Work Header

The Surrogate

Chapter Text

The Surrogate

She tried to stand there as still as stone, but every breath she took seemed to shudder through her so loudly her body shook like quaking leaves in a winter wind. The dress she wore matched the others besides her; flimsy white thin cotton made to look something like "Grecian style". At least that is what Effie told her. All she knew was that it was so see through, she might as well have been bare so what was even the point. Even after standing there for almost an hour, her cheeks heated up in furious embarrassment at the thought of it. And their eyes were always upon her. She wasn't sure if she wanted them to look at her or ignore her but either option was equally horrifying. This was the only option open to her and her family and as loathe as she was to admit it, she needed them, she needed their attention. Well at least one person, only one.

They fluttered around the party, brightly gilded butterflies of unnatural colors, laughing a little bit too hard, talking a little bit too loudly. They were on the bare edges of civility and she knew they were but one or two drinks from letting it all go. Garish masks obscured their faces even if their bodies were barely covered. Although she found a masquerade party pretty absurd, she was nonetheless grateful; it would make it so much harder seeing their faces; knowing what they looked like, maybe even knowing who their potentially famous faces were. Because of course as Effie put it, there were "very important people" attending the party.

One year ago she would have laughed off anybody who told her she would be in this situation, selling her body to the highest seller. It's amazing how things can change so quickly. To think she used to pity sex surrogates, even with all their wealth and status. It hurt her heart thinking that somebody could hold their body, hold themselves, as just a mere commodity to be bought and used. But no matter what, she wouldn't pity herself or her situation because this would be their salvation. With this money they could possibly leave District 12 and all the bad memories behind.
Her head swooned and she realized she had been standing too still for so long. Gale had warned her that this might happen. He told her the length of time standing there would be excruciatingly painful, not to mention boring but that it would all be worth it. She bent her knees a couple of times like he recommended to try and get some blood pumping in her body and finally her head cleared. Thank god she was allowed to go barefoot, she didn't know how some of the other girls were able to stand wearing high heels.

Thoughts about Gale had her searching the crowd for her friend and after a few minutes of looking, she finally found him at the other end of the room, tall and cutting an intimidating figure. Since he was a companion his clothing and mask were simple and almost plain but that didn't make him any less striking. His hand laid gently on Madge Undersee Crane's bare back, his fingers making light patterns almost like he was writing secrets into her soft skin. If only she could be as lucky as him, he actually liked the woman he "worked" for. Not only was she beautiful, but she was kind and sweet. Not to mention her husband was pretty much absent all the time since he was too busy playing in the Capitol all the time so they were often left to their own devices. She had to add that Gale had a very generous paycheck he could send over to his mother Hazel, her days of washing laundry by hand long over.

Gale wove a fairy tale to her of comfort, food, medicine and paid bills that was a prospect that was too tempting to pass up. There was no guarantee she would be picked up as a companion, there might only be somebody who only wanted her for one night. The money would be enough to help, but not nearly enough to save her ailing father. But when she saw her father fighting a losing battle for air every single day, she knew she had to try. This could be his salvation. All he needed was a simple vial of medicine that was so beyond their means it might as well have been made of gold. So she stood there, and waited, and hoped that somebody would notice her.

A shiver ran across her skin, her nipples becoming hard points as the breeze directed at them seemed to strengthen. Effie said the wind added ambience and a romantic effect as the light cotton swirled around their legs. All she knew was that it was fucking cold and goosebumps were definitely not attractive. As she suppressed the urge to shake like a scared dog, a tingle traveled up the back of her neck. It was the kind of sensation where you just knew that somebody was staring at you. She peered around slowly, trying not to be too obvious and there the culprit stood, still as a statue among a twittering group of women, his icy blue eyes fixed intensely upon her. The heat rushed back to her cheeks and she barely resisted the urge to cross her arms over her chest. Instead her nails dug harder into the soft flesh of her palms and she raised her head in defiance. She may be a shaking nervous mess inside but she refused to show it in front of these people.

There was the barest nod of his head in acknowledgement before he turned around and silently lifted a finger, easily getting the attention of a fluttery Effie despite the small movement. As Effie made her way over he leaned down and whispered something into the ear of a striking blonde woman standing next to him. She nodded her head and looked at Katniss with a cold calculating glance before she nodded her head in assent. They both turned back to Effie only saying a few words before her employer came rushing towards her direction.

"Katniss my dear, it looks like you got yourself a little bite! Aren't you excited?" Effie didn't even pause a moment to see if she would answer before prattling on. "He's a very very wealthy man. I don't want to tell you too much about him yet, because if it doesn't happen, you'll be very disappointed. It's best you approach the interview as a clean slate anyway. Well, come come my dear. What are we doing just standing here. We need to get you into one of the private interview rooms in the back. It's best not to keep them waiting."

Before Katniss could even get her mind wrapped around the fact that she was actually getting the chance she was so hoping for moments before she was being rushed out of the room, down a few different winding hallways to a plain nondescript door. Effie pushed the door open without knocking and ushered her inside. It was dimly lit and she could barely make out any of the furniture inside. Effie went to a wall and flipped a switch and instead of turning on the overhead lights like she expected, instead a bright spot light flickered on at the end of the room closest to them. It was directed a small round low stage that would only take one step to get on.

"Well, don't dawdle, they'll be here any moment," Effie said as she lightly pushed her towards the the platform. As soon as she stepped up the bright light directed at her made it almost impossible to see anything outside of that circle.

"Now don't forget that the stage does spin, so they might use that feature to get a 360 view of you. So if does start moving please don't fall. That's almost a guarantee that they won't make a purchase. It's quite unfortunate actually. So just stay on the stage, keep your balance and a placid look on your face. Don't smile too brightly or you'll looked crazed. Answer all questions honestly and politely. Do you have any questions?" Effie rushed out her words so efficiently it was evident she had said this spiel many times before.

"Actually, do you know if this client only wants one night or does he want someone more permanent?" Katniss' heart seemed to beat painfully out of her chest as she waited for Effie's answer. Even though it came quickly, that brief moment seemed to stretch on forever.

"They're looking for a permanent position. They'll do a trial tonight and if it works out, you'll be accompanying them to their estate the following day. Your affairs are all in order correct?" she asked.

"Ye...yes," she stuttered out nervously. She didn't know whether she was relieved or scared out of her mind. If they liked her, it was so permanent, there would be no turning back. Now she was starting to wonder if maybe a one night deal would have been a better proposition. She would have some money to bring back home and she would still be with her family. She took a deep cleansing breath and tried to calm her shaken nerves. Looking like a mess in front of her first potential client wouldn't be any help. She closed her eyes and pictured the meadow near her house filled with daisies swaying in a gentle warm breeze and could feel the shaking in her limbs lessen. While her eyes were closed she heard the click of a door on the opposite side of the room from where she came in. She slowly opened her eyes and tried her best to put on a placid expression just like Effie told her.

Effie walked over to the two shadowy figures on the other side of the room but it didn't matter if she couldn't see their faces, she knew exactly who she was dealing with. The couple sat down in large over stuffed chairs but besides a few hushed whispers to Effie, didn't say anything. She forgot to ask Effie if the client would be just one of them or the both. God she hoped it was just one. She tried her best not to show the panic and hoped to god she didn't look like the scared deer that she felt she resembled. Just like Effie had warned the stage started to spin but luckily it was a smooth start so it was very easy to stay still and keep her balance. After a few spins it came to a stop and once again she faced the shadowy strangers in front of her.

"So Katniss Everdeen, our beautiful Effie here tells us you're from District 12, is that correct?" She was surprised that it was the woman speaking first. Her voice was rich and silky but it lacked any real warmth. It was so clinical it made her want to shiver again but this time there was no breeze to blame it on.

"Yes, I'm from District 12, the area known as the Seam," she answered, somehow able to keep the nerves from appearing in her voice.

"And you are 20 years of age. It says here you are a virgin. You're pretty old to be a virgin. I thought you lot got married and pregnant by the age of 18," she asked, brittle laughter coloring her voice.

"That's not true, we don't get married so young," Katniss answered, heat coloring her words at her dismissive tone. "Bedsides I never plan to marry or have children," she followed as she tried to calm her temper.

"Well, that's a good idea considering the line of work you're in," she said. And although she couldn't see the expression on her face, she knew that she was smirking at her express so her head lifted a little higher in defiance.

"And you're free of any obligations in your home district? I would hate for you to be distracted while you're away from home."

"I am free and ready for work for as long as you need me," she answered as she was trained to do by Effie.

"Good. Effie tells me that you have been trained to handle any needs. She always has the best stock. But you can understand that you need to be tested out first. Of course you'll be compensated even if it doesn't work out. My husband here likes you very much, I would hate for you to disappoint him."

Katniss doesn't know how to answer that so she just stays silent and holds her breath, waiting for what is to come next.

"Well, You're pretty enough I guess, but since I'm not the one partaking, I think it's best that I leave you two for it. I have a little bit more shopping to do," the mysterious woman slid out of her seat gracefully before turning to her husband and leaving a lingering kiss on his lips. "Happy birthday my dear. Tell me what you think when you're done."

She didn't wait for his answer but instead went over to the waiting Effie and left through the door that they came in. The silence descended over them heavy and pregnant with anticipation. Her heart once again came to life and pounded heavily against her rib cage as she waited for him to make the first move. She wasn't sure what she was supposed to do next. Go over to him? Wait? Make conversation? Effie had trained her well. Everything from holding a political conversation to how to hold a cock in just the right way so that a man couldn't come even if he even wanted to. But her mind went blank as she waited for him to make the first move.

Eventually after the moments stretched on, he got up from his seat and slowly made his way toward her. He stopped a few feet away from her, still silent as he took in her form. The light was achingly bright and she struggled to make out the expression on his face, searching for what this night would bring, but it was useless. The shadows were just too deep.

He turned away from her and went toward the wall and to her blessed relief he switched the overhead light off. She blinked a few times and rubbed her eyes in an attempt to adjust to the sudden darkness. In the meantime his hand played over the lighting console until the rest of the lights in the room had brightened to a manageable level, enough to bring illumination without being so brilliantly bright. When he turned around she was finally able to take him fully in and his beauty took her breath away. He was so much more striking up close than he was in at a distance. Golden hair with long golden lashes to match, blue eyes brighter than a summer day, and a stocky body with tight muscles emphasized by his tight shirt.

"Well Katniss, I guess it's that time to get to know each other," he said wryly, a smirk played on his lips and she couldn't help the gulp that constricted her throat in reaction to what was to come.

Chapter Text

The Surrogate

She thought that her heart was beating hard before but as he stalked slowly up to her she felt as if she would keel over right there, pounding the of her heart was so fierce. She kept reminding herself that this was the moment that Effie had spent all her time and energy training her for. And Effie was the best in the business. She had gone through all the courses and surprisingly passed with flying colors. She knew exactly what to do with a male body to make him melt into a puddle before her, have him begging for more, to believe himself in love with her. She was more than ready. But as he held his hand out to her, she knew that nothing could prepare her for this moment. And especially with this man.

Vibrating very slightly, she hesitantly put her hand into his large one, and his fingers closed around so gently. The heat radiating from him spread into her palm then all the way up her arm and she was pretty sure that her face was was blushed a bright red considering how much warmth that she felt radiating from her cheeks.

He helped her off the short platform and pulled her toward a large luxurious bed that she hadn't noticed before on the far right side of the room. She was certain that he could feel her hand trembling in his own, but he didn't say anything. Instead he ushered them to both sit down on the edge of the bed never once letting go of her. She didn't know quite what to expect from him let alone for him to lift up her hand up and place a kiss on the tips of her fingers, his plump lips lingering against them before his piercing blue eyes shot up and searched her own. She wasn't sure what he was looking for or if he found it, but he let out a sigh before bringing her hand down to his knee and massaging it between both of his own. The action was so seemingly affectionate, so intimate that it made the breath catch in her throat. The warmth she had been feeling grew in strength until it felt like her arm was practically tingling with electricity.

After a long moment he finally said, "Your hand is so small. It's so delicate, yet it has a roughness to it that I'm sure Effie tried to get rid of with her minions. This is a hand that's seen life, has done things. They tell a story that I'll probably never know," Not once did he look at her face, only tracing the lines crossing her palms.

She still wasn't sure where he was going with this so she waited patiently to continue. He took another deep breath and looked up at her, eyes pleading, "Do you really want this? This job, this agreement? Is this something that you won't regret. I need an honest answer."

She hadn't realized how close she was to him until her body jerked away slightly in response to his unexpected question. He still held her hand firmly so she didn't move to far, just enough to search the face of the stranger in front of him. He was somebody that she knew nothing about. There was no doubt that he was handsome, alarmingly so in fact. In her district the women would be falling over themselves to get an opportunity to be with him. His blond hair was well coiffed, his skin smooth and unblemished, all his muscles beautifully formed. She didn't really try to put too much thought about the type of man that she would get, keeping her expectations low was for the best. When she did put her mind on it, she pictured him old, balding, and with a gut. Or somebody who was a brightly colored bird that was the norm for the Capitol. She wanted to be prepared for the worst. She never expected to find somebody so perfect, so attractive in front of her, somebody who made the butterflies flutter in her stomach.

Before she could stop herself she was saying, "Why? Why this? Why me?" As soon as the words came out, she bit in her lip in embarrassment and looked up at him sheepishly. She was told that until given permission she should never speak out of turn and she hoped that she didn't lose this golden opportunity.

Instead of looking offended, he appeared to be relieved that she asked him the question. He brought up his right hand and moved it nervously through his hair, tugging the golden locks out of the tight gel that had held it down.

"I never really expected this for me. I mean, it's the norm for the Capitol but I never saw a reason why I should have to use this service. As you can see Glimmer is extremely beautiful and I really loved my wife when I married her. are a gift to me for our anniversary. She cares for me, I know she does, but she doesn't actually care about being with me." He paused and looked back down at her hand and nervously played with her them before he continued. When he looked back at her his expression was so raw so open, he just looked so lost she felt herself wanting to take all of that pain away.

"I'm lonely okay. When she came to me and told me of her idea, I said no, I protested, I just didn't want to think about that. But she wore me down. And I'm lonely, I have nobody besides my sister to listen to me, and the thought of a companion just seemed so tempting. Even up until the party I was convinced I would refuse her gift. But then I saw you and there was something about you that is indescribable. I knew that I had to meet you. I just had to see. So I am asking you again do you really want this?"

As she searched his face and read it's honesty she couldn't help but think again how unexpected this all was. And she knew in that moment that she did want this. She did want to be there for this man, this person she knew nothing about. She could feel a kinship with him, she knew intimately about the loneliness coursing through his veins. Besides if she said no, what other offers were out there for her? The man with the ridiculous beard and the predatory smile, the ancient citizen who took every opportunity to feel up the goods offered, or any number of Capitol creatures? No, she couldn't say no, and beyond that, she didn't want to. So she nodded her head firmly and gave him a steady, "Yes."

The smirk that she had seen earlier in the evening made a reappearance but somehow on his face the expression looked sweet. She gave him a shy but comforting smile in return before she shook her head and stood up before him. She offered him both her hands which he promptly took in his own and she tugged him up, giving the hint that she wanted him to stand up. She looked up at him and he wasn't too short but he wasn't tall either, but so he was the perfect height for her small stature. She slowly made her way around him, dragging her hand against his clothed chest, then down his arm before smoothing around his back and back to start. Her hand played with one of the buttons on his shirt, not quite pushing them through the hole as she looked at him through long eyelashes.

"I don't even know your name. Effie didn't tell me," she said still playing with that single button.

"Mellark, Peeta Mellark," was his answer. Her eyes widened slightly in surprise because she actually knew who he was. Extremely wealthy was definitely an understatement. His family was the largest distributor of baked and dried goods in the country. Everything from bread to packaged cookies, cereal, crackers, and everything in between. Everybody knew the Mellark name.

"Nice to meet you Peeta," she said before she popped the button through the hole. Her fingers played with the light blond hair that she found sprinkling his chest before she moved onto the next button and popped it through, then the next and the next until it was completely undone. Her fingers moved gently between the fabric just feeling and become familiar with the warm skin she discovered there. Her movement stopped over the place that held his heart. She could feel it beating just as fast and hard as her own. She looked up into his eyes and found not only curiosity but heat. While their gazes were still locked she moved forward until she kissed the spot right above his beating heart. She moved her lips along the warm skin then brought out her tongue to taste and memorize the saltiness of his skin. When she looked back up at him, the curiosity was gone and only the heat in his gaze remained. She smoothed her hands on his chest then up to push his shirt completely off his shoulders.

His body was just as beautiful as she imagined and the freckles sprinkled around his shoulders were somehow strangely enticing. As her fingers created a path along the curves and dips of his his body a shiver traveled through him. She looked down and could see the curve of his penis as it pressed urgently against his pants. Instead of paying attention to it, she moved to his left nipple and took it in her mouth, alternating sucking it and flicking it with her tongue. His body undulated against her, automatically seeking more from her. She moved over to his over nipple and gave it the same attention. He made no move to touch her, the only movement was the occasional pulsation of his hips and the tight gripping of his hands.

