I own nothing hunger games.
This takes place after Mockingjay, but before the epilogue. Tons of Peeta/Katniss.
Rated M for future reasons.
The Mockingbird Who Couldn't Fly
For Whom the Heart Beats
I feared the night.
And I wasn't too sure what to do about it. Night meant sleep, sleep meant dreams, and dreams meant terror. In my dreams I saw all the dead. I saw Prim, Boggs, Finnick, Snow, Coin, Rue, Thresh, Cinna, and dad. I saw faces of comrades who I didn't even know name wise, but had seen fall in a war that I was the symbol of. I saw children dying, heard the screams of their mothers. I felt fire, pain, fear, exhaustion, pain, pain, pain…and it only stopped when I woke up screaming every night, clutching my sheets, sweat pouring from my mutilated body.
The revolution had created a monster.
In the first few months of my exile, I barely existed. Peeta planted the primrose bushes, and I began to speak to my doctor and my mother. And then I took Buttercup in, and something changed. I felt that it was finally time make an effort to become human again. But I still fear the night.
The sun is barely beginning to show over the horizon, its brilliant orange symbolizing a new day, a short reprieve from the nightmares that visit from the shadows of night. I have been up for hours, too scared to go back to sleep, to desperate to find the day so I don't have to. The crisp early spring air is fresh and welcoming, and the coolness refreshes me. Today…today might be the day where I go hunting again. The idea had come to me yesterday while I lay in bed, facing the wall. If I was going to continue living, or at least trying to, I had to bring some order into my life. Hunting would help me get better. Hunting would repair my mind, my soul, even possibly my heart.
My eyes shifted from the sun to Peeta's kitchen window. No…only one thing could mend my heart…after all; its initial breaking had been my fault. I had broken Peeta's heart…ruined him…and in return, my heart had broken itself. The only way to fix it was him…but I doubted he wanted the job. The light in the window had been on for at least an hour, Peeta, the boy with the bread, up before sunrise to bake and sell his food to the few stragglers who had returned to district 12 to rebuild. He fed the workers, gave them hope with the soft loaves of deliciously concocted breads. It was no wonder his new bakery was being built in record time.
I stood up and stretched, returning to my kitchen to grab the kettle of tea that had been brewing. I made a decent amount of the sweet herbal brew that Greasy Sae had showed me how to make. It's meant to add weight to my bones, to revitalize me. It tastes like flowers and fresh, pure water. But today…it's also meant to share. Pouring the tea into a large flask, I slip on my soft hunting boots, tie my hair back, and throw on my father's hunting jacket. I leave some juicy entrails that Greasy Sae dropped off for Buttercup, and grabbing my bow and arrows, I am on my way out the door. Peeta's house is two over from mine, and the walk is fast so I don't have time to rethink my plan.
I knock once on his door, and it's only moments before it opens and he stands in the doorway, his blue eyes surprised. "Katniss…" It takes me a moment to look him up and down, the raw beauty of his features momentarily stunning me silent. His burned skin looks better than mine, the paleness of his skin making it easier for the grafts to blend. His hair is short, but soft and slightly curly, the light from the house bouncing off the blonde strands. He's a lot thinner than he had been before the second games, but I can see the muscles in his arms.
Recovering, I hold up the flask. "Tea. Care to join me?"
Peeta smiles once, not his radiant smile, but a soft, almost relieved smile. "I think I can fit tea into breakfast. Come on in, I have food on the stove." I follow him into the kitchen, leaving my weapons at the door, shedding my coat. His house is a lot warmer than mine, proof that his ovens have been running for a while. Loaves of bread line three bakers rack. He's been busy. I wander over to them while he adds some food for me to the stove. The racks are neatly labeled. Cinnamon, apple, berry, plain…my mouth begins to water. Peeta notices and cuts one of the cinnamon loaves open. "Try it. It's a new recipe…"
He can barely finish before my teeth are ripping into the piece he gave me. I moan in pleasure. "Peeta…this is…divine."
His blue eyes darken just a hint and he turns away with a chuckle and a blush. "Glad you like it." Quickly, he serves breakfast…eggs and bacon with the cinnamon bread and tea. We eat in silence for a few moments, but I can feel Peeta's gaze on me.
"I'm sorry." The words blurt out of my mouth before I can stop them, and I instantly regret it. Peeta looks confused. Now I have to continue. "I'm sorry for everything. For making you fall in love with me, and abusing your trust. For your leg, for pushing you away, for not being able to save you the second time…" Peeta is up and around the table before I can even finish my apology, his strong arms around me, his face buried in my hair as he murmurs for me to hush. He holds me while I cry, and I cling to him for safety. When my tears have all but dried up, he releases me and pushes back a wayward strand of hair.
"I don't regret anything that has happened to me because of you. It wasn't your fault after the 2nd games. I'm sorry I couldn't be there for you. And you never made me fall in love with you; I did that all my own. And I don't take it back for the world." He pressed a gentle kiss onto my forehead and returned to his seat, motioning me to continue eating. Embarrassed by my outburst, I return to my food.
"I'm going to go hunting today. Could you, maybe join me for dinner tonight? If you're not too busy that is." Peeta smiles again.
"I'd love to. Should I bring Haymitch out of that dungeon he's been living in?" I think about it, and then nod. Peeta meets my gaze and doesn't let go. "You know, Katniss…if you ever need anything…anything at all…I'll be here for you."
I want to return the favor…to offer my strength for him…but I am weak. I am scared. I am a monster. He'd be better off without me. Better off to find a soft wife who will be there for him. Who won't repel him with her scars and her nightmares. But I don't tell him this. Instead, I stand up, flash him a smile which I hope looks sincere, and take my plate to the sink. Turning I run straight into his chest. He had snuck up behind me, and his arms encircle me, pulling me into the warm embrace that I have missed.
