A/N: Figured it was time to quit with the Disclaimers and such XD SO SORRY FOR THE WAIT.
I kind of lied, sorry, not a whole lot of fluff (if any) in this one ;A; I tried!
Review and tell me what you think? I'd appreciate it deeply! 3 I've gotten such nice ones already, you guys are the ones that keep me going ;u;
It's not until the front door slams so violently the entire house nearly rattles that I'm finally awoken.
I'm scrambling out of bed, on my feet, pulling an arrow from my quiver and grabbing my bow that sat by the doorway, turning my hunting mode on as the noise still continued. Instantly I recognized the hushed incoherent muttering. Peeta's.
Staying at the top of the stairs, I duck my head, trying to listen, to maybe catch a word or two, but it's useless. He's in a frenzy of words, pacing like a mad man. I can tell he had a bad flashback at work. Seeing me will only set him off again.
Quietly, I straighten again, fixing my eyes on the target – the floorboard just between his feet – and knock back an arrow. The shock should be enough to snap him out of it. I think. As my fingers slip off of the bowstring, the weapon makes a whistling noise as it cuts through the air before lodging right where I wanted it. I could see him freeze, falling silent, and a feeling of smugness washes over me.
"Katniss?" He asks slowly, his anger gone now. He slowly looks up to meet my eyes at the stairs. I must look as crazy as I feel, because there's a sudden startled look about him that seemed a bit more panicked than when I had actually shot the arrow at him. He thinks I've actually went over the edge. Lovely.
Maybe he can prepare for when I actually do.
Trying to approach me like I assume he would a wounded animal, he slowly takes a few small steps towards the stair opening. Setting my bow and quiver down, I lock eyes on him, which seems to keep him frozen in his place again.
"That door slam probably could have woken Haymitch out of a coma," I finally say, a little stiffly. It was hard enough to wake that drunkard when he was merely asleep. To wake him from a coma is a far stretch of the imagination. Peeta seems to relax at the mention of this, though.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to wake you." He says. "It's alright, though. I'm f–"
"No, you aren't." I cut him off, crossing my arms and closing the distance of the stairs between us. "You had another attack at the bakery, didn't you?"
He refuses to meet my gaze as he swallows, his brow furrowing in what I take to be guilt. "No," He lies, rather pathetically.
Now I'm angry. "Peeta, don't hide this from me!" I cry, giving him a slight smack. "I don't hide from you!" He winces as my hand leaves a sting, but doesn't back down. Instead, he just goes silent.
"I punched Thom today. Broke his nose." He said, barely able to hear. "About three of the guys had to hold me down. I don't really remember what happened... but apparently I was shouting about the things you did..or didn't do.. in the Quell." His jaw tightens. "Mags. Wiress. The beach."
The bottom of my stomach gives out when his words reach me. He still doesn't remember everything, even though our countless sessions of sitting down at my dinner table and telling stories, the hours of 'Real or Not Real'. He's still not the Peeta I fell in love with.
But I'm not the Katniss he fell in love with either.
"What about the beach?" I ask quietly.
He takes a deep breath, like it's an effort just to suck in air, and lets it out slow. I gently guide him over to his dining room table, sitting across from him, waiting patiently. Not that I have a choice; his clenching and un-clenching of his fists is sign enough that he's fighting back a flashback again while his thoughts are muddled. Eventually his hands relax, and he looks at them while he forces out the words.
"You were planning to kill me and then split up from the others to fend on your own. Real or not real?"
It still catches me off guard every time we play this game. The things the Capitol twisted his mind to believe were truly stunning and cruel. "Not real." I say, slightly ruffled. "I was planning to split up from the others, yes, but we were going to do it together."
He considers my answer for a moment, looking relieved, but he doesn't hesitate firing off another question this time. "You killed Wiress. Real or not real?"
"Not real." I say, hiding my agitation. I thought he already knew that; surely the Capitol's hijacking didn't replace memories all over again with the artificial nightmares. But then again; it was Snow's game. Peeta's treatment could have been the lowest blow of most.
"You shoved Mags into the fog. Real or – "
"Not real!" I cry, cutting him off, launching from my seat. My outburst clearly surprises us both; we stare at each other, startled, silence now seeping into our path. I tear my gaze away from him. "Not real," I mumble. "Sorry."