When she was satisfied, she stepped back and looked at him ready and waiting for her to make the next move. That was when she finally moved to the button of his pants, popping it open and moving down the zipper. As soon as she parted the pants, his cock bounced out eagerly with no other barrier in it's way. She pushed his pants down his hips so they dropped onto the floor before she bent down and untied his shoes and motioned him to step out. As she knelt on the floor she looked up at his naked form above her. She knew that he was barely keeping any restraint but yet he still held back waiting for her. And the power of it coursed through her. It was then that she knew he would do anything she wanted of him, he was under her control and her head swam with it. It was then that she truly understood everything Effie had been teaching her over these weeks.

Her hands came up to massage his strong firm thighs and he quivered under her ministrations. Then she sat up and pushed up his cock before laying a soft kiss on the underside. She moved her kisses up until she reached the tip but did nothing further. When she pulled back, she thought he would protest but all he did was utter a low groan.

She stood up and leaned into him until her entire body was pressed against his, the only barrier the thin cotton of the dress that she still wore. He brought up one hand to her hair and caressed her thick braid while the other one landed on her hip and brought her in that much closer. As he examined her expression, he deftly undid her braid and when he was done, she brought up her hands up to his and entwined their fingers. She moved them around the end of the bed to the side before she pushed him to sit down. On the counter she noticed a basket of supplies conveniently placed there and in the center was a bottle of massage oil. She grabbed it and rolled it between her hands contemplatively before she looked over at Peeta waiting patiently for her next move.

"Peeta, I want this. I do want you. I want to make you feel better. I want to help take some of your loneliness away. I want to be your companion. Please let me make you feel good." And she felt the truth of the words as they came from her lips. She didn't know anything about him, and she didn't know how long this job would last but the loneliness she saw radiating off of him spoke to her and in this moment she could not only help him but herself as well.

"Please Katniss," was the only thing he said. A small smile played on her lips before it vanished again. She placed the bottle of oil down again but only so she could unbraid her hair and shake it free. Her hand went to his shoulder and this time it was his skin she could feel vibrating underneath her fingertips. She gave him a soft push so that he lay down completely on the bed. She lifted up the skirt of her dress as she climbed on the bed, then on top of him. She moved her legs to straddle his thighs then sat down. The feel of the corse hairs on his thighs against the the soft underside of her skin sent tingles traveling straight up to her core, heating her and she squirmed slightly at the sensation. She then slid herself up excruciatingly slow until his cock lay nestled against her.

Peeta stomach undulated up as a breath caught in his throat and he automatically brought his hands up to her own legs, smoothing the soft skin he found there under the cloth. His hands moved slowly up until he reached the juncture of her legs. He didn't move except for sliding his thumbs up and down at the V where the hair of her mons touched her legs. He didn't seek anything further, didn't even dip his fingers in her juncture, but still she could feel the heat rise and the moisture start to pool. She took a deep cleansing breath before she reached over to grab the oil still sitting there on the side table. It was far enough away so that she once again had to press herself against him in order to reach it. When she turned her head back towards him she was only a breath away. In that moment she realized that she had yet to kiss him and it confused her that it felt like such an intimate gesture, especially considering that their most private parts were currently lined up to each other.

His lips were slightly parted and she could feel his hot breath fan against her face. When he drew his lower lip between his teeth she knew that she couldn't resist the temptation any longer and brought her her mouth down on his. She sucked his lower lip in between her own and could taste the whiskey that he was no doubt drinking earlier along with something that was distinctly him. His taste was intoxicating. She pulled away for the briefest of moments before she went down again for more and then more again. Her hands found their way into his hair and soon with the tugging and gripping of her fingers the gel completely lost all it's hold. The longer they kissed the more urgent the movement of their lips became against each other. When his tongue asked for entranced she was more than ready to grant it. The war for dominance that their tongues played against each other felt like second-nature. The cavern of his mouth felt like she was coming home and she quickly became addicted to the taste of him.

His once patient hands became urgent against her skin and moved to grip the soft flesh of her bottom tightly against him, digging in. They then traveled up to the top of her dress and brought the cloth of the neck down, exposing her breasts. She had to pull away for air and he used the opportunity to take a breast into his mouth and the motion of his lips against her was almost her undoing. It felt like all her breath had been snatched away from her. His hands became desperate as he encountered the cloth of her dress barring the way and before she could stop him, he was ripping it away from her body and tossed it to the floor. It was then that she knew that she had to take back control of a situation that was quickly spiraling away from her. She tried to push his head away but the grip on her back tightened further and his mouth became even more urgent against her sensitive skin. Her eyes fluttered shut for a moment before she shook her head and abruptly sat back up, finally breaking away from him.

He blinked up at her in a confused daze and before the words could form on his lips she put a finger against them and said, "Peeta you are distracting me from my mission. Now be a good boy and lie still."

He gave a frustrated sigh and flopped back down on the bed, but the smile playing on his lips was still an amused one. She finally grabbed the massage oil again and poured some in her hands before proceeding to rub it into the the skin before her. She started at his heart before increasing the circle of her hands to encompass his full broad chest. The sigh of contentment that he let past his lips unexpectedly made her heart flutter and her hands stalled as she took in the relaxed man in front of her. She shook her head and then continued to work the muscles of his shoulders then his arms. She took her time to pay extra attention to massaging the palm then the fingers of each hand. He looked up at her, clearly surprised that such a simple movement of her working the muscles and tendons of his hands would feel so good.

"Okay, I need you to turn around so I can get your back," she said.

"Alright, but on one condition, I get to do you next. And no arguments, you're supposed to make me happy after all," he said with a sly smile looking more like the confident man that she first met.

"As you wish," was her simple answer, her own slight smile on her lips.

She lifted up slightly so she he could turn over and when he was settled, she sat back down on his thighs and put more oil in her hands. She took time with each muscle, firmly kneading the tension until he was completely relaxed under her. When she reached the firm muscles of his buttock he tensed slightly and twitched in anticipation but as her fingers worked into the tension, caressing every curve and valley, he started to melt completely into the bed beneath him. She had never been one to look at butts but he definitely had a good one. She bit her lip and suppressed a giggle as she resisted the urge to slap it.

Massaging not only relaxed him but she could feel the tension leave her own limbs as she moved over him. There was something about doing this for him that, even though they had barely spoken a few words together, she felt as if they were having a silent conversation. They were getting to know each other with their bodies if not through words. When she finished, she lay herself on top of him and left a kiss on his ear, whispering, "All done." Her hands couldn't resist traveling up to his hair as she once again played with the soft waves and curls.

He let a contented sigh and his eyes fluttered closed. She could feel herself being moved up and down with every breath that he took and she smiled into the soft smooth skin of his back. Her limbs felt sluggish and slow with the relaxation and she was being lulled into a stupor when suddenly he heaved himself up and she fell off to the side with a surprised gasp. Before she could even let out an indignant protest he was on top of her and his tongue was prying her lips open and thrusting forcefully in. She welcomed the invasion of her mouth as he took control with tongue and teeth. He stopped as suddenly as he started leaving both of them breathless and chest heaving as they tried to get air.

Even though his eyes were half-lidded in lust, she could still see the fire shining in his eyes. It was scorching and she could feel her body flame red as his gaze moved down her body. It was his turn to grab the oil and pour it into his hands. He rubbed the oil slowly between his fingers, warming it up as he contemplated where to start first. A shiver went through her in anticipation as she waited for his next move. Before she had at least felt in control of the situation so giving up the power felt strange but not unwelcoming.

Time seemed to stretched but finally he sat back besides her feet before tugging both of them into his lap. He pressed her left foot into his hard cock before he picked up her right one and began massaging her flesh. He brought his hands up and down the arch of her foot, circled her ankle and went down her calves to her knee. He didn't leave any part untouched. When he placed a kiss on her ankle then proceeded to do the process all over again but this time her left foot. She didn't think it was possible to get so turned on by a simple act but when he was finished every neuron of her body seemed to be firing. He then moved her legs on either side of him before scooting a little closer. His large hand moved up and down her thighs, getting so close to her opening but never reaching there. But as she looked at his face she knew that his attention was completely taken by the area between her legs which was completely open and exposed to his view. The shiver that went through was partially in embarrassment because of his attention but she had to admit that part of her relished the thrill.

When his hands went to her stomach she couldn't help the sigh of disappointment. This man was constantly surprising her, and the biggest surprise of all was the desire that she genuinely felt building inside of her. She wanted him to make her limbs shake and her body writhe. She wanted him to fill her up, she wanted the ecstasy that always seemed just out of reach. As his hand massaged more oil into her abdomen and then up to her breasts, she did feel herself getting closer to that feeling that always seemed to elude her.

His hands were expert at kneading and she became completely pliable under him. The moan that left her mouth completely took her by surprise. Although he worked the flesh of her breasts when his fingers would go to her nipples, he was delicate, soft, frustratingly slow. But then he was bending down and using his tongue again and she lost all ability to form words as his tongue took turns circling each areola, making sure each nipple rose to sharp peaks. He moved to lay down on his stomach between her legs and put his chin right on her lower stomach. His right hand smoothed up and down along her left leg as he asked, "So you really are a virgin? I know that all of Effie's people are well trained. I thought, well you'd get rid of it during that time."

She couldn't help but think how odd it felt to feel his voice vibrate right through her belly and a little laugh escaped her lips. The sound of it brought a smile to his lips and brightened his beautiful eyes. She didn't think that something so simple was capable of making him look so happy.

She lowered her eyes shyly as she gave him her answer. "Yes, I'm a virgin. There are ways of training that don't involve that. She thought that it was a great commodity and didn't want me to give it away for free."

"Well thank you for giving it to me," and as the words left his mouth his fingers reached down and caressed her lips causing another gasp to leave her mouth. He didn't move, just stayed there with his chin on the skin right above her pubes as the fingers tested and teased her. First the motions were cautious, like a person trying to calm a scared animal. But as she loosened up and her body started to undulate along with his ministrations, his movements became bolder, stronger.

Two of his thick fingers started to slip inside of her, moving in and out and she knew that he was starting to prepare her. His thumb moved up to her clit and first he started with firmly rubbing it but soon he was alternating with tapping and pinching, causing electricity to shoot up and vibrate her limbs. He then left a kiss on her pubic bone before his mouth joined his hand in his work and everything became liquid fire. His tongue felt like it was everywhere at once. First exploring her lips and crevices then dipping inside to help spread her juices around while at the same time still massaging her clit at a frenzy, she could barely hold on any further. But when he found her clit and he circled it with his hot wet tongue before sucking hard, every muscle tightened and stiffened as her vision seemed to be filled with bright light as she came under him.

She didn't know how long it took her to gain her breath but it felt like forever before she could breath even remotely normally again. When she opened her sluggish eyes he was looking down at her, a large confident grin stretched across his face, his hand smoothing the hair away from her sticky forehead.

He bent down and left a lingering kiss on her forehead before he asked, "Are you ready?" She could only nod her head in answer.

She rubbed her lips together in anticipation and he quickly sensed that she was still a little nervous so he bent down and sucked each of her lips into his his mouth and used his tongue to smooth over her lower lip and teeth before he whispered against her mouth, "It will be okay, I promise. It will hurt, and I'm sorry for that. But next time, next time, I promise I'll try to make it wonderful." She nodded her head in answer and lifted up her head slightly to bring her mouth against him up again and breathed in the taste of him while she kissed his lips, just taking a moment to relish how good she felt before she slumped back down and nodded her head to continue.

He lifted himself up, his strong arms tense on either side of her as he looked down on her small form. She brought her hands up and gripped his biceps, still slick from the oil and gave him a squeeze in a silent message to continue. He brought his right hand to her juncture and worked his fingers in out for a few moments, making sure that she was ready before bringing some of the juices to his cock and rubbing it up and down, the left over oil still lingering on his hand intermingling to make him wet and glistening. He brought his cock to her opening and slowly pushed in. For a moment she worried that his thickness wouldn't fit and she could feel her heart pick up but she took some deep cleansing breaths to relax. This painful part was inevitable, and she just had to get through it. He pushed achingly slow until he reached the barrier that he would need to rip through and stopped. He brought his right hand to her leg and folded it upward, opening her more, hand gripped tight on her thigh and then suddenly with one violent thrust he was in. The burning sensation was indescribable and unique to anything she she had ever felt before. She hadn't even realized that a tear had escaped her tightly closed eye lid until his mouth was on it, kissing it away. Finally the burning died enough away so that she was okay for him to continue.

He moved in and out of her slowly at first, letting her get used to the feel of his cock sliding in and out of her. It felt so alien, so invasive, as he pushed in and out of her, stretching her more than she thought capable. She bit her lip in an attempt to keep in her moans but it was impossible and when his thrust picked up pace she let out a sharp cry. He stopped suddenly at the sound and when she opened up her eyes she could see worry etched on his face, his breaths thick and fast.

"It's okay, keep going. I want this, I want you," she said. He searched her face again and he must have seen the honesty in her eyes because he bent down and gave her a kiss before he started thrusting into her again. Once again he started slow but soon he was moving fast and urgent and impossibly hard into her. His grunts echoed in the quiet room around them and sweat formed on his forehead from his efforts. Her hands fell beside her and she gripped the soft cloth tightly between her fingers as she grappled with the sensation of being taken. The feel of her breasts jiggling with each thrust, the slap of his balls against her ass, the breath leaving her body. She wasn't sure how long this lasted, it could have been moments or hours, but if felt like an eternity. Eventually his movements became erratic and he shuttered, his hot seed flooding inside of her. As soon as he was done he collapsed on top of her, his weight heavy, their bodies sticking together with the sweat from their exertion. As soon as he gained his breath, he lifted himself just enough so he wetly kiss her, his tongue just as aggressive as his cock had been moments before.

Suddenly a door ripped open across the room, the same one where Peeta and Glimmer had entered so long before. This time it was Glimmer and Effie at the entrance. His cock still inside of her, she flushed with embarrassment and turned her head in the opposite direction, the only way to hide.

"God, aren't you done yet? Jesus Peeta. I already picked my girl and fucked her into the ground and you're still at it. We're leaving in a half hour so don't take too much longer. If you want to keep her, better tell Effie. I have to talk to Clove. Find me when you're finished wetting your dick." And with a click of her heels she was gone.

Peeta, not looking at Effie but only staring down at Katniss said, "Yes, I'm going to keep her. Start charging my card."

Effie simple said, "Perfect," before closing the door once again.

He finally moved off of her and settled down behind her, his cock nestled into her ass, his hand possessively holding her tightly to him. He kissed the shell of her ear and whispered, "I'm sorry."

Chapter Text

The Surrogate


She sat there in a daze, staring at nothing. Her brain bounced from subject to subject without landing on anything in particular. Every time she thought of her family at home so far away, her heart hurt too much to stay there for too long. And every time she thought of what happened with Peeta, the confusion filled her to the point where nausea filled her belly and burned her heart. The thing is, she had always expected to put up with the situation, to shut down her emotions and be an owned woman. Closing off her emotions was second nature to her now. She never expected to actually feel something for the stranger who would hire her though. To unexpectedly feel a connection that could not be explained. This was too much for her to handle. She couldn't go there, shouldn't go there. It was supposed to be simple, he was her new boss, she worked for him. This was a business relationship nothing more and she needed to get her head back into the game.

So she couldn't think of that subject either, so she sat on the edge of the now rumpled bed not knowing what to do with herself. The room was at least warmer than the staging area for the party with it’s damn wind machine. Although now there were no prying eyes, she felt this was almost worse. She hated feeling so vulnerable and bare as she sat there naked, her dress laying in destroyed heap on the floor, wondering what she should do with herself. She guessed her only option really was to wait for Effie. But the longer she waited the more her thoughts turned around back to what she didn’t want it to, Peeta.

Peeta had held her so close, so tightly to himself it felt like she was the only thing tethering him to this world. It was like he was afraid of letting her go. But after a few minutes lying besides each other, intimately entwined he finally had to leave her. His hand slid away from her belly reluctantly, leaving a hot path in his wake as he slowly got up. Every part of her that had been touching him felt so cold without him there and she could still feel a throbbing between her legs. She watched him methodically put on his clothes until he was impeccably dressed again and the rich stately man was back in her presence. The only thing askew was was his hair, his blonde curls wild on his head. She was hoping that he wouldn't slick it back again and after a few vain attempts to push it back, with a sigh he gave up. When he crossed the room she thought that he was leaving to return to his wife but instead, after going through a different door, he came back with a warm wash cloth. He turned her on to her back and she obediently spread her legs wide again but this time so he could clean her up.

