(A/N: The part below up to the words "So after, when he whispers, 'You love me. Real or not real?' I tell him, 'Real.'" is verbatim from the book Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins, the third part of the Hunger Games trilogy. I do not own This quote, nor do I own the characters I am writing about. The only thing I own is bits of the plot that I'll be incorporating into the story.)
I got the idea from our family's plant book. The place where we recorded those things you cannot trust to memory. The page begins with the person's picture. A photo if we can find it. If not, a sketch or painting by Peeta. Then, in my most careful handwriting, come all the details it would be a crime to forget. Lady licking Prim's cheek. My father's laugh. Peeta's father with the cookies. The color of Finnick's eyes. What Cinna could do with a length of silk. Boggs reprogramming the Holo. Rue poised on her toes, arms slightly extended, like a bird about to take flight. On and on. We seal the pages with salt water and promises to live well to make their deaths count, Haymitch finally joins us, contributing twenty-three years of tributes he was forced to mentor. Additions become smaller. And old memory that surfaces. A late primrose preserved between the pages. Strange bits of happiness, like the photo of Finnick and Annie's newborn son.
We learn to keep busy again. Peeta bakes. I hunt. Haymitch drinks until the liquor runs out, and then raises geese until the next train arrives. Fortunately, the geese can take pretty good care of themselves. We're not alone. A few hundred others return because, whatever has happened, this is our home. With the mines closed, they plow the ashes into the earth and plant food. Machines from the Capitol break ground for a new factory where we will make medicines. Although no one seeds it, the Meadow turns green again.
Peeta and I grow back together. There are still moments when he clutches the back of a chair and hangs on until the flashbacks are over. I wake screaming from nightmares of mutts and lost children. But his arms are there to comfort me. And eventually his lips. On the night I feel that thing again, the hunger that overtook me on the beach, I know this would have happened anyway. That what I need to survive is not Gale's fire, kindled with rage and hatred. I have plenty of fire myself. What I need is the dandelion in the spring. The bright yellow that means rebirth instead of destruction. The promise that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses. That it can be good again. And only Peeta can give me that.
So after, when he whispers, "You love me. Real or not real?"
I tell him, "Real."
And I did love him. That boy with the bread, the one who saved me in so many more ways than I can possibly think of. I could no longer imagine my life without him.
It doesn't come as a surprise to anyone when Peeta and I officially begin living together, our love for each other not allowing us to be apart any longer.
It's been a long day, and I finally come home to an empty house carrying a bag that holds the game from my hunting; 2 turkeys and a few rabbits, caught in a snare. I vaguely wonder where Peeta is, but I push the thought to the back of my mind so as not to worry.
As the hours go by and I finish skinning the rest of my game, I begin to wonder again where Peeta is, and why he's been out so late. I don't remember him saying anything about going out tonight, but I start to worry that maybe he did and I just can't recall. I search the recesses of my memory and come up empty handed.
Instead of dwelling on it for too long, after a few more hours of keeping my hands busy with cleaning and cooking, I begin to get ready for bed.
I slide off my hunting boots, which I then throw on the floor. These are followed by a jacket, my jeans, and the thermal shirt I was wearing out earlier to get more game. In nothing but my undergarments, I slide into bed and pull the covers around me, allowing the smell of Peeta to consume my nose and calm me until I finally fall into a deep realm of sleep.
I don't know why I'm running, but I can feel the wind moving my hair out of my face, the smell of the low tide coming in, the dry, grainy sand underneath my feet that shifts every time I move.
I don't know why I'm here, but I'm back in the field of the 75th Hunger Games. I'm back in the circular beach that surrounds a circular sea of clear blue water. I quickly try to put together what part of the field I'm in, and what time it might be. I don't have any clues, so I just keep pushing forward as fast as I possibly can, trying to get through every piece of the field I can make it through without getting any injuries on the way.
I just keep running. It's almost as if I can't stop, I keep pushing myself forward, forcing my legs to move. I'm vaguely aware of the amount of fatigue I feel, keeping my body weighted despite how fervent I've been about pushing forward.
I hear sounds behind me, low, vicious growls that seem to be coming from the bellies of some sort of beasts. And then I realize something, and it hits me hard, like a rock right to my stomach. A realization that knocks the breath right out of me.
I'm being chased, by mutts.
Now I really push myself forward, a new kind of fear coursing through my veins and dictating every single movement that I made.
I'm running, running around the clockwork style field of the Quarter Quell. I can hear my heart pounding in my ears, blocking out most of the gruesome noises coming from the hungry mutts behind me.
And then, after 2 circles around the clock, I trip over a rock that just appeared out of nowhere. A rock that the Game makers put there to cause me to trip, falling to my inevitable death. I slowly move my body so I can see how many mutts there are, so I can see how fast or how painful my death is going to be. But when I turn around, thinking I'll see at least 5 mutts, I see only one. One terrifying mutt, teeth bared, glaring hard at me with bright blue eyes. And before he lunges at me, I realize something.
The eyes belong to Peeta.
"Katniss!" I can hear someone screaming my name in the distance, I can hear someone shouting for me to come back to them. I'm somehow trapped between the real world and this world where I'm being brutally attacked by this mutt that has taken Peeta's eyes. I just shake and cry.
"Katniss! Katniss, wake up!" I hear more shouting; I think someone is shaking me. Is it the mutt? Has the mutt taken Peeta's voice, too? I don't want to open my eyes, I'm afraid. I think I'm crying. I know I'm thrashing wildly, trying to fight off the mutt. I can't take anymore head games. Please, no.
