It all started with a slip of the tongue, at least according to Peeta. But that seemed suspect to Katniss, for her normally golden-tongued husband always seemed to have the perfect words for every situation. That was one thing she admired so much about him, his ability with words. He didn’t really say things by accident, either; there was always some purpose, truth behind his words. And that’s why it hurt so badly.
When the incident occurred, the previous day, they’d been chatting with their friends, Finnick and Annie Odair, about Peeta’s upcoming birthday, his 22nd. Finnick had opened his big mouth and asked what romantic thing Katniss had in store for his birthday with a wink and a nudge to Peeta’s ribs. And Peeta–her husband‒actually said: “Katniss doesn’t do romance.”
What? How could Peeta say something like that? She still couldn’t believe it. He thought she didn’t ‘do romance.’
Well, that had done it. She’d stormed off to their bedroom, despite having guests, and she’d shut and locked the door on him. Peeta had knocked, but she’d refused to let him in, and so he’d talked through the door, explaining that he didn’t mean she wasn’t romantic but that she just showed her love in a different way, not with sweeping romantic gestures but with care and devotion. He’d went on to say that the way she expressed her love was ‘perfect’ for him.
And damn it all if she hadn’t wanted to throw open that door and leap into his arms. But she’d remained steadfast. She needed to punish him a little. And so, she made him sleep on the couch for the night, and was considering doing so the next night, too, depending on how she felt in the morning. Of course, it was just as much punishment for her, not sleeping in Peeta’s arms, and she ended up crying herself to sleep.
The next day, Katniss felt slightly better, although she continued freezing Peeta out. As for him, he was sucking up hardcore: He made a special breakfast, left little love notes all around the house (ugh, this wasn’t about him showing his romantic side, which was unquestionable), and of course, apologizing about a thousand times.
She still wasn’t ready to forgive him, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t planning on celebrating his birthday with him in two days, whether he deserved it or not. And on that note, she devised a plan‒to show Peeta just how romantic she could be.
Katniss’s plan would kill two birds with one stone; she’d be doing something sweet and thoughtful for her husband’s birthday, and she’d be getting back at him for calling her unromantic. She asked no one for help, because this needed to come from her. And what she landed on was booking a romantic weekend for him at a luxury ski resort in the mountains.
“Who can’t do romance, Peeta?” She’d chuckled to herself when she came up with the idea.
The rate was much higher, due to being last minute, but that didn’t matter. It was for Peeta. And yes, she loved her husband like crazy, even when she wanted to smack his smart mouth.
The lodge was called Twelve Pines Lodge. With its pristine slopes, world-class restaurant, personal cabins, and beautiful views, it was supposed to be one of the world’s top romantic destinations. And although she’d go to the ends of the earth for Peeta, it was nice that it was less than 20 miles away from their home.
Peeta’s birthday arrived, January 13th.
Even though Katniss was no good at secrets‒everyone always seemed to know hers before she knew them herself‒she managed to trick Peeta. The night before, she’d packed his overnight bag and hers and thrown them in the back of their deep forest green mini SUV, covering them with one of Peeta’s painting tarps.
Early this morning, Katniss asked Peeta to go to the store with her. He agreed but started getting suspicious when she passed by the store they always went to and headed out of town.
“Uh, sweetheart, where are we going?” he asked from the passenger seat.
“You’ll see,” smirked Katniss.
“You’re not planning on shooting me with your bow and arrow and leaving me for dead somewhere, are you?”
Katniss side-eyed him. “Don’t tempt me.”
Peeta chuckled. “And what’s in the back? What’s underneath my painting tarp?”
“Why do you ask so many questions, Peeta?” Katniss scoffed. “Can’t we just take a drive together?”
Peeta’s lips curled up. “Sure. I’d go anywhere with you,” he said sappily, reaching over the console to take the hand she’d rested on her leg. He brought it to his lips and kissed the knuckle.
“Oh, don’t start that now,” snipped Katniss. “I’m still mad at you.”
Peeta sighed. “For how long are you going to be mad at me?” He sounded like a little kid. She half-expected him to ask when they’d be there yet next. And against her will, Katniss’s lips tilted.
“Just a little while longer.” She’d promised herself she’d let go of all of her anger the moment they reached the lodge. And then it would be nothing but romance, romance, romance. Take that, Peeta.
But Peeta had other ideas. Shifting in his seat, still with a hold of her hand, he began placing kisses along each fingertip. Katniss felt a tingle, and she had to refrain from shutting her eyes and sinking into the sensation. Even after nearly three years of marriage, and an additional five together, he still invoked powerful feelings in her.
“Peeta, stop.” She jerked her hand back. “You’re gonna make me wreck.”
