A/N: I've been wanting to write something like this since October. In the mean time I had other fics I needed to write. I hope this makes sense.
Disclaimer: I don't own.
She knows that they have four Districts to go on their Victory Tour and she knows the whole train is talking about how he comes to her room every night. For a second she let's herself think it might be more scandalous if she were to go to his room every night. That might make President Snow happy.
She knows where this started, during the night and somewhere between Districts 10 and 9. She woke up screaming from the muttation eyes of Rue to Peeta calmly stroking her hair like he did in the cave. For a second she wondered if their winning was a fever-induced fantasy before she felt the sweat cool on her brow and the soft sheets caress her lethargic limbs.
"Shhh," he soothed her, "I'm here. You're not alone." Those words were as good as all her winnings. As he tucked himself into her bed she breathes in his scent that can't be from the arena. He smells like paint and the faintly off fresh scent that clings to all their new Capitol made clothes. In the arena he smelled like sweat, dirt, and sour.
She curls into him and forgets that she has to love him and that he simply loves her and that their friendship is still as fragile as a soap bubble. Instead she focuses on his arms around her and, for once, takes comfort in not being alone and knowing that the same images and feelings that haunt her live in him too.
She doesn't expect him to come back the next night. She welcomes him with open arms and a warm bed but doesn't offer anything more than a hug and "I'm glad you're here." Again she feels him kiss the crown of her head.
She wishes she was as good an actress as everyone wants her to be.
They keep their nightly visits a secret between Districts 9 and 7. By 6 they've become the talk of the train. By the morning they arrive in 5 even her prep team ask her about her nightly rendezvous with her lover. She blushes like she should.
She's not sure if her face heats up because she's angry she has no secrets or because she's embarrassed that the moments she thought might be truly private (save possibly from the Capitol) are known up and down the train.
After their ride through the main part of District 5 they enjoy (Effie's word, not her's) lunch on the train. She's noticed they're escorted (forced) back to the train more and more the closer they get to the Capitol and the longer they continue their journey. Maybe they'll have to stop, she thinks idly as she spoons a small, but Effie, Peeta, and Haymitch satisfying, portion of lamb stew on to her plate. It tastes like leather when she eats it but she knows Cinna is already cinching the waists on the dresses he's designed for her.
"I can't wait till we stop in 4," Effie gushes as she helps herself to a roll with more butter on it than Katniss could have hoped to afford before she won.
"Why?" Peeta asks. He always knows how to lead people into giving them answers.
"For the fresh seafood of course!" One of his prep team exclaims.
"You haven't lived till you have fresh lobster," Octavia gushes. Haymitch snorts and Katniss knows she can do without fresh crustaceans.
"Maybe we'll even get some oysters," Flavius says before taking a sip of tea and leaving a half circle of purple on his cup.
"They're aphrodisiacs," Venia says with a wiggle of her eyebrows that make her gold tattoos dance. "Not that you two need it."
She laughs hesitantly as Peeta reaches for her hand across the table. Play the part, she wills herself as she clutches Peeta's hand like he's drowning.
She thinks maybe she's the one who should be clinging to him.
That night she wraps her limbs around him. After facing Foxface's family and biting back comforting words of she was cleaver and she could have won and watching them glare at Peeta for his completely benign yet deadly pile of berries that killed their daughter, she knows the worse is yet to come with District 2 but she's not sure if she can face them.
"I hate the families," she tells him as he strokes her back in an oddly intimate gesture. That's what they've become though, intimate friends. At least that's what she tells herself.
"It has been getting worse," he confirms. "It's much more personal when you remember something of their child."
She doesn't respond. Instead she focuses on his breathing and the rushing of the slightly salty air through the window he opened.
"I want to give Clove's parents the portrait I painted of her," he admits softly.
"The one with her knives?"
"Mmm," he murmurs. "She told us her parents were so proud of her. Then again they all boasted while we were together but she was the only one who mentioned her parents."
She knows parents are a sore subject with him, just like they are with her. She wonders what it must have felt like for him after the reaping, realizing he would be against the girl he thinks he loves and having his mother basically tell him he's going to die.
She can't vocalize her question.
"Just try to give it to them," she says instead. "Painting is your talent, you should be able to do what you want with it."
"Just like the money is ours and we should be able to give it to whom we want to," he responds rationally. He's always been better at remembering all the rules to the deadly games they play.
His hand slows on her back but she's not sure she's ready for sleep yet.
"What was your favorite thing to decorate in the bakery?" Asking him questions about breads, cakes, and cookies always assures her precious waking minutes.
"The cookies and cakes for fall," he tells her sleepily. "All the reds, yellows, and especially oranges I got to use made them beautiful. Everyone loves the spring and summer flowers but I think fall is more beautiful."
"You can put them on my birthday cake," she tells him.
"When's your birthday?" It's something friends should know and definitely something star-crossed lovers should.
"Spring, you deserve flowers."
"I'd rather have orange leaves and green grass."
"I promise I'll do my best."
"When's my what?" He asks as his hand slows even more and his voice fills with sleep.
"About a month ago. My family came over for dinner, you must have seen them."
It's then she realizes he lives alone. She can't imagine having that huge house and being all alone though she knows that's how Haymitch lives. There's something different, though, between Haymitch's self-imposed solitude and Peeta's.
"Do you see them often?"
"At least once a week. Dad tries to come over more than Mom does."
"Come over for dinner sometime."
"You're inviting me over for dinner? What would your mother say?" He teases.
"That I should have been doing this more often if we're supposed to be as in love as we say we are," she tells him bitterly. She feels him stiffen below her and she knows she's gone too far. "I'm sure Prim would like it if you came over. You could meet Lady."
"And get some of the goat cheese for yourself."
"Maybe I'll use it in a tart," he offers and she knows he's accepting her invitation again.
The smell of salt is stronger now and she in hales deeply before she burrows into his side to try to sleep peacefully. She knows that is impossible but at least she has him.
When she thinks he's asleep and she's on the edge she whispers "thank you for being here every night."
As she drifts off she thinks she hears "I'll always be here for you." And even if she didn't really hear it she knows those words are true.
Reviews are awesome.