An Everlark twist to the movie Pretty Woman, for the Hunger Games Fic Exchange on tumblr.
A gift for Falafel_Waffel in response to the prompt, 'Everlark Pretty Woman'.
Banner by Ro Nordman can be found at tinyurl dot Pretty-Peeta-banner (just remove spaces)
Disclaimer: I do not own any rights to The Hunger Games or Pretty Woman and just borrowed for fan fiction fun. This story is exactly what it is billed as- a retelling of Pretty Woman, so you should know what to expect and realize that the M rating is warranted. Thanks!
Bright lights blur together as the car speeds down the street. To anyone on the sidewalk the windows are dark, but I can see out of them perfectly. Although I must admit, the passing landscape of trash cans, shitty bodegas, and all you can eat buffets hold little interest for me. Gale sits beside me, grimacing and furiously composing texts on his smart phone.
I should be pissed at him. He is the reason why the meeting came to such a grinding halt. I'm not, though; I've known him too long to be concerned with how worked up and involved he becomes any time we try to negotiate a merger like this. It will all work out in the end. It always does. Greed will overcome personal taste, exorbitant amounts of money will exchange hands, and I'll get the hell out of Los Angeles.
I hate being in cities, surrounded by concrete, and strange smells, feeling suffocated, but I'm always in gigantic cities. If it weren't Los Angeles, it would be Tokyo or New York, maybe even Houston or London.
I miss the simpler times. I miss my sister. I miss what it feels like to smile genuinely. I miss knowing there is a purpose for these business trips and the work that we do. I even miss my best friend, who despite the fact he is sitting beside me, seems a thousand miles away.
"Let's get food, I'm famished." My interruption surprises Gale, causing him to look up from his phone and give me a funny look.
He shakes his head and then grins at me, displaying his perfect white smile. "You can't seriously be hungry. We had a four course meal just hours ago."
I scrunch my nose at him. "The portions are always so small. A salad should be an overflowing thing in a bowl, not six sprigs of measly lettuce with three drops of dressing. Come on, Hawthorne, I'm hungry." I'm whining as we pull up to the Four Seasons, and watch as the driver hops out and opens the door for us.
Before I can wave him off, Gale is handing me my bag, "Sorry, Catnip. You know when I'm in Los Angeles I like to see as much of Johanna as I can." He raises his eyebrows up and down in a suggestive movement.
"Give me the keys to your rental then." He should be used to my demands, seeing as we've known each other since we were children.
Gale rolls his eyes at me, "I don't think so."
"Please, I'm really hungry." I'm hungry, but not so much that I can't wait until the morning to eat. Really, I'm just looking to avoid going up to my hotel room this early in the evening. I won't be able to sleep so I'll end up staring at the walls for hours.
"You are also a really terrible driver. You'll get lost and I'll have to send the LAPD out to find you."
I extend my hand right under his nose, "Keys, or I guess this little thing with Johanna is turning into a three way. I'm not getting out of the car until you give me those keys."
He takes my threat seriously and fishes them from his pocket, "The sad thing is that I'm pretty sure Johanna would be all about it, but I'm not. I don't want to see your skinny ass naked." Gale is only half joking, I like his wife just fine, she's a great woman whose father's political influence really helps our networking. His mistress, Johanna, though…she's a piece of work, hilarious and sexually adventurous. I like her.
Gale was right. This was a mistake. I'm so incredibly lost and there is no way I'll ever get back to the Four Seasons. I'm somehow going in circles and keep passing the same chain pharmacy storefront over and over again. The only reason I know it is the same one is because there are two men huddled under the street lamp. With each pass of the car I notice more details about them, especially the blonde one, who is just slightly shorter than the man beside him.
Both are dressed horrifically, like cast mates on the Jersey Shore or something, the taller man is gesticulating with his hands animatedly telling a story and the blonde man nods his head and smiles in response. A honk behind me alerts that the light has turned green.
I make another pass around to get a look at the pair, trying to decide if their relaxed demeanor means they are safe enough to ask directions from. This time when I turn the corner, I realize that the taller man is gone, leaving the blonde man standing underneath the street lamp alone. You only live once; I may as well go ahead and ask before the car runs out of gas.
