"Honey, I'm home!" Katniss called, kicking off her shoes at the door. Even though he still wrote for the newspaper and personal obituaries were in high demand now that he was also a well known songwriter, he still managed to beat her home from work every day. "Where are you?"
She heard a muffled answer from the bedroom, so she dropped her bag by her abandoned shoes and made her way through the apartment to their room. She had to stifle a laugh when she walked in and was welcomed by a view of his ass hanging out of the closet he was rummaging through. She cocked her head to the side and welcomed the view. She loved that ass. And the man attached to it. Her husband. Her Peeta.
"Peeta? What are you doing in there?"
"I'm trying to...find...something."
She sighed and sat on the edge of the bed, next to her overstuffed suitcase. "You made sure everything was packed last night, remember?" She certainly remembered. Ever since Peeta got the invitation to his high school reunion, any mention of the upcoming celebration made him sour and owly and snappish. Trying to get any advice as to what to pack for a reunion that included dinner, drinks, and dancing (or as Peeta muttered "a second chance prom") was hard enough. Throw in his father's invite to stay with them for a few days and Katniss was at a complete loss. Small town Ohio was not a culture Katniss was familiar or comfortable with, especially since all eyes would be on them, according to Delly.
Peeta didn't even want to go to his reunion in the first place, which was just as well with her. Between his brothers, his father, and his best friend, someone had guilted him into attending. She remembered Delly's pleas, about how they finally will get to show off how amazing their lives are now that they've broken free and flown off to bigger and better places. Why that would have worked on him, she didn't know since Peeta was easily the most humble man she'd ever met. Apparently even he had a vain side.
"Peeta?" she called when he didn't answer. Hmph. She was hoping to get at least one round of sex in before they left, since staying with the in-laws meant they'd get very limited "together time" and lately she found herself wanting to jump his bones more often than before. He never complained before, so she really thought he'd go for the idea of spending their last night in California in bed together. "Peeta."
He looked over his shoulder at her and she cocked an eyebrow, trying to be as sexy as possible. "Hold on a second, Katniss."
She groaned and flopped back onto the bed. This was going to be a very long trip.
She loved when he would whimper that perfect, dirty, four-letter word. Partially because he rarely did. And because when he did, it was because he was buried deep inside her, making her feel just as good as she was making him feel. She rotated her hips, pressing her pelvis against his thumb, increasing the pressure against her clit. She let out a loud moan and threw her head back, arching her back and pushing her breasts closer to his face. He took the hint and latched his mouth around one of her puckered nipples, using his teeth to nip gently.
Their labored breathing filled the room, each coming closer and closer to the brink. Through their time together, they learned the signs when it came to sex. He learned that her breathing increased in pitch the closer she came to climax and she paid attention to the way his abdominal muscles would start to flex.
When she started crying out with noises that only dogs could hear, he let himself go, coming with a series of grunts, staying deep inside her until her own muscles clamped and spasmed around him. She let out a small breath and let her sweaty forehead rest against his, eyes closed, just sharing the space.
"You're going to be cranky in the morning," he whispered.
She began to laugh, quietly at first, until her whole body shook. He tried to discourage her from booking the absolute earliest flight into Cincinnati as possible, given how anti-mornings she was, but she didn't like flying at night and flying in the morning was one less night at the Mellark house. "Ah but you'll let me sleep on the plane, right?"
He chuckled. "Sweetheart, with the time changes, it won't end up being that long of a flight. But of course I'll let you sleep on the flight." He smiled and pressed his lips to hers. "I'll even make you coffee in the morning."
Katniss let out a content sigh. "You're so good to me."
"And buy you coffee at the airport," he continued, pressing a kiss to her jawline. "And when we land." Another kiss, this time moving down to her collarbone.
She moaned and thrust her hips against his, feeling him stir back to life. He knew her weak spots: a sensitive neckline and a soft spot for freshly brewed coffee, full of cream and sugar to soften the bitter taste.
"And then," he kissed the other side of her neck, suckling softly on the skin. "When we get to my parent's house, I'll even make you something from one of their fancy schmancy machines that they never use anymore. Hoity-toity syrups and all."
Katniss groaned loudly. "Oh just fuck me already, Peeta."
"Don't mind if I do," he answered with a smile and flipped her onto her back. She gave a small shriek, which dissolved into incomprehensible utterances when his mouth traveled further and further south, dipping his head between her legs.
"I love L.A.," she sighed, grabbing fistfuls of his curls.
The drive from the Cincinnati airport to Peeta's tiny hometown was gruesome. Sure as Peeta predicted, Katniss had been a grouchy mess the entire morning. Even with all the coffee she could ingest, she was unprepared for the flock of paparazzi awaiting them at LAX at 4:15 in the morning.
"Don't they have some socialite stumbling out of bars they could be bothering?" She mumbled to Peeta, when the flashes blinded her. "Anything more interesting than our trip to Ohio?"
