Movement filtered through to my mind at some point, and I realized that Peeta was waking up. My hands clenched his shirt in front of me on his chest, but my legs were still wrapped around him but loosely. The same feeling of desperation that I had all through the night was coursing through me, but I didn't seem to have the energy to hold tightly. I was exhausted, physically, mentally, emotionally, and not being able to fall back asleep after my nightmare didn't help. The thought that it was a new day, of having to get up and go out there and work and see people, made me want to throw myself into sleep and nightmares. Maybe Peeta isn't waking up, I told myself and closed my eyes. Maybe I could just lay here and try and grasp at the warmth that Peeta is, and forget the blood and the fire that consumed my brain. Fire. My nightmares always go back to fire. The humor wasn't lost to me over the fact that the Girl on Fire was haunted by flames.
The odds weren't in my favor that morning, and Peeta began to stir. I could feel his breath upon my hair, going from a steady pattern to a deep intake signaling him awake. I felt him tense – he did usually in the morning, realizing I was there – and then his arms around me tightened. I should let him know I'm awake, I told myself. But I couldn't bring to myself to speak. I was so tired, and I wasn't sure if my mouth would work with me and let me speak. I sighed quietly, and burrowed my head more into his chest and the sheets of the bed.
A small chuckle came out of him, and his one hand stroked my back. "Good morning. I'm surprised you're still here and not running off to the town."
I shrugged, not moving from my spot. "Do you want breakfast?" A simple nod came from me, and Peeta started getting up and out of bed. He went downstairs to make breakfast and soon enough there were delicious smells all around me. Get up, I told myself. My head felt heavy, my body as well. Get up, and get breakfast. Even just this felt like a chore. Slowly, I got myself out of bed and made my way downstairs to sit at the table. Everything felt so stifled today. Within me. Around me.
A cup of tea and plate of eggs were soon in front of me, and Peeta sat in the chair opposite of me. I stared at my food a bit, and although I felt hunger I felt a bit disconnected from it. I had to just accept that this wasn't a good morning for me. I drank some tea, and then went to eat some eggs, but I couldn't taste anything. Soon enough Peeta was done and cleaning up his dishes and he realized that I barely touched my food. He was talking all throughout breakfast too, me just giving a slight nod or shrug as an acknowledgement of his words.
"Katniss? Was the food not okay? I can make you something else."
I looked up at him and he looked worried. I should have felt bad but I just couldn't wrap my head around anything. I had a headache but the throbbing of it felt dulled and far away. He asked you a question. Speak, I told myself. "It's great Peeta," my words were clipped and forced. What was wrong with me? "I just wasn't so hungry, but I think I am now."
He smiled at me. "Alright. I'm going to go deliver bread. Are you going into the town now? We can go in together. Or..." He looked confused, not really knowing what to do. I didn't either. It was only a couple of days but Peeta and I both were told of the necessity of a routine and we were striving to get one with whatever new was with us. I was throwing everything off.
"I'll go in later."
He nodded, said goodbye with a squeeze of my shoulder, and then I was left to sit alone in his house with my now room temperature eggs and tea.
Without Peeta around for me to try force myself to speak or react, I felt as if I just sunk into the chair. I should just clean up my place, and then go to my house, I told myself over and over again to do that exact thing, but I couldn't. I felt as if I couldn't move and I was just so ridiculously tired. It wasn't the kind of tired that came from not sleeping (although that definitely had a part in it), but rather was a tiredness I felt deep down inside. I wanted to crawl up the stairs back to the bed, or no, this wasn't my house, I wanted to go to my house in my own bed. But I felt so overwhelmed by such an easy task. I told myself I'd not be going into town then, if the thought of getting into a bed seemed to be too much. Everything was tired. Everything hurt. And soon enough I was staring at my tea mug trying to force myself to not see visions from my nightmare last night.
My mind took over. Things flashed in front of me as if projected. It took all of my willpower to try and force them out. Still, they made their way through and I tried to block it out but I couldn't. It's been a while since I felt this bad. I didn't think it'd be completely gone, not ever, but it was a lot. Too much. I tried to shut my brain down.
I must've fallen asleep, because the next thing I knew I was waking up. I was in a bed, and it seemed to be sometime during the night. I tried to think back to the day, but I couldn't remember a thing since sitting down for breakfast. The smell of bread wafted through, and I looked around to realize that I was in fact in Peeta's bed. Except alone. I got up and went downstairs, thinking that he must've been baking.
