Chapter 57: June 20th
Katniss took a deep breath and wiped the sweat from her brow. She was in over her head. It wasn't even noon yet and the mercury just kept climbing as the summer sun beat down on her. Her cheeks were surely already halfway sunburnt and she'd sweat through the pits of her t-shirt. At this rate she'd jump into the lake before lunch and might not resurface. Fanning herself with her clipboard, she shared a miserable look with Delly across the main lawn of Camp Panem. The blonde girl was trying to hold on to a screaming pair of twins as their parents ran for their minivan. All around her was a sea of nervous looking campers and their gleeful parents as the drop of day ensued. Scattered among the masses were harried looking counselors. A few feet away, Finnick trying to get his walkie talkie to function while two mothers hovered around him, ready to ask him a slew of questions.
"Just a minute….Haymitch? Haymitch? Is this stupid thing even on….?" He muttered. "Just a second ma'am, I'll be with you in just a second…"
If even Finnick looked slightly agitated, she couldn't imagine how she looked. She already dealt with her share of parents that morning and she knew she had a tendency to have what Prim so lovingly called a resting bitch face, and customer service wasn't exactly her strong suit. She hoped that wherever Peeta was, he was alright.
"I need a drink," she muttered to herself. "A really strong drink."
Another frantic looking mother hurried up to her, waving a piece of yellow paper in front of her. "Can you help us find our bunk? The paper says Cabin two, but that looks like its all-boys…." The mother yammered off.
Katniss took the piece of paper and read it, shaking her head. "You're down here with the girls…that's cabin two for the boys, cabin two for the girls is over to the left on the other side of the main hall."
The woman thanked her and shuffled her teenage daughter and all of her bags towards the main hall.
It was the first day of camp with campers present and it was insane. It was semi-organized chaos at best. It was like a warzone, but instead of bombs and gunfire she instead faced over packed suitcases, lost enrollment forms, and slap-happy parents who were free of their children for the summer.
Katniss couldn't have been more unprepared for the day. She'd woken up ate after she'd spent the rest of the evening with Peeta, pressed up against the back of a cabin with her shorts around her ankles. She was now the proud owner of more mosquito bites than she cared to mention and some kind of splintery burn on one shoulder blade. She smirked to herself. Maybe she'd had one too many pulls on her flask or maybe she was reveling in the idea of it being summer again; either way, things had quickly gone further than she'd anticipated and she wasn't the least bit sorry about the night before. The mosquito bites were worth it in her opinion. Peeta had coaxed her out of her shorts and dropped to his knees in front of her. Before she could protest, she'd had one flip flop-clad leg over his shoulder and was leaning back against the cabin as he dove between her legs and made her want to scream in ecstasy but she'd managed to bite it back. Instead she'd hobbled/balanced on one leg while Peeta's devilish tongue had done a job on her clit. Even as miserable as she was now, the bud of nerves throbbed between her legs as if to say, I remember too.
She absentmindedly ran her thumb over her swollen lip. She'd had to bite it several times the night before to remind herself to be quiet while Peeta had mercilessly attacked her with pleasure. Katniss raised her pencil eraser to her lips and bit down, smiling. Inside her freshly pressed khaki shorts, her thighs were squeezing together to help relieve the ache she felt. It was a good ache though. Being back with Peeta was like a cleansing breath of fresh air to her soul. Of course she'd missed him the last few months of school, but what she thought was simply missing his company was more than that. It was on a deeper level that she'd missed him and ached to hear his soft voice on the other end of the phone that could act like soothing balm to her frazzled nerves. She's ended things to be fair to him, but in the end she'd only made things harder on herself by doing it. Katniss thought her level of need for Peeta was selfish; it was wrong to depend on someone the way she relied on him. He was always the one saving her; paying for her phone, driving to come pick her up, being a willing ear when she had to vent about practically mothering a teenager from a distance. It had felt selfish to her to depend on him when she felt like she'd had so little to give to him in return.
Still chewing on the end of her pencil, she thought back to two nights before when they'd snuck off to the lake for a few minutes of privacy before the bonfire.
Katniss raised her feet, watching as the black water filtered through her toes and back into the lake. Glancing sideways, she watched as Peeta dangled his legs in the water beside her, snorting as he used one foot to gently shake off the curious nibbles of a tiny blue gill. The moonlight caught its silvery scales as it fluttered away under the water.
They were back together – the last few days had been a blur of needy kisses, frantic groping, and more than one hurried repeat of what had happened on the soccer field almost a week before. While their bodies healed each other and remembered the other's touch, Katniss knew they had more to discuss. They'd been sitting on the edge of the dock talking for almost an hour.
"Part of what made me so….insecure…is that I knew how much I relied on you. In my world, you don't get things for free; you have to pay for them in some way. I hated how uneven we always felt, Peeta… I guess…as nice as it was to have you do all of those nice things for me, it was just….it sucked to not be able to reciprocate."
