Trigger Warnings: Underage, Attempted sexual assault, Violence/Gore, Defamation of Santa, Dark Peeta if you Squint, Sexual content.
Written for: Prompts in Panem: 2013 Holiday Challenge Weekend.
I do not own the Hunger Games or the characters within.
Nineteen-year-old Clove Williams was last seen leaving her dorm room at Panem State at around seven p.m. on December 15th. Her roommate, Glimmer Hillenbrand, told police that Williams was meeting her boyfriend, 20-year-old Cato Masterson, for dinner. When questioned by police Masterson explained he arrived at "The Cornucopia" at 7:15 p.m. At 8:30 p.m, when Miss Williams had yet to show, he tried calling her cell phone several times before leaving and heading back to his apartment a few miles from the restaurant. Employees at "The Cornucopia" confirmed Mr. Masterson's story to the police.
When questioned as to whether the police thought the disappearance of Clove Williams five days ago has any connection to the recent grisly murders throughout the state by the suspected serial killer being referred to as Killer Claus, Chief Seeder said that it was being looked at as a missing person's case only.
If anyone has any information regarding the whereabouts of Clove Williams, you are encouraged to call the Panem police's tip line at…
Peeta thrums his fingers nervously against the top of the aging formica table at Sae's Place, the greasy spoon that has been a favorite of his and Katniss's for years now. His other hand comes up to nervously dunk the bag of green tea into the chipped white mug's murky water as he tries to block out the blaring news report from the mounted television above the counter to his left.
He doesn't really know Clove that well; she was a year ahead of him in school until she graduated last year, although he knows her boyfriend Cato is a dick. But still he hopes she is alive, not because he cares about her well being per se, but because Clove is a short girl with long dark hair, just like all the victims of this sick fuck...this "Killer Claus"—all of them petite, dark-haired females like his girlfriend, Katniss.
He tries to swallow past the lump in his throat and sips at his warm tea to try and melt the ice in his gut. He can't be thinking about psychos dressing up like Santa Claus killing people, not when he has to…
"Hey," he looks up and finds Katniss's grey eyes shining down at him, a small smile on her face, her raven-colored hair twisted into a braid that hangs over her right shoulder. When she leans down and pushes her lips against his, he closes his eyes, clinging to their ever present softness. She shrugs off her coat and removes her gloves before sliding into the tattered, turquoise booth across from him and immediately takes his hands in hers.
"What's going on?" she asks, her voice heavy with concern. When Peeta doesn't answer her, she squeezes his hands and lets her thumb draw lazy circles on his palm. "You sounded so upset over the phone, and you look like you've seen a ghost." She cocks her head and her smile widens slightly, although her eyes are nervous. "Peeta, tell me please."
He pulls his hands away from her and looks down at the the speckled white table and then thrusts his fingers into his curly blond hair.
This is for her own good, he reminds himself. For her and her family. But even though he knows it's true, it doesn't stop the tears from pricking the corners of his eyes, or his chest from tightening painfully, and an angry sob lodging itself in his throat.
"My mother, she threatened to fire your father, she said she would make sure he couldn't find a job in a 100-mile radius." Katniss gasps across from him.
James Everdeen, Katniss's father, has been the head groundskeeper on the Mellark estate since before Peeta and Katniss were born. His family, who resides in a small house at the edge of the property, depends on his salary to support them.
"Why?!" Katniss yells out loud, before looking around nervously and lowering her voice. "Why would she do that? My father takes care of everything. What possible problem could she have with my…. oh," the realization visibly dawns on her, and tears begin to fill her eyes. Peeta reaches for her hands again, but she pulls them back off the table, letting them fall onto her lap.
"What did she say?" she asks in a low raspy voice. Peeta bites his lip to keep it from shaking before taking in a large gulp of air.
"She said if I didn't break up with you that she would fire your father and evict your family from the property."
"Oh," Katniss responds and then looks down at her lap. "How serious do you think she is?"
Peeta pushes a breath through his pursed lips. Back before his father passed away, he knew his mother was not a warm person, but his father's presence had always acted as a buffer between Peeta and his mother, but in the past year since his father's untimely death, she has not held back any of the resentment she feels for her own son.
"Very serious," he admits regretfully, his mouth pulling into a grim line. He wonders if Katniss's chest hurts right now as much as his.
"So…you want to break up then." It's not a question, and her eyes have yet to look back up to him.
"No!" he gasps. "No, I don't ever want to break up with you…"
"But," she cuts him off, "we have to," she whispers as she waves off the waitress who has come to take her order. She slides out of the booth. "I have to go," she mumbles as she pulls on her coat and walks away.
It takes Peeta more than a moment to process what is going on, and what has just happened, and by the time he has snapped himself back into reality, Katniss has already walked out the door. He scrambles out of the booth and bolts after her. By the time he gets outside, she is most of a block away from him.
The sharp December air stabs at his cheeks. He left his coat in the diner and his long-sleeved blue henley does little to protect him from the cold. He feels a sharp pain in his chest as he runs toward her, but he isn't sure if it is due to the temperature, or his heart breaking.
"Katniss!" he calls to her in a strangled cry. She turns immediately, and when she catches sight of him, her eyes widen slightly. Puffs of cloudy white breath pass through her lips.
