A/N: This idea came to me at work. Sadly, I don't work in a bakery, but I do work in a shop with an instore bakery. Some of the things in this story are loosely based on things that've actually happened to me at work... although unfortunately there isn't a lovely Peeta Mellark at my shop :(
I really just wrote this for my own enjoyment, but thought I might as well pop it on here in case anyone was interested!
It's New Year's Eve in District Twelve.
We learnt in school that New Year's Eve was a big celebration in the years before Panem was created – with fireworks and meals and drinking. In District Twelve, New Year is met with mixed emotions: for those with children under 12, the coming of a new year means one year closer to their children being eligible for the Games; for those with children over 12, it means one year closer to the end of their reaping.
This year, New Year is a celebration for the Mellark family: my middle brother, Rye, is getting married tonight.
He proposed to his sweetheart after the Reaping this year. It was both of their final years of Reaping and they're finally free to get married and live their lives. I myself still have two years left in the Reaping and even after that I probably won't be getting married.
My problem is a girl: Katniss Everdeen. I've loved her since I was five years old, but I don't think she even knows who I am. The only time we've had any interaction was four years ago, when she was starving in the rain and I burnt some bread and threw it to her to eat. Although I got a beating from my Mother at the time, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
I'm burning with jealousy when I see the way my brother and his new wife look at each other as they toast bread over the fire. I'd give anything to have Katniss look at me like that. But everyone knows that Katniss hates the idea of marriage and, let's face it, if she changed her mind about that, she'd never choose me – not when she could have Gale Hawthorne instead. What girl in her right mind would choose me – a baker whose only skill is cake decorating – over a burly, handsome man who can provide for her and her family? It's hopeless.
Another thing I remember learning about New Year before Panem was a tradition called "New Year's Resolutions". People would make promises to themselves at New Year, which they would aim to keep by the end of the year. I decide that it's time to make my own resolution – I'm going to get over Katniss Everdeen and find someone new, someone who will love me back and make me happy.
Lost in my own little world of thoughts and promises, I don't notice Rye sitting down beside me.
"Hey Peeta, what's on your mind?" he asks, jerking me from my train of thought.
"Oh, nothing, I was just thinking about ...um... school," I say, unconvincingly. He raises his eyebrow, clearly not believing me, but doesn't call me out.
"Did Dad tell you, they've hired my replacement for the bakery?"
My oldest brother, Briar, is currently training to take over the bakery when my Father retires. Rye, however, is moving in with his new wife and will be working with his father-in-law, the tailor, instead. This means we'll be understaffed at the bakery, so Dad decided to hire someone to work a few days a week to make up for it.
"No, he didn't tell me. Who is it?" I ask, intrigued.
"Well, apparently it's a girl from the Seam! I don't know how he managed to pursuade Mum to accept that!" he exclaims. It's true, our Mother does seem to hate people from the Seam.
"Oh right, what's her name?"
"Katrin I think it is... Katherine maybe... definitely Kat-something,"
"Katniss?" I ask, half hoping it's her and half hoping it's not.
"Yeah that's it, Katniss. Katniss Everdeen"
Hours available: Monday, Wednesday, Friday evenings; Saturday mornings.
I couldn't believe it when Mr Mellark offered me the job in the bakery. I only applied on the off chance because the money would really be helpful. I never expected that I'd actually get the job!
I have three reservations with taking this job. Firstly, I know that Mrs Mellark doesn't like kids from the Seam. I'm surprised that she let her husband hire me in the first place! Secondly, I know that Gale will be equally unimpressed with my working for a merchant family. He's almost as prejudiced as Mrs Mellark, actually: he doesn't trust anyone who isn't from the Seam.
Thirdly, and probably most importantly, is the baker's son, Peeta. Years ago, after my Father died, Peeta saved my life and the lives of my family. He gave us bread and faced the wrath of his mother for doing so. I never thanked him and I still feel like I owe him something, which I hate. I'm dreading having to spend time with him at the bakery.
On my first day, Mr Mellark gives me a dark blue shirt with Mellark's written on it and a net to wear over my head. He then gives me a quick tour of the bakery. From the dairy chiller full of milk, butter, cheese and eggs, to the big ovens where they bake the bread. I'm not the best cook, so I was pleased to hear that my jobs would mostly involve fetching and carrying and cleaning.
He then introduced me to the rest of the family. As I expected, his wife greets me with barely-concealed disdain, shaking my hand stiffly. Luckily, she doesn't work in the bakery often, so I should be able to avoid her. Their oldest son, Briar, is second in command. He seems really kind and friendly, just like his father, which puts me at ease because I'll be working with him most days. Finally I'm introduced to Peeta, who I already know, of course. He doesn't shake my hand or even say anything, which is strange. I expect he remembers giving me that bread years ago and is angry that I never thanked him. Apparently, Peeta and I will be working alone on Friday nights in the bakery, which I am definitely not looking forward to.
