So this is just a brief one-shot I wrote about Katniss and Peeta. After reading Mockingjay I really wanted to write down what was on my mind, so here it is, all in this little one-shot. It's post Mockingjay, but pre-epilogue. I hope you enjoy it. :)

Peeta, My Hope

. . .

I wake up to him screaming.

My eyes meet the darkness the moment they flutter open. It doesn't take long for my eyes to adjust, and once they do I turn my head towards Peeta. He is sitting up in bed, hunched over and panting. I wonder how bad his flashback was this time, but decide not to ask him. I can easily tell by the way his body is visibly shaking that it had been long and ugly. Pain shoots through me, hard and fast, but instead of focusing on my own affliction I reach out and lay my hand on top of his.

"Sssh, Peeta. It's okay."

Hearing my voice, Peeta lies back down and turns to my side. I lift my hand and place it gently on the side of his face, staring deeply into his soft blue eyes filled with so much hurt and confusion. I caress his cheek gently with my thumb, brushing it back and forth against his warm, flushed skin. And soon I hear his breathing start to slow down, falling into a regular rhythm. His eyes become clear and focused once again and I smile, knowing that he is back.

"Katniss," he whispers.

Reaching out, Peeta envelops me in his arms and pulls me closer to him, embracing me as a child would embrace a teddy bear. I find it hard to breathe pressed so close against him, but I force myself to stay put. I close my eyes and lose myself in his presence, finding comfort in the fact that he is here. He is not alone in his suffering and neither am I. No matter how many flashbacks from the hijacking invade Peeta's mind, he will always have me to hold to quiet the pain. And whenever the nightmares, which mainly center on Prim's death, start to press in on me, I know I can count on Peeta to wake me and murmur soothing, reassuring words in my ear until the horrid pictures in my mind finally decide to fade.

"Stay with me, Peeta," I murmur. I lift my head and gently kiss his lips. "I'm here."

It is a beautiful day, sunny and with not a cloud in the sky. Peeta and I decide that it's a perfect day to go plant some more flowers for our garden, which is located at the front of my house. Ever since we started it about a year ago it has grown quite considerably. We both take pride in it and tend to it in every way we can, especially during the spring when its beauty is the most startlingly profound.

After digging a couple holes about four to five inches deep into the ground, we throw the flower seeds in and start filling the holes back with soil. Once the holes are completely packed, we begin adding the mulch. I glance over at Peeta who is silently working beside me and then all of sudden I find myself smirking mischievously.

Stopping, I sit back and point to something behind him. "Hey Peeta, look!"

As he turns his head in that direction, I grab a handful of mulch and chuck it directly at the back of his head. Immediately he whips around and stares at me with wide, startled eyes. And then slowly, he grins.

"Oh, so that's how you want to play?"

I gesture to Buttercup, who is stretched out on the ground beside me, and say, "He did it."

Buttercup lifts his head and hisses fiercely.

Shaking his head, Peeta scoops up a pile of mulch with both of his hands and I use this time to spring up and make a run for it. I can hear his feet pound the ground behind me and I brace myself for the hit, knowing that in any second it will come.

And it does. I let out a short gasp the second I feel the mulch hit my neck…and then I hear it. Peeta's laugh. It rings loud and true, replenishing me with a strong sense of peace. The kind of peace I thought I'd never feel again. I lift my head up to the sky, still running, and think of Prim. Instantly I wish that she is here, and I envision her laughing as she runs alongside me. It hurts to imagine it, so I quickly push the hurt aside and instead focus on the here and now. It's no use thinking of Prim in that way. Rather, it is best to think of her looking down on me…on me and Peeta, and seeing how happy we are. Yes, that is how I will imagine Prim. Smiling down on us. Because deep down in my heart, I know that she is.

I snap out of my thoughts the moment I feel a clump of mulch hit the side of my face. Scowling, I whip around and face my assailant, my eyes fiercely narrowed. Peeta stops running the second I turn around, blinking at me uncertainly as I continue to stare at him, contemplating my next move. I notice his hands are empty, free of mulch, and I snicker.

"Well, well, looks like you've run out of mulch. Whatever are you going to do now?" I taunt.

Peeta takes a small step towards me and then leans down, lowering himself into a firm, defensive position; all the while never breaking hold of my gaze. He knows I'm up to something, something clever, and I smile because as a matter of fact, I am.

"Try it," Peeta demands, "I dare you."

"Is that a challenge I hear?"

Before Peeta has the chance to respond, I spring into action. I know he didn't expect what was coming because as soon as I shove my hands hard against his chest, causing him to immediately fall backwards, I see his eyes widen with surprise. The second his back is flat on the ground, I fling myself on top of him and start to kiss his neck, the spot I discovered where he is most ticklish. It kills him every time.

