Katniss waking up early in the morning to find herself alone, Peeta emerging from the bathroom, and then lying back down with her.
(I really like making reversed gifs someone fic this omg?)
They’re rare, for Katniss anyway. They only happen every couple weeks, but she has to concede they’re worst than her normal nightmares. Vivid and stark, too-bright, too-real images of the arena, of their room in the train, anywhere—and it’s Peeta most of the time. It always has to be Peeta with eyes looking straight into hers when she kills him.
Sometimes it’s horror, the look on his face when she snuffs him out. Sometimes it’s relief. But it’s always a twisted form of love. It’s worse when he looks at her and it’s like she’s doing the right thing.
She’s killed so many people in her dreams, reliving Marvel’s and Cato’s, slashing Clove’s throat, strangling Rue, slaughtering the families she’s come to know on the Victory Tour, but it’s Peeta who always looks her straight in the eyes when she kills him.
This time, it’s an arrow right through the eye, like one of her squirrels. Like he’s just an animal. Halfway through They have to have their victor, he’s cut off with the sickening thunk of her arrow sinking home.
Ladies and gentlemen, your winner of the 74th annual Hunger Games…
Katniss awakes, quietly, eyes snapping open and breath shallow, but she doesn’t scream. She can’t move, but she knows this is the “paralyzed with terror” Peeta’s talked about. She blinks away the bleariness to see, and for those couple seconds she fears she’s alone, that she really did kill him to survive. She can’t feel his strong arms around her, how nicely they had fit the curves of her sleeping body—had she imagined that? Was it all a lie? Could she have killed him? It felt so real. The way his chest rose and fell beneath her. His heartbeat under her hand. The open window with the wind from the too-fast train rushing in. What was the dream and what was the truth?
Real or not real?
Her fingers tighten on the sheet, and though her strength is gone she pushes herself up, turning and surveying the room. Alone. She’s alone, she’s alone, she—
The door to her bathroom opens, and it’s like dawn finally rises behind the horizon. There stands Peeta, jumping a bit from the look she’s giving him, slightly bewildered before a smile cracks.
She thinks she might sob with relief.
"Good morning," he greets ever-so-softly, then gives a small shrug. "Sort of. There are still some hours left until we have to get up." It comes with a tiny, conversational chuckle, the kind of light he emits on her darkest of days.
Katniss turns back, staring a hole into her pillow. She doesn’t want to stop looking at him but she feels if she keeps on she will cry, and maybe it’s stupid since she does it so often, screaming and sobbing hysterically in his arms from nightmare after nightmare but this…this will feel like admitting defeat. She can’t make sense of herself.
He gets back in bed, casually putting his hands behind his head. He tilts his head in her direction, but she still won’t meet his eyes. She knows when she does, she’ll fall apart. He’ll know.
But she tells him anyway.
"I thought you were gone." She chances a glance for a quick moment.
Confused, a little crinkle goes between Peeta’s eyebrows. “Well. I was. Just to the bathroom.”
"Not ‘gone,’ gone. I thought you were…” But she can’t get it out, can’t find the words or even form some semblance of them to make him understand what it means, can’t bring herself to say aloud what haunts her.
"Hey," he murmurs, fully realizing what she means. He sits up a little, pulling his hands forward. One finds her hanging hair and Katniss leans into it until he’s cupping her cheek, the other stills the fingers that have been picking at the now-fraying pillow case. She grips him like a lifeline.
"You’re not the only one," she admits, falling forward and burying her face into his shoulder. "I have nightmares about losing you too."
"Hey," he repeats, wrapping his arms tightly around her. "Katniss, I’m staying right here. You won’t lose me. Always, remember?"
Warmth reaches every edge of her and she breathes him in so deeply, memorizing his scent, counting the heartbeats. She’s at a loss for words, returning his embrace so fiercely, as if he’ll evaporate at any moment, until she finally relaxes. He rubs slow circles into her back, tracing patterns like he’s painting up and down her spine. It’s rhythmic and soothing and steady and everything Peeta brings to her, erasing all the wrongs with those two hands. One twists and twirls through a lock of hair, and she hums into a mercifully dreamless sleep, unhindered by worries of what’s to come. Because he’s staying right here with her. Always.