Katniss Everdeen pressed her face into the pillow, the thunderous scream that ripped from her throat muffling itself against the soft pale blue cotton.

He'd done it again.

Rolling onto her back, she clenched her hands into tight fists that rested by her side, anger and frustration coursing through her like a wildfire. Anger and frustration at him, for not only picking her up late and then treating her like a piece of shit for the rest of the night, but anger and frustration at herself for giving him a second shot.

Assholes like Cato Phillips didn't deserve a first chance really, let alone a second one.

But she'd given him one, at urging from Prim, from Madge, even her mom, that maybe their first date had just been an anomaly. After all, blind dates could sometimes be awkward, be a little weird, especially if neither had been on one before.

No, she shook her head angrily to herself, the date had failed because he was a dick, and she was never, ever, ever going to let Clove set her up on another one again.

Reaching down and plucking her phone from the purse she'd dumped beside the bed, she tapped out a text, having to delete and rewrite words half a dozen times as her fingers bashed forcefully at the screen.

Katniss: M, next time Clove tells me she's setting me up on a blind date, remind me to tell her to go fuck herself. Really. I should have known, coming from her, that it would be a damned failure.

She let it drop onto the mattress, and only had to wait a moment to hear the soft ping in response.

Madge: Ah, shit, Kat, really? It was just as bad as the first time? I'm sorry. I prob shouldn't have told you to give him another go.

Katniss: You're damned right. Gah! I'm so pissed right now.

Madge: What the hell did he do?

Katniss: Let me put it this way. If you ever go out on a date and the guy tries to cop a feel of your waitress when he thinks you're not looking, feel free to slug him one. Just...there's no more of this blind date shit for me, ok? I don't need anyone right now.

Madge: I promise there won't be. Scouts honour. I'm sorry it sucked.

Katniss let the phone drop to the floor where it landed on the cream mat with a thud, and flung an arm over her eyes, blocking the thin sliver of moonlight that was filtering through the blind. She couldn't be assed closing them properly right now.

She didn't know why she'd yes to Clove in the first place.

Yes you do, Katniss, it was the group of expectant eyes all staring at you in the work lunchroom as Clove suggested it.

She didn't know why Madge and Prim had encouraged her for another date.

Yes you do, Katniss, because although they'd never say it, you know they don't want you to be the third wheel in their relationships forever.

She didn't know why she'd given him a second chance.

Yes you do, Katniss, because you don't want to be the third wheel forever either.

She sighed, and rolled over again, punching the pillow with more force than necessary to get it comfortable. Either way, it didn't matter. She was 27 years old, had a successful job, had a relatively decent apartment for the first time in her life, and she didn't have to eat peas anymore if she damn well didn't want to. She was done with blind dates, Internet dates, speed dates, any kind of date. And if she didn't want to be a third wheel, then she'd just damn well stay at home.

She envisioned she had a lot of dates with Netflix in her future, and she didn't care one bit.


"Miss Everdeen?"

"Yeah?"

"Um, there's a guy standing at the door."

Katniss' head whipped up from the book she was quietly reading at her desk, towards the door where, through the square window, she could see there was indeed someone standing. From this far away, and with her reading glasses on, all she saw was a blur of blonde hair. Yanking the black framed glasses from the bridge of her nose - she still wasn't completely used to them and hated the fact that she had to wear them at all - she stood up, glanced at the clock and stalked over to the door. She rested a hand on the knob before turning back to face the room.

"You have five minutes, guys, then those science tests are all mine. Don't screw about." She yanked open the door and stepped outside, leaving it open just ajar. She could already hear the murmurs starting, and she sighed. "Can I help you?" She asked bluntly, and glanced up into the face of the intruder.

Shit.

"Uh, yeah. I'm looking for the auditorium, but I'm pretty sure I took a wrong turn." The accompanying grin was almost bashful, blue eyes twinkling with both nerves and laughter, and Katniss swallowed heavily.

