a/n: Welp, turns out I didn't get this chapter up any faster than the previous one. My sincerest apologies for the delay. Writer's block has been a bitch lately, but I think I'm finally getting back into the groove...
Anyway, this is the last chapter. Thank you so much for reading and leaving wonderful reviews and being so patient while I worked through this story! Hopefully, this conclusion is satisfactory...I'm worried it's kind of rushed and weak, but I didn't want to keep you guys hanging any longer, and I just really wanted to wrap this up. I'm looking forward to the future stories I'm planning, but I wanted to finish "Best Laid Plans" before I post anything new so you guys wouldn't be waiting even longer for updates!
Again, thank you, thank you, thank you. And happy reading!
Katniss was the first to break the stunned silence that had settled over the dining room, her voice damn near screechy as she stared at her mother and Mr. Mellark, utterly dumbfounded. With the moment shattered, Prim squealed in delight, practically bouncing in her chair.
"Oh, my god, seriously?!"
The two adults smiled indulgently at her, still holding hands, and they both nodded at her. "We're not doing a traditional sort of engagement—we're too old for that," Ms. Everdeen laughed airily, and Mr. Mellark grinned at her. Prim jumped out of her seat and darted around the table to engulf them in a hug, chattering about how excited she was.
Neither Katniss nor Peeta had budged yet. Only one word kept reverberating through her head.
It had only been a few months...How could they already be that serious about each other? Had she and Peeta been oblivious to how fast things were moving, too wrapped up in each other?
And god, here they were, ready to declare their own relationship—and their parents beat them to the punch with a marriage announcement! What the hell were they supposed to do? She finally glanced sideways at Peeta, but he was still staring at their parents, a lost, befuddled expression shrouding his face. What was he thinking?
No, she knew what he was thinking—she was sure his thoughts were following the same trajectory as hers. He had to be just as clueless as to what they were supposed to do now.
Their parents' voices jarred Katniss back into the moment, and she turned her wide eyes back to them. They were watching them expectantly, apprehension but cautious hope present in their own eyes. "Honey, are you okay with this?" her mother asked tentatively. "I know this must be a shock, but—well, when we talked a while ago, you seemed on board with my relationship with Faren."
Well, that was before Katniss had started fucking his son and fell in love with him.
She felt an uncomfortable flush spread up her neck, and she swallowed thickly. For some reason, she still couldn't get her mouth to move; she didn't know what to say, anyway. Again, she looked to Peeta, helpless.
"Peeta, you haven't said anything yet," his father tried, studying him closely. "How do you feel?"
Peeta's mouth opened and closed wordlessly for a moment, as if he, too, was struggling with a response, but then he forced a smile onto his mouth. "Congratulations," he said, convincingly enough, but Katniss could discern the lack of real enthusiasm. Still, she gaped at him as he stood up from his chair and walked around to hug his dad and Ms. Everdeen.
What was he doing? She'd expected him to save face, play off the moment as he was so apt to do—but he was actually congratulating them? Giving them his blessing for their marriage? Weren't they supposed to get their parents' blessing for their own relationship?
Katniss sat stupidly, forgotten in the moment as the four of them hugged and laughed with elation at the news.
What the hell was happening?
She cornered Peeta in the hallway later, practically seething; she'd had to endure an hour of pretending to be okay with everything, listening to their parents gush about the other and their future plans. The only good news she'd gleaned from the discussion was that they weren't planning to get married just yet—it would at least wait until summer, after the school year was over.
She'd had an entire hour to stew in her confusion and growing anger; she was mad at everyone, but at that moment she was directing it all at Peeta. She practically shoved him into the wall when they'd finally escaped from the others.
"What the hell is going on?" she hissed, keeping her voice low. The others were still in the living room, playing a game of "Scene It."
Sighing, Peeta ran a hand through his curls and shook his head. "Not here," he said quietly, glancing over his shoulder before lightly gripping her wrist. "Let's talk in my room."
He led her up the stairs, and she bit her tongue until he had the door shut. "Congratulations?!" she exploded, and he scratched the back of his neck sheepishly.
"What did you want me to say? That's typically what you say in situations like this," he said evasively, and she glared at him.
"Oh, I don't know—how about, 'Holy shit, you guys want to get married after only a few months?! That's ludicrous!'"
He shrugged, shuffling to his bed. "It's not that ludicrous—I mean, would you have been this indignant had you and I not started dating? Getting them hitched was our original plan, you know," he reminded her, sitting down on the edge of his bed.
"Except that's the thing—we are dating!" she said, waving her hands wildly. "And by the way—why didn't we tell them that like we'd planned?"
