A/N: Sorry for all the typos that I am sure you're about to find in here, but if I went back and re-read this, I would have ended up deleting most of it so I am just posting it. Thanks for reading!

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the characters in the following story. They all belong to the brilliant Suzanne Collins.

He has the same nightmare almost every night. He sees Katniss, her eyes clouded and crazed, a hint of desperation in them. She shifts her arrow, as she's supposed to, but as she releases the string, she shoots the wrong person. The wrong president.

He sees the look in her eyes. The unwillingness to prolong death's arrival any longer. And he reaches out to block her from swallowing the pill that would end it all, would finish her off.

But sometimes, like tonight, he doesn't make it in time. His hands barely scrape the surface of her dress, but her teeth make it to her pocket before he can. And those are the times he watches Katniss die. Her frail, tired body crumbles to the floor, the color from her face fades. He reaches out to touch her, feel her pulse, hear the shallow whispers of her breathe, anything to reassure her that she is alive. But all he feel's is a cold, unmoving body. All signs of life gone.

He wakes up in a pool of sweat, his body shuddering as he holds back the sobs that are trying desperately to escape his sore chest. He doesn't know what to think or what to do.

Because she's a mutt. A mutt who was created to kill him and everyone he ever cared about. But then this nightmare wouldn't be a nightmare. Rather, it would simply be a dream. The mutt would die, and he would be safe.

But why does his chest contract in pain when he can't save her? When he can't save the mutt who he's supposed to hate? Why do sobs threaten to rake his body over with pain when he cannot stop her in time, when he watches her die?

The confusion in his mind, the blurred lines of what is real and what is not are painful and unbearable and he's not too sure how much longer he'll be able to withstand it all.

He hates Katniss Everdeen, he knows as much. But he loves her, as well.

He loves her in a way that he can't explain. And his love for her, sometimes can overpower his hate. And for those few instances, in those rare seconds, he feels most like himself. He feels like the Peeta Mellark he was before all of this happened. Before the war, before the suffering, before the Hunger Games.

Sometimes, his nightmares aren't so bad. Sometimes he's able to save Katniss from ending her life, and sometimes she's the mutt who takes his. Other times, their all just memories. Of the time he had found Katniss and Gale sleeping in her kitchen after his whipping, or of the time on the train ride back home from the first Hunger Games when he'd realized Katniss had faked her love for him.

They all leave his heart aching painfully, and though he blames the Capitol for most of his nightmares, he knows he can't blame them for those last few.

He pulls himself off his bed, running a shaky hand through his sweaty, matted hair and searches his side table for a piece of paper and a pen as he often does after a night like this one.

Dear Katniss, he begins. His words start to flow on to the page faster than he can register them in his brain and he's sure it's better that way because the alternative is to overanalyze everything which often left this particular part of his therapy feeling useless and unsatisfying.

He expresses his hate for Katniss. Because, he swears to God, he's never felt a hatred like this for a person before. Never has loathed a single person with this fiery, devastating passion before. But then he articulates his love for her. The love that's unexplainable. The love that couldn't, shouldn't coexist with his hate for her. But it does, and sometimes it's an all-consuming feeling and he wants nothing more than to touch her, see her. He tells her all of that, and about his dream from tonight. He ends the letter, telling her he hopes she's doing well, because he truly does hope the best for her despite everything before folding the paper neatly, sliding it into an envelope and leaving it in Dr. Aurelius' mailbox. He always looks over the letters before sending them to Katniss. He has a feeling he filters his words, leaving the especially harsh letters on the nights where his dreams are entirely controlled by the Capitol out of Katniss' hands.

Each night is a battle, each night is a new terror. She tries so hard, every night, to save the few people in this world whom she loved. Tries to protect Prim, and Rue, her father and Cinna, Boggs and Finnick from the horrible deaths that awaited them. Tries to save Peeta from the horrors of the Capitol. Tries to come to the aid of the red-headed avox girl. But each night, she wakes, her chest heaving, her breath ragged as she realizes that she's failed. She's failed each and every person she loved. She's failed every person who she cared for, who cared for her.

Its nights like these when she misses the strong arms that had the powers to take her pain away with his words, who could make the nights a bit easier with just the weight of him around her waist. Its nights like these when she craves the feel of Peeta on the other side of the bed, needing him so badly to protect her from herself.

She lies there for the rest of the night, afraid to even close her eyes.

Episodes. That's what Dr. Aurelius calls them. Those few minutes when the world stops and his body begins to tremor uncontrollably. When he has to clench the seat he's sitting in until his knuckles are a pasty white, leaving harsh red dents in his palms afterwards. When he wants nothing more than to kill Katniss Everdeen, the Capitol's mutt. The devil's spawn created with the sole purpose of destroying everything and anything he loves.

To his credit, Dr. Aurelius tries almost a million methods to help with his 'episodes', to make him better. But only one seems to be even slightly effective.

"Write down all the good memories you have." He says, handing Peeta a piece of paper and a pen. When Peeta begins to write down primary-school memories of easier, simpler times on the playground, he hears Dr. Aurelius let out a small cough. "Good memories with Katniss, most preferably." He rephrases.

Peeta pauses, trying to recollect good memories with Katniss.

The first one that comes to him is the day they'd spent on the roof of the training center at the capitol, watching the sunset, spending the day in each other's arms. Their problems and worries had seemed to cease to exist for those few hours, and of that he was grateful. He writes it down.

He thinks of their time in the cave when she'd nursed him back to health. Regardless of what her motives were in the end, those days were perfect to him. Because despite everything, it was the first time Peeta had told Katniss exactly how he felt, in so many words. It was the first time she had let her guard down, had trusted him completely.

He writes about that night at the beach next, during the Quarter Quell. When she'd told him she needed him. When she'd admitted to him that she would be the person who would be damaged beyond repair without him. And then she'd kissed him in a way different than before. In a hungry, lustful way that left him wanting more.

The list went on for a bit longer, and he surprised himself a bit by the last memory he was able to recall.

The day after he'd tossed the bread out for Katniss, when he tried desperately hard to catch her gray eyes. She'd looked at him for a millisecond before looking away. She'd walked to a flower a minute later, a dandelion. She'd picked it up and blew on it, a new expression taking over. He wasn't sure on what it was that featured on her face, and he'd dwelled on it for a few days before it had hit him.


Greasy Sae sets her breakfast in front of her, as she does every morning, and then looks at her carefully. She plays with the scrambled egg on her plate, pushing it back and forth, nibbling on a bite before putting the fork down. She's full before the tiny bit of egg even makes its way to her throat.

"Something came in the mail for ya, love." She says, her wrinkled fingers dropping a small stack of envelopes in front of her before whisking her still-full plate away.

Katniss stares at the first of several envelopes in the pile, her name written in clear, cursive writing on the top left of the paper.

