My first fanfic ever-multiple chapters and juicy lemons coming!
Set after Mockingjay but pre-epilogue.
She couldn't believe her eyes when she saw him planting the primrose bushes. She didn't know what to think. She had avoided thinking for so long the act of seeing him seemed tedious.
He glanced up at her as she looked at him and offered her an expression that wasn't quite a smile.
"I thought she might like this," and he quietly went back to his task.
She continued to mutely watch his strong arms wield the shovel in a repetitive motion. He looked as healthy as she supposed someone could coming out of the mess they had. He was thin but certainly not as thin as she had seen him before. His hair was hanging into his eyes and she could see some of the scars marked my mismatched skin over the parts of him that were uncovered.
He was surreptitiously watching her below his eyelashes. He had always hoped they would be reunited in some alternative universe where the Games and the Capital and the carnage didn't exist anymore. Where they were free to be together, without horrible and pretend memories. He had held onto that small hope for so long it defined a part of him. Now that he was here he was afraid that everything had been too much. He knew he felt like a different person but knew it wasn't just from the hijacking. Katniss must feel it too. He knew he felt something for her but emotions were still sometimes hard for him to sort through. He had been madly in love with her once but wondered if she could ever return his love now, if she couldn't back then. They had been through so much together and yet apart.
He observed her thin frame and the rumpled clothes that completely covered her but didn't conceal the bones poking through in some places. Her hair was a matted mess that looked like it had once been in a braid. It had grown out since he had seen her so many months ago but because of the fire was still shorter than she normally wore it. Her grey eyes looked haunted like she couldn't decide what to think. He turned his full attention back to the task at hand and made a decision. He would pick up the pieces of his life by doing what he had been doing his whole life—by helping her survive. If along the way he found himself again he would consider that a bonus. If she thought about him romantically in the future…but that was too hard to contemplate.
As he made his silent decision she seemed to be overcome with whatever emotions she was feeling and she ran back inside.
More like stumbled back inside—her limbs were sluggish from months of misuse. She felt lost. He was back but his presence made her feel and hurt all over again. She couldn't decide what to do so curled into the fetal position in her bedroom and tried to escape her head.
The next day she heard a light tap on the door and then footsteps downstairs. The smell of fresh bread was strong and she knew who it was. She hadn't moved from her fetal position for hours and felt stiff and sore. She almost considered grimacing at the disheveled state she was in but decided she didn't care.
Avoiding confrontation, she waited until she couldn't hear footsteps anymore and decided to creep down the stairs. As she rounded the last step she saw him. Stupid, stupid she rebuked herself. She hadn't heard the door close and he hadn't left. The old her would have realized that. The broken and fragmented her hadn't even registered it.
He trapped her with his cerulean gaze and she tried to break away. Through her haze she realized his eyes were more like she remembered before the hijacking. The kind eyes of the boy with the bread. Not the crazed eyes that wanted to kill her after he was rescued. Not the tortured eyes that followed her on her mission to kill Snow.
"I brought breakfast if you want to share."
She stayed silent.
He lamely offered, "I just wanted to make sure you knew that it was here."
She stared at him blinking slowly.
He realized she looked even worse than she did before when he had seen her yesterday.
In her silence he took the opportunity to stutter through more of an explanation.
"Y-you look a little thin."
She lied without even thinking about it. "I'm fine." He looked pained at her blatant untruth.
"Eat breakfast with me? For me?" He knew or at least hoped she couldn't refuse him.
She silently sat down at the table as if at war with herself.
He broke the bread apart and slathered it with the butter he had brought offering her half. She took it without really looking at it or him. He silently studied her.
She nibbled at a few bites and he hoped that Greasy Sae had was having better luck in feeding her, although by the looks of it she was succeeding only by a small margin. Knowing Katniss, he knew she would need time to re-adjust to his presence in 12. After a few moments of silence he got up and mumbled something about dinner and left.
He didn't know if he was strong enough to help her survive. He had only so much will left, and had his own demons to live with. He was hurt she was so closed off but he understood. She hadn't been good with her feelings before. She was so passionate about those she loved she could barely function when they were hurt or died. To the outward person she was just angry and withdrawn. He knew she loved so much it hurt and it overwhelmed her. He didn't think she felt that way about him, but he still felt drawn to her. He reaffirmed his decision that by helping her he would help himself survive. The last few months were barely survival and pure hell as he tried to revisit memories and determine if they were real or not. Being away from the doctors made him feel better, even if it was just a fleeting feeling.
