Hunger Strikes

By: Princess Ashley

AN: I own nothing.

I got some updates on Catching Fire, including the plotline. Sounds promising!!! =) I'm so excited.

Max Brown: This is God? How utterly disappointing. Lol. Thanks though!!! =)

Star in the Night Sky: hehehehehehe. You may be finding out soon. =)

Liana111: Thank you! I'm pretty proud myself

LaughSpazm: Dang it. I'll fix that when I get the chance. =)

Lost in Believing: Oh yes. Good old-fashioned jealousy. I'm a fan, I really am. Haha.

ANGELOFTHEBLACKROSES: Awww shucks. *kicks leg back and forth*

Giladren Tinuviel: No way can Peeta ever outdo Katniss in that department. But maybe he'll try…. Haha. Sorry for torturing you… you may not want to read this chapter if that's the case. *shrug*

DancingintheMoonlight13: HAHA!!! OMG I love that! Poor Peeta is getting an eye… and ear-full. 3 I love you Peeta. I like Toploader but I don't know who Alyson Stoner is… I'll look it up on Youtube and get back to you. Haha.

Whydoesitalwayshappen: Peeta's always affectionate with everyone. It only made sense to me. =)

EdsBrunettes: You're lucky I was feeling inspired this week. Haha.

Ten: Trusting You With Everything

After a few more questions from a breathless Blaze, the show cuts off. Blaze smiles while the rest of the crowd continues to try and wrestle their way onto the stage.

"I wish you two the best of luck on your tour. Please feel free to drop by the studio anytime. We'd love to have you." Blaze shakes Peeta's hand and gives me a kiss on the cheek. I begin to turn and head back towards where we came in, but I see Cinna peeking through the curtain and gesturing for me to turn back around towards the audience. I turn and see Peeta already advancing towards the throngs of people behind a large blue screen that stretches across the threshold. Their hands can reach across though, holding pens and hand-helds, screaming for autographs.

Peeta stops right where the screen starts, blocking him from the hands of screaming girls. I walk towards the many boys and girls yelling for me to sign, and I smile as charmingly as I know how, taking the pens and scribbling my name on the hand-helds being thrust in front of me. Some didn't have them though, so instead, they put out their arms, turned their heads and motion for me to sign their necks, their foreheads, their backs. One boy takes his shirt all the way off and asks me to sign across his chest. I spare a look at Peeta. A girl is smiling coyly at him, and I see him smile shy and tense, before taking the marker from her and signing over the swell of her breasts. He looks at me when he finishes, rolling his eyes so I can see. I smile, content, and then proceed to scrawl my name across the boy's stomach, which, I can't help but notice, is very hard and toned. I look up to give him the pen back, and he smiles smugly at me, handing me a piece of paper with a number on it. I smile indulgently, before continuing on to the others. Some however won't even take signatures. They rather have kisses or hugs, poses for pictures, and the like. I pose with a pack of boys who crowd around me while another takes a picture. Peeta does the same a few hoards away from me. It strikes me as fundamentally crazy, but the cameras and crowds are eating it up, so I place a light kiss on one of their cheeks for good measure.

"Marry me, Katniss!!"

"Run away with me!!"

"Peeta, I love you!!"

"I'll wait for you, Peeta! I'll wait for YOU!!"

I try to keep the laughter off my face at the last comment. Peeta looks like he can barely hold it in as well. That's when we decide to bail. Peeta grabs my hand holding it up in the air as we walk towards the stairs leading through the curtain, and the crowds screams only become louder as we disappear into darkness. I pay special attention to my foot placement as we go through the curtain, not wanting to ruin my good luck.

I'm immediately enveloped in a hug by Cinna. "Way to go! I couldn't have done it better myself!" He praises me with a kiss on my cheek.

Portia has her arms wrapped around Peeta's neck as he laughs away. He leans back to look at me with something wicked in his eyes. I think he must have seen me give a kiss to one of the boys. I look down at myself to remind him about his signature on one of the girl's, and he blushes. "Oh come off it." He says, smiling.

Cinna suggests we go out for lunch, and perhaps some shopping on my part, but not before changing us into some street clothes. My feet are grateful for being released from the heels. Cinna shoves me into some nice denim and flat gold shoes. Peeta seems to have taken a liking to his ensemble, so he stays the same.

The day is spent wandering around the streets of the Capitol, keeping the looks of a couple hopelessly devoted to each other, which, I'm not so surprised to admit, isn't as hard as I originally thought. I find myself enjoying holding Peeta's hand as we walk down the sidewalks, letting him guide me into several stores, buying me ice cream and music, holding me close. It's sick really, how much I'm enjoying this. Or maybe not. When I stare at his face, it looks as though there is nothing else he would rather be doing. I try to think of something else that I'd rather be doing, but I can't. It scares me kind of.

