This is a sequel to Moments of Change. Reading the first one will probably help you understand this story better.

Otherwise here is my first chapter for a sequel. If you all like it and are receptive I will continue it. So please leave a review if you enjoy and want me to keep writing.

Obligatory Warnings: Slash, Mature Sexual Themes, Language, Violence, and Death.

Disclaimer: I own nothing Hunger Games related. Except the characters I create.

Previously in Moments of Change: Peeta volunteered for the Hunger Games in place of a young boy. He did it as a desperate means of escape from his meaningless life at home, suicide by Hunger Games, but also because of a defiant streak that begins to rear its head through out the games and turn him into the boy on fire, a symbol of hope for the oppressed districts of Panem. He befriends his fellow tribute Katniss and falls in love with the career from 2, Cato, who is nothing like the monstrous careers that come from his district. Once in the games he learns to embrace his rebellious nature while working to save both Katniss and Cato. Unfortunately Stasson, the career from 4, teams up with Clove when it is learned pairs can win this year (due to the audiences reaction to Cato and Peeta's onscreen romance) and they set a trap that kills Rue and Katniss. Peeta sings the rebels song The Hanging Tree as Katniss dies in his arms and reveals his defiant nature to all of Panem. In the finale of the Games Peeta and Cato over power and kill Stasson, only to have the rule of two victors revoked. Peeta wont allow the Capitol to win and knowing he can't live with out Cato they take nightlock. The rules are changed at the last minute and Cato does not eat the berries. But Peeta does, because he did not hear the announcement due to being in the midst of cardiogenic shock from all the damage he sustained from Stasson and he ends up in a five day coma. Awakening miraculously he is reunited with Cato and knows they can face anything the future may hold as long as they are together, even if he has invoked the wrath of the Capitol for his actions in the Games.

Burning Down

PART I: The Fire Begins

"Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don't know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings."- Anaïs Nin

Ch1. The Long Winter

Cato Ryves is the man of my dreams and together I know we can make it through anything.

Winter had descended upon District 12 and blanketed everything in a fine white dusting of snow. It was as if the world were reborn over night into a wonderland in the clouds. But the purity of the snow never lasted long as the black soot from the coalmines tainted the soft white flakes. Nothing ever lasted. The Games had taught Peeta that. Life was fragile and precious and pure, but easily trampled and corrupted and all too often cut violently short.

District 12 was a downtrodden and poor place filled with the misery and suffering of starving souls who wondered through life aimlessly, often working long and grueling hours just so they could scrape together enough to feed their starving bodies, only to have to repeat the process the very next day. Rest never came. Peeta had witnessed many poor citizens of 12 starve to death even when they were employed. He had seen mothers sell their bodies to the Peacekeepers for a little extra cash to feed or clothe their children, especially during the winter months. He had seen first hand the desperation of a society so crushed by their oppressors they had lost their spark, that light behind the eyes that signified a thirst for life and happiness and love. Peeta had almost been to that point himself. His mother abused him, his brothers bullied him and his father ignored him. He had given up on finding friendship, too scared to let others in and learn the truth, that he was gay in a district that didn't, couldn't allow such a thing. They needed to continue reproducing so the mines could be worked and the Capitol appeased.

But now he saw his home district in a different light. There was a current running through it, an energy that he hadn't quite identified yet, but that he was sure had not been there before he volunteered for the Hunger Games. It was finally possible that Peeta had not only given himself the jolt he needed to continue fighting for his life when he entered that arena, but he had given his home district, and maybe some of the others, the symbol of hope (and defiance?) they needed. Now they were reawakened from the foul trance like state they had existed in as the Capitol took what it wanted, their resources, their children, and their lives.

Of course nothing went unpunished by the Capitol. If someone tried to defy its rule, even in the subtlest of ways, they were struck down and ground out until nothing was left of them but the fading memory in ones mind. Many whispered in District 12 how the Hanging Tree was sung by a few in the mines who wished to start an uprising by finding and signaling to those sympathetic to their cause. When the Capitol had caught on they caused a 'mining accident' that killed most involved and then made it a criminal offense to sing the song. Peeta, by using that song in the Games and taking the nightlock, was blatantly defying the Capitol and its Gamemakers while also aligning himself with any anti-Capitol factions that may have existed. Punishment was inevitable.

