"I feel her filth in my bones,

Wash off my hands till it's gone.

The walls there closing in,

Velvet curtains."- The Lumineers

Chapter 1

I stumble from the room, forcing my limbs to carry me down the long winding hallway, a path I'd taken so many times before it was becoming instinct. It was the path I always took in my nightmares before the monsters on the other side of the door captured me within their iron grips, holding me hostage until I woke screaming in a cold sweat the next morning.

But even awake the monsters on the other side of the door beckoned for me. These monsters had faces though. Their breath smelled of the strongest alcohol that made shiver as their frail boney hands ran over my body. And the monsters didn't let go when I asked them too. They just held on tighter.

I hate the monsters but not nearly as much as I hate myself.

The bellhop standing in the front of the motel looks at me with sad eyes as I rush out of the warm heat the motel was providing and into the frigid December air.

He knows.

I pull my jacket closer to my body, somehow feeling more protected by the shield my cliché trench coat supplies and how easily I'm able to slip in the shadows the night. I chance a glance back, relieved the worker seems to have found something to occupy his time with. I don't need eyes watching me as I make my escape.

My hands shake on the steering wheel, my nerves not yet calmed from my night's work. When did things get like this? I sit for a moment, letting tears roll from my eyes in the few moments I have alone. I stare up at myself in the rearview mirror for a moment, cringing at the reflection of the women who stares back at me with hollow cheeks and vacant eyes.

I don't recognize her.

I roll through the town on my way home, the lights from the bars glistening on the paved roadways. The town is still alive, even at this late hour. This fact will let my lie come out easier, I realize. He'll believe me. The thought is introduced with a new round of nausea and I fight the urge to release the contents of my stomach onto the floorboard of my old Honda.

You're almost home, I chant.

I wouldn't call my apartment on the corner of 8th and Willowbrooke "home". In fact it's the opposite. The apartment is bare and doesn't appear to be lived in. I've been here for five years and I haven't done anything to the place. I haven't even had the urge to hang pictures of my family or place pots of seasonal flowers in every corner of the room like most twenty-four year old women would.

I'm fine with it the way it is. My apartment seemed to be the one thing in my life I was okay with.

I head to the bathroom immediately upon arrival, not paying any attention to the snoring coming from my bedroom or the trickling from the sink that I must've left on when I left all those hours ago. The only thing that mattered in those moments was riding my skin of whatever was still on it.

I sit in a white cotton robe in front of my dirt stained mirror, cracks deforming my reflection as I wait patiently for the bathroom to fog. I've learned that's the only way I'm able to take showers these days; when I'm absolutely positive I'm hidden and no one can see my body. My purple, bruised stained body.

My reflection in the mirror accurately reflects the way I feel—like a monster. My eyes are hollow, the dark circles underneath making me resemble a women years older than I really am. My hair is knotted, my cheeks stained with a red blush, and my lips broken and chapped, tasting of spirits I hadn't been the one drinking. I touch my face. I'm not beautiful like those men say I am. I'm broken.

I remove the robe then, shuddering as I admire the blue and purple marks covering my olive skin. They'll be gone in a few days though by the time their gone they'll be replaced by new ones.

I step into the shower after a while, moaning in earnest as the scalding hot water cleanses my naked skin. The cheap soap I purchase manages to mask the smell of cigarettes but does little to rid me of my self-loathing. That may not be something I'll ever be able to rid myself of. I'll just learn to accept it like the others.

Johanna tells me I shouldn't be so hard on myself—that I should just try to forget. "You shouldn't blame yourself," she says. But then who is there to blame?

I scrub my skin, not stopping the assault on my own body until I see a few trickles of blood. Satisfied, I rinse off, wrapping a towel around my naked body. I don't bother slipping into anything extravagant, just an old discarded t-shirt I find in my door way that smells of my perfume.

I stick my ear to the door then, checking for the snoring that was deafened by the roar of the shower. It's still there.

Peeta Mellark sleeps soundly in my bed, his mouth open and hair tousled, looking godly even in his sleep. He hasn't moved since I left him all those hours ago; he probably doesn't even know I've left.

Peeta has no idea of the things I've done. He has no idea what secrets lye with him in the plush bed I didn't purchase for myself. Looking at him now, I hope he never finds out.

The night when I sleep in an empty bed again will truly be the end of everything good I've ever had.

What he doesn't know won't hurt him, I remind myself, crawling beneath the covers, trying not to wake him. I snuggle next to his warm body, relishing in the feeling of true intimacy and comfort—a feeling only Peeta gives me.