I found him in the kitchen. His back was to me, he stood in the kitchen against the counter just staring at his oven as his bread was baking. He didn't realize I was there and I walked closer to him. "Peeta?" I called out.
He looked over at me, surprise, relief and concern etched all over his face. "Katniss," he breathed, and then I was in his arms pressed against his chest. I didn't realize until he hugged me that I was a bit cold, and I wrapped my arms around him as well. We stayed like that for a while. He stepped back, hands still on my shoulders, and looked at me. Concern was still on his face, and he seemed to be searching for something within me. "Are you alright? Katniss I was so worried."
I scrunched my face off, trying to think. "What time is it? I can't remember the day at all..."
"It's about three in the morning. You... you don't remember the day?" He asked.
I shook my head.
He sighed. "I'll make you some tea." His voice was quiet, and soon enough the two of us had tea and we sat down at the table. His eyebrows were still down, as if stuck in a permanent place, his face stuck to always look so concerned. "Katniss. When I came home earlier today. After delivering bread and visiting Haymitch you... You were still at the kitchen table. Sitting there, staring. Your plate still not touched, your tea cold." I looked away from him, embarrassed. One of those days then. "I tried talking to you and everything but you wouldn't talk. You couldn't even acknowledge me. So I just, I brought you into my room, to lay in my bed." His hand was then at the back of his head, scratching. "I stayed with you for a good remainder of the day, just drawing. A bit later on I started baking to try and clear my mind, checking up on you every now and then. You weren't sleeping, your eyes were open but everything was just... shut off." His hand dropped and he looked down. His voice was a whisper then. "It scared me Katniss. I thought I lost you."
I looked away a bit, not being able to look at Peeta at that moment. "I guess you did...for a day at least." I turned to him, and tried a smile. "But I'm back."
He returned the smile, although he still seemed concerned. "You're back."
"Just like you come back from your flashbacks. So I guess it's kind of similar. We can't escape it, escape what we've been through, but we can come back to each other, and we will."
I blushed after I said that, realizing how I said we'd come back to each other rather than just that we'd come back. But that's how it really was though, wasn't it? Peeta gave me a reason to come back. Before, when we were too lost within ourselves (or maybe I was just lost, and he was giving me room to breathe), I just would sit in bad days for weeks. The bad days wouldn't leave. But Peeta made me want to fight it. And not only want to fight it, but I did, and I am. I don't know how bad his flashbacks were before we've become closer since our return, but I do know that I'm trying my damnedest to help him. And I think I am. And helping him is helping me, and it's this cycle of, well, I don't know what. I'd say it's recovery but it feels more than that, it just feels like our life.
Peeta put his hand on top of mine and squeezed. It looked like he was about to say something, when the timer went off and he had to get up and take whatever he was baking out. "You haven't eaten all day. I know it's three, but care for a cheese bun?"
I laughed and nodded, grateful for one of the delicious cheese buns. He took one for himself and sat across from me. I took a bite which brought a smile immediately to my face. "What were you going to do, Peeta? Try and use the smell of cheese buns to coax me out of my bad spell?"
He laughed an easy going laugh. It felt good to be able to joke about it all, and I was happy to see the worry lines were gone from his face. "I was ready to start sprinkling crumbs into your mouth until you snapped out of it."
We finished up our cheese buns, and I helped him clean the kitchen from his baking. When we were finished, I looked down, and realized there was white all over from when he hugged me before "Peeta, I have flour all over myself."
We went upstairs. "They're my clothes anyway. Just take some new ones."
Eventually I'd wear my own clothes again. Tomorrow.
And I did. I fell asleep easily that night, Peeta's arms around me (a bit more tightly, as if to hope to keep the nightmares away). Dreams came and went, some were nightmares, but none were too harmful. I woke before the sun, making my way out of Peeta's embrace as he pulled me back to kiss my forehead. I laughed, feeling better than the day before already, and went to my house to take a shower and make my way to the town.