He turned his gaze to her, his eyebrows shooting up. "You wanted to tell them at that moment? Just like that, after that news? How did you imagine us working it in—'Oh, hey, I'm really happy for you, Ms. Everdeen, but actually, I want to continue fucking your daughter, so could you maybe not marry my father?"
Katniss pretended to consider this. "Umm, yeah, actually, that sounds perfect!" she snapped, and he rolled his eyes. She knew she was being unreasonable, but she was too worked up now. She stared him down until he sighed again, dropping his head into his hands with a groan.
"It's just...I don't know, Katniss," he said, his voice muffled, and she planted her hands on her hips.
"What do you mean, you don't know?"
He shook his head, his hands still covering his face. "It's different for you..." he said quietly after a momentary pause. "Your family was different. Your father was a good person; he was good to your mother. You had a good example of a healthy marriage, and you had a happy childhood. You and Prim. Your parents were in love, and they were happy." He lifted his head finally to look at her, and she stared at him in confusion, wondering where he was going with this. "My dad didn't have that. You know my mother. Maybe at one point they were in love, but I never witnessed it. They were miserable, and they made us all miserable when they were together. My dad didn't deserve that. He deserves to be happy. He deserves a wife who loves him and would give him the life he denied himself for the sake of his children. And, what, I'm going to take that away from him? Tell him he can't have that now just because I want you?" Peeta shook his head sadly. "I don't know. I just don't know what to do. How can I do that to him? I can't be that selfish."
For the second time that night, Katniss couldn't believe what she was hearing. This couldn't be happening.
"You have got to be kidding me," she whispered, but he didn't respond or look at her, his elbows braced against his knees as he stared at the floor. She felt the rage flare up inside her again. "So you're saying you don't want to do this anymore—with me."
"I'm not saying that, Katniss—" he started wearily, but she cut him off, her nostrils flaring.
"But you're saying you don't plan to tell them about us anymore, and you want to let them get married, subsequently putting a stop to—to whatever it is you and I are doing," she said flatly, barely managing to constrain the anger quelling inside her.
He took a deep breath before meeting her eyes again. His expression was pained. "I don't want to, but—"
"I can't believe you!" she hissed at him, her outrage flooding her words. She clenched her fists at her sides, trying to stop the shaking. "After everything, after all those things you said to me—after all the things you made me say to you—after you forced me to admit my feelings and put myself out there—now you want to back out?!"
The color left his face as he stared at her, and he stood up. "Katniss, I never meant to—I'm sorry, I wasn't trying to force you into anything—"
"But you did!" she yelled, taking a step closer to him. "Fuck you, Peeta! I can't believe you're doing this to me!" She shoved him; he didn't budge, though his face was one of shock, so she shoved his chest again. "Fuck you!" This time, he grabbed her hands to stop her.
"No, fuck you, Peeta!" she snarled, trying to simultaneously push against him and twist out of his grip, but he tightened his hold, pulling her into his arms. She squirmed, but he held her tight against him.
"Stop, Katniss," he commanded authoritatively, but his voice was soft. His arms wrapped around her, pinning her arms to her sides, and she gave up fighting him. "I'm sorry," he whispered fiercely against the side of her head. "I'm so sorry. I don't—I didn't mean to hurt you. I love you, okay? I just...I'm sorry. This is just so confusing and convoluted, and I don't know what the right thing to do is."
She deflated at his words, his embrace sapping all the fight out of her. She dropped her forehead to his shoulder and closed her eyes. If she was being honest with herself, she didn't know what the right thing to do was either.
"I'm sorry," he repeated after a few minutes of silence, nothing but their heavy breathing filling his room. He loosened his arms around her, but he brought one hand up to stroke her hair. The gesture was soothing. "I didn't mean to make you think—please don't think I don't want to be with you anymore because I do. God, there's nothing I want more. I just...I don't know what to do, Katniss. I don't know what to do."
She just groaned pitifully and buried her face against his neck, fisting her hands in his shirt.
What an absolute clusterfuck they'd made.
Madge was droning on about her recent date with Gale to Johanna and Annie, but Katniss had tuned her out. She was hanging out with the girls at her house, since her mother was at the hospital for the night, but she was honestly too preoccupied by her dilemma with Peeta and their parents to contribute to the conversation or festivities. It'd been all she could think about for days; she wished she could talk to somebody about it, get some advice as to what the hell they should do, but they still hadn't told anyone about their relationship.
Before, it had been exciting and fun, but now the secrecy was just a pain in the ass. And Peeta was being less than helpful. They'd barely hung out since their parents had broken the engagement news, let alone spoken about the situation.
She startled at her name, turning her eyes on her friends who were watching her curiously. Madge's eyebrows were furrowed with concern. "Huh?" Katniss asked stupidly.