We've been doing this for a little over a year now. I don't necessarily know what we are. We've never spoken about it but the conversation hangs over our heads everywhere we go.

Peeta would like to call me his girlfriend. He's never said the words directly to me but he speaks in his sleep and when he speaks in his sleep, he whispers nothing but words of love. It makes my heart hurt to hear what he mumbles; to hear what he truly feels but what he's afraid to say to my face.

But we are a couple as far as I'm concerned, label or not. I let him into my bed night after night and he does the same. He holds me when the nightmares of monsters overtake me and whispers sweet words into my ear until my breathing has returned to normal.

Tears sting my eyes then. I will never deserve him.

"What's wrong?" Peetas voice startles me, causing me to release a yelp in surprise and go ridged within his arms which incase me. "Whoa, there."

I turn in his arms until I'm facing him, his breath flowing over my face as he bends to kiss my nose. His lips are warm and inviting and I long to lose myself in them. But my body is weak and I know I cannot give myself to anyone else tonight—even if I am giving myself to the person who deserves it.

"I thought you were asleep," I whisper, wrapping my arms around his broad chest, my eyes falling closed in the comfort of his arms. I inhale deeply, relishing in the smell of his manly body wash and the smell of cinnamon he's never able to rid himself of from working all those hours in the bakery.

"I was but you were starting to move. I was worried you were having a nightmare," his voice is low but worry laces through his words. He knows my nightmares only come when something is troubling me which has been quite often lately.

I lace my fingers through his—an action which I mean to be calming but I'm unable to stop the shaking. "Katniss, what's happening," he questions sternly, squeezing our interlocked hands together and toying with a lock of my damp hair with his other. I don't answer because speaking may cause me to lose my composure and that is something I cannot do. Not here, in front of Peetas' watchful eyes.

"Just been a long day," I whisper numbly, knowing it will hold him over until I can pull myself together enough to produce a believable lie. He nods and I know the conversation is over for now.

We lay in silence for a while, simply basking in each other's warmth. Occasionally he kisses my hair lovingly and I'll bring our intertwined hands to my lips, placing lingering kisses on each of his fingers and then repeating the process. I've never told him directly how I've felt about him but in moments like this, I know he knows.

I don't know how long we lay there but it must be hours because before I know it, the sun is creeping through my curtains, making patterns on Peeta's bare chest. I trace them with my index finger, listening to the sound of Peeta's once steady heartbeat increase under my ministrations. I smile.

"Are you hungry," he asks after a while, placing a hand atop my stomach which is making embarrassingly loud noises.

"Yes but I don't want to move," I mumble against his chest, combing my fingers through his soft curls. He purrs, leaning into my touch and allowing his lips to search for mine.

The kiss is sweet, nothing like the kisses we share in a fit of passion that are fueled with fire. This kiss is light, his lips molding around my own like a puzzle piece. I know in this moment that there is nowhere else I belong; no one else whom I'll ever belong too. Nothing in my life has ever been perfect but being with Peeta in this moment is nearly perfect. It makes all my past troubles seem like a pebble in the sand—something so unimportant in comparison to how beautiful what's in front of me truly is.

I love this man and there is no reason to deny myself of that any longer but there is also nothing that scares me more.

Just as the words begin to spew from my mouth, the ringing of my phone on the bedside table interrupts us. I close my eyes tightly, suddenly longing to be anywhere but wrapped in his arms. He feels my body tense within his grip as I untangle our limbs and rush to aid my phone.

"Just leave it! Come back to bed," he calls after me. I pretend I don't hear him.

I whisper my apology, watching the look of confusion and hurt lace his features as I rush from the room, placing the phone to my ear, trying to ignore the blue eyes on my back as I make my exit.

I know who's calling without having to look. It's the only person who calls me besides Peeta and I know what he wants.

"Hello?" I ask, unable to keep the disdain out of my voice as I do so.

"Katniss," the voice doesn't belong to who I thought but Johanna, my partner in crime—literally. "I'm sorry to bother you so early but my car broke down and I didn't know who else to call and-"

"I'm on my way," I interrupt, already searching for my discarded shoes. After getting quick instructions from Johanna, my eyes roam over the apartment for my keys which were constantly being misplaced. Peeta always jokes, saying it's a sign I shouldn't be allowed to drive. Hell, maybe it was.

"Where are you going?" I pause as I reach inside my purse, glancing over my shoulder at a half-naked Peeta. His scowl was undeniable and for the first time I saw something I rare in Peetas expression—anger.

