A/N – This fic bunny hopped through my mind in the midst of the work on my other fic, Phoenix Rising. It won't leave me alone. I'm posting the first couple of chapters tonight. What do you think? Is it worth it to keep going?
Chapter 1 – The Solo Vacation
Katniss Everdeen shoved her carry-on bag into the overhead compartment. She wanted to kill Jo. This was entirely, 100 per cent Jo's fault. Slamming the compartment door closed, she dropped into the seat below, digging through her pockets for her ipod and cramming the earbuds into her ears. She was nursing a hell of a mood and she needed loud, angry music to get her through it.
She could not believe she was in this situation. She could still hear Jo's wheedling. It had gone on for months before Katniss had finally caved in, if only to shut her up.
Come on, Brainless, you've hardly even been out of the state, let alone out of the country for a vacation. True.
All you've done since I met you is work. Prim is done school. It's time to do something for yourself. She might actually have had a point there.
It'll be fun. Not now, it won't.
We'll lay in the sun. Well, one of them would.
We'll get drunk. Yep, that was definitely on the list, especially after Jo's betrayal.
I'll get laid – because you are both too hopeless and too brainless for that. Well, Jo was definitely getting some. In fact, Jo's sex life was exactly why she was sitting in plane on a direct charter flight to Cancun by herself next to an empty seat instead of her best friend. Two weeks ago, Jo had met a mystery man at the bar where she works. Claiming she was having the best sex of her life, Jo refused to let her hot new guy out of her sights for more than a night or two. A week in Mexico was out of the question and so, she'd bailed out of their trip at the minute.
It was too late to get their money back, and Katniss had all but begged to get a full week off at the environmental engineering firm in Pittsburgh where she worked. Early spring was their busiest time of year and if there hadn't been quite a lot of truth to Jo's assertions that she never took a vacation, her boss would have given her a flat out no.
Jo loved Prim almost as much as Katniss did and would have handed over the tickets to her, but Prim was too new at the hospital where she worked, leaving Katniss stuck on a plane with about 200 other disgustingly happy people. On. Her. Own. As soon as she got back, she was shopping for a new best friend.
The problem was that Jo was almost her only friend. The two of them had been paired as roommates in their freshman year at the state university where Katniss had secured a full scholarship. They had fought incessantly for the first term. Jo was loud and crude and brought guys back to their dorm room, leaving Katniss to sleep on a couch in the common room. Katniss was introverted to the point of being anti-social and entirely focused on keeping her scholarship and finishing school as fast as she could. At best, they tolerated each other.
That all changed when they got back to school after Christmas and discovered they'd both had lousy vacations at home that year. Jo still refuses to talk about what happened back home in Oregon. Katniss had been forced to institutionalize her mother when she discovered that Ana Everdeen had hardly left her bed in the four months Katniss had been away at school. Years of depression had finally gotten the best of her. Fourteen-year-old Prim had been sullen, jealous of her sister's new life and undernourished after all that time living on mac and cheese and ramen noodles. So Katniss had broken their lease, packed up the apartment and Hazelle Hawthorne had agreed to take Prim in until Katniss could come up with a plan for her little sister.
Unfortunately, that penultimate trip to Panem had also meant the end of her life-long friendship with Hazelle's oldest son, Gale. On the last day before she left to go back to school, he'd declared his feelings for her were more than the brother-sister relationship that Katniss had always prized. He'd been angry and hurt that she'd pushed away from him when he'd mistaken her shock and silence at his declaration as permission to lay a less-than-brotherly kiss on her lips.
Katniss had returned to campus with a plan to get a job and an apartment for her and Prim as soon as classes were done for the term. Jo returned with a vow to never return to her hometown.
"We'll both get jobs and well our own place, Brainless. Some little two bedroom between campus and a school. Your sister can room in with you. We'll make our own family."
And that's exactly what they'd done for nearly eight years. Jo had gotten them both fake IDs (Katniss had never asked her how) so they could get jobs at the Hob, a bar near campus. The tips had been decent and while Katniss had the added expense of Prim to worry about, Jo had helped to share the burden of watching over a teenager living in the city for the first time. It hadn't been easy, but the three of them had made it work and when Prim crossed the stage at her graduation from nursing school, Jo and Katniss were cheering her on from the seats designated for her family.
These days, Jo was managing the Hob while she worked on her graduate degree and Katniss had taken the job at Abernathy Environmental. Now that Prim was out on her own, Katniss was at loose ends. She had empty-nest syndrome and she wasn't even 30 years old.
Truth be told, she'd been bored and lonely for months. Jo was more than a little fed up with her "pissy mood," and this trip was supposed to be the cure. So, she supposed she wouldn't be right to get a new best friend after all they'd been through. Anyway, it was just too hard to train another roommate.
Well into the three-hour flight to Cancun, Katniss peered down the aisle looking for the flight attendant with the drink cart. She found her closer to the front, tossing her golden locks over her shoulder, clearly flirting with a blond man. Katniss watched as the flight attendant started to pour him a beer in a disposable cup that he appeared to decline. Instead, she passed him the can before working her way up the rest of the aisle, handing out snacks and beverages. Katniss was pulling out her earbuds so she could order her drink when a second flight attendant, this one a red head with a pointy face that reminded Katniss of a fox, approached and picked up a thermal carafe that most likely contained coffee. She placed one manicured hand on the side.
"Is it hot?"
The blonde looked up and quirked her eyebrow. "Yes. Very," she said as she smoothly passed pretzels to the young couple in the seat in front of Katniss, taking their drink orders.
Katniss smothered a chuckle. She and Jo were masters of subtle girl talk. They'd had to be with a teenager in the house, and while Katniss had occasionally 'worked late' the conversations had usually been about Jo's love life.
"Has everyone up front got what they need?"
"For now," said the blonde, smothering a sly grin as she passed pretzels to the couple on the other side of the aisle. "I have some information I expect the man in 12A will want a little later."
Katniss accepted her pretzels and looked up to see the top of 12A's head weaving down the aisle toward them. The next thing she noticed was how blue his eyes seemed to be. She'd only ever known one guy with eyes like that. Katniss felt a prickle on the back of her neck. No. It couldn't be possible.
But not only was it possible, it was real. Peeta Mellark was standing only three feet away and his baby blues were trained directly on her.