A/N: One-shot. Thank you for reading. Sorry for typos. Reviews are love. -Taryn(:
The sound of war in her dreams is deafening; screaming, high and thin, clashing to the keens of those who watch, standing helpless while she is useless with her arrows, because there is too many, so many, and she isn't strong enough.. isn't fast enough to reach her sister... and there is fire everywhere, licking the world to darkness, soot, ash.. pink mist, sweet Primrose, screams shoved into a throat that never had time to open.. a head of pale golden hair that had begun to turn...
Violently, she wakes, greeted by an even worse thundering; rain lashing against her bedroom windows and prattling overhead. Outside the storm rages, tearing the sky to gray and breaking on the rooftops of District 12 with a vengeance, and Katniss is not surprised that she cannot sleep.
She never sleeps, after all. There is several nights a week she lays awake, restless and grieving.
An empty house echos around her. The brief wails of wind and shuddering of thunder that escape the clouds rock the exterior of her house, echoing throughout the interior. And an echo can only come from wide, vast, empty spaces. She's aware of that: the emptiness that is her house and life.
She is aware that her feet are ice and her knuckles resist, screeching in dull pain, as though frozen hinges, when she wraps them into fists. The bed is lonely, empty, void of warmth. It's as if she has not been sleeping there, twisting into the sheets, screaming her sister's name, among many others, and the shape of her under the blankets barely enough to cast a shadow on the other side of the bed.
Her head turns toward the window, and she is sitting up still, jerked from her nightmare. Everything is surreal at this late hour, with the rain blurring the world beyond her frigid bedroom. It makes her feel so alone, that there is no life but her, nothing on the far side of the walls of her home. It's just her, all alone, sitting on that bed for two.
And she is just simply there, vague and unalive as she is. She is always just simply there.
She flops back against the pillows and closes her eyes
It is not that she hates life, or that it is a battle, or struggle, it is simply.. purposeless. She was the Mockingjay, she led a war, and killed two presidents, and played through two Hunger Games, and above all – she survived. She'd fought for and earned her life. The right to breathe. A hundred times over, really. If anyone deserved to live, measuring merely by effort and determination, then she would win, and has won.
Only, she's forgotten the reason she fought so hard and for so long.
She remembers she fought for Primrose, when it all began, when she volunteered.
Then she fought for Peeta, when she went in the fray for the second time.
And the third? Who was that for? Her country? Her people? Surely, they were a part of it.
Except, after all she's given them, they have nothing to offer. Save, perhaps a quiet existence in her old home, District 12, and this empty house.
She cannot say that she minds. It is more than she asked for, then she ever wanted to take. They can't give her what she needs, and she does not expect them to, because who can bring back so many from the dead? Who can cure Peeta from his hijacking? Who can make her remember why she should get out of bed in the mornings? Not Panem, never.
They can't see her broken and crying and screaming for her sister; they would not allow it. She is the Mockingjay, after all. She has to be strong, unbreakable, fearless, and beautiful. It is only that when she stands in her costume and looks into the camera lens, she does not feel.. anything. There is no desire to fight any more, no determination to cling to life as she once had. There is no hatred feeding her forward, because there is nothing left to hate.
The world, the people, Panem, look to her first in desire for her title, what she represents–freedom, revolution, revenge–and second for her words, the script and non-script, the third for her strength or the made up image on the face of everything–and there is little, if any, that is left for Katniss herself.
It is, by all accounts, an... agreeable life she has earned, that they think they have gifted her.
There are times when she wishes it were disagreeable enough to warrant a passion, of any sort; a new fight, a forgotten enemy, something or anything she can shoot her arrows at. But not now, not so soon, not while her wounds remain distressingly fresh. And not over a complaint as light as sleeping habits, or echos of rain in her hallways, or a frivolous need to feel the rush of blood in her veins. It is not as though she wants another war, more loss, more blood, more fire–Katniss has had enough of that–it is just that she can only remember feeling alive last, when she was fighting and shooting and surviving the worst.
It is not even life threatening situations that she craves. She just wants something. Anything to fill the void of her life. That could make her existence worth while, or satisfying. Someone – perhaps, to fill the cold, vast space of the mattress, beside her.
It is just–
She is using an awful lot of qualifiers and rationalizations in her thoughts, isn't she, and she bites the inside of her cheek and rolls over, twisting the sheets around herself hopelessly in an effort to find some sort of comfort. Too tight, she realizes, when she closes her eyes and the first thing she sees is her father, crushed beneath a mountain of rubble, hard-pressed to breathe. She kicks them off and away, shivering when the room beyond rushes around her, and she yanks them back on a moment later, the air cold on bare skin, and curls up into a ball underneath them and stares narrow-eyed at the empty space that is there, still and lifeless and there on the other half of her bed.
