Word Count: 1449
Summary: There's some kind of joke happening at our expense that I don't understand. Seems pretty sick to laugh about kids and their nightmares.
Author's Note: Written for day four of the promptsinpanem event. Prompt was:
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."
It's Not Like That
It's an endless loop of getting off the train and getting back on it again, but it's the things I see in between those two constants that give shape to this miserable road trip. The long faces of the families of dead children, the look of hunger in the eyes of children who might have their names pulled from the bowl next year, and the dead children I see in my dreams.
And Peeta's gentle face, when I awaken from those nightmares. I see that too in the darkened sleeping car that takes us from district to district. It's one of the only good things I've got—his arms around me in the dark of night.
His hair doesn't look like pale gold against the pillow. Not like it does now, sitting here by the window as the world flies by in a blur. The morning sun is bright white and lights each strand more skillfully than the Capitol's best tech equipment can. His eyelashes too.
It's funny the way he carefully puts butter on his sweet potato muffin, like he's painting it or icing it. Or maybe he's just using the kind of manners that make Effie proud and completely escape me. But it's very methodical, and as he stares down at the muffin, his eyelashes fan his cheeks, catching the light with every blink. I felt those lashes against my cheek last night.
He looks up and catches me staring. I've got a muffin halfway to my mouth, just hovering there in the air, so I smile—no, grimace—at him and take an overly large bite.
I can hear Effie's heels clicking along in the back of the car, and I chew faster. She wouldn't like to see my cheeks puffed out full of food.
Peeta's eyes leave mine, looking over my shoulder. "Morning."
"Well good morning, Peeta. Katniss."
The way Effie says my name makes it clear she's less than happy with me. I twist in my chair to look up at her to see what it is I've done wrong and realize Haymitch is right behind her. His grimace is much more like mine. Peeta is the only one who seems capable of a smile. Even Effie's painted lips are pursed.
"Haymitch and I were just remarking that we didn't think we'd see the two of you up this early today."
"That's not exactly how I phrased it," Haymitch says, as he leans back into the open chair alongside mine with a grunt.
"What you said needn't be repeated." Her brows reach up into her forehead like little blue caterpillars, when she sniffs. "At least we'll be on schedule."
Effie arranges herself in the chair next to Peeta. After she smoothes her napkin over her lap, I can see that she's waiting to be passed the plate of muffins, but Haymitch reaches across and takes them for himself. That's more like me too.
Effie makes a disappointed little sigh and fixes me with a look. Her fake eyelashes end in long fluttering blue feathers that are almost as distracting as Peeta's natural ones.
"I thought you and I already had a little talk, young lady."
I don't know why she bothers to lower her voice, when Peeta and Haymitch are sitting right here and hear her regardless.
I haven't quite swallowed the last of my muffin, but I ask anyway. "A talk?"
She looks from Haymitch to me and back again, as if he is expected to put in something, but he's more interested in the food on his plate and the flask in his pocket. Peeta's eyes are also darting back and forth. It's like the tennis games they play at the Capitol without yellow balls and too short skirts.
"Yes. Our talk. I gave you very good advice. Heartfelt advice. And you've ignored it entirely." She waits expectantly for my response, but I don't know what she's talking about, so I just stare back. "Why do I even bother? She doesn't even care."
"You're being obtuse. That doesn't work with the girl," Haymitch says without looking up from the coffee cup he's pouring strong smelling liquor into. "What Effie can't bring herself to say is that everyone can hear your screaming, sweetheart. So, you might want to dial it down, unless you want the whole train talking about you."
Effie nods violently, making her wig bounce. "It isn't proper."
Peeta looks as confused as I feel. I don't know how I can help my nightmares, and I don't see how they're improper. Maybe my screams just make everyone uncomfortable. Maybe I'm about to be lectured on what a happy occasion this is supposed to be. How lucky we are to see each of the districts. What an honor it is to dine with the mayors. How not every young man and woman has these types of opportunities.
I cross my arms over my chest. Being with Peeta helps, but it doesn't stop the nightmares entirely. "I can't help it."
Haymitch snorts into his coffee cup. "Well, there you have it. She can't help it, Effie." When he sets his cup down, he turns his attention on Peeta. He scrubs his face, tilts his head, and finally says, "Didn't know the boy had it in him."
Peeta turns as pink as a rose and his head drops, appearing fixated on something in his lap. There's some kind of joke happening at our expense that I don't understand. Seems pretty sick to laugh about kids and their nightmares.
"Don't encourage them," Effie scolds, her Capitol accent more clipped than ever.
"Oh, leave 'em alone. You were a teenager once, right? Or did you skip right over that stage to being annoying?"
I go stiff in my chair as I finally understand the taunting. Oh. They think we're… They think I'm…
"If you'd talked to Peeta like I told you to…"
"It sounds like he's doing just fine without my helpful advice," Haymitch says, lifting his cup in a toast that no one else joins in.
"Stop teasing him!" I surprise myself by how loud I shout it, but it's real for Peeta and no one should tease him about us. Effie's eyes are as round as saucers and Haymitch is momentarily silenced, so my outburst seems to have surprised more than just me. "It's not like that."
Haymitch holds his hands up in mock surrender. "Course not."
"It isn't. I promise," Peeta adds, finally looking up from whatever has held his rapt attention in his lap.
His cheeks are still flushed though and the light still catches the curls of his hair, long enough to wrap around a finger. I huff and shove my plate away. Peeta doesn't know what to make of the look I cast at him, I guess, and he blinks rapidly, looking confused. He must know his eyelashes are as long as a girl's. It's stupid for a boy to have lashes that long. Stupid and distracting.
"You get so damn agitated." Haymitch shakes his head at me and jerks his thumb at the plate of food. "Eat a muffin. Calm down."
"Well…" Effie says, shaking together like a bird ruffling its feathers. "As long as you promise."
Haymitch's brows furrow over the remains of a destroyed muffin, crumbling on his plate. "Yes, so long as you promise to be completely miserable, Effie will be happy." He clears his throat, tucking away the silver flask that has sat at the ready on the table back into his breast pocket. "Now that I think about though, I'm willing to wager that it's your loss, sweetheart."
I roll my eyes. I already know his opinion on the subject, but I'm fairly certain no one could ever make me scream like that. That's all Capitol theatrics. Nothing feels that good.
Peeta wipes his mouth with his white linen napkin and leans his head on the window, looking out, shutting out Effie's prattle and Haymitch's goading. It's almost blinding, the way his hair lights up that close to the glass. It looks like it would be hot to the touch, but it would probably feel cool if I threaded my fingers through it.
Haymitch's chair drags across the floor as he scoots back. The noise jerks me out of my trance. The car is too hot, heating up from the morning sun, I guess, though no one else looks as flustered as I suddenly feel. It's too hot to be close to anyone, but that doesn't stop Haymitch. He leans in to me, while he squints at Peeta with his blond hair curling over his ears. His prep team will trim it.