I hadn't realised that Katniss and I would be working alone on Fridays until my Dad told us about it. Of course it makes sense, I used to work alone with my brother on Fridays and Katniss is his replacement. I'm dreading having to spend time alone with her though, it's certainly not going to help my attempts to get over her!
The fact that she looks so cute wearing the Mellark's uniform isn't helping either. Apart from the dress she wore to the Reaping this year, I don't think I've ever seen her wearing anything except ill-fitting shirts and hunting boots. The fitted shirt hugs her body in a delicious way and the dark blue colour definitely suits her.
Shortly after the introductions are made, my Father leaves. Briar and I get to work making some cheese buns, while Katniss stands awkwardly behind us, awaiting instruction.
"Katniss, could you fetch us some cheese from the dairy chiller, please?" Briar asks her a few minutes later. She doesn't reply, but nods and head towards the chiller. After about five minutes, she still hasn't returned, so he sends me to find her. I consider refusing, telling him to go do it himself, but I can't bring myself to do so – he is in charge after all.
I enter the back room and am surprised to see the door to the chiller is shut and Katniss is nowhere to be seen. Maybe she got lost or had to go to the bathroom or something. I call out her name and hear a quiet reply and a muffled banging. It finally dawns on me that she's managed to lock herself in the chiller.
I rush to open the door from the outside and she practically falls through the door into me. I grab the tops of her arms to steady her and even through the shirt her skin is really cold. Instinctively, I start rubbing my hands up and down her arms to get some warmth into her. She's still shivering so I put my arms all the way around and hug her to me. I know that I shouldn't be doing this – I'm trying to get over the girl after all – but I'm just doing it to warm her up, right?
She stands completely rigid in my arms, not returning the hug; after about 30 seconds I let her go and she instantly steps back from me. She stares at me in shock before turning her back on me, grabbing some cheese out of the chiller and hurrying back to where Briar is still making the buns.
I can't believe I managed to lock myself in the chiller on my first day. I just stepped in for a minute and the door swung shut behind me. I know that Mr Mellark showed me the emergency exit button but in my panic in the dark, cold room, I couldn't find it.
My relief when Peeta found me soon turned to fear as he touched me and hugged me. I don't deserve his sympathy and I don't need his help. What scared me the most was how much I enjoyed having his arms wrapped around me like that, and not just because he was warm against my freezing skin.
For the rest of the evening, I manage to keep out of trouble. I fetch some more ingredients for the buns and some other recipes. Once the boys finish their baking, I wipe down the surfaces, sweep the floor and wash up. At the end of the night, Peeta tries to give me a paper bag with one of the fresh cheese buns inside. It smells amazing, but I can't accept it – I owe Peeta enough already – so I shove the bag back at him without a word.
"Just take it Katniss," he argues, "This one is burnt on the bottom, so we can't sell it anyway,"
"I can't. Your family is already paying me to work here and I owe you enough already," I reply. He looks confused. Perhaps he doesn't remember the bread he gave me all those years ago. Before he can ask me what I'm talking about, or try to give me the bag again, I hurry out the door and down the road towards the Seam.
I don't have to work on Tuesdays. I decide to spend the afternoon with Gale, so I head to the woods after school. By the time I get to our meeting place, Gale is already there. I haven't seen him since I accepted the job in the bakery and as I approach, I can tell he's in a bad mood with me. I sit down next to him.
"Hi Gale," I say, trying to sound happy.
"Catnip," he replies, much less cheerfully. "How was work at the bakery?" he practically spits out the last word.
"It was fine," I reply. "The baker and his sons are all really friendly." I decide not to tell him about the incident with the chiller.
Gale grimaces and folds his arms. "I don't like you working there Catnip. You don't need their money."
I knew he would be this way, but it doesn't make it hurt any less when he says it.
"I do need the money Gale. In a few months you'll be working in the mines, but what am I supposed to do? I don't have any skills apart from hunting and I can't support my family with that forever."
"It's been enough for the last four years, hasn't it? The merchants think they're better than us and I don't want you hanging around them."
I can't stand when he's like this – telling me what I can and can't do. I don't want to argue with him, so I just walk away. I know I can't avoid this forever, but I just can't take it right now.
I do a great job avoiding Katniss all day Tuesday and Wednesday. While I would usually sit near her at lunch and steal glances at her, today I sit as far away as possible and keep my eyes on my lunch. I even swapped lockers with a friend so that I wouldn't have to pass her in the corridors.
Unfortunately, keeping her out of my head has proven to be much more difficult. I keep wondering why she refused to take the burnt cheese bun from me, why she seems to think that she owes me something.
