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Peeta II

Once upon a time, Katniss had been the girl of his dreams.

She was confident, strong, vibrant in a way that made people love or hate her. She didn't cushion her opinions to spare someone's feelings and she was honest. She was brave, and he admired that bravery, even as he wished he had more of it.

He'd loved her for so long she felt like a part of him, for so long that when she finally returned his feelings, and looked at him the way he'd always dreamed she would, kissed him the way he'd longed for, it felt like fate.

Like destiny.

It had hurt to realise she'd played him for a fool, that the girl he'd spent so long admiring was capable of this kind of deceit.

He couldn't even hate her for it...he was the one who'd put her up on that pedestal after all.

And her stunt with the Nightlock had saved his life.

When the announcement came, telling them that they were going to have to fight to the death, on grass already stained red with the lifeblood of the girl and boy laying dismembered in the mouth of the cornucopia, he'd been too tired to fight.

He'd felt numb, listless.

Katniss could have killed him, but instead she'd chosen to make the Capitol make the choice. Either both together...or none at all.

And they had to have their Victor. So here they were.

But where he'd thought she'd chosen him out of love...he'd come to the realisation that to her it had been a strategy, like her fire dress, like the innocent act at the interview.

He'd been a fool.


Peeta.

He comes awake with a scream, Sky's soft voice echoing in his ears, her green eyes impossibly sad as her hand reaches toward him and his chest aches from the strain of trying to reach her. For a moment he lays there, chest heaving, in his impossibly soft bed, before he rolls over and promptly throws up into the bucket left beside his bed.

Tears prick his eyes, stinging like nettles, and he heaves again even as nothing is left to come up.

Sky haunts him, her face, her voice, her gentle hands. Sometimes he thinks he can feel them brush through his hair, thinks he can hear her voice whispering "I missed you."

When he closes his eyes he can see her standing there beside the river, that impossibly hopeful smile on her lips as she moves towards him. Trusting, despite the knife in his hand.

He's dreamed of her almost every night, happy and sad, heartbreaking and comforting. One night he dreams of her by the river, and when she moves towards him, trusting as a doe, he slashes his knife across her throat, his body acting of its own volition as his mind scrambles with horror. Her green eyes widen in betrayal as blood bubbles from her lips, forming his name, and then she crumples to the ground, gone.

After he's sick he can't help but bitterly wish he'd done just that. Better that quick than the long drawn out death she'd suffered at the hands of the Capitol's wolves.

One night he kisses her in his dream, and he feels her lips under his, form his name with a smile, before she slowly crumbles out of his arms, blowing away like dust.

Another night he betrays her after the Bloodbath, and she's killed in the bushes they'd run to, stabbed through the heart by Cato's pitiless blade.

Sky haunts him, her kindness lingers with him as do the phantom touches of her gentle hands. In another world, another life he could have seen them being the closest of friends...he's never felt so immediately in sync with another person before.

So he clings to her memory, dreads the dreams even as a part of him longs for them.

When he's out in town he quietly does what he can to ease the burdens of those in the Seam with gifts of baked bread, some of which has extra coin hidden within the soft crusts. A soft warmth fills his chest as he sees fewer hollow chests, and the children's faces look less haunted.

He has to be careful of course, if the Capitol was to find out, or if someone were to rat him out...well he's heard enough from Haymitch to know the punishment would be severe, and impact all those he loves.

Still he can't sit back any longer, not while he's haunted by the memory of Sky's kindness, like the way she'd tended to his leg before he repaid her with a blow to the head. Or the way she'd always asked after how he was feeling, genuinely wondering, genuinely concerned. He can see her soft smile as he gives out his bread and subverts the Capitol in his own way, and it gives him the only small measure of comfort he has.


He and Katniss have a cool working relationship right up until the man is executed in District 11.

"You have to calm down," Haymitch hisses, gripping his arm tightly before he wrenches it free.

"Don't tell me to calm down!" Peeta growls back, feeling his bitterness and fury seething to the surface, "This is just so…typical of her."

