The Lady of the Lake

So! We've broken the 90,000 word barrier. Like...two or three more chapters and we'll be over 100,000! How scary is that!

Thank you to EVERYONE for the HILARIOUS questions on Tumblr. It's been so much fun thinking of responses for each character. The one about Sky's virginity cracked me up. Poor Sky.

Feel free to send more, MANY MANY MORE. As always the tumblr can be found here!

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Or the link is on my profile :)

This chapter features Cato and Peeta, Sky and Katniss, Cato and Katniss, Cato and Sky and Finnick, Sky and Peeta. It also involves Cato going home to District 2.

Review responses are at the end of the chapter as usual!

Enjoy!


Chapter 23

The train ride home is uncomfortable to say the least.

Before boarding the four of us stand together, waving farewell to the huge crowd gathered before us. Many of the Capitol citizens wave back to us, cries of our names loud in the morning air. Peeta and Katniss stand together, holding hands, but I notice how Peeta's smile is less bright than it was, his eyes a little more shuttered.

Cato holds me close to his side, arm around my shoulder and my head resting against him. Since he'd come to me last night, making his choice to stand with me, even against the Capitol, he hasn't let me out of his sight.

His protectiveness and his concern is touching…and humbling.

Now as the Capitol vanishes into the distance behind us, I stand by the window, looking out at the countryside flashing by.

"It's over," Peeta says quietly, joining me, watching the land grow wilder and wilder as we zoom away from the Capitol, "Hard to believe, isn't it?"

"Yes," I say quietly, "I can't believe we're going home today."

"Well some of us," Cato's strong voice interjects as he moves to stand on my other side, "Always expected to be going home."

I roll my eyes, and I see out of the corner of them that Peeta does the same.

"Not all of us are overconfident Careers," Peeta points out, and I grin at him proudly.

"Insufferable," I add.

"Intolerable," Peeta continues, grinning slightly as Cato makes an outraged noise.

"Overconfident, arrogant, rude, possessive, unbearable arse of a-" I pause, looking innocently around at Peeta, "Oh did we stop?"

Cato growls, and it's a testament to how much he actually does that, that I recognise that this particular growl is a playful one.

Peeta laughs and I grin around at Cato who is fighting down a smile of his own.

"I'm going to make you pay for that," Cato says mock solemnly, pointing a finger at me, "Mark my words."

I feel Peeta clap my shoulders gently from the other side, "Well, it was nice knowing you Sky," he murmurs in my ear, as I watch Cato's eyes dance slightly.

"Oh please," I mutter back, smirking slightly up at Cato, "He's just a big puppy really. Aren't you…" I coo at Cato.

"You are making it so much worse," Cato mutters at me, fighting down a grin, as Peeta laughs behind me, "And didn't we decide you were the puppy? You know with the follow, heel…beg?" and he smirks.

"I don't know what you're talking about," I inform him loftily, turning on my heel and stalking off towards the dining car, where I know I'll be able to find a drink. Behind me I hear Cato and Peeta laugh, and then the murmur of conversation.

Smiling I walk towards the door and then pause as I see Katniss.

She's standing in between the two cars, her hand holding the door open as she watches Peeta and Cato talking. Her expression can only be called wary, and she frowns slightly as she watches the two boys chatting together.

Slowly I take another step forward and her gaze snaps to me.

We stare at each other for long moments and then carefully I nod my head back the way she came. She gets the signal, and slowly backs up, letting me join her in the other car.

For a moment we stand there in silence, watching one another.

We haven't been alone together since our confrontation over the bodies of Marvel and Rue and she seems to realise that too. It's so tense it hurts, so I sigh, and lean against the wall.

"Katniss."

"Sky." She replies, smoothing her fingers down the loose trousers she's changed into. We watch each other for long moments and then I hold a hand out.

"Katniss, the Hunger Games are over. What's done is done. I would like to try to move beyond it…we were friends once. Or I would like to think we were."

"I…" She looks at me and seems to slump slightly as she reaches out to take my hand in her lightly callused one, "Could use a friend."

I smile softly, and squeeze her hand, "You have one in me. We have to stick together; we went through something…people won't be able to understand. But you do. Cato does. Peeta does. I do." Her eyes meet mine and I say softly, "You'll see. We're in this together."

