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Spoils of Everything

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The victory tour had just began. And I find myself lost. I'm hiding from the harsh reality of the world I live in and tried to escape. I don't want to see anyone. But I have no choice.

My talk with Snow lingers over my head like hot lead crushing me. Even while I sit on a warm soft bed with my arms wrapped around my legs. I can feel the subconscious pain through my spine. How can I do this? I can't breathe under this weight. I take deep slow breaths to calm the nerves that wrack through my limbs. If only they knew. My people, my family just outside the door.

Just a few months ago I was in the games with Peeta. Oh Peeta. I think how will he handle this weight with me. The weight of leaving him and the pain I caused him. Wounded by my rejection, hurt by the unrequited feelings. He's so sure, so certain about it. If only I'd let him die In that Arena. I wouldn't have to deal with this feeling. I regret it as soon as I think it. The boy who had given me bread and saved my family couldn't die like that. I risked everything with those damn berries. For his family, for our district, for him, for me to survive and have the chance to live one more day. On a lie that will fall through our fingers.

There's a light knock on the door followed by Effie's voice announcing dinner. When I walk into the room it's quite. I take a seat and start to eat whatever is in front of me. Not paying much mind to the artistically prepared food that sits on the table. I'm only here to satisfy my body's need for food not to have a conversation. The nightmares are hard enough to handle. It will be harder on a empty stomach.

"So you're just gonna scowl at us all night or are you gonna say something pretty?" Haymitch asks taking a swig out of the bottle next to him not bothering to pour it into a glass.

"Haymitch, I'm not in the mood right now" I say.

"Sweetheart, just Incase you haven't notice none of us are in the mood. But we have to talk."

I look around the table and I catch Peeta eyes looking at me. He looks away fast training his eyes on the food in front of him.

"So what's with you two? Look like you haven't said one word to each other since that train ride back home." Haymitch states.

"Cause we haven't." Peeta says quickly.

I can't help but to think 'tattletale' a phrase I haven't used in years. I want to spit it at him but I hold my tongue. The lack of talking between us was the least of our worries. Peeta looks down at his food and doesn't say another word.

"Can't we just do this tomorrow? Can't we just rest for now? Before they slap cake makeup on my face and force me to make out with him." I say. I cringe at my own words. I didn't think about how harsh the words were gonna come out. I knew it would be a slap in the face. But then again I did warn them.

"Alright, alright relax. Nobody wants to be on this damn train either. Okay. We're all stuck here too." Haymich says. "But sorry to say we really don't have time to sit and loung around in the pretty silks-" he throws a silk handkerchief across the table onto my plate. "-like you want to sweetheart. We arrive at eleven tomorrow and can't risk our starcross lovers looking so damn grim, like they've never met. So you both need to damn talk." Haymitch gets up to walk through the doors into that hall.

I don't say anything. I sit there staring at Peeta playing with his food with a spoon. His sun-streaked blonde hair stares me in the face. Strong artistic fingers hold the spoon. Broad shoulders frame the image that fills my head. A man's body no doubt, yet I occasionally see the boy I once knew.

I have a feeling he will always look like this through my eyes. I can't help it but I compare him to Gale's tall, lean figure. I know I shouldn't think of Gale. Being crazy in love with Peeta is survival for all of us. I shouldn't think of my dark haired handsome 'cousin' when I look at Peeta. But I do. Because as much as I don't want to admit it to myself, I know they are connected now. I better put on the best show with Peeta if I want Gale alive.

"Katniss. Can you stop staring at me? Its making me uncomfortable." Peeta says startling me.

I look away at once. My cheeks reddening. I can feel the heat on them. I apologize under my breath deciding now would be the choice to leave the table and go to sleep.

Later that night my nightmares stayed away and were replaced by dreams of his shoulders, shades of yellows, and deep blue eyes. Peeta's eyes.

Chapter Text

District Eleven was fading behind us. I told Haymitch and Peeta everything. I still felt the weight of our situation but, it was easier now with the strong arms of Peeta helping me hold the threat above our heads. I shouldn't have been so selfish to keep the talk with Snow to myself. The knot in my throat threatens to rise to my eyes. I made everything worse in District Eleven. Peeta did too. Remembering his heartfelt gift to the families made my stomach feel funny. If I had to choose anyone to go through this with, it would be Peeta.

I grab a pillow and bring it to my chest and bury my face into it. I have to say something to him. But what? words don’t come naturally to me. After a few moments of pondering I decide going to him would be the first step to gaining a bit of redemption. When I reach Peeta's door I hesitate and wait a bit trying to hear if there was any sign of him awake inside. I hear a moan, then a long cry. My fists are banging on the door before I can think about the noise it will make.

"Peeta!" I scream.

I think for a second about running to get Haymitch but dismiss it quickly. The old drunk is probably too intoxicated to be of any help. I throw my body against the door trying to bust it open. The cries stop. There is a shuffling and right before I'm about to slam into the door again. Peeta opens the door and I slam into Peeta instead, knocking us to the cold floor of his room. I look around to find the person who was hurting him.

"What's going on Katniss?" Peeta asks

"I heard you yelling. I thought someone was hurting you!" I say moving my hair from my face while sitting up.

"Nobody’s here Katniss. I was just asleep." He rubs his eyes moving to stand next to the bed. His room is cold and gray. The curtains are open and a chair sits facing out the train window. His bed looks untouched. He sits on it in a pair of pajama pants, bare chest. I can tell he’s been sleeping. I stand up and cross my arms. The television is on. The soft light cascades off the screen into the room. The blues, pinks, and oranges lights up his face.

"Sorry if I scared you, my dreams do that to me sometimes." He says low.

A chill runs through me at the thought of it. He probably has the same dreams as me. The games haven't left us. It runs through our veins at night haunting and exhausting us. Scaring us in every way it could. At home my mother moved across the hallway in our house because my screams was so loud. Sometimes I'd wake up to my sister Prim hugging me with tears in her eyes. When I woke it was like a blanket of warmth to have her arms around me. Safe and alive. It made the nightmares worth it. Prim made this all worth it. I wonder quietly if Peeta had that with his family. Although I haven’t seen anything of his family around. Maybe it was his choice to be alone. I hold myself tighter.

"I didn't know it was like that for you too." I say looking down at the dark wooden floor.

"If only I knew about the dreams I probably would've stayed in that arena." I flinch at his words. I sometimes, in my darkest hour can relate. Are they that bad for him as well?

"Don't say that." I say. I walk over to him not sure how to comfort him. Touch has never been our forte. He hangs his head. And I find my hands itch to lift it, to look into his eyes and tell him he's safe. But he's not. We are not. Not here, not at home. On this train we have our backs together fighting for our lives, for our families lives. At home we fight our dreams, and avoid each other.

"Peeta thank you. For staying alive. For helping me. For… what happened in Eleven." He Looks up at me, blue eyes blazing. The atmosphere changes. I can feel it in my ears. He shakes his head. “I messed up Katniss.”

“No, I messed up. I should’ve said something.”

"I can't help but think we're gonna die on this damn train," He says. Only inches away from my face.

"I won't let us. I'll do what I can to survive this," I say.

"Then what happens? We go back home and mentor the next kids that will be slaughtered? Maybe we shouldn't, Katniss." I turn my face away. "You can't say things like that, Peeta. I have Prim. I can't think like that." I say quietly.

He grabs my face, turning it to look at him. I close my eyes. I'm distracted by the warm big hands on either side of my face. His thumb softly playing with my cheek.

"Katniss it doesn't stop here. They're gonna come for our children. Probably force us to mentor them. Or throw them to the crowd to be torn apart." What he says sinks in. It won't stop here. Forcing us to kiss is only the tip of the iceberg.

"I won't let it happen," I say.

"How?" He asks.

"I just won't," I say looking back into his eyes. A tear escapes and rolls down my cheek. His words are true. I know he can see the hurt. When his arms wrap around me I'm slightly shocked. Soft and comforting, his arms have a sense of home. I melt into them, wrapping my arms around him and welcoming the safety. I want to be home. Back in my old house where I was raised. He places his lips on my hair. I can feel him take a deep breath. I do the same. Drinking the sweet bread smell that's stuck to his skin. I lay my lips on his exposed chest. He lets out a soft barely audible groan. His breath travels slowly through my hair, caressing my scalp. I can feel my heartbeat quickens. Deep in my belly the stirring I felt in that cave is back. My skin burns where it meets his. When I feel his heart pounding through his chest on to my lips, I know the same is happening to him. To test it, I place a small kiss where the rhythm is strongest. His hug tightens. He places a kiss on the top of my head. I stroke my hand along his back. I can feel his face rub against my hair, his lips by my ear. His hand travels to my neck tilting my face to his. His lips are just moments from mine. Hot breaths covers my face. My mouth is watering, awaiting his kiss. Do it. I think. When our lips meet, it’s slow and deep, but soon quickens. His hand at my lower back pulls me close. My fingers enclose his dandelion curls tightly. The stirring that hides deep in my belly is turning into a full flame.

I am a girl on fire. But a different fire, one that burns from the embers deep inside my limbs, one I know only Peeta can feed. His lips travel from mine to my neck making my eyes roll back. My heart feels like it's gonna tumble out my chest. My head is fuzzy. My hands are shaking. I run my unsteady fingers up his strong stomach. The skin glows in the light from the television, This moment is private and safe. I've never touched Peeta this way. In fact, I’ve never touched anyone this way. I can feel him shiver under my touch. His head tilts up and he breathes out. When he looks back at me his eyes are filled with hunger. He sits on the bed. Grabbing my hand to follow him. When I take a step I can feel my knees are weak. He notices, catching me by my hips. Pulling me into his lap. My legs on either side of him. His hands slowly travel up my back, finding my braid and quickly undoing it. His fingers free my hair, allowing it to fall. He kisses my neck and I can't can’t get enough, as if anything he does will never satisfy. I need him closer. My body screams for more but giving in seems impossible. His fingers knot in my hair holding it tenderly. Our lips meet again and my hips buck once involuntarily against him. He breaks the kiss with a moan that makes goosebumps spread on my thighs. My silk nightgown rides up and bunches around my hips. I buck again and I can feel his hardened shaft. Each movement sends a wave through me.

I know my place. It’s right here with Peeta. It always has been. Throwing me that bread sealed our fate. Wild and consuming, our kisses devour each other. When he flips me onto my back, I can feel the heavyweight of his body. adding to my unquenchable need for him. He grinds his hips against my most private place and I moan. His hand is at my hip under my gown.

His lips go to my ear and he whispers, “Is it okay Katniss?"

 

I lift my chest up to meet his, answering his question. His hand follows my stomach to my breast. His hand cups me and he runs his thumb over my nipple. My eyes roll again and I know I'm ready. I want everything. I want him. But he doesn't give in easily. I buck my hips trying to feel him again. I'm nugded by his shaft and I feel him solid. I don't know what I'm doing. I remember the times I've seen men on my kitchen table. My mother working on mangled limbs. That's the closest I've been to a naked man. The memory wasn't pleasant but, gave me some insight to what I was feeling against me. His hand slides down to the top of my panties and slips inside. His fingers brush over my lips, making me wild. My arms wrap around his neck, my legs around his hips. I feel the moisture when he presses his fingers to my center. A high pitched moan escapes my lips. His mouth finds my neck and sucks on it. A groan rumbles deep in his chest. I let my hands run over his bottom and slipping my way to the front. I slide my fingers into his sleep pants, and I meet soft curly hair. The room feels so hot. I get dizzy, Intoxicated by the flames that lap at my body. His heat strokes my flames, making me high. When my fingers touch the base of him, he's breathing hard trying to hold in a moan.

"Katniss... please... I-" he groans into my lips.

"Peeta please," I whisper back to him.

I take hold of him and pull him out of his pants. His face, neck and shoulders are flushed. In my hand, he's long and warm. When I reach his tip, I can feel that it's wet and hot. He pushes against my fabric covered entrance. When my hand meets me I can feel I am soaked right through. He thrusts against me again. The pressure is what I want.

His hands go to my underwear tugging them down to my ankles. I kick them off. He's back in a second and his tip slowly touches my bare lips. I put my face into his neck. Mimicking what he's done before, I suck on him and bite down lightly. He moves his shaft up and down my most sensitive spot. Lubricating himself with my arousal. I'm breathing hard. My shouts are louder, more sure of what I want. He positions himself and before thrusting in he tells me,"Please know that I love you."

Before I can say anything he pushes in and I let out a yell. The pain shoots through me. I grit my teeth. Trying my best not to yell again. I cover my mouth with my hand.

"I'm sorry. I know. I'm so sorry," He says kissing my face. Tears slide down to my hair. When I look into his eyes I can see a mirror. Tearing blue eyes. I kiss him, the most heartfelt kiss yet. He doesn't want to hurt me. I know right now that my pain causes him pain. When I go to move my hips I feel the stabbing pain again but I grit through it. How do people ever do this? I think.
"We can stop," He tells me.

"No," I say. I need this for me, for him. When I move I can feel the yearning pick up again. He slows his hips. I can see in his face, he's fighting the urge to speed up. We quicken the pace and I feel it, my stomach tightening. He kisses me everywhere, whispering that he loves me. I mouth it back, but he never sees. Soon we grow into a loud song. The thrusting turns into pounding. I feel myself getting somewhere. I am building up to something and I welcomed it with open arms. Nothing else matters but him and me. Every time our hips meet I am closer and closer. I am pushed over the edge and I explode, screaming into the room. I hold him tight, scared to let go. Riding out this feeling, he has his own explosion. I hear him in my neck. Moans are loud but muffled by my skin. He pulls himself out and I can feel him spill on to my stomach. He's breathing hard, sweating and out of breath, we lay there.

My Peeta. Always my Peeta. Tears are slipping down my cheeks again and I put my head into his neck.

"Don't cry, Katniss. I made sure to pull out. We're ok. Don't cry." He coos over me. We hold each other tightly as my sobs shake our bodies. He pulls us under the covers and we fall asleep in each other's arms.

"Stay with me." I say.

"Always." Peeta whispers.

Chapter Text

When I wake, it’s abrupt. It takes me a few minutes to gather where I am and what has happened. The room is dark. Peeta’s unconscious body lays on me asleep. His head rest on my chest, arm wrapped around my torso. His legs entangle with mine, his prosthetic still attached. I never minded his leg. It is apart of him now, showed his fight for survival. I worry to myself. Wouldn’t he be sore having it on for this long? I move off the bed slowly without waking him. I need space to think. Him laying half naked on me doesn’t help. I can feel my rising anxiety clawing at my chest. My thighs are sore as I walk over to the chair by the window. Sitting on the chair and moving my knees to chest, I look out the window. I’m hoping to see the woods I call my home, but I don’t. We are far from home now. The moon high in the sky sheds its light into the room.

Peeta has become an important person in my life. Another weak spot for the capital to figure out and take a jab at. Feeling anything for this boy will only hurt me at the end of the day. We never get off this train. Haymitch’s words rings in my head, loud and true. I turn my head to look at my survival sleeping on a messy bed. In the back of my mind I’ve always known he was where my heart hides. The thought of him having a hold on me forces a deep cringe. He’s saved my life more than once and yet, I can not bring myself to be weak and lay on that bed with him.

He looks so young with curls sprawled out on the pillow, face softened by sleep. I want to tell him. You saved me Peeta. I want him to know how grateful I am. Not only did he save me, he saved my family. I remember my sister’s face when she saw the bread. I don’t know how I ever denied him. The lump is back in my throat. I’ve cared for him without even knowing I did all these years. My eyes always searching for him in crowds and rooms. Always keeping tabs on the boy who once saved me with breed.

I touch my mouth remembering our frenzied kissing. I, even now feel starved of his affection. Even though I was just in his embrace. I don’t know what to do. Should I get up and leave? Should I act as if this never happened and hope he understands? Am I that cruel? Selfish? He’s told me he loves me. My chest squeezes. Tears stream and I find myself holding back a sob. It threatens to break from my lips. The only way to stifle it is with my hands over my face. What have I done? I scream in my head. The games killed any normal life I’d ever have with Peeta. We are pieces in their games, despite how much as Peeta wanted to fight it. I can’t leave. I should, but I can’t. I couldn’t do it to him. Innocent Peeta is laying on that bed. The boy with the bread. I’m sniffling now. There’s no hiding this. Although I’m trying my best to not wake him. Peeta’s head turns to look at me, squinting in the darkness.

“Katniss?” He asks. He’s sitting up, swinging his legs off the bed and heads over to me. He kneels down to my level. I feel his hands at my knees.

“What’s wrong? Why are you crying?” His words bubble up more sobs that lay within my chest. It’s unbearable at the moment and my emotions pours out of me like a broken dam. I am almost hysterical.

He’s on the floor when he pulls me from the chair and into his lap. He holds me still while my mind is running laps in my head. I cling to him. All the pain of my spiral thinking slipping out of my bones into the air around us.

“Are you hurt?” He says checking my body with his hands. Feeling around for something. “Was it me?”

I have to focus really hard to try and calm myself to answer him. the last thing I want is for him to get the wrong idea.

“N-no Peeta” I whisper.

“We’re okay, Katniss. Please breathe.” He’s rocking me now. Trying his best to soothe me. His hand brushes my hair back. My head moves to the crook of his neck. I grab at him. I don’t want to ever leave this room. I don’t want to face the horror anymore. I want him safe in my arms where the capital can’t touch him. He kisses my hair and it sends electricity through me. With a tear stained face, my lips look for his in the light of the following moon. His kiss is soft. I move to straddle him with my legs on either side of his. I can tell he's a little shocked. The sudden change in my mood was unexpected. I want no moment to go to waste. We only have hours. His back is against the side of the bed, legs straight out on the floor.

“Katniss talk to me.” He holds my face to even with his. Eye to eye, nose to nose. His eyes are looking for answers. I kiss him again. The kiss shows I’m not up for talking. Giving in, he kisses back, spreading my lips with his tongue. Entering my mouth. The stirrings are back, awakened by the evocation, of where this type of kisses can lead. His hands are on my back, at my waist, in my hair, everywhere. I can feel him pressing me down, on to him. I feel with a tug on my hair and a throbbing deep in my core. I moan low and deep. Peeta gasps as I grind my hips on him. My hand roams over his chest, feeling his chest hair. I grind again and I can now feel him swollen and ready. My hand moves to it, rubbing it while trying to free him from his clothing. With success I do. Breaking the kiss to move to my neck he groans my name. His hands pull my nightgown over my head. Throwing it on to the bed, revealing my breasts to him. His mouth covers my right nipple. I’m slightly startled. His mouth is warm and wet. He sucks and licks at me while his hand cups my left. His tip is begging to enter. I move my hips in circles enticing it, raising up on my knees I lower myself. I cry out, as the tip seeps in, the pain is dull but soon fades. Peeta is groaning into my chest.

“My god. I feel like I’m going crazy. How can you feel like this?” He says into my skin.

I slip the rest in. Holding him tightly. I began to rock. We moan loudly together. My lips find his and I breathe into him, letting my body show him just how much I need him. His hands move to my hips, moving me harder. I squeeze my eyes shut. I feel the build up again. The familiar tightening of my muscles.

“Open your eyes. Look at me,” Peeta demands.

I open my eyes and look into his, deep consuming blue.

“I Know you’re close. I can feel you. Let go Katniss. I have you.” He wraps one arm around me and deepens his thrusts into me. A high pitch moan escapes my lips with every thrust I meet. When it finally comes, it’s earth shattering for me. Peeta’s staring the entire time, holding me close, riding it out.

“Katniss I’m so close. I’m gonna lift you,” Peeta says fast.

I don’t ask questions. He yells out as he reaches his explosion. Grabbing my rear lifting me up and off him. His seed shooting onto my thigh. I lower myself down, sitting with his shaft between us. He’s out of breath, wiping sweat from his brow. I’m shaking. The nerves in my body are vibrating.

He lifts me to the bed and pulls me into his arms. I can’t help but think, we are back to square one. The dangers that come in the morning are inevitable. Peeta and I will face it then. I will be strong for him. As he will be strong for me.

“I don’t want what we have on those stages, Peeta,” I says touching his face. “I don’t care how convincing we have to be.”

“So we’ll find a fake but convincing way to show them. Nothing real for the cameras.” He says. I nodded feeling happy we’re on the same page for once in our lives. When I drift I don’t dream. Dreaming of nothing is better than dreaming now in days.

Chapter Text

"Katniss, wake up," Peeta’s shaking me awake.

 

When I open my eyes I see his panicked expression. This alarms me. There's a knock on the door. I sit up or for better words jump up.

 

"Peeta? Is Katniss in there?" Haymitch asks through the door. My heart almost beating out my chest. Peeta looks at me with wide eyes. He's stuck and so am I. What do we do? My expression screams. More knocking follows. Peeta quickly picks up my underwear a yard from the door. I get up to find my nightgown. I find it on the bed only to see red stains on the light blue silk sheets. Great!

 

"Peeta?" Haymitch calls. Peeta hands me my underwear. He notices the stain too and quickly bunches the sheets up to hide it. I pull my nightgown on. Peeta scans the room quickly to make sure he didn't miss anything. I'm breathing hard as if I just ran a mile. I look over to the mirror and see my hair looks like a rats nest.

 

Peeta opens the door and before he can protest Haymitch pushes the door open and walks right in. He's looking at Peeta ready to complain, not noticing me standing by the chair.

 

"Peeta, I’ve been looking for the girl for thirty minutes,"

 

Peeta closes the door behind Haymitch. I think maybe I can go unnoticed when Haymitch looks me dead in the eyes. And for a couple of seconds the air is still. Awaiting. The moment is almost so long that I contemplate on saying something.

 

"She's right here Haymitch." Peeta gesture to me.

 

"Well boy why couldn't you just say-," he pauses and looks at us for a moment. I struggle to keep my composure. But my face gives everything away, portraying a picture that says ‘Something happened’.

 

Haymitch goes to speak but stops, leaving his mouth open. I cross my arms over my chest in frustration.

 

"What just happened?" Haymitch looks puzzled. He points a finger between Peeta and me.

 

"Nothing," I say almost spitting at him, my mood turning sour in my mouth.

 

"No, no, no. Both of you, don't lie to me," Haymitch doesn't buy it. you can see the wheels turning in his head.

 

"Nothing happened Haymitch," Peeta tries to convince him. But Haymitch is too smart for his own good.

 

"Oh yeah? So you both tell me nothing happened yet she looks freshly pounded-" he walks over to me. "-and this blood on her thighs is nothing as well?" He walks over to the bed and rips the bunched blanket off throwing it to the ground. My heart sinks as he points out the evidence.

 

"All right Haymitch, that's enough." Peeta says grabbing the blanket off the floor, putting it back on the bed where the stain stares at me.

 

"Now, I didn't know you two was this close. Katniss, what about all that shit you were giving me the other day about being forced to kiss the boy?"

 

"You both need to be careful. You understand? We have the capital on our head and you’re humping like rabbits, Hopefully this helps your horrible acting, Sweetheart. You both better put on a damn good show because what happened in Eleven is gonna be damn near impossible to reverse." Haymitch is looking at me, I look away. "Both of you, clean yourselves up and come to breakfast… I need a drink." Haymitch walks out and slams the door behind him. Peeta looks at me, eyebrows raised in disbelief. The embarrassment that builds in my stomach bubbles to my throat and I have to breathe hard to relax my muscles. Haymitch want us at breakfast but I don’t know if I can face him again. Peeta reaches a hand out to me. Seemingly trying to comfort me but I pull away. I don’t want to be touched. Not after Haymitch. It’s an unbearable mortified feeling. When I leave his room I don’t look back. Not because I don’t want to, but because I can’t bare the look I know I will on his face. I can still remember the train and the day I confirmed his feelings were unrequited.

 

We shower and dress in our own rooms. At breakfast our silence is deafening. The only sounds are the utensils agence the fancy china. I sit far from Peeta, trying to put as much distance between us. Next to peeta I can feel Haymitch and Effie eyes on me. It's unnerving how the humiliation lingers thick in the air between us all. What happened was clearly not a secret anymore, at least I suspect to Effie its not. It doesn't help that I’m drawn to him. I’d often catch myself brushing hands with his or resting my head on his shoulder. Like magnets. And everytime I notice a heartache in my chest. In the back of my mind I knew we didn't have long. Or in other word I didn't have long. I still had hope for peeta. While we eat, Effie goes over the plans for District Ten. It's pretty much the same schedule as Eleven. We make our speech, kiss for the cameras, eat, and we're back on the train, shipped off to the next District. Effie fills our time up to the rim with tastings, meetings, line drilling. Peeta has the better end of the stick. He remembers his lines perfectly, Even adds a little heart into the boring speeches. I'm the problem, forgetting my lines, refusing to say cheesy speeches about the fallen tributes. By the end of the day I don't even want to look at Effie. The only time I do enjoy myself is with Cinna and even those talks are brief.

At night, I sneak into Peeta's room. We hold each other through the night. Peeta doesn't touch me, in fact he makes it his business to avoid the possibility of us even getting close to repeating that night. When we get ready for bed, he makes sure to put full pajamas on along with a robe. I can't understand why is he trying hard not to be near me. Only touching me when the cameras are on us. When I feel his hand pull away or when he suddenly has to move, I am lost. I try my best to suppress feelings of abandonment. I mentally know that's not the case, though my body tell me otherwise. Tears are shed in the seclusion of my bathroom. I’m toren. At times I feel he wants to reach out to me. When we reach District Four, I am determined to find out the problem is. Why has he avoided me? We are allowed to leave the Justice Building when we are done with our show. I decide to get away for Haymitch and Effie, seeing the beach wouldn't be a bad idea.

 

"Effie, do you mind taking us to see the water?" I ask at dinner. Effie side eyes at Haymitch.

 

"Haymitch, what do you think?" Effie asks an already intoxicated Haymitch. Effie asking Haymitch if it's ok to take us somewhere is strange, she's usually the one with the plans. He nods and waves his hand in dismissal while chugging on a wine bottle. The sun is setting and the orange sky makes me cheerful. Peeta's favorite color. When we arrived we have a hard time trying to convince Effie to follow us on to the sand but we give up altogether when Effie tires to get into the designer of the shoes she's wearing. We just suggest she take them off. She is appalled by the suggestion, stating a woman never takes off her shoes in public.

“Go on, don’t worry about me. Have fun.” Effie says. Shooing us with both hands.

 

The sand is soft on my bare feet and the waves crash loudly. The air tastes salty and cool on my face. Peeta is amazed by the colors and the beauty just as I am.

 

"It's beautiful here," Peeta says. I look at him while he gazes out onto the sea. The sun brightens his eyes, making the deep blue take on a lighter sky blue tone. I know how he is feeling. I’ve never seen such open waters before. Back in District Twelve there is no lake within the fence. Even the lake that is beyond the fence is dorf by the grandness of the wide open sea. It’s almost overwhelming stunning.

 

"It is," I say. Far in the distance there are two children playing, running, and splashing.

 

I grab his hand, holding on with two hands. I pull him towards the water. It brushes my feet and cold to the touch but, after awhile I get use to it and I dip my hands in, wetting them. Then to scare peeta I splash at him. He’s stunned. I’m laughing hard.

