Chapter Five: I Don't Need No Doctor.
Chapter Summary: "Peeta exposes his vulnerable side."
Author's Note: Friendly reminder that I replaced Chapter 4 with a completely new version that is not from Katniss' POV.
"The next time you sleep over?" Cato said, anger boiling in his tone.
Cato was at least four inches taller than Peeta, and probably outweighed him by close to forty pounds. While Peeta exercised regularly and was in good shape, Cato looked like he spent a large portion of his leisure time at the gym throwing weights around.
Peeta snapped out of sizing Cato up a moment too late to realize that a fist was flying towards him. His vision exploded in a flash of white to match the pain spreading across the left side of his face. As he staggered back a few steps to get out of Cato's reach, points of light danced in his vision. He tried to open his mouth to talk, then grunted in pain as he felt his jaw click back into place. Peeta put his hands up, in an act of supplication "Cato, it's not what you think. I was dr-," he started to say as Cato's right leg came swinging towards him in a roundhouse kick, taking him in the side.
"Cato, what the hell are you doing?" Glimmer shouted.
"Beating the ass of this pretty boy who thought he could get away with fucking my girl."
"Cato, nothing happened, he's just a friend and you have made it abundantly clear to me on every occasion that you're not my man. Don't think for a second that I don't know about you fucking Clove," Glimmer said through clenched teeth.
Cato looked at Glimmer with a shocked expression on his face, "Shut up, slut."
Peeta capitalized on the distraction. He charged Cato and angled low.
"How much did he pay you to fuck hi-?" Cato was cut off as Peeta's left shoulder collided with his mid-section.
He wrapped his arms around Cato's legs and lifted, picking him up and bull-rushing him out the door. Peeta took several elbow strikes to his back before they crashed onto the grass. They landed awkwardly, but Peeta dealt out two solid punches to the ribs before Cato managed to scramble out from underneath him.
They squared off again, circling each other counter clockwise. Between the kick from earlier and the stance that Cato kept adopting, Peeta got the impression that Cato had some degree of martial arts training. Peeta had experience with wrestling from both high school and college, but this was an entirely different situation. Thanks to his brothers Peeta wasn't unfamiliar with brawling, but his strengths lay in getting up close to his opponent, and from there he could execute different holds and joint locks to great effect. The way Cato kept bouncing on the balls of his feet made Peeta think that Cato was going to attempt to utilize kicks to fight him at range, not allowing him to get in close. If Peeta could predict when Cato was going to throw a kick, he might be able to get in close and get him into a grapple.
Peeta decided to test his theory and made a feint like he was going to shoot in low on Cato again. Just as he predicted, Cato's right leg shot out, trying to kick Peeta in the head. Cato was big and strong, but not particularly fast. Peeta also noted that Cato's arms dropped when he threw the roundhouse, something that he had also done the first time that he had tried to kick him. You never let your guard down in a standup fight, a competent fighter would know that, and should have had it trained out of him.
After a few more attempts to poke holes in Cato's defense, Peeta figured that Cato relied mostly on his size and strength to fight, more than skill. He was sloppy, but still a dangerous opponent. Peeta took a few quick steps towards Cato, looking like he was going to make another attempt to rush him. Cato shifted his weight in anticipation of the charge, not expecting Peeta to change his tactics. Instead of going low, Peeta kept himself upright. As Cato's leg came around, Peeta grabbed Cato's wrists, throwing them to his right side. This tactic overbalanced Cato as well as leaving his head and neck completely exposed. Peeta turned into the kick, grunting hard as Cato's knee caught him in the side. Hooking his left arm behind Cato's right, Peeta then reached past Cato's right shoulder, bringing his right arm around and under Cato's throat, and then laced his fingers together. Using Cato's right shoulder as a fulcrum, Peeta pushed against it, which applied more pressure to Cato's throat.
Cato struggled against Peeta, but he couldn't break his grip.
