Disclaimer: Suzanne Collins owns The Hunger Games.
Author's Note: Peeta and Katniss return home from the Capitol after the events in Mockingjay, but neither is ready to embrace the fallout—and reconstruction—of their relationship.
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it's you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that's keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
e.e. cummings, "i carry your heart with me"
The world is colorless and cold.
She is the girl on fire—katniss—a voice tells him over the thousands already in his head. Her lips are chapped and her cheeks are hollowed in and something in her eyes, how they look so empty and vast and gray, like when it rains, reminds him so much of himself he cannot look away. (Because, after all, they're almost the same person: too heartfelt and too soulless for people like them, who maybe never even were people.)
He watches her shoot the arrow.
It is a clean, straight shot. It goes through President Coin's chest.
Then he watches them take her away.
The revolution is over.
Prim is gone. Snow is gone. Finnick and Pollux are gone.
The news of their deaths comes to him in bits and pieces, between Haymitch's knocks on the door and Plutarch's voice over the loudspeakers because he is Panem's new president and ex-President Coin (who never really was one) is dead.
At approximately set intervals—nine in the morning, one in the afternoon and six-thirty at night—trays of food are brought to the room he is confined in. There is a bed with no sheets and there is a chair with no cushion and there is a window with no glass, just metal bars, and he wonders if this is what it feels like to die inside a jail cell. Since the day she—katniss—(he has to keep reminding himself that she has a name, she was someone once, too) was taken away by them, he has had no motivation to do anything.
So the food sits in the trays until it becomes stale and he sits in the chair looking outside onto the lawn, ignoring Haymitch's knocks on the door and Plutarch's announcements on the muted television. Sometimes, little slips of paper slip under the door with questions written on them that he can't answer, and only sometimes he writes back.
[i dont know how to feel…katniss girl on fire…cantbreathe…haymitch…help]
He hears her scream during the dark and it is a relief to know that she is here with him, struggling and breathing and losing, so close yet so far away, and sooner rather than later his screams match her own. He knows, deep deep deep down, that he is the reason for the nightmares and the pain and the only way she'll survive is if he dies, because God or Satan or his left foot knows how hard he's tried.
One day, after an insurmountable amount of time has passed, in which he is no longer able to tell the difference between day and night, the doorknob twists and clicks open and heavy footsteps are in the doorway and crossing the room and a heavy hand is on his shoulder.
A voice clears its throat behind him and says, we're taking you back home, and it sounds like Haymitch, and maybe it is him and maybe it isn't, but he doesn't turn away from the window because he can't face any of this (because then he'll know it was all true.)
I don't have one anymore, he tries to say, but he can barely get the first part out before there is a searing pain of a needle breaking through the skin on the side of his neck and then blackness.
He's reluctant to tell her he returned to District Twelve partially because Haymitch drugged him and partially because there is nowhere left for him to go in Panem. (Another part, the lostpeeta part, wanted to see if anything of his old life, his baker's son life, still existed. By the hollow ache inside his chest, expanding each time he tries to remember how to breathe, he's almost sure something, somewhere, does.)
He wipes the fresh mud off his hands and looks down at her. I guess I am.
She wants to say something, anything—her lips are open, a sound comes out that sounds like his name, but is more like a croak—and then her tongue gets tied into knots because he's already looking away, towards the rosebushes that are lined up alongside the house, ready to be swallowed into the ground, and suddenly she just feels tired, so tired.
He says her name once, katniss, and it is not a question and his voice is gentle, like the color orange and soft lips on her neck in the forest that weren't his—and maybe it's her name or maybe it's someone else's, but she just can't do this anymore, she can'tcan'tcant.
They don't see each other for three days.
He calls her so many times that she has to ask Greasy Sae to take the phone off the hook because if she even talks to him she knows she'll take him back and he knows she'll let him in again and, at the end of the day, they both know that's not fair, that's just not fucking fair.
["boy with the bread"—katniss calls me this sometimes…i wonder which one of us stopped pretending first…it's all my fault all my fucking fault i want her back ijustwantherbackpleasegod]
Her nightmares are of primrose(s) and his eyes, dark blue like spilled ink or the bottoms of oceans she'll never see. There are no dandelions and there is no Gale and she misses them both so much she wakes up eyes burning because she has no more tears left to cry.
Haymitch visits her on an afternoon sometime between cold and hot when all she does is look at him and look at the floor and look back at him as his mouth moves, saying words she can'tdoesn'twantto hear. He is drunk and he is pleading for her to take peeta back and she's afraid to tell him that she doesn't know how.
Slowly, they begin to come back to each other (under Haymitch's watch); and it is painful, like the blind leading the deaf. Days pass where the only thing she does is curl up into a ball and sit by the fire. (On these days—mourning days—he places her head in his lap, strokes wisps of her dark hair away from her forehead and eyes, trying to find all the right words to summarize the wrongs he can't fix.)
Other times, when it is night—with the endless dark and nightmares constantly running behind his eyelids and the soft curve her body pressed against his—he lies awake holding his own breath just to make sure he can hear hers.
One time, (unsupervised), he kisses her and she kisses him back and it's like he's being burnt alive, the pain is suddenly so very real and achingly raw he moans into her mouth and she grabs at the hem of his shirt, pulling him closer and closer to this euphoric feeling, this sense of being where he doesn't want to ever let go—
And then she pulls away, and they're both choking on the air—he would've thought they'd just been sprinting across a field—and the electronic clock in the kitchen has moved three minutes forward, but none of this matters because her eyes are gray, like when it rains, and she says his name—peeta—and he knows that this is real, that everything is going to be okay. (So he takes her there, on the counter, and it is heartbreakingly beautiful, devastating because it's not enough, it will never be enough.)
On a night in a winter a sober Haymitch shoots himself in the foot and dies from the wound and it was real. They go to the funeral and they both cry, but for what, he doesn't know. Somehow, it's almost easier this way, not knowing, because then he doesn't have to pretend like he doesn't care.
Whether its days or months or years, he cannot tell.
Late mornings are spent for lazy lovemaking on his studio floor and late afternoons consist of her sitting in his chair, phone pressed to her left ear, listening to Gale's voice while he kneads dough and paints flowers on cakes that they never really have the appetite to eat. (In three months there will be a little boy named Gale Rory and a little girl named Rue Primrose in the empty house and they will be a family, something he always wanted and something she never considered to consider.)
Living is real and not real at the same time, and, more often than not, he finds himself asking if her favorite color is green. She'll say yes, peeta, and then she'll ask him what his favorite color is and he'll say orange, like sunsets, and she'll smile at him, so open and flawed, the lostpeeta part will be found, at least for a little while.
And if he could, he would lose everything he had all over again, just to be with her now. Always.