Title: Deep Inside I know, There's a Part of You That Care's For Me
Author: Missi Marie
Rating: T (because it's the HG though I think this could be a K+ maybe)
Warnings: Again, maybe with the kissing?
Characters: Peeta, Katniss, li'l mention of Gale
Summary: AU. Somewhere in Catching Fire. Snow wanted a wedding. There was no way to get around it. They would have to go through with it, even if it tears them all apart.
Author Notes: Not really sure how I feel about this one. I kinda like it, kinda don't. Check out "Just Like You" by Art of Chaos, because it's awesome and I used the lyrics as the song title. Reviews are always encouraged!
The dress was beautiful. Everything Cinna touched was beautiful. Everything I touched turned to fire, and then ash. Even this beautiful dream. A dream he had had for years, so many years. I couldn't even give him this. The thing he wanted the most. Even that became warped and twisted.
But the dress was beautiful.
He had to remember to breathe. Just breathe. It had become his own personal mantra, just breathe, because he was certain that should he stop reminding himself he would forget.
The mirror in front of him was full length and unnecessary since the work was really all going to his styling team, to Portia. They were the only ones who needed to deem him presentable. He certainly had no say, although, he didn't particularly object to what they had him in. A plain black suit with a blood-red bow tie. Conservative, he thought, for the Capitol.
It was Katniss everyone would be looking at anyway.
Because, see, she was going to be walking down that aisle today, and she'd be walking to him. It was everything he had ever wanted in his life.
He felt like throwing up.
I had a garter beneath my dress, slipped up high on my leg. I had glanced at Cinna quizzically when he told me to slip it on and told me it was supposed to go around my thigh. I had certainly never worn one before.
He smiled at me kindly, sadly, the way that Cinna always smiles at me. "It's for after the ceremony, during the celebration."
I just blinked, not getting it.
He cleared his throat. "Peeta will be taking it off."
My eyes went wide.
Of course he would.
Maybe it was the worst part, having Gale there. Dressed up so shiny in his black suit. He even wore the stupid tie, even if I'd had to fix it for him a dozen different times. The way he looked down at me the last time, I thought it might have been deliberate.
He grabbed my shoulders suddenly, intensity shinning in his gray eyes—the same as mine—and I thought he was going to kiss me.
I couldn't even decide if I wanted him to.
"We can run."
No we couldn't.
"I don't think I can do it in this dress." It was a joke, but it was flat, emotionless, and no one was laughing. "And definitely not these heels."
I lifted up the hem of Cinna's masterpiece, and showed him the strange black heels I wore. I didn't know why they were black when everything else was white. But they were, and they were heels, and they looked like they were made from the skin of a reptile.
I wondered if Snow had ordered them personally.
I sighed and dropped my hem back to the floor where it belonged. Gale wanted to make promises and deals that neither of us could keep. But I couldn't keep pretending, couldn't keep playing games. There was no more time for lies.
"Good-bye, Gale." Because this was good-bye, one way or another. I stood up on my tip-toes, leaning up to him and managed a kiss on his cheek.
This was good-bye.
Gale stood beside Peeta, because that's what they told him to do. The tie he wore was a dark red, his suit fit well, but he was obviously uncomfortable in it. Peeta met his eyes ever so briefly, but only saw anger there.
He couldn't blame him. No one was getting what they wanted here, not even Peeta.
Madge was my maid of honor; Prim my flower girl. I didn't fully get all the titles or the importance thereof, but I knew these things were what the Capitol was expecting. Probably, I would have picked them as such anyway. I didn't have friends beyond Madge and Gale, and Prim was adorable in her little dress. Even if it was red.
My mother sat in the crowd at the front. I thought maybe she walked before me, but maybe she just sat there, staring off into space like she used to. Back when dad first died.
He used to dream of her. Before the Games when his dreams were still pleasant, before he saw her blood on his hands every night. Some of his dreams were like this. At least, the getting married part. Of the two of them sitting in front of a fire and sharing bread, as was the custom in Twelve. In his dreams they were happy.
Some of the dreams went farther than that, to the consummation. Nothing lewd, nothing vulgar, just the two of them in love and proving it physically.
Now it almost made him sick to think of it. Snow was going to want some consummation. Probably a baby. Things Peeta would gladly give to Katniss. But Katniss didn't want them. She had never dreamt of him. And Katniss being Katniss, she would probably offer. She would probably tell him that they had to, because Snow wouldn't let them get away with not. And she would want to be a good wife, she would try to make his life easier. That was just the kind of girl she was.