"Cato, you can either settle the fuck down or you're going to take a nap," Peeta said, grunting with exertion.
Cato only growled in reply and continued to struggle. In a matter of moments Cato went limp, and Peeta let him crumple to the ground. Cato gasped for air and clutched at his throat. He was soon wracked by a violent fit of coughing.
Peeta turned back towards the door and addressed Glimmer, "Sorry. I just couldn't take him talking to you like that, and I wasn't going to keep letting him hit me."
She nodded and walked towards him "You don't need to justify yourself, he deserved it." She looked down at Cato, who was still lying on the ground and coughing. "Now as for you-"
"Fuck you, whore. We're through," Cato managed to croak out, in between fits of coughing.
"Well if that's how you feel about me…" she said, as her foot connected with his balls, "how about you get the hell out of here before I call the cops."
Cato eventually managed to crawl back into his car, spewing profanities the entire way.
"Well, I guess that takes care of that," Glimmer said, a slight tremble in her voice.
Peeta tentatively put an arm around her. "I really am sorry. I didn't expect all of that to happen."
She turned into him, accepting his embrace and laying her head on his shoulder "I know, Peeta. It's not your fault. I know it looked bad by most people's standards, but I think any rational person would have at least heard us out. He attacked you without warning. Prick." She gave him a slight smile and then a big hug; Peeta winced in pain and she let him go. "Oh god, I didn't even think to ask if you were okay. You weren't complaining, so I jus-"
"It's fine. I didn't want to whine after what you just went through. I think I'll be all right, but I'm sore as hell."
She frowned at him. "You don't have to play it tough. Let's go back in the house and put some ice on your face. It's starting to swell."
He acquiesced, following her back inside. They went into the kitchen and she pulled out a few freezer bags, filling them with ice.
"I never thought I'd say this to someone when I wasn't trying to get them in bed, but take your shirt off."
Peeta did as he was told, groaning softly as his arms came up. He could see that he had a large bruise forming on the left side of his rib cage where he had been kicked. He poked at himself gingerly, trying to determine if anything was broken. Aside from a few spots that were a little tender, he thought he was in the clear.
Glimmer handed him an icepack then walked around behind him to look at his back. "You've got a couple of small bruises on your back, but they don't look too bad. Is there anything else that hurts?"
He turned to her and with a whimsical smile, held up his elbow and pointed at it with his other hand.
She poked him in the side, "I don't think so, Dr. Jones. Now go lay down on the couch for a few minutes."
"Oww! Okay, okay. I'll go lie down for a little while, but I should get home soon."
"Are you going to be able to ride like this?"
He flexed his hands and rotated his wrists, then stretched out on the couch. "My right hand is a little sore, but it shouldn't keep me from riding. If it gets too bad I can always hit the throttle lock to give my hand a rest."
"Sounds good. Let me check my email and then we'll leave."
He settled in on the couch, but found it difficult to find a comfortable position because of the ice packs he had placed on himself. After a few minutes he heard Glimmer typing away furiously in her bedroom, swearing to herself loudly.
"Is everything alright?" he called from the couch.
She walked back into the living room. "Everything will be alright, but I just had two appointments cancel. My scheduling fee is non-refundable if they back out, so it's not like I'm losing any money. They're just really big tippers, and I'm a little disappointed. I was hoping to use the tip money to go splurge at Sephora. I really wanted to buy the Naked 2 palette, I need a new bottle of mascara, and…"
Peeta started to tune her out.
"… and a really fat ten-inch dildo that I can shove up your tight little ass."
He jumped a little and looked at her.
"I didn't mean to bore you with my love for makeup. I thought talking about banging you in the ass might get the glossy-eyed look off of your face."
Peeta blushed, "Sorry. I didn't mean to be rude. The pain is grabbing most of my attention at the moment."
"Nice cover. Speaking of your pain, time to take the ice packs off for a little while," she said, reach over to remove the pack covering his face. "Well, good news, it doesn't look like you're getting a black eye yet."
