AN: This story starts off in 1998, but will span over the next 14 years, to bring us to present day. You might notice that Katniss is a bit OOC, but it's an AU, so a few other characters will be, too. I feel like with their backstories, it's warranted.

Please heed the 'M' rating. There will be references to drugs, sex, and rock-n-roll. Also later lemons.

I do have a plan for them, so don't fret. See the end for additional author's note. (Italics is Katniss's inner monologue, just FYI)


1997

"I'm really not sure about this," I say, twisting the end of my braid nervously as I stare out the window. "I don't even know this guy."

And I had to sneak out of the house to come with you.

"He's cool, really, you'll like him. Besides, they have some kegs and he always has something to smoke. I could use something to help me mellow out." He gives me a deliberate glance out of the corner of his eye.

I sigh, ignoring his not-so-subtle reference to our fight earlier today. "You know parties aren't my thing."

He grunts. "I KNOW Katniss, but for once, could you just suck it up and do it for me!? I just want to go to a party and get a little fucked up. What's the big deal!?"

Because you're an asshole when you're drunk, and you've already had a few tequila shots. God knows what's going to happen when you have more.

"It's not a big deal. I just get uncomfortable around new people."

It actually is a big deal to me, but it's not worth another fight.

"Well, you said you wanted to meet the friends I've been hanging out with on the weekends, and now's your chance."

Yeah, but all I really care about is meeting your new friend 'Cashmere' since she goes to your house EVERY SINGLE WEEKEND.

"I know, but this is so risky. What if Haymich catches me?"

"That old drunk won't catch you. Don't be such a prude, Katniss. Besides, we're almost there. I think this is the street up here."

"Fine." I let the conversation drop and stare out the window, taking in my surroundings.

We take a right turn into the neighborhood, and instantly I know we've entered the merchant side of town. The boulevard is lined with grand houses, the kind with manicured lawns and cars in the driveway that cost more than our house. There are trees framing the dividers in the middle of the road and streetlamps adorning the sidewalks on either side.

Like they even need streetlights in this neighborhood.

Nothing bad ever happens to these people, and if it does, I'm sure the police actually care enough to do something about it. As we approach the house, we can see cars parked on either side of the street. I am suddenly acutely aware of how the beat-up black Mitsubishi truck must look in the sea of polished BMWs and souped-up trucks.

"I never would have guessed you'd be such good friends with so many merchants."

Ok, maybe I'm not ready to let the conversation drop just yet.

"I never said he was a merchant." He purposefully ignores my reference to Gloss and Cashmere, but I don't press the matter. Even if it does piss me off a little.

"Yeah, but this is the road, isn't it? Look how big the houses are."

He frowns. "Yeah, he said he lives in an apartment in the back of the house. I think this is it."

We park a little ways down the block and begin to walk towards the faint sound of rock music and people talking. As we approach the house I can see that it is huge. It has a large driveway that curves in a U-shape in front of the house, with a fountain in the center. Of course they have a fountain. Pompous jerks. It's a plantation-style house, painted pale yellow with white trim, and windows and balconies on the second floor. There is a smaller house attached to the side of the main house.

"I thought you said he lived in an apartment."

He grabs my hand and leads me towards the smaller house on the side. "This is his apartment. See?"

"That is not an apartment. That is a house that happens to be attached to a much larger house. And it still bigger than both of our houses combined."

"Fine, it's a house. A big house for a rich merchant, okay? Look, Madge will probably be there, and they'll definitely have the good booze and probably free drugs, too." He grins and grabs me around the waist, pulling me closer to him. He looks down at me and leans in to give me a long, tender kiss. "Besides, I'm sure they have tons of bedrooms. If you get tired of the crowd, we can find someplace to be alone," he whispers into my ear. I squirm out of his grasp and shoot him a death glare.

"Oh come on, Katniss, don't be like that," he says, trailing close behind as I storm towards the house. I can faintly hear him call my name again, but I'm livid, and suddenly my mind is transported back to our earlier fight.

I'd been sitting in bed, reading a book, when I heard the telltale taps on my window.

Tap Tap…..Tap Tap Tap.

I sigh, looking at the clock. He was supposed to page me at 9:30, so I could call him and tell him good night, and instead, he shows up at my window at midnight. I roll my eyes and leisurely make my way over to the window to open it.

