I definitely didn't do this marvelous pairing justice, but this is my first shot at anything Hunger Games (just read the books for the first time, in reverse order!) so I hope you enjoy! The time is about a year and a half from when Peeta plants the primroses (it begins in autumn)...in the last few pages of Mockingjay it wasn't clear how much time had passed between the planting of the primroses and the "real or not real" thing, so in my headcanon, it's about three years between those events.

Dedicated to Amy (foxfaced by nightlock) and Rae (turnthepageoftime), for their belated birthdays, which fall on different days. I should have given them separate gifts but since I already dedicated another thing jointly to them, I figured I may as well do the same for this one. Happy birthday, guys! I love you both!

Disclaimer: I don't own the Hunger Games trilogy.


Are you, are you, coming to the tree, where I told you to run, so we'd both be free?

...

My name is Peeta Mellark. Real or not real? I saved a girl's life when I was eleven. I was reaped for the Hunger Games. I wasn't supposed to survive. Why am I alive? I volunteered to be a tribute during the Quarter Quell. My heart stopped beating when I was in the arena. Why am I still here? I am in love with Katniss Everdeen. The Capitol hated her. Why am I alive? The Capitol hated me too. I helped destroy the Capitol. Except sometimes I can't tell whether I should love the Capitol or hate it, because sometimes I don't remember much of anything...

.

The air has a mythical quality about it right now; so thin and so hazy. Stars line the tips of his vision and his head, it spins around and around. Despite everything, he racks up a sob, a choked, twisted cough, bringing up the blood of his memories and the bile of his pain. She holds him in her arms, and his tears fall on her hair, like dewdrops onto a leaf.

"Real or not real? I am alive," Peeta chokes out, and Katniss, she just keeps rocking him, back forth back forth back forth on the little rocking chair, until she makes out a quiet, "Real."

.

After the first year, the primroses grow quite a few inches. They have silky yellow petals that feel like a rich velvet, and smell sweet and innocent. But they are still so weak. They have weak stems that sway in the autumn thunderstorms like madmen dancing.

"You would have done anything for your sister. Real or not real?" Peeta questions.

"Real, of course."

Peeta nods. "I expected no less."

.

On the good days, Peeta likes to work on the book. It is November now, chillier and draftier. The cold hurts Katniss's knee, so they stay inside and work on the book.

He likes to draw people in the book. He likes to draw their faces, the hands and the legs, all their identities written in their eyes. He likes the eyes the most. He likes to draw people, especially the ones he can't remember much anymore. And when those enigmatic memories begin to elude him, Katniss sets him down onto her bed, tucks a blanket over his body, and feeds him sleeping syrup from a small silver spoon, while he stares into her eyes and wonders where her innocence went. Then, he sleeps, without nightmares, without anything.

"You gave me sleeping syrup once during the Games. Real or not real?"

"Real. You remember, then."

"Yes, I remember. Eventually everything will come back, I promise, I promise!"

.

"Eventually" is such a far-fetched promise. Eventually, they will all die. Eventually, they will all be forgotten. Eventually, everything will come back. But eventually isn't happening. Eventually, it is spring and the primroses shoot up for another year, their stems a little fuller and greener and their petals a little firmer.

Peeta likes to spend more time outside, now that it's spring. Sometimes he takes walks in the woods, all by himself, because many of the forest animals moved out after the bombings and besides, Peeta doesn't care much anyway. Sometimes he plays a game: he pretends that he is Gale Hawthorne back in the day, Gale Hawthorne who has never been heard from again, save for a few television interviews every now and then. He pretends he is Gale Hawthorne, that he is waiting on Katniss to hunt with him, that he has Gale's fire and determination. The game is something for Peeta to take his mind off reality.

But soon reality comes wafting back. Peeta is only the first dandelion of spring. He is only a weed, growing where people want him, doing what people say, never truly escaping the grasp of whatever the Capitol did to him, long after the Capitol, as they knew it, has disintegrated.

That night, a spring storm hits and a few of the evening primroses are torn from their flowerbeds, having survived the cruel first years and the winters only to die during spring. Peeta has to chain himself to the chair in order not to unleash his insanity and he rocks back and forth, clutching the arm, clutching it with all his might, screaming his head off.

Katniss sits on the floor next to him all night, and when he has finally exhausted his voice and his insanity and begins to flit back and forth in the morning, between the realm of dreamless sleep and dreary reality, a mockingjay lands outside on the windowsill and begins to sing a beautiful song. Katniss's song, which she must have been singing recently in order for the bird to pick up.

And Katniss walks in, bow in one arm, a rabbit in the other, and in the quiver, no arrows but the three primroses that were ripped from the earth last night, their petals yellow as ever and their smell full of rain and lingering innocence.

Peeta looks at Katniss's eyes for a long time, trying to see if some of that innocence has been beginning to return, and he gets an embrace and a kiss in return.

"I will never recover. Real or not real?"

"Not real. You are already recovering."

Katniss gives him the three primroses. "Draw a picture of my sister and these flowers for me? I want to remember everything, forever."

He'd much rather forget, but it's Katniss, so he complies, and takes her words to heart.

.

"You love me. Real or not real?"

"Real," she replies, and that is when he starts remembering everything, the memories flooding back, and he realizes she is right – he would rather remember everything, forever. He would much rather have all of his mind than nothing at all.

...

Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true; here is the place where I love you.


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