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Title: Four Times Peeta Says "I Love You" And Katniss Doesn't Say It Back
Paring: Peeta/Katniss
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 2020
Summary: She'll take some convincing.


Part One: Age 11
“Well, so how was it?”

Peeta hears his brothers’ conspiratorial whispering as he comes upstairs. “How was what?”

Nan hushes him while Bannik blushes furiously. “Damn it, Peeta, why do you have to be so loud?”

“I could hear you from the stairs,” he replies defensively, pouting.

Bannik glares at Nan, but Nan shrugs it off. “How was it?”

“How was what?” Peeta asks in an exaggerated whisper.

“He kissed Millie behind the school at lunch,” Nan supplies

“Oh, gross!” Peeta exclaims, forgetting all about being quiet. A pillow sails through the air to hit him in the face and he mutters, “Sorry.”

“It was... good,” Bannik says, grinning, his cheeks flushed bright pink.

Peeta looks at him skeptically. “Even dad and mom don’t do that stuff, and they’re in love. You’re gross.”

Bannik and Nan exchange a look. “You just don’t understand yet, Peeta. You’ll like a girl some day.”

“He already does!” Nan announces, and it’s Peeta’s turn to flush with embarrassment. “Don’t you, Peets? That little Seam girl? The one you’re always looking at?”

“That’s different,” Peeta cries. “I just want to marry her, not kiss her!”

His brothers dissolve into laughter, then his mother is yelling up the stairs, “Stop that racket! Peeta, get down here and help with this bread!”

Peeta gives his brothers a resentful look and reluctantly plods down the stairs.

“Oh, come on, you little-” his mother begins, but her words are cut off as she looks out the window. “What the-”

Peeta picks up the pace, reaching the stairs as his mother flings open the back door, and coming up behind her in time to see who she’s yelling at. Katniss.

“Get out of here!” she’s screaming. “Do you want me to call the Peacekeepers? I’m so sick of you Seam brats pawing through my trash!”

She waits until Katniss replaces the lid and moves away to slam the door. Peeta quickly turns toward the oven, mind racing. He knows her father is dead; he’s seen the change in her and her little sister, and he has a good idea what’s going on. If it would’ve been his father to catch her, she might’ve left with bread. He pulls on the rack holding the loaves and tilts it too far, allowing them to tumble into the fire. A moment later, he’s on his knees, his ears ringing but not loud enough to drown out his mother’s screams.

“You worthless idiot boy!” she’s yelling, her face red, as she brandishes the rolling pin at him. He’s shaking, on the floor, while she pulls the loaves out of the fire. “Ruined. You ruin everything!” She throws them at him. “Get rid of them.”

He yearns to disobey, to stay on the floor until the pain in his face goes away, but then he remembers Katniss. Quickly, he picks up the hot bread and runs for the back door, into the cool rain.

“Feed it to the pig, you stupid creature!” she’s still yelling at his back. “Why not? No one decent will buy burned bread!”

Peeta digs his fingers into the scorching bread, tearing off the smallest possible chunks to throw into the pig’s trough. Will she ever stop watching him? Then, the bell rings, and she disappears back into the bakery. He looks quickly behind him, and before he can have a chance to rethink what he’s doing, tosses both loaves to Katniss without even looking at her. Then, he goes back inside. His mother is gratefully still occupied with the customer, so he sneaks upstairs. Nan and Bannik’s pale faces greet him.

“I- I bent over too fast,” he explains. He knows they both know what really happened, but the lie comes naturally, and they may need to know it if their father asks. They head downstairs in his place, Bannik reaching over to ruffle his hair a bit as they pass. Peeta knows he should be upset about the beating, but he wants to smile. He knows he did something good. He gets a thought and hops over to the window, opens it, and calls “I love you!” out into the alley. She’s already gone, but it doesn’t matter, he thinks. He gave her the bread. She knows.

Part Two: Age 14
“Madge. Madge Madge Madge!”

Peeta runs to catch her as they near the bakery. He can’t afford to be late getting home to help. She finally turns, and he grins triumphantly.

“Peeta? Are you calling me?”

“Yeah,” he pants, wiping a bit of sweat off his face.

She turns herself fully to face him and waits. His confidence falters slightly, but he has to press on. Time is of the essence.

“Could I ask you something?”

Madge smiles indulgently. “You already have.”

“There’s someone I want to ask to the end of term dance,” he says.

“Sorry, Peeta, I’m going with Appa,” she says gently.

“Oh,” he replies, taken aback. “I didn’t mean you. Someone else. But I need your help.”

“Who?” she wonders.

“Katniss Everdeen?” It comes out as a question, but it’s definitely not.

Her eyes widen. “I think... someone is playing a joke on you, Peeta.”

This is not a response he’d imagined. “Huh?”

She’s frowning slightly now. “Do you even know who that is?”

“Of course I know who she is,” Peeta says indignantly. “She sits with you. That’s why I’m asking you.”

Madge at least seems convinced that no one’s put him up to asking. “I don’t think she knows who you are.”

“She knows.” Peeta smiles.

“Have you ever spoken to her?” Madge prods.

“Well. No,” he admits. “But I want to ask her to the dance.”

“Why?” Madge asks.

He didn’t forsee this question, either. “Does it matter? I think she’s pretty. I want to go with her.”

Madge sighs. “Look, Peeta. You’re a nice boy. But... she’s not going to go with you. You’ll get your feelings hurt. Just go with Delly, like you usually do.”

