Disclaimer: I am not nearly genius enough to be Suzanne Collins. The worlds, characters and everything else created in Hunger Games, Catching Fire, and Mockingjay are all hers. I merely bow down in admiration.
A/N: This takes place after Katniss and Peeta return to District 12 at the end of Mockingjay. It's dedicated to my bestie Chloe for encouraging me to put this up.
When I spend too long in my woods, I am overcome. The quiet singing of the mockingjays overwhelms me with memories of Rue's face. I hear Gale's laughter in the rustling of the leaves and I ache for the best friend that is lost to me forever. Some days, I smell the leather of my father's hunting jacket in the earth and I hear his voice on the breeze whispering advice into my left ear. On these days, I feel the need to run away from the shambles of my life.
Now, when I want to run, I can. There are no Capitol hovercrafts patrolling the skies to kill me if I wander too far from District 12. I run aimlessly until I can't catch my breath and then I collapse and think of all the reasons I could leave this world right now and be fine. I would find Prim again….father, Rue, Cinna with his designs, Finnick, the many whose lives were lost because of what I started would be in peace and welcome me home too. As quickly as I've decided I could easily go and join the dead, my mind floods with sunlight and the echoing words and images of my one reason to remain. Peeta.
My lips form unbidden into a smile and I roll myself sideways, my arms wrapped around myself for more than warmth. I am simulating the feeling I have with Peeta. A need to wrap him in my arms and make him feel my love, to make myself sure that somewhere buried inside of him he still loves me. A need to pull myself tighter together so that I don't fly apart and lose the only thing I have and the only thing I want.
I am running again, this time overcome with a fear that too often creeps up on me. What if Peeta can never come back to me? At these times, I run to somewhere I can bury myself deep down in my misery and cry without the ghosts of all those I have wronged watching.
I am huddled on the floor rolling the pearl back and forth across my lips when he finds me. He slides the door slowly open letting in the daylight. He parts the sea of wedding dresses with his hands and looks down at me. I quickly hide the pearl in my fist as he slides down next to me against the back wall of the closet.
"It's almost sunset. It looks like it's going to be a perfect one over the meadow tonight."
"The perfect orange." I mumble, not quite able to meet his eyes. But his eyes hold mine, I know it even if I refuse to look.
"That's right. Even though those colors are gone most of the day, they always come back to remind me they're there, and I love them all over again. Without fail, every day. Even when it storms and we're trapped inside, somewhere above the dark clouds, my orange is there."
I close my eyes and focus on the smooth feel of the pearl in my palm.
"Let's take a walk and catch the sunset." I shake my head, but let him pull me up. My feet feel stuck in the closet, though. I wait for Peeta to pull me forward but instead, with my eyes still closed, Peeta kisses me. My eyes fly open with sudden relief, and then quickly close tight again, as if I'm afraid to jinx the moment.
This isn't the first kiss since we returned to district 12, not by a long shot. For months now we've been exchanging tentative kisses. A peck at the end of a long night of talking. A soft comforting kiss after we pass the rubble of our former lives. A long, lingering kiss when one of his memories comes back, the kind that leaves us both breathless and grasping each others faces for foundation.
But this time, as we give in to the comfort and the safety of the kiss, Peeta runs his hand down the length of my arm to entwine his hand with mine, pulling me closer with the other. Instinctively, I drop what I'm holding to free my hand for his. I hear the pearl drop to the ground and roll across the wooden floors to the back corner of the closet. Peeta's lips still and he pulls away.
"No," I whisper pleadingly, breathless. I'm not ready for this kiss to be over. I don't know how long it will be until our next one, until Peeta has spent long enough absorbed in real memories to know it's safe.
He keeps hold of my hand, but bends down to retrieve what I've lost. I'm anxious, waiting for his mind to slip silently away and back to a place where he can't look at me for fear and uncertainty. He crouches down with his back to me and puts the pearl in the palm of his hand. I tug at his arm impatiently when he still doesn't rise after several seconds. He gives a slight shake of his head, and then slowly stands to face me, although his eyes remain locked on the pearl. I can see the thoughts, confusions and memories flying past his open eyes and I know he is about to pull back. I try to grab the pearl out of his hand to still the lies and preserve our moment, but his hand closes around mine and his eyes slide up from our hands to meet mine.
"Katniss," he says, followed by nothing.
He doesn't need to say anything more. I see something firm and fierce and bitter slide away from his eyes, a layer that has been breaking down for ages, a film that is now disappearing forever, and I choke back a sob. Suddenly, his touch feels warmer and I know. He is back for good.
His face breaks into a smile more mesmerizing, more hopeful than I've seen in months…no, than I think I've seen in ever. And when he leans back down to kiss me our kisses turn quickly from tender to desperate to passionate. The tentativeness we've held onto is gone, replaced by the joy of reunion. Somehow, we've pressed back into the wedding dresses, tangling our limbs with veils and trains. I howl and then began to laugh wildly when a stray pin left in one of the sleeves stabs me in the shoulder. Every emotion I feel is intensified so that my heinous laughter turns to a soft moan when Peeta kisses the small bump where the pin jabbed me, and then proceeds to kiss every inch of my skin. The sky behind my eyelids is glowing orange and it's swallowing me whole and that's all I can ever remember wanting at this moment.
I wake hours later on the pillow of his arm, on a bed of wedding dresses. Although sunset has long since passed and the closet is dark as the night, I feel bright and warm from the inside out.