“What was that for?” he says. wiping his face with his sleeve. He tires to splash me back but i’m quick and dodge the water. He lets out a yelp, grabbing at his leg where it meets his prosthetic. I’m by his side in a second.

“Peeta, are you alright?” I ask. In a quick swift move I am splashed in the face. It was a trick.

“Now we’re even.” Peeta says. Laughing at me.

 

Peeta is smiling. His best smile, a real smile, I go to move closer to him. The smile tugs at my heart. My lips yearn for his. My hands miss being tangled in his hair. He wraps his arms around my shoulders. Simple delights are all we have, all that is left to us, I place a kiss on his jaw. He closes his eyes. I place another on his cheek. I can see his blush turning him red. When I kiss his lips it's light as a feather.

 

"Peeta?" I ask onto his lips. I can feel him shiver. His eyes open and he's looking at me.

 

"Yes?" He asks.

 

"I need you," I whisper low.
He shakes his head. "Katniss we can't," I'm shocked by his answer. I take a step back.

 

"It's not that I don't want to, Katniss," He says in his defense. Trying to pull me closer.

 

"So then why not?" I say and it sounds a little more venomous than I wanted it to.

 

"Haymitch doesn't think it's a good idea for us to be doing that on the tour." He says. My face grows hot. Haymitch shouldn't be the judge of what happens between us. Peeta shouldn't be listening to Haymitch on what we do behind closed doors. Our choices is our business. I turn to walk back to Effie. Peeta grabs my hand to stop me and I yank it away. If he wants to listen to Haymitch, he can be my guest. He can warm Haymitch’s bed too while he's at it.

 

"Katniss, it's dangerous right now. Some things have to be completely private, maybe when we get home." He says. I stop, some things need to be completely private. There's a meaning under that. And it confirms my dread. While we’re on this train Snow sees everything. He knew about that kiss I shared with Gale. If he knew how important Peeta really is to me, he'd use Peeta. Being this close to the Capitol, being right under Snow’s grasp. Peeta becomes a target because he's my weakness. Snow is not wasteful. If the District aren't convinced, Snow’s eyes will turn to the ones dear to me. Peeta being the first on the list. It's best to keep Peeta as far from it as I can. Maybe someone will survive this. I feel grateful for Haymitch, he always sees the bigger picture.

Chapter Text

At dinner, after we left District One, Haymitch is out of it, Yelling an old tune I don't know. we are still on the train. Effie is going on about some new colored lashes she will be wearing to the president's mansion. I can see Peeta acting as if he's interested. For Effie's sake, It's hard to be bitter to her. It's hard to blame her. Effie's naive nature shelters her from the harsh reality. The things she says just shows how 'in the dark' the capital people really are about life in the Districts.

I try not to look at Peeta but I'm weaker than before. Before things were much easier. Peeta didn't cloud my judgement as much. Before I could think clear about what I had to do. Now Peeta was all I could think about lately. I sit far from him. Sitting next to him in the presence of Haymitch makes me feel like I've been found out. Exposed to the truth. My weakness in all its glory. I don't sneak into his room that night. Instead I go to my own. This new found feeling can only be harmful to us. To dangerous for me to juggle right about now. I find myself wishing we hadn't explored each other. Haymitch is right like always, and as much as my hands ache for him, I will not risk him. I'm going to try harder, Get us home like last time. I can't help but think what is the point? If we are just thrown back on this train.

We are not safe. No matter what happens we're left with the wrong end of the stick. This is my life now. My nightmare.

We head to our last stop, the training center in the capital. The knock on my bedroom door is from Haymitch this morning. He doesn't talk to me, only escorts me to a small room used as a closet. I'm confused as to why we are going into a closet when I see Peeta moving over to make room for us.

"What's going on?" I ask. Before Haymitch closes the door. They both make me jump. Peeta clasps a hand over my mouth. Haymitch's back is to the door. I think how unnecessary this all is. They could've just told me to be discreet. I roll my eyes at Haymitch. Peeta lets me go.

"Leave it up to you sweetheart to be the big mouth," Haymitch whispers.

"So you both are hopefully smart enough to understand why we are talking in a damn closet right now."

My heart sinks. Oh no. I look at Peeta. His hand reaches out to grab mine. The silence is looming.

"The Districts are not convinced. There are rumors about District Eight uprising, and frankly I don't know what else we can do now. Any ideas?"

I cover my mouth. District Eight. Who would've thought. I can admit, I did feel the charge when we were there, I could see the hatred in the people's eyes.

"We can get married," The words fly out of my mouth before I can think about what I'm saying. Moments later my hand drops. Peeta has let me go. When I look at him I see the hurt in his eyes. Haymitch snaps his fingers excitedly, making peeta jump.

"Perfect sweetheart. That's what I'm talking about. Good thinking," haymitch agrees.

"No," Peeta says shaking his head.

"Boy, there's no time to be sulking in your little heart right now. We are on the brink of having our District bombed. We haven't left the games, if you haven't noticed. This is the bigger picture. It's up to you both." No matter how many bottles pass through him, he'll always see truth.

"I said no," Peeta says trying to sound stern. "How could you even suggest that, Katniss? I thought you said 'not for the cameras'." His accusing tone is a blow in the stomach.

"It's not about us Peeta. Think of the people that wait for us back home. We have to protect them. I have to protect Prim." I say. Pushing my hair out of my face, holding it back. Trying to supress the stress building. Peeta lashes out at the cleaning supply to the right him, Knocking it onto the floor.

"Hey hey. Stop. You're gonna let the whole train know we're in here. You both need to just calm down for a minute." Haymitch says, rubbing his temples.

It's a long time before Peeta answers with tearing eyes. "Fine. When do we do this?"

"At the training center." Haymitch says.

We fake it as hard as we can. I squealed and jumped into his arms. He spins me around and places kisses on my hands. My smile is bright and big, so was Peeta's. When Cesar Flickermen asks us if we plan on expanding the family. My hands grow moist. Peeta gives a genuine "I hope so." Nudging Cesar with his elbow. Cesar explodes into laughter and the crowd cheers.

"Not too soon, Peet, you don't want a shotgun wedding. Is that right?" The crowd is whistling and laughing. I'm red though not from embarrassment as it looks to Cesar, but from anger. If I could set the room on fire, I would. Let them all burn. They want Katniss the girl on fire, little do they know what I'd like to do with that fire.

We get a brief time to recollect ourselves and change into our Formal wear. There's an annual banquet at President Snow's mansion.

I make my way to Cinna's studio and he pulls me into a hug. I hug him back.
"How are you?" He asks.

It takes me a minute to gather myself.

"I'm good, just a little overwhelmed," I say.

He brushes my hair back. "Don't worry you'll be home soon Katniss. Just remember Prim. Eyes on the prize." His words are comforting. They remind me why I keep going. I think of Prim sleeping with my mother on our sofa. Her innocent face rests on my mother's lap, my mother running her fingers through her hair. My throat knots. I want to be there with them. To be the one who runs my fingers in her hair, To hear Prim's little laugh. To see her holding a dirty, purring Buttercup. Almost home Katniss.

Cinna shows me the dress I'll be wearing. It's red and black. The flames look to be dancing on the dress. My shoulders are draped with jet black feathers. My hair is done up into multiple braids. They keep the makeup light. When I see myself fully, I feel like one of Cinna's creatures. Beautiful and unrecognizable.

Tonight will be big. I know it. This dress is not made for a giggling schoolgirl. This is a dress is to scowl in. To hate in, to inspire a rebellion I wonder why he would put me in such a fierce costume. I'm supposed to be young and fun and ignorant.

"No twirling tonight, Katniss," he says. I look at him. Why? He understands my unsaid question.

"You'll see why. You'll see it on your own. Just know whatever you decide I'm right with you." He hugs me again, and I'm puzzled. Decide what? Nothing's my choice anymore. Not even my breath.

I shake my head. "There's nothing to decide, Cinna. My decisions are not mine anymore."

"Oh, but that's where you're wrong Katniss. They are entirely yours. You'll understand soon enough."

He doesn't understand the circumstances. He doesn't know how backed to the wall I am.

Chapter Text

Before we head into the banquet we are coached by Effie. She explains that all this, the party, the food, the people, is for us. How we should be grateful. She goes on to say it's our day to shine and hers as well. Peeta holds my hand walking in. There are lights of all sorts of colors flickering and moving. People are spitting fire and eating flames. We approach a crowd of Capital citizens all done up crazy with their colors and hair. The crowd parts for Peeta and I. People are smiling and congratulating us. They grab my hands and pat me on the back. I hold Peeta's hand tight. The close contact makes my skin crawl. I want to brush them off me. In fact, I'd like to do more, but I don't, I'm on camera. All I want is to get back on that train alive with Peeta right by my side. The crowd breaks and I see him.

President Snow, standing in the clearing. I nearly stop dead in my tracks, if it wasn't for Peeta's steady arm wrapped around my waist. I hate this man, as well as fear him. He is a snake on two legs that is ready to slip himself around my family, threatening to take their very existence from me. He extends his hand to Peeta to shake. I can't speak, can't think. They're too close. The mouse under the cats nose. When Snow turns to me I am smiling. I won't let him see my fear. He holds both his hands out to me and I shakily take them. He kisses the top of each of my hands. Looking me in the face. My eyes ask what my lips cannot. To answer my silent question, his grip hardens and I can feel my fingers being crushed. He's smiling when he shakes his head lightly.

The hairs on my neck stand straight up. I can feel the blood drain from my face. No! I have failed. Not only did I fail but I had made him angry

"I wanted to welcome our newest Victors to my home. I'm not one for parties but, I couldn't miss the chance to see the newest piece to our collection again. Congratulations on your engagement." He announces in a booming voice. I am stuck. His hands never let go throughout his little speech. Peeta notices and his jaw tightens as he stands helpless. There is nothing he can do. The pain in my hand is proof we failed. Proof we are doomed. The music starts and the cameras roll over to the musicians. Cinna's words flashes through my thoughts.

'Oh but that's where you're wrong Katniss. They are entirely yours. You'll understand soon enough.'

My dress was not made for twirling I remind myself, but to scare and shock. I feel the anger build deep in me. My hand grips Snows hands back tightly, and I stare him dead in the eyes. I know what Cinna means now. I know he wanted me to decide for myself. If I wanted to participate in this rebellion. Cinna understands how dangerous this will be, and needed me to officially decide. I want in. If they are going to kill me, let it be with my mouth full of spite. I stand up straight. If they want me, then I'm there.

"Do what you have to do then," I say through my teeth. He let's go quickly asif my hands where a hot pan. As soon as he lets go Peeta grabs my waist pulling me away, but I never remove my eyes from Snow.

"Katniss, stop," Peeta whispers, into my ear. I want to push Peeta to the side and run at Snow, but I know it wouldn't end well. He says nothing, only stares back at me. Peeta pulls me into the crowd. The people around us are pleased to see us giving us room to watch the music. Peeta is holding both of my hands and softly petting them, trying to soothe me. But the attempt is wasted. I can still feel Snow on my hands, see his puffy red lips. Nausea creeps from my stomach. My face is red and I feel the pain in my spine again. I am furious. Peeta is brushing my arm now trying his best to do what he can to calm me. I look around for Cinna. I want him to know what I've decided.

"Katniss, Love? Would you like something to drink?" Peeta asks in a even voice. There's no doubt he's trying his best to get my mind out of its internal spiral. I nod because I know if I say anything it'll come out harshly. I won't take it out on him. When we reach a table there is an array of choices. Everything from water to liquor. He reaches for a water and hands it to me. I set it down reaching for the wine.

"No, Katniss," Peeta says. Grabbing the wine glass from my hand.

"Give it to me," I say slow. I know I'm being stubborn but I don't care. He shakes his head while handing over the glass. I gulp it without hesitation. It's sweet and I reach to grab another.

"Not so fast," Peeta stops me. "Let's eat a little and then we'll come back" He pauses for some time then says. "We'll figure something out-," At that moment Effie walks up to us. With a pair of yellow hair, green eyed twins.
"Oh Katniss, I wanted you to meet Terra and Clerra. It's funny because I can't tell who's whom." The twins along with Effie laughs

"Nice to meet you Girl on fire. We wear your pin in our hair tonight." They say and wave their hands to their hair.

"Nice to meet you," I say fast.

"Effie, where's Haymitch?" Peeta takes the words out my mouth.

"Having too much fun in the garden," She says quickly.

Peeta lets me go. I feel needles in my feet and my heart jumps.

"Peeta, no," I reach out for him. Panicking.

"I'll be right back Katniss, I'm going to get Haymitch,"

"Peeta, please don't," I grip him closer. I won't let him out of my sight.

He looks to Effie, and she huffs.

"Alright Terra,Clerra, it was nice seeing you two again. Have a good night ladies," She dismisses them. When they are out of sight she looks at us.

"What's happened?" She asks.

"Effie, we need Haymitch. We'll all talk when we have the chance," Peeta is looking around for the others. Effie is talking to herself about getting promoted when she walks off. I turn and grab another drink, and pass it to Peeta.

"I need to keep a clear head," He says.

"Peeta, if they were going to kill us here they would've done it already. Drink with me," He looks for a moment contemplating whether or not it's a good idea. When he takes the glass he chucks it back.

"Well, if I'm gonna drink, I might as well catch up," he says pulling me close.

He makes sure I eat, coaxing me to take another bite. But the wine has my undivided attention. The feelings dare to bubble to the surface. Drowning them seems to be the only solution at the moment, and after a while everything seems lighter and easier to handle. I'm swimming in my head though I'm not alone. Peeta is wrapped around me telling jokes and laughing. When we finally see Haymitch he's being carried by two avoxes to the couch near us.

"Oh great. He's out before the lights." I'm laughing. Hanging on to Peeta. He grabs another wine glass and raises it to toast. I do the same.

"To doing everything wrong." We clink and drink. Throughout the night I dismiss every Capital that comes up to me. I'm not playing for the cameras anymore. Some time after we see the others. Our prep teams seem to be watching us closely. They are not the usual chatter boxes they are, instead they are calm and alert. But, where is Cinna? He's missing from his normal place next to Portia. My fuzziness turns into dizziness, and I feel sick again. In the back of my mind I don't want to tell Peeta. I want to keep the fun going. Making fun of the people here was the best part. But I can't risk being sick in front of Effie. I'm sure shes had enough of it from Haymitch, Effie will probably lose it.

"Peeta, I'm gonna be sick," I tell him.

He grabs my hand and we half walk, half stumble to the restroom.

We reach the stalls when I feel I can't hold it in anymore and I almost don't make it. Peeta's rubbing my back, passing me tissues and telling me everything's okay. When I'm done, I'm able to rinse my mouth at the sinks. I look up in the mirror. I can see Peeta behind me looking into the eyes of my reflection. His hands caress around my waist. His chest to my back. I let my head fall back on to his shoulder. His face is in my neck kissing and licking. I push my bottom out against him. Our days of torment are at an end what's the point of holding back. If today's my last night then it should be with Peeta. I turn looking him in the eyes. We're both intoxicated. My lips kiss his. Sloppy but still enticing. When I feel his tongue I am set ablaze. My hands knot in his hair. My fingers have longed for him too long. He deepens the kiss picking me up, setting me on the sink. I spread my legs letting him in. He pulls me closer. My dress is in the way, stopping Peeta from getting as close as we'd like.

"No! no! This is completely unacceptable!" Effie pulls us apart. "It's time to go. I can't stand another minute of this." She's mad. Separating us, she looks appalled. She grabs both our hands walking us out of the bathroom. "You're lucky no one saw you two. Completely no manners. Going at it in the restroom like wild animals. Who knows what I would have walked into if I waited a bit longer?" Peeta chuckles. Our prep teams our waiting for us at the door. Cinna is back and he winks at me. I wink back.

We are back on the train by one in the morning. We're all tired. The day has taken so much out of us. I walk back to Peeta's room, slipping my shoes off, and trying to undo my hair. I almost mad at Cinna for making it so hard to do when I feel Peeta's hands come to the rescue. My hair falls wild and kinked around my face. Peeta moves to the buttons on my dress. When my dress is off, I feel freed. His fingers roam my back, his lips on my shoulder. He's still fully clothed, and I change that hastily. I have to stop for a minute as Peeta's sways and has to hold onto me for support. Eventually, he's in just his briefs

"Oh boy, Katniss we really made a mess of things," He says rubbing his face.

"I don't want to think about that now," I say.

I lead him to the bed. He flops onto it, resting his eyes. I climb upon him, straddling him. I know he's tired but I need him. Putting no time to waste, I pull him free. He's soft. I know how to change that. I lick and kiss at his ear. Running my hands over his stomach. He's mine and always will be. I think to myself.

In seconds he's hard. And I get to see him fully now. The room is dimly lit from the small lamp by his bed and warm. Lit just enough so I can see all of him. I move to take off my underwear. And when I'm back straddling him again he makes an effort to look at me. He tries to sit up, and I push him down. His hands go to my hips, then up my belly and back down to my waist. I remove my bra exposing my breasts to him.

"Oh Katniss. You never know what you do to me," He's says.

I drag my fingers down his chest touching his nipple, feeling his stomach. Peeta looks so handsome. His hair is wild and his face relaxed. I bring my lips to his. His fingers lace into my hair hardening the kiss making it wet. I move to his neck and suck hard. He cries out. His hands move to my rear and pulling me close.

"You're mine," I whisper into his neck.

He groans at me. Moving his hand forward until he reaches my lips. My body is ignited. is skilled hands know what to do. His lips find my ear and he kisses at the base of it. He bucks his hips rubbing his shaft a long my clitoris. I moan into his ear, and I feel him twitch. My mind is spinning. I have to stop to compose myself. I can't move too fast or I'll be in the bathroom again. We don't wait long because I'm positioning him. I wet him with myself, like he did our first night together. Peeta nods in approval. When I take him I flinch still not quite used to him. The pain lasts only for a second, and then I'm feeling the stirrings again. Deep in my chest I feel a pang. I want more, I want to live in his arms. I want his voice, his smell, his emotion. I come to an overall conclusion, I want his love. I can't say I love him in return but I can accept his love. He doesn't just please me, He makes love to me. Every kiss, touch, thrust, was out of care. I feel invincible with him. He is most definitely my life source and my fuel to keep fighting. Without him there would be no girl on fire. I'd be dead long before that reaping, along with my sister and mother. I ride him in gratitude. My savior. Always mine. I feel ashamed for ever feeling for another. His eyes have always been on me. Always longed for me.

"You look incredible." He moans. I flush.

Quickening my pace he's holding me tight. I'm so close to my end when he yells out bucking, meeting my hips. I go harder trying to get there. I wanna be with him. Then he's stopping me.

"K-Katniss hold on." He is trying to hold me still.

"No," I bring myself down.

He sits up stopping me altogether. He flips me into my back.

"Peeta, please," I grab at him to push back in.

"I can't just right now. I need some time," I think how unfair this is. But it's not long before he opens my legs, sliding a finger in me and it's back. I'm close again. He adds another. Pumping me. I'm shocked completely when he brings his lips to me, tasting me. I'm practically moaning at the top of my lungs. My fingers are in his hair. Trying my best to hold him. When I'm at my peak I can't yell. I can't breathe. I am stuck in the pleasure of his tongue. When I'm able to voice anything I don't. Peeta's looking up at me smiling.

"Happy?" He asks me. I nod. My mind is blown. Who would've thought you can do that. Why haven't we done that earlier. He wipes his mouth onto the sheet. My stomach cringes. I have to look away in embarrassment.

"Is the taste bad?" I ask mortified.

"No but it tastes much different than I'd expected it to taste. It's sort of tastes like strawberries." My cheeks are hot. And I move my hands to cover my face. He moves up to me and pulls my hand away from my face. "here, taste." He says bringing his lips to mine. I hesitate. Feeling uncomfortable, but give into the curiosity, I lean in.

He is right. It sort of does. He laughs as he moves away.

"If you could only see your face right now. I swear it's priceless." He says, moving to lay next to me. I'm embarrassed pulling the sheet to my chest, pushing him away.

"I didn't mean to tease you," He pulls me to him.

I push on him again. "Where did you even learned to do that?" I say mad.

"Well, for the record, I didn't really know what I was doing. I mostly was just winging it. My brothers sort of taught me. Rye is a bit involved with the ladies at home. There was a time my father once got a shipment of melons. I remember my brothers joking around one day. Who ever got all the seeds in their mouth was the best at pleasuring girls with their...mouth." He laughs at the memory. "I didn't do it. Half way into Rye's demonstration my mother walked in. And well... we got the beating of a lifetime. I was 13 at the time. Growing up with older brothers the topic was a little hard to miss." I'm smiling at the story. Stupid boys, trying to corrupt my Peeta. I kiss his lips. Tomorrow we'll be home. Not safe but at least among people I love and trust.

Chapter Text

In the morning I am sick. In Peeta's bathroom on my knees. I hold the white toilet tightly. My dry heaving is loud. Just when I think I'm done it starts up again. Curse that wine. I don't know how can Haymitch do this every day. He must be used to it. My stomach aches from the strain. I get up to turn on the shower, quickly getting in. I lower myself to the floor, letting the water beat on my back. The cool water is refreshing. my mind returns to last night. I've told Snow to do what he has to, kill me. But how will they? Will they keep my family out of this, or will they use them? Snow practically let me walk right out of his grasp. Even after what I said. I want to believe it was in my head, yet my hands tell the truth. They are sore. I open and close them, assessing the damage. Just sore.

"Are you ok?" Peeta asks. I yelp and jump, startled, hitting my left knee on the door of the shower.

"Sorry Katniss I didn't mean to scare you," Peeta says rushing over to me. Passing me a towel.

"You don't know how to knock Peeta?" I say. Getting up and stepping out of the shower. I wrap the towel around myself.

"I did," He says. Turning off the shower.

"The answer to your question is yes, I'm fine. The wine got to me a little hard," I say moving over to the mirror.

"You sure it was the wine?" He says with a smile, moving to the bathroom door. I whip around. My cheeks are beet red.

"Get out." I say, gesturing for him to leave. Peeta's laughing when he exits the bathroom.

When we arrive in Twelve, it's lightly snowing. There's a chill in the air. It settles on my cheeks cooling my nerves. We are ushered into vehicles. We won't get to see our families until the dinner tonight.

I'm wearing a silver dress. My hair falls loose down my back, with a big fur coat. When we get to Mayor Undersee's house we are greeted by the Mayor, his wife, and Madge. When Madge sees me, she sweeps me up into a big hug. It feels calming. Madge is my friend. Though we're not very close, I'm very grateful to have her.

"Welcome home, Katniss," She says sincerely, and I welcome it. If I'm gonna die, let it be at home.

At dinner Madge, Peeta, and I talk about stuff we'd missed in our district. She tells me about power outages, shortages in almost everything from oil to grain. In my head I know it's most likely because of the other Districts uprising. But who? Which Districts? I can guess District Eleven or even District Nine.

In the middle of the table sits a bowl of strawberries. Gale comes to mind. For a second I think he sold Madge the strawberries. But then I remember strawberries are not in season. My mood goes from cheery to worried. Being back home will be tricky, like a walk around land mines. I know I cannot abandon Peeta again as I did the first time we came off the train. I will not abandon Peeta.

Just then I see Prim's face. Her hair in one braid. She wears a mint green dress. A dark coat is draped over her arm. My mother is standing behind her dressed in her usual, brown skirt and a white blouse. I see them before they see me. When Prim finally notices we run into each other's arms.

"I missed you so much." Prim says into my shoulder.

"I know. I missed you too. I'm home now. I'm right here," I say brushing her hair with my hand.

"You look beautiful," she says, reaching for my dress.

"Thank you Prim," I say and kiss her forehead.

Having her here with me lifts a weight off my chest. To know she's safe dulls the worry. Prim exchanges embraces with Madge and Peeta. My mother follows.

When Peeta's father walks in, Peeta looks happy to see him. Their embrace is long and heart felt. I can't help but think that they must be the two kindest people in Twelve. His father greets everyone and when I think I'm going to get a hand shake, I'm greeted with a warm embrace. He smells like Peeta. Bread and cinnamon. Peeta's mother never shows. I can think of a few reasons why. Two of which we do not say aloud. I don't think Peeta cares much about it. I know if she had come tonight it wouldn't be easy going. The woman has always found a problem. When dinner is served, they place a stew in front of me. I am nauseated by the smell. I have to go so far as to excuse myself to get some air. Outside it's cold but comfortable. I can stand a little cold. I start to feel better. When I'm about to go back inside I see Prim walking towards me.

"Prim, it's cold. What you doing out here?" I ask.

"I was looking for you," She says standing next to me. My queasiness is slowly diminishing.

"You both seem different," she has a good eye for things like that. She can read a room better than I.

"Yeah... Things are different...I don't know what to say," I tell her. She looks at me, a small smile on her face.

"Come back inside with me, let's have some dessert," Prim says, reaching for my hand. I go with her.

After the dinner. Prim and I walk a little ways ahead from Peeta, my mother, and a stumbling Haymitch. Peeta's father had to leave the dinner early for the bakery. Leaving just Prim, my mother, Peeta and Haymitch to walk home.

Arms locked together. Prim tells me about Posy catching the measles. How she went to Gale's house everyday to take care of Posy. The thought of Gale pangs in my chest. I don't know how he's gonna take the engagement, or Peeta. I guess I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. Prim goes on about a possum Buttercup dragged into the house. It nearly gave my mother and Prim a heart attack when they saw the dead possum being dragged into our living room. I laugh because the thought of my mother jumping on to the dinning table is hilarious.

"Is she telling you about what that cat did Katniss?" My mother questioned from behind me. I turn laughing harder, nodding.

"Nearly scared me half to death. The possum looked bigger than Buttercup. We had to get Rory to come remove it." I'm laughing tears now.

"And what did Rory do with the possum?" Peeta asks.

"I'm not sure, I think he took it to Hazelle." My mother say. Prim is nodding.

"They cooked it,"

Rory apparently has been around more often. Having dinner with my mother and Prim. Helping with groceries and coming to the rescue. I think it's sweet, but he's never really been close to us. I wonder what changed his mind?

When we reach the Victors Village. I feel calm. I can't wait to climb into my bed and to sleep at home again. We are a few yards from our house when I see Gale. Sitting on the steps of the porch. A dark coat covers his frame. His hands are in his pockets trying to keep them warm. When he sees me, he rushes to me, hugging me tightly. I hug him back.

"Thank you," I whisper to him.

"No problem," he whispers back.

"Let's get you inside, where it's warm," my mother says. Prim, my mother, Gale, and Haymitch file into the house. When I look for Peeta I find he is walking to his. Before he is too far, I catch his hand.

"Peeta, where are you going?" I ask.

"Oh... I just thought you wanted family time," He says looking down fidgeting with the sleeve of his coat.

"I do," I say. Giving him a smile.

When we are in the house I see Prim cooing to a happy Buttercup in the middle of the sofa. The fireplace is on. My mother passing Haymitch a glass of wine as he sits at our dinning table. I shudder. I'll never touch wine again. I still feel sick from it. Gale's in the kitchen filling a pot with water, making tea. Home seems to fall back to place. I grab Peeta's and my coat hanging them by the door. I can't help but think what place Peeta holds in this picture of my family. Where would he fit.