And no mistaking, it kills him now. "Argh! Katniss!" he exclaims, twisting desperately underneath me as I continue to kiss his neck, not in just one spot but in several, wanting to painlessly torture him as much as possible. However, after about thirty seconds he has enough and grabs both of my wrists tightly with his hands. I open my mouth to protest, but before I can he whips us around and pins me to the ground with his body.

"Very clever, Katniss Everdeen," Peeta murmurs, and touches his nose to mine.

"Wasn't it? I think it was my best attack strategy yet," I say with a grin.

Peeta smiles and I feel a burning warmth pass through me from my head to the very tip of my toes. It moves through me like electricity, striking every part and in turn igniting a fire within. Surely he must feel it too, because suddenly he's staring at me deeply with an intense look in his eyes, and it causes my heart to furiously begin to pound. I've felt this before with him - a long time ago when we were still in the games, but this time it felt so much more…stronger.

Peeta kisses me then, hard and passionately, and my body trembles slightly in response. Wrapping my arms around his neck, I pull him closer so that his chest is brushing mine and so that every part of us is now touching. I feel him breathe my name against my lips and in return I murmur his name, bringing us closer.I can feel his heart pounding wildly against mine and I sigh softly, knowing that I will remember this moment, this memory, for as long as I live.

"Peeta," I whisper. I lift my hand to lay it gently on his face.

He stops kissing me and lifts his head to gaze softly into my eyes. "Yes?"

"I need…I need to ask you something. And you have to promise to answer honestly."

Peeta nods and assures me that he will. I bite my lip, feeling my heart race even faster than it did before, and I close my eyes for a second to gain some last bit of courage.

"Katniss," Peeta says gently, reassuring me that it's okay, that there is no reason to be scared.

But there is every reason to be scared. Because what I am about to ask could very well change everything. But most importantly, it could change us. And what would happen if it did? Would we go back to being cold and impassive? The way we were after Peeta was rescued from the Capitol? Honestly, I don't know if I would be able to stand it…if I would even be able to look at Peeta without falling apart at the seams.

But isn't it worth knowing? Don't I deserve to know, especially after all we've been through? I had to ask…I had to, in spite of my heart being at stake.

I open my eyes, stare deeply into his, and finally find the courage to ask.

"Peeta, do you…do you love me?"

I expected him to stare at me in shock, possibly even pull back a little. But instead he merely gazes down at me calmly, a hint of a smile appearing at the corner of his mouth. And then the next thing he does is say something that literally causes me to gape at him in astonishment.

"Katniss, I have never stopped loving you. I know it seemed like I hated you after I was hijacked, and at times I did, but my love for you was still there even though I couldn't feel it. The Capitol may have had the power to give me false memories, but what they couldn't do was erase the very memories I had of you…of us. And yes, at the time I didn't know what was real and what wasn't, but now I do. This past year you've helped me reach the crucial point where I'm at now...and I've never been happier." His eyes soften and he lowers his voice to murmur earnestly, "Don't you see, Katniss? The way I look at you? I will always love you."

I feel tears start to prickle at the back of my eyes and I make no effort to blink them away. "Really? So you…you love me as much as you did before…before the hijacking?"

Peeta shakes his head and says, "No, I don't love you as much as I did before the hijacking. I love you more…because now I understand you more than I ever have. I've seen you for who you truly are, flaws and all, and-"

I press my lips against his, cutting him off. Fresh tears streak down my face and fall onto his cheeks, but he doesn't seem to mind. He sits up, pulls me into his lap, and kisses me passionately with all of the love in his heart. I'm crying, not simply because I'm happy but because his response was more than I could have ever hoped for. It is his response which gives me hope.

No, it isn't his response, I realize suddenly. It's him. Peeta Mellark is my hope, and always has been. From that day all those years ago when he threw me that burnt bread, to where we are now, lovingly wrapped in each other's arms. I can't believe how far we've come – how much we've surpassed. I feel amazed. Completely triumphant. But even more than that I feel…alive.


I stare into Peeta's bright blue eyes, shining with so much love, and smile at him. "Yes?"

"Now it's my turn to ask you something."

I nod and say, "All right."

"Promise to answer honestly?"

"I promise."

He gazes straight into my eyes and asks softly, "Katniss, will you marry me?"

I don't have to think about my answer, because I already know it. And I think he already knows it too, because all of a sudden we're kissing again and I'm laughing, and he's laughing, and Prim is looking down on us, smiling and laughing with us too.

And even when the time to answer has long since passed and we're sprawled out together on the grass nestled in each other's arms, I still say it. Not because I feel the need to speak it out loud, but because I think the world deserves to know.

"I love you, Peeta Mellark."

For that is one thing I know will never change.

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