A/N: Here we are! Victory Tour! Some quotes of Katniss, Peeta, Effie, and Haymitch are taken directly from the Catching Fire book and movie and others are paraphrased. Some are made up, and everything Ever's is original.
Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
~ Sara Bareilles "Brave"
I barely recognize myself as I stand before my full-length mirror. Though this is not my victory tour, my prep team and stylist went overboard with making me beautiful. They commented on my pregnancy and I had to threaten them with slow, painful deaths to keep them from calling the Capitol gossip rags with the scoop. My wardrobe for the two week tour was designed to keep my pregnancy under wraps. Every outfit I am to wear consists of a dress that was at least mostly a dark color and each dress was a loose, comfortable fit. I have a collection of long coats to choose from, some of which were designed to look bulkier than they actually are to disguise any 'weight gain' as the coat.
Fortunately, I am, as Raewyn put it last time I called her, one of those skinny bitches who looks like they swallowed a grapefruit. Six months pregnant, give or take a week, and Daddy says I'm barely bigger than my mother was at four. This entire pregnancy has gone by with much less weight gain and a smaller baby bump than I anticipated. I began to worry that something was wrong with either me or the baby, which is why I took to phoning Raewyn in the first place.
'It's normal to have a smaller bump for a first time pregnancy,' she said. 'Well not normal, there is no typical pregnancy, but it certainly isn't a cause for concern.'
'Did that happen to you?'
'No, because I was pregnant with my twins the first time around, but all of my nieces and nephews came from somewhere,' she laughed and quickly went back to being serious. 'You are perfectly fine, don't get your knickers in a twist sweetie.'
I could have walked across the street to talk to Delilah Everdeen but I would prefer to avoid Katniss whenever I can. I tackled her once. Twice. On two separate occasions, Katniss said the wrong thing at the wrong time in the wrong tone of voice to a pregnant, hormonal, angry monster posing as Ever Abernathy. For the sake of all humanity, it is best that I avoid Katniss until this Victory Tour mess has died down. Our disdain for each other has waned to some degree but we are not friends. Personality clashes are a regular occurrence. All of this in mind, Mrs. Everdeen is out as a constant go-to for pregnancy advice. There are no other women in 12 that I trust to keep it a secret, so, calling our mom of far too many in District 9 is my best option.
"Ever, it is time to go," my father knocks on my open door.
I don't respond as I am still too busy studying my body in the mirror. Slowly, I move my hands down my sides as I admire the outfit and how well it serves my purpose of secrecy. The dress is long sleeved, plum purple, loose-fitting, and stops just at my knees. To combat the cold, underneath my dress are black wool tights and black fitted slip, and the insides of my black boots are lined with wool, as is the interior of the black duffle coat. Wool gloves protect my hands, a woolen scarf is around my neck, and a matching black hat completes the outfit.
For a victor's outfit, even if the victor is just a mentor, it is drab. Knowing the Capitol they will turn it into a style trend, regardless of my intentions for it to not catch on. They will probably gush how 'EvAb's simplistic style highlights her natural beauty and complements her body shape while straddling that line between a teenager and a young woman.' EvAb. I hate that the magazines call me that. How lazy is it that they do not even bother spelling out my name?
"I know," I interrupt, turning my head to smile at him. "I just really hope this plan works. Keeping her a secret."
"You think it's a girl, now?"
"I don't know," I shrug. "I use both pronouns. How do you think he'd feel if she found out I called her by the wrong pronoun throughout the entire pregnancy? At least this way I am right fifty percent of the time."
My father isn't stupid, I am sure he's noticed that I am currently leaning toward keeping the baby once he or she is born, and so far, he seems to agree. Personally, I believe that he has always wanted me to keep it and that he has kept his opinion to himself on the matter.
"I think that the plan will work," he tries to reassure me. "Now come on, we have to go to train station."
"I don't need help walking down the stairs," I tell him when he tries to take my hand.
"What about the ice, you might fall and hurt yourself," he points out.