Peeta was trudging his way back through the snowy field to the 'electrified' fencing that enclosed District 12. When he reached the 12-foot high enclosure with barbed wired lacing the top he quickly scanned the interior for any prying eyes. Mainly for Peacekeepers, he couldn't afford to be caught outside the district now that he was a victor. Yet he often found himself outside the bounds of where most were permitted. He never thought of himself as an instigator, but more and more frequently he found himself crossing strict lines established by the Capitol. After awakening in the medical facilities of the Capitol from his coma Haymitch had warned him of the dangers that now lurked around him because of his actions. Snow had even promised to be watching. Peeta could never have envisioned leaving the 74th Annual Hunger Games alive and so he never thought of the consequences his actions would create during it. Now he was facing one of the worst punishments the Capitol could inflict on him with out openly harming him and inciting an uprising among his many supporters.

Peeta slipped under the weakened section of the fence that allowed one to peel it back and create a space big enough for someone to crawl under. He got soot-laced snow on his coat and the knees of his jeans were stained with freezing snow slush. He stood and hugged his arms around his chest as he headed towards the Seam. The sun was hidden behind a curtain of thick grey clouds and would be setting with in the next hour. He wanted to drop by the Everdeen's before he returned to his home in the Victors Village and spent the evening with Cato.

In the months since Peeta had returned from the Games he had kept his promise to Katniss. He shared his winnings with her family so they could afford food through the winter from the butchers shop and new clothes to stay warm. He had also developed a strong bond with Primrose. When he had first returned to District 12 he was hesitant to even approach the Everdeens. He feared what their reaction would be to seeing him. Would they hate him for being the tribute from 12 that returned? Or would seeing him be too painful, a terrible reminder of the loved one they lost?

Fortunately he did not have to wait long for the answer because the very first morning back in his large and empty victors home he had a visitor. It was Prim. She had brought him milk from her goat, Lady. She had wanted to thank him for everything he did, trying to protect and save Katniss. For being with her as she passed on. She broke down in his arms, revealing how she had to be the strong one now, for her mother, whom she was afraid would completely break if Prim showed her weaknesses. Peeta just held her and promised everything would be okay. He would look out for her from that moment on. And he did. He tried to visit her at least once a day and she repaid him in her goat's milk. Luckily Mrs. Everdeen kept it together and even came out of her shell with Peeta's warming presence in their home.

Now that it was winter, Mrs. Everdeen also had a lot more work to keep her busy. With the harsh cold she often had to treat patients for frostbite, children who got sick from the cold, and those suffering from starvation (there were always more in the winter) on top of her usual patients from the mines with injuries or black lung. Peeta used his winnings to help keep her medicine pantry stocked and feed the starving kids to the best of his ability with out depleting his own resources for himself and the Everdeens.

Walking through the Seam was always an interesting affair for Peeta. He was not used to being the center of attention and when he came here he felt like some piece of art on display. He was an abstract painting that people would gawk at as if they stared long enough they might decipher him. He figured half of the stares were because they had never seen a gay person before, the other half because they were awestruck over seeing the victor from the Hunger Games who defied the Capitol, on top of the fact that he was from their very own district.

Little kids, some who would beg for food with their dirty hands and ragged clothes that did nothing to keep them warm, often hugged him. Other times he would get a simple nod of the head to show respect or appreciation for what he did in the games. A few times elderly people on their porches yelled at him in disapproval of his open displays of homosexuality during the games. But most seemed to accept his sexuality and a change seemed to be occurring on that front.

Like today, as he neared the Everdeens dilapidated house, a young, slightly overweight woman carrying two pales of water to her house just about spilled everything at the sight of him. She was attractive, with rosy cheeks and soft brown hair that fell neatly around her face, despite the dirt and grime that covered her clothes.

"P-Peeta Mellark!" She cried.

He smiled at her kindly. So she's going to be one of those people, the ones who get overly excited at my appearance and lose their composure.

After settling her pales on the icy dirt road she ran to him and gripped both of his hands in hers tightly as she stared him in the eyes with tears. He was completely caught off guard by her display, but quickly regained his composure.

"Thank you, thank you." She repeated as she shook his hands and then let go.

"Whoa there. I didn't do anything worthy of thanks," He said uncomfortably. Because really he hadn't. He had killed in the games, just like everybody else and that was not something to be revered or congratulated in his mind.

She shook her head. "Oh, but you have. After you came out in the Games and everyone watched you fall in love and fight for it, you changed minds. I finally had the courage to come out to my mother and she accepted me, it took a bit, but she realized how hypocritical she was being if she could support you and not me. It's all because of you!" She sobbed lightly at the end.