I want to stand at this doorway and watch my family live. The warm house is inviting. Peeta grabbing the sugar off the island hands it to an surprised Gale. For a second they stare at each other. I suspect an internal dialogue happening in each of their heads. I look away because, the two of them together makes me uncomfortable. They are big men. They are both are just going to have to deal with each others company. I sit down next to Prim and Buttercup protests, hissing at me.

"Heard you bring home game now," I say petting him roughly on the head. He jumps out of Prim's lap, running into the kitchen. Prim giggles at the joke.

"You scared him," she says. Moving to place her head into my lap. I longed for this moment. My heart fills. Peeta walks to us with two mugs of tea in his hands.

"Peeta can you put mine on the end table?" Prim asks. Peeta sets Prim's mug down. Handing me the other. It's steaming and smells of peppermint and chamomile.

"Thank you Peeta," I look up at him. He gives me a smile and walks off. My mother and Haymitch join us with mugs of their own, chatting about teas that help hangovers. I make a mental note to ask my mother about more later.

Gale comes to sit at Prim's feet on the sofa, spreading out. Leaving no room for Peeta to sit. I roll my eyes. How can he be so childish sometimes? When Peeta comes back, drink in his hand he hesitates. I pull my feet up and grab a pillow from behind me and place it against the side of the sofa at my knees. Slowly, as if not to bother anyone he sits on the floor at my legs, his blonde hair covers my view of the lit fireplace. At the corner of my eye I can see Gale's jaw tighten. I know this will be a problem, he won't keep to himself for long. Peeta's back touches my knees. A small chuckle comes from Prim. She's looking at Gale, who's looking at Peeta in front of me. Nudging him with her feet, I join her giggles. Peeta looks back at me.

"What's so funny?" Peeta asks.

I shake my head. Prim laughs harder.

"Oh boy," Prim says, patting my thigh.

Oh boy is definitely right Prim. I think. This will be a long Winter.

Chapter Text

Around one in the morning everyone started to leave my house. Prim and I fell asleep right where we are. Haymitch was the first to go, taking the bottle with him. I lay half asleep on the couch with Prim. She lays behind me dreaming. Gale tells me 'bye' by brushing my hair with his hand.

"I'm leaving Catnip," sleepily I grab his hand squeezing it. I hear him leave.

"Peeta, do you want to stay here tonight? I can prepare the spare room," My mother says softly. I hear a shuffle.

"Thank you Mrs. Everdeen, but I'll get going." Peeta says.

"Ok Peeta, be safe. Goodnight," I can hear her footsteps fade down the hallway. Soon after I feel Peeta's hands at mine, his lips on my forehead. I want to reach out to him and tell him to stay but don't. The kiss burns my forehead. When I hear the door close, I know he's gone. Later that night I'm awake because of Prim, she's tossing. Sweat covers her forehead. I can see she's having a bad dream. I shake her.

"Prim, wake up. It's just a dream," I say softly trying to soothe her awake.

When she awakens her face floods with relief. I lay back and let out a breath. Even now, I can't protect her from the dreams. They plague us both. I feel helpless, because like her I am lost. When I went into the games. It didn't just affect me. It affected Prim as well. I know how those dreams can feel. I try my best to keep them away. I run my fingers through her hair to calm her and myself.

"Katniss?" She whispers into the dimly lit living room. "Yes Prim?"

"How do you make the dreams stop?" She ask. This catches me off guard. I try to think of what would help with the dreams. My dreams stop when I'm with Peeta. I hesitate. I don't want to tell her this but I don't see the harm.

"Peeta makes them stop," I whisper. Almost not wanting her to hear it. There's a long pause.

"Why?" She ask.

"Because... he makes me feel safe," my words are delicate. I can't help but start to feel emotional. It's embarrassing. How easy it is to get tears out of me.

"Do you love him?" Prim asks. She reaches for my hand, trying to comfort me.

"I don't know, Prim," I say truthfully.

When I wake, Prim is gone. I'm still in the silver dress from yesterday. The house smells of cheese and bread. Slowly the scent invades my stomach. I know what's coming, I'm running to the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. I vomit what little was left in my stomach from dinner into the toilet. I feel clammy and My nerves shaking. I know it's a stomach virus. I feel feverish. The cool bathroom floor feels nice against my hot skin. I decide to shower and go up stairs to dress for the day. If I'm found out, Prim or my mother will try to keep me in bed to rest. So I choose not to tell them. It's better not to worry them. When I head down stairs Peeta is in my kitchen. Pulling out a tray of buns from the oven.

"Good morning, Peeta." I say. He sets the tray on the island.

"Good morning. I thought you woke up a while ago." He says chuckling.

"Yeah but I was still in yesterday's dress... where's Prim?" I ask.

"Your mother and Prim went to check on Posy. Her fever came back this morning so they asked me if I can stay with you until you woke up. I thought you'd be up earlier. I was going to make some breakfast but I guess dinner is fine." He tells me. I'm surprised. Dinner? I've been sleeping the whole day.

"They should be getting back by Seven. I should be done with dinner by then." He says. I smile. He's sweet for making dinner.

I hear a knock on the door. I think it could be Prim. When I open the door it's Gale and a full game bag.

"Hey, what did you get?" I ask excited. He steps in.

"I found some turkeys, they just walked right past me Katniss, you should have seen it," He says smiling walking over to the kitchen.

"Oh man. I should have been there," I say.

When Gale sees Peeta his smile vanishes. He looks completely annoyed. He roughly throws the game bag to the floor.

"Hello Gale," Peeta says politely.

Gale rolls his eyes and looks at me. I'm quite annoyed by his demeanor. It's rude. I can see Peeta looks uncomfortable.

"Stop," I say crossing my arms. I won't stand for this. Gale is jealous. I get it, but don't be rude. Peeta's done nothing wrong but try to coexist with Gale. Even now it could get ugly if Peeta fed into Gales disrespect. But he won't.

"Stop Katniss? Stop? How about you stop?" Gale says, Pointing at me.

"How long you gonna do this?" He asks gesturing to Peeta.

I feel my blood begging to boil. I'm trying to keep my cool. Breathing even. I don't want to have this conversation in front of Peeta. In fact, I never want to have this conversation at all.

"I'm not doing anything. Peeta's here because I want him here. That's nobody's decision but mine and his. Don't be rude. You were fine with him last night." I say.

"Because I thought it was for only last night," He says just as mad.

"Should I go?" Peeta asks.

"No," I say at the same time Gale says "yes." a little too sternly.

"Leave." Gale says stepping towards Peeta.

I feel myself control slipping. In that moment I push Gale roughly. I am shocked directly after. Peeta wraps his arms around me, pulling me away. I've never done that to Gale. I thought I never would. Gale's face shows hurt. He's shocked too. Tears are building in my eyes. I want to say sorry, And that I didn't mean it. He's shaking his head. I can see the 'how dare you' in his eyes. I feel I've betrayed my best friend, but I couldn't let Gale act like that. I know now I can't let them hash it out on their own. I can already see the side eye they are giving each other. Gale will not hold back his disrespect and I know Peeta will sit here and take it. Gale is strong but so is Peeta. If Gale lashed out Peeta would let him. They're so different, Peeta is soft, emotional, loyal ready to die along side me. Gale is hard, stern, fierce, loyal like Peeta, but out of duty and most of all, Gale was rebellious. I know why he feels the way he does. I'm not blind. Just yesterday it was funny, maybe a little sweet. But today his fire is prominent, and outweighing his good qualities. I won't let him bully Peeta.

I hear giggling from outside. It's Prims soft laugh. I gather myself moving from Peeta's embrace. I look out the window to see Rory and Prim standing on the porch. Rory's arm is around Prim's shoulder. Her face is red from blush and she is smiling. He looks so much like Gale, not his height just yet, but he is tall and lean. I can see Gale's smirk on Rory's face. Rory was definitely a Hawthorne. He was younger then Prim by a few months. This coming Reaping will be his first. I'm smiling at the picture of our siblings getting along, when Rory leans in and places a kiss on her lips. I am utterly shocked. The anger that I tried hard to subdue with Gale is back with a vengeance. I'm flinging the door open before I know it.

"Primrose!" I scream and she jumps back from Rory. Gale comes out.

"What are you doing!" I ask. Grabbing Prim's hand pulling her to the side.

"What happened?" Gale asks confused.

"They were... they... they were kissing, Gale! She's Twelve!" I say.

"Prim, get in the house now!" I yell. Prim pulls her hand away from me.

"It wasn't her fault, I kissed her." Rory says moving away from Gale.

"No I kissed him!" Prim says, trying to take the blame.

"Rory, you are in so much trouble when we get home!" Gale yells.

"We did nothing wrong, I love Prim!" Rory says, and Prim gasps next to me. I roll my eyes.

"You don't know what love is Rory, you're too young!" Gale shouts at him.

"And you do?" Rory asks with spite. Gale and I both know what he's asking.

"Chasing after a Girl who doesn't love you! That's what love is?" Rory stomps off. It's a low blow.

Gale's face turns red and he punches the pillar of the porch. I pull Prim inside. Tears are running down her cheek. Peeta is standing in the kitchen, shocked. A lot has happened in too little amount of time. Prim is ripping off her coat and throwing it to the ground.

"How can you do that to me?" She says pointing at the door. Her face is red, her tears fall.

"Go to your room." I say, turning my face. I'm starting to cry and don't want to show her. I don't ever like speaking to her this way. She is my sister and discipline was hard, although she never really needed discipline. She was always a good child. I can hear her sobbing while she walks up the steps and my heart breaks seeing her like that. How can I be such a hypocrite. Just because I have problems with love doesn't mean she should to.

I should have handled that better, but my emotions where so high. I cry into my hands. I feel completely horrible. How could I yell at her like that?

Peeta's arms wrap around me. I had almost forgotten he was there. His face is in my neck.

"It's gonna be ok Katniss. Just calm down." Peeta says into my ear.

"I never spoke to her like that. I never screamed at her. Peeta I never had too." I say through sobs. He rubs circles on my back soothing me.

"Katniss, she's growing up. She'll be a woman soon and she'll have to make her own decisions. She'll always be your Prim." Peeta's words are cooing, and he's right. Prim will turn into a woman someday sooner than I like. It's not fair of me to take her choices from her because of my own personal reasons.

I kiss him. For being so helpful with Prim, for being so patient with Gale.

"Thank you," I say and he nods.

"I'm going to finish dinner. You go talk to her. She needs you right now." He turns to the kitchen.

When I reach Prim's bedroom door I knock.

It's silent inside. I wait a couple of moments.

"Prim, I'm sorry," I say to her through the door. I hear footsteps approach the door and I think she's going to open it, but she doesn't.

"I won't tell mom, it'll just be between us." I say.

"Thank you Katniss," She says. My chest swells, and my eyes water. My emotions are everywhere today.

"Gale's going to tell Hazelle, and she'll tell mom," Prim says and I can hear her sniffle.

"I'll talk to Gale. I'm sure he'll agree," I say.

"Just want you to be smart. Boys are a pretty hard subject to deal with. I just don't want you to get your heart broken." I slide against the door, sitting down on the floor.

"Rory is good Katniss. He's brave and kind. I don't think he'll hurt me." Prims voice is right at my ear. Rory better not.

"Ok Prim if you say so then I believe you." I'm trying to reassure her that I trust her.

"Just no kissing for a while," I say quickly.

"Ok... but I didn't know Rory was going to do that, that was my first kiss." My heart breaks when she says this. I stole the experience from her turning it sad. Just like my experience was stolen by the Capitol, broadcast throughout all of Panem. I volunteered for those games so Prim could live and have a life and here I was, yelling at her for living one.

"I'm so sorry Prim, I feel terrible." I'm trying to use my hands to wipe away my tears but they continue to flow with no end.

"It's ok Katniss. I'm sorry too." She whispers.

When I compose myself I walk down stairs to Peeta. The food smells good and I'm starving.

"She won't open the door to me but she forgives me." I say defeated.

"I'll bring this to her then," Peeta says holding a prepared plate of mashed potato and cheese buns with some turkey. I nod. Peeta will be the best choice right now. When Peeta comes back he prepares two plates for us. We sit in the living room eating in silence. I eat everything and go back for more. When I'm done Peeta brings our plates to the sink to soak. On the sofa I lay on Peeta.

"I'm sorry about Gale," I say into his chest.

"It's ok Katniss, in a way I sort of knew that was gonna happen, it was a matter of when," He whispers to me. He's petting my hair when I drift, another night on this damn sofa.

Review please :)

Chapter Text

It's late when I hear my mother come home. I hear her drop her keys on the island and sigh. I lay on the sofa wrapped in Peeta's warm embrace, my head on his chest, he's asleep. I sit up a little trying to see where she is. She is still in the kitchen with both hands on the island and her head down. I slip out of Peeta's arms without waking him, and walk over to my mother. She doesn't see me approach. When she looks up, she jumps.

"Katniss, you scared me," She says holding her heart.

"Sorry mom, I should have made some noise," I say.

She looks to the living room, seeing Peeta's sleeping body draped on the couch. I always like when he's asleep, I can look at him as long as I want. My mother cocks her head admiring Peeta.

"When I was younger I almost married that boy's father. Peeta looks very much like his father when he was younger. Though he's much stronger than his father was. I guess he must have gotten that from his mother." She says. I'm shocked. She doesn't like to talk about the past, but when she does it's always so interesting. I knew she was engaged to Peeta's father when she was younger, because Peeta told me in the games. It is one of the unspoken reasons his mother didn't come to the dinner.

"It's funny sometimes, how it turned out," She says, pointing a finger between Peeta and me. I give her a small smile, then look at Peeta.

"How's Posy?" I ask. She sighs, rubbing the back of her neck.

"She's doing better, but Hazelle doesn't have food at the moment. I tried giving her money to get some, but Gale refused it. His hours at the mines aren't enough, and Posy needs the food. I figured it had something to do with-," she gestures her hand towards Peeta. "-So I told Hazelle that I'll send Prim with some money when Gale's not around," She says rubbing a ache in her hand. Gale is impossible. He took care of my family when I needed him the most. But now he won't take money from me because I choose to have Peeta around. We need to talk alone if I want him to listen. He's to busy beating on his chest to see things don't have to be this way.

"I don't understand sometimes," I say looking down.

"I can say the same," she says. Moves to walk up the stairs when she stops and turns.

"Just talk to him Katniss," She says and walks up to her room. I look at Peeta still asleep. I knew having Peeta close was going to be trouble. I just didn't know how much.

In the morning I woke up feeling nauseated but I wasn't sick. I take it as a good sign that I'm getting better and there is no need to tell my mother. Peeta is making tea in the kitchen.

"Good morning," I say.

He hands me a cup of tea with a cheese bun.

"I have to help out with the bakery today. I would love to stay but my father says Rye's not feeling well, and I should help with the preparation," Peeta says, watching me eat.

"Do you want me to come?" I ask. Lately, I've been getting anxiety when he's not in my sight. I know Snow is plotting something, it's just a matter of when. I want to be ready when it happens. He looks down guiltily.

"I would love you to come... I just don't want to upset my mother," He says. I roll my eyes. That lady is difficult. I don't understand how Peeta's father can stay with a woman like that. "It's not that I care what she thinks, it's just my father. He won't hear the end of it," He continues. I frown. I have to let Peeta go today. Before he leaves he kisses my cheek goodbye. I'd personally like something a little more, but I settle. Since we've been home, all I get are dry pecks on the forehead or cheek.

When Peeta leaves, I prepare to go hunting. I get dressed in my father's hunting jacket and boots and head to the fence.

In the woods my head is clear and the little bit of nausea is completely gone. I shoot extra today so I can bring the extra game to Hazelle. When I reach Gale's house I can hear Vick playing inside. He's laughing and making dog noises. I knock, knowing Gale's not home. He's underground today and won't be able to reject the food and money.

Vick opens the door up. He's holding an old stuffed dog in his hands.

"Hello Vick, where's your mother?" I ask. He points down the hall. When I find her, she's elbow deep in laundry water. She sees me and smiles but doesn't stop her work.

"Katniss, it's good to see you," She's says.

"It's good to see you too. I heard from my mother that you need some food. There's a turkey and a few rabbits in here," I say.

"Thank you dear. I'll be out in a minute, I can make you tea if you like?" She asks.

"Oh no thank you Hazelle. I should be getting home. Would you ask him to stop by my house when he gets a chance," I ask.

"No problem Katniss, I'll tell him," She says. When I'm home I shower and slip into a nightgown. I haven't slept in proper pajamas since the train. It feels good. My mother cooks dinner with the rabbits I hunted earlier. It's just the three of us at dinner, talking about Prim's goat lady.

"We have to get lady pregnant before Summer," Prim says.

"So you want me to take her next week?" I ask.

"Yes please. To the goat man, near the east entrance to the mines" She says

"Next to the slag heap?" I ask and she nods. After dinner my mother and Prim wash up and head to bed. I'm awake and staring out the window at Peeta's house. It's dark with no signs of life. He must still be with his father. I remember the time he gave me cookies, right before the games, how I thrown them out the window of the train. I regret it. The sweet man was just being kind, yet I couldn't see that at the time. I don't understand how Peeta can grow up with such a bitter mother. I guess the love of his father out shined her hate. There is a heavy knock on the door. I think Peeta must be coming to say goodnight but when I open the door it's Gale. Immediately my nose is hit with the smell of liquor. My stomach is lurching. I'm completely shocked at the sight.

"Gale have you been drinking?" I ask. Covering my nose with my arm. He shakes his head, but it's clear that he has been, as he sways in front of me.

"We need to talk," he says while stumbling down the porch steps. I quickly put on my boots while, grabbing my hunting jacket and slipping it on to follow him.

"I need to talk to you too, Gale." I say catching up to him.

"Not here." He says. It's cold outside, but I ignore it. Getting Gale to understand I can help his family is more important right now. I've never seen a drunk Gale before. In fact, I've never seen him touch liquor. It makes me disappointed that this is all because I want to keep Peeta around. We are outside the Victor's Village when I decide to talk.

"Gale?" I call to him. He continues to walk ahead of me. It's too cold to walk around in a nightgown in the middle of the night so I stop.

"Gale what's wrong?" I ask. We are close to the woods, near the fence, when he stops and looks at me.

"You're what's wrong Katniss," he spits at me. I'm taken aback by this.

"What do you mean?" I say. I cross my arms to keep my warmth in.

"I couldn't have taken his place Katniss. I had a family, and you punish me for it," He says choked up. I understand what he's trying to say.

"Gale, I needed you here, with Prim," I say. If Gale had volunteered for Peeta there would have been no one around to take care of our families. Yet somehow he regrets the decision to stay behind.

"You left on the damn train to play sweethearts with your 'Baker Boy'. You left me here," He says as he wipes his face.

"I had no choice Gale, they were going to take Prim." I say with a tight throat.

"I know," he says, his voice cracking. "She wouldn't have made it, she's too innocent," he says. And then he changes the subject.

"At first, you wanted nothing to do with him after the games. Now when I look at you I can see you love him, What made that change?" he asks. I look away. I will never tell him what happened on that train. He doesn't need to know, and never will if I had anything to say about it. He's staring at me, trying to read me. I pull the coat tighter. The cold bites at my legs making me shiver.

"Nothing." I say, after the silence becomes too long. I don't know what to say. I couldn't and wouldn't tell him the truth. I see the hurt cover his face.

"No," He breathes out, lost for words. "No Katniss," He's shaking his head, stepping towards me. "You didn't," he pleads.

"I'm leaving," I say. Trying to escape this conversation. This has taken a turn in a direction I didn't want to go. It was nobody's business.

"Please Katniss, tell me you didn't," He says grabbing my arm.

"Gale let me go," I tell him. I'm trying to pull my arm free but he won't budge.

"Tell me," Gale says, he looks defeated, his eyes wide and watering. My chest squeezes, and a blanket of guilt covers me. I want to embrace him, and tell him nothing happened, just to get rid of that devastated face. But I can't, if I did, it would be a lie.

"That's none of your business Gale. Let me go, I want to go home," I say and look away. That face is ripping me in two. I'm fighting back the tears. when he grabs my face and kisses me. I am surprised. Gale has never been rough with me. But tonight is a first for many things. I try pushing him away, but his hold doesn't falter. His kiss moves to my jaw and on to my neck. And my lips are free.

"Gale no. Please you're drunk. Gale listen to me!" I yell. I push as hard as I can to get him off, we fall to the grass. He's on top of me. Crushing me with his body weight. I start to hit him on his back, he grabs both my hands holding them above my head. I pull trying to break from the hold.

Fear creeps in to my limbs. My heart is racing. I don't want this, yet he doesn't get it. Or he doesn't care.

"Gale, what are you doing?" I yell. His lips cover mine. I feel his hand travel up my thigh to my center. I try to push him away but to no use. He touches me over my underwear, rubbing me. Then pushing it to the side, he slips his fingers in. I cry out. I think back to the moments with Peeta on the train, it felt nothing like this. On the train, I was eager, ready for Peeta. Now I only feel discussed. This was wrong. Completely wrong.

"Does that feel good? Just relax Katniss," he breathes into my neck.

One of my hands breaks free of his grasp and I scratch my nails across his face. He cries out, letting go of me, holding his face. I can see the dark blood leak through his fingers and drip onto me. I take this chance to push myself away from him sliding on the freezing cold grass.

"Gale are you crazy?" I scream, tears running down my face.

"I-I'm sorry Katniss. I didn't mea-" Gale says trying to reach out to me on his hands and knees.

"Get away from me!" I scream through sobs. "Don't touch me!"

"I'm sorry!" He yells at me. "I thought you'd come around! I thought you were just playing hard to get!" He says moving towards me.

"Don't ever come near me again!" I say getting to my feet. My legs are shaking marking it difficult to run. But I do.

I want to put as much distance between Gale and myself as possible. My tears make it hard for me to see. I am out of breath. I can hardly believe what just happened. When I reach the Victor's Village gate I'm sick. I want to keep going but my stomach doesn't agree with me. When I finally make it to my house I'm shaking with shock. I can't help but to feel so naive. My heart is beating hard. Hiccups take over my chest. The warm house encloses me. Everyone is asleep and unaware what has happened. I stand in the hall. Trying to stop my crying. If anyone were to see me like this, they'll ask questions.

I make my way to the bathroom and turn on the shower. The faster I get this night off me, the faster I'll feel better I tell myself. I strip my father's jacket off letting it fall to the floor of the bathroom. When I look down I can see Gale's blood stain on my nightgown. The red contrasts against the white fabric. I want to rip it off, but I'm too exhausted so let it fall to the ground instead. I step in the shower, welcoming the water. I use the soaps and scrub vigorously, it has a pungent lemon smell that does the job well enough. I want this memory gone, washed from my body. My best friend, the Gale who took care of my family let the jealousy poison him. I can see his blood wash down into the drain. Away from me. I never want to see him again.

When I'm done, I grab the bloody gown. I take it to the kitchen and throw it in the trash. Out of the corner of my eye I see Peeta's light turn on. Peeta's home. I want to go to him. I want to feel the warmth of his arms. But I can't. My skin is crawling and my stomach hurts, there's no doubt he'd notice. I crawl into my bed for the first time since returning home. I await the nightmares to come take over my body.

Chapter Text

When I wake it's the end of the day, I feel the sickness creeping into my stomach. When will this stop? I ask myself. The sun is low in the sky. The brunt sun shines through my windows, displaying on the dark wood floor of my room. Prim's gentle knock on the door calls my attention. Letting herself in she closes the door silently behind her, walking to the side of my bed

"Katniss, mom made food and Peeta's here," she says. I pull the covers tightly around me, looking away. I don't want to be bothered.

"I want to be alone," I say softly to her. I don't want her to feel like I'm mad at her. Our relationship has been messy lately. But also, Prim has done nothing wrong to get my sour mood. She never will.

"You haven't eaten all day. Mom is a bit worried, you left the front door open last night, I was thinking you can come down for a bit, to eat, and you can come back," She says, with a light smile. I turn myself. Facing the opposite way. A few minutes pass, and she doesn't push it. Instead she walks to the door.

"I'm right down stairs if you need me, Katniss," Prim says. My sweet sister. She is the sunshine to my days, but right now I don't want sun. I want to stay in this bed until Snow rips me from my home and kills me. I want to wallow in my tightening chest. The events of last night come back to me in pieces, slowly like a dripping tap.

The next day, I wake to my mother at my bedside with a bowl, trying to feed me. My body is screaming for the food. Though every time I make the decision to eat, my stomach refuses. I push my mother away. I need the food out of my sight before I'm sick.

"Leave me alone!" I yell at her. It's easier to lash out. So many childhood memories of Prim crying from hunger pains, our malnourished faces, all the times I risked our lives hunting. It acts as fuel, justifying my behavior. She lowers her head. Trying to hide her face.

"Get out, I don't need you!" I throw the food to the floor. She gasps, stepping away from me. When I feel tears slipping down my cheeks, I feel the anger rise to my face. She looks at me with sorrow eyes. When she's gone, I feel guilty. I shouldn't have talked to her like that. I remind myself that she is just trying.

My head hurts, I can see the oatmeal scattered on the floor. My stomach clenches, and I feel sick. I push myself deeper into the quilt. Letting exhaustion take over me.

When I wake, I smell the cinnamon. I feel warm arms around me. My heart drops. I push my way out of them. Peeta sits up abruptly. "Hey it's me. It's okay Katniss, it's just me," My body calms, and I lay my head back down. My mother must have let him in. hoping he'd get some answers.

The moon is high in the sky. It's the middle of the night. Peeta lays back down, arms searching for me again, wrapping around me, pulling me close, placing his face into my hair. I melt into him. We face each other for some time. Looking into one another's eyes. Questions are in his, Trying to ask me the 'why?' his lips won't. When we were first thrown into the games I never thought we would end up here, having unspoken conversations in my bed, hell I didn't think we were going to survive.

Being away from him showed me he's exactly what I need right now. We've walked through fire to save our lives, proving we can make it through anything. But it had to be us.

"Katniss?" He asks into my scalp. With close eyes I respond.

"Yes?"

"What's wrong? You can tell me," he asks. My breath is shaky. I know, I can't tell him. I won't tell anyone. I plan to put that behind me. Peeta will heal me the way he does and I will try to go back to normal. I kiss his chest. I need his devotion. I want it in all its might. I find his lips. Kissing him deep. I need to feel him completely. To take the feeling away. My kiss begging him to take away the memories that are haunting me. My fingers are in his hair. Trying to show him, I can tell he has questions on his mind. He's letting me pour myself into him yet still trying to compose himself. Tears are sliding from my face. I'm pleading him in my head, for him to take it away. As if he knows what I need, His kiss deepens, both his arms snake around me.

"Please." I beg on his lips with a raspy voice. He groans. I can feel his heart quicken.

Hastily his hands move to my hip, pulling my underwear off, leaving it abandoned somewhere under the quilt. I hike my leg around his hips, bringing him closer and pulling at his shirt. He helps remove it. Throwing it across the room. He wastes no time his warm hands return caressing my back. I am waiting for the anxiety to come but it never does. The heat that radiates off him fills me. I can feel my chest lighting. He's pulling his jeans down. Freeing himself. I pull him close. I need him. My tears never stop. I kiss his jaw, his neck, his shoulder. I can tell he knows I need this. Peeta positions himself. Ready to take me. I hold him tight.

