This is for the lovely TomiStaccato, who asked me to take her on a Victory Tour for her birthday. You are radiant, my friend!

Disclaimer: I do not own THE HUNGER GAMES trilogy. It belongs to Suzanne Collins. I merely want to spend more time with her characters.

Music: "Tied Knots" by The Album Leaf.


District 11: Scream

She wanted to. She opened her mouth, but the shrieks of everyone else got there first, stampeding across her tongue and clogging her throat. The old man's head hit the pavement right before the Justice Building's doors closed.

In the midst of that cataclysmic moment came another: Peeta's fingers forming a protective net beneath her elbow, keeping her from fainting, leading her through nowhere halls and up nothing stairs with his everything hand. She concentrated on his bracketed knuckles and firm wrist, because that old man's death had incited this moment—this Peeta-touch—and all she could think was Thank you and I'm sorry. Because that's how Katniss loved Peeta, with something like guilt and everything like desperation. And as usual, it made her so very quiet.


District 10: Lie

Katniss didn't they could afterward, but they did, and they did good job. They kept up their over-two-hundred-miles-an-hour train pace and rolled out onto the next platform, a pair of victors primped and beauty-based for display. During the ceremony, he said…and then she said…and then they said…and, well, it was one more for the crowd. As if the last district didn't happen. But as if they—the star-crossed lovers—did happen.


District 9: Taste

It was similar to that first sweet spark of hot chocolate, the sensation of watching Peeta gaze out the window as they passed the wheat fields. This place was known for grain, a reminder of home, of flour and bread, which made him relax for a while. His features took a break from pretending that he loved her back, while Katniss sat across from him and studied what not wantingher looked like on his face.

It wasn't hard to do, carrying her feelings around all by herself. She'd been doing it since day he tossed her that first loaf. That first antidote to hunger.

Though she wished someone would have warned her, back then, that the satiation wouldn't last. That it was only temporary. That the hunger never truly went away.


District 8: Feel

What a textile can do. Caress the skin, boast confidence, put on a show. Cinna's silks and satins accomplished the major task of making her look pretty.

The only time she resented his talent was during dinner, when he tailored a green tie for Peeta. Embarrassed, she imagined what Cinna must have suggested to Peeta in the dressing room: It will make Katniss happy.


District 7: Break

She hadn't seen it coming. It overtook her when they stopped for fuel and she stepped outside for some air. In the distance, dandelions grew amongst the forests trees. White, fuzzy heads bowed to her, but the gesture felt like a tease, like nature mocking her for associating flowers with that boy. The first bloom of spring, the flowers she'd picked for him outside the first train, shortly after the Games.

The closer we are to home, the more confused I get, he'd confessed.

Katniss searched the grass, but there weren't any dandelions close enough to the station to take her bitterness out on. Instead, she found a thin branch dangling limply from a split tree. The branch was a decent substitute. It was just as easy to bend in half, and on the plus side, the snap was much more satisfying.


District 6: Stay

When he asked her, she whispered her answer: a word that he was too drowsy with exhaustion to hear. It hung in the air with no place to land, just like a massive lump hung in her throat. All the while he clung to her in bed, and her small frame balanced his weight.


District 5: Wait

Until the next platform. Until the next dance. Until the sun set. Until he called out for her. Until the tears. Until their sweat broke. Until the sun rose. Until the next shot. Until the people revolted—and so did her heart. Until she was free—or until she freed herself. Until the world stopped watching. Until they saw past the act. Until they knew. Until it was over—or until she went home. Until he released her hand. Until he walked away, back to the bakery, not needing her anymore.


District 4: Sleep

With his head nestled against her breasts and his shoulders sheltered in her arms. Usually, Katniss was able to get in a few peaceful hours like this, drifting into a chasm made less harrowing because of his presence. The moisture across his hairline. The masculine breaths stroking her nightgown. The strong fingers unconsciously gripping private girlish places, though those places secretly belonged to him anyway.

But tonight, the room swayed over the tracks, and beyond that came the spectacular sound of the ocean, roaring its way into her ears. The thrust of the surf was affecting her in an unexpected way. Specifically, in a wet spot that made her blush and kept her wide awake.


District 3: Come

Him first. Katniss devoted herself to this promise as she moved above Peeta and considered how they'd gotten here. One minute, they were whispering. The next, they grew impulsive. Hands reached out and hips strained for friction.

She'd hesitated, wanting this to be real. But Peeta had needed her, and if it helped with another of his nightmares, all right then. How could she deny him?

Besides, there was nothing sexier than him sprawled under her, his lips pleading Fuck me. Or the way his mouth opened in a silent ahhh when their bodies connected, and he was inside her, going ballistic between her legs.

As the train rocked through a landscape of factories, she studied his expression in the inky darkness, a mixture of slack-jawed bliss and greed. Beautiful, painful greed.

Which is why she was surprised when he held out, determined for her to get there before he did.


District 2: Kiss

Peeta whimpered, his hands clasping her bobbing head to his abdomen. He hadn't asked for this, nor did he have to.

Although something she'd overhead Haymitch say to Peeta at the beginning of the tour had been blistering her mind more and more lately: "You could do a lot worse."

Katniss frowned, her jaw clenching for a second.

Her name ground out from his mouth, arching and springing off his lips. Mmm. At that moment, he sounded as though he couldn't do better.

His cries ebbed away, followed by a light jolt and a gasp as she pecked the rounded tip of his body. A little kiss to apologize for the fact that she'd almost bitten him.


District 1: Speak

Of course. The same thing. That one word.

"Always" came out cracked and lonely and, frankly, a bit tired. But it didn't lose its meaning.

After she released "Always" from her chest, Katniss closed her eyes. She sank into dreams, certain that he hadn't heard her again.

This time, Peeta waited until her breathing settled into a rhythm before opening his eyes.


District 12: Hope

That someday they will forget, even though there are parts that she doesn't want to forget. The tasting, the sleeping, the kissing, the coming, and the speaking.

They pulled into the station and accepted the cheers from familiar faces. When the speech was done and the crowd broke up, her fingers slipped from his—might as well be the leaver instead of the left. Besides, Peeta had been acting strange the last couple of days, casting her sidelong glances but not saying much. Perhaps he was getting confused once more, like on that first train bound for home.

Katniss figured it was time to give up on feeling. It wasn't worth the screaming or the lying or the breaking or the staying or the waiting.

She headed toward the platform steps, eager to return to her family.

Peeta stopped her, taking her by the elbow just as he had back in Eleven. "Katniss?"

Then he did something he never had before. He touched her braid, tracing the threaded locks like he'd also never seen them before.

Sometimes never felt more hopeful than always.

His fingertips swept down to the ribbon holding the braid in place. He double knotted the ties the way she liked it. It was a habit of hers, one that she hadn't expected him to ever notice.

"It, it was unraveling," he said with a careful smile.

His gaze caught her attention, telling her a million things at once. There was a new slant to his eyes, which blossomed in her like a seed and made her smile back. Encouraged, he slowly massaged the end of the braid between his thumb and forefinger, cupped her cheek with his free hand, and rested his forehead against hers as if he had all day. As if they were still in front of a crowd.

Even though they were very much alone.

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