I'm finally writing a fic! I don't really know where this is going, I just really wanted to write it. So here goes. It may be terrible. I wouldn't hold out for a riveting plot, but please leave a review either way.
"-and don't forget any luggage, please!"
Katniss jerks awake at the sound of the driver announcing her stop. She rubs her sleep-bleary eyes and rises from the musty seat, grabbing her backpack and jacket, and descends the bus. The air outside is a little humid, but pleasantly warm.
The bus is parked in front of a squat brick building, an old sign hanging over the doorway reads something in Irish, and the interior looks like a deserted old pub. A newer, polished sign is erected on the ground in front of the building and reads, "Student Union".
At the driver's grunt Katniss remembers her bags, and bends down into the hold to retrieve them. Moving away to college she had packed most of her belongings with her – at least those she didn't share with Prim – and found everything fit mostly into a suitcase and a moderately sized duffel. The only thing that doesn't fit inside are her bow and quiver of arrows, which she slings over her shoulder.
Nobody else gets off the bus with her, and as it drives away she is left alone in the sudden silence that overtakes her surroundings. Across the road from the brick building lies a large empty field, and to the right a lake surrounded by drooping willows. With no bearings to go on Katniss walks up to the student union and tries the door, only to find it locked. Circling the building she finds every other door locked up as well, but she does also notice a board on the far side facing the lake. It is quaintly labelled 'Campus Map', but the depiction is so comically disproportionate and removed from what a map actually looks like, Katniss struggles to make any sense of what she sees before her.
At the sound of an approaching car she turns around and finds a woman crawling by in a small grey car emblazoned with the words, 'Campus Safety.'
"Excuse me, ma'am!" she calls out, running over to the car. The woman slows down to a stop and rolls down the window. "Sorry, ma'am. Um would you be able to point me in the direction of – uh –" she fumbles in her pocket and pulls out a wrinkled scrap of paper. "Could you tell me where the uh- the Hob-? is, please?"
After receiving directions from the Campus Safety officer Katniss gives her bag another pull and heads on down the main street. The front yards down the left stretch of street stand messy and unkempt, leading to a series of houses that judging by their alphabetic naming must be Greek societies. She can hardly see herself falling into that scene and hopes it itself doesn't end up sprawling out into her life here either. Nevertheless, Katniss is still able to smile as she breathes in deeply and takes in her surroundings. The majority of her vision fills with clear blue sky and luscious green foliage. On the street corner she even spies a squirrel sniffing around in the freshly mown grass whose familiar scent reaches her nostrils. At least part of this campus can remind her of home.
Turning left at the five-way intersection she walks to the end of the block and finds herself outside the establishment named The Hob. After a glance back down at the paper from her pocket to double-check the name she gingerly pushes the door forward.
The interior smells strongly of coffee beans and cinnamon and the curiously incongruous aroma of star anise. Dimly warm lighting bounces off alternating chocolate and forest-green painted walls, half of which are further cloaked by an array of hand-quilted tapestries. The squeak of the wheels on Katniss' suitcase becomes immediately muffled by the thick rug at the doorway as she makes her way to the counter.
A girl with shortly cropped brown hair glances up from her idle doodling and shoots Katniss a grin.
"Cheers. And how might I help you today? Beverage? Pastry? Sandwich?"
As she speaks her teeth reveal a tongue-piercing to complement those also nestled in her lip, eyebrow, nose and ears. The low-cut tank top she wears exposes a vine-like tattoo sprawling across the bare expanse of her left shoulder. And yet, she looks mildly harmless, framed at the counter under a multicoloured array of hanging mugs.
"Uh," Katniss' gaze flickers back and forth between the electric blue stripe in the girl's hair and the Thanksgiving turkey mug dangling above her left ear. "Hi. I'm looking for someone named Sue?" She clears her throat a little. "About, um, an apartment?"
The girl scrunches her nose momentarily. "We don't have any Sues here, but we do have a Sae. If you're here about an apartment that's probably who you're looking for. Let me see if I can get her for you. You want a drink? Rory here'll help ya."
With a jerk of her thumb behind her she disappears behind a curtain. Katniss sinks slowly into a leather stool at the counter and a guy, presumably this Rory, approaches her. Although he doesn't look like he could even be her age yet, he's dressed in soft plaid like a lumberjack and sports an impressive pair of mutton chops to complete the ensemble. A smattering of piercings adorns his left eyebrow and Katniss is positive she could easily fit three fingers through the bright red gauges in his earlobes.
"What can I get you?"
"Just a mint tea, please." She wonders if these two employees are locals or specimens of what she should be expecting from the rest of her fellow student body come orientation.
A while after she's settled down with her tea the curtain flies open again to reveal the girl from earlier followed by an older woman in an oversized sweater and fly-away greying hair.
"Ah! There she is!" she exclaims and rushes over to the counter to grasp Katniss' hand. "So sorry, honey, I clean forgot you were coming today and my shift don't actually start for another two hours, otherwise I woulda been here to-"
"Oh well I could've just w-"
"Nonsense, nonsense, child!" she cuts Katniss off with a particularly vigorous squeeze to her hand. "I should've remembered and that's that. So you must be Katniss, right? I'm Sae, your landlady, you already know that. Grand, grand. Since my shift's not started yet shall I show you up to the apartment?"
"Oh. Um. Yes. Thank you." Katniss hurriedly drains the rest of her tea and grabs her suitcase, quickly following Sae, who moves surprising fast for someone who looks so aging.
Sae leads Katniss out the front door of The Hob and around to the end of the street, rounds the corner and backs up into an alleyway behind the café. A small white wooden staircase leads to a door on the second floor, and after they've ascended Sae jingles around in her keychain before unlocking the door for Katniss to step in.