"Is this bothering you? Me talking about Gale? I'm sorry, I'll shut up—"
"No!" she interjected hurriedly, shaking her head. "No, it's not that at all. I'm happy for you, I swear. I just—" she broke off with a sigh, rubbing the bridge of her nose. She was too rattled to come up with a believable excuse.
Johanna quirked an eyebrow at her. "You've been strung tight all week, what gives?"
Katniss stared at her, deliberating silently, before she sighed again. Fuck it. She was tired of keeping this to herself. It was too exhausting, and eventually it was all going to blow up in her and Peeta's faces, anyway. Hell, it already had.
"My mom and Peeta's dad are getting married," she said bluntly, and her friends gasped.
Katniss decided to cut them off. "And Peeta and I are having sex." There—it was out there. She held her breath as she surveyed their faces, waiting for the news to sink in—
"What the fuck?!" Johanna exploded first, and Katniss cringed. The exclamation seemed to set the others off, because Annie and Madge emitted some high-pitched shriek simultaneously.
"You two are doing it?!" Madge screeched. "Oh my god, when did this happen?! How? Why didn't you say something sooner?!"
Katniss' face felt like it was on fire, but she scowled defensively. "Did you not hear the first thing I said? Our parents are dating—they're getting married—that's why we didn't say anything!"
"Wait—how long has this been going on, you and Peeta hooking up?" Annie asked seriously. Katniss looked at her fingernails, picking at them absent-mindedly.
"A few weeks, more, I guess," she said quietly, dreading their response. Johanna made a sound like she was choking on her spit.
"Holy shit, that long and you never said anything?" she accused, and Katniss shrugged half-heartedly.
"We thought it would be weird..."
"But when did this happen exactly?" Madge demanded.
Katniss blushed harder. "Um...that night of Gale's party before Christmas," she mumbled.
Johanna stood up from the chair abruptly and stomped closer, plopping down in front of her on the floor. "Details, Everdeen. I want all the dirty, nasty details."
Rolling her eyes, she crossed her arms. "We just...we kinda hooked up in the coat closet at Gale's—"
"Is this when Peeta freaked out and ran off?" Annie interrupted, and Katniss nodded.
"And the next day I went over to his house, and we talked, and...well, we had sex. A lot." She flushed at the memory. Johanna snorted.
"Is that all we get? Don't hold back on us now!"
Katniss shook her head. "What do you want me to say, Jo? You know how sex works!"
Madge leaned forward, a devilish grin spreading across her face. "Is it good?"
Katniss sank back into the couch, embarrassed. "It's...great. Really, really great. Amazing and—and mind-blowing, actually. We can't keep our hands off each other."
Both Madge and Annie sighed dreamily, but Johanna barked out a laugh. "You guys couldn't keep your hands off each other before you started having sex either, brainless. I fucking knew it. Dammit, I knew I should have taken Finnick up on that bet," she groused, and Katniss scowled at her. Johanna held her hands up defensively. "Hey, didn't we try to warn you this would happen? Don't act surprised that you wanna ride Blondie's dick now that your parents are hooking up."
Sighing, Katniss dropped her head back on the couch to stare at the ceiling. She could feel the others' sympathetic stares on her. "What are you two going to do? About your parents getting married, I mean?" Annie asked.
"I don't know. We don't know. Peeta freaked out, again, because—" She stopped herself. She didn't know how comfortable she felt divulging everything about their relationship, about how much more than sex it really was now.
"Hey, for what it's worth, it's not technically illegal to hook up with your step-siblings, you know," Johanna offered, grinning deviously at her friend when Katniss whipped her head up to glare at her.
"Not funny, Jo." Illegal or not, it would be fucking weird. And high school was already torturous enough without adding the cruel jokes and snickering from the other students she and Peeta were sure to endure.
Johanna shrugged, cracking open a new can of beer from the coffee table and pressing it into Katniss' hand. "Maybe not to you. Look, have some alcohol and tell your dear friends exactly what's got you so down about this," she cooed obnoxiously. "And don't hold back this time."
Katniss wavered for a moment, staring at the can in her hand, but then she brought it to her mouth and downed half of it in just a few gulps. She was starting to feel hopeful. Maybe this would help. Maybe her friends would have some fucking clue as to what she and Peeta should do.
She was out of ideas, otherwise.
"Are you sure this is a good idea?" Annie asked fretfully as she pulled her car up in front of Peeta's house later that night. Johanna nodded, shoving Katniss toward the door.
"It's a brilliant idea," she insisted, slurring slightly, and Katniss finally slapped her friend's hands away before throwing the car door open.