"Just smile and wave, Katniss," he reminded her, his hand pressing against the small of her back. "We won't have to deal much with this where we're going. Delly made sure to put a block against anyone knowing our exact plans."
"How did she manage to do that?" Katniss asked, forcing a bright smile whenever anyone shouted her name.
Peeta waved and did the same, since he was half of the rarely-seen duo, it seemed the press loved him just as much as her. "You'd be surprised at the strings she's able to pull. She can't always do much about these people, but apparently she can do something in Ohio. They'll welcome her back with open arms."
She turned to him, frowning at the shift in his demeanor. It was slight and it was a change she hadn't heard in quite some time. But it was obvious to her. "Peeta. You're a huge success, too. You know that right? Hell, you're going to be a bigger deal at this reunion than anyone else." She squeezed his free hand.
"Except you," he countered, faking a smile before kissing her nose. "You're the one everyone's coming to see."
Katniss rolled her eyes and didn't fight the blush that covered her cheeks. She still hated PDA,but something about how earnest Peeta was in giving in, how he did it so easily and without pretense, made her soften her stance on it. "Please. I'd be nowhere without you. Don't make me repeat my wedding vows to you, mister. I remember how you cr-"
He stopped her in an instant by kissing her deeply, which elicited a loud cheer from the reporters, and the people around who wanted to catch a glimpse of the famous singer and her songwriting husband. She smirked when he released her but didn't disagree. "Come on, Girl on Fire," he whispered. "Let's go have a seat, yeah?"
Knowing Delly would be waiting for the, they turned and made their way to their terminal, always aware of the presence of the flashing lights and hounding calls but choosing to ignore everything except the feel of their intertwined fingers.
"Just admit that you're lost and we'll be fine," Katniss snapped, taking a long drink of her extra large, extra shot, frappuccino monstrosity.
Peeta gripped the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white. "I'm not lost, okay? It's just...been awhile since I've been this way."
"GPS says you should have taken a left a few miles back," Delly piped up. The look Peeta sent her through the rearview mirror of their rental car quickly had her shutting up and slinking in her seat. "I'm just saying," she mumbled. The familiar sound of Candy Crush Saga filled the car, which did nothing more than fry Peeta's already frazzled nerves.
"Delly!" He shouted. "Seriously? You're playing a game when I'm trying to figure out where I'm going? How is that helpful?"
Delly promptly kicked the back of his seat.
"Peeta, she tried to help you and you didn't want any of it. Let her play her game," Katniss answered.
He swallowed hard and set his eyes squarely on the road. He hated this drive. When he was a kid, his mother used to take him and his brothers to the shopping malls in Cincinnati and the rides home were always filled with an awkward, tense silence. Not to mention this drive was taking him right back to the place he'd always hated and never wanted to go back to. Sure, things were better with his family - his brothers were in constant contact with him and he got to know his sisters-in-law and nieces better than he ever thought he would. Even his father would call him once a week, "just to catch up," which always made him happier than anything else.
Then there was his mother. His mother, who should have been happy she had a successful son who married a famous musician because he was bringing something good to the Mellark name, still found fault with him. She read Cato's "tribute piece" after it was picked up by Rolling Stone and never forgave Katniss. She still saw her son as a fool for trusting Katniss in the first place, let alone a second time. At their wedding, she sat, stone-faced, in the front pew and refused to take part in the wedding pictures. It broke Peeta's heart that day, to the point where he almost called the entire thing off, suggesting that he and Katniss just run off to Vegas to get married by Elvis because at least there, someone would be happy for them. Katniss wouldn't allow it, despite preferring the intimacy of that idea. An actual wedding was Peeta's dream. And no mother was going to ruin it for him. Not if she had anything to say about it.
Actually, it was a combination of Primrose, Graham, Chip, and Peeta's father that finally told Peeta's mother off. She retired to the hotel as soon as the ceremony had ending, feigning a headache. The newly married Mellarks didn't see her again until they dropped the family off at the airport, where she didn't even bother saying goodbye.
"Oh. My. God. Peeta!" Delly shrieked from the backseat. "Look! It's a Cracker Barrel! Do you remember when we drove up to Cincinnati before prom and stopped at that Cracker Barrel?"
Katniss turned in her seat, since she had never heard this story before. "What is so special about that Cracker Barrel?"
Delly covered her mouth and let out a snort. "You didn't tell her? Peeta! How could you not tell her? That was a monumental occasion." She turned to Katniss and began telling her the story about how Peeta and Delly came up to Cincinnati the weekend before prom and how at that particular restaurant, some rough and tumble guy tried to smack Delly's ass when she passed by. Peeta got so upset he threw a right hook and knocked the guy out cold. "The servers, who were tired of the bastard anyway, told Peeta and me to get out of there as quickly as possible and they'd all pretend they didn't see what happened."
Peeta shrugged. "Not like that guy was gonna press charges anyway."
"Not after getting his clock cleaned by a 17 year old," Delly giggled. "Anyway. We've never been back there, but I was always afraid he would figure out where we were from and come chasing after us."