The middle of the paper held an entirely different name, though. A name that haunted her dreams and her waking thoughts. A name that made her heart thump too loudly in her chest.

Peeta Mellark.

She picks up the first envelope gingerly, almost afraid. She fingers through the rest of them. They're all from Peeta.

Suddenly, an angry lump rises in her already raw throat.

She's angry because she knows. She knows what this is; it isn't Peeta sending her letters. It's the capitol. It's the people she distrusts, and with good reason. It's probably Plutarch, she thinks sourly.

She's scared as well, though that emotion is harder for her to admit. Because what if, somehow, it is Peeta? Her mind automatically goes back to the first time she saw him after the Quarter Quell. The hatred in his eyes, his hands around her throat.

He got better over time, didn't strangle her every time she came near him. But he never did stop hating her, if only a little bit.

The words in these letters, even if they are from Peeta, won't be from her Peeta.

She grabs the stack off of the table and stalks to a drawer, tossing them all in there before closing it shut.

It's for the better, she thinks.

It's almost three weeks later when the 'episodes' have all but ceased to exist that Peeta finds himself on a train, District 12 coming into view.

He shudders a bit, the view in front of him disheartening and disastrous. Gone is the town that raised him, replaced by rubble and dirt. Reconstruction was underway, he could see that. But the tragedy was still painfully obvious to his eyes.

He walked straight to his house in the Victor's Village, unable to face the bakery that held most of his childhood memories at that moment. This place was safe, the memories he held here not nearly as daunting.

His initial reaction was to go see Katniss' first; he was beginning to become desperate to catch even just a glance of her at this point. But as he tried to imagine what a conversation would sound like between the two of them, he decided against it.

He had to pick his words carefully, plan ahead before he just showed up and surprised her with his presence.

It felt good, to be able to bake again and sleep in his own bed. Despite the rubble that the town outside his home had been decimated to, his home still held a certain level of comfort.

The next morning, he found himself on his porch, a warm bun in hand as he stared at Katniss' house, willing himself to walk the few steps to her house. He started up, nearing her house.

He thought of the last time he saw her. The crazed look in her eyes. The desperation in her action. The fact that he hadn't seen her since then, didn't know what she'd be like at this point.

A few feet away from her house, he redirected his feet towards Haymitch's, unable to face Katniss just yet.

He knocked on the door once before remembering that of course, Haymitch would most likely be in no physical or mental state to open the door, let alone find his way off of the couch.

Three empty bottles sat at Haymitch's feet as he cradled another half-way full bottle in his rough hands.

Haymitch squinted at him, probably trying to figure out if Peeta's appearance was real or an alcohol-induced allusion.

Haymitch's cheeks looked hollow, his body looked older and a bit brittle. The man had aged years in a matter of months.

Peeta immediately crouched down and picked up empty bottles that had surrounded floor near Haymitch's couch, taking them to the trash. He swiped the bottle from Haymitch's fingers, setting it on the table in front of him but just out of his reach as he warmed up food for the drunkard on the couch.

He set the food down in front of him, "You look like you haven't eaten in days." His voice almost came out as a sneer.

Haymitch mumbled something incoherent, stubbornly pushing around at the food.

"It's good to see you, boy." Haymitch said finally, his voice earnest.

Peeta nodded, swallowing before he voiced the questions he'd come here to ask. "How is she?"

Haymitch avoided Peeta's steady gaze. "She's alright. She's doing alright."

Peeta gave him a pointed looking, waiting for him to elaborate. When he didn't, Peeta asked again. "But how is she?"

"Look, boy. She was fine the last time I saw her."

Peeta squinted his eyes narrowly at Haymitch, the frustration evident on his face. "When, exactly, was the last time you went to see her?"

Haymitch let out yet another incoherent noises and Peeta felt a flare of anger rise from within.

"You haven't gone to check on her at all, have you Haymitch?" Peeta said, his voice dangerously low.

Haymitch's lack of an answer was an answer in itself and Peeta rose from his seat, a look of disgust plainly featured on his expression.

"You were supposed to be there for her, Haymitch! You were supposed to take care of her! Not sit here and drink yourself into oblivion."

He took one of Haymitch's fuller bottles, slamming it on the floor in anger, earning nothing but a grunt from the drunk man in front of him.

He stomped out of the house, feeling utterly betrayed from his former mentor. They had an agreement, to always protect Katniss. He didn't mean that just for the arenas. He meant that for always.

"Is that him, grandma? Is that ..." Greasy Sae's young granddaughter lowered her voice to a loud whisper, "Is that Peeta Mellark?"

Sae put down the wooden spoon she'd been stirring the pot with on the counter and stalked off to the kitchen, telling the little girl to hush her voice. Katniss stared concentratedly at her as an expression of shock, and then recognition passed through Sae's face.

Alarmed, Katniss slowly moved from the couch where she had spent almost all of her day. She felt the wool socks soft beneath her feet as she slowly, slowly made her way to the window on the other side of the room.

"Peeta" she whispered. She could hear the thumping of her heart loud, too loud in her ears as she stared at the boy in front of her. He was walking towards his house from Haymitch's. He looked angry, his eye brows furrowed. No doubt, that was Haymitch's doing.

But something was different. The way he walked was different. The way his hands fell limp at his sides, unclenched, was different. The way his jaw set was different. His eyes, she could see from here, were different. They weren't cloudy, weren't hard. They were his. They were Peeta's and they were good.

She glanced behind her, and saw Sae back at the stove, pretending like nothing at all had happened. But the thumping in her ears got louder, and there was nothing more she wanted than to go into the woods. Feel the breeze. Smell the trees. This hauntingly large, empty house was suddenly too small, too crowded.

She walked up the stairs, two at a time and jolted into the shower. She scrubbed herself clean and pink, something she hadn't done in too long. Braiding her hair back, she pulled on pants and a shirt before lifting her arms through her father's jacket. She went down to the closet, retrieving her bow and arrow.

She noticed an appraising look from Sae as she walked past her; she was probably just glad to see her changed and clean for once.

"I'm going hunting" she told her, her voice raw, before she headed out towards the meadow.

She walked past the square, her heart sinking as the debris of what is left came into view. The town, once so familiar, now strange and distant. She broke out into a run until, refusing to slow down until the crunch of the leaves under her feet began to sound in her ears.

The woods. Her one place of salvation. The one place that'll never change. She walked to her meeting place with Gale and rested herself on a large rock, suddenly so incredibly tired. The sun spilled through the trees, creating patterns on the ground, and she stared at them, allowing memories of simpler days to surround her. Of her childhood with her father, of the mockingjays singing her father's tunes, of the laughter she used to only save for Gale.

She missed Gale. Her friend, her confidant. But she's surprised to find that she feels nothing more than that. Not longing or yearning, not regret. She just missed him.

She eyed a chubby squirrel, skirting through the trees in search of nuts. She shifted her arrow in her bow, releasing it quietly as it shoots.

