Rating: Hard R (for sex, language, etc.)
Pairing: Cato/Katniss, Past!Peeta/Katniss
Summary: Katniss wishes she had died with him in the arena, but fate is a cruel master, as is the Capitol and learning how to accept the man you hate isn't exactly easy either. One-shot
Disclaimer: No I don't own the Hunger Games or the characters. Those belong to Suzanne Collins.
Part 2/2!! Complete
Part 1 Link
“What’s the matter, Girl on Fire, don’t have the guts to fight me?”
Katniss cried out in pain as her face met the ground again. It hurt, everything hurt bad, but every time she glanced over at Peeta’s body the pain all seemed to disappear because just the sight of him was enough to numb her to it all. She could hear the man that had killed Peeta coming closer, but she couldn’t make herself care enough to stand up again.
He was going to kill her anyway, why not make it easy?
A large hand found its way into her hair, yanking her up off of the ground. Katniss met the eyes of Peeta’s murderer and saw her own death there. “Just get it over with,” she muttered in a monotone voice.
He sneered at her in disgust. “What, I kill Lover Boy and you just give up? Pathetic. I was hoping for more out of you.”
Katniss didn’t respond. She didn’t care. She watched him raise his sword and felt him place the tip against her neck. She was still gazing into his eyes as he did this and she felt her blood begin to trickle down her neck slowly. She sees the intention to kill her flash through his eyes as he prepares to shove the blade through her throat, and his eyes glitter with triumph.
“Cease and desist all movement. Drop your weapon and step away from the girl. We have our winners for the Games!”
Katniss watched as disbelief and horror flashed through her would be murderer’s eyes. He did not want to step away from her. Rage took over and Cato flung her to the floor, screaming. “You’re fucking kidding me! She’s mine, she’s fucking mine! I had her, what is this fucking bullshit? I won!”
Katniss simply sat where she had fallen and bled, watching with detached interest as the District 2 tribute ranted and raved murderously until someone came to get them. They had to sedate Cato when they came to pick the pair up.
Katniss simply stared at Peeta’s body numbly. I was Peeta’s, not yours, she thought absently.
Five years later…
Camellia Primrose Everdeen had hair as black as night and eyes as green as emeralds. Haymitch always told her that she looked like her mother, but Camellia wasn’t sure she agreed with him. Besides, he always smelled funny, even when he babysat her. Camellia’s mother, Katniss, was always yelling at him to stop drinking but it appeared that old Haymitch never listened. Whatever that meant.
She poked at the goose in front of her and giggled as Haymitch yelled, “Stop tormenting my geese! Dammit girl!”
Haymitch picked her up and walked her back home, grumbling about her bad behavior. She wrapped her small arms around his neck and inhaled his scent even if it smelled sort of bad. He was familiar and the only male figure in her life aside from Katniss’s friend Gale.
“I don’t understand it, why can’t you leave my geese alone?” Haymitch growled as they neared Camellia’s home.
Camellia smiled up at him and laughed, “Because they make funny noises when I poke them, silly!”
Haymitch rolled his eyes. “Unbelievable,” he muttered.
Haymitch soon handed her off to her mother, who looked good after returning from her daily hunt. Camellia always begged her mother to take her out hunting, but Katniss always said no, that she was too young still. “How’s my pretty girl doing,” Katniss said lightly, taking her daughter into the kitchen.
“Good, Mommy,” Camellia said dutifully.
“Can you behave yourself while I fix up this wild turkey?”
Camellia nodded. “Is Haymitch coming for dinner?”
Katniss laughed. “I don’t know; you made him so angry by bullying his geese. You know better than to chase them around his yard and poke them with sticks. That behavior is certainly not from my family. You sure won’t catch my sister poking animals for fun.”
“So…I can’t poke Aunt Prim’s cat?”
Katniss laughed as she dressed the turkey, “Certainly not. Prim wouldn’t appreciate that, almost as much as Haymitch doesn’t appreciate you harassing his geese!”
