AN: So, last chapter there were more favourites than reviews... What, no love for Gale? lol. Sorry this chapter took a little longer, but it is the longest chapter or one shot I've ever written, so that should make up for it. I've never had to worry about a chapter going too long before, usually it's the other way around. T'was weirdd lol. What can I say? Katniss and Peeta had a lot to say...haha.
Katniss is putting the groceries away when she hears it: a quiet, choked sound coming from upstairs. She drops the box of crackers she is currently holding and makes her way up the staircase. She knocks softly on the door to Prim's bedroom.
There's silence for a moment and Katniss envisions Prim collecting herself behind the paneled door.
Katniss enters the room to see Prim sitting on her bed with her knees hiked up to her chest. Katniss climbs on the bed next to her and puts a comforting arm around Prim's shoulder.
"What's wrong, little duck?"
"I'm fine," she says, but the waver in her voice gives her away.
Silence descends upon them again. Katniss mulls over her next words.
"Is it Rory?" she ventures.
"Do you want me to leave you alone?" She pats Prim's unruly hair down, willing the strands to stay in the braid.
Katniss wonders if perhaps Prim didn't hear her. She is about to repeat her question when Prim whispers, "I miss daddy."
Katniss feels a tight clench in her chest, a feeling she attributes to someone she loves being in pain, a feeling she has become all too familiar with.
"I know, Rose. So do I." The shortened form of Prim's name slips out of her mouth unbidden. Their father was the only one to call her that on a regular basis. Katniss worries at Prim's reaction to the nickname after so long.
Prim smiles and leans into Katniss. "Nobody calls me that anymore."
Katniss wraps her other arm around Prim and hugs her close. They sit like this for a while, in companionable silence, comforting each other over a loss that no child should ever have to endure. Prim is the one to break the silence.
"Do you miss Gale?" she asks quietly, timidly.
"I know you don't like to talk about him, but do you ever wish you could go back? Change things?"
"Everyday." The answer is vague and not really in response to what Prim was asking, but she leaves it at that, because, really, that's all she can bear.
A knock at the door saves her from further questioning. Katniss hugs Prim and kisses the top of her head before heading downstairs. She swings the door open and is surprised to see her uncle standing on her doorstep.
She opens the door a bit wider and he steps inside, favoring his injured leg; the leg that was both his damnation and his salvation. He can't work anymore because of it - he lives solely on disability checks. Katniss knows Haymitch well enough to know that sitting at home, being inactive, drives him out of his mind. It is only one of the contributing factors to his downward spiral, though.
The gunshot wound to his upper right thigh is also what sent him home from the war. The scars Haymitch bears from his two-year long deployment run deep, and not all are visible.
"How you kids been?" Haymitch asks. The way he stumbles over an easy sentence is always his tell.
"We've been." Katniss folds her arms across her chest and doesn't move to invite her uncle in further. She and Haymitch have an odd relationship, one that she often doesn't understand herself. Some days she's not sure whether to pity him or be angry at him for not fighting harder. Today she falls firmly in the latter category.
Prim appears in the foyer and immediately launches herself at Haymitch. There is a brief moment where Katniss thinks that her petite sister is going to knock their sizable uncle over, but he manages to right himself.
"Uncle Haymitch!" Prim's voice is full of undisguised joy at seeing her uncle. Prim loves Haymitch. But then, Prim's capacity to love leaves very few out. Even a drunkard of an uncle who is sometimes there for her and most times not.
She knows Haymitch hasn't exactly had an easy go of it recently, but that doesn't dull the resentment. Before he enlisted he had been practically a second father to her and Prim. Now, in the two years he has been home, he has barely been a shadow of his former self. In the two years he's been back, he has turned to alcohol as a means of coping with the horrors he had seen during the war, and he had consequently lost his wife because of it. Maysilee simply could not bear to watch Haymitch drink his life away any longer.
"Come in, come in!" Prim insists, effectively putting an end to Katniss' plans to send Haymitch right out the door and back home on whichever mode of public transportation he arrived in.
Prim and Haymitch take a seat at the kitchen table as Katniss brews some coffee, in the futile hope that it will sober Haymitch up some.
Haymitch pulls a flask out of his pocket, which Katniss promptly confiscates.