When he finished, they silently contemplated each other before he bent over her still prone figure and left a kiss on her lips. "I'll be seeing you soon," he said softly, then he really did leave with a quiet click of the door. After a moment of staring at the ceiling, she sat up, meaning to make her way to the bathroom but as she sat at the edge of the bed she found herself frozen there, immobile because of her chaotic brain. She really should get up, but she just couldn't.

Her rescue came in the form of Effie Trinket, of course. The door snapped open and she came walking in briskly with a sharp click of her heels echoing on the wood floor, two of her minions following in her wake.

"Sorry to leave you waiting, but I had to deal with Johanna. Such a spirited girl, she definitely keeps me on my toes. My dear, what an excellent job you did! I knew you had it in you, even if you were the most stubborn girl of the whole group! Effie Trinket can make any slug charming. Not that you're a slug. I can't believe you snagged the top prize! I've been wanting to put the Mellarks on my client list for ages. And two Mellarks at that too. Now I will officially be the top surrogate coordinator of the Capitol. Oh my goodness this makes me so happy. Everyone will want to use me now," Effie said in a whirlwind of words. She then bent down and gave Katniss a kiss on cheek each before she grabbed her hands and yanked her up.

"Now, we need to get you ready to get going on your trip. They've decided to leave right after the party and, well, you look like a mess if I must say. You've been well sexed clearly, but we can't have you leaving like a common whore on the streets. Flavius! Octavia! Get over here! Why are you just dawdling behind me? Really! Get her dressed and pretty as a rose. We want to make make sure she looks like a star when when she leaves." Effie didn't even wait for them to reply before she turned on her heel and walked towards the door, leaving Katniss increasingly aware of her new situation.

"We're running late so we only have twenty minutes, no more!" She directed, not turning back, just waving a hand in their general direction. And with the sharp snap of the door she was gone as quickly as she had come in.

"Oh goodness!" exclaimed Flavius. "How are we ever going to get this mess fixed up in twenty minutes. We need a good hour at least."

"Well, we'll do as much as we can under the circumstances," answered Octavia. "But we need a minor miracle by this point."

Katniss' anger was quickly rising and she would have protested, annoyed at her treatment as a mere piece of goods. But she was so quickly taken to the bathroom and shoved under the shower, she barely had time to let out a "Hey!"

They dialed in the settings they preferred and nearly scalded her skin off with the heat of the water before they moved her none too gently over to the body air dryer. The moisture was off her body in only a few minutes, but it left her hair standing around her head like a halo of frizz. Unphased, they sat her down and proceeded to smooth it down with a tonic that smelled like coconut to give it a lustrous shine. When the they were done with that, they stood her up abruptly to rub lotion on to every inch of her body until her skin was smooth and seemed to glisten under the light. They even examined her pubis area to make sure she was neatly trimmed, and not a hair out of place, even though they had already done that earlier in the evening. What the point was, she had no idea.

The last straw was when they pinched her nipples hard. She slapped their hands away hard. "That is enough! Why the hell would you do that?"
She protested harshly.

"Well, we need to make sure that you look perky. Nice and ready to go. Your nipples just weren't standing up enough," answered Octavia in a straight matter-of-fact manner, not even batting an eyelash a her.

"Octavia, we don't have time to to dawdle and answer questions. We only have a few minutes and she's not even dressed yet," said Flavius as he tapped his foot impatiently.

"Quite right. What dress should we pick? The red one perhaps?" he said moving over to the closet and picking out something that looked like a tube that could barely fit on her thigh let alone her whole body.

"Hmm, that is a good one definitely but let's go with Cinna's gold dress, she'll simply sparkle in that one," said Octavia clapping her hands together in excitement. She shifted through the numerous dresses hanging in the large closet before pulling out one that seemed to be made of liquid gold. It shimmered and waved in the air as she shook it on the hanger. They quickly brought it over to her and it seemed to pour over her as they put it on. The straps were thin but strong, the scoop of it's neck was low enough to show a tantalizing amount of cleavage without seeming indecent. But the back, well there really wasn't a back. It dipped down low, skimming the dimples above her ass. The dress tightened along her hips and fit too perfectly before it stopped way too high above her knees for her comfort level. To complete the outfit they put her feet in matching gold sandal heels instead of letting her go barefoot. They were much more comfortable than they initially looked but still, she felt like she tottered a little bit in them.

Just as they were finished putting on the last layers of makeup, Effie came breezing back in and this time with another person in tow. She couldn't help but roll her eyes when she realized it was Johanna Mason, another surrogate who trained beside her the last few weeks, and who she considered a complete pain in her ass. Johanna was wearing what could have been described as a dress, but it was sheer mesh with intricate well placed leaves. She looked stunning and extremely confident in a way only she could partially naked.

"Everdeen?! You're the other fucking person picked? You gotta be kidding me! I pegged you for a cold fish. You surprise me, I didn't think you'd have it in you to go through with it. Color me impressed! Picking up a prize package like Mellark. So tell me what was he like? A girl's wet dream come true?"

"Johanna Mason! Manners! We do not talk about our clients like that! What am I going to do with you? Well you're their problem now," interjected Effie before Katniss could even begin to come up with a response.

"Wait, are you going too? Did Peeta pick you?" Katniss asked instead, confused about why Johanna was there and reluctantly realizing she was already feeling possessive over him.

"Don't be so brainless. Of course he didn't pick me. He was with you wasn't he? I was picked by Glimmer. You know the wife. Apparently I am a very expensive anniversary present. She chose very wisely by the way. I'm good, very good. I had her singing many octaves tonight," Johanna said with a sly wink and a self-satisfied smirk that lingered on her lips.

"Johanna, what did I say?! Really! Okay, none of this idle chit chat, we are on a tight schedule and we need to get you on that train."

"Wait? We're not staying in the Capitol?" Katniss asked feeling perpetually behind with what was going on. Johanna just rolled her eyes as Effie started pushing both towards the door.

"Oh, yes I didn't mention that to you, did I. You're off to District 1. Sorry if you're disappointed, I know it can be simply savage in the districts. Oh but don't worry, it's the best place to be outside of the Capitol. Actually it's quite luxurious. Glimmer's family originates from there. They are simply swimming in jewels. Of course Peeta is from the Capitol but they have a country estate out there. From what I hear it is quite impressive. Now come come, we have to get going! Your bags have already been sent on. We can't have them arriving and not you!"

Effie ushered both of them out of the room and down the winding hallways to a back door where a black car waited for them. As soon as Johanna got in she promptly searched the vehicle until she found an ice chest containing a bottle of champagne. She popped the cork with her teeth and poured out glasses for each of them. As Katniss doubtfully looked at the bubbly liquid, something she only ever heard about before.

"Oh please! I think we deserve to celebrate a little. Just drink the damn thing," Johanna said before she downed her whole glass and poured herself another.

"Katniss, it's fine, she's right, you both did a great job," Effie said cheerily before she delicately tipped her own glass back and took a sip. Katniss' stomach burned with nervousness as she stared down at the popping bubbles, unsure if this drink was going to help or hurt. As Johanna let out another huff of impatience, she figured it would help at least take some of the edge off so she threw back her glass as well.

As the luxurious leather car weaved through city traffic she couldn't help but notice how out of place she felt. Effie looked exactly like how any proper well-to-do denizen of the Capitol would and Johanna could insert herself into any social situation with ease. Katniss on the other hand was just a plain nobody from District 12. She didn't even think she was qualified in the first place when she first applied to be a surrogate. At least Gale had that tall dark and handsome thing going for him. She was small, a little too brown, and hardly unique. But Effie saw something in her, and now Peeta. Handsome, rich, charming, Peeta who could have anyone he wanted. Just the thought of him had her squeezing her legs together and gripping her hands. She just didn't quite know how what to do with herself. And the worst part was that she would be living with him for who knows how long. She thought she she was ready for this but she really wasn't.

When the car rolled to a stop her heart picked up it's pace and she took a few quick breaths to try and calm herself. She felt the scornful glare of Johanna directed at her but she chose to ignore it and instead, gave her hand to the one offered to her at the opened limo door. She got out as carefully as she could considering the shortness of her dress and when the limo driver gave her a wink she gave him a scathing glare, held her head high and stomped away from him towards the entrance of the sparkling train. Just before she was about to step up she felt Effie's hand at her elbow stopping her.

"Now, you've done very well so far, but you and Johanna have been my most difficult employees. So please under no circumstances forget your training. And just because you've been hired doesn't mean you can't let go of your charms and manners. Do not revert to your bohemian District ways. You want to make sure they stay addicted to you."

"It doesn't matter what I say, now that Glimmer's had a taste of my skills she's never giving me up." And with a laugh, Johanna trounced right past them, up the stairs and in the the train car.

“She's their problem now I guess," Effie said with a sigh. "Well it's best we get you in there too, you'll be the last one arriving and we can’t keep them waiting. Cashmere is already settled in the train with her new clients who will be accompanying the Mellarks back to their estate."

Effie then turned to her and put a warm soft hand on her cheek, "My dear you were a pain to deal with but I'll miss you. I hope this assignment is a good one and you are treated how you deserve." Was that a tear glistening in Effie's eye? Before she could examine it any further, she turned on her sharp heels and went up the stairs and Katniss had no choice but to follow her.

By no account could District 12 ever be considered luxurious. The extreme poverty it became infamous for had luckily no longer existed for years, but the people still lived in simple houses by simple means. When she came to the Capitol she had traveled on a third class train car that was comfortable but without any extra frills and was quickly taken to Effie's establishment for training when she arrived in the Capitol. She barely had time to see what the great city had to offer. Whatever she did catch a glimpse of was no doubt expensive, some things beautiful and some things downright gaudy. But this train car surpassed all in luxury and wealth. One vase alone she was sure could feed a family for at least an entire month if not more. Everything sparkled and gleamed to the point where she wasn't sure where she wanted to direct her eyes. Opulent was a word that fell sadly short for a description. If this was only the train car, she wondered what the rest of their place would look like.

Once she blinked the bright glitter out of her eyes, she focused on who else was in the room. Johanna was already on the other side making herself comfortable at the well stocked bar. Glimmer was besides her, rubbing the small of her back with small intimate touches and both had expressions on their face that held the promise of more. Over on a velvet purple couch sat a threesome who seemed to be very much into each other and paid no mind when she entered. The man had a very intricate and complex beard that was so ludicrous she had to hold herself back from laughing at the sight. Cozied up next to him looked to be his wife considering how stylish and expensive she appeared to be, her brunette hair done in an intricate braided hairdo which she was sure took hours to put together. Her dress was both short and low cut but it was not nearly as minuscule as the woman who was sitting on the man's lap, pressed intimately into him.

Unlike Johanna, Cashmere wasn't a part of the training so she knew nothing about her. Cashmere's outfit, what little of it was there seemed to be made entirely of crystals so she seemed to be another sparkling addition to the room. She took turns giving attention to each of them, kissing each deeply. Katniss shouldn't have blushed at the placement of their hands considering what she had just done, but she couldn’t help it. Especially when she noticed how high the wife's hand was on Cashmere’s thigh and the confident movements her fingers made.

Katniss took a big deep gulp. Being hired by a couple was not something she had considered until Effie had explained to them the different client lists. Although she was willing to do many things to save her family, she just wasn't sure if she was ready for something like that, so she declined the option. Not that Cashmere seemed to dislike it, she was practically purring. It also couldn't hurt that her pay was almost doubled.

She looked further around the room and finally found Peeta sitting back in a large over stuffed wingback chair. He didn't seem to be concerned with anything else going on in the room, sitting alone, isolating himself from what was going on around him. Instead he seemed transfixed by the clear liquid that he was swirling around his glass as a frown turned the corners of his lips, the lines between his forehead strong. She hesitated, unsure of whether she should go over to him and start doing, well, something. When he finally looked up at her she gave him a low small wave of her hand and her cheeks instantly blushed in embarrassment at the dorky movement and the amused quirk of his eyebrow raised at her. The dark cloud that had been hovering above him seemed to lift slightly and for that she was grateful. He held out one hand to silently beckon and her feet were moving towards him like a snake being pulled by a charmer. She placed her hand in his rough one and he placed a soft gentle kiss on the tips of her fingers before interlacing their fingers together. The small gentle smile he gave her and the soft understanding in his eyes helped to ease her frayed nerves at least a little bit. He was as much in foreign waters as she was.

"Well it seems like we are settled in then," Effie announced cheerily interrupting their small moment. Nobody else really paid attention accept for Peeta and her. "I am glad I could be of service to you today. If you have any issues, please contact me. Otherwise enjoy!"

"Thanks Effie, it's been a delight to work with somebody so beautiful and talented as yourself. I'm sure I'll see you at Snow's Party in a couple of weeks, so until then take care. We'll contact you if anything comes up." His voice was smooth and charming, and she twittered under the compliment; the blush of her cheeks even showing up under all the layers of makeup. Her eyes fluttered prettily before she said farewell and headed off. Katniss often thought Effie was a silly bird but she had been very kind to her and with her now gone, she had to swallow the small amount of loneliness and fear that bubbled up. The slight squeeze to her hand brought her attention to Peeta again and the small secret smile he gave her brought a matching one on her face. Without words he seemed to know how to calm her fears. In that moment she realized how lucky she actually was to be picked by him of anyone in the morality barren Capitol. With eyes locked on each other, the train started smoothly forward and she was headed off to her new home.

Peeta’s lips parted, obviously about to say something when Glimmer announced from the bar, "Peeta darling, guess what Seneca's brought? That new morphling that's all the rage. It's supposed to bring you ecstasy upon ecstasy. I think its time we really celebrate and see where it takes us." The moment the words were out of her mouth, Katniss could see the dark cloud return to Peeta.

"Glimmer, sweetheart," he said through gritted teeth, "I already told you that I was tired and would be retiring for the night but you obviously must have missed that. Go ahead, and have fun. I'll see you in the morning."

"Oh you are never any fun," she pouted. "God, why do you have to be such a wet blanket all the time. It's our anniversary and you can't do this one little thing. Everybody in the Capitol does it. It's safe and fun, why can't you ever loosen up!" As she got worked up her voice got increasingly higher, to the point where the amorous threesome on the couch stopped their actions to see what was happening.

"I don't know how many times I have to tell you that I'm not into the Capitol style of life. Why do you think we live in District 1 instead of there?" He all but growled out.

"Because you like to leave me out in fucking nowhere Peeta! Because you're the most boring person in entire country of Panem!" She screamed out so loudly that Katniss couldn't help but take a step back.

"Can I point out that District 1 was where you grew up and it's not exactly the slums honey." He drew out honey long and restrained, like he was on the verge of really losing his temper. But she had a feeling this wasn't the first time that they had a fight like this. He seemed well used to it.

"But it's not the Capitol either! God! We were only there a month! One short fucking month Peeta! And now you're dragging me back. Sometimes I really hate you!"

"Well I don't exactly like you either right now. We're on the train back, just deal with. You have your anniversary gift, now I'm going back to my train car. Enjoy the morphling, darling." Peeta stood up abruptly and started marching towards the back of the train car, pulling her along with him without looking back once. Katniss did look back and anger had twisted Glimmer's beautiful face into something that was so ugly and frightening she was glad she would be away from her for the night. Apparently her luck at finding a good client only extended so far. The last thing she saw before the door closed behind her was Johanna wrapping her arms around Glimmer from behind and leaving a long wet kiss along the length of her neck. The effect was instantaneous and Glimmer melted into contentment while Johanna gave Katniss a sly wink as a parting gift. The first rule that Effie taught them was "Always make your clients feel good, no matter what it takes. Their happiness is your happiness." The door slid shut.

She barely took any notice of the other cars since they were moving so fast through each. It was hard to keep up with his fast stride considering she had short legs that balanced on precarious heels but somehow beyond miracle she managed not to fall. She could feel the anger and resentment coming off him in waves as they moved along and she could only hope to be as successful as Johanna was moments before in calming Glimmer down. He stopped suddenly in front of the final door and she could see his shoulders slightly shaking. The hand that was not still gripped in his own, she brought up and gently slide it down the back of his neck in what she hoped was a soothing manner. He froze for a moment before turning suddenly and pulling her into his arms tightly. He brought his lips to the nape of her neck and left a gentle kiss there. All she could do was hold him and hope that it was enough.

After a few minutes standing there, still holding her tightly he finally said, "Sorry about that. I was hoping...that...I don't know, things would be different." He paused and gulped hard before he continued, his words etched into her skin as he spoke. "I just want to make her happy and I'm just never enough. Too boring, too quiet, too plain, too me. God you must find me pathetic. Whining to you, and you don't even know me."

She brought her hands to the side of his face and picked his head up enough so she could look catch his gaze. "Well who better to talk to than, someone who knows nothing about the situation," she answered with a small smile. He gave one in return that didn't quite reach his eyes, but it was something.