“Someone else asked Delly,” he tells her. “Besides, you know we’re just friends.”

Madge is shaking her head. “You have to trust me. She’s not going to go with you. Ask if you want, but leave me out of it.”

“I don’t want you to do anything,” Peeta says. “I just want to know her favorite food or flower or something- favorite color. Anything. So I can ask her right."

Madge shrugs and walks away, leaving him discouraged. But it’s his afternoon to watch the bakery, and inspiration strikes. He finds the smallest, most misshapen cake on display and decorates it for her. His father allows him to do this, since the cake will likely not sell before going stale, but it’s usually his family that will end up eating the practice cake. He doesn’t know how his father would feel about taking it to give to someone else.

He’s very proud of it when it’s finished. It’s probably his best work yet, and he’s a little sad he won’t be able to show his father. But he pushes that aside and hides the little cake with his things.

He waits all the next day for the perfect time to ask, but it’s never quite right. There are too many people and not enough privacy. He’s just settled on catching her at the end of the day when a group of older Seam boys walk past and one calls out to her.

“You’re coming to the dance with me, right?”

She looks annoyed but says, “Who else would I go with?”

Peeta hands his little cake to Madge after school. She gives him a knowing look as he turns his back to trudge back home.

She tries to follow. “I’m sorry Peeta. Did it really mean that much to you?”

He glances over to where he can see Katniss in a pack of kids headed back to the Seam. “I love you,” he mumbles, but of course not loud enough for anyone but himself to hear.

“What did you say?” Madge asks.

“I said ‘No, never mind,’” he tells her.


Part Three: Age 16
Peeta is surprised when she comes into the bakery while he’s behind the counter, and, judging by her expression, she wasn’t expecting him to be there either.

“Prim said she was craving some sourdough,” she blurts, defensively, killing the “hello” right on his lips.

“It’s not a capital offense,” he tells her, smiling. “Especially not for Prim. We have some fresh loaves.”

Peeta sees the tiny bit of color rise into her cheeks. They’ve barely spoken since the games ended, which, for a time, was as much his doing as hers. He still can’t look at her without feeling that tightness in his chest. Loss. Betrayal.

He chooses a loaf of sourdough and wraps it up. “No charge.”

“Peeta.” Her voice is full of disapproval and he doesn’t dare look at her face.

“I’m serious. Prim gave me some goat cheese. I owe her one,” he says, purposefully keeping his voice light.

“But this is your father’s bakery,” she replies, and he can tell she’s making an effort to keep the irritation out of her voice.

“I’ll buy him more ingredients,” he says, shrugging.

She sighs, but when he holds out the bread, she takes it. “Thank you.”

She’s at the door when he says, “Katniss?”

She turns to look at him, but he’s not entirely sure what he wants to say to her. This is their first private moment since the train. There could’ve been others, but he was too hurt. And she certainly hadn’t made an effort to fix that. Right now, she looks like she wants to leave, but she doesn’t.

“How are things?” she asks, waving her hand in a sweeping motion at the bakery.

“Strange,” he replies eventually. “They thought I wasn’t coming back. I came home, and all of my things were gone. They were in shock for about a week. Now, I guess it’s okay. I’m glad I have my own place, though. Sometimes, it’s a lot.”

She nods and glances at the door again.

“Look, Katniss,” he says, taking a step around the counter. “I just wanted to say that... I understand. I’m sorry I put you in this situation. I know why you did what you did- why you pretended to feel the same way as me. I shouldn’t have been angry when I found out. I’m sorry.”

Katniss looks studiously at the floor

“Will you forgive me? Please?” he asks, stepping closer.

She nods shortly. Encouraged, he grabs a cheese bun and puts it in her hands with the bread.

“Friends?”

“Sure, Peeta,” she says. She sounds impatient, but he notices her hand closing around the gift.

As she steps towards the door again, he can’t help himself. “Katniss? I still- I still love you.”

He’s not sure if she hears this or not, because the jingling of the bell above the door is her reply.

Part Four: Age 18
Peeta is completely unprepared for the moment when it happens. The other moments he’d been prepared for. There’d been plenty of warning that she would come share his bed. Their relationship had warmed slowly, and he’d been completely unsurprised when she sought the comfort of his arms. The kisses, too, were no shock. Their talk had grown increasingly intimate; light touches more frequent. It had been completely natural when her lips pressed up against his for the first time.

He hasn’t even begun to think of the possibility of “more” when it happens. There’s a sudden heat behind her kisses, then her body is fully pressed against his.

“I’m on fire,” she murmurs into his ear, and he’s catching it in the most wonderful way possible.

When it’s over, he feels so many emotions, he’s not sure he can keep himself together. Joy. Peace. Love.

“I love you,” he says because there’s nothing else to say, and he’s going to explode if it doesn’t come out.

She touches his face, and Peeta feels like he can read the thoughts passing through her mind by looking in her eyes. He smiles.

“You love me,” he says. “Real or not real?”

She relaxes. “Real.”

He grins, because words are his strength, not hers. He knows her words will come eventually. For now, he's happy to share his.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
end_unplanned
Dec. 26th, 2011 03:01 am (UTC)
Yayyyyyyy.
(Deleted comment)
end_unplanned
Dec. 26th, 2011 03:03 am (UTC)
I want to hang out with baby Peeta forever. Except his mom does suck.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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