Hello everybody! So... where to begin?
While I was writing the ending chapters of my last fic, the plot for this one came to mind. "What would happen if Katniss was forced into prostitution like Finnick was?" I thought to myself. Not to mention that I'd been on a Moulin Rouge kick and got inspired by that as well. So this came to fruition. I churned several chapters out, revising them religiously. But after a while I got bored and got struck with yet another idea for a Katniss/Peeta fanfic and started writing that.
But I am back again and I'd really like to finish before continuing the other one, so here I am. I'm unsure of how many chapters this one will have, but it will most definitely be less than my Date with Panem's Golden Boy. I have an idea of where I want to take this and so I'm hoping that I don't hit writer's block. But if any of you have any ideas of what you'd like to see, let me know! I'm more than happy to incorporate your thoughts into this. :)
As much as I'd love to update several times a week, I'll only be able to do it twice a week since I'm still in the process of writing the story. Like the last one, any mistakes will be mine as I don't have a beta.
Also, this story will mostly be from Peeta's point of view. I know I got a lot of requests for his POV in the last story (since I was mostly doing it from Katniss') so I'm hoping ya'll like that.
I don't have anything else to say other than I hope you enjoy. :D
Disclaimer: I own nothing!
"Ladies and gentlemen, it is our privilege to present to you the winner of the 74th Hunger Games… Peeta Mellark!" I hear the announcer roar.
I walk into the limelight, a timid smile on my lips as I wave at the zealous crowd. My expertly styled blonde hair gleams brilliantly, creating a contrast against the impeccably fitted black tuxedo Portia chose for me. I continue to wave at the crowd when a microphone is suddenly thrust into my hands. I stare at it for a moment, unsure of what to do with it; but I finally lift it to my lips and to my complete amazement, the room goes quiet.
"My dearest ladies and refined gentlemen. What an honor it is to be here in the Capitol, as your victor. It's a feat that as someone from District 12 would never think to be possible again. Yet here I am, standing amongst the elite; the best of the best, the cream of the crop. I'm incredibly thankful for all of your support because without you, I would be nothing. Worse than nothing, I would be dead. I hope everybody has a good night!" I smile genially as the cameras flashes go off in my face, walking off the stage.
The crowd once more goes wild with applause and several people approach me, shaking my hand and asking to take pictures with me. I finally excuse myself and make my way toward where my mentor, Haymitch Abernathy, is standing.
"How did I do?" I whisper as I take a glass of something bubbly from a waiter who passes by.
"You moved me to tears, kid," Haymitch answers wryly, taking a deep drink from his own glass.
I control the urge to roll my eyes but eye the liquid in my mentor's glass.
"What are you drinking?" I ask, sniffing the liquid in my own glass delicately.
"Dunno, don't care," he answers gruffly, shrugging a shoulder stiffly.
I frown at him and then take a look around the crowded ballroom. Couples are dancing, drinking and laughing merrily, as if they don't have a care in the world. I'm unsure whether to feel disgusted or grudgingly impressed.
"Wait, didn't you tell me I was going to meet the other District 12 mentor tonight?" I turn back to Haymitch, excitement swirling in my stomach.
"Ah, yes. She's probably around here somewhere. Never one to miss these types of parties," he tells me, swishing the liquor around in his glass.
"Remind me… why wasn't she able to mentor me too? I thought there was nothing more important than the Games," I ask, taking a careful sip of the concoction in my glass.
Haymitch's face darkens as he turns to look at me.
"Only one thing is more important… she was occupied elsewhere. I know nothing else, so don't ask," he answers me briskly.
I stare at my mentor, unsure of what he's talking about but oblige nevertheless.
Something important must have come up or else she would've had to mentor me. Should I pretend that I don't know her? I haven't seen her in so long... but I can't wait to see her again. Surely she must be here somewhere, Haymitch himself just said so. Is she hiding from me? Don't be ridiculous, Mellark. You're blowing your importance to her out of proportion.
