A/N: So... this is entirely for kicks. It may get better. It may not.
I wince as the bus drives over a pothole and knocks my teeth together. If it was any other day I would be on my own two feet in my leather boots, and I would have walked around the damn thing on my way to somewhere important. To school, perhaps, or maybe to the Hob to trade squirrels for Prim's winter coat. It's only halfway through August, but she'll need it by October.
I wince and glance to the boy sitting next to me, this Peeta Mellark. His family's better off than mine, but that didn't matter when it came down to the lottery known as the Reaping. Now we're both being shipped off to the capitol as a part of some sick social experiment by Governor Coin to see if people like us - the poor, hungry, white-trash redneck people - can benefit at all from the structure of a private school. But it's not the structure we need.
It's the resources.
The bus is short, just six rows, and when we stepped on we were ordered to sit together in the back row. Twelve districts means two of us to a seat, so even though I am able to stare out the window, I am uncomfortably aware of how close Peeta Mellark's arm is to mine. I don't want him touching me. I don't want anyone touching me.
"Never been this far from home," he says, trying to be friendly. I'm not very friendly, but that doesn't stop him. "We'll get to see all the districts."
"Hmp." I say. Peeta mistakes my irritation for indifference.
"I've seen district four, once. We took a vacation at the beach."
"Did you?" My family could never afford a vacation. Some days we could never afford to so much as feed ourselves.
Peeta must realize the mistake he's made, because he immediately backtracks.
"I mean it wasn't that big of a deal, and we shared our condo with another family..."
"I like to visit the lake," I say suddenly. I discovered it one Saturday afternoon while hunting. It's no ocean, but it's peaceful, and quiet, and on hot afternoons I like to go swimming.
"What lake?" Peeta asks, but when I shrug he backs off. "I bet it's lovely," he says quietly.
When I don't reply, we spend the rest of the drive in silence.
District eleven is full of trees, but not the kind from the forests at home. They are planted, cultivated, grown specifically to make food. Here are apples, and cherries, and in the distance I see something that Peeta says is a vineyard. to grow grapes, he says, or maybe tomatoes.
The bus pulls to a stop in front of the district eleven justice building, and two people are lead out by peacekeepers and directed to get on the bus. One is a hulking mass of muscle who walks to the back of the bus and slides into the seat reserved for district 9. I can see Peeta falter as he considers telling the man - boy, technically - about the rules, but when he steps aside I can see the second tribute from district eleven behind him.
She is a little girl, and for a moment I believe she is an angel. She is small and light, just like Prim, and as she glides across the bus into the seat, I realize that the big man - boy - only moved aside to give the girl a window seat. Though she sneaks a peak at us once before the bus lurches off, she spends the rest of the trip looking out the window.
So it goes. Twelve districts. Twenty-four tributes. The bus fills up, though I stop paying attention. My brain floats away to home, to the hills and the forest and the mountains and the lake, to my mother and Prim and my best friend Gale, and stays there until the scenery changes. Suddenly I'm looking at large buildings, and the word skyscraper appears from nowhere in my brain.
In no time at all, the bus pulls in front of a large brick structure. There is a man in white and an older-ish, austere woman standing on the front steps.
We have arrived.