Hi everyone! This is my very first modern day AU multi-chapter fic and I am super excited to share this story with you.
The animal hospital in this story is based off one that I worked at in Boston, Mass so the geography in this fic is based off that as well.
I would like to thank The Amazing Court81981 and the Incredible Pookieh for not only their beta skills, but their encouragement and friendship. Please check out their beautiful fics if you haven't already. ILY guys! Also a special thanks to Court for coming up with the name of this story, if not for her the title would have been Vet!Kat. ;) XoXo
I would also like to thank the kind and talented Ro_Nordmann for making me a stunning banner and cover art for this story! You are the best! XoXo
Just a small disclaimer: This story does take place for the most part in an animal hospital, and sometimes animals will be hurt/sick etc. I promise I will be responsible with my descriptions and will not get graphic. If you have any questions feel free to PM me here or on Tumblr: Streetlightlove1. With, that said I do hope you give this story a chance.
I do not own the Hunger Games, but I do think Suzanne Collins is a genius!
The automatic doors have just started to part as Peeta Mellark wedges himself and the seventy pound bundle in his arms through the front entrance of Mockingjay Animal Hospital. Once cleared, he makes a mad dash to the reception area. It is almost ten o'clock at night, and the lobby is nearly empty aside from a few scattered people and the two women at the front desk.
Peeta runs to the first receptionist he sees, a woman with warm brown hair, striking green eyes, and a mouth that curves down slightly into a frown. If he weren't so frantic, Peeta would normally have noted how attractive the woman was.
"Help!" he begs breathlessly.
"What happened?" the receptionist asks as her eyes flit from the chocolate lab wrapped in a blue blanket in his arms up to his face.
"Mmm.. my dog! He got hit by a car!" Peeta spits out quickly and louder than he meant to. The sound of his rushing blood is all he can really hear and his bottom lip quivers. His breathing is as fast paced and shallow as that of the animal he is holding.
The woman at the counter wastes no time. She picks up the phone in front of her and a second later begins to speak into it. Her eyes never leave the occasionally whimpering dog.
"Hey, we have a canine HBC out here. I'm going to move them to triage one." The woman hangs up the phone and quickly hops off her padded stool, walking out from around the counter.
"Are you a client here?" She asks. When Peeta shakes his head, she reaches back to grab a clipboard from the desk before motioning for Peeta to follow her. The woman leads him into a brightly lit room with an examination table, a large metal cabinet, an IV pole and a couple of chairs.
"Put..." The woman pauses and glances at the animal in Peeta's arms.
"Charlie," Peeta croaks out past the ball of emotion in his throat. The woman gives him a sympathetic smile.
"You can put Charlie on the table. Someone from emergency will be in with you momentarily."
As if on cue, just as Peeta places Charlie onto the metal surface, the door on the opposite wall flies open. A very tall man with dark hair and olive skin rushes into the room, followed by a petite woman with short black hair and overly large brown eyes. Both wear dark blue scrubs, but the man has a stethoscope dangling around his neck.
"Well, I'll get out of your way, but when you get a second could you please fill this out?" The woman from the desk hands Peeta the clipboard. He scans the paper and finds it to be a standard information form. He glances back up to the woman and nods. "I hope Charlie will be okay," she says hopefully. Peeta takes note of the name tag attached to the receptionists shirt.
"Thank you, Annie." The receptionist smiles at him once more and exits the room. When Peeta turns back to Charlie, the dark-haired man is examining the dog's mouth, pressing his finger down onto Charlie's gums. The short-haired woman retrieves a bag of fluids from the cabinet and sets it up on the IV pole. The man looks to Peeta.
"Mr...?" He extends his hand, but waits for Peeta to answer.
"Mellark," Peeta answers, taking the man's hand and shaking it briskly before letting go.
