The cameras were everywhere.
When they got of the train they were greeted by the media, as they had known it would happen. Of course, the people of District 12 had gathered, too, but Katniss couldn’t see beyond the reporters. She knew she had one of these horribly unconvincing smiles plastered over her face that wasn't her and when Peeta grabbed her hand a little more firmly, she looked up to see that he was smiling like that, too. He was more convincing, of course. He always had been, but this time she knew enough to know it was fake.
We’re together in this, she thought to herself. Even if I have hurt him, we still have to play the game. It's not over, yet
And all their lives where still on the line.
She wanted her family: Prim and even her mother. They were all that she had really left in this world. But she obediently smiled into the cameras to keep them save.
Pictures of the happy couple were taken in front of the train. Just keep it up till the cameras are gone, she repeated to herself like a mantra and felt like the worst kind of liar. Had all the champions felt like that?
Beside her Peeta smiled into the cameras as charming as always. Ther was no telloing how much she had hurt him, too, by playing the game, by saving both their lives. Only she had known how much of their history was only make-believe.
She couldn't have gone on pretending. But would their have been a way to keep his friendship at least?
Without his love she would be dead. Without her he would be dead, too. They had been through so much that now she wanted to hold on to the connection. She wanted to really know the boy with the bread, the boy who had loved her and been ready to die for her without ever really knowing her. He'd saved her twice now and she just knew that she could never make it up to him. She just wasn't that kind of person.
But how could she ever make him see that? How could they ever figure out what was real and what wasn’t? They had been playing a layered game were the truth could have ruined all their chances of survival. And what was the truth, anyway? If they wanted to be friends they would have to start over, a clean start, shoving everything that millions of viewers had seen on their TV screens aside and start with just being Peeta and Katniss. Looking at the hordes of reporters, she had a distinct feeling it was too late for that.
Their families were standing behind the crowd of fussing media people. Suddenly there was only a feeling of relief to see Prim and her mother. Gale was standing a little to the side with his family, but right in the centre of attention. It made her nerves tingle with fear.
Peeta stiffened a little when he looked over and she pressed his hand hard.
His own family was gathered, too, and letting her gaze wander over their faces, Katniss felt a pang at the realization that she barely knew anything about them. The baker smiled at her, warm and friendly like the day he had come to see her off to the games. She could see were Peeta got it from. Did their families understand what they had done, that all of the romance had been her performing for an audience of sponsors, Capital viewers and even the Gamemakers? Or did Peeta's family see her son come home as the victor with an unexpected bride?
The moment to let go of Peeta’s hand was drawing nearer. But at the moment it was still like holding on to a lifeline and Katniss was just not ready to let go. If she let go now she'd never set things right between them. And they had both won, had both survived. Surely it wouldn't just end like this?
“Welcome home!” Prim shouted and started running towards her.
She could feel tears forming in her own eyes. When she had left, she had thought she’d never see her little sister again.
It was Peeta who let go of her hand, so she could catch Prim in her arms.
It was fitting that it should be so. The games were over and they would go back to their slightly changed lives. She was hugging Prim to her chest and they were both crying a little, shielding their faces from the cameras and pulling apart before the media could make a scene out of it.
This is home, she thought. This is what counts.
Prim was alive and so was she.
The Hunger Games were over.
She looked over to Peeta who had shielded them a little from the cameras. There was something unreadable in his normally so open eyes and she nodded at him.
Just keep it up till the cameras are gone.
Maybe the connection was lost, but they were still a team fighting for survival.
Nothing would change that.