"I love you Katniss." He whispers into my ear. When he takes me I let out a yell in relief. His head moves quickly to my mouth. Trying to quiet me.

"Shh Katniss." He says looking me in my eyes, his eyes filled with worry. Replacing his hand with his mouth. He makes love to me with his lips. Trying his best to show me I am only his. My soft moans are muffled by his lips. He moves his shaft in slowly, pulling at whatever feelings lay deep inside me. His coxing works. I can feel my heart swelling. My hands grabbing at him begging for more comfort, more healing. He quickens and my moans are louder. He moves his kiss to my neck, covering my mouth again. Thrusting hard into me. I can hear my bed rocking. I'm hoping my family doesn't hear. Screaming into his hand, I reach my climax. I can hear him moan lowly through clenched teeth into my ear. His arm pulls me to his chest, squeezing me to him. My climax brings me to a sob. My feelings spilling out of my eyes.

"What happened Katniss? Please tell me," He asks. And right then and there I almost say the words.

Telling Peeta, would ultimately make this to real. What stops me are those devastated gray eyes in my mind, Gale's devastated eyes. And I clench my mouth shut. I think of Hazelle, of Posy, of Rory, of Vick, and I know I couldn't take Gale from them. Last night was a mistake. And I couldn't find the will to take his life for it. An act I would never do. Gale is still Gale even if I can't look at him. Even if he's hurt me. I know I will never trust him, no matter what he does.

Despite my feelings about him now, I realize he was right about what we need to do. That day in the forest with Gale comes to mind, the morning of the Reaping, and the recognition hits me. The only way to escape Snow and live a normal life with Peeta and my family is to run away. It will be hard but I have hope. We can make it, If Peeta agreed. we'll leave, head straight into the woods and never look back.

I answer Peeta truthfully when I say. "I don't want to die,"

His face is filled with pain when he tells me, "I won't let them hurt you."

Chapter Text

With newly found hope to escape. I think of ways to tell Peeta. I will have to take him deep into the woods, but even then I don't trust we won't be overheard. That kiss with Gale was not far from the woods and yet President Snow knew about it. It's risky but worth it. Our only chance is to run.

My face is buried in Peeta's neck and our arms are wrapped around each other. His bare chest is warm, his breathing even, and he's asleep. My stomach grumbles, I move from our embrace to see the time on my bedside table. It's five in the morning. The sun hasn't come up yet. This is the time I normally would wake to go hunt. My legs are weak from my starvation, though I am strong enough to walk. I leave the room to Peeta and go to the kitchen with one thing on my mind, feed. I find cheese buns and some left over turkey. I devour it trying to satisfy my hunger.

A thought comes to mind. I remember my mother buying peach jelly. Searching that cabinet I find it. I rip some meat off the turkey bone then use it to scoop the jelly out of the jar. When I taste it, it's wonderful. I end up finishing the jar. Washing it back with some milk. I am full. I can't eat another bite.

I'm slightly surprised when I hear the creak of the stairs. I turn to see my mother in her night robe standing on the last stair.

"Mom." I say.

"Katniss," She says as she walks over to me. She looks to the island, seeing the mess I had made.

"There was a plate for you in the refrigerator," She says, putting the food away.

"Oh, I didn't see that, thanks," I say. I feel guilty about how I talked to her before. I know I was wrong. But I don't apologize. What happened in the past, the neglect my mother made us endore, wasn't now. I have to remind myself that she took care of Prim when I volunteered. And for that I try to forgive her.

"How Peeta?" She says with a questioning eye. I don't get the drift at first forgetting she may have heard us earlier.

"Sleeping," I say.

It's only when she says "I bet he is," that I catch on. She knows we had sex. My face grows hot. She heard us. I don't know where to put my face. I'm completely embarrassed.

"Don't worry Katniss, I'm not going to scold you," She says stepping close to me. Her hand brushes my hair back, she looks at me. I look away, not wanting to make eye contact.

"I was young once too you know. Your father and I were a bit too in love," She says.

"Alright, mom, I don't want to hear that," I say, crossing my arms.

"What I'm trying to say is, we were still careful. Until we were ready for you, Katniss, honey, are you being careful?" I roll my eyes and move away from her.

"Yes, Peeta knows how to be 'careful', don't worry," I say. She sighs in relief to hear my words. I don't want to have this conversation with her. I need to think how to convince her and Haymitch.

When the phone rings, we jump, she letting out a yelp. We look at each other confused. I answer the phone.

"Hello?" .

"Oh thank heavens," Effie says.

"Effie?" I ask.

"Yes Katniss, Effie. I been calling Peeta and Haymitch. Neither of them pick up the phone," she says, annoyed.

"I don't know where Haymitch is, but Peeta's with me. Is everything alright?" I ask, concerned.

"I'm outside of the train station here in 12. They wouldn't tell me why. Only to pack my things. They only gave me three hours to pack and then they shipped me off," she explains. Hearing her sniffling, I realize she's been crying. I am confused. It doesn't make sense.

"Ok Effie relax. I'm coming to get you," I say.

"Oh thank you, can you please hurry." she says and we hang up. I can feel something is wrong, but I don't say not wanting to worry my mother. We make eye contact and she looks just as confused as me. I go to my room. The image of Peeta still sleeping on the bed, sprawled out makes me smile. I go to him and brush his arm with my hand, trying to wake him.

"Peeta," I say. He moans, moving, waking up. His eyes flutter open and he's looking at me, sleepily.

"Peeta, Effie at the train station, we need to go pick her up?" I ask softly.

"Why is Effie here?" He questions.

"I don't know, Peeta, she doesn't even know herself. She crying at the station," I say.

He sits up looking at me. His face concerned. He knows it too. It is not a good sign. The question 'why?' Hangs heavy in the air.

"Ok let's go get her. Did you talk to Haymitch yet?" He asks, getting up, and rubbing his face.

"No, I came straight to you," I say getting dressed, putting on anything.

"Alright, we'll tell him when we get back. Poor Effie, she must be scared," Peeta says

When we walk out the house the cold breeze throws me off. I can't help but think about that night with Gale. I try to push it to the back of my mind, telling myself, not to think about it but it is no use, I can remember how my nails felt across his face. How the grass felt against my legs. I grab onto Peeta's hand to steady myself and he looks at me questioningly. Pulling him close, I keep walking, ignoring the stare. When we reach the station we see Effie wearing a bright yellow dress with hair to match. She sits on the steps with her luggage surrounding her. She stands out from the gray filter that covers Twelve. The sky is pastel as sun awaits behind the horizon of the mountain. Groups of miners on their ways to the mines to start the days work. A river of defeated faces.

"Effie?" I call to her. She looks up. Her mascara runs down her face. She practically jumps into our arms, kissing Peeta and I on both our cheeks.

"I need to talk to Haymitch," she whispers into my ear, holding me tightly. I nod. That was only meant for my ears. Peeta grabs her luggage wheeling it as we walk.

"Thank goodness for my Victors," She says hooking arms with me.

"Good to see you, Effie," Peeta says.

"You can stay at Peeta's for a while, until we figure something out," I says looking at Peeta.

"Yeah Effie, don't worry you can have my room at the house," he says. She's a sniffling but gives us a smile.

"I am so grateful for you two, I've had such a hard time. I could really use a bath," she says fixing her wig.

If I plan on leaving we couldn't leave without Effie. Now another person added to my list. On the way home Effie is having a problem walking on the dirt roads. Her heels occasionally get stuck in the dirt. Peeta has to hold back the chuckles. When I make eye contact with Peeta, he laughs harder.

"Effie, do you have flats in one of these bags?" Peeta asks. She stops and looks at Peeta like he said something repulsive.

"Flats are for children, Peeta," she says offended.

"Effie, you're gonna have to wear something else, you just might break ankle, " I say. Thinking of her walking through the woods with her seven inch heels. I shake my head at the thought. Effie will definitely be a hard one to convince.

Chapter Text

After we settle Effie at Peeta's house, our first thought is to turn to Haymitch. We have to talk about why she is here. I remember Effie's whisper, how she clung to me, The importance in her voice. When we enter Haymitch house it's freezing.

"Haymitch?" Peeta calls into the house.

We hear someone coming down the stairs. Haymitch stumbles down the stairs wiping his nose on his sleeve and holding a bottle of white liquor. The smell of the liquor hits my nose and I am struck with the memory of Gale's breath last night. I reach out for Peeta, grabbing his arm. He looks at me puzzled. I turn my head to hide my expression.

"What's wrong with her?" Haymitch asks, pulling out his chair plopping himself into it.

"Katniss, what's wrong?" Peeta asks, turning around to me.

"Nothing. I just can't stand the smell in here, I'll wait outside," I say as I rush out of the house, needing fresh air. I stop on the porch. I feel like I'm going to be sick. I cover my mouth with my hand. Closing my eyes. The memories lingers, creeping in to my mind. I tell myself I am alright. In the pit of my stomach I feel the panic again. There is a hand holding my wrist, alcohol soaked breath in my face. Like the memories of the games, it almost consumes me and I have to bite my lower lip to keep a scream from escaping.

When I turn around. I see Peeta leanings against the door frame watching me with knitted brows, hands in his coat pocket. His worried look reflects his unspoken dialog.

"Katniss," He calls softly, concern thick in his voice. I understand what he's asking. I roll my eyes. I know he sees I'm not alright. I've never had a problem with Haymitch's revolting smell before.

"I'm fine," I say upset. I know he won't believe me it will most likely be brought up later when we were alone in the safety of my bed. I walk down the porch steps, trying to get distance from Peeta. I know his intentions are good. I can understand his concern, but I couldn't lie to him right now. I feel my control slip when I was in his arms. The words dare to leave my lips. He doesn't push. Instead he walks back inside to help Haymitch dress.

When they join me outside, Haymitch is confused.

 

"This better be good," He says pointing a finger at me.

"Haymitch, it's important." I say, returning his a stare. He catches my drift instantly and nods once. No questions asked. The walk to the woods was quiet. The only sounds were our feet on the ground. When we reach the fence, I go under showing them how. Peeta does it effortlessly, while Haymitch slips, falling to the ground. We end up having to drag him from under it. We walk a short way into the forest before I feel we are far enough from the fence to talk freely. Peeta is looking around. I can't help but think he's remembering the games. I can see how it can make him uncomfortable, the woods do look very similar to the arena.

"Ok now that you both dragged me out these woods, what's on your mind?" Haymitch asks. I look at Peeta. He's much better at this.

"Effie was sent here last night. She doesn't know why." Peeta says. Haymitch looks up. His face hardens and for a few seconds no one says anything but I know we are all thinking the same thing, 'Why?'

 

"She whispered to me she needed to talk to you," I say.

"If I tell you both something, you have to understand I keep things from you for a damn reason. It's better to have you both in the dark about somethings, being that you both are so damn consumed with each other." Haymitch says moving to a fallen tree, sitting on the trunk. My stomach flutters. I know he's about to drop something heavy onto us.

"So now you're keeping things from us." I accuse. I remember the time he kept Peeta's interview from me but now he's keeping things from Peeta too.

"Calm down sweetheart, don't get your bitter panties in a bunch, understand that I'm doing this for all us. I know that if I actually told one or both of you, one of you would have exposed it. If I told you on that agonizing tour, one of you would have given us away-" he stops looking at me with pointing eyes. I scowl at him, but I know he's right, we all know I wasn't a good actress. "So I had to hide it. Are you both are familiar with the Victor Finnick Odair from District Four?" Haymitch asks. Peeta nods, but I'm stuck, I can't remember the face yet the name sounds familiar. Then I remember he's the youngest one to ever win the games. At the age of 14, Finnick Odair had killed almost everyone with a trident in the arena.

"All I can tell you both right now is I have been working with the Victors from rebelling Districts. I know being in 12 will not end up being in 'our favor'. Effie being sent here is a warning. Finnick pulled some strings to get her here. It's too dangerous to leave her on her own in that damn Capitol, sending her here is a warning, we won't be here much longer." Haymitch says, rubbing his nose.

"What do you mean? where are we going?" I ask. How can he know my plan to run?

"To District 13," He says flat out and I am confused. Taken aback by the name. District 13 was destroyed long before I was born.

"Yes you both heard me right, I did in fact say District 13." Haymitch reassures us. I am still shocked. I am shocked and Peeta is too.

"That's impossible. District 13 was bombed, the Capitol shows it ever year," Peeta says.

"Yeah, I know. I thought the same thing. That's repeat footage. They're alive and if we make it through the next few months we might be going there with other Victors." Haymitch says

I process this new information. My plan keeps changing. First it was just my family and Peeta running to the woods, now we're going with Haymitch and all the Victors to a District that is not supposed to exist. It's a lot to process but it beats being Prim being cold and hungry living in the forest.

"I'm not going." Peeta says low. His head is down. Surprised I look at Peeta. Haymitch shakes his head.

"Why? This is our chance to get away from this Peeta." I say stepping to him.

"I'm not going to leave my father, my family. My mother would never agree and my father won't leave her." he says stepping back from me. Hurt washes through me. That damn woman.

"We'll talk to him Peeta. We'll convince them, force them." I say trying to see a light. but Peeta shakes his head.

"You don't understand my mother, she's a difficult woman. She won't leave," he says, running his fingers through his hair. My dandelion was losing hope. I didn't realize how how complicated his family really was. I understood that his mother was complicated but I didn't know how much it affected his father and the boys. I feel my hate for her grow, she is the reason peeta wouldn't runaway with me.

"Then I'll make her, I'm not going to leave you, so it is you who talks to her, or it's me. And trust me Peeta I won't be respectful," I say. Peeta is staring at me. I can't tell what he's feeling.

"Well you both just figure things out. Who's coming, who's staying." Haymitch says walking in the direction of the fence.

Having Effie around make the next few days busy for Peeta. Nothing really seemed quite good enough for her. It began to annoy me, Peeta didn't mind, but I avoid it at all costs. I have grown to love Effie, but she wore on my patience. Her huffs and whines made me cringe, she was beyond spoiled.

Peeta spent a few nights at the bakery helping his father, who came down with pneumonia. I tried talking to Peeta about letting my mother treat him, but he refuses.

I sit in the living room with Prim. The rain is pouring down outside, keeping me from hunting. I could've been on my way home now with a bag of game for Hazelle. I worry about her despite what happened. She's still a friend. We play some sort of game Prim learned at school. My mother is in the kitchen preparing dinner. As she cooks the smell of cooked meat is filling the room. Suddenly, that nauseous feeling is back, my stomach lurches. I cover my mouth, and run to the bathroom, messing up the game as I scramble to my feet. I barely make it to the toilet before I'm heaving into it.

"Katniss," Prim calls after me.

"Are you okay?" She asks. I try to answer but my heaving doesn't subside. I hear knocks on the front door, my mother answering it.

"Katniss, I'm going to get mom." Prim says walking off. I'm trying to stop myself from vomiting, to calm my stomach. A few moments later my mother walks into the bathroom.

"Katniss, are you alright?" She kneels down beside me, pulling my hair out of my way. When I finally catch a break from heaving, I am able to speak.

"I've been sick lately. This stomach virus just won't let up. I should have told you earlier. But there's been a lot going on." I say, wiping my mouth with the back of my hand. She stares at me for a minute, analyzing me.

"What?" I ask uncomfortably.

"How long have you felt like this?" She asks, sitting herself on the floor. I lean back against the shower door, feeling drained from the vomiting.

"Awhile," I say. She moves to feel my head, checking my temperature, like as she use to when I was a child.

"No fever," She says to herself. "Do you feel nauseated randomly?"

"I'm not sure. Sometimes it's smells, sometimes it wakes me up." I tell her.

"I want to ask something, but I don't want you to get angry with me," She says with a straight face. I feel nervous by the way she suddenly gets serious. Puzzled, I sit up.

"I won't get upset."

"Have you bled yet?" She asks. I don't understand at first. What an odd question to ask, until I understand what she was asking me, and I know the answer.

No.

My heart drops. I feel the blood drain out my limbs, feeling the pins and needles. I haven't bled. I can't remember the last time I did. My breath hitches in my throat. I can't breathe. Im breathing in gasps. Light headed, I reach out for my mother with two hands, panicking because I know what this means. Something I promised myself I would never do. How could I have been so stupid? How could I be so driven by my need that I would have let this happen. This couldn't be real.

"Katniss, breathe!" My mother arms wrapped around me. She's rubbing my back.
"Honey, breathe!" She's shouts.

"No. No. No," I hear myself and it's like I'm in a surreal dream..

"It's ok, I'm right here." She says into my hair. I wrap around her, eyes wide. I need her. Her embrace. I needed her mothering. I can hear my panting.

 

"Prim!" My mother calls.

"I can't be. No mom you don't understand I can't be pregnant!" My voice bubbles into hysterics. I can see Prim shocked when she walks in.

"Prim, tell Rory and Vick to go home. then get me the sleep syrup!" She orders.

"No! No!" I protest. I pushing my mother away. I'm trying to stand, I need to leave, I need to breathe.

"Katniss, it's alright," she tries to soothe me. I run out of the bathroom, and straight out of the house. Into the rain.

"Katniss!" Prim calls to me. But I keep running. for my old house, where life was simple.

Chapter Text

In my old house, I cry on my old coal dust covered bed in my childhood room. My hand is bleeding onto the mattress. There was most likely glass in my hand from breaking the window to get in. My sobs fill the room. Echoing throughout the small house. This can't be happening. How can I have been so stupid. All those nights with Peeta flood my brain. His kiss, his touch. His soft voice telling me I'm okay, we're okay. I try to count back the days, but my mind is racing. I can't think. I cry myself to sleep, letting the coal dust settle on me.

"Katniss."

I wake to Prim's voice calling me. I can feel a breeze on my bare feet. The room is dark and damp. The cold winter air made the room seem lifeless. Even before the games my home was cold, but never dead. Memories of my father lingered around Prim and I growing up. Prim giving breath to the only home we knew. Now as she stands over me I can feel the house has died. Grey and bleak its light made us look. I open my eyes, looking up to see a hole in the ceiling, the rain pouring through it.

"Katniss," she calls again.

I moan and reach out for her. I feel her hands holding mine. I need her close.

"Come on Katniss, you need to come home," She says pulling me up. I see my mother in the doorway. Her eyes are red from crying.

Prim helps me get to my feet. I feels foggy and numb. My head pounds at my skull from all the crying. I'm holding onto Prim, walking out of the house, leaving my memories Of that grim life. When we reach the Victor's Village. I see my house, glowing and warm. A false view of what it actually is. Once inside Prim walks me to the sofa. The house is silent, nobody will speak. Prim sits next to me placing her head on my shoulder. I stare blankly. My injured hand cover my stomach, But I don't dare look down. I won't do it to myself. I can't think. I know what will happen to this child that grows in me, and I know what I must do to prevent it. My child will not be mine, as my life is now. It will be the Capitol's. It will be Snow's. His leverage over me forever, just another weakness to be used to control me, to punish me. Its life will never be their own and it will never know a normal life. I never wanted children. I don't understand how people can even bring a child into this world where the odds will never be in their favor.

"They'll take it, they'll use it to control me, or throw them into the games," I mumble. My mother is at my side taking my hand, and rubbing my knuckles with her thumb. She says something to me but I don't catch it. I don't care to hear her. All those desperate girls who came to our door in the middle of the night come to mind. Girls straight from the slag heap, begging for teas to make them bleed again. I didn't know what the tea was brewed with, Only my mother knew. That tea is my only hope to stop what is ahead. Peeta itches my mind, I know he will disagree. If I told him he'd beg me not to do it. I know I can refuse him nothing so, I quickly decide I won't tell him. I can feel my chest tightening. I know the words to say to my mother and I open my mouth to say them.

"Please get Haymitch," I whisper instead. My lips couldn't bring it to life, I feel weak, pathetic. I know what is going to happen and I am to much of a coward to make the final decision on my own.

Prim is out of the house, into the rain in the matter of seconds. I couldn't move. Feeling like if I move a decision will be made for me, The choice snatched from me. I long for Peeta, wishing I could feel his warm gentle arms around me, but that thought is replaced with the need to keep Peeta away. Having him here now will distract me. I know what needs to be done. I just needed Haymitch to help me through it.

Haymitch and Prim step through the open front door, both soaked in rain. My eyes reach out to her. I need my little duck. She rushes over to me, but my mother stops her.

"Prim, honey, I need you to go upstairs for a bit," my mother says holding her shoulders. Prim look confused, pulling away from my mother.

"I have to be here for her," Prim says.

"Primrose there are things we are going to discuss that you shouldn't be hearing. I'll call you down right after," My mother soothes Prim, and Prim nods. I am grateful for my mother, remembering Prims innocence. She didn't need to hear this. I have to let her to go, I remind myself it's just for a couple of minutes. No Prim, no Peeta, all I have is A broken mother, a harsh Haymitch and a baby I don't want. But I deserve it, my mistakes must be punished. Prim walks up the stairs and I am reminded of her kiss with Rory on the porch, how I screamed at her, and how she walked up those stairs, hurting just like now.

Haymitch stands in front of me. Carefully kneels down to my level. I see it in his eyes, he knows what's happened. His face is full of concern. I've never seen him like this. He's never shown me this side of him. It's more than I can handle, and I'm sobbing.

"Katniss," there's no edge in his voice, but I can smell the liquor on his breath. The smell once again brings up memories of last night but I can't think of that right now. I can't think of this right now.

"I don't want it," I say through clenched teeth. When the words come I out, I can hear the lie in them. The tears roll down my cheeks, and I feel exposed again. The room is too open for me. I want to hide away.

"Ok, but have you thought about this?" Haymitch asks. And I nod my head slowly.

"No she hasn't. She just found out about this a few hours ago," my mother says to Haymitch. I glare at her. I know what she's trying to do. How could she be so selfish? My decisions are mine, how dare she try to take that from me, I can't help but think about all the times I had to make decisions for our family, while she sat on that damn chair and watched us starve.

"I want it out!" I scream at her full of resentment. She shakes her head.

"You don't understand Lilith," I hear Haymitch says using my mother given name. "This will not end well. It doesn't for any Victors," Haymitch tells My mother. She covers her mouth. She understands.

"I don't know if I have any Pennyroyal left. I'll go check." She says shakily. Walking over to the kitchen. Haymitch takes a seat on the sofa, next to me. His drenched arm moves around my shoulder, pulling me to rest my head on his shoulder. I close my eyes, sobbing into Haymitch's shirt. He lets me, holding me tightly. It's the first time Haymitch has ever comforted me and I welcome it. It felt different, it wasn't like it is with Prim or Peeta, though it feels familiar, like a memory.

"You didn't speak to the boy about this?" He asks. I shake my head.

"Maybe not today, Maybe you should sleep on this," Haymitch says,

"It has to be now," my voice cracks as I say this, He should understand it's better if Peeta didn't know. It will break him. I couldn't bring myself to tell him. The thought is too painful to endure. I don't want to hurt him this way.

"Because He'll change your mind." Haymitch says. I nod. I know I'm betraying him.

Through the open door, I hear Peeta's name being yelled off in the distance. Then again, and before I realize who it is. They're in my doorway, it's Gale. We lock eyes and I'm completely shocked.

"Gale?" My mother questions, moving to him.

"Is it true?" He asks, out of breath there is hurt deep in his voice. I look away. My heart is racing. I didn't want to see him again. Blood is pumping through me and my adrenaline kicks in I'm on my feet ready to run.

"Where is he?" He shouts. Then I feel the dread wash over me. Why was he looking for Peeta? A moment passes before he is out the door again. I can see him running across the road, to Peeta's house. Effie answers the door, I'm flooded with relief that Peeta is not home. I can hear garbled yelling and then he's off again running out of sight. Then I remember Peeta is at the bakery. Gale must have realized it too.

I am off, running after Gale. He's had a head start but I have hope I can catch him before he reaches the bakery.

"Gale!" I scream into the rain. "Gale no!" I see him ahead of me. I trip on some rocks. Falling to the ground, hitting my chin. I can feel the burn, but I ignore it getting to my feet again sprinting in the direction of the bakery. Gale's no longer in my sight. When I turn the corner to the bakery I can hear the commotion. Light from the bakery shines on to the wet pavement. Gale flies out of the front door, pulling Peeta by the shirt and tossing him to the ground.

"I could fucking kill you!" I hear Gale scream. And my heart jumps.

No!

Gale is on top of Peeta, punching him in the ribs. Peeta is still confused and wide-eyed. Peeta is trying to block Gale's hits but not fighting back.

"Stop!" I scream, grabbing onto Gale trying to get him away from Peeta.

"You fucking got her pregnant!" Gale screams at Peeta. Getting one hit to Peeta's nose. I can see Peeta struggling to not hit back. I start to slam my fists on Gale's back, when his arm swings around hitting me in my chest and I fly backward hitting the ground. Peeta's face changes and now he throws a punch. I don't know what to do. I have to try again, but I feel arms around me, pulling me away. It's Peeta's father. Gale receives a few more hits from Peeta.

"Stop, please!" I scream to them. I see Rye running out of the bakery, grabbing Gale. Both Peeta and Gale are bleeding. Rye holding a ferocious Gale, struggling to break free. Peeta is coughing, and spits blood on the ground. I struggle against Mr. Mellark's arms, out to Peeta. They let me go and I fall. I crawl over to him and put my arms are around him. He's panting and holding his rib. My sobs are loud. I am grateful for Rye. I wasn't be able to pull Gale off of Peeta myself.

"Are you all crazy?" Peeta's father says at my side trying to help up Peeta. Peeta is pushing him away, the movement is painful and I get a ear full of loud goans.

Peeta's eyes are transfixed on me. Tears are falling down his face. "Are you really?" he asks, short of breath. I want to tell him 'no' but his eyes stare me down. There was no way to lie now. A moment passes, and I nod, giving him the answer that he deserves. His arm wraps around me, his face moves to my neck. I can hear him sobbing. I hold him tightly. Now he knows and there's no turning back. He's whispers he loves me, and my stomach jumps. I don't want to let go but blood is streaming out of his nose, down my back.

"I can't believe you!" Gale yells, as he breaks free from Rye. Gale is in just as bad shape as Peeta with blood staining his shirt and his right eye swollen shut.

"How dare you!" I scream. I throw a rock at him. "You have no right, I told you I never wanted to see you again." my anger is rising. I move to get up. Wanting to lunge at him, but Peeta pulls me back.

"It was a mistake!" He screams. I can see his body shaking.

"I'm sorry Katniss," he says devastated, looking down at his hands. His face is full of pain. But it doesn't bother me, I want him gone, away from Peeta.

"Leave!" I scream, And he steps back shaking his head.

"Katniss, please!" He yells, I turn my head away from him, looking at a puzzled Peeta who is, trying to make sense of this all. When I turn back Gale storms off.

"Peeta get inside let's clean you up," Mr. Mellark says reaching for Peeta again. I stop him because it's clear Peeta is hurt badly. There may be some broken ribs.

"We need to bring him to my mother, he's really hurt," I say to Mr. Mellark. And he nods looking to Rye to help with Peeta.