"I can fall and hurt myself when I'm not pregnant, as well. However, you only seem to be concerned now. Were you this annoying when Mom was pregnant?"
Despite how insulting it is that he mistrusts my balance that much, I let him take my arm and walk to the station with me anyway. I shiver, not even the wool in my clothing protects me from the cold, and cling to him for his warmth. Staying home was always an option, and in fact I came quite close to not tagging along on the Tour, but I realized how lonely I would be without my father and remembered that although it is now discouraged for victors to meet on the Tour, Finnick, Eri, Chaff, and Raewyn would all find some way to see me and deliver their birthday gifts. I insisted they not worry about getting anything for me, but they wouldn't hear it, especially not Finnick. I give you a gift every year, he said. I then pointed out that I never get him anything for his birthday, but he responded to that by saying that since he was older, and male, it was his duty to spoil the young lady.
The men in my life love me more than I deserve. It puzzles me to no end because I don't see anything exceptionally lovable about me. I would attribute the affection to pity, but if the only pitied me it wouldn't be to that degree. Finnick killed men for me, my father, unbeknownst to me until this past year's Games, endured a few years of prostitution because Snow threatened my life, and Chaff once struck the fear of the devils into the heart of a Career victor's son when I was small because he kept pulling on my braids. Sometimes I feel nothing but a gigantic (extra gigantic as of late) burden on everyone; I'm essentially useless and I'm just…there. My father says that he wouldn't be able to live without me, but I know he could.
He's getting antsy, a bit too antsy to my comfort.
"You know, kid," I mumble to her. "After being pregnant with you for – what, six months now? – one would assume that you could express your gratitude by sitting still when I'm trying to nap."
The door to the room I claimed as my own slides open and my father walks in, a mostly full bottle in his hand and the ghost of laughter on his face. "That's the thing about kids."
"They're a pain in the ass, always."
"I love you too, Daddy!"
He waves at me to slide over so he can sit on the edge of the bed. "Honesty tears you apart, sweetheart."
"Did you just rhyme? That is the last straw, I'm afraid I have no choice but to disown you."
He clicks his tongue at me and grins playfully. "That's the funny thing about disowning people, Ever dear. The repudiation is only valid if it is the parent disowning the child, and last time I checked –" Daddy points to himself "-parent-" then points to me "-offspring."
"Does that make you the…onspring?"
"Aw no," the response comes out like a guttural growl. "That joke deserves to burn in the fires of Hades."
I laugh before I can think to stop it and get back to the original conversation point. "She's antsy," I groan. "He won't stop moving long enough for me to fall asleep."
"They do that," Daddy shrugs.
"Have you felt him kick, yet?"
His eyes widen and he sets the bottle down on the bedside table as it dawns on him that the answer is, no, he actually hasn't. "Pregnant women don't like random people touching their stomachs."
My father is ridiculous. I laugh at him and reach for his hand, telling him just how silly that notion is. "You aren't a random person, you're my father. I promise it isn't that weird, se-"
But he jerks his hand away before I can place it on my growing baby bump. "Wait! I…I…pregnant people freak me out."
I raise an eyebrow and snort at him. "You've dealt with at least five pregnant women in your life," and I take the liberty of listing them off. "You had to of been old enough to remember your mom being pregnant with your brother, I know for a fact that you've done the diddle with Mom and Raewyn while they were pregnant, you were in the delivery room for two of Ceceila's babies, and then there's your pregnant teenage daughter so that makes five. How can they freak you out, you're cool as a cucumber!"
"Firstly, why don't you just say 'had sex' instead of 'did the…' whatever. Secondly, I don't mind being around pregnant people, I just…the moving around thing is…freaky."
"You've no excuses," I scowl. "I'm the one carrying this little guy. How do you think I feel? Now put your big girl panties on and," I grab his hand before he can jerk it away again and force in over my baby bump. As if knowing she's got an audience, the baby kicks for him, and I'm quite surprised when he flinches but doesn't pull his hand away.
Expressions ranging from surprise, to disgust, to something resembling happiness flash across his face. "Still freaky," he mumbles, slowly pulling his hand away. "So you're, um," he coughs. "Keeping it?"
