It was one o'clock in the morning, and Katniss Everdeen couldn't sleep. Tomorrow she would be in the arena. Tomorrow she could be dead. Conditions were not exactly conducive to a good night's rest, no matter how luxurious the bed. Finally, tired of tossing and turning, she left her room and made her way to the roof of the Training Center. She needed air. She needed to see the sky and the moon on the last night that no one would be hunting her.
The roof was dark, the building's lights turned off for the night, but the city was bright enough on its own to light her way to the railing. She leaned over and watched the crowded streets below. Despite the late hour, there was a party going on. The people of the Capitol were thronging in their garish costumes, eagerly awaiting the oncoming slaughter of twenty three innocent children. As she listened to the music and cheers below, Katniss could feel nothing but disgust.
She turned her gaze to the sky. At least the moon here was the same one she watched at home in District Twelve. Trying to tune out the noise from below, she closed her eyes and let the gentle cool breeze wash over her face and through her hair, which fell free from her usual braid.
Peeta's voice startled her, but she didn't turn around.
"Can't turn my mind off," she answered as he came to stand next to her.
She glanced over and saw that he was keeping his gaze on the sky, too. His hands rested on the railing, still wrapped in bandages. Guilt washed over her again.
"I really am sorry about your hands," she said.
"It doesn't matter, Katniss," he said. "Portia put some kind of quick-healing cream on them, said they'd be fine by morning. The cuts weren't that deep."
"I'm glad," she said, feeling some relief. At least she wouldn't be sending him into the Games tomorrow already half crippled.
Although, really…why would that be such a horrible thing? He wasn't her friend, she reminded herself. He wasn't her ally. Tomorrow it would be kill or be killed, and she couldn't afford to let herself feel anything but indifference for this boy. She had been forced to spend time with him during training, but there was no reason that needed to be continued now. She had been lax, but she needed to get her defenses back up if she was going to survive.
"I'm cold," she said at the same exact moment he asked, "Were you thinking about your family?"
They both paused in embarrassment, and Katniss was more eager than ever to make her escape. This was just too awkward.
"Sorry," she started again. "I was just saying that it's getting cold up here. I think I'm going to go try and get some sleep." She backed away from the railing and headed for the stairwell.
She got halfway there before his voice called out after her.
"You don't have to do that, you know."
"Run away from me."
"I'm not running away from you," she scoffed. "I told you, I'm getting cold."
Peeta rolled his eyes.
"Please, Katniss. Give me some credit. You're wearing a flannel nightgown. It's sixty-five degrees out here. You're not cold, you just don't want to talk to me."
He crossed his arms, leaned his back against the railing, and looked at her expectantly. She knew he was right, so she gave up the ruse.
"Well, excuse me for not wanting to make nicey-nice tonight with someone who's going to be my mortal enemy tomorrow," she snapped.
"Katniss, I'm not your enemy."
"Like hell you aren't."
Katniss knew she was being harsher than necessary, but she didn't know why, and the confusion of it just added to her aggravation. Peeta dropped his arms and took a step towards her. She could tell he was getting angry, too. Good. She was getting tired of the Mr. Nice Guy act.
"I'm not," he said in a tightly controlled voice. "I would never hurt you."
"Don't be stupid, Peeta," she said. "Of course you would, if I was standing in the way of you going home."
Peeta shook his head, his hands clenched in fists at his sides.
"Oh, what," she said. "Are you telling me you're planning on getting through without killing anyone, Saint Peeta? You won't last five minutes with an attitude like that."
"I know that," he said in that same clipped voice. "I didn't say I wouldn't kill anyone. I said I wouldn't kill you."
"You're delusional! You have no idea what we'll be facing. You may have to…"
"You don't know that!"
"I do! I'd never lay a hand on you!"
"I'm not your friend, Peeta! Despite what Haymitch might have people believe, we're not a team! If you want to get home, you need to stop with this! I'm just another tribute!"
"Not to me, you're not."
"BECAUSE I'M IN LOVE WITH YOU!"
A beat of silence, and then it was if the floodgates had been opened.
"You don't even know," he said, running his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth. "You thought what I told Caesar in that interview was a lie just to get sponsors, but it wasn't, Katniss. It was the truth. I know you barely even knew who I was before the Reaping, I know you've got Gale, but I've been in love with you since we were five! You thought I gave you that bread because I pitied you. Well, I didn't. I gave it to you because I loved you. I would rather die than hurt you. I am going to die trying to protect you!"
He stopped pacing and turned to look at her.
"Do you get it now?" he asked.
Katniss just stood there. She was aware that her mouth was open, her eyes wide. She knew Peeta was waiting for an answer. But she couldn't move, couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. To move a muscle would shatter her into a million little pieces.
He was waiting for an answer, but she couldn't give him one. She could only watch as his blue eyes became glassy with tears.
Finally, he nodded and broke his gaze away from her face.
He walked slowly past her to the door to the stairwell.
"Good luck tomorrow, Katniss," she heard him say, then the click of the door, his heavy footsteps on the stairs.
He was gone, and they would be in the arena before she saw him again.
AN: Bwhahaha! This is going to be a two-parter, so hang in there with me folks.
And I did borrow a few lines directly from the book. It's not mine, it's hers, blah blah blah.
Finally, just wanted to say I'm new to the Hunger Games fandom and I can't tell you how much fun I've had gorging myself on all the wonderful stories here over the past few days. It's so nice to have some pop culture to obsess over again—I've been out of the fandom loop since Jim and Pam got together and Harry killed Voldy. Keep the stories coming, people!