Camellia’s eyes grew sly as she decided to ask the question that she knew would ruffle her mother’s feathers. “Is Haymitch my daddy?”
Katniss dropped the knife she had been dressing the bird with. Her lips formed a thin line and then Camellia felt bad for asking the question. Her mother didn’t like talking about Daddy. “No, Camellia, Haymitch is not your father. Your father doesn’t live here, remember? He’s far away.”
“Why can’t I see him?”
Katniss continued to work with the meat in front of her and sawed into it harder than she really meant to. She yelped as she cut her finger unexpectedly, “Shit.”
Camellia sat quietly, waiting for her answer. Katniss stuck her finger in her mouth and tasted the coppery blood fill her mouth. “Because,” she said around her finger, “I don’t want you to see him.”
The same answer as always, and every time it still hurt Camellia. “Does he…does he want to see me?”
Katniss wrapped her bleeding finger in some gauze. She was silent for a moment, staring out the window. “Yes. Yes he does,” she said softly.
Camellia felt a little better at this answer, but then she became angry, confused. She didn’t understand why she was the only little girl at school that had no father to come home to, no father play with her. Everyone else had one, everyone except Camellia. “Then why don’t you let me see him? Why do you ruin everything!”
Crying, Camellia ran upstairs to her room and locked the door. She crawled into bed and bawled her eyes out because none of it was fair. There was soft knocking on the door, but Camellia ignored it. “Camellia, please. You don’t understand. I love you, isn’t that enough?”
Camellia covered her ears and cried, “Go away, I don’t want to talk to you. I want him.”
All her life Camellia had dreamed of meeting her father, and the more Katniss hid him from her, the more she wanted to see him. Sometimes, when she was alone, she liked to dream about what he would be like, and if he would keep her safe when the sky cried and lightening lit the night. Would he tell her stories? Or would he simply kiss her forehead and tell her everything was okay?
Defeated, Katniss left the door and went to the kitchen, pulling out the bottle of whiskey she kept under the table. She poured herself a glass and had a drink, slowly sipping it. She wasn’t sure how long it would be before someone told her daughter about the Hunger Games at school. Camellia was still too young to know about it, so there was no way that she could know her mother was a murder or that her father was one too.
After eating dinner by herself, Katniss went up to bed. It was about an hour later when she felt someone crawl into the bed next to her. Katniss smiled to herself, already knowing who it was. “Mommy?”
A small hand shook her shoulder gently. Katniss rolled over slightly to let the child know she was awake. “What’s up little dove?”
Camellia curled up next to her on the bed. “I’m sorry, Mommy. I’m sorry I said you were bad. Don’t leave me too, okay?”
Katniss sighed and held her daughter close. “It’s alright, Camellia, I’m never going to leave you. You know that, right?”
Camellia nodded and lay next to her. Her eyes fell on the photo on the dresser beside the bed. “Who is he?”
Katniss’s grey eyes fell on the young man’s face, his bright blue eyes and soft blonde hair. “His name was Peeta Mellark. He was…a close friend of mine.”
“Where is he now?”
Katniss looked away from the photo. “He’s gone.”
The five year old was confused. “Gone like Daddy?”
Katniss closed her eyes and rolled over, trembling. “No, not like your father. You remember when Aunt Prim’s goat fell over and stopped moving?”
Camellia nodded. This she understood. Katniss continued and said, “Peeta’s gone, just like Aunt Prim’s goat.”
Camellia sensed the change in her mother’s mood and snuggled in closer. “That’s sad, Mommy. I’m sorry he’s gone. I’m sure he was nice like Mr. Gale.”
Katniss bit her lip to keep from crying.
Five more years later…
“Why are we getting all dressed up, Mom?”
Katniss sighed, braiding her hair quickly. “Because, we have to go somewhere and it requires us to look good.”
Camellia refused to braid her hair and simply brushed it out so that it was long and flowing. “Are we going to the Capitol like Haymitch said?”