Right through the eye, as always.

The walk has never seemed farther, from his house to the square. He forces his eyes ahead, willing himself not to look anywhere. To not look at the carts, at the men who sift through the rubble of what used to be, reaping the dead.

He's too afraid he might see a face that belonged to someone he knew. His father, his mother, his brothers.

A few minutes later, he finds his feet planted in front of what used to be the bakery. The windows are shattered, the door missing. Inside, the counter where he used to display his cakes has been burnt to the ground and only ashes remain. He rummages through the mess of ashes and larger chunks of woods, looking for something, anything familiar.

With an ache in his heart, he realizes nothing remains of his family. No keepsake, no token of familiarity. Nothing.

He trudges out of the bakery, unable to do clean anymore, in desperate need of a break and fresh air.

He steps out, clutching his sweater closer to his frame as he starts the walk back to his house and he finds that the journey back is much quicker than the journey there.

He's passing his house when he sees Greasy Sae step out of Katniss' house, her adorable young granddaughter clutching her hand.

He squints, shielding the sun from his eyes as he waves hello to the familiar face. Sae's face breaks out into a grin as she waves back.

Surprising him, she leans in to hug him and he hugs her back. "It is so good to see you, Peeta!"

He nods, telling her the same. He's about to open his mouth to ask about her when Sae interrupts, her voice a raspy whisper. "She's doing okay, you know. Not good, definitely not good. But she's okay. Some days she takes a step forward, other days she takes a few backwards."

Peeta nods, understanding Sae's words all too well. "Is she sleeping okay? Does she eat okay?"

With a click of her tongue, Sae shakes her head, "but I try my best, I really do." She says, and he's sure she does. He's glad that at least Greasy Sae had taken on Haymitch's responsibilities.

He promises he'll drop by later as he begins to head toward his own house, silently promising himself as well.

Once he's home, he shrugs off his jacket and steps into his kitchen, gathering the ingredients for cheese buns.

A familiar smell wakes her; It's buttery and sweet and warm and takes her back to an older time. She takes in her surroundings. She must have fallen asleep on the couch after she came back from the woods.

She peels off her coat, placing it carefully on the couch before turning back to see Greasy Sae and Peeta, sitting at the dinner table. They're chatting amiably, like they've been friends forever as they sip on their stew. Her eyes land on the cheese buns in the center of the table, explaining the smell.

She's imagined this moment a dozen times in her head, playing out a million different scenarios. Wondered what she'd say to him. Wondered what he'd say. Wondered just how much of the Capitol's poison still controlled him. She stares at him from the couch, unmoving. Stares at his eyes, a beautiful blue bright on his pale face. And his blonde strans, in need of a haircut. And his voice, as he talks to Sae, as polite and as good and as Peeta as ever. The sound of it nearly pulls a smile out of her. Nearly.

Slowly, she pulls herself away from the couch with far too much effort, consciously touching her braid as she moves across the room. She takes a seat across from Peeta, next to Sae and wordlessly reaches for a cheese bun. She breaks it down the middle, stuffing half of it in her mouth at once. Barely chewing it, she swallows it almost whole before she stuffs the other half. Peeta moves the plate closer to her as she moves to reach for another.

She slowly raises her eyes from the cheese buns to his wonderful blue eyes, holding his gaze for a long minute.

He lets out a small smile as she stuffs another cheese bun in her mouth.

Peeta wakes the next morning feeling more refreshed, rejuvenated, almost.

It's strikes him as odd, the effect Katniss can have on his life and his moods. But then again, it doesn't really strike him as odd at all. It's always been that way, she's always had that effect on him.

Pulling a sweater over his head to protect him from the bitter winds, he stalks out of his house towards the town. He passes by Katniss, a small smile instantly forming on his face.

They hadn't talked much the night before and sure, she didn't look as strong or as healthy as he was hoping she would but there was a moment, when she was stuffing her face with his cheese buns when she almost smiled back at him. Almost.

He'd seen the smile reach her eyes, but her lips had failed to follow.

His eyes scan the town square, people in masks and gloves still sifting through the rubble. Trying to dig up the town that once was there.

His feet, however, carried him away from the square, taking him past the meadow and he found himself standing in front of the fence that served as a barrier between the woods and the district. He touched the fence experimentally, wondering if it was still, for some reason, charged.

It wasn't. Another reminder that the war had ended.

He slipped under the fence and felt the crunch of the twigs and leaves under his heavy boots. Loud. He was always loud.

He noticed little animals flitter around him, and he remembered why Katniss never wanted to go hunting with him. He gained their attention with each step, each loud crunch of his feet.

His eyes land on a bed of yellow as the word registers in his head. Primrose. His heart clenches as he pictures little Prim. Sweet, young Prim.

With a start, he jogs back into town, his eyes skimming over the debris for something, anything that he can use to carry the bushes back into the district.

He spots an old, rusted wheelbarrow lying on the ground next to a man with a mask and he recognizes the eyes above the white mask. He's pretty sure they went to school together.

The man greets Peeta, and Peeta smiles back. Happy to see a familiar face.

"Hey Jak. Could I borrow this and that shovel over there?" He says, lifting the dented wheel barrow. Jak nods his head, telling him how good it is to see him.

"You too, I'll bring these back to you!" Peeta says, heading back towards the fence. He leans the wheel barrow on the side of the fence and digs around the bush, tugging it out of its place in the ground.

He repeats the action six more times, until his wheel barrow can no longer hold anymore bushes. Wiping the sweat off of his brow, he begins to push the wheel barrow, heading back towards the Village.

It's quite unfortunate, really, that she's responsible for so many deaths because as she lies at the bottom of the grave, they keep coming. The people who died because of her in some way or another. Prim. Cato. Rue. Thresh. Clove. Finnick. Boggs. The list doesn't end. Some, she doesn't even know by name. But come, they do. A shovel in hand, covering her body in ashes. The more people that arrive, the less she can breathe. The scrape of the shovel becomes louder and louder, thrashing in her head violently.

Suddenly, her eyes fly open and she takes in her surroundings.

She's sitting on her couch in her house. The TV is on, but she can't tell exactly what it's showing. There are no ashes, no dead people.

But the scrape of the shoveling is there, still persistent. She runs a hand over her braid, tugging on it.

She follows the noise of the shoveling, getting louder with each step she takes. She breaks into a run, somehow wanting to end the shoveling noise. Wake up from this nightmare that won't leave her alone.

She runs out the front door but pulls up short when she sees him.

She stares at him, confused, as he sits on his knees, hands patting down the soil around a plant. A bush.

He squints at her from his place on the ground, the sun beating down onto his back.

He opens his mouth to say something but the words rush out of her mouth in a shaky breath. "Primrose Bushes. Evening Primrose Bushes."

He nods, almost afraid of her reaction. "I thought we could plant them. For her."

She nods back in assent, unsure of what to say next.

