A Hunger Games Fic


Today is the day, Peeta thought. Of course, he'd been saying that for the past ten years and it hadn't happened yet. Peeta strikes up the nerve to talk to Katniss before the 74th Annual Hunger Games. AU. Rated T for mild language and adult situations.

Chapter 1: A Decent Start

Today is the day, Peeta thought as he looked into the faded gleam of the mirror in the bathroom. Today, he was going to talk to her. Of course, he'd been saying that for the past ten years and it hadn't happened yet. He smoothed his blonde waves down over his forehead, hoping to shape it into some sort of order. It didn't work. As soon as his hand left his hair, they popped up in their unruly fashion. He sighed to himself and moved to exit the bathroom. In the common area of his family's apartment, his mother caught sight of him preparing to leave for school.

"'Bout time you got out of that bathroom." His mother commented disdainfully. "Get your lazy butt to school, Peeta!"

"Sorry, Mom." He replied automatically. Fifteen years had taught him to apologize for any and everything concerning his mother. He gathered his textbooks and turned to head downstairs into the family bakery.

"Peeta!" His father greeted from the kitchen. The small smile his father had to offer was somewhat comforting after the snide comment from his mother. "You better hurry or you'll be late. Robbie already left."

"I'm leaving now." Peeta assured him, heading for the back door and grabbing his jacket.

"Did you eat?" His father asked as he followed. Peeta shook his head, frowning. Sometimes, if he looked pathetic enough, his father would let him have one of the "faulty" pastries for breakfast. It worked, apparently, because his father sighed and shook his head as he disappeared into the storefront. He came back moments later with a danish that had some smudged icing. "Don't tell you mother." He muttered as he handed it to his son.

Peeta didn't have to be told twice. The last time his mother caught him sneaking food from the bakery, she rapped him so hard across the knuckles, they bled. He waved gratefully to his father and rushed out the back door. His oldest brother, Clyde, was out in the backyard, tossing feed to the various animals kept there. The brothers ignored each other, like most mornings, and Peeta raced towards the school.

He wasn't late, thank goodness, but by the second period, he had developed a twitch in his right leg. The instant he'd stepped onto the schoolyard that morning, he'd spotted her. Katniss. Looking as pretty as ever. His earlier determination floated to the forefront of his mind. He could barely pay attention in class. Instead, he kept stealing glances at her from the corner of his eye. She never seemed to notice, she just kept glaring at the book on her desk. By lunch, he'd worked up a sweat trying to come up with a reason to talk to her and what he would say.

He'd only had a crush on her for what? Ten years? He never really had a problem with words, they just seem to come out. People usually listened to what he had to say. At least his friends did. Peeta stared down at his lunch, uninterested at its content. His friends were talking casually around him and he tuned out their conversation in favor of searching the cafeteria for the her. She sat in the corner of the room, with the Mayor's daughter as always. Neither were talking which was also normal. He studied Katniss carefully. She was frowning into her lunch. He couldn't see clearly, but it looked to be a piece of dark bread and a thermos of what he assumed was soup.

He suddenly felt guilty. He'd only ever had tesserae bread once or twice. It wasn't anything like the bread his family made, tasteless, chewy, and dry. Peeta gazed down at his own lunch. A sandwich, made with delicate white bread his father had made a couple days ago, thick slices of ham and a slice of tomato. He also had an apple and shortbread cookies. Maybe he should give her some of his lunch? Before he could think more on the idea, he felt an elbow in his ribs.

"Hey," his friend, Mark, said. "You alright, Peeta? You look like you're gonna hurl or something."

Peeta tore his eyes away from the Seam girl and to the boy sitting beside him. "I'm fine," He replied and forced a smile.

"Is it your food?" He asked. "'Cause if it is, I'll eat it." Mark laughed.

Peeta lifted the sandwich to his mouth and licked one side of it before handing out to his friend in mock offering. Mark blanched and muttered something under his breath before laughing again. Peeta found himself laughing along. He finished his lunch in silence, berating himself for hoarding it and not sharing it with Katniss.

The day was only half over, and he already felt drained. All this thinking and worrying over his crush really took it's toll. He vowed to push her from his thoughts and focus on his classes. Not a minute after making the vow, however, he broke it. He was walking to his first class after lunch when he rounded a corner and collided with a body. The sound of books hitting the floor drew his eye to the floor where a blonde girl his age layed sprawled out on the tiles. Madge, the Mayor's daughter. He swore under his breath and bent to help her up.

