A/N - Hello again! It's been so long. It felt so wonderful to actually have to time to write something again. Before I get tons of questions about the stories I still have going, I'm going to say that if you read any of my other unfinished stories, skip to the bottom for my note on that, as I do not want to get into the spiel and turn readers off to this story. Now, I've realized that I love one-shots, reading and writing them, much more than I love multi-chapter fics. I finally caved into all the hype, and read the entire Hunger Games series in a span of one week. Guys, I'm in love. And I don't want to sound like I'm just buying into a fad, but I have to say what really made me keep reading was Peeta, and just how much he loved Katniss so selflessly the entire series. I had to write this, I just had to.
After I finished Mockingjay, I realized that I felt like the last couple of pages were rushed. I loved the ending, but we didn't really get to see Peeta and Katniss work up to that final scene before the epilogue. So I wrote this, to kind of make up for it. It takes place a week after Peeta returns home, probably a short while before the wonderful "real or not real" scene at the end. Enjoy!
He watches her carefully, because he's still not sure what he wants to happen. Lately, all he's been doing is watching her carefully. He runs one hand through his hair, which he is sure will never be neat and orderly after the months of war and chaos he has endured. He's got so much to say, and no way to say it. For someone who's words are his most powerful weapon, Peeta Mellark is officially speechless.
"Are you ever going to say something?" She finally asks, after a few days have been spent in this fashion. Almost a week has passed since he's returned home, returned back to her, and nothing but a few words in passing have been exchanged between them. She's not looking at him though, and he's sure that it's because she's scared of what she'll see.
"Katniss." He's mad that that is all he can muster. Her name. What was the point? Why is talking the most difficult thing now? Maybe because over the last two years he's learned just how dangerous words can be.
"You're going to have to give me more than that Peeta." She looks around her kitchen, stares out the window, even fidgets a little, which is something that he knew she didn't like other people doing. But, he also knew she was desperate to look at anything but him.
"So look at me, and maybe I will." The words come tumbling out, before he can really think about them. He never used to think about words, they would just come. Everything was different now.
Katniss turns her head, looks at him steadily. Her gaze is strong, and she holds him trapped for a few silent moments. Her composure is wonderful, as it once was before the Games. He can't keep her waiting any longer.
"Why are you here?" she finally asks.
"Because you're here."
And suddenly, the fragile air breaks. She breaks. Her hands find her face, and sobs begin to escape. She's crying, and he thinks it's the saddest sound he's ever heard.
Before he knows what he's doing, he's out of his chair, arms around her. He takes her hands away from her face, gets a good look at the tears that are streaming, no end in sight. He brushes the stray hairs away from her face.
"Please don't cry. We don't have to be sad anymore." He says quietly.
"What is there to be happy about?" It's a question that he knows she must ask herself every day.
"Well, let's start with the small things and work our way up, okay?" She nods her head, tears still falling. Her bottom lip is quivering and she's still shaking, but he knows that she's listening to his every word.
"Well, we had some good bread this morning. I'm happy about that." He smiles when she rolls her eyes at him. "Ah, the eye roll. That's my girl." Rosy blush stains her cheeks at these words. She's embarrassed. He decides to keep going. "Haymitch didn't vomit once while he was here last night."
"Actually, he did once he was out the door." She corrects him.
He chuckles, shaking his head. "Like I said, he didn't do it here. No mess to clean." He pauses, wondering if he should jump to a big thing. "We're here together."
All traces of humor, no matter how little, have left her face. She's stopped crying, but he's so close to her face that he can see some tears are still caught in her dark eyelashes. She tries to blink them away, her cheeks growing pinker. He reaches out to cup the side of her face, the area where she's blushing makes his hand warm.
"Haymitch once told me that I could live a thousand lifetimes, and still never deserve you." She says, her voice barely above a whisper.
"Well, Haymitch is a crazy drunk. It's not true, alright Katniss?" He slides his hand to the back of her neck, bringing their foreheads to touch.
"No, it is true. He was wrong about a lot of things, but he was never wrong about you. He knew from the start that this was unbalanced, that you'd fallen into the wrong girl's lap. And for that, I'm sorry." Her breath is hot on his face, the left over tears still clinging to her lashes.
At these words, he tumbles back, falling on his backside, peals of laughter escaping him.