She takes a few steps back until she's inside her house and carefully shuts the door.

Steadying her breathing, she forces herself to drink a cold glass of water. It calms her down instantly and she rinses the glasses before refilling it.

She walks back towards the front door, opening it cautiously before offering the glass of water to Peeta. He takes it from her, and their fingers brush.

This touch, this brushing of fingers is the most physical contact she's had with Peeta in too long and she feels an electric jolt course through her body. He holds her gaze as he thanks her for the water and she forces herself to not shy away from him.

She misses him. She lets herself admit as much. She's missed his eyes. His unclouded, hopeful blue eyes. And his voice, always saying just what she needs to hear.

He picks up the shovel once again, and she takes a seat close enough to him, folding her feet underneath her.

"Thank you." She whispers, her voice raw with emotions she's too tired to conceal.

He nods, touching her braid with his fingers before picking up another bush, planting it in front of her house.

Peeta goes back to Katniss' for dinner that night. And the next night. And the next. Never forgetting to bring cheese buns.

He soon starts to show up for breakfast too, and Greasy Sae's appearances become less and less frequent as Peeta takes over Katniss' kitchen, making sure she eats each meal in full.

He's thankful for the weird contraption he brought from the Capitol that allows him to make waffles each morning as he watches Katniss stuff her mouth with the sweet, buttery batter cake, maple syrup often dripping off the side of her chin.

And so he makes waffles for breakfast and cheese buns for every other meal because she has yet to broaden her bread horizons and he relishes at Katniss' fuller face. Her hollowed cheeks and bony waist looking just a bit healthier than they did a few weeks ago.

He experiments around a bit until he learns to make hot chocolate, one of the few things he'd actually enjoyed at the capitol.

They spend most of their nights now, on the couch near the fire place, the radio humming sweet tunes as they dunk small pieces in the dark, creamy drink. Indulging themselves because really, at this point, they deserve to.

A vaguely familiar song plays on the radio and he quietly hums along to it, enjoying the feel of Katniss' weight on his body as she leans against him, her head on his shoulder.

"This used to be one of my dad's favorite songs." She says quietly, sadly. And he squeezes her hand. It's the only way he knows to comfort her in that moment.

It isn't too long before small snores escape her mouth, hushed by the sound of her steady breathing. He lets her stay that way for a little while, finding comfort in her rhythmic breathing, the rising and falling of her chest.

He picks her up eventually, and her arms lazily fall around his neck, her head cuddling into his arm. She mumbles something in her sleep, and he can't quite catch it.

Carefully, he lays her onto the bed, tucking her in. He sits down next to her and combs through her hair with his fingers as he unbraids it, letting the strands fall around her face. When she seems deep in slumber, he drops a gentle kiss to her temple before turning her lights out and walking the short distance back this own house.

It's the same thing every night. Death. It plagues her every nightmare, every dream. Someone is always killing her, or she is killing them. Death.

She wakes with a start, the atrocious image of Prim's small, beautiful body catching fire as Katniss tries, and fails to save her too fresh in her mind. Too real. She feels her body tremor with fear, with memories she wishes would cease to exist. Would disappear in a big black hole.

She reaches out to feel Peeta's arm, craves his warmth and comfort that only he can provide her when she realizes where she is. The couch she fell asleep on is replaced by her bed, and Peeta is no longer there to will her nightmares away with his strong, heavy arms.

She hesitates just for a moment, trying to deliberate what next step. Sleeping in bed by herself seems out of the question, especially after the nightmare she just had. She contemplates heading to Peeta's, following the comfort she so needs.

For a fleeting second, she wonders if he'll kick her out of bed, wanting his solidarity. Wonders if he ever fell back in love with her or merely just wants to be her friend now. Wonders, not for the first time, just how much of the Capitol's poison remains in him.

But she decides that he's Peeta. Her Peeta. And whether he loves her or not, he wouldn't deny her this. Wouldn't deny her the warmth and succor that only he can provide her.

Without thinking it further, she pulls the covers from her body and heads down the stairs. With just the wool socks covering her feet, she pulls a sweater that Peeta's left on her couch around her body and walks through the front door. From the corner of her eyes, she can see the hideous tom-cat, his mashed in nose sniffing the Primrose Bushes. He walks in a circle twice before taking his place beneath one of the bushes.

She walks quickly, clutching the sweater closer to her to shield her from the biting wind, and finds the front door to Peeta's house unlocked.

She tiptoes through the house, not wanting to wake him and smiles as she passes the kitchen. He'd been baking her favorite cheese bread, the ingredients still littering his kitchen counter.

With brisk steps, she finds his bed and climbs in without reluctance. He must feel the weight of her body as she lies next to him, because he immediately snakes his arms around her waist, burying his face in her hair. She moves closer to him, her back to his stomach, and wedges her cold feet in between his strong legs.

Silently, she wonders if he still gets nightmares. He never tells her about them, just lets her complain about her own. He must, she decides. Because there are mornings when the circles beneath his eyes are darker, his eyes rimmed with the lack of sleep from the night before.

He never complains, and she wishes he did.

She traces his hand that's on her waist with the pads of her fingers, feeling his hot breath on her neck.

She focuses on his heavy breathing, his light snores and tries to synchronize her own breathing with his. Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.

It's not too long before she's emitting snores of her own.

Peeta wakes up, his fingers buried in brown hair he instantly recognizes. He can feel Katniss' toes wedged between his legs, cold as always. His right arm is tightly wound around her waist and her fingers were intertwined with his. Her mouth slightly ajar. He smiles, dropping a kiss into her hair.

He can't even make an effort to stop his smile from growing, and he's sure it's taking over his entire face.

He feels her shift next to him and she looks at him, her eyes widening in alarm for a millisecond before she looks away sheepishly, her face burning a scarlet red color he's not quite sure he's ever seen before.

"Good morning" he says, squeezing her fingers that are still tangled with his.

"I'm sorry, I was hoping you wouldn't mind, I just slipped into your bed without asking last night," She starts, and he shakes his head at her because well, doesn't she know she can slip into his bed anytime? Of course he doesn't mind. He weaves his fingers through her hair, pulling her a tiny bit closer as to prove it to her.

"I just sleep better with someone else in the bed with me." She continues.

She holds his gaze for a second, and his heart flutters a bit. "I sleep better with you." She clarifies. And he knows exactly what it takes her to say that, to admit it out loud. And he rewards her with yet another kiss on her temple.

There's a lot he wants to tell her, things he's wanted to say for too long now. But he bites them back, unsure if he should say them out loud, unsure of what her reaction may be. Unsure if she's even ready, to be honest.

She's still healing. They both are.

Luckily, he's allowed a chance to postpone his decision as he hears an angry rumble escape Katniss' stomach.

