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The Good Wife

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I had been tossing and turning for hours, roused for once not from nightmares, but just from my own embarrassment and contrition. The night before, Peeta and I had gone to bed without really talking about my initial reaction to the whole… situation, mostly because he had fallen asleep on top of me as I tried to soothe him, completely exhausted from the stress of the day. When I woke him up to lead him to bed, I'm not even certain if he had been actually conscious. I didn't have the heart to fully wake him just to have a serious and possibly upsetting conversation. But clearly, I needed to get it out, or I was going to end up spending Sunday, the one day of the week we can sleep in, tossing and turning for hours before dawn broke. Normally, such nocturnal unease would wake Peeta up, but I think he was just too exhausted to even move.

I couldn't take it anymore. Rolling away onto my back, I groaned heavily and then cried out, "I'm sorry, okay?" After my outburst, I sat up dizzily, and then fell back down, covering my eyes with my hands. "I can't believe I thought you would do something like that. With Johanna of all people. I feel so idiotic…"

Peeta, who had been shocked out of a deep sleep, lifted his head and squinted at me with confused, bleary eyes for a long moment as his brain tried to catch up. Once he realized what was going on, he breathed out a soft laugh, "Yeah… I was surprised myself. Of course, you never were that great at figuring out anyone's intentions. 'Cept maybe Haymitch…" his voice was sticky with sleep and he yawned before falling back onto the pillows.

"I'm really sorry," realizing he was only half-awake left me feeling less defensive than usual, and this apology, a more sincere one, came a bit easier. "It probably didn't feel too great."

"It didn't," he heaved a long, exhausted sigh and then yawned loudly, "but then when I finally felt convinced that you weren't going to castrate me, it was just a tiny bit funny how clueless you were." I don't think he quite realized he was picking on me out loud, because he normally knows better. But at the time, I was too tired to be irritated, and the fact that he was making a joke was a bit of a relief. He wasn't wrong. The actual idea of him being unfaithful to me after everything that's happened is so absurd as to be completely ridiculous. But sometimes, I don't think about things. I just react. And sometimes I end up looking like a fool, and hurting people in the process.

Still… I'm not clueless.

With one arm, I smacked him in the face with a pillow, then finally close my eyes to sleep, feeling a lot better.

Several hours later, the sun was streaming in the windows as I opened my eyes again, this time feeling well-rested. My body was warm and generally comfortable, but my shoulder felt stiff, and I needed to move. It was really going to ache after falling asleep on that couch.

"How are you so good at this?" I asked sleepily, turning my back to Peeta and knocking his chin off of my shoulder in the process. We'd been drifting in and out of consciousness for some time, his fingers tracing patterns on my wrists had appeared in my dreams many times, which mean he had to be doing it in real life.

"Good at what?" he responded drowsily, rolling over and wrapping me in his arms again.

At not assuming things and reacting like a maniac, I thought, but didn't say it. "At just being married, I guess," I sighed as he nuzzled my neck.

I could feel him shrug behind me he chuckled, "Maybe it's because I planned for it for thirteen years?" He curled his body over mine and kissed my cheek. Sunday had become a wonderful day, just as wonderful as it had been before the Quell and the War and everything else, but for entirely different reasons.

The thought of him as a little boy attempting to figure out how to deal with a shell-shocked revolutionary icon made me laugh a little. "I'm not sure how useful the thoughts of a five-year-old are to our current situation."

He chuckled to himself and shook his head, lips brushing against my back. "I don't know, Katniss. I had a really good plan. You were going to live in the bakery with me and my family. Once we got married, my brothers would have to finally let me have the bunk beds, and they'd be stuck sharing the double. You were going to get the top bunk, of course, because it's the best. And then we'd play outside all day, make blanket forts when it rained, and eat icing for dinner, because, according to my mother, when I grew up and got married I'd be able to do whatever I wanted."

I rolled over and look at him. He couldn't be serious.

"Oh, you don't think that's true? It was. When I was about six, I started to vaguely realize that there was some kind of barrier to Seam-Merchant marriages, so I decided that the only solution was to run away and be a coal miner. I'd go out and practice hitting rocks with a stick in the yard, since I didn't know where to get a pick. I wanted to be ready, in case there was some sort of miners' entrance exam. Dad thought I had lost my mind until I ended up telling him."