" I'm Dr. Hawthorne," the man says, then gestures to the woman who buzzes around the room arranging supplies next to Charlie on the table. "And this is my tech, Johanna." The woman glances up at the sound of her name; she gives Peeta a quick nod before returning to her previous tasks. When Peeta looks back, he watches as Dr. Hawthorne places the end of his stethoscope to different places on Charlie's chest, listening for a few seconds at each spot before pulling the instrument out of his ears and draping it around his neck once again.
"So can you tell me what happened, Mr. Mellark?"
"Well," Peeta begins as he watches Johanna gently lift one of Charlie's front legs, feeling around the front of it with two fingers. "I go to night classes at Mass Art. Charlie comes with me on Tuesdays because he needs to go out a lot, and no one is home to watch him." Peeta squints as he watches Johanna push a strange needle-like contraption into Charlie's leg, drawing back blood. "We were just leaving for the night." Peeta pauses, feeling a sob collect in the back of his throat. "And I don't know what got into him...he never has energy like that...he's never bolted, but he caught me by surprise...ahh." Peeta's head falls forward; his hands squeezing his head, and he clamps his eyes shut, but not before a few tears slip down his cheeks. "He just bolted across Huntington Avenue and that's when..." Peeta trails off, knowing that if he continues anymore he'll lose it.
"What kind of car was it?" the doctor asks.
"Umm." Peeta tries to speak calmly, but he can hear his voice waver. "It was a smaller car, maybe a Civic or a Focus. I don't know. I didn't get a good look."
"They didn't stop?" Dr. Hawthorne asks and Peeta can hear the edge in his voice. He shakes his head at the man.
"Assholes," Johanna bites out. Dr. Hawthorne glares in her direction, but she blatantly ignores him as she attaches Charlie to the IV bag that hangs on the pole.
"How old is Charlie?" the doctor asks, shining a light into the animal's eyes.
"Lucky number thirteen," Peeta says with a sardonic snort. He catches the doctor and the tech halting their actions to give each other knowing glances.
"Well, Mr. Mellark." Dr. Hawthorne pauses to peek at the thermometer Johanna has just extracted from the dog's rear end. He nods to her before continuing."I can tell you that Charlie has suffered quite a few injuries as a result of this accident, but what concerns me most is that he's in shock. We are going to need to stabilize him first, and then we can figure out the true extent of his injuries. We are going to bring him to the ICU; you are free to wait in the lobby or you can go home and we can call you. Just make sure you fill out that information sheet before you leave." He gestures towards the clipboard gripped tightly in Peeta's hand.
"Is he going to live?" Peeta asks frantically, holding his breath as he waits for the answer. Dr. Hawthorne sighs as his eyes soften.
"Let's just get him through this crisis, and then we'll talk." Peeta's hands begin to shake and lightheadedness engulfs him at the vague statement.
Less than a minute later, the doctor and his tech have taken Charlie out the back door, and Peeta finds himself wandering back into the waiting area like a lost puppy. When he passes the front desk, he catches Annie's eye. She gives him a reassuring smile and he nods a silent 'thank you' back for her efforts.
Peeta entertains the notion of driving all the way back home to Salem for less than a second, but ends up plopping down onto a bench. He's going to stay here as long as he has to, as long as it takes to ensure Charlie is alright. He glances around his immediate vicinity. The lobby is completely empty, save for Annie and the other woman at the front desk. For the first time since the accident, Peeta buries his head in his hands and finally allows the tears to fall.
Katniss Everdeen has been at work since 4 am. Being a surgical resident, she is on call half the week, and early this morning, she was called in for an emergency surgery on a Great Dane with bloat. She managed a nap in her office for about an hour, but the early morning sunlight that breaks through her window splashes onto her face and wakes her. She groans out loud when she sees the clock. 7:15 am. Her next shift starts at eight.
She meanders to the women's locker room on her floor, toothbrush and paste in hand. Once at the sink, she turns on the cold water. She lets it pool in her hands then splashes it onto her face, letting the shock of the frigid water awaken her addled brain. She glances at herself in the mirror, noting the dark bags under her gray eyes, and her normally tanned complexion looking pale. Her black, ramshackled braid, held together by a worn rubber band, hangs unceremoniously over her left shoulder.
