The streetlights only cast their brightness so far in this small town. It’s a quaint place with tree lined streets and cozy shops; one of those picturesque places they use for movie sets rather than the sometimes ramshackle, parochial places that you’re usually much more likely to find in the south. In a place like this, with barely more than four thousand, it was easy to find who I’d come back home for.
'There he goes,' I smirk to myself, feeling triumphant. Objectively, the blonde man walking out of the café is beautiful. He wears a warm beanie over his normally disheveled blonde hair, a thick, well-made coat over his lean muscled torso and jeans that fit snugly over all the right places...
And I've been looking for him for weeks.
After nearly three fruitless weeks I finally received some luck. I was fortunate enough, only two days ago, I’d literally run into an old high school acquaintance.
Madge was one of those overly friendly, never-met-a-stranger types. When I’d turned a corner, accidentally ramming right into her and sending her sprawling to the ground, she had actually apologized to me. I helped her up and tried to make a quick getaway but she was already in mid-conversation and she turned to walk with me. I didn’t say much, I never do, but she kept a steady pace in her speech that reminded me of my sweet sister, so I tried to be as amiable as possible.
It isn’t until she mentions his name that I actually join in on the conversation, though.
“…date on Thursday,” she was rambling excitedly. “I’m meeting him at Darius’ café. You remember Darius, right? He was older than us. I think he was in the same year as-“
Realization of what she was saying comes crashing through me. “No!” I nearly scream at her in my agitation.
Madge startles and I realize that I’ve grabbed her wrist tightly and pulled us both to a stop in the middle of the sidewalk. I let go quickly.
“What’s wrong, Katniss?” she asks quietly as she rubs her wrist.
“Don’t meet him. Don’t talk to him at all. Please, believe me. I made that mistake the summer after our high school graduation. He…He just…is awful,” I finish lamely but I was shaking with rage and I could see the worry on Madge’s face as she took in my state. We hadn’t been close but we had spoken a few times in school and I could only hope she would know me enough take my warning seriously. I could feel the blackness rising up in me as I thought of him so after I made her promise she’d stay away from him, albeit confusedly, I took off running back to my motel room. I needed to finish up my preparations quickly.
Thursday I went to the café thirty minutes before he was supposed to show up, hoping Madge had kept her word and hadn’t even bothered to cancel.
Things were going my way. He showed up and waited for only ten minutes before pulling out his phone, typing a quick message and leaving the table angrily.
“See ya Tuesday evening, as usual,” he practically growls to Darius, who is behind the counter chatting with some customers.
Darius waved him out, and amiably went back to his conversation.
With that, I didn’t even have to follow him as I’d planned. I now knew where he’d be and I knew what I needed to do.
Tonight, I’m finally ready. I move out from behind the row of neatly trimmed trees to follow him, unnoticed. I am sure to keep far enough away but still close enough that I don't lose him. My heart sings when he turns down an unlit side street and I’m overcome with happiness. Our time has come.
I wait until he's halfway down the street to finally speak. "Hey there, stranger." I use the most seductive voice I can muster in such an exciting, nerve-wracking moment.
He spins quickly, gracefully, and I pretend for a moment that he's just excited to see me as I am for him.
I know he remembers my voice. He should. I screamed enough for him during our time together that I would be offended if he didn't. Obviously he can't place it, however.
"Hey... you," he finally replies. He begins walking toward me, a deep, attractive swagger in step.
I begin to move forward slowly, a deliberate swing to my hips as I meet him before he gets too close to the busier street that's still just behind me.
"Did you miss me?" I ask him, knowing what he'll say, knowing he still doesn't really know who I am.
His hands move immediately to a point low on my hips and I fight the repulsion and try to stay still so I don’t mess up this chance. There's no question what he's planning for me when he answers just the way I knew he would. "More than you know," he whispers huskily into my ear then he leans in, eyes closed, as if to kiss me.
I can feel the anger flowing steadily, hot and swift like lava through my veins at his actions. He's been privileged with that face, his parents’ money, his tall and lean body, and he uses it to exploit any woman who plays into it.
He's so much bigger than my own slight frame, so much stronger. But I've planned accordingly. Finally, after wanting, needing, this for so long (for years before I even met him really), I use his distraction, his closed eyes, to gently pull the long syringe filled with ketamine from under my unzipped jacket. I glance down, minutely but attentive, at his neck to be sure it's in place before his lips meet mine.
The hate, the excitement, the nervousness and the passion I feel all swirl inside me, stemming from his lush kiss.