"Something I can help you with?"

"Hey baby, you want to let me in?" He shoots me a salacious grin and I can't but return it, all my earlier annoyance at him ebbing away. Damn, he's handsome. "It's getting cold out here, maybe you want to warm me up?"

I open the window the rest of the way and let him climb in. He immediately pulls me towards him and lowers us on the bed. He starts peppering kisses down my neck and pulling at the hem of my shirt to get it off of me.

He brings his mouth up to my ear, and I turn my head a little, inhaling his scent. He smells so earthy and good, like wood smoke and grass and ….flowers?"

What the fuck?

I sit up on the bed and push him off of me.

"Where the hell were you tonight? It's almost midnight. Why didn't you page me earlier?"

"I'm sorry, baby. We were hanging out at Gloss' house and lost track of time."

"Who's 'we'?" Why don't you just say you were hanging out HER?

"You know, me, Cato, Thresh, Gloss, Titus, and Thom."

"So Cashmere wasn't there?"

"Of course she was there, she lives there. What are you getting at?" His tone is suddenly tense and hostile. There's a surprise.

"I was just curious, if she was there, why didn't you mention it in the first place?"

And why do you smell like her slutty, slutty, perfume?

"Fuck, I didn't think it mattered. Fine, she was there. His mom was there, and his dad, too. His little sister, and the dog, and I think she has a hamster, too, let me try to remember his name…"

"Stop, ok, I got it."

"Jesus, Katniss, what's with you? I came by to see you before I head out the party; I missed you, and all you want to do is bitch at me because some girl you've never met happened to be at my friend's house while we were hanging out?" He rolls his eyes at me and stares out the window, his face becoming stern and his body tense.

Oh, I may not have met her, but I've heard ALL ABOUT her.

I look down at the bedspread, suddenly fascinated with picking off the tiny balls of fabric that have accumulated after years of wear and tear. "Why do you smell like her perfume?" My voice is so small, so hesitant, that I'm not even sure if he heard it, so I tilt my head back up and look him in the eyes.

His stony demeanor falters for a split second before he breaks eye contact with me again.

"I don't know; I barely ever talk to her. She gave everyone hugs on the way out. She wears a shitload of perfume; it probably just rubbed off on me."

I stay silent. He sighs again and shifts his gaze back to the window.

"It was one time, Katniss, it was only a kiss, and we had been dating for like, a week. Are you going to punish me for it forever?"

That was the plan, actually.

"I'm your boyfriend. She knows I'm taken."

I let out a sigh. I really don't WANT to punish him for it, but I had a hard time letting go of it. It wasn't so much the fact that he kissed some other girl, it was the fact that he had lied about it. Trust was already something I don't spare easily, not after my father. He knew that. I still remember how devastated Prim and I were to find out that our father, our perfect father, the one who loved us and tucked us into bed every night, was a liar, and a thief, and a drug dealer to boot. I remember his earnest face the last night he'd tucked me in, the night before his sentencing, when he'd promised he'd be there for my twelfth birthday. He'd lied; he hadn't. He hadn't been there for the next three either.

I chance a look at him again. He's right, really. It had almost been a year since that had happened, and since then he'd been a great boyfriend. It's not his fault that girls like him; I just wish that so many girls didn't find him so attractive. And it's not like I can tell him that I asked around about Gloss' sister, Cashmere, and I'd heard about her reputation. The fact that he's taken won't exactly be a deterrent for her. And I can't tell him that I sent Thresh's little sister, Rue, in to scope her out. And I certainly can't tell him that Rue said she definitely flirts with him. Fighting about it definitely won't help.

"I'm sorry, I just…I miss you, it feels like I barely see you." I give him my best bedroom eyes. Best to distract him before the argument turns ugly. "I wish you could stay longer…" I crawl over to him on the bed and start placing tiny kisses on his the back of his neck, tipping his head back towards mine with my finger.

He responds fervently, and I know he's already pushed the fight out of his mind. Sex seems to fix every major fight we have. I can't say I don't enjoy it, but sometimes I wonder if we're just postponing the inevitable. He lowers me onto the bed again, trailing kisses down my chest again. He's already got his head under my shirt when I feel a vibration on my leg. "Dammit" I hear him curse under his breath as hid head pops back into view and he reaches down to check his pager.