Unfortunately, all of that just made things so much harder.
He couldn't be with her like that.
Of course they were roses. What else would they be? I had been expecting blood-red ones to go with the theme that our wedding seemed to be taking—bloody, destructive, a corrupting of something pure and innocent—but they weren't.
They were primroses.
Snow was reminding me why I was here, as though I could ever forget. It made me hate him just a little more.
It was like a dream and a nightmare all wrapped into one with a blood-red bow. Everything he had ever wanted in his life was about ten minutes away from being his. Katniss Everdeen was ten minutes away from walking down that aisle to him and it was all he had ever wanted. There were birds in the rafters, streamers hanging in meticulously designed drapes, bows and flowers and cookies and food and wine in glasses with too-long stems...
It was perfect. It was crushing him. Crushing them both. Because he knew that when Katniss walked down that aisle to take his hand and promise him forever she would be lying. She didn't want it. Maybe this would be enough to convince Panem... Snow... But it would never be enough to convince him.
She didn't want him. That was the reality of his dream nightmare.
He turned his head over his shoulder, because the music had started. His heart nearly stopped.
The carpet beneath my black heels was blood red. There were petals strewn upon it. Roses. I gripped the bouquet in my hand harder. My father was dead, so there was no one to give me away. I had asked Haymitch to have the honor, but he told me he'd rather go back into the Games. He then preceded to drink himself into a stupor.
It had hurt, but I got it. He didn't want any part of this thing that was going to kill Peeta.
I didn't either.
My eyes were down, because I wasn't ready to look at him yet. The veil over my face wouldn't hide me forever; soon I'd have to face him, Gale standing by his side. I walked slow; I needed these precious moments to gather my courage.
She was beautiful. Breathtaking, and he had to remind himself again to breathe. She was walking slowly, carefully down the aisle on that red carpet with the rose petals on it. Maybe it was the heels. Those creepy black things that peeked out from beneath her hem. Maybe she just didn't want to reach the end.
The dress was full, the skirt taking up the entire aisle, hiding the fact that there was no father beside her to give away his precious daughter. There were pearls laced through the mesh that covered the satin white of the skirt.
Because coal turns into pearls.
Peeta managed the smallest smile, but no one saw it. Everyone was fixated on Katniss and Katniss was staring at those stupid shoes.
Peeta's eyes traveled up the length of her body, because he could right then. The skirt stopped abruptly at her hips, meeting a tight fitting bodice that shimmered between thin lengths of mesh. Pearls adorned the neckline—lower than Katniss would have preferred, Peeta was sure—and a separate strand wound around her neck. The dress was strapless, but had hanging sleeves tied at her upper arms, widening until they seemed to spread like a wingspan at her wrists.
She held a bouquet of primroses and Peeta's smile faded.
Somehow I made it. I was standing in beside Peeta, my bouquet of primroses handed to Madge who looked stunning in the red dress they had picked out for her. Peeta held his hand out for mine. I didn't hesitate, placing it in his. There was no more time for hesitation. This was it.
The man in front of us went on forever, talking about love and honoring and "until death do us part" and it was all I could do to keep from laughing and crying at the irony. When I was asked to love Peeta forever as his wife, I turned to look at him and held his gaze.
I didn't know if it was a lie.
The ring felt heavy. The kiss tasted wrong. I could feel Gale's eyes burning into me. I shut mine tightly. My ears rang with the cheers of our Capitol audience. I thought I heard my mother crying.
Portia had explained the gist of it to Peeta. He was supposed to crawl underneath Katniss' dress and retrieve the garter, which was located somewhere around her upper thigh. Apparently it was his choice whether he wanted to do it with hands or his teeth.
Hands or teeth. Up Katniss' dress. Upper thigh.
All of these were setting his face on fire and he wasn't sure if he could do it. He wasn't even sure if Katniss would let him do it. And in the end, Peeta just wanted to know why the hell it was such a big deal.
But he already knew the answer to that, and it wasn't tradition. It was Snow. The Capitol citizens wanted a show, and since they couldn't be there for the wedding night—he hoped—this would be about as much risque as they would get.
She was sitting on a chair placed in the middle of the room, face flushed darker than Peeta's. Her back was straight, her shoulders squared off, as if trying to get rid of everything feminine about herself. Like that might change things, or at least make this easier.