Once Wednesday afternoon rolls around, it is impossible for me to avoid her any more as we have to work together. My Father is also working this evening; the two of us are making raisin bread and some cookies. Meanwhile, Katniss is in the storeroom doing an inventory: counting the bags of ingredients so that we know what to order from the Capitol for next month.
After half an hour of mixing ingredients, my Father sends me to the storeroom to get the raisins. I enter the storeroom and am greeted with the sight of Katniss bent over, counting the little bags of chocolate chips on the bottom shelf. She obviously doesn't hear me enter as she doesn't stand up; for a few glorious seconds I can't stop myself from staring at her ass. I feel like an absolute pervert and this definitely isn't helping me to stop thinking about her, so I clear my throat so that she knows I'm there.
I smile and lean past her, grabbing the raisins I need and getting out of the room as soon as possible. When I get back to the main bakery, my Dad glances at me "You alright son? You look a bit flushed there, do you need some fresh air?" he asks.
I shake my head and get back to making the bread. While kneading the raisins into the dough, my mind keeps straying back to Katniss and the way she looked bent over like that. Pushing my fingers into the warm, smooth dough, I can't help but imagine that it's something else in my hands. I close my eyes and imagine that I'm massaging her shoulders, her back, all the way down to her perfect ass. I can barely restrain myself from moaning as I imagine the sounds of pleasure she might make as I massaged her.
Good Lord, I really need to snap out of it!
I quickly shape the bread into loaves and stick them in the oven – I have to get out of here for a minute. I head for the back door, adjusting my slightly uncomfortably tight trousers as I go, hoping just to catch a few minutes of fresh air while the bread bakes.
Obviously, it just my luck that as I round the corner, I bump straight into Katniss who's coming the other way. She lets out a little squeak of surprise and I grab her hand to stop her falling to avoid another awkward situation, I let go of her hand as soon as she's steady on her feet. I avoid her eyes and quickly brush past her to get to the back door.
Once outside, I take a deep breath and lean against the back wall of the bakery, head in my hands. Having her around, close to me like this, is actually driving me mad.
A few minutes later, I hear the back door of the bakery open again and someone joins me in the alley. It's probably my Father, wondering where I got to.
"Peeta, are you okay?" they ask. It's not my Father; it's Katniss.
I'm not usually one for invading other people's privacy but something draws me towards Peeta and I end up following him out into the alley behind the bakery. When I speak he looks surprised to see me – I must be even quieter than I thought.
"I'm fine Katniss, thanks." he replies. I don't really believe him, but I leave it be for now.
It suddenly occurs to me that this is the opportunity I've been waiting for, to thank him for the bread he gave me all those years ago. I've caught his eye a few times around school, but it's never seemed like the right time to thank him. But right now, while we're alone and in the same place where it happened, seems ideal. Maybe if I thank him, I can stop feeling guilty as though I owe him something.
He has his head in his hands again, like he doesn't want to look at me. With shaking hands, I gently take hold of his wrists, move his hands away from his face and look into his eyes.
"Peeta, do you know what I was talking about the other day when I said I already owe you enough?"
He shakes his head, looking a little purplexed. I'm still holding his wrists in my hands.
"Do you remember... the bread you gave me?" I ask, and my gaze momentarily lands on the apple tree behind him, the very tree which I had been slumped against, awaiting my own death before he saved me.
Realisation dawns on his face, "The bread? What? From when we were kids? What about it?"
I nod. "I just had to say thank you. That bread saved me. I wouldn't even be here if you hadn't... " I trail off, feeling rather emotional. "I just don't understand why you did it."
"I... don't know why" I can tell he's lying "I just saw you there in the rain, looking so ill and scared, and I didn't even think twice about it. But you don't need to worry that you owe me something. I'd do it again in a heartbeat."
"There must be something I can do to make it up to you, I can't stand feeling like I owe you something," I reply, getting a little frustrated at how he can't see this from my point of view.
A strange look comes across his face, his eyebrows dip together a little bit like he's trying to work something out. He releases his wrists from my loose grip and slowly takes my hands in his. Then he swiftly leans forward and touches his lips against mine. It's the first time I've ever been kissed and I'm completely taken by surprise. All I can think is how soft and warm his lips are before he's let go of my hands and disappeared inside the bakery again.
Oh God, why did I do that?
That was probably the worst thing I could've done. I'm supposed to be leaving Katniss alone, not kissing her. I try to convince myself that it's a good thing – she'll probably be so freaked out that she'll give up her job here and make my task of avoiding her that much easier...
Unsurprisingly, Katniss doesn't follow me back into the bakery. My Father asks where she is, as her shift isn't over for another hour. I cover for her by telling him that she was feeling unwell and went home. This results in me having to stay behind after work for an extra half hour to clean up, but it's worth it.
