A/N: Thank you so much for all the responses to the last chapter, and for waiting patiently for this one. Now that I've finished my post grad course, I will be able to spend more time writing.
Thank you to my lovely beta, Bookgeek80. She edited this in record time, and I am very grateful for all her help.
Hope you enjoy!
Control and Memory
"How long do you stay out here for?" I asked Peeta as he sketched. We'd been outside for just over half an hour, and the silence and stillness was already getting to me. I wanted to move, to do something productive now that I was out here. My hunting instincts were going into overdrive, my eyes picking out the few victims I was aware of. Peeta didn't seem to have noticed my twitching as I sat with my back against a tree.
"As long as I need to," he replied, not looking up. I sighed, closing my eyes as I let my head fall back against the tree.
"I told you to bring a book." I opened my eyes to see him smiling at me, a half finished but already stunning drawing on his lap.
I ignored his comment and smug look and stood, stretching as I did.
"I'll be here," Peeta said, looking back down at his drawing, his interest fading away from me instantly. I halted in my step, not sure if I should stay or leave. It had been his idea to ask me to go with him, and I'd wanted to. I wanted to see him draw, understand what he did. But I just couldn't cope with the silence.
I walked quietly, without paying attention to where I stepped. My feet knew these woods as well I did, there was nowhere unfamiliar to me. Although my eyes scanned the trees and long grasses automatically looking for creatures, I had no desire to hunt. It was an odd feeling. Hunting was all that I knew, one of the few talents I had. It had kept me alive, and relatively sane. Instead, I just walked, wandered through for a while, my mind blank. Eventually, my feet began to ache, and they took me back in a circle to Peeta.
I stopped short of where we'd been sitting, my eyes zoning in on where I'd expected to see him. Instead his body was crouched over, slumped in an unnatural angle. I was running before my mind had caught up, blood pounding in my ears, my mouth moving without sound.
Please please please please...
"Peeta!" I cried, slamming my body into his as I reached him. He jerked on impact, and the two of us tipped over onto the grass, me landing awkwardly on my right elbow, but somehow still on top of him.
His eyes were unfocused and bleary, but obviously tainted with fear.
"What is it, what's wrong?" his voice was low, as if waiting for something to pounce. It was only then that I regained my sense, and stood shakily.
He'd fallen asleep. That was all. Not dead, not hurt, not dying. My heart slowed and I turned away from him, embarrassment emerging out of my panic.
I turned and realised I'd not explained my actions. I swallowed, regarding Peeta, who was still frozen in fear and confusion.
"Sorry," I answered, standing up, and brushing myself down. Peeta slowly unfroze, and stood alongside me.
He reached out and took my hand as he spoke, offering comfort even though I'd probably scared him. Peeta still wasn't good with shocks and unexpected movements. He panicked, sometimes reacted too quickly. It had probably taken a huge amount of restraint for him to stay as still as he had been. I squeezed his hand once, revelling in the warmth and comfort he was offering. I dropped his hand though, knowing I needed to concentrate- something I found hard to do with him touching me.
I opened my mouth, part of me wanting to explain. The problem was, that even if I could admit that it was out of fear that he had been killed while I was away, I couldn't explain why I'd felt that way. I knew the difference between sleeping and a dead body, even from a greater distance than I'd been at. I couldn't understand it myself let alone explain to Peeta what had happened. So I shook my head.
"I made a mistake. It's nothing. Sorry I woke you."
"It's... it's fine. Maybe we should go back," Peeta said as he began to collect his belongings. I closed my eyes in frustration for a moment, feeling stupid and guilty for making him leave. But I couldn't force myself to say anything. All I could do was fall into step beside him, and try not see dead things.
"I thought he was dead. It was more than that though... I felt he was dead. And I couldn't see past it, couldn't take a moment to actually think and make sure I knew what was happening." I sat on the floor, the phone resting on my shoulder as I spoke to the doctor.
"Do you usually need a moment?"
I paused. "No. I always know. I'm always right, it's instinct. My instinct has never failed before, so I was sure... sure he was dead."
The doctor was silent as I mulled through what I'd just said. I'd been wrong. Completely wrong, even though I knew at the time I was right.
"I'm scared," I whispered.
"I should have known... should have realised but I didn't. That's never happened before."
"Are you scared because you lost control of the situation, or because you weren't sure
if what you were seeing was right?"
I tried to think of an answer.
"Both? The only thing I've ever been able to control is myself, and what I see. But I lost control and misunderstood."
Which is exactly what happened to Peeta.
The thought struck me without warning, and remained with me throughout the conversation. For the first time, I actually understood a little of what it must feel like to be him. More importantly, I understood how my reactions to him since his memory had been affected must have felt. And that struck me more than my fear of losing control.
Focus was something that I'd always had. My focus was absolute, reliable, and helped the three of us survive when my mother couldn't cope. I'd always though it was a positive attribute, something I could almost be proud of possessing. But now, I wasn't so sure. My field of vision had always been narrow, never really bringing someone else into the picture unless it was necessary
to my focus. It was how I'd hurt Peeta, and Gale. And now I was beginning to see that. A single minded focus when fighting for survival was essential. When not, it transformed into isolation and selfishness. Or at least that's how it now seemed to me.
