A/N: Based upon the in between moments of how Peeta and Katniss grew back together.. Rated M for lemons.

Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games, just am highly grateful for them.

The Return of Peeta Mellark

Chapter 1

The shapes moving past my window blur into an incessant dark mass. Periodically the train's lights flicker, engulfing us in pitch black for a few seconds before bathing us, again, in a unhealthy greenish glow. As fast as the train flies along it's track, time seems to creep. My palms itch to be moving, doing something. I sigh quietly, letting my eyes close and my head lean back against the seat.

The high pitch scream tears through my body as I break out in a greasy sweat. I cannot see anything through the dense jungle greens, my eyes rolling wildly in their sockets. My arms feel heavy, too heavy to pull them up to my face to push the large leaves and vines aside. Her screams echo through the air again.

"Katniss!" I cry out.

"Peeta, help m-" Her voice is cut short with a harsh grunt. A thundering boom echoes through the air

"KATNISS! No!" My heart knows she is dead, and it's all my fault.

"Sir," A firm hand jostles me awake.

I stir roughly, groaning. "Sorry," I mutter, unable to meet the attendant's eyes.

"Quite alright, Mr. Mellark." He smiles wanly then moves on to the next car.

"Not real, not real, not real..." I softly mutter under my breath, so as not to bring even more attention to myself, rubbing my palms compulsively against my thighs, roughly. I glance around surreptitiously, grateful that the only other occupant in the back of the car seems to not have noticed my night terror. Hopefully I wasn't too loud this time.

The doctors didn't want me to leave. Dr. Aurelius, especially, wasn't too keen on me being on my own. But I didn't give him, or them, a chance. I have been away from her for far too long as it is and God only knows how she's deteriorated by now. Her grey orbs haunt me, the fear and hurt in them. My biggest terror now is that she thinks I've abandoned her as well. I need her now, more then I ever have, and I know she needs me too.

This morning, after Dr. Aurelius made his rounds, I was waiting in his office, pacing back and forth in his tiny room. Finally he stepped across the thresh hold, eyes that wouldn't meet mine as he greeted me hello.

"I know why you're here Mr. Mellark." He started.

"Peeta. Why can't you call me by my name?" I distractedly tore a hand through my shaggy, pale hair as I perch in the chair facing his cluttered desk.

"I wish you would reconsider this. I don't think you're ready." He dropped into his own chair.

"Four months. She's been alone for four months." I cry out, the desperation in my voice pulling it high and reedy. I've heard the whispers. That she was banished to 12, that her mother and Gale abandoned her to their own lives. Her mother I can forgive, Gale never. How he could 'love' her so much, and then just disappear when she needs someone the most. At least someone would have been with her, even if it couldn't have been me.

"Now we both know she's not alone." Dr. Aurelius's condescending tone pushes me into a rage.

"Really? Who's been there to help her? Haymitch?" I scoff. "He can't pull himself out a bottle long enough to wipe his ass, let alone take care of her." I scowl angrily, daring him to defy me in this.

"One Ms. Sae is with her." He mumbles as he consults a form in what I take is her file. A thick, dusty tome that's not been touched for a while.

"Oh God, like that's any better." The nights I've lain awake, fearing her despair have been true all along. She's been alone, with no one to help her deal with the pain and fears. The nights she must have screamed herself awake, or to sleep, haunt me. And Greasy Sae, as good a person as she is, cannot ease her anguish like I can.

"Well, if she would just answer the phone, I could-"

I level my eyes to him. The anger there, the hate, bores into his weak face. He drops his gaze to the desk.

"You know her, you know how she is. If I can't save her-" my voice breaks, "If I can't bring her back, you'll pay for this. I'm leaving now, today. You've kept me from her for too fucking long." I rise kicking the chair from behind me to crash loudly to the floor. "Just sign the damn papers."

"Mr. Mellark, I really must advise against-"

"Fuck you." I tear through the door frame, pushing myself as fast as my artificial leg would let me. The train leaves in less than an hour.