"You think this is funny?" She asks, standing up, trying to reach her full height. She's angry, and he can see it in her pale gray eyes, in her stiff posture. For a second, he sees the old Katniss, from the arena. For a second, he is terrified. He can't explain it, these moments. Flashes of his horrific tracker jacker delusions flood his head, but as quickly as they come, they fade. He knows that soon enough they won't come as often. It only takes a second for the moment to pass, for his laughter to resume.
"Katniss, don't be so silly. Help me up." He raises a hand, hoping she'll take it. She gives him one long look, still angry and embarrassed at his laughter.
"It's not funny Peeta." She practically hisses before helping him up.
He takes a step closer to her, sees her stiffen even more. His lips part in a smile, as he continues to move closer. Before she has time to register what he's doing, he wraps her up in the tightest hug he's sure she's ever gotten.
"Listen to me, okay? I'm not going to say this again Katniss." He says fiercely in her ear, still holding her. "You have nothing to be sorry for. Normal people, they're terrified to be reaped. All I could think when they called my name was thank goodness my last few days alive would be with you. I'm not complaining that I 'fell into your lap.'"
She doesn't break away from the hug, but instead holds him tighter. "How do you remember all of that?" He can hear the shock in her voice.
"Little things come back to me sometimes. That look you gave me when I laughed at you, I've seen it so many times over the years. I admired you for all that strength that you had. That you still have. I can remember it whenever you look at me like that." He pulls away slightly, so he can look at her face. Her eyes are shining, fresh tears about to spill over.
"You think too highly of me. I'm selfish beyond belief." He can see that it's hard for her to get the words out, she's scared to say anything.
"That may be true, Katniss Everdeen. But it's not like I've been so selfless all this time." He grins from ear to ear, leans in to kiss her forehead. Her breath catches at the intimate contact. "Can we be happy together?" He asks her. He can feel her heartbeat quicken, sees the confusion cloud her eyes.
"Together?" She asks slowly, drawing out the syllables.
"Together." He repeats, smiling, because he knows that she remembers the last time they spoke these words to each other.
Her brow furrows slightly, confusion still on her face.
"What's wrong?" He asks. He notices that they are still holding each other. He can feel her warmth, and it makes him pull her in.
"What do you mean by together?" She asks. Now it's his turn to be confused. She backtracks, tries to correct herself. "It's just, after everything, it's hard to tell what's real and what's not real." She smiles at him shyly.
"You want me to stay here with you. Real or not real?" He asks her.
Her smile grows. "Real."
He pauses, goes back to watching her carefully. "Katniss, do you like me?" He asks suddenly.
This catches her off guard, and she tries to move away from him. He tightens his grip around her waist.
"Katniss…" He trails off, letting her know that he needs an answer.
"What kind of 'like' are we talking about here?" She asks, going back to looking anywhere but at him.
"The only kind that I would be asking you about. I don't need to know that you like me as a person." He responds, growing serious. She turns her face towards his. The world is quiet for several long minutes, and all they do is look at each other. He knows she's going to answer him. He knows it's been a long time since he ever thought of her in this way, knows that he has every intention of sticking by her regardless of her answer.
"Do you like me?" She finally says. She sounds so terrified, so utterly scared and vulnerable that he spares her. He answers her question first.
He sees the relief color her face, knows that she'd been doubting for months whether or not he could ever like her in that way again. But, as he is holding her slender form close to his own, he knows that he certainly does like her in the way again.
"I like you too." She says, and her words are filled with meaning, with more feelings that she cannot quite say just yet. But that's okay with him, because he promised her that they would start with the little things first. She stands on her toes, kisses his forehead in thanks. He leans in hesitantly, plants a slow one her mouth in return and moves away quickly to see her reaction.
She's smiling again, and it feels like home.
A/N Parte Dos - So, I assume that if you're reading this you are very angry with me and my lack of, or better yet, nonexistent updates. I could spin out tons of excuses, and believe me, they do exist. I didn't get enough responses to continue my sequel to Green Eyes, and I honestly just don't know what to with it. Putting it away would probably be the best, because I know it sucks to stumble upon a story and be left hanging, so I will most likely take it down in a few days. As for anyone who's been waiting for an update either my Harry Potter or One Tree Hill fics, those are coming because I still very much love writing the two ships in those stories.