FAGE 8: Soul Mates
Written for: Rose Melissa Ivashkov
Written By: Claire Bloom
Summary/Prompt used: A couple wakes up to find themselves in a different universe.
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Katniss laid still, her arm thrown over her eyes, her breathing slowly returning to normal. She didn't want to wake up yet. She desperately wanted to return to her dream. There had been no gentle transition between dreaming and coming awake; it was as if she had been yanked back to reality.
She felt Gale shift slightly beside her. The last thing she wanted was for him to wake up. Avoidance seemed to be their mantra lately. She had nothing she wanted to talk to him about, and for some time, even after their conversation had dried up, their desire for intimacy had not. But not anymore; that, too, was gone now. Katniss wondered why they even bothered sharing a bed, a home, a life together. But finding the courage to tell him to go, or to pack her own bags and leave, was far too difficult.
She tried to summon back her dream state; to fall back to sleep and find herself in the exact same place she had been before something had pulled her back to reality.
Of course, this was a useless trick to try. No one had ever been able to do that. Sure, falling asleep again may be possible, but the dreams that would come would be of different places, people, and scenarios. Katniss had no doubt that this same dream would not come to her again today, but she knew it would come. She'd had the same dream four times already. Well, not exactly the same, but the home, the people, the feeling of belonging; it was as if she was entering another life and living it for just that night. It felt so real, and she felt such a strong sense of home that when she woke up to find her life with Gale was still stale and lonely and real, Katniss felt utterly bereft.
The after effects of her dream were strong. She needed to let the feeling pass so she could fake her way through the day.
Gale turned to face her. Katniss decided it was time to get up. She pushed off the duvet, and gently swung her legs over the side of the bed. She didn't want to wake him, but not out of consideration, simply because she didn't want to talk. It was hard to look at him and feel that she didn't belong with him anymore when she had, only moments earlier, felt like she was incredibly happy in the arms of another man.
Everyone had cheat dreams. It was normal and she used to find it funny when Gale would share his recent dream endeavours with girls they both knew. But these dreams of hers were too real to find amusing. The way she had felt, the happiness, the joy, it was so beautiful and completely foreign to her.
It had been a long time since Katniss had felt happy.
Katniss poured a glass of water and sat at the table, nursing the glass between her hands; she closed her eyes and summoned back some memory, any memory from her dream.
She had been standing in the bedroom doorway, watching a figure sleep beneath the sheets. The room was dark, but some light from the hall behind her penetrated the room. She couldn't see his face as he had his back to her, but she knew it wasn't Gale.
Suddenly, the sleeping man sighed, and shifted position. Turning onto his back, he glanced over at the door, his eyes still sleepy, still dazed, but he smiled, like he had found what he subconsciously searched for. Holding out his hand to her, he whispered. 'Come back to bed.'
Those four simple words filled Katniss with a yearning, and it balled in her stomach like a flutter of tiny wings. She felt her palms start to sweat, and a smile break out on her face. Seeing him smile at her, and want her with him, Katniss knew she desired nothing else more. The promise of laying next to him, surrounded by his warmth, meant everything.
In this life, Katniss knew those feelings were wrong, and strange as she had never looked at him this way before. In reality, she saw him every day but they barely spoke. They didn't socialise in the same circle of friends, or work in the same department. It wasn't necessary to talk, but since her dreams had started last month, Katniss had found it impossible not to stare at him in the elevator, or across the canteen on their lunch break. Sometimes, she had caught him staring back.
She wondered if he had noticed her own stares, and was watching to see when she would do it, or if it was possible he knew he starred in her most favourite dreams. Or if it was possible, maybe, she had starred in his, too?
His name was Peeta. His blue eyes were full of warmth and cheeky thoughts, and laying in his bed he had lifted the sheet and beckoned Katniss again with a devilish smile. Dream Katniss had laughed, and sat at her table, holding her glass of water, reality Katniss smiled at the memory of that moment.
Holding out his hand to her, Peeta tilted his head, wondering what was taking her so long to get in beside him. Katniss stepped forward, and placed her hand in his. He laughed and pulled her quickly onto the bed, but instead of falling onto the mattress and feeling the warmth of his arms, it was then Katniss had awoken.