"I'm so sorry, Madge." He apologized as he helped her to her feet. He thought he heard her mutter something, but he was distracted by the thought of their books on the floor.

He stooped down and began piling them in his arms, not really paying attention. So it shocked him when his hand bumped into another. His eyes flashed up to the owner and he felt like the breath had been knocked out of him. There she was, looking at him with those beautiful gray eyes. He's never been this close to her and certainly never touched her or talked to her before. His brain screamed, Here's your chance! But he could barely hear it over his frantically beating heart.

"S-sorry." He mumbled under his breath, dumbstruck. Katniss drew her eyebrows together and frowned at him in confusion. She said nothing as she picked up the remaining book and stood swiftly. He followed her to his feet, eager to have a chance to talk to her. When he straightened to his full height, she had already handed the book to Madge and was turning to leave.

"Wait!" He exclaimed suddenly without thinking. She turned back to him, a confused look on her prettily tan face. "Uh… Um-have a nice day?" He stammered. Then he glanced at Madge and felt like a complete idiot. So he added, "Both of you! Happy Friday?"

Madge offered a kind smile as she tugged her books from his hands. "Thanks, Peeta." She said sincerely before turning towards Katniss. Peeta stared at Katniss with wide eyes, debating on whether or not to say anything more. He'd already made a complete fool of himself.

"Thanks," she finally murmured. It was low, and soft, but he heard it. And it made his heart race. She spoke to me! He thought in wonder. He didn't get another chance to say anything, though. They had both turned and started down the hallway to their next class.

Peeta had trouble containing his smile for the rest of the day.

Saturday was a busy day at the bakery. Peeta and his brothers woke before the sun was up in order to start on the day's work. His mind was still reeling after his run-in with Katniss the day before. He found himself daydreaming about possible future "accidents" where he could run into her. One in particular featured him heroically pulling her to safety during a tornado drill that wasn't really a drill. In his fantasy, he pushed her from under falling debris and she had kissed him as a reward. He could almost feel her soft lips brushing against his.

"Peeta!" The voice snapped him back to reality. By the tone of Clyde's voice, that wasn't the first time he'd said his name. "What's up with you? What did you do to that dough?"

Peeta glanced down at the dough he was working in his hands and groaned. Thankfully, his mother slept in on Saturdays and he could avoid her wrath for botching up a batch of cinnamon nut rolls. The dough was clearly over-worked and was no long light and fluffy, but tough and sticky. The cinnamon that was supposed to be swirled gently through was now thoroughly mixed in. He might be able to salvage it, but it wouldn't be near good enough to sell. He'd have to save it for their personal bread basket.

"Well?" Clyde asked again, looking over his shoulder and eyeing the dough crytically.

"I got distracted." He explained as he set the dough aside to fix later. "Please don't tell, Mom." He begged softly.

His brother clapped him on the back in an unusual show of affection and promised not to say a word. Probably because he was getting married soon and moving out. Clyde had always been the favorite, and as oldest, he was most likely to tattle on his brothers. MAybe now that he was leaving, he could see that his younger brothers weren't quite so bad. The three brothers got back to work, the sound of the bell over the dough signifying their father was opening the shop for the day. Robbie had taken over the breadmaking when the first of the cookies and cupcakes were finished baking. Peeta set them to cool and began to whip up the icing.

"So, what has you so distracted today?" Robbie asked from the other side of the worktable. He didn't look up from the bowl he was mixing, but the smirk on his face was clearly visible.

"Nothing." Peeta muttered under his breath, feeling his cheeks flush. He tried to focus on coloring the icing just right and not the snort of disbelief his brother made.

"Uh-huh, sure," he said. "Are you sure it had nothing to do with that Seam girl, Katniss?"

Peeta's whole body went rigid when Robbie spoke her name. When he was younger, he had confided in his older brother about his crush. His brother had brushed it off as unimportant and hadn't mentioned it in a long time. He was actually hoping Robbie had forgotten all about it.

"What's this, now?" Clyde piqued up from his place by the ovens. "Peeta's finally got a girlfriend?"

Peeta clenched his jaw and fisted his hands at his sides. "She's not my girlfriend!" He claimed indignantly, flushing.

Robbie snickered and began to knead the dough on the counter. "I saw him the hall yesterday-" He said between fits of laughter. "Stammering like an idiot at her. Poor girl didn't know what to say!"

"Shut up, Robbie!" Peeta yelled as he turned back to the icing in front of him. Clyde had joined in on the laughter as well by that point. Peeta could see him out the corner of his eye, shoulders shaking with laughter as he took some bread loaves from the oven.

