One foot in front of the other. Left, right, left right. She heard the sound of a snapping tree branch, and turned to look, losing her footing in the process. The slick sheet of ice that covered the forest floor was less than forgiving, and she tumbled backwards. Johanna barely managed to stop her fall. "I thought we were out here so you could teach me to hunt, not so that I could teach you how to walk."
Katniss snorted and lifted herself up, brushing off the fine layer of snow that had settled on her hair and coat. "And with an attitude like that, you can go without those hunting lessons."
"You seem to think that you can say no to me." Johanna smirked as she spoke. "Really, though, Katniss, are you all right? You didn't get hurt?"
"No, I'm fine. Don't go soft on me, Mason. You haven't broken me yet." Katniss grinned and gently shoved her partner.
Johanna did an almost comical dance on the ice as she struggled to find her footing. "You'll pay for that one, Everdeen," she said. The other woman scooped up a handful of snow, formed it into a perfect ball shape, and launched it at Katniss, who somehow managed to dodge the projectile.
"You're going to have to do better than that," she taunted, and she sent a snowball of her own hurling towards Johanna. Hers connected, leaving an imprint in Johanna's coat where it hit. Johanna would not accept defeat, and instead took this as more of a challenge. The hunting lesson forgotten, they pounded each other with snowballs for almost an hour, both rosy-cheeked and breathless with exertion. Sensing that the fight was coming to a close, Katniss grabbed a final snowball and tossed it lazily towards Johanna. She wouldn't let her lover score the last blow.
Johanna grunted as the snowball hit her arm. "You fiendish knave!" she shouted in an imitation of the former queen's accent, "You've wounded me!"
Katniss laughed. "Jo, that's a terrible accent."
"Peasant! Who gave you any right to criticize what I say?"
"Come on, Jo, are we going to do these lessons or not?" Katniss enjoyed these silly moments alone with her friend, but if Johanna was serious about wanting to learn how to hunt, they needed to start before it got much darker. It wasn't safe to be out in the woods alone at night.
"Yes, of course I want the lessons. Do you think I would lure you outside the castle on false pretences?" Katniss stared at her with a single eyebrow raised in incredulity. Johanna grinned and continued, "Maybe under some circumstances I would, but not today. Weren't you going to show me how to shoot, Everdeen?"
Katniss shook her head. How had she fallen in love with this impossible woman?
By the end of the evening, Johanna could hit the target almost half the time. Katniss knew there was a reason she liked her.
Johanna cleared her throat. She'd never been so nervous. When she and Finnick had talked about this, the man had made it seem so easy. Get down on one knee, say four words, and she'll fall into your arms. Simple as that. But, somehow, this was bloody difficult. Every time she tried to speak, her throat seemed to swell up like a toad's. That's exactly the mental image you need: you as a toad. Very romantic. Johanna cursed her brain, wishing it would just be quiet so she could get on with this. The rational side of her doubted Katniss would say no; when they'd talked about this before, it had always been a matter of when, not if. But the rest of her was terrified. What if Katniss did reject her? It didn't seem likely, but Johanna didn't know what she'd do without the other woman.
She took a long sip of the hot tea, enjoying the coils of warmth it sent through her body as it slid down her throat. With one final deep breath, she was ready. "So, Katniss, you know how I called you a peasant earlier?" Damn it, Johanna. That wasn't what you were going to say. Remember, you had that sonnet picked out. I wouldn't blame her if she said no now.
"Yes, I do," Katniss smiled. "Would you like to insult me again?"
Johanna was too nervous to respond to that. She needed to get this question out now before it burned its own way out. "How would you like to not be a peasant anymore?"
Her lover broke down in peals of giggles. "Johanna, that was the least romantic proposal ever!" Katniss said in between bursts of laughter. "How would I like to not be a peasant anymore? Really?"
There you have it, Mason. You scared her away.
"Of course I will, Jo. I love you." Wait, what? Did you hear that wrong? Apparently not, because Katniss had pushed their lips together and wrapped Johanna up in her arms. She sighed into the kiss, tightening her hold on her new fiancée. They stayed like that for several minutes, neither wanting to be the first one to break the embrace. Finally, Katniss pulled away and rested her head on Johanna's shoulder. "So, do you want a chance to redo that?" she asked.
"Redo?" Johanna scrunched her nose in disgust. "I don't think you understand just how traumatizing that was, brainless. There's no way I'm doing that again."
