Hooray for my first Hunger Games fic! *confetti* :D
Loved the books, and the recent movie gave my enthusiasm a reboot. (I've also discovered that both Josh Hutcherson and Jennifer Lawrence are super awesome people.) It's been a while since I've actually read the books, but I still tried to capture the writing style and the way Katniss thinks, so let me know what you think of the characterization!
Obligatory Disclaimer: Not my characters!
I clear my throat, glaring at him pointedly.
"Hey, Peeta, up here."
He at least has the decency to look guilty at being caught staring. The tips of his ears turn pink.
I almost smile, because his expression reminds me of a puppy that's been caught mangling a new pair of shoes - all wide, innocent eyes and upturned eyebrows - but I manage to suppress the impulse because I don't want to give him the satisfaction.
We keep walking at a leisurely pace. He stays half a step behind my right shoulder, content to let me lead the way. Dry leaves crunch under our feet.
"You know, I can't see what all the fuss is about," I tell him.
"They're just annoying, to be honest."
"I don't know..." said Peeta, with a cheeky smile. "I kinda like them..."
I roll my eyes.
"Yeah, well, I think you have a biased perspective."
"And yet somehow you still find a way to put up with me..." he replies good-naturedly, sounding pleased with himself. "Besides," he muses, "it can't be all bad. I hear they come in handy for stuff, too...You know...like kids..."
I stop dead and turn to face him.
"Kids? You're thinking about kids? Like, having kids?"
"Well, yeah, sure..." He backtracks when he catches sight of the look on my face. "Relax - I don't mean next week or anything. Just...eventually."
I stare at him, feeling utterly mystified. He has a sort of faraway look in his eyes that I somehow can't fathom relating to. Of course, he has always been the more sentimental one, out of the two of us.
"What?" he asks. "Haven't you considered it? - Having a family, I mean?" The way he says it is totally unapologetic, just genuinely curious. The corner of his mouth tugs up in a teasing smile. "You know, at some point in the very, very distant future?..."
I open my mouth to tell him that no, I'd never wanted kids, and that it was a ridiculous notion and that I'll never change my mind in a hundred years, by which time we'll both be dead anyways, when suddenly I stop. I hesitate. I shut my mouth.
Because it's just occurred to me that I've never considered raising a family in a world with no Hunger Games.
What would it be like for a child to grow up free from the constant threat of starvation, or oppression...or getting slaughtered on national television? What would it be like to be able to have kids without guilt and fear for knowing the cruelty of the world you're bringing them into? I'd never actually been able to imagine the possibility - because until a year ago it had never been a possibility.
These thoughts flash through my head in the blink of an eye.
I have no idea what to say to Peeta, so instead I settle on a noncommittal shrug.
"I don't know. Why don't you ask me again in about fifteen years?"
He chuckles, and I smile, and we keep walking.
"You know," I say to him, feeling keen to change the subject. "If you want to stare at a girl's boobs, there are a whole lot of better options."
He pretends to look offended.
"I like yours."
"They're not that great. Really."
Well, they're not. I mean, it doesn't bother me or anything. But I feel like it's an objective statement.
Unexpectedly, I feel him swoop up behind me like a big warm blanket. He wraps his arms around my waist, resting his head on my shoulder.
"Well, I think they're perfect," he says softly.
I can't help scoffing.
"Well, that's the overstatement of the century..." I say, because I honestly can't imagine anyone being as messed up and as far from perfect as I've been. As I still am, and probably, as I always will be.
Somehow it seems like Peeta can read my thoughts, because his arms tighten protectively, hugging me against him like he'll never let go.
"You're perfect for me," he murmurs into my ear, and I feel my breath catch in my throat, because it's not sappy, and it's not romantic, and it's not even a compliment: it's a confession. The words are raw, and honest, and that, more than anything else he might have said, makes my heart stop for a moment. I marvel at just how much he's been willing to sacrifice, and I wonder if the reverse could also be true: that he might just be the perfect person for me, as well.
We stand there for a bit, him hugging me, me being hugged, until I start to feel self-conscious. I fidget, and he relaxes his grip on my waist. I feel his lips press a kiss against the side of my neck, and a blush quickly rises to my cheeks.
"Okay, okay loverboy."
It's a bit of a knee-jerk reaction; I twist away gently, and am surprised to see that his face is slightly flushed as well. But my voice must have come out harsher than I'd meant it to, because he looks taken aback and a little hurt. Once again I'm strongly reminded of a scolded puppy. I suddenly feel embarrassed at my reaction.
Note to self: maybe take it easy on the sarcasm next time...
It was going to take a bit of getting used to - this 'affection' business...It was still sort of alarming whenever I began to sense that his touch had a certain intention behind it...and it wasn't like I'd ever had a boyfriend before...
Not that I'd call Peeta my boyfriend. 'Boyfriend' is such a shallow word. There's so much more to us than that.
He looks at me uncertainly, wondering if he's gone too far, said too much. All of a sudden I realize that he can't actually read my thoughts.
"Sorry," I say quietly. I want to reassure him, but I've never been good at voicing what goes on in my head, especially where feelings are concerned. "I'm just still getting used to...this..." I gesture to the space between us, trying to encapsulate our whole relationship in the wave of a hand, "to us...being..."
" - real?" he fills in for me.
"Okay. That's fine" he's relieved, but obviously disappointed. "I can...lay off a bit, if that's what you want..." He gives a half-hearted shrug.
"I don't mind..."
Then I actually do smile, because he pretty clearly did mind. Still, it was sweet of him to say so, just to ensure that I wouldn't feel uncomfortable, especially considering how slowly we'd already been taking things.
Admittedly, I felt guiltily tempted to take him up on the offer.
"Peeta, that was probably the least-convincing lie I've ever heard," I tell him affectionately.
Then I lean in, meaning to give him a kiss on the cheek, but halfway there I change my mind and meet him full on the lips. I feel him start in surprise, but he recovers quickly and begins to reciprocate with enthusiasm.
Something clicks into place in my head. It's like...I've been pushing against a wall without knowing it, and then as soon as I stop resisting and take a closer look, I realize it wasn't a wall at all - it's a door, and when I pull the handle instead of pushing away it swings open to let me walk through and it's the easiest thing in the world.
I like Peeta. I trust him. I'm safe with him. I always have been. And what we have right now feels right.
Feeling bold, I reach down to take his hand. As I guide it up towards my chest he realizes what I'm doing, and breaks off the kiss with a sharp intake of breath. He looks down at our hands, then meets my gaze with a question in his eyes, as if to ask,
Are you sure?
is my answer.
His hand is warm. His fingers rest gently against the fabric of my shirt, not pressing down, but not shrinking away either.
"There..." I breathe. "...Good?"
"Good..." he answers in an awed whisper. I hear him swallow. I look up.
"Nothing. Your pupils just got really huge."
He laughs lightly.
He's still staring at his hand, as though he doesn't quite believe it's really there.
He looks up at me with raised eyebrows, and then my lips catch his. He puts his other hand behind my head gently and brushes his thumb against the side of my cheek. I sigh into his mouth, and wind sighs through the trees. We both know that this, right here, right now, is Real.
And for just a moment, everything is okay.
I had to fight the urge to title this fic "How Peeta Got to Second Base." :P I think it was for the best...
R&R! I love feedback!