She eyes me carefully, and then a small smile curls up her lips, "Thank you Sky."

I nod and move away, pausing only when she refuses to let go of my hand. Turning back to her I'm surprised by the look in her eyes, it's cautious but torn at the same time.

"It's not over." She says softly, and her eyes meet mine again, "You know that right?"

I'm smart enough to know it's a loaded question, "No," I reply quietly, "It's not over. That's why you have us."

She seems to understand what I didn't say, and slowly let's go of my hand, relief colouring her returning smile.

"Thank you."


The train pulls into District 2 first, just before sunset.

I stand by the window, looking out at the mountains and the stone buildings of the District going past, knowing that any moment now the train will glide into the station.

There Katniss, Peeta, Cato and I will greet the crowd waiting for us. He'll kiss me farewell, and then I have to get back on the train without him.

It's only now, as the train begins to slow, that I realise I'm not nearly ready for this.

Pushing away from the window I go in search of him, remembering that he'd decided to have something to eat before arriving. He's going to have ceremonies and such to attend when he disembarks, and who knows what chance he'll have to eat something substantial then.

It's only as I head past the sleeping rooms of the train car that I hear Cato's voice, in that low, threatening, and dangerous growl.

"-don't trust you, and I sure as hell don't trust you with her."

"The feeling is mutual," I'm surprised to hear Katniss' voice and peer around the doorframe to see the two of them standing face to face, "I don't trust you. And I don't trust you around Peeta."

It's the first time I've actually ever seen them near one another, and it's certainly the first time I've ever heard them really talk to one another. There had always been a rivalry there, but for the first time I wonder, where had it sprung from?

"Ah well," Cato sneers, folding his arms and looming threateningly over Katniss, "You see, I actually quite like Lover boy. He's got something to him. Unlike you, who I just think is a cold hearted bitch."

"What like Clove?" Katniss mocks back and chokes as Cato's hand snaps out, gripping her throat.

"Don't you say one word about her," Cato's voice is pure venom, and the look in his eyes says that he could easily snap Katniss' throat right there, "Don't even think about her. You know nothing about Clove…"

Hurriedly I step into the room, and Cato's gaze turns towards me.

"Let her go Cato," I say and I try to make my voice low and soothing, the tone you use on skittish animals, "Let her go now."

"I could end this," he hisses, hand tightening slightly so Katniss chokes, "Right here…one more kill."

"Cato." I just say his name, low, gazing at his face, and I know that that one simple word, his name, has gotten through where pleading and shouting would have simply glanced off.

With a snarl he shoves Katniss away.

"You're so fucking lucky Bitch on Fire." He growls the words, body held tense as he speaks, "You got lucky in the Arena, and you're lucky now that Sky wants you alive." He shoots a glare towards me, "Much as I wish she didn't."

Katniss looks up at him, hand on her throat and gives a hoarse chuckle, "You got lucky too Cato," he rasps up at him, "Lucky she took pity on you and saved you. Lucky she found that sword, lucky she went after you on the Cornucopia."

Cato takes a threatening step forward and I bark out, "Cato! Stop that! And you…" I glare at Katniss, "Stop provoking him!"

"Let's talk about the Cornucopia," Cato's voice snarls over the top of mine, "Let's talk about how you just sat there, and listened to a girl being torn apart by monsters."

"Let's talk about how you left a girl bleeding to death from a stab to the belly!" Katniss exclaims back, getting to her feet, and I flinch at the mention of Zara "Or how you broke that boy from 3's neck!"

"Let's talk about Darrien!" Cato shouts and I feel Peeta move into the doorway behind me, his solid warmth a comfort as my heart skips a beat at the mention of my District partner, "Let's talk about Marvel!"

"Let's talk about Rue!" Katniss howls back, and I feel Peeta's hand grip mine. It's a warning, knowing that I want to stop them once more, but he knows, as I do, that these things need to be said now. Before they fester any longer, "Let's talk about those children you murdered at the Bloodbath!"

Cato growls at her, and the sound is so dangerous that I shiver, feeling Peeta tremble beside me as well.