Peeta reluctantly let go. “Sorry.”
From the driver’s seat, Katniss looked out ahead, smiling faintly. She didn’t really mind him showering attention on her like this, not like he didn’t normally, but guilty Peeta turned into such a puppy. And she wasn’t hating it.
“You know I didn’t mean what I said,” began Peeta after a moment, fidgeting with his hands. She could feel his eyes boring into the side of her head. “It was stupid. I was stupid. You do a lot of romantic things for me.”
“Not as many as you do for me…” Her words trailed off.
“It’s not a contest, Katniss; it’s a partnership. And I beg to differ.”
Katniss was suddenly thinking back over the relationship, struggling to recall what she’d ever really done for him…
He’d been her best friend since the age of 11, and they fell in love at 14. Well, she did. Peeta said it was love at first sight for him, and while she couldn’t claim that, herself, and it actually took her a while to figure out what he was to her, he was special from the start, unparalleled by any other guy she’d ever known. Something deep inside her, from the beginning, yearned to be by his side and told her never to let him go.
Few thought they would last. It didn’t matter how madly in love everyone knew they were; they were 19, and a pair of teenagers getting married is bound for disaster, right? But their closest friends could see they were meant to be.
What Katniss hated, though, was when some people suggested that they’d only last because Peeta would never let her go, apparently, no matter how awful she was to him. Not that anyone actually came out and said she was awful to him, but there were hints…
Perhaps that’s why she’d taken Peeta’s comment to heart‒because deep down, she felt like she didn’t deserve him.
A silence passed over them in the car, but Peeta laced their fingers and rested her hand on his leg, and she let him hold it until she needed it again. After 5 or 10 minutes, she heard him speak her name. And he asked her to sing.
Katniss smiled to herself. Peeta had always enjoyed her singing, even said it was one of the things that made him fall in love with her. He’d said he already thought she was the prettiest girl he’d ever seen, but when he heard her angelic voice, he was a goner. Upon recollection, she was a goner for him when he gave up his lunch for her…
That day, back in kindergarten, she’d forgotten her lunch money, and she didn’t want to ask to charge it. She hated owing people, even back then. Peeta must have seen because he came over to her side of the table with his tray‒he never sat on her side, had never even spoken to her, although she frequently caught him looking at her‒and he slid his tray down to her. “I don’t like this,” he said, barely above a whisper. “You can have it.” And with that, he’d gotten up and went back to his usual spot, far away, but in clear eyeshot of her.
Katniss knew why he gave her his lunch, but she didn’t known why he’d never talked to her before. She was reluctant to accept charity, especially from this boy who never even talked to her, but she didn’t want the meal to go to waste, and so she ate it while surreptitiously glancing at him. He was doing so, too, while talking to his friends, she noticed. It was like a game, back and forth, neither of them maintaining eye contact when the other looked.
This kind of thing went on for years.
Ever since that day, Katniss knew she should thank Peeta for his generosity, but she couldn’t bring herself to approach him. Whenever she got close, her cheeks began to burn; her legs began to quiver, and her heart raced, and she ended up having to scurry away from him every time.
Eventually, when they were 11, Peeta talked to her again, probably because they were partnered up on an activity, but it sort of broke the ice. She realized that he was easy and fun to talk to and spend time with, so she pushed aside her embarrassment over the lunch and whatever weird feelings he gave her, and she became his friend.
Katniss finished her song for Peeta just as they arrived at the lodge. Peeta’s mouth dropped open the moment he saw the place. Hers did, too, actually. Pictures didn’t do it justice.
“Wow,” Peeta breathed, leaning forward in his seat to get a better look. “This is…incredible, Katniss.”
Katniss slumped back, smiling and crossing her arms in satisfaction. He turned to look at her, a wide grin splitting his face.
“Did you do this for me?”
“Of course. Prepare yourself for the most romantic weekend you’ve ever had, Peeta Mellark. Happy Birthday.”
Biting his lip, Peeta shook his head. “You’re something else. Come here,” he demanded, already reaching out for her. She leaned over slightly to meet him in the middle, and he took her cheeks in his hands and planted a firm kiss on her mouth.
But Peeta never stopped at one kiss.
Peeta leaned further over the console, covering her with his large body. Wrapping one arm around her shoulders and the other around her waist, he buried his face in her hair. He tilted his head to nuzzle her neck and began placing hot, wet kisses along the length of it.
“Peeta,” she squealed as he nipped her behind the ear, “there are people walking around everywhere…”
He pulled back slightly and stared down into her eyes. “I don’t care.” He blinked. “But I’ll stop if you want me to.”
