a/n: Here is the last part. Thank you for reading and for reviewing so far! I know this Peeta is a little hard to stomach for some people—he's meant to be. Given the prompt, I couldn't imagine a Peeta who would seduce Katniss as her mentor, without being at least a little fucked in the head. It just didn't gel with the Peeta we know from canon. So I hope the exploration of his darkness in this story makes sense in that regard.
Peeta was frustrated. He and Haymitch had spent all afternoon trying to secure sponsors, which was tedious work in itself—a lot of schmoozing and flirting with Capitol men and women alike, who were so insipid and self-involved Peeta actively began to daydream about bashing their heads in, all with a brilliantly fake smile plastered on his face.
But beyond that, Peeta noticed that his fellow mentor spent a disproportionate amount of time talking up Levi. It wasn't unusual for them to focus on one tribute over the other—only one could win, after all, and it made sense to focus their attention on who they thought stood a better shot of winning.
He was surprised that Haymitch favored Levi over Katniss, however.
Katniss was a hunter. She knew how to use a weapon—and not just any kind of weapon; she knew how to use a long-range weapon that would keep her out of most immediate danger. She was small and weighed no more than a bag of flour, he was sure, but he could tell she was lithe and fit. She wasn't as frail or as weak as a lot of their past tributes. Levi was strong and built for close combat, and he knew his way around a knife; this year had yielded District 12 their best chances of winning in a long time.
Yet, despite Levi's shining attributes, there was just something about Katniss Peeta couldn't quite put his thumb on; he knew, he just knew, she had a real shot at winning.
But she didn't stand much of a chance if Haymitch didn't help direct any sponsors or attention her way.
"Why are you choosing Levi?" Peeta demanded later that night, and Haymitch regarded him warily, sipping his wine.
"He's the butcher's son, Peeta." As if that was reason enough alone.
"But you know Katniss is a hunter! She can use a bow and arrows, and she'll be able to feed herself—"
Haymitch cut him off, "You're assuming she'll even be able to get her hands on a bow and arrows. She doesn't stand a chance in the bloodbath, boy. She won't even be able to get close enough to get the bow." He shook his head. "Levi's got the best shot."
Peeta didn't understand why he was so aggravated about this, just that there was a buzzing that started low in his skull and crept up through his brain as it always did when he felt his anger inexplicably rising. "He doesn't have the right kind of appeal, Haymitch—he doesn't have that, that quality—"
"Weren't you just the other day telling everybody how unappealing Katniss is?" he interjected drily, and Peeta gritted his teeth. Haymitch shook his head. "I told you not to get attached, Blondie. You're not looking at this objectively."
His conversation with Haymitch was only making him more agitated. It wasn't a matter of attachment—it was a matter of strategy, and Peeta just fundamentally disagreed with the older man on who to back.
He knew it was pointless to argue further with him, though. Haymitch was as stubborn as he was. For once in his life, Peeta couldn't find the words. He couldn't explain it, what it was he saw in Katniss, how, exactly, he knew that she was a fighter. She'd been on death's door before, hadn't she? By all accounts, she should be dead. So many Seam kids like her were. And yet, here she was, looking stronger and better fed than even some Merchants from their district, ready to face down death again. But he couldn't explain any of this without thinking about that night again, and it was something he never wanted to speak of. Especially not to Haymitch.
So Peeta stormed out of the room, effectively ending the discussion. Not that Haymitch minded, he was sure; the less that man had to talk, the better. Peeta was at Katniss' door before he even knew where he was heading. He knocked curtly, glancing both ways down the empty hallway. When she opened the door a moment later, he swept inside, ignoring her look of surprise.
"What—" she started, but he swallowed the rest of her words with a kiss. She went rigid at first but eased against him more readily than she had before, balancing on her toes as he wrapped his arms around her, crushing her to his chest. Their tongues dueled for dominance; he was impressed, and a little surprised, by her new-found assertiveness.
Peeta broke the kiss to look at her; her lips tried to follow his, almost unconsciously, until she opened her eyes to meet his gaze. Her brow creased under the intensity of his stare. "What?" she asked again, agitation rising in her voice, a scowl already twitching her lips down at the corners. The words were on the tip of his tongue, ready to lecture her on just how important it was that she bolster her reputation in training, impress the Gamemakers, but he stopped himself. Suddenly, he just didn't feel like talking.
No, there were other things his tongue could be better used for.
Hoisting her into his arms, he carried her to her bed, where he tossed her down unceremoniously. She bounced slightly on her ass, her arms flailing to catch her balance until she slumped back on them. Her earlier look of annoyance had given way to amazement. If she was still pissed about what he'd done at the dining table this morning, she didn't show it. Peeta reached down and hooked his fingers under the waistband of her pants.
"Take your shirt off," he commanded, the first words he'd spoken to her since he barged into her room. Katniss complied, slipping her shirt over her head and wiggling out of her pants as he jerked them down her legs. Her panties followed suit, and after he'd discarded his own shirt, he knelt down at the side of the bed and yanked her hips to the edge. Her eyes widened.
"What are you doing?" she asked nervously, sitting up as he threw her legs over his shoulders. He spared her a glance before he pressed a finger between her folds; she wasn't wet enough yet, so he pumped it inside her slowly, already feeling her natural lubrication increasing. Her head fell back, and she exhaled in satisfaction.
"I'm gonna taste you," he finally answered her, curling his finger inside her slightly before retracting it. Her head shot up in alarm.
