Author's Note: Okay so I found this prompt on tumblr when I found the soul mate AU prompt. The credit goes to beneath-the-rubble. This will probably, hopefully, be a shorter story because I cannot physically write much more, haha.
Autumn was her favorite season. Katniss reveled in all things fall: foliage, pumpkin flavored beverages, hot drinks, thick scarves, thigh high boots over jeans, brisk winds that ruffled the orange and red covered ground. Even now, six weeks into her first semester at college, she gleefully enjoyed the smell of autumn as it happened around her. She kicked the fallen leaves with the tip of her boot as she strolled down the urban sidewalk near her dorm. Today she was supposed to meet her Physics partner and best friend Gale Hawthorne at a local coffee shop a few blocks from their dorm. Her roommate Madge had raved about the coffee and frequented their open mic nights on Saturdays. Madge raved about nearly everything but she did always have one of their environmentally conscious green cups on her desk in their room.
Katniss pushed the door open and heard the quaint chime of the bell above her head. She unwrapped her scarf from around her neck and tucked it into her messenger bag. The walls were painted a light orange, vintage movie and music posters adhered askew on the walls, giving the place a sense of hipster whimsy. Soft, soulful jazz blared unobtrusively from speakers set within the exposed vaulted ceilings.
The plentiful power outlets and tables meant a lot of Katniss's peers from Panem University were strewn about the place. They sat at tables along the walls and congregated in the corners with coffees, laptops, bean bag chairs and textbooks. Single studiers curled into overstuffed plush magenta armchairs in dimly lit corners. Katniss wondered how they got any studying done in the din of the room; she preferred the quiet, musty solitude of the library. Hidden within a few bookshelves, muted from the world by the volumes of ink and paper around her.
She spotted Gale in a far corner table, hovered over his book. She smiled as she approached, shrugging her suede jacket down from her shoulders. Gale sipped a hot beverage and looked up at her. "What's up Catnip?"
She slung her jacket around the wooden chair and frowned. "Sorry I'm late. Madge talked my ear off about her Aunt Maysilee coming to visit next week." Katniss rolled her gray eyes and set her things down next to their table. "I'm just going to grab something to drink. What did you get?"
"Tea," Gale answered simply, garnering a look of skepticism from his friend. "Don't judge me it's cold outside. And you know I don't like espresso." He gave her a grimace for good measure. Katniss rolled her eyes as she grabbed her wallet from her bag and went toward the counter.
As she waited behind three coeds she perused the menu. There was the typical coffee shop fare of lattes and espresso, plain brews and herbal teas. A small chalkboard menu had a few specials written in a flowery green chalk handwriting. They each had kitschy coffee pun names and Katniss smiled at a few of them. If she had to venture out of her literary hiding hole, an independent coffee shop wasn't a bad second place. She approached the counter, having made up her mind to just get a regular coffee.
She opened her mouth to order and was stopped as she saw the barista smiling politely at her. Black hair with red streaks pulled back into a messy ponytail tied with a blood red bandana and two pens sticking out like a geisha's hair sticks, deep amber brown eyes, a permanent smirk on ruddy brown lips, a tight forest green t shirt with a black apron emblazoned with the "HeavensBeans" logo wrapped tightly around her slim hips. She had cut the shirt straight down the collar to expose her cleavage, which Katniss was trying to avoid staring at.
The girl leaned in and cocked a darkened, manicured eyebrow. Abruptly the place felt too loud, too bright, too warm to Katniss. "You blinked, I won." God, her voice. Katniss was certain she had never heard anything so feminine and yet, so deeply rough. Katniss shook her head and met the girl's playful eyes. "Did you want something, gorgeous?"
If Katniss had thought of something she wanted to drink it was wiped clean from her memory by the girl drawling that compliment out of her lips. "I uh..."
"Need some help?" she asked. Katniss nodded wordlessly. She did not trust her voice. "Do you like chocolate?"
"Yes." She had reason not to trust her voice. Her answer came out strangled like a yelping dog.