"I've done things, things I was trained for." He says icily, face hard as stone, "I don't regret fighting, killing for my survival. I have my own regrets however, things I am not proud of. But you…I see no remorse in you."

"I have remorse." Katniss' voice is quieter now, "For…Darrien…" she glances at me, "For not helping Peeta earlier. For not being there to save Rue." But her gaze then returns to Cato's. "Everything else, I did to survive. And I don't regret that."

Cato steps towards her slowly, towering over her slimmer frame and I tense anxiously. He doesn't attack her however, but he leans in so their faces are only inches apart.

"All that other shit, is meaningless to me," he says, voice low and cold, "And there is one thing I can't forget, and I can't forgive. You would have sat there, and listened to Sky being torn apart. You would have stayed there all night, as long as it took. Just because she was in your way." He glances towards me, and his blue eyes take in Peeta holding me there, protectively, "After everything she did…you didn't even give her the courtesy of mercy." He looks back at her, "That…is the thing I cannot forgive, or forget."

"Cato," I say softly, "She had limited arrows. She didn't know if she'd have to face the wolves herself."

"It doesn't matter!" Cato shouts it, turning to face me, "He tried!" and he points to Peeta, "Even bleeding out all over the Cornucopia he wanted to help you! But she just let you suffer!"

"You're right," I say and I feel Peeta's hand tense around mine, "It doesn't matter. It's in the past Cato. I'm alive. You're alive. And she and Peeta are as well. What matters now is the future…" I stare him down, thinking of the rebellion, hinging on Katniss, "You have to put it aside."

He stares at me for long moments and then strides over. For an intense few seconds he stands before me, and then he pushes past, footsteps disappearing down the train car, and I turn to Peeta.

"You'd better go to him," He says softly, "We're arriving in a few minutes."

Slowly I nod, and glance at Katniss who is watching Peeta with a cautious expression.

Going in search of Cato, I find him by the windows, staring out at his home, the home he'd left to become a Victor. Moving carefully I walk up beside him, and lean into his bulk, offering him comfort in the only way I can.

He sighs, and slowly his arm unwraps and curls around my shoulders.

"All I can hear," he says quietly, not looking at me, "In my nightmares, is you screaming."

"But I'm safe now," I tell him, squeezing his hand, "See? I'm here, right beside you."

He looks down at me, and then bends to kiss me slowly, his hand cupping my throat, tilting my head up to his.

It's slow, and tender, his soft, slightly chapped lips moving over mine, parting them and deepening the kiss. I just lean into him, letting him guide us, and I feel a rumble leave his throat.

"How did you do this?" he murmurs, breaking the kiss to lean his forehead against mine, "How did you do this to me?"

"I don't know," I say softly, turning to face him completely, my hands gently cupping his cheeks, "But I'm so glad it happened."

He kisses me again, and it's long, slow, deep, like he's tasting my very soul. I lean into him, letting his strong arms curl around my waist, holding me against that hard, lean body.

I don't know how long we stand there, kissing, memorising the feel, the taste, the rightness of being together, before Finnick's voice, unusually gentle, breaks into our reverie.

"Cato, it's time to go."

"No," I whisper against Cato's lips, and he crushes me to him, a hard, passionate kiss that makes me melt against him.

"This isn't the end." He murmurs, when he finally breaks the kiss, leaving me breathless and flushed, "It's just for a little while…and then I'll see you again." He cups my cheek and then he gently kisses me once more. "You'll be living in the Victor's Village, they have telephones. I'll find out your number and call you."

"Cato," I clutch at him, and earn another desperate, almost vicious kiss, before he wrenches himself away.

"No more…" he sounds tormented, and his blue eyes on my face are over bright, "Or I won't be able to let you go home."

Painfully I nod, and he offers me his hand.

Smiling, remembering our jabs about chivalry, and seeing the small smirk on his own lips, he remembers it too, I take his hand in mine and we walk towards the exit.

Together we join Katniss and Peeta, who dutifully join hands, and step out into the cold, air of District 2.

The crowd, gathered there at the station, cheer to see us, cheer for Cato, their golden son, cheer for me, the girl who saved him. We wave and smile; Peeta and Katniss happy just to linger in the periphery, Peeta smiling slightly.