"Johannas car broke down. She asked me to go get her." At least that wasn't a lie when it seemed everything else in this relationship was—at least on my part.

"And she can't call anyone else? It's 5 in the morning," he says.

"She's my best friend," I tell him, on the verge of tears. I hide my eyes the best I can, using my hair as a curtain as I move around him. Now what was I looking for?

"Here," he says simply, handing over the jumble of keys I have on my key chain. There goes Peeta again, knowing what I need before I even know I need them.

"Thank you," I whisper, grabbing them before he has a chance to say anything else. "You don't have to leave. I'll be back in-"

"Just go, Katniss."

He says the words without hesitation, his muscled back turned to me as he wanders back into my bedroom, slamming the door with the slightest bit of extra force. I groan.

Before my mind convinces me to stay, I shuffle out of the door, leaving Peeta angry within the walls of my apartment. I know he'll erase all traces of anger by the time I return home and smile in my face as I walk through the door. But a voice in the back of my mind reminds that he might just get sick of my running and he might do the same.

I may be coming home to an empty apartment.

You're helping a friend, Katniss. You're doing something good for a change.

The drive to 2nd is a short one but in the early morning downtown traffic, it takes me a good fifteen minutes to find my bold, dark headed friend. She's sitting in the lobby of the W, smoking a cigarette I'm sure she's not supposed too. The women working the front desk looks at her with a deep scowl but says nothing to her, simply dividing her attention between the computer screen she's working on and Johanna who is keeping an equal watchful eye on her.

I smirk. Johanna notices me then, and before sending a wink towards the disgruntled worker, carries herself out into the cold and then into the comfort of my warm car. "Took you long enough," she says, her tone light and joking.

"Do you mind not smoking in my car," I ask half-heartedly. "Peeta hates the smell."

Johanna simply smirks, blowing the smoke she was storing in her lungs in my direction. I shake my head, a smile playing on my lips before I push it away. "What's eating you," Johanna asks, her dark eyes flickering over to mine.

Johanna knows me better than anyone and lying to her would do me no good so I stay silent. She doesn't press. This is exactly how our relationship has been able to strive over the last few years. She usually does the talking and I listen.

"How was it tonight," I ask, biting the inside of my cheek. We rarely spoke about work but I felt the need to ask, the bruise forming on her collarbone noticeable to my eyes.

"Okay," she says. "I made some good money tonight, Kitty Kat."

The car rolls to a stop a few minutes later in front of Johannas small home on the eastside of town. In the distance I can see Ripper, the local drug dealer who makes her living off of selling cheap drugs to the poor and expensive ones to all the politicians' kids. She can't be much older than Johanna and I though working on the street has aged her deeply just like working in men's bed have aged us.

"You think she'll ever get an actual job," Johanna asks as if reading my mind.

I shrug. The real question is, will we?

"Thanks, Katniss. I owe you one," she whispers slipping out of the car. "Call me later?"

I say something though I'm not sure what, and I watch as Johanna scurries off into the shadows of her home. I wait until I'm sure she's safely inside before pulling forward.

Rippers eyes watch me as I ride by, nodding to me as I do so. I raise my hand in greeting, not giving her so much as a smile but as an acknowledgement. Ripper and I have a silent promise between the two of us. We've never done more than spoken two words to each other but somehow, she has my back on these streets just as I have hers. We're just as much of a team as Johanna and I are, the only difference being Ripper is able to supply with some good weed.

I race out of Johannas neighborhood, ignoring all the speed limit signs as I zoom past the town, wanting to just be home-to just be with Peeta. I make it there in record time and my heart flutters when I focus my attention on the red mustang sitting in the same place I'd left it.

I skip the stairs, two at a time and by the time I've raised my hand to knock on the door, it's already open, Peetas freshly washed body beckoning me.

I waste no time before throwing my arms around his neck, my lips seeking his as if it's the last thing I'll ever do. Hell—it sure does feel that way.

Peeta meets me with just as enthusiastic kisses-whatever anger he had before has been evaporated into the lust filled air around us. His mouth is warm and inviting, his lips just as sweet as they had been when I left him in my bed.

He wastes no time sticking his tongue into my mouth and I let him, relieved to be in the arms of the man I love. The man I truly want.

"What's up with you," Peeta mumbles, his mouth trailing down the hollow of my throat. He sucks greedily and I know he's trying to leave a mark. It's his way of calling me mine without actually having to do so. This is the thing about not having labels.

Peeta's hands grip greedily at the skin being exposed; his nails raking over my skin in a comforting way.

