Thanks for all the reviews, follows, and favorites, my beautiful people! I'm so grateful for every single one of you for sticking with me on this little adventure that is Tainted Love. Let the concert fun continue!

Heartfelt thanks to my beta extraordinaire, ct522, who is my own personal Cinna in all things THG related!


Chapter 8- Sometimes the Universe Has to Kick You in the Head Repeatedly

So, did I sit back down on my crate and quietly twiddle my thumbs during the remainder of the 3 Angry Kitties set? Well… no. I did not. I tried to fade into the background after my steamy, rant-filled duet with Katniss, but the fans, both mine and hers, had other ideas.

"Peeta! Kat! Peeta! Kat! Peeta! Kat!" a large majority of the crowd was chanting our names in unison.

I looked at Katniss, prepared for a well-placed knee to my groin, but she appeared surprisingly unperturbed by what could only be considered as me hijacking her set. I leaned into her, and covered our shared mic with my hand, so the crowd couldn't hear what I said next, "Have you got anything I'd know that we could sing together? Then I swear on our next Hijack6 album, I'll be as quiet as a mouse."

"Why do I not believe you? And you know what they say about cats and mice, don't you?" she shot me a meaningful look and laughed like it was ...funny.

Huh. Hadn't expected her to take this so well. She must have had more pot brownie than I thought. Unless….

"You're not going to like...eat me, are you? Isn't that what 'they' say cats do to mice?" I shot back saucily, before I realized what I'd just implied ...Hell, what was I implying? Stop right there, Mellark! You do not want to go there in front of a few thousand people who are looking right at you. The wadded-up-socks-in-the-jeans look went out decades ago.

"Oh, silly Peeta," Katniss leaned into me, so our faces almost touched. Her faintly chocolate-scented breath fanning over my face as she practically purred, "I like to play with my food before I eat it."

"Uh…" That's all I could manage- truly. The tent was actually spinning a little as most of my blood rushed from my head to um… elsewhere.

"The expression on your face is priceless," Kat studied me appraisingly for a moment, "A mix of fear, arousal, and embarrassment. I imagine that's the look you'd have during sex."

"I can't believe you just said that!" I choked out breathlessly, "And at this particular moment in front of a few thousand people. Geez, Kat, cut a guy a break, will you?"

Grinning wickedly she said, "Just try to keep up, Mellark." She signalled to the others on stage she was ready to begin the next song.

Her fingers moved over the keys for the intro to a song that was as seductive as it was iconic. The low, dreamy notes of The Doors, "Light My Fire" filled the tent, holding the crowd in thrall. I distinctly heard Finn woop joyously as his guitar joined in. Katniss began to sing in her sultry, bedroom voice:

You know that it would be untrue

You know that I would be a liar

I couldn't bring myself to look away from her tantalizing lips now uttering words intended to entice the listener into the powerful sexuality of the song. Her quicksilver eyes glowed with a preternatural light when her gaze locked and tangled with mine once more. Picking up her challenge along with her gaze, I leaned in close and sang in low tones:

If I was to say to you

Girl, we couldn't get much higher

Her expressive eyebrows shot up at the last word, which I uttered with a certain irony before we continued to sing in unison, caught in a staring match, neither of us could break:

Come on baby, light my fire

Come on baby, light my fire

Try to set the night on fire

The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end at the way her eyes roved hungrily down my body as her voice interwove with mine to the slow, shivery beat. I could smell the warmed mint and lavender on her heated skin, when she leaned in front of me to adjust a dial on her equipment, and the soft curve of her breast brushed against my upper arm. I barely stifled a groan as a hard little bud pressed back against my bare bicep. Her intake of a startled breath told me she'd felt it, too. We continued with our sensual duet:

The time to hesitate is through

No time to wallow in the mire

Try now we can only lose

And our love become a funeral pyre

Come on baby, light my fire

Come on baby, light my fire

Try to set the night on fire, yeah *

After Katniss and I finished the last line in unison, I was vaguely aware of Finn and Annie driving the song to it's stirring climax, but I couldn't bring myself to look away from the woman standing a hair's-breadth from me at the keyboards, as I fully realized what I'd been fighting all along. I wanted Katniss with a desperation I'd never felt before. I had to have this woman. Soon.

