Just A Kiss

or

The 5 times they were almost real and the one time they actually became more

1. On one of those lazy, normal days they were together before the Quarter Quell…

She grabbed his large hands that were covered in various shades of dried paint. They were now slightly shaking under her light touch. He was looking at her with expectation, asking without words why her hand was over his.

She couldn't explain the sudden impulse of reassurance that burst through. Her head kept reminding her of one clear need: she couldn't go on letting him think that she didn't feel anything for him because that wasn't the complete truth. Katniss cared about him greatly. It scared her just how much she did. Sometimes, she thought it would have been easier to have never cared about him at all. There would be one less person she'd have to worry about, one less person who would be hurt by her selfish actions. Maybe she had an inexplicable ability to hurt the ones she loved most. It's ironic really.

Overtaken by worries, Katniss tried very hard to shove them down from her mind. She almost succeeded.

Instead of drowning in them, she shook her head to clear it. "Nothing," she replied. "I was thinking it's nice to have quiet days like this." A smile made its way to her mouth.

He returned her smile, pure adoration in his blue eyes.

Privately she thought, you look so at ease and your face is full of intent when you're staring at that canvas with a brush in your hands. I want to stay exactly where I am and not have to move from this spot.

It meant a lot to see him become immersed in his art.

/

2. In the first arena when they were inside the caves…

There was a moment that she felt a solid connection with the boy with the bread and she wasn't talking about the memory of how he had saved her from starvation at the age of 11. With the risk of rain surrounding them, they had kissed many times. She had to convince the people of Panem that they were the "star-crossed lovers of District 12." There really was only one creative way to get Peeta to eat. He had a greater chance of surviving if he had food in his system. He would live. She refused to dwell on the alternative.

One kiss in particular was special compared to the others. His lips were faint on hers; fragile even and new like how fresh spring flowers bloomed. She was aware that there was a small part of her that wanted to hold on to his weight, wanted to hold on to him. Peeta was always steady, someone she knew she could trust and lean on. He had proved his loyalty to her by siding with the Careers in order to try to save her life. So for that single kiss, Katniss released the doors of her heart a little; its grip lessened and she inhaled the scent of sweet cinnamon. Through their embrace, there was safety, comfort, and overwhelming goodness that was inherently Peeta's.

It thawed her, made her come alive.

/

3. At the beach within the Second Games…

He had said so plainly, "No one needs me."

And she gave a jolt at how untrue that sentence was. It was a lie, and she couldn't stop her mouth from uttering this response, "I do. I need you," because it was undoubtedly true. He had wormed his way into her careful world and the thought of him not being there was not something that she could stand.

When they were young, at the lowest point of her life, when her family was scraping by, a baker's son was kind enough to throw her bread. And with that bread, she and family weren't hungry on that day. He had given her hope to keep on living. He was her dandelion: bright, genuine, and there.

And as they fell into this incredible kiss, a different kind of fire, inflamed inside, and it threatened to consume her whole self. For one brief second, Katniss found herself not minding. She was where she desired, where she belonged, and it was in the strong arms of the tender boy in front of her: Peeta.

/

4. After the First Games and the announcement of two victors…

She had the terrible thought that Peeta would not make it. He was losing so much blood already. Crimson pools of liquid were staining the uneven ground. He needed immediate medical attention. She dimly saw the shadow of a hovercraft surrounding them while she held on to the boy she had begun to care for. His blood continued to drench her clothes, and while his face remained starkly white, his lips started to turn a sickly blue. It worried her to see him in such a weak state.

It wasn't long before there was an invisible pulling grip and then they were on the white floors of a hospital. Nurses attempted to pry her fingers off Peeta, but she wouldn't relinquish her grasp. They were too strong though and soon, her hands unwounded themselves without her consent.

She watched in fear as they laid him on a stretcher and quickly wheeled him through the emergency doors.

Despite all her protests, her screams echoed to deaf ears, "No! Peeta. Peeta!"

Katniss still tried to follow them, but a familiar, weathered hand on her shoulder stopped her.

"They're trying to save him, sweetheart."

"I know," she whispered, staring at the doors.

/

5. In the Second Games where they run into a force field…

For several agonizing minutes, she stood there petrified and disbelieving, watching the scene that unfolded in front of her mind's eye. One moment ago, Peeta had been healthy, joking with her; alive, and the next, his breath went out; his body thrown back.

Peeta's heart had stopped. He had died and she hadn't been able to save him.

No, no, no, no, no, she repeated that one word like a mantra. She was beyond hysterical. The sobs that came out of her were made of unrestricted grief and sorrow. After all they had been through: the trials, the pretending, and the friendship that was always lying underneath, he was gone. She couldn't accept that fact.

It wasn't until Finnick tried to revive him that she started to look in their direction.

When Peeta lurched forward and took new breaths, Katniss felt like she could breathe again too.

/

+1 After the war, back in District 12…

She tells him her secret over Peeta's nightmare induced trackerjacker episode what has always been there, but she's never admitted aloud.

Outside her home, the night is dark and ominous. They're sleeping in her bed, cuddled close, falling back into old comforts of protecting each other from nightmares. Lying next to him now, she starts feeling his tremors and hears his stifled yells of her name. She threads her fingers in his, wanting to protect him from his mental turmoil in any way she can.

He violently wakes, arms flung to the other side of the mattress, and he looks confused.

"Peeta, I'm here. I'm here," she says, hoping he'll believe her.

Blue eyes swerve in her direction, suspicion and distrust evident.

"Mutt," he calls, furious. "You tried to kill me. You've wanted me dead!"

"No," Katniss claims. "I've never wanted you dead. You've been my friend, and you're also my boy with the bread. I hate seeing you this way. That's not you. That's not…"

She breaks off then; there's an old, abrupt fire igniting in her gray eyes. "That's not who I love. Peeta, I love you," she confesses shakily, but with determination mixed in.

"Come back to me," she pleads; soft hands tracing the outline of his angled jaw before knotting them back into his once more.

His wary eyes search hers, and then, his brain makes these connections: Fire. Katniss, she's the Girl on Fire. She's the girl that caught his eye the first day of class. Her lovely voice could silence the birds. He gave her bread when they were eleven because she was starving and he couldn't bear the thought of watching her suffer any longer. He's watched her walk home from school every day since he saw her until The Reaping for the 74th Hunger Games, where they were both tributes. He has attempted to keep her during the Games, has always had the need to protect her, and was willing to sacrifice himself to ensure that she would still be alive.

But why? He thinks wildly.

I love her, he realizes; knows, somewhere deep in his soul. I love her. I love Katniss. I love this girl. She's not a mutt. I don't hate her. The Capitol has poisoned my mind. I have to fight this. Not real. Not real.

He tightens the hands that are steadily gripping his own, strains to get rid of the vivid image of a cruel, Katniss shooting him straight at the heart with her bow and arrow for entertainment or of another one setting bombs to District 12, destroying his home and murdering his entire family.

"It's okay," he hears over and over again until his breaths return to normal, and he regains his sanity.

So when Peeta finally asks, "You love me. Real or not real?"

Katniss promises him, "Real."


A/N: So it took me three hours of writing and too much time to edit, mind reviewing to let me know what you thought? The favorites are always appreciated, but I'd like to know why. :)