"I'm making coffee." she says simply, and Haymitch knows better than to argue. He just mutters to himself, probably wishing he had stayed home. He knows that Katniss won't abide by his drinking while he is in their home, which is probably the reason he rarely visits anymore.
When the coffee is done, Katniss pours a cup for herself and Haymitch. She sits down at the table, where Prim is regaling Haymitch with tales of her friends and happenings at school.
Katniss and Haymitch just listen to Prim's anecdotes for a while - she has always been a very good story teller - until the ringing of Katniss' phone interrupts.
She glances down at the caller ID. "It's Peeta; I'm just going to go take this."
"That's her boyfriend." Prim offers as explanation.
Katniss sighs, but she doesn't bother correcting her sister. It isn't likely that Haymitch will remember this conversation come tomorrow, anyways.
"Boyfriend?" she hears him ask as she steps into the living room to take the call. She should probably be offended by the level of incredulity in his voice, but, really, who can blame him? The only guy she has ever really dated is...
Well, the point is that she understands Haymitch's shock, even if she doesn't appreciate it.
"Hi, Katniss. How are you?"
"Oh, I'm alright." she answers, watching from the distance as Haymitch pats his pockets and looks confused when he comes up empty. She is distracted for a moment as he lumbers around the kitchen loudly, most likely searching for a bottle of anything with so much as a fraction of proof.
She only hears the last few words of whatever Peeta was saying.
"I'm sorry, what did you say?"
"I said, should I pick you up at 6 tonight?"
There is a wrap party tonight for the Hunger Games, and last week Peeta had invited her to be his date.
There had definitely been some convincing on his part in order to get her to agree. She told him she wouldn't fit in and that she had nothing to wear - words she never thought she would utter - but he had insisted it would be fine, she would look beautiful no matter what she wore, and that he really wanted her to be there. Which is how she found herself agreeing to an evening with people whose individual apparel for the party would probably be equal to her yearly income.
"How about I come pick you up?" Katniss asks. She glances over at Haymitch, who is still turning the kitchen over in his search of booze. She isn't ready for Peeta to see the dysfunction that is her extended family quite yet. She doesn't suspect that Haymitch will be sticking around much longer once he realizes that she doesn't keep a constant stock of liquor in the house, but she doesn't want to chance it.
"No, you don't have to do that," he answers quickly; almost too quickly.
"Why?" she asks, her voice taking on a bitter tone. "You don't want to introduce me to your family? Are you ashamed of me?"
She realizes, too late, that she probably shouldn't have said that, and that she is accusing him of exactly what she is doing. The filter between her brain and her mouth has never really worked at its full capacity, though. But she can't take it back, and it doesn't change the fact that she does want to know the answer.
"No!" He sounds truly aghast and taken aback. Something tells her she needn't doubt his sincerity. "Of course not, Katniss..."
So quietly that she isn't sure she hears correctly, he says, 'It's not you I'm ashamed of.'
The words are suggestive of family issues, and Katniss understands, better than anyone, wanting to keep such things private, so she lets it go.
He's still offering apologies and explanations: his mom is a lot to handle, it has nothing to do with being ashamed of her. She cuts him off.
"Okay, okay, I believe you." She laughs a little at his audible sigh of relief. "How about you drive to my house and I'll drive to LA?"
She's almost testing him, as if daring him to disagree with showing up to a Hollywood party in a '98 Sunfire, thus reinforcing her belief that she won't belong. Of course, being who he is, Peeta doesn't allow her any such cop out.
"Sounds good!" he answers without hesitation.
She is almost annoyed by how seemingly perfect he is. The words 'too good to be true' come to mind.
When Katniss finishes up her conversation with Peeta and heads back into the kitchen she isn't surprised to see Haymitch on his way out.
"I just remembered some errands I have to run," he says as he pulls on his boots.
Katniss rolls her eyes, but doesn't bother calling him on his obvious bullshit, opting not to upset Prim. She simply bids him goodbye and watches to make sure he gets into his cab alright.
Prim doesn't seem to suspect anything amiss, as she chatters excitedly about their uncle's brief visit. Not wanting to talk about Haymitch any longer, Katniss offers Prim a distraction.
