A/N: So this is a drabble that sort of got away from me. It will only be two parts – not a full blown work in progress, but this seemed lengthy enough to be a standalone. Hope you enjoy!
Katniss slipped another pin into her hair to secure her braid into place, and paused to inspect herself in the mirror. She smoothed her hands over the red satin that draped around her waist to insure the wire taped down her middle didn't leave a lump. Satisfied, she plucked a tube of lipstick from her purse and applied another coat.
"You sure you're ready for this?" Gale stood in the doorway, leaning a shoulder against the frame.
Katniss puckered her lips with a loud smacking sound. "I was born ready."
Gale shook his head with a chuckle. "Yeah? But I hear this guy is real dreamy."
Rolling her eyes, she turned back to the mirror and combed her lashes with mascara until they doubled in size.
"I've managed to resist your's and Odair's charms for years. Are you suggesting that Goldilocks is prettier than you?"
"He knows what he's doing, Katniss," Gale said, his grin falling and creasing with worry.
Katniss snapped her handbag shut and slung the strap over her shoulder before she slipped passed him in the doorway.
"And so do I."
The corridor was dimly lit with concrete floors and walls that bounced the clicking of her heels in an echoing chorus. It was an enclosed alleyway that connected majority of the shops in the Merchant Quarter, making for the perfect spot for her team to set up their headquarters.
Stepping up to the door marked '13' with peeling reflective tape, Katniss taped on it with her knuckle. There was a shuffle on the other side, and then she heard the muffled response.
"What's the password?"
She rolled her eyes. "Fuck off, Finnick."
Gale had just caught up with her when the door opened, and they both stepped inside.
"You don't clean up half bad, you know," Finnick said, his green eyes dropping down her body to appraise her new look.
"You don't mean it," she said. "We all know you'd look much better in this dress than I do."
"I never said I wouldn't," he said with a challenging grin that displayed each and every one of his pearly white teeth.
Finnick led them through a series of doorways, to the storage room, which was filled with a barricade of cardboard boxes. It took a few minutes to shift the stacks of boxes to make a walkway but eventually they were in the center of operations.
Beetee was typing furiously on his keyboard, and his monitor sprang to life with a grid of security camera feeds. He perked up when he saw Katniss and reached for the headphones resting on his computer tower.
"Is the wire in place?" he asked, placing the headphones over his ears after she nodded. "Okay, try to speak."
She took a deep breath, jutting her chest forward in the process and said, "Testing, testing."
"Perfect," Beetee said with a nod of approval. He picked up a small black clam shell case and opened it to reveal an ear piece, small enough to pickup with the pad of his finger. "Now your turn."
Katniss took the device and tucked it snugly into her ear.
"Test? Test?" he said quickly into a mouthpiece.
"Singing like a bird," Katniss said, when she heard his voice in her ear.
Haymitch, Plutarch, and Delly sat huddled around another table reviewing documents and maps on their handheld tablets. It took a few moments before Katniss caught Haymitch's eye, but when she did, he lifted his head and smiled smugly.
"Look at you sweetheart, all cleaned up for your first date," he teased.
"It's Agent Everdeen," she corrected. "Do you have the file on the target?"
Haymitch clicked the button on his tablet and the screen glowed to life. He extended it to her, but jerked it back when she went to take it. "You sure you're ready for this?"
With an impatient sigh, she snatched it from his grasp, her gaze dropping to the screen, immediately hypnotized by the bright blue eyes staring back at her.
Peeta Mellark was the most talented agent that the Capitol had to offer. He was charming and manipulative, a dangerous combination that could get a house plant to talk. He could read a room better than anyone too. Almost instantly he'd set his sights on the perfect target, and the information would melt into his hands after a single, dazzling grin.
Several missions had gone awry because Peeta Mellark had foiled their plans before Thirteen could even get their foot off the ground.