Katniss sucked in a breath. “I don’t want you to,” she replied in a low whisper, running her hands across his broad chest. He kissed her deeply, then pulled back to check once more. “But…,” she began shakily, “I think you should save some for the room. Wait til you see it…”
“Can’t wait!” He grinned and pecked her nose. “Let’s go!”
Katniss had rented out a small cabin for them at the lodge‒much more private than being in the hotel. This way, if they wanted to stay inside the entire time together, they could. She’d leave it all up to Peeta. He was the birthday boy, after all.
After checking in and being given their key, they headed over to their small, secluded accommodations hand-in-hand. A snow-topped log cabin flanked by large evergreens greeted them down the path, and they had to stop a moment to stare up at it in awe.
As they stepped over the threshold, Peeta scooped her up in his arms. Katniss giggled as she wrapped her arms around his neck to hold on. “Peeta, what are you doing? This is your birthday weekend, not our honeymoon.”
“I know,” he said, nuzzling her nose. “But I kinda view it as a second honeymoon, too.”
“Okay, but I’m supposed to be the one romancing you here,” she argued. Peeta just laughed.
“You allowing me to do these kinds of things is romantic to me.”
“Okay.” She rolled her eyes a little, but she was grinning.
Peeta set Katniss on her feet, and they took a look around their cabin. It was quaint, but perfect. There was a wooden, four poster king-sized bed, a stone fireplace with a cozy sheepskin rug in front of it, and not to mention, a breathtaking view of Mount Victor out their window. And oh…was that?…yes, it was!‒a hot tub in the middle of the sunken-in living room area.
They breathed a collective “Wow,” hardly knowing what to do first.
Peeta turned to her, grinning. “Let’s try out the bed!”
Katniss laughed. He just wanted to jump right into things, didn’t he? Fine by her.
Peeta tugged her over by the hand, and they ended up collapsing in a heap on the bed. It was soft and springy, and they couldn’t resist bouncing on it on their knees. They were still like a pair of kids in some ways, except, well, they kissed and did other things, a lot.
They ended up facing each other on their sides, and Peeta drew her in close.
“You like it?” she whispered.
“I love it,” he whispered back, touching his forehead to hers. “But I love you more.”
“Peeta,” Katniss groaned. “I told you…”
“I know, I know,” Peeta laughed. “You’re supposed to be the romantic one this weekend. Am I supposed to be a total jackass, then?” He was being his usual sassy self, of course.
Katniss shook her head. “No, but just…” She stopped herself, because she realized she shouldn’t try and change the way Peeta was. He was tender and caring and as sickeningly sweet as sleep syrup at times, and she loved him for it. And who cared if he was more apt to say romantic things and make a big to-do than her? She loved him more than her own life, just as much as he loved her, and that was all that really mattered. “Just be yourself, Peeta. The man and the boy I fell in love with.”
She kissed him then and buried her fingers in the short hairs at his nape, and Peeta responded eagerly.
After a lengthy makeout/touching session turned romp, they lay back together. Peeta’s eyes flitted to a brochure on the nightstand, and he grabbed it. Arms wrapped around Katniss, her head nestled against his bare chest, they looked through the brochure together.
“Hey, we should go skiing,” Peeta suggested.
“Whatever you want.” Katniss smiled.
“I just hope neither of us break a leg.”
Katniss smacked his chest lightly. “Well, I guess that’s always a danger when you go skiing, but if you do, I’ll take care of you.”
“Thanks, Katniss. Thanks for saying you’ll take care of me. I know you will. I’d take care of you, too.” He pressed a kiss to her forehead. “Oh, and by the way, that jerk who said you didn’t do romance, he’s gone now, and he won’t be back.”
Katniss smirked. “Good to know. So, do you want to get dressed and try skiing?”
Peeta shook his head. “Tomorrow. It’s so cold out there,” he gave an overexaggerated shiver and hugged her tighter, “and right now, I just want to cuddle up with my wife in my arms on my birthday.”
Katniss loved the idea.
They ordered room service for dinner, and after, they sat curled up together on the rug by the fire, sipping hot chocolates and munching on cookies. They made love by the fire, then again in the bed. And before going to sleep, Katniss gave Peeta his birthday gifts: a set of paints and a scrapbook she’d made of their childhood memories through now.
Peeta couldn’t have been happier.
The next morning, after a breakfast-in-bed of waffles, fruit, breads, pastries with butter and jam, and mimosas, they made love twice, once in the shower, and then dressed to go skiing.
Atop the bunny slope of Mount Victor, the two lovers stood side-by-side on their skis, holding hands as best they could in those thick gloves.
“Together?” asked Peeta.
“Together,” replied Katniss. And they took a deep collective breath and pushed off.