Now that Peeta is here, however, he isn't sure what to say; instead he just stares at her, breathing rapidly, listening to his blood pumping furiously in his ears. She makes the first move approaching him, wrapping her small hand around his neck to bring his mouth closer to hers, but he is the one who goes in for the attack, trapping her bottom lip between his and sucking lightly before slanting his whole mouth over hers, his tongue rushes in to taste her—maybe for the last time.
"In three years I'll be 21, and I'll get the trust fund my dad left me, and I will take care of you and your family, and my mom won't be able to control what we do anymore," he says breathlessly when he finally pulls away. Katniss smiles sympathetically at him, like an adult to a misguided child.
"I love you," she whispers against his mouth. "But it's my family."
And with that, she walks away.
Police have confirmed that the body found this morning in an unrented storage unit by an employee investigating a 'bad smell' is that of nineteen-year-old Clove Williams, the woman who disappeared seven days ago near her college dorm.
Police would not comment on the state of the body, but the employee who made the discovery, 25-year-old Johnny Marvel, told our reporters that the body had been 'brutally mutilated' and that the words "Ho Ho Ho" were written in what could have been dried blood on the wall behind the body. This has been one of the calling cards of the alleged Killer Claus, and one of the only real pieces of evidence in the case, besides a few sightings of a man dressed like Santa in the vicinity of where the victims were reported missing from.
When the press asked Mr. Marvel if there was anything else left near or around the body, Mr. Marvel became visibly distressed, telling reporters that the killer had left a single jingle bell on the body, but he refused to elaborate from there...
A shiver runs up Katniss's spine from where she stands in the doorway of the den, her eyes glued to the glowing television screen as her father watches the evening news.
Clove Williams would make the eleventh victim of the Killer Claus since the first day of November, all within a 50-mile radius of Katniss's small town, but Clove's dorm is only about a mile or two from her home and worked at the Teavana in the same mall Katniss works at.
After the third victim—a woman a few towns over named Johanna Mason—was killed, people started telling the petite, raven-haired Katniss to be careful when she was out and cautioned her not to go out alone at night. Her parents even made her curfew an hour earlier, unless she happened to be out with Peeta…
But I won't be out with Peeta anymore, she thinks sadly to herself.
"Dinner," she hears her mom call, beckoning the family to the kitchen table, the smell of lamb stew thick in the air. Katniss rubs the fresh tears from her eyes, the ones that always accumulate there whenever she thinks about Peeta. It's only been two days and already the longing is enough to suffocate her. She is desperate to call him just to hear his soothing voice, but she wouldn't put it past his mother to be monitoring all forms of communication, and Katniss has the welfare of her family to think about.
She sits down at the table, and although her mother's lamb stew is her favorite, she doesn't think she can stomach any food right now, but not wanting her parents asking questions, she makes a show of ladeling her portion of stew into her bowl, and then she doesn't do much more than push it around with her spoon.
"Where's Peeta?" her younger sister, Prim, asks. "He's always here for Sunday dinner." Katniss doesn't even look up at her sister and merely shrugs at the question.
"Is everything alright, darling?" her mother asks in her honey-sweet voice. Katniss looks up at her, and when she sees the worry and concern etched on her mother's face, Katniss has to bite her lip to prevent from bursting into tears. She doesn't say anything, but she catches the knowing look between her parents, which is enough to excuse herself from the table, drive her to her room and cause her to sob into her pillow for the rest of the night.
The next day she walks downtown alone, mindlessly window shopping. She wonders to herself if she should try and return the custom paint and brush set she got for Peeta's Christmas present, but then decides she will have her dad give it to him instead. It was too much money to just throw it away, and she's sure the shop she bought it from won't let her return the engraved brushes.
Katniss looks in a window of a small boutique. A colorful, flowing skirt has caught her eye, and she knows Prim would love to skip and twirl in it. She has just made up her mind to purchase it and is about to walk into a the shop, when her reflection suddenly darkens, as a large figure dressed in red walks behind her, a floppy red hat with a poof of white at the end on his head.
"Fuck!" she squeaks and feels like she has detached herself from her own body with how quickly she jumps and spins to confront the figure. Her heart is beating so quickly it feels like it is vibrating.
The man, who is dressed in full Santa regalia, holds a Salvation Army donation kettle and stand, and looks apologetic as he witnesses Katniss's reaction.
"I told them this was a bad idea," he mutters to himself as he walks away from her quickly.
It's Christmas! she scolds herself. There are going to be people dressed like Santa. She walks into the store, but takes her time perusing the shop, letting her heart return to a normal rhythm.
A few minutes later, she is thumbing through the multi-colored skirts on the rack, looking for a size small enough for Prim when she feels the hair on the back of her neck suddenly stand on end. A shudder runs through her body. Someone is staring at her.
She tries to crane her head subtly so her eyes can scan the shop, but besides an older woman trying on hats, and the woman at the counter playing with her phone, Katniss is the only one there.
"Get it together," she groans in frustration before bringing the skirt to the woman at the counter and cashing out.
She leaves the shop, but instead of feeling better, the eerie feeling of being watched seems to be getting worse, and a ball of anxiety begins to grow in her gut. Her eyes flit all over the street. It is two days before Christmas, so the streets are filled with people, but all of them seem preoccupied with their own last minute shopping and are not paying any attention to her. She takes a deep shuddering breath before walking again, this time quicker, but the feeling continues to get worse.
Her instincts finally take over, and she breaks into a run. She is on the track team at school and can run laps around the other girls on her team, but then why can't she seem to be able to outrun this foreboding feeling?