"We'll just have to tell our children about how their mother couldn't think up a good way to ask their other mother to marry her."
"It worked, didn't it?" Usually, she'd be defensive by now, but she was so happy right now that nothing could bring her down. "Anyway, you'll have years to think up a better story."
Katniss grinned up at her. "I can't very well argue with that, can I?"
"No. You wouldn't argue with me. I'm your fiancée."
"Of course not." Katniss leaned up for a kiss. "I can think of some other things your fiancée would love to do with you, though. Can you think of anything?"
If it was possible, Johanna's grin widened even further. "I think you'll find, Miss Everdeen, that I have quite the imagination."
"And someday, you and I will walk down to the lake together and fish. I'll find a nice, gentle pony for you when you get big enough, and we'll ride together and explore the forest." Hearing her husband talk to Ronan, Annie's face lit up in a smile. Fatherhood was suiting Finnick well; though his duties as king kept him busy for much of the day, every spare instant he could snatch he spent with their now nine-day-old son. He held Ronan and talked to him and was perfectly content to help with changing the baby and lulling him back to sleep in the middle of the night, tasks Enobaria still saw as beneath him.
Finished, she set down her hairbrush and walked back into their bedroom. Finnick was standing in the center of the room holding Ronan, the two of them wearing identical looks of adoration. Annie grabbed her dressing gown from the bed and slipped it over her nightgown before she hugged Finnick from behind. "Hello, beautiful," he said.
Annie kissed his shoulder and leaned into his back. "He looks like you, you know," she said, nodding towards their baby.
"You think so?" Finnick smiled down at the child, who was sucking on his thumb. "I suppose our eyes are the same."
"And the lips and cheeks as well. Also, I was never redheaded, but I'm somehow guessing you were." She reached up to examine a lock of Finnick's bronze hair. Though the color now was more brown than anything else, she could still make out hints of red.
Finnick's shoulders shifted as he tightened his grip on Ronan. "I was. So was my father. You, boy, come from a long line of once-redheaded men." He bounced the baby in his arms, and Ronan gave him a toothless grin.
"You do realize that he can't understand anything you say, right?" Annie asked.
He turned to look at her. "Of course he can. Ronan's an incredibly advanced young man."
She rolled her eyes. "Yes, but he is also less than two weeks old. He can't quite understand speech yet."
"I suppose you'll say that I need to wait until he's at least two and a half weeks old for that," Finnick teased.
Annie laughed, and Ronan began to fuss in his father's arms. "I think that's the 'I'm hungry' cry. Can I have him?" She scooped the baby away from Finnick and went to sit down.
Her husband followed her over to the chair and helped her remove her dressing gown so Ronan could nurse. The sensation was strange and a bit uncomfortable, but Annie had quickly come to treasure this time alone with her husband and child. She and Finnick talked and cuddled, making up for the time together they'd been lacking since the coronation.
Tonight, they just sat together, Ronan's sucking the only sound in the room. Finnick broke the silence. "He's incredible, Annie, and I can't thank you enough for him."
"I believe we both had something to do with this," she said.
Finnick grinned and kissed her cheek. "Yes, but you did the hard bits." He looked down at Ronan before meeting Annie's eyes again. "I never knew I could be so happy."
Annie nodded. "I know. I didn't realize just how much love I was capable of until I held Ronan for the first time. I don't think there are words for how much the two of you have enriched my life. I love you, Finnick."
"I love you too." Their lips met, and in that moment, Annie's world was as perfect as it had ever been.
A/N: Thank you so much for reading/bearing with me through thirty-seven chapters, fifty thousand words, and the entirety of When The Clock Strikes Midnight! Extra thanks to everyone who reviewed, favorite, or followed – it's amazing to see what people think of my writing, and I'm so glad that you enjoyed the story. There have been some questions in the reviews about possible sequels or other AU Odesta pieces, and though I doubt I'll ever write a 'proper' sequel to this work, I may write a few oneshots or short multichapters that take place in this universe. I also have a historical Odesta AU that I'm planning out, so keep an eye out for that if you're interested. Thanks again to everyone for reading, and until next time,
EDIT 12/13/2014: I have two short multichapter fics that occur in-universe posted. Daughter of Triton follows Mags's journey to becoming a sorceress, and Un Ballo in Maschera is just a short, sweet, lemony Odesta story that occurs after the events of this story.