Cato left Hera's house around mid-afternoon, and returned a few hours later with all of the necessary items to recreate the sundae she'd eaten back at the Training Center before her games. He arranged it all in a big bowl and added a handful of maraschino cherries to the top of it, and then he sat across from her at the table, staring at her mouth as she brought the spoon to her lips.

"D'you wanna share?" she asked.

"No," he said simply.

She squirmed uncomfortably in her chair. "Are you just gonna sit there and watch me eat this?"

"Yes."

"Ok…" She looked puzzled.

So he laughed and told her how much it had turned him on when he watched her eat her first sundae at the training center. "That's why I said the awful things I said that night," he told her. "I didn't know how to handle it."

"What else haven't you told me?" She was blushing, but she was smiling too.

"That I used to have to get myself off every morning right before we started training so I wouldn't get hard."

Her eyes went wide. "Really?"

"Really. And I loved you in those red heels."

"But you said-"

"In case you haven't figured it out by now I lied about a lot of things," he said, and proceeded to tell her about the first time he'd called another woman by her name.

"You thought about me that early on?!" Hera said in disbelief when he'd finished the story.

"Yeah," he laughed. "Pictured you right there on her kitchen counter. With nothing but those red heels on."

Hera squirmed again in her seat, but this time for a different reason. Not now Hera she told herself. Store this up for later use. "God, I just can't wrap my brain around it. You seemed like you hated me so much. When did you fa..." But she trailed off, as she realized he'd never said the words out loud to her; she was simply making an assumption.

But he finished her question for her. "Fall in love with you? Is that what you're asking? When did I fall in love with you?"

"Yeah."

"Not sure exactly. It happened gradually over weeks. I realized it for the first time when I saw the interview with that Dean guy."

She looked confused. "But that night you...you know...about my dad…"

"I know," he said. "It was jealousy and my own shit and not wanting to be in love with you. You know, trying to push you away and convince myself I wasn't. Which didn't work at all. It backfired, actually, because right afterward, I gave up and accepted it as fact. That I loved you and that you were more important to me than anything else in the world. But I think I'd felt that way for a while. Subconsciously I'd already chosen you over Clay. I'd already taken the video and come up with my plan to get you sponsors even though I kept telling myself I wasn't really going to go through with it."

She looked like she felt guilty about something. "What's wrong?" he asked.

"Nothing." She shook her head. "It's just that I didn't feel that way about you at all. I mean, I could see that something was wrong and that you weren't really who everyone thought you were, or who you thought you were for that matter. And I wanted to help you. But I didn't love you. I didn't even like you."

"Well why would you have? After all the shit I put you through?" He laughed. "I'm amazed you like me now. When did you start to like me?"

"That night on the train in 7. When I came to thank you for dealing with my father. I'm not sure when I started to love you."

"You love me?" he asked, his voice full of awe.

"Yeah...did you think I didn't?"

But she never got an answer from him because he snatched her up into his arms and kissed her so hard it almost hurt, and by the time they remembered the ice cream sundae it had melted into soup.

"That's twice now," she said afterward, her voice teasingly stern. "That you've gotten in the way of me enjoying my ice cream."

He untangled his sweaty limbs from hers and crawled out from under the table to retrieve the bowl. "I'm sorry," he said as he ducked back under. "But the cherries are still good." And he fed them to her, one by one.

xxxxxxxxxx

They spent the entire next week hibernating under the thick down comforter Lila had picked out for Hera right after the games, alternating between sleeping in each other's arms and mating like animals in heat, barely rising from the bed except to feed and bathe each other.

Sometimes they were soft and sweet and gentle, and sometimes they were passionate and breathless, but Cato was never demanding or rough-at first.

Hera, however, could be quite bossy in bed. He didn't mind though. If anything, it turned him on even more. "Yes, ma'am," he'd say when she told him to do something faster or harder or to use his mouth instead of his hands.

Together they learned that if she lay flat on her stomach on the bed and he laid right on top of her, he hit just the right spot at just the right angle and it almost made her sob it felt so good. "Do it again," she'd beg afterward, but he'd roll off of her and throw his arm over his face, complaining that she was wearing him out and that he needed to rest.