She watched his side profile in the moonlight, hoping she hadn't offended him too terribly. She knew Peeta inside and out and knew that he didn't have even a slightly malicious bone in his body, but she still dreaded how he would take her words.
Peeta stared straight forward, out at the lake. "I didn't do those things so you'd reciprocate. I was trying to show you that I cared, that I wanted to take care of you for once. When we met last summer, and….you always talked about everything you did for your mom, and Prim, just to keep your family afloat…all I wanted to do was show you that it was okay to not be the one worrying about everything for once. I've never gotten to be the strong one, Katniss. I wanted you to lean on me and know that everything was going to be okay. At least…while we were together. It was nice to take care of someone. I didn't do it so you'd owe me anything."
"I know that…" she sighed, bobbing her feet in the water.
She loved Peeta, but sometimes she childishly hated his thoughtful moments of candor. It was in those moments that she was reminded just how pure his heart was. And that always inevitably led to her feeling like a piece of shit for smashing it to smithereens.
"I had the means, Katniss, so I wanted to help you. I didn't get you a phone or your necklace or the dinners so you'd feel like you were in my debt," he sighed. "I wanted to be a person you could depend on and show you that you don't always have to be the one providing. It felt nice to be…depended on. I just didn't realize how hard that was for you. To rely on me," he added softly.
She twisted her hands together and bobbed her feet in the water. "Not sure that's in my DNA," she admitted. "I knew it came from a good place, Peeta, I did….but it was hard to not feel like I owed you something. It felt selfish to take and take and feel like I had nothing to give back to you. Ever."
"That's not true," he said, leaning sideways to bump her shoulder. "You gave me things, they just weren't tangible in the same sense. You gave me confidence that someone could want me. That alone was worth all the money in my bank account, for what it's worth. When I came here last summer I was convinced no one would want me – ever."
"Why wouldn't anyone want you? That girl was crazy, Peeta. I met her, remember?"
"Yeah, well….I came to Camp Panem last summer feeling like gum on the bottom of a shoe. I felt like I'd been left out on the curb like a piece of garbage no one wanted. To come here and see you in all your…archery goddess-y glory making lovey eyes at me from across the mess hall-"
"-I did NOT!"
She shoved his arm and they both laughed.
"Agree to disagree, come on – I'm making a point here. I'm just saying that you gave me something that was more precious than anything I could have ever dreamed to get."
She smiled sideways at him. "And what's that?"
Peeta had a way with words – she'd always known that much. But that? That had made her tear up. She's kissed him then, sitting on the dock. A hard kiss; it begged for forgiveness and conveyed a gratitude that was insurmountable. Her tears had crossed to his cheeks, causing them both to have to wipe their faces when they pulled apart. She felt like they were stronger than ever.
"Good job today guys," she called, sliding her bow into its case. "Pick up every one of those arrows please! Even the ones behind the targets. Everyone turn in their guards. Thanks…."
She high fived a few of the campers as they cleaned up the shooting range and left, heading to their next activity. The burn in her shoulder blades and forearms was fresh and made her arms feel like jelly. It was a welcomed pain that came from too many months of neglecting her bow and targets. The feeling of notching the arrow and letting it fly, even if it was to impress a bunch of twelve year olds, was something she'd missed. The sound of the arrow slicing through the muggy air and landing on the targets with a satisfying thump was so satisfying. It was a stress reliever like none other. Mixed with the well-itched mosquito bites on her ankles and legs and the feeling of a fresh sunburn….it was good to be back at camp.
The first few days had been hectic.
Everyone was learning their schedules and dealing with sunburns and just generally settling into camp life still, but it felt good to be back in the swing of things. Wiping the sweat from her brow, she peeled off her wrist guards and settled her things into the locking bin off to the sides of the targets. She glanced at the lake, wishing she had time for a quick swim across the lake before dinner, but no such luck. She couldn't see the mess hall, but she could hear Effie's shrill voice echoing off the trees as she rang the old brass bell to call everyone to eat. "Dinner children! Come eat! Dinner!"
She hoped at least that it was honey mustard chicken night in the mess hall. Sae, or Greasy Sae, as the kids called her was nothing to look at but hell if she could cook. Her baked chicken patties smothered in a creamy honey mustard sauce and served on a bed of rice pilaf was a camp favorite. Mixed with a tall glass of red Kool-Aid and a piece of watermelon, you couldn't go wrong.
Katniss straggled up the path, practically panting in the June heat. Being the first few days of camp, she knew she needed to sit with her campers to help them socialize and to facilitate those cheesy getting to know you conversations Effie was always going on and on about, but she just wished she could sit with Peeta and lean on him as she ate her food.