As I sweep the floor, I can't help but think back to the feeling of her delicate, little hands in mine, her soft lips against mine. The kiss was so brief, I didn't even give her the chance to kiss me back – I wonder if she would've kissed me back? Probably not. I wonder if I'll even get the chance to kiss her again? Probably not. I wonder if that was her first kiss? Probably not...I bet she kisses Gale Hawthorne all the time.
Friday comes around to quickly but, at the same time, not quickly enough. I'll be working alone with Katniss, which both terrifies and excites me.
My Father visits briefly to give Katniss and I our jobs for the afternoon. I am to make some bread rolls to be sold the following morning, whereas Katniss needs to do the inventory of the dairy chiller. Neither of us say a word to each other as we go about these tasks; she doesn't even make eye-contact with me. Evidently, me kissing her has just made things really awkward between us.
I'm just kneading the bread roll mixture, probably a bit more aggressively than necessary, when I head a loud bang come from the direction of the chiller. I think nothing of it – things fall off the shelves all the time – until a few seconds later, when I hear her shout my name.
In an instant, I'm by her side. She's obviously tried to pull a huge crate of milk off the top shelf; the crate is balancing precariously off the shelf, only just being held up by her arms. She can barely reach the top shelf on her tip-toes and the weight of the crate is making her outstretched arms shake with effort. She's not tall enough to push it back up onto the shelf, nor strong enough to lift it the rest of the way off the shelf to the floor without dropping it.
I'm considerably taller and stronger, so I stand right behind her and put my arms up to take the weight of the crate, pushing it back onto the shelf. She takes her arms down and rubs them, still facing away from me.
"Are you okay?" I ask, worried. She slowly turns around to face me and I realise that I'm still stood inappropriately close to her. She was obviously freaked out by our kiss before, since she's ignored me all evening, so I take a step back
"Yeah, I'm fine, thank you," she replies, "Although now I owe you again, for helping me,"
To my surprise, she steps towards me, putting us close together again. She puts her hands flat against my chest and leans up, pressing her lips against mine. It takes me a few seconds to get my head together before I start kissing her back. I drop my hands to her waist and pull her even closer, kissing her with more urgency. Her lithe body fits against mine perfectly and our lips meld together like two pieces of a puzzle.
All too soon, she pulls away from the kiss, although her hands stay against my chest. "I like owing you, Peeta" she says, and leans in to kiss me again. This time, she opens her mouth a tiny bit and her tongue touches mine; she tastes amazing. I've kissed other girls before, but nothing has ever felt as good as this. Goodbye, New Year's Resolution...
Kissing Peeta is even better than I ever expected. I was shocked after our kiss yesterday, and ran home straight away without even finishing my shift at the bakery, but all night I couldn't stop thinking about it. The next morning, I realised why – I wanted more. One peck on the lips just wasn't enough and I wanted to explore these curious feelings inside me.
I feel so safe with Peeta's strong hands on my waist, pulling me up against his muscular body. There's a warmth in my chest which only grows as the kiss intensifies. Wanting to feel more, to be even closer, I move my hands from their place on his chest up to the back of his neck, but he flinches when I touch his bare skin – I'd forgotten we were still standing inside the dairy chiller, my hands must be freezing!
"Maybe we should get out of the chiller," I ask, surprised at how deep and breathless my voice sounds.
"Yeah, you're probably right." he agrees unenthusiastically, "We should probably get back to work."
I'm reluctant to do so, but I know Mr and Mrs Mellark will be mad if we don't get all the jobs finished. He gives me a quick kiss on the forehead and heads back out to the bakery to finish making the rolls.
Shortly, the rolls are in the oven and I return to the main bakery, having finished the dairy inventory. I grab the opportunity to kiss Peeta again, this time wrapping my now-warm hands around the back of his neck and playing with the blond curls there. He pulls off my hairnet and plunges his fingers into my hair, tilting my head to make the kiss deeper. He makes a little groaning noise at the back of his throat, making the fire in my chest flare up even stronger.
We're interrupted by a beeping of the oven telling us that the rolls are ready. I frown and sigh into his mouth; he detatches his hands from my hair to take the bread out of the oven. They smell fantastic and my stomach growls in hunger.
Peeta picks up one of the warm rolls, tossing it between his hands to cool it down, and offers it to me. I'm reluctant to accept; I don't want to take charity from anyone. But, coming from Peeta, I know it's just an act of kindness and he won't expect anything in return... except a few kisses maybe, which I'd be happy to give him right now.
I gladly take the roll from him and take a huge bite, humming in satisfaction as the fresh crusty roll melts in my mouth. He smiles at my reaction. Once I've finished the roll, I go over to him and take his hands, making sure he's looking right into my eyes.
"Thank you for the bread, Peeta," I say sincerely, and I don't just mean the roll I just ate, but the bread he gave me all those years ago.
"You're welcome, Katniss. You know, I'd do it again in a heartbeat."