He hadn't always been a loyalist. In fact, he'd grown up in District Twelve with Katniss. He seemed kind and level headed growing up, which was why she couldn't understand his allegiance to the Capitol. But Haymitch, her handler, had explained that the Capitol recruited agents when they were young and still vulnerable. Their first year of training was filled with propaganda videos that essentially brainwashed them into following the cause.
But they weren't looking to appeal to Agent Peeta Mellark of the Capitol, they were looking to appeal to Peeta Mellark, the baker's son of District Twelve. And Katniss had known him then, albeit vaguely. That's why she had been assigned to his case.
She had "reconnected" with Peeta through Panem's networking directory system, where he had maintained reasonably good contact with some of their old schoolmates. Delly Cartwright had been the first Thirteen agent to make contact. She was his best friend growing up, and her inquiries into his professional life didn't trigger any red flags.
But Peeta was too clever to take the bait, and although he didn't turn Delly in for treason against the Capitol, he wasn't going to spill his secrets to her either.
"He'll talk for Katniss," Delly had insisted.
Katniss wasn't sure what had spurred the recommendation. She was by no means the best agent on the force. In fact, when it came to getting people to talk, she was quite possibly the worst. But Peeta Mellark had been a hard egg to crack, and if Thirteen wanted to get the upper hand and outwit the Capitol, they'd need his secrets. No matter what it took.
The cards all fell carefully into place with the help of Plutarch, their mole in the palace ranks. He'd planted the seed of treasonous plots building in District Twelve, which brought Peeta to investigate, because unrest led to talks of uprising, and uprising led to alliances with Thirteen, and Thirteen was something that Peeta had yet to find. He'd been chasing the ghost of the separatist movement for five years now, a journey that Katniss's superiors had been tracking carefully.
This wasn't the only ghost that Peeta had been chasing though. He was unhappy with his personal life, a detail that she had learned through their online correspondence, when he had expressed his desire for companionship in his home life. This gave Katniss the opening she needed to suggest a meeting with him, knowing full well he'd be on his way to District Twelve. Peeta had eagerly accepted, insisting that his travel to Twelve didn't have to be solely for business.
A car had been ordered to drop Katniss off at the restaurant, even though it was only a few doors down from the toy shop, where they had set up head quarters. It would be suspicious for her to arrive on foot, and precautions had to be made.
"Upscale" and "District Twelve", weren't exactly synonymous, but there were a handful of swanky restaurants in the Merchant Quarters suitable for those who were used to the luxuries of the Capitol. Most of the patrons were garishly dressed, emulating Capitol fashion in a futile attempt.
Katniss nervously licked her ruby stained lips as her eyes scanned the crowd. She spotted Finnick first in the lounge, flirting with a girl in a nearly non existent cocktail dress. She found Gale next at the bar, glancing up at her from his drink before quickly looking away. The only person she'd yet to find was her target, Peeta Mellark and his familiar blond curls.
"I was afraid you wouldn't show," she heard his voice in her ear. She jumped, her hand instinctively clasping over the ear that held a listening device, worried that he may have seen.
"I lost track of the time," she said apologetically.
His eyes flitted down her body before they met hers again. "It was worth the wait," he assured her. "You look amazing."
"Thanks," she said, her voice airier than she intended. She refused to let the way he looked at her affect her, and she shook her head to push away the thoughts.
"Not how I remembered you though," he said, his lips creasing with a frown. "I mean, when you suggested we meet here, I was confused because it's so…" he shook his head, displeased with his wording. Katniss felt her shoulders tighten at the skeptical look in his eye. "I mean not many people from Twelve frequent this area, especially not from the Seam."
"Are you referring to my affluence?" she said quickly. Finnick and Haymitch had anticipated this suspicion when planning the meetup, and a back story had been implemented to cover the details. "My mother took over the apothecary and developed several herbal remedies. Their quite popular in the Capitol. We're doing very well because of it."
"That makes sense," he said, his cheeks puffing out as he let out a quick breath. "All natural is all the rage these days."
He guided her to their table and helped her into her seat.