I ease the car up to the street curb and roll the window down, the blonde man notices the vehicle, but doesn't approach it. His hesitance is reassuring, but I could really use some assistance finding this gyro place the concierge raved about. Eventually, he approaches the car. "Look tonight is my night off and all, but I think that Finn will be back soon…" His voice trails off as he actually looks inside the car and catches a glance of me. "But for you, now you're a different story. What are you thinking?"
"I'm thinking you could give me directions, or well I'm at least hoping you can." He's either talking about drugs or sex. He looks clean, not like I'd expect a dealer to look, but he doesn't exactly look like a prostitute either.
"You sure you don't want to make my night off a little more exciting? I'll give you a discount." Without a doubt, the handsome blonde man peering into my car with oddly colored brown eyes is a prostitute.
He gives me a huge smile, his teeth are white and gleam in the ambient light of the street, but they lack the perfection of Gale's teeth. They are slightly crooked, and one of his lower teeth just barely hides behind the one beside it. I like the blonde man's smile better, it feels real. I knew Gale before the cosmetic dental surgery. I know his smile is not real.
"How much for directions to Papa Cristos?"
"Ah, Papa Cristos. Supposedly the best lamb gyro in LA, although I don't know myself, never been. I do know how to get there though." He starts to give detailed instructions about which light to turn at and what streets to avoid, and my mind is not absorbing any of the information. "No charge for the directions." He smiles at me again and it is so authentic I can't help but smile in return.
"Here's the deal. I'm sure your directions were spot on, but I'm a ditz when it comes to remembering things of that nature." I'm about to hand him my phone so he can type the directions in, since I can't seem to find it on GPS, when I surprise myself, "How much for you to join me for a gyro?"
"Now I've heard it called some interesting things, but a gyro is a new one."
"I'm serious. I'd like to buy you dinner. If you've already eaten, I'd like for you to join me so I don't have to eat alone. I understand if it's extra for the directions, but I don't mind. What's the damage for a dinner date?"
"Sounds too easy." He steps back and eyes the car suspiciously, looking into the back seat. Then he opens the doors and pushes the locks and window controls, "You can never be too careful." His behavior perplexes me; surely a meal is better than a quick rendezvous in the back seat of a car.
"I'd assume it would be nice to have someone who just wants to enjoy your presence, without you having to, well…"
"…Fuck them." He unapologetically finishes the statement for me, inserting the word I was too embarrassed to utilize, as he crawls into the passenger seat. "Fifty bucks sound fair? Also, you're buying dinner, right?"
I nod my head as I open my purse and realize I don't have anything smaller than a one hundred dollar bill, I press it into his hand anyways, "Keep the change. Do you want to drive? I'd rather not."
His name is Peeta, which he tells me is actually his real name. His clients call him Kane, but he felt like he could trust me with the real deal since I trusted him enough to take him to dinner. I'm immediately at ease in Peeta's presence. He does not abide by any preconceived notion I may have had about a man of his profession, although I don't ever recall giving the topic much thought.
The restaurant is a nice change of pace from the ridiculous places I've been eating at since my plane landed a few days ago. The storefront is bakery style with a patio where Peeta and I take our gyros and enjoy the crisp night air.
We share polite conversation while we wait for our food to be delivered. I learn that Peeta really is quite charming and pleasant to be around. He fills the gaps in conversations with funny anecdotes about his small hometown. His voice is comforting, and there is a slight drawl when he pronounces certain words that clue me into the fact that he isn't from around here.
Things become interesting once our meal is delivered. Peeta tears into his gyro like it is the first thing he has eaten in weeks. My stomach drops at the sight, not because it is revolting, but because it reminds me of a time in the not so distant past when I watched my sister eat like that. I know what it's like to be that hungry, and no amount of money will ever allow me to forget it. Without the Hawthorne's intervention, Prim and I could have easily been in the same place that Peeta is.
He notices me watching him and his cheeks flush a bright pink, eyes wide as he lowers his food, "Sorry 'bout that, it was just so good." The meal is good, but not that good. I can't help but wonder how long it's been since Peeta had a full meal.