“Yes, I have business there and so does Haymitch,” Katniss responded evasively.
“Is it the Hunger Games? Are you mentoring again this year?”
Katniss shook her head, pulling Camellia out the door. “No, I’m not mentoring this time. Haymitch is though. It is just time that you come with me to see the Capitol.”
Camellia was excited. She had heard so much about the Capitol from school, and she was eager to see what it looked like. The Hunger Games sounded terrifying, and it had shocked her to find out that her mother had been a winner of the games before. Hopefully her mother would show her all around the Capitol.
Her mother led her to the train station with Haymitch and Camellia held his hand gladly. They had patched up their relationship when Camellia had stopped poking his geese. However, sometimes she would poke them when she passed by his house when he wasn’t looking. She liked to think of it as a poke and run. At the station the trio was met by a woman with wild hair and even crazier clothing. “Who is that,” Camellia whispered loudly to Haymitch.
“Hello, Effie,” Katniss said, embracing the other woman.
“Katniss, oh I’ve missed you so sweetie! You need to visit more often! Oh. Oh my. Is that?”
Katniss nodded wordlessly as Effie stared at her daughter. Effie laughed nervously and said, “Well, she looks so much like her father. Good heavens. Who would have thought?”
Katniss stiffened slightly, but then allowed herself a slight smile. “Yes, she does have that look about her, doesn’t she?”
Camellia looked from the strange woman to her mother. “Can we go to the Capitol now? I want to see it!”
Effie bent down and pinched Camellia’s cheeks. “Yes sweetie, of course we can go!”
Camellia wasn’t sure she liked this crazy woman so much, but her mother and Haymitch seemed to tolerate her. They boarded some large train and then were zipping off to the Capitol. There was so much food and sparkly things and Camellia loved it all.
“Camellia, stop eating so many sweets, you are going to be sick before we even get to the Capitol,” Katniss said sternly.
Her stomach already hurt, but she wasn’t about to tell her mother that.
It seemed like ages before they arrived at the Capitol, but when they did Camellia was glued to the window, staring in awe at the many large buildings and fountains and structures everywhere. Katniss bit her lip, because Camellia’s reaction reminded her of Peeta and how he had reacted when he saw the Capitol for the first time.
Sometimes, at night, Katniss could pretend that her daughter was Peeta’s. When Camellia was sleeping she was so peaceful, so small and delicate. In her waking hours however, Camellia was utterly wild spirited and too much of a go getter for her own good, wanting to do things her own way and without help. These traits, Katniss had long ago decided, had definitely come from Cato.
The moment they all stepped off of the train they were bombarded by paparazzi. Katniss sighed; President Snow had come to collect his reward. The Capitol had waited ten long years to see the daughter of the victors Katniss and Cato, and now they would wait no more.
Let the circus begin, Katniss thought cynically.
Haymitch picked up Camellia so that they could get through the crowd faster. The young girl was still in awe of the new world around her, but Katniss could also tell that the people were far too overwhelming for her.
They entered the building where the new tributes would be held for this year. Katniss was told she would stay on the District 12 floor with Haymitch and the tributes even though she was not officially listed as a mentor this year. This year she was here to entertain the Capitol with her child. They all stopped in the lobby, and Katniss went up to the desk to make sure they had the proper accommodations for the large group that would be living on the twelfth floor.
Camellia tuned her out and gazed around the building, watching the odd people mill about. It was then that the most handsome man Camellia had ever seen walked into the building with a group of serious looking people, all richly dressed. The man had blonde hair and a stern face, and she could tell his build was athletic, even through his suit. He was talking to a large, scary looking man on his right, away from Camellia, so she wasn’t embarrassed about openly gaping at him.
“Oh my,” Effie giggled, “the girl acts like she’s never seen her father before!”
Time stopped for Camellia at those words. She turned to Effie, a shocked look on her face. The amusement dropped off of Effie’s face as Haymitch face palmed. Effie then said timidly, “She hasn’t seen Cato before, has she?”
