AN: I don't own The Hunger Games or any of the characters.
"I just keep wishing I could think of a way to show them that they don't own me. If I'm gonna die, I wanna still be me."
Peeta Mellark takes a deep breath after he delivers his line, keeping his eyes on his co-star Jerrica Lapiere. The script had distinctly said 'eye contact, eye contact, eye contact'. He thinks Seneca had even underlined it a couple times. He is nothing if not thorough.
She returns his stare, her eyes smoldering with unresolved anguish and undisguised hope. (Not Peeta's words but a direct lift from the script.)
"I just can't afford to think like that."
Peeta holds back the groan that is forming in his throat and forces himself not to roll his eyes. He relaxes his posture and waits for the inevitable nitpicking.
Director Snow is telling Jerrica how he didn't believe her delivery. Peeta thought she nailed it, but Snow seems to have other ideas. Why is he being so damned picky on the last day of shooting?
At that moment someone opens a door far off in the studio and the suns pokes through momentarily, teasing him. Unconsciously, he stands up, as if a moth to a flame.
Snow snaps his fingers in front of Peeta's face and the door slams shut, effectively putting an end to his daydream of actually getting off early enough to see the sunshine today.
"Earth to Peeta."
"Sorry, I just spaced for a second." He turns my attention to our director.
He huffs, his ego clearly bruised. Now Peeta likes the guy, but his ego could certainly stand to be taken down a few notches.
"I was saying," he says, drawing the word out, "good job, the emotion was spot on."
"Oh," A compliment? Snow definitely didn't give those out freely. When he doles out praise, you know you're doing something right. "Thanks,"
Jerrica makes a face behind his back in mock anger and sticks her tongue out at Peeta playfully. He covers his mouth with his hand to hold back the laughter.
He and Jerrica get back on their marks and get ready to film the scene again, for hopefully the last time.
It wasn't the last time. Not even close. They must have filmed the scene a dozen more times. Each time Snow had a different critique; Jerrica had to stress this vowel more, Peeta needed to lean closer when saying this word, they both needed to put more weight behind their gaze (whatever that means). It became increasingly frustrating. Just when Peeta's sure they are never going to escape, five glorious words reach his ears.
"That's a wrap on shooting!"
It takes all of Peeta's considerable restraint not to cry out in triumph and pump his fist in the air. He settles for shooting Jerrica a wide grin. She returns it with equal fervor. He just might get to see the sun today yet.
The cast and crew have broken out into applause and Peeta joins in cheerfully. Suddenly, though, the reason for the applause dawns on him. This is the last day of shooting. While he's certainly glad to finally have some time off, and be free of the long hours and ridiculously early call times, he's going to miss everyone. They've been together for months on end now, and he knows it's a cliché, but they have become like a family. He takes solace in the fact that they will be reunited in a few short months to tape the sequel.
He says his goodbyes to the cast and crew. He hugs Portia, his makeup artist, and promises to keep in touch. He finds Landon, who plays his love interest's best friend, perusing the snack table.
"Hey, bro," he greets Peeta, his mouth full. "Good scene. Although," he says, drawing the word out for a good 10 seconds in mockery of Snow, "I feel you were not conveying the appropriate emotional depth that this particular scene called for."
Peeta chuckles and smacks him upside the head.
"What would you know about emotional depth?" he cracks.
Landon flips Peeta off as he stuffs more food into his mouth with his free hand. He is definitely taking advantage of the last day of free, gourmet food. It never fails to astound Peeta how, the moment the camera starts rolling, Landon's goofy self disappears, and he completely transforms into his character. It really is a testament to his skill as an actor.
Jerrica appears from the costume department, back in her normal clothes. She kisses Landon and gives Peeta a hug in parting.
"Hey, Peeta, don't be a stranger. If we don't hang out before shooting I'm holding you personally responsible."
He smiles. "You sure you're not sick of me yet?"
"Yes," Landon affirms, at the same time Jerrica says, "Of course not."
"You know you're gonna miss seeing my handsome face every day, Lan Lan." he teases. Landon hates it when he calls him that.
He flips Peeta off again, as is his go to 'comeback'. He only chuckles in response.
"Well, I'm going to go back home for a week or so, but I'll text you when I get back to LA."
She flashes Peeta her winning smile and nods in agreement. They say their goodbyes, and she and Landon head to the exit hand in hand and otherwise tangled up in each other.
Peeta heads towards the back exit, smiling and saying goodbye to various people as he goes. He inches the door open and glances around the - unfortunately dark - lot, surreptitiously. It seems to be clear of paparazzi, which is shocking in itself, but who is he to question a lucky break? Peeta is really hoping to avoid them, he somehow always manages to take the bait and say something in reply to their prodding, giving them more fodder for whatever rag they happen to work for. Whatever he says usually ends up being misconstrued or taken out of context.