"I just need this," I gasp, moaning at the soft bite I get at the confession. "I need you."

I shrug off the coat I'm wearing with some assistance, not wasting a moment before I discard the thermal I was wearing underneath. I'm left in nothing but my bra and jeans while Peeta stands before me, making quick work of his belt before kicking his jeans to the side. His upper half is already exposed and I waste no time licking a trail along his collar bone.

He moans then, igniting something in me that had been burned out long ago. His member is pressing into my stomach, begging for attention as I grind against him. He doesn't need any extra coaxing as he falls back softly against my old couch, shifting my body over his until my hair falls around us like a curtain.

My pants were discarded long ago though I'm not sure where but within seconds, Peeta is filling me to the brim and I moan. This is right. This is the way things should be.

Peeta and I long ago decided to go away with condoms, a big step for both me and him. I only ever had sex with condoms as had he. By agreeing to do this, we both took down a wall. Ridding the barrier meant more than just having "safe" sex. It means we were beginning to trust each other.

In moments like these I feel I could be connected to Peeta for as long as I live. He rocks in me slowly and though this wasn't always the hottest sex, it was the most meaningful. Neither one of us were climbing for the finish soon, we weren't nearly just fucking. We were making love. We were relishing in the feeling of two people becoming one and as his fingers bring me to a finish I cry out, the words I've meaning to say nearly spilling over in a fit of passion.

I keep them in though, knowing nothing but bad things will come of actually saying the words. Instead I claw at his back, throwing my head back and screaming his name as the tension inside me builds up. "Peeta…" I whimper, holding onto his head as he rocks steadily inside me, groaning my name.

"Katniss… I'm gonna…" He groans, his eyes falling closed.

"Go," I encourage. "Just let go, Peeta."

And he does. Peeta groans, chanting my name like a prayer as he spills into me, driving his hips up one more time. I hold him as he whimpers in the aftershocks, rocking him in my arms and whispering words of love into his ear until he regains his focus.

"Wow," he mumbles after a while, placing soft kisses on my covered chest. "What did I do to deserve that?"

I don't answer. What did I do to deserve that?

"Are you going to pull out," I question jokingly.

"Do I have too?" He jokes though he pulls out then, his hands stroking my exposed middle. I moan though I know there is no possible way I could give him any more.

"You're too good to me," I whisper, grabbing his discarded t-shirt and throwing it over my body, not wanting to be completely exposed for too long.

"And you look way to good in my old t-shirts," he mumbles, his lips trailing up my neck again.

"I don't think you're getting this one back, Mr. Mellark. It's easily becoming my favorite." That isn't a lie. The red Mellark Bakery shirt that I now claim as mine has always been one of my favorites. He wears it at the bakery and it always smells like him. Like cinnamon and sugar and the berries he uses. It's just another thing that's going in the trash when Peeta finds out who I really am.

The thought suddenly brings me out of my post-orgasmic bliss and into reality.

Peeta must have noticed my change in mood because almost immediately, he has me swept up in his strong arms. I can't help but smile as I cling to his neck, laughing as I fall onto the plush bed with a thump. "Is Johanna okay?" He asks, crawling under the cover and wrapping his arms around my middle. I sigh, not knowing how I can ever live without this. "I should've gone with you. I don't know what I was thinking letting you-"

"It's okay, Peeta," I say, kissing his knuckles. "You're here now."

"Katniss…" Peeta starts, his voice trailing.

"Yeah?"

"I really like you."

He doesn't need to say anything else. I know exactly what he means because I'm feeling the same way now. Wrapped in his arms, I know this is where I could lay forever.

Forever only last a handful of moments though because Peeta—like most working adults—has work to attend too at the bakery he owns on Fifth Street. It's a short walk from my apartment, maybe fifteen minutes if you walk briskly. I've thought many times of asking Peeta to move in—for the sake of saving gas and just walking to work. But I always talk myself out of it. One way or another, Peeta and I having separate places just seems more logical.

Peeta's animated as he talks about new pastries he's trying at the bakery this week, his facial expressions comical as he speaks about all the different supplies. His passion about his work excites me and I wish I could feel the same.

Peeta grew up in a bakery, his parents owning one in Virginia where he's from. After going to college, he decided he didn't want to be an accountant or lawyer or teacher. He wanted to be a baker just as his parents had when he was growing up. He moved to the big city and struggled for a few years but just recently, his bakery has gotten tons of business and has even been covered by the local paper, naming Peeta "The Best Baker in The East Coast". I'll never forget the smile on his face when he came over that night or the way he brought me to a finish five times before finishing himself.