I should let him go. I shouldn't require him to love me. But I am selfish, so I stay in his embrace, snaking my arms around his waist to lock my hands against his back. And then…to my surprise and his too, I kiss him. Just once, but with enough urgency and passion, that I know it will be the first of many. And before he can respond, I'm out the door with a small wave and a smile, my bow in my hand, and my steps brilliantly lighter than they have been in months.
I go to the woods and set up my snares. I have lost a lot of weight and therefore muscle and stamina, so my hunting takes longer than usual. Hours pass and I slowly collect a good amount of game. Some to eat, some to store, some to sell, and the best part of all…and enormously large turkey that happened to wander across my path…that I will donate to the workers. As I stop by the rock that Gale and I always visited I am hit with a wave of sadness. It's lonely, hunting without him…but I haven't yet forgiven him for his possible involvement in the death of my sister. I had learned from my mother that Gale was in district 2, something with the military. That put him 10 districts away from me…and I didn't mind in the least. But still, the sudden emptiness at realizing he's gone or good surprises me. I don't wish to linger in the area for long, but since I am too weak to walk down to the lake, I take a quick breather, building a small fire and roasting one of the squirrels I have just caught. The meat is juicy, and since there is no need to share with any companions, I eat in comfortable silence, my hunger forcing me to consume the entire animal.
I think of Rue then…her excitement at being able to eat the leg on that night before her death. And in her honor, I carve her name into the rock that I am leaning against and do a silent salute, the same I had done to the cameras after her death.
Exhausted, I shoulder my game bag and drag the rest back to town. Greasy Sae is more than willing to take some of the game, and volunteers to prepare the turkey or the excited workers in town. There are 15 people who have returned to 12…I know some of them…and their hungry eyes light up as they see the giant turkey that will be their meals. Leevy and her brother, two of the returnees, each pull me into a crushing hug…gratitude in their eyes. With the money I have just earned from selling some of the game, I buy potatoes and berries from one of the few vendors who have set up shop, and donate those too. If district 12 is going to be rebuilt, it needs to be done with strength. And the meal that I am providing to the workers, it'll help. I say my goodbyes and trudge back to my house, my game bag considerably lighter.
Peeta is waiting for me on my porch with a surprisingly sober Haymitch. Both men smile when I hold up the game bag and we all go inside. Haymitch lights a fire in the living room, and I set the kitchen up to start preparing the rabbits that will be our main course. Peeta looks curiously into the game bag as I pull out 2 rabbits.
"You have a lot of game still in here."
I nod and begin to cook, slow roasting the rabbits in the oven, surrounded by potatoes, carrots, and some herbs I had picked in the forest. "I want to try my hand at making jerky. It'll preserve the meat in a way where I can bring it into the woods with me when I hunt, or have a store to share with people next winter. Rooba taught me how to do it years ago." I take the game bag away from him and put it in a secure box outside where the coolness from the night will allow it to stay good until I can start to skin and salt it all.
Peeta has brought over fresh-baked rolls, and Haymitch has brought over some alcohol. I grin at look at the two men sitting at my table, both waiting for the delicious meal to be done. As soon as it is cooked, I serve and we all dig in.
Haymitch lets out a groan of pleasure. "I thought you couldn't cook, Katniss."
I smile secretively and just shrug. Peeta laughs and holds up his glass of water-both of us opting out of the alcohol. "To recovering. Finally." We cheers to that and then grow quiet.
Haymitch turns to me. "How are you doing, sweetheart?" I shrug again, too confused to discuss my dreams. But I have a feeling Haymitch knows about them. He probably dreams too. I've heard him wake up once or twice screaming…our houses are next to each other…which means he probably hears me every now and then. In a surprising gesture of affection, Haymitch reaches out and clasps my small hand in his. We lock eyes and silently affirm our fears. Both of us have nightmares. Peeta watches our exchange silently and says nothing.
When dinner is over, Haymitch thanks me for the meal, kisses my forehead and leaves. Peeta helps me with the dishes and we collapse on the couch. He opens up his arms to me, and I gladly crawl into his embrace. The soreness of the day's hunt leaves my muscles as he wraps his arms around me. We shift to get more comfortable, and I end up practically on top of him, our legs tangled. I look up into his eyes and see him staring at me…his blue eyes hungry. I can't help myself-I readjust my body so I am hovering above Peeta, my lips inches above his. His eyes never leave mine as one hand tangles through my hair to bring my lips crashing to his.
The hunger that I felt on the beach, it returns with a vengeance, and my body cries out for him, reveling in the heat of his touch. He pulls away, a sigh on his lips. "I missed you. So much, Katniss. Those months when you were just a shell of yourself, I feared for you, prayed you'd come back to me." His lips brush mine again. "But I don't want to rush this."
My heart stops in my chest and I meet his sad gaze. "You don't want me?"
Peeta sits up slightly, adjusting his arms so I am once again cocooned inside of his embrace. "No, no…that's not what I meant. I want you. So much that I doubt you can even imagine. But we need to go slow. I still have episodes, and you're just starting to come around. We can't rush us. I want us to be real-not faked or just for convenience." He watches me for a second, relief rushing across his features when I nod in agreement. Of course I am embarrassed, but he doesn't say anything more. When I start to doze off, he sits up and carries me to bed, laying me gently under the covers.
I reach out and grab his arm as he turns to leave. "Peeta. Stay…please?" Peeta hesitates and I shake my head. "I just…I miss your arms around me when I sleep. It used to be the only thing that kept the monsters away. Please…" my voice trails off as he nods and pulls off his shirt, kicks off his shoes, and joins me under the covers, pulling my back flush to his chest. We fall asleep quickly.
And for the first time…in a long time…I sleep without dreaming.