A/N: Hey guys, so this is so far my favorite chapter to write in both The Fragile and Paradise. It's just Peeta, and everything that he is, and I just love it. Thank you to everyone who has told me they like this perspective from Paradise, it keeps me wanting to write this. Peeta just has so much going on in him after the war, that hasn't really been told. I hope you all enjoy this chapter, thank you to everyone who reviews, favorites, alerts, and reads. It means the absolute world to me. This chapter was edited by the lovely jennibrolawrence19, she did an amazing job, so thank you so much! :)

This chapter was inspired by "Carried Home" by Iron & Wine.


I hate Haymitch's house. It smells like piss and vomit and I want to run away and bake bread, kiss Katniss, and keep her in my arms. Haymitch's house is just a reminder of how broken The Games have made us. I try and say to myself that this is proof of how well I am recovering, but it hurts me to know it's someone who kept me alive that is hurting.

Haymitch didn't start drinking after our Games. It was the months after his first failed mentoring of tributes from District 12. I can't blame him for his drinking problem, and neither can anyone else, because — let's face it — after you watched the deaths of kids you've come to love, you need to kill your sorrows.

His walls are plain. He has accepted no offer of redecoration from Katniss' mother, and refuses to paint the walls anything than the slate concrete gray that came with the standard housing. I wish he would, and add some color to his walls. It would elevate some of the pain that he harbors in his heart. Then again, I think color cures all.

So I wasn't surprised when I found him laying on the mattress on his floor, vomit surrounding his head, and a bottle of vodka rolling loosely around his hand. I did feel immense pain in my chest though. This man, who kept me alive all these years — like a second father — was here, broken and damaged, with hurt that wafted of him like perfume.

I set my messenger bag on the floor. These visits into Haymitch's house weren't foreign to me, I do them customarily before work, so he and I both knew the drill as per usual. I put my collection of keys on top of my bag and they clanged together as they brushed one another.

I wiped my hands on the tops of my pants and walked forward, he facing me, and his face scrunched up when he was finished discovering who I was.

"Boy, you don't need to be here," He managed in his broken slur.

"Yes, I do," I muttered.

"You take care of your girl. You don't need me on that list of yours," He tried to shoo me away with his hand, but it fell flat and he stopped quickly. I walked over the piles of clothes and the useless objects he collects, and walked over to him. His mattress should be on the second story, but he decided early on that the walk upstairs while drunk wasn't worth the falling.

I bent myself down at the knees and removed the bottle from the tips of his fingers. I set it behind me and he grunted in protest. I reached out in front of me, and grabbed him from under his arms and heaved him up. He wasn't light, and even with the multiple bags of flour I've been lifting, it didn't stop the strain of the muscles in my back.

I set him upright against the headboard and watched his head loll around uselessly. I grabbed his jaw firmly and forced him to meet my eyes.

"This isn't healthy, Haymitch," I said. He rolled his eyes.

"Heard that before," I let go of his face and got up out of my crouch and sat at the base of his bed by his feet. I rested my elbows on top of my knees and laced my hands together. His floor was worse that Katniss' and that's saying a lot. The constant years of abuse and neglect from him have left his house in disarray. I wish I could make him better.

"You wanna tell me what's wrong?" he asked. I looked at the floor in front of me.

"It's Katniss," I said.

"Ah, the girl," He sighed. "Boy, you're the best thing she's got," I gave a half smile.

"She needs something more though," I said, in honesty. Haymitch barked out a laugh.

"She doesn't know what she needs," He said, and I turned to look at him. "She's got you though — and that's a start," His voice was cracked and withered like his hands, and I try desperately to believe his words.

"She —" I start, then sigh and look down at the floor. "She tried to kill herself," I say and look at him wanting to see his reaction. There was none, and I stared at him until he finally opened his mouth and spoke.

"I don't think that was the first time," He says. I want to punch something. Break it into pieces and let it crumble under the weight of my foot. Katniss shouldn't have to think about death or pain or death and dying. She should have the world, the moon and it's stars. She deserved the sun soaked in her skin and glow like the fire she is.

