Title: "Mine, Always"
Summary: Katniss and Peeta are reunited in District 13. He's not hijacked and seeing him again makes her realize how much she cares about him.
Length: Approx. 3,500 words
A/N: If Peeta had not been hijacked, here's how I like to think his reunion with Katniss would have gone. Set during Mockingjay.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games.
I keep thinking of Beetee's plan. It was so confusing, but I know that's a good thing. It should mean that our enemies will not be able to figure it out, either. I replay what I do remember, what I could understand, over and over in my head. Knockout gas, a power failure, the detonation of a bomb and disruption of a broadcast. Will those things be enough? Will Gale be able to get to Peeta and return, with both of their lives intact? What is going to happen if I do get them back?
Finnick has assumed the hunched position he was in during the jabberjay attack in the Quarter Quell. I'm on the verge of madness too. Making knots, staying awake, thinking too much. "The Hanging Tree" is stuck in my head now.
"Did you love Annie right away, Finnick?" I ask, because I can't stand the silence any longer.
"No," he says, and then there's a long pause; more silence in the room. Eventually Finnick adds, "She crept up on me."
The only person I can really feel creeping up on me is Snow. But there's nothing else to do, so I keep thinking. I search my heart, and can't help remembering those last kisses on the beach in the arena, the ones I haven't dared let myself consider since the Quell.
What am I doing? It's too soon. He's not here, he's not safe. I can't think about this.
I realize that I have assumed a position similar to Finnick's now. My knees are pressing tightly against my chest and my forehead is resting on them. Hands, balled into fists, are pushing against both sides of my head. I don't know how long I spend like this before I feel other hands pulling at my wrists. Shakily, I lift my head and open my eyes. Finnick's sea green ones are staring back at me with concern.
"Not too hard," he says, releasing his grips on my wrists.
I gingerly rub my temples, which feel sore. I wonder how long I spent like that. Time doesn't seem to have much meaning, but I think it must have taken a while for Finnick to notice me, when he has so much of his own torment to contend with.
"Tell me more about Annie," I say.
"I love her" is all Finnick says.
"How did you know, though? I mean, have you ever loved anyone else?" I persist.
"You know I haven't," he says quietly. I know he's reminding me of the poem he read before the Quell, the one which he clearly stated was written for his one true love.
Love. It's not a word I often use. I love Prim, but other than that…
Finnick's eyes meet mine again and he's almost smiling. "Are you thinking about Peeta?"
"No," I say quickly.
For a second Finnick just stares at me, and then he says, "Would've had me fooled."
"What do you mean?"
"During the Quell, when he hit the force field, you looked the way I would have felt if it had been Annie."
Right. We were talking about Annie. I don't want to talk about Peeta right now, not when he could so easily be dead. But is it cruel to keep bringing up Annie? Maybe Finnick doesn't want to talk about her for the same reason. I can't think of a single other thing to discuss, though.
"Was there a moment when you knew she was the one?" I ask.
"I don't know," Finnick says. He's silent for a few moments, seemingly considering my question. "I don't think so. It was more like a series of moments. I always thought she was beautiful, ever since the first time I saw her."
I nod encouragingly. Listening to Finnick is a good distraction for me and he doesn't seem to mind talking about his past with Annie.
"And then when she was in the Games," he continues, "I started to feel desperate to keep her alive, to help her however I could. Of course, I'd mentored before and I always did my best, but this was different. It was painful to see what happened to her when the guy from our district was killed. I couldn't help it, I felt worse for Annie than I did for him."
I feel riveted by this story and I keep my eyes locked onto Finnick's as he speaks.
"After the Games, she was so different and so fragile. I had to help her however I could. I still felt the mentor-tribute attachment to her. That's what I told myself at the time, at least."
Like Haymitch with Peeta and me. We'd continued spending time with our mentor after the Games and before the Quell, even though we didn't have to. Peeta and I had nothing in common with Haymitch, other than having survived the Hunger Games. But I guess that was enough.
"Looking back on it, I think I loved her for a while before I admitted it to myself. But…" Finnick hesitates and looks away from me.
He smiles just a little, lost in thought, then he speaks again. "I knew…the first time I kissed her. It was different than with anyone else. She made me feel…I don't know how to describe it. But I know I could never feel that way with anyone but Annie."
Hearing those words, I can't help thinking of Peeta. I've kissed him about a thousand times and twice I've gotten a feeling with him. Is that what Finnick is talking about? What causes it? Have I only gotten the feeling because there have been so many kisses? If I'd kissed Gale more times, would I have felt that way with him once in a while?
There are too many questions and not enough answers. I have to remind myself again that Peeta and Gale could both be dead right now. I might lose them both.
It must be after midnight, and tomorrow, by the time Haymitch pushes open the door. "They're back. We're wanted in the hospital." My mouth opens with a flood of questions, but he cuts me off with "That's all I know."