"Delly's been afraid of motorcycles ever since."
"Not too afraid of motorcycles, I hope," Katniss added with a smirk.
"Wait." Delly leaned forward so her head popped right in between Peeta and Katniss. "What does that mean?" She looked between them with such a look of concern on her face that it made the pair start laughing hysterically. "You guys," she whined.
Katniss raised her eyebrows but refused to say anything more. Ever since the invites went out, Delly had complained that she didn't have anyone to go to the reunion with. Katniss didn't understand why this was such a big deal; Delly was a hotshot editor for one of the biggest newspapers in L.A. Who cared that she wasn't married yet? She was only 28 for crying out loud. Luckily, Peeta explained that in small towns in the Midwest, girls got married early, or were expected to, and those who went to their 10 year reunion without a date were sad and pathetic, no matter what they had done with their lives. Since meeting Peeta, Katniss had developed a sense of affection for his best friend and didn't want her to be upset, so she arranged to have one of her younger friends- a bodyguard named Darius- meet up with them to wine and dine Delly. No matter what Peeta said, it was not at all prostitution, since she wasn't paying Darius to go out with Delly. It was a friend introducing two people. And if they happened to have sex then so be it.
Peeta glanced over and Katniss, who was trying to hide her grin from the now almost frantic Delly, and his mood eased. He could survive this trip with them in tow. Delly had always been his support system and he was glad they stayed as close as they had. Katniss, on the other hand, was the surprise that made him realize what his life was worth and what he actually deserved. The trio made as many stops as possible between Cincinnati and home, since none of them were really all that excited to go. By the time they dropped Delly off at the hotel, because she absolutely refused to stay in her childhood, they only had a couple hours before they were due to arrive at the reunion.
When they pulled into the neighborhood he grew up in, the knot in his stomach tightened. It was one thing to drive into their town, but now he was only a few houses away from his own personal hell. Given that Peeta rarely talked about his home life, Katniss didn't know what she was expecting of the Mellark residence, but when he stopped in front of a small blue house she knew that wasn't it. It looked so peaceful and happy and...normal. There was even a white picket fence that ran around the property, with a flower garden and a well-manicured lawn. "This is it?"
Katniss shrugged. "I don't know. It looks so..."
"Nice?" Peeta finished, closing his eyes and resting his head against his seat. "It's unassuming, I think that's part of why she loved it so much. No one ever suspected what happened inside. All the houses are like that."
Katniss looked around at the neighborhood houses. Sure enough, each looked like they fell right from the pages of a 1950's Better Homes and Gardens.
"Delly's house is two down from mine. Looks just like ours on the outside, but inside her dad drank himself into a stupor and abused her and her little brother. Alcoholism, debilitating debt, affairs, all hiding behind the perfect facade." Peeta took a deep breath and shrugged. "It's so ridiculous because we all know the truth, so it's not really that good of a disguise."
She reached over and pried one of his hands from the steering wheel, lacing her fingers between his. "Hey, we don't have to stay here. We can go back to the hotel, get a room, and just tell your dad something else came up."
He let out a long, slow breath. "No. No, Katniss, I can't. I've been running from this all my life."
"At some point, you have to stop running and turn around and face whoever causes you pain."
Peeta chuckled. "The hard part is finding the courage to do it." He gave her hand a squeeze. "Wise words."
"A very brave and wonderful man told me those same words when I most needed to hear them. Figured it was only fair to return the favor."
He ran his finger over her wedding band. He was always afraid of facing his mother alone, but he wasn't alone. They promised to stand by one another through the good times and the bad, and this definitely would qualify as "bad". "We should see if my mom will crochet that on a pillow for us. You know, since she didn't give us a wedding present," he joked.
"Your mom crochets?"
Katniss snorted and leaned over to capture his lips in a brief kiss. "Ready?"
When she tried to pull away, he held her face steady and kissed her again. "Ready."
They were lucky, as Peeta's mother was doing final preparations for the reunion, so she wasn't home. Instead, they were greeted by the booming voice and bone-crushing hug of Mr. Mellark, looking only slightly worse for the wear since the last time Katniss saw him. His receding hairline only obvious because he was in need of a haircut, a few extra wrinkles around his eyes, a couple extra pounds on his stocky frame, but still the same jovial man she came to know and accept in their family. Katniss could never really forgive him for allowing his wife to beat their children, but he made Peeta happy and so she kept her mouth shut.
"Is your old bedroom okay, Peet?" His father asked. "It...it's changed a bit since you left but..."
Peeta nodded, knowing what that meant. His mother took down everything that reminded her of his presence when he left for college, including changing his boyhood room into a cold and uninviting guest room. Hell, he wouldn't be surprised if she didn't cover up his face in the family portraits in the hall with skull and crossbone stickers. Muscle memory took over as he led Katniss through the house to the room they'd be staying in. He closed his eyes, not wanting to see the destruction and pain he was accustomed to feeling in these four walls.
