Slightly AU! My re-telling of events from the end of the 74th Annual Hunger Games, just a short few scenes for all those who would have liked to see a little more Katniss/Peeta early on in the trilogy.
No hate please, all characters and ideas belong to Suzanne Collins.
Though my face was expressionless as I slipped those berries into Peeta's hand, I could hardly bear the tumult of emotions I felt. It had seemed that I was going to die on several occasions over the last few weeks, but none had made me feel this way. Perhaps because this was when I stopped fighting – the only threat here was myself. No adrenaline coursed through my body, no pounding of blood in my head warned me of the danger. But the sick, heavy feeling in my heart was worse. This was where we ended, Peeta and I. I made the mistake of looking into his eyes one final time. The passion, sadness and fear I saw there was nearly enough to make me knock the berries out of his hand and shove mine into my mouth there and then. But I couldn't – not because I couldn't kill myself, I had already accepted that. But because the fear in his eyes was directed only at me. Oh Peeta. Pure, selfless Peeta. I broke eye contact and turned my back on him just as a tear escaped. I inhaled deeply. I couldn't lose focus now, this was the only chance we had.
"On three?" I asked.
I heard him turn in confirmation and felt his back press against mine. The contact gave me the last, final surge of strength I needed.
"One." It took everything I had to keep a tremble out of my voice.
"Two." Said Peeta.
"Three." I hesitated for a split second, then brought the berries swiftly to my mouth. They had just passed my lips when...
"STOP! Stop! Ladies and Gentleman. I give you, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, our two victors of the 74th Annual Hunger Games!" Claudius's frantic voice boomed out over the arena.
For the very first time during The Hunger Games I had been forced to take part in, I was helpless. I felt detached from my body as I watched the girl I loved place those poisonous berries in my hand. That I could deal with. But not all the berries were in my hand – some stayed in hers. Katniss Everdeen. Her name danced round my head, taunting me. She had entered these Games with a fierce determination to win – for her sister. I had entered with the sole purpose of returning her to her sister. But this was a stalemate. I couldn't just kill myself, she would never forgive me. So we both die? It was funny... for so long I had accepted that I would die for her and she would live, if not a happy, a peaceful life. Perhaps she would think of me every so often, in gratitude or simply remembrance. But I had never imagined that the last few days could happen. She may have been playing up to the cameras, but to me it meant everything. Perhaps it was fitting now that I died; having been able to spend my last hours in the company of the girl I loved. Speaking with her... kissing her. She brought her head up to look into my eyes for the last time. Through all my confusion and heartache, I found solace in the fact that her eyes would be the last I ever saw. In those seconds before she turned away I tried to convey all my emotions to her. How important she was to me, to Prim. How she couldn't die. How I loved her...
"On three?" She asked, her voice resigned, but steady.
I don't know how she did it. I couldn't speak, but turned and pressed my back against hers. This was our final stand – the whole of Panem would witness the united deaths of the star-crossed lovers, who had become true friends.
"One." I loved her more for her bravery. The resolve in her voice gave me strength.
"Two." I answered.
"Three." We said together. There was no hesitation as I brought the berries to my lips, but at the same time I whirled round with the intention of knocking them out of her mouth. However the berries barely made it into mine when the announcement was made.
"STOP! Stop! Ladies and Gentleman. I give you, Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark, our two victors of the 74th Annual Hunger Games!" Claudius's frantic voice boomed out over the arena.
I could hardly believe it. After spitting the berries out of our mouths we clung to each other for dear life. I hardly noticed that Peeta's grip was weak until they prised us apart. He slumped in their arms, his face drained of blood. For one heart-stopping moment, I thought that he had swallowed the berries. But then his eyes flickered, and I saw the gaping wound in his leg. It had gotten worse. Though they were going to help him – to heal him, I had fended for myself for so long they were only the enemy. I kicked and screamed all the way to the helicopter.
The first thing I noticed was the light.