"Come on," she said before pressing the button to open the last door and this time it was she who pulled him swiftly through the door. She looked around until she spotted a door that was slightly ajar and when she peeked through, she was relieved to find a small but luxurious bathroom. She headed over to the shower and played with the settings until she got it just right.

When she looked back at him, she found him standing in the same spot with a lost expression on his face. An indescribable emotion burned in her chest and made her stomach clench in anxiousness. She wanted to comfort him and run away at the same time. She wanted to hold him and push away. She doesn’t know him, she shouldn’t care, but she already did. She took a deep cleansing breath and tried to remind herself that it was just a job, something that could end at any time. She was just a companion, and if she comforted him, it didn’t mean anything in the long run, it was just another part of the job that she’d been trained for. But that didn’t stop her hands from shaking as she swiftly took off all his clothes and pushed him under the stream of warm water. She then shed her own dress easily before joining him.

Now that she had him in the confined space, she wasn’t quite sure what to do with him so she decided the easiest way to start was just to start washing him. She pumped some silky soap into her hand and worked up a lather before soothing it over his shoulders and then down his chest. Her hands moved slowly and methodically over the planes of his body and she could feel his tight tense muscles relax under the warmth of the water and the heat of her hands. Just as her hands start traveling lower he suddenly surrounded her with his arms and held her tightly against him, every bit of her body pressed against him.

“I was very selfish choosing you wasn’t I,” he mumbled into her shoulder. “I shouldn’t have hired you.”

“Do you want leave,” she asked, her voice trembling slightly.

“No!” he burst out. He brought his large hands to her face and drew his thumbs across her lips leaving a tingle in their wake. “I should, I really should but I can’t. I’m too selfish.” He leaned down and took possession of her lips, pressing into her hard and desperately. As she gasped for breath, he didn’t hesitate to bring his tongue into her mouth and move it aggressively against her own. When he pulled away he stared down at her, his eyes clouded with emotions that she wasn’t adept at reading. Without saying anything else, he slowly reached behind her and turned off the stream of water hitting them, never losing eye contact. He brought his hand slowly down her wet hair before he grabbed her waist, lifting her up and forcing her to wrap her legs tightly around his torso.

Their journey across the room was quick and in a moment, he was carefully laying her down the sheets before nestling his hips between her legs. Their kisses were soft and exploratory, two people getting to know each other, taking their time without the rush of a transaction being made. It slammed into her how new and strange this experience was for her, just to be with someone in this way, getting to know them through the movement of their mouths. Everything had been so clinical for her throughout her lessons, just something else to learn, but this, this was so much more. She never expected to feel her heart pounding in her chest, the curl of her toes from pleasure, the uncontrollable way her hands pulled him tighter to her, the ache of her nipples desiring attention. The intimacy of it all frightened her to the core.

His hands seem hesitant and shaky in the beginning, like he was afraid of touching her, like they hadn’t done this before only hours earlier. Goosebumps rose over her skin as his hand hovered over, sometimes brushing lightly before gravitating back to her to caress her cheek softly. Considering he was nestled between her legs and she could feel his cock throb against her, she wasn't sure why he was hesitating. And the teasing was slowly driving her insane. She wasn't sure where this reluctance was coming from, but maybe he was feeling just as unsure about this whole thing as she was.

Finally she just took matters into her own hands and grabbed his right hand, squeezing it in encouragement before placing it on her breast. His fingers played against her skin, creating patterns like a code she wanted to decipher as they wrote messages into her body. When his hand traveled down to the juncture between her legs, this time when she groaned, it was partially from pleasure but mostly from pain because of the soreness of what they had done earlier. He raised his head from her breast and she could see the frown of concern form between his eyes as he asked, "Are you okay?"

"I'm fine. It's just, well, I’m still a little sore. But if you want to have sex, I'll be fine," she answered as she smoothed away his frown lines with her fingertips, ready to deal with her own discomfiture to see him happy.

"Oh, I'm so sorry Katniss, I didn't realize. I think we should stop," Peeta said as he pulled away from her.

"I'm fine Mr. Mellark, besides there are other things we can do," she answered before bringing her hand down to his cock which was hard, and lying hot against the skin of her thigh. She stroked it up and down a few times and he closed his eyes in ecstasy before burying his head in the crook of neck, his tongue and lips tasting and caressing the salt of her soft skin. When she made a move to push him over so she could use her mouth along with her hand, he held her tighter to him and shook his head no.

"No, this is good," he groaned. "I like feeling you this way." His hand pinched her nipple and this time it was her turn to groan in pleasure.

They stayed like that, her hand expertly sliding up and down, their heavy breaths filling the room of the train car, their bodies moving against each other as she brought him higher until she felt his body tense over him, his breath catching, as he spilled into her hand and body.

He let out a low laugh before saying "You're really good at that. And that was just one hand."

"Thank you. I could have done more you know," she answered with a small laugh of her own, as she enjoyed the feel of the strong muscles on his back.

"No, that was amazing. It was perfect. But I need to thank you actually." Peeta lifted himself and she could see affection shining from his eyes before he left a light kiss on her lips. He then moved down, leaving a kiss on each breast before pressing her legs further open.

“You, don’t have to do that. I’m okay,” she said, her words breathily and unsure.

“Katniss, after everything, it’s the least I can do, and don’t worry, I promise to be gentle,” was his answer. And he was good on his promise. Every kiss was so gentle, every swipe of his tongue was taken with care like he was tasting something he wished to relish, every move of his fingers was done with such care it made her feel like something to be cherished and not thrown away after all was said and done. The orgasam that he coaxed from her rolled through her body like a gentle wave making her whole body vibrate in sweet ecstasy.

When the tremors ceased she wanted to tell him something, anything, but she felt the words stuck in her throat as the exhaustion of the day and what they had done overwhelmed her. Instead she let out a large yawn and he answered with a chuckle, a lightness in his eyes she hadn’t seen there before. He got up silently, as her eyes became heavy, coming back with a warm washcloth to clean her up. His hands made soft soothing strokes and her eyes began to slant closed as he lifted her up enough to open the blankets, before getting into the bed behind her, throwing the covers over them. She wanted to stay awake but she just couldn’t and the last thing she was conscious of was how tightly he held her to him as the blackness overcame her.

Chapter Text

The Surrogate


The train rocked gently back and forth, the motion so soothing her eyes became heavy and started to slant shut. She was ready to join Peeta in his own blissful slumber but she couldn't. This was her chance, maybe the only opportunity she had, so she forced herself into awareness. His arm heavily pressed her down into the soft mattress so she had to carefully slide from under it until she was able to slip out of bed. She looked back cautiously hoping she didn't wake him, and to her relief, he just sighed and nestled further into the nest of blankets.

Her heart beating hard, she grabbed his shirt from the floor and wrapped it around her naked body before quietly stealing across the room to the phone she had spied on the desk earlier. She bit her lip nervously as the telecommunicator started to ring, hoping she didn’t lose her chance to catch her little sister before she went off to school. She turned and peered over her shoulder to find Peeta wrapped around a pillow, still snoring softly when finally the screen came to life. Prim’s lovely cheerful face popped in front of her her and Katniss sighed in relief.

"Katniss!" she exclaimed happily, her smile lighting up the screen.

"Hey little duck. How are you doing?" Katniss asked as she tried to blink away the moisture in her eyes.

"I should be the one asking you that question. You're the one at the Capitol! Is it as pretty there as it looks on TV? Did you get a job?"

Katniss nodded her head in assent, "Yup. I'll be a maid for a family in District 1. I'm headed there right now."

"But that is so far away," she whined plaintively, her eyes glistening with unexpected tears. "I miss you so much already. It won't be long right?"

"I miss you too Prim. But you know we need the money. We need this for Dad. It won't be too long. I'll be back before you know it." Katniss tried and failed to keep the water from falling and she quickly wiped away the one tear drop. She couldn't show weakness, not now.

"You promise?" Katniss would give her little sister anything in the world if she could.

"I promise. It will be only a very short year, maybe even sooner. You'll hardly miss me. I'm sure you'll be too busy on your many adventures with the Hawthorne kids anyway," Katniss said, trying to lighten things up.

"Oh that is boring. You're going to have all the adventures. I need to know everything about the Capitol and the people you are working for and where you're headed..." Prim probably would have kept going except a hand came into the frame and tapped her on the shoulder.

"Let me talk to your sister. And take breakfast to Papa please. I believe he has a new crossword puzzle he want to work on with you." Although Katniss was disappointed that her time with her sister was so quickly over, she needed to talk to her mother.

"Okay," Prim answered her face falling. "I love you Kat. Be good and don't forget I want to know everything! I mean it."

They both kissed their hand then touched the screen before she slipped away. Her mother took her sister's place, a deep line of worry etched between her brows, her lips pressed into a thin line.

"Are you okay Katniss? We can still figure things out. You can still come home," she started out off right away.

"Mom I can't go home. I already signed the contract," she paused and started braiding her hair, a nervous tick she had since she was a kid. "Besides, it's already done."

Her mother's thin frame shook with a resigned sigh and she rubbed her head, clearly working a headache away.

"Are you okay? Was he...? Did he treat you alright? Oh Katniss, if I had only known you were going to do this..." she trailed off, not knowing how to continue.

"What could you have done? We haven’t figured another way and time is running out. Mama, it was my choice. And yes, I'm fine. Actually he's really nice. I'm lucky. I knew what I was getting into. I had to do this. It was our only chance to save him." She knew that her mother understood why she did this, because at this point they were all desperate to save him, but it didn't make it easier for any of them.

Her mother's sad eyes and heavy resigned sigh broke her heart a little because she knew things would never quite be the same. She would never look at her as her innocent little girl again.

"I know honey, it just doesn't make it easier to deal with. I feel like I failed you. If only I could have found something to heal him, anything to help."

"You have helped him!" She exclaimed. "He would have left us long ago without you. But he won't last the winter and a menial service contract in the city wouldn't pay even half the amount we need for the drugs." Silence descended over them, each caught in their own “what ifs”, regrets and worry.

Finally Katniss asked hesitantly, "How's he doing?" afraid of the answer her mother would give. It had been so long since she last saw him.

"He's resting. The last few days haven't been that good. I did as much as I could to make him comfortable." If possible the lines on her mother's face became deeper, her face losing whatever color it had left. Katniss knew the only thing keeping her going was keeping him alive. In her heart she knew if her father left them, her mother would quickly follow. He was their glue.

"The money should already be in our account so maybe you can even get him to the hospital tomorrow?"

"I'll get the Hawthornes to take me. Gale bought them that new car and they are more than willing to help," her mother answered. Relief was evident in her voice, making it all worth it for Katniss. She stopped and gulped hard, swallowing any emotion that was welling up and said, "Katniss, you saved him. With the treatment now he has a chance. He'll live. Thank you."

All Katniss could do was nod her head and swallow the lump in her throat.

"I better go. I'll tell you how to contact me when I get settled in," she finally said after the silence stretched between them.

"Be safe," are her mother's last words before the screen went dark.

As she stared at the dark screen the heaviness descended on her chest and she found it difficult to catch her breath. Saying goodbye seemed so formal and she wasn't sure when and if she would be allowed to talk to them again. The last time she saw her father he was sleeping and she wasn’t able to see the grey of his warm eyes so very much like her own.

"You love them very much don't you," Peeta’s low scratchy voice broke through the silent room and she abruptly turned around, her heart crashing against her chest. He was sitting up, the lone sheet left on the bed pooled at his waist. The low yellow light in the ceiling glistened off of his skin and his hair stood up in every which way as he rubbed his eyes sleepily. Katniss blinked at the man who looked completely opposite from the controlled man she met only hours before.

"Sorry, I was really hoping I wouldn't wake you up," she finally answered nervously. She was hoping that she hadn't overstepped too much. This was only the beginning and she couldn't risk hurting the tenuous relationship they were forming.

"I'm a light sleeper. I'm surprised I didn't wake up when you got out of bed." He gestured for her to come over and without thinking she lifted herself off of the chair, her feet obediently heading back towards him. She approached cautiously before deciding to straddle his lap and wrap her legs around his waist. He fingered the collar of his shirt on her slim neck before he slowly parted the fabric until the soft slopes of her breasts were revealed. His fingers gently played around her nipples, slowly circling, just light enough to raise goosebumps in their wake.

"I'm sorry, I should have asked your permission first." Her words shook as they came out of her mouth. She bit her lip as the fingers of his right hand made a scorching path down the flat of her belly to the curls on her mons. His fingers slip lower to her slit and stop for a moment just staying there, his fingers hot and thick. His thumb circled her clit once before he brought up his a hand to her face and raided her chin so she was forced to look at him.

"Katniss, you don't need permission to talk to your family. Any time you want to, please contact them. I want you to be happy with us." He said eyes brimming sincerity.

His words bounced in her head and brought her to a new reality. It crashed over her how there was an "us" that she would be dealing, not just him, but her. When they got to District 1 they would be leaving the sanctuary of this room and she would be facing a whole new world, navigating what appeared to be a complicated relationship. The cold feeling of apprehension seeped through her veins freezing her in place. Peeta must have felt her pulling away because his eyes softened and both his hands pulled away from her, landing very lightly on her legs.

"You care about them very much don't you," he stated more than asked. He probably assumed that she was homesick. And although she did miss her family, her brain was occupied with the situation she found herself in that was much more complicated than what she was prepared to deal with.

"Yes," she answered simply not sure what she wanted to tell him and what more he wanted from her.

"Would you maybe tell me about them? I mean, we will have a lot of time in District 1 to get to know each other," he said, trying to keep it light.

The question threw her off-kilter. She had never expected that anyone would want any more of herself than what she had to physically offer. When she first signed up, she swore she wouldn't let her employer have any other part of her other than her body. But even though she had known Peeta for so little time, he was making it increasingly difficult to keep that promise when he looked at her with such warmth and vulnerability, like she was someone he actually cared for.

She lifted her hand and gently rubbed her thumb across his soft plump lips. "Perhaps. I'll consider it," she answered trying not to get too lost in his deep blue eyes. She mentally shook herself, deciding it was time to turn the attention back to him and away from the serious road they were on the cusp of traveling. "I really don't know much about you. And there is so much to learn."

He let out a soft chuckle. “I’m pretty boring actually. Not much to me. You’ll probably be screaming to get out of the contract in a month’s time.”

“Doubtful,” she answered back honestly as her fingers played with the soft hair on his chest. “You’re not half bad.”

Peeta brought up his hand to her chin and gently raised it up so he could look into her eyes. Even after everything they already did, just being so close to him, brought a blush to her cheeks.

“I know this may sound strange, considering, well everything. But can we maybe be friends? Get to know each other? I don’t know how to do this if we’re not at least..that.” He stumbled over the last words but she could still see the sincerity shining out of his eyes.

The liquid cold feeling of fear flowed briefly through her. She wasn’t sure she could be friends with anyone let alone the man who just paid for her. Gale had been her only friend back home and often their relationship felt closer to work partners. What if she failed at one of the simplest requests, opening up. Her family relied on this working out.

Her brain was trying to work out a way to gently push him away from friendship, but as she took him in, there was something in his expression that seemed so lost. How could someone who seemed to have everything look at her with such lonely desperation. Her hand automatically lifted up and smoothed the worry line between his forehead and nodded her assent.

“I’ll give you anything, everything if you allow it,” he whispered hopefully. His hands traveled back down to her waist and gave her a squeeze as his thumbs swept the underside of her breasts. The air felt thick as his eyes desperately searched her face for an answer.

“You don’t have to give me anything,” she breathed out.

Peeta’s eyes coursed across her face stretching out a heated silence between them, then he suddenly lunged forward, his lips hard against hers before his tongue pried her open, taking possession of her mouth. But even though she felt surrounded by him, consumed by him, somehow she still felt like she owned him, that the power was ultimately hers. She was just not sure how she could control it yet.

She was ready to ignite from that kiss, to be totally consumed by it, but just as quickly as he had assailed her, he pulled away. Both of them were breathless, the heat of their pants crashing against each other. The grip of his hands tightened on at her waist digging into her flesh through the shirt. His forehead leaned against hers, his eyes closed as he caught his breath.

“I’m sorry,” he panted out. He swallowed hard before he continued, “I just seem to lose control when I’m around you. Katniss there is something about you that is just so damn addictive.”

“That’s okay right? I mean, isn’t that what you hired me for?” she asked.

He let out a soft chuckle as he pulled back from her, but not before leaving a soft kiss on her lips. “Yeah, I guess so.” He hesitated and trailed off awkwardly, like he wanted to say more but held himself back. Instead of saying what was on his mind he threw on a charming smile. “Well, I think my stomach is about to eat itself. You wouldn’t happen to want to eat something?”

