So, yeah. My title is completely unoriginal. But it's 10am and I've yet to sleep and I wanted to get this out.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games or anything associated with it. All rights to The Hunger Games and affiliated products belong to Suzanne Collins and the other proper entities.
Summary: "I hate this. What are we doing here, Peeta?" Her eyes are large, swimming like liquid steel as she silently begs him to answer her. "Why are we still here?"
His eyes are trained on her in the darkness, drinking in the image before him in the faint moonlight. He lies with his back to the window, so his vision is not obscured by the gentle light filtering in through her curtains; it illuminates her face, so small against her pillow, her fist balled up by her mouth. She looks so much younger than nineteen, sleeping like this, the fading lines of her scarring not so visible in the darkness. She looks about fifteen, sixteen at the most. Like a child.
He shifts his leg under the covers, using his hip to adjust his position on the bed. An arm goes around her waist as she stirs, murmuring in her sleep; she doesn't wake, and he's glad. It's not often she sleeps without nightmares, and even though he's just woken from a particularly violent one, he wants her to get all the sleep she can. Besides, it's seeing her like this that helps the most, anyway. Seeing her face relaxed, without the almost permanent frown on her face makes him smile, and the image chases away the lingering effects of the bad dreams.
Slowly, his muscles relax into the bed, and he finds his body warming up in that limbo between sleeping and wakefulness. The dream he slips into isn't a bad one, but it is strange.
He's on his hands and knees in his living room, painting a portrait of his mother on the hardwood floor; Buttercup keeps batting at the woman's nose, barking at it like one of those tiny little yappy dogs he saw in the Capitol a few years ago. He adds a blood-red moustache to the painting and stands, removing his false leg and hopping into the kitchen, where Katniss is bent over the oven.
"The water's out again." She tells him, standing and turning to look at him. "We're going to have to call Effie to come fix it."
"But we don't have enough cupcakes." Peeta frowns.
"Well we'll have to use ribbons instead." She waves his concern off. "Prim should be able to spare a few."
"I dunno that that's a good idea…" Peeta hesitates, following Katniss through the back door and into the old school assembly hall, somehow with two legs now. They wind their way through the empty chairs and come to a little dark-haired girl sitting all alone, singing to herself in a little girl's voice. He doesn't understand the words, but the voice is pretty.
"Hello, sweetheart." Katniss greets the little girl.
Blue eyes fix on Katniss, and the little girl's face splits into a smile. "Hi Mama, Papa. Are you here for the race?"
"No, baby." Peeta answers. "We're looking for ribbons."
"Oh. There are some in the closet." She points to the large double doors on the other side of the hall, and Peeta sets off, Katniss behind him. The little girl's voice follows them as they step through the doors and out into a large field, the cornucopia smack-dab in the middle.
"Hurry!" Katniss is tugging on his arm, running to the large golden horn. Her eyes are wide and terrified, her hair sticking out at all angles and her face is covered with various smudges of dirt. He tries to run for the horn, but his left leg is missing, and he falls flat on his face. "Quick, Peeta! They'll catch us!"
"You go ahead!" He pulls his arm free of her grasp. "Run!"
She bolts towards the horn, aiming for the bow and arrows at its mouth. He's watching over his shoulder, terrified; his brothers are running across the clearing, headed straight for him. Katniss has just reached the bow when they dive at him—
—and he wakes with a start.
He doesn't thrash, or scream. He just comes to with a little jolt and tries to remember to breathe for a few moments. It's been a long time since he's dreamed of his brothers. He can barely remember what they look like. Even as he tries to call them to mind, the best he can do is a very vague picture—two blonde young men with blue eyes, and cheeky smiles. He can't recall the specifics, and it eats at him.
The rage almost chokes him. It's not the hijacking—his episodes are fewer these days and don't last as long as they used to. It's pure, unadulterated hatred for the Capitol, for the people that poisoned his mind with false memories and forced him to believe things that went against his very nature.
He has to get out of here.
Careful not to wake the (still!) sleeping Katniss, he slowly removes the arm she'd thrown around his waist and lays it on the bed between them. Sitting up, he tosses the covers off his leg and attempts to shuffle down to the foot of the bed. He gropes around the floor in the shadows for his false leg, taking a few moments to make sure it's securely attached before hoisting himself up.
Katniss mutters a little in her sleep—Peeta throws on a shirt and a pair of shorts before leaning over and kissing her temple, smoothing short bits of hair back from her face. The little frown that settled between her eyes relaxes and she sighs, her grip on the pillow loosening. He smiles as he leaves the room, trying not to make any more noise than necessary.