She hadn't seen him before. He was obviously new, maybe even fresh out of university. He wasn't exceptionally tall, but that would be the last thing you'd really notice of him anyway. You'd be too busy looking at the broad shoulders, the legs that looked too damn good in jeans and...well, she wasn't going to think about those eyes twice.

She couldn't ever remember being so dumbstruck in her life.

She cleared her throat, aware that silence was lingering, and pointed to her left. "If you came from Principal Paylor's office, you needed to turn left instead of right at that corridor back there. You'll find it if you keep going straight ahead. Now if you'll excuse me-" she started to turn back to the door, but paused as his hand rested on her arm.

"Thanks, ah...?"

She sighed. Great. The cute guy had just ruined himself by wanting to chat. "Miss Everdeen."

"Thanks Miss Everdeen," he replied formally with a grin. "I'm Mr Mellark, the new art teacher."

"Of course you are," she replied with a thin-lipped smile. "I teach sciences, and right now I have a bunch of kids being little shits back there because I'm out here, so..." She trailed off and began to open the door. "I hope you find the auditorium, Mr Mellark." She closed the door behind her, ignoring the smile that still graced his face, and fixed her students - who were now sitting quietly, only sneaked grins to each other giving them away - with a glare. She shook her head and rolled her eyes at the same time as giggling erupted.

"C'mon guys. You really think I'm that stupid? I know you were talking all the way through that. Hand those papers back now." She held a hand out as she made her way around the classroom, collecting each paper as she went, and she had to suppress a grin. These kids might drive her nuts some days, but in this class, they were the snarkiest ones she knew. She loved their sass, their unapologetic grumpiness, the way their scowls greeted her on the way in, and their smiles said goodbye as they went out. They pretty much loved her for the same reasons.

Katniss Everdeen had never imagined being a teacher, but now she couldn't think of anything else she would ever want to do.

Moving back to her desk, she opened the drawer, shoving the papers inside before locking it with the key that jangled against two other charms on a long chain that ended just below the valley of her breasts beneath her shirt. It was lunch, which meant Clove, she of the bad blind-date set up and Capitol High School's resident running coach, was going to get an earful. Or the cold shoulder which, Katniss admitted, she did so much better than a verbal spar.

She grabbed her bag and walked down the corridor, a slim woman with long ebony hair that, no matter how it started in the morning, would always be in a braid by the time she returned home. Silver eyes, inherited from her father, that were quiet and soft until she got angry or excited. And then they sparked like a bolt of electricity, bright and fiery and intense.

At least, that was what a fleeting potential hook up once told her when he was trying (unsuccessfully) to get into her pants.

Pushing open the door, she took a quick glance around the half empty staffroom, noted Clove by the coffee machine, and moved towards the small table by the window. There was no point in her going to Clove - the short brunette would undoubtedly come to her.

"Hey Katniss!" The voice was high pitched, a little nasal, and right on cue. Good, Katniss thought, she has a cold. Serves her right. "How did the date go?"

Katniss glanced up, eyebrow raised, as she unwrapped the boring sandwich she'd packed for lunch. "Never again, Clove. Never again. Seriously. I mean it."

"Really? Why?" Clove seemed genuinely surprised, and sat across from Katniss. She had to sigh - she didn't really like Clove on the best of days, let alone having to talk to her about shit like this. She took a huge bite of bread and cheese and ham, and took her time chewing and swallowing.

Simply because she knew having to wait would piss Clove off.

She finally swallowed, and sighed. "Because, like I thought the first time, Cato is an asshole. It wasn't any better than the first date. And if you're so intent on setting him up with someone, why the hell don't you go out with him, if you think he's that fabulous?" Clove's mouth dropped open, and she blushed. And for the first time, Katniss clued in. "Oh, wow, you want to, don't you? Why the hell are you pushing him onto-"

"Katniss!" She heard her name carried across the room, and looked over to see Madge rushing in the door, her blonde hair flying. Madge was her closest friend at the school, and Katniss had to say it wasn't necessarily the prim and proper and polite Madge that had appealed to her when she had started at the school two years earlier.

It was the one who had a penchant for telling the dirtiest jokes Katniss had ever heard.

