Back To Green Ch. 1

His face is flushed from digging up the ground under the windows. In a wheelbarrow are five scraggly bushes.

"You're back," I say.

"Dr. Aurelius wouldn't let me leave the Capitol until yesterday," Peeta says. "By the way, he said to tell you he can't keep pretending like he's treating you forever. You have to pick up the phone."

He looks well. Thin and covered with burn scars like me, but his eyes have lost that clouded, tortured look. He's frowning slightly, though, as he takes me in. I make a halfhearted effort to push my hair out of my eyes and realize it's matted into clumps. I feel defensive. "What are you doing?"

"I went to the woods this morning and dug these up. For her," he says. "I thought we could plant them along the side of the house."

I look at the bushes, the clods of dirt hanging from their roots, and catch my breath as the work rose registers. I'm about to yell vicious things at Peeta when the full name comes to me. Not plain rose but evening primrose. The flower my sister was named for. I give Peeta a nod of assent and hurry back into the house, locking the door behind me.

In a few hours, morning reveals itself, bringing in a fresh batch of radiating sunlight and the potential of happiness.

I will not give it that satisfaction.

After getting myself dressed, I gently make my way downstairs. My footsteps make little to no noise after all these years of being forced to remain quiet while hunting in the woods with Gale.

Gale

This is the first time his presence has made it's way voluntarily into my mind. Other than the nightmares of him shoveling ashes and dirt onto me along with the other innocent people I have so cruelly affected, whether they be dead or alive.

There is this slight moment of worry combined with uncertainty, but it's very brief, and it's gone as quickly as it had arrived.

I decide to mention Gale to Greasy Sae during breakfast, maybe she has a bit of and inkling as to where he is or what he might me doing.

Over the eggs, I ask her, "Where did Gale go?"

"District Two. Got some fancy job there. I see him now and again on the television," she says.

I dig around inside myself, trying to register anger, hatred, longing. I find only relief.

I announce to Greasy Sae that I will go hunting today, bringing home some fresh game for her to cook. Not because I want any, because I can only imagine how limited she feels not having anything to cook but eggs and maybe a squirrel on occasion.

When I turn the corner of Victors Village, I run into one of Gale's old crew mates and he assures me of a nightmare I had chosen to ignore.

Madge is dead, along with her entire family.

I wonder, as I continue my trek towards the meadow, if she will be joining Gale and the others in my nightmares tonight. I give a small bit of a giggle that can only mirror one of a person of hysterics, as I find my last thought slightly humorous.

Of course she will be in my nightmares tonight. I think as I approach mine and Gale's former meeting place.

I sit on the rock where Cressida filmed us, but it's too wide without his body beside me. Several times I close my eyes and count to ten, thinking that when I open them, he will have materialized without a sound as he so often did. I have to remind myself that Gale's in 2 with a fancy job, probably kissing another pair of lips.

The thought becomes unbearable.

After receiving the shock of Prim's cat, Buttercup, turning up instead of Gale, I begin my journey back home. Buttercup trails behind, meowing like an idiot. He believes I'm leading him to Prim. He's such a stupid cat, and ugly too.

When I get home he welcomes himself in and begins moving all about the house, as if searching for my sister.

"It was a waste of a trip. She's not here," I tell him. Buttercup hisses again. "She's not here, you can hiss all you like. You won't find Prim." At her name, he perks up. Raises his flattened ears. Begins to meow hopefully. "Get out!" He dodges the pillow I throw at him. "Go away! There's nothing left for you here!" I start to shake, furious with him. "She's not coming back! She's never ever coming back here again!" I grab another pillow and get to my feet to improve my aim. Out of nowhere, the tears begin to pour down my cheeks. "She's dead!"

Many days go by in which Buttercup and I form and unspoken bond. Prim's death has brought me farther away from others, but closer to him. She was both of our lives, the only thing we saw joy in.

But now she was gone. Now, all that's left is the mourning thoughts of her that Buttercup and I provide.

One morning, Peeta joins Greasy Sae and I for breakfast. He bears a warm loaf of bread.

She makes us breakfast and I feed all my bacon to Buttercup.

She shakes her head at me and scolds me, saying things resembling "you wouldn't have thought twice about eating good meat back then," and walks out the front door, leaving Peeta and I alone.