Her answering smile was enough for him to push Katniss off his lap and jump off the bed. Her eyes tracked his beautiful backside as he walked over to the phone uncaring of his nudity. As he dialed the telecommunicator, for a moment she thought he would talk to the staff on screen while stark naked, but to her relief he picked up the receiver and didn’t turn on the video screen. Her stomach twisted and she realized that she also hadn’t eaten for hours, maybe even for the last day. The nervousness in her belly making no room for any amount of food. But as soon as she thought of food her stomach rumbled piteously in agreement. She looked nervously at Peeta to see if he noticed the noise, but he was too busy on the phone listing a ridiculous amount of food to the person on the other line. When he hung up he turned to her with a proud smile.

“I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. God, I haven’t eaten since…” He absentmindedly tugged at his hair as he mumbled under his breath, “...yesterday I guess. With everything, and the move back, Glimmer, the party. I just couldn’t even think of it.”

Katniss smile easily spread across her face as he looked boyish as he thought back. “I guess we’re in the same boat because I was just thinking of the same thing.” His matched her own and she wasn’t sure how long they would have silently stared at each other if the knock on the door hadn’t interrupted them.

“That was fast,” she chuckled incredulously at the speed at which they got everything ready.

“Glimmer has been known to throw a tantrum if they don’t get her what she wants in a timely manner. But I ordered food that was already laid out for us in the train. I’m sure everyone was too busy getting high to actually eat any of it.”

Peeta hastily threw on some pajama pants before crossed over to the door and welcomed the servant in with a warm greeting who with a curt nod places the huge tray on the table. As Katniss gathered the sheets around her for modesty, Katniss’ eyes felt like they are going to pop out of her head with the amount of food that was laid out in front of them. So many different delicacies and treats she didn’t know where to start. Saliva pooled in her mouth and her stomach grumbled again even more loudly as the servant took his leave. When she made a move to get up, he just brought up his hand to stop her and started filling up a couple of plates before making himself comfortable next to her. With so many good things in front of her, she wasn’t sure where to start, but the savory smell of the meat tart called to her so she decided to try that one first. And she was definitely not disappointed. The balance of the spices with the succulent taste of the meat and the flaky crust overwhelmed the senses. Her eyes close automatically in pleasure and she lets out a soft moan. This is something she would definitely never find in District 12.

A low chuckle from Peeta caused her to pop her eyes back open and she found him with an amused smile on his face as he munched on a roll over-filled with ham.

“I take it that you like the food?” he asked, mouth full. She could only nod, cheeks pink, since she was already taking a bite of something else.

They ate in comfortable silence for awhile and she was halfway through her plate before he unexpectedly threw out, “So how about we get to know each other a little more?”

“I guess the only way to do it is ask each other questions,” she answered, her heart thumping loudly in her chest. She wasn’t really much for opening up, to anybody, even her little sister, and this wasn’t quite what she was expecting when she got into this. But Peeta was...special.

“Okay, how about I go first. How many siblings do you have?”

“What you’re not going to ask what my favorite color is first?” she joked lamely. Not sure why she didn’t just answer the easy question.

“That’s important personal information. We got to work up to that, can’t just dive in so suddenly,” he answered with a sly wink and pinched her waist causing her to squirm. “Now answer the question woman or we’ll never get anywhere.”

“I only have one sister. Her name is Primrose but she goes by Prim. She’s sixteen and headed to adulthood too fast. My parents had planned on only one child so she’s sort of an oopsie baby, but we can all agree she is our favorite and the light of our lives.” The longing to see her family washed over her and the bite of food she took stuck in her throat. Seeing them on a screen wasn’t the same. But all she could do was shake it off. She put a smile on her lips and asked “Now your turn. I know you have two brothers, right?”

Peeta looked at her silently for a few moments, seeming to read her thoughts. But he didn’t say anything. He just put their plates aside before he grabbed her hand and pulled her up beside him until she was curled under his arm then answered. “Yeah, I have two brothers. Graham and Riley. Graham the eldest and the favorite. He’s a ‘very important people,’ a senator. At least that’s what my mom tells me every day. Riley is the playboy actor. I’m sure you know all about him in the tabloids. I don’t even know the last time we had a real conversation. Either of them actually. After my father died, we just didn’t have anything that brought us together. It’s different with my sister Delly though. She’s my rock. You’ll meet her when we get to the house.”

“I didn’t know you had a sister?” She questioned. The Mellarks were a very well-known family, even in her little world she heard about them, and yet she never heard anything about a sister.

“Mother...well she...she never wanted a girl. So Delly was often ignored and put on the side. It got worse when she got older. Delly runs the household. She doesn’t like to go to the Capitol and is happy hiding out at home away from Mother. Actually we both are. I’m equally a disappointment.” The last words came out more like a whisper, like he wished he wasn’t confessing them, but couldn’t help saying it.

“A disappoint? But how? Don’t you run the company?” Katniss couldn’t help but ask. She knew there was more to this story than he was telling and although she didn’t want to press him too much she was dying to figure him out.

“Uh huh, it’s my turn to ask a question,” he said playfully tickling her sensitive side as an obvious tactic for distraction. She tried to squirm away, but it was useless and he drew out a soft giggle from her. She never giggled.

Peeta’s smiled faded before he warily asked, “Do you want to tell me a little bit about the conversation with your mother? About your father?” His expression was hesitant but also hopeful. She looked up at him but quickly looked back down, unable to meet his gaze. Instead she chose to make soft patterns from freckle to freckle on the skin of his arm. It couldn’t hurt to talk a little bit about it, to share with someone who looked like he cared. It felt like she had to be strong for so long that sharing was a weakness.

“There’s nothing much to tell. You probably already guessed it. My father is sick after years of working in the mines. Now at least men have the option of working in the new pharmaceutical factory, but it was too late for him. All those years down in there already took it’s toll, even if he’s not an old man. He’s dying and without money there was nothing we could do about it.” He grew still and stiff under her as she finished her simple narrative and she was afraid of what he was thinking.

“So you only had one choice in front of you,” he stated solemnly and she didn’t answer verbally, just nodding her head.

She felt him lift up her chin to make eye contact and his expression was equally affectionate and troubled. “I wish I could help,” he said sincerely.

She gave him and small but honest smile, "Well you kind of are right now Mr. Mellark."

He let's out a low chuckle and replied, "When you put it that way, I guess I did. You probably didn't bargain getting, well...all of this mess. And please, call me Peeta" His cheeks were flushed pink and he looked more like an awkward boy of sixteen than the business man that hired her. She couldn’t help the rush of affection that flowed through her, softening her even more. Her hand traveled up and softly caresses the furrow that formed between his brow before gently traveling down his cheek, already rough with stubble. He grabbed it and gave it a whisper of a kiss on the edge of her fingers tips. Eyes glowing brightly into hers.

"I like this mess. I don't think I could have been any luckier actually," she answered honestly, the realization coming to her same time the words passed her lips..

"You don't have to lie on my account. That's okay,” he reassured. And she couldn’t help but wonder who was this man in front of her who displayed such cracks in confidence. Her expression softened as she pulled him down to her, lips caressing his.

She whispered, “I’m not lying,” before kissing him long and deep.

Chapter Text

The Surrogate


Katniss cuddled further into the comfort of the the welcoming soft bed still intimately aware of the arm wrapped around her waist holding her almost a little too tight. His hot breath fanned against her neck and she felt uncomfortably sticky wherever their skin touched. She sighed and resigned herself to the fact she wouldn’t be getting any sleep. Her brain was too busy to allow her to get any rest and the one time she did close her eyes she dreamt of finding her father cold and still, eyes devoid and empty. After that she didn’t want to go to sleep again.

It seemed like she had been on this train forever. It didn’t help that it had been delayed due to an obstruction on the track that put them off for hours. And even though District 1 was kissing the Capitol, the large Mellark house was on the outskirts of the district.

Peeta had no such problem drifting off as Katniss, but his dreams didn’t seem to be any better than hers. Occasionally he would whimper, groan, and mumble “no” repeatedly but unlike her he seemed unable to break from whatever was holding him. There were so many nights that she had soothed Prim during rough nights, so it was automatic for her to reach out do the same. She tried to smooth away the lines that tightened his face, with gentle fingers, but Peeta wasn’t a little girl, and his reaction was to wrap her up in his muscular arms like she was a human security blanket.

The dawning of the light against the window pane signaled the end of the strange in between place she had found herself in and she wanted to hold on to this moment just a little bit longer before she entered a whole new strange land. She could feel Peeta’s body tighten and twitch behind her and she knew he was entering whatever dreamspace held bad memories. She slowly turned back over under his arm and to see his face tight again, brows furrowed. She may not have been the most observant person ever, but somehow she knew that whatever place he was in held deep pain. This time she softly pressed her lips lightly against his, and when his eyes popped open suddenly, her heart started to beat fiercely against his chest.

“You were having a nightmare again,” she feebly explained, frustrated that she was so easily embarrassed.

He let out his own frustrated sigh that washed over her face, breathe stale from sleep. “Sorry about that. I should have warned you. It’s why I usually end up sleeping alone.”

“You sleep alone?” she asked automatically.

“Glimmer needs her beauty…” but he never finished. The door burst open and there she stood at the door, black stained tears from her mascara streaming down her cheeks, a short robe falling off her shoulder with nothing underneath. Her eyes were hazy as she came stumbling into the room towards Peeta.

“Peeta, I needed you and you weren’t there,” she whined before glaring at Katniss. A shiver rolled down her spine at the penetrating coldness in her gaze. “Whore, get out of here. I need my husband.” Fierce heat rose so up so quickly Katniss felt like her heart was going to burst in her chest. It took everything in her not to throw a fist in Glimmer’s snarling face.

“What the fuck Glimmer!” Peeta growled, bursting from the the bed, surprising Katniss with his unexpected outburst. His muscles were taut with a rage that was contrary to his previously gentle persona.

Katniss automatically grabbed his arm before he could jump out of bed and shook her head at him. “No, it’s okay Peeta.” As much as she would love to act out on her instincts, she was the stranger in this relationship, and she couldn’t allow her new and fragile situation to be put at risk. There were too many people relying on her. Before Peeta could stop her or she lost her own restraint, she sprung out of bed and grabbed his shirt off the floor and sprinted to the door.

As she closed the door behind her, the last thing she saw was a sobbing Glimmer crawling onto Peeta’s lap, his fierce gaze piercing hers with frustration and pleading for her to understand. Katniss burned the image in her head, resolved not to forget this wakeup call. In the bubble of her heated night with Peeta she had forgotten where her real standing in life now was. Despite her new determination not to forget, she still couldn’t stop her her heart pounding, and her face flushing with embarrassment and frustration that she wished she could will away. Her shaky legs gave out beneath her and she felt herself melt to the floor and lean against the door for support. Glimmer’s sobs echoed through the door, Peeta’s murmurs of comfort too low and muffled for her to comprehend. She closed her eyes and tried to rub the growing burning sting but it was completely useless.

“Her highness kicked your ass out of the bedroom huh.” She looked up and there stood Johanna towering above with the ever present snide smirk playing on her lips. She wore a sapphire robe very similar to the one Glimmer had on except, of course, she didn’t bother to tie it closed. Katniss pressed her lips together and tried to gather the pitiful amount of patience she had left. Throughout the training, Katniss had become much too familiar with Johanna’s naked body.

Don’t Johanna. Come back and torture me another time. Just not right now,” she answered with a resigned sigh. She tried to rub the headache that was coming on, but it just seemed to only get worse.

“Come on Brainless, let’s get ready to get off this tin can.” She looked up to see Johanna’s hand reaching down towards her. It was the first time she had ever been remotely nice to her, so of course she looked at her with suspicion.

“Oh just come on already. I’m not going to bite. At least not you. And this way you can give me all the dirty details about Mr. Mellark,” Johanna said, her whole body vibrating impatience. Realizing talking to Jo was better than being pathetic on the floor, Katniss slapped her hand into the impatient hand offered and was hauled up so quickly she got a little dizzy.

“I’m not telling you anything about Peeta,” she firmly declared.

“Oh yes you are, because you have to confess to somebody, and I’m the only friend you have in this wacked place.” Jo answered with a definitive slap on the ass. Katniss hoped she sent what was a withering glare even though she was too tired to put any energy into it.

“Oh joy, lucky me. I’m so honored,” she said dryly. But it didn’t matter that her words were dripping with sarcasm, it just seemed to energize Jo more than anything else and she light up with evil glee even more.

“You bet your sweet ass. Come on Kitty Kat, our stuff is in the that room over there and you are just prissy enough that you probably want to wear clothes when we arrive.”

Johanna sauntered off and she had no choice but to follow her, because she was right, she didn’t want to get off the train half naked. A flurry of brightly colored fabrics flew past Katniss’ head by the time she stepped into the cabin. Jo, already stripped down, was throwing garments in every direction and started talking without even looking at her.

“Glimmer was a real piece of work. That girl has a few screws loose. Of course that makes her even better in bed. Fucking amazing in bed actually. How about the Mister? Did he give you a real good screwing or was he gentle and sensitive like the lamb he appears to be? Roll over and show you his belly?”

“Johanna, I told you I didn’t want to talk about it,” Katniss growled out as she tore the luggage out from the closet so hard it swung violently into the room almost hitting Jo.

“Oooh, somebody is being a little sensitive. Possessive even. Be careful with that. Affection is a dangerous thing.” There was an almost deadly expression in her eyes and at that moment she knew that Jo was the last person you’d ever want to go up against.

“I’m not feeling affection. I just met the guy. I just don’t want to get into the dirty details okay,” she said with a sigh as she slumped down on the bed. She was too damn tired to fight right now.

“Oh, I’m not just talking about affection from you. You have such a hard outer shell I doubt anybody can penetrate deep enough to see that soft squishy center,” she joked as she jumped on the bed next to her and threw an arm over her shoulder casually. “I’m talking about your boy Mellark. He seems like the guy who could fall in love easily, especially if he equates possessiveness as caring. And considering what a lovely personality his wife has he probably is an open wound begging for some loving healing.”

The snort came out of her nose before she had any chance to stop it. “How do you even come up with this shit?”

“I’m multi-talented. What can I say,” Johanna leaned back into the bed and sprawled out without a care for modesty, decorum, or formality and Katniss would be lying if she didn’t feel a little burn of envy for her carefree nature. “But I’m serious Everlark, watch out. You’re a newbie at this. Don’t forget you’re in control of this situation and you need to control his feelings for you. Keep him enthralled just enough to keep him addicted to you but under no circumstance let him fall in love with you.”

“Jo, I passed my lessons. I know all this,” she growled out. Frustrated she slipped off the bed and away from Jo. Katniss started rifling through her clothes, looking for anything that was halfway decent. She could feel Jo’s steely gaze on her back and knew the conversation wasn’t over.

“Yeah, but you have a thick skull and you need that hammered home. You might be too soft for this job.”

“Wait, I’m confused. You say I’ve a hard shell but I’m too soft for this job? Which one is it?” Katniss snapped, giving Jo a scathing glare before turning back to her luggage and pulled out some skin-tight pants. They would have to do.

“Both,” she answered simply without any elaboration before she continued unfazed, “So I take it your run in with the Mrs. wasn’t as pleasant as mine?”

“Glimmer called me a whore, so I would say that is a no.” On the outside she came off as nonchalant with her run-in but the humiliation still stung, and she knew Jo could see right through her.

“You know that’s a breach of conduct in the contract right? We are relationship surrogates, not street whores. They have to pay us equal respect or they forfeit their money. Hell, they can be blacklisted if you wanted. Don’t be afraid to demand respect.” Jo’s eyes glowed with fierce fire that betrayed a story just below the surface of those words. She doubted Jo would just confess to her though. So Katniss’s only reply was a curt nod, but that seemed to satisfy Jo and it was like she flipped a switch. The ferocious woman ready to do battle vanished and her usual cocky smile and a sly smoldering gaze came back on her face. Johanna Mason was definitely more than what she appeared to be.

After that they both got ready pretty quickly with only a few well placed quips on Jo’s end that Katniss ignored. She could feel the undercurrent of nervousness bubbling up at seeing Peeta again so fending off Jo’s constant snide remarks was actually a welcome advantage. When they emerged, Cashmere was already perched at the bar drinking sipping daintily a slim glass of champagne, her companions nowhere in sight. Her icy blue eyes raised to take in Katniss and immediately transformed into a scathing glare before she turned back to her drink. She wasn’t sure what she did to deserve such censure but at this point she really didn’t care.

Katniss had just about enough of everyone’s derision, disrespect, and pettiness. She thought she knew what she was signing up for but apparently not. If she saw one more condescending smug smirk she was going to punch somebody. Of course that’s when Peeta’s friend with the ridiculous facial hair came strolling in like a satisfied cat. He lay a wet kiss on Cashmere’s neck before slithering over to her.

“Katniss is it?” Not waiting for a response, he grabbed her hand and left leaving a kiss on her fingertips that sent a cold shiver running through her body. She backed away but he only seemed to use it as an invitation to invade her space more.