I want to run but Finnick is acting like he's lost the ability to move. I can't leave him here, so I take his hand and lead him as if he's a small child. Through Special Defense, into the elevator and then on to the hospital wing. The place is in an uproar, with doctors shouting and the wounded being wheeled through the halls.
I see Johanna on a gurney. She looks emaciated, is covered in bruises and wounds, and her head has been shaved. This is how she's paid for knowing rebel secrets and helping me during the Quell.
Through a doorway, I catch a glimpse of Gale. A doctor is using a long pair of tweezers to remove something from his shoulder blade. He's wounded, but alive. I call his name and start toward him until a nurse pushes me back and shuts me out.
"Finnick!" Her voice is something between a shriek and a cry of joy. I turn and see her, lovely if somewhat bedraggled, with dark tangled hair and sea green eyes. She's wearing only a sheet and is running toward us. She calls his name again, and suddenly it's as if there's no one in the world but these two, crashing through space to reach each other. They collide, enfold, lose their balance, and slam against a wall, where they stay. Clinging into one being. No one seeing them could doubt their love.
Boggs finds Haymitch and me. "We got them all out," he says. "Peeta's at the end of the hall. The effects of the gas are just wearing off. You should be there when he wakes."
Peeta. Alive and well…though I don't know how well he is, but he's alive and here. Away from Snow. Safe. Here with me. In a minute I'll be able to touch him, see his smile, hear his voice.
Haymitch's grinning at me. "Come on, then," he says.
I'm lightheaded with giddiness. What will I say? Oh, who cares what I say? Peeta won't care. He'll be ecstatic no matter what I do. He'll kiss me and I wonder if it will feel like those last kisses in the arena. I bet it will…I know it will. It will be as if no time has passed at all. I hope he's not as badly wounded as Johanna.
We reach his room and Peeta's awake already, sitting on the side of a bed and looking bewildered as a trio of doctors reassure him, flash lights in his eyes and check his pulse.
"Where is she?" Peeta asks warily.
"I'm here!" I'm disappointed that mine was not the first face he saw when he woke, but he sees it now. His features register disbelief and something else that I can't quite place. Desire? Desperation? Surely both, for he sweeps the doctors aside, leaps to his feet and moves toward me. I run to meet him, my arms extended to embrace him. His hands are reaching for me, to touch my face, I think.
Yes. My lips are just forming his name when I feel both of his hands on my face, gently cradling it. He stares at me with wide eyes. He's in bad shape; not as bad as Johanna but worse than Annie. He looks too thin and his skin is sallow. I run a hand across his hollow cheek, desperate to hold him close to me, but also determined to let him decide how this reunion goes. If he just wants to stare at me for a few seconds, I will not deny him of that. He's been through enough. In fact, I realize I don't want to deny him of anything ever again.
I smile and feel tears welling up in my eyes. I'd thought I might never hear his voice again. I manage to nod. Almost immediately, his lips are crashing into mine and his arms wrap tightly around me, frantically clutching at me. I reciprocate, with one hand on his back and the other behind his neck, holding him as close as I can. I don't ever want to let him go again. The light-headed giddiness isn't fading, it's being amplified. His lips part, and part mine, as our kiss becomes more ardent. I bet both of our mouths will be sore after this, but I don't care. And I don't care that we have an audience.
I'm getting that feeling again. It starts in my chest and begins to spread out. I can't get enough of it, or of Peeta. I don't ever want to let him go. He's thinner and has been hurt badly, but he still loves me as much as ever. He's still mine…and I'm his. A life without Peeta…that is what's unthinkable.
I feel him wince and hear a faint whimper. Nothing but a belief that he's in pain could make me pull back from him. "What is it?" I ask softly, staring at him with wide eyes.
Peeta opens his mouth to speak but can't say a word before one of the doctors takes his arm and leads him back toward the bed and away from me. He sits down and I quickly kneel on the bed beside him, so that I can see as the doctor lifts Peeta's shirt up, revealing a ghastly bruise on his back, right where I was clutching at him. I wonder what they did to him in the Capitol to cause that.
"I'm so sorry," I say quickly. "Why didn't you say something?"
I lean toward Peeta, placing both my hands on his face and kissing him again before he can answer. He seems to be having a hard time breathing. I didn't give him long enough to catch his breath after the last kiss, but still he kisses me back. I force myself to pull away and see Peeta struggling to take deep breaths, but his eyes lock onto mine and he gives me a small, sweet smile.
"I couldn't," he says softly.
I kiss him again, this time on the forehead.
Haymitch starts asking the doctors about Peeta's condition and I have to struggle to listen as I stare into his beautiful blue eyes and watch his smile grow while he stares back at me. I manage to pay enough attention to hear that he is all right. His life is not in danger. He's been hurt badly and will be sore and take some time to recover, but it doesn't seem like there has been any permanent damage done to him.
"The best thing for him, at this point, is rest," a doctor says.
Hearing this, Peeta reaches out and grips my hand. "Will you stay with me, Katniss?"