"What's going on back here?" Their father poked his head into the kitchen from the storefront, a reprimanding look already on his face.

"Nothing." Peeta asserted, avoiding his gaze.

Clyde and Robbie continued laughing, taking pleasure in their brother's discomfort. Mr. Mellark didn't believe that for a minute. Peeta's face was bright red and he was precariously close to breaking the pastry bag with his jerking, forceful movements.

"Robbie, get those loaves in the oven and help me out front." He commanded, hoping that breaking up the duo would lessen Peeta's distress. "And Peeta, careful with those bags."

Peeta continued on with his work through the day, only stopping to eat a quick cold lunch out on the frigid porch in order to avoid the rest his family. By late afternoon, he finally got permission to call it a day, but only on the condition that he make the deliveries. He welcomed the chance to get out of the house. The cold January air ruffled his hair and turned his face pink. By the time he got home, his father was closing the bakery and his mother was finishing making dinner. They sat at the table silently, like every night. The silence only broken by the sound of silverware hitting plates. That is, until Mrs. Mellark took a bite of her roll. Her face scrunched up in obvious disgust and she spit the mouthful onto her plate.

"Who made these disgusting rolls?!" She shrieked.

The whole table had gone still, Peeta especially. He panicked as he remembered making the dough for rolls in the morning. Over-kneading them, setting them aside, then finally switched them out with the dough his mother had assigned for dinner that night. He hoped by some miracle she wouldn't notice. That was a long shot.

"Well?" She asked, voice still raised.

Nobody had said anything and Peeta knew the longer he waited, the worse his punishment would be. So he cleared his throat, and raised his hand slightly. "I- I did, Mom." He confessed nervously.

She turned her cold eyes on him and considered him for a moment before frowning. "And why, might I ask, are they so hard and unappealing? And what happened to the rolls I told you to make for tonight?"

"I, uh… Over-kneaded one of the batches this morning, so I switched it out?" Peeta ended his account in a question, hoping it made him seem vulnerable and blame-free. It didn't work.

"You think cinnamon grows on trees?" She asked incredulous. "I guess you just put the second-rate ingredients into the rolls you replaced them with, didn't you? How do you think it makes us look when we sell our customers sub-par goods?"

"I didn't mean to!" Peeta defended. "It was an accident!"

"You always were incompetent." She spat. "You're lucky you can make those fancy cakes, otherwise I'd had turned you into the orphanage long ago!"

"Sudie!" Mr. Mellark admonished. "Leave the boy alone, he's suffered enough."

"Yeah, Mom," Clyde interrupted, unafraid of incurring wrath from his mother. He was the favorite son, afterall. "It's not his fault he spent all morning mooning over the that Everdeen girl."

Sudie Mellark started upright. "Everdeen girl?" She glared at Peeta and then to her husband.

"I'm sorry, Mom!" Peeta apologized. "It won't happen again!"

Mrs. Mellark narrowed her eyes at her son, grabbed the ladle and brought it down on Peeta's knuckles lightning quick. Peeta let out a howl of pain and cradled his injured hand to his chest. "Damn right it won't happen again, you worthless piece of trash! Go to bed!"

Peeta did as he was told storming off to the bedroom he shared with Robbie, hearing the raised voices of his parents arguing yet again. He slammed the bedroom door with more force than was necessary. It wasn't until he was sitting on his bed that he looked down at his right hand. A red welt was forming across his knuckles, and there was blood seeping from a small cut. It stung. Not wanting to go across the hall to the bathroom, Peeta wiped the blood on the side of his pants and laid down in his bed.

Morning came too quick. But luckily it was Sunday and he was spared from waking too early. He finally made his way down to the bakery in the late morning, peering around corners and watching for sight of his mother. Satisfied she wasn't there, he strolled into the kitchen. Clyde was mixing something in a bowl and his father sat beside him frosting some cookies. He stepped up beside his father and grabbed a cookie to frost.

"Morning, Peeta. " His father greeted. "How's the hand?"

He displayed the red, swollen skin of his knuckles in response, wincing when Mr. Mellark prodded it with his finger. His father gave him a pitying smile before excusing himself to take a break upstairs. Peeta continued the work of frosting cookies in silence with his brother. They continued quietly for an hour or so when the brothers heard a light rap on the back door. Peeta raised an eyebrow at Clyde.

"Where's Mom?" Knowing who it was at the door.

