Hello there. So, I've decided to whip up my own fanfic on the events between Mockingjay and the epilogue.
Since college is done with next week, I'll be able to focus on stories again, so this is to just get it out there for now. I probably won't update until next weekend, but after that, updates should become more regular.
Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games. It belongs to Suzanne Collins.
I make my way down the stairs of my Victor's Village home, my hair in a braid from the day before and a tank top with pajama shorts. It has been a good two weeks since I saw Peeta planting the Primroses, but I haven't spoken to him since, though he still always had bread on the table when Greasy Sae came to cook. I felt bad, ignoring him like this, but I just couldn't bring myself to go over and knock on his door.
This is what causes my surprise when I see him at the kitchen table, talking quietly with Greasy Sae, her granddaughter sitting next to Peeta and munching on a piece of bacon. I am now hesitant to go over to the table, unsure of what to say to him. I had practically shut the door in his face last time he came around, and hadn't thanked him for his thoughtfulness, either. And with his flashbacks, I'm not sure if he's still comfortable around me just yet.
But if he wasn't, he wouldn't be here, right?
I'm shaken from my thoughts, looking up to see clear blue eyes staring into my own gray ones. I form his name on my lips, but nothing comes out, at least not right away. I clear my throat and try again, glancing to the other two at the table before moving my gaze back to him, though not gazing in his eyes as I was before. "Peeta."
He offers a small smile and motions toward one of the chairs with a nod of his head, a plate already set in front of it.
I try to smile back, though I'm sure he can see through it. He could always read me so well, and I'm too tired to try and cover it up. "Thanks." I glance toward Greasy Sae when I say this, and then to Peeta; he surely had part in the breakfast as well, and I didn't want to make anything worse with him.
Sae and Peeta continue their conversation while I feed my bacon to Buttercup, knowing they won't force me into conversation; at least, not yet. I could see Peeta fidget slightly out of the corner of my eye, and I'm certain he was nervous being in my company, just as I feel at the moment. He was just better at hiding it, but I know. All of the times we had spent together before the rebellion, we were bound to pick up on each other's habits and hidden emotions.
Before I know it, breakfast is over and Greasy Sae is leaving; due to my lack of attention, I'm not sure why; she usually stayed around to help with the dishes. When I take in what's around me, I see Peeta starting to grab the dishes and going over to the sink. So that's why.
I look up, Peeta standing over me with his hand reached out toward my plate. I look down at the uneaten contents and then back up to him, nodding. "Yeah."
He takes it wordlessly and moves toward the sink, me staring at his back as I watch the way his scapula bones moved with his arms. A moment passes before I realize that I am sitting in my own house, allowing my guest to do all of the work. "Um…I'll take it from here, Peeta." I stand up and hurry over to the sink, taking the plate he has out of his hand.
He glances over at me, not moving, and then nods. "All right…I'll see you tomorrow, then." He walks out wordlessly, and I can't tell if he feels rejected or relieved.
I'm not even sure what I feel.
I finish the dishes up quickly, figuring I should go hunting; it's been a couple days and I was running low on meat, and also needed to get some to Sae.
I wipe my hand on a towel hanging from the cupboard below the sink and make my way up the stairs, almost stepping on Buttercup on the way up. I was surprised when he didn't hiss at me.
The forest is quieter than usual, and I plague it on the darkening sky – it was most likely going to rain. I was most likely going to spend most of my day out here, anyway, and I know that Sae likes squirrel just fine. I tread carefully through the woods, as normal, and am able to catch a few before heading back out, now not having to crawl under a partially-faux electric fence.
I smile to Greasy Sae as I walk into her place in the hob, it already halfway rebuilt, and hand over the squirrels. "All I could catch for now. All animals are in."
She nods, though I already knew she wouldn't complain. "Good as anything." She turns her back to me as she goes to preserve the meat. "Would you like to stay for some dinner? I can try my hand at some squirrel stew."
The food sounded tempting, but I declined. I still was not ready to be in town for too long; I still refused to move farther than here. "I need some alcohol for Haymitch, though."
Ripper was caught in the bombings, and Haymitch was getting anxious and bitter with the lack of alcohol. After a particularly rough day, Sae promised to keep some stashed to sell. She was so good to all of us, too good. I don't know why she bothers; it's not like I deserve it, or Haymitch. Peeta, maybe. He's always been better than us.
She nodded and pulled out a bottle of white liquor from a cupboard near her. Though she tries to refuse, I give her money in exchange for the liquor and head out the door, keeping my line of sight straight as I tried not to think about the death around me; not think about how tainted the ground was that I walked on.
"Haymitch?" The door was unlocked, as always, so I let myself in, already figuring he was passed out somewhere in the house. I'm surprised when I hear him answer back. I wander into the kitchen and see him sitting at the table, his fingers on his temples, as if warding off a headache.
"What d'you need, sweetheart?" His words were cutting and bitter; nothing new.
