your fire would burn in the rain

.

.

.

He wonders when 'home' became synonymous with 'fire'.

She walks ahead of him, braid swinging against her back. The summer air is stuffy and he swipes a hand across his forehead.

Katniss doesn't seem to mind the heat, she actually seems to enjoy it. He supposes he shouldn't expect anything less from The Girl On Fire. She's humming to herself, something she hasn't done in awhile.

In fact, they haven't left their homes in the Victor's Village in awhile. It'd been seventeen months since Prim's death, and Katniss, slowly but surely, was learning to not judge herself so harshly. He'd drilled it into her head time and time again; none of this is your fault.

It had surprised him greatly when she's swung into the window of his home, dressed for the day, one hand lazily finishing off her braid, the other hand reaching for his.

"Let's go to the square?" she'd asked, a little shyly. She was never shy. He'd agreed, because how could he say no?

Katniss had stuck close to him in the beginning, nails digging into his arm whenever someone jarred her. Neither of them did particularly well in crowds, but he's tall enough to look over the throngs of people, and he's still able to see the sky and the square ahead and he doesn't feel as crowded. She doesn't have that same advantage.

Now, she moves ahead of him, looking in shop windows and greeting people she's probably never spoken to. District 12 is rebuilding itself from the ground up.

He follows closely, eyes—out of habit—taking in the scenery and anyone who poses a threat. He relaxes slightly when he remembers that this is home. This is District 12.

Katniss swings around suddenly, braid whipping about. There's something in her eyes, and he can tell she's in one of her moods. The sudden ones where she talks to herself and whistles Rue's song. She grabs the end of her braid, holding it tightly, "I'm trying, Peeta." she murmurs, eyes trained on the ground.

He steps towards her, careful to keep a small distance between them. She doesn't like being touched when she's like this.

"Trying to be normal. Live like the Games never happened." she finally says, eyes flickering to his. "It's harder than I thought it would be."

Real or not real.

He hates that he can't distinguish reality from falsehood. Sometimes he'll be painting, nothing in particular, and he'll wonder if this is all in his head; the quiet lifestyle he's adopted, Katniss in his bed every night.

If it is, he's glad he has a vivid imagination.

(But sometimes it's too much and he'll disappear for hours on end, wandering the District and trying, trying so very hard, to clean himself up before Katniss realizes he's hurting. She doesn't need another reason to hate herself.)

"Katniss," he murmurs one night, one hand tangled in her hair, the other behind his head, "I don't remember what's real."

She stills against him, closing her eyes. These nights scare her. Sometimes she's afraid he'll wake up and he won't remember a thing. She wishes she could erase everything the Capitol had done to him; to save him, and to ease her own mind.

"I am, Peeta," she whispers in answer, "I'm real."

He takes this as it is, arm tightening around her. He nods his head, seemingly satisfied.

Katniss exhales a huge breath of relief, but chooses not to dwell on the movement. He's getting better, and this only happens every once in awhile. She closes her eyes, pressing her face into his chest.

(The Seam girl in her wonders when all of this will stop completely, wonders when they'll finally be free of the games. The Victor in her knows they never will be.)

She doesn't wear Cinna's wedding dress when she gets married. Partly because it had always been too much, but mostly because he's not there to watch her become Katniss Mellark.

It's not televised. This day belongs to her. To Peeta. Not the rest of the Panem. Panem's already seen too much of them.

There are seats in the front row. Empty seats with little cards taped to them: Prim, Cinna, Finnick, a seat for everyone she's ever loved and lost.

Haymitch gives her away, and she's pleased when she finds out that he's sober, "Couldn't botch this one, sweetheart," he winks at her. Her mother cries and Gale sends a letter of congratulations.

District 12 celebrates, but all she or Peeta can think of are the people who never got to watch them take their vows or toast.

Katniss Everdeen becomes Katniss Mellark.

(She wishes she didn't wonder if Katniss Hawthorne sounded better as she was saying 'I do'.)

He knows she loves him.