She kept replaying that moment over in her head; his smile, the scent of the room, the cosy feel, the heat, the desire to touch him. It was more than just physical between them; there, in that bedroom, in that dream, was love.
Gale walked into the kitchen, disturbing her reminisce. He started making coffee. He didn't speak. Katniss remembered a time when he would've bent to kiss her cheek and chastised her for not making coffee.
It seemed such a long time ago.
He fetched his breakfast, finished making the coffee, and left the room. Katniss heard the TV, and pictured him eating his food there rather than sat with her at the table.
Could things between them be any more alienated? This was no life; for either of them. Katniss wished he would be braver than she, and finally say something about this non-existence they were both faking. Could the actual conversation about drawing the line be any worse than this? Katniss doubted it, yet she, too, kept playing along and staying silent.
Was this why she had started to dream of another life with another man; a secret longing to feel love, and passion, and to be wanted, needed, by someone? Maybe it wasn't about Peeta at all, but about the emotions she was missing.
This made sense to Katniss, as she had known Peeta since they were 4 years old, and she had never looked at him this way before, because maybe she needed to feel something other than lonely.
Katniss abandoned her glass of water, and walked into the den. She looked at Gale eating, his eyes on the TV, and she waited, but she didn't know why. She had nothing to say.
After a couple of minutes had passed, Gale looked over at her. He raised a brow, but didn't ask. Katniss looked at him, closer than she had looked in a long time, into his eyes, at his lips, his hair, all the things she used to love about him, and willed herself to feel it.
Eventually he turned back to the screen. Apparently he had nothing to say either.
It had been a long day. It was the weekend, so no work for either Katniss or Gale. She had felt trapped at home and had gone out to run any errand she could think of. There wasn't anyone she wanted to visit, not really, so after there was nothing else for Katniss to do, she had gone for a walk.
Her feet had found their way to the cemetery which was not where Katniss had really wanted to go, but she purchased some flowers anyway, and made her way over to Prim.
The sadness at seeing her sister's grave so bare and unkempt filled Katniss with guilt. She had been neglecting the dead as well as the living, it would appear.
Katniss lay her bouquet and removed the dried flowers of a previous visit. She wondered who had been to see Prim, and lay flowers here. Their mother was gone, dementia stealing her memories, leaving Katniss with just a shell of her mom.
The ground was dry; the weather had been quite mild of recent, so she sat for a while and found herself without words once again. When had the art of conversation become so foreign to her? Katniss wondered when she tried to speak if her voice would crack. She missed small talk. She used to loathe it.
Not wanting to burden Prim with her current relationship crisis with Gale, Katniss searched for something to say. She wanted to hear her own voice. She wanted to share with her dead sister. To sit in silence at her grave was just as wrong as not visiting at all.
She could think of nothing, and so Katniss had left, gone home, and locked herself in the bathroom. Just to find anything else to do, she drew a bath and took her time, allowing the heat of the water to soothe her.
It was evening but too early for bed, however, Katniss longed for the feeling of home again, so after her bath, Katniss put on her pyjamas and climbed into bed.
Closing her eyes, she prayed she would find Peeta in her dreams again.
He hadn't come. Her sleep had been dreamless, and disturbed, so Katniss awoke feeling just as tired as when she had gone to bed.
Disappointment clouded her mind, but she knew it was a long shot that her dreams would be the ones she wanted consecutively. They had started a month ago yet she had only had them four times, and never one straight after the other. Although they were all different, it was always about Peeta and a home they seemed to share. They were either in bed together, or she was watching him make dinner for them both. It was so similar to her life here, but it hurt Katniss to admit, the one in her dreams was better. It was the life she preferred. If only she could stay there, in the circle of his arms, and enjoy that fantastical bliss.
It was still the weekend, and Katniss got out of bed with a heavy feeling. The day ahead seemed long. Too long in shared silence, too long till bedtime.
Glancing over at Gale's side of the bed, Katniss realised it was empty. The sheets were a crumpled mess but his pillow was still plump; no head dent.
Wandering into the den, she spotted him asleep on the sofa with a crocheted blanket tucked up under his chin. He looked cold, so she grabbed the duvet from the closet and covered him before heading into the kitchen.
Looking through the fridge, Katniss noticed a grocery shop was required. With a good excuse to leave the apartment, she dressed quickly and headed out.
