These are the outfits that every tribute wore in the Seventy-Fourth Hunger Games. They aren't even replicas. You can see the burn marks in my jacket and see where I cut it off.
I stumble backward, into Peeta. He catches me and holds me tight to him. "Peeta…I don't want to wear that."
"I know. I don't either," Peeta says, and he turns to my prep team, who stand, bewildered, on the couch. "Is there any other possible option? Neither of us feels comfortable wearing this."
"But…But…I mean, this is what Plutarch picked out," Octavia blubbers, obviously flustered.
"Did you not hear me? We don't want to wear that!" Peeta shouts. My prep team flinches, and I realize that they didn't pick these out; they thought we would be happy. I weave myself out of Peeta's grasp and approach my prep team.
"It's amazing, really, that you were able to keep these. But the thing is, it brings back too many horrible memories," I say gently. I am talking to all of them, but I make eye contact with Venia. Out of the three of them, Venia, I think, would be the one that understands. "Do we have to wear these?"
"Well… we didn't really bring anything else-" Octavia begins, but Venia quickly cuts her off.
"We'll tell Plutarch and bring back another option. It should only take an hour, if we take the hovercraft," Venia says, a warm smile lighting up her face. The three of them pack up the outfits, and are soon gone. I sigh and fall into Peeta's arms again.
"You're awfully gentle with your prep team, Katniss," Peeta says after a moment.
Astounded, I ask, "Of course. Weren't you?"
"I tolerated them. Portia was okay, but I honestly couldn't stand the other three," Peeta answers. "Don't get me wrong, I felt terrible when they were executed. I just didn't like what they did, you know? Basically dressed me up for slaughter."
"But they didn't know, did they? They were Capitol citizens, they had no idea it was wrong. Just like everyone else in the Capitol, Snow brainwashed them into thinking the Games were a good thing, and that everyone was excited to be in it. They didn't know."
"No, I know, it's just…I don't know, it kind of made me angry how they seemed so excited about it. I think another part of it was that-" He stops talking instantly, and I can tell he's just almost let slip something he didn't want to tell me. "Never mind."
"Peeta," I turn so my face is inches from his, but I don't kiss him. Of course not; I am still too scared. "Tell me."
"Well, the thing is, I wasn't planning on coming out of those Games. From the start, I knew—No, wanted, to die, because I couldn't live with myself if you got killed. I wanted you to return to District 12," Peeta tells me, and although I knew he didn't plan on winning, I hadn't known it was from the start, and he wasn't even going to put up a fight.
"But Peeta," I ask. "What does any of this have to do with your prep team?"
"You see, Portia and Cinna did an amazing job at the opening ceremony, and at the interviews. I was kind of angry, though, because I didn't want the sponsors. I wanted them all to go to you. I didn't want a single sponsor. And they did," Peeta answers. He draws me to him so that my face is pressed against his chest. "I liked Portia, though. I told her about my plan and my feelings for you, and I think she really understood."
A pull my head back as a sudden thought enters my mind. "We didn't add her, Peeta!"
He looks confused for a moment, but swiftly remembers. "To the Memory Book? No, I guess we didn't. We should do it, though."
He pulls me to the shelf holding just the plant book and the memory book. He lifts the memory book off and sinks onto the couch.
"I can't really contribute. I didn't know anything about her," I admit, sitting down next to him. However, I am content with just watching him draw, carefully outlining the face and filling in the details. Right as the he finished the hair, there comes again a knock at the door, but this time, I am the one to run and open it. I throw it open and my prep team again enters my house.
"We've got new outfits, and we think you guys will love them!" Octavia squeals, pulling the new outfits out of the bag with a flourish. "Mind you, Plutarch still wants you to wear the jackets. I tried to argue it, but he was consistent."
"It's fine," I quickly reply, eager to see the new outfits. "As long as we don't have to wear the whole outfit, we can wear the jackets."
Octavia moves to the side so the outfits are in plain view, and Peeta and I step up to take a look at them. One of them, which is obviously mine, is a simple, deep red shirt, with sequins attached to the hem. Paired with it are black trousers and brown leather boots. Peeta's outfit matches mine, but his shirt is missing the sequins.