"What do you mean—" But him sucking his finger into his mouth silenced her, her eyes going round. "Oh."
He flashed her a crooked smile, even as he licked her arousal off his index finger; she was tangy. Earthy, almost. He liked it. "Oh, I'm just getting started."
Her breath hitched in her throat when he spread her folds open, but she didn't have a chance to respond before his tongue dipped into her. She cried out in shock as he outlined her slit, mapping every plane and crease with his mouth. When he thrust his tongue inside her, he realized her body was quivering fiercely, and he swallowed her slickness greedily like it was nectar. Katniss was panting, her breaths rapid and choked, and he had to splay his hand across her pelvis and force her down to the bed to tame the wild bucking of her hips.
Once he'd exhausted his exploration of her folds and walls, he dragged his tongue up to her clitoris, where he flicked it teasingly before sucking it into his mouth. Her back lurched off the bed, her breasts curving into the air as she shrieked his name, and he was sure he'd never seen a more beautiful sight. He groaned appreciatively, sucking harder until she came loudly, clawing at the sheets, at his hair, whatever she could reach, shuddering and gasping. Peeta eased off her some, dropping his mouth to her entrance again to lap up the rush of wetness that had accumulated between her folds, and after her breathing had evened out some, he seized her clit once more, rolling it between his lips and tongue.
She cried out, pushing on his head. "Peeta, it hurts—" she whimpered, squirming against his mouth in discomfort, but he persisted, suckling her clit more gently this time until she began to respond more earnestly. He pumped two fingers inside her to accentuate the increased pressure of his mouth. Soon, she was keening brokenly as she rode his face uninhibitedly, and then she came again with a strangled shout.
She was a mess of trembling bones and flushed skin when he released her and stood up. She didn't watch him undress, her eyes closed and her head rocking from side to side; she didn't open her eyes until she felt him crawling over her, grabbing her arm to roll her onto her side. He was pleased when he received no resistance, her limbs pliable, and he pushed her top leg up so her knee was almost tucked against her chest. Peeta lowered his body so he was practically resting on top of her, nudged his cock between her thighs and then thrust into her in one swift motion.
The intrusion brought her back to herself, and she yelped, pushing off the bed a fraction before she collapsed again; he continued to plunge into her without pause. She squeezed her eyes shut and moaned, turning her face to bury it in the sheets. Peeta grunted as he fucked her, using his hands and knees to rock himself forward, his cock disappearing between her closed thighs. "Fuck, you're so fucking tight—and wet," he gasped, gritting his teeth. Because of the angle, her walls hugged him tighter, encasing him completely in her velvety enclosure, and every time his head slid through the barrier of her walls, he thought he was going to die. "Do you like this?" he demanded, and she nodded frantically into the sheets, digging her fingers into the mattress as she wiggled her other arm out from beneath her body to prop herself up on her elbows. "Say it."
"Yes, I like it," she whimpered, her head bowed to the mattress. With her torso raised, her body jerked more easily with every jut of his hips against her ass. "I like it, it feels good, it feels so good," she chanted plaintively. Her pleas made his cock swell more, and after just a few more whips of his lower body, he exploded inside her with a prolonged growl. He dropped down on top of her, pinning her to the mattress, but she didn't complain under his weight. After his heart beat had slowed and his cock had stopped twitching inside her, he buried his face in her damp, knotted hair and murmured his next words against the base of her skull.
"I hope I didn't wear you out too much 'cuz I'm gonna fuck you all night."
Katniss simply nodded her acquiescence.
And he did. Peeta wasn't sure when they eventually fell asleep, wrapped haphazardly in a tangle of each other's limbs, but he woke with the sun regardless; he never slept well. It wasn't nightmares—just a general sense of unease, like he was certain something bad was going to happen if he slept too long. When he stirred, he watched her sleep for a little while; she was prettier than he gave her credit for, especially when her face was relaxed and devoid of her usual scowl. But he kind of liked how irritated she normally looked—she didn't try to please anybody with fake or disingenuous smiles. Not like he had to while growing up, before the games. Before the world made him a killer.
He woke her up a little later, knowing Effie would be by soon to round her up for training. Now that he was remembering his conversation with Haymitch the night before, there were things he needed to discuss with her before she went down.
When she squinted at him groggily, her face lined with grumpiness, he choked back a chuckle. This was serious. "Today's your private session with the Gamemakers. You need to make sure you wow them."
"Huh?" she croaked, rubbing her eyes, clearly still lingering between waking and unconsciousness. She shifted in his arms and tried to sit up some, tugging the sheets around her naked body.
He bit back a sigh. "I don't know if Haymitch has been giving you the best advice, about lying low in training. But it's too late now, so you need to step up your game when you're in there with the Gamemakers."
She stifled a yawn with her palm. "Okay."
"I'm serious," he pressed urgently. "You need to make sure you leave a lasting impression on them. They're going to dismiss you immediately based on your stature and district alone—you need to stand out from the start."
This time she frowned. "I know that. You think I'm stupid? I'll do what I can."
He rolled his eyes and released her, rolling over to scrounge for his clothes on the floor. "You need a high score, Katniss. Very high," he continued, jerking his legs through his pants. "There's only so much we can do as your mentors to convince these fucking blithering idiots to sponsor you unless they see something to back it up. So just remember that today."
He was already walking toward the door when Effie's shrill voice rang from the other side. "Wake up, Katniss! You've got a big, big, big day ahead of you!"