The store was busier than she expected for an early Sunday morning. She pushed the cart mindlessly, barely paying attention to the items she loaded in, whilst chewing on a red liquorice stick. With both hands on the cart, the candy protruded from her lips.
Katniss turned the corner at the end of the fresh produce aisle and stopped short. Peeta Mellark was browsing the shelves only a few feet in front of her. Katniss wanted to hide before it occurred to her that he didn't know she'd been dreaming of him.
It was difficult to move. She considered walking past him, possibly catching his eye, maybe saying hello. Chewing the candy, she took a moment to study his profile. His ash blonde hair was slightly wavy. If he decided to grow it, Katniss had no doubt it would be more curly. She liked that. It looked thick and soft. His jaw was strong, square and tense as he read the back of a packet. She had no idea what he was looking at, she didn't care.
She started walking slowly towards him, her eyes stayed locked on his profile.
Just as she was close enough to see what he was holding, Peeta looked up at her, recognition dawning in his eyes. He lowered the packet he was holding and after a moment, smiled.
It wasn't a broad grin like she had seen in her dreams, but her internal reaction to his smile was like a punch to her stomach.
Katniss lay in bed, replaying the grocery store over and over in her mind. She hadn't smiled back, and Peeta had eventually replaced the packet he had been holding, and walked away.
He must think she was rude, or ignorant. She hated that it bothered her as she hadn't cared what he thought of her before. She'd barely thought about him at all, and now she worried about what he thought of her. This was getting stranger by the day.
Sighing, she turned onto her side and closed her eyes.
Katniss sat bolt upright in bed. She was sweaty and breathing hard, but it was no nightmare that she had woken from. She looked quickly to her side to check if she had disturbed Gale but once again his side of the bed was empty.
Closing her eyes, she flopped back down onto the pillows. Her body still reacting to the dream; his touch had been so perfect, like he knew her body by heart. He knew what pressure tickled her and where, and changed his touch to accommodate. His fingers deftly skimming across her sensitive skin, arousing her to heights of pleasure she hadn't known for a very long time.
Katniss wanted to cry. She had been pulled back to reality at such a crucial moment in their lovemaking that she actually ached from the loss of him.
She wanted to stay with him, to stay there in her dreams where everything seemed so perfect and real.
Except it wasn't real and that fact hurt more than she cared to admit.
Katniss opened her eyes again and looked at the clock. It was still very early but rather than stay here and long for the impossible, she got up and readied herself for work.
The idea that she would see Peeta today, even from afar, made her feel a little better.
It was mid-afternoon before she saw him. He wasn't in the canteen at lunch, and she had spent the entire hour scanning the faces for his. It was in the copy room when she turned to leave that Peeta entered. They both stopped in their tracks and Katniss noticed his eyes opened as wide as hers when he saw her.
Her heart thudded loudly in her chest, and she gripped the papers she was holding. Katniss wanted to speak, she wanted to drop the papers and kiss him, and she wanted to walk around him and leave. The room, although smaller than the offices, was adequate in size, but right now felt constrictive.
Peeta glanced quickly at her lips, and back to her eyes again, his pupils dilated, and Katniss again wondered if he shared her dreams. It was so real when she was there, so real she could still feel it when she awoke. Was it possible he had dreamt of her, too?
His eyes squinted slightly, his lips parted, he was about to ask her a question.
"Katniss." Effie walked in, the door almost hitting Peeta in the back. She stopped short, a sly smile on her face. "Am I interrupting something here?"
Peeta looked way and stepped aside, allowing Katniss to pass. She wanted to ask Effie to leave, and she wanted Peeta to say what he was thinking. She wanted to hear him say he was experiencing it, too, but instead she clutched the papers tighter and quickly walked out of the copy room.
Gale wasn't home when Katniss arrived, and it was now much later — after midnight, in fact — and still no sign. In the past she would've called his cell to check he was OK, but now she found she didn't really care. Truthfully, she was happy to have no one else in her home. The silence this time was real, and not born of two people having nothing to say to one another.
Katniss lay in bed, her fingers twirling a strand of hair next to her head on the pillow. She wanted to dream of him again. She wanted him.
Katniss woke gently. There was no yank, no force pulling her back to her dreary life, it was simply drifting from one place to the next, and she languished in the transition. Feeling a presence in the room with her, she assumed Gale had finally come home.
Turning to his side of the bed, she slowly opened her eyes and found herself staring into the blue eyes of Peeta.
Katniss sat upright, clutching the sheet to her chest, but the room was empty.
But he was there. He had been right there, in her room, crouching by her bed, looking at her.
However, now the room was empty, and Katniss felt incredibly confused. It was real. His presence was real. He was there. The fact that he clearly was not did not deter Katniss, she knew what she felt. He had been there. In the midst of her waking and dreaming, he had been there, in her room, and she knew then, that he was experiencing this, too.
Katniss scanned the canteen for Peeta. She wanted to talk to him. She no longer felt shy, she felt sure. She had sensed him there, and when she had opened her eyes, he was. The fact that he had vanished almost immediately didn't mean anything, she knew he had been there, not just in her dreams but in her room.
She needed answers.
Peeta entered with a couple of his work colleagues. His eyes scanned the canteen and found her staring back him. He seemed to pause, like he was unsure of her reaction to him, so Katniss smiled. It was like an invitation he had been waiting for, and he spoke quickly to his friends before walking over to her table.
"May I join you?"
He sat down next to her and placed his hands on the table.
"What's happening?" he asked.
Katniss had wanted to ask the same thing, but was surprised when he spoke first. She didn't know what she expected him to say, but she didn't expect him to acknowledge what was going on so blatantly.
She shook her head in response. "I don't know. I was hoping maybe you did."
She looked over at him, and found his eyes immediately. Just like in the supermarket, her reaction was instant. Gut punch.
"You do know what I'm asking, don't you?" he ventured.
"Our dreams," she answered.
"It's so strange," he said. "It's a world so different from ours yet I feel like I belong there. I'm not a fighter, Katniss, but when I was reaped straight after you, I wanted to be there, in those Games, with you."
Katniss narrowed her eyes. "Games?" Was it possible Peeta was dreaming about Katniss but not the same way?
Peeta stopped talking and looked down at his clasped hands. "You don't know what I mean." It was a statement.
"I dream of you, too." She whispered, causing Peeta to look up at her again. "There's no – games, just us. In our home."
Peeta looked around the canteen. "I should go."
"Please." Katniss placed her hands on top of his. He was shaking. "Tell me about it. Your dream."
He kept his eyes down, on her hands touching his. "It's strange there, nothing like it is here. They have these games." Peeta paused liked he didn't know how to explain.
"Like the Olympics?" She asked.
He laughed. It was the exact same laugh as dream Peeta coaxing her into bed. She didn't recall ever hearing real Peeta laugh before, but it was so familiar and her stomach tightened at the sound of it.
"No, Katniss, nothing like the Olympics." She liked it when he said her name. "It's to the death." He looked up at her, waiting for her reaction. "But I wanted to be there, with you."
"I was – in these games, too?"
Neither of them spoke for a few minutes and Katniss became aware she still held his hand. She wasn't sure if it was appropriate anymore or not, so she let his go and placed her own in her lap. "Are the games all you dream about?" She asked him. A part of her wanted him to say no, that he dreamed of holding her and loving her and it felt so real to him, too.
Peeta sensed she needed to hear something else from him, but he simply shook his head.
"I have to go." He looked around again and Katniss noticed the canteen was almost empty, the workers all returning to their jobs. She nodded and watched him stand.
Peeta walked a few steps away and then turned back. "See you soon." He smiled again and Katniss recognised the longing in his eyes. It mirrored her own.
Katniss had never had her Peeta dreams one after the other. They always seemed to be a few nights apart, sometimes even a week, but she wanted to dream of him so badly.
It seemed crucial that she see him in her dreams tonight, more than any other time. She wondered if dream Peeta would know that they had shared something today.
She drifted off slowly, concentrating on her breathing, listening to the gentle rain outside her window.
She suddenly felt herself shift, like a gently pull, similar to a current tugging her softly towards something else. Katniss allowed her body to go with the flow, she felt warm and safe. Fingers tenderly touched her cheek and she opened her eyes to see Peeta laying on her bed, his body turned to face her. His eyes scanning her features with so much love it took her breath away.
She tentatively reached up and touched his cheek, too. Such simple gestures, yet Katniss felt overwhelmed. In five seconds she had experienced more love and intimacy than she had in the past year with Gale.
