Summary: Katniss is in a toxic and abusive relationship with the Seam's local bad boy: Gale Hawthorne. She tries hard to cover up what's going on, but one day the local bakery boy finds out what is happening to her. Can he teach her what real love is, or will she forever be broken? Slightly AU. Neither Katniss or Peeta were reaped.

Chapter 1: Angels With Dirty Faces

I winced at the blaring sound the door made when he slammed it. Trying in vain, I breathed deeply in an attempt to calm my ever so building nerves.

"KATNISS! KATNISS?" he yelled deafeningly. I silently prayed in my head that the neighbors can't hear him. He gets so choleric when our neighbors ask if we are ok, if something happened.

"KATNISS!" he screeched again.

If he's drunk…. This will turn out ugly.

I almost laugh at my thoughts.

Whether Gale has been drinking or not, it doesn't matter all that much. Either way, when he's in an irate mood, things will end badly.

Once I have collected my thoughts, I leave my bedroom and nervously take several steps down the staircase.

"Yes, Gale?" I hear myself shyly sputter. I silently curse at myself for sounding so weak.

Loud and pronounced footsteps stop from the kitchen towards the stairs. When his body comes within my sight, I have to remind my self that I need to stay collected. I cautiously watch his movements, and almost gasp when his head snaps up, and his eyes bore into mine.

"Why the FUCK did it take you, so damn long TO ANSWER ME?" Gale angrily questioned me.

In this moment, I want nothing more than to run far far away; and hopefully, never come back. But I don't. I can't. Something keeps me here, with Gale, every night.

I choke back the building anxiety and calmly say, "Oh, sorry Gale. I was upstairs. I don't think I heard you the first time."

It was a brave attempt, but from the manic look on his face, he knows that I'm fibbing.

"Katniss, Katniss, Katniss," He says in a mock-disapproving voice.

He begins to climb up the stairs to the top stair, where I sit. He casually sits down next to me, and then he starts to trace my face with his left hand.

"Good wives should always be waiting patiently for their husbands to come home. They should have a hot dinner ready to be eaten. You haven't done that yet," He states to me, and I unconsciously gulp, "You have been very very naughty… And you must be punished.

Then a sadistic smile climbs onto his face. That sick smile he always wears. The smile he wears before he does something unforgettable to me. It was that smile that I have learned to fear the most.

"G-Gale," I say meekly as I try to push his hand off my face, "Please… The bruises…. The bruises from last time still haven't healed. It's going to be harder for me to cover up new ones, and people are going to become suspicious. Please, can we just go to sleep?"

As soon as I finish, I receive a hard smack to the back of my head - that is his answer.

"Now listen here, Katniss," He spits my name out like venom. He the roughly grabs my hair in both of his hands, "You don't get to call the shots. Ya hear? You're the bitch in the relationship. I am the man. This is normal, Katniss. Why do you keep on insisting that I should submit to everything you want? Where did you learn to be so fucking selfish?"

"I… I… Don't…" I look down at my hands, not knowing what to say.

Am I really being selfish? Maybe I have been nagging Gale too much. Yes, that must be it. He has been under a lot of stress lately. I reason to myself. I decide that I am the one in the wrong, and I need to stop causing him so many problems. He works hard to keep the both of us alive, and I just act like he does nothing.

I look into his steel grey eyes and begin to apologize, "I'm so sorry Gale," I wrap my arms around him, "I don't know what has gotten into me. Please, will you forgive me?" I ask sincerely.

He glares at me with a triumphant smirk, leans down so his lips are grazing my ear, and whispers, "Maybe, we'll see."

Then, out of nowhere, he grabs me from my sitting position, flings me over his shoulder, than makes his way towards our bed. He then drops me onto the bed, and proceeds to climb on top of me. We had some really rough sex the other day, and I am not physically or emotionally ready for another round.

"Gale," I whimper, "I don't know if I feel up to sex tonight."

He then raises his arm and then backhands my face. I let out a yelp, as my body flies to the other side of the bed. He slithers his way to me, and then he begins to kiss my neck.

"Katniss," He says in-between kisses, "You don't get to make this decision. Just shut up and take it like a good little whore."

His words sting me. Suddenly, my eyesight becomes blurry, and I try my hardest to keep the tears from falling - crying will only make him more upset. After only thirty seconds I accidentally let out a sniffle. Thankfully, he mistakes the sound for a noise of pleasure.