"I'd hate to try and explain that to Katniss tonight. So, since your, um, appointments cancelled does that mean you'll be out earlier?"
She thought to herself for a moment. "Katniss is supposed to go on at nine, right? I'll get there before ten. She'll probably be finishing her opening set by then. I'll send you a text before I come down into the Pit to see how things are going. Sound like a plan?"
He nodded and then stood up. "Works for me. We can hammer out the rest of the details on the way back to Haymitch's."
They pulled into the parking lot and stopped next to Peeta's Triumph. He climbed out of the car, and then suddenly turned around. "Crap, I almost forgot, I don't have your number."
She smiled, "I already put it in your phone. See you tonight. Send me a message when you get home so that I know you made it alright."
"I'll do that. Thanks again for last night, and for helping me out. I really appreciate it." He shut the car door, walked up to his motorcycle, and began untying the straps for his helmet. He then heard someone clear their throat behind him.
"Well isn't this just rich. A nice little dance and a smooch from Katniss, then you go home with a different girl. I didn't think you had it in you, Peeta."
Shit. This is the last thing I wanted to happen, he thought to himself.
"Johanna, this isn't what it looks like. I just crashed on her couch because I was too drunk to drive. Nothing happened." He put his helmet down and spun on his heel to face her.
Johanna opened her mouth to say something and then cocked her head. "Damn, Peeta. If I had known you liked it that rough I'd have hit on you months ago. That's a nice little shiner on the side of your face."
"That's courtesy of Cato. He didn't want to hear what I had to say either," he said, somewhat frustrated.
"What'd he do, catch you two in the act," she said with an evil grin.
"No. We were walking out the door of Glimmer's place when he showed up. He didn't ask for an explanation, he just attacked me."
"Sounds like something he'd do. All things considered, you don't look too bad." She put her hands on her hips. "So tell me Peeta, what are we going to do about this little situation?"
Crossing his arms over his chest, he asked, "What do you mean?"
"Well, I could tell Katniss that I saw you getting dropped off here at three in the afternoon, or…" she trailed off.
"Or what Johanna? Is this the part where you blackmail me?" he shook his head. "Go ahead and tell Katniss if you want. I did not have sex with Glimmer by any definition you could come up with, Scout's honor." He threw his leg over the side of the motorcycle and strapped his helmet on. "Now if you'll excuse me, I really need to get home."
She put her hand on his shoulder, which he immediately shrugged off with a wince. "Relax, I'm just fucking with you."
He flipped up the visor of his helmet and gave her an annoyed look. "Johanna, sometimes you take things a little too far. If rattling people's cages is the only thing that makes you feel happy anymore, I feel really sorry for you. I know that you're Katniss' friend, but remember she left me. Even if I did sleep with Glimmer, or anyone else, I'm single, and it's not your or Katniss' business."
"Well, I guess you're telling the truth. You wouldn't be this pissed off, and you probably would have used some of that famous charm on me if you were trying to cover something up." She looked down before continuing. "You're right though, you're single, you're free to do what you want. I'm still going to judge you for hanging out with skanks like her though."
"It's pretty funny to hear that coming from you, given how many people you go home from the bar with. What'd Glimmer do to you? Did she cock block you and go home with someone you had your eye on? Is it the way she dresses? That her breasts are so much larger than yours? Have you even talked to her for more than five minutes?"
"Okay, okay. I'm the pot that's calling the kettle black, I get it. It's just, just." She sighed, trying not to be flustered. "The problem is that I could actually see you two getting along really well, and if you move on…" She folded her arms and growled in frustration. "I know you're still in love with Katniss, and believe it or not, she still cares for you." She looked around as if trying to decide whether or not to tell him something. "God damnit," she mumbled to herself. "I- I know this is a lot to ask, but can you keep something between just you and me?"
"Wha, What?" he said, bewildered. He thought for a moment. "It depends on what it is, Johanna."