He doesn't feel like baking today. The District will understand—his baking and Katniss' hunting still depend on their moods. Anyway, there's plenty of food coming in on the weekly supply trains. They'll survive without fresh bread for one day. Instead, he settles at the kitchen counter, reaching for his sketchbook. Such an item is a luxury, sent over a few months ago by Doctor Aurelius as a reward for coming so far in his therapy.
The sun is newly risen, casting early morning light through the windows and spilling onto the counter as Peeta opens to a new page and picks up his pencil. His hand moves quickly, his mind blank, as he sketches the outline of a head on the paper. He doesn't know who it is—usually, he draws Katniss. Except, he thinks this is a male face—it's certainly not his girlfriend (wife? Partner? He doesn't really know what he and Katniss are to each other).
He spends two or three hours turning the paper this way and that, the face taking shape. He still doesn't know who it is, but the face is so familiar to him. He has to stop and take a deep breath to prevent his anger at the Capitol affecting the sketch. Surely, it's their fault he can't place a name to the face. He feels that this person is important, and he resolves to ask Katniss if she knows who it is when she wakes.
He's just tidying up the image when she pads down the stairs, showered and dressed for a new day. She smiles at him as she heads for the kettle, filling it with water and lighting the stove to boil it. "Morning."
"Morning." He puts the pencil down, finished. "Sleep well?"
"I did, actually." Her smile is soft. "Did you have a nightmare…?" She eyes the bags under his eyes.
"Earlier, yeah." He sighs. "I had a strange dream after, though."
"What was it about?"
He shrugs, rolling his neck around his shoulders. "I can't remember. I think my brothers were in it, though." He holds back any mention of the name 'Prim'. The little girl hadn't even looked like her. He remembered that much.
"But it wasn't a nightmare?" He understands her question. Usually, when she dreams of her little sister, it's a nightmare.
They lapse back into silence as Katniss makes tea, pushing a mug into his hands. He sips it slowly, ignoring the heat. After the burns he got in the fire that killed Prim, a burnt tongue is really nothing. "I drew this." He pushes the paper toward her, spinning the image so it appears right-side-up. "I can't remember who he is."
Katniss winces before her face floods with pity. His stomach drops out from underneath him. He knew it. This person was important. "That's Jonny." She says in a sad voice. "Your second brother."
"Oh." Of course. His brother. He'd been thinking about them all morning, how had he not remembered? "I don't really… remember what they looked like. My hand kinda drew him on autopilot."
Katniss takes a mouthful of her tea, looking out the window. "Sometimes it feels like I'm forgetting Prim's face." She admits in a small voice. "Doctor Aurelius says it's normal, but I feel like I'm betraying her or something. I can't even call her voice to mind."
"And I hate it." She sentences, setting her mug down. "I hate this. What are we doing here, Peeta?" Her eyes are large, swimming like liquid steel as she silently begs him to answer her. "Why are we still here?"
"Well, your restriction hasn't been lifted yet, and I'm not about to g—"
"That's not what I meant." Katniss shakes her head. "I mean, what are we doing alive? How did we survive it all? Why are we still here?"
It's a loaded question for so early in the day, but this has obviously been eating at her for a long time if she's bringing it up; Peeta takes the time to think it over before he answers. "I don't think… I don't think there's really a reason we're still here." He finally says. "But I do think they'd like us to move on. From all the pain." He adds quickly, watching her face fall. "I mean, we're alive. What kind of life would we have if we're always buried in the pain?"
"Prim wouldn't want me to be so miserable all the time," she agrees, "but I can't help it."
"Hey," Peeta stands, hurrying to the other side of the table. He sits in the chair on her left, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "No one's saying you have to be jumping for joy right now." He leans his chin on the crown of her head as she rests hers on his shoulder. "We lost our families. And all the other things we've been through—no one expects us to be okay right now. But we can try to be okay. Can't we?"
He can almost feel Katniss' shaky smile as she exhales deeply. She doesn't answer, and he doesn't push. Instead, they stare out the window together, watching fluffy white clouds across the sky.
It's a beautiful early spring day outside, and he suddenly wants to go sit on the porch with his sketchbook and just draw the landscape. Two years on from the war and most of the District is rebuilt, with brightly coloured houses where the old Town used to be, inhabited by former Town and Seam families alike. The occasional migrant family from one of the other Districts is thrown into the mix, their different colour hair or eyes or skin clearly marking them as foreign to the area. Peeta likes the variety.
"It's gonna be a nice day." Katniss murmurs.
"We're gonna be okay, aren't we?" She asks in a tiny voice. He's not even sure she's aware she's said it.
"Of course we will." He kisses her temple. "I promise."
I didn't intend for it to go this way, originally, but I like where it ended up.
Review and let me know what you think?
Thanks for reading!