He was not lying. I could tell. He was also remembering a lot of very specific details, something that's hard for him sometimes, so I humored him. It's hard for us to talk about our families in any sort of normal way, unless we're working on the book, but he seemed happy to be remembering them and in comparison to how he had been feeling last night, this was a vast to improvement. I have to admit, I was also bit curious myself, "Seven was a rough year for planning," he went on. "I finally couldn't take keeping it a secret anymore. I told Delly but that was maybe a mistake because she made me play house with her in exchange for silence. She claimed that it'd make me good at being married, but mostly she just made me change her doll's pretend diapers and tell her she looked pretty. Eventually she got sick of it, and said I'd make a better brother than a husband. By the time I was nine, I started playing sports, mostly because I liked being with my friends, but also because I thought that maybe I'd get good at them and you'd notice and be impressed or something."

I tried to swallow my laughter, because obviously this tactic hadn't worked at all. Well, actually maybe a little. I certainly had noticed that he nearly won the wrestling competition, but that had been years after…

"Yeah, we both know how well that worked out," he reached over to poke my side, interrupting my thoughts. I grabbed his hands and held them down, glaring at him.

His eyes got a distant look when he realized what came next, and he spoke very quietly "When I was eleven, I didn't really think about us getting married very much. I used to wonder if maybe, somehow..." he trailed off, realizing he probably shouldn't talk about this. But the thought of, my father's death isn't so raw all the time, not when compared with other things. Despite how dangerous life in Twelve had been, somehow I had made it eleven years without a clear idea of how it had to have felt to watch another child experience something like that. I guess I just hadn't noticed. So I wanted to know.

"You used to wonder what?" I asked quietly.

There was a long pause before he answered. "I hoped that maybe it was a mistake. That the accident turned out to be just a cave-in, not an explosion, and the foreman would come running in to school and pull you out of class with the news and then you would smile again." The scenario was heartbreakingly familiar. I had imagined it hundreds of times. I bit my lip, and he tried to press forward, to focus on something other than such a painful memory. He freed his hand to caress my cheek, and I leaned into his touch.

"When you started looking so skinny, I kept trying to steal bread and bring it to you, but I wasn't exactly the world's most talented thief, so my mother caught on immediately. Thought I was being greedy. She'd search my bags and even my pockets before I left for the day. Kept telling me that no kid of hers was going to end up like one of the Cartwrights, which was extra nasty, considering they were our friends. She said it once when Delly was on the other side of the door, about to knock. Obviously it upset her a lot, but I wasn't very supportive at the time. I was too distracted with trying to come up with elaborate schemes to feed you."

"You figured it out, eventually," I reached forward and gently brushed his hair out of his eyes, my hand lingering on the spot where his mother had hit him. Somehow, when we talk about things together like this, it doesn't hurt so badly.

"Was the only bruise that I wasn't embarrassed to show in school," he said proudly, wrapping his hands around my waist and pulling me close to him. "At thirteen, I tried to have girlfriends. I figured if I couldn't talk to you, I could at least practice talking to them. But other than getting really good at hand-holding, and making a few girls cry, nothing ever came of it."

We lay there quietly for a few moments before he spoke again, his voice husky, "By the time I was fifteen... well, I thought about us getting married a lot." His face turned a little pink at the admission.

I pulled back and raised my eyebrows, pretending I didn't understand what he was suggesting. "Oh? The specifics of the toasting? What kind of dishes we would have?"

He chortled, and his face turned a little pinker. "You'd be surprised. But I'd say a pretty significant portion of my thoughts was spent wondering about what kind of noises you would make if I did this." Without warning, he danced the tips of his fingers across my shirt-covered nipple, and I gasped involuntarily, then scowled at him for surprising me. It didn't quite make it to my eyes though, and his twinkled as he looked at me.

"Yep," he nodded, "that'd be it. I wondered about those sorts of noises for a pretty embarrassing amount of time. Also what this skin here felt like," he kissed the spot behind my ear, "or just how soft these were," he ran his finger across my lips, "or how your hair smelled," he pulled me to him again and breathed in deeply.

My body was beginning to buzz with anticipation, and I found myself teasing him, "That seems pretty tame for a teenage boy. Are you certain there wasn't anything else?" Peeta's pupils grew so large so quickly that if we had been in any other situation, I'd have thought he was fighting off a flashback. But he wasn't. Talking like that, or, well, asking him to talk like that certainly wasn't something I did on a regular basis, but maybe I should start, because he seemed to enjoy it.