The pretty music teacher fell into the final spare chair and dumped her bag on the floor, barely glancing at a still blushing Clove. "You will NOT believe what I just saw!"

"Madge, you know I hate this game. Just tell me."

Madge rolled her eyes, and rested her elbows on the table edge, cupping her chin in her hands. "I just saw the hottest teacher to have ever graced these halls. And as a soon-to-be married woman, I can't have him. Katniss, I need to introduce you to the new art teacher-"

"Mellark," Katniss interrupted, and sat back in her chair. Madge's mouth dropped open in surprise. "I've already seen him and while yes, he's good looking for sure, he's too young for me. And I already told you on Saturday night," she said pointedly, shooting a glare in Clove's still oblivious direction, "I don't want anything like that. I don't want to be set up, I don't want any dates, I don't want anything. I'm fine."

"Heh," Madge replied with a smirk. "You said he was good looking."

"Ugh, whatever." She pushed her chair back, stuffing the rest of the sandwich in her mouth before tugging the strap of her bag over her shoulder. "I'm gonna go...mark exams or some shit. Alone. On my own. The way I want it."

Madge just grinned. Clove didn't even notice she'd gone.


So he was cute.

It didn't even matter.

He was younger than her.

He was another teacher.

She didn't want a relationship right now.

She didn't even want a date.

But it didn't stop her from glancing at his ass as she watched him on stage in the auditorium during her lunchbreak, laughing with three students as they unfurled a large roll of material, which from this far away just looked like swirls of orange on white on pale peach.

Peeta Mellark been there for 3 months already, and had injected a breath of fresh air into the art department. He'd not only reinvigorated a curriculum that hadn't been updated since before Katniss was born, but had also gotten involved in the school play, designing the sets with a half dozen students - most of whom were Katniss' as well, and who had been bugging her for weeks to look at their project.

She'd made up every excuse in the book, until Madge had suspiciously queried why she was being so stubborn. And because she didn't want to admit that the new art teacher - who she'd confirmed was fresh out of university - had occupied one or two or ten dreams that had had Katniss needing a cold shower when she awoke, she finally relented.

But now she was here she kind of regretted it, because she couldn't stop looking at him and thinking about putting her hands on his ass. It was ridiculous. She was a grown woman, and she was better than this.

She sighed. No, apparently she wasn't.

Katniss had only spoken to him on that one occasion; otherwise they had only had a fleeting hello in the hallway, a nod of the head in the staffroom. He'd attempted to strike up another conversation with her one afternoon as they'd both been leaving at the same time, but she'd lost the quick words she'd had for him the first time they'd met - her tongue had tied and tangled until he'd smiled at her awkwardly and excused himself.

She'd never felt like a bigger fool.

"Hey Miss Everdeen!" She shook her head as she heard a voice call her name, and she looked up to see Rue waving at her from the stage. She lifted a hand awkwardly in return, and made her way down the centre path to the foot of the stage.

"Hey Rue. This is looking really good. Worth the extra credit, huh?"

Rue - a senior with a shock of wayward curls, pretty brown eyes and mocha skin - nodded happily, then slid her eyes across to Peeta, who had moved up a ladder and was now fixing the draping of fabric across a large wall at the back of the stage. "Very worth it," she giggled, and Katniss had to hold herself back from rolling her eyes.

Good lord, the students as well?

"What do you think?" he suddenly called from his lofty height, looking down to Katniss and Rue. Katniss studied the silky fabric, falling gently and shimmering under the bright stage lights.

"It...it looks like a sunset," Katniss said, surprised. While the wall itself had also been painted various shades of orange, it was the rippling effect of the material that made it come alive, made it real. The guy knew what he was doing.

"Then I've done my job," he grinned, and skipped the final few rungs of the ladder, jumping to the floor with a thud. The other two girls who'd been assisting had moved to the side of the stage and tittered to each other as he wiped his hands on the back of his jeans and stopped beside Katniss and Rue.

"What's the performance again this year?" Katniss asked.