"Do you like it hot?" The girl seemed to purposefully draw out her words, making the question sound impossibly risqué. Katniss coughed and watched the other girl's eyes twinkle with humor. "The coffee, brainless. Hot?"
"Y-yes." Katniss could feel the heat of her cheeks burning her face. Was the stupid heat in here on like 1000 degrees?
The dark-haired girl scribbled something on a tall paper cup, handing it over to a handsome blond man who took it and flipped it, catching it behind his back. "What's the name on this?" he asked, withdrawing a pen from his back pocket.
Katniss placed her palms ln the counter and moved up on her toes. "Katniss." She had directed it toward the boy, but her eyes never left the magnetizing gaze of the girl behind the register.
The girl smiled at her and began tapping her fingers against the small computer monitor in front of her. "That'll be $3.56." Katniss began rummaging in her wallet and the girl spoke again. "Are you a student?" Katniss nodded, not trusting her voice again. "Okay," she said, punching a few more buttons, "then you get the discount. Lucky you. That'll be three dollars even."
Katniss produced three somewhat presentable bills from her wallet and handed them to the girl. "Sorry, I sort of cram everything in here." Almost as proof of her disorganization a small Chapstick and a brightly colored fake sugar packet fell on the counter. The girl smirked and took the money, leaving the paraphernalia. Katniss shoved it back into her wallet, blushing even deeper than before.
"It's okay Katniss," she replied, tucking the money away in the register. She hissed the "s" in Katniss's name and made her shudder. She closed the drawer with a shove and maintained a high eyebrow as Katniss stood there. "You can pick your drink up down there." She jabbed a finger to Katniss's right where a boy was waiting for his drink as well.
"Oh. Thank you." Katniss moved away from the counter, thoroughly embarrassed and clutching her wallet. Her fingernails tapped against the wooden counter as she awaited her drink. After a minute of dodging glances from the girl at the counter, her name was called and the attractive boy behind the espresso machine slid her drink toward her. The name tag affixed to his apron strap read "Finnick" in a blue print. A name tag! Katniss hadn't even remembered to look at the girl's. "Thanks," she mumbled, cradling the drink and walking back to Gale.
The beverage was rich and chocolaty with just the slightest bitter tang of espresso. She'd have to tell the girl she enjoyed it. Yes, that would be a perfectly legitimate reason to go back and talk to her again. Maybe this time, talk like a normal person and not a bumbling idiot. With a sigh she turned to Gale and they began to work in their notebooks on their current Physics project. In spite of the fairly steady stream of customers she managed to keep her eye on the girl at the counter. At some point within the hour she and the boy had switched positions and she was now crafting the drinks. Every so often her gaze would look out into the dining area and they would catch eyes. Katniss's heart would pound in her chest and she hurriedly looked back to her textbook.
"Katniss!" Gale said loudly, causing Katniss to whip her head in his direction, annoyed. He smiled at her, unaffected by her impatience. He was used to it by now. "I said your name like four times. What are you staring at?" His own pale grey eyes followed hers until he saw the barista behind the counter. "Johanna?"
"Johanna?" Katniss repeated in a faraway tone. Johanna.
Gale shook his head and put his hand on Katniss's chin, pulling her attention back to him. "She's the barista here. I've seen her a couple times around campus. I think she's a junior." Katniss was a freshman and Gale a junior. She was suddenly stung with jealousy that Gale knew her. Maybe they had classes together. He had probably seen her in the morning, hair disheveled from sleep in an oversized sweatshirt, napping through an early morning class. Maybe their paths had crossed at some upper-classmen party or a frat mixer. He would have seen her swaying her hips to some Top 40 music, tilting her head back in laughter. "She lives in the District Seven dorms."
The Panem University dorms were each named after districts, numbered one through twelve. There used to be thirteen but budget cuts had turned that dorm into a science wing a few years prior to Katniss's enrollment. She and Gale lived in District 12 on the fringes of campus. 7 was just a few blocks from the main library, nicknamed the Capitol because of the domed ceiling that mimicked the Capitol Building in Washington DC. Those dorms were nice, edged in a thicket of redwoods that muffled the campus from the neighboring towns.