I sigh and hold out the bottle. I roll my eyes when I see him grab for the bottle, not bothering to issue a thanks. Not that I expected it. I'm about to leave when he calls out to me.
"So, how's the boy doing?"
I tense up, but don't turn back around. "I don't know. I only just saw him this morning." Now I wanted to get out of there as soon as possible, especially when a condescending cackle came out of him.
"C'mon, sweetheart, don't you remember our deal?"
I rush out of the house. Of course I remember our deal. Our deal to keep Peeta safe, and I also know that the deal stretched to the safety of his own mind, as well. I know I'm wrong to not make more of an effort, but I just can't.
I decide to go to bed early, the day taking a toll, even though it wasn't that eventful in reality. But I knew there was one reason for all of this. Peeta.
Why was it that he was always there, in the back of my mind?
I refuse to think about it. It's better to leave him be. Doesn't he realize that I'm not safe for him? That I'm poison?
All of these thoughts run through my head as I'm in the shower, so I make it quicker than usual and hope sleep will some easily. Of course it did not.
My mind finally started to drift off when I tried a game that Prim had taught me once, to help sleep.
I was suddenly in Prim's room, silently watching as she brushed her hair. She seemed so at peace, and it fills me with warmth.
Suddenly, each stroke is coming harsher, to the point where her scalp is bleeding. I watch as hair and pieces of skin began to peel off, blood running down her neck and over her back. I scream for her, but she never turns.
That's when she turns to dust.
The room is on fire now, and all I see is the skull of my little sister, lying on the chair she was once sat in. I could feel the flames engulf me and I scream, though I know no one hears me. Or if they do, they wouldn't come for me. Why would anyone want to save me, after all of the pain I caused?
I screamed as I sat up in bed, taking in my surroundings. All I saw were the outlines of the various furniture in the room, and the full moon outside my closed window. I felt my stomach churn and knew I'd need to rush to the bathroom.
While heaving at the base of the toilet, I couldn't help but wish Peeta was here with me.
The next morning when I go downstairs, I am not surprised to see Peeta, but I am surprised to not see Greasy Sae. I sit down at the table, a fresh loaf of bread in the middle. "Where's Sae?"
He doesn't glance my way, but focuses intently on his cooking in front of him, though he does not seem to do this to avoid me. More so just to cook. I am surprised at the sudden change from yesterday morning, but Peeta always did have an unpredictability about him; one of the things that causes my nerves to fray. "Said her granddaughter had the flu."
I nod, though he cannot see. There is a small plate in front of me which I figure is for the bread, so I grab a piece; it's cinnamon. I close my eyes and sigh as I eat it, wondering how the tension has lessened in such a short amount of time. Perhaps we needed the time yesterday to break it; simply allowing him into my home. Like a barrier that has fallen, and I am surprised to find how much I like it. The only person I really talk to is Sae and occasionally Haymitch, but he never was one for conversation – like me.
I glance up at him when I hear him turn off the stove, watching as he fills each plate with eggs and bacon. He comes over and puts a plate next to the one with bread, a small smile on his face. I attempt to smile up at him and then glance down at my plate. Okay, maybe there's still a little tension (at least, on my part). We sit in silence and eat, me still staring down at my plate.
"Do you want me to toast your bread? I'll get the butter and jam, too."
I look up at him through my eyelashes as he stands up, his eyes on me as he waits for my answer. My eyes widen slightly when I realize I still have not answered, and I nod once.
He answers with his own nod and that smile that seems to come easier to him now. My eyes follow his hand as he grabs a few slices of bread and puts them on a paper towel, then keep my gaze on the exact spot. I hear him take the toaster out of one of the cupboards – a Capitol contraption that came with the house. I'm lost in my thoughts when he sets a slice on my plate, placing the butter and jam on the table next to the bread with two butter knives.
My eyes slide up to him. I need to offer him something; after all, he's trying, so I owe him that much. Actually, I owe him a lot, but it's not something I want to think about at the moment. "Thanks." I actually manage to smile, my nerves calming slightly. Why am I so nervous?
He smiles and nods, then grabs the butter. I decide to work on my other food while I wait for him to finish, then butter my own bread. We drop into silence once again, but it's not as uncomfortable as before.
"I'm going into town later, if you want to come." He looks slightly nervous when he asks this, probably figuring I will decline. I have only been in town once since I've been back, if you don't count my going to get to the woods.
I take a minute to consider it, but decide I need to visit Sae anyway, perhaps offer up the rest of the bread if Peeta allows – which I know he will – to wish her granddaughter better. I just hope it will not be awkward, but I have a feeling we have gotten most of that out of the way. We have not been out together in public, though. What if people come and question us? That will surely undo all of this. I'm sure those romantic feelings he has felt for me for a large part of his life has dwindled considerably since the hijacking.