It's in everything she does. The noises she makes when he hits just the right spot when they're making love, the kiss she presses to his jaw when she wakes up in the morning, the way she curls up beside him on the couch.

He also knows she's terrified. Terrified of losing him, losing the life she's managed to scrape together after the Games. She's so scared, and she won't admit it.

(Maybe she doesn't know that he's scared, too.)

They go out to the square everyday now.

She still walks ahead of him, and he's learned why. He'd heard her murmuring it to herself. She walks ahead of him because she's trying to protect him. He shakes his head and follows her. She thinks she was always the one protecting him, when really, he was always the one protecting her. He doesn't mind, because it's his job to take care of the ones he loves. And he loves her so much.

(Silly Katniss.)

She saw danger everywhere, and yes, perhaps she always had, but the Games had only enhanced her paranoia. She thinks, in the small part of her mind that's still in the Games, that every little noise, every bump to the shoulder, is a threat. She walks ahead of him to head off the 'threat'. He will never understand the inner workings of her mind.

He, wholly, wishes to protect her, but he knows they're in no danger now. They're home, in District 12, with each other. Nothing can hurt them here. At least, that's what he tells himself. He's managed to keep his paranoia stuffed down inside, while Katniss wears hers on her sleeve.

She's a few paces ahead of him now, and he reaches out, catching her arm. She stiffens, hand coming up as if to punch him when she recognizes his hand. She instantly relaxes, and he marvels at how much she trusts him. Even after everything he'd done to her after he'd been poisoned.

"Walk beside me, love?" he murmurs, and her confused expression softens. She takes a step closer to him, and he quirks an eyebrow when she stops right in front of him. She simply stares up at him, eyes tracing his features.

"You can't protect me from everything." he says.

Katniss' lips twitch, "I can try."

He rolls his eyes, lowering his lips to hers. He knows they're being watched, probably by everyone around them. They're celebrities, he supposes.

The star-crossed lovers of District 12.

He thinks he'd like to have kids someday, but Katniss already has her hands full with protecting him from imaginary enemies.

He doesn't want to know how paranoid she would be with her own children.

Peeta cannot describe what he feels when Katniss initiates a kiss or an embrace.

She had done so in the Hunger Games, and again in the Quarter Quell, but it hadn't been real then.

Now, when she grabs his face when he's showing her how to roll the perfect loaf of bread and kisses him into silence, he knows it's real. Now, when she slides her hand into his and squeezes, he knows it's real.

(He wishes it had been real all along.)

He'd been jealous of Gale, once upon a time, but now he only feels sorry for him. He knows he shouldn't, but he does.

By a fluke, the Games being said fluke, he got the girl. There isn't a doubt in his mind that Gale and Katniss would have found their way towards each other in time if their names had not been called at the Reaping. He would have pined for her. That is how their lives would have played out.

But the Games did happen, and he did get the girl (after months of difficulties).

(Sometimes he feels like he stole the girl, and other times, he thinks he earned the right to keep her.)

Katniss sits in the middle of their bed, lazily twisting her wedding ring around her finger. They'd been married two years, and at twenty one, she was still unsure of what she wanted.

Of course, she knew Peeta was her all. Her one and only, but was she his? She shakes her head. Of course she was, he'd said so many times, just that morning, actually. She keeps twisting her finger, and it dawns on her.

He's given so much, his family, his entire life. All for her, and she's given him nothing. She can't even love him properly. It'd taken her so long, so long to realize how deeply she cared for him, and she'd toyed with him in the Games without really meaning to.

She thinks of what he wants most in the world, and all she can think of is herself.

(She doesn't know if that makes her incredibly selfish.)

Katniss watches him for awhile after that, searching for something, anything, and then there it is. She figures it out.

Peeta wants a baby, and she doesn't know if she can give him one.

Later that night, after they've been in bed for hours and they're both truly spent, Peeta collapses into a fitful sleep while she lies awake beside him, drawing shapes all across his bare chest.

She thinks that, maybe, having a baby with his last name and his eyes wouldn't be so bad.

(It might actually be perfect.)

It's months later and Peeta's been gone for a few weeks, visiting the Districts, when it happens.

