Fandom: The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins
Story Title: "Pure (Five Times Peeta Wasn't)"
Character/Relationships: Peeta/Katniss (implied); Peeta/Madge, Peeta/Delly, Peeta/Bristel; Madge/Gale (mentioned).
Warnings: Spoilers for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire. Sexual content and language.
Notes: This was inspired by a conversation I had with a friend about Peeta's tone when he tells Katniss, "You're so pure" in Catching Fire. Why isn't Peeta? What changed for him between THG and CF?
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. All characters, settings, and proprietary language are owned by the author of the work from which this is derived.
Pure (Five Times Peeta Wasn't)
It was a week before Madge came knocking.
The Mellark family had just finished moving all of their belongings into the house in the Victors' Village, and already Peeta missed sharing a room with his brothers, the sound of breathing filling the night. He missed the cave, even. He missed –
No. That wasn't real. None of it.
And anyway, he could see her out the window, struggling to lift a rickety bedframe, Prim at the other side. He could offer to help them.
She wouldn't take it, anyway. She didn't need him.
So Peeta sat in his windowsill, framed in blue cotton curtains, knocking his false foot against the baseboards as hard as he could, trying to feel something – anything – and failing, but liking the hard clunking sound all the same. Thud. Thud. If he looked across the street, he could see Haymitch stumbling around in his own cottage, which was the mirror image of the Mellarks'. A kitchen on the right instead of the left. A staircase going down instead of up.
Peeta didn't look across the way, and he didn't look at the way Prim laughed as she tried to keep from getting all tangled up in a needy Buttercup as she moved boxes into the house next door. He watched Madge Undersee come up his walkway instead, her blonde hair loose around her shoulders and tied away from her face with a white bow. Madge was always clean and wore white.
And then she was in his room, in a clean white dress and her blue coat folded over her arm. Hi, Peeta. She lifted a deck of cards. I brought – I just thought you might want company.
Madge was always sweet to him. Even when she didn't have to be. It was never life or death with Madge and Peeta; she never got a prize for giving him a smile. "Thanks."
So Peeta cast a last look out the window – yellow curtains, yellow-eyed mangy cat – and sat across the rug from Madge, smiling softly at him under her white halo. Beggar-My-Neighbor? she asked, and Peeta nodded, pushing his getting-too-long hair out of his eyes.
She didn't make him speak, as they laid down hands. She didn't ask him about what happened in the Arena, either with the Careers or – or in the cave, she didn't ask him how it felt to be dying. Or what it cost to watch someone else die. She didn't ask about flowers or mockingjays. She teased him for playing a two against an eight, and gleefully flaunted her diminishing stack of cards when she faced down four cards to a penalty.
Her last card went to cover his queen, because he had nothing left.
Peeta took her thin wrists – breakable? No; this wasn't that world anymore, he didn't have to – in his hands and Madge looked up at him, her cheeks rosy and her blue eyes bright. And he kissed her.
Her mouth was warm and her lips soft, and it was an easy kiss, without weight. It was easy to breathe in her clean lavender soap scent and it was easy to let her push his shirt off his shoulders and it was easy to unbutton the long row down the back of her dress. It might not have been – before – but it was easy to lift Madge and carry her to the bed, and it was easy to laugh with her when his unfeeling foot got caught on the rug and they tumbled. It was easy to smile at Madge.
Madge had a soft body, all pale skin that had never seen work or violence and knew a little pampering. Not like anything from the Capitol, she hadn't been Polished or waxed clean or perfected. She didn't have any training muscles or – defenseless? No; this wasn't that world anymore, he didn't have to –
"I know I'm not – " Madge mumbled, white and pink against his dark bedclothes.
"No," Peeta said softly. He bent his head to kiss her. "I like it." It. You. Not her. This. Real. One hand between her legs, and Madge arched up towards him, pressing the length of her soft body against his hard Victor's body, all of its scars Polished away except the rosy-gold seam where his new leg met his hip, numb numb numb pain hot hot hot from his toes up to his head.
Madge curled her arms around his shoulders and played with the ends of his hair, measuring it between thin fingertips that knew how to do things like sew and draw and unwrap foils from sweets. I like you, Peeta.