"This is important Peeta. I'm not joking around, and I'm not playing games. If you really want to know why I'm giving you so much shit, and trying to direct your attention back towards Katniss, I'll tell you."
He took in a deep breath, and let it out slowly. "Johanna, maybe it's best if I don't know for right now. My head is still spinning from last night, and I really need time to think about what happened before I see her Katniss again. Knowing some big secret may hurt more than it helps." He slapped the visor of his helmet back down and started the engine of his motorcycle. With a quick flick of his wrist, he waved and then pulled out of the parking lot.
Johanna wrapped her arms around herself and watched Peeta drive away. "I'm in love with Gale," she said quietly.
Peeta put the kickstand of his bike down and quickly ran from the driveway to his front porch. He had been caught off guard by a thunderstorm, and by the time he arrived home was soaked to the bone. Once inside he quickly rid himself of his wet clothing, turned on the stereo in his living room, and his way into the guest bathroom.
Opening the medicine cabinet he poked around through its various contents trying to locate the old bottle of Percocet that was left over from his accident. Noting that he still had four left, he broke one pill in half and put the bottle back into the cabinet. Taking a moment to look at himself in the mirror he saw that the left side of his ribcage had a lovely patina of bruising. The left side of his cheek was red and slightly raised, but didn't look particularly worse from when he had left Glimmer's townhouse.
He walked into the kitchen, pulled a Yeungling out of the fridge and quickly downed its contents along with the pill. He made two ice packs and then grabbed another beer out of the fridge. Holding one ice pack in place with his upper arm, he awkwardly held the other pack to his face, took another drink from his beer and walked out of the kitchen.
He did a spit take, ice packs falling to the floor, juggling his beer in the air as he heard someone yell out "NICE COCK, MAN!" quickly followed by "Annie, avert your eyes, I don't want you to think me a lesser man by comparison. Delly, you've seen him naked plenty, do what you want."
Peeta froze as his embarrassment set in. "Great, I'm beat up, wet, cold, and shriveled; hardly impressive by anyone's standards in my current state." Peeta thought to himself.
Annie was peeking through her fingers, taking in the sight of Peeta's nude body. Delly, blushing and trying to act nonchalant, punched Finnick lightly on the shoulder when he doubled over in laughter.
"Jesus, Finnick! Don't you know how to knock, or at least let a guy know when you're going to come over? How'd you know I'd be home anyway?" Peeta said, trying to not angry.
"Since when have I had to knock?" Finnick said, with a million-dollar smile on his face. "We saw you hauling ass home trying to beat the storm. I thought we'd come check up on you and get caught up with the events of last night."
Interjecting, Delly spoke up, "I'm glad we did. What happened to you? It looks like you got in a fight."
Taking a moment to cover himself, Peeta replied, "That would be correct." He chewed on his lip briefly before continuing, "Give me a minute to throw some pants on." He spun on his heel and climbed the steps up to the second floor where his bedroom was located.
Delly followed him up the stairs and into the bedroom. Peeta was sitting on the edge of the bed his shoulders slumped in defeat. He looked up as Delly walked in and gave her a weak smile.
She closed the door, walked up to him, coming to a stop between his legs, and pulled him into her chest. "Peeta, are you okay? I'm not just talking about the bruises, I mean are you really okay?"
Taking in a deep breath he blew it out slowly and let his arms encircle Delly. "I- I really don't know. Katniss really caught me off guard last night. I thought we were going to do the civil thing and not talk to each other all night. I really didn't expect her to come up and ask me to dance."
She ran her fingers through his damp hair and then kissed him on the forehead. "I'm so sorry Peeta. I'm somewhat to blame about that."
He turned his head up to look at her, a confused look on his face.
"When I went over to talk to her and Rue. I suggested that she should go talk to you. At least say hello. I figured that it might be awkward, but I knew it would mean a lot to you if you could at least get on speaking terms again. I didn't think she would do something like that. I actually thought she had given up the idea to talk to you when she cut-in. I thought it was a little brash, but I didn't want to cause a scene. I feel really bad now."
