly, not half-assed. So he always did everything to its full extent, and Katniss loved that about him. She envied it, too.
And maybe that's where she failed. She did not live as passionately as Peeta, she did not care as passionately as him, she did not pursue things as passionately as he did. And everything Peeta did was with so much passion and drive. Hell knew Katniss could only dream to be as passionate as he was.
"Then why are you standing around with your old man? Go fight for him."
Katniss gave her eyes one last wipe. "I thought you said love can't fight everything?"
"Yes, but I didn't say anything about fighting for love, my dear." Katniss paused and looked at her father for a minute, long enough to see the grin spread across his face. "Ain't it worth trying?"
Katniss felt her legs move and she was already at her car by the time she could process her actions.
She was going to see Peeta. There was no more running, no more stalling. She was going to see him and finally open up.
Katniss knocked on the door of Peeta's apartment, and a minute went by before the lock jiggled and the door creaked open. Peeta stood on the other side in a pair of shorts and a wrinkled shirt that matched his unruly hair. The blue in his eyes stood out with the purple bags under them.
"W-what...what are you doing here, Katniss?" He asked hoarsely, his voice sounding rough and scratchy.
"Peeta, please hear me out," Katniss pleaded.
Peeta sighed and shook his head slightly. "I can't listen anymore, Katniss."
"You can't or you won't?"
"Both," Peeta whispered and pursed his lips into a thin line, though his eyes deceived him with a look of pain.
Katniss sighed out loud with frustration and ran a hand through her hair. "Goddammit, Peeta! Just- will you just listen for a minute? After I'll leave you alone if that's what you want."
Peeta titled his head and made no move to stop her as she opened her mouth to speak. Her hands shook and her heart was beating so fast and hard, that it almost felt painful.
"Peeta, I want you to show me how to live with passion and love. I want you to hold me when I'm sad. I want you to be the one I share everything with. I want to wake up in the morning with you beside me, or your scent on my pillows. I just want all this emptiness- and all this sadness in me to go away," Katniss said quietly and met his eyes with caution. "...and it won't until I have you back."
Peeta stood there, his arms falling to his sides helplessly. He stared her in a way that was almost heartbreakingly hopeful and hopeless. She wondered which one he was really feeling; she wanted it to be hopeful.
"Don't do this...don't bring me back in if you're only going to leave," he warned weakly.
"I won't," Katniss said firmly, yet softly. She swallowed thickly and wrung her fingers nervously. "On Friday...I'd like for us to go somewhere- dinner. Go for dinner...and then I could tell you everything."
Just her and Peeta, a quiet dinner where she could tell him about everything she kept from him.
"Are you asking me out on a date?"
Katniss smiled and ducked her head. "I am. If you'll allow it."
"Only if you'll allow it?" Peeta said back, his voice still quiet.
"I'll allow it," Katniss confirmed, biting her lip. "Friday...eight o'clock? We can meet at the bar and then go?"
"Okay," Katniss echoed and took a step back. "I'll see you then."
Peeta leaned against his door frame and nodded. "See you then, Katniss. Have a good week."
Katniss headed for the elevator, and as she walked, each step made her feel lighter. Even with Peeta's gaze upon, she felt light and calm, and with one last parting glance over her shoulder, she caught a small grin on his face.
Katniss, just days before, wouldn't have imagined herself standing in front of her father's house ready to thank him. But she was. Look at you, apologizing more than you ever have, Katniss mocked herself internally.
The door opened and Katniss was ready to smile, until her eyes caught sight of a younger girl, closer to Prim's age, with dark-almost-black hair like her own and dark green eyes. Freckles dotted her nose, which was so alarmingly smiliar to Katniss'. The girl was more similar to Katniss than she ever thought. It had been years – less than two – since Katniss saw her last, due to clever avoidance. But a lot has changed the girl in that time; a young girl into young woman.
"Katniss? What a surprise to see you," she said, an edge to her tone. "I almost forgot we were a family. You know, with you barely coming around." Her eyes narrowed and lips pursed as her arms crossed over her chest.
"Clove," Katniss said evenly. "...hey."
Clove flipped her dark hair over her shoulder and gave faux-sincere smile. "Welcome back, sis."
And she let the screen door smack shut in Katniss' face.
Katniss stood there, dumbfounded and unsure on how to act. Her father was back in her life, she was on a somewhat better road with Peeta, and now her half-sister – who she'd been avoiding – hates her. I do deserve it though, Katniss admitted.
One step forward and two steps back.
A/n: Not a super amazing chapter...but it's sorta another filler for next chapter.
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