"Now I know why you really wanted to sleep here; you just wanted waffles as soon as you woke up, instead of having to wait those ten extra minutes I take to get to your house" He jokes, and she bats her arm at him, hitting his arm playfully before ripping the covers off of both of them.

He smiles, thinking it's probably best to hold back his words, at least for now.

She feels content for the first time in too long and the feeling almost shocks her. She hasn't felt anything other than numbness or depression for as long as she can remember now.

But as she sits at the wooden table, her eyes trained on Peeta in front of her as he hums a sweet tune that sounds familiar, mixing some sort of batter in a bowl, she feels okay. Good, almost. For the first time, her world doesn't seem to be crumbling to bits around her.

Forking bite after bite of the sweet waffles in front of her, she smiles at Peeta, a smudge of flour on his face. She stands up from her table as she finishes the last of the pastry-like food, still hungry for more, and goes to touch Peeta's face.

He looks startled at first, but leans into her fingers as she gingerly wipes the flour from his face.

She takes in the kitchen, noticing the small piles of dust littered throughout his counter, mixing in with the drops of batter. "You're messy." She says, scrunching up her nose a little bit.

"I clean after I'm done cooking!" he says defensively, sliding another waffle onto her plate.

He sets his own plate next to hers, and they eat together, as they do almost each morning.

"Are you going to go hunting today?" He asks, as he does each morning.

Usually, her answer is yes. She goes hunting, and comes back feeling and looking refreshed. And Peeta goes down to the bakery, coming back weary and broken.

Her selfish nature strikes her, realizing she takes and takes from Peeta, but never really gives.

She shakes her head to his answer, "I was thinking maybe I'd come to town with you. It'll probably be easier to clean up if we do it together." She says, shrugging, trying to seem nonchalant.

He nods, dipping a chunk of the waffle in syrup before stuffing it in his mouth. He doesn't say anything, but she can tell by the look in his eyes, and by the way his hand makes its way to hers that he's grateful.

He pulls a sweater on her bony shoulders, wrapping a scarf around her neck before letting her step out the door. Their fingers intertwine immediately as she hears the crunch of the gravel beneath their feet.

This feels so familiar, it's something they've done so many times. And if she closes her eyes for a second, she can almost send herself back into a different time. Back, before the Quarter Quell. Before the war. Before Prim died and before her mother left district twelve.

But it's painfully obvious that none of that is true as she stands before the Bakery; a little shop that once was charming, now just a mess of debris and rubble.

She clutches Peeta's hand a little bit tighter, and he squeezes it in return, giving her a reassuring nod of his head before stepping into the bakery.

Memories of Prim begin to haunt her as she looks at the window where the pretty cakes used to reside; now, all that remains are bits of broken glass and ashes of a counter that no longer remains.

Immediately, guilt takes over her.

Sure, she has memories here. Memories that are short and few. But this place was Peeta's life. This was his home. This was a symbol of his family, of his parents and his brothers who no longer existed. And it was all gone.

And she hadn't once asked him about it, or them. Hadn't once heard him complain, probably because she did enough complaining for the both of them.

"Peeta," She says, softly placing her hand on his shoulder. "Tell me about them."

It's not too long before their sleeping arrangement becomes permanent. His closet becomes crowded with Katniss' things and Buttercup learns to come to his doorstep whenever he wants a bowl of milk.

Which, yes, according to Katniss he spoils the 'ugly, rotten thing' but, he can't help it. In a weird way, he finds the cat cute. And he knows from the way Katniss looks at him as he indulges his little feline friend with bowls of milk every day, saying small words of endearment to the little fur ball that she actually is glad he does what he does.

He doesn't believe for a minute that Katniss would willingly be mean to something to closely tied to her little sister. Not now, at least.

Katniss' nightmares persist, and he spends a small part of almost every night shaking her awake from her restless slumber and whispering sweet words into her ear, holding her close until she falls back asleep.

His nightmares become less frequent, though. And significantly less terrifying. He's sure it has something to do with the fact that the person who usually features in his nightmares is always lying there right next to him, showing him that she's fine. She's safe.

One night though, he awakens with a start, beads of sweat forming at his forehead. He can feel a peculiar, unfamiliar rigidity in his muscles, in his body. A surge of anger and vengeance and hate coursing through his body in a way he hasn't felt in a long time. With shaky, quivering hands, he forces himself to reach into the drawer beside him, willing himself with all his might to not look, not even glance, at the girl lying beside him.

He fishes around the almost bare drawer, his hands searching for an old, folded piece of paper.

In a hushed voice that he can barely recognize, he begins to read the paper out loud.

'The day on the roof. Her head was on my lap. I played with her hair, twisting it and turning it. She fell asleep. She looked peaceful, and really pretty. I woke her up and we watched the sun set together. It was orange, my favorite color. I told her I wanted to freeze time in that moment, and she told me okay. Because she doesn't hate me. She doesn't want to kill me. She is not a mutt. She is Katniss. My Katniss.'

'During the first hunger games, I hurt myself, got a really large cut, one that almost took my life. I did it because I wanted to protect Katniss, because I love her. She found me. She found me and she saved me. She risked her life to help me, to get me medicine. She kissed me a few times, but once, she really kissed me. She kissed me because she doesn't hate me. She doesn't want to kill me. She is not a mutt. She is Katniss. My Katniss.

He feels the mattress move under him, and he slowly, slowly turns to face Katniss. His trembling has decreased, if only slightly. He watches as the confusion clouds over her face, only to snap back in an instant as she realizes what is happening. He wants her to run. Run as fast as he can before he hurts her because he doesn't trust himself in that moment. Can't trust himself.

Instead, her hand reaches out to touch him, almost in slow motion. She repeats his name in a soothing tone as the icy cold tips of her fingers graze his arm, his cheek.

She slides the paper out of his hand, and with slightly shaking hands of her own, begins to read it out loud. The soothing voice still present.

'During the Quarter Quell, at the beach, Katniss told me that she needed me. I told her why she should win; because so many people needed her, because I love her. But she told me that she needed me. She needed me. Because she doesn't hate me. She doesn't want to kill me. She is not a mutt. She is Katniss. My Katniss.

Katniss pauses, tracing his jaw with her finger as she looks into his half-clouded eyes, repeating his name in that same soothing tone.

He nods gruffly, needing desperately for her to continue.

'And a long time ago, when I was much younger, I had seen a beautiful, broken, brown-haired girl. She had the prettiest gray eyes I had ever seen; I had stared at her at school for so long before this, heard her sing, admired her pretty dresses and her hair, always in two braids. It was Katniss. She looked like she was dying; the hunger was clear in her eyes and her face. My mom had yelled at her, and I remember being so angry at her. So I burnt the bread on purpose, wanting to find a way to feed the hungry, beautiful girl. I had found a way to give her the bread and she looked so grateful that it even made the blow of the rolling-pin to my face that had followed my actions worth it.'

Katniss cupped his face, willing him to look into her gray eyes. "Peeta …. Thank you." She whispers, her voice gravely.