"Earth to Katniss?" She hadn't realized she was still staring until Gale spoke again. She flushed a deep beet red and shifted in her seat so she could no longer see the attractive girl behind the machines. He hefted a sigh and closed their textbook, sliding it into his backpack. "Okay you are not going to be able to pay attention here. Now when you've been eye-fucking Johanna all night." His abrasive tone softened as he looked at his friend. "Just go talk to her."
Katniss sputtered out a loud scoff, gathering the attention of a few people around them. She lowered her voice and glared at Gale. "Yeah that'll be great. 'Hi, we just met and I can't stop staring at you. Wanna go out sometime?'" Her head tilted to the side in disbelief. "No, that's fine. Besides I think we did enough for a Friday night."
Gale shrugged and stood up, tossing his denim jacket around his shoulders and gathering up his backpack. He slung the brown sack over his shoulder and looked down at his friend. "Whatever you say, Catnip. But the staring goes both ways." He looked over her shoulder and she turned her head to follow his eyes. The girl was wiping down the counter where they placed drinks, openly ogling at her. She smirked at the attention and tossed the rag over her shoulder, walking away and back toward the boy she worked with.
Gale said his goodbyes and walked out of the store, leaving Katniss alone at the table. She put her jacket and scarf back on, preparing herself for the bitter cold that awaited her outside. Night had fallen now which meant the temperatures would be at least ten degrees below what they had been when she entered. Her hands wrapped around the still warm cup of coffee and she stared at the lid. Did she dare go back up and compliment it? No, that sounded stupid. She didn't want to look desperate, even if she felt desperate.
She'd play it cool. Maybe Johanna would think she was some carefree passerby that she would want to see again. Yeah, that sounded right. She'd be the girl who totally was not thinking about her at all. Boosted by this thought she strutted out of the coffee shop and didn't even throw a glance toward the drink area. With a belly full of chocolate espresso and a mind full of a chocolate-haired girl she nearly skipped back to campus. She had really nailed that exit. Totally not looking in the reflection of the glass to see if Johanna had watched her leave.
Madge was sitting at her desk when Katniss got back to her dorm, typing away at her computer. Katniss hung up her jacket on the coatrack along with her scarf, tossing her bookbag at the foot of her bed. She flopped down on the twin bed and let one of her legs dangle off the side of the bed, scraping the floor. The 12 dorms were not as nice as the dorms in 1 or 2; the walls and floors were mostly cement, unpainted and slightly cold. Usually it was a dorm just for freshmen but a few of the upperclassmen like Gale were stuck in those dorms as well.
Getting assigned a dorm was supposed to work like a lottery but it didn't take Katniss long to notice that the kids who didn't come on full ride scholarships, the kids whose parents made large donations to the university, those kids got the nice dorms. Katniss didn't mind though; it helped her make friends with more students who grew up in lower-middle class homes like herself.
"Hey Madge?" Katniss called from her bed, turning on to her side and propping her head up on her elbow.
Madge unplugged one earbud from her ear and turned around, smiling at Katniss. Her long blonde hair was plaited into two braids, looking somewhat like Katniss's little sister, Prim. Except in place of pale blue eyes like her mother, she had deep hazel eyes that looked like the forests from back home. Their friendship dated back to their finger-painting days, along with Gale and their other friend Peeta Mellark. Being from a small town meant that most of the kids went to the same university, especially one in the same state. The tuition was cheaper and the acceptance rate was high. All of them got accepted into Panem University and lived in the neglected 12 dorms.
"Do you know the people that work at the coffee place?" she asked, trying to keep her voice as even and unassuming as humanly possible.
Madge turned around in her chair, folding her elbow over the top and resting her small chin on her forearm. "Um yeah, I'm probably their most frequent customer." Her eyes lit up and Katniss looked alarmed. "Did you like it?"
"Yeah, sure," she replied noncommittally. "The latte I had was good."
"Who made it?"
"A blond guy. Finnick?"