"Just eight more months, Everdeen, and then you'll be a staff surgeon. No more 'on-call' bullshit. You can do this." Katniss finishes her pep talk by splashing a second palmful of cold water onto her face before brushing her teeth and heading downstairs to start her shift.
On the way, Katniss walks past the Head of Surgery's office. She glances inside to see him face down on his own desk, snoring. She has not seen him all night and wonders how long he has been here. The convenience store-sized container of Atomic Fireballs he keeps on his desk catches her eye, she walks into his office and snatches two from the red, plastic bin before turning to leave.
"Hey, Sweetheart." She hears his groggy salutation from behind her and turns back towards the man.
"Haymitch, don't tell me that desk is comfier than your bed at home." She laments to herself how she would give anything to be in her own bed right now. Her boss grunts at her.
He gestures for her to leave. "Get to work." She takes the hint, popping a red candy ball into her mouth as she heads out the door.
The surgery office is empty when Katniss arrives, but just like every morning, there is a box of Dunkin Donuts on the desk. She isn't sure who brings them, but they are always there, and on mornings like this they're a god sent. She drops into a worn office chair and chooses her breakfast. She spits the no-longer-hot Fireball into the trash barrel as she picks up a pink-frosted cake donut covered with rainbow sprinkles and bites into it. Half the donut is already gone when she hears someone clear their throat behind her. She swivels to find Gale Hawthorne leaning against the door frame, holding a large manila envelope, his eyes looking just as tired as hers.
"I can't believe you're still here, Hawthorne. What is it going on for you now? Eighteen hours?"
"God, Catnip, don't remind me," he groans. Katniss inwardly grimaces at the nickname given to her by Gale while they were both attending Tufts University.
Katniss remembers the shit her peers would give her whenever she worked with live animals. Anytime a cat came into the clinic, it would assault her affectionately, which led Gale to liken her to the feline stimulant. The name stuck, so much so that address labels attached to Tufts mailings still bear the nickname in quotes between her first and last name.
"So what do you want, Hawthorne?" she asks after snapping out of her reverie.
"Well." He pushes himself off of the doorframe and comes to sit in the chair next to her. "I have a case for you. Thirteen-year-old lab, hit by car last night. Has a pretty nasty pelvis fracture on the body of the illium. The dog also has a torn CCL, but the pelvis obviously needs to be dealt with now. I already spoke with the owner about the possibility of surgery and he was on board, and I already spoke with Abernathy. He said he'd scrub in with you, so if you want it, it's yours."
Katniss can't keep from squealing. Pelvic surgeries were not too common and were almost always done by staff surgeons. It's nearly impossible for Katniss or the other resident to grab a case of their own. Normally the emergency room vets would go straight to a staff surgeon since the residents would need one to scrub in with them anyways. So for Gale to have gone the extra mile, she is truly appreciative .
"Of course I want it, Gale! Thank you," she cries, her voice high-pitched with gratitude.
"Well, I need a favor in return." Katniss narrows her eyes in his direction, waiting for him to continue. "I'm exhausted and we are slammed in emergency. Can you go out and talk to the owner about the surgery, explain the situation to him, since you'll be the surgeon working on his dog? If he gives the okay, Abernathy says we can do it in a couple of hours."
Katniss's least favorite part of the job is talking to clients. Part of the reason she is so good with animals is because they don't expect her to engage in conversation. Interaction has never been Katniss's strong suit. Most of the time her words come out sounding confused and clumsy. Sure, she knows that surgery consults are part of the job—with patients come their humans—but it still doesn't change her complete disdain for forced social activity. Put Katniss in front of an anesthetized animal with a scalpel and she is flawless; put her in a room with people she doesn't know, and she completely shuts down.
Katniss lets out a whine, her mouth turning down into a pout. He smirks at the display and she sighs in defeat.
"Give me the goods." Katniss extends her hand towards her former classmate. Gale smiles victoriously before placing the manilla envelope into her hands.