"I don't know yet," I say truthfully. "Maybe, because that is what it looks like right now. What are my options? Keep it, or give it up to come Capitol family who will teach him or her that the Games are right, and that District people like us are dirty, filthy barbarians? But…hm…I don't know, I don't."
"You have time to decide," he says, getting up to leave. "I just came to check on you. And to tell you we will be in 11 in an hour. Make sure you are ready, I'd suggest brushing your hair."
"Noted," I mumble, pressing a pillow over my head so I can attempt to sleep.
My Victory Tour was two years ago, but I like to think that after two years, my memories would be fairly fresh. If I am not an amnesiac, how is it that I do not remember 11 being this heavily guarded? I know from Chaff that the Peacekeepers in his home District are nothing to shake a stick at, but last time I was here, the only marked difference from 12 I noticed was the number of them.
District 11 today is nothing like two years ago. Past the open fields of dairy cattle is a fence rising at least thirty-five feet high topped with large, tight curls of barbed wire and interspersed near-evenly along the length of the fences are armed watchtowers. The machine guns hanging out of the windows are unlike any I have ever seen, and are probably so heavy they are bolted into the floor. Steel plates rest at the base of the fence, clearly indicating that there was, is, and never will be a way out.
"That's something different," Peeta mummers to Katniss.
Effie says something about them making sure to keep ahold of their cards. I presume that she means the ones with the Capitol-approved speeches that I already know they will not adhere to; I know I didn't.
Rows of crops stretching as far as the eye can see come to view. This, I remember. People off all ages don straw hats and long sleeves to protect themselves from the sun's rays, and briefly, they stop working to watch the train pass. There are orchards nearby, barely visible on the horizon, and rows of pitiful shacks that are more dilapidated than anything I have seen in The Seam. Chaff has mentioned, more than once, that part of the reason people never bothered with even the simplest DIY housecare, is that people are only home long enough to sleep, and on good days, eat.
The train takes longer than I remember it taking two years ago to make it to the train station. I hear Peeta marvel at the sheer size of it. None of us can even give an estimate regarding the population. District 11 is one of the largest districts, is all we learned in school. Annual reapings are usually a good place to start when estimating population, and if 11's reaping crowd is any indication, they have at least triple the number of people 12 has, just more than 8 and 7, about as many as 9 and 2, and just less than 4 and train comes to a halt and Effie orders our newest victors back to their compartments for last minute camera prep and a group of Peacekeepers come to escort my father and I from the train. This year, instead of standing on the stage with the other victors, my father and I will be watching the speeches from a screen inside of the Justice building, and 11s victors will be watching from another screen in a different room. Despite the entire collection of living victors not being paraded onscreen this year, their physical presence is still required in one form or another. Hopefully – no, undoubtedly – Chaff and my father will find some way to meet up if even just to say hello and exchange one raunchy joke. Hardly anybody, even the Peacekeepers, would care about two old drunks socializing, especially if they are drunk. This year, at least my father will be sober, but I have the utmost faith in his acting ability.
The families of the fallen tributes are featured, as per usual, by screens displaying the faces of their lost children. My stomach knots as I remember the faces I saw in this district, Elina Herb and…I do not even remember the boy's name. Sometimes, I even have to remind myself of my allies' names, and they are the reason I am alive. Colton Cotton, Zayna Code, Asia Hedvigg, and Zephyr Polyoxl of Districts 9 and 3 must not be forgotten. I wish I could be colder and forget them, because then, I could have pretended that none of those other kids had families that loved them and homes to return to.
I have to turn away from A the screen, I can't look at it a second longer. I still hear. Katniss goes overboard when talking about the fallen tributes, how she loved Rue, how Thresh saved her life, and then, the unthinkable. A four-note tune is vaguely recognize as Rue's from the arena sounds from somewhere in the crowd and an old man in overalls and a red shirt raises three fingers in the air just as I look back to the screen. The crowd, in unison, raises their fingers in an identical gesture, and when my father swears and shakes his head, I know this is bad.