"Thanks for the ride, guys," she whispered loudly. Madge and Annie waved from the front seat, grinning widely at her. After her talk with them, and a few beers, Katniss decided she needed to see Peeta, immediately. Her friends were more than encouraging.
Johanna grinned at her, leaning out the door. "Go get 'im, Kitty Kat," she purred before slamming the door shut. Katniss flailed as the sound echoed down the empty street, shushing the car uselessly before giggling. With a final wave to her friends, she spun around and wobbled up to the front door. It was nearly 2 in the morning, and all the lights were off, so she was sure at least Mr. Mellark was asleep. Katniss struggled with her key in the lock, finally getting the door open after a moment. Once inside, she crept up the stairs, freezing fearfully when she bumped a picture frame on the wall. It didn't fall, however, and she released the breath she was holding and carefully climbed the remaining steps. At Peeta's door, she paused to listen for sound inside; it was silent. Quietly twisting the knob, she pushed his door open and tip-toed into his room, careful to close the door just as quietly behind her. His room was dark, but she could make out his form on the bed as her eyes adjusted. His soft breathing filled the room, and she smiled to herself, already whipping her shirt over her head and wiggling out of her pants and shoes.
He didn't stir as she climbed into his bed, not until she flattened her body against his back. He jerked awake with a grunt, and she pressed kisses to the side of his face. "What the fu—Katniss?" he asked groggily, and she nodded, nipping at his jawline.
"Tag," she breathed out, her lips stretching into a smile when she heard his incredulous, half-asleep laugh.
"Seriously? That's why you're here?" he asked, his voice scratchy, and he twisted underneath her so they were face to face.
"And 'cuz I want you," she replied simply, sliding her hands over his shoulders to the back of his neck. He finally noticed her state of undress, and she could see his eyes widen as he glanced down at her underwear-clad body.
"Well...shit," he whispered, his hands coming up to grab her hips. She smiled and lowered her mouth to his, eagerly drawing him into a kiss. She stroked his tongue with her own, moaning softly when he repeated the action.
He finally broke the kiss after a few minutes, panting slightly. "You've been drinking..." he pointed out, his fingers skimming her bare sides. She shuddered and nodded.
"Mmhmm, just a little with the girls," she answered, sitting up some so she could shimmy down his body. She pushed the blanket down to expose his skin to her mouth as she trailed kisses down his chest. He sighed, and she found the words slipping out. "I told them about us."
Peeta tensed under her. "You—what? You told our friends about—this?" he repeated, and she nodded, glancing up at him before she licked a circle around his navel. The muscles flexed in his stomach, and she could feel him growing harder through his sleep pants.
"I needed to talk to somebody, and you were being a butthole," she whispered, kissing a line at his waistband. "Are you mad at me?"
His breathing was growing increasingly more ragged. "I—no, no, not mad—I just...I wish you'd, ah, told me you were gonna do that since—since we don't even...don't even know what we're going to do," he forced out, struggling to voice his thoughts. "Ah, what did they say?"
She shrugged, rubbing his erection through his pants. He hissed in pleasure. "They approve," she said; she was actually having a hard time recalling what they'd discussed. No one seemed to have any advice as to what they should do; they just wanted to hear about the sex. Which had made her incredibly horny as she relayed the information to them, and that was when she'd gotten the brilliant idea to come see him.
"That's good, I guess, but—" His words died as she inched his pants and boxer-briefs down his hips, freeing his cock. It sprung up, resting against his abdomen, and she marveled at the sight of it, taking it in hand. He groaned, sitting up on his elbows. "Katniss, what are you—oh, fuck," he gasped when she encircled her mouth around his head. Her tongue teased the slit, licking up his pre-cum. His cock seemed to swell even more in her hand, and she began pumping his shaft as she sucked on his head, wetting it thoroughly with her saliva. She tried to fit in as much of him as she could, but it wasn't a lot. Peeta's hand tangled in her hair, and she released him momentarily to lick his shaft. "Shit, Katniss," he moaned when she took him back into her mouth. Her fist tightened around him, stroking him faster. "Fuck...fuck, I'm gonna come soon."
She hollowed her cheeks around him, sucking harder to encourage him, and when she felt him push on her head slightly, his fingers curling in her hair, she pushed him farther into her mouth to swallow his cum. Peeta groaned, his hips jerking slightly, and his head fell back to his pillow as he emptied himself into her mouth. She held him there until his cock finished pulsing, and then she released him, giving his head one last lick before she moved back up his body.
"I want you to fuck me," she murmured, and he cracked his eyes open to look at her. He chuckled gruffly.