"Hey, do you want to help me get ready for the party? Maybe you could do my hair in those nice curls you always wear."
Prim beams at Katniss and nods enthusiastically. She immediately switches gears and starts asking Katniss if she has picked out accessories or eyeshadow. She honestly hadn't thought that far ahead yet. Katniss' blank expression must answer Prim's questions. Prim ushers Katniss into the bathroom and says she will take care of the makeup and such while Katniss showers.
Katniss walks into her room ten minutes later and her mouth falls open at the sight before her. There are necklaces, earrings, hair clips, and various makeup products scattered over the expanse of her queen sized bed.
"Oh my God, I didn't even know I owned that much...stuff."
"You don't," Prim says with a giggle, adding another necklace to the pile, "most of it is mine and mom's."
Katniss grabs her new dress out the closet. She is ashamed to say that she blew almost half of her weekly pay cheques on the dress. And all to impress people she doesn't know. It is eerily unlike her. Perhaps she wants to blend in more than she would care to admit.
Katniss slips into her pajamas in favor of comfort while she is getting ready. Well, it shouldn't take too long, anyways...
The next two hours comprise of hair drying and curling, extensive makeup application (at least it seems extensive to her, she rarely applies anything other than mascara), and trying on nearly every piece of jewelry on the bed (at Prim's insistence). All in all, it is the longest she has ever spent getting ready for anything in her life.
She spins so Prim can get the full effect.
"You look perfect!"
The doorbell rings, and Katniss nearly trips down the stairs in the ridiculously high heels that Prim had talked her into wearing. She opens the door to reveal Peeta standing on her doorstep in an impeccably pressed suit and a blue tie that matches his eyes. Surprising herself, she is the first to speak up.
"Well, don't you clean up well?"
He chuckles as he steps inside. "I like to think so. You look beautiful."
His comment causes a rare blush to rise on her cheeks, even though it is no departure from compliments she has received in the past.
"Hi, Prim," Peeta says, waving.
Katniss turns around and Prim pokes her head out from the kitchen, with a caught expression on her face.
"Hi, Peeta," she says shyly.
"So, how are things at school? Those girls aren't giving you any more trouble, are they?"
Prim just stares for a moment, as if in disbelief that her favorite actor is genuinely interested in her life and problems, while Katniss is surprised that Peeta remembers her telling him about the girls centering Prim out at school. It seems as if every time they hang out he does or says something she doesn't expect, and she has to consistently re-evaluate her original assumptions on his character.
"No, no, it's fine. Good, actually," Prim rambles.
Peeta smiles. "That's good,"
They say goodbye to Prim and head to Katniss's car. She watches him carefully to see if he shows signs of regretting his hasty agreement to take her ancient car; she sees none. He just slides into the passenger side, not seeming put off in the least.
As soon as she pulls out of the driveway she realizes she has a problem.
"Damn it, how do girls drive in heels?"
She reaches forward and tries to pull the shoe off, and in the process she almost veers off and hits a parked car. Peeta grabs the steering wheel and straightens the car out.
"Whoa!" he says with a laugh. "Are you trying to get in an accident? If you really didn't want to go to the party, I would have totally blown it off."
She laughs, and for the first time in a while it comes naturally. "Somehow I don't think that would go over well, you know, with you being one of the leads of the movie and all."
He waves his hand dismissively. "Ah, they wouldn't miss me."
"I don't know about that." The words come out as flirtatious without even a conscious decision on her part to do so.
Judging by Peeta's smile, he doesn't mind one bit, though you'd be hard pressed to find an instance when he doesn't have a smile on his face.
As they near the restaurant, Katniss is the one regretting their choice of vehicle. Every car in a 5 mile radius had looked exceedingly more expensive than even Peeta's car. Even as she drives by, she doesn't miss the disapproving looks shot her way. They are probably wondering what business someone driving a Sunfire has in Beverely Hills. She is currently wondering the same thing.
She glances at Peeta out of the corner of her eye; he doesn't appear to notice the attention they are garnering. But that's probably because he's used to attracting attention.
