Music and the Beast
Summary: Caught up in a ruse to stay away from her past, top talent manager, Katniss Hawthorne wasn't one for music or romance. But maybe, there might just be someone to bring the music back into her life. Implied K/C, K/G, but ultimately K/P.
Chapter Length: 7,102 words
Warnings: OOC Cato and Socially awkward Katniss.
Chapter 1: Days Like These
She woke up to the rather unpleasant sound of her alarm clock that day, its almost too familiar tune ringing through her head as she mustered up the clarity to put a stop to the darned thing. A few seconds of laying on her bed, staring up at the taupe ceiling that towered over her later, the same tune came to life accompanied by the relentless buzzing of her phone. She knew who was on the other line and slowly dragged herself out of bed and into the bathroom for a shower. She let her phone ring, it could wait.
Days like these were the worst. While most considered it a blessing to be one of the nation's top talent managers and agents, there was only so much she could do to keep herself grounded amidst the throng of divas and macho stars which made up the majority of her clientele. The very man responsible for her less than pleasant morning – Cato – was no exception. The mere mention of his ridiculous generic pop star name made the hardened manager double back in figurative giggles, because god forbid that stars these days have normal names with normal surnames.
She scanned her call history as she got out of the shower. Fifteen missed calls and the familiar tune made itself welcome yet again. She rolled her eyes before finally picking up.
"What is it? Your TV spot isn't until eleven." She growled into the speaker, adjusting her cordless mic into her ear as she got dressed.
"D'you like you new ringtone? And your new alarm?" She found herself fuming at the mere thought of the smirk the star most likely wore as he spoke through the other line, as if changing her ringtone was the most genius idea ever. "I changed it for you. Top of the charts baby!"
"Oh, I had noooooo idea. I thought that maybe the heavens were calling with that heavenly voice of yours." She managed to hide the sarcasm in her voice. When it came to Cato, you just had to go with it. "Congratulations. But seriously though, the next time you so much as touch my settings, I'm smashing that platinum record of yours against the nearest hard surface."
The star returned her threat with what he most likely thought to be a charismatic chortle. To her it just sounded like a pig being strangled. "Yes ma'am."
"Is that the only reason you called?" She was starting to get impatient as she played with the wet locks of hair that left damp traces on her smart-casual outfit. "You know I'm going to see you later on today anyway."
"I just wanted to hear your voice", he replied, the tone of seduction in his voice so thickly apparent it made her want to gag. "Can't I even say 'hi' to my favorite manager ever?"
She would be lying if she said her relationship with the rising star was purely professional. More than wanting anything romantic, she had to admit that Cato was one of her most hard-headed clients – in more ways than one, so to speak. Truthfully, the only way into Cato's head was through his cock, and if it got him to his schedules on time, and made him less of a divo, she was willing to give up a few drunken nights and what little professionalism she had left with the haughty musician to keep his needs satisfied. She was never one for romance, and while most would find her methods manipulative, it was more of a business transaction than anything else. It was easier to lead a lovesick puppy through the park than an adamant hound chasing after every other poodle wagging its tail either way.
"Oh you'll get plenty of time to say 'hi' to me, ALL of me, later on tonight." She quipped with an equal tone of seduction. Years ago, such raunchy banter would never have found itself at the tip of her tongue, but things had changed since then. "But for now, you should probably concentrate on your guest appearance this afternoon. Have you got your lines memorized?"
"Hold on, I've got Crane on the other line. Talk to you later sweetie!"
"I love you Kat-" she ended the call, almost too relieved to have escaped dealing with any more of the ridiculousness, the disgusting taste of the generic pet name that managed to leave her tongue still lingering.
"Crane. Hit me", her tone of seduction replaced with a professional air within seconds.
"Miss Katniss!" The talk show host's booming voice seemed just a little too sweet for her liking. "So I'm assuming I have Clove booked for next month's Friday night segment?"
"I thought we had that arranged months ago?" She did her still wet hair into a messy haphazard bun and readjusted her receiver, "Clove made it clear that she wouldn't push through with the show unless you got that ditzy bimbo – what was her name? Glitter? to cancel her appearance. She will go on with no less."
"Oh Miss Katniss, you know we can't go without Glimmer. Honestly their little feud is nothing compared to the exposure this appearance will get them!"