"Took Robbie to Mrs. Darven's. I think she wanted to set him up with Mary. She said she'd be gone all day." He shrugged. Peeta made for the back door, wiping his hands on his apron more to keep them from shaking than trying to get them clean.

He opened the door to find Katniss on his porch with the Hawthorne boy slightly behind her. She looked up when the door opened and she gave him a quizzical look. "Where's your dad?" She asked.

"He's taking a break." He answered automatically. "Show me what you brought and I'll get ask him what he wants to trade."

She raised her dark eyebrows at him. "Why not just get him so I can show him myself?"

Peeta sighed and waved her in. She didn't move from the porch. "It's cold out there. You guys can come in while I get Dad, my mom will gone all day." They looked skeptical, but came in to stand just inside the door.

Peeta called up the stairs for his dad and waited by the back door around their guests. His eyes roamed to Katniss more often than not, but he couldn't bring himself to talk to her. When the bell rang in the storefront, Peeta glanced ruefully towards it. He didn't want to leave the room if Katniss was there, but someone needed to help the customer.

"Don't worry, I got it." Clyde said, giving Peeta a suggestive waggle of his eyebrows as he passed. Peeta swatted at him with the back of his hand and cried out when his injured hand made contact with his shoulder. He'd forgotten about his injury.

"What happened to your hand?"

Peeta jerked his head around at her voice, stunned that she was actually speaking to him. He gaped at her for a moment before flashing her a hesitant smile. "I, uh, messed up the rolls." He laughed.

Both Katniss and the Hawthorne boy- Gale, Peeta remembered- just stared at him. He held up his hand for them to see and tried to explain, smiling. "Mom didn't appreciate my contribution to dinner last night. She's uh, surprisingly quick for her age and stature."

Katniss twisted her face into a disgusted frown and for a frightening second, he thought she was disgusted with him. "You're mom hit you?" He nodded with a grim smile. "For messing up the bread?" She asked incredulously.

"Yep." He answered cheerfully. "Welcome to my lovely family." He added sarcastically.

She gave him a look just as Hawthorne- Gale, he reminded himself- started laughing hysterically. He replayed what he'd said in his mind and blanched. God, he thought, could I be any more pathetic? He decided to move to the worktable and continue decorating the cake someone had ordered for a birthday. His dad was sure taking his good old time getting down the stairs.

Katniss wandered over to where he was working and inspected his work. He could feel her hovering beside him and it made it difficult to concentrate. He set his pastry bag down and turned to face her. She was much closer than he'd originally thought. She started when their eyes met. He smiled at her and he could see her cheeks color slightly.

"Prim likes to look at the cakes when we come into town." She explained defensively. "I've never seen anyone actually make one."

His smile widened. "I do all the cakes. Most of the cookies, too."

Just then his dad thundered down the stairs and Peeta cursed inwardly. This is the most he's ever spoken to Katniss and he was really enjoying it.

"Katniss! Gale!" His father greeted as he approached. "What did you bring for me today?"

"Got a couple squirrels, Mr Mellark," Gale answered, leading him to the porch. Katniss followed and Peeta's mood went with her. It was a good fifteen minutes before his dad came back in. He looked up and was surprised to see Katniss close behind.

His father shrugged his shoulders, "Forgot the money. Stay here, Katniss, while I go grab some coins. Peeta, why don't you wrap up a few cookies for her to take with her. I saw her eyeing the yellow ones." He winked as he passed and Peeta felt his face heat.

Katniss was looking to him expectantly and he made his way to the tray of cookies waiting to go into the display cases. He waved her over to join him, grabbing a bag and flipping it open.

"Which ones do you want?" He asked cheerfully.

Her eyes widened as she looked at the selection. "How many can I have?" She asked softly.

"Uh…" He scratched his head, unsure how many his father intended to give away.

"Three." His father answered from the door. He made his way over to Katniss and handed her a few coins. "That one squirrel was pretty big."

"Okay." She said and she pointed to a couple for Peeta to place in the bag. She seemed to hesitate on the remaining and Peeta suggested his favorite, excluding that the reason was that the flower it was inspired by would look good in her dark hair.

By the time she left, Peeta was feeling a little light headed. And giddy. He suddenly felt like being with Katniss wasn't such an impossible feat. He could imagine being her friend and tried to conjure up images of her laughing with him as he worked in the bakery. His father gave him an encouraging smile before returning upstairs. Clyde returned to the back and the day went on as normal. Although, Peeta's mood was considerably brighter.