Haymitch drew back, and his eyebrow arches questioningly, intrigued, "I don't think I've ever heard you say anything but good things about our Girl on Fire." he murmurs back, voice acerbic and mocking, "What's the matter, trouble in paradise?"

Peeta shoots him a withering look, pacing away from him again, "Everyone thinks she's some kind of hero…"

"But you don't?"

"No." he flicks his gaze to Haymitch, whose expression is carefully neutral, "No she's not. She has a big heart, no one can deny that, but it only seems to extend to certain people…"

"You?"

"I'm not talking about me!" Peeta shouts the words before leashing himself back, "I'm talking about her not telling me about the President's warnings and mission and just thinking of herself and her own family!" he kicked an abandoned box, "I'm talking about the things she did in the Games…"

"What she did in the Games was to survive." Haymitch reminds him firmly, "You know that."

"Not Cato...Not Sky."

That makes Haymitch pause, "Ah yes...Sky."

There is something complicated on his face as he murmurs her name, and Peeta can't help but ramble, "Sky didn't deserve that end, Katniss could have helped her, helped both of them…"

"She didn't know what was going to happen." Haymitch's voice is quiet.

"You can never know what's going to happen," Peeta growls back, fingers tightening, "Sometimes you have to...just do what's right. And fuck the consequences."

Haymitch chuckles quietly, "Careful baker's boy, that almost sounds like Rebellion."

Peeta rolls his eyes tiredly, "Shut up…"

"For what it's worth…" Haymitch moves over and grips his arm gently, "I think we're all going to be feeling the consequences of that choice of Katniss' for a while yet.

"I miss her," Peeta laughs hollowly, "Can you miss someone you barely knew?"

Haymitch's hand tightens on his arm and he nods quietly, "Sometimes it's not how long you knew them...but how much they touched your soul," he murmurs softly, "Don't do what I did kid. Don't let the ghosts haunt you too long."

"Do they still haunt you?"

A brief silence, before Haymitch's hand tightens on his arm gently, before releasing and he strides from the room.

Leaving Peeta alone in the silence which crushes his ribs with a desperate sadness.


"What can we expect from District 4?"

He looks up sharply as Katniss asks Haymitch her question, and catches Haymitch's eyes flicking over to him.

"It's not going to be pretty." their former mentor murmurs, leaning back in his seat, nursing a drink, "This lot don't usually hold grudges but when they've made up their minds. Stubborn...the lot of them."

Katniss' face had a complicated expression on it, "And they hate me."

"Pretty much," Haymitch doesn't blunt his words, and Katniss flinches slightly, "Surely you weren't expecting anything different? Not after Darrien and…"

He trails off, and her face shifts into a frown, "Sky wasn't my fault. I didn't kill her."

Peeta's fingers curl reflexively into his lap, something like fury zapping through his body.

"Ironically," Haymitch drawls, leaning back again, "It's because you killed him...and didn't kill her."

"They wanted me to kill their Tribute?" Katniss sneers slightly, folding her arms defensively.

"Mercy would have been nice." Peeta finds himself saying before he can stop himself, and he sees Katniss' eyes narrow.

"Let it go Peeta, I did what I had to do. You know as well as I do that the Gamemakers could have had anything up their sleeves. It was a waste of arrows when they were going to die anyway."

Peeta's glass thunks down on the table, as he glares at her, "That's not the point here though is it? Whether it was right or wrong...and for the record I'm on the team of 'wrong'...you can't expect these people, who loved her, raised her, grew up with her, knew her, to forgive you after you let her suffer there for hours. After your explosion killed Darrien?"

Katniss' face pales and then flushes, "Oh and you think you're going to be any better received? District 4 are Careers. They value strength and I did what I had to to win. What did you do again Peeta?"

He lunges out of his seat.

"That's enough!" Haymitch stands and pushes him back down, with a quelling glare, "Fact of the matter is that these people don't like you. So say the speech, get off the stage. Get through the dinner and get out of there. Simple."

"Sure," Peeta gets to his feet again, and heads to the door, "After this we only have a similarly warm reception in District 2 and District 1 to go." he shoots Katniss a nasty look, and sees her face pale again, before he disappears into the hallway, feeling hollow.