"Well, gimme a moment," he replied, his cheeks flushed, and she settled on top of him for another long, thorough kiss. "I think we need to talk about this, though, now that our friends know," he insisted against her mouth, turning his face slightly to break the kiss. "I'm sorry I was distant this week—"
Katniss shook her head, tugging at his bottom lip with her teeth. She didn't care right that moment. "Later. I'm horny," she dismissed, and he laughed quietly, rolling her onto her back. He took a moment to kick his pants off before positioning himself between her thighs. She hurriedly took her bra off, sighing in relief when he closed his mouth around the tip of one breast. She squirmed underneath him until his hand dipped into her panties, his fingers plying her folds apart. She gasped when he curled two fingers inside her, pumping roughly.
"Peeta," she whimpered, angling her hips against his hand better, and he pulled his fingers out to rub her clit, his teeth clamping down around her nipple simultaneously. She keened approvingly, bucking her hips under him to create more friction. It felt good, but she knew she wasn't going to orgasm.
"Are you gonna come?" he asked after he'd kept up his ministrations for a few minutes, and she shook her head.
"No, too much alcohol," she whispered, bringing a hand up to play with her other breast. He nudged her hand away with his nose to suck that nipple into his mouth. "But it feels good. I just want you inside me."
He groaned in response, pushing his fingers back inside her, hard. She cried out, but he withdrew his fingers to tease her lips, spreading her arousal around for lubrication. "You're so wet," he murmured, and she nodded frantically, helping him remove her panties.
"Are you hard yet?" she panted, and he nodded as he settled back between her thighs; his erection brushed against her thigh, and she opened wider for him. He wasted no time pushing into her, eliciting guttural moans from both of them. He thrust a few times before she pushed on his chest to stop him. "No, wait, from behind." She was feeling particularly needy and demanding right then, thanks to the alcohol and the frustration that had been mounting all week.
Peeta pulled out of her and waited for her to twist onto her stomach, spreading her legs again so he could push back into her. Grabbing his pillow, she stuffed it between her body and the bed to elevate her hips some. Peeta lay flush against her back as he fucked her, his weight propped up on his forearms on either side of her.
"You are amazing," he whispered against her ear, awed. Katniss buried her face against the mattress, stifling her moans every time he thrust into her.
"Oh god, that feels good, Peeta," she gasped. He grunted, moving faster. She squeezed her walls around his cock, and he bit down on her shoulder. "You feel so, so good. Harder, please."
He complied, the bed creaking loudly with his efforts. His heavy breathing mirrored her muffled moans. "God, I love you, Katniss," he groaned, and she moaned in response. She was too drunk, too gone, to feel any inhibitions regarding her feelings.
"I love you too. So much. Oh, fuck...please, please, please," she pleaded incoherently as she pressed her cheek into the mattress harder, squeezing her eyes shut. Peeta grunted, his thrusts growing more frenzied and erratic until he went still with a soft groan, spilling himself inside her.
"Shit, I'm coming," he gasped, and she felt his cock throbbing as he spilled his semen inside her. She kept her eyes closed, reveling in the feeling, but after a moment, he slipped out of her, collapsing next to her. Instinctively, she moved toward him, curling up against his side. He just held her loosely as he gathered his bearings, his chest rising and falling rapidly with his quick breaths.
"Well," he chuckled after a moment. "That was a nice middle-of-the-night surprise." She hummed in agreement, resting her head on his chest. His heartbeat reverberated in her ear, relaxing her.
"Sleepy time," she yawned, closing her eyes. She knew she should get up and clean off, but the exhaustion was creeping in, fast. Peeta wrapped an arm around her shoulders, holding her tighter.
"Okay, but you gotta leave early," he whispered and pulled the blanket up to cover them. He sounded tired, too. "I gotta open the bakery with my dad in the morning."
"Mmhmm," she agreed, already feeling herself drift off.
Katniss wasn't sure what woke her up exactly, but she registered Peeta's gasp a split second before he shot up in bed, knocking her off his chest. She grunted in surprise, squinting at him. "Shit," he hissed, and she frowned.
"What?" she croaked.
But he wasn't looking at her, his gaze trained on the door beyond her. She glanced over her shoulder, her eyes widening at the sight of Mr. Mellark in the doorway. He looked equally as shocked as he stared at them, his hand gripping the door knob. With a delayed gasp, Katniss sunk farther under the covers, hoping all of her body was concealed from him. Oh, fuck.
"Dad—" Peeta started shakily, clutching the blanket to his stomach, but his dad cleared his throat.
"Get dressed, you two. Now. Then come downstairs. We're going to talk about this." Mr. Mellark's face looked ashen as he carefully shut the door behind him. Neither she nor Peeta moved for a moment until he huffed loudly, tugging on his curls.