"It's one the school hasn't done before, one based on a recent YA book. I heard Cress- I mean, Miss Jones, had to do some serious convincing to get them to agree, but she got it in the end. Rue here has a starring role," Peeta nudged the young girl in the shoulder, who grinned, before she caught the other girls gesturing her over.

"Ugh, sorry Mr M. I have to go. You're right with the rest?"

"I'm fine, Rue. Everything else can wait til after school. Thanks for your help." Rue nodded, grabbed her bag and shot off out the side doors, waving over her shoulder, with her friends in tow.

With a jolt of realisation, Katniss found herself alone with the blonde art teacher.

She shuffled her feet a little, desperate to look at her watch, and make an excuse like Rue had. But she couldn't, simply because she knew she was an awful liar, and he'd know. He'd just know. So she stood, and glanced around the stage as if completely enthralled by the set.

"I've never seen you in here before," she heard him comment, and she glanced back at him. He was smiling just with the left side of his mouth, the smallest dimple popping in his cheek. He'd shoved his hands in the back pockets of his jeans, his knee bent and his posture relaxed; Katniss marvelled at how self-assured he seemed for a 23 year old.

23, Katniss, you know he's 23.

"I, uh, I've been really busy. Lots of exams to mark. But, uh, Rue had been asking me for a while to check in, she seems really excited by it."

Peeta nodded enthusiastically. "Rue's great. She's very talented, and unlike some other students, she's not a prissy bi- erm..." he blushed, and Katniss almost laughed.

"It's ok. I know what you're trying to say," she replied with a smile.

"Yeah, there are times when I forget that I need to be careful about what I say now I'm gainfully employed," he said ruefully.

"The pitfalls of being a teacher," Katniss joked, and he laughed. He slid his hand from his jeans pocket and glanced at his watch, before grimacing.

"I'm sorry, I actually have to go too. I'm catching up with Cressida about rehearsals this weekend - somehow not only have I signed up for the set design, but I'm also a chaperone for rehearsals. Something about hoping to avoid the kids making out in the dressing room or something." He walked to the edge of the stage and jumped off it, before turning back to her. "But, uh, it's been nice talking to you, Miss Everdeen. Drop by whenever you like." He tipped his head, and had walked halfway up the path before she cleared her throat enough to call out to him.

"Mr Mellark?"

He twisted first his head, then his body around, before beginning to walk backwards. "Yeah?"

"You can call me Katniss."

He smiled. "Then drop by whenever you like, Katniss."

She watched him walk out, then slapped a palm to her forehead.

What the hell was she doing?


It happened so subtly that she didn't notice it at first. She would see him occasionally in the staffroom, and he would say hi and ask how Rue was going in her science classes. It became a habit for her to ask after the play if they both happened to be in the administration centre, or if they shared detention duty. They would have a quick chat over the potentially life ending staffroom coffee after a staff meeting.

Then suddenly they were eating lunch together every time they had the same period off, and she would find herself wandering down to the auditorium on Wednesdays to watch rehearsals once her last class had finished. Nothing had ever moved beyond friendly - she made sure of it, because she absolutely didn't need to make a bumbling fool of herself - but somehow, in the matter of a couple of months, they had become friends.

Over shared sandwiches - his turkey and cranberry on rye concoction beat hers hands down - they discovered a shared love of the same music, opposing views on Marvel movies (she hated them, he loved them, to no surprise), and had had a viciously heated discussion when he had almost spoiled season three of Game of Thrones for her. He'd offered for her to go to his place to watch it so she could catch up, but she'd declined, blushing red and thinking there was no way in hell she could watch that with him in the same room.

Madge had commented on their growing closeness a number of times, but Katniss had finally snapped at her to shut the hell up. She thought it may have given the game away, but it hadn't been mentioned since.

"Katniss? Earth to Katniss?" Peeta waved a hand in front of her face to get her attention, and she shook her head, startled. "Where'd you go?"

"Uh...just going through the answers in my head to the exam my eighth graders have on Monday."