It's a beautiful winter's day in District 4.

When the doors to the Justice building swing open to reveal a huge courtyard, flooded with bright sunshine and full of people, Peeta feels his legs carry him forward on auto-pilot.

His relationship with Katniss has deteriorated to the point that he can barely look at her without feeling a visceral surge of…something toxic. It's like anger...like betrayal...like resentment, all of them but not wholly any of them.

So he looks out at the crowd waiting for them.

The people here watch them, but for the first time there is no hint of anticipation, no eager eyes lingering on Katniss. The square is awash with frowns and determinedly neutral expressions. No one here seems to have forgotten what his partner did, or the fact that she was directly responsible for the suffering of both of this years Tributes.

Katniss steps forward first and lifts her cue cards to read.

The air seems to get chillier.

Katniss' voice is almost jarringly loud in the utterly silent square, and her speed picks up as the awkward atmosphere adds to her nerves. Even once she is done and steps back there is no dutiful applause.

Just silence.

Peeta swallows and slowly walks forward for his turn, and sees a few postures relax, mouths softening from the hard lines.

He says his speech, beautifully written as always, and then turns away from the mic for a beat, preparing to walk away, before pausing and turning back.

"I'm sorry." the words flow from his lips and he sees shock on the expressions of the faces looking back at him, "I truly am. Sky was a beautiful soul...and a credit to her District. She touched me in more ways than you can imagine, and her memory is one I will cherish the rest of my days. She won't be forgotten."

He steps away, back beside Katniss and the applause begins, warm and appreciative, and he feels rather than sees Katniss shoot him an unfathomable look.

"I'm starting to think you're just jealous of the attention," she mutters at him, "You have no idea how difficult it is with Snow breathing down my neck."

"Mm it's always your neck isn't it," he hisses back as they leave the stage, "Unfortunately our necks are a package deal. For now."

The look she gives him could strip paint, but he can't bring himself to care.


He meets Finnick Odair at the dinner, who is even more handsome in person than he is on film.

He's charming and friendly but Peeta notices that Odair avoids the side of the room where Katniss is, and since he too is avoiding Katniss, it's only a matter of time before their paths cross.

"Mellark." Odair's sea green eyes are bright, intelligent and make him feel strangely nervous. His face is hard for a moment before it softens slightly and he shakes his hand, "I owe you a debt of gratitude."

"Me?" Peeta blinks, shocked, "I...why?"

The Victor's smile is crooked but warm, "You were a comfort to...her. She was very fond of you."

He sees Sky's face for a moment, and for a beautiful second it seems like she's there, standing beside them, watching them.

"You were her Mentor, she mentioned you. Something about threatening you with a trident…"

Finnick laughs, and the sea green eyes grow a little misty, "That sounds like her."

There's a note of something in his voice, something sad and broken, and Peeta recognizes it deep within his soul. It's the same feeling that's been haunting him. Neither of them had known her long, but both of them had grown to love her…

Here was the one person in Panem who might understand.

"I loved Sky," he found himself quickly saying, keeping his voice soft, "She is...she was…" he struggles to find the words, "She was special...she made things seem...possible. Full of…"

"Hope." Finnick grips his shoulder, "She was. Thank you Peeta for...for trying to."

His stomach seethes unhappily, "I wish I could have…"

Finnick seems to know what he means, because he nods and the two of them stand there, in silence for a long moment. It feels comfortable...it feels safe…

"You remind me of her." the bronze haired man eventually breaks the silence to say, "You remind me of her so much. You have the same...kindness."

"Thank you." Peeta's smiles at Finnick with his throat tightening with emotion, touched beyond words, "I can't tell you how much it means to me."

"I know."

And he does, Peeta realises, he really does know.

Arms wrap around him and it takes a moment to realise he's being hugged. He hasn't been held like this, like something important and treasured and valued since Sky beside the river, and it only makes Katniss' false embraces seem more hollow. His arms wrap around Finnick tightly in response, and he feels the man's chest catch a breath.

Neither of them are unaffected by this it seems.

And it's like a lifeline has been thrown.

He's not alone.