"Finnick is wondering where I am. Shit, I was supposed to be there half an hour ago." He shoots me an apologetic look.

The anger and frustration that I felt earlier comes back and grows exponentially. Suddenly I am livid.

"Fine, then! Have fun with your friends! God forbid you be late to the party."

I mumble the last part and turn away from him on the bed in a huff. I want to scream at him to get the hell out. I want to storm out of the room, but even if I don't slam the door, I run the risk of waking up Mom or Prim or Uncle Haymich. Instead I'm stuck on the bed, mere inches away from him, angry tears starting to run down my face. I hate this. I feel trapped, and he hasn't moved from behind me on the bed.

"Why don't you come with me?"

I turn around and stare at him incredulously.

"Yeah, that would go over really well. 'Hey, I know it's almost midnight, but I'll be heading out to an unsupervised party now. Don't wait up'," I mutter with as much sarcasm I can muster.

He chuckles. "I meant just sneak out the window. With me. Come to the party for awhile, and I'll drop you back off before the sun comes up."

It's not the first time he's invited me to do this, but for some reason, I feel like I need to go to this party. I wonder if it's because I'm worried about him going alone.

"Okay."

"Really?" He sounds surprised, but not unpleasantly so. At least that means he really did want me to go with him.

"Yeah, just give me a bit to change. I'll meet you by your truck in a minute."

"Ok, great." He starts to step towards the window, but he stops and turns around.

"Here, wear this," he says, pulling a short grey skirt and a black Henley out of my closet.

I eye the skirt warily for a minute and lift it up by the bottom hem, holding it at arm's length like it might catch on fire if I touch the whole garment.

"C'mon, baby, please? I love you in that skirt, and it's a big party, so people will be dressed a little nicer."

I grunt my resistance as he steps closer to me and pulls me against his chest.

"Please? I love you so much and I love it when you're dressed sexy for a change. The guys will be so jealous. Don't you love me?"

I look up at him and frown. He knows exactly what he's doing. He knows exactly how I feel about saying 'I love you' and he knows he can guilt me into doing whatever he wants by saying it.

"Fine," I scowl at him, deciding that I'm too tired and ready to get out of the house to bother with arguing.

He looks a little surprised that I've caved so easily, but his smile is huge and he gives me a peck on the cheek before climbing back out the window.

I dress quickly, but as I'm zipping up my boots, I start to have second thoughts.

What if Prim wakes up looking for me? What if Haymich gets up early tomorrow? What if mother comes looking for me? She's so unstable, the idea that her eldest daughter might be missing is enough to throw her over the edge on which she's so precariously teetering.

But then again, I really don't want him going alone to the party, and there's no way to back out now; he'll already be waiting for me down the road.

I have an idea, though, and grab a Post-it, scribbling down a short note. I stuff pillows into the bed to make it look like I'm sleeping, and stick the post where my head would be, so that it could easily be seen if someone threw back the covers.

I take another look around the room and duck out the window.

God, I hope this is worth it.

The closer we get to the house, the more nervous I start to feel. I've never really liked parties to begin with, but a merchant party? I'm painfully shy and I barely talk when I'm with my good friends. I can feel my hands start to get clammy as the nerves start to settle in. I slow my pace, allowing him to catch up with me, determined to prolong the time it takes for us to reach the house, if only for a few seconds.

Maybe I can find a closet or something to hide in until it's over.

We approach the front door and I stop, expecting us to knock or ring the doorbell. He comes up right behind me and chuckles, reaching past me to open the door.

Oh of course, this isn't a dinner party, we don't need to knock.

"After you, Catnip." And with that, he nudges me inside the door.


AN: So this is my first fanfic, so I was a bit unsure about publishing, but I finally decided to bite the bullet and do it. If you're interested, leave me a review. I have a pretty definite outline for the course of the story, so be patient. We'll get to the Peeta/Katniss love, I promise. Just not yet.

And a HUGE shout-out to my awesome beta, FORTHEGENUINE, who encouraged me to publish (and to write more chapters for you) and puts up with my mistakes as well as my insanity. Thanks!