"Oh my God," Katniss says under her breath as the restaurant comes into view; the sidewalk surrounding it is swarming with paparazzi. They are immediately bombarding everyone as soon as they step out of their car and hand their keys to the valet attendant. Her palms begin to sweat at the thought of braving that madness. At the moment she can't, for the life of her, remember why the hell she had agreed to this.
Peeta, noticing her distress, tells her to keep going; there is a back entrance.
Nobody bats an eye as they drive by. In complete contrast to the average passerby, they are apparently invisible to the paparazzi. Katniss is blessing her decision to go with the heavily tinted windows and the fact that nobody would expect Peeta Mellark to show up to a party in a car that wasn't manufactured in this millennium.
Katniss pulls into a dark lot around the back of the restaurant. There are a few stragglers near the entrance who probably anticipated someone trying to sneak in, but it is markedly less intimidating than their other option.
She turns off the car and Peeta takes her now-free hand. "You okay?"
"I'm fine." If he can see right through the obvious lie, he doesn't let on. Katniss is, by nature, a private person, and the idea of having her picture plastered in a magazine doesn't appeal to her in the least.
"It's a lot to take in, I know." His eyes are full of understanding and concern.
She shrugs noncommittally.
He shifts closer to her, so their faces are only inches apart. He closes the distance between them slowly, as if giving her a chance to back up. She doesn't.
Their lips meet for only the second time, but it feels as if they have been doing this for years the way their lips just seem to know, instinctively, how to move with one another. She vaguely wonders why she has waited so long to really kiss him.
Peeta's hand that is not still holding onto hers reaches up to tangle in her hair and pull her closer. He pulls back just as the kiss is bordering from sweet to lustful.
"I've wanted to do that for a while."
Katniss just nods, feeling a little dazed. She feels as if she cheated them out of what should have been their first kiss with the closed-mouth peck she'd planted on Peeta after their first date. Which, she's ashamed to admit, was mostly just to appease him. But this kiss confirms in her mind that there is definitely a physical chemistry between them, something she had been previously unsure of.
She doesn't feel as nervous anymore, his touch seems to have had a calming effect on her.
"Let's go." she says, hoping she sounds more convincingly confident this time.
She grabs her clutch - an item that Prim had introduced her to earlier - and reluctantly lets go of his hand as they get out of her car. She can sense his surprise, in the way he starts slightly, when she is the one to rejoin their hands.
She steels herself for the imminent onslaught of flashes going off in front of her eyes. Well, maybe onslaught is an exaggeration; there is only five or six photographers milling around compared to the some fifty plus in front of Cicada. But for a girl that made the yearbook team practically hunt her down each year for her class photo, it is five or six too many.
As soon as the paparazzi catch sight of Peeta they converge on him. They start hurling questions at him and Katniss is surprised at the level of noise so few people can produce. The questions are mostly about who his 'mystery woman' is - and there's that dreaded phrase again. It makes her feel like she's just an extension of Peeta and his fame and not her own person.
Peeta ignores their questions with a practiced grace, and Katniss is more than glad when he leads her inside and away from all the questions and the expectations. But her relief is short lived.
It's like one of those bad movies where the music grinds to a halt and everyone stops what they're doing to stare wide eyed at that one unlucky person. Except the low, pulsating music is still flowing around the room and nobody is being quite that obvious, but they are clearly very intrigued by the couple that has just arrived.
They don't recognize her, obviously. And that in itself is enough to have every head turning their way. Katniss has never been self conscious - one of the perks of not giving a shit what anyone thinks of her - but feeling the eyes of the entire room upon her, silently judging her, has her coming dangerously close to fleeing the party and high-tailing it back to Santa Ana without a backwards glance.
Peeta's grip on her hand tightens as if he can read her thoughts.
Maybe she's just being paranoid. These wealthy, important people surely have better things to worry about than who their co-worker brought as a date to a party, right?
"So, Peeta, are you going to introduce us to your date?" Apparently not.
A bubbly girl in a low-cut black dress that Katniss recognizes as Peeta's co-star approaches and offers them each a flute of champagne.
"No, thank you. I have to drive."
Peeta similarly declines the drink offered to him.
The blonde haired girl only arches an eyebrow slightly before reverting back to her friendly smile, but Katniss doesn't miss the subtle distinction or the implication behind it. When she had driven by the front of the restaurant everyone was being dropped off in a black limo or SUV. She and Peeta are probably the only two in attendance that drove themselves to the party.
