A/N Here's my first real Hunger Games fic, written for SneverusSnapers's one-shot challenge. I hope you enjoy it; I personally think it turned out pretty well. Please review!

Rated K-plus for violent references

Disclaimer I do not own The Hunger Games or any associated characters, events, etc.


Every night, after the kids are in bed and the lights are off, after Peeta's asleep and the house is quiet, I lie awake. I can hear his steady breathing and feel his warmth next to me, and if I close my eyes, I can just imagine that we're back in the arena—not the horrific jungle arena with its clock of terrors, but the first one, the one where I first really got to know the blond-haired baker's son that is now my husband. I still feel like that sixteen-year-old whose only wish was to get out alive, to return to the family that's now completely dead. Prim went in the ruthless bombing that I will forever hate the memory of President Coin for, and my mother, just a few years ago, during a particularly harsh bout of flu. Even that mangy old cat is dead as of last spring. It almost saddens me to think about. Almost.

I have a new family now, one that consists of Peeta and our children. Somehow, things aren't as hard for him. He can live, laugh, bake bread, go on reallyliving life instead of moving passively through it, even as his honey-colored hair begins to lose its luster and the little lines that form around his eyes during his near-constant smiles remain there even in the most serious moments. It's hard to believe that we're aging, but we are. Both of us. I realized this the other morning, when I was brushing through my hair and came across a stray silvery strand. I rubbed it between my fingers, and glanced up at the mirror before me, thinking. My face really was changed, and I looked more like my late mother now than anyone else, least of all the me that I remember the most.

Now I lie in silence, watching the slow rise and fall of Peeta's blurry silhouette. His steady breathing is the only thing I can hear in the room, other than the constant hum of the radiator, which by now is as normal as the sensation of my own heartbeat. There's a cold sort of light glimmering outside the window, the type of light that isn't supposed to be there in a natural winter. If I were in the woods right now, like I am so often, my surroundings would be pitch black. But I'm not in the woods. I'm in the victor's house that's been my prison for twenty-five years, a quarter of a century, and there's all matter of streetlights outside, illuminating places that should be dark, their chilly beams bouncing off the sound-muffling blanket of white and piercing through our glass window, casting everything into a diffused black-and-white glow. I sit up gradually, the bedsprings creaking under me in protest, and lean forward, over Peeta's shoulder, so that I can squint out the window. It really is magical out there. Snowflakes twist and swirl into little celestial columns, glittering coldly, and the white heaps piled along the sides of the drive seem almost to radiate silence. Peaceful is a good word for it. It's like a calming toxin for my brain, and I find my eyes drifting shut even as I remain upright.

Blood—screams—Clove with her knife—Cato torn up by mutts—Rue's huge eyes begging for help—Mags twitching and collapsing to a heap—Finnick's last desperate reach—Prim's small figure being replaced by a blinding explosion of orange fire and gray smoke—

My eyes flash open, and I find that I'm still sitting upright, though the silence has been pierced by harsh, gasping breaths that are issuing from my mouth. I try to push myself off the bed, but the sheets have twisted around me, and for a moment they're not sheets, but netting, and then I'm Rue, screaming and screaming my own name—Katniss! Katniss!—as the District 1 boy approaches me with a spear, a long spear that's going to pierce through my flesh in seconds, seconds—

"Katniss. Shush," Peeta whispers. My screeches are reduces to small, weak whimpers, as I realize where I really am. He's ripped the sheet away from me, and there it is, pooling on the ground and the foot of the bed. His arms, strong even in his age, are tight around me, and I take a long, shaky breath. I must have never woken up properly; I haven't had a waking nightmare that vivid since the first few months after we began living together. Hot tears roll down my face, and my lips stutter, forming hesitant words.

"Did they hear?"

I feel the rumble of his chest as he speaks. "Probably. But it's all right, Katniss. They know not to worry."

His reassurance only makes me feel worse. Who am I, to raise children that won't feel fear at the sound of their mother's incessant screams in the middle of the night? If not for Peeta, my whole sad attempt at a family would be such a wreck at this point. He's the only one who could have been the one who could support not only me, but two children. I owe him so much. So much that I'll never be able to repair.

"I—I'm horrible," I whisper, my rough throat turning it into a rasp.

"No, you're not," he promises me with an amazing sort of gentle conviction. He stands up, still holding me to him, and brings us over to the window I was looking out earlier. The snow is still spiraling down silently. "Watch," he murmurs to me. "Watch the snow fall."

I do. It's beautiful how each unique little flake will drift into its place on one of the mounds, blending in like it was always meant to be there. My tears keep coming, but the sobs cease. I extend a hand and place it against the cold glass. A chilling layer of moisture has settled on it, but I don't move. Then Peeta copies my action, only instead of laying his palm on the window, he settles his against mine, and the warmth feels so good, so perfect. I inhale and exhale a few times, letting the air course through my body. And, even though I know the nightmares will come back, it's enough to sit here, with the soundless winter world before me and Peeta's solidness behind, with the icy glass seeping through my hand.

It's enough to watch the snow fall.