She's right. I wouldn't have. I would have been grateful to even have a meat of such luxury sitting on my plate in front of me.

"It's okay, I know you don't particularly care bacon," Peeta says, finishing up the last bit of his breakfast and sliding his plate away from his reach when he is finished.

"What?" I ask him, idiotically, after a few brief moments of silence in which I was trying to conjure what had happened.

He meets my gaze, more purposefully this time, and speaks to me. "I remember."

I didn't need that, his beautiful azure blue eyes spoke out loud everything he was trying to say. Just for a mere second, I think that things will be good again. My Peeta will come back. He clears his throat, "On the train, you mentioned to me that you didn't like bacon."

He steps up, bringing his plate over to the sink to rinse it off.

I frown. "Oh." Is all I can manage to say.

He's gone again. My Peeta. My Peeta that I missed so dearly.

Do I really miss him? I ask myself. Of course I do. So much.

I stand myself up and drag myself over to him, lingering behind him for a few seconds. I encircle my arms around his waist and lean my head on his back.

At first, he is genuinely stunned by my bold action, but softens a bit after getting used to the feeling.

"I miss you." I whisper to the air mostly, barley audible for even me to hear.

Although, Peeta most certainly hears it.

He begins to rumble and shake. He drops the plate he was rinsing on the ground and it smashes into many small pieces. He grips onto the side of the sink so hard that his knuckles begin to turn an almost light blue color. It takes me a moment to realize he's having an episode.

"Not real, Peeta, not real." I say soothingly but assuringly while stroking his back. I repeat myself many times. After a while it becomes some sort of tedious chant. He's beginning to growl and grunt.

"Get away Katniss" he says calmly. I can tell it's taking all his strength and power to not lunge in my direction and strangle me.

"Peeta, no, It's not re-"

"Get away from me Katniss, you're gonna get yourself hurt" He repeats sternly. He looks vicious, not like my Peeta. Not like the Peeta who could make a crowd stand still and listen with just a few of his wise words. Not like the Peeta who would always mange to show a calm demeanor, even in some of our most horrifying situations.

I will do anything to get him back.

So I begin to sing to him. Just like in my chambers after I shot Coin. Ballad after Ballad. The Hanging Tree, Rue's Lullaby, even The Valley Song. The song that which Peeta had first noticed me. He had told me that one night in the cave during our first games.

He struggles at first, trying to wriggle his way from my grasp. But my arms are strong, I will not let him go, not yet. Then, after a few more minutes of hearing my voice, he begins to soften. His eyelids droop closed and his knuckles return to their normal color. He turns slowly in my arms and slowly opens his deep blue eyes. "Y-you're back" He sleepily looks down at me, a soft smile threatening to pull up the corners of his lips.

"No Peeta," I reach up to caress his soft face in my right hand, "I never left, I stayed right here. You left."

He looks pained, closing his eyes again and leaning his head back slightly. "You were a mutt. A beast-type thing. You tried to kill me. Real or not real?"

"Not real," I add on, "I did't leave you. I stayed right here Peeta. I'm never going to leave you." He starts to say something else but I hush him.

I need to be there for Peeta. He would do it for me.

"Thank you" he says genuinely before lowering himself into a squat and attempting to pick up the shattered pieces of the plate he dropped earlier.

"No" I tell him gently, "go rest." I nod my head towards the steps indicating for him to go and sleep for a few minutes. He looks at me with an expression of shock and somewhat disbelief. "I'm not going to hurt you Peeta, I promise." I assure him.

He nods gently, "Okay, Katniss." He carefully steps over the shattered shards and makes his way towards my room. I'll wake him for supper with Sae.

I carry on diligently picking up the broken pieces for quite a while. When I am finished, I grab my bow from the closet and head towards the woods to hunt some game for supper. Sae says we can afford Capitol meat now, but we all agree that that isn't as good as fresh game.

Once I get to the woods I pull my father's quiver of arrows from our hollow tree trunk and silently step deeper into the woods. My Woods.

I try to follow Dr. Aurelius's advice, just going through motions, amazed when one finally has a meaning again.

I feel alarmed when I catch myself smiling as I'm finished skinning the 2 rabbits I shot. It felt gratifying, like old times. With my father. I'm genuinely happy again. For the first time since the Games. For the first times since Peeta was taken from me. For the first time since my beloved little sister, Prim, passed.

For the first time in a while