Finnick's lilting drawl broke the spell, "Well, folks, I'll tell ye, who says ye have te take yer clothes off te have an orgasm, eh? Let's hear it fer the lovely and talented Katniss Everdeen and the lucky bastard who got te sing w' her, Peeta Mellark."

For just a moment, Katniss hesitated before looking away from me to smile at the ecstatic crowd. In that tiny sliver of time, I came to know something else. She felt as I did, and I made a vow to myself there and then. Whatever this strange, carnal connection between us was- I knew I was hers, and she was mine. My body thrummed in that knowledge just as though her agile fingers had fluttered over me like one of her keyboards.

The rest of the set and the encores passed in a blur of repressed arousal and frenetic performers' energy. We were tripping lightly down the backstage steps after the last encore when she called to me behind her, "Well, that was interesting."

"Ah-hmmm… yeah," I cleared my throat, which was suddenly as arid as any desert. In unspoken accord we headed for the bins of ice from before, and I dug us both out a bottle of water, before tipping my head back and downing mine in one go.

When I finished, I lowered my chin to find Katniss intently staring in the general direction of my Adam's apple as though she were Eve in the Garden. The mental image of her white teeth nibbling me there had me shifting on my feet restlessly and casting around for anything to distract myself from my state of near constant arousal.

"That set was awesome," I said in what I hoped was an enthusiastic, yet steady voice, striving to break my stare on her lips, "We should do that again sometime. The crowd seemed to like it, that's for sure."

An expression I couldn't name clouded Katniss' features before she said in a clipped tone, "Let's find Cinna. He's performing on the mainstage soon. Time to get these cuffs off." She held up our linked wrists and thrust her hand forward to illustrate her point.

I felt like she'd upended the icewater bin over my head. One step forward and two steps back with this woman. I sighed and fought the urge to scrub my palm over my face in frustration.

"After you," I gestured toward the back entrance of the AppleLive Performance Tent. "Let's hope Cinna actually bothers to show up for his own show. Effie was freaking because he pulled a Houdini earlier, remember?"

Leaving was not to be that easy. We hadn't taken 3 steps when we were suddenly surrounded by a jubilant Finnick, Annie, and Jo all in the throes of that natural high that comes from a successful performance on stage. They were all talking at once, even Annie.

Delly pranced up to me in her Jimmy Choo leopard print boots that were insanely inappropriate for the muddy, damp conditions of the festival grounds, and proceeded to wrap herself around me like a scarf before cooing in my ear, "Oh, Peety, I'd forgotten how sexy you can be up there. Rawrr…" I winced at her playful growl, and drew my head back to narrowly avoid her teeth nipping at my ear.

"Err… Thanks, Dells," I replied absently, while attempting to pry myself from her surprisingly strong arms. I caught Katniss scowling at me for what had to be the millionth time since I'd laid eyes on her in the airplane a scant 24 hours ago.

Gale strode up just then to offer Katniss a tight hug and a kiss. How in the fuck had I forgotten about this asshole? Raging lust had that effect I mused prosaically.

"I've managed to commandeer a golf cart to take us to the Mainstage to find Cinna," Gale announced proudly to the group at large. Tosser.

I cast a glance at Katniss, and she wore a look of decided relief. Fuck.

"Trouble is," Gale continued, "It only seats 6 including the driver, so I hate to break this party up, but…"

"Oh, I need to make sure my kit is dismantled properly, so I'll stay back," Annie offered quietly, "Katniss, you and the others go on, and I'll be glad to oversee our gear,"

"Thanks, Annie," Katniss uttered gratefully.

"That's settled then," Gale began to lead the way to the tent back and the awaiting golf cart.

Looking back, I noted that Finnick had stayed behind and was in deep conversation with Annie, "Hey, Finn- you coming?"