"Fuck!" he cursed, looking at his clock on the nightstand. "I overslept—I must not have heard my alarm. Fuck."
Katniss was stunned, her brain still too foggy with sleep to really comprehend the situation other than the fact that Peeta's dad had just caught her in his son's bed. But that wasn't exactly that out of the norm for her, right? "Do you think—I mean, maybe he doesn't—do you think he realized we'd had sex?" she asked.
Peeta reached across the bed to grab her bra and panties, which had been forgotten about after she'd stripped them off, shooting her a look when he handed them to her. "We're naked. Yeah, I'm sure he figured it out."
Her face paled as her stomach dropped. Fuck. This was not how she'd ever wanted their parents to find out about her and Peeta. "Oh god," she whimpered, pulling the covers over her head. Her head was throbbing with a headache, and she wasn't sure if it was fear or the alcohol making her stomach churn. She felt the bed shift as Peeta climbed out and got dressed.
"Come on, Katniss," he said quietly. "I guess they were bound to find out eventually."
Defeated, she hid under the covers as she slipped her underwear and bra back on, then she crawled out of bed to put on the rest of her clothes. She made an attempt to smooth down her hair, but she and Peeta had a hard time looking at each other as they left his room and headed downstairs. Her heart was pounding as they found Mr. Mellark in the kitchen. He had a stern look on his face, and she hid behind Peeta.
"Sit," he commanded, gesturing to a couple of bar stools. They obeyed without question, sitting in silence until he sighed, rubbing his temple. "How long has this been going on?"
Peeta coughed a little. "Um, what do you mean by this exactly—"
"You know what I'm talking about," his father cut him off, an edge to his voice. Peeta cleared his throat.
"Ah, I guess..." He glanced at Katniss, but she kept her eyes down, her cheeks filling with warmth. "A little before Christmas."
Mr. Mellark made a noise in the back of his throat. "Are you two being safe?"
Oh god, she didn't think it was possible to be any more embarrassed, but she'd been wrong. "Of course, dad," Peeta stressed, an almost adolescent whine to his voice.
"Good," his father said. Then he sighed. "I'm not particularly thrilled to know that my teenage son is having sex in my house—with my fiancee's teenage daughter, at that. But I guess realistically speaking, I'm not surprised. Well, I'm kind of surprised. A lot surprised, actually, that it's the two of you—why didn't you two mention you were dating?"
Katniss risked a glance at Peeta; his face was red and chagrined. He shrugged. "We didn't...I mean, with you and Katniss' mom, it just seemed...imprudent to mention. And then you guys announced your engagement. We didn't know what to do."
Mr. Mellark sighed again, rubbing a hand over his face. "I guess this is kind of a pickle, huh?" he mused. "I need to talk to Florence, I think."
Katniss' eyes widened. "You're gonna tell her?" she asked fearfully, and he pinned her with a look.
"I kind of have to, don't I?" He didn't wait for an answer to his rhetorical question. "Peeta, take her home. And then get on over to the bakery. I'll see you there." He walked off, leaving them at the kitchen island. They exchanged weary looks.
"Well..." Peeta started, swallowing thickly. "I guess...the cat's out of the bag now. Maybe that's a good thing."
She didn't know. She scratched absently at the tile on the kitchen island with her fingernail. "How do you think my mom's gonna react?"
"I have no idea. I hope she doesn't flay me alive for defiling her daughter, at least..." he trailed off, and she pursed her lips together. Her mother hadn't been thrilled to learn her oldest daughter had been having sex, but she was the one to put her on birth control. She couldn't get too mad, could she?
The fact that it was Peeta, though—Katniss couldn't figure out how her mother was going to react to that particular piece of news.
With a groan, Peeta stood up from his stool. "Let's go. I gotta get to work. This is gonna be a fun day." Hopping off her own stool, Katniss shuffled behind him out the door without another word.
Katniss was glad she had to work all day at the movie theater and wouldn't be at the house when her mother got home from the hospital. She had no idea when Mr. Mellark was going to talk to her mother, and she periodically received texts from Peeta throughout the day.
Fuck this is awkward.
He's barely spoken to me.
I can't tell if he's disappointed in me or just still in shock.
His texts just riled her up even more as she anticipated her mother's response. She was almost relieved that everything was out in the open, though—she just would have preferred to have a better game plan instead of waiting for their parents to dictate the moves.
When she got home that evening, her stomach dropped at the sight of her mom's car in the driveway. It was now or never, she guessed. Quietly, she slipped into the house, hoping against hope that her mother had decided to nap right then, but she nearly screamed out loud when she heard her name being called from the kitchen.