Peeta was thrown for a loop again, he had never thought of what his actions as an openly gay man in the Games could have been, but it seemed he had changed minds on that front too. District 12 had never really dealt with the topic before. It was a remarkable feeling and something he could actually feel proud about.

"That is amazing. I'm very happy for you," Peeta replied genuinely.

She smiled brightly and skipped back to her buckets, lifting them up with her thick arms, and then turning back to him. "Thank you, Peeta. You have my support in anything you do." Then she continued on her path home leaving Peeta to contemplate what she had just told him.

He continued to have the same struggle in his mind daily since he awoke from his coma. He had already accepted his defiance in the game as a moot point. There was nothing he could do about it now. The damage was done. But he was now faced with the choice of holding on to that mantle as a symbol of change for Panem or dropping it and disavowing any rebellious behavior. Every time he thought of it he was thrown into an inner turmoil. If he continued to defy the Capitol he would only further endanger Cato, his loved ones and even his family. But then people like her would tell him how much of a difference he had already made and that voice in his head would begin harassing him, you're not going to just bow down to the Capitol like that? You're a fucking Victor and you defied the rules of the game! You have the chance to burn down everything the Capitol has fouled.

Peeta took a deep cleansing breath and felt the icy chill deep in his chest. He then expelled the air from his lungs in a visible puff of air and moved on to the Everdeens. He puffed warm air into his cupped palms, trying to stay warm, while the dampened spots on his pants from when he crawled through the snow froze his kneecaps. When he reached their house he could see they had a fire made with the extra wood he had bought for them this past weekend. He knew he would have to do more for them, as there were holes in the roof and cracks in the siding that exposed them to the harsh elements year round. He had to jump the steps to their small landing in front of the door because termites had made the wood unstable and he had already plunged his foot into one of the steps once before.

When Peeta tried to knock on the door it swung open for him and Prim slammed into his body.


Peeta smiled at Mrs. Everdeen through the doorway as he squeezed Prim. She was growing and the top of her head reached just under his chin. Her hair was braided into pigtails as usual, which gave her that small childlike look, although they had over a month ago celebrated her 13th birthday. She was a beginning her teenage years and Peeta felt an ache in his heart knowing Katniss would never get to witness her grow into the powerful and smart girl Peeta knew she would become.

"Prim, how are you today?"

She let go and finally allowed him to cross the threshold and into the warmth of the fire heated air. Her fat and ugly cat Buttercup hissed at Peeta in greeting. That cat hated anyone that got near its Primrose. Peeta just rolled his eyes at the animal as he rubbed his chest lightly from where Prim's head had slammed into him and greeted Mrs. Everdeen.

"Peeta, is your heart giving you problems?" She asked with worry evident in her eyes.

Prim's own eyes widened in concern too as she looked at Peeta. "I'm so sorry! Did I break your pace thingy?"

"My pacemaker is fine, do not worry! The Capitol would not have let me leave the hospital if there was a problem with it," Peeta said as he shook his head vigorously at Prim and then pulled her in and ruffled her hair. "You know I'm a tough cookie. Nightlock can't even kill me."

The Everdeens both looked appeased by his words and let the subject go. Peeta had learned before he left the Capitol that due to his heart problems from the games they had to install a pacemaker to ensure that it beat properly. He knew there was nothing wrong with it, but sometimes when he was jolted, like by Prim's hug, he was reminded of its presence and the weakness of his own heart, causing him to rub over the spot absentmindedly. It truly didn't bother him physically; it just taunted him emotionally, reminding him of how his body had failed him.

"So Peeta, would you like to join us for dinner?" Mrs. Everdeen asked.

Prim bounced on the heels of her feet. "Oh please, yes!"

"I would love to, but I can't miss Cato," Peeta said regretfully.

Prim's smile fell from her face. She hated what the Capitol was doing to them more than anything else. Peeta loved how fiercely protective she had become of him in return. "I still just can't believe they did that to you guys! You're too perfect together. I want a love like that one day."

Mrs. Everdeen went back to the small stove to stir something in a bubbling pot. She always got awkward around the mention of Cato. Peeta was sure she supported him, but it was probably just a lot more than she was used to and he was not going to push anything on her. She needed to be there for Prim more than anything else, his love life and her approval of it were not necessary.

"I know. I hate it too, Prim." Peeta said with saddened eyes. "But you know what would make it better? If you two moved in with me at my home in Victors Village."