I wonder about the conversation that we'll inevitably be having later on today.

The day comes to a close, and I'm glad. My feet are killing me… slowly. Finally, I convince Peeta that it's time to head back to the hotel. He's like a little boy how fascinated he is by the city, the lights, the people, everything.

We arrive back at the hotel a little before seven, and my stomach is growling in hunger for some dinner. That reminds me about Hansel's offer. I look to my arm to see if the number is still written down, but my arm is clean. I sigh, hoping that maybe it isn't that big of a deal. Perhaps I'll ask Cinna about it tomorrow. Besides, Peeta wants to take me to that restaurant on the top of the hotel… for our 'date'.

"I can't even believe it revolves! I never thought I would ever be able to afford eating at a restaurant, but a revolving restaurant!" I smile indulgently at him. He turns to me, with a mischievous look in his eyes. "You're gonna wear those shoes again aren't you?" I hit him, and he laughs. He's always laughing.

"Mr. Mellark?"

Peeta turns abruptly towards the concierge who called him. "Excuse me, sir. But you received a call today. There's a message waiting for you in your room."

Peeta turns serious all of a sudden. I'm transfixed on how fast he made the change. "Oh… thank you, sir."

"Just press the pound button on the phone, and it will give you the recorded message and a callback number."

"Okay. Thanks…." Peeta trails off, looking a little unsettled. He shifts uncomfortably from one foot to the other, eyes darting around.

"Hey… are you okay?" I ask. I'm concerned at the restless composure he has assumed.

"What?" He looks at me suddenly, as if just remembering that I'm still here. "Oh. Yeah. I'm fine… why?" He narrows his eyes at me suspiciously, as if I've just accused him of something.

"I just… you look…" I sigh as his eyes narrow a bit further. "Nothing." I'll find out later. Right now I really just want to eat. And I want Peeta to fall back into Prince Charming mode… now. "Let's get back to the room. I'm getting hungry." I say, hoping to distract him.

It works. "Yeah! Oh!" He cries suddenly, making me jump. "I have to call up there and make sure they have a table for us! I'll meet you at your room in a minute!" He kissed me on the cheek, before running for the stairs, bypassing the elevator completely, leaving me in his wake. Is it just me? Or does it seem like he really just wants to be out of my presence right now? I walk slowly towards the elevators, wondering what could possibly have gone wrong. What message was he waiting on that would make him act like that the second he got it?

I press the button on the elevator, and the doors open, admitting me inside the death trap. I close my eyes and grip the rail as it shoots towards the sky.

***

I brush my hair, putting on a pair of nice grey pants and a long blue shirt with Peeta's heels. I look at the clock again. It's running on nine thirty, and I'm starting to feel a little weak with hunger. I haven't actually felt hunger since the games. The familiar feeling starts to creep up on me again. I wonder what's taking Peeta so long. Must have been an important message. Maybe he called whoever it was back. Maybe it was his friend from District 12. The friend girl. Where would she have gotten a phone though? I shake myself. It can't be her. I'm being stupid.

My stomach growls, and I lay a hand down on it. With the feelings of hunger comes the feeling of emptiness. With the feelings of emptiness brings back memories of my life in District 12, before everything good… and worse starting happening. And with the memories of District 12 comes memories of….

Gale.

I hadn't allowed myself to think of him since the Courthouse, which is a long time for me. My whole life, Gale was always a part of it. Going a whole day, which seems like so short a time, is actually a lot longer to me. The emptiness in my stomach grows bigger.

I start to get frustrated with Peeta, trying to distract myself from Gale. If Peeta had been here at eight, which would have still given him an hour with his messenger, then I wouldn't be feeling like I'm starving, and I wouldn't be thinking about Gale. I would be thinking about how safe I am right now, about how much Peeta means to me. I wouldn't be thinking about how unsafe Gale is, and how much I miss him, and how lost I suddenly feel without him.

A knock sounds on my door, and I scoff, stalking towards it and throwing it open. Peeta stands, looking slightly harassed, but a gentle apologetic smile is present on his fact, throwing his entire look off. His hair is rumpled, like he's run his hands through it repeatedly, getting the gel to make it stand on end. But he still looks incredible… not that I'm going to tell him that. I'm too angry to pay him any compliments.

"Sorry. I got… distracted." How vague. "Are you ready?"

"I was ready two hours ago. How much time does it take to throw on a pair of pants and a shirt?" I ask, grabbing my key card and slipping it into my pocket before closing my door.