"Crane, Glimmer straight up puked on my client the last time she was seen with her. Now it wouldn't be so much of a problem if her throw-up was as sparkly and clean as her name, but the fact still stands that my client can't so much as tolerate her."
She made her way to her desk where papers and schedules took up a considerable amount of space, the only corner of the trash heap she called her desk that wasn't defiled by documents being occupied by a lone framed picture of her sister. A shadow of a smile crept onto her face before it was wiped out by the matter at hand.
Crane met her point with an exasperated sigh.
"I'll tell you what. You get Clove the main guest host spot of the show and cut down her time with Glimmer to the bare minimum of greetings and civility and I'll see what I can do."
"But Miss Katniss-"
"Just call me Kat. You're making me feel like children's book governess here."
"Kat. They were co-stars of a hit reality show for three years! You can't not expect them to come on the show together! You're being unreasonable!" His tone was almost pleading, "I knew they called you 'The Beast' for a reason but this is absurd!"
"Well, last 'The Beast' checked, Clove's had two movie deals, multiple cameos in reputable soaps, and a tampon ad to her name and Glimmer's had what? Multiple DUIs, a search and arrest warrant and a washed up has-been guest appearance at Maury's. I think I'm being pretty reasonable."
"Miss Katniss! I don't think-"
"Goodbye Crane. Call me when you get Clove the spot she wants, and not the spot YOU need."
God she hated that guy.
Katniss relished the moment of silence as she got the rest of herself ready. She really didn't have any reason to do herself up. People found her attractive either way, but she never really got why. A soft knock on her door threw her out of her reverie.
"Kat, you up yet?" Rue, a tall, willowy, dark-skinned girl poked her head through the door timidly, almost too soft-spoken to make her presence known to the rather intimidating girl pacing around the room. "I have a go-see at eight."
Katniss looked up and smiled at the nineteen year-old girl, almost half a head taller than she. While most of her clients drove her mad, Rue was an exception. An aspiring model with a sharp face and the most piercing yet sincere golden eyes, Rue had been one of those rare finds one day in a chance coffee shop meeting. Needless to say, she was more down to earth and hardworking than most, if not all, that sought her out as a manager, more so because she was just innately kind and naïve than because she had any decent work ethic to her.
She started out as more of a charity case to Katniss, what with her uncanny resemblance to her sister, so she took her in as a boarder into her large flat, much too big for once person, and dare she say it – befriended her along the way. It became less of a chore and more of an investment when Rue started booking one job after the other, earning her fair share and actually paying rent. When the opportunity came for her to move out, it relieved Katniss when she chose not to. Contrary to popular belief, The Beast actually hated living alone, and Rue made a very good roomie.
"Yeah I'm dressed and ready to leave. I'm coming with you. We need to work out your contract." Katniss started packing a few papers and files into her messy bag as she spoke.
Rue let out a giggle as she let herself into the room.
"What is it?"
"You're still wearing your bunny slippers Katniss."
It was past ten when Katniss finally got the terms down for Rue's latest ramp show. Driving down to the studio was next on her agenda. At eleven, she would have to pay spectacle to what would have to be one of the most torturous half-hours of her life, where Cato would have the liberty to take a live TV crew around the studio for a behind-the-scenes look at how his multi-platinum single came to be. It would involve Cato reciting some well-scripted banter, walking around the studio like he actually knew how to work the booth, smiling charismatically at the cameras, and doing whatever she was capable of to not allow him to sing live. She didn't have the heart to tell the man that he was nothing without autotune.
Maneuvering her way through studio parking was a challenge. Katniss would never admit it, but she was not one of the best drivers in the world. It was an ongoing joke that she drove at an almost ungodly speed and wasn't one to give her signal lights the time of day. No one mentioned it in front of her, however, because no one wanted to cross The Beast. No one. Parking was yet another challenge, but most days she got by.
Today was not one of those days.
A large thud alerted her to an anomaly as she backed up her car to what she thought was a free spot. A shift forward and then back rewarded her with yet another thud, accompanied by a small 'ow'.
She got out of her car to be greeted by a motorist, toppled over behind her car, his motorbike lying in what looked like a very uncomfortable position on top of him.
"Ohgodohgodohgod. Don't sue, don't sue, don't sue. I'm so sorry. Are you okay?" She rushed over to the man, panic written all over her face.
