A/N: Thanks to everyone who reviewed/followed/favourited Plus One. Your support and kind words were really appreciated. I'm glad so many of you seem interested in Peeta's outtakes. There will be five and I hope to post them quite quickly.
This is the first one and is set between chapters 3 and 4. Katniss and Peeta have been on their first "date" but there is still some time before the wedding. Hope you enjoy!
Outtake: Sunday Brunch
I sit scanning the brunch menu, pondering whether to have the pancakes or cooked breakfast, while Madge plays about on her iphone. We had arranged to meet Mom at 11.30am but as usual Mom is running late. She believes it is always best to be the last one to arrive. Apparently it creates a sense of superiority.
"I wish she would just hurry up and get here. I've arranged to meet Thom after this," Madge says to me, finally putting her iphone back in her purse.
I lift my gaze up from the menu to smile at her.
"You know Mom. She is never one to take in to account our lives. We all have to work on her schedule," I reply.
Madge sits back in her chair with a huff. She is clearly not looking forward to this brunch any more than I am.
Brunches with our mother are a taxing affair. Just an excuse for her to remind us of all the things we are not achieving in our lives. It's not that she sets out to intentionally criticize us. She just has an overpowering desire for us to be the perfect offspring. And with me being currently single, unemployed and homeless she has plenty ammunition.
"I don't even know why I am here. She clearly is only interested in your relationship with Katniss," Madge sighs as she brings herself into a more upright position.
It is my turn to lean back in my chair and run a hand through my hair.
When I first accepted Katniss's deal to act as her boyfriend I had been totally unprepared for my mother's reaction. Apparently Katniss is the daughter-in-law she has always wanted. Ever since she has found out about our "relationship" she has hounded me with phone calls and questions about the pair of us. She is over the moon that I have found myself such a well rounded girlfriend who she approves of. For the first time in a long time she seems to be proud of me. I will almost be disappointed to let her down and tell her that there is no longer a relationship after Glimmer's wedding.
I on the other hand find the whole situation with Katniss rather amusing. I was completely perplexed when she draped herself all over me when Glimmer came round last weekend. It was almost laughable as she pretended to flirt and be affectionate. I have never come across a person so uncomfortable with the human touch.
However after Katniss explained the whole ridiculous story to me I decided to help her. She is like another little sister to me. She was constantly round at ours growing up, getting up to mischief with Madge. The 3 of us were constantly playing pranks and winding each other work. This relationship has carried on as we have become grownups. I care for her almost as much as I care for Madge and have always looked out for her. Now I am just enjoying watching her squirm as we try to negotiate the terms of our "relationship". She wouldn't be like a younger sibling if I couldn't tease her about her various inadequacies when it comes to dating.
"Just be thankful all the attention will be off you," I eventually reply.
"I still think this whole scenario is ridiculous. I didn't realise both you and Katniss were so desperate," Madge says.
"Come on. We've all be dateless at a wedding. You know how much that sucks. Particularly when it's your family," I try to explain.
Madge just shakes her head and picks up the menu to look at it.
Apart from her odd comment she hasn't reacted too badly to Katniss's and my arrangement. She gives the occasional comment about how crazy she thinks we are but she has reluctantly agreed to play along for now. I know it because she loves us both so much and would do anything to make us happy.
We don't get a chance to say anything further as our mom finally decides to make an appearance. She sweeps into the restaurant with her humongous purse slung over her right arm and designer sunglasses perched on top of her head. Madge and I both stand to greet her and she kisses both of us on the cheek before taking her seat at the head of the table.
"How are you both?" she asks breezily as she sits down. "It's such a shame that your brothers couldn't join us. But I know how busy they both are with the little ones."
Madge and I both give her a forced smile. Our brothers, Bran and Rye, are both married with kids and Mom doesn't like us to forget it. We will both be failures until we can match their feats.
"How are you Mom?" I ask as I flatten the creases out of my shirt and take my own seat.
"I'm absolutely brilliant. Thank you for asking," Mom replies. "But I am disappointed that you didn't bring Katniss with you. I wanted to congratulate you both in person."
I can see Madge roll her eyes opposite me. It didn't take Mom long to bring that up.
"She's really busy with her new promotion," I reply trying to appease her.
"I heard about that. Heath and Alice are very proud. They had us round for dinner to celebrate. But that is still no excuse. Surely she could have spared a couple of hours. I haven't seen her in so long," Mom answers.
"Another time," I say.
This answer doesn't seem to appease her much but she does go to pick up the menu to decide what to order.
