You could live a thousand lifetimes and not deserve him...


A/N: This is a collection of different one-shots & drabbles. Each chapter is a new short AU story fragment. All unbeta'd, quite rough. Some more developed than others. Hopefully all fun to read.

In an ideal world I'd make them all full stories but I already have enough to do right now with my multi-chapter K/P fic, LYLT. May expand some in future but just one-shots for now. They refused to not be written in SOME form. Feel free to take inspiration from anything here and run with it if you have some.

They will all be Katniss/Peeta focussed. Themes will be both Modern AU and Panem AU.

This first chapter is a modern day AU. Set in a group home. Katniss and Peeta are about 11.


PEETA

Peeta's heart broke when they took him away from his parents. After everything his mother had done she was still his mother. The closet thing he had in the world to a person who loved him. After his father, who did love him, he knew, but couldn't do anything about it. And his brothers who sympathized but had been through it themselves and were too concerned with getting away as soon as possible to wait or fight to take him with them.

So even though he'd grown up with abuse and neglect and he was safer away from them, they were the only parents he'd ever known, and he cried and cried his first night without them.

His first day at the group home, they had a compulsory music activity.

That was when he saw her.

At first he thought she was a hallucination from stress.

Then he wondered if she was a real live Angel.

His bruised and broken heart swelled in his chest as she sang, her voice filling his bones and healing dark places inside. He knew he was staring when she finished, but he couldn't look away. He'd never seen a girl like her.

She was small and strong with piercing grey eyes and long dark hair tangled into a loose braid. He wondered if he imagined the way she seemed to glow sharp and bright, making the room around her blur into a soft focus.

He followed her around for the rest of the day, her voice ringing in his mind.

He was too scared to talk to her - because why would someone so amazing be interested in him at all - but just being in the same room as her made him breathe a little easier. He couldn't articulate the feeling that had started inside him when she started singing – it was huge and warm like a blanket and spread hope that people could be happy, things could be beautiful, and maybe someday things could work out okay.

KATNISS

The new kid kept staring at her. Before her dad had died he'd taught her to hunt, so Katniss was always hyper-aware of her surroundings. He followed her all day, staring with his wide blue eyes like a lost puppy.

His eyes made her stomach twist because their blue reminded her of Prim.

She knew Prim was safer with their grandparents. She hadn't thought twice about sacrificing herself to come here when they said they only had room to take one girl after their parents died, but she still missed her sister like crazy.

The visits and letters weren't enough. She was already counting down the days until she could get a job and an apartment and take care of Prim herself. If the social worker hadn't been called when Prim's teacher saw she was getting too skinny and grew concerned, no one would have found out she was taking care of them both herself. They would have figured out a way to manage. She hadn't had a chance to properly get on her feet, she had still been reeling from loosing both her parents in the gas explosion.

Next time, Katniss knew she would manage to take care of them both just fine.

By free time that night she was already tired of being watched and marched up to the boy where he sat in an armchair the corner of the rec room, huddled over a sketchbook.

He gasped and looked up when she reached him. She didn't like the way he cowered reflexively.

She recognized it in certain types of kids that came in and the story behind it was never pleasant. She couldn't understand who could look into eyes that blue and innocent and do things to make this boy cower.

"You're staring," she said, trying not to sound too mean but making it clear she wouldn't indulge creepy behavior. If you didn't take care of those kinds of things right away they could get nasty.

"Oh…I…sorry," he blushed. The boy actually blushed.

He was actually quite big for their age, strong looking, but he acted like he wasn't aware of his broad chest and arm muscles. With the right attitude he could probably be intimidating. She'd bet this kid had never intimidated anyone in his life.

His wide eyes were transfixed on her.

"Are you crazy or something?" she asked frankly.

"No…I don't think so," he attempted a smile.

"Why are you spying on me?" she asked directly enough to discourage him from continuing.

"I wasn't…I didn't mean to…I'm sorry," his face was pink like Prim's cheeks got when she was excited. It wasn't just the blue of his eyes, but his mess of blonde hair too, the air of gentleness about him. He reminded her so much of Prim it hurt for a moment.

That was the only possible reason why her heart started to soften towards him without her consent.

"So if you're not making notes on my every movement, what are you writing?" she asked nodding to his sketchbook, a little less sharply than before.

"I'm not writing," he ducked his head and mumbled, "I'm drawing."

"Can I see?" she held out her hand.

He hesitated, hugging the book protectively to his chest. She wondered if he'd fight her for it if she made him. She wouldn't make him.