He laughed a little as he pushed his bike off him, anchoring it up in a stable position before getting up himself. "Yeah, I'm fine. Just a little-"
"Thank goodness." Katniss dusted the man off awkwardly as he adjusted to rid himself of his helmet. "You're not gonna sue me are you? Do you have insurance? I can-"
"I'm fine. Really." He brushed her hands off him as he unclasped his helmet and took it off. "Can't say the same for my bike though."
"Oh god." Katniss shuffled around to her car to dig out her bag. "I'm sorry and all, but I'm in a huge hurry, you have no idea."
The man looked at her as if she had gone crazy.
"Here's my card, here's a few bucks and here's some Tylenol, just in case you have some head trauma or something." Katniss' words barely made sense at the speed she spoke, wanting to get away from the situation as quickly as possible. "Please don't call the police, or your lawyer, I can pay for everything, just not now. You can call me at this number-"
"I don't think this is-" The man started.
"Enough? Oh of course not."
He was going to say 'necessary'. Normally, you could count on Katniss to stay calm under all kinds of pressure, be it a major contract or the stress of handling paparazzi and scandals galore. But slap her with a vehicular accident and she's a goner. She dug around her purse once more and took out her check book.
"I don't need-" The man was frantic now. He didn't need all that much.
"Here's a blank check. Take as much as you need." Katniss handed him the slip of paper as she evaluated the scene of what she thought to be a horrendous crime.
Her car was half-parked and on hazard, the man's bike badly scratched and a crowd of people had started to assemble.
"Crap, crap, crap." She took a glance at her watch and looked up at the man pleadingly. "Do you think it would be too much to ask if you could park my car?"
The man was speechless.
"Thanks. You can leave my keys at the front desk. Say they belong to Kat. They know me." She gathered up her belongings from her car, dropped the keys into the man's hands and scuffled her way out of the scene before abruptly turning back to the man and shouting, "Remember! Call me! Not your lawyer, not the police! And thanks!"
She made her way to the recording studio, dawning on some dark glasses, crouching over and covering her face for posterity, leaving the man to re-evaluate what had just happened.
"Katniss!" Cato called as the final touches to his picture perfect face were done.
"Effie! Enough with the blush, he's a pop star, not a drag queen." Katniss scolded the older woman who had an affinity for outlandish makeup and fashion as evidenced by her pale white countenance and bright orange jumpsuit.
"Hmph. I think he looks dashing." The stylist barked with an accent Katniss couldn't even begin to describe.
Katniss knew Effie grew up in Jersey, but for some reason there were bits of butchered Australian and Wales accents thrown into her intonation. If she hadn't been used to the stylists' voice by now, there was no way in hell she'd be able to take her seriously.
"Your tastes have been contested more than once Effie." Katniss shooed the flamboyant woman away before she could impose any more of her questionable taste on the star.
"Bad day?" The sound technician voiced out from behind the equipment glad to have rid himself of the nuisance that was the loud and overbearing stylist.
"You have no idea, Cinna."
Cinna just smiled a knowing smile. In stark contrast to the walking LED that was Effie, Cinna often dawned himself in minimalistic attire. Katniss teased him on more than one occasion about his liking for the Steve Jobs getup. Today, he was no different in a black v-neck tee and some rugged jeans and some surprisingly classy shoes, the only piece of equipment distinguishing him as a necessary part of staff being the large headphones plugged into the sound system. Otherwise, he would be just one of Katniss' more stylish friends. She rolled her eyes at him and turned her attention to the subject of everybody's concern as of the moment.
Cato, with a perpetual smile plastered on his face, walked toward her, arms open and ready for a bear hug. She quickly dodged him made her way into the sound booth for a quick talk with the rest of the technicians.
"What, no hello?" He followed her into the booth and leaned against the frame of its partition, allowing a boyish smirk to grace his face.
"Not now Cato. Did you learn your lines?" Katniss let out an exasperated sigh as she did her best to indulge one of her most successful clients.
"About that – I was thinking that maybe I should wing it this time. You know, take a cue from Drew Carrey on 'Whose Line'. That show is hilarious." He slung his arm around the small frame of his manager.
It took Katniss no less than a second to twist the artist's arm into himself and have him in a less-than-playful headlock.
"Cato, we talked about this. Stick to the script." She smiled sweetly.