Chapter Text

The walk home is agonizing. Peeta's screams bounds off the buildings. The rain stopped but is replaced by a cold breeze that bites into our bones. Every scream is a knife to my guts. My eyes never leave Peeta. Peeta is trying to hold back but the pain is too great. Mr. Mellark coos to Peeta, trying to calm him. We have to stop a couple of times, We are slowed by Mr. Mellark's coughing. He is still recovering from pneumonia. Rye couldn't carry Peeta alone so I do my best to help.

"I know Peeta, try not to breathe so hard," Mr. Mellark says. Both he and Rye wear the same concerned face. It's startling how they look so much alike.

When we finally get to my house, the door is closed, but the lights are on.

"Mother!" I shout out to her. She is at the door pulling it open when Rye and Mr. Mellark rush in with Peeta. The house smells of tea and I wonder if she was making that tea for me. They rush Peeta into the kitchen.

"What happened?" My mother asks concerned. I see her face change, she's in her zone. Her hand moves to remove Peeta's shirt as they lay him on the empty kitchen island.

"Gale and Peeta-"" I start to explain but Peeta screams as my mother touches his side.

"Stop!" I yell Grabbing my mother's hands pulling them from Peeta. I know she's trying to help, but I can't help it.

"Someone, please take her!" My mother yells looking to Mr. Mellark and Rye. Rye pulls me away. I fight against him.

"Get off me!" I scream.

"Katniss go!" I hear Peeta plead.

I fight against Rye harder. Mr. Mellark holds Peeta's arm down with one hand, coughing into his arms as my mother assess Peeta's injury.

"I suspect there are as many as 4 broken ribs. I can tape them up. I don't know if they'd punctured anything but they didn't get his lungs. I need the sleep syrup." She's saying quickly, now examining his hands.

"Prim!" She calls and Prim is at my mother's side in a few moments with the sleep syrup. I know the sleep syrup won't be enough, he needed something for the pain.

"Twain, go sit down, before you pass out," my mother says to Mr. Mellark.

"He's in pain, give him something stronger!" I yell across the room in Rye arms staring helplessly at Peeta's shaking body.

"We don't have anything for the pain Katniss, he's just going to have to sit it out." She says wiping Peeta's head of sweat. As they start to wrap Peeta's ribs I have to look away. The dark red and purple bruises that cover his chest make my veins run cold. I stop struggling against Rye and drop to my knees. This is my fault. All of it. If I never went to Peeta's room on the train, we wouldn't be here.

"Hey, it's gonna be okay," I hear Rye say. His hand is on my shoulder, it's genuine and soft, but I move away. He's still a stranger to me. He sees this and moves back slightly, kneeling close but giving me space. When they are done Prim rushes over to me pulling me into her arms and I go willingly.

"He's going to be ok Katniss. It only looks bad, But he'll be fine." She tells me brushing my hair with her hands. I nod, trusting her. My sweet sister knows me better than anyone. She looked so grown when she was in healer mode. She resembles my mother mostly but my fathers features come out when she's working. Her brows, her cheek bones and sometimes I see it in her smile. It calms me.

"I don't know how I can repay you." Mr. Mellark says to my mother. Peeta is unconscious on the island from the sleep syrup.

"You owe me nothing, but you need to drink this for that cough," My mother says. Reaching in the cabinet for a bottle of cough syrup. Pouring it into a spoon and feeding it to him. If feels weird watching them interact. I have to look away momentarily. My mother turns her back to him, washing a rag in the sink. I find my legs. Pulling myself to my feet I walkover to Peeta. I take the rag from my mother and use it to wipe the blood from his face. My chest tightens when I look at Peeta's sleeping face. He is mine and always has been. And I am his. No matter what happens. I am going to stay right by his side. If I run I am going to drag him with me. No one will take him from me. I will do anything I have too to make him come with me.

The room is quiet. Everyone is trying to recover from what just happened. Mr. Mellark grabs a chair bringing it next to me so I can sit and be with Peeta. I am grateful for his kind gesture. My legs shake from leftover adrenaline and the cold wet clothes that still cling to my body.

"Can we get him some pajamas, maybe get him out of these wet clothes and somewhere more comfortable." I say looking to my mother. She nods and walks out the front door. Prim brings a blanket. I wrap it around myself needing the warmth. Mr. Mellark is sitting on a chair across the room with his head in his hands. Rye is at his side rubbing his father's back. Their blonde locks are stringy and wet and look just like Peeta's did those nights in the cave. I look away. There is so much I don't want to think about right now. Subconsciously my hand has found its way to my stomach. I lay my head next to Peeta's. Listening his even breathing. I hope he isn't in pain or, locked in one of those restless sleeps the syrup sometimes brings on.

"Rye, I need you to go home in a bit and prepare for tomorrow. Your mother must be wondering where we've gone," Mr. Melłark says looking up at his son. Rye looks disappointed and is about to protest but stops when Mr. Mellark crosses his arms and gives him a 'no complaining' look. For a moment I picture Peeta in the same position as a father, scolding his son. The picture is thick in my throat. Tears threaten my eyes. My hands knot in Peeta's hair. My eyes grow heavy and I know I'm about to drift away.

I wake to the bright sun shining through a window. I'm in my warm bed. The quilt is pulled up to my nose. Next to me lays Peeta. His hair is bright blonde in the light. I stir and feel something on my hand. Bringing it into view I see it is bandaged. I'm reminded of last night's events. I sit up, pulling the quilt off of Peeta's torso. I don't know how we ended up in my room. The bandage around his chest confirms last night. Afraid to hurt him I move closer, and careful not to touch his chest, I lay against his arm. I want to feel him against me, to be close to him again. I inhale his scent, closing my eyes.

"Katniss," I hear him say groggy. He tries to push the quilt off.

"I'm right here Peeta," I say, moving his hair out of his face. His eyes find me and I can see the pained look in them.

"Are you in pain?" I ask him. He nods, squeezing his eyes shut.

"Ok Peeta I'll be right back." I say, grabbing his hand and slipping out of the bed. Downstairs, the house is warm and bright. Mr. Mellark is sleeping on the sofa. The sight is so strange to me that I have to blink. I remember the cookies he gave me. At the time, I never fully understood why he gave me those cookies, Peeta and I had never talked. We were put up against each other to kill, why give your son's enemy such a gift? The Mellark's had been nothing but nice to me, aside from Ms. Mellark. I walk past him trying not to wake him. I can't imagine what time he had fell asleep. When I reach the kitchen I see a note from my mother

Katniss,

I'm on my way to the train station to pick up some pain medication for Peeta. If I'm not back before you wake up, There's some more sleep syrup you can give him until I get back.

Mom

I put down the note with a sigh in relief. She'll be back soon and if she was coming back soon I wasn't going to give Peeta the syrup. I look around for Prim with no success I don't find her. I see the back door ajar, and as I go to shut it, I hear them.

"How is he?" Rory asks Prim.

"He's sleeping for now, he was really hurt." Prim says to Rory.

"Serves him right," Rory says. Arrogance in his voice.

"How could you say that? Peeta's done nothing wrong." Prim says offended.

"I'm just saying Katniss and Gale have been together for years. All of a sudden Peeta wants to confess his undying love and Katniss just drops my brother for that Merchant boy." Rory says. He is testing my patience.

"It's not like that, Rory. Katniss still cares about Gale, she didn't drop him out of her life. He's just jealous." Prim says in my defense. And I frown. Little did she know I did push him out of my life. I couldn't see his face anymore. That night with Gale hurt our relationship beyond repair. What he did to Peeta, was far too much. He is lucky I don't go over there and put a arrow through him.

"Did you tell him?" she asks.

"No, it was Vick, that's your family's business, I knew that would hurt Gale," Rory says.

"Well all I'm saying is if some Merchant boy tried taking you away from me, I'd do much worse." Rory says. It's silent for moment.

"That's not right, I wouldn't want you to ever hurt anyone." I hear the sadness in her voice.

"I won't... I'm just venting... Gale just gets me worked up, I'm sorry Prim," He says.

"How is Gale?" prim asks.

"A broken nose and hand. We tried talking him into seeing your mom but he kept refusing. It's a good thing she went to see him. I saw her right before I left," Rory says.

Betrayal leaks into my chest. My mother went to see Gale. That's where she is right now. She lied to me. After what he did to Peeta, how can she?

"I don't understand them sometimes. Why fight like animals? All because of jealousy?" Prim says.

"I don't know," Rory says.

"You look beautiful today by the way," Rory adds. When he says this I instantly feel guilty. My eavesdropping was treading into waters I didn't want to be in.

"Thank you Rory. I have to go before Katniss wakes, I'll see you tomorrow, same time?" I hear Prim say low. Then I hear shuffling. I quickly leave the scene trying to put distance between me and the back door, not wanting to get caught. When Prim comes inside, I'm in the kitchen. She looks surprised to see me.

"Katniss, you're up early, I thought you'd sleep in today." She says nervously playing with the end of her braid.

"I was just getting Peeta something for the pain, can you check on him for me?" I ask looking around in the cabinets. Just as Prim leaves my mother walks through the front door. I can't help but think this house is full of secrets.

"Oh good, you're up, what about Peeta?" She asks. Putting down a few bags. I cross my arms. I know where she's been, and this makes me annoyed. How she can come in and act as if everything is fine.

"He's awake." I say quickly.

"Ok give this to him with food. No more than twice a day," She says handing me the bottle of pills.

I scowl at her and she stops, looking at me. I roll my eyes.

"What's wrong?" she asks, leaning against the counter.

"How could you go help him after what he did?" I ask.

"How did you-" she trails off.

"Don't worry about it," I say.

"Katniss, no matter what Gale did, he still helped us when you were away. He deserves better than this. I understand how you feel for Peeta but Gale's feelings and well being shouldn't get pushed to the side. Without Gale, Prim and I wouldn't have gotten by," she says with accusing eyes. I feel hurt, looking away trying to hide the pain. I wonder if she would say that if she knew what he did by the woods. Gale was my closest friend, I would never tell her why I felt the way I felt because it would break the bond my family had with his, and probably his bond with his family. Gale's voice is in my head. 'it was a mistake!' Now wanting to avoid this conversation, I start to prepare a small breakfast of goat cheese and some cinnamon bread. I open the door to my room still in a sour mood. Peeta looks at me questioning.

"Hey, you okay?" He asks.

"Yeah… everyone has secrets in this house," I says flat.

He takes the pill and a few minutes later the lines in his brow smooth. I lay next to him. Trying to feel his warmth. Grateful for the pills. His hand moves to my stomach. Gently rubbing it. The touch is nice, I want to lean into it but I don't. I push his hand away, avoiding eye contact. I couldn't let him get attached. We both know what will happen. My decision is still final. The tea has been made and the only thing I needed to do was drink it. I have heard of the pain that came after and I know there is no turning back once it was done.

Peeta's face falls. I know he understands what I'm going to do. I feel my anxiety creep on me. I move away from Peeta. I knew Peeta knowing was going to make this decision much worse. He grabs my wrist trying to stop me from leaving the bed. I rip my wrist away from Peeta, trying to stop the feeling of guilt that threatens to swallow me.

"Katniss, please," I can see the pleading in his eyes. I shake my head at him. I can't look at him.

"We can't, Peeta." I say and walk out the room.

Chapter Text

That morning I stay away from Peeta by sitting on the sofa in the living room with my knees to my chest. The tea sits on the coffee table, untouched. Starring me down. All I have to do is gulp it down. Mr. Mellark is upstairs with Peeta. The house is still. My mother has stepped out again for more bandages. I can't bring myself to go upstairs again. To hear Peeta beg me. Mr. Mellark comes down with heavy feet, still in the same clothes from last night. I look up at him. He gives me a weak smile moving over to me and sitting on the other side of the sofa. I watch him for a bit. His soft breathing fills the room. He's the one that breaks the silence, Making me jump.

"I want to thank you,"

I'm puzzled looking at him. What did he have to thank me for? I'm practically abandoning his son at the moment and premeditating his grandchild's removal.

"Thank me for what?" I ask sourly.

"I wanted to thank you for saving my son..." he says. My guts drop and it's a little hard to keep back my feelings. He is a good man and his family means a lot to him. I look away. Going into the Games, I didn't think I'd return and I certainly didn't think I'd bring Peeta home with me. When the opportunity played its part I leached into it, riding it to the end. When Game makers announced the rule had been revoked, I was prepared to end it with Peeta. I never thought they would crown us both. His thank you didn't sit right, like I didn't deserve it. But I nod, showing him my acknowledgment. We pass a few moments in silence and I feel it's time to ask him about the cookies.

"Why did you give me those cookies?" I ask.

He looks confused for a moment before remembering, "Well Katniss, I did it for a few reasons. One mostly out of respect. You deserved something for saving your sister, and second because Peeta wanted me too. His heart was yours even before the games," His response shocks me. He gave me credit that I didn't deserve. But the second reason stuns me. Peeta had sent his father to give me the cookies. He had always been mine. Mr. Mellark's eyes look to the cup on the coffee table. We both stare at it for a while. I imagine Peeta's smile, his laughter, his warmth. All traits he got from his father. Traits that could possibly, but wouldn't, pass down to our child. The very one that grew inside me now. My hands move to my stomach. There is no sign of it by looking at me. I am too early to show. Yet I feel like I carry the weight of the world in me. What I'm about to do weighs heavier on my conscious.

"I'm not going to keep it," I say slowly to him waiting for his response. It's a long while before he says.

"I don't have a lot of knowledge about this Victor life you and Peeta endure, I suspect it has something to do with your decision. I'm sure if you made that choice, it's for a good reason," giving me a sheepish smile. He was on my side. Not because he believed I should, but because he respected my choice and he knew I would make the best decision. I close my eyes, willing myself to grab the cup.

We are startled by someone banging on the front door. The sound is so loud it brings me to my feet in a second. I look to Mr. Mellark who is just as confused as me. He gets up walking to the door. I follow. When he looks through the peephole. His eyes roll and he huffs. He opens the door to a furious Mrs. Mellark.

she shouts at him, "This is what you do?" She stops into the hallway and pushes past her husband.

"Our son is hurt. I couldn't just leave him," He says trying to calm her.

"Because he wants to play lovers with this Seam rat!" She shouts pointing at me. I push her hand away. I bite my low lip to keep from telling her what I think. She stares me down, I dare her with my eyes. Try it. My anger builds but I breathe even to calm myself.

"Don't be rude, let's talk about this outside," He says reaching out to her. She hits his hand away stepping away from him.

"Where is my son? I want him out of here! How dare you embarrass me like this!" She shouts pointing a finger in his face. I have to move on to biting my cheek to keep silent. An outburst is just at the edge of my throat.

"Stop it, you're embarrassing yourself, acting like a fool. Our son is in perfectly good hands," he says. She steps to him pushing him, he stumbles.

"Peeta!" She calls into the house as she rushes up the stairs, I grab her arm trying to stop her, she yanks her arm away.

"Don't you dare ever touch me! I'm here to see my son!" She screams.

"Margery! Stop this now!" I hear Mr. Mellark shout at her. I'm not sure what to do. I cannot deny her to see her son, but I can't trust her around Peeta. My heart races. She reaches the hall, flinging my bedroom door open. When we enter Peeta is still asleep.

"Peeta, wake up," She says walking over to him. Peeta's eyes flutter open confused.

"Mom?" He asks.

"Come on Peeta we're leaving," She says moving the blanket. Mr. Mellark grabs her hands.

"You need to leave now!" I scream at her. Stepping between her and Peeta. She turns to Mr. Mellark shoving him.

"You spend a night in the whore's house, forgetting your wife and home. Do you know what people will think Twain?" she says in his face.

"Mom, stop this," Peeta says trying to sit up.

"And you! Fucking this mine scum bitch! I should have never given birth to you! You bring us shame!" She screams at him. My anger bubbles over and I push her hard, knocking her into Mr. Mellark.

"Katniss!" Peeta screams. Grabbing at my waist pulling me down to him. I hear his screams before I realize what happened. He lets me go, holding his ribs. I had fell on his ribs.

"Oh! Peeta!" I yell, hovering over him. Peeta curls up on the bed. I don't know what to do. Mr. Mellark has her by her upper arms. Shes thrashing against him as he pulls her out the room.

"You're just going to let her put her hands on me?" She screams outside of the room.

"I'm sorry, Peeta I'm so sorry." I say to him, pulling his head into my lap, holding his head in my hands. He grips my knees tightly and groaning through clenched teeth. Tears are falling down his face. I hold still trying to let him recover. His head lays in my lap. His stare is dull and blank. The only thing I move is my fingers in his hair. Sweat beads on his forehead. I can still hear Ms. Mellark shout outside. the yelling eventually stops. The only sound now is the wind blowing against the house.

"Katniss?" Peeta's asks with shallow breaths. His eyes stare straight ahead blankly. This looked bothered me. I've never seen this expression on his face before. He looks torn.

"Yes Peeta?" I respond to him.

"I'm sorry you had to see that," he says flat.

"It's okay Peeta," I say comforting him.

"You don't know how long I have had to deal with that," he says groggily, There was a bigger picture to what he said. I will never really know the extent of the abuse the Mellark boys really went through. I try to imagine my mother doing that to us growing up and it is spirit killing. I remember the children from the Community Homes, how dead their eyes looked. How similar Peeta's eyes look now. I was thankful both my parents loved us staring at Peetas face.

"Please don't." he says, the hurt thick in his voice. Instantly I know what he's talking about.

"Peeta we can't, you know what will happen." I say, we both know what Snow will do, we should make this choice when we have the chance. But Peetas face covered with angst strewed something in me.

"But isn't that why we're going? You don't know how this will end. we'll find a way." he says.

"I'm going, You said you're not. So you choose that witch over me." I say, I couldn't understand how he can choose such a woman, the abuse in his family was there, and I couldn't understand the hold he had on them.

"My family, I choose my family. But if you keep this baby, it will be my family and I'll go anywhere, do anything to protect it."

"Peeta you don't understand," I say low hoping he'll realize.

"No Katniss, I don't, I love you, and I already love our baby and you will too," He says carefully rolling himself out of my lap. I am always the one to pull away. It hurts feeling the tables reversed. Tears escape my eyes. I need Peeta close. I need him always. I move to spoon him. Careful not to hurt his ribs. I lay my hand on his shoulder and my face next to his. I can feel him shake. He is crying too.

"I care about our child Peeta, that's why I'm making this choice, so they don't grow up in this world," I say.

"So do I," Peeta says moving his shoulder away from my hand. I feel the hurt hit me like a bolt.

"I know my family won't come Katniss. I know my father won't leave my mother behind, he's a loyal man. I can't leave him here alone. I have to protect them too," He says with so much pain in his words.

"They'll come Peeta, we'll make them come," I say into his neck. His hands move to his face. "If we can just make it to 13. I know things will be better there, you just need to believe." I say. Peeta shakes his head.

"Then let's leave tomorrow straight into the woods," He says quickly.

"Peeta you're hurt. We wouldn't make it in the woods, you need to get better first." I say.

"Then I'll get better. And I'll go, and we'll have our baby in 13." this was to only way to make Peeta come. The only way to save him, it took awhile until I felt together enough to answer. "Ok Peeta, we'll keep it," I say into his ear. I was going to keep this baby. My child would grow up in the poison world we live in. Slowly he turns around looking me in my eyes, with a small smile on his lips, and his eyes alive again. He leans in and kisses me and I feel like I could explode from the love I held for him. It felt as if we hadn't kissed in forever. My lips have grown hungry for him. I try to move closer. Sliding my hand down to his shaft, I try to show him my longing. I need to be close to him.

He groans in pain."We can't right now," He says into my lips. I groan in frustration there's not much we can do without getting carried away, so I stop. But the desire never eased.

His hand settles on my lower belly. I don't push it away. His eyes close. His long blonde lashes touching his face. I place my hand over his. I don't know what is to come, but I know It will be with Peeta. We will deal with what's ahead together.

Chapter Text

The next few days are a lot lighter now that I knew Peeta is going to come. Everything seems to fall into place. Every Night I fall asleep with Peeta, he holds me close with his hand always on my stomach. I take care of him, helping him shower and dress. While Peeta is on bed rest I have to take over his responsibilities of Effie and Haymitch. I don't know how he can deal with them everyday. Between Effie and Haymitch I felt like ripping my hair out my head. If it wasn't one, it was the other. This was kinda good cause it kept me busy. When I'm not occupied my thoughts wander to my stomach. I can feel my heart race. My feet ache to run. I want to be away from this place away from Snow's surveillance. District 13 seems to be taking forever to come for us. While Haymitch has told us nothing more about the plan. I am feeling trapped. I clean moving from one room to the next, pacing like a caged animal. The wait is driving me insane. One morning, when Rory knocks on the front door, I'm not surprised because he has been coming around almost everyday to just sit on the sofa or at the table to talk to Prim.

I let him in, then head back to the kitchen to finish my tea, not bothering to greet him. Lately I was lucky to get a look from him.

"Katniss," Rory says following into the kitchen.

"Yes?" I ask a bit surprised. lately he refuses to talk to me. I know it is because of Gale. I can understand why. Gale was his brother and I chosen the wrong person in Rory's eyes.

"Gale has been in the mines for 2 weeks straight, he doesn't have the time to take me to the woods. I was hoping you can teach me. If you have the time," Rory says.

I blink. He wanted me to teach him how to hunt in Gale's place. I think for a second that this might not be a good idea. It isn't my place. Gale has taken the responsibility to teach his fatherless brother how to hunt, yet this is a tempting reason to go to the woods. It beats spending the day waiting on Effie.

"Alright... but this to stays between us," I say looking at him. He nods. I prepare. I grab my hunting boots, slipping them on. Find my game bag, and reach for my hunting jacket. The last time I had these things on was a nightmare. I shake the thought from my head. We will leave soon and I may never see Gale's face again. Slipping my bag across my shoulder, I head out the door with Rory.

As we near the fence I stop, teaching him to listen for the hum of the fence.

"You always listen Rory never take that chance." I say to him. He nods. I'm sure he's heard this before but repetition is key with kids. I teach him how to move quickly under the fence and how to find the marked trees that hold the bows and arrows.

"I knew most of this, it's just shooting is my problem." He says pulling out Gale's bow from the log.

"Ok, so the first thing you want to do is anchor your jaw," I say demonstrating. He tries to replicate my stance but his arm is off. I tap it up with one hand and lower his shoulder with my other. After awhile he is able to hit a tree. I clap giving him praise. We shoot some game, making jokes about the animals. I sing the songs my father had taught me with Rory. Telling him about the Mockingjays, and the backfire they held for the Capitol. I let him hold the game bag, as he thanks me for taking him out here. For awhile I am able to forget about the foreseen problem I hold in me, Districts 13's awaited arrival, and Gales viotion. it's just Rory and I. I am pleased to have a new hunting partner.

Off in the distance I hear a low rumble. We are on a hill, looking down when I see them. White peacekeeper vehicles. I grab Rory pulling him down behind a bush. His eyes are wide with fright, he goes to talk but I cover his mouth. Looking at him shaking my head. The sun is setting. And the woods are growing dark. We have to leave now. My heart is racing as I push Rory in the direction of the fence, putting my hand on his head, showing him to keep his head down. I can see the fear in his eyes. Once out of view, we run. Rory is trying to keep up but trips a couple of times. His feet are not used to the forest floor. We reach the meadow. I am under the fence in seconds, when I look back Rory is mimicking my actions and slips under just as quickly, as soon as Rory's foot is clear of the fence, I hear it.

The hum.

My heart drops. Staring at the fence, I am in shock with my mouth open, eyes wide. Just a few minutes later and we would have been stuck on the other side. A few seconds later and Rory would have been dead. I hug him tightly. I wouldn't have been able to live with myself. He's just as shocked, hugging me back.

"Oh, Rory, I'm so sorry," I say. Holding him.

"It wasn't your fault Katniss, we're safe now, we made it," I can't help but feel shaky. I help Rory to his feet. I can feel it in my gut that this isn't a good sign. I grab the game bag from him, pulling it over my shoulder.

"Come on Rory, let's get out of here," I says, pulling him along. I keep looking at him as we walk. He looks so much like Gale yet his temperament was different. I knew he aspired to be like him. Rory is softer, more thoughtful. I knew he was good for my sister. He is eager to learn, motivated, and dedicated. They'll make a good team when they were older. They were the Everdeen and Hawthorne pair that was meant to be. I was grateful for him. We make our way to the Hob. I want to show him the way I trade.

"That was close," He says, looking at me.

"Yeah," I say. My sister would have been devastated if we were a moment too late. I try not to think about it, but I can't help it.

"Can I ask you something?" He asks. I nod.

"Did you ever love my brother?" Caught off guard, my head whips to look at him. I feel a little annoyed, but I know he's just curious.

"I had love for him," I say. Truthfully, I had liked to be around Gale and we had Grown up together. We were hunting partners from the time we were kids. I grew to love him. But now after everything, I know I never was in love with him. My heart has always been in Peeta's hands. From the moment of the bread.

"Had. Huh?" He asks.

"Yeah,"

"Do you still love us?" He asks shocking me again.

"Yes, Rory, I love you, Vick, and Posy, nothing Gale does will ever stop that," I say putting my arm around his shoulder. I've known them for so long, they are just as close as family.

"I guess what he did to Peeta was really bad," he says, looking down.

"Yeah, that was wrong, but I understand why," I say. There was more that was wrong. But it's better to let him think it was because of what Gale did to Peeta.

"What are you gonna name the baby?" He asks. I have to close my eyes for this question, Rory was full of surprises today.

"I'm not sure Rory, Peeta and I haven't talked about it," I say. Such a strange question to come from him. This conversation was strange all together. We get to the Square, a crowd of people where outside.

"If it's a girl, name her Flora," he says. A scream and a lash of a whip interrupt our weird conversation. I hear it again. People gasp around me. The screams are too familiar. Rory is off running into the crowd.

"Rory!" I yell to him trying to stop him. As I push through the crowd people murmur. I push past them trying to catch up to Rory. I can see an opening ahead.

"Rory, wait!" I call to him. I hear another scream.

When I'm in the clear the sight stuns me dead in my tracks. I can see Rory running into the square. In the middle is Gale tied to a post. His back is bare and bloody. Behind him a is a peacekeeper with his hand raised with a whip. Blood is splattered on his white uniform. Rory reaches them, holding his hand up trying to stop the blow. I lurch forward, running to Rory. The lash comes down and hits them both. I hear an ear piercing scream. And i know the whip has hit him.

"Stop!" I scream. As soon as I reach them. The peacekeeper punches Rory in the face making him fall to the ground. The peacekeeper stops looking at me.

"Miss. Everdeen?" He asks, taking a step back. He recognizes me without all my makeup. The girl Victor of District Twelve.

"What are you doing?" I scream at him. Going over to Rory on the floor holding his face.

"Miss. Everdeen you are disrupting a peacekeeper punishment, for a loose tongue, move aside," he says.

"These are my cousins!" I scream at him. I see his face fall.

"Sorry peacekeeper but you look new here, I'd have to inform you that you have done enough lashes for that punishment!" I see Rye shout, moving from the corner of the crowd. Rushing towards us.

"Anything further and we'd be forced to tell a head peacekeeper," Rye says moving in front of us. I see the peacekeepers face falter.

"And who are you?" he asks Rye.

"I'm Rye Mellark, Peeta Mellark, the Victor of District Twelve's brother," he introduces himself.