"I said I was sorry. It was important."

It sounds important, from the tone of his voice. I turn and look at him. He really does look sorry. I file this away for later, and just give him a tight smile before heading down the hall to the elevator. I'm too hungry to argue right now. As soon as I get some food in my stomach, the sooner I'll forget about Gale.

I hope.

***

The restaurant is round, turning so slowly you really can't tell it's turning unless you look outside. Every time I look up, I see a different view of the city lights, shimmering around me. In every direction I look, it's a city of wonders. I'm having a hard time swallowing just how romantic a spot this is. Peeta sits across from me, looking so handsome, in a white shirt with a blue dress jacket. His hair sits in a perfect mess on his head, though I know Portia would be scandalized if she saw it like that. I like it. It's more Peeta, and less like the Capitol. A candle string of candles sits in a pool off to the side of the table, illuminating our faces in the dark booth. I don't know how I look in this lighting, but I think I must look extremely good, because Peeta won't stop looking at me.

"It's rude to stare." I say, shifting nervously under his gaze.

He blushes, looking away. "Sorry." He's apologizing a lot tonight. I'm more understanding now, I think. I've been munching on bread drenched in olive oil and herbs, so I'm not quite as hungry as I was before.

"Must have been important." I shrug, taking more bread and dipping it into oil. This stuff is addicting…

"It was, actually… Actually, I've been meaning to tell you…" But he can't continue as our waiter shows his face again, offering us something from the wine collection, but we both refuse.

"In that case, do you need anymore time with your menus?" He asks. Peeta hasn't even had time to look. He's been too busy studying my face to look at the menu. I order the first thing I see, which happens to be baked ravioli. Peeta mumbles something to the waiter, and he writes it down before wandering off and blending in with the rest of the room. I turn to stare out the window, as our view gradually moves around.

Peeta sighs. "This isn't how I hoped it would go… I though it would be more romantic somehow." My eyebrows disappear under my fringe. "Not that it's not romantic, it's just… well, neither of us seem in the mood for it."

"I am in the mood for it." Truthfully, his disappointed expression is making me feel guilty. "I just… I don't have much to talk about."

"Well… we do have three interviews tomorrow, as opposed to the one today. It's gonna be nothing but talking and car rides for about twelve whole hours." He starts, a smile starting to lighten up his face. "I'm waiting for them to start talking about the petition, but maybe the Capitol had tried to keep it as low key as possible. Of course," He looks around suspiciously before leaning in, "with all the tributes around… it's hard to not make a spectacle. That's another thing I've been meaning to talk to you about." He lowers his voice even more. "Those pens that I've been reading lately? Well, I think I'm right when I say that the Capitol has the control over the media, but if you look close enough, the writers… they're hinting at things, I think. Things the Capitol is trying to keep quite. Like the petition, and… rebellions."

Rebellions? Is he joking? My thoughts before Portia threw me into the courtroom seem to be more relevant than I'd thought. But who could talk of rebellion without being killed? On top of that, I'm shocked that Peeta seems to actually be learning things from those stupid gossip pens. I never actually thought he was reading the more serious articles… only about the ones that concerned us.

"What do you mean rebellions?" I whisper.

"Katniss."

Peeta and I both jump, turning to look at the boy standing beside our table. Hansel Ogden eyes us amusedly. "Sorry. You were having a intimate conversation?"

"Uh, no! No, we were just talking… Hansel, right?" Peeta is quick to stand and hold his hand out to Hansel, who shakes it with a soft smile.

"Yes. And you're Peeta. It's nice to finally meet you. I've had the pleasure of meeting Katniss already." He said, turning his smile upon me. I nod and blush slightly when Peeta looks at me quizzically.

"I went to get a drink last night and Hansel was walking down the hall. We got to talking for a while." I said.

Peeta nods, still smiling. I get the feeling that Peeta can make friends with just about anyone given enough time to find something in common. "Ah. You're a restless sleeper then too? Katniss can't sit still for two minutes together at night." They laugh, and I blush. Great. Now Hansel knows that we sleep together. I stuff some bread into my mouth to keep from growling.

"I hope I haven't interrupted your evening. But I saw you and thought maybe you'd like to join us at our table? Myself and a few other former tributes are just at the other end. They'd very much like to meet you both. I think we'll have plenty to talk about." He gestures to a table where a few other people I can't quite see sit at a round table.

Peeta gives me a look. I can see that he's debating on his own wanting to meet new people and still wanting to talk privately. I shrug. "Sure." He says. "But we've already ordered."

"We can let your waiter know to bring your order to our table. It's no problem." Peeta nods and takes my hand, helping me out of the booth.