"Where do you go when you sleep?" He asked her. "You seem so far away."
"I am far away," she laughed. "I'm asleep."
Peeta's fingers moved from her cheek to between her brow. "But it makes you unhappy." He stated. "I can see it here," he brushed the worry lines she imagined he referred to.
"But then I come home." She sighed, and he moved to gather her close, his arms completely surrounding her, and Katniss tried not to cry for she knew any moment now she would wake up and this would all vanish.
Peeta held her for a while, and then suggested breakfast. Katniss watched him get up, and admired his bare back as he perched on the edge of the bed and pulled on his shorts.
She waited to be pulled away again but when the sounds of plates being moved sounded from the kitchen, she dared to rise and search for him.
As she walked from the bedroom she entered a hallway with photographs on the walls. They displayed the smiling faces of Katniss' mother, and her sister, Primrose, and then beside them a framed obituary. It was Prim's.
It seemed her sister's fate in this world had been the same as it was in her own. Katniss felt the same incredible loss of her sister all over again. She had hoped her sister could live on somewhere, even if it was just in her dreams.
Katniss wiped her eyes, and moved on through the rooms. The apartment was very different from her own, it had much more light and the furniture was pale rather than dark and wooden like Gale preferred.
She found Peeta laying the table. "Pancakes ok?" he asked before disappearing into the kitchen again.
Katniss heard the reply but she didn't speak it. Frowning, she turned to look to her right and saw herself sitting on the sofa, flicking through the TV.
Katniss gasped and felt a jolt, rather like she had been pushed. Breathing hard she frantically looked around only to discover she was sat up, in her own bed, in the home she shared with Gale, all alone once more.
It had been ten days since Katniss had last dreamt of Peeta. She had gone to bed every night praying she would return to him and she could find out what it meant to see herself there, in another home, another life. For a split second, in her dream there had been two of her, except the one on the sofa had been oblivious to the other Katniss in her home.
And even though it was her, she felt betrayed by dream Peeta. Like his involvement with her dream-self meant he was cheating on her, with her. Oh it was all too confusing but Katniss was hurt, and she wanted answers so she had sat with Peeta each day at lunch. The only time they hadn't seen each other in the last ten days was on the weekend.
Gale had taken to avoiding being at home the same time as her, but she knew when he had been there. The odd pile of laundry added to the basket and food items missing. She didn't miss him, but she did feel a depth of sadness for how awful their relationship had become. How did they get here?
Peeta had told her about his dreams. The world he went to sounded terrible. There was a war raging and poverty was rife. He told her about the games they had been reaped to participate in and how Katniss was deemed their saviour and he was happy to be there with her, fighting for a cause she knew nothing about in this life.
He said he longed to stay in that world, and she wondered why he would want to be somewhere so bleak. Katniss asked him this and his reply was, "Because then I get to stay with you."
Katniss hadn't known how to respond but it became clear to her that in whatever world they both entered in their dream state, Katniss and Peeta were meant to be together.
She wondered about Gale, and whilst she didn't know where he fit in this life, she knew for absolute certain it was not with her. That awkward, awful conversation had to happen soon.
She sat on her bed and gently smoothed the pillow where Gale once slept. She didn't love him anymore, but she still felt sad to say good-bye. For a very long time, she had believed he was the one for her, but how can that be possible when she now longed for someone else? She daydreamed about dream Peeta and she fantasised about real Peeta. It didn't matter what state of mind she was in, she sought him out, every single day.
Gale deserved better than none of her attention. She had nothing to share with him, and no desire to. She thought about where he may be. It could be possible he had found someone else. He was barely home anymore, and rather than the idea of him with someone else evoking jealousy, it made her feel a little better about her new feelings for Peeta.
As usual, Gale wasn't home. The conversation would have to wait. Katniss lay down and let sleep come to her. She was tired of waiting to dream. Tonight, she didn't care if her sleep was filled with Peeta and his world, she just wanted to sleep.
Feeling the bed shift, Katniss sighed and turned expecting to see Gale getting in beside her, but instead of a dark room, sunlight streamed through the windows, the curtains already open.
Peeta lay on his side, his back towards Katniss. She could tell even from this position that he was tense. The Peeta in her dreams was never tense, he was loving and tentative. Something had happened.