"It's wonderful! So much better than the other ones! Thank you!" I cry, and I immediately know that it was Cinna's hands that made these. I don't know when he planned for us to wear them, but I am almost certain he hadn't planned on us wearing them back into the arena.
By now, it's is growing dark outside, and I can feel the pressure of the day build up on my eyelids. All I want right now is bed.
"Um, are you guys going back to the Capitol tonight or do you need somewhere to stay?" I ask.
My prep team exchanges glances.
"We were kind of hoping we could stay, so we could help get you two ready in the morning…" Venia trails off. "But we could go back to the Capitol, I suppose."
"No, it's fine," I answer. "I just don't know where to put you."
"They can use my house," Peeta quickly adds. "I was going to stay here with Katniss anyway and there's no reason that house should stay empty if you guys need it."
The prep team agrees, and Peeta leaves for a moment to unlock his house. I use this time to prepare for bed, and when I hear Peeta open the door downstairs, I am already burrowed deep under the covers.
Because I know Peeta will not let himself sleep next to me, and I cannot bear the thought of him spending another night in that incredibly uncomfortable chair, I had fastened him a makeshift bed with a sleeping bag, pillows, and a thick comforter I had pulled off of the bed in the guest bedroom.
"Thanks, Katniss," He murmurs, and I hear as he gets himself comfortable, and his snores soon fill up the room. I don't know how he can sleep. I lie awake for hours, dreading the following day, the day I once more enter the Hunger Games arena.
Ultimately, though, I do drift into sleep, but nightmares bring me thrashing and flailing awake. I know I must have uttered some kind of noise because Peeta is right there next to me, grasping my hand and whispering things into my ear. Nothing helps, though. I still lie there trembling, breaking into a slow sweat.
"Peeta…" I whisper, knowing only one thing will make me feel safe. "Kiss me."
A dark look passes over his face, and I know what his answer will be before he says it. "Katniss, I can't, please, don't do this."
"Please, Peeta," I gasp, trembling ever harder. "I need it. I need to feel safe with you again."
Peeta's hesitant, although I can tell he's thinking about it. He leans into me a few inches, but doesn't go any farther. I grow impatient and bring my head up to meet his lips. He gives a slight shudder against me, but it is nowhere near as violent as last time. I clench his shirt in my fists and pull him closer, and he gingerly places a hand behind my head.
I finally pull away, and see in Peeta's eyes a wild fear. I wrap my hands still more in Peeta's shirt and meet his eyes.
"Stay with me, Peeta," I choke out. Something's fighting in his head, but at least he hasn't struck at me yet, or even tried to.
"Always," Peeta finally whispers back, fear slowly leaving his eyes. He pulls me closer, and rests his chin on my head. "Thank you."
"Please sleep here with me tonight. I don't want to be alone," I know it is a lot to ask for in one night, but I desperately need it.
"Okay," Peeta agrees, rather quickly. He climbs into bed next to me and snakes his arms around. I shrink into them, feeling safe from everything, just like it used to be.
"Peeta?" I whisper into the darkness. "Why were you so quick to agree tonight, when you never would before?"
"Because…I think…I don't exactly know, but I think with that kiss, something fell into place in my mind, and I think all the traces of tracker jacker have left my system. Not permanently, of course; it will always be with me. But for the most part, I think it's gone."
I sigh into his chest, happy that now maybe things can go back to how they were in the months during and following the Quarter Quell. I run my hand down his arm until I find his hand, which I immediately lock with mine.
"So now," I whisper happily, pulling myself up so we are face to face. "I can kiss you anytime I want?"
"Please," Peeta smiles, and this time, it is him who brings me in for a kiss.
Guys… You don't know how sad I am. I literally got two reviews on the last chapter. TWO. The one thing I ask for from you guys is to review. Can you please make more of an effort on this chapter? Please, guys.
I'm not going to stop writing it, but reviews make me so incredibly happy and proud of my work, and when no one reviews, I feel like I am doing a bad job.