She was still sitting at the table after he had left. Why was he here? Why did he care? They shouldn't have survived. There was hardly anything left living for. She refused to reevaluate how she felt about him. She could barely think his name. Peeta. Good, kinda Peeta that the Capital had tried to destroy. Because of her. He said he had loved her once. She knew he could never feel that way again, but that was good because she wasn't worth loving. Ever. She hazily remembered a conversation between Gale and Peeta. Both knew she was unfeeling and parasitic. Choosing who she couldn't survive without. She knew she could survive without Gale now. He had taken care of that. What about him? Peeta. She had been surviving for months without him. No, a small voice nagged. You aren't surviving. You are pretending to live. Overcome with this thought too big to think, she swayed to the couch to crawl up into a ball again.
At dinner time Greasy Sae came over and cooked and cleaned. He showed up and Sae invited him for dinner. He was polite to Sae and Katniss barely ate again. They both gave her worried looks but she didn't care.
This routine continued for a few weeks. Peeta had taken over for Greasy Sae at breakfast and brought her bread and pastries but Sae still did dinner. She took a shower and changed clothes when Greasy Sae brusquely told her to a few times a week. She still tried to avoid herself during the days because she knew she couldn't escape at night. Peeta made attempts that conversation every day and she barely answered or acknowledged him. Inside she was scared because each day she felt a tiny glimmer of hope that she didn't deserve. For weeks he continued their routine.
One cold winter morning he didn't come. She didn't care. But she did. She was alone, he had given up. The little sanity she thought she was regaining fled in a burst of frigid air, just like the one that hit her when she opened the back door and ran. She was so out of shape and undernourished but she stumbled on. She had on the wrong clothes for the middle of winter in the snow. She had no idea where she was going or why she was running. NO, shouted a voice in her head. You do know. He gave up! You deserve to die. Stop making others miserable.
Peeta had overslept. His nightmares had been worse than normal and he fell into a deep exhausted sleep early in the morning. When he woke up he realized it was way past the time he normally woke up to make her breakfast. He quickly got dressed and ran over to her house. It was cold, but it was close and he didn't bother with a coat. When he got there Greasy Sae was just coming up the path. They walked in together and there was no sign of her. Katniss. As quickly as he could hobble he raced around the house looking for her. Sae hadn't seen her and said she hadn't left the house before in the entire time she had been here. Her coat was still hanging by the front door.
He felt a panic similar to when he was hijacked and didn't know what to believe. A panic every time they went into the games, or the Capitol interfered in their lives. A panic that he couldn't protect Katniss. He rushed out the door to the area behind Victor's Village, eyes frantically searching. He ran around town looking in alleyways and small spaces she could have squeezed into. He asked if anyone had seen her and they looked at him with concerned faces. No one had seen her since she had arrived months before. As the temperature dropped he began to feel the cold seeping in. He could think of only one other place she would be—the woods. He felt like someone was squeezing his chest and making him light headed. If she was hiding in the woods he would never find her. She was a lithe hunter and he was a clomping baker. He ran to the hole in the fence and slipped through. He started yelling her name because he had no idea where to start looking. This was her and Gale's domain, not his. He decided to walk along the perimeter of the forest to see if he could see any sign of the path she took. It had lightly started snowing and he knew if he was cold in just his sweater, she was bound to be freezing.
She had stopped her pathetic running when she ran out of steam shortly after she crossed under the fence. The cold had numbed her and she liked it. Numb was good. Numb meant she couldn't feel. She tripped over to one of her favorite paths into the woods and laid down in the snow by a log a few trees in. She wanted to cry but didn't deserve the tears. And it was getting so cold.
He saw a flash of something laying by a log a few trees in. Peeta called to her but heard no response. He rushed over to find her shivering on the ground, covered in a light layer of snow. She didn't seem to register him. He shook her and when she made no move to take any action he scooped her up into his arms. He wasn't in training shape but she was so tiny and frail in his arms. He held her close and tried to share some of the remaining body heat he had. He thought of the cave, and knew the memory was real.