A/N: For those of you that are interested, the song I used is called "In Our Bedroom After the War" by Stars. Check it out.
Wake up / Say good morning to that sleepy person lying next to you / If there's no one there, then there's no one there / But at least the war is over
"Why did you let me die, Katniss? Why?" Katniss shudders is her sleep. It's the voice of Prim that she hears. She was supposed to protect her. No, wait, it's Rue's voice now. Tiny, helpless Rue who reminded her so much of her sister. She was supposed to protect them both. The voice changes to Finnick's. He's mourning over the time he'll never be able to spend with Annie. With their baby.
Katniss can hear Madge now. Her first friend really, besides Gale. Madge asks her why she allowed her family to die. "I was so young, Katniss. We all were. Some mockingjay you are."
Katniss jumps awake, nearly falling out of her bed. She looks over to the empty side. No wonder she had nightmares. She guesses Peeta is next door in his own home, baking. That's what he does. He paints. He bakes. She does nothing.
It's us - yes, we're back again / Here to see you through, 'til the day's end / And if the night comes, and the night will come / Well at least the war is over
That isn't true. Katniss hunts. Dr. Aurelius suggested she and Peeta develop routines to maintain their mental stability — the small amount that's left anyway. So she hunts. Peeta paints and bakes, and she hunts. They stay out of each others way.
Katniss scales a tree to get a better view of the forest. She spots a rabbit about thirty feet away. It's stout and would make a good stew. She lifts her bow, aims, shoots. It goes down hard and Katniss is thrust back into her first Hunger Games when Marvel fell just as hard, also by the wrath of her bow. Katniss drops her weapon and hears it fall to the ground below her. She can hear the voice of Marvel telling her that he had a family back home. He had a mother that had already lost a son to the games. She remembers the heartbroken look on that woman's face from the tour. He tells Katniss that she's a monster for murdering him.
She knows he's the one that killed Rue, but she can't help sobbing for the life she took. He only killed so he could return home.
As Katniss climbs down from the tree, she's haunted by the faces of the other tributes during her first games. All children. All trying to get home.
She runs through the trees that now remind her too much of that forest. Of the death that took place there. She isn't even safe in her own woods now.
Katniss enters her house at dusk, dreading the steadying approach of night. Her nightmares will return.
She's gone, she left before you woke / As you ate last night, neither of you spoke / Dishes, TV, bed / The darkness filled with dread / But at least the war is over
Katniss leaves her house before Peeta that particular morning. She doesn't go back to her woods. Won't. Can't.
Instead she walks through town. There's been so much progress. It barely looks like the old District Twelve. It has a chipper air about it. Katniss feels none of it.
On her second loop through town, she sees that Peeta has finally made his way to his up and coming bakery. He's in the midst of giving direction to the workers when he spots her. He smiles reflexively and waves. Katniss averts her eyes.
She knows that he likes to leave before her. She's been awake a couple of times before he's left and she feels him watch her feign sleep. She hates depriving him of his moment to pretend she's his but she'd rather race him out of bed than wake up screaming without his comforting presence. She feels wrong for using him only for his company. She knows he needs her to ward off his nightmares, too, but his need is deeper than hers. She can see it in his eyes.
His Capitol-induced visions have become few and far between in the past six months and she can see him returning to his old self. Feel it in the lingering looks he gives her. He loves her and she knows it. He knows that she knows. He's too nice to act on it though. He knows she's not ready and will probably never be. Maybe he doesn't want to be rejected by her anymore. She has stomped on his heart more times than either of them can count.
Katniss's mind drifts to last night. The night that has become every night for the two. They sit, they eat, they stay out of each others way.
Peeta spares a glance her way. Licks his lips. Creases his forehead. Sighs.
She pretends she notices none of it.
They finish eating and wash the dishes side by side. It can't even be seen as something intimate because Katniss has a scowl on her face the whole time.
They watch TV.
They go to bed and he holds her.
She hates it.
He loves it.
She loves it.
He hates it.
They both need it.
Gridlock on the parkway now / The television man is here to show you how /The channel fades to snow / It's off to work you go / But at least the war is over
The phone rings. Katniss doesn't want to answer. She knows who it is already. It's near bedtime and Peeta has just turned off the TV.
