THE JOURNEY

Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games. However, the story idea is mine. I am writing this story for fun and hopefully people will like it.

I also used the name of a real town, but then I made it up from there. The school doesn't exist the way I made it sound and I am sure the forest/woods are different.

Story Description: VERY AU! Takes place in current society. Katniss, Johanna, Annie, Gale, Finnick, and Peeta all went to the same high school. The summer after graduation they decide to take a road trip across the country. It starts in Pennsylvania and ends in sunny California. What relationships will develop? What secrets will be revealed? What lies will be told? Anything can happen…anything.

Author's Note: I am back everyone! I have missed you all! I hope you like this story. This is a little different than my other HG stories. This story will have its drama, but there will also be a lot of romance and adventure. I have written the first five chapters or so and it has a LONG way to go. I hope you all are ready for a long story. I promise I will finish it as well. You guys all know that I always finish my stories.

KATNISS'S POV

I had always dreamt about leaving Dalton, Pennsylvania. I wanted to leave this town behind. It is a small town, but it feels even smaller than its population of nearly 1,100 people. Sometimes I cannot breathe and feel as though I will suffocate with all the people surrounding me and forcing me into a feeling of claustrophobia. This town has been a reminder of very painful memories. My father's death two years ago when I was sixteen nearly tore me in two. My mother checked out on my sister, Prim, and me. Prim, who was fourteen at the time, decided that she wanted to go away to boarding school with Gale's little brother, Rory. I was okay with that at the time and I am so glad that she did now. She absolutely loves living in Maine and only comes home for Christmas and a week or two in the summer. She is also head over heels in love with Rory…it is so cute, but I wish she wouldn't rely too much on that boy. She needs to learn to rely on herself and not let love weaken her.

I had learned that lesson with my father. I had loved my father more than anyone. The sun rose and set on him. When he died in that fire, it destroyed me. I realized that my love for my father, while it had comforted me, had made me weak. I never wanted to be weak ever again. Love made people do stupid, foolish things. My mother is a walking zombie. She does nothing. She says nothing. She cares about nothing.

As I stand outside of the gymnasium before graduation begins, I search in vain for my mother. A small part of me thinks she will come…a very small part of me. I hate that part of me that dares to hope that she will care enough to come for me when I know she won't. I sit down on the steps of the school not caring that my blue dress could get dirty. I watch the people enter the gymnasium through the main doors. Our town may be small, but our school isn't. Our school is huge and draws from all the surrounding towns. Our student body is about 2,500 people. My graduating class has 842 people in it. I don't even know half of them.

I sit and wait for my friends to join me so we can go in together. I don't like to rely on people, but I have always had strong friendships in this school. My best friend, Gale Hawthorne arrives first looking completely bored. He hated high school. He always told me it was pointless and he didn't learn anything he would ever really use in his life anyway. The girls at school adored him and thought he was exceedingly handsome. I guess Gale was cute, but I didn't really look at him that way. He dated a different girl every weekend and didn't ever really have a relationship. He was a playboy. No girl knew the real Gale, no one but me. He would go on dates on Fridays or Saturdays and then we would spend Sundays hiking in the woods and tracking animals. Sundays were our days to hang out and catch up. I had never been the girly girl and I enjoyed hiking, hunting, and camping. Gale and I had been friends since kindergarten and it had never been more than that for me. His father had died in the same fire that claimed mine. We didn't really talk about that. We also didn't really talk about his dates. I didn't care who he dated and he seemed almost reluctant to talk about girls with me. He is wearing a nice polo shirt with khaki shorts. Gale is not one to dress up for school, but he always tries to look his best "for the ladies" or so he always told me.

"So, are you ready to graduate?" I ask with a smile as he gets closer.

He sighs and sits down beside me pushing me slightly with his arm. "It is the same as any other day in this place. Pointless."

I laugh at him and poke him in the side. "It's only pointless because you ran out of girls to date."