He tried to act affronted, but I could see the edges of his lips twitching as he held back his grin. "I was respectful when I thought about you. You weren't just anyone. You were Katniss Everdeen. My future wife."

I rolled onto my back, and pretended to be put out, "That's too bad."

He leaned close to me his voice was deep as he spoke. "I couldn't control the dreams, though."

The buzz that rumbled through my body grew louder as his breath tickled my neck. "They were pretty…" he paused, searching for the right term, "…libidinous." The word rolled off his tongue like honey. I found myself beginning to tremble just the tiniest bit at the sound, even though I wasn't completely certain of its definition.

"What does that mean?" I asked, even though I was pretty sure I had figured it out without his help.

As he responded, he gently worried my earlobe, and I could feel it in my toes, "Um… I don't know… I don't even remember where I learned it. I think it means lustful… primal…"

I didn't reply, just tried to control my breathing as he grazed his lips down my neck to rest at the hollow of my throat, "There was one that I'd have pretty much once a week. We'd be at school, just like normal, sitting at our desks in math class. You know, the one where you sat in front of me?"

It was difficult to respond, so I just nodded as he resumed his recollection, "Something normal would happen, like you'd drop your pencil, or a piece of paper, and then everyone else in the room would just vanish. We'd be completely alone," his mouth moved from my throat to my collarbone, and he began gently biting the skin there as he spoke. "And then the pencil would be gone too. And your clothes. You'd just be sitting on the top of the desk, completely naked, smiling at me. Don't know how you got up there so quick, but then, a bunch of people had just disappeared so I guess I didn't question it."

"You never said anything, but somehow in the dream I knew I was allowed to touch you, so I did," he sat up and gazed down at me, eyes burning with arousal and amusement and a distinctly different sort of enjoyment not connected with sex: pride that he could recall all of these things at once. Sometimes he has a lot of trouble with his memory, and I know it bothers him a lot, even though he never complains. The days that he can remember lots of things, especially things that no one else but him could possibly know, make him feel normal… less broken, I think; sort of the way I am when I wake up from a night of dreamless sleep.

On days when he feels like this, he tends to be more aggressive, and I can't say I mind.

With firm hands, he lifted my head off of the pillow and slipped off my shirt. "I'd start here," he cupped my breasts lightly. "I can't remember what they looked like in my dreams, but I can't imagine it could possibly have compared with reality." As he spoke, he rubbed his thumbs over my nipples in slow, light circles. "They felt perfect in my hands, though, which turned out to be accurate." As he touched me, I felt my feet involuntarily pushing down towards the bottom of the bed one after another, trying to somehow make him go faster without asking.

His normally soft eyes were almost feral as he asked, "You like this. Real or not real?"

"Real." My voice was breathless.

"You seemed to like it a lot in the dream too. I'd also kiss them," he did, and I squirmed uncontrollably at the soft touch of his full lips, lifting myself to meet him, but then he sat up suddenly, with that look on his face. I closed my eyes because I had a sneaking suspicion I knew what he was going to do, and even though I'd let him, it was still too embarrassing to watch. Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't see him, and a lot of times not seeing him ended up leaving me trapped in my own stupid head.

I felt him pull down my shorts, hands pushing my thighs apart as he continues speaking in a conversational tone, "Usually that's when I'd wake up a mess. But sometimes, I'd get to do this," his fingers were touching me, gently spreading the folds, and it felt so good if only I could just make myself relax enough to enjoy it completely. I could feel the way he was holding his weight on the mattress, and it was obvious that he was gazing at what he was doing, gazing at me, which, when I considered it, made shivers run down my spine. I lifted my eyelids just a bit, to peek, and there he was staring intensely at his hand as he slowly moved his index finger in little circles through my wetness. His face had that same expression that he has when he's surveying a painting that's halfway done. I clamped my eyes shut again, because it was all just too much.

"You watched me in the dream," he chided me with amusement. "But it's okay. You don't have to watch now. Just listen."

I clenched my stomach in anticipation and he noticed, chuckling to himself, "You think this isn't going to work, don't you?" I knew he was aware of how it can be difficult for me sometimes, but I didn't expect him to really bring it up, especially not in the heat of the moment. He leaned forward and whispered conspiratorially into my ear, "You're wrong, though."