"I can't say how pleased I am that the two of you are together now. I have always admired her as you all grew up. She has been a loyal friend to Madge over the years and extremely hardworking. We know she comes from a good background and there are not many girls who would put up with your flakiness when it comes to a proper career. You will never do any better," Mom states.
Madge smirks from behind her menu.
"Yes Peeta. You do make the perfect couple," Madge says sarcastically.
I kick her under the table. I don't need her encouraging Mom.
"I quite agree," Mom responds. "Though don't think I am too happy with you young lady. You must have known about this relationship for months and didn't tell me. Whatever happened to the mother/daughter relationship?"
The smirk disappears off Madge's face and it is my turn to grin.
"Blame Peeta. He was the one who swore me to secretly," Madge replies.
Mom raises her eyebrows at us both.
"I don't really care whose fault it was. I know now, even if I would have liked to have known sooner. She really is a great girl. Peeta don't let her go," Mom says.
She stares at me straight in the eye as she says this, her gaze serious and sincere. I take a deep gulp and nod my head in reply. Suddenly I can't imagine doing anything else.
The rest of the brunch goes relatively smoothly. My supposed relationship with Katniss is enough to distract Mom from the fact that I am once again working at the bakery and living on Madge's couch. Her questions about Katniss are tiring and I find myself constantly checking that I haven't contradicted myself. I don't want to catch myself out in the lie before we have really started.
On the whole Mom is pretty happy with this development in my life and gushes over how proud of me she is. It makes a nice change from her usual nagging. Madge spends most of the brunch trying not to roll her eyes. I can tell she is finding it hard not to spit out the truth.
At the end of the meal Madge and I both get up to walk the few blocks back to Madge's apartment. However we are stopped by our mother.
"I'm not having you walk. I think it is about to rain. I will take you home," Mom insists.
Madge and I share a look. Mom has never offered to drop us off before. We can both sense an ulterior motive.
"And then I can pop up and say hello to Katniss," Mom adds.
And there it is. A chance to see Katniss and I together.
We both reluctantly agree knowing it would be seen as rude not to take up her offer and follow her out to her shiny BMW.
Madge leads the way up to her apartment as Mom comments on how well kept the entrance way is. Madge turns the key in the lock and we all enter the apartment to an unsuspecting Katniss.
Katniss is sitting on the couch in the living room reading a well worn book. She looks up to smile at us as we enter, but her eyes soon go wide with surprise and nerves as she spies my Mom.
"Caroline. What a pleasant surprise," Katniss says as she gets up to greet my mom.
The two women share a short embrace and when my Mom pulls back she has a warm smile on her face.
"I just had to come up and see you. I scolded my son for not bringing you to brunch today," Mom says still holding onto Katniss's forearms.
Katniss looks over to me with a scared look. She is clearly not prepared for dealing with this today. She thought she would have weeks to perfect out act. I just smirk at her in response. I do find her attempts at pretending amusing. And she was the one to get us into this mess in the first place.
"Well I was really busy," she states looking back at my Mom.
I chuckle lightly to myself at her discomfort. It doesn't sound very convincing but Mom is in too much of a good mood to notice. Katniss has a lot of work to do if she is going to convince people at the wedding.
"We've spent the whole morning talking about you Katniss," Madge says with a cheeky glint in her eye as she makes her way into the living room. "Mom and Peeta can't stop talking about you."
Katniss lets out a nervous laugh as she watches Madge settle on a nearby chair.
"All good I hope," she says uneasily.
I drop my eyes to the floor to hide my smile at her nerves before deciding to go and help her out. I take a few strides towards her and wrap my arms around her shoulders. This type of contact doesn't faze me. I'm a pretty affectionate person and have no problem embracing a person I am close with. I feel Katniss tense under the unfamiliar touch but eventually relaxes as she realises I am not going to take it any further.
"Like there is anything bad to say," I say with a cheeky grin while I squeeze her shoulders.
Mom smiles on at us blissfully content. She looks genuinely happy for us. And for the first time I feel guilty about lying to her.
However I am soon snapped out of this thought as Mom then goes on to question Katniss about pushing me into getting a "real" job. I roll my eyes as I slide my arm down Katniss's side. Here we go again.
"I actually think Peeta is really talented and would hate for him to give up something he loves," Katniss replies.
I look down at her surprised that she defended me. I know she sees me like an older brother type but I am touched all the same that she stood up for me.
Her comment seems to shut Mom up and I give her a grateful smile in response. Mom quickly moves on to asking about Katniss's promotion. As I standing listening to Katniss talking passionately about her job I think there could be a lot worse people to be in a fake relationship with.