He squeezed her tightly before letting go, and crashing backwards into the bed, one arm outstretched on the mattress, his other hand covered his face. "It's okay, Delly. I know you meant well."
"I think that whole scenario took everyone by surprise."
"Why'd she kiss me?" he said quietly, and mostly to himself.
She looked down and saw that his jaw was trembling. If his hand wasn't covering most of his face she was certain that she would see tears welling in his eyes. She moved herself out from between his legs and lay down next to him on the bed.
"I don't know what to tell you, Peeta. Maybe the first attempt was due to familiarity? It felt right to her? I can't say. Maybe she has a lot of unresolved feelings for you?"
His breathing faltered. "I was hoping you'd just say drunk and not thinking clearly."
She turned to him and put an arm across his chest. "That too I suppose. I'm sorry, I guess I didn't help at all."
"Delly, don't say that. It's not your fault. I just haven't gotten over her. I think that's why it's so frustrating; too many what ifs."
"Peeta, you're going to drive yourself insane if you endlessly brood on this. How about you get some rest and we can talk more later? I'll go get your ice packs and then we'll leave."
He only nodded.
She patted him on the stomach and then gave him a light kiss on the chest before standing.
Peeta crawled towards the head of the bed when he stopped and turned around. "Hey, Delly. Will you send Finnick up? I need to talk to him for a minute."
"Yeah, I'll send him up with the ice packs." She stopped and then walked over to his dresser. She reached into the top drawer, pulled out a pair of boxers and tossed them to him. "I think you'll want these."
He caught them with one hand and then chuckled. "Oh, right. Still naked."
Delly blushed and bit her lip as she nodded. "Yep…" She turned to open then door and started to walk back down stairs.
As he was pulling on his boxers he called out to her, "Will you get him to bring up my cell phone? It should be in the front left pocket of my riding jacket."
She acknowledged his request and then continued down the stairs.
A few minutes later Finnick came into his bedroom, two ice packs and two beers in hand. He handed Peeta the items and then fished Peeta's phone out of his pocket and tossed it down onto the bed. "What's up? Delly said you wanted to talk to me for a minute."
"Yeah. I was curious if you had plans tonight."
"Nope. Annie and Delly were gonna stay at their place, watch Bridesmaids, or something. Did you have something in mind?"
Peeta reached over and grabbed his phone. He pulled up the messages from Katniss and then handed him the phone. "What do you think about that?"
Finnick read the messages, his eyes going wide. "Shit, man. You know I'll be your wingman any time, but are you sure you want to do that? You're looking pretty rough right now. Maybe you should sleep on it."
Peeta picked up his beer and knocked it against Finnick's. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right?" He took a sip, put his beer down and then scratched his head. "I'm gonna go one way or another. She invited me out. It's not that I feel obligated to go, I'm just really curious. I was hoping that maybe I could talk to her when her set is over. Maybe figure out what is going on with her."
"Is Gale going to be there? I'm not sure you're fit for another fight today."
Peeta shrugged. "I don't think she'd invite me out if he was going to be there. He didn't come out last night, so he's probably at the base this weekend."
"Well, I'll break a bottle over his head if he is there and tries to start some shit."
"My hero." Peeta blinked a few times and then shook his head. "This Percocet is starting to kick in."
"Dude, you took a Perc and you're drinking with it?" Finnick picked up Peeta's beer and frowned at him. "All right, you take a nap and sleep that shit off. It's still going to be raining tonight, so I'll come back over here around eight to pick you up."
"Thanks. I'll give you some money for gas when you get back."
"Don't worry about that. See you at eight. How about you wear a shirt with buttons on it for a change, maybe a tie? I may want to go up to the Palace and they won't let me bring you in if you're looking like a slob. No offense."
Peeta stretched his arms and then yawned. "None taken. Okay. See you at 8. If I don't answer the door, just come on in."