Peeta considered Madge below him, a light smile on his lips. She was kind. She was District 12. She was blonde and fair and soft and pretty and blue-eyed and girlish and didn't sing songs and didn't shoot arrows and she was the source of the Mockingjay pin. "I like you, too."
Peeta had two older brothers and had heard every word and play in the book, but he still didn't really know what he'd been expecting, really. Maybe something more. Maybe something less. Madge's legs curled around his thighs, pulling him in higher and closer and deeper and for half of Peeta, she was warmer than warm and soft and strong and just… right. And for Peeta's other half, she was nothing at all.
When she was leaving, Peeta handed her a cloth-wrapped loaf of crisp pumpkin bread, and only wondered later if he would ever stop thinking that kisses and kindness earned rewards. She pressed her soft lips to his cheek, smiling and oblivious, and thanked him for the afternoon. And after Madge had gone, Peeta's father gave him a second loaf of bread and told him he should take it next door, new neighbors, of course, take it to; maybe it's not too late for; go on, Peeta.
Peeta walked out the door and felt… not quite like the world was new. Nothing would affect him like that, not after the Hunger Games. But the air felt brisk and cold and good and he could tell winter was coming, and he brought the loaf of pumpkin bread to Haymitch instead.
The next time, they were in Madge's bedroom up at the Undersee manor, and Peeta was surrounded in a sea of pink and white and silhouettes of the mockingjay. Madge pushed his face down between her legs this time and scrubbed her light fingers through his too-long hair and dug her heels into his shoulders, and he felt her that time. He dropped kisses on her skin along a random path – a rib, a nipple, over the pulse in her neck – before fitting himself to her again and that time he asked,
"It's not new – I mean you've, you've done this before?"
Madge nodded and shuddered, hips moving with his and legs tucking up along his sides. Gale Hawthorne, she offered, like it was a normal thing to say right now, like it wouldn't rip Peeta's fucking heart out. While you were gone.
While She was gone.
It was always Gale Hawthorne.
"I always thought – I mean, I wished – well, I mean, I thought, maybe, I hoped it would be you," stammered Delly Cartwright, her white face glowing red in a fierce blush as Peeta kissed the side of her neck. Delly was round and soft, like Peeta had been before the Games, before training, just… before. He didn't mind it. She was familiar even when this was new.
Peeta smiled. Delly's fingers dug into the new dimples at the base of Peeta's spine. "No more pretending I'm your brother, then?"
Delly laughed, and Peeta was glad that he was able to make her laugh still. He'd always been so quick with a joke before. He kissed her mouth, smiling against her smile and their teeth clinking together, which made them laugh more, and Peeta – Peeta was really okay.
Peeta sucked kisses like posy-red bruises into Delly's white skin as he mapped out the wide curves of her body, learning just how different one girl could be from another. He kissed his soft way up Delly's arm and thought that her freckles should taste different than Madge's clear skin like cream. He tucked his mouth between her flexing legs and tasted the same ash and lime but Delly was different, less like saltwater in sunlight and more like ice beneath the moon.
He gasped and jerked when Delly pushed him onto his back and licked at him. Madge had never done that. No one had ever done that. He pushed up into her mouth and the heat of it, and the surprise and the look in her eyes as she stared up at him, made him come. Delly spit him out in a blue handkerchief and smiled like she was embarrassed and pleased with herself all at once.
Well, Peeta laughed, rolling back over her and cuddling down against her, measuring the softness of her breasts against his chest. That was unexpected.
"And you haven't – " Delly asked. "Not even during the Games, with – "
"No," Peeta said sharply. You'd have seen it. It would have gotten great ratings.
And he kissed her mouth to keep her from talking any more. He slid a finger into her, trying to remember how Madge had shown him. Delly made a little squeak! and Peeta kissed the place where his finger disappeared into her, licking at her while he pushed another finger in and she squeaked again. She was almost too tight around his fingers; no room to move. He kissed her hip and liked the spidery pink-white lines that spanned her skin. Victors had no scars. The Capitol had wiped them away, like all of the rest of the evidence of anything that happened.
