Hi Everyone! Yes, I am fully aware it's actually been over a year since I've updated this fic, and I wouldn't be surprised if most of you had given up on me. But alas, inspiration that is probably tied to the released of Mockingjay Part 1 has hit of late and I've been in fanfic writing mode. I don't really have an excuse for the lack of updating - life, as per usual got very busy and I had exams and then traveled lots and have once again been studying a lot. I don't want to make any promises about updates as I'm not sure what I'm doing in the next year or so but I hope to spend whatever spare time I have writing if possible! Thanks for sticking with me, hope you guys enjoy this one :)
The heat that has been building and building all summer is finally released in a downpour of rain one morning in late August. I wake up later than usual and groan at the prospect of having to be stuck inside all day. Peeta is already up and dressed, sitting on the bed next to me sketching. He smiles warmly when he sees me stir and I roll towards him as he gently brushes the hair off of my face. Despite his warm greeting his eyes are sad, and I know even if it wasn't pouring with rain outside it wouldn't be good to leave him today. It's odd how a mere couple of months ago Peeta's bad days terrified me, and now all I want to do is take care of him when they come around.
I sit up and wrap my arms around him, resting my head on his shoulder. He rests his head against mine and we sit like this a while, listening to the rain outside. I look at what he was sketching; upon first glace it looks just like a simple landscape, one we would see on our way to the woods. But the details are too sharp, the colours too vibrant, and there's a certain shine to everything. I realize this must be what his hijacked memories look like to him.
I am about to say something, but he gets there first, "Haymitch is coming round to work on the book in an hour. Do you want anything for breakfast?"
"I'll get it," I say, swinging my legs off of the bed. He shakes his head.
"Everything's already made, it just needs heating up," he says. Which means he must've been up very early due to nightmares and didn't wake me. Before I can say anything he leaves the room and I follow him down the stairs, still in my pyjamas which consists of a vest and shorts due to the hot, sticky nights. When I come into the kitchen, there are two loaves of fresh bread, a plate of cheese buns and a cooked breakfast sitting on the side that Peeta starts to heat. He must've been up for hours.
Wordlessly, I go over to him and put my arms around him from behind, resting my forehead between his shoulder blades. He doesn't react immediately, but slowly I feel his hands over mine. He turns around to face me, his eyes cloudy, his posture almost defeated.
"Peeta you need to wake me up when you have a nightmare."
"I was going to. But you looked so peaceful, I didn't-"
"It doesn't matter. I wake you up when I have a nightmare so it's only fair," I pause, looking down at our linked hands before back up at him. He's doing everything to avoid my eye contact, so I bring one of my hands up to his cheek, forcing him to look at me. "You don't have to do this alone."
He looks at me now, his eyes shining with tears. I hate seeing him look so sad and don't know what else to do, so I stretch up and press my lips to his. I'm surprised when he responds, one hand cradling my face and the other in my hair. I loop my arms around his neck and pull him closer, about to deepen the kiss when the front door slams open.
"Oh god, that is something I did not need to see at this time in the morning."
Haymitch stands in the doorway soaking wet, looking disgusted by mine and Peeta's embrace. I spring apart from him, the heat rising to my cheeks.
"Sorry Haymitch, I was just making Katniss breakfast."
"Is that what you call that?" Haymitch says, and I see him slipping Peeta a wink. Peeta grimaces at the ground, obviously embarrassed as well. We may have kissed numerous times since that hot July night, but always when we're sure we're alone or behind the privacy of closed doors.
Peeta gets Haymitch a towel and I slip upstairs to change out of my pyjamas and into something slightly less revealing. I know aside from Peeta, Haymitch is the least likely person to be bothered about the scars that cover my body, but I'm self-conscious of them all the same. I slip on some pants despite the heat and a short sleeved shirt. Haymitch will just have to deal with the scars on my arms today.
I head back downstairs to find Peeta and Haymitch have relocated to the living room, Haymitch somewhat drier than when he entered our house. He's smirking and Peeta has the book on his lap, looking nervous more than anything. Judging from this morning I know he probably shouldn't be doing the book at all, but I also know if I suggest this he'll stubbornly refuse. So instead I sit beside him and take his hand as an anchor to hang on to. Haymitch doesn't say anything, just rolls his eyes. I can tell though he doesn't really mind though.