He had asked this before and the answer was always the same. But he desperately wanted to get them out of this house and the Seam. When he moved into the home his family did not follow. His mother had flat out refused to even see him upon his return. She felt his actions during the Games had seriously endangered the whole family and she would have nothing to do with her fag son. His brothers seemed upset by the whole thing, but he knew it was only because they were being denied the chance to have their own bedroom and live in the nicest part of District 12. Surprisingly his father had tried reaching out to him since his return. Peeta wondered if perhaps his entering the Hunger Games had woke up his father from the indifference he had settled into and maybe, slowly, one day they could have an actual relationship. But for now he was keeping his walls up.

Prim looked downcast now as her mother answered the usual. They couldn't possibly impose like that. He was already doing enough for them. They were fine here and it was not as bad as it seemed. He knew that in truth it was awful, everyday had been a struggle in this household since Mr. Everdeen had passed and now with Katniss gone the small place was becoming crowded with the ghosts of their loved ones.

"Well you always know my door is open," Peeta said.

Suddenly there was a knock on the door and then it opened to reveal Gale Hawthorne. He had been about to step into the home when he spotted Peeta and the smile on his face immediately fell to be replaced by sharp frown lines. He dark brooding eyes always held so much pain and anger whenever he saw Peeta. His light brown hair was tousled on top of his head from the hands he ran through it habitually. He stood tall in the doorway probably close to Cato's height, but less muscular. He was built, but more in a lithe athletic way, from his years of hunting and running in the woods.

"Gale!" Prim exclaimed at the sight of him.

He looked back at her quickly and then nodded a hello to Mrs. Everdeen. "Hey Prim. Um, I was just coming by to drop off a turkey I killed in the woods today." He dropped the dead animal out on the landing for them. "I wanted to bring something by before I started work in the mines. I'll see ya," He said and then swiftly turned and left.

Peeta bit his bottom lip and looked at Prim. Her face fell as he left. She loved Gale too and Peeta knew the only reason Gale was not hanging around longer was because of him. Ever since he had returned from the Games alive and not Katniss Gale had been indifferent at best to him. While the Everdeen's may not have hated him for returning alive Gale sure seemed to blame him for Katniss' death. Peeta decided on the spot to follow him and try to civilize their relationship. They both obviously wanted to continue being a part of Prim's life and this bad blood could not continue.

"I've got to go Prim. I'll see you tomorrow. Bye Mrs. Everdeen!" He shouted as he exited.

Gale was already a good distance from the house and walking with elongated steps in the opposite direction of Peeta. He ran to catch up to him.

"Gale!" Peeta called to him.

Gale's body went rigid at the sound of Peeta's voice and then he turned to glare at Peeta with harsh blue eyes. "What do you want?"

Peeta finally reached Gale on the dirt path; he had to be careful not to slip on the ice or snow as he ran. The sun was beginning to fall behind the mountains and dusk was settling over the Seam. He didn't have much time. He had to get back to his home in the Victors Village for Cato.

"Look, I know you have your problems with me, but just because I am there does not mean Prim doesn't still love you," Peeta said trying to be kind and soothe any feelings that may have been hurt by his presence tonight. His breath frosted the air before him as the temperature plummeted with the setting sun.

"Thanks for the memo. Did you follow me to tell me that? Because I know Prim loves me. I've been a part of her life for the past four years. You think because you've given her some guilt money and shared a few meals with her these past few months you know her?" Gale huffed. His chest puffed outward, as he stood straight and towered over Peeta menacingly.

Peeta stepped back slightly, unprepared for the hostility thrown his way, but he held Gale's eyes defiantly. He was not going to bow down to his aggressive masculine posturing, but he couldn't deny his words stung. They struck a raw nerve.

"Fine, hate me if you want. But don't punish Prim. I'm trying my best to do what is right and I don't need your shit. You think you're suffering? Try a day in my shoes. I guarantee you it's not all the roses and sunshine you think it is."

Peeta then turned his back on Gale not wanting him to see how much he wished to cry at the moment. Peeta walked briskly towards the Victors Village section of District 12. It was about a ten-minute walk from the Seam and he wished to traverse it as quickly as possible as his mind sucked him back to his last day at the Capitol, the day after the interview, when he naively thought Cato and he would escape from the grips of the Gamemakers to live happily ever after in District 2.