Delly's fingers clutched hard at his shoulder and Peeta smiled into her wrist. He nipped at it playfully and slid up her body, hard again. He slipped his fingers from inside her and meant to smooth down her hair, a little comforting touch while he pushes into her for the first time – because he's never done that, either, never been the first one inside a girl, and he doesn't really think that he ever will be again, actually; maybe it's lingering from the Games, this feeling like he's hovering on the edge of a precipice and he has exactly one chance to do everything and it had better count – but when he raised his hand to the side of her yellow-gold head, his two fingers were stained dark pink. Like nightlock. There was a thin streak of her blood running down his wrist and forearm, following a path like he'd slit his wrist.
There was blood under his fingernails.
I'm sorry, he murmured gently, nuzzling Delly's ear while he pushed into her all the same. She had said she'd always hoped it'd be him, after all. I didn't realize.
"It's okay," Delly said softly, her voice high and tight in her chest as she got used to it, the feeling of this foreign thing, this invading thing, inside her. I didn't tell you.
Peeta rubbed his thumb across her lip and blinked down at her. He pressed his body down against hers, heavy and close and the base of him pushed in just a little more and his weight pressed the right way there – just there – and he rolled his hips against hers without moving much, keeping himself in deep. He looked at the blood on his hand as his fingers wrapped around the slats in her headboard and he twisted, pushing her further into the mattress.
He pressed his lips to her ear and whispered dark words, secrets. When she clenched tight around him – not quite an orgasm, her body wasn't ready for that yet, not like this – he smiled to himself. Everything Peeta knew about sex had taught him that it was borne of blood and secrets.
Peeta bit at Bristel's shoulder, moving into her so hard and fast that her head went crashing into the headboard and the headboard into the wall, thud thud thud thud thud. It had been so easy. All he'd needed to say, leaning against that post outside The Hob, eating a pastry, was I'm a Victor. As if she hadn't known. Everyone wanted the Victors. The Capitol had run a program with Finnick Odair and three fancy ladies just the night before.
Peeta had scratches down his back and a dark, purple, mouth-shaped bruise on his chest; Bristel's dark Seam skin was covered in his bite marks. They would fade in a day. She would have bruises, too, inside her thighs where his hips crashed into her over and over and over, and those would take longer to disappear.
For at least a week, every day that she descended into the mines with Gale Hawthorne, she would feel the dull sting of those bruises inside her legs. Remnants of Peeta Mellark.
The next morning, Peeta would be embarking on the Victory Tour. He would play the part again, Sweet Peeta Mellark, Pure, The Boy In Love, The Boy On Fire (For A Girl). He was gentle – his only kill an accident, and he still suspected that Foxface had been too smart to make a mistake… what had happened that she decided that was the day to die? – and he was charming and good. He would play that role again. The part of the boy he'd been before the Games.
Maybe it wouldn't be so difficult. He could still make Delly laugh and he took care of Haymitch and he still always lost to Gale Hawthorne.
But he wasn't that boy. The Peeta before the Games would never have known about soft, wide, freckled limbs. Or blonde hair cascading over his pillow. Or hands covered in coal dust that got caught in the pink scrapes dragged down his back.
Before the Games, Peeta dreamed of one body, compact and dark and small-breasted and strong, and now, in the dark before the start of the Victory Tour, he wonders about her again. He wonders if her nipples as as dark as Bristel's were against her blue-brown Seam skin. If they were small and hard, like Madge, or pale and big and swollen-fat and sensitive, like Delly. He wonders whether she is still waxed and Polished clean and what she tastes like down below, if she tastes like wind through leaves or like rain outside a small, cozy cave or like poison, like nightlock.
He wonders if Gale had her first, if Gale knows all her secrets. Or whether she'd bleed if he pushed too hard.
He's almost completely asleep and he's thrusting lazily against his mattress, not really trying to get off, just trying to feel. In the morning, he would be Peeta Mellark, the first Victor to win happiness.
Tonight, he's just Peeta, all alone in his cold bed in the Victor's Village. In the corner of his room, the blue curtains flutter, and his soft breath fills the room.