"She can't just —" I start, and breathe. "She can't —" In. Out. In. Out. "She can't leave me like that." I manage. I only want to give her everything. That soft voice I first heard singing in the Plaza when I was younger, the young girl who lost her life in the line of battle, and the roses I plant in front of her house. She doesn't need to kill herself, if I could only give her what she needs.

"You can't control her, Peeta," He states, and he's right. She is the wind, free in her dance, that carries autumn leaves and birds in its flight.

"I know," I say and bury my face in my hands. "But if I was more for her — if I was enough — she wouldn't see death as an option," If she was satisfied with me — if it were enough to live for — she wouldn't want to freeze to death."

"You are enough," He says. "She just doesn't realize it yet."

"How long will it take, Haymitch?" I bark out and lift my head up from my hands. "I'm tired of seeing her like this! I want her to be the girl I knew, not this broken thing so drugged up on medicine she sometimes doesn't know me!"

"But that's not her fault," he points out. If I am judging Katniss, Haymitch must feel judged too. They have both handled their means of coping in different ways just as I have, but I didn't know Katniss was one to cop out.

"It's that shit they've got her on," I cuss out. "They've got her on so much, she doesn't know what she wants anymore," And with this, I am a firm believer. These doctors, they think they have her best interests in mind but they don't. All they know is that they are treating the Mockingjay, and the one who prescribes the most, is her primary doctor.

"Maybe that's true," Haymitch agrees. "But maybe this is just her way of letting out all that inside her out."

"But if I meant enough to her, Haymitch, she would let me heal her," I look up at him and he shakes his head.

"She's not one to ask for help, Boy, and you know that," and I do. As much as I wish she'd have asked for me, this is still a sick sign that she is the Katniss I used to know.

"I just —" I struggle to find words. "I want to fix her," I look up at him. "Make her better, and be able to love her like she needs to be."

"You're too perfect for her," He says. "You know that?" I laugh and look down at my hands.

"But she's perfect for me," I say and put my hands on my knees and push myself up. I look down at my broken mentor, and raise and eyebrow at him. "No more drinks for a couple hours, you hear?" He scrunches up his face.

"Yeah, yeah," He lifts his hands and motions me toward the door.

"Bye, Haymitch," I say, and pat his shoulder.

"See ya, Peeta," He manages and I turn around and make my way to the door. I sling my bag across my body and grab my set of keys and shove them in my pocket. I take one last look at Haymitch before I open the door and shut it behind me.

The cobble stone pavement is uneven beneath my feet, and I put my hands inside my pockets to keep them from shaking in this cold. I want the summer heat already, its humidity and clinging shirts and clothes. I want its green grass, and thriving trees. Not this dead silence where nothing lives, and birds hardly leave their homes.

I turn the corner to the shop and watch as children play in the Plaza and try to fly kites without wind. It's a little girl and boy, and I pray, with every fiber of my being, that nothing will strip them of their childhood. I wan to preserve their famished innocence, and shelter them from the dangers that may inflict on them.

I reach the bakery and it's cold and my hands are frozen, but with numb fingers I pull out my keys and open the bakery. Unlike my mother who refused to keep the heater on though the night, I keep the generator running and let it pour out hot air. It makes for a better environment, and lets customers in eagerly off the streets.

I walk around the counters that wrap around the shop and set my bag in the back. I turn on all the lights, and set up the displays. I chose the color scheme with Katniss in mind. The golden lighting, and dark accents here and there, all remind me of her dark spirit, and it helps guide me thorough out the day. I never lose inspiration.

I took out the flour and sugar and decided on making ginger snaps for the day. The dough was malleable in my hands, and I rolled them carefully so the sugar was evenly spread all over. There was an art to this, my father taught me, a serendipity that one can only find when focusing on details.

The ovens radiated heat behind me, and I placed the raw cookies in the oven, trying to avoid letting the heat escape. It was a tedious but humble process that left me time to think.