She was pouting to herself and starting to thirst for a tall glass of Kool-Aid with a little something extra in it when the sound of flip flops hitting the ground at a fast pace made her raise her gaze. She frowned when she saw that it was Prim – red faced, braids flying wildly as she jogged, her worn flip flops slapping the worn path before skidding to a halt in front of her. Her cheeks were red from sun and exertion.
"Katniss," she gasped, clearly out of breath. "I….I just…"
"Prim, what the hell?" she muttered, ducking to see her little sister's splotchy, sweat covered face. "Why are you running in this heat? You'll drop over."
"I just…got off the phone…"
"Oh, you ran from Haymitch's office?" she groaned. "No wonder you look like you're about to die."
Prim gave her a death glare between her pants for air and put her hands on her hips. "I talked to mom, Katniss. She looked at your grades! You got them!"
The frown that had been etched on her face for most of the day slowly relaxed into a gaping look of utter disbelief.
"I did what?"
"You did it. Straight A's, Katniss. She logged in and saw them and you did it. You got what you needed to transfer!"
"You've got to be kidding me," she exhaled sharply, her eyes going unfocused. A few kids raced by on their way to dinner, screaming and threatening each other with sling shots, but she didn't bother to yell. She couldn't do anything but stare at Prim and wring her hands that were now shaking. "You…I….I did it. I really did it," she muttered.
"Yes now come on! You have to tell Peeta!"
She didn't think she would ever forget the look of pure elation Peeta gave her when she told him. Prim had run into the mess hall and pulled him outside in the middle of dinner to where Katniss was standing by the flag pole.
"Katniss, what's wrong?" he'd asked, his slightly sunburnt face creased with concern.
Prim squeaked and gave them a knowing smile before rushing inside the mess hall and leaving them alone.
"Peeta….Prim called my mom. She said I got straight A's. I got the grades," she'd told him.
Peeta had frozen for a moment before letting out a loud whoop of celebration and wrapping his arms around her middle. He'd lifted her up and smashed her to his chest until she couldn't breathe, and that's where she was now. Pressed up against his chest, her head nestled in his neck. She breathed in the smell; sugar, deodorant, a light bit of sweat, and a sweet musk that was just him. Closing her eyes, she smiled against his neck and kissed the skin lightly. Opening her eyes, she watched as he pulled back slightly, his bright gaze catching hers. "I really love you, you know that?"
She nodded. "That's part of why I did this," she said. Wrinkling her nose, she stepped back and looked up at him. She sobered slightly, shaking her head. There was something she needed to get off her chest. "But that's not the only reason I'm doing this, you know that, right?"
Peeta bobbed his head and watched her.
"I did this for you, yes….but I also did it for me. Your school has a much better nursing program and I wanted that for myself. I'll get to work in one of the best hospitals in the state after I graduate, and I can get the best teachers and education where you go. I want to see you every day, but I want you to know that I also did this for me…" she trailed off, her voice soft. She looked up at him expectantly. "Can you deal with that?"
"Of course," he nodded. "I get why you did it. Education first…but I'm an added bonus."
A laugh bubbled up in her chest, making her burst out. "Yes, yes you are. You know, I'm…I'm really looking forward to this Peeta. I know this has been a tough year, but…I couldn't have done it without you."
He snorted. "Well, technically you did go through part of it without me-"
She swung out and playfully slapped his arm at that. "-but if that's what it took to get where we are right now, then…I'm glad."
Leaning forward, he placed his lips on hers and kissed her softly. The crickets were starting to chirp all around them as the day faded, but she barely noticed.
"Dinner will be ending soon," he muttered against her cheek. "We can't be standing out here, making out in front of everyone."
Katniss rose up on her toes to drag her lips suggestively across his, earning a shudder from him as she did so. He smirked as she let her hand graze the front of his khaki shorts. "We should find a cabin to hide behind."
He burst out laughing, and she joined in soon after. She hugged him to her chest and rubbed her cheek against the Camp Panem emblem emblazoned on the front of his worn t-shirt.
"I feel like this is going to be the best summer of our lives."
"I think it's going to be much, much more than one summer, Katniss."
A few things:
I'm so sorry for the delay on this...I lost two family members within weeks of each other right before the holidays and I was just too bummed to do anything besides mope. I hope you'll all forgive me for the lack of updates/writing/responses. I was having a tough time and I just needed to find my writing voice again.
Second - thank you for reading this fic. I'm considering doing an epilogue - would you read one if I wrote it? I have a few ideas, but...if you are happy with this ending, I won't upload it. Epilogue, no epilogue?
Last - I going to be uploading a new fic here shortly. I have two in the works; one Modern day AU, one more Hunger Games/Canon-ish...no games, but set in District 12...what would you guys prefer to read from me next? I plan to eventually post both, but I really only want to start one at a time.
Thank you for reading and joining me on this smutty adventure! Please review!