Hansel leads the way to the other side of the restaurant, and we can see the others more clearly now. Fallan Eberly and Allen Stryker are the first ones we can make out. They're laughing about something and Allen's screeching sends shivers down my spine. Rowan Swane sips a glass of wine in her seat directly in front of the window, facing us as we approach. I see her smile politely at us, and I smile back, thankful for her kindness. An older boy I don't recognize sits beside her. He must be from a few years back, because he's a lot older looking than the rest of them. Beside him in Ackart Fulke, and beside him is… Kirby Hurst. And from the looks of it, she'll be sitting directly beside either me or Peeta. Just as I make a decision that it's going to be me, Peeta pulls a chair out for me next to Hansel. I slump into my chair, thinking it would be rude not to take the chair he offered, and he slides in next to me with an arm on the back of my chair. I give a thankful smile to Peeta, and see Kirby's eyes seem to sparkle as she realizes that she's sitting right next to him. My hands clench.

"Everyone, this is Katniss and Peeta, of course. You probably know everyone, but we'll do introductions just in case." Everyone gives their names around the table, starting with Kirby. Everyone except for Allen smiles in welcome. Even Fallan manages something between a smile and a grimace.

"It's nice to meet you two." Rowan starts, sipping from her glass again. "It'd meant to introduce myself to you after the briefing the other day but you were swept away so quick I didn't get the chance."

"Yeah, don't want to irritate the stylists. They bite and snap at you with straightening irons and such." The man next to Rowan, named Laurent Corvin, said and everyone laughed.

"Well, we owe a lot of them, so we indulge them in whatever they want. They haven't let us down yet." Peeta chuckles, and the whole table nods.

"The games this year were the best I think Panem has ever seen. I must admit, romance has always been a weakness of mine. The second I heard Peeta say that he was in love with you, I think my heart broke." Hansel clenches a hand to his chest as he speaks. Peeta runs a free hand through my hair in response. "I wasn't sure I could watch."

"Well it all turned out fine in the end. I can't believe what you almost did though, Katniss. I haven't seen an uproar in my district since I won the games." Ackart says, his dark hair covering one eye. "I think a riot would have started had they not intervened when they did. My youngest sister about did herself in."

"Well… sometimes you just stop thinking about anything else." I have this rehearsed in my head by now.

"But look what's come of it! A petition for better treatment of the tributes postmortem! That's more than anything we could have hoped for back in my day. That the tributes might actually be treated like human beings might be the end of the Hunger Games." Ackart continues, looking for support from the table.

"Some might think it foolish what you're doing." Allen speaks for the first time, his black eyes shining almost yellow in the candlelight, reminding me of what a dog's eyes look like. His eyes bore into mine and I break out into a cold sweat.

"Why do you say that?"

"I mean no disrespect. I'm saying that what with all the speculation about your motives when you took out the berries, you might think it best to lay low. It's hardly a secret that the Capitol isn't happy about how the games turned out." His voice is low and soft, not betraying the horrible screeching that everyone can hear in his laughter and screams. It's almost haunting, the way he talks. "One doesn't go against the Capitol and get away with it."

It's almost a threat in my ears.

"It's not we brought up the petition, man." Peeta intercedes, coming to my rescue. "What happened in the games was a bit unorthodox but we were hardly in our right minds when we were doing it." He hugs me closer to himself.

"I suppose not," Allen digresses, "and like I said. I don't mean any disrespect. But you'd be foolish to not watch your backs from now on. With what they've been whispering on the streets, it won't be long before the Capitol starts looking for the cause of the discourse. You two… are practically the poster couple for it."

"Shut it, Stryker." Surprisingly, it's Kirby that speaks.

"This is hardly something to be discussing over dinner, Allen." Laurent says, dismissing Allen with a wave of his hand.

Allen scoffs and leans back in his chair, still looking at me through his lifeless black eyes. I shift uncomfortably in my seat as our food finally arrives. Everyone has gone quiet as the weight of Allen's words falls down on us. I can see Rowan stealing looks at me and Peeta as she starts eating her steak. I remember that look. It's the same look that everyone and Panem seemed to be giving me when I had volunteered as a tribute. The look you give someone when you think you're seeing them for the last time. The last look.

I'm not hungry anymore.

***

For some reason, Peeta decides to spend the night in his room. I'm not sure if Allen has spoiled our honeymoon, but it sure feels like it. Any light-heartedness that we had been feeling during the day is long gone, and another reality sets in. One that is more foreboding and dim than anything I've ever experienced before.