Her lungs seize and struggle for air in the bitter cold, but she is afraid to stop. The sinking feeling gets so bad that at one point she turns her head, almost certain that she will find some psycho right on her heels.
Umph! The last bit of oxygen is expelled from her lungs when she runs full tilt into a solid mass. She feels disoriented, but ready to fight off whatever monster intends to do her harm.
As soon as she hears his smooth, soothing voice, the painful knot in her stomach begins to unravel. The mass she has run into is Peeta, and before she can think better of it, she hops into his arms, causing him to drop the shopping bags in his hands. She clings to him with all she has, and his warm embrace envelops her.
"Peeta," she whimpers as she gasps for air and holds him tighter.
"Jesus, Katniss are you ok? You're shaking. What happened?" He tries to pull away, probably to get a look at her face, but she won't let him. She wants to just stay in his arms forever, where she feels safe and loved. But she isn't supposed to want this anymore, and so reluctantly, she begins to detach herself from him, one limb at a time.
"I'm fine," she mumbles. "I have to go."
"Wait a minute," Peeta reaches for her and gently grasps her wrist. "You aren't fine, you look petrified." She pulls herself away completely from the safety of Peeta and tries not to look up at him.
"I'm fine now, I promise. I was just being dumb. I'm ok, I swear. Please don't worry about me, Peeta," she wrings her hands together. "I have to go, before someone sees us together," And she begins running away again, but this time not out of fear, but because of her broken heart.
After confirming that Clove Williams is officially being considered the eleventh victim of the Killer Claus by local authorities, Santa agencies, mall Santas, charity workers and anyone who would be required to wear a Santa costume during the holiday season are being questioned thoroughly by police. Chief Seeder encourages anyone with any information to please contact police immediately or to call 911…
A knock on his bedroom door drags Peeta's eyes away from the article on Google News.
"Come in," he calls as he closes his laptop. The door creaks open, and in walks his mother, Almira Mellark, donning a clingy black dress that hugs her a little too tightly, a black-and-white fur stole draped over her shoulders. The jewels she wears seem to weigh her down, and her impeccably applied make-up does nothing for the constant sneer on her face.
"I'm leaving," she announces while clasping a chunky platinum bracelet around her wrist. "I expect you to be in bed at an appropriate time. I will know if you aren't," she warns. Peeta just nods wordlessly at her. His mother turns to leave, but just as quickly spins back to face him.
"Did you take care of that little problem?" her lips curl up in disgust.
"And what problem would that be?"
"Did you end your laughable relationship with that Everdeen trash?" she smirks.
"She's not trash, don't you ever talk about her like that!" he hops off his bed, his fists tightening at his sides, his jaw clenching. His mother rolls her eyes at the display.
"Peeta, I am merely trying to address certain behaviors that will cause others to look poorly on this family. I have no intention of letting you become the fool your father was. Fucking the help will never get you anywhere." This time, she turns and leaves for good.
When Peeta's father was alive, Christmas Eve was a big day in their house, but now Peeta is just happy to be alone. He tries to watch a movie, but he can't seem to focus. Katniss is in his thoughts—she's always there. He tried texting and calling her after running into her yesterday with no luck, and he even snuck up to her house last night in the cover of darkness and didn't leave until he saw Katniss's bedroom light turn on.
As the hours tick by, he becomes more and more restless, and eventually he can't bear it anymore. Not only has he become increasingly worried about her, but he just misses her, damn it, and it's Christmas Eve, and...
"Fuck it," he mumbles. He grabs his keys and swipes the box that holds Katniss's gift off his bedside table before walking out the door.
I mean what are the police doing? We have eleven dead women. How have we not found this sicko yet? Tomorrow's Christmas… What's this "Killer Claus" going to do tomorrow? The police need to get their act together before more girls end up dead…
Katniss twists the tuner on the old am/fm radio away from the angry deejay, and settles on a different station playing "Stubborn Love." She turns up the volume and hums along with the Lumineers song to drown out the cheerful overhead Christmas music as she continues to tidy up the 'Outdoor Sporting' department of the Sports Authority she works at in the Panem Galleria Mall.
The rest of the employees have already taken off for the night, and as usual her manager, Mr. Abernathy, snuck out to the sports bar on the other side of the mall leaving Katniss to close on her own. Not that she minds. She is lacking the Christmas spirit this year and isn't in any hurry to get home.
She reaches up to take a composition bow that is on display off the wall. She doesn't have any arrows to use, but she pretends to take aim at different targets around the store. A sudden rattling of the metal grate at the front of the store has Katniss swinging around quickly, bow still in hand ready to shoot an invisible arrow at the intruder. She catches sight of the red-headed security guard, holding his hands up in mock surrender.
"Hey Darius," she calls out as she approaches the gate, and he gives her a small wave. She unlocks the bottom and lifts the metal grate up high enough for the young security guard to duck under. He scans the store before turning to her.
"You all alone?" he asks, a half smile on his face.
Katniss shrugs. "Yeah," she admits.
"You almost done?" he cocks his head at her.
"Well," he scratches the spot at his right temple. "When you're finished, I'll walk you out to your boyfriend's car." he smiles a little wider at her.
"Oh," she looks down. Peeta always used to pick her up when she worked late nights, but she didn't ask him to get her tonight; how could she? Anyways, her parents lent her their second car, but she will admit that she's happy Darius is around to walk her out. "Well, I've got my own wheels tonight," she tells him. "So…"
"Oooo," he teases. "You're all grown up," he winks then clears his throat. "Well, either way I am walking you out. That boyfriend of yours would kick my ass if I let Kris Kringle make you into a candy cane or some shit."