'And the next day," she continued reading as Peeta found his senses retrieving, the clouding in his eyes diminishing. 'I tried so hard to get a moment with her, to get her to look at me. And finally, after school, she did. But only for a second. And after that, she had walked to a dandelion and blew on it. She looked different in that moment, her eyes held a certain look. It was hope. She looked hopeful. And she gave me hope.

Peeta runs a shaky hand through his hair, thankful he hadn't done anything he would regret. "I'm so sorry, Kat—"

She silences him, her lips moving on his. She kisses him once. Twice. A third time, and he pulls her back down to bed, stretching his tensed limbs. His heart racing incredibly fast.

"Thank you." He says gruffly, weaving his fingers through Katniss' soft hair.

She rests her head on his chest, using his arm as her pillow.

"You do it for me." She says, dropping a kiss onto his chest before shutting her eyes.

Katniss wakes up, reaching out for Peeta's warmth but finds cold ruffled sheets. Confused, she checks the bathroom. The kitchen, next. No Peeta. A weird, anxious feeling takes over and she's not sure why.

When she realizes his shoes aren't near the front door as they normally are, and his jacket is nowhere to be found as well, she thinks maybe he already went to the bakery.

It's unusual, for him to leave so early. It's routine for them to spend most of their morning together and the house feels too cold and vacant without him.

She forces herself to scarf down an egg with some bread Peeta had made more than a few days ago, when all she really craves is a warm, buttery waffle. And Peeta's company.

Unsure of what to do with herself, she takes a shower, scrubbing herself pink while relishing in the feel of the steaming water trickling down her perpetually tired body.

She steps out of the shower and stares at her body, the scars fading but the patches of different colors still too visible.

She dresses quickly, not wanting to stare at the mutilations on her body for any longer and finds her bow and arrow. She needs to get out of this house and the woods have always been able to comfort her when she gets like this. When she feels a weird anxious feeling tugging at her.

And the woods do just that. With each step she takes, twigs and leaves crunching beneath her feet, she feels lighter.

She shoots down a small rabbit at first, but continues to look for a squirrel because she knows those are Peeta's favorites.

Her hands pick at greens, a sudden appetite for stew growing in her stomach. She tosses a few berries in her mouth, feeling the juices release as she bites into them.

She starts to make her trek back to the Village, but instead, her feet direct her towards the bakery instead.

She hears loud noises as she nears the shop, a violent sawing. Back and forth, back and forth. Her eyes scan the room, once full of ashes and debris, now clean, it's old appearance hinting from under the piles of wood Peeta's laid throughout.

She finds Peeta finally, the muscles in his arms bulging as he holds a hand saw, moving it back and forth on large chunk of wood.

"Peeta" She calls out, noticing the way a vein in his neck is prodding.

He doesn't reply, doesn't even look up. She repeats herself twice before he looks up, shocked to see her there.

"Katniss? What are you doing here?" He puts the saw down, patting his hands on his pants. He makes no attempt to kiss her as he normally would, or touch her, even. And she realizes the reason for the anxious feeling that's been plaguing her all morning.

"You left early this morning." She offers, trying to touch his arm and he recoils from the touch just a bit.

"I had some work to do." He looks at the floor, the ceiling, the wood – anywhere, but at her.

She hesitates for a moment, but the words come out of her mouth before she can decide whether or not she wants to hold them back. "Is this because of last night? Are you acting weird because of what happened?"

The frown already formed on his face deepens, and he sticks is hands into his pocket.

"I could have hurt you last night, Katniss. I've tried so, so hard to protect you. But I can't protect you from myself." His voice comes out in pain, and his eyes, as he slowly lets them meet hers, mirror his voice.

"But Peeta," She says, tugging his hands out of his pockets. "You didn't hurt me. You didn't. I'm standing right here, unharmed. Safe. You controlled yourself. You protected me."

"You don't understand, Katniss." His voice breaks. "I had to convince every fiber in my being not to look at you, not to glance at the girl sleeping next to me who I wanted to kill. To kill, Katniss. I wanted to kill you."

She draws one hand to his cheek, her fingers gently touching his face. "You didn't want to kill me. The Capitol wanted to kill me. And you didn't let them. You didn't let them kill me, Peeta."

He's quiet, for too long. And she feels like she can barely breathe. But he finally nods his head, relaxing under her touch.

"Let's go home." She says, intertwining their fingers. She doesn't mean for it to sound like that, like it's their home. But once it's out there, she's not too sure she minds. And she makes no effort to rephrase her words.

It's late, very late when Peeta slips out of bed, careful not to bother Katniss' somewhat peaceful slumber. He's been lying in bed for an hour, maybe two – he's not exactly sure. But he can't sleep, can't even find a way to relax his tense, rigid body.

He makes his way down the stairs, noticing Buttercup curled into a little ball near the fire place. He pats his head gently, a small purr escaping the tom-cats mouth.

Silently creeping to the couch, he sits down reaches out for the phone. He needs to talk to someone. Someone who knows. Someone who will undoubtedly understand.

He hears her voice on the phone and he breathes a sigh of relief. "Johanna."

"Peeta!" She says, sounding genuinely happy to hear from him. Suddenly, worry coats her voice as she asks, "Are you okay? It's late, what are you doing up?"

"I couldn't sleep. It happened again yesterday." He explains, not bothering to ask her why she's awake. He knows why she's awake. He knows that Johanna, the girl whose screams he knew just about as well as his own, can't sleep anymore. Ever. At least not without the help of morphine.

"What happened?" She says, her voice hushed now. The excitement from her tone, gone.

"I hadn't had an episode in so long, you know? I almost forgot what they feel like. But it happened; it happened, and she was sleeping right there next to me. I could have killed her, Johanna." He hates how strained his voice sounds. The anger at himself evident.

"But you didn't." She says, carefully.

"I know, I didn't but … I just … I just feel like, like she's stuck with me. She doesn't even love me, but she's stuck with me. Had to settle for me. And I'm not even good for her. I'm a hazard to her safety, Johanna."

"Are you kidding me, Peeta?" Johanna says suddenly. He's a bit taken aback by her angry tone.

"What do—"

"Do you honestly, honestly, believe she doesn't love you? You think she put her own life in danger time, and time again to save you without loving you?"

"I'm not saying she doesn't see me as a friend, Jo. But that's all."

"God, you can be really stupid sometimes, Peeta." She says, and Peeta knows not to take offense. It's just Johanna's way. "She sees Annie as a friend. She sees that annoying girl Delly as a friend. She sees me as maybe half a friend. But you, she does not see as just a friend."

"But Gale …" He starts, thinking of the one person who had been able to gain Katniss' love.