Something about how confident he sounded made my heart begin to race. And then, as he started to speak again in a low, rumbling voice, it felt like it might actually burst out of my chest.

"You're so wet already, Katniss. So wet and hot and every second that I touch you you're getting wetter. I can feel it," it was true, and thinking about it, thinking about what he was actually doing, instead of how I was reacting to it, made my whole body start to shake. "I want you so bad it hurts," he continued, "I want to bury myself inside you and feel you so tight around me I can't tell us apart. I want to feel you squeeze me so hard when you come that I see stars. And we're going to do that, but not yet…"

"Why?" I gasped out, thrashing my head back and forth against the pillow as his fingers ever so slowly increased in speed.

"Because I'm going to make you come with my hands first. And then with my mouth. And then I'm going to take you the way I want. The way you seem to want too, I think."

I opened my eyes and looked at him in complete shock. He'd never, ever spoken to me like this before, and I could tell by the blush that covered his entire body that he hadn't expected to do it himself. His eyes gazed back at me dark with lust, but also kind, as though he was waiting to see if I wanted him to stop. I realized that I really didn't, and fell back onto the pillow. His fingers sped up, while he continued to tell me how much he wanted me, how gorgeous and sexy I was, how amazing I looked when I came. It felt like my blood was boiling as he circled his finger faster and faster. Everything felt still and fast and out of control as my muscles began to lock in anticipation of what was about to happen.

"Do you know how good you taste?" he whispered into my ear, and then thrust two fingers inside me hard.

My back arched all the way off the mattress as I cried out.

He kept his promise. Hardly giving me a moment to recover, he spread my legs again and settled between them, using his tongue to bring me to absolute insanity. When I collapsed once more, this time into a screaming, shuddering heap, I was briefly worried that maybe I had snapped his neck with my thighs. He didn't give me any time to rest, and lifted my legs to his shoulders when he finally entered me, hard as steel, and even larger than normal, probably because he had delayed his own gratification for so long. I really have no concept of how long it took, or much of anything other than the waves of ecstasy that rolled over me again and again until he shuddered inside me, and then collapsed on his side, a self-satisfied, if exhausted, grin on his flushed face.

"Ready to go make breakfast for your mother?" he asked smugly.

The rest of the day was significantly less satisfying.

"You're kidding me. You thought he was the father? Peeta? Your husband? The man who… oh for the love of all that is holy, Katniss…" Johanna's eyebrows were raised, her head tipped forward. She looked like she felt pretty good about herself at the current moment, which was, of course, because I appeared an absolute moron. "What the hell is wrong with you?"

I was in the Hawthorne's living room, sitting in front of their television and having a conversation with Johanna, who was hundreds of miles away in Two. Hazelle had taken my mother on a tour of the new town. Annie was playing with Nick and Posy right outside, ostensibly watching over them, but also watching out for me, to make certain that Hazelle didn't come back before I was finished. Rory was probably in the woods somewhere, and Peeta was off with Vick and Thom, doing something, I wasn't quite sure what, but I was glad for it, whatever it was. This was the sort of conversation I did not want him to overhear.

I bit my lip as I tried to answer Johanna's very legitimate question. We had barely even said hello before she had started tearing into me.

"I didn't really think about it. I just reacted. He kept talking to you like…" I wanted to say "like he talks to me" but I held my tongue and tried a different approach. "I'm not… very good at reading people sometimes. I didn't even know you and Gale were friends," I added, looking at her face displayed on the screen. I wasn't sure where to direct my gaze. There was a small box in the bottom corner with my face reflected back at me. My eyes looked weird, like they were focusing in the wrong direction. It was hard to understand how Vick used this thing for school every day.

"I don't know that "friends" is really the right word at this point. Plus, you should be good at reading Peeta by this point. He's your fucking husband, brainless. I could slap you right now."

I sighed heavily. "I know. I was just… confused… and my mind filled in the blanks. Johanna, I still don't even understand what he gets out of this half the time. He's just so… open and I'm… not. When I heard your conversation, it just… it felt like the other shoe had dropped. That I was finally getting what I deserved after what I put him through." I didn't mention the part about him wanting children so, so badly. It felt too private to share.

"Yeah, well, you gotta get over that if you want this to work out. Next time, you barge into the living room and you ask him what the hell is going on, point blank, no accusations. And then he'll tell you he can't tell you, because I told him not to and he's one of maybe three decent people left in the world and I'll pitch a fit because I don't want you to know yet, but I don't want him to be all self-sacrificing. And then everything will be fine."

