Disclaimer: the amazing 'The games of hunger' trilogy belongs to Suzanne Collins.
Summary: Katniss must struggle with her life after being Sinsajo. Will it be easy to leave it behind? How will she face her relationship with Peeta? How will their childrens look like? This fic will try to tell the characters evolution after the last book, including the Second Generation.
The real victory.
I can see the moon as I lay on my bed, and I look at it with heavy eyelids. It's been a long time since I've slept sound.
Peeta just undressed and slides under the sheets as if he had been doing it for years, even though we have been back together for only a few months now. The simple fact of having him near makes me feel more at peace, just like that first night we shared my bed. Since I stated a firm "real" in answer to his wary question, he kisses me with more confidence and I answer him with a renewed intimacy
I get lost on his lips, in his arms, or should I say, I find myself in them, until I finally give myself up in a pool of psychology exhaustion. Every day is one more sack of tiredness in the fight to be happy, or at least, not to fail into despair.
We spend whole days together, and some others not so. Sometimes I visit Haymicth and try to keep a normal conversation with him, even though we both are way too tortured to act normally. Some other times I hunt in the woods until late hour, and others I just let myself drop into an almost catatonic state, watching the flames crackle on the hearth. This is how winter passes on and Peeta and me end up living together out of habit, because his house is totally ruined and because, to be honest, he is my Home; maybe I am his, as well.
We wake up almost at the same time, I think whenever one moves, the other reacts and wakes up instinctively. We go on about our business, don't usually wait each other for lunch, sometimes we spend the evenings at home or the village, to be back together at supper and then go to sleep. Sometimes we have guests and slowly, in a somehow painful way, spring arrives and the primroses that Peeta planted under the window point to Heaven majestically.
District is being rebuilt little by little, the new Panem's Government has started the Planning for Reconstruction of New Panem, and District 12's is moving forward thanks to Gob's investments. Peeta and I lost all our money in The Games, and when Paylor's Government tried to give them back to us, we donated them to the cause, we'lle be fine as long as we have a home, Peeta's business and the woods to haunt.
It's odd to see the new coins in circulation, with the symbol of sinsajo, reminding me of Madge, whom I miss so much. They intended to put our faces on the bills, but obviously, we refused, and now they carry the design of the Monument to the fallen ones in the so called "Last revolution of the districts". The monument chills my blood, is a huge monolith next to a massive stone dome, and inside they have written the names of every victim during War; it's always full of flowers. They have in mind to establish a replica in every district, but for the moment only District 12 has one, and sometimes even I lay some flowers in there myself.
Thanks to the entry into service of Capitol trains for public transportation, I can go and see my mother from time to time, and welcome celebrities that, even though they shoot to my core with memories, I need to accept in my life. Actually, one of the few persons from my past that haven't come to visit me yet, is Gale.
My restlessness started one day, well after spring started, when my mother asked me a short but straight question:
— Honey, when are you getting married? – we're not even talking about Peeta, my life, my future or anything in particular, to be honest.
I'm at the kitchen, slicing some meat while she does the same with the vegetables for the stew, when she throws that question as a dagger.
— Nowadays, you have no reason to be afraid of commitment – she goes on – and it's obvious that you and Peeta are living together as a couple – I start to slice the meat in a rush, realizing that I am blushing as I feel sick at the intromission.
— Just because Peeta and I live together, it doesn't mean we must marry – I reply, a bit on the defensive.
— Yeah – my mother murmurs – maybe these are new times, where people doesn't need to get married to have a house.
Before the overthrow of the Capitolio, couples got married quite often for practical reasons, since getting married meant a house, even if small and of poor quality, to shelter. Now, until Government can reactivate business and economy again, there is a basic rent for citizens without meanings, which barely covers food and leasing, but it is a way of preventing homeless while the awaited State's houses are finally done. That's why you don't need to get married now for a family to have a home, they can apply for it for the simple fact of being a citizen.
— You're right – I tell her.
— Anyway, an act of love is always sweet, don't you think so? – I can feel my mother searching for my gaze as I throw the meat into the casserole and refuse to look at her – I'd love to see you redo your life, with such a ritual of ours as the foundation, with someone you love. Because you do love him… right?