"I'm going for a walk… you're no fun," I joke, setting down my barely touched drink on a table.
For the most part, I manage to dodge having repeated conversations with people altogether, just smiling and waving at them as I walk past. I feel my stomach rumble and decide to give the food a try. But before I can even reach the massive silk-covered tables of food, something sparkly catches my attention from the corner of my eye.
I turn and see that it's only the diamonds strung upon the many necklaces resting against a woman's neck. My eyes flicker up to her face, feeling my breath catch in my throat. The woman is stunning; her olive skin is luminescent, as if it has a glow from within. A few curls of her dark chocolate hair frame her face, highlighting her sharp cheekbones. When she turns, I notice that the rest of it is gathered behind her head and that a cluster glimmering stones are neatly woven into the bun, where a fountain of curls spill from. A mysterious smile plays on her painted ruby red lips as she listens to a man next to her tell a story of some sort, undoubtedly trying to impress her.
It's then when her eyes find mine that I feel a jolt of something I can't quite name strike my heart. She has the most striking silver eyes, surrounded by dark fringe of lashes that are undoubtedly coated with makeup, but that doesn't take away from their dazzling beauty. Her eyes observe me curiously and I can swear that she almost smiles. But it's over all too soon for her eyes turn cold and she looks away, smiling widely at something the other man next to her said. I feel disappointment trickle through my body as she laughs merrily with the gentlemen in her company.
Still, I can't bring myself to take my eyes off of her. There's something about her… I find her strangely familiar. Of course, I doubt that I've met her before since she doesn't look like anybody I know back home.
This is no time to be a coward. I'm a victor, for crying out loud. Gather your wits, Mellark. It's just a woman. The most beautiful woman your eyes have seen, that is.
I gather two glasses of champagne and walk toward her, occasionally bumping shoulders or arms with strangers, murmuring a polite apology under my breath. The closer I get the faster the butterflies beat their wings in my stomach.
"Excuse me miss, gentlemen. So sorry to interrupt but I noticed that you are without drink," I smile brilliantly at her, holding out the glass to her.
She raises her dark brows slightly as she stares at the glass skeptically.
"And how I am to know if you've put something in it?" she asks, pursing her lips and tilting her head slightly, her liquid eyes looking into my own.
I laugh, trying to ignore to the chill that that sweeps down my spine at her low but not quite husky voice.
"Why, miss. I am a newly crowned victor. There is no reason for me to put something in a young woman's drink. I didn't see a drink in your hand and wanted to remedy that. I did it out of common courtesy," I shrug easily, attractive smile still in place.
Her eyes inspect me suspiciously for another second before she slowly reaches out to take the glass from me. I then see that she's wearing black elbow length gloves, which give her an even more refined air. I hadn't noticed what she was wearing before, but now that I'm so close it's quite impossible to ignore. She's wearing a dress that has a black leather corset for a top while the bottom portion of the dress hugs her body tightly until it hits her knees; the black material then cascades down from there to her feet and I can barely make out the pointy toes of her shoes. Draped loosely around her arms is a handsome black fur, glossy and thick and I know that couldn't have come cheap.
Despite her black attire, she's easily the most elegant woman in the room.
"Or maybe the reason was for you to gawk at me," she smiles haughtily, causing her companions to snicker.
I feel my cheeks redden but continue to simply smile at her.
"It would be impossible to overlook you, miss. You definitely stand out," I tell her truthfully, feeling a strange knot in my throat.
She's about to take a sip of champagne but stops at the last moment and stares at me. I feel my heart beat faster and swallow nervously. She finally breaks eye contact between us and turns to look at her companions.
Why does she look so familiar? Where have I see her before?
"Gentlemen… do be darlings and give me a few moments with our dearest victor here, would you?" she asks, smiling sweetly at them.
They nod and kiss her hand goodbye, turning to look at me with both jealousy and awe.
"Close friends?" I question.