It didn't. She still looked beautiful, and perfect, and just like everything he had wanted for so long it was an ache he just learned to live with.
He took a deep breath and knelt down in front of her. There was giggling and sighing all around us, and all he could think was hands or teeth.
"Katniss," he whispered.
She nodded, giving him a strained smile. She was uncomfortable, but it didn't look like she was going to lose it. That was her, ever the brave one.
With a slight smile at her, meant to be encouraging, Peeta lifted her skirt just enough to duck his head quickly underneath it. Her legs were smooth, tan, and trembling uncontrollably. They probably had been for a while, hidden beneath the huge princess gown. He touched her skin softly, letting her know where he was and what he was doing. She jumped, nervous, but she extended the leg that he had touched and he saw what he was looking for.
Peeta tried very hard to not notice that her panties had lace on the front.
Sliding his hand up her leg to her thigh, he slipped his fingers beneath the elastic of the frilly, worthless thing. Carefully, he slid it back down her leg and over those stupid black heels.
Taking one last breath, he emerged from her dress and waved his prize to the crowd. They went wild. Katniss and Peeta managed not to throw up.
My hand shook as I held the knife, I don't know why. There shouldn't have been any more nervous dread left in my system. The dead had been done. But it did shake and I couldn't steady it no matter how I tried. So when Peeta wrapped his strong hand over mine it was sweet relief.
He stopped the shaking.
Together we cut the cake. This was apparently a big deal—like the maid of honor and the flower girl and Peeta's best man and the stupid garter—and the crowd clapped happily as we accomplished the task. Peeta slipped a piece onto a plate.
Cinna had run through the entire thing with me; I was sure Portia had done the same for Peeta. No one wanted us to do this thing wrong. It had to be perfect.
It was tradition at this point to feed each other cake with our hands. Trying not to frown, I dug my fingers into the moist blood red cake thinking of Effie and her manners. This was like the bread for the Capitol. If Peeta and I were really getting married we would share a piece of bread in front of the fire and...
But we weren't really getting married. This was all a show. I couldn't afford to think otherwise.
I finally looked up at him, offering him the cake sticky on my fingers. He leaned down slightly, eyes never leaving mine and wrapped his lips around the morsel. He licked icing from my fingers. I could feel my face heating up.
There was a little frosting smeared at the corner of his mouth. Without thinking, I leaned up and kissed it away.
His eyes widened only slightly in surprise, as they always do when I am sweet to him without provocation. But he smiles in return and offers his own piece of cake to me. He has learned to quickly disregard any affection I give.
I don't blame him.
He carried her down the stairs of the Capitol building, relieved to be leaving the dolled up structure. Katniss had taken the opportunity to hide from the cameras, burying her face in the crook of his neck, clutching him tightly.
Peeta couldn't help but savor the moment.
They reached the car that would take them to the train, as decorated as the building had been, he gave a bright smile to the crowd and managed to balance Katniss enough to wave. Then he lowered Katniss into the car. It was probably his imagination that she clung to him a little longer than she needed to.
Peeta, he thought she whispered. But she pulled away just the same, eyes not meeting his. She scooted over to make room and he followed her into the car. They sat close—her practically sitting in his lap—for the sake of the driver, though he was probably an avox and then it didn't matter at all.
He would have pointed this out, but he was selfish. He wanted to enjoy these precious moments where she clutched him tightly, as though this love might be real.
It didn't matter that he knew it wasn't.
The train ride home was painful. Not physically, but on the inside where it lingered and ate away at us. We kept up pretenses for Effie's sake, Peeta and I cuddled in a corner staring out the window. He stroked my hair gently—he was always so good at this—and I clutched at his shirt.
Somewhere in one of the compartments was Gale. I thought he might be drinking with Haymitch; I had seen them together whispering conspiratorially earlier. I knew it was hard for him to watch me settled on Peeta's lap, clinging to him like the little wife I had to become. Even if it was for Effie's benefit—mostly—and Peeta wasn't really getting what he wanted any more than Gale.
I stared out the window, though we were moving so fast now it was all just a blur. Instead, I saw our reflections. Peeta holding me with affection and care, even though I had destroyed everything beautiful in his world. Me, a scared tangled mess of a girl curled in his lap.
I buried my face in his shoulder, because I didn't want to look anymore.
I wasn't in the beautiful gown Cinna had made for me, instead wearing what felt to me like a miniature version of it. Though there were no sleeves and the waist started below the swell of my breasts, it felt the same. There were still pearls accented on the edges of the mesh and the material was still silky smooth though it stopped well above my knees. I wondered idly if I would get to keep it, and if I did what would I ever do with it.