She's bustling around their kitchen, searching for something edible when a sharp pain shoots through her stomach. She only has a moment to reach for a bucket before she's heaving up her breakfast.

She stays like that for much of the day, wondering what could have made her so sick when it dawns on her.

The horror passes in seconds, and it's replaced by joy.

She's pregnant.

(She can't remember why she thought being pregnant was a bad thing because all she can think of now is how happy Peeta's going to be.)

Peeta steps off of the train, bag in hand. He'd been through all of the Districts the past few weeks, helping them rise from the rubble. The rebellion was over, but the carnage and suffering was not. He runs a hand through his hair, feeling truly exhausted. He just wants to go home and crawl into bed beside his wife and sleep for a few days.

Suddenly, just as he's stepping off of the train platform, a body slams into his. His reaction is to instantly tense up, but then he recognizes the smooth lines and curves of the body, and he drops his bag to hold her.

Katniss' legs lock around his waist, arms lazily wrapped around his shoulders. She's smiling, elated look on her face.

He blinks in confusion, and she laughs, leaning her forehead against his, "We're having a baby." she whispers.

Katniss' pregnancy is the most terrifying time of his life. Even more so than the Games and the Capitol.

She's always irritable and grumpy, lashing out about everything. But then, she'll cry because she thinks he hates her and she'll hug him so tightly he's sure he'll fall apart if she lets go.

He does everything he possibly can to make her comfortable, and mostly, he's ecstatic that he finally gets to be a father.

Sometimes he wonders if he'd still be this excited if the Reaping still existed.

"What if we're terrible parents?" Katniss whispers one night, hand hovering over her stomach.

Peeta rolls over, facing her. He closes his hand over hers, and whispers back, "We'll make mistakes. We'll learn." he murmurs, and her face falls, "But we will love this child more than anyone else in the world possibly could, and I think that makes up for it."

Her lips stretch into a small smile, and she curls closer to him.

They're walking in the square when it happens. She's eating an orange, something she's craved everyday during her pregnancy when she stops short, orange falling from her hands.

Her hands find her stomach, and she stares at him with wide, terrified eyes.

"Katniss?" he asks, worry coloring his voice.

Her painful cry is enough to get him moving.

He holds her hand so tight he's afraid he might break her, but she squeezes back just as tightly. Tears pool at the corners of her eyes, and she makes a pained noise.

"It's all worth it, sweetheart!" Haymitch calls from outside the room.

"Shut up, Haymitch!" she yells back, and Peeta hides his smile.

"C'mon, love, ignore him, and relax." he urges, just as her mother had told him to do.

"Relax? Relax? I'm having another human being come out of—"

"Katniss," her mother interrupts sternly, coming into the room, "he's only trying to help. He's doing exactly what I told him to do."

Peeta shoots Katniss a smug grin, and she glares at him.

The birth is a grueling process and he feels terrible that she's in so much pain all because he wanted a baby.

(He corrects himself; they wanted a baby.)

Six hours after her first contraction had started, he has a little girl in his arms, brown tufts of hair clinging to the top of her little head. He strokes a finger down the child's face in awe, and tears threatens to fall from the corner of his eyes.

Katniss lets out a shuddering breath then, and he turns to her, placing their baby in her arms. She's sobbing now, from pain or joy, he doesn't know, but tears slide down her cheeks at an alarming rate.

"Katniss?" he breathes.

She looks up, smiling through the tears, "She's perfect. I feel like I've been waiting for this my whole entire life. I just—I love you. Both of you."

Peeta runs a hand through her sweaty hair, dropping a kiss to her forehead, "What are we going to name her?" he asks.

Katniss thinks for a moment, "I like Rue. Rue Mellark." as she says this, a fresh wave of tears crash over her.

"Rue," he murmurs, testing it out, "Rue is perfect."

"Think we'll be alright?" she asks later, hand reaching out to grasp his.

"Yes," he says, holding her hand, and staring down at the sleeping bundle in his arms, "yes, I think we'll be just fine."

fin.