Artificial, almost blinding. I had lived for so long in the shadows.
The second was the warmth. Though the sheet that covered me was thin, for the first time in weeks I did not shiver.
As my eyes adjusted to the light I became aware of other things. How I was wearing a soft, silken nightgown. How there was a plaster on the back of my left hand, and sure enough, an intravenous drip standing to one side. I wasn't hooked up though, I must be fully healed. I actually felt great. Apart from the gnawing hunger in my belly there was nothing wrong with me. I felt for the various wounds I had accumulated throughout the Games and found none. Once I had acclimatized, and slowed the fast beating of my heart I climbed out of the hospital bed to investigate my holding room. The walls were made of white glass, impenetrable and I couldn't see out, or even find the door. This puzzle was solved soon enough however, when a section of the glass swooshed open behind me, to reveal Haymitch. For the first time ever, he looked sober. I'd bet my mockingjay pin that he wasn't – but he looked it. First thing he did was to crush me in a huge bear hug.
"Right." He said gruffly, releasing me and making himself comfortable in the side of the bed.
"Well done. But that's all the congrats you're gonna get."
"I don't... understand." I was confused, and sat down beside him.
"That little trick with the berries. The Capitol is mad, way mad. You shown them up, and they're gonna get you for that. They don't like people finding ways around their rules, especially not with their precious Hunger Games. They're smart, they're sneaky and they'll be looking to put you back in your place."
My heart plunged back into dread, fear gripped me almost worse than what I felt entering the arena for the first time. I felt as though I was being pushed into another arena – only this one I had no idea how big it was, or exactly who my enemy was.
"Wait – so Peeta is..." My heart convulsed again, realising that for the first time in several days that I had no idea where he was, or indeed, if what Haymitch was saying about this threat was true, if he was alive.
"Peeta is fine." He said. "For now." The barely concealed threat hung in the air between us creating a silence so palpable you could have sliced it with a knife.
"What do I do." I whispered.
"Keep the story alive. You're here right now because of your sponsors. Because they think that you two are in love. If you play it up best as you can – and I mean it Katniss, even more than in the arena – then there may be hope."
This time when I woke up my surroundings were painfully familiar. The last time I had been in this room I had steeled myself for almost certain death. Realising again how ravenous I was, and that I hadn't eaten properly for a few days, or however long it was they had me knocked out, I slipped out of my bed in the apartment that Peeta and I shared to go in search of food. I didn't have to look far; a small meal had been left on the shiny white desk by the television set in my room. Steaming hot soup that scalded my mouth and a small but crisp loaf made the best meal I ever remembered tasting. When I was done and full to the brim, I sat down on the edge of my bed and listened. Silence. I tried to relax, but couldn't. I kept on straining for sounds, on the lookout for danger still. The slightest noise made me flinch. I got up, unable to rest. Perhaps this was the time, time I had alone, to attempt to figure out my feelings.
All I felt was confusion... in those last few days Peeta and I had created our own little world. But there was a catch – the world was watching. I had known that. So when had my obligations to pretending to have feelings, and actually having... feelings... merged? I hadn't a clue. Did I truly have feelings for him? Or had it all been a show? My head was far too messed up to figure that out right now. I had gone in determined to attempt to win for Prim. To return to her. I had been so close, and then decided I was willing to die for him. For the boy with the bread. I had wished that I had thanked him all those years ago. Had that action simply been an extension of that feeling?
I wasn't sure if I even wanted any of those questions answered. We would have to act like a couple soon, when we were in the public eye as victors. I needed to know my own feelings before then. I'm not sure if I could handle it otherwise...
Perhaps I would know when I saw him... Perhaps I would feel nothing but friendly towards him.
I sighed again.
I went into the large bathroom to shower. Maybe the multicoloured water would take my mind off Peeta.