He shook his head. "So serious! Come on, think about fun stuff. What are you doing this weekend?"

"I dunno, it's still two days away," Katniss shrugged. "My sister wanted me to go shopping with her, but then we both remembered I hate the mall, and then her roster changed so she couldn't come here anyway. So...nothing I suppose. What about you?"

He gestured with his arm, out towards the stage where two dark haired girls rolled across the wooden floor, in a fairly good impression of a fight. "Rehearsals are my life. Although I'm glad I stepped forward - it's great - I have had zero social life the last 5 months as a result."

"You only have 2 more weeks of rehearsals though, right?"

"Yeah. I guess that puts an end to these clandestine meetings between us, huh?" He nudged her shoulder with his, and she had to grip the handle of the seat at the blast of heat that imploded on her skin at his touch.

Get over yourself, Katniss.

He suddenly held his hand up excitedly. "If you have nothing on, you can always come to the rehearsal. It's our first run through with costumes, gives you an insider look. Plus you can be a little more objective and honest, because right now we all just think everything is amazing in it." She felt the grimace almost involuntarily creep over her face, and watched as the excitement in his eyes faded. "You don't want to come?"

She couldn't deal with the level of hurt in his voice - over a damned play! - and shook her head. "No, no, I'd...I'd love to." Dammit. "What time?"

"It starts at ten," he told her, then pushed up off the seat - don't look at his arms, Katniss, don't look at his arms - stretching as he did so - oh god don't look at his back, don't look at his back. "I'll see you later?"

"See you later," she echoed.

She already knew a Saturday morning in an auditorium with a bunch of teenagers and Peeta Mellark was a bad idea.


Friday morning started like any other.

Until 5th period, when Clove was waiting outside her classroom door, bouncing around erratically. And considering the only bouncing Clove normally did was on the spot before a run, Katniss knew something was up.

She didn't expect the gaudy looking bauble that graced Clove's ring finger as she waved her hand enthusiastically in front of Katniss' face.

"...And if you hadn't been so not his type, we never would have hooked up and oh my god I never expected this and I mean we've only been dating for 5 months, but it's so right..." She vaguely heard Clove's words - to be honest they were so unlike the normally bitchy, sarcastic ones Katniss was used to hearing from her that she was almost suspicious this Clove was a pod person - but she wasn't ingesting them. Not properly.

Even god-dammed Clove Anderson could find a guy, and here she was mooning over a boy like a love-struck teenager.

"Wow, that's great, Clove. I'm really happy for you and the ass- Cato. You and Cato," She replied, once Clove's babbling had ceased. She smiled, a thin-lipped, brittle one and turned on her heel, heading towards the music rooms. She couldn't even begin to describe how she was feeling, but she knew she was going to need a Saturday night date with Madge, a rom-com she could ridicule and a mountain of Ben and Jerry's.


"I just don't want them to change me, if I'm going to die I still want to be me."

Katniss stared at the stage, not wanting to look away. These kids – and they were only 16 or 17, for crying out loud - were good. She was completely sucked in.

The play, she was certain, was going to be a hit.

"What do you think of it?" She felt the warm breath at her ear, and she grit her teeth as it sent a tremor down her spine. She turned to see Peeta crouched beside her, his arms full with a box that looked like it contained nothing but rocks. His blue eyes shone with excitement.

"They're terrific, the rehearsal is going really well," she admitted. "And the sets look great."

"Thanks," Peeta grinned. "I'm really happy with it all. Makes me feel like a proper artist."

"You want to be a proper artist?" she asked.

He shook his head. "Nah. I'm pretty good with painting, but I need to be out there, interacting with people. I found if I locked myself up in the studio for too long, I went a bit nuts." He glanced up at the stage, watched the two teenage love interests continue to read through the scene, and indicated with his head towards the auditorium doors. "I have another box back here that I need to take back to my classroom. Do you think you could grab it for me?"

Katniss shrugged and rose from her seat. "Sure, why not?"