Chaos ensues. Peacekeepers force Katniss and Peeta inside the Justice Building, a bullet it sent through the old man's head, his body is dragged away unceremoniously and cast aside like garbage.
We leap from our seats and run to the door to look for our victors. In the pandemonium , I lose my father in the mess of Peacekeepers and attendants inside the Justice Building. They pay no mind to me as I wander around, frantic, desperate to find my father. Out of earshot of any Peacekeepers, at the end of a hall, I hear voices, whispers, familiar whispers.
"What are they going to do?"
"Chaff, calm. Down."
"This is bad, this is real, real…good. Bad. No. Hades on ice,'s both! Good for us eventually but…"
"Our cause, yes. The anger is boiling over but we haven't the means to fi-"
The voices stop and there is total silence until a boot-clad foot slides from around the corner and towards me. Chaff Baakari, thank goodness, stands before me. I don't hesitate to embrace him like a favorite uncle. I cling to him until I feel his muscles relax into the embrace.
"Girlie, what are you doin' here? Why ain't you with your dad?"
"I lost him," I say, my heart racing. "There were Peacekeepers running around the entire building. We were trying to find Katniss and Peeta and we were separated."
"We'll help you find him. Stay close, though," Seeder says.
"What were you talking about?" I ask. "If it's private, you don't have to tell me…but it sounded…what cause? "
They're both frozen. Few things can throw a victor, but few victors are as good at acting as my father is. Asking that question was straying into forbidden territory, and now that I've entered it, there can be no going back.
Chaff is the first to find the words to say. "You should really ask your father."
"He won't tell me anything," I say. "After the Games last year, he…he said something about…about his involvement in something. He said that if he was found out, he'd be executed, and for my safety, he isn't telling me. I have a feeling you were discussing the same thing he was hinting at. Tell me. Please?"
"No," Chaff shakes his head. "I am one of the people tryin' to convince Haymitch to tell you the truth. He needs to tell you, but his instinct is to protect you. He doesn't understand that keepin' you in the dark ain't helpin' nothin'. Best way to be protectin' you, I said, was by bein' straight honest. He wasn't hearin' none of that, and if I was at liberty to tell you for him…but your daddy is my friend and I ain't goin' about his wishes when it comes to his little girl."
"Chaff," I plead. "They shot that man and gunshots have been going off since. This is big, tell me what's going on. Keeping me in the dark isn't going to protect me, you say? Then you'll be interested to know I'm in quite a pickle," I say, referring to my pregnancy. As far I know the only people outside of 12 who know are Finnick, Mags, and our friends in District 9.
"Oh?" Chaff is skeptical, he doesn't think that there is anything he can hear that will change his mind.
I don't need to say it out loud, only gesture to the evidence and pull my dress so that it exposes the outline of the very thing I am trying to hide. Seeder bites her lip and Chaff gasps, rendered speechless. They understand.
"How…?" Chaff trails off.
"I still won't tell you," Chaff says. "If it were Miranda I would be furious with Haymitch for tellin' her. But Ever, you badger your father about it, and you do not shut up 'til he tells you 'zactly what you wanna know, and that is all I am able to say on the matter."
I give up the argument mostly because I understand where he is coming from. I am not his daughter and this is not his decision to make.
"All right," I say. "Now, how do we go about finding him?"
"There they are," I say to Ever, puzzled when I get no response. "Ever?"
I look over my shoulder and notice she isn't there. At all. The color drains from my face as I peer over the banister. Downstairs, are Effie and the stylists to keep an eye on the young victors. Without wasting another second I turn around and run the opposite direction in search of her. I barely get fifty feet from the banister before I see her rounding the corner with Chaff and Seeder.
Thank goodness, I mutter under my breath. That could have ended a lot worse.
"Haymitch," Chaff's usually cheery baritone is graver than it should be. "Tell her. Now I ain't sayin' you need to do it right now, but it needs doin'. Keepin' her out, keepin' her in the dark? More than ever, she needs to be careful. You can't expect her to do that without knowin'."