“Well Well Well, who would have thought that Peeta would pick a companion, and one that is so luscious at that.” The words slithered from his lips and the cold shiver intensified. “Maybe he would be willing to have a little exchange, I’m sure he’ll get bored eventually and want a little more excitement.” A finger reached out and traced a line down the swell of her left breast. Angry heat shot through her spine and her reflexes kicked in as she slapped his hand away from her. The past couple of hours were strange enough and with this creep added to the mix,, she was at the absolute edge of her nerves.

“Crane, if you touch her again, you’ll have to walk back to the Capitol,” Peeta’s replied coldly behind her. Katniss jolted in her spot, not expecting him to be right behind her, so close she could now smell the reassuring spicy musk of his cologne. Before her own words could form she felt a warm hand at her rigid back steering her away from Crane’s calculating gaze and back to the room she had just left.

As soon as they were through the doorway she knocked off his hand and turned blazing eyes on him. “I could have handled that by myself. I didn’t need you to interfere,” she snapped. Peeta’s lips formed a thin line and his eyes narrowed as he tried to contain his impatience.

“Well, it didn’t look like that from my point of view,” he growled out, this temper as barely contained as hers. Every muscle was so tight they seemed to be vibrating. “He had you cornered, and you don’t know Crane like I do. He isn’t someone to play around with.”

“I wasn’t playing around with him! I can’t help it if the creep….your friend wanted to introduce himself to me.” She leaned against the closed door, arms wrapped protectively against her chest.

Peeta ran frustrated fingers through his hair, but his tense body seemed to loosen a small amount. “Sorry, that was a bad choice of words. Just, don’t let him get close to you. Let me deal with him. When he sees something he wants he won’t stop until he gets it.” Peeta’s approach was cautious, like at any moment she was going to bolt, and he probably wasn’t wrong. She stared defiantly at him, cautiously waiting to see what he would do. Although every muscle in his body seemed to be tense he took a gentle approach and surprised her by not grabbing her but leaning into her instead. His hands whispered past her skin to lay against the hard door behind her. “I just don’t want you to get his unwanted attention,” he finished softly.

“Well, I’m not the one who invited him to your house. And I repeat, I can handle myself.” Her voice was tight with conviction but it was more for herself than for him. She tried to ignore the hand that came up to trace the path that Crane’s had moments before. His fingers lingered at her collar bone, caressing and leaving an echo in their wake. Her stare was defiant as she fought her instinct to melt into the feel of his touch and the warmth of his heated gaze.

“Yes you definitely can.” For a brief moment his eyes fired with a fierce intensity that frightened her but it was gone before she could truly grasp what she saw. His hands made a gentle path to her her shoulders, sliding down her arms and without any resistance he unlocked her clasped arms to where they dropped to her side. He then took the opportunity to intertwine their fingers and stepped into her, pressing her further into the hard door behind her. She could feel his heart beating against her own and the smell of him was intoxicating. He was definitely going to be her undoing.

He leaned his forehead against hers, closed his eyes and said, “But you’re still mine.”

Any will she had broke and she leaned up and sought his lips. He opened his mouth willingly to her, his breath and tongue hot as as he then took control, deep and searching. He stopped suddenly and leaned heavily into her, both of them breathing hard. His eyes were closed, forehead pressed against her own, as he seemed to try and contain his emotions.

His right hand unclasped hers and sought the warm flesh of her stomach and she recoiled backwards at the ticklish touch. He either didn’t notice or it didn’t deter him because he continued to seek her warm soft flesh. Katniss’s breathed heavily as he stroked a path to her hip and then slipped both hands past the line of her pants to grip her ass so deeply she knew she would have fingerprints marking her. His dick pressed into her throbbing mons and her legs opened of their own accord to cradle him.

“I’m sorry about Glimmer. She’s just...excitable. It won’t happen again,” he said suddenly, startling her.

“Can we not talk about Glimmer right now, or ever actually,” she groaned as she pushed him away just enough to look at his face. When she saw his conflicted expression continued she heaved a heavy sigh and decided to elaborate. “I..I...well, she’s your wife, and I respect that but I’d rather not deal with whatever is going on with her. Just make sure she respects me and our contract or it’s over and I go home.” Her heart pounded heavily in her chest as she waited for his response. She wasn’t the best at speaking her mind or getting words out diplomatically but she still really needed to say this. And she wanted to do this with him. Even if she hated everything about Glimmer Mellark.

“She will respect it, I promise. And I want you to stay, please Katniss. I never realized how much I would need some like you...this...whatever this is. Just don’t go,” he implored and her heart skipped a beat.

“I won’t,” she answered simply before leaving a comforting kiss on his forehead.

They stayed there for a quiet moment but before they could continue a soft knock sounded on the door and an official voice announcing it was time to finally depart the train. Peeta hefted a large sigh before he reluctantly pulled away from her and straightened up as best as he could. But there was nothing to be done about his wild hair and a small smile cracked her lips at the waves that refused to cooperate with his hair gel. He grabbed her hand and brought it up to his lips where they lingered for a moment too long before he the threw the door open and strode out to greet his wife. Glimmer for once looked put together in a fashionable tight pink dress, her bloodshot eyes hidden by sunglasses. Katniss wandered out a little more slowly into the room and joined Johanna by the bar. Surprisingly Jo was silent and the look she gave her was pensive which told Katniss that she was feeling sorry for her. She hated it. The last thing she wanted was pity.

Katniss filed behind Jo off the train, sliding her own sunglasses on to protect her from the bright sun. When she could focus on the people on the platform, she was pulled to a pretty blonde woman watching everyone embark. The expression Jo had given her was nothing compared to the look on this woman’s face as she focused on Katniss. Scathing would be putting it really lightly and she never felt so small in her life.

Chapter Text

The Surrogate

Sisters: Part 1

She ran. She ran as fast and hard as she could, her legs burning from her desperation. She flew past immaculate hedges, fragrant vibrant flowers, and over smooth paved paths; trying desperately to put distance from the ornate walls slowly closing in. Eventually the bushes lost the look of nurtured tidiness that were obviously untouched by a gardener's shears. The pavement gave way to gravel and then to dirt. And still she ran. She has no idea what direction she was going or where she’d end up, all she knew is that she had to escape. Escape from her life, from her brain, from the flames of her decision licking at her back. But she knew there would be no escape, only running.



When Katniss decided to sign the papers to become a companion that fateful day, she didn’t think too much beyond the money she needed for her family. She just couldn’t. It was just too overwhelming to think beyond the next step. Sign the paperwork - leave everything she’s ever known for the Capitol - start training - get a client. Just one foot in step of the other. She’d regret her lack of foresight because she was completely unprepared for the complexities of the situation she found herself in. For instance, the pretty blonde that stood there stamping her foot, arms crossed, staring her down like she was the enemy on the other side of a battle line. It had been trained in her that the concubine system was just an accepted part of the Capitol lifestyle, so irate family members were something she was not expecting in her new life.

At least she assumed that she was the sister Delly that Peeta spoke of. The resemblance was striking, from the blue eyes with a hint of turquoise, to the straight line of her nose. Everything about her was immaculate like her brother, her dress perfectly pressed and hair expertly styled. But from the look of her pressed lips, she doubted any of the “soothing” techniques Effie taught her would work on this clearly displeased woman. It took all her will not to turn around, get back on the train and head back in the other direction.

Katniss could feel her hands tremble as nervousness swept down her spine, but she took a deep breath and gripped her hands tightly to gain some control. She was grateful for her sunglasses, a luxury she scorned in her previous life, but now gave her some bit of armor. Straightening her back, she tried to keep an air of cool confidence, even if she was a mess inside.

She swept her gaze around for Peeta and found him talking a bit angrily to an older man before he turned away and spotted his sister. As soon as he saw her, all anger melted away and his eyes lit up with joy she had never seen before on his handsome face. She thought he was good-looking before, but shining with genuine happiness, he was gorgeous. An annoying twinge of jealousy ran through her at knowing she had never elicited such a response. Peeta exclamation of “Delly!” finally pulled his sister’s attention away from glaring at the group and she was soon enveloped in his arms in a hug that lifted her off the ground, her sour expression evaporating. It was clear that that the siblings had an extremely close relationship.

Peeta’s excitement soon faded once he put her down and found the look of disapproval back on her face. They started to exchange words which were hushed but heated with frustration, the world around them disappearing as people such as herself stood around awkwardly. Tears filled Delly’s eyes and the look of heartbreak on Peeta’s face at her distress sent a sharp pang to Katniss’ heart. Her muscles tightened in effort not to move forward towards him. Katniss looked over to Johanna, who stopped next to her and she looked at the scene with a calculating eye.

Before the argument could escalate any further, Glimmer came prancing in between them, apparently completely ignorant of the tension everyone else in the train station were witnessing. She happily gave Delly a large kiss on the cheek which did nothing to quell his sister’s bad mood. Her face tightened and pinched in displeasure as she not so subtly wiped her cheek. Glimmer on the other hand was completely oblivious, in fact her smile seemed to shine brighter, like she was being powered by her sister-in-law’s discomfort.

Katniss couldn’t help but notice that Glimmer seemed satisfied in her success at annoying Delly. She snuggled up to Peeta and cheerfully waved them over like they were the best of friends. Johanna sashayed easily over with an enticing swing of the hips, something that she was never quite able to master much to Effie’s consternation. “Well, you have other charms that commend you,” her boss ended up telling her.

When Johanna reached the small group, she most definitely did not greet Glimmer like a “friend”. Katniss’s face felt as red hot as Delly looked as the two women’s kisses turned explicit. Katniss followed at a much slower pace and she was spared of a similar display when Peeta ushered her to his side before clasping his hands behind his back, standing stiffly almost wary. His demeanor was so far removed from how he’d acted so far that it was dizzying. She tried to convince herself that the lump in her throat wasn’t disappointment.

“Delly darling, this is my new friend Jo and over there you’ll find Peeta’s new pet Katy,” she pointed with a flourish.

Peeta grabbed Glimmer’s wrist fiercely, his eyes filled with fire. “Glimmer!” He said with a harsh voice.

“Katherine, Katniss, whatever you want to call her,” she brushed off with the flip of her hair before she turned off back to her sister-in-law. “This chubby thing is Delilah Mellark Cartwright. She will take care of all your household needs. She’s not only Peeta’s sister but a glorified housekeeper. Her body is made for the kind of hard work it takes to manage the damned old relic,” she said cheerfully.

“Glimmer, apologize this instant!” Peeta was obviously on edge as it was, and this was the first time she felt the need to step back from him. He was so irate, every muscle in his back was rigid with anger.

“For what exactly Peeta?” She answered with a roll of her eyes. “I swear! You’re so fucking dramatic all the time. Come on Jo, let’s go with the others.” Jo followed Glimmer obediently but threw Katniss one glance over her shoulder filled with curiosity and intrigue. The messy group of Glimmer, Jo, Seneca, Clove, and Cashmere piled into the stretch limo, not even waiting to get into the car for the groping to start. Katniss glanced over to the the pair next to her and she didn’t think it was possible for Delly to get even redder than before, but somehow she accomplished it.

With trepidation she peeked over at Peeta and her stomach tightened at the look of frustration steaming off of him. His fists clenched so tightly she was worried that he broke the skin with his fingernails. The three of them stood there in awkward silence and Katniss was very unwilling to be the first one to break it. Luckily it was Delly who ventured to do so.

“There is another car Peeta. I ordered two just in case Glimmer decided she wanted to bring over some guests like she usually does,” she rasped, clearly a little shaken up. It was evident even to her that the two sister-in-laws weren’t on the best of terms.

“Good thinking. Well come on then,” he said tersely but he still offered his arm up to Delly. Katniss assumed the pair would walk to the car, leaving her to follow behind but instead he turned to her and offered his other hand. Her hesitation was brief but just long enough for him to notice as he quirked his eyebrow at her. As their fingers intertwined she couldn’t help but feel this was strangely more intimate than what they had shared the previous night. The feel of his large hand, rough and calloused, enveloping her small hand as he held on tightly.

The odd trio made their way to the idling car at a brisk pace and Peeta ushered them into the lone waiting vehicle. As the car finally took to the road, the silence stretched tight between them, tension filling the space thickly around them as Katniss tried to shrink as far back into her seat as possible.

Suddenly a heavy sigh broke the still quiet of the car as Peeta turned to his sister and said, “Delly, don’t you ever forget that you are beautiful and amazing. Don’t let anything Glim says tear you down. Water off a duck’s back remember. We will handle this situation as always, the best we can.”

She softened marginally as she leaned slightly into him, as if she was seeking to draw in his strength. “Water off a duck’s back,” she mimicked. “Let me guess. She had another one of her ‘rough nights’.”

Peeta nodded in assent as he looked plaintively at his sister. “I’m sorry” he said simply.

“You’re always sorry and it’s not even your fault,” she answered with bitter exasperation lacing her tone but her vitriol didn’t last long as the rest of her anger visibly seeped away. She slumped completely against her brother and leaned her head on Peeta’s shoulder.

“I’m sorry too about the way I greeted you. All this was so unexpected. I just didn’t react well. I hate fighting with you Peeta. Living in that house is tough as it is.”

“Me neither Delly. I’ve done enough fighting today,” he answered as he gave her a gentle kiss on the top of her head and smiled affectionately at her. “May I formally introduce you to Katniss now?” he asked.

Delly wiped a few tears that had escaped down her cheek and smiled a bit shyly at them both, her demeanor a complete 180 from the woman who greeted them from the train.

“Why yes of course. And I do need to apologize about before. That was extremely rude of me. Let’s start over again. Hello Katniss, my name is Delilah but friends and family call me Delly.”

“Pleased to meet you Delly,” Katniss answered politely, pushing down her discomfort at witnessing such an intimate family moment.

Although Katniss tentatively put out her hand, Delly grabbed it firmly and shook it warmly. The abrupt turn in demeanor was pretty disorientating but at least it helped to ease the tension in the confined space for the rest of ride to the house. With nowhere to go Katniss found her attention wandering to the landscape moving swiftly outside the window. Everything felt unrealistically beautiful. The streets were gleaming clean, the landscaping was perfectly groomed, the nicely dressed people cheerful, and the air sparkled in a way that it never could in District 12. And yet it made her heart ache even more for home. The streets that were more dirt than pavement, too many dogs wandering away from their yards, children running around like wild things, people talking so passionately you didn’t know whether they were angry or laughing. Here everything looked just so...serene. Most of all she missed her papa’s laughter so she resolved to get used to this new world in the hope of getting that back one day.

The car wove its way through crowded and bustling streets almost as opulent looking as the Capitol itself. She had no clue why Glimmer would make such a fuss coming here, it hardly seemed different to her eyes. Maybe people were a little less colorful, a little more businesslike, but compared to the simple life of District 12 it seemed just as alien to her as the Capitol.

Eventually the buildings became less pressed together, the houses became bigger and stretched farther apart until eventually all she only saw gates with roads leading to mysterious hidden homes. Soon enough even those fell away, leaving fields and trees with the soft noise of the road flowing under the wheels until the car finally passed through a towering ornate gate. She thought his home would come quickly into view but her patience wore thin as it felt like they drove at least two more miles through a wooded curvy road until it finally appeared in the distance.

To describe it as a house would have put it extremely lightly. Maybe chateau, manor or even palace would have been a better description. She had never seen anything so large and sprawling. Even in the Capitol the large homes she had seen were pressed together with barely an alley space between them. But here the building covered the whole top of the hill and now she understood where the term “wing” had come from. Nervousness crept down the back of her neck at the sight of what was to be her new home for the foreseeable future.

Katniss was so engrossed in the sight, she was caught by surprise when Peeta suddenly grabbed her hand and clutched it so tightly in his own. She looked over and found him staring out the window, his jaw clenched impossibly tight. His other hand nervously wiped the back of his pristine hair, smoothing down non-existent misplaced hairs. One lone drop of sweat trickled down from his hairline and before she could stop herself, her free hand trailed up and wiped it away. Lightening fast, his hand grabbed her rebellious hand and his head whipped towards her. She wasn’t sure what to read in his expression, so clouded with multiple emotions, but she definitely could read nervousness that mirrored her own.

She tried to give him a comforting smile, pretty sure she was a spectacular failure but it somehow worked enough to at least ease the tension in his expression. He left a soft kiss on the palm of her hand before letting it go, and she closed her hand around her tingling skin. Katniss was surprisingly embarrassed, even though reason told her she shouldn’t be. She took a nervous glance at Delly but his sister seemed to ignore the whole display and was lost in her own world.

The car slowed to a stop and an army of servants lined up to greet them, all immaculate without a stitch out of place. Peeta slid out of the car first before offering his hand to Delly in assistance then to Katniss right after. Her hand he didn’t let go of however once she was out of the car, gripping it like a lifeline much as she was doing the same. Delly affable smile once again disappeared as she immediately turned into a busy bee flitting here and there as she gave orders, clearly the woman in charge of the estate. Peeta was all warmth and smiles to everyone he greeted, clearly knowing every single one of their vast staff by name and introducing Katniss proudly to everyone without a hint of embarrassment.