Katniss gasped and scrambled to shield herself; Peeta just grinned, sliding the door open, anyway. Effie jumped back at his unexpected emergence—shirtless and clearly satisfied. "Morning, Effie," he said nonchalantly with a lopsided smile, tugging his shirt over his head as he breezed past her on his way to the dining area. He knew he would get an earful from her later about propriety or some such bullshit, but he didn't care; he was suddenly very, very hungry.
He'd been right about the lecture from Effie, though she didn't approach him until late that afternoon; frankly, he was surprised she waited so long. She refrained from scolding him until it was just her and Peeta in the common area, waiting for the others and their tributes to finish their private sessions.
"It's really unprofessional to sleep with a tribute, Peeta," she whispered conspiratorially, her eyes darting around to ensure no one else walked in and overheard them.
He decided to play dumb because aggravating Effie was one of life's only joys these days. "How so?" he asked cluelessly. Her face flushed.
"For one, it's unfair to Levi to show any sort of favoritism to Katniss!" she hissed.
His raised his eyebrows innocently. "Oh, should I fuck him, too, then?"
She squawked in disbelief, scandalized by his brazen suggestion. "It's inappropriate to engage in any sort of—of physical relations with any of the tributes," she said tightly.
He smiled. "More inappropriate than what you do with Haymitch?" he asked, hinting at the sexual relationship he knew them to have. She pursed her mouth into a thin line, her lips turning white with the strain of holding back her retort. But she said nothing more, huffing through her nose and folding her arms over her chest as she slumped into the couch.
Eventually, the others congregated in the common room to talk and wait. Levi showed up first, looking pretty despondent. He relayed what had happened in his private session, his demonstration with the knives, but the Gamemakers had been pretty drunk and distracted, singing some drinking song. Peeta was antsy for Katniss to arrive, jiggling his leg nervously as the rest made small talk; if the Gamemakers had checked out already by Levi's session, how far gone were they when it was Katniss' time?
It wasn't even half an hour later when she stormed into the suite, blowing Effie and Cinna off when they called to her. She looked agitated and upset as she disappeared down the hallway to her room.
What the fuck?
Everyone looked at each other in confusion. After a few minutes of quiet speculation, Peeta pushed off the couch and headed after her, ignoring the suspicious looks Haymitch and Effie shot him as he went. Her door was shut, which wasn't unusual, and he rapped courteously, waiting for a response.
"Go away!" she yelled. He rolled his eyes and slid her door open—she hadn't remembered to lock it, at least. When he stepped inside, he saw she was curled up on her bed, but she rolled over at the sound of the door and flew at him. Her cheeks were splotchy, and her eyes were red with tears—and she looked pissed as hell.
"I told you to go away!" she snapped, barreling into him as she tried to shove him back toward the door. He stumbled slightly but dug his heels in. He cocked an eyebrow down at her in challenge, and when she realized he wasn't going to budge, she gave him one last shove and spun around. He grabbed her arm, turning her back toward him, but she struggled against him. "I don't want to talk to you right now! Leave me alone!"
He rolled his eyes again. Sometimes, he forgot that she was still a teenager. "Stop acting like a child. I'm not your father," he said calmly, his grasp still tight on her upper arm. He wasn't prepared for the venomous look she shot him after that, her palm connecting with his cheek sharply.
"Don't you dare talk about my father! I'll fucking kill you!" she hissed. He was momentarily stunned—but only momentarily. His next moves were so fast, she didn't even have time to react. Peeta trapped her in his arms, her back flush against his chest, one of her arms pinned behind her; his free hand was on her throat, forcing her head back. He only applied a modicum of pressure, not enough to cut off her airway but enough to make his point.
"I'd like to see you try, sweetheart," he whispered in her ear. When she didn't struggle, he continued, curious what had set her off exactly, "Did I hit a nerve?" She was breathing heavily, and he felt her heart thrumming under his fingers. Fluttering with fear. Like the tributes he killed. Like the girls he fucked.
Katniss didn't respond or move, and he eventually loosened his hold, absently stroking her throat with his fingertips. Something told him he shouldn't push the issue with her. "Fine, you don't have to tell me about your father. But as your mentor, you need to tell me what happened in your private session and what's got you so worked up."
She finally huffed and wriggled in his embrace; he let her go, and she stumbled away from him, angrily swiping at her tears. "I don't know!" she blurted, her voice strangely high-pitched. "I just got so—mad! They weren't paying any attention to me, Peeta! I'm about to die, and they care more about their dumb fucking roast pig!"
He blinked. "Okay, one, you're not necessarily about to die. And, two, what happened? I'm still not following."
Wringing her wrists, she actually looked nervous as she glanced at him before her eyes flitted away. "I shot at them."
"I shot a fucking arrow at their stupid pig, Peeta!" she yelled, frustrated. When he didn't reply right away, she continued, "I just—I was so angry, and I shot an arrow at their pig, and then I stormed out!"
He was reeling from her admission. Had anyone ever shot at a Gamemaker before? What was she thinking?
Suddenly, he was enraged. "Are you seriously that fucking stupid, Katniss?" he spat, trying to keep his voice level, but he could already hear the blood surging in his ears, that buzzing in his skull.
Her gray eyes flashed. "I'm not—I just—I wasn't thinking—"
"No, you never do, do you? You're like a petulant, impetuous child," he spat, his voice rising an octave. And she was. She was a child. Haymitch had been right. She was too young. She had fucked everything up. Who knew what the Gamemakers would do to her? Kill her? There was no way in hell they'd let her win now. He ran his hand through his hair, the rage coursing through his veins, causing him to shake slightly. He wanted to hit something.