I smile, the excitement and sheer want winning the battle inside, and I force the needle into his flesh. He looks startled then, as the drug takes root, he begins to drop heavily.
After wrestling his dead weight to the ground behind a garbage can that should keep him hidden well enough, I dash off to my car. I’m back and I’m trying to shove his heavy frame inside the back seat within two minutes. It takes time but eventually I have him all the way in the car.
When he’s finally settled enough, I slam the door and rush around to the driver’s seat, wiping a few beads of sweat from my forehead. The fifteen minute drive to Haymitch’s old, closed down convenience store is spent in silence, with me glancing up every few seconds to check the rear view mirror for signs of movement in the seat behind me.
It took a while, but I have him inside the store owned by my dad’s closest childhood friend and chained BDSM style by the neck to an exposed stud in the wall. I’ve left his arms free and when he finally wakes, I know it won’t be a problem. The ketamine has him too weak and confused to even turn his head.
“Wha….?” He tries to lift his face but it slides back down to rest on his chest.
“How are you feeling?” I ask as I sidle up to him.
“I-I’m…not…Did I…pass out…or…?” he trails off, eyebrows drawn together.
A moment later, his face clears a bit and he says dreamily, “We were kissing.” He grins at me. I can’t help but smile back even though I know he still can’t see me or the plastic sheets covering every nearby surface. I’ve made sure there are no lights on in the store until I’m ready for my big reveal, and each window is covered with dark paint.
The man looks down at himself suddenly and tries to bring his hands up to his throat but they don’t get far before they flop back down. “Is this…a chain?” he asks, those sculpted brows knitting together again.
“It is. You asked me to, remember?” I’m lying and if he were in his right mind he’d be able to hear it clearly in my voice, but he’ll be feeling the effects of the drugs I pumped into him for a while longer.
“Oh,” he drawls. “So….you can have your way with me?” He’s trying to use that alluring grin of his but it comes out kind of lopsided and silly.
I’m laughing now as I bend to my knees and lean in to his face. “Exactly.”
He’s looking comfortable and secure in the knowledge that he’s getting laid so I straddle his lap as he sits, legs sprawled at uncomfortable angles on the floor. He’s just able to bring his palms to my upper thighs and he’s trying to squeeze them but his fingers just spasm a bit on my legs.
I kiss him again, deeply, using it to fuel the anger until I feel his hands coming up to my hips. I pull back from him but he follows my lips and uses my hips as leverage to grind his pelvis into mine. I’m disgusted by it but I allow him to travel down my throat while I tangle one hand in his hair and nonchalantly bring my other hand behind my back to pull my father’s long hunting knife from its sheath.
He is grunting in my ear, attacking my throat with nips and licks. He’s thrusting against me –as much as he can- over and over and I can’t keep the revulsion and venom to myself anymore. When he moves to kiss my lips again I drive the blade deep inside the taut flash of his belly with my right hand and hold his face to mine with all the strength I have in my left. I continue kissing him as he lets out a harsh yell.
I move to slash along his artery but I'm stopped by his voice.
"No," he says forcefully against my mouth. He’s more alert now, the high of his drug induced daze wearing off with the shock. His voice is strong but his body is weakening even more from the agony and blood loss. He pushes hard enough to remove his face just slightly out of my grasp, away from my own. And I imagine he's about to scream for someone's attention or use all that muscle to wrestle the knife away. He could kill me quickly and get away but before I can even begin to do something about it...
But my imagination was livelier than reality. He slips backward, his upper body and head against the stud that holds him, his lower back and body lying on the floor. His hands drop and it’s then that he notices the plastic under him.
I grin, taking a small moment to congratulate myself on a job well done so far. Much research went into choosing how this would happen after all.
I stood quickly, my blade pointed toward him. Though we were a bit farther away from each other than I'd wanted, I couldn’t give up the implied power of standing over him. He's lying before me and I want to hear that strong voice beg me.
Instead, he raises his arm to mine to push the knife away and for some reason, I let him. We have a bond, a connection after all, and I can't help but want to hear what he has to say. Part of me is hoping that he'll beg for his life. The rest of me is still dancing in glee at the sight of him, bloody, sweaty and weak.
"No," he repeats.
I stay still, blade held tight in my grasp. I hone in on the blood staining his shirt and my breathing quickens. I’m sure that I'll hear him pleading with me now.
However, the hate inside me comes back full force when he speaks again and momentarily overwhelms the feelings his blood stirred.
"Do you know who I am?!" he questions me, breathless, even as he slumps over a little to his right.