Before Momma had been moved into the home, when I was still struggling to make government subsidies stretch, Prim found an ugly, mangy kitten. She begged to keep the kitten and I refused; there was no way that we would be able to sustain another mouth. She didn't speak to me for weeks. I didn't feel good about the decision, and the kitten most likely starved. I'm reminded of this while I watch Peeta. I'm in the position to help him, but I don't know how. I doubt he would take money from me; he seems too proud for that.
"You know, I'm not feeling as hungry as I thought. Would you care to finish mine? I hate letting food go to waste." I push my food basket towards him.
Peeta grabs it and pulls it in front of him, "Yeah, me too, maybe I'll get something to wrap it in and take it back home with me." He is entirely too excited at the prospect and my heart breaks watching him. I know what he is doing. He is calculating how long he can make the gyro last, how long he can stretch something that was intended to be cast away.
"Peeta?" I speak up, but he is still talking and doesn't realize I've addressed him.
"Thank you so much for dinner, Katniss. It's been ages since I've had something to eat that wasn't prepared in a microwave."
I try again, "Peeta?"
"Uh huh?" There's that smile again, the one that I have no clue how he pulls off so seamlessly given his circumstances.
"What's your rate for a night?" My heart is beating so wildly, I can feel my pulse thrumming in my ears. I can't remember the last time I was so unsure and nervous about a decision I was trying to make. It's my job to play it cool, not get irrational, and think everything through. I'm obviously failing now.
He casts me a sideways glance, "Um, like, what did you have in mind? It typically depends on what you want. If you want to watch me jerk off, then it's like fifty bucks, but if you want me to fuck you, then that's a flat two hundred."
Peeta is so matter of fact when he says these things, negotiating like we are discussing what to watch on television. "I'm not interested in engaging in sexual relations with you. I just want to take you back to my hotel, and have you spend some time with me. How much would that be?"
"Like in your bed, but with clothes on?"
It unsettles me how hard it is for him to believe that I just want to be around him. "Actually, I don't sleep much so you can have the bed. Feel free to sleep in whatever you want. I just don't want to be alone tonight."
"Uh, how about five hundred dollars since I'm staying the night. That sound okay?"
"You are a persuasive business man, Peeta. That works for me." I wish he had asked for more, I would have gladly paid. Five hundred dollars won't go very far in this city. I'll slide some more in his pocket or something; I've got all night to figure it out.
For the first time all night, Peeta looks unsure of himself. He raises his hand to his face and rubs it over his nose several times. It's a nervous gesture I recognize from years of trying to find anxious tells in people on the other side of the negotiating table. "I well, I want to tell you that I'm not a street walker, you know what I mean?" His eyes don't meet mine.
"I don't care what you do, Peeta, I'm just glad to have the company." My attempt at reassurance doesn't seem to help, because he has more to say.
"Well, I'm not. I was a dancer, which now when I say it out loud doesn't seem much better, and I had a few regulars who would pay for after show visits. You know, mostly older women, all on the up and up, just unhappy with their marriages and stuff."
None of this matters to me because I don't plan on doing anything with Peeta other than talking. I just want to do something nice for him. Who knows, maybe a good deed to balance years of bad business karma is what I need. I try to interrupt, but Peeta gives me a look that lets me know he isn't finished. "A few weeks ago, one of those husbands filed a complaint and even though the management was aware what went on, they couldn't turn a blind eye when an actual complaint was made. I lost my job and even though I've still got a few regulars, I may have to work the streets a bit until I can secure employment again."
"Okay. I'm sure you will find something soon. Are you ready to go?" He nods and grabs the gyro that he has wrapped in a napkin.
I'm not sure how this evening evolved into this, but it has and I can't say I really know how I feel about it. I guess the true test will be getting back to the hotel and seeing what happens there.
Thank you to Wildharp and Chelzie for the wonderful beta assistance! Hotpie for her support, and ultimately Falafel_Waffel for the fun prompt!
*Happy New Year!*
This is already on Ao3 and I wasn't planning on posting it here, but there were some requests for it to be made available- so, here it is. The story is complete and has six chapters. I plan on updating every few days or so, depending on interest. Thank you!