The silent atmosphere lengthens as I sit back down. Why, of all the times we've played his little game, has it not bothered me until now? Is it because we've already played that version? He's asked me about the Quell over so many things, so many times... It's not normal, is it? I jump when I hear him start to laugh.
It's not his usual amused laugh. It's sad and quiet and almost feels like it's full of guilt. He doesn't go about hiding it very well; his eyes are closed and his head is tilted down, letting his blonde hair help cover his misery. This is what the Games have reduced him to. This is what the Games have reduced us to.
"I'm so– " I begin, trying to apologize again, but he rises from his chair and is wrapping his arms around me and giving me a squeeze so tight it makes me wonder if it's one of his flashbacks controlling him. He buries his face into the crook of my neck, his warmth engulfing me as I wrap my arms around his neck. "Shhh, Peeta," I say quietly, smoothing his hair slowly and gently. "Shhh, I'm here. You're safe."
By the way he's suddenly lightly shuddering I know he's doing his best to hold back whatever tears he hasn't shed in nearly a year and a half. Peeta cries about as much as I do; very rarely. He tries to convince me that I need to openly cry and let my feelings out when possible, while standing back and holding everything in himself. How selfish I had been. He's been not only fighting his own but protecting me from mine.
"Don't hold it back," I say in a light whisper, holding him tighter, and that's when his time to break. The boy with the bread I had known so long ago to have truly been my Peeta stood in my arms, finally shaking and letting the tears come like the child inside we had both been forced to abandon so early on. I gently slide to the floor with him, consoling him, whispering comforting words that I'm not sure he hears. It's like we've suddenly switched roles; not yet two or three days ago I was doing the exact same. I wondered if this was the way how Peeta felt back then, miserable and helpless and wishing you could erase those horrible memories.
Eventually his sobs reduced to hiccups, his shaking turned to stillness, his breathing slow and weary. His head rests on my collarbone, his hands laying limply by his side, but I don't let go of him. I still talk quietly, running my fingers through his hair, then flattening it again with a smooth and gentle touch. He never speaks, but takes my hand in his, which I give a tight squeeze. "Always," I whisper to him. "Real." I repeat the words, over and over, because he already knows what they mean. He doesn't have to ask a thousand times to truly remember.
Eventually his breathing deepens and I'm sure he's asleep. I continue combing back his longer hair – he needs to get it cut – and feel content to stay there, on the floor, holding him. Loving him. Never letting him go. I sit there, unmoving except for the words that come out of my mouth and my fingers that gently caress his head. I don't know how long we sit like this, nor do I care; time seems irrelevant to us now. I know I'm dozing by the time he wakes up, though, because he startles and I jump and smack my head on the dining table.
"Katniss?" He asks drowsily, blinking, but he snaps out of it once my face distorts into a lot of words I have half to the mind to snarl out. "Are you okay? Did you get hurt? Did I – " His own face goes pale as he thinks of all the things he could have possibly done.
"No, no, you didn't do anything. I was being stupid." I said, rubbing the spot where impact took place. "It's okay."
"Let me see it," He orders, stubbornly rising to try and pry my hand off of it. I clamp my hand down, just as bad as he is, and let him try to take it off of my head all he likes. "Katniss, stop being difficult, I only want to look!"
Both of us our scowling, arched up like cobras, struggling for control atop my head, but suddenly both of us are quiet. His face is so close to mine, his hand is in mine atop my head, a frozen battle bound to be forgotten; the only sound now in the room is our breathing. My grey eyes meet his brilliant blue ones, the ones that are searching for any hint of lies, distrust, betrayal. I know he'll find nothing. I know he does because the next moment he crashes his lips down on mine. Wanting. Needy. Hungry. We lose track of where we are, what time it is, or even what needs doing. All I feel is him, and what we are doing now; his soft lips pressed against mine, his hands cupping my face, his body pressed against mine. He was always so much better at this than I was when we kissed. But that had been all for show; now we have no cameras watching, no Capitol people shouting our name, no forced romance. It seemed so different now. So real. Whole. Like the Peeta Mellark I had kissed in the cave, who truly thought we were in love then, he kissed me with as much passion as he had done almost a year and a half ago.
Suddenly he breaks away, and I restrain myself from giving a little cry of disappointment. "You love me. Real or -"
I have his lips on mine again with a barely uttered "Real." This time, he doesn't object.