The funny thing is, she doesn't think anyone's ever referred to him as "the boy who was on fire," despite the fact that they wore matching flaming headdresses in the Opening Ceremonies all those years ago. That title has always gone to her, their Mockingjay, their rebel soldier, the one who sparked it all.
She can logically guess why the public's never called him that – of the two of them she is certainly the more flammable, likely to burst into flames at any hint of conflict, to rage like a wildfire in the face of adversary, to burn away as the symbol of rebellion. What they all seem to forget, in the puff pieces and hard-hitting news articles and retrospective television specials, is that without him, their crackling girl on fire would probably have been extinguished as quickly and easily as a candle.
He's always framed as the romantic: the softhearted, strong-willed, steady boy who loved his district partner so much for years and years, who saw the odds finally turn in his heartsick favor in the 74th Hunger Games. Even his work is sensitive, harmless; one doesn't seem so fierce labeled a baker or a painter. Sure, they highlight a few impressive moments of strength and heroism, but never close to the number of hers. Certainly his words were usually more effective than any physical action – and thus, important aspects are glossed over.
What everyone fails to mention about the boy who loves the Mockingjay is the scars. Like hers, they cover his body, pale and faded but visible, especially the ones on his face. The rings around his wrists from the metal manacles, reminders of a brutal internal war spilling into attempts to keep himself sane. And the flashbacks – no one ever focuses on those, when his mind suddenly reels back in time and all he can see and think and feel is tracker jacker venom and overwhelming rage and sadness and confusion. No one mentions these fiery things inside of him. No one counts the new cuts and bruises on his body after he's recovered from another episode. (Except for her.)
And no one understands the amount of credit she gives him for starting it all in the first place. Only they two, on the roof that night before the killing and berries and war, know how he was the one who unknowingly lit the match with one phrase: I want to show them I'm more than just a piece in their games. She carried those words all the way to the Capitol.
They're harassed a lot, by reporters and government officials and just plain busybodies. They almost never answer questions or give interviews, unless absolutely essential. But without fail, no matter who it is that's come to bother them, she is at least once referred to as "the girl on fire". It drives her crazy. It's been years since she was scorching.
She tells him so in the dark, their bodies tangled together. Plutarch Heavensbee had sent a crew that day for some special or another he was working on. Mostly the crew had focused on her and her legendary role in the rebellion, skipping over much about him. After they'd left he'd had a flashback, not one of this worst, but a chair was now broken and she'd spent an hour pulling splinters from his hands. "I'm not really her anymore. The girl on the fire."
His lips brush her nose. "You'll always be that girl, to them. And to me, but for different reasons."
"It's isn't very fair that the only nickname you ever got was Lover Boy."
"What would anyone call me?"
"The boy who was on fire," she says.
"I'm not very fiery, not like you."
"I don't agree with that," she tells him. "I just don't think anyone sees what I see."
"And what do you see?"
She cups his face with her hand, thumb near his blue eyes. "I see fire," she says. "Not like mine. All your own."
He kisses her, so familiar. She wonders how many days she's lost against these lips, doesn't care. "There's some of it," she says when they break apart.
"It's easy with you," he tells her.
"That's fine. I'd rather not share the boy on fire."
He moves so she's on her back and he's half on top of her, hands on either side, faces close. "You don't have to worry about that," he says with a kiss to her cheek. "It'll be our secret."
"You know you were just as important as I was, Peeta," she says, feeling like she needs to convince him. "Probably even more."
"Katniss," he mumbles against her mouth. "I don't care what they call me, or don't call me. I only care that I got you."
She wants to protest again, wants him to understand, but her attempts are stopped with his lips until she gives up entirely. "Show me the girl on fire," he says. "My girl on fire, not theirs."
Her hands grip his sturdy shoulders as his mouth runs down her jaw and throat, and her knees press against his sides. There is always so much tension on days like today, but it draws them closer together. This is something no one else knows either, this part of him, perhaps the most compelling for a mirror nickname to hers. But she doesn't want anyone except she and he to know the blazes they create together, the boy and girl on fire.