He grins at me. "True." He said and then looked down at his hands momentarily.

"Are you two always early for everything?" I hear an annoyed voice call out. I turn to see Johanna Mason approaching us. Johanna is my best female friend. She didn't take crap from anyone and always said exactly what she was thinking at any given time. She had short blonde hair and piercing blue eyes. She could have had any guy in school she wanted, but she claimed that high school boys were so immature and she was waiting for a man. She cracked me up on a regular basis. After my dad died, Johanna didn't ask how I was doing or anything like that. She came over with a bottle of vodka and told me to cut loose with her. She is a great friend and I love her dearly, when we weren't fighting over something ridiculous that is. Johanna walks over to us and kicks Gale with her high heeled shoe.

"No one to impress today, handsome?" She teases him and he groans at her.

"Johanna, do you always have to mock me?" He asks half seriously.

She pretends to think about this for a minute. "Hmmm…yes!" Then she flashes him a smile. I have always thought that Johanna has a thing for Gale. She has never admitted to it of course and the only time I asked her about it she punched me in the arm, but I just had an inkling about it. She sits down on the step beside me and then we hear a dramatic cry.

"However are we going to survive without the laws of a just school system! I will miss the hallway monitors! I will miss Principal Cray and his perversion with the female population in this place! I will miss all those team huddles in the locker room."

I turn to see Finnick basically jogging over to us. Finnick has blonde hair and alluring blue eyes. He was the man all the girls strived for in school and never got. He had been captain of the swim team and had gone to state and actually won first place. He was wearing khaki pants and a tight button down shirt to show off his muscles.

Johanna snorts at him. "The swim team had team huddles?"

Finnick pretends to look offended as he sits down in front of me and lays his head back in my lap. It didn't bother me. Finnick is not interested in me. He is only interested in one girl. A girl who he has yet to confess his feelings to as the case is at the present time.

"Why of course we did, Ms. Mason. How else do you think I got everyone organized and prepared to win?"

We all laugh. Finnick was the only swimmer at our high school who had been any good. He has been offered a scholarship to swim at UCLA. He is considering it, but I know why he has not given them an answer yet…Annie Cresta. Finnick attempts to make himself more at home with his head in my lap and Gale pushes his head forward with a look of disgust. Why does he care that Finnick's head is in my lap? That is just Finnick. He should know that, but I also know that while Gale and Finnick were friends on the surface…they were not close.

Finnick pretends to be insulted and then puts his head in Gale's lap causing Johanna and me to laugh hysterically as we see Gale's face go beat red.

"What did I miss?" A soft voice asks. Finnick straightens up immediately and I can almost feel the charm oozing from his voice when he speaks to the only woman he has ever been interested in…Annie. Annie was a beautiful girl with long brown hair and sea green eyes. She was a shy girl, but she fit into our group well and usually always had something to say.

"Well, darling, Gale was jealous that Katniss was getting all of my attention so he intervened. I was just making sure he knew he was loved as well." He smiles at her and she blushes deep red and turns away. I know she likes him as well.

"Dream on O'dair." Gale says in a serious tone. Gale is always so serious. Usually it suits us all fine though because Finnick is rarely serious so it evens out.

My attention is drawn away from the rest of the group when I see Peeta approach the steps. He is wearing black dress pants and a white dress shirt with a pale blue tie. His blonde hair is brushed neatly and falls over his head almost to his mesmerizing blue eyes. His eyes are locked on mine and he smiles at me and waves. Peeta Mellark is the kindest person I have ever met in my life. He cares about everyone and I have never seen him put a person down…ever. We have been friends since 1st grade when his family moved into town. He actually lives next door to me and his family owns the local bakery. We became fast friends. He is always so easy to talk to and his smile is infectious.