He hears a snort of laughter on the other end. "You seriously think she loved Gale, Peeta? If she loved Gale, she would have found a way to be with him in District 2 right now. She's freaking Katniss Everdeen. She would have found a way, Peeta. You know she would have. But she didn't. Because she loves you. She may not say it out loud, because like I said before, she's Katniss Everdeen and she just doesn't know how to do those things. She may not even know it, Peeta. Might not even know how to define the feelings she holds for you. But she loves you, I know that. I knew that when she all but went crazy when the Capitol still had you. And I knew from that look on her face, when you finally came back but weren't yourself - I had never seen that girl, who normally can clean her face of all emotion, so broken. And hurt. Even Finnick knew it, Peeta. He told me he had a feeling that her feelings weren't all an act, during the Quarter Quell. We all did."

She sighs tiredly, "So, do you believe me now?"

He doesn't say anything again, but he hears a loud, shrilly cry in the background.

"That's Finnick. I've gotta go, Annie barely gets any sleep as it is." She says, and he remembers that baby Finnick and Annie both live with Johanna now.

"Okay, but you should come here, Jo. You all should. It'd be really nice to see you." He says before hanging up.

Suddenly tired, Peeta trudges up the stairs and climbs back into bed. The second he's tucked in, he feels the mattress shift around him as Katniss' arms find their way to his chest.

He buries his face in her hair, dropping a kiss to her forehead.

"I love you." He whispers.

She's never quite understood babies. Or their appeal.

They're loud, and shrilly. And they wail. They wail and cry and kick and scream. For everything! Because they always, always want something.

But when Annie and Johanna come by for a short visit, Katniss can't help but look at little Finnick, with his chubby red cheeks and sea green eyes that so remind her of Finnick, without a weird warming in her heart.

She watches as Annie feeds the tiny creature she's cradling in her arms, watches as he sucks his thumb when she puts him down into a cot, and almost lets out a small smile as his eyes start to close, a little bit of drool dripping from his chin. Almost.

Annie tells her she's going to take a bath, and to call her if Finnick wakes. Even Annie is aware of how completely inept she is at holding a baby, let alone taking care of it.

Katniss tiptoes around the house, afraid that any sudden movement will wake the slumbering child. She wants Annie to enjoy the few minutes she gets to herself.

Despite the lengths she takes to move around mutedly, a wailing noise still manages to escape the toddler's mouth, his green eyes searching the room frantically for the one person in this world who he knows, who he trusts.

Sighing loudly, Katniss walks over to Finnick's cot, hovering over it. She doesn't want to cut Annie's shower short and wishes so badly that Johanna and Peeta hadn't chosen this hour to go to the bakery. What were they all thinking, leaving Katniss alone with a baby?

She stares at his cheeks, wet from tears, and wills him to stop crying. Please. Pretty please.

Finnick holds his tiny, chubby arms out to her, wanting any escape out of his cot and she carefully, slowly, she reaches out to hold him. She imitates the way she's seen Annie, Johanna and Peeta hold him in the past few days. One arm under his butt, one on his back. She rocks him, remembering seeing her mother and father do the same to Prim when she was just born.

Surprising her, the baby calms in her arms. His wails become weak, until they eventually come to a stop and he fits his head into the crook of her neck, his thumb back in his mouth. She hears a noise behind her and turns to see Peeta. He's looking at her with glowing eyes, a smile on his face that threatens to consume his entire face.

"He woke up while Annie was in the shower" she explains and he nods, walking over to her. He rubs his thumb along her face, trailing her jaw.

"I love you, Katniss."

She stops and stares at him, not knowing what to say back. Not knowing how she feels.

"You better not get any ideas." She says teasingly after a beat too long, tilting her head towards the sleeping baby in her arms.

He bites back a smile and shakes his head, kissing her cheek softly before heading back to the kitchen.

She looks at Finnick in her arms, and then at Peeta and she can't stop the ache in her heart. It's almost overwhelming.

Not for the first time, she wishes Peeta would love someone less selfish than she. Someone who could love him back properly, who could have an actual response to his proclamation of love. Someone who could give him a family, a baby. A bunch of babies.

Because he would make the best father.

Katniss lies stiff in his arms that night, too quiet, her face turned away from him.

He wonders if it's because of his words, the ones he'd told her earlier that morning. He wonders, with a heavy heart, if Johanna was wrong.

"Katniss …" he whispers into the dark air, his hands running up and down her arms.

She silently turns around, burying her face in his neck and snaking her thin arms around him before he can ask her what's wrong and he just pulls her closer. He's suddenly worried.

"Katniss …" he repeats, rubbing soothing circles on her back. "What's wrong?"

She slowly pulls back from him, leaving her arms around his waist.

"I'm sorry, Peeta." She says finally, her voice ragged.

His mind draws a blank as he tries to imagine what she could possibly be apologizing, and he's about to ask when she catches him off guard again.

"You deserve better." What?

"You deserve someone who can respond properly when you tell her you love her. You deserve someone who can give to you as much as you give me. You deserve someone who can give you children. You deserve …" Her voice breaks and Peeta just shakes his head at her. "You deserve the world, Peeta. You deserve more than what I can give you."

He pulls her closer to him, wrapping his arms around her frame. "You still don't know, do you? The effect you have on people. The effect you have on me. I love you, Katniss. I only want what you can give me. And what you give me - it's enough. It's perfect. You don't have to tell me you love me and you don't have to have our kids. You don't have to do anything; I'm never going to leave you …" he pauses for a second, "as long as you'll have me."

"Peeta …." She breathes, tracing his jaw with her icy fingers and he takes them into his hands, kissing the palm of her hands.

"There is no one else I'd rather be with." He says simply.

Her eyes bore into his before she whispers, "Me too."

She leans in, and kisses him. Hot and wet and different than before. Her lips trail down from his lips to his jaw, making their way to his neck as she climbs on top of him, straddling him.

"There is no one else I'd rather be with, ever, Peeta." She whispers and he knows that's her way of telling him how she feels.

He smiles into her lips as she tugs at his shirt and he obligingly pulls it off.

He's not sure where this is going, or how far they'll go but he knows he'll give her whatever she wants. He'll always give her whatever she wants.

She leads his hands to the hem of her own shirt and he pulls it over, kissing her shoulders, her collarbone. Kissing every inch of skin that he can.

He's never seen her like this before, never seen this much of her. "You're so beautiful" he whispers to her.

He flips her so she's under him and continues to kiss her, relishing in the feeling of her bare skin against his.

With somewhat shaky hands, she leads his hands to her breast and he squeezes them and kneads, feeling her nipples pebble from his touch before moving his mouth to them, earning a moan from Katniss.

He smiles into her skin and she weaves her fingers through his hair.

"Peeta … do you … do you want to …?" She doesn't finish her sentence and swallows thickly. Unable to form a coherent sentence.

He knows the feeling. He nods his head fervently and she nervously slides her pajama pants down and he helps her tug them off completely.