Chapter 2

As much as I've waited for this day to come, I'd be stupid to deny I'm terrified. We didn't exactly part on the best of terms. I wasn't allowed to see her after she shot Coin. That moment, when I stopped her from dying, when she screamed at me to let her go; when I whispered "I can't", that's the last time we've seen each other. I can't deny I've tried to reason with her request a thousand times. Why she pleaded with me to let go. Was she trying to convince me to let her die, or was she requesting that I forget about her and move on? I just don't know.

After she was put up on 'trial' and declared innocent by temporary insanity, she was immediately carted off back to 12. I wasn't allowed to see her, nor she me. I don't know if she even wanted to.

Any time I've asked after her, the doctors subtly remind me that she isn't beneficial to my mental well being. And the more I asked the longer I was watched, studied, 'cured'. I learned quickly to avoid the subject of her. But they couldn't take my thoughts, hopes, dreams, even my night terrors.

Each night, after rousing myself screaming at the top of my lungs, crying for her, for Finnick, for myself even, some faceless doctor would run in, pushing a syringe of clear liquid in my veins. I wasn't allowed to talk about it, to cry through the remaining fear.

Then in the morning Dr. Aurelius would question my dream; try to psychoanalyze my fears. As if he, or anyone else, could understand. Murder never leaves you, you can never wipe that blood off your hands. So I would always remain silent.

"So, lets talk about your memories.." He trails off.

"The real ones or the unreal ones?" I question, letting him know I've gotten control over my mind. Little by little, I was able to pull myself back from the brink of insanity. That's something else she did for me, one more debt I'll never be able to repay in a thousand years.

"So you can tell the difference?" He nods, writing something in his small, cramped handwriting.

I roll my eyes, knowing exactly what he's doing. We've talked this through a million times already. "Yes," I say sullenly. "But you already know that." I cross my arms over my chest and sigh, leaning back in my chair.

He rolls his tongue over his teeth, then runs his hand over the morning stubble of his chin and cheek. He scribbles one more thing, then puts the pen down.

"How?" he questions.

"Because the real memories aren't shiny. Can we move on to something else?"

"Are your dreams shiny?"

"Not always. The worst ones aren't." I hedge.

"Worst ones?"

I purse my lips together. I don't like talking about this, about her. "The night terrors are not shiny. My night terrors are about death, and murder. About the things the Capitol took away from us. About losing Katniss, about losing myself. Guess those things really did happen."

"Do you take your medication?"

And on and on, day after day.

But now I've left that behind me to face this life on my own, with her by my side if she'll allow it. I don't know how long it will take me, how far gone she is, but I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to her, bringing her back from the ledge.

Finally the train slows, large crumbling archways announcing District 12. I gather my bag to my chest. There's not much in the worn, leather satchel. Just a few changes of clothes, my sketchbook and the small, black pearl that will always belong to Katniss. I'm sure she must think she's lost it. And I hope that it's not eaten away at her.

One day, several months ago, when Dr. Aurelius and I were 'talking' he was called suddenly from the room. I quickly jumped to the door to watch his frame shamble down the hall. When he turned the corner I immediately pounced on his desk. I rifled through my file, catching small phrases and notes, 'PTSD', 'OCD', 'Neurosis' 'Implacable Romantic Notions'. I'm so glad he's able to define my life and what I've went through in these general and broad terms.

I rifle through the filing cabinet, finding her file. 'Everdeen, Katniss' written in his handwriting. My hands tremble as I slowly open the cover. But before my eyes can delve into her prognosis, her pain and suffering that's sure to be filed away as generally as mine, they lock onto the small, round jewel taped to the first page. Her pearl. My last token of an undying and never ending love. Of all the things they've taken away from her, this makes me the most irate.

To me, this pearl is a symbol of more than my love. It's our vows to each other on those nights so long ago. The way we laid together in the dark sharing our fears and hopes and dreams; holding each other and sharing tender kisses. Our faith to each other to keep the other alive in those terrifying and murderous arenas. The promises to her that I would stay with her always. They've taken all those things from us, and more. And I see red.

I snatch the pearl from it's sticky binds and shove it deep into my pocket. It takes all I have not to run from the room to find Dr. Aurelius and beat him bloody into the floor. Pound his face until it's nothing but stringy meat and gristle. But I know doing that would seal my fate to remain here forever. Whatever I do, however I act, has to always bring me to Katniss.