"Peeta?" She reached her hand out to touch his shoulder. She half expected him to shun her hand, but he turned to face her. He looked upset.
"You want him more?" he asked her, and Katniss wondered who he was talking about. Who could dream Katniss possibly want more than him?
"No, I -"
"You said you love him."
It wasn't a question. Katniss wanted to know what had happened between them. For some obscure reason she thought this meant if dream Katniss and Peeta were splitting up she may have a chance with him, but how could that even be possible? Every time she dreamt of him, she returned to own world. How could she stay here and have a relationship with someone who wasn't even real?
But it felt real! It felt so real. Right now she was on his bed, touching him, hearing his voice, and unlike a dream everything here made sense. Katniss knew that dreams often made sense when you were experiencing them, that it was only upon waking that you questioned the events and nothing was plausible. But she also knew when she woke up from this dream, it would still feel real, and it would still make perfect sense.
Katniss couldn't think of anything to say to make his hurt go away, so she kissed him.
It began so soft and gentle. He was resisting her, as if wielding to her lips meant he had forgiven her, but Katniss remembered the other dreams when he had touched her and kissed her, and she knew he wouldn't resist for long, and she was right. His arms wound around her body, his chest pressed against hers. Peeta parted his lips and tasted her, moaning quietly, almost like a hum when she increased the pressure and pace.
Katniss ignited at his touch. She knew she would feel it after she woke. When Peeta's hands were on her body, she lost all thought except for how he made her feel.
He released her mouth and moved down her throat, nudging her chin to give him more access.
"You smell different," he murmured.
Katniss didn't know what it was about his words but suddenly it all felt wrong. She pushed against his chest and eventually he moved away from her.
"Bathroom," she answered his unspoken question, and clambered from the bed. She didn't even know where it was, but stumbled into the hallway and looked around. Spying a sink through a half open door, Katniss rushed in, but as she entered the bathroom, she stopped short when she saw herself sitting on the side of the bath, clutching a photograph. Katniss could see the photo was of Katniss and Gale, but it wasn't familiar to her. It wasn't a photo from her own world.
Standing, dream Katniss clutched the edge of sink and then looked up at her, then back at her own reflection. Her eyes grew wide when she realised there were just too many images of herself.
As dream Katniss turned to confront her, she felt a jolt as though someone had shoved the middle of her back, and with a gasp she sat upright in her bed, back in her own world once more.
"Peeta!" She almost shouted, grabbing the sheets and wringing them in her hands. "Dammit!" He would now face a Katniss who didn't want him, and he would be confused by her kiss. She wanted to go back, she needed to go back. Katniss threw herself back down and squeezed her eyes shut, willing her body to connect with that strange current which took hold and pulled her through whatever dimensional doorway her dream world lived.
A bright light blinded her eyes even from behind closed lids, and Katniss grumbled, throwing her arm across her face.
"Answer me!" Peeta sounded angry.
Katniss whipped her arm away and found herself stood in the dream bathroom again, only this time, dream Katniss was not around.
"Peeta," she said, "I can explain."
"Who are you?" he asked again.
Katniss hesitated. In all this time she had never been able to will herself back but this time it had worked, and now he knew she wasn't the girl his dream life was made of.
She had wanted to explain the kiss, she hadn't expected this.
"What do you mean?" She asked him.
"I've seen two of you; two Katniss, one who loves me and one who doesn't. Which one are you?"
"I love you," she told him.
"So why do you always hurt me? You told him you loved him, too."
"It's not like that -" she tried to explain how her feelings for Gale were gone but Peeta interrupted.
"Don't insult me! If you don't love me then leave."
"But I do."
Peeta turned away from her. "I prefer this Katniss to the other. One minute you're all over me, the next you're so distant and telling me this isn't working." Spinning back round, he stepped towards her, and gripping her upper arms he kissed her roughly. Katniss moaned and grabbed the hair at the back of his head.
Peeta broke away from her, his breathing deep and uneven. "I prefer this Katniss," he whispered and captured her lips again, this time with less strength but still as urgent.
It was while he was kissing her that Katniss realised he didn't know about her being from another dimension. When he had said he'd seen two of her, he had meant sides to her personality rather than actual beings. Disappointment filled her as she knew any moment now she would wake up and lose this all over again, not knowing how long it would be before she came back.
