Author's Note: This is in response to PromptsInPanem's Everlark week on Tumbler. The prompts reads:
The Victory Tour
"It's like a road trip, but not fun, with nights on the train spent wrapped in each others arms."
"Oh, and Effie."
They were separated somewhere in between dances. It wasn't uncommon for her to sneak off in the middle of them… in the middle of one of their performances.
It was easier for him. Peeta, though just as put off with the idea of actually celebrating a victory that only resulted from the deaths of 22 other children, had an easier time with reading people. He could read what they wanted from him. He knew how they expected him to act and, after years of hiding his love for the dark-haired girl from the Seam and pretending that not only did his mother's abuse not exist, but that it didn't break him as well, he considered himself to be quite the gifted actor.
So, it was with ease, that he lied to Effie Trinket when she inquired after Katniss Everdeen's whereabouts. He said, with a wave of his hand and a smile on his face, that she had gone to powder her nose. The normally pink-haired (it was blue tonight, to match the ocean, she'd said) escort had nodded and teetered away, swaying slightly on her too-high heels. The absence of her normal line of endless questions made him wonder if she hadn't been partaking in Haymitch's favorite past time. It was highly likely, considering a sober Effie would have never believed Katniss to do such a thing.
He glanced around the large, open ballroom, glad to see that the need for his attention had been granted a short respite. There was a set of large double doors, decorated with something called 'stained glass' that he'd never heard of, much less seen before, partially hidden by a set of heavy curtains and nestled behind one of the large dessert tables.
He moved closer to better inspect the piece of art - because that's what it was. More intricate than any painting he'd ever seen or been able to produce himself. He wanted to study the way that the pieces, interconnected like a puzzle, fit together to reveal what the Mayor had informed him was called a siren.
A beautiful, mythical creature that was said to use her enchanting song to lure unsuspecting sailors to their death at sea.
The nearer he drew to the door, the more he was tempted to reach out and trail his hand along the panes of glass. He'd always had an eye for beauty, and what he saw before him was just that - beautiful. Her hair was long and dark, draped over the swell of her breasts, and curling toward the ends. Skin, dark from being kissed by the sun day in and day out. The eyes were even depicted using tiny pools of silver.
Just before his fingers reached their destination, a warm, sticky breeze blew across his face and he looked down. He laughed a little to himself as he saw the delicate, bronze-colored sandal that was propping the door open. He should have known.
After checking over his shoulder once more, he slipped out quietly, careful to leave her shoe in its place. He stepped onto the simple pier that somehow, even with its heavily weathered, glossy around the edges with wear, wooden boards, managed to seem majestic to him. The clicks that his stiff dress shoes had been making with each step he took got lost in the sound of the waves crashing on the shore below.
The sun had set hours ago and for a moment, he was so overcome with the site of the moon reflecting on the seemingly endless ocean, that he forgot just why he'd stepped outside.
He'd never seen anything like it in his life. Before the Games, the largest body of water he'd ever seen had been his bathtub back home. He didn't want to think of home, though, where he and Katniss would surely slip back into the routine of pretending the other didn't exist. And he certainly didn't want to think of the lake where they'd sat on the shore, waiting for the sun to rise; waiting for the end.
No, he didn't want to think of those things. Instead he found himself fixated on a light in the distance; so far offshore that he could barely make it out. The red dot blinked off and on from its spot in the water. It took him a moment, but the realization that there was a fishing boat out near the horizon brought a small smile to his face.
He fleetingly thought of his oldest brother, who had announced over dinner one night that he was going to grow up to be a fisherman. At the tender age of five, Peeta had never even seen a fish in person, but he heard that they were stinky. He had asked why his brother would want to spend his time handling the smelly things. Leif had replied that he could care less about the fishing part; he just wanted to live on a boat.
After a week of turning their couch into a ship, complete with throwing all of the cushions and blankets overboard so it wouldn't sink into the abyss that was the ragged and worn blue carpet, their mother had snapped. She yelled for Leif to stop being ridiculous. He was going to live his life in District 12, kneading bread and icing cakes until he died. They all would. No one in that house would ever even set eyes on a boat.
If trading places with him hadn't meant that Leif would've had to bear witness to the horrors of the Games firsthand, he would have done so in a heartbeat.
The warm night air was humid and something that he wasn't used to that time of year. He slipped the jacket from his shoulders, too tight and restrictive for his taste, and laid it over a nearby bench. He watched until the ship finally faded from view and then remembered his original intent in leaving the celebration inside behind.
There was a rampway, steep and covered by sand in most spots, that lead down to the beach below. From where he stood, he could see that there was a second sandal that had been abandoned, resting near the top of it. His gripped the handrail tightly as he made his way down. The decline alone was hard enough on his leg, and the damp air that seemed to follow him everywhere in the district did nothing to help things.
He was a few feet from the bottom when he heard her.
At first, he thought that she was crying. The sound was sweet, but so mournful that his pace quickened before he realized it. It was dark underneath the pier, making it hard for him to see her. The train of her dress had managed to leave a trail in its wake, however, and his eyes followed the path of smoothed over sand to where she stood.
She leaned against one of the impossibly large pillars that helped hold the structure above them aloft and her head was bowed. He moved closer to where she stood, the sand being even trickier for him to manuever than the ramp had been, but stopped a few feet away when he realized that she wasn't crying afterall.
Katniss was singing.
He couldn't quite make out the words, but he didn't need to. As he watched her, he felt like one of those sailors, lost at sea and being pulled forward by a force much stronger than himself. Unlike those men, though, he knew what he was being drawn toward. He had felt the tug on his heartstrings since he was five years old. He would gladly gives his life to her, for her, if need be.
He waited until she was finished, or had at least taken a moment to pause, before he placed a hesitant hand on the small of her back. She didn't react, and he mumbled something about how even the crashing of the ocean couldn't hide his heavy footsteps from her. Only the slight lift of one corner of her mouth let him know that she had heard him.
She turned to face him, and maybe it was because District 4 was so beautiful. Or because Katniss Everdeen was so beautiful. Or because he just couldn't help himself. Mostly it was because he loved her. When he pressed his lips to hers, she responded in kind. And with her eyes still closed, her soft exhales falling over his lips, it was easy for him to pretend, even if it was just for that moment, that she loved him back.
When they drew apart, he didn't ask her about the song, and was surprised when she openly offered to tell him how the water made her think of her father.
How he had taught her how to swim.
How to fish.
How to survive, relying only on herself, if she needed to.
He pulled her close, her back resting against his chest, and she closed her fingers around his clasped hands in front of her. He told her that she didn't have to.