Rated M for language, sexual content. All characters belong to Suzanne Collins.
Chapter 1: Tequila
I shouldn't have told Prim first.
In all honesty, though, who else could I have told? Johanna? Madge? Annie?
Johanna would have laughed in my faced and called me an idiot.
Madge would have squealed so loud that I would have lost my hearing for a week.
Annie would have smiled and congratulated me; she's usually subtler than my other girl friends.
Now that I think about it, maybe I should have told Annie.
But family comes first, so the moment my cell phone finally registered a signal after we trekked down the mountain trail, I called Prim with the news. And being her newly 21-year-old self, of course she took the opportunity and ran with it, planning a celebration downtown and inviting all of my friends. So, here I am, in my tightest outfit and most uncomfortable pair of heels, while all of my friends toast to the newly engaged Katniss Everdeen.
I've only been engaged for less than 6 hours. Gale had taken the day off so we could go hiking together and popped the question once we reached the top of Enchanted Rock. It was a fitting proposal; we both love the outdoors and hiking was one of our favorite hobbies. However, our outdoor excursions had become a rare occurrence recently, since Gale was busy trying to make the transition from law into politics.
I should have had my suspicions when he suggested the hike, but after knowing Gale for as long as I have, I thought he understood my… unfavorable stance on marriage. So, when we got to the top of the mountain and I watched him drop to one knee with that telltale velvet box, I was completely caught off guard. I don't think I even said "yes," just nodded like an idiot.
Gale has been my best friend since I was eleven and we started dating when I was a sophomore in high school. That's almost ten years ago. Marriage is the next logical step, I suppose. Not to mention the fact that bachelors typically don't do as well in the political arena.
Gale seemed happy; the smile on his face was wide and contagious after I agreed. I probably looked the part of happy and shocked new fiancé afterwards, on the outside anyway. But now that I'm sitting at the bar, surrounded by my best friends, the weight of it all is suddenly starting to sink in. And rather than feeling excitement or happiness, I feel confused and terrified.
"Why aren't you wearing your ring?"
Madge interrupts my internal panic while she scrutinizes my bare left ring finger.
"It was a little loose, and I don't want to lose it," I explain, "We're getting it resized this weekend."
I don't tell her about the fact that I had a borderline panic attack after I got home; an attack that was only alleviated the second that diamond was off my finger. Most of my friends are so happy for me that I don't want to even hint at the internal debate ranging inside my head. Johanna, on the other hand, makes her opposing opinion very clear.
"I think it's a mistake," she scoffs, taking a large swig of her vodka-Sprite.
Prim, who has yet to transition from her fruity alcoholic drink phase, clutches her Malibu Bay Breeze and retorts. "How can you say that, Johanna? They've been dating for forever and Gale is practically family already! It's about time they got engaged!"
Sweet, innocent Prim. Always seeing the best of every situation. I know she's more excited than I am. Prim is aware of my general aversion to the whole institution of marriage so this news came as a shock to her. But, considering the fact that she's been dating Gale's little brother Rory for almost four years now, Prim has been on cloud nine at the whole idea of me marrying Gale. I think she expects Rory to be scared into following suit and proposing to her, too.
Instead, Johanna smirks. "Dating for forever also means that Katniss hasn't had a chance to… test drive anything different. If you know what I mean."
Prim looks a little lost. "I don't understand."
"Katniss hasn't fucked anyone else besides Gale," Annie explains, without a hint of hesitation.
I almost do a spit take at her words. I love Annie, but sometimes that girl is something else. Quiet and subdued one second, blunt and honest the next.
Redness flushes into Prim's face while she slurps more of her drink through a bright neon straw. She recovers and responds. "Its not Katniss's fault that she met her soul mate when she was eleven!"
I choke on my whiskey-coke at Prim's statement. Soul mate? No. I'm far too cynical to think like that. But I keep my mouth shut for Prim's sake; it's my job as her big sister to protect her and I'm not about to ruin her perfect illusion of love and marriage.
Our little argument is interrupted by the arrival of a very handsome head of copper hair. "How are you ladies doing tonight?" he croons.
I look up and survey the table, noting my friends' reactions to this bronze-haired, green-eyed Adonis that has graced us with his presence. He isn't my type, but I'm aware enough to know that a face and body like that must appeal to a majority of the female population. Madge's jaw has dropped, and Prim sits there wide-eyed. Annie can only stare while Johanna looks completely unaffected.
"Better if we had more to drink," Johanna responds. I can tell that she's not impressed by this particular male specimen, but she'll do what she needs to if it means free booze.
He smiles and turns around, waving at who I assume are his friends at the bar. "My name is Finnick," he explains after his friends take his cue and make their way over. "You girls are in luck because we just happen to be buying the next round. What are you girls drinking?"
The rest of the table compose themselves enough to mutter out their drink orders. I ask for another whiskey-Coke. Finnick grabs a nearby waitress and orders our drinks, flashing her a dazzling smile that causes her to trip on the way to fill our orders. His group arrives at the table and Finnick begins the introductions.
There are three other guys with him: two tall, broad-shouldered blondes and a rather large and intimidating dark-haired man with coffee colored skin. One of the blondes is named Cato. He looks like a "bro" and speaks like one, too. I can tell he's trying to subtly flex his biceps during his introduction and I fight off the urge to scoff out loud. Despite his outwards appearance, the dark-skinned guy, Thresh, seems to be pretty friendly. He has a kind face and a rather shy demeanor.