Brutus and Enobaria join us on the platform, waving at the crowd as well, and the spectators cheer for two of their Victors. Enobaria sends Brutus a vicious grin, sharp teeth gleaming, and Brutus rolls his eyes before pushing her before him, down the steps.

"Psychotic bitch." He mutters, loud enough for me and Cato to hear.

I arch an eyebrow at my lover, and grin as Cato shrugs. Now I know where he gets it from.

Insults seem to be a way of displaying affection in District 2.

And then, all too soon it's time to say goodbye. Katniss and Cato shake hands briefly, coldly, and then she disappears back into the train without a backwards look. Peeta offers a handshake too, and Cato rolls his eyes, taking the hand and hauling the younger man in for a strong hug, which the crowd cheers happily. Then he too disappears back into the train.

And now, it's my turn.

Cato turns to me, and I know there are tears in my eyes, because his face softens, and he kisses me gently. We ignore the wild cheering, letting it slip away until it's just us, just our breaths, our heartbeats, our lips together. Eventually the kiss is broken and we stand, our foreheads resting together.

His hand brushes my cheek, stroking away a few stray tears I hadn't even known had fallen and I lift his hand to my lips, kissing it gently.

The train whistle blows and my eyes meet his.

"Time." He says softly and together we walk to the steps up to the train car. He helps me up, but our hands linger together, the palms, then just the fingers, and then just the fingertips touching before they fall apart.

I'm ushered into the train, and the instant Cato is gone from sight, I hurry to the carriage, hurrying to the window.

He's there, standing, waving at the crowd, but he turns, as though he knows I'm there. I press my hand to the glass, eyes welling once more.

And as the train pulls out, he blows me a kiss.

Crying in earnest now, I wave, until the train rounds a bend.

And Cato is gone.


I wake to the echoes of my screams filling the sleeping cabin.

Instantly the door slides open and Peeta and Finnick tumble into the room, Peeta ruffled and blinking blearily, and Finnick, dishevelled and shirtless.

Even gasping from the remnants of the dream, I can't resist a crack.

"Any excuse to get your kit off Finnick?"

"I wouldn't deny you this," he relaxes, and waves a hand over his, admittedly gorgeous, physique, "All the ladies love it."

Peeta shakes his head at him, and then walks over, crouching by the bed.

"I…we…heard you scream." He says softly, "Are you okay?"

"It was just a nightmare." I reply, shaking my head, and running a hand through my hair, feeling the terror sweat beginning to cool on my body, "Sorry to have woken you both."

"I don't need much beauty sleep anyway." Is Finnick's easy response, strolling over and flopping gracefully beside me on the bed, "You probably saved me from oversleeping and looking puffy. So thank you."

I shake my head at him, mirroring Peeta's action from before, and then look at Peeta, crouched before me. "Sorry Peeta."

"I wasn't asleep anyway," he reassures me, a small smile on his lips, "Too many thoughts."

"I don't have that problem." Finnick drawls, and I roll my eyes, elbowing him.

"Obviously."

"You're an ungrateful little heathen," he informs me, even as he cuddles me back against his chest, "No wonder Cato likes you so much."

Peeta snorts and sits up on the edge of the bed.

Wordlessly, Finnick and I shuffle over, and he smiles before curling up on the other side.

"Who'd have thought," he says softly, his fingers gently brushing the hair from my face, "Who'd have thought the pretty little Tribute from 4 would tame the brutal boy from 2."

"I picked it," Finnick, lifts a hand smugly, "And you don't know this Peeta, but I was their relationship counsellor during the initial flirtation stages."

"Initial flirtation stages?" I mutter at him, "Really?"

"You know, the wall slamming, threats, throat grabbing. It was practically a bodice ripping encounter, everytime you saw one another."

Peeta snickers into his pillow, "He was always watching her, growling about how he was going to teach her a lesson."

"Ooh naughty," Finnick smirks down at me, "Has he done it yet?"

"Don't want to know!" Peeta groans before I can answer, "Don't say anything Sky."

"As if I would," I roll my eyes, "And besides…everything has been completely legitimate. Nothing sexual or bodice ripping at all."

"I dunno…I did see that encounter in the woods," Finnick points out, and I blush as I remember that heated make out session.