"I love it when you get rough." He managed to let out a strained laugh before he was released from The Beast's death grip.
"You stick to the script, give them your biggest smiles and we play a clip of your newest and hottest music video. That's it."
He gave her a small pout before conceding. "I can never say no to my little kitty cat."
Katniss turned to him and pulled his collar violently. "I told you not to call me that in public."
Cato pried himself away from her grip and readjusted his collar, giving her a knowing smirk. "You're no fun."
Katniss pushed the larger man out of the booth with some effort. "We can have all the fun you want later, but for now, what did I tell you?"
"Don't deviate, don't mess up, don't sing live. If they want to hear my precious voice live, they pay for tickets." He winked at her, "Got it Katniss."
She smiled back at him. "Good."
"Yo Kat, the TV crew's setup at the entrance. We're on in five." The studio hand called out from outside their booth.
"Well, you better get out there, tiger." She turned back to him, giving his cheek a playful pat.
"No prob. I'll meet you back here for the show finale. Make sure to make me look good." He took her hand in his and flashed his winning smile before vanishing into the hallway.
Katniss plopped into the couch, all too ready to give up the ruse that was her hidden affection for the musician.
"What was that?" Cinna wore a devious smile as he prodded her teasingly.
"If it gets the hulk to do my bidding, I'm doing it Cinna. You know me. I would never-"
"Mmhmmm." He indulged the girl who was now kicking her shoes off as she adjusted her legs into a more comfortable position on the listeners' couch before he turned back to the screen that was now specially propped up in front of them for monitoring. "He'll be fine, really. No need for all the effort."
"If only you knew." Katniss laughed at his condescending tone. "2 minutes left. Got anything else for me?"
"Just so you know, he couldn't stop talking about you. I think he's a goner, this one." Cinna couldn't really understand why Katniss chose to manipulate the poor boy. It's not like anyone could say no to Katniss. They were either greeted by her stern and unyielding business savvy or the endearing girl that she truly was behind the mask. Either side was very difficult to say no to. "Gale almost punched him the other day at recording. I think he knows."
"Please Cinna. It's not cheating. Gale knows how this business works, and I'm sure he isn't partial to Cato's divo attitude either." Katniss shifted in her seat uncomfortably at the shift in topic. "I'm sure if he could rile up all the other stuck up musicians he's had to face with just a little seduction, he'd do it too."
"Ew. Bad mental image Kat." Cinna cringed. "Just – no."
Katniss laughed. "You get my point then."
"Doesn't make it any less wrong."
Katniss ignored him. "Thirty seconds."
"Let's hope your seduction really does do the trick then, shall we?" Cinna adjusted the sound levels as the opening song sequence started up.
"He's not messing this one up."
"How could you mess this one up!" Katniss let out, throwing her bag at the tower of a man in front of her. "I told you not to sing live!"
"It was one of the TV crew member's birthday! They asked me to sing him a Happy Birthday! What could I do? Say no?" Cato threw the bag back at her.
"YES!" Katniss threw it back at him, hitting him square in the face before he caught it in his hands.
"What, so I should have said yes?" Cato tossed it back at her, making it fall in front of her feet.
"NO! Say no!" She picked up the bag and flailed it around menacingly, threatening to throw it again.
"You're making my head hurt." Cato rubbed his temples furiously as he tried to comprehend the flurry of information. A game of catch was one thing, his manager and secret girlfriend yelling at him was another.
"Gah!" Just as she was about to throw the bag back at the big lug in front of her, Cinna caught her wrist and turned her around.
"Just – stop with the throwing now, 'kay? I think the poor boy's had enough." He sat her down onto the couch and placed her bag a safe enough distance away from her to avoid any further throwing. He eyed the lamp beside her cautiously, hoping she wouldn't decide to throw that one as well.
"You should have said no. You had a cold today, remember? You were in no condition to exert your voice like that. We talked about this scenario." She tried as best as she could to keep her temper in check.
"But it wasn't on the script! I memorized the script!" He scratched his head in frustration, "You know I don't do well under pressure!"
Katniss looked up at the singer to see tears brimming in his eyes. "Oh god, don't cry. Cato, don't cry. DAMNIT. Don't you dare!"
The waterworks came.