"Katniss, get in here," her mother ordered solemnly. Stifling a defeated sigh, Katniss wandered into the kitchen. Her mother sat at the kitchen island, studying her daughter intently. She knew.
Fuck. Katniss swallowed hard. "How was work?" she asked, hoping to distract her, but Ms. Everdeen was having none of it.
"Why didn't you tell me you were having sex with Peeta?"
Katniss froze, unprepared for such a blunt question. The tone of her mother's voice left no room for arguing. Suddenly, her mouth felt dry, and she tried to swallow again. She was actually getting kind of annoyed with that question. Wasn't it obvious why they hadn't told anyone? "Well, you and his dad..."
Her mother furrowed her eyebrows. "But I tried to ask you before if you were okay with this, if you and Peeta—"
"We weren't doing anything then," Katniss said, exasperated. "It happened...after. And then you two were getting serious and then you were engaged, and what could we say?"
"Katniss." Her mother's voice was stern. "I don't expect you to tell me everything; I get that you're a teenager, and you like your privacy, and I understand you still harbor some resentment toward me from when your father—"
"I don't resent you," she insisted defensively, and her mother held up her hand.
"But I'm a nurse. And your mother. Your safety and health are my number one concerns. I'm not trying to encourage particular behaviors at this age, but I just don't like being blindsided by your sexual activity after the fact. Do you understand? I'm not trying to judge you, but I just want to make sure, first and foremost, that you and Peeta are being careful."
Her face burned in embarrassment. "Yes, we are," she mumbled. Her mother sighed in relief.
"Okay, good. Now that that's out of the way—honey, how serious are you about Peeta?"
"What do you mean?" she asked, trying to stall. She had enough trouble confessing her feelings to Peeta, the person she felt them for; talking about them so honestly with her mother was uncomfortable.
"Do you love him?" her mother clarified, holding her gaze. "And I don't mean as a friend or as family—I know you care for him deeply—but are you in love with him?" Katniss felt her breath stutter in her chest, and it took her a moment to force the answer out.
"Yes," she whispered weakly. Her mother nodded resolutely.
"And he's in love with you, I assume?"
Katniss nodded, folding her arms across her stomach to try to futilely calm her nerves. Her mother didn't speak for a moment before she sighed. "Okay, well, I guess Faren and I need to talk again."
Katniss cleared her throat. "What are you...what are you two gonna do?" she asked nervously, but her mother shrugged.
"I don't know. He was going to talk to Peeta after work, and then we were going to discuss this further. I'll let you know, okay?" she said, standing up. Katniss just nodded as her mother passed by her and squeezed her daughter's arm before heading up the stairs. Katniss released the breath she was holding before drawing in another shaky one.
She guessed that wasn't so bad after all. But now she was going to be a nervous wreck until their parents talked again. With a pitiful groan, she dragged herself up the stairs to her room to text Peeta and find out how his talk with his dad had gone.
Katniss hadn't slept well the night after her talk with her mother, so she spent the majority of Sunday afternoon napping. She was groggy when she woke up but hungry, so she stumbled down the stairs to find something to eat. She was shocked to find Peeta, Mr. Mellark and her mother in the living room and pulled up short at the bottom of the steps. Her mother turned when she heard the floor creak.
"Oh, I was just going to wake you," her mother said, gesturing for her daughter to join them. Flustered and half-awake, Katniss hesitated before forcing herself to walk toward them. Their parents' faces looked serious, but Peeta regarded her sheepishly, his hands stuffed in his pockets. Mr. Mellark and Ms. Everdeen circled the couch to stand in front of it, and when Katniss stepped in front of Peeta, she narrowed her eyes at him frantically.
"What's going on?" she hissed under her breath, but he just shrugged, his expression clueless. Stifling a sigh, Katniss plopped down on the couch when her mother indicated her to sit. Peeta sat down next to her, nervously smoothing his palms over his thighs. Katniss folded her arms over her stomach self-consciously, unable to maintain her mom's or Mr. Mellark's eye contact.
"Faren and I talked a lot about this last night," Ms. Everdeen started. "We're really disappointed that neither of you bothered to inform us of your relationship. That shows an incredible lack of respect for us."
Both Katniss and Peeta sank back into the cushions in shame, and Peeta cleared his throat. "Sorry—we thought we were being more respectful by not interfering in your relationship," he muttered.
"Well, lying isn't respectful no matter the reasoning," his father interjected sternly, but his face softened. "But we understand you two were just secretly trying to foster a relationship between us, so your indiscretion can be forgiven."
Peeta made a face, glancing at Katniss from the corner of his eye. "Was it that obvious?"