Not even five minutes after his live show has gone off.
"Guess what, citizens? I'm going to get those star-crossed lovers back on my show!" The crowd cheers. "Let's hope they're not too busy in bed and can come to the phone." He winks. The crowd eats it up.
The phone is still ringing. "Katniss! Can you get the phone?" Peeta is busy washing dishes and this is Katniss's house after all.
She picks up. "No," is all she says before the phone is resting in it's cradle again.
"Who was it?"
The phone rings again. Damn.
"Hello?" Peeta answers. His conversation with Caesar is short. Katniss is fuming by the end of it.
"Why the hell would you agree to that?" She's yelling profanities at him but he's standing there stone-faced, waiting for her anger to blow over.
She stops, finally.
"It's just one segment, Katniss. He would have just kept calling."
"I just don't understand, Peeta. We're not lovers. We're closer to strangers at this point. We keep out of each others way. Sure we share a bed but we both know that means nothing. Why do this?"
He stares at her. Drops his eyes. "I can hold your hand on TV." He goes to bed.
For the second time in her life Katniss gets drunk.
There are people everywhere. Katniss and Peeta arrived at the Capitol yesterday for the segment with Caesar. They're at the studio now and there are people everywhere. The Capitol citizens have come in packs in their cars. There is practically no space outside of the building for anyone else to park.
Katniss feels sick.
She wishes she had Cinna with her.
The ghost of one of her most cherished friends pushes to the forefront of her mind and she gags with the guilt of his death. She pushes the thought back as the music starts.
She hears her name and walks out. It's just her on the couch. Peeta comes afterwards.
She is the mockingjay after all. The star.
"Welcome, Katniss dear! Oh, don't you look lovely. You've got the glow of a woman still in the honeymoon stage."
She forces a smile. "Thank you, Caesar. You're looking wonderful as always."
"So, Mockingjay, tell me. After two times in the arena, witnessing countless deaths, and having the love of your life stolen away from you and tortured, how are you handling things?"
This is not what she was expecting. Too intrusive. Too many reminders. Pain in the memories. Maybe "How is the sex life?" or "Ever going to have a public wedding?"
Not this. Too much.
She needs comfort.
"Peeta," she barely voices.
"Where is Peeta?" Louder this time.
"I— he's backstage. Just a couple more questions, Katniss."
"Where is he?" She's yelling now. Her mic amplifies everything. "Peeta!" she screams.
He comes running on to the stage. Pulls Katniss into a hug. Sits and grabs her hand. Smooths her hair. "We're so rarely apart, you see." It's a quick and messy save, but the audience laps it up either way. They clap.
Katniss is silent for most of what's left of the interview. Caesar and Peeta talk about the rebuilding of District Twelve, move on to Peeta's bakery, his paintings, how Katniss is still an expert with a bow, how happy they are, how much they miss their passed loved ones. Katniss just sits and listens. She only concentrates on the tight hold Peeta has on her hand. Until—
"I was telling Katniss earlier she was glowing from how happy she was," Caesar says to Peeta. "Any chance that glow may be from something else? Maybe a future addition to the Mellark family?"
"No!" Katniss protests immediately. The crowd gasps. Everyone seems uneasy.
Peeta looks defeated.
Caesar narrows his eyes at her and gives a look that says "Give me a good show or I'll keep coming back."
Katniss scrambles to fix it. "I mean, not yet. After the miscarriage…" she stops speaking and tries to appear choked up. Caesar gives a slight nod, so she must be doing well. "After we lost our first baby, we had some trouble conceiving another one. We are trying though. Hopefully sometime soon we'll have created a life." She gently places a hand on her stomach and smiles.
Peeta's hand joins hers. "I can't say I mind having to keep trying though," he says laughing. The crowd joins in and Caesar looks overjoyed. Peeta pecks Katniss on the cheek.
Caesar gives her another look. He's as bad as Haymitch.