She smirks and takes a sip of her drink.
"You could say that," she speaks huskily, her eyes dancing mysteriously.
I watch her, feeling both curious and enthralled.
"So… Peeta Mellark. 'The Accidental Victor' as some call you. How is it that you didn't kill anybody, yet managed to win?" she asks, tilting her head slightly.
"People call me that? I thought everybody loved me," I laugh, half joking.
The corner of the woman's lips twitches and immediately raises the glass to her lips to hide her smile.
"I don't doubt that. I can see many of your adoring fans glaring at me for keeping you from them. Even if it was you who approached me," she says as she returns the icy looks at the horde of women who're openly glaring at her.
"They don't love me. They love the idea of me. Truthfully, they don't know who I am. I'm not even sure who I am at this point," I whisper, a crease forming between my brows.
"It would be all the better for you to keep it that way. Because once they've sunken their claws into you..." she trails off, looking away from me.
"Ah, there you are kid!" Haymitch speaks loudly, clapping a hand on my shoulder.
"Don't do that, Haymitch… you startled me," I mutter, embarrassed that I literally jumped.
"Glad to see you two have met already."
I look between Haymitch and the woman, who seem to be communicating silently with one another.
"Do… do you know her, Haymitch?" I ask, breaking them from their trance.
"Do I know her? 'Course I do! Haven't you introduced yourselves? Don't tell me…" he says, shaking his head with exasperation.
"Of course, we all know who Peeta Mellark is," she smiles, though it doesn't quite reach her sooty eyes. "Man. Tribute. Victor."
"I haven't asked for her name," I admit sheepishly, causing Haymitch to break out in snickers.
"Effie would be turning in her grave! If she were dead, that is."
The woman rolls her eyes, giving her a much younger appearance.
"Oh, Effie… I'm actually quite surprised she isn't with us, right now. Must be off shoving manners down someone's throat," she grumbles behind her champagne glass.
"How do you know Effie?" I ask curiously.
"Why, I'm the other District 12 mentor," she smiles widely.
All I can do is stare at her.
"Katniss Everdeen, a pleasure," she purrs as she extends a gloved hand out to me.
It's Katniss… why didn't occur to me that it was her? I watched her every single time she was on screen in her Games. Didn't I practically bite my nails down to nubs at that time? I felt like my heart was going to flop out of my chest every time she was near other tributes or when she got hurt? No wonder she looked familiar. She sure has changed, though… why didn't it occur to me that it could be her? I mean, I knew she was a past victor and I knew she would be here. I guess my mind didn't associate this exotic creature with the Katniss I knew.
I swallow thickly and take her gloved hand in mine, surprised to feel that it's cold. I grip her hand gently and brush my lips against her knuckles, never once looking away from her eyes; they shimmer and dance, something hidden in their depths.
"Pleasure is all mine," I reply, letting go of her hand regretfully.
"Oh, it will be," she grins salaciously.
Haymitch just rolls his eyes.
"So… looks like we're all going to be mentoring soon. Yay," he mutters sarcastically.
"You should take a break, Haymitch. It can be up to him and me… especially since I wasn't, ahem, able to mentor him this past time," Katniss suggests, looking at Haymitch concernedly.
"Be my guest," he hiccups, taking another glass full of clear liquor.
"Haymitch…" she warns, her lovely face set in a frown.
"It's my life, I do what I want!" he snaps at her.
"Wish we could all afford that luxury," she replies coldly before walking away, her skirt shimmering in her trail.
Haymitch stares after her, regret and guilt evident on his face.
"What was that all about?" I ask, puzzled.
"This isn't the place to talk about it," he answers brusquely, looking around wildly before slouching off.
I stare after him in bewilderment. Soon enough, my eyes find her again. She's in deep conversation with District 4 victor Finnick Odair, who looks devastatingly handsome in a crisp white tuxedo and sea foam green bowtie that compliments his eyes. I watch as Finnick lifts his hand to very gently caress her cheek, eyes sorrowful and caring as he murmurs soothing words to her. I feel like I'm intruding on a private moment between the two of them and look away, feeling fire burn in my veins all the same.