Wrapping myself in a dark green silk dressing gown after my shower, I gingerly opened my bedroom door and poked my head out. It was silent, empty. I padded out a few tentative steps and was reassured to find myself alone. I walked straight to the sparkling glass table in the centre of the cavernous space of the penthouse we once again occupied in search of food. My stomach rumbled when I found a large bowl of the ripest fruit sitting upon it. I had just reached for an apple when I heard a tiny creak behind me. My survival reflexes were thrown into action and I whirled around, my eyes wide and my heart beating fast.
Peeta was sitting in his spot on the windowsill, staring at me, perched as though he had half made up his mind to come down. I stood there, with my pulse not slowing, speeding up if anything, my back pressed against the table and all thoughts of the juicy apple far from my mind. The silence seemed to last an age, with the one thought battering my mind – we are all alone. If there was ever a time to get things out into the open, now was it.
But my voice wouldn't work, my mouth wouldn't open. I just kept on staring.
"I – I saw you come in. I didn't want to scare you..." Peeta spoke first, carefully, as you would to a frightened animal or a small child. His gaze never left mine, though there were several couches and an expanse of shiny marble floor between us.
I cleared my throat.
"Oh no, don't worry. I was just – I was hungry." My voice sounded strange, distant and unlike me.
"You look good, Katniss." He said softly.
This was a lie, I knew. I had seen myself in the mirror in my bathroom. Though Cinna and his team of stylists had bathed and moisturised and conditioned me whilst I was asleep, I guessed, there was no disguising the frailness of my body, or the haunted look in my eyes.
"So do you." He actually did. The last time I'd seen him he had been unconscious. As if he could tell what I was thinking, his hand went to his leg.
"It's all healed."
"Of course." I nodded, giving a little cough and glancing at where his injury had been. But that hadn't been what I meant, the rest of him looked good too. Though his eyes had the same haunted look as mine, his gaze was soft still. The Games hadn't changed him unrecognisably. The blue of his eyes pierced mine and made me blink. It was hard not to notice all the new muscles he had accumulated whilst running and fighting... I tore my gaze away when I felt my cheeks starting to get hot. The last thing I needed now was to blush.
I don't remember what I said, but I fabricated some flimsy excuse to get back to my room. I think I said I was tired. I had seen him, and I had realised that I wasn't ready to talk to him. Not just yet. In the safety of my room I could hold back the blush no longer. Colour flooded my cheeks and I exhaled the breath I had been holding in.
I didn't sleep. How could I? Too many things pervaded my mind; not the least of which the horrors out of which I had so recently escaped. I gasped suddenly, rocking on the side of my bed. Once they had begun they came as a deluge. The deaths I had witnessed, one by one flooded into my mind and each one hurt as though I was seeing it for the first time. The fear I had felt, not only for myself but for the kids running for the cornucopia in those first few seconds, I knew they wouldn't survive. For Rue. For Peeta – those moments when I feared I had lost him. That terrible, heart-wrenching pain that cut me to the core. I shuddered, feeling physically sick at the thought of what might have been... of what so often nearly was. And now we were both here – alone in this apartment, which just occurred to me might be Haymitch's doing – and I was too scared to face him.
I couldn't wait a moment longer. Still shaking all over from my recent memories, I got up, wrenched my bedroom door open, stumbled across the apartment and found myself outside Peeta's door. I stood there breathing heavily, unable to raise my hand to knock when the door opened.
Peeta stood there in white cotton pyjama's, looking shocked to see me standing outside his door.
"I was going to get some water..." he started, when I lifted my gaze to his. Worry immediately creased his face and his eyes softened.