"Well... Alright, I guess that punishment was enough," he says. I can see his jaw tighten. I can tell he's mad because Rye showed him up. And probably won't let this go.

"There's a curfew! Anyone out past sundown will be shot on sight! Tell your families!" He shouts making Rory jump. He walks off. The whip leaving a trail of crimson blood on the ground as he walks.

Rory is scrambling to his feet, out of my arms. Rye stands over Gale,. untying him from the post. Rory is crying holding onto Gale. The sight is incredibly terrifying, bits and pieces of the skin on Gale's back flop over, showing his muscles. The smell of blood is consuming, and makes me dizzy. Gale looks to be passed out, hanging limp on the post. I reach out to Rory, trying to comfort him with shaking hands.

"Rory, it's going to be ok!" I shout over his cries. He won't let Gale go, Gale's limp body jolting around, the blood pouring from his back. Rory sobs are loud. When Rye unties Gale his unconscious body falls to the ground. Tears threaten my eyes. The sight is too much, I didn't know how to feel. People surround us instantly. Someone has a door and is helping Rye lift Gale on to it. I'm holding Rory in my arms. Trying to calm him, but to no use. He is hysterical. Reaching out for his brother. Screaming his brothers name.

"Take him to my mother!" I shout over the people's voices. The air is cold as the night comes. Rye and four other people I didn't know but worked with Gale in the mines, carried Gale to my house. I hold a sobbing Rory in my arms the whole way. His right eye is swollen shut from the hit. I can barely see through my tears. I don't want this. I don't want Gale in my home, under the same roof as Peeta and I. But there was nowhere else. I couldn't leave him there, for Rory's sake. Poor Rory had never seen this happen before. He was born after the harsher days ended, all he knew was the struggle of hunger, not violence. Softened by the shelter of his brother. Violence like this is shocking especially when it is against the only man he knows to look up to, Gale and I hold parental figures for our siblings, providing comfort, and love and protection. If we weren't here they'd starve. I know this, the day I almost told Peeta what happened with Gale. I knew what would happen. And I couldn't do it to them. I will never say a thing.

Chapter Text

I stand in the middle of the living room as Gale's screams fill the house around me. I stare into the kitchen where my mother and Prim works on Gale. Rye is holding Gale's hand still. Rory clings to me, with his face buried into my shoulder. My eyes stay entranced on Gale. Even after everything he did, his screams of pain still stab me in the chest. I flinch. My mother yells to me, but my pounding heart drowns her out. The house is dark. Only the kitchen light cascades into the rest of the house.

From the corner of my eye, I catch a familiar shade of yellow. Peeta has come down, clutching his ribs and calling for me. He is horror struck at the scene unfolding before him. And then I see his eyes, His deep blue, staring into mine, I shake my head, and pull Rory closer. I choke up a sob.

Peeta rushes to me. Enclosing Rory and I into his arms. Trying to comfort us at his own expense. My eyes are back on Gale. Gale is screaming for Hazelle. Prim tries to make him drink something, but he moves his face away, making it spill onto the ground. Prim gasps.

There is a hard knock on the door. I don't move, or at least I know I can't. My feet feel the floor. The reason I stay Upright is Rory in my arms. There's another knock and Peeta hears. He goes to move from us when Rory grabs at Peeta, trying to stop him.

"No! Peeta! They're here to take him!" Rory shouts clinging to Peeta. I can see the Pain in Peetas face as he struggles with Rory.

"Don't worry, Rory it's not them," Peeta says through his teeth. But Rory is still struggling.

"Katniss!" Peeta calls to me, snapping me out of my trance . I reach out for Rory, pulling him away from Peeta.

When Peeta opens the door, Madge stands there shaking from the cold with tears in her eyes. She greats Peeta, but her eyes fix on Gale. Her hand covers her mouth. Peeta stands at the door stunned. I mirror him. What was Madge doing here?

In her hand she held a syringe and a small bottle. Handing it over to my mother. My mother's eyes widen in surprise, but springs quickly into action. Peeta comes back to Rory and I. My mother's hands shake as she tries to put the syringe into the bottle. Prim pulls it away from her and With steady hands, She injects it into Gale's arm. Madge moves to Gale's face placing both hands on either side. Peeta and I gasp. This was new and completely unexpected. I remember Gale's harsh words to her on the day of the Reaping and the unnecessary jabs he made towards her about not having to put her name into the bowl more than once a year.

The sight was so strange. Her blonde locks cover her face as she hovers over him. Everyone in the room is just as surprised. Gale has never shown interest in Madge. At least not that he's told me.

The medication kicks in and his cries lessen. I feel Rory calm in my arms. He look to his brother on the kitchen island. The room falls silent. Rye walks up to us, hugging Peeta lightly then taking a step back. I realize that's the first time we've seen Rye since Gale and Peeta fought. It was confusing that he and Peeta are so forgiving of Gale. Rory walks to Gale, grabbing his hand. Prim is at his side. Pushing his hair behind his ear. Wiping away his tears. Rory is in good hands now. Prim will comfort him. She holds ice to his injured eye. She's been crying too. The look on my mother's face relaxes as she wipes away her sweat, leaning against the countertop.

I don't go to him, Instead I sink deeper into Peeta. My panic is calmed by Peeta's scent. I am careful with him, he is still recovering.I lead him to the sofa because I know he needs to sit. Rye follows, putting his head in his hands.

"What happened?" Peeta asks, rubbing my arm.

"I took Rory hunting. We were on our way to the Hob, when we heard Gale's screams. It was a new peacekeeper, whipping Gale for talking back, Rye stopped him," I say to Peeta. Peeta's hand moves to his brothers shoulder.

"He said there is a curfew, and there's been a shipment of new peacekeepers," Rye informs.

"The fence was charged today. Nearly trapping us outside the district." I say not adding the part about Rory nearly being killed by the fence. But it sends a shiver through me just thinking about it.

Peeta's face grows pale.

"Get Haymitch," Peeta says urgently. I'm up immediately. My nerves are still on edge from the chaos.

"Why?" I ask needing to know the reason for urgency.

"This is no coincidence, Katniss, why you think the fence is electrified? And a new shipment of peacekeeper are here?" that's all I need to hear before I'm out the door, to Haymitch's house. It has started to snow. The light flakes are hitting my face as I run down the street. I barge into Haymitch's house. The door bangs against the wall.

"Haymitch!" I call into the dark house. I run up the stairs searching for him. When I find him, sleeping, in the corner of the room, knife in hand. The smell of liquor burns my nose, making my eyes tear.

"Haymitch!" I yell at him. There is no use in trying to wake him gently. He always wakes with violent thrashes. He doesn't budge. His snores wreck the room. I have to cover my nose with my arm. The smell brings back the memories. I become sick onto the carpet. I don't bother to clean it, he won't know it wasn't him. I grab a cold damp pillow and throw it at him.

"Haymitch you drunk!" I scream in frustration. 13 can come for us anytime now, and Haymitch doesn't have the decency to stay sober. Peeta and I will have to carry him onto the hovercraft when they come.

He's wake yelling absurdities at me. I step back, staying clear of him and his knife.

"What do you want?" He slurs. This is useless, he's too drunk to be of any help.

"We need to talk to you," I say with my last ounce of patience.

"More baby killing stuff or something different?" He asks pulling himself upright. This hurts me. I know he's much harsher when drunk, but it doesn't stop the blow to my gut. He sees this and his look turns apologetic.

"Sorry... what is it?" he asks, looking away.

"Peeta and I need to talk to you." I say.

"No, no, I'm not going out into those damn woods again," he says waving his hand.

"Haymitch, the fence is electrified," I say. He huffs in relief. But then it registers. And his breath catches. His brow pulls together. He's worried.

"What is it?" I ask. He shakes his head at me. "Nothing." he says, walking past me.

Outside, on the walk to my house, Haymitch doesn't look my way. When we are inside, Haymitch stops abruptly at the sight of Gale. I give him an 'I'll explain everything later' look. Pushing him forward.

"Haymitch," Peeta calls Haymitch over. He stumbles to Peeta, running his hand through his long dark hair.

"What do you want, boy?" He plops himself on the sofa between Rye and Peeta. The stink of Haymitch hits Rye. He looks away to hide his disgust . Peeta's face scrunches.

"Oh wow Haymitch, you reek," Peeta says holding his nose. Haymitch chuckles to himself. Rye can't take it for long and gets up, standing far from him.

"There's was a new shipment of peacekeepers, and the fence is on, will that give us a problem?" Peeta asks Haymitch. Haymitch's face darkens and it is awhile before he answers.

"This is not good. You two need to stay out of The peacekeeper's way. You both are going to have to be more careful. Cause they'll be here any day now," Haymitch says rubbing his neck. Peeta and I look at each other. My heart is pounding in my ears. While Peeta looks hopeful with a small smile on his face. I look away, trying to hide my panic. I couldn't place a reason for it.

"Who'll be here any day now?" Rye asks. I had forgotten he was there. He is definitely the quietest of the Mellarks. Haymitch's eyebrows rise.

"I'm guessing you haven't asked your families yet?" he asks rubbing his face

"We haven't had the time," Peeta says in our defense.

"They're not going to want to stick around for long. It will be an in and out process. No second chances to get anyone out. Choose who is coming and keep them close," his words give me goosebumps. I look at Peeta. If he decides last moment to stay there will be no getting him out. I wonder what would the capitol do to him if I left for 13 without him. I shake that thought from my mind. Peeta said he is coming. There will be no leaving Peeta behind. I'll never let Snow have him.

My hands go to my stomach. It's because of you. I think to the growing fetus.

"If you're planning on leaving, I'm in," Rye says, stepping closer. He has a fire in him. A fire different from his brother. Rye is ready to leave this all behind, unlike Peeta.

"Yeah? What about Dad?" Peeta asks, rolling his eyes in annoyance.

"We'll drag the old buffer," He says to Peeta, I chuckle at his words. That's what I had said to Peeta. Minus the 'buffer' part. I see Peeta's jaw tighten. He's bothered by his brothers flippant approach to their fathers persuasion.

"And mother? You gonna drag her too?" Peeta asks. Crossing his arms. I scoff at that. He's so concerned about that witch. "Or what about Grant, and his family?" I guess Grant was Peeta's oldest brother.

"Peeta we'll do what we can. But at the end of the day, these people are full blown adults. If they want to stay they can. But they won't be holding me back with them. I'm in. Because now is the time to leave the nest Peeta, you got a baby on the way. Think about that," Rye says, and walks away looking unbothered. Haymitch chuckles. I can see Peeta holding his composure. I reach out for him but he looks away. We all knew Rye was right. We can only do so much. We will give them all the choice. But at the end of the day, their choices shouldn't stop us.

I took at this as a good thing, one of Peeta's family members was off the list. We just needed the rest.

Because of the curfew Hazelle couldn't come to see Gale. Rory, Madge, and Rye couldn't leave. Rye agreed that he would stay in Peeta's house for the night. Madge quietly asks if she can have the spare room. It felt strange saying sure, It wasn't a problem if she needed to stay here, just strange that she was even here. All that was left was Rory. He won't leave Gale's side as Gale lays unconscious on the island. I tell him he can sleep on the sofa if he got tired. My mother instructs Rory to change Gale's bandages every few hours, if he was still up. She heads to sleep along with Prim. While Haymitch heads out the door Peeta lets out a sigh like if he's been holding his breath the whole time around Haymitch, this lightens the mood. I smile at him.

"It's been to long day," Peeta says, behind me. Moving my hair out of the way and kissing my neck. We stand in the dining room doorway. I watch Gale soft breathing as Peeta's lips caresses my neck. Rory's already sitting next to his brother asleep. I want to move him to the sofa, but dont, going to him meant being close to Gale and the thought is unnerving. I don't know what to do with Gale. I know we were definitely leaving. Yet I know I can't leave Gale's family behind. But I can't take Gale. If I close my eyes I can still feel Gale's hand on my thigh. His hot breath on my neck and the thick lingering fear that came along with it. Tears claim my cheeks. His face was the worst part. There was no anger, no hate, just hurt and rejection. I could understand if it was out of hate. I had done so much to him, leaving him here, getting engaged with Peeta, and even choosing him. He has done some much for me, keeping my family alive when I could not. Being near him now made me feel it worse. Now that the chaos was over. I felt the hurt again.

"What are you thinking?" Peeta says into my ear, rubbing my arm. His touch soothes my spiraling thoughts. I can't tell him the truth, that I was thinking of Gale's betrayal. So I move around it.

"Rory... we can't leave Hazelle and the kids here,"

Peeta nods. "Very true, you think they'll come?" Peeta asks.

"Not without Gale," I say low. More to myself. Kissing my shoulder. His hands sneaks under my shirt to my stomach. His fingers dance over our child.

"Gale will come, he'll understand what he needs to do for his family," Peeta says, trying to comfort me. But instead my body tenses, making me feel nervous. If we take Gale with us there will be no getting away from the memories.

"Can I ask you something?" He asks resting his forehead on my shoulder.

"Sure," I answer. Forcing my voice to sound lite.

"The day Gale and I... he said 'it was a mistake' what did he mean?" Peeta asks. I step up moving away from him. Damit Peeta.

"Nothing," I say, wrapping my arms around myself.

"It clearly is..."

"It's nothing Peeta just drop it," I say angrily. Usually Peeta would not push it. But he continues.

"Katniss if you did something... with... you can tell me. It won't change anything, I'd just like to know about it," He says reaching out to me. I feel the hitch in my throat. My eyes watering. He thinks I slept with Gale.

"No Peeta why would you even say that?" Walking toward the stairs. He follows. When we are in my room he continues.

"I'm sorry I asked. It's just that it sounded strange to me, and you've been..." he says. Sitting on the bed, looking at his hands. I walk into my bathroom, ignoring him, trying to avoid his assumption and turning on the shower.

I remove my clothes and step into the tub. Out of the corner of my eye I see the bathroom door open. I know it's Peeta. I can see the blonde through the blurry shower door. He moves around a bit. I turn to see his hand open the shower door. He's completely naked, the only thing that covers him are the bandages around his chest. He steps into the shower with me. My heart skips a beat. To me he is beautiful, his broad shoulders, his sculpted stomach, his soft pale skin illuminated by the warm light of the bathroom, I can feel the ache deep in me at the sight of him. The warm water runs over me. I let it run through my hair. His cheeks grow pink. I can tell he's self-conscious. I don't think I ever seen him completely naked before. Every scar, every birthmark. I look a his leg, where the stump meets the metal. He looks away. I know he's thinking about it too. I reach out for his hand, pulling him close to me. I can feel his heat radiating off him. I want him close. The water falls on us. I snake my arms around him, softly laying my head on his chest. I think for a second about his bandages, but dismiss it. I'll change them tomorrow, right now I need him. I can feel his shaft at my waist, hard and ready. My heart quickens. I remember every time we connected. The moans from his lips, the way he reached his end, the feel of his body pressed against mine. He wraps his arms around me.

"Peeta," I whisper into his chest. My hands roam over his bottom up to his back, pressing myself to him. He sucks in a breath and it excites me. I can feel the deep throb in my core. I move my arms around his neck bringing his lips to mine. Wasting no time he's pushes me up against the shower door. It's cold on my back but I don't care. I open my mouth begging for his tongue, his hand holds the side of my face. Touching his open mouth to mine, he plunges his tongue into it. I close my lips around it suckling on it. He groans, Putting one hand on my backside, he hikes up my knee with the other. He pushes his shaft to my core and I moan. Feeling the much needed heat. His hand moves between us,his fingers slip between my folds. He rubs circles until I cry out, it makes him stop.

"Can't be loud," He says on my chin. I roll my eyes. How am I going to do that when my body reacts to his on its own?

I kiss his neck and move my hips as his finger. slip into me. My cry is muffled by his neck.

"Only you, Peeta," I say into his ear. I feel my legs shake. He's sucking so hard on my neck that it's almost painful and it pushes me further. He wraps one arm around me, positioning his shaft at my entrance. I can feel his tip pushing. My body is shaking. My head feels hot, my hands greedily go to his hair.

"I love you," He whispers so softly into my ear that I barely hear it. And suddenly he's in me. I cry out forgetting we are being quiet. He fills me deeply. He's kissing my lips, grabbing my tender breast. I move my hips, pumping him. Instinctively he thrusts harder but cries out in pain, letting me go, and holding his ribs. My heart jumps.

"Peeta are you ok?" I says out of breath. He nods. Squeezing his eyes shut. I put my hand on his cheek.

"Let's go to the bed," I say, grabbing his hand leading him out of the bathroom. I don't bother turning the shower off, hoping it'll muffle the sounds from the bed.

Peeta carefully lays himself down onto his back as I follow, his hands fall to my hips when I straddle him. I look him in the eyes, As I slip him inside me. My wet hair drips on his chest and soaked bandages. I began to rock slowly, feeling him slip in and out. Peeta's hands tighten at my waist increasing my pace. I'm scared I might hurt him. His breathing is shallow.

"Katniss, I need you," he breathes. I pick up the pace. I feel the build, the deep burning fire. His mouth is in a O, his eyelids are low. His eyes never leave mine while his hands travel up my stomach caressing my jostling breasts.

"I'm close." He says and it drives me closer. I love his expression when we make love. It's an expression that only I will ever see. Mine. I think. He'll always be mine. I rock harder forgetting about his ribs. He cries out grabbing his chest but I don't stop, I can't stop. His hips move to meet my thrusts. I explode. I'm so breathless, I can't even moan. With my mouth open in a silent cry, I ride out my orgasm. When he comes to his end, I feel his warm seed spilling into me. There is No reason to pull out, the unthinkable has already happened. Judging by my symptoms, I most likely conceived our first time. So much for being 'careful'.

Taking care not to lean into his chest. I curl up against his side. Our heavy breathing echoes throughout the room. He pulls me in tight, kissing the top of my head. His hand slowly slides to my belly. His big warm hand resting on the spot where our child is growing. For a moment Rory flashes through my mind. "What are you gonna name the baby?"

"Peeta," I say into the dark.

"Yes, katniss," Peeta mumbles sleepily.

"How do you like the name Flora?" I ask into his skin. Closing my eyes, rubbing my lips onto his skin of his chest.

"That's beautiful Katniss... Flora," he says rolling the name with his tongue.

"Rory gave me that name," I say. Rory would be happy if I used his name. It was beautiful and unique.

"He's a good kid," Peeta says. And I nod.

 

His hands reaches for the blanket pulling it over us, keeping us warm and safe. My eyes grow heavy as I feel his fingers roam over my belly as I fall asleep. When I Dream it's of little hands and feet. Tall grass and dandelions.

Chapter Text

I wake to a dark room entangled in the sheets I slept in. I reach out my hand for Peeta but I don't feel his warm body. I sit up and look around the room. He's not here. I'm off the bed looking through my drawers for a nightgown. It's five in the morning. Peeta must be downstairs. The weeks of bed rest have put him off his sleep schedule. When I'm on the stairs I see them, Peeta at the kitchen island changing Gale's bandages. I hide in the stairway as I hear Gale beginning to stir.
"Shh Gale, it's alright." Peeta says softly as to not wake up Rory still sleeping at the island. There is a wool blanket covering him. My chest warms. Who could ever hate Peeta? He's the sweetest person I know. Gale moans louder.
Peeta grabs a cup next to him. He brings it to Gale's lips.
"Here, drink this. It's for the pain."
Gale moves away, refusing Peeta's help. As he moves he moans louder, hurt by the movement.
"You're going to wake Rory up. Just drink it," Peeta says, sounding a little frustrated, putting the cup back to Gale's face. He's scowling at Peeta as he gulps it down. A few minutes later Gale's face relaxes. It's quiet for a moment. The only sounds are Gale's heavy breathing.
"Where's my mother?" Gale's hoarse voice breaks the silence.
"She's home. She couldn't come, there's a curfew. She'll be here soon I'm sure," Peeta informs. Peeta puts a hand to Gale's forehead, checking his temperature. Gale shakes Peeta off.
"You have a fever," Peeta says. He goes over to the cabinet pulling out the fever pills and dropping a pill into his hand. He fills a cup with water. Sitting back down Peeta places the pill right in front of Gale's face. I think for a second that maybe I should step in and make my presence known but Gale talks again.
"Why are you helping me Mellark?" Gale says bitterly, taking the pill Peeta provided. Peeta holds the water so Gale can drink.

"For her." Peeta says simply.
"I'm sure she wouldn't want you to help me," Gale says, looking away from Peeta. He is right. I'd let him rot on that table if it didn't hurt his family and my family. I should put a stop to this conversation but I stay hidden on my stair, to intrigued by this conversation to move. "You need to fix things between you and her. I understand you and I have our reasons, but it shouldn't affect your friendship," Peeta says, looking down. He thinks the main reason Gale and I are not talking is because of their fight.
"It's not that easy, Peeta. I'm sure we'll never be friends again," Gale says.
"She hasn't been herself lately," Peeta says. Gale closes his eyes, brows bunching.
"It's never going to happen. Peeta. Trust me," Gale's voice cracks. I put my face into my knees, trying to stop the tears that threaten my eyes.
"We're leaving Gale, we're joining the rebellion in district 13, we don't want to leave without you and your family," Gale looks confused.
"You're talking crazy Mellark, there is no District 13,"
"There is Gale. And some of the Districts are uprising, District 13 is coming for us," Peeta says. There's a pause.
"I promise you she doesn't want me to come," Gale says.
"That's why you have to make things ri-" Peeta is interrupted.

"Mellark, you don't understand," Gale says harsher. Rory stirs. They both look to him. Waiting for him to settle down.
"You're right. I don't understand, but I also don't want to be the reason she drops you out of her life," Peeta says crossing his arms.
"You're not," Gale says low. They both stare at each other for a while. Then Gale looks away. He won't tell Peeta, I'm sure of it. I see the guilt pure in his face. I know it makes him want to tell Peeta.
"So then why?" Peeta asks. Gale doesn't answer.
"I'll go for the fight. I'll talk my family into going. But I can't guarantee my friendship with Katniss. Even if I said sorry it wouldn't change a thing," Gale says, trying to change the subject. Peeta nods. Accepting he won't be getting answers from Gale. I know he won't let this go. He knows something happened and we're both keeping it from him.
"Where is she now?" Gale asks after a pause.
"I left her upstairs, asleep in her room," Peeta answers.
"Well Mellark, you definitely won this one,"
"I was never playing," Peeta says.
"I was," Gale says quickly. Peeta doesn't respond.
"So she is keeping the baby," Gale states. Peeta looks at Gale. the subject that led them to fight now brings them together to talk, but still is a sensitive subject for both.
"Yeah, we're planning to raise it in 13," Peeta says timidly.
"She's never wanted kids. We talked about it before the Reaping, she must really love you to keep that baby,"
"You think so?" Peeta asks hopeful. This conversation has gone completely different from my expectation. I feel the familiar feeling of guilt, eavesdropping has only made me feel uncomfortable. So this is where I'm about to stop it. Just as I go to step out of the darkness, I hear footsteps behind me. Prim turns the corner rubbing her eyes. She stares at me questioningly. I put my index finger to my lips, and she nods. She walks to me, giving me a hug. Her warm little body comforts me. All the emotion from before subsides. Then she's gone and walks into the kitchen.
"Peeta. You're up. I was just going to change Gale's bandages," Prim says surprised.
"Yeah I couldn't sleep, I feel restless so I thought I'll be at better use if I changed them. He felt hot so I gave him a fever pill," Peeta tells Prim. She hugs his waist and goes to inspect the bandages. She turns to Rory, placing a hand on his sleeping head. This was my queue. I walk out of the dark. Peeta looks at me. Surprised I'm awake. His stare lingering on me. His face goes white. But he looks away quickly. I think that was strange but don't push it. I stay at the doorway of the kitchen with crossed arms watching them.
"Gale are you hungry?" Prim asks. Tilting her head looking at Gale. He shakes his head. Peeta gives me a small smile.
"Are you?" Peeta asks me. I nod, because in truth I am. But I won't go into the kitchen. Peeta is out of his chair in seconds to prepare me breakfast. I take this chance to look at Gale. From here I can see two pink lines on his right cheek. I can remember the warm blood that dripped on to me that night. I feel goosebumps, and my heart quickens. There is no forgiveness for him. I know I'll never see him as my Gale again. I rub my wrist walking to the living room. Gale knows I'll never forgive him. He knows what he did was completely wrong. At least he knows. I sit on the sofa, legs under me, when I smell the eggs. I can feel my stomach turn, covering my mouth. No, not now. I take off running for the bathroom. This has to be the worst part of pregnancy. I am sick in the toilet while trying my best to pull my loose hair out of the way. My heaving is loud. My body shakes from the nausea. I feel hands at my back then holding up my hair.
"I'm right here," Peeta is by my side, his voice is in my ear. Knees on the floor, right next to me. When I'm done he hands me a napkin and a glass of water. I rinse my mouth with it then spitting into the toilet. Peeta pulls me to him. I lay down on his lap, curling up to him. One hand is on my stomach while the others rubs my back.
"I hate this, Peeta" I hate being sick. It is horrible. The chills and sweats that come right after were the worst part. It makes me extremely tired, and the heaving makes me sore.
"It stops after a while," Peeta says. His silver tongue aways at play.
"I hope so," I says groggy.
Peeta walks me to the sofa to lay me down. Prim comes to join me, but halts in her step. As she stares at me.

"Geez Katniss, what happen to your neck?" Prim gaspes, gawking at me. I give her a puzzling my hand flies to my neck. Its sore now thats shes points it out. She pulls my hand away from my neck, pressing on my neck lightly with two little fingers.

"What happened?" Prim asks. I flinch away from the touch when Peeta intervene.

"Prim, she is alright, I'll get her a scarf," Peeta says, walking over to the coat rack by the front door, retrieving my scarf. My sister is off to the freezer fetching ice. I go to the mirror that hangs over the fireplace, when I see it. A larger purple and red bruise on the left side of my neck it was a love bite, something I only heard about in school. Remembering the hard but nice sucking Peeta did on my neck in the very spot, I blush. I try to cover it with my hair the moment I see it. Peeta appears behind me. He is not looking at me. He drapes the scarf over my shoulder and I scowl at him through the mirror. He couldn't have warned me? His cheeks grow pink too. "You couldn't have told me?" I ask, slightly mad.

"I kinda thought you knew," he confesses lowering his voice for only my ears. I quickly take the scarf off my shoulder and wrap it around my neck. Prim is back with some ice in a rag, I take it from her. I didn't want to explain this to her, especially now, with all this going on around us.

"I'm ok prim," I say. She lifts her hand, trying to move the scarf to take another look. I grab her hand stopping it. I kiss her fingers and give her a weak smile. I know she was just trying to help.

"Prim, I swear, I'll explain eventually," I tell her. She is hesitant for a second but then recognition floods her face. Her face beets red. Embarrassed she scurrys back to the kitchin, Peeta not long after follows.