"Is it?" she asked. Her hand rested discreetly on her chest, worried that he may spot the wire she was wearing. "How do you like the Capitol?"
"It's all right," he shrugged, sitting in the chair across from her.
"How long have you lived there now?"
"I was recruited when I was eighteen," he said.
Katniss's eyes widened at the ease of his admission, but tried her best to play coy. "Recruited for what?"
"I was a baker for the royal court," he said.
"Was?" she asked, arching an eyebrow.
He leaned forward on his elbows against the table, his grin wide and playful. "I thought we agreed: no talk about business."
"You're skating on thin ice, lady," she heard Haymitch chirp gruffly into her ear.
Katniss pressed her lips together to suppress her frown. "Of course," she said through a forced smile. "How do you like being back in Twelve."
Peeta cocked his head thoughtfully. "I forgot how gray everything is," he said.
"It's awful isn't it," she laughed resting her chin in her hand. Twelve was dirty and broken, no where near the beauty of the Capitol that Peeta had grown accustomed to.
He lifted his gaze to meet hers, the bright blue orbs so genuine that it took her breath away. "I kind of like it," he said earnestly.
There was something about Peeta Mellark that left her hypnotized. Her limbs melted and her elbow clumsily slipped from the table. In her haste to right herself, she tucked a loose curl of hair behind her ear, causing her listening device to pop out of place and land on the obscenely patterned carpet. She gasped and helplessly grasped at her empty ear.
"Is something wrong?" Peeta asked, his eyebrows knitting together curiously.
In a panic, Katniss discreetly removed her earring and dropped it on the floor. "I lost my earring," she explained before ducking under the table.
"I'll help you find it," he insisted, following her to the floor.
She spotted the listening device right as the sole of his shoe crushed it beneath his weight. Trying to divert attention, she lifted the fallen earring triumphantly. "Found it," she exclaimed.
She slipped back into her seat, and smoothed the satin of her dress, hoping that although she couldn't hear Haymitch, he could still hear her. "So do you travel a lot?" she said, regaining her composure.
"Yeah," he nodded. "I've been to all of the districts. The twelve at least."
She reached for her water glass and took a healthy sip. Her eyes hesitant to leave his.
"Tell me Katniss," he said, that dazzling grin slanting his lips again. "How much traveling have you done?"
"Oh," she covered her lips with her hand when she laughed nervously at this. "I've never even left the district."
"Funny, that's not what I've heard," he said, and the knowing tone in his voice made her heart beat a little faster, afraid that she had been caught.
"Fine," she said with a dramatic sigh. "Occasionally I may have, possibly snuck beneath the fence to hunt squirrels." Which was not a lie. In fact Katniss's poaching habit was one of the worst kept secrets in District Twelve. Nobody minded the hobby, because it meant more food on the table. Even Peeta's father had indulged on her squirrel catch. "Girl's got to eat"
His eyes dipped to the swell of her breasts, which were nearly pushed to her chin in the tight dress that she wore. "Amen to that," he said, almost hungrily. "You'll have to come visit me in the Capitol."
Feeling at ease that Peeta had been thrown from the scent of Thirteen, Katniss let her shoulders relax.
"I'm not allowed to leave the district," she said, her smile coy and the arch of her eyebrow suggestive. Infiltrating Peeta's home in the Capitol wasn't a part of the plan, but would be beneficial to her team's mission.
"I'll take care of it," he said with a wink. "One of the perks."
"Perks?" she questioned. She wasn't sure if she felt more brazen because she thought she was genuinely doing her job well, or if she just enjoyed flirting with him. "What is it again that you do?"
He chuckled, and his finger lazily drew patterns on the white tablecloth. "I'm a patriot."
"Is that what they call it?" she asked, leaning across the table to speak with discretion.
She knew exactly what Peeta's job as a Capitol spy entailed. Finnick Odair had been a spy for them for years before joining Thirteen's cause. He said most of his work was done between the sheets, when the target was sated and delirious with pleasure. "People will say anything to keep you between their legs," Finnick had told her.