"Yeah, that sounds like a perfect situation."

She rolled her eyes. "Look, I know why you instantly assumed what you did. But I don't think you do."

"So tell me then."

"He's your whole world, you idiot!" Johanna cried in exasperation. "Of course you assume that if anyone was going to get down to business with anyone else it'd be with him, because you don't realize it, but you literally cannot imagine another man in existence that anyone would possibly want to be with. And you're so paranoid that you're going to lose everything, which hey, I understand, trust me, that… well… that was that. Done deal. Clearly, he had to be cheating on you because everything you love is going to leave, and he doesn't seem to be dying."

I felt humiliated, which was awful enough on its own, but what's more, I was certain I deserved it. "I don't like feeling like this," I muttered.

"Feeling like what?" she asked? "Embarrassed? Yeah, well, get used to it. I'm pretty certain marriage is just a string of embarrassments, one after another. You're the one who signed up for it."

"No, not just that. The… the part that goes along with what you said. About him being so important."

"What, vulnerable?" she scoffed. "Try having some weird little creature growing inside you, one that you know you're going to end up loving when it comes out, even if you'd theoretically rather get your eyelids stapled together. I don't even like babies. Speaking of which, how's Nicky?"

There it was, described in the crudest possible language. Basically the reason that I would never, ever have children. Loving Peeta made me vulnerable enough.

Plus, she mentioned it outright, so I could finally ask, "So… it was an accident then?"

"Not an accident. It was Thirteen. They told him they gave him a five year shot. Standard procedure for young officers. Course, they wanted him to knock up one of their own – figured he would hook up with one eventually, handsome guy like him, boring place like that. It was their way of insuring he'd stick around, and as a side benefit, they'd get a nice injection of new, robust genetic material. He just happened to be a bit distracted during the war, and then when it was over, they neglected to mention that the shot was a dud."

"Oh." I didn't ask how they worked themselves up to the point where birth control would matter. It had been two years, after all. Anything could happen in that time. I was curious, and maybe if I could just pretend it was someone else, not Gale, I could have managed alright, but Johanna seemed aware of the fact that I wasn't prepared to handle this information, and she didn't offer any details.

"Yeah. Oh."

"And he knows now?" I asked.

She chuckled, "Yeah. He knows. We're coming into Twelve in two weeks so he can tell his mother."

"Two weeks?"

"Yeah, Katniss. He wants to talk to you, if you'll listen."

"I don't know about that…" I began.

Johanna stood up and the camera focused on her slightly rounded belly, "Yeah, well, I don't care what you know. I think you two have some unfinished business, and I'd rather have my kid born without that hanging over his head."

"That's a pretty selfish way to put it," I responded bitterly.

"Oh? How's that feeling working out? Maybe you should remember it the next time you pointlessly accuse the one person who unconditionally loves you of stabbing you in the back. Oh, and when you're so focused on your own shit that you ignore the fact that your…" she paused, trying to find the right word to describe our relationship, and it hurt a bit that she couldn't come up with anything better than, "your old roommate is maybe not in the best place ever."

The screen went black.

I guess that meant the conversation was over. That had been thirteen days ago.

They're coming tomorrow.

"Peeta, I don't want to talk about this," I push my chair away from the table and begin to storm out the back door, leaving the meal he's cooked for me. Just before I'm out, he catches up to me, grabbing my wrist and not letting go.

"Katniss, I'm sorry, and normally I don't push you, you know that, but I can't help but think that this would be good for you. You've been screaming his name in your sleep."

He sounds weary, and I notice the dark circles under his eyes, realizing, not for the first time, that these past two weeks haven't just been difficult on me. My nightmares have been full of blonde braids and explosions and Gale making speeches with President Coin's voice, and I guess there was no hiding that from the person who wakes me from them every few hours.

"It's not like that," I begin to say, trying, for what seems like the thousandth time, to convince him without the proper tools that what I am feeling is not because of some latent longing for Gale or regret over our marriage. Why doesn't he get this yet? What can I do to make him get this? Maybe if I actually had the words to talk about it.

He pulls me forward by my wrist and wraps his arms around me. I find myself falling into his solid, steady warmth, despite the fact that he's trying to make me talk about something I don't want to discuss. What he says next surprises me, probably because of how guilty I still feel over the day before – when I said the pregnancy bothered me. I guess after speaking with my mother, it bothers me less, but something still wrings at my heart whenever I think about it. I know it's not really jealousy nearly so much, though. It's something else. Something worse.

