NOTE: I've decided to practice my editing on this story. It was the first thing I wrote, and it is near and dear to my heart, but some of it is sloppy, so I want to make sure it's the best work I can do. For new readers, I hope you enjoy (and review 3). If you're re-reading, tell me what you think.
SUMMARY: Thirteen manages to cure Peeta of his tracker jacker hallucinations with a simple antidote. But he still has flashbacks, still has moments where he wonders if he'll hurt the one person he loves. The story starts out right before Peeta, Annie and Johanna are brought back, and continues from there. Gale and Katniss have unfinished business, but her feelings are set for Peeta when she realizes he is no longer lost. The story started as Everlark fluff, but it's turned into so much more. Action, terror, and an impossible decision await Katniss as she tries to take down the Capitol once and for all. There are friends to be made and lost, and the most unlikely ally comes in her moment of need. Through it all, Peeta is by her side, and the two of them will never stop fighting for each other. Rated M for later Everlark moments, of course. ;)
"They're back." A voice called from the door. Without turning my head, I knew it was Haymitch. And I knew who they were. And I knew that he knew I didn't care about they. I cared about him, but Finnick was here. He also didn't care about they. He cared about her. "We're needed in the hospital."
It was hard to tell from his tone what state they were in. For once I wished Haymitch had other emotional states besides angry and bitter. Every word out of his mouth ended up as a combination of the two. Right now I didn't need angry and bitter. I needed: Will it be like it was before? Or more importantly, does he still love me?
"Haymitch—" I started, feeling the anxious longing and anticipation fill my throat.
"That's all I know." I could see him without seeing him, holding his hands in the air and backing out the door slowly, his eyes never leaving the back of my head.
Part of me wanted to stay in this meadow filled room forever. If I never went outside, never faced it, then I could go on pretending like everything would be ok. But if I was being honest with myself, I hadn't really pretended everything would be ok. I had pretended the opposite. The image of Peeta cast in my mind was a hate-filled, twisted snarl, fixed intently and completely on me.
"Come on Finnick." I said, getting to my feet. "She's back."
"Hopefully." He said, his eyes still trained on the grass out in front of us. "Hopefully it's Annie. Who knows what they turned them into."
"Don't say that." I snapped. I wanted the loving image of Peeta back, the one of him in the cave or on the beach. The only way to get that would be to face him now. "We don't know anything for sure, and we never will if we keep cowering in here."
With a pathetic shake of the head, Finnick took my outstretched hand and let me lead him out the door. He followed me through the corridors of thirteen like a reluctant child, always pulling back, afraid of what he would find at the end of our journey. I had never met Annie, but only true love could tear you up like that. It would be bad if Peeta hated me, and I felt like I would never be able to move on, but for Annie was Finnick's whole life.
When we reached the hospital doors, I gave his hand a reassuring squeeze. With a sudden burst of bravado, Finnick let go of me and pushed open the double doors, charging into the emergency floor with newfound courage. As I broke through the barrier separating the sanctity of ignorance from the reality of truth, I sucked in a breath. The last thing I had expected was this much blood.
The first person I saw was Gale. A nurse was tending to him, wrapping his arm in a thick white gauze. From where I was standing, I could hear him crying out in pain and cursing at her to get it over with. He was injured, but alive. He noticed me and sat up a little, expecting me to come over to him. At another time, I would've run to him. He would have been the source of my inner turmoil. But now all I could give him was a quick glance and a hopeful nod. Peeta. I had to find Peeta.
"Finnick!" I heard a soft shout to my left. A girl with dark hair and brilliant green eyes was running towards us, her eyes never leaving my friend. As soon as he saw her, I noticed his shoulders collapse, and he opened his arms as she reached him, enveloping her in a hug. This was one of the few times I saw Finnick Odair cry, and it was certainly the only time it was out of joy. I couldn't help but watch them, jealous of the way they just knew the other would be waiting for them. All of Finnick's fears were for nothing.
That was what I wanted, but I knew that even if Peeta were a hundred percent ok, I wouldn't get it. Because I had been stupid. For months I had ignored him, then when I finally realized that he was what I wanted, it had been too late. I had to mend the injuries I had given him before we started to grow together. Then the Capitol had taken him, so there was no way of knowing at which point I would have to start.
The next person I noticed on my tour of the emergency room floor was Johanna Mason. She was laying on a table, limp in the doctor's arms. Her head was shaved and her arms and legs were covered in burns and scars. I could only imagine how much they had tortured her. After all, she was the only one who had actually known anything. As I passed her, those dark eyes scanned over me, and she shook her head, but pointed to the right.
Then I saw him. Peeta was already awake, sitting up as a doctor shone a light into his eyes. His mouth was moving furiously as he pushed a nurse's hands away from a bandage on his arm. His face, much like Johanna's body, was covered in cuts and bruises. A coating of sweat stuck his hair to his forehead, but honestly, Peeta had never looked more beautiful to me. As soon as he looked up and saw me, the world seemed to mute. It was like dipping my head underwater, where everyone's voices suddenly become far away and you can't quite feel it when people touch you. There were questions swimming around me: ma'am, I need to see your identification, who are you, you need permission to be here. But they didn't matter. Because at that moment, a very small half smile broke out on Peeta's lips.
"Peeta." I couldn't help but let it slip out as I reached his bed. The smile is still there, but it's exhausted and full of trepidation. He looks happy to see me, but his eyes are muddled, confused, looking at me like he doesn't quite know how to feel.
"Kat-" he started to say my name, but I interrupted him with a kiss, pushing my lips into his. They're dry and chapped, and I'm pretty sure someone knocked out one of his teeth, but in that moment I didn't care. He's back in thirteen, and I want him to know that no matter what has happened, I haven't changed.
Once the surprise leaves him, his body relaxes under my arms. He reaches up and touches my cheek, deepening in the kiss and opening his lips into mine. My heart felt like it was about to explode out of my chest. Peeta was kissing me back. Peeta hadn't forgotten. Then there is a tapping on my shoulder, and someone pulls me away from him.
Haymitch was standing next to me, half-grinning and half-frowning, a concerned look on his face. "Slow down sweetheart. You're not helping his oxygen issue."
Heat crept up into my cheeks as I looked back at Peeta. His smile had widened, spreading all the way across his lips. But he was breathing a little heavily, holding onto his chest. I backed up a little, letting the doctors step between us.
"Sorry." I exhale. I needed oxygen as much as he did right now.
"Don't be." Peeta answers before Haymitch can. That gets a snarl and almost a slap on the head, until Haymitch realized Peeta was still injured and pulls back, muttering to himself about young love.
"Go home, Katniss. Get some goddamn sleep. He's not going anywhere." Haymitch followed up. And he was right. Peeta was finally safe, here in thirteen, with me. I could go home and rest and he would be here when I woke up. So I left, knowing that now there was nothing that could tear us apart.