Full Summary: "Not like this," Haymitch says. "He wanted it to be real." Missing moment from Catching Fire – Katniss suggests the public marriage proposal / drabble written for angel_gidget
Disclaimer: It all belongs to Suzanne Collins. Sadly, I don't own Peeta Mellark or Katniss Everdeen.
The victory tour is almost at an end when the time comes for radical action.
The day starts as every other day has. With press junkets and publicity shoots and yet more public appearances to greet our adoring fans. It passes in a blur. It's only at the end of the day when we can finally be ourselves.
As we're rushed from the car to the entrance of the training centre, Peeta pauses. He bends down as if he's tying his shoelaces, and I slow down to wait for him. Effie huffs impatiently and herds us through the doors muttering something about our schedule. Peeta waits until we're in the elevator, away from prying eyes, before presenting me with an easily familiar bright yellow flower. One that brings back so many memories. Memories that make my heart clench uncomfortably.
"You like dandelions," he explains.
I accept the tiny flower with a smile. I have no idea how he knows this. I wonder if he realises what the yellow weed means to me. I wonder if I should tell him, but then decide against it. It'll only cause us both more confusion.
"Thank you," I say instead.
He smiles and my heart clenches again. Sometimes I wish moments like these were recorded and shown on live T.V. for the whole of Panem to see. Because I know that the only way to convince the world of the reckless, childish love Snow wants them to believe is through the real, natural moments like these. And yet, at the same time, I want to keep this moment buried inside me forever and never tell a soul.
Effie ushers us out of the elevator before either of us can say another word. We sit in obedient silence in the dining room as she rattles off the schedule for tomorrow, reminding us both that we need to get plenty of rest before our important interview with Caesar Flickerman tomorrow. Haymitch lumbers in, a half-empty glass in his hand. The mention of Caesar fills me with dread. I've given this final interview a lot of thought over the last few days. I know Peeta and I must raise the bar with our shows of affection if we want to keep Snow happy. And I think I know how.
I wait until Effie runs out of steam and bids us goodnight before voicing my thoughts to Peeta and Haymitch. "I had an idea," I tell them. They both look up.
"For tomorrow. A last-ditch attempt to calm the masses. To appease Snow."
Peeta looks at me questioningly. Haymitch stares at me impassively, like he already knows what I'm about to say.
"A proposal," I announce.
Haymitch sighs and tips his glass back, draining it of liquor.
"A proposal," Peeta repeats. He's not looking at me anymore. He's staring at the polished coffee table.
"Yes," I say. "A public one. On live T.V. It's the only option we have left. Perhaps we can slip it into our interview with Caesar tomorrow – he's sure to give you the perfect opening."
Peeta nods. "Yeah. Okay then, Katniss."
Haymitch is watching Peeta now, but when he speaks his words are for me. "You really think that'll be enough, sweetheart?"
I honestly don't know. My silence tells them as much.
Peeta stands abruptly. "I'm tired," he says. "I'll see you both tomorrow."
"Goodnight," I say. Haymitch grunts a farewell. We both watch him walk away, his head still bent, soft blonde hair obscuring his eyes. We're both silent as we listen to Peeta's door click closed.
"Well," Haymitch says abruptly. "That went as well as to be expected."
I don't answer. Although I know that Peeta will follow through tomorrow and that if we fail I will be able to turn to him for comfort at the end of the day, I still feel the dread settle in my stomach. I stare out the window at the setting sun.
"It's five o'clock," I realise suddenly. "We haven't even had dinner yet."
Haymitch nods. I glance along the corridor, where Peeta's door stays resolutely shut.
"Don't," Haymitch says gruffly, knowing what I'm thinking. "Just leave him be."
"He can't be going to sleep, not yet. And he's probably hungry – "
"I mean it, Katniss," Haymitch orders. "Leave him."
I'm not completely obtuse. I know that if Peeta wants to be alone, he's probably upset –my suggestion has hurt him somehow. But perhaps the sleepless nights have addled my brain, because his reaction makes no sense to me.
"I thought he wanted it anyway," I say.
Haymitch fixes me with a cold stare, as if he can't quite believe how dull-witted I am. "Not like this," he says. "He wanted it to be real."
It takes a while for the words to sink in. Once they're out there, I can't believe how thoughtless I've been. "Oh," I say.
Haymitch rolls his eyes and rises in the direction of his room, presumably in search of another drink to pass the time from now until dinner. I know he's right – that if Peeta is upset, my presence will only make things worse. But I wish I could explain myself properly. Sit down and tell him that I'm only doing this to keep him safe. To keep everyone I love safe. That I don't mean to hurt him or Gale, but hurting them both is sadly unavoidable.
I look down to see Peeta's dandelion still lying in my palm. It's a perfect yellow sun. I can't help but be reminded of the eleven-year-old boy who gave me hope when I was ready to give up. The boy who took a beating for me before I even knew his name. Back then in the simpler days when we watched each other from afar.
He must think me heartless now.
Am I? I'm not sure. The thought of Peeta sitting alone in his room, hurting because of me brings me more pain than I even thought possible. I want him to be happy. I want to make him happy. But this need is different to anything I've ever felt for Prim or Gale and I'm not sure what it means. I'm not sure I'll ever know what it means.
I let the flower fall to the table and follow Peeta's lead, locking myself in my room and refusing to come out for dinner when Effie knocks sharply on my door.
The next morning, the dandelion is withered and dry.