real_or_notreal: (Looking Down)
[personal profile] real_or_notreal
Peeta was in bed, but he wasn't asleep. He hadn't been for hours. He didn't want to paint. To bake. To move really. Sometimes if he closed his eyes he could pretend, dream, fantasize --


Remember the exact strokes it took to paint his skin, his cheeks, eyelids, in an arena where he had no paints, when he was no painter. How he had to mix the browns and greens from plants and mud, his own blood, thickening the dirt to a paste like substance, browning it. The greens from plants rubbed between his fingers till it dyed him.

Remember how it felt. There was no nobility in feeling your blood leave your body, pulse slowly outward, a heartbeat in his leg more noticeable than the one in his chest. Coming to at odd seconds. Covering himself in grass and mud, until he was painted into the ground. A new life stuck inside it.

Remember the temptation to scream so that someone else could put him out of his misery. End this game, end the lies, end the waiting. The terror in that, too. The pain. Then end. And something he couldn’t name. He couldn’t forget her eyes, before he killed her. He didn’t want someone else to have his. This was his life. This was his death. At least he might do that honestly, untarnished by manipulation.

Remember the way at first every breath shifted every pile, but how it moved less with time. After the sun matted and dried the mud. After the breeze blew all the stray pieces away. After the night took warmth, and the day took cold. After he’d become one with the ground. With everything passing. With inaction. With his mother's last words. With his father not coming. With fleeting coherency.





Remember a world where he never opened his eyes, never roused all his fading strength for the grey eyes and that wiping braid of brown hair almost literally right above him, and mumbled, You here to finish me off, sweetheart?





She didn’t say yes. She might as well have. She did a better job than Cato shoving his sword straight through Peeta’s throat would have. She’d whispered his name, her voice all breathy, it and her eyes all confused and scared, and he’d found reasons to live. Or at least he’d found the travesty that had disguised itself as the reason to live.



The one that was a reason not only to make it home but to lie in his bed, hours since waking, staring at the ceiling. All because he’d have to see her today. It was Parcel Day. The third one to be exact. The first one had coincided with their return to District 12. The bigger the show the better it was for the Capitol. The more victorious for the Victor, the more congratulatory and proud The Capitol.

Smiling faces who, wouldn’t smile when the cameras were turned off, beamed from the tv.

The cameras and interviewers might return again today. It was only the third month. Even if there had been fewer the second time, they were still the biggest sensation The Games had seen potentially ever. They’d broken rules no one had ever dreamed of. One went in hoping to survive, or to die quickly trying to. No one ever went in hoping to survive and bring someone home with them.

It would not stop being news even if everyone wanted it to be. Their insane, crazy, passionate love that had deprived them of their sense and their ability to follow the rules, like good little starved children, gained them terse leniency. Not one he trusted. But it was there. And so would be those who wanted to chronicle their miracle. Potentially there already today.

She’d be there and they’d have to lie. Touch each other for the first time in nearly a month and half (if he didn’t count holding her for that brief minute, when she’d fallen apart hearing about Rue in Milliways). Have to have not coherent, but joyously, bubbly, adoring conversation with each other.

He could barely stand to look at her.

The idea of convincing a world he madly loved her still…

And it wasn’t like anyone in District 12 could be fooled of that now.







The ceiling was almost entirely lit up by daylight.
It had crept in, with the breeze, through the open window.

Peeta always left the window open when he slept, though he closed the door. He always left windows or doors open, depending on which room he was in. Always a door or a window. Always. Somewhere. Somehow. The breeze. The space. The lack of confinement. The escape from where he was, where he’d put himself.

Which this day did not have, and for that Peeta was frowning when he made himself get up.

Stumbled into a shower, which made him clean, if he left his shaggy, blonde hair dripping on his shoulders, his towel, the shirt he chose. He passed on food, even though the kitchen did have it. He fed Tempest. He'd given up trying to figure out if he should or should not be feeding his Magical-Fish-That-Was-Not-A-Fish.

Tempest never complained about the bright yellow flakes falling through the water.

Peeta walked through the quiet, stale and utter emptiness, of Victor's Village into the explosion of pandemonium in The Village Square. People weaving back and forth. Children screaming and laughing. Mothers and Father's already in lines, people from the Seam, who were not too proud to come, as well as those from the Village, House Wives and Shop Owners, with their mostly fake, well if it was free, looks.

Everyone felt the same today. Except Peeta.

Who carded his fingers through his still half-damp hair as he served the wreck of the day and the stage across the center from him. Where confusingly enough while there was no sign of Katniss, Haymitch was already lingering near the base of, ignoring the people and staring at him. With an expression Peeta couldn't determine if was more surprised, caustic sardonicism or desperately, disgusted relief.



"You're late." Maybe both. Relief that he hadn't been standing here alone, pretending all of the things he wouldn't.

"You're sober." Peeta arched a brow, digging his hands into his jeans. He hadn't dressed up this time at all. Nice. But normal life nice. Which look immaculate beside Haymitch's stained and bedraggled countenance.

"Won't last long." Haymitch said, with something Peeta would almost classify as dry, annoyed amusement. He'd turned away from Peeta to glare at someone who'd had the audacity to step toward them.

"Wasn't counting on it." Peeta said looking back over all the people (Okay, so maybe it wasn't just him), failing at ignoring the sinking disappointment in himself.



She hadn't come. And she wouldn't in the end, either. But by the time he'd realized that it was several hours later, and he'd been distracted by several -- if not more, than at least as -- important things. He didn't pay attention to the Peace Keepers who kept everyone in line. Or the rules of the hand outs. Or the camera's following him, or tv's showcasing their Game clips.

All of those things were worth hating. But on some other day.



Today was a day where things you didn't see often happen. Where The Butcher's wife and the seller in the Hob had a reason to be laughing at each other’s jokes while they stood next to each other. For all the teenagers of all three areas to loiter, hollering loudly as they played games and tossed what balls they had, patched and tattered though they might be, getting under everyone’s feet.

Children, barely big enough to run, did so exuberantly across the area, laughing and waving their candy or corn syrup or tin of meat or can of applesauce. Here the treats were dealt out, and everyone was smiling, even if begrudgingly. Some people cried. And back in their homes, the drop offs of the bags of grain and cans of oil too large to carry would be waiting.

This was the reward to The Victor of the Game. The Great Gift of Survival from the Capitol. An extra supply of food every month for every family, without the necessity of the tessare. Their grace. But it didn't matter for today. For this hour. This minute. Laughter filled the square, and some tears. So much joy in the face of so many who usually only knew starving, depravity, darkness.



It was this, far more than Katniss Everdeen, that made him grateful for surviving. For winning.

There were so few lies he had to tell with her missing, when it was about The Districts' joy, their winnings.
Not in his laughter. Or in how he'd nudge the mothers, or helped the Elderly carry, or picked up and spun around children.


Because all of those people made that Game (all he'd lost and might never recover) worth it, in a complicated way, he could feel if not even explain even to himself. Their ease in the coming weeks. The less deaths from eating well and taking less risks. And, hours after Haymitch had gone from twitching at people to vanished off drown himself again, Peeta was still there.

There, until he'd said goodnight to last person in the last line, hauling away toward their house. One that would be, like so many others that night, twinkling candlelight, reflecting shadows of light hearts and full stomach's. The dream of which Peeta was both grateful for and could only imagined as he walked home, with a limp from over-exertion, alone.

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Peeta Mellark | Victor of the 74th Hunger Games

August 2015

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