We open to where we left off, with the details of all the tributes Haymitch mentored over the years noted down and sketches of about half of them. The first part of the morning is mostly silent, Peeta working off of the details already written down and Haymitch chipping in when needed.
However, toward lunchtime Peeta is sketching a young girl who must've been twelve when she was reaped; she doesn't look older than about 10. He asks Haymitch something about her eyes, and instead of responding as he has the entire morning, Haymitch falls silent. I look at her page to see if there's anything significant about her, but I can't find anything; she is small, with classic seam features, called Marydella. Nothing out of the ordinary as far as I can tell.
It takes a while, but eventually Haymitch clears his throat and meets our eyes, which have been staring intently at him.
"She lived next to me, when I lived in the Seam. She was my little sister's best friend, until she died. After my family was killed her, her mom would invite me over for dinner sometimes."
Peeta and I look at each other. Haymitch only ever briefly opened up to me back in Thirteen during Finnick's interview, but even then he glazed over most of the details. Neither of us have ever heard him talk about his past like this.
"She wasn't eligible for the reaping the first year. But lo and behold the first year her name was in that bowl, it was sure enough picked out. She had only turned twelve the week before. She cried a lot, on the train, in the Capitol. I promised her and her mom that I would keep her alive. I did everything I could; tried to get sponsors to back her and give her advice. But it didn't matter. Some career got a hold of when she was trying to escape the blood bath. Stabbed her six times before they stopped."
I can feel Peeta shaking beside me, I can't tell out of anger or because he's about to have a flashback. Either way, I take his hand in both of mine and rub soothing circles into his palm to try and calm him down.
"I had my first drink the day after that. After the boy was killed I don't really remember what happened. I woke up in my room a week and a half later, only to be told that the games were over and I could go home."
I am speechless at Haymitch's revelations, and my mind starts to accelerate, thinking of all the possibilities if the games still existed; having to mentor kids who I knew, who I'd gone to school with. I would probably have turned to alcohol or morphling too, if I hadn't had my own source of escape in Peeta's arms late at night on the train. I can't even imagine it, the thought making me feel physically sick. My name is Katniss Everdeen. I am eighteen years old. I live in District Twelve. I was in The Hunger Games twice. I escaped. I was the Mockingjay. Snow is dead. So is Coin. The war is over …
I feel Peeta's arms around me, and I gravitate toward him, pressing myself into his chest and clinging to his shirt. I take deep breaths, knowing that today of all days I should be comforting him, not the other way around. After about 10 minutes I loosen my grip on him and sit up, looking around - Haymitch is gone.
"He went. Said he was sorry for getting so personal and won't do it again. And that if we still need him, to not call him unless we're both definitely up to it."
I nod. "I'm sorry. I should've told him to go away, I knew this wasn't a good idea-"
"Katniss, it's my fault. I was the one who insisted."
"Well, we've got most of what we need anyway. Let's just relax for the rest of the day, okay?"
Peeta shakes his head, "I have to go into town later and survey the area for the bakery. If I don't do it today I'll never get the plans submitted by the deadline they've given me."
"Peeta, I really don't think that's a good-"
"I don't have any other choice Katniss!" he shouts. I flinch, shocked by his outburst. Unlike when he has a flashback, he immediately realises what he's done. "I'm sorry Katniss, I didn't mean to shout, everything's just so overwhelming and shiny today and-"
I wrap my arms around him, cutting him off. He buries his head into the crook of my neck and I rub circles into his back. I can feel his warm breath tickle my skin as he tries to calm himself down.
When his breathing slows and he stops shaking, I pull away to look in his eyes, wrecked with sadness and guilt. He looks so frustrated and defeated that I want to cry, but I know I can't. I have to be strong today.
"I'm coming with you to the bakery," I tell him. "You shouldn't go there alone. Not today."
He looks at me for a second, his face unreadable. Then I see gratitude fill his eyes, and another emotion I haven't quite placed yet but is reminiscent of the way he used to look at me before the Capitol took him from me and twisted him. "Thank you."
We head into town late in the afternoon, the rain having lightened up considerably since this morning, now just a drizzle. We pass more tents than I remember seeing before and construction sites seem to have been erected overnight. Peeta says they're trying to get some homes built before winter, but he's doubtful everyone will have a roof over the heads before the snow hits. I think of all the houses in the Victor's Village just standing empty, how they could easily house three families each.