Katniss quietly shut the door behind them when they entered Peeta's old room. She wanted to reach out to him, to let him know that she was there if he wanted to say anything, but his body language told her that he needed a few minutes to survey the room himself. Everything that could possibly have identified the room as his was gone, replaced with superficial decorations and furniture.
Peeta sighed and tossed his suitcase onto the bed and ran his hand through his curls. It was only then that she went to him and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing herself as close against his back and she could. She kissed the exposed skin at his neck and rested her forehead against that spot. "Peeta, you know if you want to talk about -"
"I don't," he cut her off. "I...I can't let her win and let this affect me. Besides," he turned around to face his wife, "we're not here for her."
"Nope," Katniss answered, kissing him gently. "We're here for you." She smiled and moved toward the bed. Then, as if she were a teenager again, she jumped onto it so she was sitting on the edge, and bounced a few times. "Nice bed."
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. "That would be the first thing you noticed about this room. Oh!" He dropped to his hands and knees and crawled under the frame near the headboard.
"Peeta!" She giggled. "What are you doing?"
"Checking for some-Aha!" He crawled back out with a triumphant smile. "And here my mother thought she got rid of everything of mine. Little does she know that my brothers and I had a tradition of carving our initials into the baseboard, near the leg, on our last night in the house."
Katniss' jaw dropped. "Peeta Mellark. You mean to tell me you defaced someone else's property?"
He cocked an eyebrow. "I know. I'm a real rebel. Come here, come see." He held out his hand and she followed suit, crawling under the bed beside him. "Here." He brought her hand to the baseboard and had her trace the carved "P.M." with her finger.
She smiled at his small victory. His mother, undoubtedly, never would think to check the bottom of the baseboard for anything he may have left. Who would? It's an innocuous place to carve anything, especially two small letters. "Well look at you. Badass extraordinaire."
They crawled back out and Peeta collapsed on the bed. Katniss crawled toward him, laying her head on his chest. "Well, we have a couple hours before we have to meet Darius and pick up Delly. What would you like to do, Mrs. Mellark?"
Katniss bit her lower lip and traced the defined muscles of her husband's chest through his shirt. "Well. Your mom's not home. And your dad is probably preoccupied with something..."
He smiled down and her, capturing her hand in his. "Why Katniss," he mocked. "Do you mean to suggest we defile my parents' guest bed? Why we've only just arrived."
She smirked. "And think of all the defiling we can do later."
Peeta laughed and rolled over so he hovered over her body. "Katniss, I know I was an initial-carving rebel once. But this is my parents' house. There's just something...icky...about fooling around in their house when you're an adult."
"Please, like you never got any when you were a kid."
Peeta shook his head. "Never. I was too afraid she'd find out."
Katniss was surprised. She had seen a few pictures of Peeta from when he was in high school and he was a looker, even then. "So you have a...virgin...bed? Oh, Peeta! We can't let just anyone pop this baby's cherry."
He dipped his head down and captured her lips in a slow, languid kiss. She wrapped her legs around his waist, pulling him flush against her. "Peeta," she whispered. "Please. It could be fun."
He kissed her again but pulled away. "Katniss, we can't."
She shifted her lips to the sensitive skin behind his ear. One of the places she knew would make it hard for him to resist her. "Please, Peeta?" She begged, breathlessly, in his ear.
Peeta groaned and ground his hips against hers, making his desire for what she was asking for apparent. "Katniss."
She sucked a little harder on the skin. "Come on," she urged, running her hands down the front of him and beginning to unbutton his jeans.
She had just made it to the zipper when he caught her and pulled away. "No, Katniss. I'm really not in the mood to piss off my mother just now, okay?"
Katniss groaned and flopped her head back onto the bed as Peeta unzipped his suitcase and began rummaging through it.
"I'm going to go take a shower," he said, his voice flat and his eyes dull.
As he left the room, she let out a long breath. She hadn't meant to upset him; she thought he was just playing the act of the boy who didn't want to get caught. "Fuck." She jumped off the bed and dug through her own suitcase for her shower supplies. One way or another she'd make it up to him. And no one would be bothering them in the shower.
One blow job later, which made their shower take twenty minutes longer than usual, and Peeta was finally relaxed. Relaxed and exhausted from the trip he fell asleep almost as soon as he laid down on the bed for a much needed nap. Katniss envied him for a moment, wishing she could curl up against his body and sleep away this reunion nonsense completely. She still needed to dry and style her hair, plus her makeup, and even with the how-to guides Cinna sent, she knew it would take too long to allow for a nap herself. But as she sat next to him, lightly running her hands through his still damp curls, watching his chest rise and fall slowly and steadily, she realized just how much more he needed this.
The reunion, their living situation, everything, would be stressful for her because she had grown so accustomed to being out of the spotlight and was not looking forward to being back in it. But Peeta's stress was something she couldn't understand. Maybe similar to when she had to work with Gale again after that breakup, or listen to the boys sing the words Peeta wrote that were directed toward her. But could those really compare to staying in the home where he suffered such abuse? Or going back to see the people who knew what he was going through and yet did nothing about it? He ran away from this life and never thought of looking back. She ran away from her family and missed them every single day. She left to protect them, he left to protect himself.