"Chaff," I hiss in warning.
"Too late," Seeder says. "She heard Chaff and I talking," she nods to Chaff, suggesting they leave the Justice Building through another exit. "See you in the Capitol. Third Qull, right? Joy."
"The room I told you about," Chaff says slowly. "It's still safe. Helluva lot of walking, but safe."
I nod to them and shoot Chaff a glare. "I thought you would stay close," I hissed, leading Ever down the stairs to join the others.
She huffs and opens her mouth to explain herself but I shush her.
"Haymitch!" Katniss and Peeta say in unison.
"You three," I glare at the kids. "With me."
They follow me and leave the others behind. Peacekeepers inside the Justice Building pay us no mind, mostly because they're eager to run outside and shoot innocent District citizens. I lead them to the marble staircase Ever and I had just ran down and past half a dozen doors before I spot the room prepared for us. Their evening clothes hang from racks; this is the room we are to stay in, until we hear otherwise. Too bad I don't follow rules.
"Microphones," I mouth to the hatchlings of the victor circle. "Now."
Katniss gets the message clearly, and Peeta understands once he sees Katniss tears off her mic and give it to me. I stuff them beneath a couch cushion and wave the kids on. I lead them up through a maze of twisted staircases, ridiculously narrow hallways, and force open the occasional door. Eventually, I find the entrance to the room Chaff told me about. I stare at the ladder a moment and ask Ever if she can climb it.
Bad move, Abernathy.
"I'm not a damn invalid," she hisses, and I don't bother to snap at her for her language.
We climb the ladder, I force open the trapdoor. The old fool was right about this room; we are inside of the Justice Building's dome. Dust coats everything: old furniture, rusted weapons, books that are probably now banned, a poster for a 2012 election whose candidate's surname ended in –AMA, remnants of an old, prosperous society. I kick the trapdoor shut, sending dust flying. Ever coughs.
"What happened?" I ask as if I don't already know.
Peeta fills Ever and I in on the whistle, the salute, and the murder. "What's going on, Haymitch?"
Oh, this should be good. "It will be better coming from you," I tell Katniss, knowing full well that it will horrible no matter who the boy hears it from.
Katniss's face shows that she disagrees with me but she tells him anyway, omitting nothing and even mentioning things that are news to me. She tells him of President Snow, unrest in the districts, apparently she kissed Gale, we're all doomed, blah, blah, blah, berries, blah. "I was supposed to fix things on this tour Haymitch! I had to convince him, I didn't mean for anybody to die I just-"
"Calm down sweetheart," I ignore the tinge of –jealousy? – on Ever's face. "Convince who?"
"Snow! I was supposed to convince everyone who doubted that we are actually in love, I was supposed to calm things down but all I did was get people killed."
Ever is surprised at some of this, but I know my daughter. Surely she has deduced some of this information by her observations.
"Then I made things worse, too. By giving the money," and suddenly, he strikes at an old, dusty lamp sitting on a crate and sends it flying across the room. It shatters.
"Haymitch," Katniss begs, tears streaming down her face. "Please just get us through this trip, help us through this one little trip and we can-"
I cut her off rather harshly. "This trip? This trip doesn't end when we get back home! You two are mentors now, just like Ever and I are. Every year for the rest of your lives they are going to rehash this star-crossed lovers deal, they are going to invade your personal lives until you die! Your life is no longer your own. Katniss. They. Own. You! They own all of us."
Ever coughs to catch their attention and gestures to her body. "Yes, hello, property of the Capitol here. You think District 12 is the end of the road? Sorry honey, you're mistaken."
"Nobody asked you!" Katniss snaps, looking like she could kill the younger girl.