He slowly inches his hands down her stomach, inching downwards until his fingers are in her and she throws her head back, another throaty moan escaping her lips.

When he swoops back up to kiss her, she discards of the rest of his clothing and opens her legs, bending them a bit and he settles in between her.

He feels her lips at the base of his neck, her lips whispering his name into his skin and it just about drives him crazy.

She bucks against him, her knees pulling him closer to her and he can feel something building up in him. He looks at her with questioning eyes and she nods her answer immediately, allowing him access to her.

She helps him, holding him while he inserts himself into her and suddenly, it's happening. It's happening so fast and he's thrusting in her.

Her face scrunches up in pain immediately and he freezes.

"Are you okay? Katniss? Am I hurting you?" The words rush out of him.

She smiles at him, beads of sweat forming at the edges of her hairline. "It's fine. It's … It's perfect." She assures him, and he brings his lips to her before burying himself deep in her again.

This time, her face looks more relaxed. Pleasured. And he takes that as encouragement to continue. He pushes in, and pulls out. Disappearing in and out of her.

She clings to him, and he feels her fingers pressing into his back. "Oh, Peeta." She says, her breathing beautiful and ragged and he lets out a groan of his own in return.

Suddenly, something erupts from within and his movements become jerkier, her body vibrates. She moans a little louder and he smiles into her lips.

He finally collapses next to her, both of their chests heaving up and down. She moves closer to him and he wraps his arms around her, holding her as close as he possibly can.

"I love you." He says, unafraid to say the words now that he knows she isn't shying away from them.

She nods back in return, kissing the side of his mouth. And that's enough for him.

She's standing in the kitchen when Peeta comes back from the train station, having dropped Johanna, Annie and little Finnick.

She won't admit it out loud, but really, she misses Finnick a little bit. Misses the way the house was never quiet with him in it.

She moves to pick up the sack of flour, setting it on the counter in front of her, trying not to spill it anywhere.

She feels Peeta's arms snake around her waist, warmth spreading where his lips touch her neck. "What exactly are you doing in my kitchen?" He asks playfully, his breath tickling her neck.

"I don't feel much like hunting today so I thought maybe you could teach me how to bake bread?" She asks, nodding towards the sack of flour.

He looks at her, his head tilting a bit. "You want to learn to … bake?"

She nods, ignoring the look he's giving her and sets a bowl in front of her. "Teach me."

And teach her, he does. And though they occasionally digress, and sometimes their lips find their way to each other and their fingers get tangled in each other's hair, she is able to bake a decent loaf of bread with Peeta's help.

He slices the bread when it's cooled off a bit and gives her a piece. They eat it together; the first thing they've ever made together, as one.

They spend the rest of the day on the couch, then on the bed, wrapped up in each other's arm. Content with where they are. She only lets go of him when he goes to feed Buttercup and she rolls her eyes as he talks to the stupid tom cat endearingly, petting it under its ear as the ugly orange animal sips at the bowl of milk Peeta's set in front of him.

He leads her up to bed later that night, and soon enough, they find their clothes discarded to the floor, their limbs tangled. It's easier this time; less awkward, less painful. When he collapses next to her for the second time, she falls asleep in minutes, his steady heartbeat drumming in her ears. A small smile still playing on her swollen, plump lips.

She has no nightmares for the first time in a long time, and when she wakes up, Peeta's kissing her.

"Good morning" he says, buttoning his shirt. "I left your waffles on the table. I haven't been to the bakery in a few days so I thought I'd head over early. Would you like to come?"

She shakes her head, smiling at him. She has something else she needs to do today.

Once she hears Peeta's footsteps lead him out the door, followed by a hushed slam of the door, she forces herself out of bed and trudges down the steps. She can smell the warm waffles before she even nears the kitchen, and by the time she's seated in front of them, she's scarfing down bite after bite. Her mother's words echo in her head, "you always eat like you'll never see food again" she used to say.

But Katniss hasn't been able to eat, not like this, for too long. Once she's devoured the buttery, she finds her fingers swiping at the plate, effectively licking it clean of all of the sweet, sugary syrup.

Cleaning her plate, she pulled out the sack of flour and a bowl.

Trying to mimic the steps she remembered taking yesterday with Peeta, she poured the ingredients into the bowl. Flour, salt, water and … yeast? Was it yeast? She remembers him saying the word yesterday, and on a whim, lets the powder fall into the bowl.

She kneads the ingredients together, her hands sticky with the dough that's forming in the bowl. It's almost grossing her out and she's not quite sure how Peeta enjoys this so much. She'd much rather just eat the warm bread than bake it. But this, this is her one-time exception.

After pulling and pushing at the sticky formation, she flattened it out before rolling it, doing it the way she'd seen Peeta do so many times before.

She slashed the tops, leaving uneven, jagged lines at the top. She slid it into the oven, suddenly nervous.

She started tugging her shirt off as she walked up the steps, discarding her clothes completely before stepping into the shower. She scrubbed her body clean, rubbing all different types of soaps onto her body and hair. She stepped out once the steam from the shower began to suffocate her, and stood in front of the closet, a towel wrapped around her body.

She didn't know what to wear. She wasn't good with these things and she suddenly wished she had Cinna or one of her stylists to pick out her clothes for her. Even her mother would do.

She sifted through the various shirts and dresses, some belonging to her mother, some her own. She decided on a pale pink dress, one she remembered her mother wearing on special occasions. And she braided her hair, taking extra measures to make sure it looked neat.

She looked at the mirror, satisfied, before walking into the kitchen. The smell of the bread was overwhelming, deliciously so. Maybe she'd done it right.

She pulled the bread out, inspecting the golden crust. She poked and prodded at it, tempted to take a bite. But she had to wait for him.

She's slicing the bread when he walks through the door, an amused, confused look on his face.

"Did I miss something?" He says, wrapping his arms around her, eyeing the bread she's set on a decent-looking plate.

She took a deep breathe, attempting to steady her erratic beating in her chest. She wasn't good at saying things, didn't know how to put her thoughts into words. That was Peeta's thing. But she was going to have to try.

She stepped away from him, her fingers reaching for his hands. "Well…" She said, wincing at her own shaky voice. "I was thinking we could use this bread … for … for the toasting." She said, nerves tangled at her throat, her stomach in knots.

He looked at her, his eyes warm and tender and Peeta, and pulled her close. So close she can barely breathe. And he kisses her. Kisses her senseless. His lips skimming her cheeks, her mouth, her eyes, her nose, her neck.

He brought his lips back to hers, "I love you."

"Me too." She whispered back, just loud enough for him to catch her words.

A/N: Sorry if Katniss was a little out of character, I tried to be as faithful to her character as I could! Reviews are the greatest encouragement, as always. Thanks for reading :-)

EDIT: Okay, the typos were driving me crazy so I went back and fixed the ones I caught. Now, I have a question: Would you guys be interested in a sequel/second chapter to this story? Let me know!