This is my first fic in a long long time, but I thought I would try to get back into it. R&R, love me please.
"No. No. No. Not now!" She slammed her hand down on the dashboard of the dilapidated pick up truck with each word. Each smack hit the dent already worn into the sun-baked interior. She didn't actually believe the truck was giving up on her, even when the smoke started wafting from the hood and the gas pedal stopped responding to her urgent pressing. The sickening cough the engine made when it cut out was what finally made her admit there might be a problem.
She used the last of the truck's momentum to pull to the shoulder. Folding her arms over the large steering wheel and leaning her head down to meet them, she let herself wallow in anger for a moment. She silently cursed a million things. The truck for breaking down, Haymitch for keeping her late, herself for not taking better care of everything, and finally her mother for dying and leaving them like this. It only took a minute to finish the litany, but it was enough to let a dull ache settle into her chest. She tried to shake it off. Prim needed to be picked up and she needed to stop sitting in a broken down truck.
Katniss opened the door and slid down to the ground on light feet. She looked almost comically small next to the massive brown Chevy, though no one would say that to her face. Her characteristic scowl let up for a moment to allow for a hiss of pain as the over heated hood burned her fingers. She quickly pushed it up and brought her fingers to her mouth to soothe the pain. She looked down on the traitorous engine block with angry gray eyes squinting against the smoke. A cursory glance and a few pokes around later, told her it wasn't anything she could fix now. She would have to walk ahead to the closest gas station or payphone and hope that Gail was off work. She pulled down the hood and started to gather her things for the walk.
"Hey Catnip. Taking a break or is there something sinister going on here?" Gale leaned out of the window of his own, significantly newer truck looking concerned. The years since high school looked like they had only improved Gale. Little laugh lines settled around his gray eyes. His dark hair was a little too long, but it suited him. His skin was still dark olive, even though spring had just started. She could see from his "Hawthorn Construction" shirt that he had just come from a job.
She couldn't even be pleased at his early arrival. She was still too mad at her truck. Her scowl was thick as she clipped out a reply.
"Sinister. Damned annoying is more like it. Engine is blown or something. I've got to get it home before I can even figure out what's wrong. Prim is still at school. Can you take me to pick her up?" She wasn't really asking. She knew he would. She was already pulling on the passenger side door before she even finished her sentence.
"I'm sure she is fine. Somebody probably just took her home. She isn't dumb and this isn't the kind of town people get snatched from." Gale's words sounded pleading rather than reassuring as he looked at Katniss anxiously bouncing her leg up and down in the passenger seat. He didn't like when she was rattled. Prim wasn't waiting in her usual spot after she finished her tutoring gig. Katniss checked the room Prim taught in, she checked the field, she checked everywhere, but the whole place was deserted.
"Yeah, I know Gale, but I'm worried she tried to walk home. It's five miles and she isn't good in the woods. What if she got lost?" Katniss looked out into the oncoming gloom with growing anxiety. The quickest way from the school to the Everdeen's cabin was through a long trail in the woods. It wasn't the clearest trail since Katniss stopped walking it six years ago, the second she got her license. It wouldn't take much to get lost if you weren't sure of the way. The long days of summer were still a while off and she could just imagine Prim getting cold and lost in the woods.
"Then we will track her. It isn't like it would be hard. She is as loud as they come in the woods. Besides, I'm sure she is at home. Her teacher wouldn't leave her there." Katniss shifted in her seat, pulling up one of her legs to sit on and leaning back in her chair. She rubbed her forehead to ease the headache Gale was giving her.
"You're right. I know you're right." She said with a sigh, but he could tell she wouldn't be easy again until she had Prim in her arms. After loosing her mom three years ago, Katniss wasn't really herself unless she had Prim in her sight. It was easy to understand, but it didn't make it easy to be around her.
As they turned into the unpaved lane leading up to the Everdeen Cabin, Katniss leaned forward and Gale could feel her surprise. There was a car they didn't recognized pulled in front. Before he had the keys out of the ignition she was out of the car, running up the steps. By the time he made it in, Prim was pulled up in a hug and he could barely see her little body folded up in Katniss.
"Calm down Katniss. I'm fine. Really." He heard Prim's voice muffled through Katniss' shoulder.
"You scared me to death Little Duck! I thought you tried to walk home. I'm so sorry. The truck broke down." She finally pulled back and peered into her sister's eyes, trying to read if she had suffered at all in the last hour.