I apologized when I got to the workspot, but they said it was fine. I was volunteering my work, even helping with the funds (most of it I was paying for, truly), and I never officially was a worker. I just started showing up. I went to work right away, knowing that soon I'd have to show Peeta how far along it was. I was nervous though. It was in the same spot as the old bakery, his family's bakery, although it was already looking different. I found myself at times without realizing it staring at the apple tree. It was just a stump now, but I didn't let them remove it. I told them it could be a stool or something, for people to sit, but really, I just needed something tangible there from that night.
Walls were going up, the roof as well, but still it was just the inner-workings. They told me that Peeta would have to come around soon and make the decisions on what kind of colors and design would be wanted. I didn't want this to set off another couple of days of flashbacks, or any. I didn't want him to be frustrated that I was working on it without telling him, although it was for him. I wasn't nervous about him wanting it though, since he was taking the time to still bake bread for tons of people and even going out of his way to deliver it. If I tried hard enough, I could see him baking in a nice place, ovens full, trying to teach me how to make a certain bread with raisins.
I blushed and tried to work harder. Peeta had tried to tell me he'd teach me to bake already, but I still couldn't help but feel embarrassed that I allowed my brain to think of that.
I made my way to Greasy Sae's for lunch, and she smiled at me. "I missed you yesterday, dear."
I nodded as I sat. "It was one of my hard days."
She understood and didn't question it further as she laid a stew in front of me. I ate as Greasy Sae got a conversation out of me, until someone came into the room from the back. I turned, and saw Jear standing in the doorway, looking at me but also looking cautious. In her hair were Prim's ribbons, in her hand a doll of hers. I looked at her and waited to see where my mind went at seeing it, but I felt a rush of warmth at the sight. Prim, her memory still ached and hurt within me, but seeing someone else with her things, using them instead of them just sitting there for me to cry into, was good. "Jear, you look pretty today," I told her with a smile. Her face broke into a huge smile and she came over to sit next to me, finding my answer to her a good enough reason to no longer feel cautious.
Routines. Another one to fall into, and it felt nice. Wake up, work in town, eat at Greasy Sae's, work some more, come home to dinner with Peeta, go to bed. There were surprises that mixed in as well – Haymitch coming over for dinner, Jear being around, coming to his house to find Peeta painting and just wasting a night watching – but they were welcomed. I found it easier to smile at times, and even was able to laugh it off when I came around to find a goose in my yard that started to chase me. Haymitch was able to get it away, eventually getting it into a pen that he made for them.
"Why do you even have these geese Haymitch?" I asked scowling. Although Haymitch seemed rather indifferent to them (which was more than I could say for his feelings for me), they seemed just a nuisance.
"They listen to me, unlike some neighbors," he looked at me pointedly.
I waved him off and invited him for dinner.
I was working again at the bakery, trying to think in my head when I'd tell Peeta. It'd have to be soon. The other workers were becoming more persistent about it. Maybe at dinner I'd approach the subject. I felt nervous, not only about if he'd have a flashback anymore, but also because I wanted him to know that I was doing this for him. I enjoyed the work, it took my mind off of things without me having to kill (although I still did hunt, it still brought peace to my mind, but it was good to construct rather than destroy), but really I was doing this in hopes that it would mean something to him. That he'd understand. I shook my mind from the thoughts, and hammered again at the nail I was working on. I'd deal with these thoughts tonight, when I'd finally have to tell him. I'd deal with it then.
There seemed to be a change amongst the workers, and although I never noted of what they spoke of, I caught on to the fact that they were all sending greetings and thanks to someone. I stopped my hammering and walked over to them to see why they stopped.
When I walked out, I saw why. Peeta was there, handing them several loaves of bread but his eyes were trained on me. I started to panic. This wasn't supposed to be how he found out. His entire face was a blank slate, and I felt myself panic even more. I knew how to read Peeta and his face, understand what he was going through. But I couldn't then. There wasn't a malice, so I didn't think he was going to have a flashback (at least here), but he wasn't smiling either. What do I say? I haven't done anything wrong, but I felt wrong looking at him, him just seeing what was going on finally. After a bit he turned and walked off without another word, and all I wanted to do was run after him. I had more work to do though, so I tried to go back to work.
"You're off for the rest of the day. Go talk to him," Thom told me, his hand on my shoulder.
I nodded quickly and headed out, jogging back to his home where it seemed he was going towards. I really hoped that he wasn't having a flashback. The last time he saw it he did. The last time...no, the last time it was just ashes. Ashes and death. I wasn't here the first couple of days, but who knows? Maybe even his family's bodies were still stuck in there. My stomach lurched and I started running to the house. Don't have a flashback because of this. Because of me. I just wanted to help.