"Katniss," I hear again, only more quiet, more painful, "Katniss, sweetie, please. Please open your eyes. Come back to me." It is Peeta. Do I dare open my eyes, though? Is this all a trick? I feel arms closing around my waist, and I'm pulled into something warm and comfortable. Slowly, I begin to open my eyes.
What I see is Peeta, staring at me intently with tear brimmed eyes. I see blood leaking from some scratches on him, and when I look down I notice that there are scratches on me, too. I must look absolutely feral right now, because Peeta gives me a sorrowful look and a tear falls from his left eye. I'm confused. I can still hear my heart pounding in my ears, but I no longer hear the sounds of the mutt. I hear Peeta's breathing next to me. I feel his arm securely around me. I see the blood staining my hands, and then I understand.
"Did I do this?" I ask, trying to put all the strength I can muster into the question, but instead I let out a shaky whisper.
Peeta can't seem to look at me now. "I didn't know what to do," he replies, his voice choked with tears. "I came home and you were screaming, I thought…" he looks away from me. "And then I came into the bedroom and you were digging your nails into yourself. Scratching yourself so badly. I couldn't watch you hurt yourself like that, I just couldn't. I'm so sorry, Katniss." He whispers into my neck. Is he really apologizing to me? I trace my fingers across the scratches on his neck and chin. Scratches that match my fingernails almost perfectly.
"I did this to you." I whisper quietly. I feel horrible.
He smoothes my hair back and plants a sweet kiss on my forehead. "It's okay, Katniss. It's okay." He pulls my trembling form into his strong arms, holding me tightly to his chest. I don't know what to think, what to feel. My head is reeling. But I was just dreaming, I was just dreaming.
"Where were you?" I ask him, gaining some of my real voice back. He looks at me, and then his expression drops.
"I was having an episode. I was with Haymitch." He says this with so much pain laced in his words; I completely understand now.
He places a hand on either side of my face, turning me to look at him. He uses his thumbs to wipe away the tears that I didn't realize I was shedding. Then, unexpectedly, he leans in and captures my lips with his own. We're kissing. Slowly, gently. And after each long kiss, we part to take a breath, and then we attack each other's lips again, the fire within us growing more and more furiously with each touch of our lips. I feel that hunger again, the same hunger I felt on the beach all that time ago, growing more and more as we keep kissing. His lips hungrily ravish mine, and he pulls my bottom lip in between his own. I thought my head was reeling before, but now it really is spinning. I feel my body rolling over until my back is on the bed and Peeta is on top of me, my legs spread to accommodate his position over my body.
I pull away for a moment to try to catch my breath. And I realize how much I need this man, how I absolutely need to know for real that he's still here, with me, loving me.
"Katniss?" Peeta's questioning tone brings me out of my thoughts and back to the real world for a moment. I look at him longingly.
"Peeta…" I whisper, and then take his face in both of my hands and kiss him, full on the lips. "Make love to me?" I half ask, half beg. I need him. I truly need him. He just smiles at me, and I know he simply can't refuse me.
Instead of giving a response, he peppers my face with small kisses before capturing my lips in a more passionate one again. He's gentle with me, laying a hand tenderly on my cheek before tasting my bottom lip, asking for permission to enter.
We lay there like that for a few more minutes, just taking in the taste of each other before he pulls away to peel my bra away from my skin. My breasts now freed, I'm suddenly self conscious, and I cross my arms over my bare breasts. Peeta just kisses me softly.
"Let me see you," he whispers gently. I can't deny him this, so I reluctantly uncross my arms and reveal myself to him in my entirety for the first time since we've moved in together.
He kisses the valley between my breasts, and in a voice barely above a whisper against my skin, says a single word, "Beautiful."
We take breaks between kissing each other to remove the rest of our clothing, until finally, he leans over me, his weight balanced carefully on his elbows.
"Are you sure you want this, Katniss?" He asks me quietly. I look up at him, and try to put all of my love for him in my face. I nod, spreading my legs.
"I need you, Peeta." I tell him flat out. I move my hands so each one is resting on one of his corresponding shoulders, and I move my hips up until the tip of his manhood just barely grazes the entrance of my folds. He moans and loses his breath with just that one motion. Before he can allow me anymore thought about it, he's entering me. He repositions his arms until they're under my back, steadying me while he pushes slowly into me. I close my eyes to shut out my discomfort. It doesn't hurt, necessarily, but it takes some getting used to. When he's all the way inside of me, he looks at me and waits for me to adjust to him.
I open my eyes, and looking down at me is the most beautiful man I have ever seen. "Please, move." I ask him, moving my hips up a bit to allow him deeper access to my core. He lets out a small moan before he pulls almost completely out of me and then thrusts back in. We move together, slowly, our hips meeting each other while we desperately hold our bodies close together. We start picking up speed, and that hunger, that insatiable hunger that I've been feeling ever since that night at the beach, is crawling back up again. The faster he goes, the more I can feel this strange thing in the pit of my stomach, this thing that just keeps growing and growing, consuming my entire body until I have no choice but to tense up, back arching and toes curling. I cry out Peeta's name while my body tenses and I dig my fingertips into his back, and at the same time, I feel his seed being spilled into me. We ride out each other's orgasms until we're both panting, and we collapse against each other.
"I love you," he whispers, pulling out of me.
"I love you, too." I reply, curling up against his side while he throws the blanket over us. We start drifting off together in each other's arms, and as the world becomes black around me, the last thing I can feel is Peeta's flesh against mine, and his heart beat against my ear. My hunger is completely satisfied.