I lose a bit of my self-control at this; I step off to his right so he can see me clearly. I grab him by the shoulder with my free hand and shove the knife into the first place it reaches. It slides into left his shoulder and goes careening off in directions unwanted when it meets bone.
He lets out another pained yell and before I know it I'm on my knees too, crushing my lips back onto his to drink in the sound of his torment. His mouth is still open from the scream so I force my tongue in, just long enough for a quick swipe against his own and I'm back out before he can clamp his teeth down on me.
"Of course I know who you are," I answer at last. I straddle his lap again, peering as deeply into his eyes as the darkness would allow.
The anger fades quickly and happiness like I've never felt before parades through me in loud crashes that I can feel pounding everywhere under my skin.
I know he can feel me smiling as I place gentle kisses over his cheeks, his brow, his lips. He trembled and this time it’s fear that causes his reaction to me. I revel in it.
"What's…happening?" he finally asks weakly, fearfully, and he’s trying again to push me away.
"Don't you know?" I move further down as I answer him, kissing along his collarbone, feeling the blood on him from the second knife wound. I don't fight the compulsion to drag my cheek against it and he hisses in pain when I do. I itch to drag my fingers through the scarlet-black wetness at his stomach too, but I force myself to wait a few moments longer.
"You're a spoiled, pampered boy that made a mistake. One that I can’t forgive." I twine my arms around his neck, the knife still in my hand at his back, and his hands weakly move back up to my hips. I can feel him still trying to knock me away but not much is happening. Instead it's a gentle pressure against my hips that I enjoy.
"A mistake?" I can tell that he's barely lucid anymore, and I’m not good with words anyway, so I hurry up my explanation. ‘He should know,’ I try to tell myself, but really I just want to see how he reacts when I tell him.
"It's me. Katniss, " I whisper to him as though confiding a secret. I place my cheek, bloody from his shoulder against his when I see his eyes grow wide as the realization finally hits him.
I get up to flip a switch, casting a harsh light almost right above him, then return to his right side where he is falling over a bit farther.
"You beat me. You raped me...and while I was passed out you moved on to my little sister." I can hear the pain in my own voice now and I pause, debating the next part for a brief second, then I decide that it doesn't matter since he's dying anyway. "She had a baby, you know. Just as blonde as the two of you. Just as sweet as she is. She was fourteen."
He's gasping, sweat falling down his face, and I lick a trail from his cheekbone to his temple.
"You don't get to live with what you've done, Cato," I finally tell him. I loosed the blackness that I normally try so hard to tamp down deep inside. It swept through me and I felt powerful and...dark. I was barely thinking when I slashed his throat- just under the chain around him, or when I continued slicing the blade over and over his body, uncaring anymore of where it hit, yet still so focused on it at the same time, every detail stitched into my mind forever. The darkness covered me and I smiled wider than I ever had before, then I was laughing; a weight is lifted from me as I slash deep and ram the blade into his torso over and over until my arms can barely move.
From the time I was a child I was fascinated with death and blood.
I had found a small, dead squirrel at the edge of the woods behind our home when I was seven and an itch began in my head. It wanted to touch, to feel. It wanted to pull the little entrails away from the body and run them along my skin. I pushed the itch away.
The itch tried to grow when I was ten and Primmy brought home a matted old cat, starved and near death. The itch wanted me to slaughter the mean creature and roll around in its death; but one look at little Prim was always enough to squash the creeping feeling. Her innocence, her light and love, even then, was unmatched in this world. It helped me drive the itch further under.
On my eighteenth birthday my parents, Primmy and I were on our way home from a movie, my pick for a small birthday celebration, when we crashed. Taking a curve a little too fast sent the car spiraling along the roadway and into a grove of trees. Prim and I had walked away with only a few bumps and bruises but our parents didn’t.
Prim had passed out in the back seat and real pain ripped through me until I saw her chest rising and falling steadily. I scrambled out of the back seat, through the space between my parents into the front, twisting around to check on them but there was no breath in either like there was with Primmy.
Their faces were covered in blood and I couldn't breathe... The despair of losing my parents was trampled under the desire to smooth my hands over the blood on their faces, to bring the red stain to my own face in testimony of their deaths.
My hands shook as I raised them to my father's hair. He had always been so handsome and loving. I ran my hands through his short dark curls then down his bloody cheek and a breath rushed out of my lungs. I felt a distant sadness but mostly I felt relief as my hands moved over him and through the dark burgundy liquids on his skin.
My attention soon moved to my mother, even more beautiful to me now with the red smattering over her pale skin. I pressed my palm to the line of her jaw. A rush of memories hit me then of growing up with the guidance of these two people. These people who loved their children, who lived their children. These people who worked hard, loved harder and gave all they had to the world around them...but those memories had meant so little when comparing them to the moment I was having with them after their deaths.