It's Prim.

"I know, Katniss. I do. I trust you, okay? But this is eating you up inside. This isn't the two of you growing apart after a tragedy. Something about what happened is ripping you to pieces the longer you keep it in, and the only person you can talk to about it is Gale. I can't help you. I can't make this better, or even just help you ride it out. It's getting worse."

"Of course it's getting worse. He's coming here. I'll be better once he leaves."

"Katniss, our dear friend is carrying his child, his entire family lives next-door, and the way things are going with his career this early in his life, I wouldn't be surprised if he ended up president. He's not just going away forever after this."

I lean into him heavily and he strokes my hair, "Why can't he just disappear?"

He laughs unexpectedly, "If it were possible to make Gale Hawthorne disappear by sheer force of will, I would have figured it out about five years ago." We are quiet at this. I realize once again, just how good of a man Peeta really is. How quickly he pushes aside any issues he might have in order to do what he thinks will help me heal.

"You really think I should talk to him?"

"I do."

"I'm still angry at you," I murmur, pressing my face into his arm, which he tightens around me.

"You're getting a lot better at it. I don't feel like I'm going to be eviscerated," he jokes, and then leads me to the door, "Why don't you go take a little walk? Clear your head. When you come back, dessert will be ready. You don't even have to finish your dinner," he winks.

I walk out of the door without a word. Without his soothing presence, the anger I feel bursts into a roaring inferno. I need to talk to someone, someone who understands that certain things are just not forgivable. Before I realize what I'm doing, I'm at his door.

"He killed her, Haymitch," I spit out the instant I burst into his house, sick of dancing around the issue any longer. My mentor is sitting at his kitchen table, playing a game of chess against himself. He's sober. This must be Peeta's doing. He must have known I would have come here. The thought is somehow irritating and endearing all at the same time. "He killed her and I'm supposed to talk to him."

"Just like Peeta killed Mitchell?" Haymitch asks calmly, taking his own pawn. "Well, actually, no. Gale wasn't physically involved in her death in any way, unlike your mild-mannered husband, who threw a man into a ball of razor wire that ripped him to pieces."

Of course he would be like this, trying to make comparisons that don't work, and using unfair examples and brutal to prove his point. I don't know why I came here at all. "He didn't kill him! The Capitol made him into a weapon! He wasn't even the same person!"

Haymitch frowns at the chessboard, and then takes his own knight. "Course you're right. But maybe if you had paid a little more attention in Thirteen you would have seen just what Coin was doing to your "cousin." She wanted a weapon of her own. Kid didn't have a clue what was going on," he takes his own rook.

"He killed Prim."

"Mitchell's wife had just given birth to their second kid back in Thirteen. Was one of the few who could still have 'em. Maddie and Kirk, their names are, I think."

"Peeta didn't kill Mitchell!" I scream. "It was the Capitol!"

"Gale didn't kill Primrose, sweetheart. President Coin did, and you took care of her after that. Whatever Hawthorne is or was, he would have stepped in front of that bomb in a second if he'd known. But he didn't, and not only did he lose the woman he loved over it, or well... maybe not over it - frankly, I don't think you two would have worked out very well," he took another one of his own pawns. "Anyway I don't think living with the loss of your pleasant company is quite as bad as living with the knowledge that his weapon killed, I dunno, like three hundred children. That's twelve and a half Hunger Games. Not to mention the irony of who one of them just happened to be."

"It was ruthless. It was a horrible, brutal weapon, and he invented it," I feel dizzy and sick.

"And I imagine he hasn't slept in about two years."

"He doesn't deserve to be happy," I whisper, thinking about the child that he will soon have.

"No one ever said he was."

Haymitch took his own queen.

"Checkmate."

I come home to Peeta, refusing his offer of gooey, freshly-baked chocolate-chip cookies, and just cling to him as we stand in the dark kitchen.

"I love you," I say over and over into his neck, not even giving him a chance to respond. He just holds me, and strokes my back. Finally, after a long time, I look up into his eyes.

"I'll talk to him. But I can't promise I won't break his nose."

"Fair enough," he says seriously.

We go to bed, leaving the cookies for breakfast.

We're married. We can do whatever we want.