— Of course, I reply without a doubt.
— When I was eighteen I moved to our house in La Veta – my mother says – and it didn't take too long for me to be pregnant with you, given that those days, avoiding a pregnancy depended mostly of the Capitol. If they wanted the birth rate to raise, they just wouldn't give you any contraception – I look at her out of the corner of my eye, I see she is staring at the greens cut in squares over the big wood table – Honey, I just want you to be happy, to enjoy every moment, to celebrate and profit of the luck that, despite everything, we have.
She looks at me intently, and I look back, not knowing what to say, because if I ever knew how to celebrate something, I forgot how to make it and how it felt. I consider the idea of marrying Peeta, all the guest that wouldn't be there, first of all my father, and last but not least, everybody dead in the war, like Finnick or my best friend Madge and of course, my own sister. It's so painful to even imagine it, that I feel like running to my room and lock myself up until Winter is back and I can fall with it.
Right that moment, I hear the main door being opened and Peeta walks in, bringing with him the smell of freshly baked bread. He's carrying so many paper bags in his arms that he can barely walk through the door. Before dropping them, he kisses my mother's cheek and gives me a quick kiss on the lips, then looks at the half done stew with a hunger face.
While the stew is cooking, we spend an hour sitting in front of the TV in the living room, watching the news of the day. For now, there isn't a big variety in the programming, but news, cartoons or some color lines, which means nothing is being aired. In today's news they're talking about the Insertion Programs for the citizen of the formerly known Capitol. That is, how they are trying to insert people who lived comfortably with the lost government.
— It's gonna be hard for them – says Peeta from the armchair where he usually sits, my mother sitting in front of him, nodding – I guess any basic rent will be too low for them…
— And the ones who lost their houses won't deal very well with having miserable neighbors – my mother adds, shaking her head.
— And then there are the nostalgic ones – I say, kind of a sudden – who would love for Snow to be back to live – and I feel that old rage, that rage that wasn't totally satisfied with the death of that snake.
Peeta and my mother set the table, but I can't get out of my state of absolute absorption while I look, without seeing them, at the images displayed on TV. The 'before' and the 'now' of the Districts. Barely a few months have passed and everything is much better, but the vision of the 'before' keeps torturing me just the same.
— Katniss, Katniss – Peeta is kneeling in front of me, touching my face, and I finally look into his eyes and come back to present – Where were you? Wherever it was, I'm sure you'll be better here – I place my cheek on his palm and nod, rising up to sit at the table.
My mother tells us, as usual, the progresses at the District Four's Hospital, where she volunteers and where, at her age, she's starting some improvised studies. She talks about patients getting better, wounded physically and emotionally, and how important their attitude, their vitality and the presence of their beloved ones, is during treatments. It's obvious she is excited, but her eyes can't hide the years she has aged in just a few months, after her daughter, my sister, died. I listen to her and I admire her fight, a fight she wasn't able to keep up when my father died, but now she is bearing it in an exemplary way.
At the end of the evening, we take her to the station and say our goodbyes as the sun sets down in the horizon.
Peeta and I walk back home holding hands. He sees some flowers and grabs them for me, forming a bouquet like he did a long time go, after the first Games of Hunger. I smile at him and, just like then, they make me feel reminiscence of my old friend, but there is no more meaning to it than the now far away friendship we shared once. Holding tight the flowers against my breast, I listen to Peeta talking about his day, and when he asks about mine, I avoid mentioning how eager my mother is for us to marry.
I place he flowers in a vase with some water and stretch. For a second, I think I see Prim walking down the hall and a shiver comes down my spine.
— Everything OK? – Peeta kisses my nape
— What do you want for dinner?
I turn around and my arms circle his waist.
— Bread and cheese
— Again? – I nod — Only that?
— And a glass of milk.
He stares at me for a moment and he gives me peace and happiness, and I ask myself how has he coped with so much lost, so much tragedy: his parents and siblings, all erased from life in one stroke.