Haymitch shook his head, “As always, Effie, you are the master of true tact. I think the girl is going to pee her pants in excitement now. Camellia, if so, refrain.”
At this point Katniss had now walked back to the group and found her daughter to be slack jawed. “What did I miss?”
Camellia took off running, and Katniss bolted after her when she saw the District 2 procession disappearing into another part of the building. “Camellia? Stop!”
The little girl was fast, but her mother had longer legs. Katniss wrapped her arms around her daughter and dragged her back to an elevator that would take them to the twelfth floor. Camellia kicked and screamed, wailing, “I want to see him, I want to see him again!”
The screams broke Effie’s heart, but she could understand why Katniss had not allowed the girl to know about the former District 2 victor. So far he had been the mentor of six victors in the Hunger Games over the past ten years. If anything, he knew how to create cold hearted killers. Rumor had it that he was helping to illegally train District 2 kids for the reaping, just as he had been illegally trained.
Not that anyone would mention it out loud.
Once everyone had settled in upstairs, Katniss had sent Camellia to her room, telling her to calm down. Haymitch sat beside Katniss on the couch on their floor lobby and handed her a drink. “Well, it was bound to happen sooner or later,” he said mildly.
“I would have preferred for it to have happened later, old man,” Katniss growled back, sending a glare Effie’s way.
“Ah. You are as charming as ever. I remember when I was your mentor. You were such a grouchy bitch,” Haymitch stated.
“Not much has changed,” Effie piped in.
They all sat in amiable silence, knowing that the two new tributes from District 12 were many floors below getting prepared by their stylists. Katniss always felt odd being on the other side of the games now, helping the children get trained.
“You know,” Haymitch began, “I always amazed by how you kept him out of her life for so long. That is some deep seated hatred right there. However, is it really hatred? Because I’m not sure anymore.”
“Don’t even say it,” Katniss said.
“I’m serious. I thought for sure that night two years ago he had finally got his way when he cornered you in your room,” Haymitch continued.
“Oh boy,” Effie muttered, covering her ears, “I don’t need to hear this. Inappropriate.”
“Haymitch,” Katniss said in a warning tone.
“What year was that? Oh yeah, the year we trained a winner. You were so happy that one of our tributes won so of course we celebrated. But then, ooh it happened then. You went to bed early and you didn’t know that I was walking right behind you, because you left one of your rings at the party and I wanted to make sure you got it. I was so surprised to see none other than the mentor from District 2 appear at your door to congratulate you on your victory,” Haymitch said, slurring his words slightly as he took a drink from his flask.
Katniss closed her eyes in pure mortification. “You didn’t just say that. Please world, just erase this moment and Haymitch Abernathy.”
Haymitch pretended that he didn’t hear his former student’s pleas. “In fact, he seemed to think he needed to come inside your room to continue to congratulate you. Even after he shoved his tongue in your mouth. You sure have an odd way of expressing your hatred for people.”
Katniss slammed her hand down on the table. “That’s enough, Haymitch. It’s fucking enough. What I do with my private life is none of your damn business. He’s asked to see Camellia plenty of times; I’m just not willing to share her with him! He doesn’t deserve her.”
“Excuse me, I really don’t mean to interrupt this lovely conversation, but can I borrow Katniss for a moment?”
All three heads snapped around to the new voice. “Oh Cinna, thank God,” Effie said breathlessly, uncovering her ears.
Katniss stood up and walked over to him, beet red with embarrassment. “You didn’t hear all of that did you?”
Cinna only grinned. “I would like to prep you for the opening ball tonight. I have missed dressing you up so much.”
Katniss smiled. “Oh I bet you do. I don’t suppose you know more about the opening ball this year?”
The opening ball was generally a night where all the old victors came and mingled with former sponsors and other people from the Capitol. It was an interesting affair, one that Katniss and Haymitch would have rather skipped every year. Alas, they could not.