Is that what Peeta meant when he said he was going to pick her up and he was just too nice to say so? She did remember him mentioning at the club that he had a driver. And now he can't drink because his politeness clearly won't allow for her to be the only one abstaining from alcohol this evening.
Ever since this evening began she has been second guessing her every move. She doesn't like it; it isn't like her, and it's an unsettling feeling.
Peeta introducing her to his co-star snaps out of her thoughts.
"This is Katniss, we know each other from back home." The way he says this makes it seem like they are old friends, and, oddly, Katniss likes the sound of that. "Katniss, this is Jerrica."
Jerrica seems genuinely pleased to meet her, but Katniss is still wary. Getting to know Peeta has certainly opened her mind to meeting new people, but she is still largely untrusting of anyone who hasn't explicitly gained that trust.
Peeta, Katniss, and Jerrica make their way to the bar where Katniss and Peeta each order a drink sans alcohol. Maybe it's just her imagination, but she thinks she hears the whispers of someone wondering if she is an alcoholic. She shuffles a little closer to Peeta unconsciously.
After a few more drinks, a few more introductions, and a few more raised eyebrows, everyone makes their way to their respective tables for dinner.
As dinner is being served the conversation is riddled with inside jokes about the movie and subtle but not-so-subtle allusions to just how wealthy these people really are. She tries to stay engaged but she's floundering, she just can't find any common ground. Katniss is not much of a talker on the best of days, anyways.
She has to give Peeta credit, though. He always finds a way to steer the conversation back in a direction that she will be able to relate to. But it is mostly a futile effort with the overpowering personalities at the table.
When she finishes her dinner she excuses herself to the bathroom, just to have a moment alone to breathe.
The restaurant is so huge and the lighting so scarce that she ends up in a hallway that she's pretty sure is employees only. She spins around and narrowly avoids banging into a man rapidly approaching from the opposite direction. Katniss is about to offer an apology when the man sticks a camera in her face and nearly blinds her with the flash. She blinks her eyes quickly and tries to regain her bearings.
"Well, I've finally got the mystery woman alone!" A chill runs down her spine at his words. She tries to step around him, but he blocks her passage. "Oh, hey, I just wanted to ask you a few questions."
"Leave me alone, please," she says quietly but fiercely. She just wants to get away before anyone else notices their exchange. She doesn't want any more attention drawn to her.
He goes on as if she hasn't spoken. "So, you're dating Peeta Mellark? How did you two meet?" After a brief pause where she doesn't say anything he presses on, nothing if not persistent. "Come on, you're not going to give me anything? The place you met? Your name?"
"Please leave me alone." She says it a little louder this time, hoping he will get the picture.
Peeta comes through the door at the end of the hallway, and she can confidently say she's never been happier to see him.
"There you are. I thought you might get lost, this place is like a maze." He abruptly stops talking when he notices the man standing in front of her and the tension that the air is rife with; something that apparently is obvious to everyone but the 'reporter'. "Katniss, the bathrooms are down this hall and to the right." Peeta gestures in that direction and then turns to the reporter.
As Katniss walks away, undisturbed this time, she hears Peeta offering the guy an exclusive if he backs off. It bothers her that Peeta is doing him a favor after he just accosted her, also that Peeta thinks she needs someone to fight her battles for her. It's the kind of ancient, knight in shining armor/damsel in distress thinking that she just doesn't subscribe to.
She waits at the end of the hallway until Peeta comes back alone. He turns and stops once he realizes she's there.
"Oh, Katniss. Listen, I'm sorry about that. He's gone now, though."
"You didn't have to do that." Her voice doesn't come out as steady as she wants. The whole confrontation shook her up more than she would like to admit.
"Oh, it wasn't a problem. I owe them an interview, anyways," he says misunderstanding her meaning.
"Peeta, I have to go."
His brow furrows in confusion. "Go? Why?"
"I thought that I could handle this, but I can't. I'm sorry,"
The expression of confusion is slowly making way for one anticipating pain. She hates that she is probably going to realize that expectation. In a perfect world, guys as nice as Peeta Mellark would never have to endure the sting of rejection. But if Katniss has learned anything over the years, it's that the world they live in is far from perfect. She decides it is best to get it over with right away; there is no use in dragging it out.