Just as Peeta was about to introduce her to a gentleman who was the only one who looked anywhere close to grungy, a voice screeched across the open courtyard, grabbing everyone’s attention. “You moron! How dare you?! I’ll have you fired for this. You won’t work anywhere in District 1 again. You’ll have to work the fields in 11 after this!” Every head immediately turned towards the commotion, the center of which was an irate Glimmer who towered over a small pretty girl with golden brown skin and dark curls that were threatening to riot outside of the cap barely holding her hair.

“Excuse me while I go handle this,” Peeta told them with restrained politeness before heading towards the commotion.

Delly let out a heavy sigh, a resigned expression pressing her lips before she turned to Katniss and took over. “You’ll get really used to scenes like that. There’s no use gawking. Follow me Katniss and I’ll show you to your rooms.”

“Rooms?” Katniss asked incredulously. To be honest she thought she was going to be put in a small room in a basement somewhere. She hadn’t really expected much at all, let alone more than one room.

They walked in awkward silence through long halls filled with paintings taller than herself, plush carpeting and gratuitous amount of marble everywhere. She was pretty certain she would get lost as soon as she tried to find her way back to the front door. When Delly suddenly stopped, it took all her muscle strength not to bump into her and fall over.

Delly turned to her but looked down at her hands shyly, the confidant commanding woman flickering out again. “I want to apologize for early. That was extremely rude of me. How I reacted, that was... I just….I was just…well, I was so surprised. I really don’t want your stay be here to be uncomfortable, and I’m so sorry if I made it so.” Delly abruptly looked up and her eyes were so naked in their vulnerability that it took her back. “Maybe we can even be friends?” She finished with an unsure uptick in her voice.

This was the second time a Mellark had asked her if she wanted to be friends. And prior to that, never had a soul ever put her in the context of friendship. Everything about this new life had been surprising, especially her patrons and she was once against left unprepared on how to react. Her usual curt “sure” seemed completely inappropriate and as she saw Delly’s hopeful smile start to waver, she realized she had been silent a little bit too long.

“That would be nice. It’s not like I really know anybody here,” was the answer she finally came up with. She hoped she didn’t sound as awkward as she felt.

It seemed like it was enough though, because Delly’s shoulders relaxed and she gave Katniss a nod before turning back around and walking quickly down the hall, forcing Katniss to catch-up to her. After a few twist and turns they finally reached a large mahogany door.

“Thresh will be by shortly with your things and Rue will be able to assist you with any of your needs. Just dial 1 on the phone if you need anything.” Delly told her before she hurried off to whatever task needed to be done in the house. So far friendship didn’t require for Katniss to do much.

She turned back to the massive door, staring at the intricate carvings s before she hesitantly grabbed the doorknob and twisted. With a loud creak in the silence of the lonely hallway it swung open. She looked behind her and there was not a soul in sight. It was then that she realized that after too many long days filled with dealing with too many people and acting the way that was expected of her, she was actually completely alone. It had been the first time in weeks, since her last visit to the woods of District 12, and she could feel her chest untighten a little bit and room to breathe. No nagging Effie, no squabbling girls, no tedious training, no pretending to be sweet and compliant. It felt too good to be true.

She could barely focus on the the opulence that surrounded her in the vast room and instead zeroed in on the large plush bed at the center, collapsing on it and burrowing into the plush pillows. And it was the right move because never had she felt something so comfortable. If she could stay cocooned in it’s warmth without seeing another soul for days, she would be perfectly fine with that. But even as sleep claimed her, murky images of her father wasted away and her sister starving haunted her, reminding her of what she left behind.

The sound of the door once again creaking open brought her out of the stupor she had fallen into. She couldn’t help but sigh and burrowed in a little deeper in an attempt to hide from whatever was coming next. The bed dipped down beside her and she felt his hand trail down her back then travel back up to her neck to push her hair away. Somehow that small movement made her miss her braid. Goosebumps erupted on her skin as he left a lingering kiss at the bottom of her ear before he collapsed next to her.

“Is it okay if I hide out with you in here?” Peeta groaned. Katniss turned her head to look over to see his arm slung across his eyes. Everything about him was still impeccably in place except for one stray curl that had escaped. Her hand wandered from beneath the pillows of it’s own accord to play with his soft hair.

“You can do whatever you want Mr. Mellark. This is your home.” Her answer was automatic; something that Effie drilled into her so often, compliance and amiability.

“Peeta. Don’t forget it’s Peeta. And this may be my home but this is your own space.” His tone was urgent, almost sharp and she looked up to find his brilliant blue eyes looking at her fiercely. He grabbed her hand that had stilled on his head and brought it to his lips where he left hot lingering kisses. He took his time covering each patch of skin, the tip of each finger before he drew her index finger into his mouth, twirling his tongue expertly around it.

Her reality narrowed down to that one spot as everything else disappeared. The only thing left was soft moist feel of his tongue on her finger pad and the blood pounding hard in her ears. She was tongue-tied once again, unsure exactly how to answer him and what he wanted from her. Space was the last thing she expected to receive from him and Peeta was still a mystery she was trying to unravel.

After one last kiss, Peeta let her hand hand drop on his chest where he lightly held it. Now that she looked more closely at him she could see the signs of exhaustion lining his face and his gaze seemed to lose some focus as he gazed on their hands.

“So why do you want to hide out in here?” She asked. “Shouldn’t you be getting rest or getting reacquainted with your family?” She rolled from her stomach onto her side to get a better look at him.

Perhaps this would be the right opportunity to get to know a little more about him and the situation she found herself. Effie’s lessons bounced in her head about how to gain the best understanding of the family dynamics to execute the best maneuvers. But instead of answering her, Peeta used her movement as an opportunity to push her onto her back and roll on top of her, pushing a leg between hers. The small nudge of his thick thigh rubbed against her center in just the right way to make electricity shoot down her legs and she clenched, pulling him in closer.

She felt a hunger building, burning from inside out. The yearning for the feel of his skin against hers, his strong arms pulling her tightly against him, the hair of his legs rubbing against her soft skin. The physical memory of their time on the train flashed through her unexpectedly, followed by the need for it to happen again and totally get lost in him. It was something that was so foreign that for a brief moment it was like a shock to the system, freezing her into place. She was quickly losing control of the situation and she couldn’t have that so she leaned up and gave him a kiss that left them both breathless before she pushed him over onto his back and draped herself partially on top of him, pushing a leg between his own. But he didn’t let the change in position deter him. He deftly unbuttoned the top of her pants before his hands slid underneath the loosened material to grope and knead her ass. His mouth discovered a part of her neck that he must have found particularly tasty because he was quickly making his mark on her.

“Now. You’re distracting. I thought we were supposed try the whole being friends things. Which I’m most definitely not good at and I’m trying, so don’t distract me,” she ordered breathlessly.

In reaction he just pulled her hips tighter against his considerable bulge, his fingers digging into her soft flesh. When he reached up for another kiss she finally found the power to push him down and wagged a finger at him. “Spill Peeta. What’s going on. You look as tired as a man who has the devil chasing him.”

He plopped back down on the bed and a groan of misery left his beautifully swollen mouth. “Devil is right. My mom has decided to come and stay at the house for awhile.”

Chapter Text

The Surrogate

Sisters: Part 2

A shiver traveled down her spine that had nothing to do with Peeta’s touch. There was something in his eyes, the way they seemed to get lost in the distance, the way his body stiffened, that silently gave off alarm bells.

“I take it that your mother coming is a bad thing? Besides your sister do you know any actual nice people?” Somehow Peeta cracked a smile even with her sadly feeble attempt to lighten the moment.

“Huh…I know it seems like it. I do know a few nice you,” he answered, tickling her ribs lightly and causing her to squirm before leaning down to nip gently at her neck.

“But it’s not me we’re talking about,” she replies while gently pushing him away. As much as she increasingly found his attentions enjoyable, she still was curious about what she could potentially be facing. Nothing good by the sound of it.

Peeta collapsed, partially on top of her, their legs intertwined and his head nestled on top her chest. His hair was soft and pliant as she drew her fingers through over and over again. They lay there in comfortable silence while she waited for him to process his thoughts. He seemed pensive, like he was trying to find the right words. She decided to tell him it was okay, that she didn’t need to know anything about his mother, but she didn’t have to because he took a deep breath and began speaking again.

“My mother expects perfection from everyone around her. I’m surprised she ever lowered herself to marry a baker even if he was enterprising and filthy rich. I seriously doubt it was love on her part. She must have been extremely desperate at the time to even consider him. He was too soft and kind-hearted for her and she used every opportunity to remind him of it. Her lineage is practically nobility when it comes to Capitol society and she doesn’t want us to forget that. Well she doesn’t have to worry about my dad’s sullied parentage now.” He paused and swallowed hard, looking up at her almost shamefully. “God, I must be boring you. You don’t want to hear all of this,” He groaned out.

“Actually I really do,” she answered softly, continuing to run soothing fingers through his now tumbled locks of hair. “Friends, remember? Peeta, I have to confess I’m not really that good at being friends with about anybody. Outside of my family, I don’t really have anybody that I’m comfortable with. Somehow you’ve kinda become my exception. So give me some practice, I can be an open ear.”

For the briefest of moments his expression was open and vulnerable, and she could see fear there like she would disappear, break his heart, or both. And in that vulnerability she realized that maybe he didn’t have any confidants to confess to like herself. It sat strangely on her chest, to have this person’s heart bare and exposed in front of her, something she could so easily tromp on. It was such a foreign feeling to give any of herself, beyond her family members, and here she was doing it for this virtual stranger. There was just something about him that made her want to take care of him. For the millionth time she wondered what she got herself into.

Peeta mumbled something into her chest that she didn’t quite get, his fingers digging into her flesh before they loosened and he flopped on to his back, his stare transfixed on the stark white ceiling.

“Being a Capitol citizen requires perfection. Especially people of our status. Pristine hair, smile, clothes, wife. I could never quite live up to her lofty expectations and I reminded her too much of my father. No matter how hard I tried, it was never enough. ‘You’re too emotional Peeta. Why are you so fat Peeta, Painting is for pussies Peeta. Why can’t you be like your brothers Peeta?’ It was just an endless litany from her. And Mother has done everything in her power to get rid of my long list of faults.”

Katniss felt a cold chill crawl up her spine at the picture he was painting. “What was the ‘everything’ she did Peeta?” She couldn’t help but ask.

“Let’s just say that Capitol therapy can be very aggressive,” he answered as his bright blue eyes pierced her, holding a strange light that once again sent that shiver crawling down her skin. She could only imagine what that “therapy” would entail, all in the name of perfection for Capitol standards.

Katniss felt helpless and wasn’t sure what to say to this sweet if troubled man that would help, but there was one thing she could do. This time the kiss she gave him was one of comfort. It was soft and light on his tight lips and he didn’t search for more from her, just relaxing into the touch of their lips. He pulled her on top of him and when she pulled away to catch her breath, she lay her head on his chest and she could count the beats of his heart pounding into her ear.

“After awhile I learned it was better to just comply with what they wanted from me even if it wasn’t what I wanted,” Peeta continued after the silence had stretched out between them. “When Glimmer came along, she was everything they wanted for me - beautiful, famous, and well connected. In those early days she turned on the charm effortlessly and it was easy for me to fall into a relationship with her and it really did seem like she cared for me. I just wanted something of my own. I thought it was her.”

“I’m sorry,” she stuttered a little bit. “I didn’t meant to push you into talking about something painful for you. You don’t have to finish if you don’t want to.”

“No it’s okay. I mean why should I be complaining? Poor little rich boy, right? No one who loves me, no one who cares. I’m sure I sound pathetic, especially considering your situation.” She could feel his body grow rigid and tense, ready to spring up at any moment and she knew she would have to pick her next words carefully.

“Your life is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced before. Perfection is beyond my realm. I’m messy, we’re all messy, but it’s a beautiful chaos. And I don’t know where or how I would be without my family’s love. I have a hunting partner, he has had to fight for everything and you would definitely get no pity from him or many others like him in our district, but...but...I guess, I can see how difficult your life can be.” There are so many other things she wanted to say but she was doubtful of her her place. How do you tell a person that you feel sorry for them when you have so little and they have so much?

Yet, Peeta in so many ways beat her assumptions of rich people. Even in this short time he had shown himself to be kind, open, and giving - something that she had never expected. She thought it would be all business, maybe at the most an occasional kind word. But Peeta surprised her. Sure he blended in perfectly with the Capitol world, but in these small moments she glimpsed someone who was much more. She just didn’t know if she could trust him enough to believe it, to believe his sincerity as much as she wanted to. He seemed to good to be true.

Any more words she had to offer stuck in her throat and she was afraid she would open herself up too much, spilling doubts and worries that should never be let loose to a customer. Even if she did feel an affinity to him she doubted that they could ever truly have a friendship like he wanted, considering their very different circumstances. But what she could do was offer him her comfort and affection. She lay soft gentle kisses on the only skin that was exposed at the nape of his neck and she could feel his body soften and relax into the bed beneath him. Her nimble fingers worked the tight tie on his collar before tossing it aside. She then worked her way down, opening button by button and with each exposed piece of skin she left another kiss. And with each kiss that she left, his breath became more heavier, quickening as his eyes closed and his head snapped back.

It felt a lifetime ago that she first slowly opened his shirt buttons on the train in much the same way she was doing now, discovering him for the first time. Yet they were still counting hours, not yet days and the comfort she felt doing this to him surprised her. When she reached the last button, her tongue flicked out, licking the the trail of hair to his navel. Peeta’s pants grew tighter and he bit his lip as he started to lose control. It was so simple what she just did to him, but he was a puddle underneath her hands. The power she held over him made her shiver in return. He grabbed her head and pulled her up, thrusting his tongue into her mouth desperately, like she could disappear at any moment if he let her go.

The door suddenly burst open, bouncing off the wall with a loud bang. They jumped nearly three feet apart from each other like caught teenagers. She glared at the intruder who turned out to be the rumpled and slightly ragged man she had seen when they arrived stood at the entrance. He squinted down at them with a calculating expression like they were math problem he needed to solve. He took a long swig from a flask that he pulled from his pocket and heaved a long beleaguered sigh.

“Sorry lovebirds, but I gave you as much time as I could. You can’t hide in here forever, as much as you may want to. Especially you Peeta. If I have to deal with the glorious Glimmer Mellark and her posse of deplorables, so do you. And we have business to attend to,” he declared dryly.

“Haymitch, you can’t complain. You got a long break while I festered in the Capitol so don’t come whining to me.” Peeta got up from the bed a little awkwardly, grimacing in discomfort, sending a deep glower towards whoever this Haymitch person was. “I’m gonna need to take care of introduce yourself and don’t be an ass,” he ordered before hobbling over to the adjoining bathroom.

“Welcome to the Loony Bin Sweetheart, I’m Haymitch Abernathy, the manager of this estate and secondhand man to Mellark. If you need anything at all, don’t ask me because I’m too busy to be dealing with you too. His wife is enough of a hassle so don’t cause any problems, don’t hurt the kid, and we’ll be good. Got it?”

“Well aren’t you just a ray of sunshine,” she spat out, every single muscle of her body tightening, automatically ready to spring in defense.

His jaw tightened and grew taller as he straightened from his relaxed posture, “You better believe it. You’re one of Effie’s girls, aren’t you. She’s good but my gut makes me wonder if she made a mistake with you.”

“You just met me,” she said incredulously.

“What can I say, I’ve been in the game a long time and I trust my gut. But if you don’t step out of line and keep your head down, there won’t be a problem, will there.” It was less a question and more of an order. And she could feel the fire building up inside of her. She wanted to straight out say fuck off, but no matter how much he was pissing her off at the moment, she had to control her temper. She had to just let it go, at least for now.

So she ground out a “no” between gritted teeth.

“Good then. As long as we have an understanding,” he said before taking another swig from his flask. He once again slouching into a relaxed posture like he never challenged her to begin with.

She didn’t answer him but used all her training to try and keep a placid expression on her face. But she wasn’t ever the best student and she failed miserably, her expression forming closer to a glower.

“Well Sweetheart, now that we’ve got that cleared up, if you do need anything I do have someone who can help you.” Haymitch gave a sharp whistle and a small slip of a girl entered the room. Actually it was the same girl that she saw Glimmer berating earlier. Her golden brown eyes were wide and she looked like she was about to take flight at any moment.

“This little doll is a Rue. She’ll assist you with anything you need. Just keep her out of sight of Glimmer and treat her right…”

“And we’ll ‘be good’,” she finished.

He raised a single eyebrow at her and took a hefty swig from his flask before hollering, “Peeta! Are you finally done in there?”

Peeta emerged looking refreshed, hair slicked back and shirt re-buttoned but still missing the tie. Their eyes connected immediately and he went straight to Katniss and pulled her right hand up to his lips, leaving a soft lingering kiss on her knuckles.