I decided I didn't really want it to begin with.
Curling closer into Peeta—because these sorts of things I could do right, I could do easily—noticing that he hadn't changed, though his bow tie was undone now. It hung unevenly about his neck, laying on either side of the shirt whose top buttons had been undone.
We were going home now. We were going to our home. Because we would live together. It would be in the house set aside for Peeta in Victor's Village, not mine. Mine was occupied by my mother and Prim. I liked it that way, so no one talked about the living arrangements. If I didn't bring it up, maybe they could stay.
Peeta's family hadn't ever really moved in with him to begin with. His mother had never been kind, I always avoided her, and his father remained loyal to his wife. His brothers were all but grown anyway.
It was just Peeta.
I shivered involuntarily, thinking about us living alone together.
The arm Peeta had slung around me tightened and he kissed the top of my head in comfort. "It'll be okay," he whispered.
I desperately wanted him to be right.
They got of the train, a happily married couple. There were still cameras at this point, waving about to get reactions and 'the good stuff.' That meant everyone was on their best behavior and Peeta and Katniss were on their gooiest. Gale just avoided the cameras—no one was really looking for him anyway—and Haymitch kept his drunken spills to a minimum.
Katniss' mother seemed to flutter indecisively between hugging Katniss and giving her space. Ultimately, she decided on a short lived hug that was given and received awkwardly. Peeta watched them with a practiced smile, gave his father a quick hug, and took Katniss' hand again.
They waved off Effie, who was blubbering about how beautiful everything had been, as she got back on the train taking the cameras with her.
As soon as it was out of sight, faces dropped. Peeta's hand remained tightly clasped around Katniss' but the rest of the district had stopped pretending. No one seemed to believe that the two were in love.
Peeta wondered vaguely if anyone else did, either.
Hand-in-hand, they walked to his home in Victor's Village, Katniss in that silly little white dress. No one seemed to say anything, no one seemed to even want to look at them. Maybe they all thought it was a betrayal, a lie. It made Peeta angry.
What did they know?
What did they know about what he and Katniss were sacrificing? Did they have any idea that it was for them as much as their own families? That it was for the people of District 12 that they gave up their entire future and probably any chance of happiness?
Because Peeta had decided, without a doubt, that he wasn't the one Katniss wanted to be with.
Gale just wasn't an option now.
I held Peeta's hand all the way to his house, even though he was gripping so hard I thought he might have cut off circulation. It didn't matter; I would have held his hand even if he hadn't grabbed mine first.
My mother and Prim had walked a different direction—I thought it might have been to Hazelle's to check on Gale—and Peeta's family seemed strangely detached from him. I knew they weren't close with him, not close like Gale was with his family, or I was with Prim, but it still seemed odd.
I ignored the ominous feeling emanating from the town. I didn't need to explain myself to them, only to Peeta...
We walked in and toed off our shoes. Our hands stayed entwined, even when we made it through the living room and up the stairs. We paused outside a door and I knew which room we had come to. I couldn't help but tremble nervously.
This was our official wedding night. I didn't have to be told what was supposed to come next.
"It's okay, Katniss," Peeta whispered. But he didn't look at me.
His bedroom was large, as he assumed Katniss' was in her home in the Victor's Village. Not that it was her home anymore. This was their home now. Their bedroom.
He could feel her shaking beside him, despite his words. He tried to tell her that everything was going to be alright, that they didn't have to do anything, that he wasn't expecting... He wasn't expecting that. If she never wanted it with him, he would never force her. He had already promised himself that.
In the end, all he managed was It's okay, Katniss when really it wasn't.
The smell of paint had faded, but it lingered in the air. His paintings were scattered about the room, some on the walls, some on the floor, some sitting on stands half-finished. Those of the Games had been stashed away in a closet somewhere, coming out only when he wanted to remind himself what he had been through. As though he could ever forget. The only ones that made it to the wall were of Katniss, and one of little Rue, covered in flowers, looking every bit like a softly sleeping child.
This was the one Katniss was staring at quietly. Her shaking had stopped, pulled taut with effort, and that was how he knew that she was crying. He moved to stand behind her, and carefully placed his hands on her bare shoulders.
"I'm sorry, Katniss," he whispered. "I'll take it down."
