The frail, but hard to kill yellow bird

Keeping Peeta

Keeping Peeta

Peeta keeps his promise and returns every day that week. Each day, he brings a few more sheets of paper and pencils and sometimes paints. He draws the most beautiful pictures of the people I don't have photos of.

Today, he's captured Finnick and Annie perfectly on their wedding day.

"That was a beautiful wedding." Peeta comments while I watch him draw.

"Pretty cake, too." I say softly.

"Did you like it? Frosting it was therapeutic for me. I wasn't doing very well."

Peeta's face has turned into a frown at the thought of District Thirteen.

We're both on the floor, I'm splayed out on my stomach and Peeta uses the coffee table.

I look over at him. "One day," I say. "I'm believing you would hate me forever. And the next, Haymitch is telling me that you want to talk. You had already come so far."

He meets my eyes with an appreciative look in them. It feels good to give him compliments. I don't give those out nearly enough.

"Thanks." He says lightly. "That conversation...back in Thirteen, that was painful for you. Real or not real?"

I hesitate. "What conversation?"

"Those things I said to you. Right after the wedding. About you not being fair and not particularly pretty."

I actually hadn't thought about that in a long time, what with everything else going.

"No, not really." We're both quiet. I sigh and revise. "Yes, but not in the way you're thinking. It was painful because a friend had forgotten me. Not because you accused me of things. And don't say your sorry." I say quickly when he opens his mouth.

He chuckles darkly. "All those memories were jumbled. I was so confused. I didn't really care if I hurt anybody's feelings. That's changed now." He smiles kindly at me.

I'm feeling brave today, something that I haven't been in a long time. So I reach over and hold his hand. He takes it gratefully and draws with one arm.

We work until late afternoon, when Peeta says, "How about some dinner?"

I've only eaten breakfast all day and am now hungry, something that I haven't been in a very long while.

"Sure. I caught three rabbits yesterday."

"Bread and rabbit? Sounds good to me."

We work quietly and comfortably. I skin and dress the biggest rabbit while Peeta pulls out the loaves he had been baking in my oven.

I go to hang the rabbits pelt in the basement.

While I'm coming up the stairs, I hear a crash and a breaking of dishes.

I slow down on the staircase.

"Peeta?" I ask cautiously up to the kitchen.

He doesn't answer. Someone turns on the water from the kitchen sink.

My heart starts to thump rapidly with nervousness. Just seconds ago it was beating extremely slow with calmness, now my rapidly increasing temperature is making me lightheaded.

"Peeta?" I call again.

I hear a moan and I climb the last few steps and peer around the wall to see Peeta at the kitchen sink, head down , with his hands pressed against his eyes. I wonder if he's sick.

"Peeta, what's wrong? Are you sick?"

But I know what his real problem is. I know what he's fighting with.

I take a few steps towards him. I guess he heard me coming up the stairs because without turning around he says, "No, Katniss! Go back downstairs, I'm too dangerous right now."

I'm actually surprised he has enough control to tell me that, so I don't go anywhere and just stare at him.

He's breathing hard with an arm under the water faucet. I can see his skin scalding under what looks like boiling water. He's burning himself to stay in reality.

He turns his head towards me rapidly then, and I can see his strained expression and dialated eyes.

"Get back!" He yells loudly. "Back up!"

I shuffle slowly back, my joints stiff with fear. How easily could he stride over to me and choke me to death? I suppose I could run. He wouldn't be able to catch me.

Peeta turns back to burning himself. I think he's mumbling things to himself, reassurances that I won't try to kill him.

"Peeta-"

But I'm interrupted by a crash when Peeta siezes a large glass he had been drinking out of and throws it at the wall. I flinch.

Silence. No one breathes. Bird has stopped singing.

Peeta shuts off the water and sinks to the ground and begins to cry.

And just like that, it's over.

"I'm so sorry Katniss."

That is how I know Peeta has come back to me.

I run over to where he's sunk to the ground and wrap my arms around him.

He opens his and pulls me onto his lap, crying over my shoulder.

"I didn't want you to see that."

"I've seen worse things." I try to say soothingly.

"I-I wanted to kill you." I can feel his wet tears on my neck.

"You wouldn't have."

"Yes. Yes I would have. Katniss... you can't be that close. It's just too dangerous."

"Sssh." I stroke his head. "I trust you."

We sit there until the sun sets and night falls.

Silence completely envelopes the house.

Greasy Sae comes to see if we had dinner. We didn't.

She comes quietly through the front door, takes one look at us in each others arms on the kitchen floor, and then just as quietly leaves.

The moonlight shining through the window reflects on us, making our skin look ghostly.

"Katniss." Peeta whispers, not wanting to end the quiet.

"Hmm?"

"You have terrible nightmares. Real or not real."

"Real." I say. "How did you know? Or did you just guess?"

"I can hear you screaming...it's terrible."

"Oh! I'm sorry. Do I keep you awake?" I ask slightly blushing.

"No. I don't really sleep either. It's just...hard to hear you in that much pain."

I'm not really sure what to say, so I stay quiet.

"We used to sleep together at night. Real or not real?"

This memory hurts me. "Real. Your arms comforted me, I didn't have nightmares with you close by."

"Oh."

Peeta lets go of me for the first time in many hours. I feel disappointed when he does. Then he stands up and looks down on me and offers me his hand.

I take it and let him help me up off the floor. When I'm standing beside him, he rests his forehead against mine, his arms wrapping around my waste.

"This will be very dangerous."

"I can handle it." I say, our voices still a whisper, my brain slowly putting together what's happening.

"Are you afraid."

"Yes." I answer truthfully.

"Good."

Holding my hand, he leads me up the staircase and into my bedroom.

We don't change any of our clothes, but just stay in what we're wearing. I think we're both too cautious to drift off track, one of us, probably Peeta, would declare it as too dangerous if he thought about it too much.

We slide under my blankets with Peeta laying on his back, and I curl beside him, my head and left arm resting on his chest. His arms encircle me tighter as he breathes me in.

"Did you mean what you said?" I mumble into his shirt, my eyelids growing heavy already.

"About what?"

"About me. Being more beautiful than the moon."

I can feel his grin against the top of my head.

"Yes. In so many ways." He gives a tired yawn.

"What ways."

"The moon is beautiful, but mysterious. You're the most mysterious thing I've ever seen. I have no idea what to do with you." He gives me a squeeze and light chuckle.

I think a while on that. The comment makes me happy.

"Thank you."

"Your welcome."

"Not for that. But for coming to District Twelve."

I bend my neck to see his expression. It's serene and sleepy. His eyelids are fluttering.

I think he means to say, "It's my home, Katniss." But through his tiredness, it comes out as "You're my home, Katniss."


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