Summary: AU. Katniss becomes a mail order bride to feed her starving family. The husband who chooses her is a war veteran named Peeta Mellark. Will being married to him be as awful as she thought?
Love You Long Time
Katniss swallowed down the bile that rose in her throat as she stepped through the Arrivals gate, looking for the Agency Representative holding a sign with her name on it.
She found the woman sticking out from the crowd, garishly made up as though she were going to a party, not standing in an airport.
"Hello," she mumbled, self-conscious of her English.
"Katniss?" the woman enquired, with a smile so bright it made Katniss deeply uncomfortable.
"Yes," she replied, taking in the woman's bottle blonde hair and bright pink lipstick.
"What a beautiful young lady, someone's in for a treat!" the woman patted Katniss' face as if she were a show pony.
"I'm Effie Trinket, I'll be your escort to your new husband," the brash American woman smiled again and Katniss wondered what her chances of escape were.
But, no. Even though she could easily outrun the woman, she had no ticket to return home. And even if by some miracle she could afford one, returning home would do Prim and her mother no good. She had come to America to save them from starvation and she would see it through. The Agency would be sure to take the money away if she backed out now. And she hoped that the man they married her to would be rich enough that she could send even more home, to take care of them when the Agency sign up payment ran out.
His house was nicer than the mayor's house in her town.
Katniss' thighs stuck to the leather seat of Effie Trinket's plush car as they pulled into his driveway. Pennsylvania was hotter than she was used to at this time of year, though thankfully still green, like her home District had been. It already hurt her heart to remember it and she wondered if time would make the pain worse or ease it.
Prim had promised to write, and Katniss had sworn they'd see each other again one day. It was too much to hope that her new husband would let her visit her family. She wasn't sure she even trusted herself to be able to return to him if by some miracle he did. And she didn't want Prim coming to America unless it was under her own volition, for a better life, not to enter into a Mail Order Marriage. But she had to believe that one day she'd see her sister again. And her mother. And her best friend, Gale. Another person it hurt her heart to think about, so she stopped, turning her attention to Effie's chatter as they walked up the path to his front door, dragging her suitcase behind her. The heels Effie had put her in pinched, and the make-up felt stiff and unnatural on her face.
"Remember, your new husband has paid a lot of money for your company. Don't forget your training. Always smile, dress demurely but attractively, and make sure you are pleasant and entertaining company. Defer to your husband's opinion on matters of importance, and don't question his judgement, even though it may be different from your own. You are here to learn how to be the best wife possible for your new husband. You wouldn't want to upset him after he spent all that money on you, and have him send you back, now, would you?" Effie's shrill laugh chills Katniss to the core.
She grits her teeth at the memory of the Agency's "training". She's surprised they even passed her. Katniss was not a woman who deferred to the opinions of others, and her smiles were given when she chose. Even though she had stooped to an arranged marriage to feed her family, her morals and self-respect were things she could not bring herself to compromise on. If that meant the idiot who bought her had to send her back, well then…she'd just have to hope they'd legalized hunting again by the time she got back home. If it weren't for the new strict government, she'd have been able to continue feeding her family without having to resort to this.
Even she had been surprised to pass training after the awful performance she'd given. Haymitch, her coach at the Agency in her hometown had said they were planning to fail her, but an American had seen her introduction video on the site and chosen her. He said when they tried to tell the American she was no longer available he offered even more money for her, until they relented. They were only in it for the money after all.
Katniss wondered who awaited behind that front door. What man would pay so much just for her? Who would possibly want her specifically, when she had been so surly and unbecoming in her interview video? She hoped he was a man who valued authenticity, but feared he might be a brute who liked a challenge.
She knew he was an ex-Army Officer, so she'd prepared herself that he might be violent. She had every intention of fighting back if she had to, demureness training be damned. She also knew he'd lost a leg in the Army, which she assumed was why he was lonely enough to buy an arranged marriage, though maybe his face or personality was ugly too. All this, Katniss had prepared herself for. As long as he treated her with respect, she was willing to be as dutiful a wife as her rebellious spirit would allow, for the sake of her family. For Prim.
She was not prepared for the brilliant blue eyes of the man who opened the door.