"Like you never lose your temper!" she yelled, and he glared at her.
"My life isn't the one on the line here! And no, I certainly didn't try to kill a Gamemaker during my games!"
"I didn't try—if I had wanted to kill them, they'd be dead!"
Peeta shook his head, backing away from her. "I was wrong—I was wrong to bet on you. You're a fucking mess. You can't win these games," he muttered almost to himself, already turning back to the door. "I should have listened to Haymitch. He was right about you, and Levi—"
Katniss was in front of him suddenly, blocking his path, and she pushed on his chest, her eyes wide. "No—" And then she was kissing him, pulling herself up his frame to reach his mouth. Her tongue was frantic and desperate, stroking his. "Don't go," she mumbled against his mouth, pressing kisses to his lips beseechingly.
Her attempts to persuade him only aggravated him—but he let her kiss him, his hands gripping her hips tightly. He had to fight the urge to squeeze tighter, to find a place for his anger by digging it into her flesh.
He realized then just how hard he was. Of course. Growling, he pushed her away; she looked stupefied, but then she squeaked out an "Oh" when he pushed her down over a nearby table. Her palms slapped against the glass top, but she didn't resist as he ripped her pants and underwear down. She stepped out of them as he hastily pushed his own pants down, freeing his cock. He stroked it some before he moved behind her, and she inhaled sharply when she felt him against her back. His hands wedged between her torso and the table to squeeze her breasts roughly. Katniss moaned as her breath fogged up the glass, her ass wiggling against his thighs as his hands kneaded her breasts through her shirt. "Peeta—"
"Don't talk," he snarled, releasing her breasts to push her shirt up and expose more of her ass. "I don't wanna hear you right now." Just because he was horny didn't mean he wasn't still pissed. Katniss whimpered but bit down on her lip. He smoothed his palms over the smooth skin of her ass, then he took his erection in hand and teasingly dragged the head of his cock up and down the curve of her bottom, leaving a damp trail of pre-cum. She tried to push back on him, her frustration growing.
"Peeta, please," she begged, and he pushed her back into the table.
"Didn't I tell you not to talk?" he snapped. Something like a growl resonated deep in her throat, but she didn't speak. Good.
He pressed his cock between her thighs, sliding between them, and then he was inside her with one hard thrust. She gasped, her body flattening to the table; he knew it had to hurt some as there had been little foreplay, but she didn't voice her discomfort or objection. Peeta easily set a steady pace, plunging in and out of her with an urgency that rattled even him. His hand quickly found her clit; she didn't deserve it, but he wanted her to come hard—he wanted her so wet it was dripping down her thighs. As soon as his fingers began stroking her, she groaned in relief, and she rocked her hips back to collide with each of his thrusts. But she didn't speak, her raspy moans the only sounds falling from her mouth as he fucked her. Sometimes, she would yelp when his hips crashed against her particularly roughly or he pinched her clit unexpectedly.
He knew he wasn't going to last long, not with her enthusiastic thrusts and the purposeful contractions of her walls around his cock as he pushed into her, over and over again.
Oh, fuck, that was good.
Katniss didn't give a warning when she came, but he felt and heard it all the same. She cried out, smashing her face against the table as her orgasm surged through her. Peeta groaned as her walls gently milked him; now that she had come, he could focus on himself. Retracting his hand from between her thighs, he placed it on her hips and continued jerking her back to meet his angry thrusts. He could feel how slick she was now, despite the increasing friction of his cock moving in her, and now he could feel the tingling and tightening in his balls to signal his own orgasm, and, then, shit, he was coming.
He grunted as he emptied himself inside her, rolling his hips against hers blissfully until he was finished riding out his climax. Then he groaned and pulled out of her, his semen slipping down the inside of her thighs. With his release so, too, went his anger. Katniss started to slump down without his support, so he wrapped an arm around her waist to hold her up. Sighing wearily, he pulled his pants back up with one hand, then scooped her up into his arms and hooked his arms under her knees and around her shoulders. Her head lolled against his neck as she curled a hand around the collar of his shirt, breathing heavily.
"I think you need a bath," he said quietly, and she nodded in response as he carried her into the bathroom. He set her down on the edge of the tub carefully, then leaned over to turn the faucet on. Katniss rubbed at her face as she stared glassily at the floor, tugging on her shirt to cover her exposed lower half.
Peeta was checking the temperature of the water when she spoke. "What are they going to do to me, Peeta?" she asked. He looked at her thoughtfully.
"I'm not sure."
It was his initial concern, but once he considered it more clearly... "No, I don't think so. Wouldn't make sense this close to the games. If they want to kill you, they can just do it in the arena."
Her expression was pained. "Would they...hurt my family?"
He considered this. "No. They need them around in case you make it to the top 8. If anything happened to them, they'd be shit out of luck for interviews."
Katniss swallowed. "But...what about when—if I die?"
He had no idea. "Don't die," he said simply, hitting a setting on the faucet to fill the water with a lavender solution. It should be calming. "They'll probably just give you a low score," he sighed, rubbing his forehead. "Which will be unfortunate, but...I'll keep trying to get you sponsors."
Katniss nodded slightly. After a moment, she added, "I'm...I swear I'm going to try. To win. I'll try hard. I told—I told my sister I would." He nodded resolutely. He expected no less.