"Yes, you are a good little whore." He repeats once again.

I cannot help it anymore. Tears begin to slowing stream down my face, and onto his body. He grunts with discontent when they make contact with his skin.

"Why are you crying?" He asks coldly, void of any sympathy.

"I-I'm sorry, Gale. I just… Don't want to have sex, tonight." I shakily reply.

He lets out an irate noise, and then he bites down, hard, on my neck. My lips release a sharp cry of agony when he teeth rip into the sensitive skin on my neck.

"DAMMIT KATNISS!" he yells in pure frustration, "Honestly, how fucking hard is it for you to just lie on your goddamn back and take it?"

Before I can reply, I punches several times on my stomach, arm, and thigh. I try to curl up in pain; however, his hands grasp my body and rip off my clothes. I choke back my now ever so cascading tears, because I know at this point, it's useless to resist.

"Please don't be too aggressive," I quietly ask.

"Oh, Katniss," He remarks, "I will be as rough as I choose to be, and you will enjoy it."

And with that, he unzips his pants, pulls his stiff member out, and the pushes my mouth onto him.

While he continues to press my head up and down, he states, "Tonight, I'm going to fuck the shit out of you."

He then grins wickedly. I know that I am in for another night in hell.

The slight light coming through the window wakes me up. I slowly begin to sit up against the head board, I grimace moderately while doing so. I tensely glance down at my naked moody. I allow myself to release a tiny sigh of dismay. The skin covering my stomach has several patches of black and blue on it, my legs have small chaotic scratches, and my face… Well I don't really want to know what my face looks like.

I slide off my edge of the bed, being particularly careful to not wake Gale up, and then I make my way over to my dresser.

I pull out a bra, a pair of panties, a green shirt, and a pair of dark grey jeans. Then I soundlessly sneak my way into the bathroom that's connected to our bedroom. Once inside, I just shake my head at the mirror as I stare at the reflection of my face. On my left cheek, I have a nasty purple bruise, several red patches are visible directly under my left eye, and I have a savage bite mark on my neck.

I turn the faucet on and begin to wash my face. Finally, when my face is washed and dried, I whip out my many different types of concealers, and begin to paint away my marks of mistreatment. I then begin to change into my clothes, once I have finished applying my cover up.

I head down the stairs and into the kitchen. My cooking skills really are not that great, and Gale lets me know this every single night. I have just never been one that enjoys to cook, paint, bake, or anything that isn't around the lines of being an athletic hobby.

That's what had attracted me to Gale in the first place. The two of us met years ago in the forbidden woods, and we soon became reliant on each other's skills. We were both so alike. We are both so alike; unfortunately though, once we got married, Gale completely exercised his alpha-male status. I should have stopped him way back then, but at that time I was too naive, I was too much of a pleaser, and (at that time) too in love.

It's funny. Gale and I aren't technically married. We had never actually signed any legal documents at the Justice Building, but instead we only committed the ceremonious toasting in this house.

I turned on a burner on the stove, and placed a pan on top of it. When it became hot, I cracked three eggs onto the pan, and then I began to continuously stir them until they were fully cooked. I placed the eggs onto a round yellow plate, and as an aftertouch, I through on a small pinch of salt.

I placed the plate onto the dinning room table, and then headed outside the house. I had been secretly saving money for the past four months, and as a treat, I decided to buy myself a pastry or two from District Twelve's local bakery.

Mellark's Bakery was practically heaven on earth, well, a very expensive version of heaven. People from the Seam, like me, have a difficult time affording anything from the bakery. Generally, the only time we purchase something from there, would be for graduations, weddings, or celebrations of births.

But today, I smiled to myself. Today, I get to indulge.

I am twenty-one years old, and I work part-time at the goat ranch. Recently I have been putting a small fraction of my earnings into a jar. That jar is my security, if Gale and I were to ever separate.

God, if he were to find out… I shudder at that thought. That would be terrible.

I quickly erase any negative thoughts from my head when I become aware that I am standing in front of the bakery. I push open the door, which causes a small bell to jingle, and then I strut up to the counter. My eyes hungrily and greedily stare at all the small and delicate treats that line the inside of the glass counter.