Katniss loved watching Peeta sleep. Everything in his face and body relaxed and he was so tranquil in almost a childlike way. She wondered if he ever was relaxed as a child, or if every moment was full of tense anticipation of the next blow from his mother. It made her hurt for him all over again, like it did every time she thought about how his childhood was ripped away. She sighed, knowing she needed to start getting ready if they weren't going to be ridiculously late, regretting having to leave his side. She leaned down and kissed his temple. "I wish there was something I could do to make this up to you. To give you back what you lost, like you gave me," she whispered against his skin.
By the time he woke up, she had her hair curled and pinned in the most uncomfortable way and was trying to figure out what Cinna meant in his instructions about a "smokey eye."
"Hey," Peeta croaked, rubbing his eyes. "How long was I out?"
"About an hour and a half or so." She flipped through the instructions Cinna sent and groaned. "Fuck!"
He swung his legs out and padded over to her, kissing her cheek. "You did your hair?"
She blushed and nodded. "I wanted to look nice. But I can't get my makeup right so it's all for nothing. I'm going to look like a two-cent whore and embarrass you and embarrass myself and -"
"Shhh," he shushed her, kneeling down to her level and taking her face between his hands. "You look beautiful, Katniss. Just do what you normally do with your makeup. You're not 'Katniss Everdeen, rockstar' anymore, remember? You don't have to impress anyone except yourself."
She rolled her eyes. "You're so cheesy. Get dressed." She laughed and swatted his ass when he rose. He kissed the crown of her head before heading over to his suitcase to dig out his dress pants and shirt. "And, you're definitely worth more than two cents. You're at least $100."
"I hate you so hard." He walked over and kissed her soundly on the lips.
"No you don't."
"Did you call Darius to make sure he was ready?" Peeta asked as he held the passenger side door open for Katniss.
She easily slid in, tucking her dark green sundress behind her. "I sent him a text when we got in. Guess where he's staying?"
He looked over at her conspiratory smirk. "I'm not surprised, it's the only hotel anywhere near town."
Katniss shrugged, "True. But at least now neither will have far to go when they hit it off tonight." She gave Peeta a dramatic wink and a laugh. According to Peeta, Delly wasn't a girl who slept around, but she was starting to loosen up a little more. Katniss didn't exactly know what his best friend's story was and the girl was surprisingly quiet about the details herself. But Darius was one of the best people Katniss knew. And if anyone could get Delly to 'loosen up' it was the charming ginger. He was a security guard for District 12 when they first started, but when they broke up, he was reassigned to another act. Luckily, the two kept in touch and he was still single and more than willing to fly to Ohio. Peeta was a little suspicious at how quickly Darius agreed to the idea - faster than any of them had - until Katniss confessed that she sent him pictures of Delly and had been telling him all about her. Turns out he was legitimately interested in meeting her, even if meant being her last-minute date to her own reunion. Talk about a story they could tell the grandkids if it worked out.
"So he'll be ready to go?"
"Peeta, it's adorable. He keeps asking if he should go to her room first and walk her down to the car." Katniss said, scrolling through her text messages. "I told him no, that we'd all meet in the lobby, but still."
Peeta looked over at his wife and smiled. She really had come so far from the withdrawn and sullen girl he meet that night in L.A. She was still feisty as hell and would push him to his absolute limits, but it was that fire that made her who she was and he wouldn't want her any other way. The knot in his stomach returned as they drove out to the hotel, just a few miles outside of town. "Alright, let's pick them up."
Delly was already in the lobby when they arrived. She was trying to appear confident but her constant foot tapping and shifting eyes around her indicated that she was anything but. Peeta engulfed her in a tight hug, trying to calm her nerves. "Well aren't you a vision?"
Delly rolled her eyes and played with the edge of her skirt. "Katniss, thank you for recommending Cinna."
"It's a beautiful dress, Delly," Katniss agreed, taking in the soft pink, body hugging dress she wore. Delly had come a long way from the awkward girl she was in high school, the girl who started puberty far too early and tried too hard to cover it up. She hoped that wearing this dress would show everyone just how different she had become after leaving. Her hair, still dyed blond, was swept up in a loose bun, enough to keep it off her neck but not enough to hide all her natural curls. "Darius will love it."
"Darius. That's your friend, right?" Delly asked, looking around. "Is he here?"
Katniss bit her bottom lip and searched for him, herself. Sure enough, there he was, leaning against the bar, in ass-hugging dress pants and a crisp white button down. "Yeah, over there." She nodded toward him and watched as Delly caught sight of him, smiling as a bright flush washed over her face. "Darius!" she called, catching his attention.
Darius downed the rest of his beer, slid a $5 bill across the bar, and sauntered over to Katniss, embracing her and spinning her around in a circle. "Katniss Everdeen! As I live and breathe, you are just as hideous as the first day I met you."