Cinna put a hand on her back and led her out of the room to so that he could take her to be prepped. “Unfortunately, due to the circumstance of your daughter being here – I would love to meet her by the way – President Snow has decided that you are going to be the opening couple.”
“Me and who?”
She asked even though she knew the answer.
Cinna raised an eyebrow. “You and Cato of course. The opening dance is yours. The crowd is going to lose their minds with excitement over this.”
“Joy,” Katniss muttered.
When they passed Cato in the hall things went from bad to worse. He raised an eyebrow as he watched Cinna escort Katniss to the styling room. “Ah, it’s good to see that they have hired someone to dress her. Otherwise who knows what that savage would put on,” Cato said acidly.
“Savage my ass,” Katniss hissed back, trying to get around Cinna’s body.
“Ouch, you hurt my feelings,” Cato responded mockingly.
Cinna stood between the two of them, trying to hold on to Katniss to keep her from flying at Cato. “Enough! Lord in heaven, when will you two ever grow up and get past this ridiculousness?”
“When she stops being a baby thieving, child hogging, all around ice bitch,” Cato snapped, turning on his heel and swaggering off in his expensive shoes.
Cinna grimaced. “Yikes. He pulled the daddy card. I think he won that battle, Katniss.”
Katniss scowled after Cato and pretended that she didn’t noticed how his pants flattered his ass. It didn’t. Definitely not. “He didn’t win anything,” Katniss said, “he’s simply foul.”
Cinna patted her shoulder gently. “How about we get you dressed?”
“Why, so I don’t look like a savage?”
Cinna didn’t really know what to say to that so he chose to avoid it. “Are you going to be able to function the whole night on his arm? I’m getting concerned.”
“You should be,” Katniss said.
It all felt so familiar, except this time Katniss was waiting to be picked up before entering the ball room. “He’s late,” she hissed at Cinna.
“The man is always late, I believe he does it to piss you off,” Cinna replied neutrally.
“Well, it certainly works. No one will believe it was him wasting their time out there, they will automatically assume the girl from District 12 is the tardy one,” Katniss argued, pacing in her heels, nearly falling over.
“Stop your bitching, I’m fucking here,” growled a familiar voice.
Cinna kept a smile on his face and muttered through clenched teeth, “Speak of the devil.”
Cato strode into the room like he owned the place and ended up in front of Katniss. He gave her a hard look and grabbed her arm in a vise like grip. “Maybe I wouldn’t have to complain if you weren’t so late,” Katniss said angrily.
He pulled her out of the room and down the hall, and Katniss could hear the loud murmur of hundreds of people just around the corner. She felt her nerves begin to break through and she wasn’t sure she was going to be able to pull this dance off in front of all those people.
Suddenly, Cato pushed her against the wall. “You know how to dance, right? You aren’t going to embarrass me with your slum ways?”
Katniss slapped him, outraged. “My slum ways? Excuse me? I’ll be fine out there, just make sure you hold your own.”
Then he grinned at her, his teeth as bright and perfect as ever. He was handsome, and age had certainly improved his looks even further. He was tall and broad shouldered, his suit tight to his form. His eyes traveled up and down her body slowly and Katniss flushed. “It’s been awhile since I’ve seen you,” he said to her, “you look good.”
“Thank you,” Katniss said stiffly, surprised by the compliment from him.
Then he was pulling her out into the light as hundreds of camera flashes went off. Katniss squinted against the assault of flashes and Cato simply smiled into them, always comfortable in the spotlight. Katniss stood there beside him, breathless in the face of so many smiling, excited faces. The music started, signaling it was time for them to officially open the ball.
Cato moved as if to pull her onto the dance floor, just like he was supposed to, but Katniss stopped him and the crowd made some noises of confusion. Cato looked at her, confused and slightly angry that she wasn’t doing what she was supposed to be doing, but the look on her face stopped him from saying anything harsh. He could see her struggling with herself, as if she were about to tell him something. Cato also saw the moment that she shut her thoughts down.
“Ready?” He asked, irritated that she hadn’t told him whatever it was that she had been thinking so seriously about.