"May I help you?" A voice, that I fairly recognize, asks me.

I tilt my head up to look at who the voice came from. Of course, It's Peeta Mellark. He's probably eighteen now, so it makes sense that he would be promoted to work at the front of the store.

"Katniss, is that you?" He asks when his eye meet my eyes for the first time, "Hi! How have you been?"

I can't help but genuinely smile at the sound of his voice. I will forever remember the way Peeta has a gift with words.

"I'm fine, thank you. A little tired, but doing good," I reply, "And how about you?"

"Right now, pretty good. But let me tell you," He talks to me with such familiarity, that I have to remember that I haven't seen him in over seven months, "I got this nasty burn a couple hours earlier. My older brother, Verick, was doing some sugar work… And he accidentally knocked the molten sugar on my leg. I'd show it to you, but id rather not upset your appetite."

He then smiles extremely cutely and then releases a small laugh of mock-disapproval.

"Oh my gosh," I say, my voice filled with concern, "Are you ok? Did you go to the hospital?"

He gives me a lopsided smile and begins to talk, "Do you think…" He then leans closer to me and in a hushed voice, he whispers, "Do you believe that… that my crazy old woman," he stops for a second and takes several careful looks behind his shoulder, causing me to laugh, "that she would let me take the day off because of some silly little leg wound? Don't be silly Katniss."

I can't help it. I tried to suppress it, but in that moment, he made me feel an instant of happiness. But then I remembered what I was laughing about.

"Peeta," He looks at me, "If your leg hurts too much you can always come by my mother's house. I'm sure she would check out your leg, and make sure no permanent damage has occurred."

"Oh thank god!" Peeta exclaims, "You have no idea how much it hurts!" he says in a carefree manner while smiling.

I smile at him, but I know that his words are probably true. I know that Peeta isn't the type of person that makes a big deal out of anything, and if anything, he's probably in way more pain than he's letting me know.

"No, but seriously. You should come by her house. And if you're shy…," I give him a teasing look, "I'll escort you there myself."

I knew he was lying about the pain, because I can almost see the look of relief wash over his face.

"You'd really do that for me, Katniss?" He asks, touched.

Awww. I have just learned that Peeta has the power to melt my heart.

"Yeah definitely, I'll meet you here once you're done with work. When is that?" I ask him.

"Umm… Officially I should be done by 4:30, but knowing my brothers… They will probably be slacking, so I might have to clean the ovens and wash their dishes for them," I tells me.

Gosh, Peeta is such a good kid. I can't believe he has grown so much. I mean l can basically see his muscles through his shirt…

"Ok, I'll be here around 4:30 then," I announce, "Alright, well back to why I came here," I smile at him "I would like a chocolate eclair and one of those cookies with the primrose design."

"Yes ma'am!" He says enthusiastically.

After around thirty seconds, I notice that he has added three eclairs and quite a few cookies.

"Oh Peeta, I can't afford that. I only bright enough for one of each," I tell him slightly alarmed.

"Katniss," He almost pleadingly says, "Don't worry about it. These are on me… Just don't tell my mother… Or my burnt leg will be the last of my problems."

And with that he taped the little cardboard box up and placed it in my hand. When I started to protest, he childishly covered my mouth with his hand and pushed me out the door.

"Peeta…" I tried to whine.

"Again, don't worry about it. I've got you covered. And plus, I can't just let you help me without at least offering you a gift to show that I'm thankful," He said sincerely.

I was about to complain again, but the look in his eyes silences me. I settle for nodding, and saying a thank you.

"Well then, I will see you later tonight. Bye Peeta," I tell him.

He then surprises me when he steps up and wraps his arms around me. I surprise myself even more, when I find my arms wrapped around his back.

"Bye, Katniss," He whispers into my ear.

He then walks away, while waving, and resumes his position behind the counter.

I walked away from the bakery with a new found skip in my step.

I cannot wait for 4:30 And with that thought I walked back home from the bakery with a smile.

So, if you don't hate Gale yet… You probably will soon. I know that I just started another story, but I had this idea stuck in my head. I just had to get it out of my head and out into the open. In this story, Gale is 24, Katniss is 21, and Peeta is 18. Yes, Katniss will soon unleash her cougar side. Please review, because I really appreciate them and especially any constructive criticism.