It hadn't been intentional. He'd made his way up to the roof simply to think, and reflect, even wallow a little bit, though that was an emotion he rarely let himself feel. He didn't know they would still be up there, hours after they had snuck out of the penthouse, and everyone had mutually and silently agreed to leave them alone.
But he didn't want to intrude, and quickly heads back to the door, but pauses when he hears Peeta utter the words that allow a little bit of hope to bloom in his heart, and Katniss' ensuing response.
"I wish I could freeze this moment right here, right now, and live in it forever."
"I'll allow it."
The words weigh, and weigh so heavily that despite the hope he feels, it's accompanied by such a sense of desperation it's almost overwhelming.
He rushes downstairs, out of the penthouse, out of the training centre. He keeps his walk brisk, but careful not to draw to much attention to himself. He did enough of that last night, and he knows his number might be up.
He arrives at his studio, and flings open the wardrobe door inside the main dressing room. He reaches in, his fingers gliding over the back wall, feeling for the little-
Click. There it is.
The secret compartment pops open, and he lifts the box reverently out of its hiding place, and places it on his worktable. Carefully opening the lid, he sighs softly at the layers of silky material, the pearls that glint softly in the light.
Katniss' wedding dress.
The dress in the interview wasn't the real one. He'd worked painstakingly for more hours than he cared to think about, carefully creating an identical dress to the one he took out to District 12 before the Quell was called. Something had niggled at him, niggled until he knew that he couldn't touch that first dress.
Now he knew why.
He quickly scrawled a letter, placing it inside the box, and sealing it up carefully. He raised three fingers to his lips, and placed them on the box, hoping that the thoughts and wishes he held deep inside would go with it. He picked it up, glanced lovingly at his studio, and prepared to deliver the box to Effie.
He knew he was never going to see his studio again.
Peeta looks at Effie in surprise, and can see Katniss has the same expression on her face. They didn't expect her to arrive on their doorstep, but in reality they should have.
They both knew Haymitch wouldn't be able to keep his mouth shut, and tell her about the wedding.
"Come in, Effie, please," Peeta invites her in, stepping back.
"Thank you Peeta," she says softly. Effie Trinket was never the same after the rebellion. "I won't stay long; I know you weren't expecting me. I am staying with Haymitch for a few days, so we will have time to see each other. But I did want to give this to you first." She holds out a box, black in colour and sealed with a red ribbon. "I've been holding onto this for a long time. Cinna….Cinna gave it to me before the Quell." He can hear the break in her voice, and he reaches out a hand to her, placing it comfortingly on her arm. She smiles at him, and he can see a semblance of who she used to be.
He kind of misses the old Effie.
He hears a sob, and looks over at Katniss, to see tears streaming down her face as she looks into the box. He peers in over her shoulder.
It's her wedding dress.
He senses, rather than sees, Effie leaving, and leads Katniss over to the couch, where he pulls her into his arms. She won't let go of the box.
"Oh god, Peeta. I thought…. I thought after all this time I'd be ok. But it… it even smells like him," she manages to choke out around her sobs. He nods, rubbing a hand across her back. It hurts him as well, but he knows this will hit her a lot harder than him. He looks back into the box again, and spies the creamy white envelope tucked into the side. He pulls it out, studying the elegant cursive script that he knew to be Cinna's.
"Ah, Katniss?" he says. "There's a letter in here." She shoots upright, and snatches it out of his grasp, ripping it open. Her eyes scan it quickly, and he can see the tears welling again. She hands it to him so he can read it.
I know as I write this that tomorrow will be the last time we see each other. Not, as I know you assume, because you will be dead. But because I will be.
It has been nothing but an honour and joy to work with you. To see the strength and beauty you possess, and your ability to bring hope to this nation. I know at this precise moment, you know nothing of the rebellion. But if you are reading this, I know it was a success, and I am sure you played a tremendous part.
This is my parting gift to you. Please wear it on the day you marry Peeta. Because after today, I'm sure you will.
Give my best to him.
I was always betting on you.
He can feel the lump in his own throat, and tries to swallow it down, but it's no use. He rests his head against hers, and quietly cries with her, their tears mingling on their cheeks.
He watches Katniss as she walks down their back garden to him, where he waits for her, surrounded by those closest to them. She's wearing Cinna's dress, and he can hardly breathe at the sight of her. She's only gotten more beautiful as the years have passed.
After what seems like forever, she reaches him, giving Haymitch a soft kiss on the cheek before he turns and goes to stand beside her mother. She smiles at him, and he knows everything is right in his world. The words come unbidden, and somehow he understands what Cinna was referring to in his letter.
"I wish I could freeze this moment right here, right now, and live in it forever," he tells her.
She smiles again, and reaches for his hand, squeezing it tightly.
"Why would you want to do that, Peeta?" she asks softly. "We have the rest of our lives ahead of us."