I sat on the roof, writing down as much as I could remember of what had happened today. It seemed to important to understand how I'd felt and what I'd done. I didn't want to wake up days from now and act as if it had never happened.
"I thought I'd find you here."
I smiled, not looking up as Peeta sat beside me.
"Why is that?"
"You always go to high ground when something's bothering you."
This was true, and I smiled, finishing off my last sentence with a scratch of my pen. I looked up, and he smiled, his hair whipping into his eyes. It was almost as long as my own. I looked down, the distance between the ground and where we were seemed further in the dark. I sighed, and carefully handed the paper to Peeta. I felt him stiffen next to me.
"What's this?" he asked. I understood his confusion, my written had been my most treasured secret up until now.
"Just read it," I replied, deciding it would be easier to explain afterward.
Peeta obliged without another word, silence falling between us. I focused on the sights I could still see in the shadows. The memorial; the focal point of everything that could be seen for miles. The forest, the shadows of the trees and the dark that swallowed all else. I listened as Peeta's fingers crinkled the paper as he held it, and I could almost hear the words coming off the page and into his mind.
The sound of paper being put down jolted me from my thoughts. I couldn't quite bring myself to look at him.
I felt him move closer, edge his body toward mine before he spoke.
"It's an easy mistake to make, Katniss. I know it's you, and you're usually so right about these things. But it happens. It's okay that it happens. You should have said something."
I exhaled, feeling something inside me snap at the simple answer. It was okay. It happened. That was how Peeta saw it, and on some level, exactly what I needed and wanted to know. That it was okay. I needed to know I could make a mistake, such a small error, and nothing would happen. Someone wouldn't die, and it didn't matter anymore. Not everything was balanced on me having complete control. It was terrifying, wonderful, and confusing. I wasn't sure if I wanted to be sick or celebrate.
Instead, I leaned to my right, resting my head on Peeta's shoulder. He made a jerking movement, obviously not expecting my reaction. But he curled his arm around me automatically, which wasn't quite comforting, but not quite frightening either.
We stayed like that for a while, until our limbs went numb and I felt as if I'd become part of the house itself. Peeta was the first to move, guiding me upwards when my legs folded, and holding my hand as we made our way back into the warmth. I twisted my body, attempting to force my legs to behave once more.
"Why do you write?" he asked, passing me a steaming mug that I didn't ask for. I took it gratefully.
"Why do you draw?"
He smiled, but didn't answer the question. Deflection obviously wasn't going to work tonight.
I sighed heavily, slumping down into an armchair, wishing it would take me somewhere I was comfortable. I knew this conversation had to happened, but it didn't mean I liked it.
"I don't want to forget anything. It's easier to write it down than anything else. I don't think that I can afford to forget anything, not after what's happened. Not after what we've seen."
Peeta didn't say anything, and I looked away, feeling the urge to get up and leave the room. I looked everywhere but his face until my eyes refocused back on him once more. As I did, he smiled, a small but encouraging expression that was both devastatingly sad and hopeful in the same moment.
"We spent years reading about The Games," he began quietly, his words not what I expected to hear. "We read false histories, and thought District 13 had been destroyed in the war. Obviously, that wasn't true. Memories can... change." His voice broke, and I wanted to reach out, do something as it did, but I wasn't sure if he would let me. "I think writing down what we remember, and what we continue to remember is a... it's a good idea."
I stared at him, wondering how he always managed to say everything I wanted to in a way I never could. Before I could even attempt to form a reply, he spoke again.
"Can you write about it?"
"Everything. Anything. From before."
I shook my head, noticing that he didn't want to mention what before was anymore than I did.
"It took me ages to even write Prim's name. I suppose I might be able to write something. Small things. I hope it changes with time. Writing is easier than talking about it, but it's still not easy."
Peeta nodded, and I knew that out of the few people in my life, he really did understand some of what I was going through. It seemed stupid now that I'd been so resistant about talking to him about everything.
"Nothing is ever easy," he offered and I laughed.
We sat in silence, absorbing everything that had just passed between us. Eventually, Peeta stood, and for a moment, I thought he was going to leave me. Words of protest caught in my throat as instead, he came and sat beside me, determination clear in his face. I didn't say anything, but leaned into his side once he was seated, no longer sure if I was doing this for him or for me. There didn't seem to be a difference anymore.
"I was thinking about the plant book," he began, and I sat up in confusion.
"What about it?"
He hesitated, and I recognised the look on his face. He was trying to find the exact words to say. I waited patiently, he would find them eventually.
"I thought that maybe we could make our own. Not about plants, but about the past. Everything that we've seen and done. A memory book."
The words entered my mind and stuck there, growing and changing as he waited for a reply. A book dedicated to all that could be, but shouldn't be forgotten. Something that could help us, and maybe help others who won't remember what happened in the rebellion and The Games. One to stop us forgetting, and help us separate the real from the unreal.
"A memory book. I like it." I said, smiling at Peeta, then leaning back down against him. This time, he wrapped an arm around my shoulders, holding me close and not letting go.