I would have stayed in that moment for all my life but a gasp escaped Prim and I glanced up quickly to see her just roused and watching me.
"They're dead, Primmy." And tears finally fell down my cheek when I realized how much pain this will cause her.
I had been terrified that her light would fade with our parents and then what would hold me back? But after I gained legal custody of her, and we made a new way of life for ourselves, she began to heal. She never changed and her light only shone brighter for her pain.
She was the reason I was here now, with this beautiful young man lying before me, no longer zoetic, his blood flowing over the cracks and dirt on the floor.
A shudder racked my body and I wondered if I had made a mistake by letting the darkness out, letting it take me over so completely. How would I find my way back with Prim so far away? ...But I couldn't think of that for long with him lying there, so much gorgeous red surrounding him.
The itch took over so I quickly wrestled his shirt off then removed then mine along with my bra. I wanted to take off my jeans and underwear too but I couldn't hold off any longer. I sigh as I shove my hands into the warm, dark blood that had escaped his throat. I coat my arms, fingertip to elbow, then slowly, to build my own anticipation, I bring my hands up. I begin at my cheekbones then run my hands down, down, over my throat, my clavicles, around my breasts, and over my peaked nipples.
Another sigh escapes my mouth and I feel a rush of wet heat ripple through my core. I realize I am turned on for the first time in my twenty-two years. I'm hot, so hot and I can't draw in a proper breath. I pull at my blood covered nipples and suddenly decide the pants need to go, now.
I'm unbuttoning the closure on them when I hear a shuffle to the right of me, between me and the doorway. I tense at the noise…then, remembering the box I had placed next to the exposed stud behind Cato, I sneakily grab another needle. The box was full of little ketamine syringes. I’d left it there in case he needed another dose. In my excitement I’d nearly forgotten about them.
"…Who's there?" I call out loudly because I have no intention of leaving this body unless I have to. Maybe it was just a rat or something. I quickly cover my breasts at the idea of someone seeing something so private, so mine, and sit by the wall so that Cato is between me and the noise.
There's no answer so I try again, letting the anger rise up in me, "I know you're there, so just come out and we'll...talk?"
Any hope for the company of a rat is dashed when I hear a deep chuckle coming from behind some shelving near the door, only ten feet from me. For some reason the tone of it causes the heat in my core to intensify and then a handsome man walks out from behind the shelves.
"Was that a question?" he asks, a teasing smile on his lips, and I feel a lurch in my chest that I usually only feel when I look at Prim. I push that thought away for now. His hair is blonde, darker than Cato's by a few shades. His eyes keep darting between me and the body; they are bluer than Cato's, too. His body was just as muscled, if a bit shorter and his firm jaw line was doing dirty, dirty things to my already lust hazed mind.
I'm about to stand and reply, my left arm still covering my chest, the needle in my other hand and bravado firmly in place, when he speaks up again.
"No, no. Stay where you are. I'm not quite as prepared for a fight as you are," he laughs and gestures to the needle between my fingers. "I promise I'm not here to hurt you. Just to...observe." He shrugs his broad shoulders and I try, so hard, to stop the feeling of being captivated by that one small movement.
I don't reply and he shuffles closer, one step, two steps, but at a slow pace. Probably to keep me from feeling threatened.
"Drop that thing for a bit?" he asks. Three steps, then four. "I'd really like to talk to you."
Still I say nothing, I only watch him curiously.
"We have...quite a few common interests that we could discuss. If you’d allow it." Five steps. Six, Seven.
I adjust the needle in my grasp for an easy injection, just in case.
He's about two feet from Cato now and I'm still on the other side on my knees, one hand still grasping the syringe, the other slowly headed toward a slash at Cato's belly. It grounds me, comforts me in this new situation, when my fingers slide in to play at the edges of the wound.
I would have expected accidentally witnessing a murder would start a person running in the opposite direction but his calm acceptance, sitting on a dust covered floor and separated by a corpse, has a lulling effect on my own senses.
My instincts aren’t on edge at all, yet I continue to stay silent. My mind has gone delightfully blank and, as I press further into the hole in Cato’s body, I wait for Peeta to continue.
He reaches out and at first I think he is reaching for me. The action startles me and I do my best to stay still so he doesn’t feel that he can get the upper hand; but he only just touches the cavity I’m caressing, making sure to not make contact with my skin. His breathing picks up a quick and tremulous pace but his hand is steady as he skims up enough blood to cover his palm and fingers. He lets out a shaky breath and, like I did only minutes ago, he brings his hand up and runs it over his face, right cheekbone to chin, just barely grazing the edge of his lips.