We had parted from the group, declining offers to go with them into the city for some dancing or the like. Allen's eyes hadn't left me at all that night, boring into me. When I finished eating, I starred defiantly back at him, hoping that he would stop at least for a little while. He didn't. I get the feeling that if anyone is going to be taking a vendetta against me, it will be him. When the Capitol finally comes after me, as everyone seems to think they will, I won't be surprised if Allen leads them right to me. I don't know what I've done to deserve his cruelty, but from the looks of the rest of the former tributes, it's hardly anything new.

Peeta walks me to my room, holding me close. He doesn't offer any words of comfort, almost as if he knows that Allen is right. Instead, he warms my shivering body with his own larger one, burying his face in my hair, pressing me against him. My hands cling to his large back, leaning my head against his chest, sighing.

He presses a kiss to my head before starting towards his own room, his hand gradually sliding out of mine as he goes. I watch his back until he turns the corner, and he turns to look at me one more time before he disappears.

I turn to go to my room ready to knock myself on the head with a bat so maybe I'll sleep tonight.

***

I register a loud rapping on the door. I'm still not asleep, but reduced to starring at the white ceiling and contemplating the non-existent flaws. I turn to the clock. 4:44 AM. I don't think I have anything to do this early.

I lift myself from the warm sheets, wishing they were comfortable enough to fall asleep in, and trudge over the door. I stare out the peek hole in the door, but I don't see anyone. I open the door, but there's no one. I look both ways down the hall but there's no one. There's a whole lot of nothing in this hotel, I think to myself. I pull the door closed, irritated at being distracted from my fake sleeping. I sit on the edge of the bed, taking a drink out of the half-empty bottle of grape soda that makes my throat feel funny. Isn't there an old game that people play where they knock on doors then run away? How senseless. I hope I don't have to deal with those kind of idiots here. From what I remember, that's only played by really young children.

Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock, Knock…..

The knocks sound a little more frantic this time. I take my time getting to the door, wondering what could be waiting on the other side.

I open it again, and the hall is still empty. I don't hear any doors slamming in the halls off of my own, so I don't think that whoever it is actually belongs here. I look both ways again before shutting the door again, starring at it in frustration. This time, I stand by the door, waiting to surprise the person next time they try to knock and give them a piece of my mind.

After five minutes of no knocking, I start to walk away.

Rap, Rap, Rap

I sprint to the door and fling it open revealing….

The Avox Girl?

The slightly crazed way she looks at me makes me step away from the door in shock, and she scurries in after me.

Her breath comes in quick pants, like she's been running for some time. My eyes are wide as I take in her figure.

The crisp uniform she normally wears is in tatters, hanging off her body in strips, but the shirt underneath covers her shaking body well enough. Her fair skin is blotched with pink and full on red as she struggles for breath. Her shoes are worn with mud patches on them, which causes me to wonder how she could have found a patch of mud in this immaculate city. But then it occurred to me that it's been the better part of a month since I've seen her. Maybe she'd made her escape from the Capitol's clutches and has been an invalid between Districts for who knows how long.

I want to talk to her, but it makes it difficult especially since she doesn't seem able to breath, and I probably wouldn't be able to understand her answer anyway.

I think quickly, and go to the corner of the room where several bottles of water with the hotel's emblem around the middle sit. I open the little icebox on the counter but it's almost all melted by now. I turn with the bottle of water and lean down to sit awkwardly on the floor next to her. She'd fallen to her knees sometime during my shock and was sitting on her calves, looking both frightened and uncomfortable.

As she gasped and choked on her own tears, I wonder what she must have gone through to get this way. She looks much like I did when I'd seen myself in the mirror after Peeta and I had won the games. Starring at the unkempt monster that looked frightened and lost and quite barbaric gave me the sort of compassion I need to not flinch when I look at the Avox girl, who looks like her depression is threatening to swallow her whole.

It seems like my brain has finally caught up with everything, and I finally think to get a wash cloth or something that could cool her face and maybe help her gain back her breath. I wet a face cloth in the sink and bring it back to her. She's still crying, her hands and face to the floor.

I try not to startle her as I place a hand on her forehead to tilt her head back. She stiffens a little, but lets me place the towel on her face. She starts breathing heavily through her nose. I feel sorry for her, her dark red hair matted on her head, falling in front of her face. I begin to wipe the mud off of her face.

Suddenly, I hear the door slam. I had forgotten to shut it when she came in.

I look up fearfully, thinking one of the hotel hands has seen me with the girl and ready to kill us both for treason.

I look up, and it's not a worker. It's a ghost.

Gale!

***

Oh no she didn't!!

Haha. Oh yes I did. Sorry to leave like this, but it'll give you some things to imagine up, right? =)