Katniss nodded and allowed him to grasp her hand in his as he pulled her around the room. He was a great dancer and it didn’t surprise Katniss. He was so good that she felt like she was floating on air, and that was interesting because she hadn’t even had a sip of alcohol yet. She could feel the eyes of everyone on them and it made her feel slightly self conscious. At least Cato never let her stumble, as always. He never allowed her to embarrass herself in front of everyone.
In fact, for the past few years Katniss had begun to suspect that the bartenders watered her alcohol down. She had also begun to suspect it was Cato that had paid them off because he would always come up to her and make some snide comment on how good it was to see her not blasted out of her mind at a Capitol party. Secretly she was glad, because at least she wasn’t puking and sick by the end of the night, not like those first few years when she had followed in Haymitch’s footsteps. Perhaps Cato felt like he had some sort of duty to make sure Katniss didn’t humiliate herself publicly so that their daughter didn’t have to hear about it later.
The world spun as he twirled her elegantly, and the cameras continued to flash. It wasn’t often that the Capitol got to see one of their favorite pairs dance together- and civilly. Katniss always tried her best, because who knew when Camellia was going to see a picture of the two of them?
The tune changed and then it was time for everyone to join in. The party had been officially opened. Katniss let her hand go slack in Cato’s as if ready to slip away, but his hand tightened on hers unexpectedly. Katniss looked up at his eyes questioningly, and he only smiled at her. “I’m not done teaching you how to dance, you aren’t getting away yet, Katniss,” he said, chuckling.
Katniss rolled her eyes at him exaggeratedly. He pulled her closer and she let him, her chest pressed up against his. She had to crane her neck back to look up at him; otherwise she would be staring straight at his chin. Katniss allowed it all without a fuss because she knew Cato was always snide to her for a reason, and it wasn’t exactly because he hated her. At least, she didn’t think he hated her anymore since that would be a long time to regret not getting to kill someone, especially after you had a kid with them.
Cato liked seeing Katniss once every year and Katniss would be lying if she said she didn’t enjoy their verbal sparring matches. The competition between them had never ended, and soon the Hunger Games became just another rivalry between them to see who the best mentor was. It had taken years, of course, for them to be able to tolerate each other completely, but it had happened over time.
Cato moved them toward a corner of the dance floor. He suddenly asked, “Did she like the present I sent for her birthday?”
Katniss sighed mentally, here we go again, try to be nice, Katniss. “Yes,” Katniss replied, “Of course, I didn’t tell her it was from you.”
Cato smiled sadly. “I knew you wouldn’t. I figured she would like the hunting knife though.”
Katniss nodded enthusiastically. “She loved it. She made me let her fix up the kills we brought back every day. How did you even find out that I had started teaching her how to hunt anyway?”
He grinned broadly, smug as ever. He pulled Katniss even closer, his lips brushing her ear gently, causing her to shiver. “I have my ways,” he whispered.
Katniss felt bad, deep down, because she knew she hadn’t been fair to him. He wasn’t exactly the same boy he had been at eighteen; he wasn’t the same kid that had thrown a fit over not killing her. Katniss would have been lying to herself if she thought he hadn’t changed in her eyes, at least a little. Sure, he was still a harsh career from District 2, filthy rich, smug, arrogant, everything she had always despised, but she had also seen a different side of him in private, during those times she didn’t really want to admit happened.
She had kept Camellia from Cato originally because she had feared and hated him. Eventually it became an issue of Peeta, because how could she betray his memory further by allowing herself to become a family with the man that had killed him? She could do it now, she realized, she could tolerate Cato more and more every year and it wasn’t exactly the happiest revelation she had ever had.
But there is was.
Then she told him the thing she had never thought she would say.
Cato watched as her lips moved, but he couldn’t hear the words. “What did you say?” He asked loudly over the droning sound of the people around them.
Katniss moved closer to him, so close that he could smell her scent, the scent that never failed to arouse him. “I said,” she whispered into his ear, “that I will take you to see our daughter tonight.”