The running story the past few weeks seems to be how he is embroiled in a love triangle with Jerrica and Landon. It's pathetic really. He really tries not to pay attention to any of that shit, but word always comes back. (Usually from his mother, who religiously swears by her gossip magazines no matter how many times Peeta tells her that 95% of it is total and complete bullshit.)
He'll be glad to be home and out of the limelight for a few weeks. Even if Newport Beach isn't exactly living in obscurity, it's much slower paced than LA.
He pulls into the lot of the condo he has been renting and head up the stairs. He falls into bed, too exhausted to take anything more than his shirt off.
Peeta awakes the next morning, way too early, to the shrill sound of his alarm. He slaps at his phone and makes a mental note to pick a more calming ringtone to wake up to. He groans and rolls out of bed, knowing he left himself just enough time to get ready and get to the airport.
He hops in the shower and closes his eyes as the hot water washes away his stress.
Twenty over indulgent minutes later Peeta emerges from the shower. He checks the time on his phone; he's going to have to hurry. Just as he is pulling his shirt on and slipping into his sandals, his phone rings. It's Effie, Peeta's agent. She had insisted on making the trek out to North Carolina with him to ensure that everything about the movie was up to his (her) standards. Even if Asheville was, in her words, 'slumming it'.
"Effie, how do you do?"
"Peeta!" she screeches. "Where are you? Your plan leaves in less than two hours!"
"I know, I know. I'm on my way."
"Well, you'd better hurry. You still have to check your luggage, go through security, and bring your car to the checkpoint. I'm sure there will be unnecessary paperwork, as well. Honestly, it's as if it was the first time they've ever had someone request to have their car transferred."
"Maybe it is," Peeta suggests, with a shrug. He wonders if maybe he had been too much of a Hollywood diva, wanting to bring it in the first place. After all, he could have got a perfectly good rental. There's just something about that car that makes him feel like he is home, even thousands of miles away.
She scoffs, as if the very idea is unimaginable.
He hangs up with Effie and jumps into his Lexus. Fortunately the airport is only a short drive from his condo, so he makes it with plenty of time - in Peeta's opinion, although he is sure Effie would beg to differ - to catch his flight.
He drives his car around to the checkpoint that was printed on his flight information. He hands his keys to the valet and passes him a tip. Peeta pulls his hat down further and puts his sunglasses on, even though it's a short walk to the airport doors. He is trying for inconspicuous, but apparently his brilliantly executed plan has failed, because as soon as he steps foot into the airport, a girl that can't be more than thirteen runs over to him, breaking away from a group of boys that he presumes are her brothers.
"Oh my God," she shrieks. Peeta winces at the sound; it's way too early for any noise that high pitched. "You're Peeta Mellark! Oh my God! Can I have an autograph? No, better yet a picture. That way I can tweet it out, and Ashley and Kendra will be sooo jealous."
She seems to be talking to herself more than him at this point, but he smiles and says sure. She practically jumps up and down in excitement as she calls loudly for one of the boys in her group to take their picture.
He walks over to them slowly, with a moody scowl on his face. He clearly is not as chipper as his sister in the early morning hours.
Peeta stands next to the girl and puts his arm around her. At the last second he decides to make her day and he plants a kiss on her cheek just before the flash goes off. She squeals in excitement.
"May as well give Kendra and Ashley something to really be jealous about, right?" he says with a wink.
"I love you," she babbles in response. Her cheeks flush red with embarrassment as she realizes what she just said. Peeta smiles at her, in what he hopes is a reassuring gesture.
"Well, I have to hurry and catch my flight, but it was nice meeting you, -"
"Prim," She smiles widely. Peeta gets the feeling that she is a cheerful person by nature, but he's glad that he could bring a smile to her face regardless.
"Nice to meet you, Prim."
He heads to luggage claims, and as he walks away he can hear Prim excitedly relay the story to her group.
Once he is finally through baggage and security he meets Effie, Jerrica, and Landon at a lounge reserved for first class passengers.
"It's about time, man. You know I had to convince the pilot not to leave without you?" Landon puffs his chest out importantly.
Peeta makes a sound somewhere in between a snort and a laugh. He puts a hand to his chest.
"You do so much for me." he says sarcastically.
Just as Peeta is finishing up a beer that Landon ordered him, the boarding call for first class goes out over the loud speaker. They pick up their carry-on's and line up to board the plane. The second they are seated, Landon predictably orders another beer. Peeta can't help but smile at his antics.
He settles in for the long flight, consoling himself with the fact that in roughly 8 hours he will finally be home.