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Portia walked away, a riot of finitely controlled impatient annoyance, hands balled up in the wings of extra fabric in her strange shaped shirt. Barely managing his mocking-kindness as he'd given her directions to his parents' bakery. Not that she hadn't been before, in the waves of interviews and recordings during the first weeks of their return to District 12, but he never expected them to remember this world.

He didn't consider it his anymore anyway.


The bakery.



He didn't live with his family in the bakery, and they didn't live with him in the house in Victor's Village. It was an icy divide that was only occasionally breached by his brothers. Or his own melancholy need.







"You should be nicer to her."

Peeta was surprised, by the way of further annoyed, to see Cinna standing on the steps to Katniss's house. Watching him with a stillness that meant he might have been there the whole time. Since the door slammed open all through everything he'd said. Which made him feel more culpable, and angry for caring. At the whole conversation had and before it; people snooping into their lives again.

"She should stop thinking she gets a vote, then."

"She's trying to make this easier on you," he replied, walking toward Peeta's own yard, where he was standing, unmoving. A stripling tree, wide, with its own sunny top, but not ground well. How he glanced around, tension at the edges of his eyes, as though to make sure no one else was going to pop out from the house next door.

"Right." Was sharp, but he hadn't stepped back toward his house. "And you're what? Her defender? What exactly is going on between the two of you?"

Cinna stopped not too far from him, eyebrows raised in a way Peeta associated purely with either his father's often silent, but all too expressive face, implicating his temper, or the pause right before Haymitch's drunken, corrosive laughter would exploded.

It was game even when Cinna replied. "I haven't asked you how the two of you are doing, either."

"That isn't any of your business. Why do-"

"You're right. It isn't. Or at least it shouldn’t be." He agreed, right over Peeta trying to continue on. "But you've made it everyone's business now. The both of you."

Peeta rolled his eyes, even though his gaze shifted, noting that Portia had finally gotten out of sight of Victor's Village. He wondered what she made of the shops, starting first with the Candy store. Which was a fond favorite of most people, but it was still ramshackle compared to even the smallest, most underwhelming, store he'd seen in the Capitol.

Anything. Anything that was not focusing on the razor sharp divide between what the whole of Panem thought of Star-Crossed Lovers and The Truth About Katniss and Peeta, the one the summer, and the whole of District 12, was clear on.

"They'll find something more interesting. It won't take them long."

"Don't bet on that. Finnick is still everyone’s pretty boy even now, when he might be pretty but he's nowhere near a boy now. And all he did was win."

It's hard for Peeta tell if the drift in Cinna's voice is apologetic or rebuke. It's edged in sardonic resignation, but there was something else in it, too. And he hates that he knows how true it is. How they'll both have to invert all these truths when the train comes for them in the winter.

Be what they made themselves and not who they were.
They would never get off on just being the winners of The Game.

And he knew he was as wild, now, not knowing who he was, as Katniss was in the beginning.

"It's why she's holding off. And why she's here. We aren't required to be," Cinna added.



Peeta knew he'd been too quiet for too long when a response was required.

Finnick. And Portia, who'd been trying to convince him to paint one 'nice' painting.



But the follow up was confusing, and his brows furrowed as he looked back to the man, who in all his sharp black clothing still looked nothing like his own city. No animalistic or jewel-like implants or dying of his skin or hair. No blatant greed or star-struckness in his eyes. His clothes nice, but subdue for his world. For the costumes and facades he birthed.

"How long do you think you honestly have left, Peeta?

Before they drag you back up on those stages, dressed as their new favorite characters, and push you back into a couch together? Relive the glory of your miracle romance? Start calling for your engagement? Planning your wedding? Gifting you a house in the city? Asking for populace wide suggestions on the names of your children?"

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Peeta Mellark | Victor of the 74th Hunger Games

August 2015

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