"This is your life; the parties, the notoriety, the glamour. And that's fine...for you. But my life isn't glamorous. My life is trying to scrape up enough money to get my degree. My life is raising my thirteen-year-old sister because my mom just decided not to care anymore."
"Katniss, I -"
"I'm sorry, Peeta. It's not your fault, and it isn't my intention to try and make you feel sorry for me. But we're just from two different worlds. I hate cameras and you can't seem to escape them. How are we supposed to reconcile that?" She doesn't give him a chance to answer, though. Knowing how well spoken he is, he'll probably talk her into some sort of after party. But they both just need a clean break. "Can you get back to Newport alright? I don't want to leave you stranded."
"Yes, but please don't leave. Please, we can talk about this."
"I'm sorry, Peeta."
She steps forward and kisses him on the cheek, then turns on her heel and walks towards the exit.
The drive home is long. Without Peeta and only her constantly doubtful thoughts to keep her company, it drags on much longer than the drive to LA.
When Katniss pulls into her driveway and sees Peeta's car sitting in the driveway she realizes that he will have to come by and pick it up. She feels stupid now for not thinking of it earlier. She just hopes she is at work when he does come by. She knows it is cowardly, but she just can't bear to see the tortured, longing expression on his face.
Katniss pulls off her ridiculously expensive dress and the jewelry that had been weighing her down all night, and falls into bed.
She reaches instinctively on her bed side table for her phone to set her alarm, but she comes up empty. Then she remembers: her phone is in her purse, which she left in her chair while she went in search of the bathroom...which means her phone is in LA.
Losing her phone seems a fitting ending to the evening.
Peeta slides into the backseat as Plutarch starts the car. The children's hospital in Orange that he is visiting today is only about twenty minutes away, and usually Peeta will drive himself to most anywhere he can get away with it, but sometimes it's just nice to sit back and relax.
Peeta looks at his phone, almost as a reflex now, to see if Katniss has texted him back. But it is still complete radio silence on her end. He had tried to give Katniss her space, he definitely understood where she was coming from, but after he went by her house to pick up his car the following afternoon and she wasn't there, he finally broke down and texted her. He texted her again the next day (in case the previous text didn't go through, he justified) and still no reply.
Four days have passed since the wrap party and Peeta is now resigning himself to the fact that she's probably never going to answer his texts anymore. His lifestyle is just too much for her to handle, and he gets that, as depressing as it may be.
He feels a prickle of anger remembering the way she had described his life, making it seem so simplistic. In one sentence she had stripped his entire profession down to asinine, shallow stereotypes. The worst and most confusing part is that he actually thought he had been making some headway, finally getting her to open up, if only the slightest bit. But he decides it is best not to dwell on things he can't change, and Katniss Everdeen's stubbornness definitely falls under that category.
It's tough for him not to think what if, but he really doesn't know what he could have done differently. To his thinking the date had been going perfectly until that point. He could tell that Katniss was freaked out by the media attention, but outwardly she had handled it extremely well. He thought that the snag with the one reporter was just that - a snag. He was, quite honestly, blindsided when she said she couldn't stay.
Peeta pushes these somber thoughts from his head as he arrives at the hospital. Today is about these kids, and they deserve all the happiness that he can give them.
When he walks in the doors he is greeted by the chief of the hospital, who looks extremely happy to see him.
"I'm so glad you could take time from your busy schedule to do this. You don't know how much it means to the kids."
He reckons he knows exactly how much it means to them, and the idea that he could bring such joy to children and families who really need it the most is, to him, the very best part about being a public figure.
The kids, who range from two years old to mid-teens, are at first very excited to see him and very shy. Some of the younger kids will hide behind the legs of nurses and peer out from behind their backs. But once he starts talking to them, they warm up to him, realizing that he isn't intimidating in the slightest. They let him into their world for the day, showing him their daily routines and sharing with him their fears and hopes for the future.
It is amazing to him, the positivity in the room, among kids that every reason not to be. They inspire him and he tells them so.
When he leaves, he looks at his watch and realizes he spent a lot more time than he had originally intended.