Katniss give his arm a light slap and glared at him. "Rude, much? And it's Katniss Mellark, thank you very much."
"Oh yeah. I heard you found someone to tame the beast." He smiled and held his hand out to Peeta. "Darius."
"Peeta." Peeta used his free hand to push Delly forward slightly. "And this is Delly."
"Of course it is. I recognized you as soon as you came down to the lobby," Darius greeted her with a wink. "Katniss here has told me all about you. I'm so glad to finally meet you."
Delly let out an awkward snort laugh before turning an even deeper shade of red. "Oh my God," she breathed. "I can't believe I just snorted in front of you."
Darius let out a laugh and wrapped his arm around her shoulders. "If that's the strangest noise you make, we have a bit of a problem," he whispered suggestively.
"Darius!" Katniss hissed, but it didn't seem to phase him. For the entire ride Darius would mutter something to Delly that made her squeak and blush. Whenever Katniss would catch his eye in the mirror, he just shrugged and smirked at her. Lord this boy is going to be trouble, she thought.
The social hour passed quickly enough, something all four seemed to be thankful for. Peeta kept his arm tightly wrapped around Katniss' waist and she smiled brightly at all his former classmates who were "such big fans" and were "so excited for Peeta" when they heard about him being a songwriter.
"Did any of those people know you liked to write back then?" Katniss asked when the four finally found their assigned table. Delly had snuck a peek at the seating arrangements and switched some name places so they were at the same table.
"No," Delly answered. "They didn't know anything about him except that he was one of the best wrestlers in the state."
"Really?" Darius asked, taking a sip of his water. "Wrestling?"
Peeta nodded. "I was an athlete here because it was the only thing that got attention. And Delly was a cheerleader."
"I would have been head cheerleader if it wasn't for that bitch Bonnie." Delly snorted into her water. "What?" She asked as Peeta glared at her. "Oh, I'm sorry. I forgot you dated her. She was still a bitch. She sabotaged my one chance to prove my leadership skills."
"You were a cheerleader, huh?" Darius asked, leaning back in his chair.
"Darius!" Katniss snapped. "Really? We're about to eat." Servers were coming around to tables at that moment, setting plates of food in front of each guest.
Darius looked over at Delly and gave her a knowing wink. "Damn Katniss, when did you become such a prude?"
She stuck her tongue out at him and kicked him under the table.
"Be good, you two," Peeta joked, cutting into his chicken. "Don't make me take you out into the hall before the 'Where Are They Now' segment."
Turns out, he wasn't joking about the 'Where Are They Now' part of the reunion dinner. Led by the class president, the guests were shown a slideshow of each student's senior picture and a more recent picture. Many of the pictures looked fairly similar but a few showed dramatic changes. There was the classically beautiful blonde boy who was now obese and covered in acne. Delly was probably the most surprising change, at least for those who didn't get a chance to mingle during the social hour. Gone was the mousy, brunette, awkward girl, replaced by a woman who could easily be cast as the newest 'Bond babe.' When her picture came up, all eyes turned to their table to check her out in the flesh. Of course, it didn't help that Peeta was next and his 'Now' picture was actually one from their wedding, so everyone wanted to see that happy couple as well. As well as pictures. Pictures they'd undoubtedly brag about for as long as possible. And potentially sell to any interested buyer. Exclusive pictures of Katniss Everdeen (because the rag mags never referred to her by her married name).
"This is total hell, Katniss," Delly mumbled through her forced smile. "How did you put up with it for so long?"
"Lots of alcohol," Katniss joked, her own false smile plastered on her face.
Peeta leaned into the middle of the table. "Good thing there's a fully stocked bar we can hit up as soon as this shit is done."
And hit the bar, they did. Once dinner and dessert was finished, the staff cleared the tables and the dining area was quickly transformed to a dance floor - DJ, disco ball, and photographer included - for the couples who wanted to really recreate their prom night.
"Oh, Peeta!" Delly giggled, a few shots in. "It's like prom all over again!" Katniss shot Peeta a confused look which Peeta did his best to ignore. "Katniss, what was your prom like?"
"I, uh, I didn't go to prom," Katniss answered, sipping her "designated driver" drink of plain Coke. Because taxis in this town were non-existent, when the idea was first presented about who would be driving them home it begrudgingly fell to Katniss' shoulders. Darius wouldn't be able to drive them to the Mellark house and back to the hotel, and it wasn't fair to not allow Peeta and Delly the opportunity. "I was at the music academy at that point."
"Well that is just not acceptable!" Delly proclaimed, ordering another round of shots. "I say we all do a shot and then get our asses out on the dance floor." She turned to Darius. "What do you say, hot stuff?"
Darius slammed his drink, then his shot, and grabbed her hand. "Show me your...moves."
Delly shrieked and handed her empty shot glass to Katniss as Darius escorted her out to the dance floor. He was able to keep her upright in her heels despite the alcohol pulsing through her, and through his own abilities, made them look like quite the pair.