Katniss can't help but laugh at the guard's crudeness; she doesn't correct him though, but instead responds with a grateful smile.
A little while later, Katniss is doing a final counting of the money in the cash register before putting it into the safe when she hears a couple of beeps followed by static come from the unit on Darius' hip. He turns away from Katniss and talks into the walkie-talkie.
"Shit," he sighs frustratedly. "There's something going on on the other side of the mall near the Macy's. i have to go there and check it out."
Katniss looks up him, an uneasy expression on her face, but he raises his hands up in front of him.
"Don't worry," he smiles. "It's probably just some kids smoking pot. I'll just be a few minutes," he ducks under the gate, and then pulls it down behind him. He points a finger through the grates. "You stay here," he says sternly. Katniss rolls her eyes but has to nod before he leaves.
Five...ten...fifteen...and then 20 minutes pass and Darius still hasn't returned. Katniss glances out into the empty mall and blows a frustrated puff of air through her mouth. She gives it another five minutes, and when she still doesn't see any signs of the security guard's return, she turns off the lights and grabs her coat off a hook in the backroom.
When she puts the coat on, she hears something rattling in her pocket. She reaches in and retrieves a single silver jingle bell. Her brow knits together with confusion as she stares at it, wondering how it got into her coat. Something unsettles her as she looks at the bell, but she can't put a finger on why.
Suddenly that same overwhelming feeling of being watched is back, and a painful shiver runs down her back. For a moment, she thinks about going back in the store and waiting for Darius. She even thinks about calling Peeta, but all she wants to do is get out of this overheated mall, and go home to climb into her bed, and sleep Christmas away. So she heads out the employee exit in the back of the store, placing the small bell in her pocket as she does.
When she walks into the night air, the sharp coldness feels good on her flushed cheeks The parking lot is nearly empty, just a few scattered cars, and hers is a straight line from where she stands, just about 50 yards away. She scans the area and starts walking quickly towards her car, but that feeling of being watched still hasn't gone away, and when she instinctually turns to look around, she stops in her tracks
Her heart begins beating erratically in her chest, and she can feel a nervous sweat begin to form on her forehead. A disheveled-looking man in a rumpled Santa suit stands just a few feet from her. She recognizes him as the mall's Santa...Something Cray, she thinks. An overweight pervert who is known amongst the mall's employees for always making salacious comments to groups of teenage girls who aren't accompanied by a parent, and the way he is leering at her makes her wish her dad was with her now. She suddenly remembers the jingle bell in her pocket. Didn't they find one of those on Clove's body?
"Hey there, pretty, want to have a little fun?" he asks, then flashes her a yellow-toothed grin. She doesn't answer; instead she spins and starts running full speed towards her car. She can hear him calling to her from behind and can hear his footfalls on the paved lot.
When she gets to the car, she is breathless and having a hard time scrambling for her keys. She has just grasped them in her hand when she is shoved into her car from behind and a large amount of weight is pressed against her backside. Cray's hand comes up to cover her mouth, and she can feel his rapid breathing against her ear. The sickly stench of his breath mixes with the smell of stale cigarette smoke, assaulting her nasal cavity.
"What a rude little bitch you are," he hisses and then thrusts his hips against her ass. She can feel the bile begin to rise up in her dry throat, and helpless tears begin to sting her eyes. She tries to scream against his hand, but it comes out as no more than a pathetic muffled cry.
He's going to kill me, she thinks to herself Just like the others. I'm number twelve.
But it's then that she remembers her keys are still in her hands. She maneuvers her fingers, feeling her way along the metal of her keys until she comes across the small knock-off Swiss Army Knife that is hooked onto the chain. She manages to pop the knife open just as she feels Cray's fingers move under her coat and grasp on to her thigh.
His fingers squeeze, and she doesn't hesitate to swiftly drive the small utility knife into the back of her attacker's hand.
Cray howls like a wounded animal and immediately pushes away from her, grasping one hand with the other. Once freed, she spins and kicks the man's left knee with all her might. She is sure she feels something break when she does, and he cries out as he crumples to the ground. Katniss runs as fast as she can back to the mall, screaming at the top of her lungs, hoping someone will hear her. She is only a few yards away from the doors when two figures walk out of them.
Darius and Peeta.
When she sees them, a relieved cry escapes from her lips, and she runs right towards them. She can see both their eyes widen and their jaws drop at the sight of her. Peeta opens his arms and without hesitation, she runs right into them.
"Santa…," she gasps. "Cray...he…" she points in the direction of her car, and when she turns, she can see Cray is already off the ground, trying to escape, but the severe limp makes it difficult. Darius seems to understand, as he goes running after Cray and tackles him to the ground. Peeta pulls out his cell phone and calls 911.
As Peeta relays what he knows—with a few additions by Katniss—to the dispatcher, he holds her shaking form tightly, and she clings to him back. When he isn't speaking into the phone, he is planting desperate kisses all over her face and head; his cerulean eyes are wide with panic, and his jaw clenches with anger each time he looks over at Cray. She is sure if she were not holding him, he would have already walked over and beaten the man to death.