Dr. Aurelius walks him to the exit and, before he leaves, Peeta hands her a cheque. Her eyes bug nearly out of her head as she reads the amount, and tears instantly well up.
"Oh my goodness... Thank you so much. You know, you really made a difference in these children's lives just by visiting them. I know this has a personal significance for you..."
Peeta clears his throat nervously; this isn't something he wants to talk about.
"I'm honestly happy to do it. I would prefer for the donation to be kept anonymous, though."
Aside from the fact that he thinksit to be slightly narcissistic to do a good deed and then expect recognition, he also doesn't want to upset his mother.
"Of course, of course."
Peeta bids Dr. Aurelius goodbye and heads outside where Plutarch is waiting for him.
A little while later when Peeta walks in the door of his parent's house, he is shocked by who he sees sitting in the living room.
She jumps up when she hears his voice and turns to face the foyer.
He's walking slowly towards her with an adorably puzzled look on his face.
No, Katniss, stay on track, she reprimands herself.
"I have to say this is the last thing I expected. You haven't answered my texts."
His words aren't accusatory; he's just genuinely confused by her presence in his home. Hopefully he's not completely freaked out.
"I know, I lost my phone." He looks dubious so she adds, "Trust me, if I hadn't I wouldn't have gone to your parent's bakery and completely embarrassed myself asking for you."
"You did that? Really?"
I did. I'm pretty sure your dad thought I was some crazy fan until I showed him the pictures from the party, then he recognized me."
He looks vaguely amused by this notion, his mouth twisting into a half smile.
"This isn't something that I normally do," she feels inclined to tell him.
"Stalking guys via their parents and twitter?" he asks jokingly.
"No," she answers seriously, "admit when I'm wrong."
With those words, the light mood shifts. Peeta sits down on the couch and motions for her to join him.
She had been sitting her for the last half hour since Peeta's dad had led her back to his house and been kind enough to let her wait inside for Peeta. Even though she had insisted that she would be fine waiting in her car. She could easily see where Peeta acquired his kind disposition. As she sat in their beautiful home, she had contemplated how she was going to say this, and she was still contemplating as Peeta sat across from her, waiting patiently. Knowing that the exact right words are never going to come to her, she just decides to go with her gut.
"Um, well, now that I've had time to think, I couldn't just leave things the way I left it the other night. It was just, like you said, a lot to take in. I wasn't as mentally prepared for it as I thought I was. And then waking up and seeing my picture all over the internet? It was just...surreal."
Surreal is a gross understatement. Katniss had sat at her computer the next day and tried really hard not to type Peeta's name into the search engine, but in the end morbid curiosity won out. When she found the pictures from the wrap party, she was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of the ones of herself and Peeta, never mind the number of websites running said pictures. How in the hell had the photographers captured so many pictures in her and Peeta's short walk in to the restaurant?
The only positive thing she could take from her ill advised search, is that she resisted the impulse to read any of the comments on the gossip sites. She knew instinctively that she would never make her way back to Peeta if she allowed herself to start caring what people were saying about her.
"I know, I'm sorry. I wish I could shield you from that, but it is a constant part of my life. There's really no getting around it. And, honestly, in the interest of full disclosure, it's really only going to get crazier from here on out."
She nods. She knows that with his movie just beginning to take off his popularity is only going to increase. She's terrified of how that could possibly affect her life going forward, but she really wants to take that leap of faith. With him.
In wake of her silence, Peeta goes on.
"I feel like since we've met you've had this wall up. You're always just a little further away than I would like; which is fine, I don't mind working for your trust, working for your affection. I just need to know that I'm not fighting a losing battle."
"I missed you," Katniss blurts out. It's all she can say, but somehow it's enough and somehow Peeta understands what it means for her to say those words to him.
And there's that smile that she has grown to appreciate.
"I can work with that."
AN (again): Please review, and though I'm happy for every review, I'd really appreciate if you would say a little more than update soon! This is the most thought and effort I've put into any fanfic yet, so I'd like to know what you guys think.
How do you think everyone is as far as staying in character? How do you think the modernization of the story affects their characterization? Did you like the introduction of Haymitch? Did you believe Katniss and Peeta's reactions and emotions?