"Is it of me?" she asked.

He nodded, looking ashamed and shy.

"Please can I see it?" her heart thumped irrationally harder at the meek look on his face, and it must be because he was so much like Prim.

He had no idea how rare it was to get a 'please' from her, but without intending to she'd also softened her voice. He relaxed a little, slowly holding out the book. His hand was shaking.

She took it from him carefully, noticing his fingers were rough when hers brushed them. She'd have guessed they'd be soft.

She sat on the arm of the armchair and noticed how he subconsciously leaned a little towards her. She didn't think he realized he'd done it, or he'd certainly be blushing more. She could feel his body heat from this closeness. It didn't surprise her that he was warm, and smelled like clean soap.

It was a nice change, to be around a boy her age who didn't stink.

She opened the book to the page he was on and sucked in air when she saw the sketch of herself.

It was in pencil, just shading and lines, just a beginning, but already it was full of life and character. It captured a beautiful mysterious girl, so lovely Katniss would never have guessed it was her if the likeness hadn't been so accurate. This kid was very talented, and really generous with the way he drew people.

She flipped through the rest of the book but it was empty except for that picture. Must have just gotten it today. She wondered how he'd gotten his hands on a sketchbook at the home.

She was the first thing he drew.

"Do you like it?" his voice was soft and surprisingly close to her ear. She almost jumped.

"You're really good," she answered honestly, staring at the girl in the book.

"She looks like exactly like me. But really pretty."

"You are really pretty," he said quietly, and then clamped his hand over his mouth immediately.

She looked at his wide eyes, frightened and hopeful, above the hand over his mouth. He was breathing like he'd been running; she could see his chest move with each breath.

"I'm Katniss," she said, handing him back the sketchbook.

"Hi," he removed his hand from his mouth, a slow smile spreading across his face. "I'm Peeta."

"Can I watch you draw the rest of it?" she asked, wiggling into a more comfortable position on the arm of the chair.

She hadn't met anyone else at the home she'd been so immediately inclined to spend time with. It must be that he reminded her of Prim. That soothing sweet presence. It was the only explanation.

Peeta's slow smile grew wider.

"OK," he said, scooting over so she had more space, and starting to draw again, his little smile still playing on his mouth.

After a few minutes he cleared his throat and said quietly,

"Sorry I was staring at you."

When she looked up from his drawing he had a bashful grin.

"That's okay," she said. Usually it would not be okay, not at all. She didn't know why for him it was. But it was. He wasn't a threat to her.

"You were amazing in music this morning," he continued, some newfound confidence buoying him along.

"Your voice is the most beautiful thing I've ever heard."

She narrowed her eyes in case he was making fun of her, but he was completely sincere. She wasn't used to people being so open and honest.

"My dad taught me that song. I used to sing it to my sister," she said.

She didn't mean to tell him about Prim.

She cringed and waited for the inevitable questions she didn't want to answer about her family and how she ended up at the home.

They didn't come. Instead he said,

"I wish I'd had a sister like you to sing me things," and smiled slowly again. Cautiously, like dipping a toe in deep water.

That night she lay awake for hours staring at the ceiling. When she closed her eyes, all she could see was his slow tentative smile and it made her stomach flip.

She heard screaming down the hall coming from the boys' room. That wasn't unusual, but tonight she just knew it was him screaming. She could tell by the sound of his voice, the weird chord it struck in her rib cage, like Prim's screams used to when she had a nightmare.

She waited a few minutes, but it didn't stop. If anything it got louder.

She thought she heard "No, mother! Please, don't!" among the anguished whines and cries.

She'd never wanted to hurt a stranger more. To shoot or stab or strangle a person. She couldn't comprehend cruelty towards someone so Prim-like. It wasn't right. She'd revenge it in a second if she knew where his mother was and knew she wouldn't get in trouble for it.

Peeta's sweet blue eyes held a sadness, even when he smiled, that Prim's had never had. She had made sure of that.

She hated that he hadn't had someone to take care of him. She hadn't either, but she was tough and good at being the person who did the taking care. Gentle people like Prim and Peeta needed someone strong looking out for them.

She slipped out of bed and crept down the hall with the stealth she used in the forest with her dad and in the kitchen her first weeks at the home when she was recovering from starvation and needed to sneak more food.

Peeta's bed was at the far end of the boy's room and he was glowing with sweat in the moonlight, twisted in a tangle of sheets.