"I don't care," Ever growls. "See this? Yeah, this is your future, so I hope you have a thing for middle-aged men…oh, but wait, you're taken and everyone knows it, so I highly doubt they'll turn you into a whore so that means…oh. Oh! Oh, I see! You'll have to marry Peeta! At some point, one way or another, you're going to marry him and spend the rest of your life sucking up to the Capitol gushing about how grateful you are that they spared not only you, but your beloved husband and any child you have is going to be put on the from cover of every trashy gossip rag imaginable before they can even talk. My father? Get you through this trip? Please. This is your life, now. Sooner or later you are going to have to admit that to yourself, and I get that you hate me, but trust me when I say that sooner is better than later."
Katniss glares at Ever, Ever returns the glare, and Peeta clears his throat. "Haymitch," he says angrily. "This has to stop, this thing with the three of you? You tell each other things and you keep me in the dark. After all we've been through, Katniss, in the arena, don't I rate the truth from you?"
"Peeta," I say quietly. "You're always so reliably good. So smart about how you present yourself before the cameras. I didn't want to disrupt that."
"Well," he snorts. "You overestimated me. I royally screwed up today. Those families will be lucky if they survive the day!" Peeta throws something else, I don't see what, and it shatters like the lamp.
"He's right, Daddy."
"We were wrong," Katniss says. "Even in the Capitol."
"Even in the arena, you had a system worked out, didn't you?" his voice is quiet now. "Something I wasn't privy to."
"No. Not officially. I could just tell what Haymitch wanted me to do by what he sent, or didn't send," Katniss says.
"Well, I never had that opportunity. Because he never sent me anything until you showed up," Peeta says.
"Look, boy –" I begin.
"Don't bother, Haymitch. I know you had to choose one of us. And I'd have wanted it to be her. But this is something different. People are dead out there. More will follow unless we're good, and I mean very, very good. We all know I'm better than Katniss in front of the cameras. No one needs to coach me on what to say. But I have to know what I'm walking into."
"From now on, you'll be fully informed," I promise. Ever glares at me as if to ask, what about me? "You and I, we will talk later," I tell her and turn my attention once again to Peeta. "You'll know everything, from now on, Peeta."
"I better," he doesn't even bother to look at Katniss before he leaves.
Katniss's voice fills the silence after he's left. "Did you two choose me?"
"Yes," I say, and Ever gives no response.
"Why? You like him better."
"You're right about that," I laugh mirthlessly. "But remember, before the rule change, I could only get one of you out alive. I thought that between the four of us," I gesture to Ever to emphasize her role in it. Katniss easily forgets Ever's role in the 74th Games. "We might be able to bring you home."
"You'll understand someday," Ever says quietly. "The choices he has to make aren't easy."
Katniss scowls "You've only been a victor for two years, how would you know?"
Ever's face hardens and in an alarmingly calm voice, asks the older girl if she has ever heard a grown man scream, cry, and beg for forgiveness in his sleep. "I have," Ever says, sending a glare my direction before kicking open the trapdoor and descending the ladder.
"She's right," I say. "If we survive this, you'll learn. And I'm sorry. Come on, we've got a dinner to attend."
Two and a half glasses of whiskey aren't enough to prepare me for the train ride that night. I hide in my compartment avoid my daughter and tell myself that it is to avoid upsetting her, though, truthfully, I'm being selfish.
Footsteps in the hallway. Heavy, angry footsteps. I'd not of heard them otherwise. She wants me to hear them. The door will open in three…two…
"Sure Peeta, I'll tell you everything you want to know," Ever says in a mocking tone. "But Ever? Nah, I keep secrets from your for your own good!"
"Don't you use that tone with me, young lady," I stand, in full dad mode, and point a finger at her.
"Young lady," Ever snorts. "I'm so scared. When are you going to stop treating me like I'm some stupid, defenseless child?"
"When you stop acting like one, Ever Elizabeth!" I roar, and immediately regret it. The look of hurt that comes across her face tears my heart in two. I never want to see it again. "Everything I tell and don't tell you is for you, for your own protection."
"Oh, so two random kids that aren't even yours get total honesty, but your daughter doesn't."
"Ever," our voices have to be kept barely audible, we're half-whispering, half-mouthing, with occasional gesturing thrown in. "Ever, this is different; these are two entirely different issues we are talking about. Sweetheart, what I am keeping from you is something that I will be executed for if I am found out – do you think I want you involved in something like that?"