She moved up the path beside him, picking up the box on the way, and followed him to the art room he occupied just down the hall. She'd never stepped inside, and was surprised at how immaculate it was. The walls were covered in bright pieces of artwork, and a number of small sculptures rested on a low-lying cabinet, but otherwise, it looked like any other old classroom.

"I, uh….this wasn't what I expected," she announced, dumping the box on his desk and resting against it. "It's so….normal."

Peeta laughed. "Yeah, this isn't where the action happens. We do all our work through there." He pointed to a door at the other end of the room. "This is just for exams and attendance and all that boring stuff." He put his box in the corner of the room, and followed suit with the one she had carried, before returning and sitting on the desk beside her. "Thanks for your help."

"Not a problem," she replied. Her heart pounded in her chest – this was the first time she'd been alone with him, and oh god, he smelt good. She needed to think of something, anything to stop herself from…

"So I-"

"What-"

They both laughed awkwardly as they talked over the top of the other, and Katniss gestured towards him. "You first."

"I was just going to say that I've really enjoyed getting to know you better the last few months."

Uh-oh.

"Uh, yeah. Me too," Katniss replied warily.

"I mean, you've made me feel really welcome here."

"Erm, I'm glad….."

"I mean, the students kept talking about how great you are, and I was hoping to get to know the elusive Miss Everdeen a little more after our first meeting, and then you walked into the auditorium…." She turned to him then, wanting to try and determine where he was going with this.

He looked nervous, a little wary. His fingers were tapping out a rhythm on the desk, only millimetres from hers. The room suddenly felt stifling, felt like all the air had been sucked out of it. He'd never been so god-damned attractive.

Oh what the hell, she thought, and reached up, yanking at the front of his shirt and pulling his mouth to hers. Not even his yelp of surprise stopped her.

It was so long since she'd done this, so long since she'd felt someone's lips on hers that she worried she was doing it wrong. But she figured she was doing ok when she felt his arms slip around her, pulling her to him so she was crushed against his chest, his tongue teasing and tangling against hers. She heard a moan and would have been mortified to know it was her, if she'd even realised.

His hand slid up the back of her shirt, fingers dusting and kneading against the bare skin. She didn't even put up a fight when he managed to lay her down across his desk, didn't even complain when a pencil dug into her back.

All she knew was that this was glorious, and she never wanted to let him go.

Lips danced across collarbones, hands fought against clothing that stood in their way. She felt him, hard against her thigh, and her legs shifted almost involuntarily so that he was cradled between them. They both let out a hiss at the contact, and Katniss looked up at him almost in shock.

His eyes were the deepest blue she'd ever seen, hooded and full of what she could only assume was lust. He eyed her hungrily, like she was water and he was dying of thirst.

Water.

H2O.

Science.

Teacher.

He was meant to be chaperoning.

He's young.

Oh my god.

She sat up with a yelp, pushing him off her so he stumbled backwards, bumping into a tall filing cabinet. His mouth opened in shock, but she beat him to it, scrabbling at her blouse so that it sat properly.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry, that was so inappropriate, and I'm sorry. Oh god, you're a teacher…." she babbled to herself, unable to look at him. He strode back to her, breathing heavily, and lifted her chin with his hand.

"I wanted that too, Katniss. Don't brush this off. I've wanted you for so long, I've wanted to tell you for ages-"

"Don't!" she snapped. "This is so wrong! You're so young! And-"

"Young? I'm, like 4 years younger than you, Katniss. What the hell does that have to do with anything? And there's nothing at this school that says we can't date."

"I know, but….." she ran her hands through her hair, trying to turn away, but he wouldn't let her. "I'm no good for you, Peeta. I suck at relationships and dating, and I've got baggage and…ugh. Just….I can't." Her eyes looked up at him pleadingly, and after a moment he let her go, his hands dropping to his sides as his eyes filled with hurt.

She fled from the room, leaving him – and her dignity – behind.

She needed that ice-cream more than ever now.


"And it's not even like I want the asshole, her announcement just threw me for a loop. It's just...It's been like 6 months since I went on a date. And..."