"Well, what do you think?" Peeta asked, pulling Katniss' attention from the dance floor.
Peeta smirked and took his shot. "Katniss Mellark. Would you like to dance with me?"
"Really? Peeta, you're a terrible dancer." he took another long drink of her Coke. It was a low blow, she knew that, but in reality, she was quite content to just stay here by the bar, away from the dance floor. Here, she could blend in well enough and wasn't really doing anything exciting to warrant being photographed. No tabloid would buy pictures of 'Katniss Everdeen' standing by the wall with her husband. Not like they would of 'Katniss Everdeen' dancing.
He shook his head and leaned in. "You can't be so afraid to have fun with me anymore, Katniss." He set his glass on bar. "I'm going out there. Good dancer or not. Feel free to join me when you get over this."
Of course he knew the real reason, she thought. It seemed her husband was more in touch with her than she was most days. He saw the flashing lights from the cameras just as clearly as she had, and although he hadn't experienced them as long as her, he knew their effect.
She looked out at the trio, Delly wrapped around Darius, laughing loudly at Peeta. "Fuck it. It's prom." She drained her soda and marched out onto the floor, joining the group.
"What's this?" Darius shouted over the music. "The Katniss I knew doesn't dance in public."
"That Katniss is dead, Darius!" She turned to Peeta, planting a very wet kiss on his lips. "This Katniss dances with her husband and his friends."
The song changed to a slow one and a collective cheer rose from most of the crowd. Delly and Peeta groaned. "Of course they would play this song," Peeta complained.
"Come on, Peet, it's our song." She turned to Darius. "Peeta was my date to senior prom and this was our 'prom song,'" she explained. "Dance with me?" She asked Peeta.
He rolled his eyes but looked to Katniss, who nodded her assent. "As long as I get a spin with Darius."
Without waiting for approval, Delly grabbed Peeta's hand and Darius smoothly twirled Katniss for a dance. As they danced, they both kept their eyes on their dates, neither noticing the completely smitten smiles they wore. Peeta and Delly were in their own world, perhaps reliving their better memories or forgetting their worst. Watching them, Katniss couldn't help but see Peeta in a suit, dancing with his own little girl. Not one with blonde hair like Delly's, but dark, like her own. Maybe with her father's blazing blue eyes. In a wedding dress.
The thought was so jarring Katniss stopped moving altogether. "Woah! You okay?" Darius asked, holding her arms steady. "Katniss?"
She shook her head and looked into Darius' bright green eyes. Then back at Peeta and Delly. Yes, that was Delly he was dancing with. Blonde hair. Adult. Delly. "Yeah. I'm fine. Just a little off. Come on, one more spin?"
Peeta and Delly cut in as the song came to an end. "We're going to do a few more shots," he announced, very drunkenly. "Delly and I accidentally ran into Bonnie and her husband."
"And she's still a bitch!" Delly added. "Although she's an unhappy bitch with like four kids and a husband who doesn't love her."
"Jesus, Delly," Peeta spat. "You can't say that stuff in public."
"Yes," Katniss called after them as they stumbled toward the bar. "Get her more alcohol. That seems like a good idea." She turned to Darius, who was watching the pair walk. She slapped his arm. "Hey! If she is that drunk, you don't get to sleep with you, got me?"
He rolled his eyes. "Calm your tits, Everdeen. I like her but I'm not an idiot. Besides, she'll be sober in the morning."
"Darius!" Katniss whined. She felt a familiar pair of arms wrap around her and kiss her neck. "Honey, Darius is being gross."
"Well then let's get away from him," Peeta whispered, spinning her around. "Now they're playing our song."
Katniss perked her ears up as the familiar guitar licks blared from the speakers. She smiled and let him pull her close to his body. "Do you remember the first time we danced to this song?" She asked.
"Our first date, up on the roof."
"And for our first dance, after we got married."
Upon discovering their love for the song, Haymitch agreed to perform it at their wedding reception as a present.
"I remember. I remember everything about you," he answered. They swayed together as the rest of the room fell away and the words washed over them.
I tried to give you consolation
When your old man had let you down.
Like a fool, I fell in love with you,
Turned my whole world upside down.
Layla, you've got me on my knees.
Layla, I'm begging, darling please.
Layla, darling won't you ease my worried mind.
"I love you so much, Katniss Mellark," Peeta whispered, hugging her body closer to him. "Thank you for coming with me." He leaned down and captured her lips in a kiss. She could taste the oaky taste of the whisky he had been drinking all night, combined with the tequila shot he must have just had with Delly. When they pulled apart, his eyes were glassy and watery. She ran her thumb under one eye and wiped away a tear that was forming.
"Ready to head out?"
Peeta nodded. "Are they?"
Katniss looked over her shoulder to where a very inebriated Delly was nearly asleep on her feet in Darius' arms. "Yeah. It's probably best to get the cheerleader home."