Both their parents fixed them with amused looks. "We're not oblivious," Ms. Everdeen said, a lilt to her voice. "Well, maybe we were a little blind to what was happening between you two at the same time, but I always had my suspicions. But until you two were willing to admit it to yourselves, there was no way for us to really know, I suppose."
Katniss gnawed on her bottom lip, dropping her gaze to the floor. The two adults sighed, almost simultaneously. "As Florence said, we had a long talk about this and...given the situation and the genuine feelings between you two," Mr. Mellark paused, looking to Ms. Everdeen. She nodded resolutely. "Well, the wedding's off."
Katniss' eyes went wide, and she gawked at them. Peeta's breath hitched in his throat beside her. "What?" she demanded, flabbergasted. Ms. Everdeen smiled slightly at her.
"Look, whatever happens between you two—well, we don't want to stand in the way. You're young, you're in love, and you care about each other greatly, anyone can see that," she said softly. "Faren and I...we've lived our lives, we've had these experiences, but you two are just getting started. And you should be able to explore that. Live and love each other, and find out for yourselves what's going to happen between you two. A marriage between us would probably ruin that, and we just can't in good conscience do that to our children."
Katniss didn't know what to say. She looked over at Peeta, but he looked ashen and guilt-ridden. "Dad," he finally croaked out. "I'm sorry—"
His father held up a hand. "Don't, son. You don't have to apologize for anything." He smiled at Ms. Everdeen, touching her arm lightly. "Florence and I can still date, and we plan to, but a marriage just isn't in the cards for us. And that's okay. I'm much more concerned with your happiness, Peeta. And Katniss'. She's already like a daughter to me. I would be lying if I said I never imagined the two of you eventually getting together and settling down."
They both blushed, Katniss unable to look at Peeta. Her heart was racing. Was this all actually happening? She wasn't sure she could process any of it. "But..." she trailed off, not sure what she wanted to say.
"Things are going to be fine, okay?" her mother, smiling reassuringly at them and squeezing Mr. Mellark's hand. "So don't worry about us. However—don't think our blessing gives you free reign to have sex all over this house. Or his, for that matter."
Katniss was absolutely mortified, but her mother continued, her voice authoritative, "I'd rather my daughter abstain until she's older, but I know that's unrealistic to expect—and we're too late, anyway—but just be careful and diligent about your...activities."
"Yes, ma'am," Peeta muttered while Katniss buried her face in her palms. Mr. Mellark cleared his throat.
"Well, we should let you two talk," he said, pulling Ms. Everdeen out of the living room into the kitchen. After a moment, Peeta released a heavy breath.
"Wow. I can't believe...and they called off the wedding and everything, too."
Finally peeking through her fingers, Katniss looked at him and shook her head. Then she groaned, dropping her hands. "Great. This is another thing Prim's gonna hate me for. She was so excited about them getting married, too."
Peeta laughed incredulously, rubbing his eyes. "I'm sure she'll get over it..." He finally twisted in his seat some to look at her. She met his gaze shyly; she felt weird after everything now. He smiled slightly. "I don't really know what to say after that. Kind of...dumbfounded, I guess. Are you okay?"
She shrugged. "I think so. I'm still processing it all, I think. I don't know what I expected..."
He looked at her doubtfully. "Do you...I mean, are you having second doubts about us?"
She blinked and then frowned at him. "Wait, how are you asking me that when before you were the one who wasn't sure anymore?"
He rubbed the back of his neck. "I'm sorry about that. Just freaked out, I guess. You know I love you, Katniss. I never didn't want to be with you." He tentatively reached across to pick up her hand and hold it in his. Then he grinned wryly at her, and she tried not to melt. "I mean, our parents just called off their wedding for us—I think we're kind of stuck together, anyway."
She scoffed at that, rolling her eyes. "Stuck with me? Please. You should be so lucky, Mellark." He just grinned wider, tugging on her hand to pull her closer. She complied but added as she leaned in, "I guess I'll keep you, though."
He raised his eyebrows as he lowered his face to hers, his mouth hovering so close to hers, his breath warmed her lips. "Well, now that you've got me, what are you going to do with me?"
Her lips flickered in the briefest of smiles before she pressed her mouth to his. Their tongues touched teasingly before she pulled back slightly. "I'd tell you, but I think our parents might be listening."
Peeta just chuckled before he crushed his mouth to hers again.
Follow me on tumblr: fuckingplebe. I've started a sequel to "The Education of Peeta Mellark," for those who are interested, called "The Education of Katniss Everdeen," and that is my next writing project. Not sure when I'll start posting it, but you can check out my blog for a snippet from the first chapter, and I'll keep you guys updated on the writing progress. I'm excited about this story, so hopefully it won't take too long to get the first chapter posted :)