The apartment is pleasantly spacious, a dining-living area stretches out from the threshold and Katniss notes a quaint round dining table, a well-worn coffee table, and two invitingly soft couches cloaked in colourful throws and tablecloths. Some of the wall is decorated with cat-themed decals and she wonders whether Sae or a previous tenant was a cat-person.
"Here's the kitchen, I replaced the gas stove with an electric one because the last student nearly set the place on fire," Sae narrates as she wanders around the space, opening and closing doors and closets as she moves. "Bathroom is here, there's the broom closet. I've got two bedrooms here, but you're free to use the spare as whatever you like, studio, whatnot, or maybe find yourself a roommate at some point, whatever you like…"
Sae's narration continues on in the back of her conscious as Katniss surveys the bedrooms. Each one has a standard sized double bed (complete with cat-themed bedsheets, she notes), a desk and chair, a generous but somewhat dusty bookcase and she's surprised to note a walk in closet in one of them.
"So," Sae's ramblings eventually wind down, "any questions?"
Before Katniss can even begin to process a response Sae barrels straight on.
"If there's anything you need, honey, anytime at all you just pop over downstairs, I'll most likely be in The Hob. You can use the back door if you like, I'll let them folks down there know you'll be coming through. And if it's not my shift, here's my number," she pulls out a small paper packet and scrawls a number on it, handing it over to Katniss. "Oh yeah, and inside's your key. All set?"
A little overwhelmed by the constant stream of words that seem to flow undeterred from Sae's mouth, Katniss simply nods and murmurs a quiet thanks. The woman squeezes her hands tightly and bids her farewell for the evening. "If you're feeling lonely or homesick you should come hang out downstairs with us, we're really a friendly lot and we only bite a little." With a last wave she disappears behind the door and Katniss listens to her footsteps receding down the stairs and a door slamming a second later.
"Well. Let's get started then."
Katniss pulls out her laptop, sets up some music and, singing along to herself, proceeds to unpack. The afternoon flies by quickly and soon the soft orange glow of sunset paints the walls of the small apartment. In the midst of hanging up her shirts she is interrupted by the groan and grumble of her belly, and begrudgingly she throws on some shoes and runs downstairs to the pizza parlour neighbouring The Hob to grab a few slices which she takes upstairs to munch on while she proceeds to organise her books.
As she's just finishing sweeping up all the dust she's kicked up in her move a siren blares outside. She watches as blue and red flash outside the living room window, wondering if this is a common occurrence in this sleepy village of Panem. She vaguely recalls Sae mentioning they are located close to the fire station.
It's several hours later as she's curling up in bed with a book, all cleaning finished, ready to succumb to slumber that a knock comes at the door. She scrambles out from under the covers and heads straight for the door, forgetting already which spot in the room she'd assigned her robe to.
"Hey sweetie, sorry to bother you so late," she starts and Katniss opens her mouth to assure the older woman it's really ok, but she's already learning that once Sae starts to talk no force, least of all Katniss herself, can stop her. "I know this is kind of sudden and short notice and a huge favour to ask of you but I've got a little emergency case on my hands. Could you help me out, honey?"
Katniss wonders how she could possibly be of help to Sae, whom she's known all of seven hours, only one of which she actually spent in Sae's company, but she nods anyway, at a loss for what else to do.
"One of my employees," Sae continues, "a student at the college actually, is in a bit of a pickle. House burned down pretty badly, you probably heard all the sirens earlier today, I think? I feel kinda responsible, you know, being kind of boss and also mom-away-from-home, that's how I am with all my student employees really, can't leave poor birds alone without a mother hen, and it would weigh so much on my conscience you know, since I've got this free bedroom up here and I ain't offering it up 'cause you live here and all, but I feel so bad… Would you mind very much, Katniss, if I gave you a roommate for a little while until this little housing situation gets sorted out? I just can't leave a soul stranded and it probably won't be so long, and you two could split the rent, make it easier on you, too-"
All of Sae's rambling is rapidly becoming a muddled mess in Katniss' sleepy mind, and all she's able to filter out is the possibility of having an impromptu roommate and lower rent. This doesn't immediately sound to her like a terrible idea, and although Katniss knows she's hardly a social butterfly or even a little bit of a people person, she figures in the worst-case if she can't get along with this girl she'll just keep out of the way. It's not like they're sharing a bedroom after all, and Katniss expects to be spending many hours in college or at the library keeping up her grades so she doesn't lose her scholarship. So she makes possibly the quickest decision of her life, standing half dressed in the doorway of her apartment.
"Of course, Sae. It's totally fine, I understand," she responds firmly, hoping to stem Sae's increasingly nervous explanation.
"Thank you so much, sweetie, we really appreciate it. I'm so glad this can work out."Sae sighs visibly in relief and turns to speak to someone at the bottom of the stairs. "Well, come on up then."
A heavy tread comes up the stairs and Katniss get the first glimpse of her new roommate from the light that streams out of the doorway onto the stoop at the top of the stairs. Blonde hair sun-kissed golden, a dimple hugging a shy smile of heart-shaped pink lips, and startling sky blue eyes that nearly knock the breath out of her lungs.
"Katniss, this is Peeta." Sae's voice floats through to her brain. "Peeta, Katniss. You kids play nice, ok?"
Suddenly Katniss wishes she were wearing a little more than just her panties and an oversized shirt.
The descriptions of most places and a number of people are based on my actual college campus and the surrounding village. The Hob is based on a real coffeehouse called The Barge, where I work most weekends during the semester. Some of Sae is based on the night manager (whom Katniss mistakenly refers to by her real name), and Johanna's and Rory's appearances are based on real employees there.