Maybe they are together… they do make a striking couple. So why was she with those two men earlier instead of making rounds on his arm?
Before I can help myself, my eyes seek her out again. This time, she's dancing with Head Gamemaker Seneca Crane. In my opinion, he's holding her a little too closely for comfort yet she still smiles and laughs with him. After the song ends, he gives her a deep bow, winking at her as he kisses her hand while she giggles. Soon, a towering man with silver hair approaches her. He whispers something in her ear and she smiles mischievously at him, taking his arm. She catches my stare and looks blankly back at me for the briefest of seconds before turning away, smiling charmingly at her newest suitor.
I see how Haymitch looks after her sadly, chugging the remnants of his drink. I frown, feeling all the more curious and makes my way to my mentor once more.
"Haymitch, I know you saw her leave with that stranger. Is that really safe?" I demand.
"I'm sure she'll be fine, kid. She knows how to take care of herself," he mumbles, avoiding eye contact.
A waiter passes by and Haymitch is quick to snatch up a glass full of amber liquid.
"Look, boy. What she does is her business and if she chooses to tell you, that's on her. I… I'm going to get drunk," he sighs deeply, downing half of his drink.
What does he mean by that? I suppose it couldn't hurt to follow her… right? I'm just going for an innocent walk and it would be nothing but a simple coincidence if I happen to bump into her.
So I slowly make my way toward the exit where I saw Katniss go through and find myself in the President's garden.
A garden full of white rose bushes… hmm. I guess this must be the place where he takes every single one to pin to his jacket.
I begin to meander when suddenly I hear a woman's throaty giggle. A few minutes later I hear leaves rustling and more giggling along with deep voice that murmurs unintelligibly.
No, it has to be somebody else… why would Katniss be sneaking around rose bushes with a stranger?
I crane my neck to see who it is and I'm about to give up when something shiny catches my eye yet again. I feel myself become rooted to the floor, all thoughts and emotions gone.
Katniss and the man step out of the darkness and she finally sees me standing there, my expression vacant. She comes to an abrupt halt, her expression vulnerable as the man walks off without her. It seems like she was in the process of fixing her hair because her hand drops to her side as we continue to stare silently at each other.
The man finally comes close enough to me and winks at me but continues to walk by without saying anything else.
I snap out of it and frown deeply at Katniss.
"What are you doing out here so late?"
Every previous emotion is wiped from Katniss' face as she starts to walk toward me.
"I was simply taking an evening stroll," she answers, readjusting the fur in her arms.
"With a stranger in the President's rose bushes?" I ask with disbelief.
She scowls at me, clearly not amused.
"What's it to you what I do or don't do?" she demands, stalking closer to me in agitation.
"I would hate for people to think ill of you," I answer honestly.
She rolls her eyes as she comes to a stop before me.
"I don't care, let them think what they want to," she says, shrugging a slim shoulder.
"Katniss, this isn't like you," I tell her after a moment's silence.
"You don't know me. You don't know anything about me. The only thing we have in common is that we're both from District 12," she hisses, narrowing her eyes at me coldly.
I take a step back, surprised at her tone.
"We were in kindergarten together and had you in at least one class until we were sixteen," I whisper, feeling hurt at her callousness.
"That doesn't mean anything. You were simply just another classmate," she tells me nonchalantly, crossing her arms across her chest.
Maybe she's right. I never had the courage to talk to her so how would I know what she's like? Or how she was. Perhaps I just built up the idea of a perfect Katniss in my head…
"But now we're going to be mentoring partners," I point out, trying to ignore how my heart flutters at the word 'partners.'
"The only thing we'll have then is the blood of innocent children on our hands," she whispers, looking distraught for a second.