She perched on the edge of the bed, pushed back his sweaty hair carefully, closed her eyes, swallowed her reservations, pretended he was Prim, and sang.

PEETA

He was in the middle of a nightmare. It was the usual flashbacks; locked in the cellar, hit in the head with the rolling pin until he stopped fighting back, his hand held over the furnace, but suddenly it was being chased away. That was different than usual.

It was her.

She rose out of the flames of the furnace and burned brighter than anything, engulfing his mother, filling the cellar until the whole thing was flames. They didn't burn him. He felt warm and safe inside them. He heard her voice, clear and soft and strong enough to chase everything but her song out of his mind. Then they weren't in his house at all. They were in a meadow, under a willow, lying in the grass together.

He even thought he felt her hand against his head. He blinked his eyes open to check and there she was sitting on his bed making him think she was a hallucination or an Angel again.

He reached out shakily to touch her, just to check she was real.

She let him.

She was real.

"Katniss," he whispered.

"It's okay, you had a bad dream," her voice held a sweetness he never dreamed he'd deserve to hear.

She must have taken his comment about having a sister like her at his word.

So rarely did Peeta get things he wished for, that he couldn't help the way his heart swelled like it might burst out of his chest.

"Thank you," he whispered, trying to stop tears coming to his eyes.

Even though she probably wiped her sister's tears lots of times, he hoped she didn't quite see him exactly like a sister.

He certainly didn't see her that way.

Of course he would take her any way he could get her. He knew she would never be his to keep.

But already his silly romantic mind had been having fantasies of kissing her and marrying her all day. He knew it was unlikely someone so perfect and beautiful would want to kiss or marry him at all though. So even her hand on his forehead and her song there for him when he needed it, was an overwhelming amount of affection.

He wasn't used to being so cared for, especially not by someone he liked so much. He tried to quiet the fast beat of his heart, afraid she might hear it and be repulsed or something.

She didn't seem repulsed. She was humming softly and still stroking her hand through his hair.

It was very soothing, he just wished he wasn't too excited about it to fall sleep.

He suspected this morning he loved her. Now he knew it for sure. He loved her. And she'd already proved worthier than anyone else he'd ever loved.

No one had ever, ever been so nice to him, so kind and affectionate, in his whole life. And she hadn't even known him a day.

"Katniss?" they were interrupted by a hiss from the bed next to him.

"What are you doing in here? I'm telling…" his neighbor was cut off by Katniss' fierce whisper.

"Shut up, Finnick. You won't say a word," she hissed back. "Or I'll tell them you sneak into our room to see Annie."

There was a huff from the bed next to them, but Finnick fell silent, rolling over so his back was to them.

"Do you think you can sleep now?" her voice was sweet again, and this whisper was for Peeta.

"I don't know," he mumbled quietly.

He wanted to say yes, so that she could get back to her bed. He didn't want her getting in trouble for him. He had no idea how they punished kids here. It could be worse than what his mother did at home.

But he had a creeping feeling that as soon as Katniss the Angel left, the nightmares would come back.

"Move over," she whispered, as if she could read his mind. Maybe she could. He wouldn't be surprised. She could do just about every other wonderful thing.

Peeta shuffled over in the bed, feeling embarrassed that the mattress was damp with his sweat. She acted like she didn't notice. Maybe she didn't care.

She scooted close to him and the hand that was in his hair pulled his head down to her shoulder. Her earthy smell surrounded him. He had to slide his body further down the bed to curl into her at the right angle, but after some shifting around they got comfortable.

"How about now?" she asked gently, her fingers still working soothing paths through his hair.

He had no idea why she'd singled him out for this amazing kindness but he didn't think he'd ever stop being grateful for tonight. For meeting her. It almost made what his mother did to land him in here worth it. Almost.

"I think so," Peeta breathed, feeling the skin of her shoulder beneath his cheek.

"Thank you Katniss," he added awkwardly.

No thank you could possibly express how grateful he was. To not be alone. To be taken care of. To be here with her, specifically.

"Night Peeta," she whispered back, and then her head bent over his to continue singing softly in his ear.

He felt her lips brush his temple and shivered just before he fell into the most peaceful sleep he could ever remember.

He wasn't glad to be woken by her screams a week later, the night after she visited her sister, but he was thrilled to be able to return the favor.

Within minutes of getting into bed with her and curling protectively around her, she was sleeping soundly, clinging tightly to him.

When he saw how she relaxed against him, he realized his mother was wrong. He wasn't useless.