Crazy or Not
People tell him that she’s crazy.
“Poor girl. It’s not really her fault,” they start, lowering their voices for only him to hear, gripping his elbow tight. “Father’s been dead for years, and her mother lost her mind not long after…. And then her little sister and that awful fire. They say that Hawthorne boy that she used to be seen with all the time had something to do with that, and he left town so suddenly afterward that one can only assume. It’s only a matter of time before she completely cracks.”
He watches her from the window of the bakery he’s just opened in town as she climbs into the older model pick-up parked at the curb. Her eyes lock on his for a split second just before the truck door closes.
He thinks, crazy or not, that she’s the most beautiful thing that he’s ever seen.
Thresh tells him that she doesn’t date.
“Never has,” the tall, muscular man says as he unloads boxes of supplies onto the loading dock in the alley behind the bakery. “There were always rumours about her and Gale, but no truth to them as far as I know. Even if it was plain to see that boy was so in love with her he could hardly stand it. Why, Mellark? You planning on trying your luck?”
She comes into the store one day, just after the morning rush has died down, when it’s just him working out front. He decides it’s now or never as he steps out from behind the counter to approach her. After wiping his hand his apron, he extends it to her - says that they haven’t had the pleasure of meeting, and introduces himself. She does the same and he can see the way that she tries to act like the human contact doesn’t bother her as their hands connect. When he repeats her name, asking “Isn’t that a flower?”, a faint smile appears on her face, and something flips inside of his stomach.
She holds his hand just a second too long, and he thinks that maybe he’ll try his luck after all.
Johanna tells him to be careful with her.
"I don’t know how you managed to talk her into this date, Blondie, but you’d be wise to remember that even if she doesn’t think so, there are plenty of people around here that would run you out of town on a rail if you hurt her." She pinches the corner off of a cinnamon roll and pops it into her mouth. "No matter how good the shit you bake is. She’s been through enough as it is. Doesn’t need to deal with the bullshit of a broken heart on top of it."
It had taken him just over three months to even get up the nerve to ask her out, and another three weeks before she had agreed. He’s nervous when he picks her up after work, and the feeling doesn’t go away when she opens the front door. She’s wearing her hair down. It’s the first time that he’s seen it loose from the confines of its braid, and for a minute he forgets how to speak. Dinner is not the quiet affair he’d hoped for it to be. Instead, it seems like every patron at the diner feels the need to come over and say their hello. Their shock is obvious - How long has it been since they’ve seen her out with anyone? He’s grateful when Sae comes out from the kitchen and loudly shoos everyone away. From the look on Katniss’ face, so is she. She’s quieter after that, more subdued than usual, even. But at the end of the night, when he drops her off at her doorstep and goes to tell her what a nice time he had, he discovers that Katniss Everdeen prefers to let her actions speak for her.
As she gently pulls his bottom lip between hers, her fingertips skate along his jaw and he gets the distinct feeling that if anyone ends up with a broken heart here - it won’t be her.
His mother tells him she’s a lost cause.
"I don’t understand what makes this girl so special," she says, and he can practically hear her eyes rolling over the phone. "I overheard your brothers talking about the last fight you two had, Peeta. Really… You don’t think that you deserve better? She’s practically broken, son, and you’re that good at fixing things."
He curses his older brothers and their inability to keep their damned traps shut. But when Katniss had spent a week holed up in her house, refusing to talk to him after he had surprised her by planting bushes along her front walk, he’d needed someone to confide in. He was missing something, of that he was sure. She had been complaining about the state of her yard, and how the sister that she never really talks about had been the one that had always kept it pretty. He’d thought he was doing her a favor - Primroses were pretty, right? He hasn’t been off the phone for more than five minutes when there’s a knock on the door. Her arms are around his neck before he’s even pulled it open all of the way, and she’s murmuring how sorry she is over and over. He manages to move to the couch, her limbs still tangled with his, and holds her close. After a moment of nothing but sniffling sounds and deep breaths, she looks at him - the words “Her name was Prim” falling from her lips.
When she falls asleep on his chest later, he thinks that his mother is wrong. She’s not broken, nor does she need for someone to ‘fix her’. She’s just lost and in need of a little hope.
Haymitch tells him that he’s braver than he looks..
"Have to be to put up with Sweetheart over there," he mutters, taking another swig from the flask he’s hidden inside the jacket of his slightly more rumpled than preferred tux. "I told you that she would take some convincing."
And it had, but after nearly five years together, he’s proud to call the striking woman in the middle of the dance floor his wife. Haymitch offers up his flask and Peeta thinks why the hell not. They watch his wife dance with Delly Cartwright’s little brother, and the older man snickers when he sees her playfully step on the young boy’s toes in retaliation for the numerous times he’s already stomped hers. The gruff man actually cracks a smile as he shakes his head, muttering something about her being crazy. She catches his eye and winks at him over her dance partner’s head.
He still thinks, crazy or not, that she’s the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen.