Actions

Work Header

Butterflies

Work Text:

It was dark inside the closet.

Mommy put him inside the closet because he was baaad. Big boys don’t drop pans of cookies on the floor. Big boys don’t cry when Mommy whip-snaps her hand across their cheek.

He didn’t mean to be bad. He didn’t mean to cry when she pushed his hand down onto the terrible hotness of the stove, but he was a baaad boy.

And bad, big boys are punished, Mommy says. 

Mommy says big boys aren’t scared of the dark.

He feels fluttering wings hit his cheek, hears a thump and a skittering across the floor.

Nobody comes for him when he starts screaming.

“Do you want to hurt me?” she whispers, backing up on the bed slowly.

“No, Katniss,” he leans over her, his instrument in his hand. “I just want to make you scream.”

His eye is swollen shut and squinting as the bright sunlight in the backyard seeps into the puffy slit. He wanders aimlessly, the sharp, shrill intonations of his mother still ringing in his ear, much like the slap that struck him there.

He takes a stick and viciously beats at the trees, jabbing and sharpening the pointed end with the force of his strikes and blows, a brutal tyrant of his backyard terrain. He rounds the base of a cypress tree and stops, staring down at the twitchy, pitiful form of a furred, sickly creature, it’s fluffy tale and puffy cheeks a familiar sight in the wooded area behind his house.

Vermin, disgusting vermin, a voice whispers in his head, drawn out into a hiss.

He stares down at the creature with his one good blue eye, raises his stick and brings down the pointed end sharply. 

The voices stop.              

“Teacher is looking for you,” comes through the dark. “Why are you in the closet?” a girl-voice whispers through the crack of the door.

“Cause,” the boy says flatly.

“Cause why?”

“I got in trouble,” he says. “When you’re in trouble, you go into the closet.”

The door cracks open a little more to reveal a girl with two braids instead of one, a pert little nose and large grey eyes that shine through the blackness of the small room.

“That’s not right,” she frowns, her fingers curling around the edge of door, on the precipice of coming or going.

“Don’t know about right,” he says. “Just what happens.”

The little girl in a red plaid dress creeps into the darkness with him and sits. He jerks slightly when she grabs his hand, but her grip is tight. “I’ll stay with you,” she says solemnly, squeezing his fingers slightly. His hand is limp, but he turns to look at her, his angelic blue eyes curiously blank.

“Why?”

“I like you,” she says shyly, boldly.

And then, she leans over and places a little kiss on his cheek, a place that had only ever known blows, and devastation, and hardship.

He squeezes her hand so hard that she whimpers, and little popping noises like cracking bones sound off softly into the blackness.

But she doesn’t let go.

….

He’s in third grade, alone by the edge of the tree line, as far as the teacher will let him go at recess without calling him back and warning of the dangers lurking in the forest. Like animals or strangers.

He is unafraid of both.

He spots a butterfly sitting on a branch, its wings beautiful and fluttering. He is perfectly still as it flitters over and lands on his fingertip. Beautiful things are drawn to him.

He admires its clean lines, the delicate body.

He calmly crushes it in his palm.

“Freak,” Cato Baxter shrieks from behind him. “You’re so weird, Peeta Mellark.“

He stiffens slightly, wipes the remains of the winged creature on the ground and stands up.

“That was a bad thing you just did,” the other boy taunts, walking forward and pushing him. “I’m gonna tell the teacher.”

Peeta feels the hard fingers that press into his chest. There is a ringing in his head; he hears that he did a bad thing. He is blank as he rocks back on his heels as Cato pushes him again.

And then he strikes, reaching out and twisting the other boy’s arm sharply. He twists and pulls and hears a snap, and it’s even more satisfying than the soft crunch of the butterfly again his dry palm.

Cato is screaming. He stands over him thoughtfully.

He looks up and meets the eyes of a girl who now has one braid instead of two. She watches him from across the playground, and she doesn’t look afraid of him.

He wonders if she remembers the closet. He remembers.

Her delicate lines are more beautiful than a butterfly.

….

Her head was thrown back, her mouth a perfect O, set in a silent scream. Her shuddering, gasping breaths are what quell the sounds of the whispers into a white noise. His instrument makes her shriek, and behind the pulling flesh of his eyelids is the constant drone of a buzz saw, red dripping things, the fluttering of eyelashes against the sharp razor blade of a knife—

 “Take out the trash, you lazy little ingrate,” his mother bites out. He doesn’t flinch as she slaps him in the side of his head, or even when her wedding ring catches on a ribbon of his blond curls, pulling out a hank sharply as she snatches her hand back. “I’m exhausted and ready to go home,” she grumbles, checking the light on the oven again. “As soon as this last batch of bread is done, we’re leaving.”

She pushes him, and he fists the trash bag in his hand as he stumbles out the back steps of the bakery and into the darkened alleyway, the only light source blinking from a string of Christmas lights hastily thrown above a window in an apartment across the alley.

He hears a sniffle and looks to the left, the sound curiously human. He cocks his head to the side when he sees a small, shivering form. He throws the trash into the dumpster and approaches the shuddering lump, his eyes widening slightly as he recognizes the braid.

He hasn’t really spoken to her in years, not really. Other than a small wave, or a baring of his teeth as he passes her in the middle school they both attend, they are basically strangers in the same bubble. But, Katniss Everdeen is on his mind often.

Usually, when he doesn’t want her to be.

Like when he’s slicing open the bloated stomach of a dead frog he found in the backyard, or when he pushes the sharpened end of his pencil into the arm of a neighbor kid, Jacob Traynor, two days before he moved away from the house next to Peeta’s.

Something about the girl with the braid makes him want to tread very carefully, and he crouches down beside her form and lays a cautious hand on her arm. He isn’t prepared for the jolt he feels, his numbed nerve endings coming to life.

“Katniss,” he says, clearing his throat. She barely moves her head. “What are you doing out here?”

“Looking…I was looking,” she mumbles, her olive skin unusually pale. “I’m…we don’t have anything to eat.”

Peeta would be lying if he said that he hadn’t noticed the slight girl getting slighter the past few weeks, but then Christmas break happened, and there wasn’t really anything he could do. He knew her family was poor, and that her father had died, but his observations were lacking in action.

His eyes are drawn to her ribs, sharp and protruding from her raggedy shirt. He’s fascinated with the sharpness of her bones, and he’s helpless to stop himself from reaching out a finger to feel the curved roundness as they jut from her shirt.

She’s dying, he thinks, fascinated. She’s dying.

She watches silently as he touches her, too exhausted, too done, to do anything other than observe with lidded eyes.

“Stay here,” he murmurs unnecessarily, standing up.

He walks into the bakery, past his mother, and with his bare hands, pulls from the stove the two loaves of bread that is meant for his family’s dinner that night. He rushes into the alleyway and shoves them into the shirt of the girl. “Go, now,” he says, pulling her to feet and pushing her. “Go.”

She looks at him in shock but stumbles away, bracing herself on the brick wall as she leaves. He watches her form disappear before he steps into the bakery, cradling the burnt fingers of his hand.

His mother beats him within an inch of his life and storms outside, telling him to pull himself together and meet her at the car.

He looks at himself in the mirror of the bakery bathroom, and the sink full of bloody rags. His dead eyes stare back at him as he takes in his busted lip and the large gash under his eye from his mother’s  wedding ring. His face is a mess of rapidly purpling bruises.

 It’s Christmas, so no school for two weeks. She wasn’t worried about leaving marks.

He puts gloves on his hands, his burnt fingers one of many parts of him shrieking in agony. He walks outside and throws the rags into the dumpster when he feels a hand slide up his back. He whirls around to see a grizzled homeless man, thin, in a grimy blue plaid jacket and torn black pants.

“Can you spare some change, boy?” he breathes his putrid stench into Peeta’s face. The man grasps at Peeta’s shoulders roughly, and he tenses. A voice is screaming in his head. He hears a drone, a roar in his ears, as the man continues to paw at him. He snaps.

“Maybe some food in there?” the man is saying, choking on the word as Peeta clutches the man’s throat, calmly squeezing the dirty flesh with one gloved hand. He shoves him backwards against the dumpster, bracing himself with one arm as he chokes the life out of this vermin, this disgusting waste of space, who touched him, who breathed on him, who manhandled him. The man flails, but he’s weak, and though he is bigger than him, Peeta is strong, even at thirteen.

Peeta watches in interest as the man’s face turns purple, his eyes bulging before slumping completely. Peeta catches him before he falls to the ground, and lifts him as easily as he would a 100 pound sack of flour. He tosses him into the dumpster and walks away.

If the police wonder what happened to the homeless man, he never hears about it.

Peeta starts his butterfly collection the next week, and when he slides the Pipevine Swallowtail into the spreader board he bought with his Christmas money, he admires how the blue and black wings resemble a plaid shirt and black pants.

Everyone leaves the Art class, and Peeta waits in silence as the students funnel out of the room one by one. As the last body slips out of the door, he pulls a long, sharp pin from his pocket. He quickly pulls off a piece of masking tape from the supply shelf and tapes it to the base of the pin, erecting it ominously from the seat of the desk. He’s careful about which chair he puts it in, because the person whose name is taped to the desk in the third row slot, signifying the student who has the class in the afternoon, is his intended victim.

He slides out of the room, swift as a ghost, shooting a charming look at Principal Trinket as he passes her in the hall, saying “yes ma’am, I’ll certainly try my best to win the JV soccer match this afternoon.”

He shifts in his chair and quirks his lips at the black braid in front of him when the hysterical screams of Glimmer Paladino are heard echoing throughout the middle school halls.

She shouldn’t make fun of Katniss Everdeen’s dead father.

High school brings Katniss Everdeen into his life, whom never mentions the bread incident, but instead simply walks up to him that first day of school and grabs his arm.

“Hey friend,” she says casually, looking healthier, stronger, and stunning.

“Hey…friend,” he says, looking down at her hand on his arm.

And that, was that.

“Looks like you’ve got a fan club already,” she smirks, nodding at a group of girls who are staring at him from across the courtyard, but also glaring at Katniss as she stands closely to him.

“But I’ve only got eyes for you,” he jokes, sensing that this is the correct response.

Also, it is true.

Summer has been kind to him, and he soon learns that his golden skin coat, the shining blond curls of his dead skin cells, the ice blue of his irises far outweighed whatever vibe of strangeness he had exuded in his former years. These ephemeral, fleeting traits afford him the luxury of walking among his peers and doing…whatever he wanted, really. He learns that if he smiles the right way, says a certain turn of phrase, twinkles his eyes, well— the world is his oyster.

It seems as if the only people immune to his charms are the woman who birthed him and the girl with one braid instead of two.

Both were quick to put him in his place, one with her fists, and one with gently sharpened words on a tongue that he craves. He thinks about that tongue, often, in his room at night.

He thinks he could keep that tongue, he could love it, like one of his butterflies, an image so disturbing to him that he cuts the head off of the first cat that comes to him when he kneels down and calls to it with a soft click of his beautiful mouth.

“Please,” she begs. “Oh, please, Peeta.”

“I’ll be good,” she cries. “I’ll be your good girl, I swear it.”

Katniss is ticklish.

He learns this quite by accident in tenth grade, as he pretends to be fascinated by an arbitrary horror movie of her choosing. He makes obligatory comments, feeling as if that is what she expects, while silently judging the methods in which the killer exacts his vengeance on the unsuspecting victims.

His knuckles brush against her thigh as he reaches for the tasteless popcorn in her lap. She jumps sharply, and he looks at her, cocking his head.

She squirms and writhes in agonized, inhuman contortions, his fingers relentlessly poking and prodding at her sides, her sensitive kneecaps, the soft archway of her delicate foot. She twists out of his arms and lunges across the bed, laughing as she tries to evade him, but he drags her back by the foot and wraps his arms around her waist in a spooning embrace, violently playing his fingers against her sides like raging pianist.

His excitement grows as her breath shortens, her body bucking against him, her squeals of amusement turn into harsh, guttural panicked shrieks, filled with a hysterical edge of panic and raw fear and–

He stills and holds her against him tightly on the bed, squeezing her as he comes in his pants, Katniss none the wiser as her screams turn into a series of dry coughs.

“Shhh,” he says, pressing his lips against her damp forehead and stroking her hair.

Her breath evens out as she leans back against him in gratitude, forgetting at once that he was the cause of her terror. He feels something as her delicate body is wracked with coughs, and he is disturbed to realize that she is so very breakable, his Katniss.

He has to be very careful not to crush her.

He hears the girls whispering his name in the hall, a shoo-in for Prom King the voices giggle like nails on a chalkboard.

He shows his teeth to them as custom dictates, and speaks in a flattering tongue, and watches with detached disinterest as they throw themselves into the dark void by stunning, increasing droves.

Sometimes he takes them to Victors Point, hard but distasteful as he allows them to touch him with their overly scented, manicured paws, using their glossy mouths as careless instruments to get him off. They are not what he wants, but he has to be very careful; what he wants is braids and buzz saws, olive skin and exposed dripping hearts, but he has to be so very careful with his butterfly.

So when he twists his hands into their hair and fucks—

‘You’re such a lady killer,” a voice, his favorite voice, whispers into his ear. His body, a dead sack of meat and nerve endings, hums to life.

“But I only have eyes for you,” he teases, leaning forward surreptitiously to breath in the woodsy fresh scent of her hair as she bows her head and rolls her eyes.

Argh,” she makes a noise in the back of her throat, wrinkling her nose as a trio of girls walk by, Delly Cartwright and Glimmer Paladino smiling at him flirtatiously while Clove Baker glares at Katniss, going as far as to shoot her middle finger towards her. 

Peeta stores that in the back of his mind, but Katniss is oblivious. “What am I going to do when you actually date one of them?” she is asking him in mock despair, a scowl on her face. “Who will I watch cheesy horror movies with?” she moans, dropping her forehead on his shoulder.

He wraps an arm around her as they walk down the hallway, pressing his dry lips to her hair, the smooth thick strands filling his senses. “Those movies give you nightmares,” he says absently, noting with hyper awareness that a set of eyes are watching them down the hall.

“They’re just fiction,” Katniss scoffs. She tenses as they pass Cato Baxter, who looks her up and down slowly and licks his lips. She shoots the hulking, leering boy a dirty look, but unconsciously moves closer to Peeta. His grip on her tightens.

“The monsters are real,” he murmurs into her ear, staring in cold calculation at Cato, who dares to look at his Katniss. Cato meets his eyes and looks away first, Peeta taking satisfaction at the fear and respect in the other boy’s eyes, and the way he rubs his arm absently, as if remembering a broken arm and a butterfly.

“I know,” Katniss shivers, leaning further into him.

She thinks he’s talking about Cato.

He’s not.

He tries to understand people like Cato.

All brutish muscle and obvious cruelty.

No finesse.

He’s watched Cato for years, observed and identified him as a fellow species of rage and darkness, and from him Peeta has taken cues on what not to do in order to blend in with the other human cattle.

He finds himself in utter disgust and mild amusement when he watches Cato push freshman on the floor, or break the nose of someone in gym class, or when he hears whispers about girls with bruises after a Friday night date with Cato Baxter.

He watches with the rest of his reluctantly fascinated peers as Cato accidentallybreaks the arm of a small outcast in the locker room, the sickening crack of bone horrifying everyone but Peeta.

He is scornful of Cato and his methods, Peeta thinks later as he trips Clove Baker and sends her sprawling down the stairwell, her head bent at an awkward angle as she lands violently on the carpet covered concrete below, but he can’t fault his results.

“Did you hear about Clove?” Katniss asks, biting her lip as she spins in his extra computer chair. “She’s paralyzed from the neck down.”

“Is she?” he hums in response, bent over a spreading board on his desk. He carefully slides the Common Buckeye from between the thin slips of paper over its wings. It’s not a particularly special or beautiful species, but he thinks it is fitting for the occasion. “I heard she might die.”

She looks at him sharply. “I hope not.”

He shrugs, his muscles of his broad back moving underneath his simple white shirt.

“Gale Hawthorne asked me to Senior Prom,” she says abruptly. He extracts a long, straight pin that he buys specifically from Bioquip, the sharp fragment fabricated from spring steel with a black enamel finish. He meticulously slides it through the thorax of the specimen, and as he pins the Buckeye to his display board, he wishes for the millionth time that he had never crushed that first butterfly in third grade, eyeing where he would have placed it in a position of honor within his collection.

“Are you going with him?” he asks. He can feel her eyes on the back of his neck, and his skin tingles like a thousand spider legs are marching across the expanse of it.

“Do you want me to?” she demands, her voice inexplicably irritated.

“Why would I want you to?” he asks without turning around, placing the glass covering over his display board. There is a long pause, and her silence unnerves him in a way that infuriates him.

He spins in his chair and barely processes her face in front of his before she’s in his lap, knees straddling his hips and her hands cupping his face gently. She presses her lips to his, and his fingers grip her hips tight enough to leave bruises, and suddenly he’s feeling, he’s raw, he’s flayed open like a specimen as her mouth devours his, and he licks at the seam of her lips, demanding entrance. Her little hand tugs at his blond curls, and he groans. He registers her gasp as he grinds her down on his hardness, and bites down on the plump flesh of her bottom lip, hard. The blood flows into his mouth as he jerks her down again, harder still, and he stops as he feels salty warmth mix with the taste of copper in his mouth.

She’s crying, just a tear or two, her eyelashes fluttering as she runs her hands over his smooth jaw and presses bloody kisses to his now unmoving lips.

He pushes her away abruptly, and she falls to the floor.

She blinks up at him in shock, and the droning buzz saw in his head flares to life as her mouth drips red.

 “I’m sorry,” he mutters, turning away. “We shouldn’t…I shouldn’t have done that.”

“I liked it,” she says shyly, and he shudders as he feels a bolt of lightning shoot down his spine.

“Well, I didn’t,” he says roughly. Doesn’t she understand?

“Peeta—“

“Get out.”

Peeta.” He feels a little hand touch his back tentatively.

“I said get the fuck out!” he roars, spinning around and pushing her away.

He waits until he hears the front door slam before bringing his fist down with a crack, shattering the glass covering of his display case. He watches as the blood drips down his hand, expressionless.

He wasn’t careful with Katniss.

He’s relentless as he carves into her, coveting, relishing, utterly in rapture with her every tortured cry. He admires as her body jerks, the tears that gather like storms in the corner of her eyes, the way she tries to hold it all in before releasing a torrent of screams when it all becomes too much to bear.

He feels nothing but her all around him.

When Katniss accepts Gale Hawthorne’s invitation to prom, he calmly pulls Glimmer Paladino into the janitor’s supply closet, pushes her to her knees and fucks her mouth.

It’s red and glistening and he imagines what it would be like to cut it off, that cupid’s bow of an upper lip, imagines the knife slicing into the bee-stung flesh. He holds her tightly by the strands of her bleach blonde hair as he comes down her throat, enjoying the muffled gags as she chokes on his cock and cum.

As he pushes Glimmer back into the phosphorescent lighting of the empty hallway, her face dazed and her mouth wet from his release, he thinks about how Katniss would do it so much better.

He shuts the closet door and turns off the light, sliding down onto the floor and rhythmically slamming his head against the steel sink behind him, trying to beat out the images of Katniss from his mind— of her on her knees, taking in the length of Gale Hawthorne, her mouth glistening and wet and smiling.

He hasn’t spoken to Katniss in a week, and he feels the tension in his fists as clenches them reflexively at his sides. He sees her dancing with Gale Hawthorne, her shimmering gold dress a vision as he spins her around on the waxed floor of the gym.

Glimmer squirms at his side. “Let’s dance,” she says brightly, clutching at his arm. He looks down at her hand and she removes it hastily. There’s a look in her eyes that says she’s remembering the janitor’s closet, but it hadn’t stopped her from asking him to prom the next day.

“No,” he says flatly, watching Katniss laugh as Gale dips her backwards in a classic move.

“But,” she starts, and he fixes her with a cold glare.

“I’ll get us a drink,” she mumbles, backing away so fast she almost trips on her dress.

His body is moving almost against his will as he approaches Katniss. He hears Gale greeting him, but the droning in his skull only has ears for the girl in front of him.

“Dance with me,” he says, pulling her into his arms.

“No,” she says, pushing him away. He grabs her upper arm and jerks her back towards him, his fingers digging into her soft, olive skin. He’s aware of the stares around him, but doesn’t care. This is not blending in, but he doesn’t care.

“I’m sorry,” he says into her ear, “I just want to dance— to talk to you,” he says, his voice sounding far away and desperate. Not like himself. Like a different person.

“She said no, dude,” Gale says angrily, pushing him hard. He feels a shrieking, a pulsing in his brain, and he realizes that the game is about to be over. This person is keeping him from his Katniss. This person is touching him. He is going to hurt this person in front of this entire room.

But then Katniss is touching his arm.

“You ruin everything,” she says softly, her eyes blinking up at him. He goes numb, and his ears feel like they are filled with cotton as she whirls away and stalks out of the gym.

He stands in the middle of the room. He registers that Gale is shouting out him, pushing him. He looks around in confusion and sees Cato Baxter raise his glass at him mockingly before turning around and exiting through the double doors.

He processes this as he feels a heavy hand land on his shoulder.

“Out,” Principal Thread says, a scowl on his face. “Hawthorne, you’re done.” The other boy can barely protest before two security officers are flanking him and escorting him out of the opposite door that Katniss exited.