Darius has called in backup, and now the nearly-crippled Santa is surrounded by three other security guards. When the police arrive, they first have a short conversation with Darius before hauling Cray onto his feet, making him hobble over to the police car with little help by them. The whole time he is screaming in protest, "That little bitch stabbed me, and I'm the one being arrested!" The police ignore his pathetic defense and aggressively throw him in the back of the cruiser. As soon as the car door shuts, Katniss begins to breath again.
"Miss Everdeen!" the reporter gasps as she frantically rushes towards Katniss. Peeta takes a defensive step in front of her before the overzealous reporter can attack her with her microphone. He glances back at Katniss's face. She looks so tired and worn down. She has just finished talking to the police for close to an hour, while Peeta spoke on the phone with her distraught father.
"I think she's talked enough tonight," Peeta glares at the reporter, but Katniss's hand on his arm stops him from saying anything else.
"Its ok," she insists, and Peeta steps out of her way. The reporter smiles triumphantly and closes the distance between her and Katniss.
"Do you think the man that attacked you is in fact the "Killer Claus"?
"Of course it was!" Peeta snaps from outside the shot. "Who the fuck else would it have been?" Peeta's head feels like it is about to burst with tension. He knows this reporter is just doing her job, but he almost lost Katniss tonight, and he can't help the rage that is coursing through his veins because of it.
Katniss's pointed look causes him to take a deep breath, and he decides to walk over to Darius and a cop who earlier introduced himself as Officer Hawthorne. When Darius sees him approach, he waves him towards them.
"Hey Peeta," he greets. "This is my buddy, Gale," he gestures towards the cop, who nods to Peeta in return. "He says they found bells like the one Katniss had in her jacket on all the "Killer Claus" victims." Peeta's stomach sinks at this information. If anything had gone just a little different, Katniss would have been... He gulps past the ball in his throat.
"Jesus Christ, asshole, you're going to get me into trouble!" the officer hisses. Darius rolls his eyes.
"Well at least you have him now," Peeta adds. The cop turns to him, studying his face for a long moment before scratching his chin in contemplation.
"I don't know," Gale shakes his head. "It just seems a little too sloppy to me... the attack. He's never been this blatant before. Most of the other victims...well... you didn't even know they had gone missing until they were already dead. There are security cameras in this lot, for fuck's sake," he gestures up above them with two fingers.
Peeta tries to push down the bubbling fear that the officer's words elicit in him. After all they have a man, dressed like Santa, who attacked a woman that fit the description of all the Killer Claus's victims in the back of their police car.
He glances over at Katniss and watches her shake the reporter's hand briskly before the news crew walks back to their van. Peeta mutters a quick goodbye to the two men before moving over towards Katniss. When he gets close enough, he opens his arms and as before, she walks into them without hesitation, and he pulls her tightly against him.
"Are you ok?" he whispers into her dark hair.
"I am now," she answers back and then snuggles closer into him
"Katniss!" They hear a cry out from off to the side. When they pull away, they see her father come jogging up to them.
"Hi, Dad," Katniss manages to get out before bursting into tears. Her father strides over to his daughter and takes her into his arms, holding her tight and pressing a kiss to her head. He looks up, his silver eyes—just like his daughter's—meeting Peeta's. He reaches out and squeezes Peeta's shoulder, and they share a nod. They both know what they almost lost tonight.
James Everdeen speaks to the police officers while Peeta and Katniss, hands entwined, look on. Eventually, he walks back over to them.
"Let's head home, your mom is probably climbing up the walls right now," her father gestures towards his car, but Peeta can feel Katniss squeeze his hand tighter.
"Dad… I was hoping I could...um… stay with Peeta a little longer?"
"I don't think so, Kat. I think its best for you to come home now," he says.
"Dad, please," she approaches him then. "Please," she says a little more firmly. Father and daughter share a long look, until finally James Everdeen sighs deeply.
"You better be home and in bed before Prim wakes everyone up to open presents," he gives her a pointed look. Katniss releases a long breath and nods to him. The man looks to Peeta next.
"Keep her safe."
"Always," Peeta replies immediately. Mr. Everdeen kisses his daughter one more time, and then heads back to his car.
Katniss and Peeta take separate cars back to her house to drop off her parents' car. As soon as Katniss slides into Peeta's blue Land Rover, he immediately cups her cheeks and hurriedly presses his lips against hers. Her hands come up to thrust into his wheat-colored curls, and soon their tongues are thrashing against each other's, their bodies thrumming at the other's proximity.
Peeta is the first to break away, pushing himself far back into his seat, leaving Katniss flushed and breathless and aching for more.
"I'm sorry," he utters quietly. "I shouldn't be doing that." He closes his eyes and scrubs his face furiously with his hands, then lets his head fall forward against the steering wheel with a light thud.
Of course he should be kissing her, and much much more, because after tonight she is certain it is only his mouth that will make her feel better. She is about to tell him as much, when his clearing throat turns her attention back to him.
"I know it's only been a few days, but not being able to...to be there with you, it has been excruciating, and tonight when I think of how I could have lost you….just like that," he turns to her and laces his fingers with hers. "That nearly killed me...it would have killed me if I lost you." He stares into her eyes with a look so intense it makes her squirm slightly in her seat.
"I can't stay away from you, I just can't. I'm not going to let my mother dictate my life to me. I'm going to be eighteen in just a couple of months and when I am, I'm going to move out. I have money saved, I'll get a job, I'll get my own place, and then she won't have any idea if I am with you or not. And then when I get my trust fund in a few years I am going to marry you and spend the rest of my life making sure you are happy and safe… I promise."