His hijacking. I have been too busy in my own self-pity to even consider how he is doing himself. In all honesty, he has lost more than me. Been through more, even if he wasn't the one that had to lead a rebellion. "Peeta?"
He looks up at me and raises an eyebrow, his mouth full.
I scratch the back of my neck, second-guessing myself. Would he really want to talk about it? Also, I don't want to provoke one. I decide to just come out with it. "How are you with…everything?"
"You mean the hijacking?" His face is blank, but I can see it is taking effort.
I bite my lip and nod, hoping I haven't crossed a line.
He sighs and looks down at his almost empty plate. "They're…better. I'm usually able to control them; catching them before it takes over." He still refuses to look at me.
I want him to look at; to feel comfortable. "That's really good, Peeta." I keep my gaze on him, then sigh. "I'm sorry." I'm not sure whether I'm talking about asking him about it, or for it happening to begin with.
He seems to take it as the former and looks up at me to give me a sad smile. "It's fine. You have a right to know."
Do I? I mean, I haven't really offered anything up, but he hasn't asked either. Would I talk about it if he asked, though? I notice that he has finished so I stand to take his plate, but he grabs it away. "I'll take care of the dishes, Katniss. You go shower and get dressed."
I stand there for a moment, not sure whether I should listen or not, but I decide I need a shower before I go. Judging by his apparel, he has already showered and gotten ready for the day. "All right. I'll be right back."
I keep my shower short and dress quickly into a pair of comfortable jean shorts and a gray tank top. I head back downstairs and find Peeta sitting down at the table, twiddling his thumbs. When he hears me come down the stairs and turns and smiles, jumping up.
I nod and wrap up the rest of the bread, then walk over to him, letting him lead me to the door; he didn't mention me bringing it. The moment I step outside I hear Haymitch's geese squawking away and roaming freely over both of our yards, making me cringe. "You'd think the pen would be able to at least keep them contained."
Peeta snorts. "You'd think."
The rest of the walk is mostly quiet except for the sounds of his loud footsteps, which oddly soothes me. Once, our hands brush one another's, and I try my hardest to keep a blush from my cheeks. I have a feeling I didn't do a very good job, because he glanced my way with a hint of a smile on his face. Once we make it, I glance in the direction of Greasy Sae's house. "I was going to go give the rest of the bread to Sae." This is my silent request for approval, though I already know he'll agree.
He smiled and nods. "All right. I'm going to head over to the bakery; come find me after you're done over there." He hesitates for a moment, an unreadable look crossing his face, and then turns and walks farther into town.
I'm curious as to what that was, but I decide to let it slide. If he wants it to come out later, it'll come out. I start trekking to the outskirts of the town and toward where the Hob used to be, brightening at the sight of Sae's newly repaired home. It looks much better than it did before the rebellion, and I was surprised at how much had been accomplished in town since the last time I was in it. The closest I ever get to around here is when I go out to hunt, but I don't really pay attention, especially when I usually go closer toward morning time.
I walk up to her door and knock once before letting myself in; she still had a room for customers set up.
"Hey there, girl!"
I smile and walk over to the counter where Greasy Sae is stationed, taking a seat on one of the stools. "Hey. Just wanted to stop in and give you this." I hand over the bread, which she takes gratefully. "How's your granddaughter?"
The light in her eyes dimmed, but she keeps a small smile on her face. "She should be better in a couple of days. A bug's been getting around."
I nod, and we drop into silence. Even with Sae, I was never one for conversation. A few more minutes and I clear my throat, getting off of the stool. "Well, I promised Peeta I would meet him at the bakery, so…"
She smiles and nods. "Go on, then. Don't leave the boy waiting."
I bite my lip and nod once, turning and heading to the door, feeling slightly uncomfortable for an unknown reason. As I make my way back into town, I'm not surprised to see the streets filling with people, though my discomfort grows. Since I know my way to the bakery I keep my eyes down, sure that eyes are on me. Why wouldn't they be? I am just hoping not too many are filled with anger.
I let out a breath of relief when I reach the bakery, and when I lift my head I'm surprised at what's in front of me.
"Like it?" Peeta out the class door with a grin plastered on his face, holding it open for me.
Construction is still going on, mostly on the upstairs, but it was nothing compared to the sight when I came with Plutarch and the rest of my crew from 13. It almost seems brand new, and I feel a sense of pride for Peeta, but also a slight sorrow. Have I really been away from here for that long?
I go and sit down on a chair at the table closest to the counter. "It looks really nice, Peeta."
The smile is still on his face, and I can tell that he's pretty proud of his handiwork. "I think they would've liked it." Sadness crawled into his eyes, clouding them to a storming dark blue.
It takes me a minute, but I finally realize who he's talking about. His family. I hate to see his good mood spiral down, so I get up and walk over to him, hugging him on impulse. I already feel regret for being so forward, but I can't help feel a light flittering in my stomach.
I missed him.