"Oh god. Damage control. Cinna, call the TV station, tell them Cato had an ear infection, a cold, anything that makes sense. Make it believable. Tell them we'll have him in any other show they want. Just fix it." Katniss walked over to the bawling musician with a facial wipe, rubbing his back as he bit back tears. "I'm sorry Cato. Don't cry, please don't cry."
God she hated it when divos cried. Cinna left the room, his eyes lingering at the odd sight in front of him before he called Cato's publicist.
"I-it wasn't that bad. W-was it?" He looked at her, tears streaming down his face generously.
"Uh. You had a cold. It was understandable that your voice wasn't in the greatest shape." She returned kindly, continuing her comforting therapy. "You shouldn't have strained it like that. Any other day would have been fine."
What could she do? Tell the poor guy he was tone deaf and reduce him into an even more pitiful ball of tears than he was now? She didn't think that was a good idea.
"Y-yeah. I guess you're right." He let back, mustering up a watery smile. "I shouldn't have done that, huh?"
"Yeah. You shouldn't have." She tried to hide the exasperation in her voice as she settled the sobbing star into the couch. She knew she wasn't very good with children. Actually, she wasn't good with people in general outside a professional setting, and with this oversized man-child bawling before her she was at a loss for words. "Want me to sing for you again?"
Cato sniffed as he balled himself up and settled his head on her lap. "Yes please."
Katniss had learned over the years that if there was one way to shut people up, it was with her voice. She used a stern voice for discipline, a calm voice for negotiation, and a seductive purr if all else failed. Far from her normal steady and unyielding voice which made people take her seriously, however, many a person had told her that her singing voice was one that could calm even the most raging storm. She knew it was an exaggeration, but on days like these it was a welcome gift, one that she chose only to use sparingly after she sent her sister away to boarding school.
There was once a time Katniss wasn't afraid to sing – music had been an integral part of her life after all – but after the incident years ago, it left a bad taste in her mouth, a reminder of her painful past. Looking down at the crumpled piece of stardom that lay on her lap at this moment, despite his whimpering being more than an overreaction, she couldn't help but feel familiar to the feeling of having to comfort someone with a song. She had done it many times with her sister on the worst of days, and something about the star's blonde hair and blue eyes made her partial to him, albeit only sufficiently enough to allow her to look past his horrible attitude.
As the last few notes of the song drew to a close, the faint sound of footsteps alerted her to an impending presence.
"Get up." She said hastily, adjusting her skirt and standing up, making sure no evidence of what had just conspired was left. She looked to Cato to see that he now had a small smile on his face, his blue eyes meeting her face in what she dreadfully recognized as a lovelorn look.
A few seconds later and his gaze was broken by the entrance of a foreboding figure.
"Ah, Miss Everdeen." The sickly deep voice enunciated every syllable with a lingering drawl which reminded her of a snake.
"Mister Snow." Katniss eyes widened.
"Dad!" Cato voiced in surprise before going over to the man and capturing him in an embrace. "When did you get here?"
"Well Mister Gale over here drove me to the studio after your – appearance." He eyed Katniss slowly as if she were a lamb ready for the slaughter. "Miss Everdeen did quite a job, didn't she?"
Katniss bit back a gulp at the sound of the name that was once hers.
Gale stepped up after him, a look of worry clearly written on his face upon seeing the two in the room.
"It's Miss Hawthorne, Mister Snow. I'm sure you haven't forgotten that we're married now. We have been for seven years." Gale managed to let out a forced laugh before walking over to Katniss and wrapping a possessive arm around her waist, as if to remind the father and son of their relationship. "Good to see you doing so well Cato."
Cato glared at the man, who now had the object of his affection in his arms. "You too, Gale. Have another hit single for me?" The contempt in his voice unmistakably obvious.
"Now, now. Gale. I'm sure Mister Snow just forgot. And Cato, Gale's a music producer, not a miracle worker. He'll get your next single out when it's ready, 'kay?" Katniss chose her words carefully as she evaluated the situation. She did not want to cross any of the three men in the room at this moment.
"Ah yes. You know me. My memory fails me at times." Snow smiled at his son and then back at the couple before continuing. "I'm aware that my son came to work with a cold today?"
His tone was more than accusatory.
"And yet he was forced to do such a heavy TV assignment." He shook his head in disappointment, patting his son on the shoulder and feigning concern.