"Why are you being like this, Katniss? Is it because of what happened when we were eleven?" I whisper back, trying desperately to understand her.
Maybe she's just ashamed of receiving help. Not even in school did she allow the teachers to help her. Perhaps she didn't take it too kindly that a near stranger threw two burned loaves of bread into the mud for her to grab.
Her expression softens almost at once and a corner of her lips quivers.
"I never did thank you for that," she acknowledges quietly, breaking eye contact for a moment.
"I didn't do it so you could thank me, Katniss," I scoff, feeling mildly insulted.
Her eyes snap back to my face and a tiny wrinkle appears between her brows.
"If only you could have seen yourself… it was heartbreaking. The answer was quite literally in my hands and… I did what I could," I sigh. "I didn't care what the consequences would be. You were disappearing before my very own eyes. I just knew that I had to help you because if I didn't, it would be the last time I'd see you."
She swallows thickly as her eyes become glassy in the moonlight.
"The next day at school, I had wanted to ask if it was enough. But I couldn't bring myself to do it, to speak to you," I recall ashamedly. "In the following weeks, it was as if you were filled with renewed hope and I saw you grow stronger just as I had seen you grow frail. I knew then that you would be okay. No, more than okay. You would survive."
She turns her head and discreetly dabs at the corner of her eye before turning to look at me again. I feel my heart twist with longing and I want nothing more than to sweep her into my arms. Of course, I know better because I'm absolutely certain that she would not take my advances lightly. She clears her throat and licks her lips, lost for words.
"Thank you, Peeta Mellark. I never forgot that gesture and it's highly likely that I never will. It's because of you that I'm still alive. I, too, distinctly remember thinking that if I didn't find anything, I would probably die under your apple tree. Because of that bread you gave me, you were able to give me life and more importantly, you gave the people I love life as well," she whispers at last, her voice sounding raspy. "But… that doesn't mean I'm still that person. Just because we have that… connection between us doesn't mean anything. I'm sorry if it disappoints you but it's just the cold, hard truth and it's better that you accept it now."
I frown at her, watching how she went from misty eyed to emotionless within seconds.
"But… Katniss. We've been through the same ordeal!" I snap, suddenly losing my temper.
"The same ordeal? The same ordeal!" she lets out a soft and scathing laugh.
"Yes. We've survived the Games, haven't we? Isn't that supposed to bring us together? Give us lost souls some sense of unity and a feeling of belonging?"
"We may have survived the Games… but that doesn't mean the game is over," she answers exhaustively, turning to look at the people in the ballroom.
I feel my anger wane and observe just how tired she looks. My heart aches and feel like I have to do something about it, but knowing her, she would just tell me to get lost.
"You better go back in there. I expect that they'll notice your absence. You are the guest of honor, after all," she tells me suddenly.
"Are you coming?"
"In a little bit. Go on, they're waiting for their golden boy," she answers with a tiny smile.
"Don't be too long either. I expect they'll notice your absence too. After all, you are kind of hard to miss."
She glares at me, her wistful expression gone.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she commands, straightening to her full height.
"It means that you're the most beautiful woman in there," I reply, giving her a lopsided smile.
Her dark eyes widen significantly, her ruby lips parting in a small o.
"See you," I chuckle, stepping away and walking back into the party.
To my dismay, I see that the it's still in full swing.
Well, at least that's over and done with. As to whatever happens next… who knows? She obviously seems to dislike me. Maybe I should stay away from her to avoid any further awkward moments between us. Speak when spoke to… like a dog. Christ, Mellark… is this what's going to become of your life? Leading children to their death and avoiding your childhood love? All thanks to the Hunger Games and President Snow. To think that I'll never pass hunger again or that my wallet will never be empty… but at what cost? No use whining about it. It is what it is and I'm going to let it be.
Thoughts? Concerns? Comments? I'd love to know what you're thinking! Thanks for taking the time out of your day to read this, I truly appreciate it.
See you on Friday. :)