He stepped back from her, his face an emotionless mask. His eyes studied her face intently as he said, “You’re not lying to me, are you? Don’t lie to me.”
Katniss shook her head, because she knew how much this separation had hurt him. “I’m not lying. Not about this.”
There was an awkward pause between them as they both absorbed her words. Then Katniss felt all of the tension drain out of his body. Within moments his mask melted away and his mouth was on hers, his hand in her hair. The party’s attention swung back to the couple instantly as the word spread like lightening. The crowd went wild because no one had been expecting that. President Snow clapped politely as if he had been expecting it all along. Maybe he had.
“Oh! Oh I just love it,” Effie cried out, clapping her hands excitedly.
Brutus rolled his eyes and downed his martini, moving away from the ecstatic woman, looking for Enobaria. Haymitch glared after Brutus as if the whole thing was his fault, and Finnick Odair only grinned. Johanna Mason sipped her punch and pretended to gag herself. She muttered, “Jeez, Kids killing kids, enemies eating each other’s faces, when does this freak show ever stop?”
Finnick leaned over and said laughingly, “I don’t think it ever does.”
“I knew you couldn’t resist my charms,” Cato said smugly, the sweat drying on his naked form.
Katniss scowled at him. “Oh please, it’s you that can’t resist me, get the story right.”
He didn’t respond as he leaned back into the pillows. The room was dark and the bed was soft and Katniss was surprisingly alright with it all. For the first time in a long time, Peeta Mellark’s ghost wasn’t hovering inside her head. Katniss had led Cato back to her room sometime after the party with the full intention of taking him to Camellia, but one thing led to another and here they were once more.
Katniss had never imagined that there would be a third time, not after she made the mistake the last time.
“You lied,” he whispered against her forehead.
“You said you would take me to see our daughter last night. It’s the crack of dawn now,” Cato said.
Katniss laughed. “Technicalities. I’ll still take you in the morning.”
His hand ghosted through her hair. “You’ll let me stay the whole night? That’s a first. I was beginning to think you were terrified of me smelling your morning breath.”
Katniss elbowed him hard. “No. That wasn’t it smartass. It was just…I couldn’t accept you.”
“What do you mean, accept me? You sure fucked me, and I think you liked it,” he snapped.
Katniss rolled her eyes at his vulgar words. For a man from one of the richest Districts he sure had a mouth on him, and here she was from the slums of District 12. “It has to do with…Peeta,” she whispered.
She felt him stiffen beside her at the mention of Peeta. “What about him,” he asked gruffly, and Katniss would have thought it was jealousy if he had been any other man.
“I loved him. For so long. You took him away from me. I just felt like I was committing a crime being with you. It was like, if you left before dawn I could just pretend it was all a dream when I woke up, because you wouldn’t be there.”
He wasn’t offended. After all, originally he had wanted to kill her. “What changed,” he asked curiously.
“Time I suppose, and the realization that he wasn’t coming back. We all do what we have to do to live in the Hunger Games. I’ll always love him, but wallowing in my misery over him for the rest of my life is not something Camellia needs to deal with. My pain was hurting not only me, but her too.”
Cato was silent, absorbing her many words. He turned them over and over in his head and decided that he liked what he had heard from her. “Do you know why I came to your room that night, the year your tribute won the Hunger Games,” he said quietly.
“To congratulate me,” Katniss said dryly, pressing her naked body against his.
He chuckled, enjoying the feel of her skin against his. “Well, yeah that and I wanted you. Do you know how many years I’d spent trying to figure out what was missing in my relationships? Up until that point I had thought all women were just there for my amusement because none of them could seem to satisfy me. That night, when your tribute won, you lit up like a torch, glorious and proud. No one could touch you. I knew what I was missing then, and shit, I fucking hated that revelation. It was like seeing you back when you were sixteen, at the beginning of the Games, all determined with that ‘fuck everyone’ attitude of yours.”