"The studio tour was scheduled a month in advance, even before his single became a hit –" Katniss tried to explain, "There was no way to cancel –"
"I insisted Dad. It's not her fault." Cato chimed in, trying to help. "I overestimated myself. I thought I could exert my voice. I didn't think it would-"
"Still. You are Miss Hawthorne's responsibility. I don't let you make your way to her apartment every other night to have you going AWOL." Snow eyed the couple menacingly, Gale giving Katniss' waist a comforting squeeze.
Katniss couldn't believe she was having this conversation with Gale in the room. There were no words for how guilty she felt at this moment.
"I'm sorry. I'll make sure nothing like this happens ever again." She trained her eyes to the floor, at a loss as to how to handle the situation that just blew up in her face.
"And I'll have Cato's next single ready by next week." Gale provided, wanting to ease the blame away from Katniss. "Just a few more tweaks here and there and it'll be another hit."
"Oh, there's no need for that." Snow smiled cryptically, "I've already decided Cato's next project."
Gale mouth hung open. "What do you mean?"
"Oh don't you worry Mr. Gale. You'll still be producing this one." His last few syllables were drawn out far more than necessary. "I just thought we'd go for a different direction."
Katniss nodded and Cato shifted his weight from foot to foot.
"What did you have in mind?" Gale rubbed his chin, a habit he had developed over the years when he was in a pinch.
"Oh, I'll inform you when the papers are finalized." He laughed as he began to make his way out the door. "Let's just say we don't have all the rights yet. But once we do, we'll be remaking one of the nation's greatest hits."
Cato joined his father out the door, sparing a few seconds to throw Katniss an apologetic grin before letting himself out of the awkward atmosphere.
"Why do I have a bad feeling about this?" Katniss murmured as the faint footsteps signaled that it was safe to breath.
"You're not the only one." Gale plopped down onto the listeners' couch and stared up at his best friend. "Dinner?"
"Dinner sounds awesome."
"Thanks for covering for me back there." Katniss broke the silence of the meal as she dug into the remnants of her dessert. "Didn't think I could speak up after being called – you know. It's just been so long."
"Hey, it's no problem. You're supposed to be my wife, remember?" Gale laughed as he watched Katniss lick her spoon like a child, despite there not being a trace of dessert left on the utensil. "Though it kind of bugs me that you're going out with Cato of all people."
"I'm not going out with him. I'm doing it so he won't be so much of an ass all the time. You know he won't listen to me otherwise." Katniss let out, resigned to whatever scolding she was bound to get. But it never came.
Gale just looked up at her doubtfully and continued with his meal, letting a few more minutes pass without any conversation between them.
"I can't thank you enough you know?" She said finally, "After all these years, letting me use you like this."
Gale shrugged. "Well technically, you're not really using me, you're just using my name."
She looked up at him, a layer of guilt covering her face. "You know it's the same thing."
Gale Hawthorne was her best friend, even before the incident that left her life in pieces. Gale was just as musically oriented as she was, though she didn't dare admit to him that he had bested her where arranging music was concerned. They were virtually inseparable through music school and had formed an informal bond within the confines of their friendship. They'd promised each other to stick it out together, even when they hit it big time, making sure one's success was not without the other's and for a time, that was how it was. The day her father died, Gale was determined to not let that promise go. When her father died and the pain of carrying his name, yet another reminder of the mistakes which had left a permanent mark on her, became too much she abandoned her identity entirely – her life, her past and any future people had come to associate with the Everdeen name.
She hadn't married Gale outright, it wasn't official and it wasn't on paper. He had just offered his name to her one rather depressing day, a day when she refused to leave her room and had threatened to end it right then and there. That day, Gale hadn't just offered her his name, but a chance to start from scratch and erase any painful memories she wouldn't have been able to escape otherwise. She agreed and one day, she had just started using his name, introducing herself as Katniss Hawthorne and reprogramming herself to think that she was Katniss Hawthorne from birth.
Looking back, it would have been easier if she had introduced herself as his sister, they were, after all, not that different where looks were concerned – grey eyes, dark hair and tanner-than-average skin. Gale, however, had insisted, convinced that he could do more for her this way.
Gale helped her back on her feet. He gave up his dreams of stardom in exchange for stability as a music producer and got her started as an agent. Even then, they worked as a team, and people didn't question their relationship with how well they worked. Over the years, Gale was thankful for the change. He began to be cynical at what the music industry had become, favoring looks and status to actual talent. Katniss refrained from indulging him and telling him he was right, that he could probably sing and play circles around everybody that was famous right now. She didn't want to fuel his ego.