"Darius, you remember what I said!" Katniss called from the car.
Darius turned and gave her a look. "Katniss. I am literally carrying this girl into the hotel. You really think I'm going to try anything? Good night, lovebirds."
"Night!" Peeta called from the passenger seat. "Sweet dreams!"
"Peeta! Shut up!" Katniss hushed. She rolled the window back up and looked over at her very drunk husband. "You need to stay conscious enough to help me find your house," she warned.
He scoffed. "Oh, yeah, I can do that. I can get annnnywhere in this town drunk. I'll even show you the back roads so you don't get pulled over by the cops."
"Well since I haven't been drinking, I think the main road will be just fine," she answered. It took a while, and a few wrong turns, but eventually they made it back to his parents' home. What she hadn't considered was how to get him inside and into their room without waking up his parents. As unpleasant as Mrs. Mellark was, Katniss imagined she was even more so at 2 a.m. when faced with a drunken son. "Peeta, we're home."
"This isn't a damn home," he spat. "This is a house where the devil lives."
"Okay, honey, you can't say that when we get inside."
"Why? Will I wake the devil?" He asked with a laugh.
Katniss panicked. "Yes. Yes you will. And I'm not prepared to deal with her. So please, honey, for me?"
And those, apparently, were the magic words for Peeta. "Anything for you, my wife." And he was as quiet as he could be, given his natural heavy gait and iniebriated state. But they made it to the bedroom without waking anyone up, which Katniss chalked up as a success. What she didn't anticipate was that as soon as they closed the bedroom door, Peeta would press himself against her, his lips connecting with the sensitive skin on her neck.
"Peeta," she whispered. "What are you doing?"
"What do you mean?" he asked, continuing to kiss her. "It's prom night, baby." He ran his hands up her bare thighs, past the lace fabric of her skirt, to her core. "You wanted this earlier, remember?"
She had to hold tightly to the doorknob to keep her knees from buckling when he shoved the fabric of her panties aside and began rubbing her clit with his thumb. "Yeah, but, Peeta..."
"No 'buts'. I'm going to fuck you tonight," he murmured in her ear as he slid a finger into her. She had to use fabric from his shirt to muffle her cries as he pumped into her. "You were wonderful, my love. You always are. You're the best thing that ever happened to me. And I'm going to make you feel how wonderful you are." And there, against his bedroom door, Peeta made her come once with his fingers.
When she regained feeling in her legs, it didn't take long for them to shed the remainder of their clothes. Any hangups either had about have sex in his parents' home was lost when he laid her down on his bed and slid into her with ease. She tried, as hard as possible, to keep her breathy moans to a dull roar but found it to be too difficult and had to use a pillow it instead. Sex with Peeta was always good. But drunk sex with Peeta was a totally different animal. It always reminded her of their first night together, when he made her fall apart with ease and encouraged her and made her feel desired. Even now, years later, he still made her feel like she was the only one he ever wanted. He hooked one of her legs over his shoulder and kissed the inside of her ankle as he drove deeper into her. This small act of intimacy against his rough thrusts was what made her know that it was always an act of love. No matter what they were doing, they loved each other more than anyone else in the world. No one would ever again be able to question their love.
He came with a loud moan that she immediately rose to smother with her kiss, which shifted his position inside her just enough to set her off as well. Their cries melded together into one between their lips. He rummaged around for a towel in his bag and handed it to her first, before cleaning himself off. "I love you, Katniss Mellark," he whispered breathlessly into her ear.
"I love you more."
"My darling, you were wonderful tonight."
Katniss smiled and settled against him, reveling both in the feel of her husband against her and the knowledge that they just gave Peeta's mother a 'fuck you'. No one should ever have taken away the innocence of this perfect man, she thought.
"Peeta?" Katniss called from the bathroom after they arrived back home to their California apartment. "Can you come here?"
He set down his notebook, having been right in the middle of writing a new song. "Really? In the bathroom?"
"Yeah. Please?" Her voice had an edge of anxiety that it didn't normally, so he figured he might as well figure out what was going on. He opened the door and found her sitting on a closed toilet, holding a small piece of plastic.
"What's going on?"
She looked up at him, tears forming in her eyes and a smile on her face. "We're going to have a baby."
AN: I missed Alece's birthday in the big move, so this is a very belated gift for her from the story that brought us together. It is an outtake, set in the future. I hope she enjoys it as much as I've enjoyed her friendship Love you!
So many many thanks to sunfish for agreeing to beta this like the madwoman she is. Thanks to wollaston for her help as well! Just like in the original story, I don't own "Layla" it was written by Eric Clapton.
On a fiiiiinal note: Please be sure to check out and consider donating to Fandom4LLS. There are some amazing writers from multiple fandoms writing for charity. A $10 donation will get you a sneak peak at these stories, a full 3 months before they'll be published anywhere else. My story for there is almost finished and then I'll be back hard at work on A Fine Line to Cross.
As always, thanks to everyone who has supported this endeavor!