I stow her file away, pushing it back into the cabinet and slam the door shut. I glance at the desk, checking to make sure I've left it as it was. But it's so cluttered and messy I doubt he'd realize it even if I'd dumped a hundred random papers onto it's surface.

I sit back down, steadying my breathing, willing my hear to resume it's normal beats. I wipe the beads of sweat from my brow and upper lip. When he returns, it's as if nothing had happened. I find that I'm a pretty good actor when the need arises.

When I step off the train, it's so dark the night seems to swallow the world around me. Everything looks so different but yet it's the same. No one disembarks but me and no one is here to greet me. But that's okay. I left so quickly there wasn't time to inform anyone I would be arriving tonight, and besides; there's only one person in the world I want to see right now.

I pull the strap of my bag higher up on my should and start walking. It doesn't take long to see, even in the light cast only by a pale moon, how much everything is changed. The path towards Victor's Village takes me through the heart of what was once Merchants Row. I see the crumbles of my old life. The remains of our bakery choke me up and hot tears start flowing from my eyes. I swipe at them roughly.

I stand at what used to be the doorway of our bakery and home. I remember the years I spent here with my family, the few good times and mostly the bad ones. My mother, always so heavy handed with punishment and harsh words. My father, quiet and meek, too afraid of his own shadow to ever speak up for us. My brothers, who were almost like strangers to me. As much as I didn't like my family, they were just that: my family. I silently mourn their loss and know that Katniss is all that I have left, truly. She's my family now, one way or another. Whether she'll have me or not, I'll leave this earth burning for her.

Even before I make it halfway through the square my leg starts it's low throb. Months of little physical activity has left me unprepared for all the walking I'll have to do now. I start limping more pronouncedly now.

Finally I stand at the archway leading into our subdivision. The houses, all the same, sit quietly in the dark. The small lane that loops back to this spot is dotted with the twelve houses, six on the inside and six on the outside, all the same from the outside.

There are no small plumes of smoke curling away from a chimney, a small light shining through a window. It's as if death has settled over the land. As quietly as I can, I shuffle to her door. It takes all I have not to fling the door wide and run to her, pulling her into a tight embrace and planting a thousand kisses upon her lovely face. Slowly, I turn the knob, praying it's unlocked. Finding that it is, I ease the door open, afraid.

The fear grips me deep in my bowels. I know it's stupid, but this unknown is daunting. What if she hates me? What if she's forgotten me, left my memory behind? What if she blames me for all that's happened? I tremble all over at the thought. I feel the need to vomit and swallow it down harshly.

I find her asleep, leaning uncomfortably in an old rocking chair in the kitchen. Her transformation shocks me to my core. Gone is the woman I knew, leaving a broken shell of her. Her face is ashen and gaunt; her cheekbones standing out, skeletal. There are dark bruises pooled beneath her closed eyes. Her lips are cracked and dry, pulled harshly in a small grimace. Her limp, tangled hair falls across her back. Her bones jut out everywhere. Thin arms, a neck too long, her collar bones as if they cut. Even under her clothes, I can see how her hip bones stand out. Her shirt falls flat against her ribcage. My God, has she even eaten anything in all this time? My heart clenches tightly, beating erratically. Her clothes haven't been changed in God knows how long and the smell of her unwashed body takes my breath. I whimper, fighting back the scream that builds in my throat. The anger takes over soon.

Carefully, I scoop her up into my arms, noticing how her limbs are stiff in their pose. I slowly make my way into the living room to gently lower her to the couch. A small sigh escapes her lips and some of the tension eases from her brow. I cover her with a blanket and then soothingly, lightly, run my knuckles across her cheek. She stirs slightly.

I gather my bag and trudge across the dark lane to enter my house. My mind is racing a million miles a minute, thinking of all the possibilities to help her. And then I know. A small grim smile plays across my lips. In a few hours, when the light breaks over the horizon, I'll get started. But for now, there's something else I need to do.

I open the front door and throw my bag into the foyer then turn and leave.