She shook her head. In a show of affection that was unnecessary—these always worried him now, because it sparked impossible hope again and again—she placed her smaller hand over his large one. Hesitantly, she leaned back against his chest, tilting her head up to look at him, eyes lowered.
"No," she whispered to him. "Please, don't."
He wondered if she had any idea what she did to him, if any of this was intentional or if it was just the naivete of the girl he had fallen madly in love with years ago. A big part of him believed the latter.
She seemed to be whispering his name a lot these days and it was killing him in lovely ways.
His pictures were beautiful, perfect. Like Cinna's dressed, they made me into something I wasn't. Something beautiful, breathtaking... they made me better than I ever could be. I was beautiful through their creations, but reality is much darker than all of that.
I wasn't any work of art.
So when I leaned back into Peeta, looking up at him from beneath my lashes, I wasn't the girl in his paintings or in Cinna's white dress. I was the girl in Snow's black heels. I was a harlot trying to lure in Peeta, tempt him with the things he had always wanted. Dangling them like a carrot in front of his nose.
Part of me hoped he wouldn't take the bait. The more sensible part of me knew he had to. There was no going back now.
My hand slipped up from his, moving to his shoulder and then his neck, finding the baby curls there. My fingers wove through his fine blonde hair, straightening the curls as they moved up. I added pressure gentle, but firm. As he took the hint and began to lean forward his hands moved from my shoulders, slipping to my hips. They moved around until I was caged in his embrace.
Our lips touched softly, the kiss not unlike the many we had shared before it.
Except for the leap of my heart in my chest, the flush that was no longer contained by my cheeks, seeming to spread to my entire body.
What I was doing was wrong, I knew that.
I also knew that it felt incredibly right.
She was kissing him, her fingers wrapped around his curls, leaning into his embrace as he held her to him just a little desperate. Her lips felt soft, her body warm, hot even, her hair soft where it brushed his cheek. The way she was pressed against him... it was like her body was made to fit his.
This just felt right.
Which made it about a hundred times harder than it already was to break the kiss. To untangle her hand from his hair. To pull his body away from hers.
Because he knew what she was doing.
There was this look on her face—he thought it might have been rejection—as he pulled away. She frowned, breathing heavily, skin still flushed.
Peeta shook his head. "Because you don't want it."
And he turned from her, because right in that moment she looked like she might have wanted it. Might have wanted him. And it was too dangerous to believe such things. He changed out of his suit into a shirt and sweats. When he crawled into bed, Katniss was already there beside him, her silky dress traded for an oversized nightshirt.
Uncertainly, his hands went to her hair. He pulled the band from the end of her hair and gently began to work his hands through the braided mass, undoing it slowly.
His gentle strokes seemed to soothe her and within a minute, her eyes were closed and her breathing had evened. He stayed up for the next hour just watching her. His beautiful new wife. His everything. What in the hell was he going to do now?
I had woken to Peeta still asleep beside me. He seemed peaceful enough, but it was always hard to tell with him. My nightmares were explosive. Shouts and more than once a hit to the gut were enough to wake him up, but he was almost always silent. I had to gauge by his expression mostly. Or how hard he clung to me.
It was sort of scary how accustomed we had grown to sleeping beside one another.
I blinked quickly until the room came into focus around me. Immediately, my eyes were drawn to his paintings, the ones that had made it to the walls.
The picture of Rue would have to go eventually. I wouldn't be able to feel her eyes on us, watching our sin. And it would be a sin, because it was for Snow, not for us. If I could ever make it be for us...
If I could ever do that a lot of things would be different. But I never could, not so long as Snow was there ordering me to love Peeta, when I probably would have been able to just fine without all this pressure. Now that it was there though, I couldn't do it.
Because I would never know if it was real, and if it ever was, Peeta would never believe me. Better to just never love him at all.
If I tried hard enough, maybe I could manage that one.
Frowning, I carefully brushed a blonde curl from his forehead. His face was smooth and soft, his baby-blues closed. I leaned down to press a soft kiss against his skin, before snuggling back into him to attempt sleep again.
Before I drifted off, I decided I wasn't going to manage anything except tearing him apart.
I wish I had been as beautiful as his paintings.
Peeta listened to her breathing even out, relishing the hot spot where her lips had pressed against his skin for no other reason than she thought he was asleep. He wanted a hundred more kisses like that.
He sighed and pulled her closer.
If he lived forever, he could never make himself stop loving Katniss Everdeen Mellark.
He would be here.