Madge nodded enthusiastically. "Finnick is really good. Kind of a preening peacock, you know? Flipping cups, flirting with girls. But he's actually really nice. Sometimes I stay there late, you know, studying and everything, and this cute little girl with red hair comes in toward when they close. She seems a little off? She goes to school here, I don't know what she studies. Kind of quiet. But they have some kind of connection. He's always really sweet to her, sitting at her table until his boss yells at him. It's like a switch is turned and he goes from weird creep to sweet caring guy. It's super cute to watch."
Katniss didn't really care about this guy and his weird girlfriend. She was waiting for Madge to get around to Johanna, but she didn't want to show her cards just yet. "That's sweet."
"Totally sweet. Okay, so the owner's name is Plutarch. He's a nice guy, kind of older. You don't really see him much, he's kind of the behind-the-scenes guy. The manager's name is Cressida. She's really cool; she's got half her head shaved with these vine tattoos. All the guys want to bang her. There's usually only two other baristas. A girl named Emerson and another girl named Johanna." Katniss hoped that her ears didn't prick up like a cat when Madge said Johanna's name. She remembered Buttercup back home, his furry orange ears standing straight up if you said "food" or "Primrose." She hated that cat. She did not want to look like that cat.
She cleared her throat. "I think I saw ...what did you say her name was? Johanna?" Madge nodded. "Is she nice?"
Madge chuckled and shook her head. "No, she's kind of bitchy to everyone." Katniss tried not to look offended and stared over at her friend. Madge yawned and shrugged her shoulders. "She's an environmental science major I think? Something like that. Anyway she's a little bossy. And a lesbian. Not that it makes her a bad person," Madge quickly corrected with a shake of her head. "Just an observation."
A small thrill shot down Katniss's spine. Johanna was a lesbian. She liked girls. Maybe she liked girls like Katniss. "Oh, she seemed pretty cool to me."
In spite of the natural voice she used Madge's mouth spread in a sly grin. "Did she flirt with you? She flirts with all the girls she thinks are pretty." Katniss's treacherous cheeks flushed in embarrassment and she pulled her pillow over her face. Madge nearly knocked over her chair in excitement. "Ohmygoodnessyoulikeher!" Her words spilled out as fast as a faucet. "Did she say anything to you? Did you give her your number? Did she give you her number? Email?"
Katniss groaned and put the pillow on her scalp and pulled it toward her ears. "She didn't really say anything. I sort of bumbled through all our talking. I may or may not have stared at her." She peeked out through closed eyes. "I fucked it up. I was so nervous. There was sweat."
"Katniss. That's. Adorable." Madge squealed in happiness and clapped her hands. She yanked her other ear bud out and straddled the chair backward. "This is like a romantic comedy waiting to happen. Okay so what's the plan? We going tomorrow? I can introduce you guys because I know her because I go there like every day and then we can -"
"Whoa," Katniss interrupted, sitting up in the bed. Madge had a tendency to ramble on, her words coming out in a staccato flow that sounded like the constant clacking of a typewriter. "There is no plan. If she wants to see me again, she can ask around for me. I'm not gonna chase her." Katniss hoped she sounded confident in that plan. Yeah, she can ask for me! She knows my name now. It's not as if there's another Katniss enrolled at Panem.
"Ohhh, okay," Madge agreed, nodding her head. She began undoing the plaits in her hair, running her fingers through the loosening strands. "Playin' it low key. I see how it is, Everdeen." Katniss chuckled and laid back against her mattress, staring up at their cement ceiling. In truth, her plan was not to play it cool. Johanna had weaseled her way underneath Katniss's skin with just a few words and those brilliant brown eyes. There was no playing cool with her. She made her run too hot.
Environmental Science major. Barista. Junior. Lesbian. Flirt. Katniss began piecing those bits of information together to try and form a fully fleshed out version of this girl she saw. Whatever she came up with would not do her justice. She wanted to talk to her. Without any similar classes and two grades in between each other, Katniss knew what she had to do.
She had to go back and get more coffee. She had to see the girl at the coffee shop again.