"Welcome!" his greeting was warm, and his hand was warm when he shook hers.
"Please, come in, it's so nice to finally meet you," he was grinning widely, but unlike Effie's his didn't make Katniss uncomfortable. It eased a little of the apprehension in her gut.
His voice was deep and smooth, he was young and attractive, with blonde hair that fell into his eyes. She could barely tell that one of his legs was false, and she could almost fell the warmth radiating from him. Katniss breathed a little easier. She knew she could have done a lot worse for a husband.
If she didn't know for certain that he'd purchased her, Katniss would never guess that this man would be the type to order a foreign bride. He seemed so happy, so...attractive, physically and in his demeanor. Nothing like the shy or crippled or moody or old or repulsive man she had anticipated.
"Peeta, this is your new wife," Effie was beside herself with fake-seeming joy.
"You just need to sign here, and then I'll leave the two of you to get acquainted," she nudged Peeta conspiratorially and winked in a way that made Katniss' stomach flip.
She knew she'd have to do that soon, probably tonight, but she'd never done it before, not even with Gale, and was not looking forward to it. It was better if she just didn't think about it. Maybe she could zone out while it was happening and it'd be over before she knew it. Poor man being so lonely probably wouldn't last long.
Peeta signed the marriage contract and dismissed Effie with a wave.
"If you have any problems, just give me a call," Effie eyed Katniss warily. Katniss didn't like the way the look implied Peeta would have cause to use her number.
"I'm sure we'll be just fine, thank you," Peeta replied pleasantly. Katniss felt a warm hand on her shoulder. She jumped a little in surprise and he withdrew it, looking bashful.
"Sorry," he smiled ruefully, "Didn't mean to frighten you."
"It's OK," after getting over the shock, Katniss almost missed the warmth of his hand anchoring her to the world, as her last connection with the Agency and her former life drove away from her.
"So, welcome home," Peeta watched her intently for a response and his attention made Katniss blush. He eventually seemed to sense her discomfort and broke the awkward tension easily and jovially.
"Let's get your things unpacked," Peeta took hold of her small suitcase, containing her few belongings, and started up the stairs.
Katniss wanted to say that it was OK, she could do it, but his leg didn't seem to be bothering him and she didn't fully trust her English.
Peeta showed her to a room bigger than her family's entire house.
"Would you like help unpacking?" he asked, so relaxed and welcoming, as though settling new wives into his home was something he did every day.
"No, thank you," Katniss managed a small smile, hoping he wouldn't be offended.
"All right, I'll get started on some dinner," he rubbed his hands together eagerly, "You must be hungry after the long trip."
"Yes," Katniss nodded, "Thank you," she added.
As he headed for the kitchen, alarm bells went off in her head.
"Wait," she called. His big blonde head reappeared in the doorframe.
"I can make food," she struggled with the English sentence, "dinner," she found it, "I can make you dinner."
"No, please, relax," he grinned good-naturedly. "You're welcome to help if you want to, but I want to make something for you. I think you'll love my cooking."
Katniss was surprised. Her training had prepared her to expect to cook most meals as an American wife.
"I'm a baker," Peeta continued, sensing her discomfort, "I opened up a little shop after…the leg," for the first time since she'd arrived he looked a little uncomfortable, but quickly breezed by it, "after I came back from the army for good, I got back to my old hobbies. My father is a baker and he gave me some lessons. We have a little shop in town. I work there most days."
A baker. Would she be expected to work in the shop? Would he bring home cakes and pastries? Katniss couldn't believe her good luck so far. Of all the awful strange lonely men she could have been married to, she'd gotten a warm, jolly, baker.
Katniss kept waiting for Peeta's awful side to come out, but he was a gentleman all through dinner. He served her a delicious lasagne with fresh homemade garlic bread and warm chocolate muffins for dessert. She had never felt so full and the food was far more luxurious than she was used to.
Peeta attempted to make conversation over dinner, but she kept her answers short. Both because she didn't trust her English and because he kept asking about her home and family, which pained her to speak about.
"Thank you for the dinner, I'm tired," she said eventually.
"Oh, of course, how rude of me, you've had such a big day," Peeta looked deeply concerned so she smiled to let him know she was okay.
