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As We Falter

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“After all that has just passed, all the lives taken and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them, it is natural to wonder if America's future is one of fear.

Some speak of an age of terror. I know there are struggles ahead and dangers to face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them.

As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this will not be an age of terror. This will be an age of liberty here and across the world.

Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our moment.

Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us.

Our nation, this generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage.

We will not tire, we will not falter and we will not fail.” George W. Bush 9/20/2001

George W. Bush 9/20/2001

**************

June 2002

Katniss pushed the door open to find silence. She wasn’t sure if she should be happy or sad about that. She knew he would respect her wishes and not be here, but a part of her still wanted him to save her from herself. Going to Joanna’s after she left didn’t help either, even though she was doing the right thing by leaving, at least for him. He was worthy of so much more, more than she felt she could ever hope to give him. The events of the last year had broken her beyond repair, and he deserved someone who was whole and could give him a real future.  

Joanna called her brainless again—she had used that term several times with Katniss when it came to her relationship with Peeta, but she felt Jo just didn’t understand. Joanna, like the rest of them, found ways to get over that day and move on. Katniss, on the other hand, felt stuck in that moment every day since that horrible day. She told herself it was because she had lost more than the rest of them, but even Rory seemed happier with each passing day.  

She walked over to the breakfast bar, the one they never used. They’d always ended up eating on the family room couch instead of the kitchen—it was more comfortable that way. So many meals were shared on the couch that were followed by kisses that would get heated quickly. They were moments when she felt alive again, moments that she never wanted to end—but they needed to, for his sake.

She smelled them before she saw them: cheese buns. They were still warm, so he couldn’t have left that long ago. They were her favorite, something he made when he knew she needed a pick-me-up. Of course, he would still think of her after all she had done to hurt him; it just proved to her why he was so much better than her. Next to the cheese buns was a note and CD—she shook as she picked it up, knowing this must be his goodbye. Instead, she found his last-ditch effort to get her to stay.

 

Katniss-

I know that when you make up your mind there is usually no changing it, but I hope that I am wrong this time and you will come back to me. Before you leave, please just listen to the CD. Someone once told me that music can help us remember the good and deal with the bad. These songs are a reminder of our good and bad times, the times that made us who we are. I am at the bakery and will stay there until 5. Hopefully you will still be here when I get home, but either way, I will know your answer. Remember I love you and have since the day I first met you.  

Always,

Peeta

 

Katniss felt the tears begin to fall from her eyes—she owed this to him, to take the hour and simply listen to what he had made. How could he still love her after everything, after knowing the truth about her fears for the future and what she was not willing to give him? She walked over to the stereo to place the CD in, only to find he had been listening to her old Matchbox 20 CD, the one she told him was great for breakups.  This made everything seem more real to her somehow...maybe she really didn’t want this.

The first song brought her back to the beginning.

 

************

Breath

In a way I know my heart is waking up

As all the walls come tumbling down

Closer than I've ever felt before

And I know, and you know

There's no need for words right now

 

I can feel you breathe

Washing over me

And suddenly I'm melting into you

There's nothing left to prove

Baby, all we need is just to be

 

June 2000

Peeta hated doing laundry even more since the damn elevator had broken and he needed to carry it down six flights of stairs. It wasn’t that it was hard for him to carry it down—God knew it was a lot lighter than the hundred pound bags of flour he used to lug around the bakery his dad owned—but it was still annoying. Of course his hatred for laundry could also be due to the fact that he managed to shrink something every time.  

Peeta stopped in his tracks as he entered the laundry room. The most beautiful voice he had ever heard filled the room, and he thought if the birds could hear her they would stop to listen. He slowly entered to find a petite woman with long, dark hair worn in a single braid over her shoulder. She was filling one of the washing machines with clothes and seemed to be oblivious to him.  She was singing a newer Faith Hill song, and while she may not have looked like her, she could certainly have given her a run for her money in both the voice and looks departments.

The woman was finishing at the washer, and Peeta knew he needed to do something—otherwise she’d catch him staring. So he walked over to the machine next to her, causing her to jump at the sight of someone suddenly next to her. He smiled at her, as she removed her headphones.  Her beauty took his breath away. Her gray eyes reminded him of the sky after a storm, her olive skin was flawless and her lip gloss made his attention stop at her lips, he was shocked by the urge he had to kiss her.

Peeta shook his head as he chastised himself, get it together Mellark, when he noticed her scowling at him he started to speak. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to startle you.” When the scowl hardened he held his hands up in mock defense.  

She soften a bit at the gesture and spoke, “It’s okay. I was singing out loud again, wasn’t I?”

“Yeah, but it was beautiful.” The blush creeped across her face with the simple compliment, and she looked ready to bolt.  “I’m Peeta, 5B,” he blurted out, he offered his hand to her in the hopes of keeping her there a few minutes longer.

The woman reached out to take his hand, giving it a hearty shake. “Hey, Peeta, 5B. I’m Katniss, 5A. I just moved in with Annie—I think she’s dating your roommate.”

“So you are the new roommate! I couldn’t believe that there was someone who didn’t get along with Annie. She’s the nicest person I have ever met.”  

“I know, right?” Peeta noticed her change in demeanor, she seemed to brighten as she talked about her friend. “She took me in when my roommate decided she wanted to study abroad at the last minute. I’m not sure why Glimmer didn’t get along with her, but I think it may have been more of an issue with Finnick. I’m not gonna to have the same issue, am I?”

“I don’t think so.” Peeta thought about his friend, although he acted like he was completely full of himself it was all a fake. In truth he was an extremely loyal and would do anything for his friends. “Just remember 90% of what he says is bullshit, the other 10% is about Annie.” This comment won him a half smile.  

“I’ll definitely keep that in mind. Well, I will see you later, Peeta, 5B. I need to do some reading for my Media Relations class with Prof. Latier.”

“No way—I’m in that class too!  Maybe we could study together sometime?” The second the words left his mouth he could hear the desperation behind them. Hopefully she didn’t pick up on it.

“Yeah, maybe. I guess I’ll see you in class tomorrow, if not before,” she said, then turned and walked away.

Peeta couldn’t stop himself from staring at the sway of her hips as she walked through the door and disappeared down the hall. He knew he shouldn’t be staring at her—it’ was all wrong. He was dating someone, but there was something about Katniss that he felt drawn to. He shook his head at the realization that he was a goner for someone he just met.  

Shit, now what should he do?