Madge shoved the spoon in the quart of cookie dough, and placed it on the coffee table between them. She'd readily agreed to spending her Saturday night at Katniss', considering Gale was having a poker night and she had no desire to play beer wench. She tucked her hair behind her ear and looked at Katniss straight on.

"You asked us not to. I specifically remember you pretty much put an embargo on dating, so we had to respect that."

Katniss shrugged. "I know, I know. But..." She twisted her braid around her hand and tugged. "I dunno. I can't explain it. It was just weird when Clove started giggling like a valley girl." She looked up guiltily, and before she even realised it, the words were tumbling out. She'd been hanging onto them all afternoon, hadn't been able to get the images of them together out of her head. "I kissed Peeta Mellark while I was at play rehearsals today."

Madge practically fell off her chair. "Holy crap, Katniss! Way to spring that on me!"

"Don't make a big deal out of it," Katniss warned, cringing. "It was an accident. I kissed him, I apologised, and left."

"What?! Why? Why did you apologise? You've never done anything like that before, you know, made the first move, and the guy is hot!"

"He's 23, Madge!"

"So fucking what? He's nice, a great teacher, has a fine ass and he's...ugh, Kat, I'm not even going to get into that any more. Who cares if he's 23?"

"I do," Katniss said stubbornly, spooning another bite of ice-cream into her mouth forcefully. "And he's a teacher anyway."

"I repeat, so?"

"This is really annoying," Katniss warned.

"I know," Madge countered, and sighed. "Do you like him?"

Katniss glanced away, unwilling to tell Madge that what she'd felt when he'd pressed her down onto the desk, she'd never felt before. That only the knowledge that his chaperoning was for similar reasons to what they were doing right that minute, was the only thing that allowed sanity to break back through. So she lied.

"Not like that," she said softly. "Not enough to date."

Madge nodded, then leant forward, resting a hand on Katniss' knee. "Look, I know a really nice guy. He's a friend of Gale's. Would you let me organise something? It might...get you out of this funk. It could be fun."

Katniss stared into the carton of ice-cream in front of her, and sighed. Why not? It was better than moping, or thinking about Peeta.

"Fine," she agreed. "And I mean, at least you have better taste than Clove."

Madge snorted. "That's an understatement."


She successfully avoided Peeta all week. There were no awkward conversations, no moments where she had to stare into his blue eyes and remember them hovering above her.

She was surprised how empty her week felt.

But she pushed it aside, and focused on her date with Thom. Thom, she repeated. Dark hair, dark eyes, tall. Quiet. Works with Gale.

This would be fine. At least she'd heard of him before.

She smoothed her hands down the thin, dark green jersey knit of the dress she'd yanked from the back of her closet, and tweaked at the hair she had left unbound. She glanced in the rear-view mirror and dabbed on some lip gloss, making sure the eyeliner she'd applied with a shaking hand - she was useless at that shit, she really was - was still in place. At least she looked half decent.

Stepping from the car, and locking it behind her, she walked briskly over to the door of the restaurant, her short heels tapping on the pavement. It echoed the nervous drum of her heart.

The hostess smiled at her as she walked in, and ran a finger down the reservation listings as Katniss mumbled out the booking. "Ah yes, Undersee, party of two. Your date is already here, Ms Undersee."

"Oh, I'm not….Actually, never mind," Katniss sighed. She wasn't about to explain that she was on a blind-ish date to the hostess. She followed the young girl through the winding restaurant, happy that the table seemed to be at the back, out of the way. There would be nothing more awkward than a blind date in the middle of the restaurant.

"Here's your table, Ms, enjoy your evening," the hostess announced, and returned to the door, allowing Katniss a view of the table.

Holy shit.

"Peeta?" She exclaimed, her eyes wide. The look on his face was priceless, almost exactly a mirror image of what she imagined hers to be. She didn't take her gaze away from him as she felt her phone vibrate in her purse, and as she reached in to fish it out.

She glanced at the message, and swore under her breath.

Madge: Damn right I have better taste than Clove. And you're a terrible liar, btw. Enjoy.