Katniss on the other hand had tried to avoid music entirely, choosing only to deal with it indirectly through her clients. She even went so far as to distance herself from Gale himself, getting her own apartment and seeing him only when her clients had recording sessions. Gale didn't question it. He knew it was difficult for her, and if it meant she was more comfortable, he let it be. Even then, it was difficult. But Gale got her through it. They maintained their cover up marriage for convenience, and Gale didn't complain. And how did she repay him? By sleeping around with Cato, putting her job before her friendship and fake marriage. Days like these reminded her of that and made her feel like a horrible person.
"I'm sure you'd have done the same thing for me." Gale dismissed the topic as he paid the bill. He took her hand in his and led her out of the restaurant. "Let's get out of here."
Gale dropped her off at her apartment, bidding her goodbye with a soft kiss to her temple and she returned it with a soft kiss to his lips, a kiss that she had grown so accustomed to over the years that she had thought nothing more of it. Today however, was different.
Gale lingered on her kiss, repaying her by trailing her soft kiss with many of his own, along her jaw, down her neck and on her collarbone.
"Gale-" Katniss let out airily.
"Shh." Gale whispered against the skin of her neck, "I need this."
Katniss couldn't argue. She had already taken so much. She felt obliged to give back. Taking Gale's lips into her own, she deepened her kisses, snaking her arms around his neck and letting herself melt into his form.
Gale crashed his lips down onto hers, desperate for something more as he pushed her frame against the door of her apartment. Katniss let out a gasp as her back met the hard surface, granting Gale access deeper into her mouth. She battled back with a push of her own, their bodies meeting and the heat getting almost unbearable.
Gale's hands trailed down the small of her back, leaving patches of warmth where they left her, finally settling themselves on her thighs, lifting her up and pushing her up against the door so she was now straddling him.
Needless to say, they would have gone much further had Katniss apartment door not opened to reveal a tall blonde staring at them as they both crashed down on the floor from the sudden disappearance of the support they had been leaning on.
"I knew I heard something outside." The girl was grinning widely.
"Prim!" Katniss let out a surprised gasp as she stood up awkwardly, arranging herself, hoping to god this did not make her sister think any less of her.
Gale did the same beside her, before clearing his throat and scratching the back of his head awkwardly. "You're back."
There the blonde teen stood, eye to eye with her sister, the smirk on her face hinting that she would not let Katniss live this moment down until they were both old and grey. She surveyed the scene in front of them before finally stepping aside to let them in.
"When did you- How did you-" Katniss let herself in and gestured Gale to follow her. If she was going to suffer her sister's inquisition she was not doing it alone, she decided firmly, all selfless thoughts thrown out the window as she was now faced with her latest predicament.
Gale begrudgingly followed her in as they awaited Prim's explanation.
"Rue let me in." She stated simply, gesturing to the girl who was now enjoying sliced mangoes while watching a repeat of Cato's TV appearance in the living room.
"Hey Katniss!" She smiled innocently. "She came by a few hours ago. I didn't think you'd be back home this late."
Katniss looked at Prim, then at Rue, then at the TV and then back to Gale, who shrugged, as uncomfortable in this position just as she was.
"Oh lighten up. I'm nineteen. It's not like I haven't seen my fair share of girls getting down and dirty." Prim rolled her eyes as she shut the door and took her place beside Rue, her eyes now trained on the TV. "To my defense, I did try looking at the peep hole before opening the door, but I could only make out a mop of dark hair."
"I'm sorry about this Gale." Katniss looked at him apologetically. "Did you want some coffee?"
Gale looked down at his feet and smiled. "Nah, I should probably get going. I'm sure you two have a lot to catch up on." He shot a playful look at Prim before waving a goodbye and making his way back to the door.
"Hey, Gale!" Prim called back before he left, "Thanks for taking good care of my sister." She gave him a wink and returned his wave.
"No prob. See you tomorrow then Katniss?"
"Yeah." She replied, still not knowing what to make of everything that just happened. "Thanks again for – yeah."
Gale laughed and shut the door behind him.
When the door shut, Katniss kicked off her shoes and joined the other two girls on the couch. "Well that was awkward."