I wasn't sure of the question but I don't think he cared about the answer when I flung myself over the threshold at him. He caught me in his strong arms and held me tighter than he'd ever held me before. I couldn't help it; overcome with emotions I buried my face into his pyjama shirt and cried. It was several minutes before I calmed down, and I became aware of his hands on me, one cradling my head and one pressed protectively against the small of my back. I suddenly also became aware of an overwhelmingly nice smell... was it his nightclothes? Some sort of washing liquid they used, maybe. But no... it was a smell I remembered. A warm and comforting smell, one that I recognise from two places only – District 12 and the cave in the woods. It was Peeta. My feelings were sorted. I don't know how it could have taken me so long to realise, he had been willing to die for me. And I had been willing to die for him. I lifted my face, which I knew was red from crying. His eyes, normally such a light blue, had darkened. That gaze thrilled me; filled with... I can only describe it as passion. I wonder if mine looked the same, because for a moment he looked unsure. Confused. He had loved me unconditionally even as he knew I hadn't felt the same. I understood now. It was my move, he wouldn't do anything, nothing but protect me whilst I needed it. In the space of a few seconds, I had made up my mind. To tell the truth it had been made up for a long time, I had just needed to accept and come to terms with it. His gaze faltered again as he tried to read the resolve in my eyes. I knew he would let go soon, now that I had stopped crying. Indeed, his arms began to loosen around me. Scared that he would let go, I tilted my face towards his. He stopped, waiting. Slowly, never breaking eye contact, I leaned forward and brushed my lips to his. Instantly his arms encircled me completely and his lips crushed down onto mine. I was thrilled, right from my lips down to the tips of my toes. My eyes closed and I went limp in his arms as he kissed me properly, the first kiss we had shared alone, the first where we could truly tell and explore our feelings for each other. My arms rose almost of their own accord to grip his shoulders and pull him closer to me. He responded lifting me off the ground, smiling into my lips. My stomach twisted in pure pleasure as the boy I loved kissed me. We both meant it, and no-one as watching. With one action we had reclaimed our lives.
After what seemed like forever we broke apart, both breathing heavily. I could tell my cheeks were tinged with pink once again, but this time I didn't mind. Peeta reached out to cradle my face, his darkened eyes smouldering into mine. For the first time in weeks, I smiled. He smiled back, the easy smile that I had come to know and love. I realised I had never said it before. Never said it and truly meant it.
"I love you." I whispered, making no attempt to extricate myself from his grasp. I really rather liked it there, pressed up against his warm body. We had slept together like this many nights in the cave. Had it been like this for him?
"I love you more, Katniss." He whispered back, his usually carefree voice gravelly with emotion. I'd heard it before, but this time was special. It was more than a few words, it was a promise. I reached up to bring his face closer to mine, this time waiting for him to kiss me.
"Not possible." I mouthed, just clear enough for him to make out. He pulled me closer and kissed me again. This one didn't start tentative, it was fierce. It was full of all the things we thought we were going to be denied of when we had been ready to die. Most of all, life.
"Katniss." He said, pulling away.
"What?" I gasped, moving forwards again.
He grinned. "You're about to collapse. When did you last sleep?"
He was right. If he hadn't been holding me up I would have sunk to the floor. The exhaustion that passion had chased away was clawing back in – I hadn't slept since arriving at the apartment the previous day.
"It's been a while." I said regretfully. Because I knew that if I was asleep I couldn't be with him. And right now, I couldn't bear to spend any time apart.
"Can you walk?" He asked.
"Of course I can..." my legs buckled when I stepped away from him. Luckily he caught me and lifted me into his arms. Having cared for myself for so many years, it felt unbelievably good to be carried and tucked into bed. I sighed, this time contentedly. He placed a kiss on my forehead and I grabbed his hand as he turned to leave.
"Wait! Stay with me?" He hesitated, conflicted and worry written on his face. I pulled him down beside me and turned around, not giving him any choice. Tentatively he lay down and put his arm around me. I slept peacefully, ready to face the world and the capitol in the morning.
My first Hunger Games fic! I have been a fan of the books for years, but it was the amazingness of the movie that incited my interest in writing this fic. I have to admit, in the books I shipped Katniss/Gale quite a bit, but since the movie really focused on Katniss/Peeta I now can't imagine anything else. I hope you liked it, please review and I may think about doing another! Ideas are welcome :) - angelwings12 xx