real_or_notreal: (Will Always Let Him Down)
[personal profile] real_or_notreal
Everything always starts the same way. There --
He's confused, disoriented. The world is disjointed, and his arm is sore, as though someone punched it. The cave roof is above him comes into clarity. Alarmingly, perfect clarity for the first time in . . . he can't remember. Too long. A hand goes to his head. Sweat-drenched, but cool. His fever is broken.

How. Where is -- and then he sees it. The body slumped on the floor to his side. The pool of blood like a corona flaring out around her head. And his heart, sleepy and calm from the deep rest, jams itself into his throat and his mouth, stealing his ability to think. He shoves himself up shaking her, trying to turn her, unable to move his own leg to do so.

His voice is high pitched and he can't even hear his own pleading over the desperation. She isn't waking. She's isn't . . . His hands shaking as they moved to her throat. But before he can lay his finger down, the snarl starts. And suddenly she's looking at him. Katniss's face. Katniss's hair. But her eyes are different.

They are the eyes of the girl from the Career pack. Mutt's eyes. The flash of a collar around Katniss's tanned, dirty neck. He barely has time to remember (the whisper of his apology, the slash of the spear into her skin, the spill of her blood across his hands, always across his hands) before she lunges for him, teeth suddenly sharp and gleaming.
-- and then not, when his eyes fly open and he's paralyzed. Again.








Thirty minutes later finds him half-dressed, downstairs waiting with two teapots on his table. One is for tea. The other is holding Tempest, the little green fish that used to be a District 4 roll. He isn't looking at either. (Or the canvas on the far side of the table, still blight-white.)

If he closes his eyes he only sees the mixture of the two girls from his dream, dying on him or attacking him. If he opens his eyes the house that is too empty is all around him. He's too jittery to make anything new, without the potential of dropping something. And the house is too damn quiet.

Especially after the small party of people in his house only early that afternoon.
(Even if he had thought them all to be too loud when they were there.)







Peeta Mellark's angle in the Hunger Games interviews was Likeable.

You only had to spend about five minutes with him to understand why.

He wasn't exceedingly beautiful, but he had an openness that pulled you in. Bright blue eyes and lively banter. Quick with a joke and quicker with a smile. Humble and loyal, but direct in his opinions. Intelligent yet not at the fault of the kindness or understanding he had of the world around him.

Katniss had called him popular and alluded to him being one of the Town Kids. It wasn't a stretch to see why she'd chosen the terms, and not far from the truth either. Even if he'd hazard to say he hadn't been any more or less popular than anyone else. At least not until after the Hunger Games.

The same people who been there before now extended invitations, or solicited with a smile or an apologetic curiosity to wanting to know what a house in Victor's Village was like. They wanted their chance to see it themselves. Not just through the endless ceremonies and reporters of their first few weeks back home.



He became the sensation of himself instead of himself. Like everywhere else. They complimented the house, and his choices in the Game. Sometimes he said what he thought was true, sometimes he said whatever came to mind first, even if it was the last story the person before this one had said.

They asked about his family. The last the news had shown of them was their wide-armed and boisterous welcome home. All of them believed it. Everyone except Peeta and his mother and his father. No matter what his mother might be, his father was everyone's soft-spoken lovable baker.

He believed they were glad he was alive, but beyond that . . . His father had only come to say goodbye to Katniss, and his mother had told him he would die. If they stayed in Merchant and he in Victor's Village, no one had to cross those bridges.



It was easiest when they asked about the Capitol. He could ramble on and on about the most inane things then. How many buttons there were in the shower alone. The things available at every meal. The ways the cars moved and how the people changed their bodies like fashion-plates.

They wanted the sensation, the bright, garishness.

In one enviable and despicable.





They didn't know how to ask about Katniss. She might have gone to school with them and it might be terribly romantic, but she was still The Girl From The Seam to them. Katniss Everdeen, who hunted in the forest. Who braved The Hob. Who sold to their parent's at the backdoor.

Who had no time or words for any of them, except Gale, who did all those things, too.

Even if was terribly romantic, they were home and there were divisions made both by choices and by their standings. People didn't cross the lines between them often. And even when they might try now, for brand new reasons --

Katniss didn't try. She didn't talk to them still.




(And Peeta keeps himself from saying he isn't either.
He shrugs, offering them honey twists baked instead of sleeping.
)






The kettle on the stove whistled.

Peeta got up slowly and brought it back to the table.

He'd only filled the empty pot still waiting and set the kettle to balance on a cooling rack for cookies when he noticed the canvas again. He stared, even as he dropped the lid on the top of the steaming pot. He didn't want a hobby, a Talent. He especially didn't want to be granted a childhood dream because it was a requirement.

Sitting back in his chair, he reached out to take the teapot, as he frowned at the canvas, striving to keep himself from reaching out to touch it. White like snow. White like skin. White like clouds. White like icing. White like frost. White like teeth. White like sheets. White like lightning. White like the edges of eyes. White like nothingness.


Who could paint sunsets and flowers after dreaming about the person who saved them (who they loved) being dead or being mixed with being murdered by one of the people's lives he'd taken? Who could paint harmless, beautiful dreams after seeing what he'd seen when he was awake?


He'd only chanced to look down to make sure he was pouring into the cup and not onto the table when he realized the teapot was open. One small green fish swimming around confused for the highly tilted angle.

Deprecatingly, as he stared at the wrong tea pot and Tempest, Peeta said, "You don't talk much."

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Peeta Mellark | Victor of the 74th Hunger Games

August 2015

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