"I'll wash these," Katniss rose from the table and started to take the dishes to the sink.
"No, no, I'll do it, it's no trouble," Peeta took the dishes from her hands and this time she was prepared for the warmth she felt when his large hands brushed hers.
"You head on up to bed, I'll be up in a while," he smiled over his shoulder, already filling the sink with bubbles.
Katniss wanted to protest that he'd made the food so she should clean up, but she'd make a stronger argument if she didn't have to use English. She also remembered her training. She'd been taught to expect to do most of the housework and cleaning. All marriages were different, and perhaps she was truly lucky in finding someone who'd divide the housework in an equal partnership, but Katniss didn't want to get comfortable with the idea yet, in case he surprised her tomorrow. She would rather not trust him at all than open up a little and be let down in the long run. He might be looking for a meaningful relationship but her marriage contract just meant she had to be civil.
Katniss lay in the dark huddled up on the far side of the enormous bed. She missed the feeling of Prim's body squashed up against hers, and trembled with anticipation for the moment when Peeta got into bed. She had no idea what to expect. He'd been very friendly, much friendlier than she'd expected, but perhaps that meant he'd expect her to be very friendly right away too. Training had prepared them that they might have to consummate their marriages as soon as the first night together. Or some marriages might never be consummated, depending on the needs and physical condition of their husband. The kinds of people who paid for marriages were usually very lonely and eager for sex or physically incapable of a normal relationship.
Katniss buried her face in the thick pillow, willing herself to fall asleep before he came up, but knowing her body wouldn't drop its alert. The pillow smelled like him, she noticed, as she breathed deeply to calm herself and pressed her face to it. She was glad he smelled pleasant. The marriage would be much harder if he didn't.
It must have been hours later when she heard the door creak open. She kept her eyes shut and her breathing even so that Peeta would think she was asleep. This might discourage him, he'd have to wake her up if he wanted sex and he seemed like a considerate person who might not want to wake her.
She heard rustling as Peeta changed into pyjamas. She had put on a long sleeved shirt and leggings for bed, not wanting to encourage him with anything skimpy. It had felt so good to wash off the thick layer of make-up and feel her own plain face again.
She felt Peeta come closer, his sweet warm smell surrounded her as she carefully regulated her breathing to seem asleep. She felt his face pass close to hers, felt the sensation of being looked at, and forced herself not to jump when she felt his thick fingers tuck a strand of hair behind her ear.
This is it, she thought. Now he'll wake me up and ask me…
"There you are," his voice was soft and quiet, as though no one was meant to hear it at all.
"There she is," he repeated again, "So much lovelier without all that make up."
Katniss felt the loss of his warm hand again immediately and felt him move away. She was stunned, not only at that he didn't wake her up for sex, but also at his refreshing opinion on make-up. What a relief that he preferred her without it. That was one thing she was happy to defer to him on, because she agreed.
The bathroom light clicked on and his footsteps tapped against the tiles, his false leg making a heavier footfall than the real one—though only a hunter would be able to tell the difference. Her stomach still clenched in anticipation, because he might be just waiting until he got into bed to wake her up.
She heard running water, a toothbrush, the click of the light turning off as he moved back to the bedroom. The bed sagged as he lowered himself on it, and she felt the warmth of his presence even across the great distance between them as he settled in.
Katniss thought she heard a whispered, "Goodnight," and then silence and stillness, just his soft breathing in the dark.
By the time she had the courage to open her eyes and look, he was curled up facing away from her, the covers pulled chastely around him. Katniss felt relief and just the smallest disappointment that perhaps the reason he hadn't tried anything was that he wasn't attracted to her. She realised as much as she longed for home, she would be disappointed if he sent her back. Because Peeta was as nice of a husband as she was likely to find. So far, he was even nicer and more considerate than Gale, who she'd been with voluntarily.
Katniss shivered, pulling the duvet up around her chin and scooted just a little across the bed until she could feel the soothing warmth of his body heat from across the mattress. Finally she relaxed enough to fall asleep.
A/N: Thanks for reading! No idea when I'll update. Could be quite a while. Just couldn't get this plot bunny out of my head so I had to start it. Let me know your thoughts.