I was proud of him in ways I couldn't put into words and I wish I had better way of showing him—telling him this. But like I've said many times before, I'm no good with words.

"Katniss," he says, pulling me back to focus. "Where'd you go?"

"I was just thinking about how proud I am of you," I say honestly. The smile on his face is the most heartbreaking thing and I can't help but return the smile under his gaze.

"You're just trying to get yourself laid," he jokes, kissing my cheek before pulling me into a hug. I stay there, wrapped in his arms for a long time before he finally pulls away, tugging on my braided hair. "I'll call you tonight after I get off. Maybe we can go catch that Hunger Games movie or whatever."

"Sounds good," I reply, truly not knowing what tonight will bring me in terms of work. I make no promises.

He leaves in a rush then, scrambling out of the door and sending me one last wave when he makes it to his car before riding off into the sunset like the prince he is. I can't keep the smile off of my face as I reenter my now, very lonely apartment.

I think of calling Haymitch, asking him if he needs any help today—anything to get my mind off of Peeta. But I decide against it, not in the mood for his drunken interrogation and backhanded compliments.

I next think of calling my mother but decide against the headache, knowing the only thing that will come of that is the inevitable fighting that always occurs when my mother and I are speaking.

Thinking of my mother makes my stomach hurt. The relationship has always been complicated in ways no one can truly understand. My father died when I was fourteen in a car accident. My mother was in the car but managed to make it out unharmed. She spent the rest of my teenage years with survivors guilt, always wishing it was her who had died that night and not my father—my kind, gentle father who reminded me so much of Peeta. The way she acted weeks after the accident sometimes made me wish she too had been the one to take the fatal blow that night. I would never express those feelings out loud though because she wasn't.

She was here with us and I couldn't spend my whole life wishing she had been the one who died when it was my father instead.

After years of therapy, I suppose she finally got over her survivors guilt and decided to start being a real mother though by that time, it was already too late. I was putting myself through college, making sure Prim—my younger sister—had everything she wanted even from a far.

My mother never questioned where the money was coming from and part of me feels that she knew. She knew what I was doing to keep my family fed. She knew it was the thing any women would've done.

Maybe this is where the resentment comes from. Maybe it comes from my mother allowing me to sell my body to do her job.

I've never told Peeta about my family. He knows my dad is dead, my mother has her issues, and Prim is fifteen. He knows I send them money though he is oblivious to where the money comes from.

He just doesn't ask.

I realize the only thing I've done since Peeta left is accomplished the task of thoroughly depressing myself—but I've always been good at that.

I think of Gale next, my childhood friend whom I never spoke to again after graduation. He lives in the area; my mother's told me that in one of our tense conversations. He has a wife now, a woman named Madge according to Facebook and by the looks of things she's pregnant. I smile; glad someone from home has actually made a good life for themselves. I've been meaning to call, to just say hello and that I hope everything is well.

Things won't be strange now that he's married and I'm involved. Maybe it'll be like old times—but then again maybe it won't.

The reason Gale and I stopped talking is a complicated one. I don't speak about Gale to anyone, mostly because us not talking seems to be the strangest thing being that we were so close as kids. But truly only Gale and I know the truth about the demise of our once strong relationship and neither of us wishes to relive it.

I realize now why I never have any desire to go home for the holidays like Peeta does. There is no one at home whom I wish to see. There's nothing in that small, Arkansas town for me anymore and I would never wish to go back for that reason.

But I'm no different than the people left back there. They may all be married with three kids by now, or coke addicts, or alcoholics—but hell, at least their living their lives the way they chose too.

I can't say the same for me.

Just then my phone rings, in hopes it's Peeta I rush to get it.

It's not Peeta and suddenly my head hurts.

"Hello?"

"Ms. Everdeen, you should really pick up the phone the first time I call." My stomach sinks.

"I apologize I wasn't near the phone," I say, trying my best to keep the terror out of my voice. I'm unsuccessful.

"You have a job tonight, a house call on Rio," Snow tells me. "Dress nicely, Ms. Everdeen."

The phone line goes dead then and I fall to my knees.


I'm new to the site and hope you enjoy the progression of this story. Three chapters have already been written and I am very excited about the tone of this FanFiction!

Please feel free to review.

PM with any personal questions, suggestions, stories, anything!

thank you.

The song in the beginning is a beautiful song by the Lumineers called "Slow it Down"

The song on which this story is based off of is "When the Night Comes" by Dan Auerbach