A slightly shorter chapter than usual, but I didn't have the heart to break up the next espicy bit I have planned for y'all. Also, the last round of reviews were so amazingly motivating. I'm sorry I don't reply personally, I have a messy, forgetful, convoluted mind, but please know that it means A LOT!
Nearly a week after my last jarring meeting with Peeta, I managed to find my sanity in Jo's empty bar.
Sure, it was around 3:30 in the morning, but it's Friday and most of us being on the the nine-to-five-Monday-through-Friday shift, we don't have to worry about waking up early for a weekend shift. The exception being Johanna, but considering she is the one passing out shots and swaying her hips to the obnoxious Top-40-radio blasting throughout the bar, I hardly think she cares.
Jo sets the next two rounds of tequila on the table before grabbing Delly's hand, yanking her from her seat and spinning her around madly until she twirls and wraps her way back into Jo's arms for a dramatic, yet clumsy, dip. The two dissolve into laughter before finally taking their seats. Their cheeks are flushed bright pink from laughter and booze, and I imagine mine must look the same. It's just us Broken Bitches tonight, and we're out to prove that no matter how grown up the world keeps trying to make us feel, we can cause a scene like the best of them.
Jo grins wickedly and raises a shot in the air, "A toast… to having no idea what the hell we're doing!" Delly and I pick up a shot and happily join in.
"Raise your damn cranberry juice beautiful" Jo shouts at Annie, who shyly lifts her hand up in the air. "We all knew that you could handle a baby, and an overly-enthusiastic man child all on your own, but throw another baby into the mix…?"
Annie's eyes go wide for a moment, her glass paused right before out shot glasses, before she shouts, "To being completely unprepared…. and to twins!" The slight awkwardness of Delly and I taking in this revolutionary piece of information is quickly replaced by laughter as we take our shots.
Johanna grimaces and shakes her head before shouting, "Twice the blessing, and twice the nightmare!"
My vision is just starting to sway as I look at Delly, her eyes are slightly glazed over but there is still a smile plastered on her face. Jo looks like she is in rare form, but then again, I can never tell when she's buzzed.
"As much as I'd love to just get shit faced with you ladies, I think we should play a little game…" The corner of Jo's mouth lifts slightly, lending a devious look to her features.
"Alright Jo-Jo," I watch as she grimaces slightly at her least favorite nick-name, "what do you have mind? I'm game." I knew they were all curious about Peeta, and that Jo called us here to discuss my juicy business. If I could get dirt on the rest of them in the process it was more than I was hoping for.
"Truth or dare." Delly chokes on her rum and coke, remembering the last time we'd played this little game.
I don't know what the big deal was; sure she was topless as she ran away from the security surrounding the capital building… but it wasn't like she was caught or anything. Plus, she was the perfect distraction as Johanna and I popped a squat* next to the beautiful monument of Texas.
"Breathe brainless," Johanna spat at Delly, "there's a twist. Instead of a dare, if you choose not to reveal a truth, Annie decides whether or not you get another question, or you take a shot."
Annie clasped her hands together and squealed, thrilled to be in charge.
"I'm in, " I took the other shot in front of my and raised it towards the middle. Johanna followed suit. Delly chewed on her bottom lip and stared at the floor before finally letting out a huff and raising her shot glass as well. We clinked and the let the games begin.
"Alright Everdeen," Johanna turns towards me, "how did your little date with Mellark go?"
I tried to keep the scowl off my face and answer impassively, "It was not a date Johanna." I forced a smile, "and it was nice if you must know. We met at bar. I had sangria and he had a beer. He wanted to stay later, but I excused myself around ten because I had work the next day. Nothing to write home about."
"I wasn't asking about your first "date" sweetheart." Johanna made air quotes and attempted her best Haymitch impression. Her first big tell that she was drunk.
"Not much more happened after that. We enjoy each others' company..." and lips "... that's it." I replied haughtily.
I was met with a disappointed silence. This was the first time I've opened up about any of our meetings and I'm sure they expected some kind of passionate, torrid reunion.
"NO!" Annie shouted, startling all of us. She giggled madly before turning to me, "That wasn't good enough. Drink… or kiss Johanna!"
Johanna cocked her eyebrow, "didn't see that coming, but I'll allow it." She laughed as she made her way to the bar to grab a handle of whiskey.
"You're hot as hell Jo-Jo, but I don't think I could handle all that woman," I said right before I grabbed the handle she brought over and tossed back a shot. It was going to be a long night.