Finn's eyes fell on mine guiltily, "Ah, ye go ahead, Peet. I'll, er, catch up in a bit."

Klaxon-like alarms akin to those one would expect at a nuclear power plant during a melt-down were going off in my head as I shot Finnick a warning, bordering-on-threatening look before my eyes settled on Annie, who was smiling happily up at Finn oblivious to her peril. Just before he broke eye contact with me to smile down at Annie, Finn nodded in subtle understanding that if he in any way hurt that dear girl, he'd answer to me, and it wouldn't be pretty.

Just as we got to the cart with the waiting driver, Gale's mobile began to ring, and he answered it, "Madge, hey babe, did you get those cutters?"

"What?" he stiffened, "You sure? Okay. Okay." He let out a breath and absently pushed his fingers through his dark hair.

There was a brief pause as Gale thought or Marge talked, I was too far away to tell.

"I'll be there as soon as I can. Hang tight," Gale hung up soon after and looked at Katniss and Jo.

"Madge has been in a accident," Gale explained tersely to exclamations of alarm from Katniss and Jo, before he continued, "She's fine. The car is upside down in a ditch, but she's fine. The baby's fine, too, as it's so early. She's a little rattled obviously. Crazy lorry driver ran her off the road. I need to go to her at the hospital. I'll have the cart driver drop me at my car before he takes you to the Mainstage."

"We'll go with you just as soon as…" Katniss began.

"Like that? Please, I have enough on my hands without having to explain to the hospital staff why I brought two people handcuffed together into the emergency ward," Gale replied shortly, "I'll text you when I get there after I see what's what. Get yourself free first, Kat."

Katniss looked like she was going to argue, but then thought better of it. Jo responded, "Gale, go take care of Madge. I got this. I'll get that key from Cinna if I have to hang him by his ankles and shake him until it falls out of his pocket."

We had just dropped off Gale near his car in a parking lot adjacent to the festival grounds when I realized we had an additional passenger in the back bench seat of the cart just behind Katniss and me. Delly. Damn- the woman was like a bad case of a venereal disease that just wouldn't go away. Tamping down on my uncharitable thoughts, I said blandly, "Delly, where can we drop you?"

"Oh, Peety," Delly reached up to pat my arm, "I go where you go. That's what girlfriends do."

"Delly, for the love of all that is holy, please, stop referring to yourself as that, at least in relation to me," I ground out, "I haven't seen you in months, and you and I were never officially together anyway."

"I plan to change that," Delly trilled in an annoying sing-song voice.

I slumped down in my seat and cussed under my breath, "Not if I can fucking help it."

I felt Katniss' angry, hot glare on me, but I didn't bother to look over. As the cart sped towards the Oxegen Main Stage and Cinna with the key, Jo, ever the helpful bitch she was, quipped, "Peeta, I don't think you've introduced me to your girlfriend."

I clenched my fists against the leather seats of the golf cart to keep from reaching out to where Jo sat in the seat in front of me next to the driver and wrapping my hands around her neck, as I practically spit (Okay, maybe I did spit a little.), "Not. My. Girlfriend. Jo this is Delly. Delly - Jo."

Jo looked back at Delly and grinned sweetly, "Pleasure." Oh, so she could be nice to people, just not f-ing me. Why was that I wondered?

Delly giggled and replied in kind. I'd gone my entire life never wanting to harm a woman- until now. Now, in this golf cart, I didn't honestly know which one of the three I'd choose to throttle first if it came down to it. For the rest of the trip we sat in mostly awkward silence punctuated by annoyingly cheerful chatter from Delly, and Jo swapping dirty jokes with our driver. Katniss and I sat stonily in the middle seat not speaking to each other or anyone else.

We finally managed to get backstage at the Oxegen Mainstage after much discussion with security and fervid promises that we weren't crazed stalkers out to handcuff ourselves to Cinna. Pfpt- what a fucking joke that was.

