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Title: Real or Not Real?
Author: rumpelsnorcack
Fandom: The Hunger Games
Rating: PG
Characters & Pairings: Peeta/Katniss
Word Count: 904
Summary: Flashes of Peeta's memories as he tries to work through what is real in his life and what isn't.
Notes: Set during and slightly after the last half of Mockingjay.
Many thanks to my wonderful beta
mollywheezy who always manages to tame my wild typos.
Disclaimer: Sadly none of the characters are mine, I just enjoy hanging around in their sandbox.

Real or not real?
She’s a mutt.  She wants to kill him.  Every tiny movement she makes towards him is the start of her next murder attempt.  He must kill her first, before she kills him.   When she reaches out her hand towards his neck she’s trying to lull him before she slices his throat or puts an arrow in his heart.  She has orchestrated this with Haymitch, the mutt-lover.  Between them they conned him in the arena, made him believe she loved him.  She doesn’t love him, never has; her every move is designed to kill him.  Haymitch has let her in here to kill him.  She’s a mutt.  She’s trying to destroy him.  He must keep himself safe.  He must destroy her.

Real or not real?
She loves him.  She wants to spend time with him.  When she wraps herself around him and presses herself closer gasping his name, she loves him.  She has chosen to be with him.  Her caresses are a declaration of her true feelings – she shows she loves him in every gesture she makes.  She is emotionally vulnerable and sometimes aloof, but she allows her love to shine through when she is relaxed with him.  She curls into his embrace while she sleeps, her trust in him absolute.  He tightens his arms around her.  He loves her so much it hurts him sometimes.

Real or not real?
She protects him, her grey eyes serious while he struggles through his flashbacks.  She never touches him, but she always makes sure he is safe.  Safe from himself, and safe from others.  He needs to protect her too.  Her nightmares still destroy her sense of self and she shakes for hours after each one.  He holds her as she shakes, and he knows she wishes she could hold him when he is in the grips of his bleak darkness.  She can’t, but she stays with him.  She talks him through it.  Her constant belief in him is the one thing that can bring him out.  They protect each other.  Always.

Real or not real?
She’s not a mutt.  She’s something worse; she’s someone who used him.  She knew how he felt about her but she still decided to play with his emotions.  After the games, even, she pretended to be his friend.  She needed his arms to soothe her nightmares so she used his love to get them.  She may not be a mutt, but he must avoid her.  She has had too much hold on his heart.  It’s too dangerous for him to let her get close.  He can’t tell when what she says is true; the video footage from the arena is damning.  It clearly shows how distasteful she found the effort of being with him.  She lied to him, she still lies to him.  He can’t love her.  There’s too much chance she will use him again.

Real or not real?
She depends on him.  He depends on her.  They used to lie together on the train, keeping each other’s terror at bay.  Now they tentatively try again, slipping into each other’s homes when the darkness becomes too overwhelming.  He holds her while she cries for her sister; she comforts him when he remembers his family.  His brothers, his father … sometimes even his mother.  They don’t quite trust each other.  The ease of the train still eludes them, but despite that they both sleep better when they are together.  She wants him around, even when he is in the grip of his demons.  He wants to be with her despite not quite believing she is really what she seems to be.  He is almost happy.

Real or not real?
She loves someone else.  She has always loved someone else.  No amount of polishing will change the truth.  Gale has her heart, and her loyalty.  Gale is whole, perfect.  Gale has been there for her while he has been imprisoned in the Capitol, a weakling who couldn’t fight back.  While he was being broken beyond repair, Gale proved over and over again that he was perfect, that he would protect her and her family.  There is no point in holding on.  He can’t guarantee her safety and she doesn’t even want him to.  She avoids him; she hates him.  She loves someone else.  She will be fine.  He should allow himself to be killed.

Real or not real?
She has chosen.  She has chosen him.  They have worked through their fears; they have stuck by each other when they both felt like they couldn’t go on.  They have pledged themselves to each other over and over and over again.  They need each other, they love each other.  It took months, years even, but they have regained something close to what they had before.  They are different people now, but they are fighting for each other, every day.  There is no end to the process, no magic moment when they can say it’s over.  But they navigate it together, and he believes this can last.  She smiles at him and agrees.  Her smile lights up her face.  He loves that smile; she keeps it just for him.  She tucks herself into his side as they walk through the renewed district.  He knows what her answer is, but he asks anyway; it has become a tradition now and she always humours him.

‘You love me.  Real or not real?’
‘Real.’
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