The house still smells of eggs. But the smell doesn't make my stomach turn. Instead I feel famished. My body demands food. Peeta serves me a plate of eggs, goat cheese, and some of his bread. He kisses my head walks back to the kitchen. I'm nearly done when Rory wakes. He grips Gale's arm, as if he just realized it was all real. A small sob escapes him. Gale pulls him close.
"I know Rory. Everything is alright now. Mom will be here soon," Gale says in a husky voice. Rory nods. Prim is at Rory's side with a plate of food in her hands. I look away. Remembering the screams, and the way Gale's body hung, how Rory clung to Gale. It all is too much. The sky is becoming lighter and I know Hazelle is on her way. I can imagine the thoughts that ran through her head last night. When she is here I will give her money. Gale's injuries are too severe to go back to the mines tomorrow so Hazelle will have to work overtime with her laundry to make what Gale would have brought in. I'll give her enough so she doesn't have to work for awhile. So she could care for Gale and Rory. When I hear the knock on the door I know it's her. I open the door and she swoops me into a big hug. Tears in her eyes bringing some to mine.
"Thank you Katniss," She says. Vick and Posy stand behind her in their winter coats and holding hands. Hazelle is over to Gale sobbing now. Rory holding his mother. Vick holds a crying Posy, still not knowing really what's going on.
Peeta, prim, and I sit in the living room giving them some privacy. We don't bother waking my mother and Madge. Let them get as much sleep as they can.
"It's beautiful," Peeta says looking at the Hawthorne's huddle and cry in one another's arms. I'm confused why he would think it was beautiful they were crying. He sees my confusion.
"I mean the strength their family has. The love they have for each other. You don't see that in the Merchants. The parents detach themselves from their kids." Peeta says, my hand reaches out to hold his. I know he's thinking of his mother. It hurts him more than he lets on. I want to bring his head into my lap and soothe those memories away.
"We're your family too now, we love you Peeta" Prim says wrapping her skinny arms around Peeta's shoulders. He smiles holding Prims hands. This melts my heart. My favorite people safe and together. His eyes meet mine and I smile at him. I lean in and kiss his cheek. In some sense, I did love Peeta. If I really want to be truthful with myself. I will never love another. Ever. No one in the world could be as him.
I hear Rye before I see him. He walks through the front door, not bothering to knock. He looks to Gale's family and raises his brows as he walks to us.
"House full of Hawthorne's," he says. I nod. He sits on a loveseat and gives me a questioning look.

"Cold Katniss?" he asks with a smug smile on his lips. He looks to Peeta for a second. I roll my eyes. Leave it to Rye too make things awkward. But he changes the subject quickly.
"Um Peeta, did you know there's a nearly crazed Capitol woman in your house?" Rye asks. I chuckle.
"Yeah Effie is staying here. She's coming with us. But she doesn't know yet," Peeta says, leaning back against the sofa, resting a hand on his ribs, rubbing them softly.
"She thought I was you at first, then started yelling. And when I finally told her I was your brother and what has happened. She offered to draw me a bubble bath," He says laughing. Peeta tries to hold back a laugh. Prim is shaking with laughter.
"And what did you do?" I ask. Holding back a giggle.
"Well... I let her, and now I smell like a peach cobbler," He says smelling his pits. Prim jumps up and goes over to Rye, sniffing him. Rye is laughing with tears falling down his eyes.
"I should go to her, poor Effie trapped in that house all day," Peeta says. I nod in agreement.
"Maybe we should send Prim," I say matter-of-factly. Her eyes brighten up. And she claps her hands together.
"Oh please Katniss," I smile. I think this will be good for Prim and Effie. Prim was fond of pretty smells and pretty dresses. A true girly girl at heart. This will be good for Effie too giving her something to do. We can't bring her here, with Gale's bloody and raw back out in the open. Effie would probably pass out or worse. Haymitch, Peeta, and I know how sensitive she is. We worked together to keep the worst from her. I remember the tour in District Eleven when the old man was shot. We tried to hide that from her too.
"Yeah Prim, you can keep Effie company if you want," I say. She hugs me tightly. I kiss her head.
Later my mother comes down from her room. She checks Gale's bandages. Rye went home to the bakery. Hazelle is sitting with Gale. Rory left with Prim to Peeta's house. Madge creeps down stairs and sits with Hazelle next to Gale. I made a mental note to catch up with her when I can. Posy lays on the sofa next to me while Vick sits on the floor with his stuffed old dog. Peeta is in the kitchen, when he comes back he has a bag of sweets and two mugs of hot chocolate in his hands. I smile, Vick and Posy rarely ever get anything extra. Vick's face lights up,reaching his hands out to Peeta. Posy shies away.
"Careful Vick it's hot," Peeta tells Vick.
"It's ok Posy, it tastes really good," I say encouraging her to take a cup from Peeta. But she doesn't. She stares at him with her gray eyes. He sets the mug on the table.
"It's right here if you want it," Peeta says softly to Posy. Vick, already done with his reaches out for hers, but I stop him.
"No Vick, that's Posy's," I say pulling the cup away. Posy takes the cup, glaring Vick down.
"Don't worry Vick there's more," Peeta says. Taking Vick's cup back to the kitchen. I hand Posy some sweets and she pops one in her mouth. Vick starts to open a bunch. When Peeta is back he has two mugs, setting one next to Vick and handing me the other.
"Thank you Peeta," he kisses my temple. I know he will be the best father he can to our child. I place my hand on my belly. And for once I am a little happy about this baby.

Chapter Text

After a week Gale is able to go home, the open wounds scab on his back. He is able to move again. Prim isn't happy about him leaving, getting to play doctor was a good experience for her. I give Hazelle money to take back with her and she doesn't protest. When he's finally gone, it’s a relief to my nerves. I wake from terrible dreams of mutts and babies, dark houses and baby’s cries, and sometimes of Gale. I try to tell Peeta it's from the whipping, but he sees right through my lies. He doesn't push me, but I can feel the resentment he tries not to show. I understand his frustration with me. I wake screaming another man’s name and won’t tell him why. It continues weeks after Gale has left. Each time It does, it makes it worse for Peeta to bare. Not knowing why is killing him. Other nights, when I don’t dream of that night, when I dream of the games, Peeta holds me close, soothing me back to sleep. Those nights we both are on the same page.
To keep myself busy, I begin to get ready. Packing things I want to take to 13. I encourage my mother and sister to do the same. We keep everything in the spare room so everything is in one place and ready to grab. I start to think of the smaller things we need to get done, like new shoes for Prim, bags for the Hawthorne’s, and boots for Effie. I think about Lady, Prim’s goat. I have forgotten to bring her to the goat man like Prim asked which is a shame because selling her would be no problem. So instead of selling her, we give Lady to Delly Cartwright, Peeta's childhood friend, she agrees to take Lady off our hands. She is sweet and when she speaks with Peeta there is a sibling bond. Prim cries her eyes out saying goodbye to Lady while the stupid goat just stands there, not knowing what is happening. When Delly tries to pull Lady away she bleats for Prim and struggles against the lead. Guilt pools in my chest, I know I'll miss her too. Prim falls to her knees at the cries and I can't bare it. I need to hold her in my arms. Peeta beats me to it. He scoops Prim into his arms. She looks so small in his arms as she cries. I hug them both, wiping Prim’s tears away. She sobs into Peeta’s chest as Delly pulls Lady away. Prim wanted to take her with us but Haymitch says they wouldn’t take an old goat.
We walk back to the house with an hysterical Prim when I see it, a bright yellow box on the steps. There is, a large bow neatly tying it together. It is too brightly colored to be from 12. My heart drop. This isn’t just any box, this is from the Capitol, from Snow. Peeta looks to me just as confused.
"What do we do?" He asks. Hearing the nervousness in his voice, sparks my own. I want to tell him I have no clue when he puts Prim down, she’s now stopped crying, sensing the urgency. Peeta goes to pick it up but I stop him.
"No Peeta, leave it." I say pulling him back. We stare at the box a while longer before I decide I don't want to know what's in it. I kick it hard off the porch. The box goes flying, and comes undone. When it hits the floor two little white baby shoes come tumbling out into a puddle. I'm rooted in place. Peeta is the first to react. Turning my eyes away from the unwanted gift.
"Prim, take her inside," I hear Peeta say, and Prim’s hands are on me, trying to usher me inside.
"No!" I protest. I can't be cooped up in that house again. My legs attempt to run. But Peeta catches me mid sprint. I struggle against him. I need to breathe, I need to get to the woods, to escape this. But Peeta holds me tighter.
"Let go!" I scream, thrashing. I hear Peeta moan in pain when I push against his still tender ribs and I think he's going to let go but he doesn't. Instead we sink to the floor of the porch. I let out a long cry. This was it. They know what I carry in me, the little life Peeta and I created.
"You can't have it!" I scream into the open air, hoping Snow can hear me.Peeta lays his forehead on my shoulder. Defeated I slump in his arms.
"We'll leave Katniss. We’ll leave now if we have to," Peeta says trying to grasp hope. But I know better than to hope, we are trapped in the District, our chance to leave was the day Gale was whipped. We just didn't know. As we wait here for District 13 we have missed our chance. I should have just stuck to my original plan.
"How Peeta? There's no way out, you should have just let me do what I had to," I say harshly, struggling against him. Anger rushing to my head, my ears grow hot. I'm furious. This is Peeta's fault, for not letting me do what must be done. It is his fault that this baby grows inside me. His fault that my heart squeezes when I think of holding it in my arms. We are doomed, and so is this child. He knows this.
"No Katniss, I couldn't," Peeta says sternly.
"This is your fault!" I scream at him. Peeta stiffens, obviously hurt.
"How could you you say that, I would never want my child in this situation," His voice is loud in my ear. I push on him, breaking his hold and fall to the floor next to him.
"Then you should understand what I needed to do. What I need to do," I say struggling to get my feet.Peeta pulls me back down, onto my back. He lays on top of me. I push on him. But he's so much stronger than I. This moment seems to familiar to me. Triggering my memories of that night. I grab his hair pulling his head back but to no use. He grabs my wrist holding them down.
"How dare you!" I scream in his face.
"How dare I? How dare I? How dare you! That's my child too! You're no better than Snow if you hurt this baby! I won't let you!" He screams back. And with that I begin to cry. He looks so angry, it’s a fire I have never seen directed towards me. This is a different side of Peeta. He’s like a cornered animal fighting to protect his child. He will always be the better one of us. I see Prim crying in the doorway, frightened by our sudden outburst.
"Get off me!" I scream.
"No! I know you don’t want to do this!"
"Peeta get off me now!"
"I won't let you do this to us!" His voice cracks. And a few seconds later he's undone by his true emotions. I can see it in hIs eyes. I can see in his eyes that he is just as scared as I am. We’re trapped. His tears fall on my face down to me.
"Please!" I plead. I can't take it. My anger turns into Panic, I feel my shaking nerves taking over. It's no longer Peeta over me, but Gale. His desperate expression stares at me. In one swift move he lets go of my wrist and wraps his arms around me and buries his face into my neck. He collapses on top of me and his body weight falls onto me. I scratch at his neck, My fists slam down on his back trying to get him off, and scream at the top of my lungs. when Peeta’s scent hits me, bread and cinnamon, I am struck with reality. Suddenly it's not Gale above me that I’m trying to rip apart, it's Peeta. Startled by what just happened, I freeze. Trying to recover from the flashback. Peeta pulls me into his lap. He sobs but he won't let me go. My heart breaks seeing him like this, desperate, broken, and begging. Prim runs off the porch.
"Please! please, Katniss don't," he pleads. "We'll find a way. We'll make it out of this," he says. I can't refuse him when he's like this. So I don't. I feel the guilt creep into my bones as we sit here in each others arms.
"What's all this damn screaming about?" I hear Haymitch say, walking to us with a frightened Prim at his side. She is shaking and her eyes are wide. He stops dead in his tracks when he sees the baby shoes. When he finally gets close, he shakes his head. I struggle against Peeta again.
Prim walks to Haymitch and he pulls her into a hug.
"You both should be ashamed of yourselves, scaring Prim like this, get up, both of you. Now!”he yells at us then calmly turns to my sister, “Prim it’s going to be okay, honey get in the house,"
Sniffling she walks into the house shutting the door behind her. Haymitch slaps the back of Peeta's head.
"Let her go," Haymitch says to Peeta.
“Haymitch you don’t understand,” he says. “Peeta!” Haymitch shouts. He hesitates but loosens his hold on me.
"You both are so damn dramatic," Haymitch says, plopping down next to us, rubbing his neck.
"Now what happened?" Haymitch asks.
"She wants to get rid of the baby," Peeta says with hurt thick in his throat.
"Because we have to," I say looking at my hands. Peeta shakes his head.
"Why?" Haymitch asks.
"Because Snow won't stop, because I can't let him have my child," we look to the now dirty white shoes, soaking in the mud.
"Katniss, 13 is coming, We'll be away from this." Peeta says.
"It doesn't matter we’re not safe anywhere,"
"Katniss don't jump to this decision just yet, 13 is coming, We'll do all we can to keep this child away from Snow’s grasp, You don’t need to do this," Haymitch says.
I know they won't see reason. They can't understand my choice. But I know what needs to be done. I cross my arms in defiance, a false front since I have already seen reason. I give them a surrendering "fine." Peeta lets out a breath, believing it. He reaches out to me but I lean away. I don't want his touch. I don't want to look at him. I get up and go into my house, slamming the door behind me. Prim is waiting in the kitchen. We look at each other for a while thinking about what just happened.
"I'm sorry you had to see that, Prim," I apologize, voice cracking. I go up to my room, kick off my boots and curl up on my bed. The sun has gone down when I hear a soft knock on my door. After a few seconds the door opens slightly and Peeta's face peers in. I pull my blanket tightly around myself as he steps in. He stands there watching me. I don't want him here. I don't want anyone here. I feel my anger flame at the sight of him. I know my anger is misdirected, but I don't care. Peeta takes a step towards me.
"Get out." I demand. Be he doesn't listen and gets closer.
"Get out Peeta!" I scream. I take my pillow and throw it at him. It hits his head and falls to the ground.
"Please stop," he croaks. His face looks defeated.
"No,"
"I'm sorry," he apologizes, looking down. I don't answer, instead I look away.
"Whatever you want to do... I'll support it. I won't put you through this. I can't say I agree, but I understand your point. So it's completely up to you," Peeta tells me, his eyes never look up at me. He moves to sit on the floor next to the bed. I don't know what to say. He gives me his support on terminating this pregnancy. I should be jumping up to do it but I don't. I can't. My nerves have subsided and the adrenaline is not motivating me anymore. I'm angry at myself. I'm too weak to do it.
I must have fallen asleep because when I blink awake, Peeta is laying on the floor where he sat. The room is cold and dark. I sip down next to him pulling blanket from the bed and draping it around us. I snuggled close, trying to feel his body. He stirs and his eyes open slightly.
"I'm sorry," I whisper softly to him. I am sorry. For hitting him like I did, for blaming him. I know I won't get rid of this baby. It has sewn itself into my heart along with my family and friends. My sweet child will grow and live to be happy and safe no matter what I have to do to make that so. And I couldn't ask for anyone better than Peeta to be by my side.
"I'll keep it," I tell him. When I say this his lips crash down on mine. His kiss is deep, showing me his gratitude. His hand cups my face.
"I love you," He whispers to my lips, and I melt into him. I want him to know that I’m grateful for him, but I don’t know where to start. I want him to love me always, I want to wash away the look he gave me on the porch. I never want to see it again. I deepen the kiss, opening my mouth. He matches my eagerness, his hand sliding up my side. His kisses travels down to my jaw to my neck. I can feel his what he wants.
"Please Katniss, I need you," He says with a tight throat. I know he needs to feel close to me, I need the same. We never fight like we did earlier. We never scream in anger. There was only that one time, backstage at the interviews but that was before I loved him. I can admit I'm the bitter one among the two of us. I swear to myself I'll never do it again.
"I need you too," and with that Peeta’s hands are pulling off my shirt. His kisses are hot and wet. As if he is trying his best to drink me in. His hands leave trails of fire along my skin and across my breast. He kisses follow them down and he takes a nipple into his mouth and sucking on it. Slowly his tongue plays with me. I moan, pushing my chest up to him. I hear a groan rumble in his chest. Letting go he pulls his shirt off, throwing it on the bed. I take this time pull my pants off. Our movements are hasty and desperate. The hard floor is cold against my bare back and bottom. I can feel myself pooling at my core, yearning for him. His lips are back on mine as he frees himself. When he finally kicks off his pants. I feel shaft touch my belly. A moan escape his lips. I open my legs to him inviting him in. He sits up staring at my nakedness. In the moonlight, I can see him in all his glory, the soft skin over his stomach. Toned and wide. His knees are kneeling on either side of my hips, my bent legs sling over his thighs. Spread open. He sees me fully. We're so close. His shaft resting on my core, hard and ready. His hands run up my thighs from my knees down slowly to my hips. I let out a moan and move my hip trying to feel the friction. His touch is intoxicating. His hands move slowly, feeling my core. He slips a finger into me and I gasp. Pulling it out, he brings his finger to his swollen from kissing lips and sucks on the it. I feel my face growing hot and I cover it with my hands.
"No Katniss, it's just us. You don't need to feel embarrassed," he moves my hands away. He looks down posting his tip at my entrance, moving it up and down. I moan loudly. His hand is at my hip, holding me steady.
"Peeta, please!" I moan. He looks at me through his lashes. Desire is heavy in his eyes. In a long moment he presses into me. Slowly. I hear his moans over my own. I clench my walls, and he curses under his breath. I don't know where to put my hands, so I grab at the blanket. Needing to ground myself, I push my chest up. The feeling is too much. Peeta begins to move. Slowly as if he is Savoring it. His hands are at either side of my hips pulling me to him as he rocks into me. I see his face strained from the effort. This will be quick. I can feel the end nearing as his pace quickens. His easy thrusts become pounding, and I'm pushed over the edge. I yell into the room as I feel the orgasms racking my body. I feel Peeta before I hear him. His moans are loud.
There's a hard bang on the door that startles us both. My heart nearly jumps out my chest as we both look at the door, out of breath.
"You both need to tone it down, sounds like animals dying throughout the house." My mother says irritated, through the door. My hand covers my mouth and I look at Peeta. He chuckles softly as he begins to stand up.
"She's right," Peeta says, with a accusing look, Pulling me up from the floor.
"Sorry," I say out loud to her. When I hear footsteps fade, I look at Peeta and a smile plays on his lips. We move to the bed and settle under the covers in one another's arms.
"Peeta," I say.
"Hmm," He hums in acknowledgment.
I let a few moments pass while I pick up the courage to say what I should have said a long time ago. With a shaking voice I tell him.
"I love you,"

Chapter Text

When morning comes I am not ready to face Haymitch and Prim but I know I owe them an apology. My poor sister was scared to death while I scratched, pulled, punched and screamed at Peeta like a madwoman. I hadn't apologized good enough to her.

Peeta lays, naked, on his stomach beside me, asleep on the bed in the early morning. His mouth is slightly open, body flushed. The morning seems warmer. The birds are chirping, the sky outside my window is a dark blue, calming color. I need it, and welcome it into my room, but as the room gets brighter I see the bruises on Peeta's back. The red and purple patches stain his creamy skin. I gasp at the sight of them. What have I done? How can I say I love this man when I’ve hurt him like this, how can he be so accepting of it? So willing to endure it? I can’t help but compare myself to that witch of a woman, his mother. A pang of guilt balls in my guts. I take a closer look at his neck and I see the very light pink lines. Turning from his neck down to the back of his shoulder, I can't look anymore. I wrap my arms around myself to bottle the creeping anxiety that threatens to overtake my body. I can’t slip back into this. I need a level head going to Prim. Dressing in a pair of cotton pants and a T-shirt. I leave the room and head to Prim's room, not looking back at Peeta. The house is quiet, the blue filter of the morning light paints each room. I don't knock. Instead I creep in and shut the door behind me.

Her room is made up of cool pinks and whites. It is the same set up as my room with widows on the far wall, and a dresser directly in front of her bed. She lays on the mattress asleep, the blanket is kicked off, her hair loose and messy. Buttercup lays in the crook of her neck. He looks up at me and lets out a low menacing growl. I wave him away. Such a nasty cat for a sweet girl. He's off the bed and runs under it, hiding from me. She looks like she's had a rough night. I go over to her and tuck a loose strand behind her ear. I can't help but think that she is my first child not from my womb, but raised by my hands, words, and touch. I'll do anything for her. I look at her tiny delicate hands and my heart squeezes, remembering her little baby fingers. I was around four or maybe five when she was born. I can remember her smell still, her blonde little head, and the sweet little noises she made as she cuddled with me. I remember my father's smile as I held her in my arms steady and careful. My mother had pestered my father. Worried that I would drop Prim. But he waved her off. "Katniss as a big sister you'll have to protect her. That's what big sisters do," he told me and with that, I took on the responsibility as the older sibling, showing her the world. Only when he died did that change from sister to mother. It was hell having my mother shut us out. Prim screaming in my arms for Mother because of her hunger pains. I begged silently for my father to come back. Hoped even that we would walk into the house and our family would be back to normal. At the time I couldn't fully understand he was gone forever. Dead in those damn mines. Leaving us to die. I try to forgive my mother for what she's done, although way deep down I have hated her for this part of our life. If it wasn't for Peeta, Prim would be dead.

Prim is healthy now, her cheeks fuller. Her bones don’t stick out. Her face holds color. She is alive and well because of me. And She is going to be an aunt soon. I hope my child resembles Prim with her blonde locks and the soft doe eyes our mother passed down. I don't want to wake her, but I have to. I need to apologize. I need to tell her everything will be ok. I kneel on the floor next to her bed. I rub her arm slowly. She stirs.

"Prim," I call softly.

Her eyes flutter open as she lays on her side, looking at me.

"Hey," She greats, groggy from sleep. I give her a small smile. She definitely was the most beautiful out of the pair of us. I never understood why she wanted to look like me.

"Remember when you were younger, how we use to go to the lake to swim? It was a long walk, but it was worth the it," I ask. She nods smiling at the memories.

"We used to come back squeaky clean," she says, smiling but it doesn't touch her eyes. There is a lingering sadness in them.

"I wish I could take you there now. So you can be happy," I say, my throat tightening at the thought of being trapped in the District, and not being able to go in my woods. My father’s woods.

"I am happy Katniss, I'm here with you. You survived the games, kept your promise, and came back home to mom and I. I'm happy. As long as I get to be with you, I'm happy," she says taking my hand, holding it with her small palms.

"I'm sorry Prim, I feel horrible how I've been acting lately. I should have comforted you yesterday. I never should have act like I did in front of you," I apologize with tears threatening to fall down my cheek. She's out of her bed in a second wrapping her arms around me and holding my head to her shoulder. I cry into her. I can't help but feel the roles have been reversed here.

"Katniss, I'm sorry for my name being reaped, for the stuff you had to go through in the games. For being too young to help you with our situations. I thank you for taking care of me all my life," She says, crying in my hair. She blames herself. The odds were never in our favor.

"It's not your fault Prim, it was just horrible luck," I say. I want to say that it's all the Capitol's fault, Snow's fault but I remember that someone may be watching us and may be listening.

"There is nothing we can do now what's done is done. We just need to make it out," I tell her.

"I was thinking about that," she says. Her face steady. "Katniss we have been preparing to leave with District 13. What if they don't ever come. We should prepare for a plan B. Maybe pack for the woods," she says. Looking at her now she seems older, mature and wise. This was a good idea if the fence wasn't charged.

"Prim, the fence is on," I say. The plan B was offered before by Peeta out of a place of desperation. I had never took it seriously, and now again by Prim. I didn't see the sense of the thought if we can’t do anything about it. There was no way over the fence and we couldn't go under.

"I know, but what if we turned it off," she says matter-of-factly. Just like that she gets my thoughts going. What if we could turned it off? How would we turn it off? Where do we go to turn it off? And most importantly, who could turn it off? It could work if we knew someone on the inside, someone higher up in the District. It hits me like lightning.

Madge.

Madge will help without a doubt. She's not particularly higher up, but her father definitely is. The mayor of the District has to have control of the fence. Then we could run. This could really work. I feel my feet itching to move to start preparing for this plan B that has a chance to be real.

"Prim, you're a genius!" I shout in excitement. I hug her tightly. Leave it to my sister to see a way out though the darkness. No longer feeling helpless, my giddiness rubs off onto Prim. She is up and ready.

I jump up from the floor. Staring into her eyes. "Prim, you can't say anything about this just yet. Let's see if it's actually possible first and then we'll tell the rest," I say and kiss her silky hair. She nods. "I won't say anything, I'm good at keeping secrets, even from mom," with that I know she is no longer a child, but a young woman. She is ready to help me make the plans. Ready to help me save our family. The thought sickens me a little. It also means she is ready to help. If District 13 doesn’t come. We all have to flee into the woods. There are way too many of us to make it in the woods; Peeta and his brother, my family, Gale and his, Effie and a drunk Haymitch. It will be impossible for us to leave undetected. Gale and I can supply food for the group, and Rory can help somewhat now. But there are always the 'what if's'. What if someone gets sick. A five year old Posy could be a problem and my pregnancy will slow me down some. There’s no telling how long we will be out there. What if I go into labor? If it was just Peeta and I, we'd make it. But we can’t leave anyone behind. I need to prepare them for the longest track of their lives.

If I can turn the fence off. I'll have to be completely ready for this plan. I'll need Peeta to help. We can make it if we're fully and completely prepared. We could do it. We had to do it. Peeta and Prim would help me, but they know next to nothing about survival in the woods. Peeta a little more, because of the games. Yet not enough to know about bait and shelter. I definitely need Gale for this. We’ve lived off the wood practically our whole lives. My insides turn.

I leave Prim in her room and head to mine. I have to prepare myself for this. Think of all the ways we need to be ready and how I need to talk to Gale without feeling the panic in my body. We'll be traveling alongside him, sleeping around him. This will probably be the worst part of this journey for me. I need to keep a level head o and keep Peeta close. The only person who truly knows how to calm me.

I will get to Madge today and talk to her about the fence. If she could turn off the fence somehow, then I we could start preparing right away. But if she can’t. There will be no need to talk to Gale but we will be back to square one.

When I walk in, Peeta is still sleeping. His nude rear staring me down. I take the blanket and cover him. I can't think with him naked. It's too distracting. I dress in my usual, dark jeans and a dark long sleeve shirt. I put my hair into its braid and I'm out the house in a matter of minutes, heading to the Justice Building.

The walk is long and I struggle to stay at a quick pace. I want to sprint there but, the baby is slowing me down. The weather is warmer and I can smell a hint of Spring. Spring is a good and bad thing. Spring would provide us with the food we need but the rain will make things harder. Finding firewood and sleeping will be hell. We could be sleeping in mud. I cringe at the thought. It's unpleasant but I'll take whatever I can get beggars can't be choosers. And I am ready to beg if I have to.

When I get to the back door, I knock. An old woman answers, I'm prepared to leave when she stops me.

"Katniss?" She calls. I look at her. Forgetting almost everyone knows my face now. "I'll go get Miss Undersee," she says, and scurries off. I'm standing outside alone, tapping my foot impatiently. When Madge comes into view I almost jump out my skin. She sees my face, she rushes to the door.

"What's wrong? Is Gale alright?" She asks nervously. I almost forgot there's a thing with her and Gale. My stomach lurches at the thought. Madge and gale is such an unexpected pair.

"No. No Gale is fine. Well, I wouldn't know. I came here to talk to you about something else," she lets out a sigh of relief.