"The dog's name is Charlie. Those are his x-rays and his ward record. The owner's last name is Mellark— blond guy about our age. He's out in the waiting room"
"Okay." Katniss nods, levering herself out of the chair. She pulls out the x-rays and places them on the viewer in the office. She cocks her head as she examines the pictures of the dog's pelvis.
"Okay, well if you got this I'll see you later, Catnip."
"See you later, Gale," she murmurs absentmindedly, still mesmerized by the radiograph in front of her. "And thanks again." If Gale says anything else, Katniss doesn't notice.
After going through all the information she has, Katniss reluctantly makes her way to the lobby. Once within sight of the waiting area, she scans the people present. She immediately makes eye contact with a brutish looking blond. To her chagrin, he predatorily stares back at her. Her pulse speeds up, and it is not until she sees the German shepherd lying at his feet that she begins to calm down.
She shifts her eyes away quickly and begins to scan the room once again. That's when she sees a very attractive, yet very drowsy blond staring off into the nothingness in front of him. He seems to be close in age to her and he is not accompanied by an animal, so she takes a chance and approaches the man.
She is only a few feet away, and he still hasn't acknowledged her presence. He appears to be completely in his own head. Starting a conversation with a stranger has always been hard for Katniss, and she feels her breathing pick up slightly and her fingertips tingle. She unconsciously clears her throat.
"Mr. Mellark?" she squeaks out, mentally chastising herself for not keeping her cool. The man shakes out of his stare, blinking his eyes rapidly for a brief moment before looking up. Katniss's breath catches in her throat when she find herself gazing into pools of blue so deep she could get lost in them.
"Yes?" The man quirks an eyebrow at her when she doesn't answer him.
Stop staring! Her mind screams, causing her eyes to snap to the floor.
"Ah." Katniss begins to feel her face burn with embarrassment. "Every damn time," she mumbles quietly to herself.
"Is Charlie okay?" She hears the acute panic in his voice.
Great, Katniss, now he thinks his dog is dead. She shakes her head clear before continuing.
"Yes, I'm sorry, Charlie is fine...he's stable...ah." A nervous chuckle escapes her. "Let me start again." She extends her hand. " -Mr. Mellark, I'm Dr. Everdeen. I'm a surgical resident here, and I've been assigned to Charlie's case. I wanted to speak to you about Charlie's condition and about the possibility of surgery." Katniss exhales a shallow breath. The man reaches out, taking her hand in his. It's warm and feels good wrapped around her significantly smaller one.
He smiles warmly at her. "Peeta."
"What?" Katniss, squints her eyes in confusion, unable to determine if her own anxiety is making it hard to decipher words.
"My name...it's Peeta." Katniss doesn't respond right away, making sure she comprehended what he was trying to tell her.
"Peeta." She tests the name out, never having heard it before. She likes the way her tongue clicks the roof of her mouth when she says it. "Well, Peeta, are you up for going over some treatment options for Charlie?" He nods.
Katniss glances around, noticing they are the only ones in this section of the waiting area, so she decides to sit down next to him rather than find an empty room to speak in. She begins to discuss the nature of Charlie's fracture and how it would benefit from a bone plate. She explains the surgery, healing time and prognosis. The whole time Peeta's overwrought eyes are on her, completely nervous by what she's detailing to him. Normally this sort of attention would make her anxious and want to flee. But in this case, each time she glances up and her eyes meet the blue of his, she is fighting a smile, and her cheeks burn.
"Upon examination, along with the fracture to his pelvis, Charlie, also appears to have a partially torn CCL."
"Oh god, what's that?" The same panic she heard in Peeta's voice earlier has returned. She chastises herself for using too much medical lingo, her lack of client contact making her rusty.
"Oh, it's nothing, I mean... in humans, it's known as a torn ACL." She watches the understanding flood his eyes.
"Ahh, like what Tom Brady had?" She tries but fails to suppress the chuckle that builds up in her throat because most guys seem to reference the Patriots quarterback in this situation.