"Who are you?" he broke his kiss to ask her again, needing to hear her say she loved him. His lips sought the sensitive skin behind her ear.
"The one who loves you," she told him, "the girl of your dreams."
"I have to find a way to stay," Katniss leaned towards Peeta, and lowered her voice. "I want to stay there and he, well you, want me too, I need to find a way."
Peeta watched her carefully. "You've never spoken so openly about your dreams before," he said. "You usually ask about mine, and sometimes mention your own, but only when I ask, and not like this." He smiled. "I like it when you talk about me like that."
"It's not you," she replied. "It's dream Peeta."
"No, Katniss, it is me. It's me in another world. Another dimension perhaps, but it is me and it is you."
"You sound unsure." Peeta smirked.
"Can you stop making this about me and you." She gestured between them. "It's about me and Peeta. What I share with him is not what I share with you, it's different."
"But it's me." He stopped smirking and lay his hand on top of hers. "We can be like that, you know. What 'we' share," he made quotation marks with his fingers then returned his hand to hers, "it can be real, Kat. It can be here and now and not just in our dreams."
"But I don't feel that way with you." Katniss looked away. She wasn't being completely honest with him. She did feel something when they spent time together, so was he right? Could they have the same relationship as she experienced in her dreams?
"They're not dreams," he told her again.
"Ok, so what if you're right about it being another dimension. Why now? Why are we suddenly crossing over, and why are they not crossing over to our world, and why is the world you go to is different than the one I go to?"
"You have a lot of questions."
"Doesn't anything faze you? Aren't you confused by this? Don't you want answers?"
"I want you."
"You are Katniss."
"I want Katniss. I want you. It doesn't matter to me which world you are from. I go to sleep and you are there. I wake up and you are here. I'm happy either way."
"But what you share with her is not what we share."
"As I said, it can be."
"Don't you see, Peeta, for me, it feels like I'm cheating."
"On me," he stated with a grin.
Katniss gave up. She couldn't explain it.
"Whatever is happening, whatever reason we are now able to cross over, it doesn't matter to me because I can see one thing and one thing only."
Katniss looked into his blue eyes and waited for him to finish.
"You and me, we're meant for each other." It was exactly what Katniss had thought weeks ago.
Before she could reply, Peeta stood up and then leaned down to kiss her. It was tender and he tasted sweet, and she felt a stirring deep inside.
Peeta moved away, and without another word, he left the canteen. Katniss tried not to glance at the curious faces of those co-workers staring. She couldn't answer their unasked questions, because she didn't know what was going on.
If she was meant to be with Peeta, in any world, any dimension, then why was dream Katniss hurting her dream Peeta by leaving him for Gale?
"Don't leave me," Peeta whispered, pressing his body closer, pushing Katniss deeper into the mattress.
"I'm here," she told him. She wanted to say 'I promise' but she knew that wasn't possible as her dreams always came to an end and she would have no choice. Katniss wanted him to know that she wasn't the same girl hurting him. She wanted to tell him she came to him in her dreams, but how could she even begin to?
As his hand moved down her side, gently brushing her breast, Katniss sighed and felt the all too familiar pull of her world calling her home.
She tried to resist. She wanted to stay here. The tug increased, and with a last attempt, she gripped Peeta's head and crushed his lips harder against her own. When she woke at home, would his bed here be empty, or would dream Katniss be receiving his touch?
Katniss needed to know if her leaving him had the same impact on him as it did on her.
"I love you, I love you so much," she told him as waves of giddiness took hold and she felt herself falling.
Feeling a cool breeze against her skin replace the warmth of Peeta, Katniss, keeping her eyes squeezed shut, turned on her side and cried.
"Shall I write him a letter?"
"I'm not sure that would work."
"He could find it when I'm gone, and hopefully understand why things keep changing between us."
Peeta didn't reply. He sat back in his chair and looked around the canteen.
He sighed and looked back over at Katniss. "I think I've found a way to stay."
Katniss couldn't speak.
"I felt the tug, you know, when we're about to wake up, and I resisted it."
"I don't understand."
"I moved. I was sat with you-"
"Her," Katniss corrected him.
"I was sat with you," he ignored her, "and I felt the tug, so I stood up and moved away. It disappeared and I stayed."
"But, you're here now."
"Yeah, it came back, and I went with it."