"Not really." Prim returned teasingly, passing the bowl of sliced mangoes to Katniss, "So how's my brother-in-law been doing?"
"He's fine." Katniss replied, tired of the subject, "But the man you're watching on TV now is giving both of us major problems."
Prim and Rue laughed. Katniss was just thankful that the TV station had the propriety to cut out Cato's live singing for the repeat broadcast. She didn't think she had enough in her to witness the scene twice today, or any day for that matter.
"I think he's cute." Rue supplied as she flipped the channels, noticing the muddled frustration in Katniss' tone. She was aware of what went on when Cato paid her late night visits, but she knew Katniss well enough not to judge. Katniss was a good person, although her view of work and how to manage some of her clients was still a little warped.
"Then you can have him." Katniss laughed, grateful when Prim grabbed the remote and turned the TV off completely. "By the way Rue, how was your go-see?"
"Oh that." Rue's mood seemed to dampen. "They wanted me to pose nude." Her nose crinkled in disgust. "I don't think I'm ready for that yet."
Katniss understood and just nodded. "There are other jobs out there."
"I'mma go shower. I've got another go-see tomorrow." Rue got up and left the two sisters to their own devices.
"So." Prim began.
"So." Katniss replied.
It was five summers ago that Katniss decided she didn't want her sister anywhere near the spotlight, in fear that it would turn her into the monsters she'd become accustomed to dealing with everyday. So she sent her out of state to study, only seeing her once a year during their break. That break had come by again this year, and Katniss had almost forgotten her sister was coming entirely. It seemed ironic to her that doing what was best for the person she considered most important in the world actually ended up making Katniss cast her aside completely.
"Mom's doing better." Prim supplied, trying to break the silence. She had forgotten when it became a chore to actually talk to her sister. She loved her, but most of the decisions Katniss made in life, she questioned strongly. That being said, she respected her enough to let her make her own calls. "She asks about you, you know?"
"You sure she even remembers me?" Katniss replied, going with the flow. They both knew their mother wasn't in the best of conditions. Alzheimer's had left her a shadow of the woman she used to be, and it worsened considerably after her father's death.
"She does." Prim leaned on the couch, settling her head on her sister's shoulder. "She just doesn't remember you aren't twelve anymore."
Katniss smiled despite it all. She was happy at least one of the people she held dear didn't have to deal with the aftermath of her father's death. It had been a good ten years since his death, and she found comfort in the fact that her mother could enjoy the present as she had in the past, perpetually.
"I think she thinks I'm Aunt Maysilee." Prim laughs bitterly, "Always calling me over to grab the kids."
"Well you do somewhat look like her." Katniss teased as she pulled on the pigtail Prim's hair was done into that night. "It's getting late, little duck. You thinking of turning in?"
Prim looked at her sister before burying her face into Katniss' shoulder. "Tomorrow'll be better won't it?"
Katniss gave her sister a reassuring pat on the head. "Days like these, I don't even know anymore."
Getting up to make her way into the spare bedroom, Prim gave her sister one last consoling look. "Goodnight Kat."
Notes: Aww, no Katniss/Peeta interaction just yet (or was there? Dun dun dunnnn) The first chapter was actually supposed to be much longer, but I found that if I split it into two, the themes would run much deeper. READER POP QUIZ: How many times was the Chapter Theme mentioned in the chapter? Reply in the comments below
I've been playing with this idea for awhile now, and finally built up most of the plot after being inspired by watching a TV broadcast of Brittany Murphy's Uptown Girl. The plot has nothing to do with the movie, but it draws on the same tone. I have a habit of shifting atmospheres quite quickly, and it happens more than once in this story, so don't be surprised if I tend to insert a bit of comedic relief in some dramatic areas of the plot, it's just the way I write, as you've probably noticed. I have half of the next chapter ready, and it will probably take me three days to be fully pleased with it, so I hope you can wait until then. I know where I am and I know where I'm headed, so all the fun in writing is going to be how I'm going to get there. I'm planning on making this a three-shot story. So please stay tuned and tell me what you think ;)
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Chapter 2: The Storm
Katniss woke up the next day to the sound of nothingness. She spent a good ten minutes staring up at the ceiling before finally forcing herself out of bed. It was unusual not to have her phone buzzing from the get go, but today was just one of those days, she assumed – the calm before the storm.
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