For a moment, it is Rose's kicked-puppy eyes, not Ever's looking at me. "Do you think I want you involved in something like that? Did you not think of me before you became involved with this, with whatever this is? What would I do without you, if you were found out?"
"I was," I say. "You were the only thing on my mind when I agreed to this. You were a year old, I was holding you."
"Tell me what it is, Daddy! You can't protect me from everything, you know that by now, and what good is keeping this from me if it can get you killed? Shouldn't I know what it is you're dying for? Even the faintest, tiniest thing about it?"
"They can hurt you to get to me," I shake my head. "They know that you are the only person on this planet that they can use to absolutely break me. Sweetheart, the less you know, the safer you are. The less you know, the better we can protect you."
My mistake goes unnoticed on my part until it is too late to correct it. Ever catches it, though. The one time I want her to miss something, she catches it, naturally.
"What do you mean…we?"
"Other people who love you and care about you are involved, and we have shot down numerous attempts that others have made to convince us to let you in this plan. You are special to these other people, Ever, and you are the most important thing to me. My job is to protect you. This is the best way I know how," I reach out to her, to hug her, but she backs away.
"Tell me," she mouths. "Daddy, if you're willing to die for it…so am I."
She shushes me by holding up her palm and covers her face with her other. Her body shakes, she is crying silently. When she slides her hand off of her face, her face and eyes are red. "What would I do without my dad? Do you have…any idea…how scared I've been since the train ride home, since you hinted at this thing? And then we get home and I find out about little nameless-mystery-gender over here, and next thing I know there are uprisings in the districts and then this shooting in 11…Daddy, please. What is going on?"
"You should sit down, you're upset and stressed and, with your, um…"
"I'm pregnant, not glass! Tell me."
"Sweetheart, I love you, but I can't."
Stubborn like her parents, Ever wipes her tears with the sleeve of her pajamas and stands her ground. "If you are willing to die for it, I am, too."
"You've said that."
Ever approaches me for a hug. Haymitch Abernathy is a weak man when his daughter is in involved; I can't turn it down. "I know. You love me, a lot. We're closer than most parents and children are, you always drop everything and take care of me when I need you to, you're always there, always ready to be my dad...if something is that important to you, that you are willing to die, it has to be something big. Give me one sentence, two sentences about what it is. Don't tell me any major details, just give me a very, very, basic picture."
"Sweetheart," I argue halfheartedly.
Defeated, I agree to tell her, and I hate myself for it. "Ever, there is a plot to overthrow the current regime, and your dad is one of the main conspirators. Victors, Capitol socialites, some mayors, select Peacekeepers, some heads of the District forces, people in charge of the industries, even a few Gamemakers are in on it. Your only job is to not breathe a word. To anybody. Your job is to forget this conversation."
Going on fifteen full years of it being just the two of us, Ever and I know each other perhaps a little too well. We can have entire conversations through lip-reading, noncommittal noises, improvised hand motions, and changes in our body language. Using those methods, everything after her "two random kids" statement has been in our odd kind of shorthand. We know each other too well, but frankly, I am glad we do.
Ever nods slowly at first, then quickly, then mumbles a yes. "I…I understand. My job is also to not ask questions, correct?"
"Mm hm. Also, whenever I tell you to do something and I sound very serious about it? I expect to be obeyed, it's only for-"
"-my own protection," she finishes, a smile on her face. She is worried, terrified, but smiling.
"Everything I do is to protect you. You are all I have."
"No," she giggles. "I was all you had. You love Katniss and Peeta, too, and don't deny it. I see how you look at them because it's exactly how you look at me."
There will be...1-3 more Victory Tour chapters. There will be an entire chapter for District 4, and District 9 will have a feature, but the rest of the Districts will be quickly summarized, and of course, the Capitol will be it's own chapter. Actually, I can probably fit the rest of the tour into 2 chapters. One for Districts 10-1 and make it a long chapter, and then Capitol.