One of Cinna's hits was winding down on-stage when we arrived in the wings. Cinna was a total flake, no joke, but no one could deny he was a brilliant showman. He held the thousands in the crowd in the palm of his hand with his riveting stage-presence and larger-than-life persona. I really felt I should be taking notes as I watched the master perform:

Love is gentle as a rose

And love can conquer any war

It's time to take a stand

Brothers and sisters join hands

We got to let love rule

Let love rule

We got to let love rule

Let love rule*

Cinna happened to look over at us as he was drawing out the word "love." Smiling benignly at us before looking out over the huge crowd once more, he raised his arms in the air and went for the big finish. The crowd went wild in adoration and joyous praise.

"People..." Cinna began, waiting for the crowd to quiet a few decibels before continuing, "My gentle people. Just a moment, please. I have some new and dear friends here with me tonight. I know with your help, we can convince them to come out here and sing a final chorus of this song with us. So, put your hands together and show all that love I know you have in your hearts for Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark of 3 Angry Kitties and Hijack6 respectively!"

Oh, shit! There had to be at least 40 thousand people in the audience. That was a fucking lot of people- even for me. Taking a deep breath as I always schooled myself to do before going out on stage, I started to walk, and came to an abrupt halt when I reached the limit of my tether to Katniss, who was standing frozen, perfectly still, eyes wide in horror. I walked back to her as the crowd began to chant our names in a similar fashion to that of our much smaller venue earlier.

"Katniss! Peeta! Katniss! Peeta! Katniss!" Echoed in the open air like an incredibly loud metronome, while a waiting Cinna extended his arm toward us grandly.

I took the two steps back to stand between Katniss and the crowd and leaned close to her ear so I could be heard when I spoke, "Just breathe," I tilted my head to look in her wide eyes, staring unblinkingly back at me. "It's just like the AppleLive tent- only a few more people, is all." I grinned mischievously at her, "Besides I'm here with you. I'm not going anywhere, and we can do this," I reached down and clasped her hand in mine and held up our linked hands.

"Together?" I asked earnestly, never taking my eyes from hers. Cinna, the riffing instruments of the band, the chants of the crowd all faded to nothing in that moment. It was just us- together.

"Together," she murmured, so quietly I didn't really hear her, but I knew she said it by the way her lips moved.

I lifted our joined hands in the air as we walked out to stand next to Cinna before the roaring thousands, and the band continued the notes of the song we'd heard earlier. A crewmember in black appeared with a mic stand and placed it near Cinna's in front of Katniss and me, and we all sang together:

Love transcends all space and time

And love can make a little child smile

Can't you see this won't go wrong

But we got to be strong

We can't do it alone

We got to let love rule

Let love rule

We got to let love rule

Let love rule*

Even in front of tens of thousands of people I couldn't seem to tear my eyes from the beloved face of the girl whose hand currently clasp my own in a death grip, her eyes flitting to mine every few seconds as she sang the lyrics in her rich, unique voice. I squeezed her hand in mine, pressing her palm to mine before lifting it to my lips for a brief kiss. The next time her eyes lighted on me, she offered a tiny, shy smile just for me that transformed her entire face. She was absolutely stunning. I'd never seen anyone more beautiful in my life. Ever. After repeating the final refrain of the song for what had to be the sixth time, I realized with a sudden lurch in my chest, what I had to do. I was going to follow Cinna and the Universe's advice: I was going to let love rule.

It was a very good, and likely a very intentional thing on Cinna's part, that I was feeling so loved-up during the euphoric applause from the 40 thousand fans, because he leaned over to Katniss and me and said out of the range of the mics, "We've lost the key."


So, we didn't get Katniss and Peeta in bed just yet. I'm so sorry! Next update, I promise! Review if you feel all the love I do in this chapter. Thank you, my beautiful people!

The song sung by Katniss and Peeta accompanied by Jo, Annie, and Finnick is "Light My Fire" by The Doors.

The song Cinna, Katniss, and Peeta sing is "Let Love Rule" by the incomparable Lenny Kravitz, who will always be Cinna to me!

I own neither of these musical masterpieces or anything to do with Mdm. Collins' works!