After my dad died, Peeta would always find subtle ways to show me he cared and that he was thinking of me. He would make dinner for my family and bring it over. He would leave flowers on my windowsill with a note that told me to "smile." He baked constantly and would also bring over some warm fresh baked bread or a freshly baked pie. He was the most considerate person on the planet. I also thought he was the best looking guy in our group. I could never understand why he didn't date anyone. Head cheerleader, Delly Cartwright, had always wanted him to date her. He had told her in no uncertain terms that he was not interested in dating her or anyone else for that matter. Peeta and I were alike in that way. I wasn't looking for a relationship either. Even though I had my share of admirers as well. I don't know why they were interested in me though…I wasn't the typical girl.

Peeta and I were the two people in our group that were not big joiners. We didn't go to dances or sporting events (except for Finnick's swim meets and Gale's football games of course). The nights of dances, parties or other events that the rest of our group went to, Peeta and I would get together and hang out. We would go to the movies, out to eat, or just hang out. He always made me laugh and he has a magical way with words that always makes him win any argument. He is the only one of my friends who I could argue with and not get insanely angry with…he just has a way with words.

Johanna clears her throat and I tear my gaze away from Peeta in time to see her knowing smile. She always smiles at me like that when Peeta is around. I feel a blush creep up my cheeks and I quickly shake my head and stand up pushing Finnick away so I can stand. Finnick makes a big dramatic show of being shoved down the stairs that makes Annie reach down and help him to his feet. Always a man in distress I think to myself and smile. At least it got Annie's attention like he had intended.

I walk over to Peeta and he reaches out and wraps me in a big hug. "Ready for the big day?" He asks quietly after we pull apart. I see the humor dancing in his eyes.

I roll my eyes. "I guess this is something we can't avoid or hide from."

Peeta nods and then smiles. "Want to go see a movie after it is over?" He asks hopefully.

I nod my head yes, but Johanna's voice cuts off our conversation. "DON'T YOU EVEN THINK ABOUT DITCHING OUT ON US! This is the last party of our high school careers and you are both going!" She yells at us.

Peeta and I both scowl at her. Peeta leans forward and whispers in my ear. "We will take off early and go do something that is actually enjoyable instead of hanging out with drunken idiots."

I turn and smile at him and we both start laughing much to Johanna's dismay. I also see Gale scowling at us. Why does he care if Peeta and I are at this lame party or not? This is the last chance he will have to score with some of these pathetic high school girls before we embark on our cross country summer road trip.

Peeta and Gale are the only two in our group who really aren't friends...at all. They tolerate one another for the sake of the group, but they aren't friends. I often wonder why and then just decide that they are too different. Finnick and Peeta are really close and sometimes I wonder if Gale just feels left out. The only person Gale is really close to in the group is me.

"Let's get this over with." Gale mutters and we all nod our heads in agreement.

Johanna sighs. "Come on, you guys! This is the last time we will ever be at this school again…EVER! Enjoy it and embrace it for a change!"

Finnick laughs. "Well, Gale will have to come back since he was voted the Prom King."

Everyone laughs, but me. I know that Gale hated being voted prom king. He hated it and told me he wished he hadn't gone to the prom. He had gone because he had a hot date and that was all. I don't laugh about the prom thing though because I know he truly hates that title and I don't torture him about it. We walk into the gymnasium and backstage to get ready.

"Just five days until freedom! Five days until the best road trip ever!" Johanna yells and I smile. Peeta grins at me and my heart does a little flip. It does that sometimes when I am around Peeta and I don't know why.

He takes my hand in his for a moment and gives it a little squeeze. "See you on the other side." He jokes and I know he is talking about after the graduation ceremony when we will go to the party together.

"See you on the other side." I say and grin back. He squeezes my hand again before he has to go and line up. I sigh and shake my head. Why Peeta doesn't have a girlfriend is beyond me…but I am glad he is one of my best friends.

I guess I am back and writing a new Hunger Games story . I hope you all missed me! Okay so I have to know. What do you think? Are you interested in me continuing the story? I would love to hear your thoughts. Please review!