“Mellark, get some air,” Thread says, jerking his head. “The only reason you’re not out on your ass right now, well, you might as well know—you’re Prom King,” he says lowly.

Peeta stares at him blankly, his hands shaking at his sides.

“Are you deaf, boy?” he barks. “I said get out of here and calm down.”

He breaks out his trance , nods and walks towards the door that he saw Katniss exit through. He has to talk to her, he thinks, walking down the darkened hallway. He has to make her understand that she is all wrong for him, that he is all wrong for her, that he is ba

He hears her scream. He knows her scream.

He dreams of her screams, fantasizes about them late at night.

He breaks into a swift run as he heads up a staircase that leads to an abandoned breezeway. He stops as he sees Katniss underneath Cato Baxter, his hands pushing her golden dress up her thighs.

“No,” she is crying, and his heart stops and shatters as Cato draws back and strikes her across the face, hard.

“Shut up, bitch,” he is grunting, pulling at her panties. “I’m going to get me a piece of Mellark’s slut, and you’re going to like it.”

For such a large boy, he flies backwards easily as Peeta yanks him off of Katniss with all of the rage, the anger, and power that he has ever felt before. Cato crashes backwards into the brick of the wall, almost staggering over the railing.

“Get out of here, Katniss,” Peeta says calmly, grabbing her hand and pulling her up.

Cato stands up and fixes Peeta with a gleeful smile, rubbing his hands together.

“No,” she says, pulling at his shirt. “He’s crazy, he’s—“

“Go!” he yells at her, turning away as Cato charges at him. He feels a moment of relief as he sees Katniss disappear down the staircase before he hits the stone of the breezeway floor, hard, knocking the wind out of him.

His head rocks backwards with the the force of Cato’s blows.

“Been waiting for this day,” Cato breathes over him excitedly, striking him again. “Gonna fucking kill you, Mellark. Never forgot about that day, you know. When you broke my fucking arm. The way you’ve fixed me with that cold fucking stare for years, the way you parade that hot piece of ass around this school like she’s yours, how everyone thinks you’re such a fucking saint, when I know the truth about you, Mellark,” his head rocks back again, and he hears his nose crack, “you’re crazy, like me,” he feels dizzy now, “but not crazy enough. I’m gonna fuck your girl, Mellark. Then I’m gonna hurt her, like I’m hurting yo—“

Cato stops, and his eyes roll back in his head as he drops off to the side, away from Peeta.

He looks up in a daze as he sees Katniss standing over him, her chest heaving, face a dark purple mess with bleeding lips, and he think she’s never looked more beautiful in his life.

“I think he’s dead,” she says, dropping a pair of bolt cutters that he vaguely recognized from the janitor’s closet. “His head…it’s dented,” she says dreamily, in shock.

He stands up, wobbling slightly as he walks toward her.

“Now you’re like me,” he says, wrapping his arms around her as her legs buckle. He hears a noise, and he lowers Katniss to the ground as he looks down at Cato thoughtfully, blood streaming in his eyes. The voices in his head shriek for vengeance.

The boy groans slightly as Peeta lifts him from the ground.

“Is he dead?” Katniss’ voice is dazed, a faint and trembling thing.

Peeta tosses Cato over the breezeway balcony, the cracking thud comforting. With his very last reserve of energy, he lifts Katniss up into his arms next. She stares at him without fear.

“He is now,” he says.

He carries her downstairs, half stumbling towards the gym.

He hears shrieking, and yelling, and he can no longer tell if it’s in his head or coming from behind the gym doors.

He slides through the door and collapses as they announce him Prom King, and his last thought is of Katniss as they hit the ground.

They say it was in self-defense. It’s not feasible that the Prom King and a straight-A student killed a star athlete in cold blood. Katniss’ cracked ribs, collarbone fracture and purple face, coupled with Cato Baxter’s widely known reputation, put the issue to rest quickly. Katniss and Peeta are dropped from all charges.

They are both in the hospital for a week, and when they are released, Peeta drives them to her empty house and fucks her, hard, even though they are both still bruised, and damaged, and in pain.

Katniss says she likes it.

It soon becomes a whispered legend, the urban lore of Seneca High School, how the Prom King saved the life of his girlfriend against the school bully-turned-psycho.

And when Peeta pins his latest specimen to his board, he lets Katniss push the sharp steel through the thorax of the blue and yellow Anise Swallowtail, kissing her fingers in adoration after.

The monsters are real.