"Yes, exactly!" Katniss watches as his confusion from her laughter turns into a triumphant grin, and she can't help smiling along with him. "This is of course minor in comparison to the pelvis injury so we can discuss treatment options for that once he has recovered."
"And you'll be the surgeon?" Peeta's question seems to demand reassurance, and Katniss is confused by the warmth it elicits in her gut.
"Yes, well, I will, along with the head of surgery, Dr. Abernathy. He'll be scrubbing in with me because I'm a..."
"Good, I'm glad it's you." Peeta has a far-off stare as he talks. He nods to himself before looking back to Katniss. "You seem to know what you're doing, and I..." Katniss watches as Peeta sucks in a shaky breath. "Charlie means a great deal to me, and I need to make sure he's going to be okay." Katniss can see the tears glistening in his bloodshot eyes but easily finds herself becoming distracted by his eyelashes as he speaks. They are dark gold and longer than any she's ever seen. A small voice from behind them breaks her concentration.
"I'm sorry to interrupt, Kat ." Katniss turns to see the small mocha-skinned girl from the front desk.
"No problem, Rue." Katniss smiles, waiting for her to continue.
"Surgery just called and said they need you back there when you're done here." Rue nods to both Katniss and Peeta, and then scurries back to the desk.
"Thanks," Katniss calls out after her then turns back to Peeta. "So I think that's about it, unless you have any questions we can start the..."
"Kat?" Peeta inquires with a lopsided grin. "Convenient name for a vet, wouldn't you say?" His eyes have lit up for the first time since their conversation began. Katniss rolls her eyes and smiles in spite of herself.
"Its a nickname" she grumbles while jokingly narrowing her eyes at him.
"Ah." he says slowly, nodding in understanding. His face knits in concentration as he rubs a finger over the bit of stubble under his bottom lip. "Katherine?" Katniss shakes her head. "Kathleen?"
"Katrina." Another shake of her head.
"Katarina." Katniss snorts out a laugh.
"No." Peeta cocks his head at her, looking completely perplexed. The look on his face is so endearing that Katniss decides to throw him a bone. "It's Katniss."
Peeta nods in acceptance, but the levity of the moment passes quickly, and Katniss can see his earlier anxiety return in full force. Peeta scrubs his face with his hands.
"Sooo," Katniss draws out the word longer than she meant to, wishing she had a way to bring back the man's carefree nature, from moments ago. "If everything sounds good to you, I'll just need you to sign this consent form, and we can get Charlie in surgery in the next couple of hours." Peeta clears his throat, taking the piece of paper from her. Katniss watches his mouth move as he silently reads the form. When he's done, he regards her once again, the earlier playfulness completely gone.
"Do you have a pen?" he asks. Katniss reaches into the pocket of her light blue scrub top, retrieving a black ball point pen. She hands it to him, watching as he inks his signature at the bottom of the page. Peeta hands her back the pen and paper, which she takes before standing up.
"And that should do it. Someone will be in touch with you once the surgery is over and Charlie has woken up." Peeta nods, the lack of sleep, causing his lids to hang heavy over his eyes.
"Thank you, Dr. Everdeen." He smiles kindly at her. Katniss attempts a reassuring smile before turning away. She only gets a few feet away when something spins her back around.
"Peeta," she calls to him. He glances up from his phone that he now has in his hand. "Charlie is going to be fine, I promise." The relieved elation that her words bring to Peeta's face alone seems to be worth making the promise. It's not until she turns around that she realizes what she has actually vowed to do, and it makes her stomach sink.
A thirteen-year-old dog who has been hit by a car. The odds aren't exactly in his favor.
Why did I do that? she scolds herself.
Katniss never makes promises like that to anyone. She won't even give that kind of reassurance to a basic neuter. But Katniss saw the shake in his hand, the worry in his voice and the tears in his eyes when she spoke to him about Charlie's condition. She could see how much he loved his dog, and Katniss felt compelled to give him something.
She just hopes she can deliver.
Thank you so much for reading!