This is my first attempt at a fic for The Hunger Games. So please be gentle! :o)
This fic is certain moments in time for Peeta and Katniss set after Mockingjay. I liked the idea of exploring a bit further into their life after the rebellion.
Warnings: This fic IS T-rated, but there are a couple sexual situations. They aren't overly-descriptive - in keeping with the rating - but I just wanted to put that out there if you happen to be a younger reader. It's relatively minor, but it is there.
This will be a multi-chapter… I'm not positive how many chapters, but I'd wager around 4, maybe. I'm hoping to update once a week, maybe even sooner if it works out. So there you have it… hope you enjoy and as always… reviews are wonderful!
No creature is fully itself till it is, like the dandelion, opened in the bloom of pure relationship to the sun, the entire living cosmos. – D. H. Lawrence
I stared at the ashes of my little sister, horrified beyond any sense of normality as the scream built in intensity. It lodged in my throat, and I was unable to let it loose. I ran toward the ashes, wanting to hold on to any vestige left of Prim.
The muttations from my first Hunger Games advanced on me, not allowing me to pass to get to her. I desperately needed to get to her.
I grabbed an arrow and set it arcing straight into the eye of the mutt closest to me and when it fell with a horrid growl it was Rue. "No!" I choked, letting loose more arrows in anger and grief at the other mutts, but they all turned into someone I had come to care for.
Rue. Cinna. Finnick. Darius. Madge.
Sobbing at the sight of my dead friends' I still tried to run to Prim, but her ashes fluttered in the breeze and blew away before I could reach them.
The scream that was lodged in my throat broke free and the piercing shrieks rent the air.
My body jackknifed upward, my throat burning as the screams continued clawing their way out. The door of my bedroom flew open as I struggled frantically with the sheets twisted around my body.
"Katniss," a soft voice said. "Sssh, I'm here. You're okay."
I fought against the arms, lashing out in fear as thoughts of mutts and President Snow tried to swamp my mind. Finally, the tone and familiarity of the voice penetrated the fog of fear that had settled over me. I would know that voice anywhere, and I began to relax.
The tears rolled down my cheeks in an unending stream as Peeta cautiously wrapped his arms around me. I sank into his sturdy warmth as I cried over the loss of the many lives of people I loved; especially Prim. Sweet, loving Prim.
"I'm never going to be okay," I managed to say through my tears. "I keep dreaming of her, of losing her, and it hurts Peeta. It hurts so much I can hardly stand it."
He held me tightly, stroking the damp strands of hair clinging to my forehead back, until I was too worn out to do anything but lie limply against him.
"How did you even know?" I mumbled. My eyelids felt heavy as exhaustion hit me.
"I heard you, Katniss. I wasn't sleeping," he whispered. "I'll replace the window by your door tomorrow."
I smiled a little at his determination to get to me as we sank down onto my bed. "Will you stay? It might help you get some sleep," I whispered. I knew he saw through that – I wanted him to stay for selfish reasons – but I just wasn't good at saying what I really wanted to say.
"Of course," he whispered back without even a blink of his eye, and I felt the brush of his lips against my forehead.
He tightened his arms around me, and I rested my head in the crook of his neck and shoulder. I felt better with the comfort of his steady warmth next to me again, the thump of his heart in my ear, and felt myself drifting into a sleep where nightmares didn't quite reach me.
This was how Peeta and I began sleeping together again.
Our lives continued to move on and we tried to deal with the grief together. Peeta began baking again, though most of the time he spent doing so was in one of our houses, while a new bakery was being built. He planned to take over his father's duties as the town's baker and was waiting for the project to be completed.
In the meantime, I was happy with the smell and supply of his cheese buns. He also spent a lot of time painting; he had supplies in his home and some at mine.
We had decided after some time that we should make another book to remember all of our friends by the one day, and we had started work on it immediately. We assembled the pages and sifted through photographs we had managed to procure recently. I was flipping through pages one morning in Peeta's kitchen - after a restless night for the both of us - as Peeta sketched a picture of Annie and Finnick with their arms wound around each other.
One more page flip, and I was frozen. Prim stared back at me.
Peeta had drawn her and the likeness was astounding. She had her arm around Lady, the goat's nose touching her cheek, and her smile was bright as the sun. Her beautiful, innocent smile shone and suddenly I was shoving the chair back in my haste to get up. My stomach rolled in grief and sickness.
"Katniss?" I heard Peeta call out loudly behind me as I rocketed out of his house and back toward my own.
The blood rushed through my head, and I felt faint. In my own house, I crashed into a side table, sending it to the floor. Up the steps, into my bedroom, I spun around wildly, trying to escape the pain nipping at my heels.
The memories were going to eat me alive.
The closet door was nearly ripped off its hinges as I flung it open. A vague memory of huddling in one in the Capitol had me burrowing into a nest of clothing on the floor. The shaking started and the gasps coming from my throat burned and ached as silent tears fell from my eyes.
The dark and silence cocooned me, and I huddled deeper into the piles of clothing, trying to fight the urge to vomit.