"Well, what is it?" She says, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

"I need to talk to you privately about something," I say, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of the doorway.

"Where are we going?" She asks but goes with me willingly until I find a secluded spot, close to the Hob and between two homes. I know we won't be heard here. She looks at me through sleek blonde strands.

"What is it?"

I cup her ear and whispering I tell her everything about 13, being pregnant, and my hope for the Plan B. She is stunned. Her eyes flutter to my stomach. She studies it hard looking for signs of a pregnancy. My stomach had grown a bit. A small baby bump is not noticeable to just anyone, but if you looked hard enough you’ll see I’m with child. I squirm away from her gaze. I explain what I need her to do.

Her hand covers her mouth, and then she pulls me into a hug. In my ear she tells me, “I’ll help, but I need time.” My heart skips a beat, and I cling to her.

“How much?” I ask.

“A week maybe, I’ll come to you if I can. But I have a condition,” she says. I will give her anything at this moment. “I wanna come with you,” I am shocked., I don’t mind her coming. In fact, I would like to take as many friends as I can. But this means one more mouth to feed, another person bigger the group will be. What really shocks me is that she wants to leave her home, and join us. I’d never really thought of her as a rebellious person. Being the Mayor's daughter should have its perks.

“Katniss, if I stay, they’ll know it was me who helped you, They’ll question me,” and that’s a chance I couldn’t take.

“Ok you come,” I agree. I won’t leave her behind.

Chapter Text

To prepare I start to teach Peeta, Prim and Rory snares and other different types of traps. Prim, despite being squeamish, is doing well. Rory has mastered the traps with ease, even improving mine. Peeta is not so lucky. I give him words of encouragement as to not hurt his feelings when his trap falls apart within seconds of making it. He is patient and willing to keep going. It's me who as to remind myself to keep calm when he doesn't get it right. Every time the trap collapses I feel my shoulders tense, and I have to look away.

I manage to get almost everything we need for the long trip. With my mother along things will be a bit easier. She will know what to do if someone were to get sick. Prim is also a plus. After realizing Peeta isn’t made for traps. I send him to my mother to learn her herbal and healing techniques. He takes to it naturally, mixing the herbs perfectly and receiving praise from my mother.

One of our biggest problems is Haymitch's withdrawals. I try to think of ways to bring liquor with us so we can wean him off it slowly, but years of drinking doesn’t get cured in a couple of days. He needs a proper hospital to detox. It is Hazelle's idea to put a bottle of white liquor in everyone's bag. I know it will not be enough, I’ve seen haymitch go through more bottles then I can count in a day but it's worth a shot. I will try to bring more in my bag for him.

I begin to worry about myself. My belly has made itself known since that day with Madge. Not too much but enough to have people stare at me. I have always been very skinny. So with a little bump sticking out people can’t help their eyes. I try my best to ignore it, hoping the novelty would die down. It's Greasy Sae eyes locked on my stomach in shock, that keeps me in Victor’s Village, I can imagine what people are saying. I am young and dumb enough to get myself pregnant in a time like this. No one would expect me to be the with child. I certainly didn’t.

I try to eat as much as I can throughout the days, hoping to put on some weight, and I do. It's only a few pounds. Peeta bakes as much as he can for me. With everyone learning and working together we barely have time for anything else.

In my kitchen I sit on a stool as Peeta pulls out a hot tray of garlic bread. The smell is amazing, filling the room with its strong aroma when there is a knock on the door. I get up making my way to the door when Peeta pulls me into him with arms around my waist and his lips at my neck. I feel my cheeks flush with his hot breath at my shoulder.

"I love you," He whispers softly, kissing the spot where the words caressed.

"Peeta, I have to get the door," I say, trying to pull away from him. He smiles.

"Can't we have a couple of minutes alone?" He says chuckling as he let's me go. I open the door still looking at Peeta. Turning my head I see Madge in a lite jacket, and Gale standing a few feet behind her on my porch steps. I'm glad he is keeping his distance. His eyes meet mine for a moment and then he looks away. Madge brings me into a hug. Stepping inside, she turns around looking to Gale.

"Come on, you brat!" She calls to him and I'm a little shocked by her ease with him. It's strange to think of Gale and Madge as a couple. He shakes his head at her and starts to walk off. She takes a step out the door.

"Gale!" She calls and he's gone. She crosses her arms, peeved by him and stomps back in the house.

"A damn handfull," She says rolling her eyes. And the moment is so out of character that both Peeta and I are standing there, mouths wide. Peeta scoffs in the kitchen at the comment. I hear him say "I deal with the same thing," and I turn to scowl at him. His implication that Gale and I are alike, and a problem, leaves me vexed.

"I have news," she says low and this pulls me back from my irritation with Peeta. I grab her hand walking out the house, not bothering to put on a jacket. We don't get two paces from the porch steps before Peeta is out the house yanking on his boots, holding our jackets. It isn’t cold out, just breezy but when the wind stills it's almost warm. Peeta drapes my jacket over my shoulders, takes my hand and walks beside me as I pull Madge along. I want to shrug the jacket off and pull my hand from his, still irritated by his comment in the kitchen, but I don't. I'm making an effort to be nicer to him and less selfish. When we are at a good spot she speaks in whispers.

"I can do it,"

I let out a sigh in relief. All this training is not for nothing. We will be able to get out if we have to. I swoop her into a hug. Peeta is right behind me pulling us into a even bigger hug and in this moment I am truly hopeful.

—————

Completely packed for anything, we wait. Hazelle takes a up a job with Haymitch to keep her and the children close by. I watch Vick and Posy through my kitchen window, playing in the street of the Victors’ Village. The sight warms my heart and I'm put at ease watching them laugh, and run, playing a game I do not know.

"Katniss, take this over to Haymitch and Hazelle," Peeta says, handing me cookies and kissing my cheek swiftly before turning back to the kitchen island. The sun is low in the sky casting an orange glow on to the houses. The cool air touches my cheeks as I walk to Haymitch's.

"Katniss!" Vick calls to me, waving. I turn to greet him.

"Come play with us," Posy calls out,running to me.

"I'm sorry Posy, I can't at the moment, maybe you both can ask Peeta to make some cookies. I'll tell your mama you're in my house. Go on," I say. Their faces light up at the mention of cookies. Vick is off running, not waiting for Posy. She flusters but decides to run after him. When I'm in Haymitch’s house the smell of vomit, mouse droppings, and liquor are gone. The house radiates warmth and comfort. Broken dishes are no longer on the floor. Puddles of bio cleaned. It feels as if Haymitch has moved out. When I reach the kitchen I see Hazelle preparing dinner. I set Peeta's cookies on the table.

"What are you making?" I ask, startling her. She gives a yelp turning around, a bit upset.

"Katniss, goodness, you scared me half to death!" she shakes her head, moving to a loaf of bread next to her.

"I'm sorry Hazelle, I didn't mean to scare you," I say rubbing my neck. She cuts into the bread and serves me a slice. Only when it's in my mouth I notice this is not regular bread. It is salted and has a green tint to it and a strong fish smell.

"Is Peeta trying out new bread?" She asks. And I'm a little confused. Peeta most definitely did not make this bread. Haymitch’s footsteps on the stairs pull my attention. Showered and shaved Haymitch looks like a new man. His brown messy hair now trimmed. I am convinced Hazelle is the best thing to happen to Haymitch. A mother's touch would help Haymitch with his drinking problem.

"Wow Haymitch, don't you look like a keeper? " I joke. Hazelle is chuckling serving soup.

"Ha ha, you sure you're not having twins?" He says harshly, plopping down next to me. I roll my eyes at him. A weak blow, but something to think about. I didn't want to think about the threat of twins, but the idea sticks to me like glue. I ponder it for a couple of seconds. “I got those maps that you asked for, Sweetheart,” he says handing my a folded piece of paper. I nod. This map will help us get through the woods and to District 13 if we needed. Hazelle cuts a slice of the green bread and places it in front of Haymitch. There is a pause as Haymitch grabs the bread in his hand. Looking at it Haymitch’s eyes widen.

"Where'd you get this?" Haymitch shouts. Jumping out his seat.

"It was on the porch this morning," Hazelle says, hands on her waist.

"This morning?" Haymitch is over to the window in seconds and I'm out my seat.

"What's wrong Haymitch?" I ask.

"We had a whole day to get ready! It’s time! This is District 4 bread! We need to get ready now! You know where to go!" He yells, running his fingers through his hair. We have to go to the Meadow, but I'm stuck. I can’t move my feet even though my heart is racing with adrenaline. District 13 is coming.

"Everyone, meet at my house!" I yell to Haymitch and Hazelle, running out of his house. I know we are ready. We have prepared for days. But my anxiety is hitting full force. I need to get to Prim and Peeta. Once they’re in my sight, I'll be able to think straight. I barge into the house.

"Peeta!" I call.

"Katniss!" He calls back from the living room. When I reach him he is sitting on the sofa with Posy in his lap, Vick at his side. As soon as he sees my expression he is out of his seat.

"It’s time, where is Prim?" I ask.

"With Effie, Katniss my father and Rye! I need to get them," He says hastily putting down Posy. She clings to his leg, frightened by the tone of our voices.

"Hazelle will be here in a minute. I have to get Prim," Peeta nods taking the kids up the stairs. Running across the road to Peeta's house, I practically rip the door open. "Primrose! Effie!" I yell into the house. They are in the kitchen. "Come on, it’s time Prim!" I wave for them to hurry. Prim grabs Effie's hand dragging her along.

“Time for what?” Effie questions Prim

"Rory! What about Rory? He's picking Gale up from the mines! Katniss, I need to get him!" Prim is shouting as we run across the road. Ignoring Effie.

"No, Prim you stay here!" I shout at her. When we get back to my house, Haymitch and Hazelle are dressing the kids. Haymitch is bent over tying Posy’s boots. My mother is packing the herbs.

"I can't Katniss!" Prim rips her hand away from mine and stomps towards the door.

"Prim, no, don't worry I'll get Rory and Gale! Effie needs you to help her get ready!" I shout pulling her back. “And… what about Buttercup? You have to get him ready too.” I say and she freezes. She looks around the room but Buttercup is not here.

"Promise me!" She shouts back. Looking me in the eyes. She held my fight. This made me proud but it could be problematic. I don’t need her running out there look for Rory and Gale.

"Prim, I promise. Tell Peeta I'll be right back."

"Peeta just left to get his brother and father, he has their stuff with him. He'll meet us at there," Haymitch calls and my heart drops.

"Damn it, Peeta!"

"Katniss, you have to get ready," Haymitch says handing me my gear. I kick off my boots and gear up.

"Prim will you take my bag? I can run faster without it," I say making my way to the door.

"Yes, I'll take it!" She says. I take one last look at my beautiful sister. When our eyes meet, we share a last glances of goodbyes, and with that I'm out the door. I can pass by the mines on my way to the bakery. There is no way I am leaving without Peeta. The air is thin and with my mind on the escape, I trip a few times. The sun is gone but the sky is still light enough to make it. My heart is pounding when I make it to the mine. "Rory!" I shout over the murmuring of the other miners leaving their shifts. "Gale!"

When I see them they are walking towards me. Smiling softly. Gale's arm draped over Rory's shoulder. "Gale!" I shout. He looks up. Meeting my eyes. I nod. His face falls.

"Katniss!" Rory calls to me with a smile but it falls when he meets my gaze. Gale turns to Rory putting both hands on his shoulder, speaking to him.

"No!" Rory shouts and grabs at Gale. Gale pries him off but Rory is trying to leach onto him. When I reach them, Rory is crying.

"I need to get Madge. Rory, you need to go take care of Prim," Rory stops his struggle.

"Yes, Rory, Prim has been asking for you. She needs you, go to her," I say to Rory. There’s a small pause before he nods.

"Gale, please come back," He says, starring Gale down.

"I will Rory," Gale says, embracing him.

"I'll meet you both there. First go to my house. I have to get Peeta," I say to them. Rory nods and is off running. But Gale lingers, looking at my with wary eyes.

"Don't be late Katniss," Gale says stiffly. I nod, because that's all I can do. I turn and head to the bakery. Making it through the streets, trying not to push too hard. I pace myself. Arm wrapped around my belly as I run. I am not as fast as I use to be. All this running makes me feel like I could keel over, but I don’t dare give into the exhaustion, I need to get to Peeta. When I turn the corner of the bakery. I see the lights on. Through the window no one is manning the register. I walk in and hear the screams.

"You piece of shit child!" I hear Peeta's mother scream.

"Mom, please come with us!" Peeta yells. I hear steps on the stairs. Rye is fully prepared with his boots ready, backpack on and completely unfazed by the conflict upstairs. He looks at me and shakes his head.

"It’s a mess up there," He tells me. I walk up the steps. Behind me I hear Rye's warning. "I wouldn't do that if I was you," The stairs lead to a small living room with a fireplace. old paint chips around the corners of the room. I see Peeta's mother come into view. She picks up a lamp near her and throws it.

"Margery, stop this now!" Mr. Mellark yells. I step into the room and everything stops. Margery Mellark is looking at me with rage. Peeta and Mr. Mellark are fully dressed with backpacks on and ready to leave while Margery still lingers in her robe and socks.

"Peeta, please, we don't have time," I say and look Peeta in his eyes. He has the start of a large bruise from his right cheek up to his temple. He glances at his angry mother who is speechless by my presence. I can see his eyes water up and I know this hurts him more than I can imagine. Shaking his head. He walks to me and takes my hand.

"Fine! You want to stay here and die, be my guest, I love you mom, but I won’t jeopardize my family for you. Father if you choose to stay I won’t blame you. I blame her," and with that Peeta pulls me out the living room door. We are about to leave the bakery when I hear Mr. Mellark steps on the stairs. He’s decided to come with us. When we walk outside the sky is dark. We may be too late. Too much time has passed and we might not make it.

"We have to go to the meadow now!~," I say grabbing Peeta's hand as we run. Rye is at our flank but Mr. Mellark is falling behind. Peeta looks back to his father and let's go of my hand.

"Peeta!" I call.

"I have to help him!" He calls back and grabs Mr. Mellark's hand.

The run is agonizing with Peeta not beside me. I hold my belly tightly to not let my movement impact the baby too much. We make it out the Merchant Quarter and into the Seam. We are just down the road from the meadow when all the birds become quiet. Just as they did in the Games. I can see a gathering of people in the middle. Prim, my mother, and Madge’s blonde hair sticks out from the group. Then I see them. Three hovercrafts with the number 13 on their underside, lowering to the crowd. Rye begins to run faster. I turn just in time to see Mr. Mellark trip and fall, twisting his ankle. I hear a crunch of bone. And I know he just broke his ankle. This is the worst timing ever. He lets out a scream of pain. I run over to them and try to help Peeta lift Mr. Mellark. We keep moving. Mr. Mellark hops on one foot as the other dangles, lifeless, the boot dragging it down.

“Rye!” Peeta yells for his brother’s help, but Rye never looks back. Rye is in full sprint for the hovercraft. We are almost there when I hear the first gunshots. We are in the meadow making our way to the light of the hovercraft when Gale catches sight of Peeta and I dragging Mr. Mellark.

"They’re here!" I hear Gale yell. Prim turns around and catches my eyes there is a limp Buttercup in her arms. Oh no. Prim no! Prim goes to take a step towards me when Haymitch pulls Prim into his arms and drags her onto the hovercraft just as armed soldiers in gray come running out of the hovercraft. She's screaming and kicking when I hear more gunfire. I don't know who's shooting. A Capitol hovercraft swoops down shooting at on of the three District 13 hovercrafts. Hazelle rushes the children inside but Vick puts up a fight. Rye lifts him up, dragging him into the hovercraft. We are only a few yards away when the Capitol hovercraft plummets to the ground in the Seam and explodes, I scream. The fire takes to the Seam fast, as the coal dust fuels the flames.

Gale is running towards us Rory and my mother follow behind. I hear the gunshot and feel the hot blood spatter on my face.

Mr. Mellark goes limp in our arms.

I'm still dragging along the dead body with Peeta. I hear his screams. Bloodcurdling. I am in shock. There is more firing, Gale yells in pain, clutching his arm. I hear the sound of another body fall to the ground behind us. I can’t turn around to see who it is.

"We have to go!" Gale shouts at me. I nod, trying to get to my feet. Peeta is hysterical over his father's body. A bullet exit wound sits right between his father's eyes, Mr. Mellark has been shot from behind.

"Peeta look at me!" he doesn't. He just shakes his head and grabs his father tighter. I grab his face. Blood paints his face and neck, his blue eyes are piercing with the contrast of the red.

"Peeta, stay with me!" I shout looking him in the eyes. His is torn from hurt. Tears are streaming down his face, he chokes back a sob and says "always."

 

The hovercraft takes off, leaving us behind.

Chapter Text

We watch the hovercraft take off and I can feel all life drain from my body. There is a moment of silence among us all as we take in the scenery. The dark empty sky is lit up by the embers of the burning Seam, started by the explosion of the Capital’s hovercraft. The fire spreads wildly through the coal dust filled Seam. The screams of my people fill the air and become an ocean of cries. It's hard to think with the overwhelming events. My thoughts are too cloudy. The cries of my mother as she drops to her knees beside the dead body of Mr. Mellark, reminds me of the danger we are in and triggers me to get moving. Rory stands, staring wide eyed and afraid at Mr. Mellark’s body spread out before him. The man's brain paints the grass red in front on him.

“Shit!” Gale yells. And the feeling of hopelessness sinks into all of us as my mother cries.

"Madge turned off the fence, Katniss. Come on, we can still make it!" Gale says. My heart leaps and I pull Peeta up.

"Peeta, Mom, let’s go!"

Gale goes to Mr. Mellark's body and removes his backpack. There is blood running down Gale’s arm. He's been shot. Peeta tries to look back at the body but I stop him, pulling his face away from it.

"We can't do this now! We have to go!" I yell over the screams of the District and the roar of the flames. Peeta turns a bewildered Rory away from the body of his father and toward the fence as I pull my mother to her feet.

"Mom, we have to go now." I say as I hold her face in my hands. She nods but I can see the life in her eyes leaving. I can see the same look in them that I saw when I was a little girl. The dead inside look. She will be gone soon. Unresponsive to the world around us. This is too much for her. But I cannot think about this now. As I pull her along she doesn't resist. Instead she follows my lead aimlessly. As we approach the fence, I don't hear the hum. Gale was right the fence is off. But for how long? I remember the last time I was here with Rory.

Rory is the first to the fence. He shows Peeta how to slide under. I push my mother before me. Peeta helps her on the other side, holding her tightly to him. Then I'm up. After me, Gale. We're about to run when Gale stops to look back at our home, blazing out of control. The fire light reaches the edge of the forest. The orange glow frames Gale's figure.

"Gale, let’s go." Peeta chokes out from beside me. Gale turns around and I can see the horror in his eyes, the tear that spills over his lids and slides down his cheek.

"How can we just leave them?" He asks us. It's a unfair question. There is nothing we can do now. Nothing I can say.

"Gale, we are helping them." Peeta says.

"Yeah? How?" Gale looks disgusted with Peeta's words. He takes a step towards him, sizing him up. Gale's anger is misdirected. He isn’t angry with Peeta, just angry that there is nothing we can do about the people dying behind us. I step closer to Peeta, ready to take whatever blow Gale is going to give.

"We help them by joining the revolution. Rally the other districts and take back twelve. Gale, right now we can do nothing. We'll be killed if we tried or even worse, we'll be captured." I say trying to convince him. Gale ponders this a bit, but the pain in his eyes are evident. It's the same look from that night and I have to look away from the memories that lark in the back of my head. He shakes his head and walks passed us. Our plan is not enough for him.

“So we play picture perfect for the cameras and your telling me that’s going to save Twelve? That’s bullshit Katniss and you know it.”

“We don’t know what's going to happen, Gale, Maybe they’ll put us to fight, but all I can say is, we have a better chance of surviving this if we have all of Panem helping us,” I say careful with my words, trying to get some reason into Gale. “There is really nothing we can do.”

That earns me a scowl from Gale. Gale takes one last look at the glow of twelve, then turns to lead the way.

"We need to get the bows." Gale says wiping his eyes with his sleeves. It takes us a while to find the bows in the dark but with luck we find all three and head into the dark forest. I hold my bow close, ready for anything as we walk with only the moonlight to light our way. Peeta's heavy footsteps comfort me as we walk. My mother trips over the roots of the trees. She falls to the ground a couple of times. Each time it is more difficult to get her up, as if the ground are her thoughts engulfing her. We can’t stop now, we have to get as far from district twelve as we can. It's not long until we really have to stop. My mother’s knees buckle with every step, and Peeta’s eyes are glossed over. Somewhere along our hike I had lost him to his own thoughts. I know he is thinking of his father and the blood on both of us is not helping. He can't seem to look at me and I know it’s because I have his father’s blood on my face. Gale and Rory take the lead, walking a few yards ahead of us.

"We have to stop." I say as I lead my mother to a fallen tree. Gale looks back.

"No, we have to make it to the Lake if we want any progress within the day." He says. I don't look at him, instead I pull my mother's pack off, and settle next to her. Gale sighs, settling by a tree a few paces from us with Rory.

The cold night air bites into my cheeks. I can feel my mother shivering. She says nothing about being cold, keeping it to herself. Peeta sits near me on the ground with his back against the log, I do the same, bringing my mother down with me. He doesn't touch me, our eyes never meeting. I can feel Mr. Mellark's blood caked on my face and hair. I know I look horrific. My nose catches the metallic smell and I try hard to keep from vomiting. Gale pulls out a cloth and ties it tightly around his arm. The blood has stopped but it is best to wrap it up. Gale coos to Rory, trying to help him sleep. The boy has never slept in the woods before. Every sound startles him. As much as Gale tries to convince him it's just a rabbit or a squirrel, Rory never truly buys it. It's a monster or a peacekeeper to him. After a while Gale and I realize Rory's in shock, same as my mother and Peeta. I reach out to Peeta sometime in the middle of the night, but when my hand finds his, he pulls away.

"Peeta?" I whisper, but he doesn’t answer so I try again. "Peeta?"

"Yes?" He answers and I flood with relief at his voice.

"Are you cold?" I ask him. I really want to ask him if he's okay. But I know he's not. So I start with something easy. There’s a long pause before he answers.

"Yeah, are you?" He asks.

"Yeah, but it is nothing I can't handle. Plus I have my mother's warmth. You should join us."

"I'm fine over here." Peeta says quick.

I can't quite figure out the tone of his voice, but I don't push. He's grieving and needs some space right now.

I don't sleep instead I listen to the breathing of my mother. The ins and outs, soothe me through the night. I hear a few sniffles from Peeta. I know he's crying, and it takes everything in me not to go to him, to wrap my arms around him and try to take the hurt away. There is nothing I can do to ease the pain, I know this. When my father died I felt my heart rip into pieces. Although, it didn't happen in front of me. The blow was still harsh, deep and painful. I had no comfort then. No soft soothing voice to calm my aching chest. Just a stupid medal and a hungry sister. I think of Prim. My poor sister is probably safe in district 13 already. I can imagine her crying for me and Mom. I hope Effie, Hazelle, or Haymitch are comforting her. I’m grateful Haymitch took her onto the hovercraft. I hope she understands I'm coming, and we'll be reunited again. I have no doubt in my mind my sweet sister is losing sleep tonight. Maybe looking up at the same sky.

When morning comes, Gale and Rory wake. My mother, Peeta, and I have not slept. The air is filled with the acrid smoke, we can smell. I try hard not to think of burning bodies as we get ready to move. I remember I have the map Haymitch gave me in my back pocket. The morning is silent until we reach the Lake.

"Whoa." I hear Rory say as he takes in the wide opening of the trees and the glistening sun on the water. The little brick hut, sits on the far right of the bank. I look at Peeta and can see the awe in his face. He appreciates the beauty of the Lake as much as I had when my father first brought me here. I smile. This is my safe place. A place where I can remember my father in peace. A place where my friendship with Gale has never been tainted with his jealousy and cruel actions. This lake holds good memories all around. Peeta walks to the edge and begins to wash his hands and face with the water. When the water around him turns red from the blood I rush to stop him, but it's already too late. The lake has been tainted. Gale begins to roll up his sleeves, washing his own blood from his arm. My mother is at his side, tending to his bullet wound. I wash up too. Letting my hair down to wash the blood out. The Lake cleanses me of the tragedies of the night before. When I'm fully purged of Mr. Mellark's blood, I face Peeta. Who is still scrubbing a now perfectly clean face.

"Peeta?" I say softly kneeling down beside him. I reach my hand out and place it on his shoulder. He flinches and I pull back.

"It's alright Peeta. It's all gone," I whisper. He shakes his head. "It’s all gone I promise you."

I Pull his hands away from his face and he stops and just stares at the water.

"I still feel it." He breathes out. I can understand. That night with Gale returns to my skin from time to time. The hot breath on my neck, the blood from his cheek trickling down to my face and neck. I can feel the fire of the anger building deep in my stomach. But I don't show it to Peeta. He needs me more than ever now.

"I know what you mean Peeta."

With a questioning look his gaze reaches my face, his eyes meeting mine. We share our pain. Our love. I pull him to me. When my hand reaches his face he melts into it. Needing the touch he'd been denying himself. I kiss his forehead. As he lays his head into my lap, I brush his hair back and away from his forehead, letting my fingers dance over his ears. Then, I bring his hand to my stomach, to remind him that he still has us. That there is still hope after this tragedy. His fingers dance over my belly, it becomes a bittersweet moment for the both of us.

"It's all going to be okay Peeta, we're safe now." I whisper into his ear. Letting him close his eyes.

"We can't stay here." Gale’s voice startles me and I turn to scowl at him.

"Give him a few minutes."

"Katniss the longer we stay here, the more there's a chance they will spot us. It's too open here."

"He needs a minute Gale. We'll leave soon. Ok?" I say. He shakes his head and turns to walk away with a groan. I roll my eyes at him. My Peeta is calm and relaxed. I don’t want to take this from him, but the sun shining high in the sky reminds me that we have already taken too much time. Gale is right, we need to keep moving North. I have given Peeta as much time as I can. I whisper softly to him stories of Prim swimming and promising him I will teach him someday, but the moment is over too soon and I know Gale is becoming restless.

"Peeta, we have to go now." I say, carefully adjusting myself. He sits up, resting on his knees for a bit. I pull out the map to check which direction to walk. We have such a long way to go.

"We'll travel as much as we can today. But if he needs to stop we're going to stop. I don't care how long it takes us." I say to Gale, getting to my feet.

"That's not fair for the rest of us. What about your mother and Rory. We don't want to be out here an extra week because he can't get his stuff together." Gale says. I look to my mother. A worried expression creases her brow.

"So then go ahead of us." I say with anger towards Gale's insensitivity. He of all people should know the pain of losing a parent and what it does to you.

"That's not happening Katniss, we're not leaving you." Gale says, crossing his arms.

"Well I'm not pushing him, we'll go as long as he can." I say pulling Peeta to his feet.

"Don't worry Katniss, I can go for long." Peeta says softly. I scoff at him.

"Alright then let's go." Gale says and pulls on his backpack, handing me Mr. Mellark's pack. I pull it on and begin to walk, dreading this hike.