They had been lounging in bed all day eating away at the hours by switching between stuffing themselves with the gourmet foods brought by their Avoxes and fucking and pleasuring each other. The interview had been particularly gruesome the night before as they were forced to watch clips from the games replayed back to them on the giant television screens so the audience could get their reactions. The Gamemakers obviously edited what happened with Katniss' death, but watching her die in his arms for a second time was no easier than the first. Cato's arm around his shoulder was the only thing that kept him sane.

But everything was perfect now. They had syrups in awkward crevices of their bodies from some experimental fun with food and sated looks in their eyes as they enjoyed each others love and company. But eventually it was time to get up and get cleaned. They had helped bathe each other in the large jet tub and Peeta became a little over excited as he rubbed his soapy hands all over Cato's well muscled body leading to another quick fuck before Lyme about broke down the door to get to them. They were going to miss their trains.

Trains. As in plural. More than one. Peeta's mind worked quickly to try and make sense of it, but he couldn't. He feared what the answer may be if he asked. So he kept quiet as they dried and clothed themselves before opening the door to Lyme and Haymitch But he couldn't stop Cato from asking the question on the tip of both their tongues.

"But Peeta's coming to District 2 with me, right?"

They both stood there before their mentors with apprehension rippling in their eyes. Peeta looked to Haymitch with concern etched across his face. He felt as if the air was slowly being sucked from the room. How could they have just been so blissfully happy and unaware a few minutes ago and now they found themselves facing the wrath of the Capitol? He was so stupid for letting his guard down.

Lyme pinched the bridge of her large nose. Haymitch swayed slightly, probably already inebriated, as he touched Lyme on the arm. She looked at him and he nodded.

"I've got this," His speech was lightly slurred, but understandable. He had kept his promise of sobriety during the games and was no longer beholden to it. Peeta found it disappointing he couldn't keep up his sobriety, but at the same time he now understood why he turned to the booze. The Games changed people. One could never look upon the world the same way again. Haymitch did not have the luxury of a Cato to keep him sane. "Boys, we told the Gamemakers of your wish to live together in 2, but… but they declined you. They wish you to go back to your separate districts. It is customary that the victor lives in their home district after winning and as 12 has only one living victor, myself, they stress upon you, Peeta that you return home and bring pride to your district."

It was as if the floor had dropped out from underneath Peeta. He had nothing left to hang on to anymore. The Gamemakers were stripping him of Cato. They had let them live, but not with out consequences and they were that each must live in separate districts.

Cato Ryves is the man of my dreams and together I know we can make it through anything.

And yet now Peeta was being forced into a world where Cato would not be by his side. How will I make it with out him? Peeta turned to Cato, tears already moistening his eyes.

"Cato, I-I—what are we going to do?" He clung to Cato desperately, needing his touch as everything began to crumble again.

"It's going to be fine, Peeta, I promise—" He was cut short as Lyme interrupted.

"I'm sorry boys, but they're enforcing their will, now."

Haymitch and her were forced aside as four white uniformed Peacekeepers marched into their bedroom. Two for each victor. Each peacekeeper grabbed an arm and began forcing them out the door before they had one last kiss. Peeta tried to struggle against them, but they were too strong and his body was still too weak from the five-day coma.

"Cato, I'm so sorry! This is all my fault, for everything I did. They are punishing us," Peeta cried as he was forced down the hallway and away from Cato's beautiful face.

"No, Peeta! Nothing is your fault. We will be together, no matter what. Get your fucking hands off me!" Cato raged against the Peacekeepers that held him back while Peeta was escorted to the elevator. They were not even going to let them say good-bye or even go to the train station together. Their time together was over. They would only be together when the Capitol allowed it from now on.

"Cato! CATO! Don't fight them! You'll only cause more trouble. I love you, I LOVE YOU CATO!" Peeta cried desperately. His face was wild and frenzied as he struggled against his captors. He held Cato's chocolate eyes in his own, willing him to not hurt the peacekeepers. To not do anything that might in turn endanger his safety. Then the doors of the elevator were shut on him as the Peacekeepers held him back with both arms and those loving eyes, those beautiful lips, that soft blonde hair was severed from his view.

That was the last time Peeta saw Cato. It had been roughly three months since the Games had ended and he had been forcibly returned to District 12. Everyday was a struggle as the love in his heart began to fracture and scar from the distance forced between them. All they had were these daily telephone conversations, which were never enough. Hearing Cato's voice only picked at the scabs and increased the longing he felt for his lover. What was worse was not only was the Capitol trying to punish them by forcing such a huge distance between them, but there was also a time difference he had never known existed between their districts. When it was six o'clock here it was nine o'clock there, wherever there happened to be located, creating an added layer of difficulty in trying to stay in touch.