I feel inferior for Katniss. Nothing of me will bring her pleasantry. I can run every day with my love of flour, yet it will never be good enough. I should run harder, push myself to my limits, and learn to hunt. I need to find a common ground with her, make it so we can build a relationship on something. Not sex where we're not allowed to say "I love you".

But last night — she let me say my three words, and then she tried to kill herself. It's like receiving the most perfect gift, but then having it and the giver taken away from you. I wish I could make her perfect so she'd never have to feel that way again.

This break from our routines was a relief. From the dinner she made, to the words that die to be spoken, that was what we needed. Maybe it was too much to handle at once. It was such a clean break we couldn't handle it.

The door dings behind me, and I turn to find a woman standing in the bakery. It's Mrs. Acridest, a former Capitol-savvy woman who has had everything from her face filled with chemicals to the gold flecks in her eyes.

"Hi, Mrs. Acridest," I say, and wipe my floured hands on my apron. "Can I help you with anything?"

"Yes, I'd like half a dozen of the snaps," she doesn't smile. I smile at her.

"You're right on time, they just came out of the oven," I smile and walk over the counter and prepare a box. I open the metal door behind the casing and put the snaps into the box. When I am done, I stand straight and noticed she hasn't moved.

"I've seen that girl of yours around," She says and I freeze. Her husband is Katniss' primary physiatrist, the main pill pusher. I panic, and wonder if she heard us last night on her late walks with her poodles.

"Oh, you have?" I say nonchalantly as I place wax paper over the top of the snaps. She nods her head.

"Yes, she's the hunter," She says it in a way as if I don't know this.

"She enjoys it," I say and place a golden Mellark seal over the box. I smile at her as I place it on top of the counter. I want her to leave in stop asking questions, but she doesn't move.

"I'd say she's rather broken, isn't she? At least, that's what my husband says," She exclaims. I know what he is doing is a breach of patient-doctor confidentiality, and I know that if I meet him I will punch him in the jaw.

"She's recovering," I say as calmly as I can manage, and turn my back to the oven that dings. I hear her high heels move and the box shift on the counter.

"I hope you all recover just fine, Mr. Mellark," She says.

"Thank you," I mutter. I hear her walk away and when the door closes behind her, I brace my hands against the granite counter in front of me, and clench my eyes shut.

Everyone knows about our struggles and the battles we have fought, and the brave face we put on once a year now. But they have no idea what we need to face everyday in our minds. It's like waking up into a nightmare you can't escape. A merry-go-round that's no fun, and all you want to do is scream and throw up.

The door dings behind me and I speak up.

"Hi, welcome to Mellark's, I'm —" I turn and am faced with Katniss.

Rage, anger, indignation.

"Hi, Peeta," She croaks out, throat raw, and fucked up.

"Katniss, you shouldn't be here," I say and walk to the oven and punch in the temperature for the next batch of cookies. I want her to leave. I don't want to see what I couldn't, and can't, save.

"I just — I want to say —" She stutters and don't turn to face her.

"Spit it out, Katniss, I'm working," I say and they feel so wrong in my mouth I want to take them back, but this anger feels relieved somehow.

"Thank you," She says.

"You're welcome," I reply. I hear her turn away to leave.

"Why'd you do it Katniss?" I say and turn to her as she turns to me. She's still slightly blue, and her throat is exposed when it needs to be covered. Her hands need gloves, and her head, a hat, but I shouldn't need to tell her all these things.

"I don't know Peeta, I just —"

"You just what? Think that no one will miss you? What about your mother, Gale, me, or Prim?" The last one hurt, and I want her to feel it. She flinches. "Do you think she'd want you to kill yourself? You think she died just to see you die too?"

"No, Peeta —" She starts and I shake my head.

"You know what Katniss? I can't handle this right now, please leave," I breathe deeply and know that she needs to leave because I will just spew out words I'll regret later. Anger is a dangerous thing combined with hurt and words, one I don't like to get tangled in.