“One thing we have in common,” and his speech is suddenly low, breathless,…sexy, “we have the same reaction…to this.” Quicker than I can brace myself, he has leaned over the carcass between us and, his hand is now spreading the sticky gore over the drying red stains on my own cheek.
I’m leaning into his warm touch, the abrupt realization of which brings me crashing back into myself, and I recoil instantly.
His eyes narrow for a space, as though he is offended or angered, but they brighten again just as quickly.
“You’re on guard. Of course you are,” he says, the other, unsullied, corner of his lip lifting only enough to make me question whether I saw it or not in the first place.
He looks at me expectantly and I can see him making a decision at my lack of response. “A trucker dropped me off near the middle of this town. He grew up here and was stopping through to visit old friends. He said one of them owned a peach grove and I could get a job and lodging there for the summer season.”
“Sae’s grove. Right down the road from here…” It’s the first thing I’ve said since he showed himself and my voice is deeper than usual, almost…seductive. ‘What is happening to me?’ Logically I know it’s the blood, that started this feeling smoldering inside me, but he has brought it flaming to the surface and it’s coming out of my mouth without my permission.
I must have surprised him because his eyes round a bit when I speak but then he’s smiling that teasing smile again. Thankfully he doesn’t bring it up. He just continues his story, laid back with one arm propped on his raised knee, the other on the floor, holding the weight of his upper body in a leisurely fashion.
“Right down the road from here,” he agrees. “I’ve been in town just over a month. On my off days I walk toward town. I saw you earlier this week, bringing the plastic sheets in, looking around to be sure no one was watching. You missed me behind those overgrown bushes across the street, though.”
I can feel the tension set in my jaw at his intrusive behavior. He must have seen it because he laughed again and suddenly I’m not angry. I feel that same pull in my chest, instead. It’s harder to ignore this time and I nearly gasp at the force of it.
“You knew what I was planning from the moment you saw the plastic, didn’t you?” I ask, the knowledge hitting me. It was how he knew to come back here. He is like me and wanted to be here when I did it. I am angry at this again but part of me is also relieved that I’m not alone.
When I look up at him, his stare is intense and consuming. He leaned forward again and this time I did too, waiting for his answer, not sure of which one I wanted.
His eyes are searching mine before he finally whispers, “Yes. I knew.” His warm, blood covered hand is on my cheek again and I think about pushing him away a second time. But the feeling in my chest when I look at him, the lust in my veins, my itch, the degradation lying in congealing puddles of darkening, sticky ruin and the brownish drying fluids on my own body won’t allow it. I lean further into the pressure of his palm then finally pull my own hand out of the wound for the first time since Peeta approached me.
I think I know where this is headed. Usually the idea would repel me, but here with all these eventualities surrounding me, I am suddenly thrown into the romanticized feeling of completion and I want it all.
Slowly, I touch his face and I feel Peeta let out a sigh, of relief and want, as I smudge his face and throat with my tarnished fingers. I’m kissing him and he’s thrusting his tongue inside my mouth and it’s hunger and it’s need. Before I know it is happening, Peeta has gotten to his knees and pulled me over Cato’s legs
He must feel the same because when I start to pull and tug on his shirt he glides it off and tosses it to parts unknown with vigor. His mouth is all over me now, uncaring of colliding with the smears of red that are beginning to feel tacky and tight on my flesh.
It’s all going so fast but I unexpectedly find myself just as unconcerned of that fact as his tongue and lips are of the blood on our bodies.
Somehow our clothes are soon removed in our heated ardor and there is only that feeling of wholeness as we consummate my success.
After, I realize what I’ve done is very unusual behavior for me. Sex with a stranger? It strikes me that anyone else would think how sick we are, coupling next to a dead man, covered in his blood.
Somehow, as he looks at me, it occurs to me that even though it is strange, I don’t care. My instincts are always right and right now, looking at him, I know that he is kismet in the flesh, here for my happiness.
I’m leaning over, kissing his lips, his jaw, when I become conscious of something else entirely.
With my mouth against his, I say, “You could have started making all that racket while I was trying to unload from car and drag him in here.” I’m smiling, and I know he can tell I’m teasing. Something that only Prim usually understands about me.
Peeta gives me that low laugh that brings up the speed of my heart and sets my skin on fire. And he whispers against my lips, “I’ll help you get the body out.”
In a town this small, it really is easy to find who you’ve come home for.