This is resentment.
This is unwarranted.
This is ridiculous.
And she would like to sleep, by the odds, but it's not just the nightmares that keep her up and it's not as if the rain is too loud, she has always enjoyed the sound of rain. It is not as if sleeping should matter to her. There is no where to go in the morning, or all the day tomorrow. She does not desire the nightmares that will inevitably come, not now, not when she knows she must face them alone, waking to this empty bed, the cold room, and rain howling outside her windows..
However, she is Katniss Everdeen. What are a few nightmares? They are expected, perhaps needed, to make sure she remembers what's happened, what she's helped cause.. and it wouldn't be proper to forget. The nightmares, so very horribly considerate, serve to remind her, and it had been rather pleasant that she should wake alone, so no one can be disturbed by her screaming.. so she could calm herself, all on her own–
She's using qualifiers again.
Katniss knifes her way onto her back, stiff, eyes wide, watching the lightning throw reflections of rain upon the ceiling. She breathes, slow. Her hands uncurl and curl again, clutched at the top of the blankets. She breathes and breathes and breathes. It does nothing to calm the tightness prickling over her skin.
Quietly, inaudible over the rain, she swears a soft string of curses that would have appalled Effie Trinket, and made Haymitch proud. Still, in the quiet after her words, there is nothing. And so, quietly, she unclaws a hand from the blankets and slides it down beneath them to trail over her body.
(It is only to help herself sleep, she tells herself. Only that. To make her heart beat, so she knows it is still there.)
She lets her mind wander as slowly as her hand, fingers tracing soft over her breasts and hips and belly. There are fantasies she's used before, of course; and she lingers over the thought of men that most would turn an eye from, calluses on their hands and curses on their tongues, coal dust clinging to their fingernails, and dark haired, with olive skin, desire as hot and dangerously sharp as the burn of liquor in her throat–no. Not tonight. She never lingered on those images, no matter how much she pin-pointed the images of her childhood, remembering her best friend, –whose name is too painful to think of–, the world a girl from the Seam should be able to map with familiarity. But the storm is violence enough for her now and in her nightmares are of all manners of danger, and darkness, and the air is cold and what she needs–
What she needs, is him.
What she needs is comfort, his arms, strong and solid and real, the heat of soft, pale sunlight, that opens the dandelions in the early morning dew, violence held in check, in place by his azure eyes. He, who will bracket her face between his hands as he kisses her as if she is a thing to be savored. He could press her deep down into the mattress and hold her there and his hands could bruise, could hurt, but he would never, ever, and it's not because she's breakable and it's not because of a title, or a maddening distancebetween them and–
She half-wishes she were still dressed. Even if it meant peeling off her own clothes in the dark. Because she knows he would have undressed her so carefully, so happily. He would be the one to do it, she's sure, not her. And there would be reverence in his touch and want, he'd trace the shape of her like her own fingers are tracing now and tilt her head back to kiss her–
Her fingers find one of her nipples and roll it between them, and she sighs in the dark.
When he kissed her it would taste nothing like a mistake. She can imagine the thrill of it already, running down her spine, the secret curling heat in her belly. It would be something impassioned and urgent and probably far too quick and he'd bite at her lip, a little, and she'd whine (and that is not a noise befitting of a war hero, the sophisticated, straight-faced Mockingjay of Panem, that is not a noise she just made). He'd kiss her hard as he undid her belt buckle by feel, clumsy, and she'd press herself against him with hands fisting into the blonde curls–
Katniss gives a little shudder, her brows drawn tight together and her eyes squeezed shut. Because that thought, that thought–
It is not as though it's never occurred before.
It is just that he's so.. so.. Peeta. The air rushes from her lungs for allowing the name into her thoughts.
The hand that's been playing at her breasts trails down to stroke the insides of her thighs. Her legs turn outward and open by themselves and she keeps her motions careful, careful, trying to not shift too much at once as if not to remind herself that the bed is wide enough for two, and that she is alone, and that the boy that she has in thought is so very far away.
The rain thunders on outside. So loud.
Her fingertips ease between her legs, and oh.