The door was unlocked when I got there. I paused, trying to catch my breath and then went inside. "Peeta?" I called out to the silent home. I listened for a bit to see if I could hear anything, when the faint sounds of footsteps from overhead came around. "Peeta," I said again, but it was under my breath, as if I was saying it to myself rather than calling out for him again.
I climbed up the stairs and listened again, making my way to push open the door to his room. He was standing in front of the window, looking out. The sun was setting, burning oranges, pinks, and purples throughout the room, him silhouetted amongst it all. For a second I just stood there still and silent, taking everything in. It was absolutely breathtaking, the colors, the stark contrast of his body in shadow against it all, framed by the window. I wished I was as good with paints as he was for the moment, wish I could capture this moment on a different surface so more people other than just me, just right now could appreciate it. I tried to shake my head clear, and took a step forward. "Peeta," I said again. I felt foolish. Was his name the only thing I could say? I just didn't know what to say. I didn't know how he was feeling. I didn't know absolutely anything.
I took another step towards him. Another, until I was right behind him. "Peeta I'm sorry I," I stopped, not knowing what to say. What was I sorry for? For not telling him? It wasn't like I was trying to surprise him, but I was keeping it from him a bit afraid of how he would take it. How he was taking it now.
"Katniss," He said, and turned around to face me. His face was blank still, and he reached out for me. I wasn't afraid, I didn't think he was going to hurt me. His face was blank, there was no show of the anger of tracker jacker within him. But I was confused. What was going on inside his head? He ended up with his hand on my cheek, and I closed my eyes involuntarily, of skin on skin. "Is that what you've been doing in town?"
"Yes. I've been working on the new bakery. After you had an episode by seeing the rubble...Peeta I couldn't let that happen again. So I started helping with the work. And they need you to go and help with picking out the colors, they need to figure it out soon. I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner Peeta, I didn't know how–" I was rambling, but was stopped by the feeling of his lips on my own. I was surprised, but soon found myself responding. We've kissed a couple of times. If he had an episode, I'd kiss his forehead or cheek or even his lips to help him out. He'd at times going to bed or waking up would kiss my head or neck. Only the two that I started really felt like something more, felt like something besides the feeling of lips upon the other. He started this kiss, this press of lips upon another, and it felt like something more.
I wanted something more. I've felt it before, but only with Peeta. And... would the feeling only be with Peeta? Everything seemed to come down to him. I fought the bleak nothingness just so that he wouldn't worry. I felt like a human because of him. And now, as his lips were upon mine, as my arms went around his neck, wound through his hair, held his arms, I don't know anyone else who could make me feel like this. Make me feel alive after everything I lost. He made me be able to see past scars, see truly just my skin and bones. And he made me be able to see past that too. What I am, it's not the scars, but the fact that the scars are healing. I gripped him harder, pulled him closer, kissed him more. I fought him because he was who the Capitol wanted for me, but after this all, wasn't even more of a rebellion to fully admit it all? Admit what? I asked myself. Admit what? Somewhere I knew, I always knew, maybe. I don't know. It was confusing and almost felt too much, but I didn't let myself think of that. I couldn't. I could only think of this boy, Peeta, there right with me and kissing me. His tongue touched my own, and I wasn't afraid. I didn't flinch. I wanted it, and more.
He kissed me. I kissed him. I tried to pull Peeta closer. And it was like the time before, when I lost my entire day. I lost track of time. Was time even a thing really anymore? I was only sure of Peeta and myself. I could not even remember the last time I was sure of myself. Before the war? Before the games, the berries? No, even then, I wasn't sure of myself. I was just sure of my need to survive, as well as my families. Before my father died, maybe, but I was too young to really understand who I really was.
It was a while until our lips weren't on one another. Our foreheads pressed against one another, and my eyes were still closed. I was almost afraid to look into his eyes, to lose myself in them. Because I knew that was where it'd head, if I opened my eyes. I breathed in, and all I could breathe in was him. It was there, it always was, wasn't it?
"So do I not have to apologize?" My voice was a whisper, and rough. But not from sleep, or anything that I usually would attribute it to. I let myself let it know. It was because of Peeta.