"It's fine! When you didn't come, Peeta waited with me and then when it started getting late he brought me home. I would have stayed there, but I figured you just got stuck at work."
Katniss finally seemed to be satisfied that her baby sister was still in one piece and could be bothered to notice the other person in the room. Turning from her sister, Katniss walked over to the couch where Peeta sitting with a cup of tea. A small smile had played on his lips while he watched the Everdeen sisters reunite, but once Katniss turned to face him it vanished and he paled a little. Gale couldn't blame him. Katniss was hard to predict in the best of times, but when Prim was involved all bets were off. Would she be happy Prim was safe, angry she was taken, or ashamed that her sister had to take charity? Gale leaned against the open doorway, eager for a show. It was his turn to smile.
Katniss took him in. She had barely seen Peeta since they graduated four years ago. He looked, if possible, bigger than she remembered. He seemed to take up the living room with his broad shoulders and big arms. The t-shirt he was wearing was covered in paint and clearly not meant to be worn in company. It was a little thread bare and a little small for the big man. His faded jeans hung snugly at his hips. His eyes were the same though. Bright blue, still eagerly looking at her, but a little unsure. Seeing him in her living room was surreal. He didn't belong here. He was like a ghost from a life outside this house that she had given up a long time ago.
She wasn't sure how she felt about all this. The relief from seeing Prim safe and sound was still the first thing on her mind. She held out her hand to him. "Thanks." It was the best he was going to get from her and he knew it.
He got up from the couch and took her hand. Breaking into a bright smile filled with relief. "No problem. Your house is on my way." Smiling, he still looked like the little kid Katniss remembered from school. Kind of like a goofy cherub, with pink cheeks and blond curls.
Gale scoffed loudly. The house Mr. Everdeen built thirty years ago wasn't on the way to anything. Certainly not on the way to anything the town baker was going to. The hunting cabin was out in the middle of nowhere. The closest thing to it was Gale's own hunting cabin, and that was still a mile and a half out. Katniss turned to give Gale a look, but Peeta continued and grabbed her attention again. He still held onto her hand.
"I was thinking, maybe I could just take Prim home everyday. I teach art classes after school and we finish up at the same time. It wouldn't be any trouble, really."
Prim jumped in quickly. "Yeah Katniss. He waits with me most of the time anyway, it would probably be easier for him to just take me home." Katniss' misgivings melted quickly when she heard Prim wanted it. It would be easier. Katniss wouldn't have to make her schedule at the shooting range around Prim's and she would know Prim got home safely. It would be best. At least until her truck got fixed.
Katniss deliberated for a second longer, weighing her pride against her sister's wishes. "I mean, if it really wouldn't be a problem. I would appreciate it." She wrung his hand one more time before pulling away from him. Sealing the deal.
"Like I said, it's on my way. It would just make sense." He gave another big smile. It looked like he just won the lottery. "Well, I guess now that you're home I should go." He pulled his messenger bag onto his shoulder and gave a little wave to Prim. "See you tomorrow Prim. I'll meet you by the front."
Prim nodded and shot him a sweet smile "Thanks again Peeta!"
"Yeah, thank you." Katniss echoed quietly, following him to the door.
Gale moved only enough to allow Peeta to get through the door. "Oh hey Gale. Nice to see you again." He gave Gale a short bob of the head before opening the screen door. Gale didn't say anything, but walked into the room and plopped himself on the couch, eying Peeta's back.
"Jesus, I hope he hasn't moved on to the other Everdeen." Prim laughed, but he could feel Katniss' stormy gaze on him before he saw it.
"Oh please Gale, he is just being nice. He has given other people rides when they get stuck." Prim paused for a second and added. "I also don't think I'm his type." Prim quickly bent down to pick up Peeta's tea-cup and start tidying the living room, clearly trying not to make eye contact with her sister.
"Nice is taking you home once. Taking you home every day is wanting something. 'On the way' my ass." Gale grumbled, pushing Buttercup off the couch with more force than he meant to. The cat mewed angrily before following Prim into the kitchen where she was starting dinner.
Katniss had enough. She dropped down on to the thrift store couch, bringing up a small wave of that hand me down smell. Closing her eyes, she leaned her head onto Gale's shoulder. "Well whatever his reason, I'm happy. With my truck broken for the moment it will at least be nice to know I don't have to worry about Prim." She was up again in a second. "Shit, I have to call the tow truck."