“Peeta, aren’t you doing things ass backwards, shouldn’t she have relieved you of your ‘situation’? Isn’t that what you’re paying her for after all?”

Peeta’s hand tightened on hers as his lips pressed together. “That is enough,” he practically growled. “Haymitch I told you not to be an ass, but I should have known that you were incapable of that.”

Haymitch only smirked, and Katniss’ finger nails bit deeply into the flesh of her palms as she resisted the urge to slap him hard on the face. He basically implied she was nothing but a common whore to him. He was somebody who she would definitely be avoiding at all costs.

“Haymitch let’s go. Like you said, we have business to attend to,” Peeta said with barely concealed annoyance. His eyes softened as he looked down on Katniss, and he bent down one more time to pull her bottom lip between his, making her heart flutter before he abruptly pulled away, walking out the door with Haymitch trailing at a slower pace.

As the door clicked close softly, silence descended so suddenly it almost felt oppressive. A small cough on the other side of the room pierced the quiet and Katniss whipped her head towards the girl who she’d forgotten about with her contentious back and forth with Haymitch. The girl gave a little shy wave and looked like she wanted to disappear as much as Katniss did.

“Ummm, hi,” Katniss stuttered out.

“Don’t listen to him. He’s not as bad as he seems. Haymitch that is. I know he seems gruff, but he does care about all of us. He’s just overprotective, is all.” Although her voice was small, she actually came off more confident than Katniss had expected.

“To be honest, I don’t know if that makes me feel any better,” she answered. “But thanks for trying. I think I’ll stay clear from Mr. Sunshine, all the same.”

Rue covered her mouth as she let out the sweetest giggle and Katniss felt her heart melt. She was reminded of a very similar giggle from her sister who was in a district so far away. She got off the bed and offered her hand to the small girl.

“Well, I’m pleased to meet you Rue, I’m Katniss. How did you get stuck with me?” Rue offered up her own hand shyly and it was so small in her own, but it was already rough from years of work.

“Haymitch thought that if I was your servant then it’d help to keep me out of Glimmer’s sight. In a week or two she should forget that she fired me. At least I hope.” She shrugged it off like this was a common occurrence and then looked up at her hopefully, “If you would rather have someone else, I could get someone. I don’t want you to get into trouble because of me.”

Katniss gave her a warm smile, “Don’t worry about me. I can handle myself. And I could use a partner in this crazy place. Looks like you might be the person. What do you say we watch after each other?”

“Sounds like a plan!” She answered, curls bouncing wildly as she she shook her head enthusiastically. The smile stretching her face was so sweet and pure, Katniss felt the flame of protection ignite. She had just met her but her sweetness reminded her so much of Prim.

“Maybe you can take me on a tour of this place? I have a feeling I’m going to get lost here a lot. It’s, just so huge…” And she wasn’t lying. She was at home out in the woods, but this sprawling mansion was something else.

“Sure! I know this place inside and out. Whenever I have time off, I explore. Did you know they have actual secret passageways?!” She practically bounced with excitement and the once shy girl was almost gone.

“Let me just put something that’s actually comfortable.” She grabbed her soft sweats and threw on a tight tank top with a cross back bikini top as a bra. She was tired of going braless for so long but she still wasn’t ready for full push up wire. Lastly she put on her comfortable old tennis shoes that had been snuck in the bottom of her bag and put her hair in her patented braid. She sighed in relief, finally feeling like Katniss again. Rue gave her a curious little smile but only gestured that she should follow and they were quickly out the door.

The day turned out to be actually pretty pleasant with Rue as company. She was just as sweet as she initially appeared to be and, as Katniss learned more about the young girl, she quickly found herself wanting to protect the young girl. They made their way through long hallways, opulent rooms, winding servant passages, and the vast carefully groomed grounds. In their roaming, Rue opened up about her life without asking anything in return. At 15 years old she was just around Prim’s age and had been quickly put to work by her family. Too many mouths to feed and too little money coming in. District 11 had few opportunities except for long days sweating in the fields with little pay, hungry bellies and no opportunity for anything better. So they sent her away to join her brother, hoping she would find an opportunity to more than survive.

“It’s not too bad working here. Especially when the Mellarks are away, then it‘s real nice! Well, mostly when the Mrs. is gone. I always seem to be in her way or doing something wrong. She doesn’t like me too much, but I don’t think she likes anybody really. Mr. Mellark’s not too bad though. He’s really nice, mostly. Some days he doesn’t feel that well and those times it brings the whole house down, but he always tries so hard to treat us well. He even let’s me study in the library a couple hours a day!” Rue told her eyes brightening. Once she opened up, Rue prattled on with personal information like Katniss was a trusted friend, and she was grateful that nothing was requested of her in return.

Rue eventually took Katniss to the garage which in itself could be a large home. But it needed to be in order to hold all the Mellarks‘ countless cars. There she met Rue’s brother who cut an intimidating figure, easily towering over them. She could understand why her parents felt safe sending their daughter over to him. It was also quickly evident that he adored her and would do anything to protect her. When introductions were first made, Katniss was worried what he would think of her, a whore being taken care of by his precious sister. But his warm and quiet nature quickly put her at ease, even if there was steel in his eyes when he said to her “You better treat her well.” Thresh had been working around the estate driving the cars and acting as general handyman for about 5 years. With Rue in the house and Thresh everywhere else, it was clear that there wasn’t much that went past them.

As the sun touched the hills and the day came to a close, Rue dragged her into the large warm kitchen where the head chef stood dominion over her staff. Everything was all business as she barked orders until she spotted Rue, then her whole demeanor changed and she was all smiles. She wrapped the little girl in a warm welcoming hug then surprised Katniss by giving her a hug whether she wanted it or not. Rue only laughed at the pained awkward look plastered on her face as Sae, as Katniss discovered her name to be, fussed over them. She was definitely a force of nature.

While Katniss sat, slurping down a bowl of delicious stew, chatting with warm and welcoming people, she felt almost normal, like she could just go out the door and walk back to her house. But the illusion was broken when Johanna came sauntering in, shimmering in a see-through ankle length gown, her eyes scanning Katniss up and down.

“You do remember that we’re supposed to attend dinner tonight. Not that the stew you’re sucking down like it’s your last meal doesn’t smell amazing.” She stirred the stew on the stove making the amazing smell rise stronger. “But now it’s time to have insipid conversation with people you don’t like while we eat gastronomic delights like foam liver. And your outfit, while charming is much too covered. Come Cinderella, time to go to the slutty ball.” The trio around her just stared at the brazen sharp tongue woman in stunned silence until it was broken by Sae’s boisterous laughter.

When she could catch her breath, she got up and slapped Jo hard on the butt, causing the younger women’s eyes to widen. “Glimmer sure is going to have her hands full with you. I don’t think she knows what she got herself in.” Jo’s response was a smug smile and a shrug of the shoulders.

“What can I say, I’m a niche market,” she answered. Sae just chuckled again before turning to Katniss.

“Well darling, it was a pleasure to meet you. Don’t be afraid to come by the kitchens if you need some real food or a little company.” She squeezed Katniss affectionately on the shoulder. “Now off with you. Duty calls.”

With a deep sigh, she hefted herself out off of the stool and shuffled her way out the kitchen door with Rue trailing behind her. She got a little turned around on the way to her room, but Rue gently guided her into the right direction. She was hoping that Jo would just leave her alone but of course she followed along as well. Probably to make sure she didn’t escape.

While Katniss got ready, for once Jo was blessedly silent, but she knew it wouldn’t last. And when Katniss pulled on a short but opaque black dress, Jo rolled her eyes and opened her big fat mouth. “You are such a prude. Do you think that will actually make an impression?”

“The only impression I need to make is with Peeta,” was her curt answer.

“Kat’s got her claws out. Maybe you’ll get some tough skin yet,” Jo snarked. She just wanted to get through this night without killing someone and Jo made it so damn hard. Even when Johanna wasn’t saying anything she could read so much judgment in her eyes she might as well be mouthing off.

She couldn’t get ready fast enough so she could be with Peeta and away from Jo. When she left the sanctuary of her room, as the door closed, the last thing she saw was the concerned gaze of Rue following her.

“You better gird your loins Kitty Kat, they’ve been at it since they got home. Glimmer sure knows how to party, I can barely keep up. I never thought I would ever have to dip into my supply of sober pills so I wouldn’t kill myself out right.” With that declaration, she shoved opened the dining room doors and the raucous sound of laughter flooding out.

Katniss was hoping Johanna was exaggerating about the excessive partying. But damn it, if anything she had understated the circus from hell. She was positive there was not one fully coherent person among them. In her quick scan, Katniss found Clove twirling a steak knife between her fingers looking bored out of her mind, Cashmere shoving food down her throat like it would be the last time she would ever eat, Seneca grabbing at every female that passed by, Glimmer loudly going into a story that nobody really was paying attention to, and Haymitch sitting there staring at his drink like it would tell him the answers of the universe.

The one person who looked anywhere close to comprehensible was Delly, and she looked like a grey mouse trying to hide as much as possible from being seen. The one person who she had been counting on to be there was nowhere to be seen. No Peeta.

“Great,” she grumbled as Johanna sauntered over to the dining room table taking in the large spread of food.

“Oh look, her heinous, I mean highness, has graced us with her presence. We all must be on our best behavior now. Sssshh everyone, or the fun will be over.” Glimmer slurred between sips of her cocktail.

All eyes turned towards her as she made her way to the table, head held high as she tried to ignore their burning gazes. The safest place seemed to be far away from Seneca which turned out to be in between Haymitch and Delly. A perk of Haymitch hating her is that at least she wouldn’t have to fend off his groping hands throughout dinner.

“Welcome to the circus Sweetheart, have a cocktail and enjoy the show. Sometimes that’s all we bystanders can do.” The heat of whiskey wafted across her face as Haymitch leaned in to give his unwanted opinion. She tried not to wince at his alcohol laced breath but it was clear that the drink in his hand was far from the first so it probably didn’t matter if he noticed anyway.

“Leave the little bird alone Haymitch,” Glimmer shouted across the table. “It’s not your turn yet, you have to wait in line like the rest of us. Peeta won’t even let me have my fun with her yet and I’m the generous wife who bought him the fucking gift! Besides I’m pretty sure Delly will want her turn next considering she so hard up.”

The laughter from her crew crackled around them and she gripped her fork tightly as she attempted to douse the flames of rising anger. She couldn’t look at Glimmer’s mocking face one moment more so she glanced down at her plate of elaborate food in a feeble attempt to gain any sort of composure. The tremor of a delicate hand hand drew her attention and that is when she noticed that Delly was shaking like a leaf. She glanced up at her face, and his sister’s cheeks had lost all of it’s rosy tint. She was about to ask if she was okay when Delly mumbled, “Excuse me,” and quickly made her way out of the dining room. The rest of the party had continued on in their fun, not paying her any attention. All except for Glimmer, who’s sharp gaze watched Delly run.

“I better see if she’s okay,” Haymitch slurred, but there was still concern in his hazy expression.

“You can barely stand, I’ll go,” Katniss offered, rushing out of the room before anybody could stop her. She wasn’t sure if the laughter that followed her was at her expense or if their short attention had wandered to something else, but she wasn’t about to stop and find out.

When she looked around her, she realized Delly was nowhere in sight and she had no idea where to begin to look for her. Hell, she didn’t know if she should even look for her. But there was something in the lost look on Delly’s face that reminded Katniss of her Momma after she found out Pappa was so sick. It was that look of painful desperation that chilled her.

The only place Katniss could think of to start was the kitchen. She was pretty sure Sae knew just about everything anyway and would be willing to help her out. It took her a little bit of wandering down the wrong hallways until she finally found herself in the right area and fortune was on her side, because so was Delly. She sat at the kitchen table with a large mug of tea settled in the palms of her hands. Her body was practically curled in on itself as tears leaked down her cheeks. Sae gave soft rubs on her back, just patiently listening.

“I…I...don’t know what else to do. I try so hard, all the time. And she still treats me like a piece of shit. I feel so trapped. I don’t want to regret my brother coming back, I love I’m starting to dread it because of everything that comes with him. Why does she do that to me? After...after...everything.” Tears leaked down her cheeks, her body vibrating, and Katniss knew that she was trying to hold herself together but was losing the battle.

Sae looked up at Katniss as she silently stepped in closer and with an almost imperceptible shake of the head, warned her off. She was more than willing to take the cue to leave incapable of knowing how to console the woman.

As she let the door close behind her she faced the quiet hallway and her next move. One option was to go back to the dinner party, and just the thought of it made her stomach turn. The short time in there was an eternity of torture. She was out, and she wasn’t going back. On the other hand she could just go back to her room and get comfortable again. But even as tempting as it seemed, there was her obligation to Peeta, and she couldn’t help but wonder what happened to him. So she found her footsteps taking her towards the direction of his room.

Once Katniss found his room, she stood there after a good solid 2 minutes, her hand hovering above the door without making a move. She swallowed the lump in her throat and tried to shake off her nervousness. She could climb to the top of a 15 foot tree without any help or any nerves, but the thought of knocking on his door got her heart racing out of her chest and she wasn’t sure why. With a deep breath she gave a tentative knock. When she heard nothing, she rapped the door stronger with more confidence. Time seemed to stretch as she waited, but finally she heard footsteps shuffling over and the door opened just a crack, just a blue eye peeping through. When he saw that it was her, he opened up the door half way and stepped through and closed it behind him.

“Katniss, what are you doing here? What time is it?” Peeta leaned against the door and drew his hand through his hair. He had replaced his crisp clothing with an overlarge warm robe. But there was something about him that was just off. His skin was little to sallow, his eyes were a little too wide and had darkening rings around them, and his hands were shaking. Not as bad as Delly’s had been, but just enough to be noticed.

“It’s after 7, everyone is eating dinner. I wondered if you wanted to join? Or maybe we can just hang out in one of our rooms perhaps?” As soon as the words came out, she knew what his answer was going to be when an alarmed expression came over his face that was quickly covered up by a thin mask of civility. It was fast, but she caught it.

“I’m not feeling all that well Katniss, so go on without me. I’ll catch up with you tomorrow to see how you’re settling in. Have a good night.” He leaned in and gave her a soft quick kiss, then just as quickly he went back into his room and closed the door firmly that felt like finality. She blinked at the door a few times, confusion settling in before she turned around and headed back to her rooms in a daze. There was no way in hell would she ever go back to that dining room tonight. When she got back, Rue was curled up on the couch, sound asleep, and not wanting to disturb the girl, she quietly crept past and into the bedroom. She shed her clothes with a sigh of relief and crawled under the covers.

When the sun had barely broke over the horizon she had no sleep to show for the long restless night and her brain was no clearer. So she did the one thing she could do - she ran. She changed into her exercise clothes and ran as fast and hard as she could, her legs burning from her desperation. She flew past immaculate hedges, fragrant vibrant flowers, and over smooth paved paths; trying desperately to put distance from the ornate walls slowly closing in.

Eventually the bushes lost the look of nurtured tidiness that were obviously untouched by a gardener's shears. The pavement gave way to gravel and then to dirt. And still she ran. She has no idea what direction she was going or where she’d end up, all she knew is that she had to escape. Escape from her life, from her brain, from the flames of the consequences of her decisions licking at her back. But she knew there would be no escape, only running.

Running had been the one thing she could do in the Capitol that gave her any peace. Her beautiful forest was not available to her, conversations on the phone with her family only made her heart ache more, but with running she could escape for a little bit. Even if for just an hour, she could make her brain stop. By the time she had looped the estate over three times, she was ready to slow things down. She eased up to catch her breath, take a sip of water and stretch.

Luck would have it that she ended up stopping next to a majestic weeping willow tree whose branches swayed gently in the breeze as if giving a grand bow, it’s leafy ends grazing the lawn. She couldn’t resist ducking to take her breather in it’s green private enclosure.

Katniss rested against the trunk, closed her eyes, and took a deep breath, letting her lungs fill with the smells of the outdoors - damp earth, wood, the hint of animals in the air. Her heart slowed and she felt herself melting away from the thoughts and worry and just lived in the moment.

She was not sure how long she stayed like that, leaning against the tree but the peaceful moment was broken when she heard raised voices arguing in the the distance. She shrank in on herself as they came closer; hoping not to be seen but she shouldn’t have worried since the couple were too wrapped up in their own drama. They stopped just within sight of the willow’s swaying branches and as she peered through she realized it was actually Delly and Glimmer who was arguing. At first she could only really see Delly, obviously laying out all the pent up frustration from last night. Then Glimmer came into view, looking surprisingly less drunk than she expected. Katniss barely heard what they were saying, too focused on the intense emotions playing out on their faces. Delly pushed Glimmer back, ready to walk away and Katniss had to bite back a cry of surprise when Peeta’s wife pulled her into a searing kiss.