"No... Katniss it's." And Peeta was left speechless. That was usually my role. Words unable to form, and I could feel his palms, on my hips, sweaty.
"Do you remember," I started. suddenly feeling a need to talk, to use words, in a way that he always found so easy. These words were strong in me, built upon from the years we had fought together side by side. "Do you remember when I said it was easier before?" It was back to the day of my birthday again, when he first held me after so long. "You asked me if it was easier then, and I said it was. Even with all the lies and the image and the Capitol, and I said it was easier." My grip on his arms tightened, my forehead against his harder. He breathed in, hard, and I exhaled. "It was easier. Because it was easier to believe, and lie. For me. It was an act. I hated the cameras, but I could use them as an excuse each time I found myself reaching for your hand without realizing doing so."
He was silent, both of us were, and I tried to process my own words and thoughts. "There's so many sides of you," he said with a laugh.
A cut to me, and it hurt a bit after everything I said. "Yeah, and all that's left is a shitty one."
"I've loved every version of you, Katniss," He told me, his voice hushed as well as his hand found its way to play with my hair. "The five year old that was eager to have her voice heard was the first I found. The eleven year old that wished to be silent. The protector, the savior. The older sister that sacrificed everything for his little sister. The tribute. The victor. The mockingjay. Even when they programmed me to hate you, my love was always still there, somewhere. It was what got me through the venom." His hands were on my cheeks, pressing hard in not a way that meant venom but in a way that completely was Peeta. "You are you, in all of the different moments, and in all of the different ways. And I have loved every one of them."
I have changed. Yes. Hasn't he changed too? He was the boy with the bread, always ingrained in my mind. But he was so much more now. Even past the venom that he had in his blood, I knew he was more. He meant more. And now we were alone, really alone. No cameras, no tributes trying to kill us, no Effie trying to keep us on schedule, no anything. But us. Us, the setting sun, and the rising moon.
"I love you, Katniss. I always will. And you say you don't deserve me, but I don't give a damn about who deserves what. I love you, Katniss. I always have."
It wasn't about who deserved what. It wasn't about who I could survive without or with. I could survive just fine. But to live, to live...
No, it wasn't about what I deserved. I didn't deserve much, after everything. Or maybe I deserved it all. But I wanted Peeta. And Peeta, somehow, after it all, wanted me still a well.
"You got a head start," I said, my lips brushing his. "Always have. You always loved me." I took a deep breath. Feel, I told myself. Feel, don't put everything upon your actions. Feel, and put words to what it is that is within you. "I have to catch up, or love you ten-fold." I pressed my lips on him again, hard. And I separated with a deep breath, and finally let myself truly say the words. "I love you too."
And then the games really began.
Alright so! I know a lot of you were sad about this story ending, and well here we are. I just wanted to say thank you to everyone reading! When I started this out, I was writing mainly for myself and sending it randomly to a couple of friends. It was crazy how many people now read it, and I just want to thank all of you. I'm over 100 reviews and that means quite a lot.
I could have done more with the story. Done more with the push pull of the relationship, and everything. But I felt like I just had to end it, kind of. In my mind, there'd be more bad days to get through, but I thought this would be a good enough place to end it. Besides, I love the whole Peeta is good at words and Katniss is good with actions and switching them around, so I had to.
I didn't go into a lot of things with my story. I didn't go into Katniss' mother, Gale, the pearl, the book of memories, etc. I did that on purpose. Before I wrote this story I read a good deal of pre epilogue Mockingjay stories and, although I enjoyed a lot of them, there were similar elements. I wanted to try and write a way that they ended up with each other without those parts. Also, as much as I love the "real or not real," In my mind I have Katniss truly saying the words not just saying a "Real" (goes back to the whole Katniss is good with actions but fights to say the words etc)
So yeah. Thank you for everyone who stuck around for this story. I usually only write short things, or just stop writing half-way through so this was an accomplishment! I'll soon be writing the engagement fic, and soon as well be able to put out my AU that I keep talking about. I just have a couple more parts to hash out, and then the first part can go up.
It was my birthday yesterday! I was trying to get this out then, to be as a sort of birthday present to you all, but literally passed out while writing it. That, and it was my 21st so I had to go out to a bar and buy a beer just because I could. But anyway, this is my belated birthday present to you, and I hope you enjoyed the story :)