Maybe, I think with horror, he thinks he has overcome it, but he hasn't. He never talks about his sorrows, never looks sad, but sometimes he paints for hours and stores his paintings in a closet, which I am not brave enough to look into. I've learned to tell him 'I love you' when he is pulled into that creative frenzy, when he looks like a madman about to explode, due to things he never mentions.
When he comes back to the table, he places my dinner and his on it, and we both eat it in silence, without turning the TV on. Watching TV at midday is part of Doctor Aurelius' therapy, who says I must assume reality to get over the shock, but before going to sleep, Peeta doesn't subject me to the torture.
That night, though, is Peeta who increases my concern.
We usually slide into bed and hold each other, sometimes we kiss, everything very innocent. Maybe because my mind is yet too afraid, too dazed and distressed, I always have enough with our kisses and don't even think we can go further than that, even if sometimes I dream about it.
I'm afraid my body, a patchwork of skin in different shades, is not attractive to sight or touch, so when Peeta's hand sneak under my PJs and caresses my waist, I kind of jump.
— I'm sorry – he says – I'm always left wanting to touch you…
— Well, I'm not left wanting for you to do it – I growl, and I see his face contract in a painful expression.
— Wow – his voice is hoarse – you're quite tough.
— Is not you. I'd like… I'd love my skin to be normal – I confess, for I am sure, I would love his caresses.
— Is it really so weird? – he takes my hand and places it under his pajamas' shirt, all my hair standing up when he passes my hand over his belly.
— Can you notice anything not normal? – I touch him, caressing his smooth and velvet skin. My fingers trace all the way down his sternum to the waistband of the pants, and is then that I perceive a slightly roughness, almost unnoticeable.
— Just a small fold, I think – I murmur.
— It was much worst before, it looked like a cloth patch— But it had gotten better with time.
— You didn't burn yourself as much as I did, I've seen you shirtless and you can't almost tell – I take his hand and do as he has done. I stare into his eyes, trying to see some repulsion or disgust or something, but his peaceful expression doesn't change. But I know he can feel the roughness on my skin. – Don't try and pretend you're not disgusted at least a little.
— There's nothing to pretend — he hisses, freeing my hand and going on with his caresses, near my breasts – Maybe your burnings are worse than mine, but I am sure the new skin is now better than a month ago.
I consider this and realize that I haven't really checked, for the simple fact that I had considered my skin to always look like a raisin. So I touch my own belly too, to find out that it feels much less rough under my fingertips that it did the first time I had the courage to touch it or even look at it.
Peeta is still caressing my belly and then he embraces me, holding me tight against him, his hands entertained with the feel of my back and nape under them. While his fingers dance over my skin, he kisses me deep and wet, slowly, my body becoming warm. After a while, he presses his forehead against mine, provoking me a subtle thrill.
— I love you – I reply almost automatically "me too". Even though I don't need to say "I love you" as he does, I like the way he smiles when I say it back.
Then he looks at me as if expecting something more, until he finally gives up and I can only see his thick and blond lashes closing and hiding his blue irises. He kisses my nose lightly and relaxes as he lies down. I can guess what is frustrating him, but I don't wanna think about it, it scares me. Whatever he says, mi body looks horrible, I'm afraid of being naked. I'm afraid of his hands discovering all that skin that burnt and hating it.
— Katniss, I want your body just the way it is, I promise, you could never disgust me – his words fall over me like hunger beasts and I wish that the light filtering through the window were suddenly gone, so he can't see my surprise.
— Someday – I reply, in an almost robotic voice.
— You look at me as if I was a ghost – I see he is trying not to laugh, and I can feel I'm starting to get mad – Will it be a day of this year?
— Maybe not – I snap, annoyed.
— Don't be mad, Katniss; I was just trying to joke with you… — I turn around and cover myself with the sheet up to my chin; I hate when he teases me. – I just wanted to put some humor into all this.
— Humor to what, what is 'all this'? – I demand, offended
— Nothing – he replies quick, hugging me from behind.
— Don't say that is nothing – I turn to face him and his gaze is so soft and sweet that I can't almost keep being mad.
— "This" is everything we haven't overcome yet, nothing else – I stare at him and my body relaxes as I see his innocence reflected on his face – Hold me – he says, and when I do, he buries his face in my hair and sighs almost imperceptibly.