"So, not a way to stay, but a way to stay slightly longer? You have nothing."
Peeta sighed, and rubbed his hands down his face. "I thought it was something."
"What? Five more minutes was something?"
They both fell silent. The reality of their bizarre situation was pretty overwhelming.
"What if it is another world, a real world like this one, and we have somehow found a doorway through, even if it is only temporary, but what if that doorway closes? What if tonight, we go to sleep and – nothing! We never meet them again?"
"I still have you."
Katniss wished it would be enough for her, but the idea that she wouldn't see him again, in her dreams, left her feeling more lonely than she had felt with Gale.
Katniss sealed the envelope and placed it on the table in front of her. She had told him everything; how she fell asleep and found herself in his world. How she thought it was a dream to begin with and now she wasn't so sure. She explained how the Katniss he knew was not the same person as she, and she was the one who loved him.
It sounded like the ramblings of a crazy woman. Katniss was certain he would reject her the next time she made it through their dimensional doorway.
She got ready for bed, and took the letter with her. She hadn't considered how she would get it through with her she just figured if she fell asleep with it in her hand, it would carry through as well.
Katniss woke with a start. The letter was next to her on the bed, crumpled but still here. She'd had no dreams and the disappointment was palpable.
Five days had passed and no dreams or doorways had opened for Katniss. She avoided Peeta at work, and spent her time at home, laying on her bed, longing for his touch.
All she could think about was what if the doorway had now closed for good. It was a possibility she didn't want to consider for very long. It hurt too much.
A soft knock sounded on her bedroom door, before Gale pushed it open. "Can I come in?"
It was the first time she'd heard his voice in months. "Sure," Katniss sat up on the bed and watched him walk in, and sit by her feet.
"I'm sorry it ended like this, Kat. I always imagined my life with you in it. In a way, I still want that, but I know you don't. I can't fight for you because you don't want me to. I don't know what happened to us."
Katniss nodded. It was the conversation she had been dreading for a while. "I'm sorry too." And to her surprise she started crying.
She cried for who they used to be, and how happy they were, and for the future she thought they had that now vanished like thin air. She didn't know what future was waiting for her, she did know it wasn't with Gale, but she mourned the loss of him all the same.
"Shh," he murmured and scooted closer, pulling her against his chest. His hands stroked her hair and arms, and he held her gently, letting her tears soak through his shirt.
It was some time later when Katniss realised she had fallen asleep in his embrace. His breathing was even and steady which indicated he too had fallen asleep. They were laying back against the pillows, the room dark.
She needed the bathroom, so gently, trying not to disturb him, she moved off the bed and opened the door. Suddenly the room began to spin, and a light shone in her face.
Blinking against the bright intrusion, Katniss noticed both herself, dream Katniss, and Peeta, standing in front of her. They were facing her, and both were speechless as if she had walked in on them mid conversation. Confused, Katniss looked around. Were they in her world or was she in theirs?
Hearing Gale mumble something behind her, Katniss watched her dream-self react to his voice. She looked happy, and her eyes sought him out in the darkness behind her.
The rooms behind them both were the bright rooms of dream Peeta's apartment, and behind her was her own. Somehow, they were all stood in the hall. Was this the doorway to each other's worlds?
Katniss looked from dream Kat to Peeta. He held out his hand towards her. He was asking her to stay. Her; not dream Katniss, but real Katniss, and before she could respond she felt the gentle pull of her world calling her back. It was too soon, and remembering what Peeta had told her, she knew she needed to move. She wanted to take his hand, she wanted to go to him and never let go, so she did. His fingers gripped hers and as she moved to his side, dream Katniss moved past her, looking straight ahead, focused on her own personal goal, she walked into the bedroom, towards Gale, and without a backward glance, dream Katniss closed the bedroom door.
The tug of worlds vanished. She felt sure it had gone, but for how long? Had dream Katniss taking her place in her world severed the line? She didn't know, but she felt like she had come home.
Briefly, she thought of real Peeta, and hoped he would find a way to stay with his dream Kat, but she felt confident he would someday be happy, too. They were meant for each other after all.
Katniss looked up at Peeta, and kissed his jaw.
"Who are you?" He whispered.
"The one who loves you," she replied.
"The girl in my dreams?" he asked.
"Your soul mate," she assured him.