He'd be careful, too. Not because she's fragile but because she is precious. She's read the respect enough in his face, knows it would be there, having seen it in ever way he's ever touched her in the past; holding her hand, twisting her hair around his fingers, in the smile that used to light up his face when she walked into a room. He believes her to be his better, something to worship–but not as a Mockingjay (he'd come to her hating her as the Mockingjay, she knows, she feels that anguish tug at her heart)–and she doesn't want to be worshiped, and she could never believe herself a better to Peeta, but it is nice. Sweet. Comforting to know that he would not view her as anything like a puppet or a game piece to manipulate. He'd treat her as such. She'd want him to just take her, she'd be the one who was hurried for once into the romantic pieces of their relationship, she'd beg for it, her voice would probably even crack–he'd want to make sure it did, make sure she was ready and he'd kiss and touch and learn his way down her body and drive her utterly mad by the time he reached between her legs.
And he always was so careful and he always knows what she wants, so he'd–
He'd circle her clit just like so and–
Katniss gives another shudder, chills and fire runs up her body.
That's what it'd be like. Just that. She'd cling to him. Hands on his shoulders. In her mind she conjures up the images of the scars she knows will be there; the dips of healed flesh, wounds seemingly forgotten and patched. She's seen those, all of them. Where the body polish from the Capitol's surgeons wore away and the metal cuffs that dug horribly deep into his wrists. Tiny white scars like bursts of stars scatter his knuckles, almost invisible. Bakery reminders. Calluses from training on his palms. She wonders if she'd be able to feel them as he slid his fingers inside her.
One, at first.
She adds two, because her own fingers are small and narrow and because there's a shiver that wracks her body at the thought, leaves her gasping on the bed. The hand that isn't worked inside her presses to her mouth. She can't make any noise; it'll only echo. Even with the storm beating against the windowpanes. She can't, she can't. Because it will only make her remember, she'll remember how empty the house is, and she doesn't want that.
She holds her hand clumsy and tight over her mouth and imagines that it's his. Yes. The weight of him draped over her and keeping her down and his hand over her mouth, whispering in her ear that they have to be quiet, they don't want to wake the whole neighborhood. They don't want to disturb their drunken mentor, after all he's done for them; after Peeta charged him to make sure that he never went near her.There'll be a catch in his voice that wants to be a moan and he'd seals his mouth against her throat to silence it, hint of teeth but only a hint because he'd never–
Forget that one mistake, she'd gasp out. Somehow. Stop protecting me for once. Peeta–
There is a snap that goes through her starting at her hips and Katniss whines, fingers dragging inside of her. She tries his name against her hand. But no. Not if she doesn't want to remind herself... but what if... and maybe she could..
Her eyes squeeze shut and her head turns to the side and she bites the pad of her thumb as if the pain can center her, can steal the name from her lips, but it can't, it can't. She can't forget. How could he tell her to forget? She never had the mercy of her memories being taken from her; making her forget. And her voice is so, so quiet. Shaking. "Peeta–" please.
Her hips jerk against her hand and she needs–she needs–
"Peeta," she gasps, wretched around her hand, his hand, "I–please–"
Third finger inside her. Rough and dragging. Thumb at her clit. And there's no point in covering her mouth, now, not with the way she's gasping, not with the way she can hear it over the storm outside. It's echoing and the room is dreadfully empty, but she's already tried so hard to be quiet and keep her objections from him, her desire or affection or whatever it is she's feeling, so she can give him this one thing, the thing he's only ever wanted that deterred from her, or her survival...
But she doesn't care anymore, has stopped caring, can't not care–
Him. Filling her. Nails in his shoulders. Her heels in the small of his back. His mouth at her throat or his kisses falling over her face like rain or off-kilter and heated on her lips. Teeth against her collarbone, that little pain, not quite enough to leave a mark but only just–
She moans, a small little sound, and catches her lower lip between her teeth as her free hand slides down to cradle her own throat. He could... he could hold her there, even. Safe. She knows that he'll only ever think of that one mistake, that one time he'd clutched her violently, roughly and hurt her, but she would be safe and it'd be just that, just that pressure. A tiny, bright edge of danger of his hand so careful on her throat and the pressure of his body over and on and inside her.
He'd try to take her slow but that's not what either of them would want so–
She imagines his honest smile in the dark, the ruffled state of hair, his eyes trained on hers, bright and alive, and impassioned, as he leans down low to ask. To make sure. Like this?
Like this. Inside her. Need. She twists on the bed. Skin slick with sweat. She is safe and made bright and burning by his hands, a ghost brought to flesh, all desire, something like living, and she's watched him and she knows it's not her body or her title or her fame that he wants but her, wants to peel the mask from her skin and map out every inch of her underneath it, he'd love her full and open, ah, yes, he'd–
He knows her, he knows, so well, he knows how to make her human, he knows how to make her writhe and sigh and scream and–
"Fuck-!" And Katniss arches, high, back bowed, his name falling like a gasping litany on her lips. Peeta, Peeta, Peeta. No less painful, or inundated with a sharp yearning, for being unvoiced, and the climax that rushes over her is white and shuddering as the crackle of lightning in the sky outside.