And so now all they had were these phone calls, scheduled for the evening when they would both be free. If he missed it he may not get to hear Cato's loving voice for another twenty-four hours. Peeta picked up the pace as he moved his way through the merchant district of 12. He skipped the roundabout path that would keep him from passing by the bakery because he needed to get back in time.


He continued half-jogging to the Victors Village, ignoring the call.


A voice he did not recognize called out his name more forcefully from behind him this time. His footstep faltered as he turned to face whomever called his name. He did not want to stop, but the man that was calling him obviously wanted his attention and so he best give it.

"Yes? I'm kind of in a hurry," Peeta stated.

The man stepped out from the freshly darkened night in a crisp white Peacekeepers uniform and his heart wavered a beat. What did he want? Peeta racked his brain for the man's name. He knew he had seen his face before. It was a harsh face, with sharp lines and scrutinizing eyes. He looked to be in his mid-thirties and had a light black beard.

"I'm sorry to bother you. My name's Darius. I was just hoping I could have a moment of your time," He asked simply.

Peeta's feet tapped impatiently, wishing to resume their journey home. But he felt obliged to stay as Darius was a Peacekeeper and it was best not to ignore him, even if most of the Peacekeepers in 12 had never been too awful to their citizens.

"Uh, okay…"

"Well you see ever since you became the face of gay rights in 12 I've been meaning to talk to you." He stepped closer.

This surprised Peeta. He was the face of gay rights in his district? He guessed it made sense, but it was not something he had actively sought out.

"Oh, really?" Peeta asked.

"Yes, there have been others in the community trying to put together a group. One that would be able to help improve the state of affairs for others in 12 who are gay, but not so supported by their families or friends and I think it would be great if you could come to one of our meetings and speak. The boy on fire would be just the thing some of our members need," He explained, now bordering on a complete invasion of Peeta's space. He was quite pushy and Peeta wasn't sure of this Darius character. He didn't like how he was a Peacekeeper, so he gave a politicians answer.

"What a great idea. How about you get back to me on the specifics and I will let you know?" Peeta said as he stepped back and began to head hesitantly back towards his home.

"Oh, yes, of course. Thank you." Darius then gave a crooked smile and wondered back to where he came from.

Peeta took off at a full sprint for his home. As he turned onto the Victors Row he skidded atop an unexpected icy patch and fell on his ass. He could here the phone ringing out in the silence of the night and knew it was his. There were only three people in all of District 12 with phones. Haymitch, the Mayor and himself. He cursed furiously. He couldn't miss Cato. He had been looking forward to this call all day. He looked forward to them everyday. It was his one respite from the suffering and loneliness.

He pulled himself up and ran to his front door flinging it open and failing to throw it closed behind him as he raced to the kitchen. Just as his fingers wrapped around the receiver of his telephone the shrill ringing ended and took with it his breath.

They really weren't allowed to call outside their district. But since Cato was from 2 it was just another privilege of being from a favored district and so only he could make the call. Peeta beat his head against the wall in fury, completely distraught over having missed Cato's call. When would this end? Would they ever be allowed together? Or would the only times they'd be allowed together outside of the upcoming Victory Tour be if they both mentored tributes in the Capitol for the Hunger Games? The Gamemakers had really found the best punishment for his rebellion in the games. They didn't have to inflict any physical pain on him, just separate him from the man he loved. He felt as if he were choking on the smoke of an approaching fire, if the smoke didn't suffocate and kill him the fire burning in his tormented veins would surely burn him to death.

The phone sounded with its shrill bells and caused Peeta to jump about a foot in the air. He fumbled with his suddenly sweaty palms as he tried to grasp the receiver and put it too his ear.

"Cato potato?" He answered meekly and then held his breath, waiting for the response. His heart just about stopped regardless of the pacemaker's efforts to keep it pulsing.

"Hey babe. I thought I had missed you," Cato's voice replied softly in his ear and the pacemaker in Peeta's heart was finally allowed to jolt his organ into beating again because all was right in the world. Well mostly.

Cato Ryves is the man of my dreams and together I know we can make it through anything. But we are not together anymore. Countless unknown miles separate us. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but distance is also an insidious parasite that grows discontent. Absence really makes the heart grow wearier, desperate for an end to the pain.