We arrive at the old site of where his family's bakery used to stand. There is nothing left of it, having now been cleared of the rubble. A flood of memories washes over me; riding on my father's shoulders at 4 and admiring how pretty the frosting was. Of letting Prim stand by the window and pick her favourite designs, which now I know at least some were no doubt designed by Peeta. I can't even imagine how overwhelmed he must be right now.
He's good at hiding it, at first anyway. He paces the area, stopping occasionally to put his pen to the clipboard he brought down, making notes I assume. I stay on the periphery of the area, not wanting to intrude but also not wanting to leave him. After a few minutes though he stops, facing away from me. I don't think anything of it at first, but then he doesn't move for a while, not until his shoulders start shaking and his hands start twitching. I hurry over to him and see there are tear tracks down his face and he's doing everything he can not to sob out loud and make a scene. I cautiously take his hand.
"Come on Peeta, that's enough for today. I think you've got everything important." Luckily, this time, he doesn't try to protest or argue with me. He grips my hand tightly and I pull him away from the area. He's full-on crying now, unable to hold in his sobbing.
I lead him through town, one arm around him and the other holding his hand, trying to talk to him so he has something to focus on - meaningless things about what we ordered yesterday and about visiting the lake on the next sunny day. We pass plenty of people, but nobody comments or tries to intervene. Some might see it as a sign of rudeness, but I know the people of District Twelve are just trying to respect our privacy as best they can, something I will be eternally thankful for.
I breathe a sigh of relief when we enter the Victor's Village and he's managed to somehow hang on, but I can tell he's slipping away from me fast and he's not going to be able to fight it off much longer. As soon as we're through the door, he breaks away from me, his eyes wild and panicked, his hands going to his head as he slides to the floor.
"Katniss you need to leave, you need to get away from me right now."
"I'm not going anywhere, Peeta." I say defiantly, taking off my raincoat. He shakes his head.
"No … no you have to go … I might go mutt and then … I could hurt you … I can't let that happen … I won't-" Ignoring all of his warnings and my instincts, I bend down to his level and gently pry one of his hands from his head.
"I could Katniss, you know I could, I've hurt you before."
"That was different. You're so much better than you were then. You won't hurt me."
His rocking back and forth and tightly gripping my hand. "Not real, not real, not real."
I feel so helpless just sitting there whilst he struggles within himself but I know from how tight his grip is that at least my presence is helping at least a little bit, if just giving him something real to grasp on to. After a few minutes, I tentatively reach out and stroke his hair. He stiffens slightly.
"Peeta? You feel that? That's real. None of the shiny things you're seeing are real. This," I run my fingers through his locks again, "is real. I'm real."
He seems to respond to this, so I gently try to keep physical contact with him, running my hands through his hair, tracing his jaw, rubbing circles into his palm. It takes time, but after a while he is shaking less, his breathing has slowed some, and he's stopped chanting 'not real'.
It seems that the worst is over and I breathe a sigh of relief. He hasn't had a proper flashback since that day at the lake; there have been bad days and moments when he's had to grip a surface for a minute or so, but he usually makes it through those on his own. Right now I'm just thankful he made it through and his warnings to me didn't become a reality.
His eyes are closed, his hair messy and matted from sweat and my fingers running through it. I only just now notice how dark the circles under his eyes are. As if to confirm this, he groans, "I'm so tired Katniss."
His words take me back to the Capitol, to a boy who was just starting to find himself again and a girl who didn't believe that boy would ever come back to her. It's odd to think now of where we've come, how I was so hesitant to even touch him then and how now I find myself entangled with him most nights. It gives me hope that, maybe, we can keep moving forward.
"You've had a long day. Let's go to bed." I say, wrapping my arm around his waist and pulling him up. He nods in agreement and I lead him up the stairs. He stays in his clothes and climbs into bed, sighing as his head hits the pillow. I kneel by his head, my fingers entwined still with his. He looks at me, his eyes still cloudy but much calmer than earlier, and is about to say something but I cut him off.
"Don't you dare apologise. Remember what I said earlier?" He stares for a minute, and then nods and smiles ruefully.
"Thank you," he says instead, yawning and closing his eyes, sleep ready to take him. I place a kiss on his knuckle.
He manages to get two more words out before he falls under, "Don't go."
"I won't," I say. I whisper my next word, knowing he's probably already under and won't remember in the morning. "Ever."
Hope you guys enjoyed! As always feedback is always very very welcome and usually motivates me to keep writing. Until next time (which hopefully will NOT be a year away) - L