"Alright Delly," The dirty blond suddenly whipped her head towards me, "how many girls has Peeta screwed around with in the last year?"
"Jesus Katniss, he's right upstairs!" Delly hissed at me. Turns out everyone found out that Peeta was moving to Austin weeks before I did. He was living in the Johanna's guest bedroom. When I initially found out, Jo let me scream at her until I didn't know why I was angry anymore.
"Delly, he's at his studio." Johanna shifted smugly in her seat.
"Fine!" she let out a frustrated sigh, "if you really want to know, I like to call him 'hijacked Peeta' when he gets too far into, I don't know… the art scene, I guess. The Peeta I knew my whole life was the complete romantic. He was a serial monogamist. The Peeta I grew up with would never take someone home and kick her out right after..." Delly squirmed a bit more and avoided my eyes. " Let's just say 'hijacked Peeta' isn't that same guy. He can hurt people now, and sometimes I think he likes it."
The only sound in the bar is the obnoxious dub step beat in the background. Finally Delly turns her eyes to me, "He's different here. When he's in Austin… away from all the praise and the bullshit, he's my Peety again."
Annie is the first to break the tension: "Too vague! Kiss Johanna!"
Delly, probably thankful for the distraction, smirks and leans into Johanna, pausing right before her lips. She leans forward just a bit more and then turns her head at the last minute, her lips landing on Jo's neck.
"I'm a one woman type a gal now ladies. Nice try though Annie."
"Please no more "kiss Johanna" requests Annie, or I'm going to start thinking that Finn isn't satisfying you the way he should be." Jo snaps playfully.
A few rounds later I was at my limit. We were all giggling madly; Delly, Jo and I because we were quite drunk, and Annie because she was thrilled we all giggled along with her whenever she let an anxious laugh loose.
All in all, I have to give it to Jo for introducing us to "Truth or Annie." I now knew that Gale tried to make it happen with Delly when he first met her years ago, that Jo sobbed on the floor of the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam after eating a gigantic pot brownie when she was 14 and her parents were touring the family around Europe, and that I was severely sexually frustrated, despite getting laid on a semi-regular basis.
Apparently my confession that I could only sleep with Marvel if I'd been drinking was disconcerting. Though I didn't tell the girls, I didn't care to be too aware of whatever was going on. I didn't want to memorize the way his muscles tensed as he hovered above me or catalog each and every time he'd made me moan. I was never one for romance novels and the "throbbing members" that went along with it.
I knew it was a bit sad, but I didn't feel particularly motivated to do anything about it. I didn't want to progress beyond it. Yet I often thought about leaving it behind.
Maybe that's how I ended up in Peeta's room after Annie led a stumbling Delly to her car. I vehemently refused a ride home, claiming I wanted to cuddle with Johanna.
I gripped the railing on the stairs up to Jo's apartment and she threw me an old shirt and tiny cotton shorts before grinning and shutting the door to her room. I immediately pivoted and made my way to Peeta's room. Thankfully it was unlocked.
I didn't bother turning on the light before shedding my tank top, bra, and jeans in favor of Jo's clothes and slipping under his covers.
I must have knocked out right after my head hit the pillow because the next thing I can recall is a sturdy figure wrapping their arms around my waist, my back flush against a broad chest.
"What are you doing here Katniss?" Peeta whispered into my ear, waking me just a bit more from my deep sleep.
"I was tired." I say, slightly wiggling my backside into him.
"And I missed you." I reach down and lightly traced his hands clutching my waist with my fingers.
He doesn't respond and we settle into a soft lull, his breath on my shoulder, his hands lightly tracing my hips and stomach.
"I'm floundering here Katniss." He lightly kisses the space right underneath my ear, causing me to release a contended sigh against my will. "I'm never going to get this right."
"Never say never, Mellark," I whisper as I turn back around to face him. I stare up at him as our breathes wash over each other.
He merely shifts, leaning down to kiss my forehead before settling back into his pillow, eyes closed.
I don't respond, feeling safe in his arms, unwilling to ruin it with truths and reality. My breath evens out, and right before I drift off his lips ghost over my skin, "and you're never going to stay for more than one morning."
Disclaimer: I do not recommend popping a squat near the capitol building of any state. But sometimes it just happens, and you believe it is extremely patriotic because you are inebriated and you just know that your forefathers would have similarly marked their territory... in such a manner.
Not that I know from experience or anything.
Running topless around the Tx capitol can also be considered an homage to the Goddess of Liberty*. FYI.
*Who does have a top, but perhaps would prefer not to.