She lies there for a long time. Panting. Her hair is stuck to her face with sweat and her skin is wracked with chills and with the ghosts of her own hands and the hands that are not there. With the ghosts of blonde curls, pale skin, and blue eyes in the recessive of her mind. Always there, somewhere, staying when she needs. Always.
She shivers under the covers, and it has nothing to do with cold.
The rain thunders on. She wonders, her mind scattered in the aftermath of her pleasure, wandering clumsily down usually untaken paths of thoughts, and she wonders, what he does in his bed, all alone, in the empty house next to hers; who consumes his thoughts in the late hours, what nightmares make him scream, how does he cope without the feel of her head on his chest, hovering over his heart?
The loathing she has for the other side of her bed is there, resurfacing.
He has not come back. Everyone said he'd get over it. They promised her. But she's not stupid. She knows better than to take the words of others; she knows what promises and deals and pacts mean – nothing.
She shouldn't care. He wants this. Wouldn't it be selfish to take the one thing he's ever asked for?
She swallows, hard, the lightning from the storm only just beginning to fade on her skin. She listens to the rain outside. Listens to the thunder hold its breath. Waits for the blood to stop pounding through her heart, spreading through her burning veins, and stealing the oxygen that hisses into her lungs.
Tonight isn't the night, to break, Katniss thinks, as her breathing calms and quiets. Couched in such cool and passionless language. As the Mockingjay, there can't be a break. Isn't allowed to be one. Has to be strong; for the country, for Primrose, for–
No one needs her anymore.
And the worst thing is, that she isn't even sure she knows how to live for anything but someone else.
It is unhealthy, she realizes. It makes for a bad ending.
It is a problem.
Then it hits her, and it shouldn't –doesn't– surprise her.
He knows her, so well, after all.
He saw it, recognized it, and knew that he couldn't influence it.
He had to push her well out of his reach. Had to give her a shove in the right direction. Had to make sure he put her above risk or temptation or more damage to her wounds. He made sure she could heal, fully, properly, and not just for physical wounds, but the worse ones. Those deep, painful ones that are ground into the bones, imprinted in the mind, and weaved into the heart. The wounds that have been with her, not only from the war, but before that, those that had never had time to be healed or acknowledged, because she'd been fighting for the right to live from the moment her father died–and continued to do so up until recent time, years and years later.
She's not sure how to do so, though. How does one heal? And then know?
Will he come back when she proves it?
Is his 'I-can't-bare-the-thought-that-I-could-snap-and-hurt-you' excuse, an excuse?
Too many questions. So many answers Katniss does not care to know.
Because she doesn't care. Anymore.
No more avoiding. No more unjust indignation toward him. No stubborn turnings.
Her muscles are taunt, willing her to move and stand and do it now. The walk across her bedroom would be cold, the wood floor sending jolts up her spine, that would roll downward over her skin as gooseflesh. A mad-dash around puddles and mud, underneath the tempest, would leave her breathless, and soaked, and her clothes stained, by the time she reached his door. He could be sleeping. Probably is. Would come to the door bleary eyed and worried and slightly irritated. But he wouldn't show it, his irritation, he would give his patience, and smile when he saw her..
Or maybe she is being girlish and he would be frowning, because she is there, despite how clear he made it.
Katniss turns over onto her stomach and draws her pillow into her arms, hugging it to her chest, the sheets beneath where it was laying chilly on her cheek. Her eyes lull closed. Begging for sleep, to hide from the thoughts of him, and reality, and her empty, pointless life.
She wakes with a hand on her shoulder. There is no nightmare dragging at her as her eyes open. Bright, dusty sunlight fills the room and she is stifled by the face of Peeta. He is smiling, warm and solid and sitting heavily on the edge of her bed. Behind his back she sees the open door to her bedroom, and loud voices come from beyond; children's voices, squealing, high-pitched and mucking around.
Katniss sits up fast, hands touching Peeta lightly on the chest, her eyes fixed on his.
"Real or not real?" she asks, breathless.
Her husband looks at her. Really sees her; knows what uncertainty grips her, the fear that knocks the air from her chest, makes her worry. She wants it to be real, it is obvious in her wavering voice, and she hears one of her children, her son, calling for her. His sister just pushed him. He's fake crying, she knows it, yet it still twists her heartstrings, and Peeta's smile, that had faltered, brightens again, encouragingly so... so honest..
He takes her hand from his chest and brings it to his lips, and presses the word into the ring around her heart finger on her left hand; "Real."