She stops Peeta from moving his face too far from hers by placing her hand on his cheek. She looks into his eyes and gives another sweet smile just for the crowd. She presses her lips to his and Peeta catches her off guard with his next move. His fingers are threaded through her hair at the back of her head. He's got her head trapped as his lips move hungrily over hers.
It starts for the cameras, but ends for them.
She can feel his tongue on hers moving rapidly, then slower. His kiss is greedy and it causes a fire to build in the pit of Katniss's stomach. She can feel it thriving and each new flick of Peeta's tongue or ghost of his lips over hers is another bit of oxygen that the fire needs to grow, and grow, and grow until Katniss feels like her whole body is engulfed in flames. She feels like she's in the cave again. She feels like she's on the beach again. It's the best kiss of her life.
She gives Caesar a silent thank you in her mind as Peeta pulls away. Katniss touches her lips with the tips of her fingers, still not believing what just happened.
"Well if that isn't a kiss, I don't know what is!" Caesar exclaims. He's beaming. His ratings are going to skyrocket.
When the segment is over, she and Peeta walk backstage. They go back to their hotel, change, pack and are back on the train by dusk. "Good show," Peeta says before he turns the light out for bed. He turns his back to her and is breathing soundly soon after.
They get back to District Twelve and everything goes back to normal.
Peeta paints. Peeta bakes.
Eventually, Katniss hunts again. She needs to, because everything is back to normal and she doesn't know how she feels about that.
Everyday is the same routine. Back to normal. Except, it's not.
Peeta paints. Peeta bakes.
Katniss hunts. Katniss thinks of that kiss.
We won / Or we think we did / When you went away you were just a kid / And if you lost it all / And you lost it / Well at least the war is over
Katniss can never get a simple night's rest. She sees Prim again tonight.
She's crying, burning, blaming, dying. Over, and over, and over again. It's non-stop agony. Her only sister. Her Little Duck. The first person she vowed to protect forever. Gone trying to save the life of another.
All of them, all the same. Good, caring, loving people. Dead in a war that she started.
Katniss's mind is flooded with images of charred flesh, bodies riddled with gunshot wounds. Knife wounds. Skin infected with tracker jacker venom. Arrow wounds.
Those are the hardest to remember.
She sees Cinna's body. Bloodied. Empty of life. Her fault.
Her dream reverts back to Prim's death. Burning fire, peeling skin, agonizing screams. You were supposed to protect me! Gale's laughing. He drops bomb after bomb on her little sister.
Katniss's throat is on fire. Peeta is shaking her. He looks terrified.
"Please, Katniss, wake up! Not real, Katniss. It's not real!" He's using his own form of therapy to help her fight off her demons.
"Prim… she— I saw her. Dying. Always dying. And Cinna."
"They're just ghosts. It's not real."
"But they shouldn't be ghosts! They should be real and it's my fault they're not. This war took everything."
"But the war is over, Katniss. It's over and we won."
She looks at him. "Did we? Everyone we love is dead Peeta. Your family is dead. We have nothing. We lost everything."
"You have me," he says desperately. "You have me and I have you. We help each other. Real or not real?"
She doesn't answer right away.
Peeta starts to sound hopeless. "We have each other, Katniss. Real or not real?"
"Real," she croaks. She cries. He holds her.
They start a Book of People the next day.
They still have a routine, but it's not the same anymore.
She watches him paint. They bake together. He helps her hunt. Or scavenge, rather. He's still a noisy walker.
All the living are dead, and the dead are all living / The war is over and we are beginning…
Peeta's worst vision in a while comes while they're watching TV after dinner. Their segment with Caesar airs tonight. Peeta watches the first couple of minutes with no problem. When their television selves start to kiss though, Katniss can feel him tense beside her.
His fists clench and a grimace forms on his face. He starts to shake and Katniss can hear his breathing start to get heavier. She does what she always does when his visions are this bad.
She grabs his hand.
"Peeta? Listen to me. Your name is Peeta Mellark. You're a painter. You're a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. And you always double-knot your shoelaces."
His grip loosens a little on her hand. She repeats herself.
"Your name is Peeta Mellark. You're a painter. You're a baker. You like to sleep with the windows open. You never take sugar in your tea. You always double-knot your shoelaces."