I feel my smile grow as I tell him, "Of course I'll stay."
I help Peeta lie down under the covers, then I take a seat in the chair next to his bed. We're told that food will be sent in shortly and then a doctor will return to administer morphling. One by one, everyone files out of the room. Haymitch is the last to leave and he gives us one final glance and smile before shutting the door behind him.
"Is this real?" Peeta asks as I take one of his hands and clasp it in both of mine. He's laying on his back, mostly, but is also turned toward me.
"Yes." I lean in and smooth the hair back from his forehead. "It's real."
He's smiling again. "You're real?"
"If you are," I say. I'm having as hard a time as he is, believing that this isn't just a wonderful dream I could wake up from at any moment. But when I lean in to kiss him on the lips again, the way my heartbeat speeds up, and seems to pound all throughout my body, confirms that this is really happening. It's hard to stop, but he seems tired so I force myself to pull away. Besides, looking into his eyes is almost as good as kissing him.
"You look tired," Peeta says, sounding concerned.
It never ceases to amaze me how selfless he is. I'm reminded of when his heart stopped during the Quell and Finnick had to restart it. When he opened his eyes and I began to sob, Peeta looked worried about me. "I've been up all night," I tell him.
Peeta shifts away from me, to the far side of his bed, and then lifts the covers up, inviting me in. I don't have to be asked twice. Within seconds, I've slid in beside him and we're wrapped in each other's arms. A thousand moments surge through me. All the times these arms were my only refuge from the world. Perhaps not appreciated enough at the time, but so sweet in my memory, and now finally returned to me. He leans in and kisses my face over and over before working his way to my lips again.
This kiss, slow and sweet and perfect, takes me aback. I've never known anything to feel so good. It makes me wonder about other things, and feel like I've been missing out.
When we pull apart, he starts to stroke my hair and it takes me a few seconds to compose myself. We stare into each other's eyes and I say, "I've been so worried." Though 'worried' hardly seems an adequate way to describe the torment I've endured since we were separated.
"I was worried about you, too. At first, they wouldn't tell me anything about what happened to you. I was so afraid you were in another cell and they were hurting you, or you were…"
He doesn't need to say the word 'dead,' of course we're both thinking it. How glad we each are that the other isn't dead, after all the close calls we've had. He looks so distraught that I feel compelled to reassure him of how unharmed I am. "I'm fine. I mean, I've been so upset over you and they had to give me a lot of drugs at first, but now I'm just tired." With a smile, I add, "You know I don't sleep well without you."
"You've been sleeping alone, then…?" Peeta asks.
I know I deserve this. I nod. "I share a compartment with my mother and Prim."
Peeta doesn't look consoled.
"I wouldn't," I assure him. "I've never slept with anyone but you…and Prim."
He continues to stare at me questioningly.
"Only you," I say.
He still looks worried and I can't bear it. I can't bear to think that while he was in the Capitol being tortured, and horribly alone, he was also afraid that I wouldn't be here for him if he ever made it back to me. I lean in and kiss him again, and his arms tighten around me. The feeling returns and I realize just what I meant by those last two words. Only you can fight away my nightmares. Only you can make me so happy. Only you can make me feel like this.
Peeta removes his lips from mine in order to kiss my cheek, then down over my jaw and neck before he pulls back away and rests his head on the pillow. That's when I reach up and place my hand on his face, positioning it so that my thumb can stroke back and forth over his cheek.
"I love you," he says. "I love you so much."
I lean forward and press my lips to his, very gently, then smile at him again. "I don't ever want to leave this room," I say without thinking. But, in this moment, I really mean it. If I could stay here with him for the rest of my life, I don't think I'd be missing out on anything…as long as Prim came to visit sometimes. I think I finally know how Peeta felt during the Games, when we were in the cave. I remember him opening his eyes to look at me and it seemed like he would have been happy to stay there forever, as long as he had me to stare at.
"Then don't leave," Peeta says, his arms tightening around me again.
"You'll stay too?" I smile.
Soon enough, a guard brings food for Peeta and waits for him to finish it before taking the empty tray away. A doctor comes in after that and gives him some morphling. Peeta tries to keep his eyes open, so he can continue looking at me, but it's too hard for him. They close slowly and I feel alone. But I'm not alone really, I'll never have to be alone again.
My eyes travel over him, from the blond hair that falls in waves to his smooth forehead. His blond eyebrows and closed eyes, with their long lashes. His cheekbones are more pronounced than usual, but we'll fix that now, now that he's safe. His pink lips, which I know the feel of just as well as the sight of, are curved up just a little in contentment. His smooth jaw line and his neck. The rest of him is hidden by covers and clothes, so my gaze moves back up again. He's so beautiful and looks younger in sleep.
My cheeks are starting to feel sore from all this smiling. I'm not sure how long it takes for me to calm down enough to even think of sleeping, but eventually I'm able to drift off, enveloped in his warmth.
A/N: Thanks for reading!