"You know that went nowhere," I poke him, and settle down between them.

We lay in silence for a little while, Peeta's fingers gently stroking my hair, and my hand slowly rubbing his arm. Finnick watches us both with a smile.

I smile at him, lulled into sleepiness by their proximity.

"I love you Finnick." I murmur and a feel him smile against my forehead as he kisses it.

"Love you too, sweetness." He says back gently, "You're the best little sister a man could wish for."

I feel Peeta nod behind me, and I smile.

Safe, protected, and the memory of the wolves and their slavering jaws disappearing into the warmth, I cuddle into them, and let myself drift asleep.

My last thought before losing consciousness, is that I wish Darrien could have been here too.

And Cato.


The next chapter will feature a jump of a few months...because I doubt you guys want all the nitty gritty of Sky's new life in District 4 as a Victor!

MoonlightDiva – Yes! I'm going to work on the Modern AU tomorrow :D Yay for Zara and Teesa! And hahaa yes lots of messy emotions!

WonderGirl556 – Cato is protective and Sky and Peeta are cute aren't they

Coco2008 – Baha I don't know about being really smart…I'm just doing the Communications degree, doing my thing And aw, thank you…maybe I'll try my hand at it. Cato gets cranky…it happens. And thank you lovely, I'm so honoured I'm your favourite author on FF

CatoSkyOBSESSED – You know I was worried we'd lost you for a bit there! Ahaha yeah the Bitch on fire is fun xD She's not replacing Darrien with him. Darrien and Finnick were always more protective older brothers…whereas Peeta understands Sky on that softer, sympathetic level. I hope Katniss wasn't too grating for you this chapter!

Cookiecrazy224 – The Modern AU is being started tomorrow, in terms of me writing it anyway, no idea when it will be posted. And yay for Rebel!Cato!

RoseMaple – You and your love for Skato! I love it! :D

Loopyloola – I pined Peeta and Sky are like two little peas in a pod. And I liked their dance too ahaha.

Maria – Aw thank you! That's such a huge compliment that you think this one is the best of all. And I'm so glad you like Sky, and don't think she's too sweet. She is sweet but I'm glad you see there is more there. There is a plan! I do have plans, many plans! And ahaha, no, Peeta and Finnick don't see Sky as anything more than their sister. Peeta is so in love with Katniss, and Finnick with Annie, and Sky with Cato. They're just her pillars. Cato doesn't want to abandon Sky with the revolution…but he is back in District 2 for a period of time now. Who knows how he'll feel after that. And yes…Skato are meant to be!

Reviewer08 – Peeta is adorable, and Sky adores him. They've always been soft spotting one another. Cato kind of agrees, but he does have major concerns, that will come up later. Finnick is an awesome big brother, and yes, I can confirm Annie will play a part. In fact she's going to be in the next chapter! Haymitch is so fun. Grumpy old grizzleguts.

Aly91 – Ahaha, they're just very similar in nature. They love and care easily. Sensitive little souls. And yes! The Quarter Quell!

Blackraven88 - Thank you lovely!

Bluetigers – Ah in the description of the garden it's meant to show you come out the door onto the rooftop and then come around the side into the Garden. So you don't really see someone coming when you're in the Garden itself. And Finnick and Sky were occupied.

Cait72 – Thank goodness it worked finally love! Thank you for your lovely comments.

Ravenclaw Slytherin – Thank you! And as you can see, I update quite regularly!

Aumack – I'm so glad you like Peeta and Sky's friendship. I'm very fond of it myself! And yay Haymitch and the Skato dance. Both of those were really fun to write as you can imagine I'm sure!

Luli Cullen – Thank you lovely xoxox

Germany – ergh Snow…creeper.

Aki-blood-dark-princess – You're just going to have to wait and see! That's part of the adventure!

Mt – Nope they don't have what Skato has. But they are cute little friends.

Eve – I'm glad the plot scenes are still interesting. I'd hate it if you guys were bored! And no Cato wasn't on the roof, he was just quiet and came around the side without being seen. Distracted!Finnick and Sky missed it. And Finnick does have deep feelings. Deep big brother protective feelings.

Hahaha – Glad you still find it interesting! I know lots of people tend to tune out fics after the Games end.