Once the tub was filled, Katniss pulled off her shirt and bra, and he helped her climb into the large tub. She sank nearly beneath the water level, but her nose and eyes still peered out at him. With her settled in, Peeta crossed to the sink and washed himself off. He was about to leave when she called him back, sitting up some.
"Peeta." Her voice was soft, but he heard her. He glanced back at her expectantly. A beat passed, then, quietly, "Thank you."
Somehow, he knew that thank you extended beyond just that night, to a night several years ago. His set his mouth into a hard line. "Once you're done, you'll need to come back out for dinner and the scores."
Dinner was tense; Peeta had filled the others in on what had happened during her training session. Effie was nearly beside herself as she paced the room, screeching about etiquette and manners. The stylists handled the news much better, at least, and Haymitch just shook his head, leveling Peeta with a knowing look. Peeta had never wanted to punch his fellow mentor so hard before.
Katniss said little while they ate, and she curled into herself on the couch as they watched Caesar Flickerman announce the scores for all 24 tributes. Levi pulled an 8, and they congratulated him enthusiastically—an 8 was good. Peeta had gotten an 8 in his games.
He wasn't sure if that was comforting to him or not.
When Katniss' name and picture appeared, she fisted the couch cushions and held her breath—everyone did.
The number 11 flashed across the screen, but it didn't register for a full second. Then, Effie shrieked, startling everybody into action, and they laughed and applauded in disbelief. Only Katniss stared at the TV stupidly. "An 11? But—why?"
Haymitch snorted in amusement. "Guess they liked your spunk, girl." She blinked incredulously, smiling halfheartedly as the others congratulated her and toasted the tributes. When she met Peeta's gaze, he flashed her a crooked smirk as if to say "Good job, sweetheart." After a moment, she returned the grin widely.
When it was the day of the interviews, Peeta told Haymitch he could coach Levi and he'd work with Katniss. The older man had rolled his eyes in irritation. "If you're really wanting to help her, then you need to try to keep your dick in your pants for a few hours, Blondie," he advised drily and left it at that. And Peeta knew he was right; he at least planned to dedicate the first hour or two to talking her through her interview strategy—and then they could fuck.
But Katniss had been so aggravated after her morning with Effie, she hadn't been much in the mood to do anything else, especially talking.
So, instead, she was riding him on a couch in his room, her thighs spread wide over his hips. She held onto the back of the couch to leverage herself up and down his cock, her head thrown back as he alternated sucking on her nipples. His right hand was wedged between their bodies, deftly stroking her clit as she bounced on his lap, and her grunts grew louder and sharper, her walls gripping his cock tightly.
When she came a few minutes later, she stilled her movements, and he felt her walls spasm around his dick; it nearly coaxed him into his own orgasm, but he wasn't done yet. Peeta was about to flip her onto her back on the couch when she climbed off his lap and knelt down to the ground between his legs. Her face was flushed, her eyes glassy, and he arched an eyebrow—but once her mouth wrapped around his glistening head, he groaned in satisfaction.
Her tongue swirled around him, but then she jerked back , his cock popping out between her lips. Her eyes were wide and she held a hand up to her mouth. "Oh," she gasped, her nose wrinkled in mild revulsion. He chuckled gruffly, sliding a hand into her hair to pull her back.
"You taste good, don't you?" he teased, and she licked her lips apprehensively as if to get another taste. Her cheeks were redder, if that was possible, and then she peered up at him.
"Tell me how to do this. I don't...I don't really know how," she admitted, her gaze dropping to his cock, which throbbed angrily from the denial of his release. Peeta wrapped one of her hands around the base and started pumping it slowly for her; she watched in fascination.
"Put your mouth back on me," he forced out, fighting the urge to roll his head back. "Just suck on the tip if you don't feel comfortable, but you can lick the shaft if you want." She nodded mutely, opening her mouth to accept him again. Her fist pumped the base of his cock with his help, but she focused on just his head for the moment, flicking her tongue over it while she suckled. Peeta moaned, his fingers tightening on her scalp. How badly he wanted to just fuck her mouth, to shove his cock down her throat, but he knew he needed to go easy on her for her first blowjob.
His gentleness surprised him, and if he wasn't lost in a world of pleasure, he might have given more thought to his hesitation.
But her mouth felt impossibly good, and when she extended her tongue down his shaft to tentatively lick his wet, heated flesh, he forgot about everything else. "Suck your cheeks in," he demanded, his hips thrusting up slightly. Katniss complied, and with the increased pressure on his cock, he came soon after. Groaning loudly, he tried to push his cock farther into her mouth to bypass her gag reflex, but she choked on his semen regardless, unable to swallow it all.
She pulled away, coughing violently, and once he'd stopped reeling from his orgasm, he looked down at her. His breathing was heavy, but he smirked at her. "You gotta work on that," he said cheekily, and she glared at him, giving another wet cough. He wiped the back of his hand over her mouth to catch some of his semen, then he pulled her up to him for a thorough kiss. When he pulled away, her eyes were hooded and dark.
"Lie down on your back and spread your legs," he directed, and she followed his request quickly, her knees up and open for him eagerly. He took a moment to admire the view before he crawled down between her legs and latched his mouth on her center.
He made her come within minutes. Then he sucked on her until he was hard again and pushed into her to finish inside her.
Finally spent, Peeta rolled off of her with a grunt. "We should probably attempt to work on your interview technique," he mused hoarsely, and she looked at him.
