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"She doesn't see her anymore." He released the window drape.
It was an accidental statement, the first since he came in this afternoon.

Haymitch, from his pile of self on the floor, in the pool of vomit, grumbled something. It could be incoherence. It could be a snort because he's fallen back asleep. Peeta bets he's faking though. Haymitch doesn't fall back easily. None of them do.

Haymitch probably doesn't know, or care, that it isn't morning anymore.
The number of bottles on the floor, he probably doesn't care about much.

He's slicing the bread, at the end of the table, when Haymitch finally moves to slumping upright. He doesn't do it because Haymitch can't. The man isn't unable. To almost any level. But he's learned in the last few weeks. Simple things are the most important.

The full loaves, golden-brown and fully formed, would be left on the table, to harden like rock before being torn apart and eaten, leaving jagged sections. While the slices would be taken as soon as he’d awoken enough to see clearly, taken where he stumbled to and fro through the horrid, up heaved, excuse for a house.

Groggy, muffled inside hands, "What were you talking about?"

Gratitude was expressed in that they weren’t thrown at his head.
And he wasn’t attacked for having the audacity to return most days.


“Prim isn’t seeing someone.”

Peeta kicked himself less for the way his hand tightened on the knife and more for everything else. Because it was Haymitch’s way of making a point. That he’d been awake. That he’d caught Peeta spying. Caring. Having an opinion. Not being willing to repeat it the same way he’d said it first. To mention her.

He doesn’t rise to the bait. Not immediately. Not the way he had the first weeks. His hand relaxed and he went on slicing to the heel. Never as warm as when it came out. The same way he’s never been as warm since he came out of the Arena.

Everything is a game. Still. Always. Weapons and stakes. Knowing who has the upper hand, where and how. He has Haymitch’s knife in his hand, but Haymitch has the greater weapon, even with the vomit dripping from his collar. Knowledge. The greatest weapon on any terrain.

Peeta had gotten the butter from across the table and positioned it beside the basket, before he turned to offer Haymitch back his knife. Ignoring the sloshing bottle Haymitch had located somewhere in the squalor of endless empty ones and piles of trash.

“Not going to tell me?” His fingers had only closed around the handle. The arrogant, assumption is in Haymitch’s words. Meant to rile. Meant to draw pain and repugnance and anger, from someone other than himself. Always an offensive stance. Like the house.

Peeta stared at him level this afternoon – he’d left Tempest in the huge tank this morning, with the tacky neon mountains-caves, and he’d painted the first half of The Cornucopia during the night -- and said, without any apology in it, “No.”

“It’d be better if you weren’t so transparent about her.”

The bite is in it and the laugh that chortles, through the drink, out with it, but Peeta shrugged, turning for the door. Katniss. Always Katniss. She’d always be thrown in somehow. His reason for anger, gratitude, hate, love. The whole of Panem is sure that Peeta is transparent, but they’re also aware he can lie, fluently, when the need is great enough. And that’s a weapon, too.

Knowledge, and the truth about knowledge.

And choice. The choice of what do with it all when you could.

Peeta still stopped once he closed the front door. No basket now.
Nothing but the green garden circle at the center of Victor Village.

He looked away from its lie of opulence to the front of the Everdeen’s house. Empty front yard and empty walk. Where they’d been standing when he’d looked out the window, when considering pulling the drapes back to let light in that sad excuse for a living room. Prim Everdeen, and her sister. And Katniss. Almost as though they were still there.

Katniss reaching out to tuck back her sisters hair behind her ear, as she went out with her goat, Lady, to sell milk. Even though they didn’t have to. Because the need was gone, and now things had to carry on as much as they once had lest they all go further mad from not only breaking themselves but from utter uselessness. But it was the way she’d reached out. The way she tucked the hair.

It hurt. Not him. Not that Katniss Everdeen didn’t manage to hurt him several times a day, but he hurt for her. And that was worse. When he couldn’t figure out what was worse. Knowing or not knowing, seeing or not seeing. When all it took was watching her fingers tips barely glance her sister’s face.

She couldn’t see Prim anymore. Peeta couldn’t blame her for that. She wanted to see her little sister. The beautiful, brave, clumsy little girl who’d always lead her goat into town to sell milk and cheese, who lingered at the bakery and candy windows, who couldn’t keep her clothes tucked. Who loved and depended on her.

She didn’t want to see that volunteering to take Prim’s place wasn’t the same as saving her. Maybe Katniss had saved her life, saved her from The Arena, from a gory death or a gorier victory. But she hadn’t saved her from being changed.

From the anxious way she stared at the road when Katniss would walk off. Or the hungry uncertainty that had them both cling for a second too long before the smallest errand. That the weight in her matching gray eyes carried not only pride for survival and gratitude for saving –

But, also, the knowledge her life had stole her sister to what she was now. The girl whose mantle was the birth of Victor Katniss. Who must have watched every required tv broadcasting of the Hunger Games knowing her sister's death or life was the fault of her own called name. That every weight was attached to a first domino that existed in her.

In the love and bond that shone between them. That replayed in that clip of Katniss volunteering as much as the one of them hugging the moment she was off the train. The overwhelming relief and celebration that Katniss made it back to her.

The guilt and ownership of every emptiness still clinging to her sister now.

He understands why Katniss doesn't see, even when he doesn’t understand entirely why they’ve made it nearly six weeks without a word. He knows why she doesn't see, doesn’t want to see it. No one would. No one should be made to. And if it’s knowledge he gets to keep, because he knows her, because he’s watched her nearly every day of his life.

It’s also his to choose bury beneath the ground and not let anyone else use against her either.


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Peeta Mellark | Victor of the 74th Hunger Games

August 2015


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