"That's surprising, given the job description," she said.
He set his jaw and inspected her suspiciously. "I'm very passionate," he said evenly. He shifted to mirror her position across the table, their fingertips brushing, and their eyes locked challengingly. "Look, Katniss, why don't we stop beating around the bush. You know what I do, and I know exactly what you're trying to do right now."
She wasn't ready to admit defeat yet. "And what am I doing?"
"You work with Delly, don't you?" he said, slouching against the back of his chair. His finger was tracing patterns along the tablecloth again, and his grin had fallen to something that expressed disappointment. "I sort of figured, when you first started contacting me. You didn't even acknowledge that I existed when we went to school together. I guess I kind of hoped it was real. The connection."
Katniss felt a pang of guilt in her chest. They had grown somewhat close through their online correspondence. Shared rather intimately personal details about one another. Things she'd never even told Gale, her closest friend. She'd felt unnaturally at ease around him. Internet him anyway. Even in person she sort of relaxed around him. He was just as wounded and guarded as she was at times, yet charming and genuinely sweet. She had never chosen to acknowledge her growing affinity for him out loud, but knowing that it had been compromised — all for a job.
She worried her lower lip between her teeth before lifting her gaze to him. "Peeta, I'm —"
He chortled at her distress. "You really are an amateur at this."
"Delly wasn't thinking," he continued. His voice much harsher than it was before. "Pegging you on me, of all people? She thought because I had a hard on for you in high school, that I'd be putty in your hands."
"Delly's your friend, Peeta," she said. "Don't you trust her? If she's siding with the Separatists, don't you ever wonder if maybe the Loyalists are wrong?"
"And you think your movement is so noble?" he countered, setting his jaw. "Have you ever questioned what exactly it is that you're fighting for?"
"Then why did you let Delly go? Why not turn her in?" Content with her rebuttal, Katniss reached for her water glass and took an easy sip.
"I've got my reasons," he said. "I just don't make a show of it like you do."
This piqued her interest. Was Peeta working for someone outside the Capitol? "Yeah? And what do you plan on doing with me?"
"I haven't decided yet," he said, after a moment of consideration. "I'd say torture, but I think you'd like it too much." She narrowed her eyes at him, and he laughed far too playfully. His posture changed, and his eyes darkened as he leaned across the table. "You've still got secrets to tell Katniss, and I haven't made you sing."
The pads of his fingers touched her cheek, causing her breath to hitch in the back of her throat. She was frozen. Unable to move or breathe on her own accord, she leaned eagerly into his touch. "There are people listening," she finally managed to say.
"And you think they're going to rescue you?" he said. "I know for a fact that you can't hear them anymore, your ear piece is wedged somewhere in the rubber of my boot like a bug. And have you even bothered to check your vantage points for backup, because I assure you that they're no longer there." Her eyes flitted to the bar and across the lounge towards the piano, where Finnick and Gale were supposed to be stationed. Both positions were empty, and Katniss admonished herself for not checking sooner.
"What are you going to do to me?" she asked again, but her voice was dreamy, trapped in a daze. Her eyes fell to the glass of water and back to him.
"There's nothing in the water," he assured her, and to prove it, finished the glass himself. His hand touched her cheek again and he traced lazy with his thumb, as he had done with the table cloth before. "What do you want me to do to you Katniss?"
"Let me go," she said, but even she didn't believe the words when they tumbled from her mouth.
"I don't think you want that," he said, shaking his head.
"Show me," she said shakily. "Show me how you think you'll get my secrets."
His grin widened and he dipped his finger between her breasts, wrapping the wire around the tip before pulling it taught. "If your friends at the bureau are looking for information, I'm afraid my lips will be occupied for the rest of the night. Unless they want to listen to what you have to say. But I think they already know my name."
He stood from the table to help her from her seat, and momentarily had to catch himself against his chair, slightly dazed by his stumble.
Katniss smirked as she followed him from the restaurant. She had him exactly where she wanted him.