"Okay, Peeta," She says as I turn away and clench my eyes tight, hearing the tears in her voice, knowing because it's me telling her to leave. I lean against the counter top and turn around. She's sitting there, watching the kids in the Plaza, and I love her so much it hurts. She's just sitting there, all quiet, and somber, and I wonder if the events of last night really did happen.

I make her tea and place it in the nicest cup I have. I push the door open with my back and turn to the bistro chair she sits in. I place the tea in front of her. She looks up in surprise, like she always does. These unknown acts of kindness she deserves didn't happen to her often before I promised to give her the world.

"I'm sorry," I say when I sit in front of her.

"Peeta, I'm sorry about last night," She rushes out, and I know she has wanted to say this since she walked in the shop.

"Katniss, why would you do something like that?" She looks at the wire openings in the table.

"I don't — I don't know," She admits.

"Did you think about Gale?" It hurts to imagine her in love him, but maybe she misses him and his company. They have a bond, as much as I dislike, and was severed before he left for 4, but it still linger there. I can see it in her eyes when I bring him up. "I mean, your Mom, she'd have been devastated," She nods her head.

"I don't know Peeta, I just needed something —" She breaks off and coughs like Haymitch does when he's about to vomit.

"Drink your tea," I offer. "It'll help," She does and a warm glow appears on her cheeks. "I needed something to feel," She explains, and I want to laugh as hard as I can.

She wanted to feel? She could have done countless things to be able to feel, and yet she chose to purposefully get hypothermia?

"But did you think about what the could have done to your life Katniss? Get a tattoo, or run a mile, but don't just go out trying to kill yourself. Do you know what that would have done to me?" My voice cracks. "I don't know what I'd do without you," I admit. "I know you think you don't mean anything to anybody, but you mean the world to me."

"I'm so sorry, Peeta," She says, and I look up and see tears in her eyes. "I really — I just — I won't do it again."

"You promise?" I ask.

"I swear," her words revive though me. Her eyes are like molten embers and I want to drown myself in them. She's so beautiful it hurts.

"How's your body?" I ask deferring the topic.

"It hurts. More than it did after the Games."

"We had Capitol medicine back then," I point out.

"Did you tell the Doctors?" She asks, pushing her finger around the rim of her cup.

"No," I say, remembering the woman in the bakery, and what her husband would have done. "I thought about it, don't get me wrong. But, I didn't want you to be on more medication. You're on enough as it is."

"Thank you, Peeta. For everything," She says, and I nod my head because I don't want to say the word I want to and have her react again. Her body is threatening to say something. I not it, and before I can say something to stop her she speaks. "I love you," she says.

"Last time you tried to say that Katniss, you went home and tried to kill yourself. Don't say it if you're going to be stupid after."

"Stop it, Peeta," She says as she pushes herself from the chair. It makes a shrill noise and she limps her way over to where I sit. I look up at her as she crouches down to be at my eye level.

"I love you, Peeta," She says and kisses me. "I will never hurt you again, I promise. I swear on my life," She kisses me again, her mouth warm. "You will never feel conflicted again," I cry now, and Katniss' kisses my face, absorbing the tears in her body. I wrap my arms around her waist and stand us upright so she can rest her head on my chest.

"Thank you, Katniss," I say, calm again.

"Do you want to go upstairs, Peeta?" She pulls away and looks up at me.

"I'd love to Katniss," I say and kiss her nose. "But I'm pretty sure your body can't handle that right now," She scrunches up her nose and I laugh. I pick her up in my arms and take her through the threshold of the bakery and upstairs to my spare room. I laid her on the bed and kissed her until she moaned. I reached behind her and grabbed her backside.

"Peeta, please," She breathed.

"No, Katniss," I say as calmly as I can manage. "Your body is too weak for that," I slide my hands from her backside to the dip between her hips and she sighs my name.

"Stop me if you need me to," I whispered and then placed my mouth on hers.