"Haven't we been?" she asked, her eyes dancing with unspoken amusement, and if he wasn't so suddenly filled with jealousy at the idea of her fucking anyone but him, he might have laughed at her audacity; Katniss never made jokes.
Instead, he scowled and sat up, snatching up his clothes to put on. "I'm afraid Caesar's not going to be interested in your pussy, sweetheart," he grunted as he hastily got dressed. He heard a huff behind him, and he didn't need to look at her to know she was wearing an identical scowl. "Get dressed, and when I get out of the bathroom, I expect you to take this a little more seriously."
He slammed the bathroom door behind him.
Katniss' interview had been less than stellar; she had been incapable of any of the tactics he'd suggested, and despite what she told him that first night, she was in fact not capable of being sexy—at least, not when she tried. Eventually, after his seventh scotch, Peeta had just told her to answer the questions as honestly as she could and to try not to kill anybody while she was up there. Levi had been more compelling in his interview with his imposing presence and his tales of being a butcher, but Katniss still had that 11—and, therefore, the intrigue. It was something Peeta could work with while she was in the arena.
She didn't sleep much the night before the games, and neither did he. She'd said she wanted to be distracted, so he distracted her.
He wanted to be distracted, too, really.
It was well into the night when she curled up in his arms, tucked against his chest. He couldn't recall holding anyone like this before. He could practically feel her nerves buzzing under her skin. He tried to hold her tighter, but he worried his own anxieties were obvious. They didn't speak for a while; he felt her warm, quick breaths on his chest, her finger tracing over his clavicle.
Finally, he spoke. "I'll get you sponsors. And gifts. Don't go into the cornucopia, okay? I'll get you what you need. Just stay hidden as long as you can."
She inhaled shakily, her finger spasming on his collarbone. "...Okay."
He guessed he eventually fell asleep, but her tossing and turning woke him up periodically; he got her off with his hand each time to help her fall back to sleep. It seemed to help. But when it was time to get up, she looked exhausted and pale. She refused to eat, so he practically had to force some food down her throat. "It might be a while before you eat again," he told her, as if he were speaking to a child; she finally relented, but she would only eat some bread.
Before she left to meet with Cinna, he took her chin in his hand and forced her to look at him. "Remember what I said. I'll take care of you in there." There was a flicker of appreciation in her eyes, but the fear still shrouded her gray eyes heavily as she walked out the door.
Watching the opening of the games was always tough, though if he was being honest, it got easier every year. But this time, Peeta's stomach was so knotted, he couldn't even drink any alcohol to ease his mind.
He almost flipped his chair over when Katniss disregarded his instructions and darted a few yards to the cornucopia to grab a backpack. She nearly got a knife in her back courtesy of the District 2 female tribute for her efforts—but luckily, it snagged in her newly acquired bag. And now she had a weapon, at least. He wanted to be mad at her, but he supposed her disobedience worked out in her favor this time.
Levi actually made it to the cornucopia and retrieved a sword and a bag of provisions, but there was a horribly tense moment when he ran into the District 4 female tribute. He managed to dodge her trident and knock her down with the butt of his sword, gutting her before he darted into the woods. Peeta couldn't quash the irritation he felt at Levi's survival; the longer he was alive, the longer he split their district's resources between him and Katniss. And Peeta wasn't pleased with this.
Peeta knew the woods were the best possible terrain for Katniss, though. Katniss would thrive; Haymitch would realize that soon enough. Peeta was hopeful.
Until the Gamemakers set the forest on fire. When a fireball scorched Katniss' leg, he was out of his seat, begging Haymitch to send her medicine, but the old man refused. "Do you know how expensive that is? It's not life-threatening, boy. Let her tough it out—we need to save our money for when things are more dire."
Peeta ground his teeth in frustration, certain the older man was simply hoarding that money for Levi.
Katniss was treed by the Careers, in agony and with no access to food. Peeta was worried. Extremely worried. Haymitch refused to send her help, but if Peeta secured money specifically for a purpose, the older man would have to let him use it how he saw fit.
So that was what he did. He knew the circuits to work now, the kind of Capitolites to woo—women in particular, who thrilled at his attention, his flirty touches, his whispered words that hinted at something more, who threw all sorts of money at him for just a little time with him. It was no different from the girls back home, except the positions were essentially reversed. But Peeta could grit his teeth and bear it, as insufferable as these women were, as grating as their breathy moans and dramatics screams were while he pounded into them indifferently. He just thought of Katniss, and it was easy to finish.
Peeta was able to secure a substantial amount this way—it was late into the night when he returned to the control room. Katniss was still in the tree, the Careers laid out around the trunk, just anticipating her next desperate move.
"I got the money. Send her the medicine," he told Haymitch. The older man regarded him tiredly, shook his head, and got to work. Within minutes, a silver parachute bearing the best medicinal balm the Capitol had to offer was in her lap.
While the medicine took care of the immediate problem of her injuries, it did little to help her predicament with the Careers. But if anything was more expensive than medicine at this point, it was weapons. Securing enough money for that would take days—time Peeta just didn't think he had.
If only the bow was in her hands, instead of those of the District 1 female...
But Katniss found something just as useful: a tracker jacker nest. Using her knife, she was able to send the nest down into the unsuspecting Career pack at the first light of dawn. A few scattered, but a couple collapsed under the angry swarm, their hearts stopped by the venom. Katniss managed to steal the bow from District 1's lifeless, swollen hands and escape, but she couldn't avoid all the wasps. She didn't make it far before she, too, passed out under the duress of hallucinations.