Katniss was silent, terrified of speaking and stopping his confession. Cato laughed bitterly then and continued, “Ten years ago, I slept with a virgin girl who hated my guts. I killed her boyfriend and took her into my bed, just to see how much more it would break her. Instead, I ended up wanting more, because she was the Girl on Fire and everyone wanted a piece of her, and I was the one she didn’t want. Even though I’d had her body, she was the only unattainable thing in my life because she didn’t want me.”
“There’s been no one else,” Katniss whispered.
Cato’s body seemed to sag in some form of relief at her words, “What? Is that even possible?”
She hit him once more. “Yes, as surprising as it may be, not everyone is a whore like you. I had a daughter to care for.”
He laughed and Katniss could feel it reverberate in his body. She yelped as he pulled her on top of his body. She looked down at him, frowning, trying to get the hair out of her face. He kissed her then, and she let him, softening under his touch. She moved against his body and cried out as he entered her again for the second time that night. She moved her hips on his slowly, and he watched her with hooded eyes as she moved above him.
His hands fell to her hips as he guided her up and down slowly, unlike their fast coupling from earlier. Katniss leaned down and let her lips cover his mouth, and he buried a hand in her hair, pulling her as close as she could get. He moaned into her mouth softly, and then rested his forehead against hers. “I’ve missed this with you,” he said roughly.
He tried to pick up the pace and Katniss forced her hips to move agonizingly slow, killing him in the most delicious of ways. “I know,” she replied, running her hands down his chest as he writhed under her, completely under her control for once.
He didn’t leave that room.
She didn’t ask him to.
Camellia had gone to sleep the night before crying. She had locked her door and sulked for the entire night, furious at her mother. She fell into a restless sleep and didn’t wake up until the next morning when a gentle hand touched her head.
“Wake up, princess,” an unfamiliar voice said.
Camellia jerked awake, slightly worried about who was in her room. She opened her eyes and rolled over to look at who was at her bedside. She gasped in shock at who she saw, unable to breathe, unsure if she was dreaming or not. Beside her bed stood the man from the other day, the one the crazy haired lady had said flippantly said was her father.
He shifted from one foot to another, seeming nervous as she studied him, as if he were worried that she would reject him. Camellia stared at him some more and decided that he was perfect and that there was no way she was ever letting him leave again. Camellia stood up on her bed and launched herself at him, wrapping her arms around his neck as he caught her, grunting in surprise, “Whoa, easier there kiddo!”
Camellia almost cried, because he was warm, strong, and she felt safe in his arms just like she always dreamed she would.
Beyond the pair, Katniss stood in the doorway watching them silently. She met Cato’s eyes over her daughters shoulder, and he smiled at her. Katniss felt her lips jerk up slightly in response and she nodded to him, walking out of the room completely to give them some peace.
In the lobby, Haymitch sat drinking a steaming cup of coffee, hung over like no other. He gave Katniss a look and grinned sloppily. “Well, sweetheart, looks like you believe in life after Peeta Mellark after all. Who would have known, eh?”
Katniss sat down next to Haymitch and rested her head on his shoulder, staring out the window as the sun rose in the sky. Yes. Perhaps there was.
They could faintly hear Camellia babbling her life story to Cato, and Katniss smiled because Camellia certainly didn’t get her yammer mouth from her, and that was alright. Occasionally they could hear Cato’s deeper voice respond, but it was Camellia dominating the conversation.
The sound of Effie’s heels alerted the pair of her presence before they even saw her. “Someone looks groggy this morning,” Haymitch muttered as Effie wobbled into view.
“Too much champagne,” she replied, eyeing his coffee, “Who’s with Camellia?”
“Cato,” Katniss replied and Effie’s eyes bugged out.
“Oh. Oh my. That was unexpected,” Effie said, sinking down on the couch on the other side of Katniss.
The trio sat and watched the light spill over the Capitol. The Hunger Games would be starting any day now, but at least there was life after Peeta Mellark.
And maybe love if Katniss was lucky.