I'm random, and have no idea what shape this will take. It may be a one-shot, but I'm hoping it'll evolve into more.
Oh, and I don't own the Hunger Games.
Katniss will choose whoever she thinks she can't survive without.
She thinks of these words long after they're spoken: can't stop thinking of the cold, calculating truth of them, the cold, calculating truth of her own heart. Gale's words swill in her brain the same way she's swilling white liquor in her glass as she sits on her couch in Victor's Village, unwilling to drink and unwilling to put it down and go to bed. She's not ready to succumb to nightmares, not ready to get drunk enough to block them out, not ready to stay up until the sun rises.
…whoever she thinks she can't survive without.
She thinks she can survive without anyone, though. She knows she can. She doesn't need people. She needs food, needs her bow and arrow, needs shelter, somewhere to stay warm…there are a lot of things she needs to survive, but none of them are people. She doesn't need Gale, doesn't need Peeta, Haymitch, her father, her mother, Prim…oh, Prim…
She's suddenly choking, sobbing on her couch in the middle of the night, sloshing back the alcohol and choking harder, spilling it everywhere. Prim. If there was ever anyone she truly needed, it was Prim, but Prim is gone and she's still here: empty, lonely, insane, but still here. Which just proves her point: she does not need people to survive.
As if on cue, Peeta enters her house, quietly, but it's Peeta, so of course she hears him. She looks at him, from where she's sitting, liquor on her shirt, on her cheeks. It's starting to go to her head because she tossed it back so hastily. He stares at her, appearing to be in better shape, but would he be here if he were in better shape?
"I couldn't," he says simply. She raises an eyebrow. "It's quiet and empty and…" he trails off, but of course she doesn't need him to finish to know what he means. Their houses are empty but they're not, because they're full of ghosts. They've lost everyone, it seems, and it's come to this: him standing by her door, expecting her to reject the simplest offer: her, half-drunk on her couch with tearstains on her cheeks.
There's a moment where she looks at his hands and remembers how they feel wrapped around her hands. She thinks of the star-crossed lovers on the couch after the first Games and thinks of how far they've travelled, if moving steadily backwards counts as travelling. It must, she thinks, it must count, but she can't understand why she thinks this. He's still standing at her door, and she hasn't answered him, and she wonders, not for the first time, if she's gone insane.
"Sit," she tells him, motioning with her glass as she gets up. She gets another glass and brings the bottle to the coffee table. He's sitting with his knees curled into his chest, shivering, and she would ask him if he's cold, but she knows he's not. She knows what it's like to sit, shivering, for hours in the middle of the summer. She knows.
She pours both of them a glass, and they don't look at each other as they tip them back. They're both hoping for a dreamless sleep, both desperately fending off the nightmares with a slightly lesser evil. This has been Haymitch's course of action, and thus far, neither of them has found a better one. She pours more, her hands shaking, though whether it's from alcohol or loss or the loneliness she feels with him beside her, she's not sure. He looks at her, taking the glass, not drinking.
"Tell me something?" he asks. "Tell me a story I'd like."
"I don't have any stories left," she whispers. She's tired, but she so desperately does not want to sleep.
"None that you'd like. You tell a story. Tell about me singing when I had the two braids."
She sips the liquor this time, hoping it will make her feel warm. They're both shivering now.
"We were at school," he says. He's shaking. "You had two braids in your hair, not like this." He touches her hair, touches the end of her braid, and then they're kissing and neither of them knows how.
She feels wetness on her cheeks and she thinks she's crying until she realizes they are his tears. She pulls away, swallows the rest of her liquor, puts her hand on his cheek.
"This isn't a sad story," she whispers, but she knows it is. They were innocent then. They had their sanity, they didn't stay up all night, hoping there would be no nightmares that would tear them apart until they couldn't breathe, knowing they would never escape.
"All of our stories are sad," he whispers back, following her train of thought, as he always does. He pulls her to him, and her head fits perfectly on his shoulder. It always has. She remembers those children again: children who had never killed anyone, hadn't caused any wars, hadn't fallen in love and then out of it again. She sighs into his shoulder; he's still crying and she knows he feels lonely. She can't press herself closer, can't risk shattering what's left of her mind and her heart. They've taken so much and she can't give the rest to him. She needs it for herself. She doesn't need him to survive. She needs herself to survive.
"Can I sleep here tonight?" he asks, gasping. He's so broken, and she wipes her hand over his cheek. She's broken too.
"Take my bed," she tells him. "I'm not sleeping tonight."
He nods, because of course he understands not sleeping; understands that exhaustion is a small price to pay for no nightmares. He kisses her cheek, so quickly she might have imagined it, because she's not sure of anything right now. She lies on the couch, forsaking her glass to drink straight from the bottle.
She doesn't know what to do: she wants to go over the facts in her head, like she did in the revolution, but all she can remember is that her name is Katniss, because after that she wants to think that she lives in District 12, which can't be right, there is no District 12. She wants to think that she loves Peeta, but that can't be right either, because she knows she should love him, and she isn't any good at doing what she should.