She was in and out of consciousness for days, unable to escape the haze of the tracker jacker venom or move from the trench she'd collapsed into. Peeta wasn't able to sleep during that time, terrified that she'd be found by the Careers or another tribute in her vulnerability. He wasn't used to this sort of fear.
But the ditch helped conceal her, and she eventually woke up after three days. It took her a while to gather her bearings, but she was able to locate a stream nearby and quench her thirst, nibbling on the little food she had in her bag. She was weakened by days of inactivity and hunger.
But she was alive. And now she had a weapon.
Even Haymitch was impressed. Grunting, he sat back in his chair as he observed the screen she was on. Then he glanced Peeta's way. "Maybe you were onto something with the girl after all, Blondie."
Peeta tried not to growl his annoyance. If Haymitch was coming around to Katniss' side now, he needed to tread lightly. "Can we send her some bread? It's been three days; she needs to get her strength back up." The older man deliberated silently, so Peeta added, "It might boost her morale. To know she's got some support. Maybe send her some bread that reminds her of home."
Haymitch considered this, turning his attention to the screen with Levi. The butcher's son had managed to avoid running into any other tribute so far, but he was precariously low on food. They had sent him water and some nuts while Katniss was out, but he didn't know how to hunt, so he had to rely on plants and berries for sustenance. Peeta knew Haymitch had a choice to make now.
He hoped he'd make the right one.
With a pained sigh, Haymitch sat up and began pushing buttons on the panel. "I hope you're right."
Peeta couldn't hide his triumphant grin.
There were six tributes left, two of whom were from District 12. It was a feat unheard of for the poorest district. The bread they'd sent to Katniss seemed to lift her spirits; she stared at the loaf in awe, clutching it to her chest for warmth before splitting it open and inhaling deeply. It was a raisin and nut variety, something Peeta recognized from his parents' bakery. The thought of his family made his blood run hot with resentment, but he pushed it aside. He was glad it seemed to revitalize her, at least. Gifts for the tributes cost an exorbitant amount at this point in the games—it was unlikely he and Haymitch would be able to send her or Levi anything else.
With her bow and arrows and her proximity to a stream, Katniss was able to feed herself and take cover in tall, nearby trees. There was too much action happening elsewhere for the Gamemakers to worry much about her, it seemed. For the first time in a while, Peeta felt confident about a tribute's chances.
When Levi was killed by the District 1 male tribute's spear a day later, weakened by hunger and thirst, Peeta knew he should have been upset. But all he could focus on was the fact that Katniss was that much closer to winning; he'd never really been capable of remorse. Haymitch took it harder, however, dropping his head to his hands. After a few minutes of terse silence, he grunted and sat back, downing a glass of whiskey. Then he turned his gaze on Peeta; the resentment there perplexed him.
"Your girl better pull this off, Blondie."
It shouldn't have been as easy as it was. But, somehow, it was.
Katniss didn't have to do much work once she had the weapon. The cameras devoted little time to her, which meant the Gamemakers paid little attention to her. Which was good. The rest of the tributes took care of the rest, destroying each other until it was just Katniss and the District 2 male tribute, Cato. She was finally forced from her tree in search of water when the Gamemakers dried up all the streams and rivers. Peeta wished they could send her water so she wouldn't have to leave her safe haven, but he knew this was the finale—there was no way he and Haymitch could afford any gifts at this point.
She was almost to the cornucopia when Cato emerged from the woods, the mutts on his heels. Katniss scaled the horn in record time, her arrow notched and bow raised as she took aim at her enemy. Peeta held his breath, on the edge of his seat. Could she do it? Would she?
Her arrow pierced his brain, right through his eye.
Cato died instantly. The mutts stopped in their tracks and then, just like that, they disappeared into a hole in the ground.
The rest happened so fast. The trumpets blared, followed by Claudius Templesmith's voice declaring Katniss Everdeen the victor of the 74th Hunger Games. Amid the roar of the Capitol crowd, the District 12 tribute was airlifted out of the arena by hovercraft. Surprisingly relatively unscathed.
Haymitch glanced at Peeta after a moment. They didn't speak, the stunned silence heavy between them.
Then Peeta laughed. He laughed until tears stung his eyes. And then he poured himself a hard-earned drink.
He couldn't see her for days while she recuperated. It was torture, and his endless rants and pacing aggravated Haymitch. "I think I liked you better when you were an unfeeling, drunken sociopath, Blondie," he griped, and Peeta just glowered at him.
Katniss' prep team helped make her TV-ready while Cinna worked on her post-victory interview outfit. Peeta and Haymitch had to fight the doctors and the Head Gamemaker to stop them from surgically altering her; they wanted to shave her nose down and stuff her breasts with laughably sized implants. Peeta couldn't imagine anything other than her small breasts filling his hands and mouth—it was unthinkable. They finally got the Head Gamemaker to relent on the basis that viewers would prefer to see her as they remembered her from the arena, but Peeta feared they would only change their minds in the future.
He feared a lot of things for Katniss now.
It was strange, being so acutely aware of someone else's presence in relation to his life.
Was this what Haymitch had meant about not getting too attached?
She was acting strangely.
When she was finally released from the hospital and brought to them, she was dazed and standoffish, only returning his hug after a noticeable moment of hesitation. But Peeta recalled his own victory, six years ago, and how he'd felt like he was just drifting through everything—the preparation, the interviews, the dinners and celebrations. Nothing had felt real, and at the same time, everything had felt too real. She was in shock, he reasoned.