Finally, Finnick introduces the other blonde in the group as Peeta. Peeta looks up and smiles, and the wind is knocked out of me as I catch a glimpse of his eyes. To say they were blue would be an injustice; I have never seen eyes as literally breath-taking as his.
Unfortunately, I am in the middle of swallowing a mouthful of my drink when he's introduced, and the liquid finds its way down my windpipe, reducing me to an embarrassing coughing fit. I recover and again catch his eyes, which are now filled with concern.
"I'm okay," I manage to spit out and I catch Johanna smirk knowingly at me.
Our two groups continue to mingle and drink. Johanna and Finnick are busy in some kind of debate: not the heated and malicious kind but more of the "argue for argument's sake". Annie has her eyes transfixed on Finnick yet seems too self-conscious to actually speak to him. Madge is indulging Cato by commenting on how big his arms are and asking how much he can bench press. Prim is having a friendly conversation with Thresh and I keep my eyes protectively on her.
My observations are disturbed by a male voice.
"Your name is Katniss, right?"
I turn my head towards the source of the sound and realize that Peeta is sitting next to me. Luckily, my initial shock at his striking appearance has passed and I am able to speak coherently. "Yes. You're Peeta?"
He smiles and nods, taking a swig from his beer bottle. An awkward silence settles between us and I wrack my mind for something, anything to say. "What brings you guys out here? A special occasion?"
Peeta chuckles and takes another long sip from his bottle. "You could call it that."
Finnick must overhear our conversation and butts in. "Peeta got dumped today so we're celebrating his newly single status!"
Finnick clinks his beer bottle with Peeta's and Peeta smiles a smile that doesn't quite reach his eyes.
As quickly as Finnick appeared, he was gone again; engrossed in his conversation with Johanna.
Again the silence creeps in between us. "I'm sorry to hear that," I finally say.
"Don't worry about it," Peeta explains. "I guess I saw it coming."
"Were you together long?" I ask. I know that I shouldn't be asking such personal questions, but I can't help but wonder what kind of guy Peeta is. Is he a "new girl every week" type or a serial monogamist? I shouldn't care but I can't help my curiosity.
"Three years," he responds, "Her name was Glimmer. I was actually going to propose to her soon. Surprisingly, I'm more relieved than upset about the whole situation. We've been having some problems lately and I guess I attributed it to the fact that I hadn't asked her to marry me, yet. Turns out we just grew into different people. I think I was going to propose more for the fact that it just seemed like the next step, and not necessarily because I wanted to marry her. That's not a good enough reason to commit to somebody, right?"
The words strike a chord with me, and instead of responding, I chug the rest of my drink.
We continue with more friendly conversation; where we grew up, where we went to college, where we work. I learn Peeta owns his own business but he doesn't elaborate any further. I tell him about my family's compounding pharmacy and how my mother and I took over after my father died.
I'm shocked at all the personal information I am bestowing upon this stranger, but he seems trustworthy and the words just spill out of my mouth. I can't help but realize, however, that I have yet to mention anything about Gale.
I feel a tap on my shoulder and turn around to find Johanna holding up a very inebriated Prim. "I think she got drunk off of all the male attention," Johanna explains, "And the Patron."
I stand up, ready to put Prim in a cab and go home, but Johanna abruptly stops me. "I'll take care of her. You stay here and have fun!"
She winks at me and I am suddenly self-conscious. I am ready to protest until I turn around and find those blue eyes that again render me speechless. Finnick approaches the two of us holding shot glasses of clear liquid. He slams them on the table and chastises us for not being "drunk enough".
I look to Peeta and see him shrug, picking up the glass and tipping it towards me. I bring my glass up and tap it on his, then back on the table and finally swig it back, recognizing the familiar burn of tequila. I lose count of how many times this happens; some shots are chased with limes, others not.
My vision becomes fuzzy and my ears feel like they're filled with cotton. I try to observe the room, looking for the rest of my friends. Annie is nowhere to be found and I realize that Finnick is missing, as well. I see Madge grinding with Cato on the dance floor, her eyes glazed over in a way that tells me that she's probably even drunker than I am. Thresh is at the bar and I watch him point towards our table, probably sending over another round of shots.
The tequila arrives and Peeta and I chase this one by feeding the limes to each other. I laugh; I guess enough alcohol can reduce even the most serious girls into giggling messes.
Peeta starts laughing, too, and I watch his chest heave up and down, admiring the way his shirt moves and hints at the toned body underneath his clothing. My eyes travel up to take in his broad shoulders and I watch his Adam's apple bob as he swallows. I realize that I'm biting my lip.
Finally, I meet his eyes and find that neither of us is laughing anymore; that I've just been caught ogling him like a horny teenage girl.
I can feel the tension thick in the air and we sit there and stare at each other in silence. I would probably be embarrassed if I wasn't so drunk. Or turned on. His lips start to move and I can only catch the end of his sentence.
"…get out of here?"
For the second time in the past twenty-four hours, I can only nod like an idiot.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I hoped I've intrigued you all enough to stick around with me for this story. If you haven't already, check out my other Everlark Modern Day AU: On My Way to Believing! Please review; I'd love to hear what you all think!