"Ok," she says, her smile lighting up the car.
They drive around for a bit, but find themselves parked back in front of her house about an hour later. Katniss picks at her fingernails, not wanting to leave the comfort of Peeta's car, or his side for that matter.
"I got your gift," he breaks the silence. "I could tell your dad wanted to ask why he was giving it to me," he sighs. "I loved it. The brushes are beautiful. I don't think anyone knows me as well as you do," he gives her a lopsided grin, and Katniss feels a warmth envelop her chest. Peeta drops her hand briefly and reaches into his coat pocket, retrieving a long, slender, velvet jewelry box with a small green bow adhered to it. "For you, Merry Christmas" he practically whispers, and gestures the gift towards her.
Katniss takes the box in her hand, letting the tips of her fingers brush against the soft material before flipping the box open. What she sees inside makes her gasp: a single, large, perfectly round, shiny pearl rests on the inside cushion, attached to a thin, white-gold chain.
"Peeta," she breathes, her eyes wide. "I love it!" She takes the necklace out and rolls the cool-to-the-touch pearl between her fingers. "Help me put it on?" she asks, handing the chain to him. He takes it from her, and she swivels in her seat. Peeta gently drapes the necklace around her neck and clasps it in the back; his fingers brush against her skin and she shivers, aching for him to continue touching her. A moment later she can feel him press his lips against the place where his fingers just were.
"I don't want you to go inside," Peeta says softly against her skin.
"Me neither," she sighs, her fingers coming up to touch the pearl gently
"Come with me to my house?" he pleads, Katniss turns and raises an incredulous eyebrow at him, and he chuckles, "No, just hear me out, my mom is at some party, and she is going to stumble in completely shit-faced right before dawn, and she'll go straight to bed. I promise she won't know you're there." Katniss chews on her bottom lip in contemplation for a moment, but then gives him an affirmative nod.
Peeta parks his SUV in the garage on the side of the ostentatious brick house. After shutting off the car, he hops out, jogs over to the passenger side door, opening it before Katniss has a chance. He takes her hand and leads her into the quiet house.
They stop in the kitchen, where Peeta grabs them each a bottle of water. He takes her hand in his again then brings her through the house towards the main staircase. On the way Katniss's foot catches something, kicking it across the polished wood floors, leaving an eerie ringing sound in its wake. When she finally focuses on what the object is, a terrified screech tears from her throat, a single jingle bell is on the floor staring back at her.
"Woah, woah, Katniss. It's ok, it's ok," Peeta steps in front of her, blocking her view. "It probably just fell off the railing," he gestures to the dark wood staircase next to them, and to Katniss's relief, she sees it is decorated with ribbons, and bows, and lights and...jingle bells. She exhales a long shaky breath
"Hey," his silky voice instantly relaxes her. He puts a finger under her chin and tips it up so she locks eyes with his. "I'm here now. I won't let anything happen to you, ok?"
"Ok," she takes another deep breath, and follows Peeta up the stairs.
When they get to his room, all her earlier dread has completely dissipated, and now all she can feel is Peeta's presence. In the lifetime they have known each other, she has only been in his bedroom a handful of times, mostly when his mother was away, but she doesn't give her surroundings a second look, because all she can see is him.
They close the distance between them, their lips meeting in the middle, then their tongues and their hands, as they reach for the other. Peeta undoes Katniss's coat, helping her take it off and tossing it on his computer chair, shrugging off his navy-colored pea coat in the process.
His fingers curl under her red Sports Authority polo, lifting it slowly, peeling it off her body. He begins to work on the button of her jeans, but she smacks his hand away, not letting him proceed until she has pulled his cream-colored cable sweater and white undershirt off his body as well.
Katniss's hands move to splay across Peeta's broad chest, and his hands move to finally pop the button of her pants, which he helps her shimmy out of, leaving her in a black bra and matching cotton boy shorts. Peeta licks his lips at the sight of her nearly naked form, and lifts his hands to cup her right breast, squeezing it gently, before leaning down to capture her mouth with his again.
The minute their lips touch, a last urgent spark bursts between them, and they are suddenly a flurry of hands and mouths as they frantically strip each other bare. When they are both finally completely naked, they stare with lustfully hungry gazes at each other, taking the other in as if for the first time.
The first time Peeta and Katniss met they were just a few months old. The first time they kissed they were eight, the first time they said "I love you" was at fifteen. And the first time they had sex was six months ago. They have lost themselves in each other quite a few times since then, but all of those were just a primal need to satisfy some sort of hormonal-driven lust. Now as Peeta lays her naked form onto his bed, trailing kisses down the middle of her breasts, then taking her left nipple into his mouth, and biting lightly, she feels like this time is very different, that with everything that has happened to them tonight, and in these past days, hell in their entire lives, has forced them to finally take each other—and this relationship—more seriously.
Peeta leans forward to kiss her lips one more time before rolling on a condom, then guides his hardened cock inside of her, sheathing himself completely before pulling almost all the way out of her and thrusting back inside of her again at a methodically slow pace. Katniss wants to beg him to pound into her, hard, but the feel of him in her and on top of her, his bare flesh against hers, and the strained almost painful look in his eyes as he fucks her, makes her want this to last forever.
"You feel so good," his voice strains as he begins to lose control, his thrusts becoming faster and harder with each pass.
A familiar heat begins to build up inside of her, her face begins to flush, her heart rate increases, her breathing shortens, but she doesn't quite make it before Peeta gasps above her, and pulsating, he spills himself into the condom with a grunt.