Still, he ached to pull her aside, into a dark room somewhere and lose himself inside her—it had been weeks. He was desperate and raw and frustrated, and she was alive.
The first interview was simple enough; Caesar did most of the heavy lifting as Katniss watched the recap listlessly and answered questions with curt, monotone replies that were surely off-putting to the audience. But it didn't matter. She didn't need to be likable anymore—she'd won. In fact, she was pretty much guaranteed to be liked even less than before.
Victory did not always bring popularity.
Peeta knew that well.
Only one last interview and a reception at Snow's stood between them and home now. It should have been easy enough.
Somehow, word had gotten out about Peeta and Katniss' relationship, spreading like wildfire among the Capitol audience. Peeta hadn't been aware of this until Caesar brought it up.
"So, Katniss—rumor has it there's a budding romance between you and your District 12 mentor Peeta Mellark. Is there any truth to them? You can tell us—we're all friends here, right?" he goaded harmlessly, and off to the side, out of view of the cameras, Peeta watched intently, interested as to how Caesar was going to spin this story. As far as he knew, there was nothing illegal about their relationship, nothing in the rule books that prohibited fraternizing between the mentors and tributes. It might have been inappropriate and embarrassing for Katniss to be put on the spot, but they couldn't be punished now.
Katniss' face was stony, and she smiled tightly, a false flick of her lips. And then she shook her head. "No. Peeta is my mentor. There is nothing between us."
Peeta didn't move. He could feel everyone's eyes on him. His expression didn't change. But inside he was reeling.
He didn't know how to react, even if he had wanted to. He quietly slipped away before the interview ended. They still had a dinner to attend, and he tried to smile and chat and eat and drink like nothing was out of the ordinary. But he couldn't stop replaying her answer in his head.
She mostly avoided him during the reception, but at one point she made eye contact with him accidentally, and in that fleeting moment he understood everything: She had played him.
It took everything in him not to hurl the glass goblet he was holding across the room.
He waited until after the dinner, after they were back on the train and well on their way to District 12, to confront her. She was curled up on a settee near a window, her knees tucked against her chest, her forehead leaning against the glass as she watched the world outside whirl by. They were alone. She didn't lift her head when he approached.
"It was all for the games, how you acted," he stated, much more calmly than he felt. Katniss closed her eyes and after a moment, she gave one nod of her head.
Something in him shattered, something he didn't even think he possessed. A strained, amused laugh bubbled in his throat, and he shook his head in disbelief. "You used me. This was just some strategy you had worked out, wasn't it?" There, she nodded again, and his lip curled in disgust. His chest tightened in anger, and he balled his hands into fists at his sides. "I guess I should have expected as much from a Seam slut, huh?" he spat, wanting to rattle her, to hurt her.
Unfazed, she lifted her forehead off the window but still refused to look at him. "I knew you and Haymitch would pick Levi. I...needed to give you a reason to choose me instead. It was the only way I could think of. I had to get back to my sister. She needs me."
He shouldn't have been so surprised. His propensity for women and sex had to have been well known around the district—in the end he was just a sucker for a nice pair of tits and a warm cunt, wasn't he?
He realized he was trembling; he wanted to yell at her, to shred her with every insult he could think of, to make her feel as foolish and as small as he felt right then—but he felt like he was going to puke. He needed to leave, he needed to hit something—or someone.
"Well, congratulations. I think you played the game better than anyone I've ever seen," he said coolly, his voice thick with bitterness; she didn't even flinch. He'd just started to turn away when she called to him.
Everything in him screamed at him to keep walking, but something in his gut tugged him back. He spared her a withering glance. She was looking at him now; there was something in her eyes that confused him. His brow creased, but he was still guarded. He regarded her warily and waited for her to speak.
Katniss licked her lips apprehensively. "I knew...I knew the repercussions my actions would have. On Levi. I knew if you focused sponsors on me, that meant less for him. I knew my actions would kill him." She hesitated; Peeta wasn't sure he followed her. She continued, "I knew...and I didn't care. I didn't care that he would die. And then with Cato...I didn't even hesitate. Those mutts...they might have gotten to him first. I could have waited to see...but I didn't even hesitate. I just killed him. I wasn't even sorry. I just...I wanted it to be over." Her gray eyes pinned him to his spot. Her next words were strained. "What's wrong with me?"
He understood the look in her eyes now—he saw it in his own every time he looked in the mirror.
His face softened some, and after a moment's consideration, he walked back toward her and sat down beside her on the settee. She was still watching him, questioning, needing an answer, some kind of reassurance, needing to know she wasn't completely fucked up, not like him. But she was. And winning the Hunger Games only solidified that.
When Peeta placed a hand on her knee, she didn't pull away.
"Nothing. Absolutely nothing's wrong with you, Katniss."
Her lips twitched just barely; there was no relief in her eyes. Just resignation. Acceptance, maybe. She stared down at his hand and brushed her pinky finger against his. An intentional touch. Was it for her? Or for him? Did she accept him? He didn't move, not even realizing his breath had stalled in his chest while he waited, and waited. She covered his hand with her own then, curling her fingers around his, and she squeezed tightly, almost painfully. He didn't mind. They sat in silence after that point, hand in hand, as the train barreled onward, bringing them closer to home.
She didn't let go of his hand.
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