His breathing returns to a more normal state. He sighs. Opens his eyes slowly. Doesn't let go of her hand.
"And I love Katniss Everdeen. You forgot that."
It's the first time he's said it out loud in a while. Katniss wants to say something back, but doesn't know what.
She settles for "Are you okay now?"
Peeta sighs and shuts the TV off with the remote. "Yes, I'm fine."
"Do you know what caused this one?"
"Our kiss." No hesitation.
"Oh— um." She drops his hand.
Peeta closes his around hers again. "It wasn't bad. I just had a flood of images from every time we've kissed in my mind. It was good. Overwhelming, but good." He stops and looks at her. Allows it settle in.
She's silent too. She looks away, unable to bear his unfaltering gaze for too long.
She can hear his voice echoing in the back of her mind. "I love Katniss Everdeen."
And she never says it back. She feels it. She knows she does, but she can't. Because she is broken. Dead inside. She breathes and her heart pumps blood, but she's dead inside. The people who died are the ones who should be here, cherishing life the way she can not.
Peeta's eyes are still on her when he speaks. "It's real, Katniss. I said it before. We have each other and that is something that will always be real."
She feels the truth in this, too.
She knows he's good on his word. He'll always be there for her.
He's her boy with the bread.
Her dandelion in the Spring.
The reason she's able to function right now.
She knows it's true. And as scared as she is, she knows it would be good with him.
And just like the first Games, Katniss doesn't want to lose the boy with the bread.
So she kisses him.
Here it comes! / Here comes the first day!
It's just like their last kiss. Hungry, desperate, amazing. Katniss feels the fire start again. It spreads faster this time. It burns through every vein in her body. Every limb. The heat is in her toes and makes its way upwards. To her calves, thighs, higher. The only thing Katniss can compare the burning to is her first Games when she'd been set on fire by that arrow. It's a scorching heat but it's inside of her this time and it feels so good. The kiss that they share now is not for any cameras. Just them. That makes it better.
Katniss can almost feel Peeta breathing his love into her as they kiss. The way his lips brush over hers gently at first, then with abandon. His fingers brush her hair away from her face as his hand cups her cheek, angling her face so he can kiss her deeper.
She feels his tongue penetrate her mouth again. Just like the interview. Just like the beach. Just like the cave. It's the same burning. The same pure, raw want. The wish that this never ends. Just like Peeta, she wants to freeze this moment so she can play it over, time and time again.
Here it comes! / Here comes the first day!
Katniss can feel as Peeta lifts her body up onto his and begins walking toward the stairs. His lips never leave hers. They hit a couple bumps on the way up but it's worth it.
They get to Katniss's bedroom and Peeta lays her down. Presses his body into hers, forcing her onto her back. She spreads her legs and he settles between them. She traps him there, interlocking her ankles behind his back.
It starts up in our bedroom after the war
"I love you, Katniss."
"I know," she breathes.
"You love me, too. Real or not real?"
"Real, Peeta. Always real."
His kisses travel to her neck and her skin burns there, too.
He starts to undress her and she stops his hand for a second, then lets go. This is Peeta. He knows the battles she has faced and the scars she has earned. He knows everything.
Regardless, she feels exposed.
Peeta takes off his shirt. Now we're even, he says with the kiss that follows.
Katniss traces his scars. The burned, marred, and disfigured skin of his back tells of his bravery, dedication, and devotion to Katniss. She loves him for it.
She starts to not care about her own scarred and ugly skin. They're imperfect, together. Both ugly and broken. It's beautiful.
Peeta's mouth leaves her breast as his fingers play with the waistband of her pants. The cool air mixes with the small traces of Peeta's saliva and send a chill through Katniss's body.
It's riveting, what they're doing.
She gives Peeta the okay.
This burning is not as pleasant as before, but still pleasant.
Peeta rocks his hips against hers.
Yes, still pleasant.
They develop a rhythm. It's not perfect, but nothing in life ever is. This is good though.
This is their beginning.
They've had more beginnings than any of them can count. She knows this may not even be their last one.
She's happy for it though.
For her beginning. Her rebirth. Her boy with the bread.