Katniss can't help but sigh—she wants this release so bad, but before she can voice her needs, Peeta has attached his mouth to her center, and he begins sucking greedily on her throbbing clit. Soon she is screaming his name and grinding against his face, and shattering into a trillion pieces around him.
He moves up to kiss her gently, lingering slightly on her bottom lip before pulling himself off of her to clean up, leaving her lying sprawled on the bed. Her eyelids are suddenly heavy and shutting on their own, and she thinks Peeta has shut off the light. A moment later she can feel the bed dip as he lies next to her, snaking his arm around her waist, and pulling her closer to him.
"I love you," he whispers into her ear, and before she can answer, she falls asleep.
A bloodcurdling scream echoes through the house. Katniss shoots up in bed and not even a second later, Peeta is up on her left, staring at her with the same look of terror she must be giving him.
"Wha… what was that?" the tremors in her voice matching the ones in her hands.
"I don't know," Peeta says as he scrambles off the bed.
"Where are you going?" she hisses after him.
"I'm going to go check it out," he says without even looking at her. "You stay here."
"Uh uh, no fucking way," she gasps as she hops out of bed and puts her clothes on as he dresses in his. He doesn't even try to stop her; he knows better.
Peeta opens the door and peeks down the hallway.
"Do you see anything?" Katniss whispers.
"Shh," he hushes her as he sticks his head out the door, straining to hear anything. Then he slowly slinks out, with Katniss following right behind him.
They walk cautiously down the dark hallway towards the staircase, and when they get close enough, both of them see something on the floor.
"What is that?" Katniss mutters out loud, Peeta shakes his head at first but as he gets closer he gasps.
"Oh shit," he yells as he runs towards the motionless mound. "Mom!" he yells as he slides on his knees next to the figure. He panics as he checks the lifeless body of his mother, frantically searching for a pulse that isn't there, while calling to her over and over again. All Katniss can see is the blood that is spilling from Mrs. Mellark's throat, and how the dark liquid has pooled under her body.
Katniss looks around the area, trying to find a clue as to why this has happened. When she glances down the stairs, her heart stops; the moonlight pours in through the large window above the main entrance, which silhouettes the figure standing on the bottom step, but even though the intruder is shrouded in darkness, Katniss can easily make out the outline of the knife in their hand, and on its head, a distinctly floppy Santa hat.
She screams for Peeta just as the knife-wielding Santa begins running up the stairs. Peeta glances up to see the form rushing toward them, and he springs to his feet, spinning away from the stairs.
"Katniss! Run!" he yells. She sprints back down the hallway, and Peeta follows closely behind her. At the end of the hall, he stops.
"Go in there," he commands, pointing to a door to their right. She obeys, and when he sees her bolt through the door, he turns around to face the figure charging at him, hoping to give Katniss enough time to escape.
When the Santa gets close enough, Peeta winds up and throws a punch as hard as he can, cracking the man in the jaw. The Santa stumbles back for just a second, quickly regaining his balance, and when Peeta throws a second punch, the Santa blocks it. He grabs Peeta by the shirt, and shoves him violently against the wall behind him, knocking the wind out of his lungs, and leaving him disorientated, opening him up to the knife that the Santa shoves into his right side.
"No!" Katniss cries from the doorway. Peeta turns towards her, angry that she's come back for him. He can see the fear on her face, the tears in her eyes. He can barely breathe, but as tears start to streak down his own cheeks, he manages to mouth the word, 'run!' When he looks back, the Santa is smiling at him, not in a joyful, 'Twas the night before Christmas'-type way, but in a sadistic 'I can't wait to see your girlfriend's insides'-type way.
Abruptly the Santa pulls the knife out of Peeta and grabs hold of his shirt with both hands. Peeta tries to pull away, squirm out of his grasp, but the man is too strong. Then as if Peeta didn't weigh anything at all, the Santa spins and smashes Peeta's body through the window nearby, smashing the glass and sending Peeta plummeting to the ground below.
"No, Peeta, no!" Katniss wails. She thinks about running to dive out the same window, to join the boy she loves who is most likely lying dead on the ground three stories down, but when she catches sight of the Santa with his white pearly grin, his stark white hair and beard and his serpent-like eyes, she can only hear one thing…Peeta's voice telling her to run.
She spins on her heels and runs through the door again. She knows there is a staircase somewhere over here, but she can't think straight.
Peeta's dead. Peeta's dead. Oh God, Peeta's dead. She reaches up to touch the pearl around her neck, still cool against her skin.
She busts through a door, hurriedly shutting it behind her. When she scans the room, however, she knows she went the wrong way. She is standing in Mr. Mellark's old study. She and Peeta used to play with their toys on the floor in front of the large mahogany desk. She knows there is only one way in and one way out of here, but it's too late to change her mind. She can hear him coming, so she dives into the tiny closet across the room and tries to make herself as small as possible.
She bites back a sob, as she hears a melody waft towards her in a snake-like hiss.
"You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town!"
The door is flung open, and Katniss knows she's done for.
"There you are!" he exclaims with delight; he then wraps her long hair around his hand and yanks her so hard out of the closet door that her scalp burns, causing her to scream.
He whips her to the ground, and when she cries out in pain, he pouts at her.
"Don't like that song, Miss Everdeen? Well, how about this one?… On the twelfth day of Christmas my true love gave to me...Katniss Everdeen!" He punctuates her last name with a swift kick to her ribs, which leaves her gasping for air.