I desperately wished I had some morphling, but all I had were the sleeping pills and the pain pills for my burns. It didn't take long for Peeta to find me, and I balked at coming out, so he came in with me. His arms wrapped around me, and after a moment's hesitation, I rested my forehead against his chest.
He just held on to me as I brought myself back slowly. "Katniss, we don't have to…" he started to say, but I interrupted.
"I want to," I said my voice hoarse. "It was just… that picture…"
We stayed huddled in the piles of clothing as my breathing returned to normal. We would go back and work on the book; it was too important not to.
"I have to remember," I whispered.
Peeta and I had started growing even closer together as time passed. Haymitch was the one to point out the difference. He was at the house, giving us his memories of friends who had been in the arena in previous games, and reeking of white liquor.
"You know you two are the talk of the town," he slurred.
I glanced over at him. "What do you mean?" I asked.
He chuckled and pointed at us. "Sleepovers, sweetheart, sleepovers. So the girl on fire and the baker's son are back together?"
I glared at him. "No," I snapped. "And it's not as if it were any of your business anyway."
He stumbled as he got up. He took another swig of the white liquor he carted around with him.
"Whatever the case may be, you two are becoming interesting again." He sniggered once more and then banged into various pieces of furniture on his way out the door.
Peeta's eyes were downcast when I glanced up. He hadn't said a word, and I felt the guilt start to eat away at me. We had never talked about our relationship, or pretend relationship, but I could see now his feelings were still very much the same as they had been previously.
"Peeta…" I started to say, uncertainty and annoyance warring within me at not knowing how to make this right, but he stood and cut me off.
"I'm fine, Katniss," he said and turned to leave the kitchen.
I sat with my head bowed, unable and maybe a little unwilling to go after him, and I heard my front door open and close. My hands cradled my head as I told myself the last thing I needed right now was to become involved with Peeta. We were both so lost and after everything that had happened I felt guilty at trying to find some happiness for myself.
It was nearing sunset the next day when I finally managed to grudgingly drag myself over to Peeta's house. My excuse was to take him the leftover stew that Greasy Sae had prepared for me for dinner since he didn't eat with me earlier. It was a flimsy excuse, but I tried not to examine the real reasons too closely.
I knocked lightly on the door, but I heard nothing.
Frowning, I tried to peer in the window, but it was when I was turning around and trying to swallow my disappointment, that I heard a crash and a muffled cry.
"Peeta!" I called out loudly.
The door was unlocked, so I shoved it open and ran inside in my haste to find out what happened. My heart banged in fear at what I saw as I skidded around the corner.
He was in the kitchen, his hands gripping the table, a bloodied knife lying next to him. My mind flashed to the arena, but I shook my head to clear the cobwebs. He had only been baking; it was an accident. His head was bent, and I knew he was having one of his moments that came after the hijacking.
Without another thought about it, I wrapped my arms around him from behind. My hands gripped his arms, my body pressed firmly against him, and I rested my forehead against his shoulder blades.
His breathing eased moments later, and I felt his hands reach for mine. Our fingers entwined, we stayed like that, and I rested my cheek against his strong back. I could hear his soft inhale and exhale of breath and it was comforting.
He finally turned so we were facing each other. I cleaned his hand under the faucet and pulled out his first-aid kit and efficiently wrapped his hand in a bandage. His face had lost the horrible tightness as the memories of his capture and torture overtook him, but he still looked a little troubled. I urged him to take one of his pills for the headaches he sometimes got afterward.
I wondered at my need to make sure he was okay. I didn't like seeing him like this; it reminded me too much of how much he suffered at the hands of President Snow.
"Katniss," he finally said quietly. "There was never a baby. Real or not real?"
"Real," I whispered. I had never realized that would be something he was unsure about and it broke my heart to see the flash of loss on his face.
"We were only in bed together to sleep," he said. "Real or not real?"
I rested my cheek on the spot on his chest where I had always rested my head. The thump of his heart under my ear was reassuring.
"I'm sorry about earlier," I mumbled. "It's just…"
He interrupted. "It's okay, Katniss… you don't have to explain…"
I laid my finger on his lips; they were full and smooth to the touch. Peeta's life was interwoven with mine to the point that I wasn't sure where I began and he ended. To be happy meant to let go of some of the grief that was so ever present in my life and try to let someone else in.
I wanted to do that, but up until now it had felt as if I were betraying the memories of those I had loved because they had lost their lives and I hadn't. I was beginning to understand that they would have wanted me to live, to be happy, and to honor their loss that had afforded me the opportunity for a peaceful life. Did I deserve Peeta? The boy who stood for all that was good in the world could be my dandelion in the sun if I just let my guard down.
When I heard the crash and saw the blood, I had felt something snap inside me. It was instantaneous, and I realized then and there that I didn't want to lose Peeta because of my insecurities and fears.
Peeta's beautiful blue eyes were looking at me quizzically, so I said, "We were too consumed with other things to really think about being together, and I was scared. But maybe we should try."
I ended up sounding awkward and couldn't quite meet his eyes at first.
When I finally looked up, I saw the light of happiness in his eyes and that was enough for me to know this was the right decision. After that conversation, not only did his arms comfort me at night, but so did his lips.