The Santa crouches down and grasps her face with his meaty, black-gloved hand, holding her still, forcing her to look at his beady eyes and his puffy lips, and to smell the stench of his blood-tinged breath. Her tears burn trails down her face.
"I bet you thought you were home free, Miss Everdeen. You thought it was all over after that pervert tried to cop a feel. You thought you were safe. That fool completely screwed my original plans, but that's okay, he gave you a small reprieve and nothing more, because luckily for me, you are embarrassingly predictable, and I knew exactly where to find you. I so wanted you to be my Christmas present" he smirks at her, dragging the back of the hand holding the knife against her cheek. He then lets go of her face, and instead sticks his elbow right into the front of her neck, and no matter how hard she claws at his arms he stays put, slowly applying pressure.
The Santa is glaring at her now, the contempt for her apparent on his face, and she can't figure out why this man she doesn't know could hate her so much. Black spots begin to invade her vision as the Santa's elbow cuts off her air, and slowly she begins to give in.
At least I'll see Peeta soon, she thinks to herself, or at least she hopes that's how it works. The man studies her for another moment, and a small smile pulls on his mouth, but Katniss can barely see straight anymore.
"You look a lot like her, you know…," a sneer on his face. "Let's see if we can fix that frown." She thinks she can see the blade of the knife approaching her face.
But the tip never gets to her skin, and instead the sickening sound of clanging metal fills the room. The pressure eases up off her neck, as the Santa slumps down, with a good push she rolls him off of her. She looks up then and sees him...Peeta. He's holding one of her father's gardening shovels. He is bloody, dirty, and cut up pretty bad, but he's alive… he's alive and seething, and the next thing Katniss knows Peeta hits the Santa's lifeless form with the shovel again and again and again. She scrambles away and watches this rage inside Peeta completely take over.
"You motherfucking piece of shit! How fucking dare you!" he growls, as he continues to crush the Santa's skull, reducing it to a bloody pulp. Eventually Katniss gets her breath back, then her voice.
"Peeta," she squeaks in a hoarse voice, but he doesn't seem to hear her, and he swings the shovel again. "Peeta!" she yells as loud as she can manage, as her hands come up to massage her tender neck.
He seems to hear her this time, and when he turns and his rage-clouded blue eyes meet hers, she sees them fill with tears, and the shovel slips from his hand and clangs to the ground loudly, causing her to wince. He stumbles towards her, and drops to his knees in front of her, and even though she can tell it hurts him to do it, he pulls her to him, and she hugs him just as tightly back.
And they don't let go…
The Killer Claus, who has been identified as 55-year-old Coriolanus Snow of Snow Malls INC, had apparently been stalking seventeen-year-old Katniss Everdeen for a week before attacking her at her boyfriend's home early Christmas morning, according to evidence collected at Snow's home.
Everdeen's boyfriend, 17-year old-Peeta Mellark, sole heir to the 'Mellark Cakes' fortune, was seriously injured in the attack, and was brought to a local hospital where he was considered stable. However his mother, 45-year-old Almira Mellark, was stabbed to death during the home invasion. Police do not believe Almira Mellark was a target of Snow, but had surprised him when she came home from a Christmas Eve party.
Miss Everdeen was also injured during the attack, and brought to the hospital, but her injuries were considered non-life threatening, and she was released the following morning. Peeta Mellark remains in the hospital, but according to friends of the family, he is doing great and is expected to make a full recovery.
While investigating the home of Coriolanus Snow, police also recovered several boxes of handwritten journals believed to be that of Snow's. The journals seem to record names, ages and addresses of women who fall under the description of his victims: petite with dark hair. Most of the women recorded live within a ten-mile radius of one of his 50 mall locations throughout the state.
Police say the journals also made mention of his ex-wife Alma Coin. Snow and Coin were divorced in December of 1995. Court papers cite irreconcilable differences as a cause for the failed marriage. Alma Coin and her partner, Lydia Paylor, both had restraining orders taken out against Snow soon after the divorce. Both women were reported missing while vacationing in Hawaii back in 1998, and neither woman was ever found. Snow was brought in for questioning at the time, but police declared he was not a suspect. The case is still considered to be open.
According to police, the journals also make mention of the similarities in looks between the females recorded in the journals and that of his ex-wife's lover...
Snow was pronounced dead on scene. The coroner reports that Snow was killed due to blunt force trauma to the head, as a result of being hit in the head with a shovel several times by Mr. Mellark while he was attempting to rescue Miss Everdeen. Police did question Mellark about the incident, but have announced that they will not be pursuing the matter any further, and the case is now considered closed….And now let's turn to Finnick Odair for the weather.
Hi everyone, Finnick Odair here. For those going out for New Years Eve tomorrow night, make sure to leave your coats at home. A warm front is moving towards us from the southwest, and is expected to bring temperatures in the low 50's. This unseasonable warm spell should last into the new year and on through the weekend, putting an end to the bitter cold temperatures we have been suffering through since before Christmas... If the weather is any indication, 2014 is going to be a great year...
I wanted to say a BIG HUGE SLOPPY THANK YOU to Court81981 for holding my hand and fixing my mistakes, To Atetheredmind for helping spark this idea, To Ro Nordmann for the fantastic cover art/Banner, and To Misshoneywell for running yet another stellar PiP!
Come visit me on Tumblr: Streetlightlove1
Thanks so much for reading!