"I never in a million years thought this would happen to me," he laughed. "That one woman could sap me dry."

xxxxxxxxxx

One afternoon, they woke from a post-coital nap to someone pounding on the front door, and Hera peeked out her bedroom window to see Johanna on her front landing.

She couldn't find any clothes nearby, because, well, she hadn't really worn any for the past week, so she pattered down the stairs naked, snatched the blanket off the back of the couch and wrapped herself up in it before she answered the door.

"Oh, so nice of you to get up off your back for the first time in god knows how many days so you could come let me in. I called you like six times yesterday," Johanna said, brushing past her and into the hallway.

"I haven't spent the entire time on my back," Hera protested as she shut the door with a shiver.

"Oh. Ok. I see. You're one of those who likes to take it from behind. Let me amend that. So nice of you to get up off your hands and knees to come let me in. I came to see if you wanted to go get lunch sometime in the next couple of days," she said, ignoring Hera's death glare.

Hera looked outside at the snow blowing across the sidewalk. "But it's so cold," she whined. "And Cato's so-"

"Well-hung?"

"Well I was gonna say warm, but yes, that too."

"Maybe your vagina could use a break. Just long enough to get lunch tomorrow."

xxxxxxxxxx

They went to a fancy little bistro a couple of blocks away and got a private room so they could talk without anyone hearing them.

Hera marveled at it. "We don't really even have restaurants in 5," she said to Johanna, "let alone ones with private rooms."

Johanna snorted. "For the cost of the food they better have private rooms. They should really give out happy endings too."

"God you're so crass!"

"You little hypocrite. You've spent the past week serving as Cato Hadley's personal whore."

"Actually I would argue it's the other way around," Hera corrected.

"Really?" Johanna leaned across the table conspiratorially. "What's it like? Tell me everything."

Hera giggled. "He likes it when I tell him what to do. He's very good at following directions."

"I would not have pictured that. Is he good with his mouth?"

"Mmmm. Mmmm-hmmm," she sighed, and stared off dreamily at the wall behind Johanna.

"Alright, alright, snap out of it girlie or you'll soak the cushion. God. Cato Hadley, pussy-whipped. I can't believe it."

"He makes breakfast too. Every morning."

"Shut up! No way!"

"Mm-hmm. And he gives foot massages and scalp massages and back massages." She sighed again.

"I wish he had a twin brother."

"Me too. Could you imagine having two of them?"

"Oh my god!" Johanna was actually shocked. "Now who's being crass? And selfish, for that matter."

The waiter appeared with their crab legs and Johanna leaned back in her chair.

Hera scrunched up her nose. "It smells fishy."

"That's because it's seafood genius. And don't knock it til you try it."

The waiter refilled their wine glasses, and when they were left alone again, Johanna showed her how to crack the shell and dip the pieces of meat in melted butter. Hera almost died from the sheer ecstasy of it. "It's so rich!" she exclaimed. "And it's so good with the wine!"

"So which do you like better...crab legs or getting eaten out by Cato?"

Hera thought about it for a few seconds. "Eating crab legs while getting eaten out by Cato."

"Ok, a, that's cheating, and b, you really are crass. Like maybe more crass than me."

"You're the one who asked the question."

xxxxxxxxxx

That evening, Hera and Cato turned on the tv only to discover that it had gotten out that the two of them were a thing and now all of Panem was obsessed with them.

The commentators played all of the footage they could find of the two of them together, analyzing every little detail, every look, every word they spoke to one another.

"Oh no!" Hera groaned.

But Cato just laughed. "It was bound to happen sooner or later."

"I guess," Hera sighed. "What do we do about it?"

"What do you mean what do we do about it? There's nothing to do."

"Don't you think they'll be mad at you in 2?"

"I thought we'd already established that I don't give a rat's ass what they think," he snapped. "It's my fucking life. Not theirs."

"Cato.." Hera said mournfully. She hadn't seen this side of him since...she couldn't remember when. It had been weeks, maybe even months.

He turned to look at her and his face softened. He brought his hand to her face and stroked her cheekbone with his thumb. "Listen, baby," he said, his voice gentle. "You let me worry about that, ok? Besides aren't you worried they'll be mad at you in 7?"

"No. They're grateful to you. You saved my life."

"You saved your own life."

"We both saved my life," she compromised. "But now I'm curious, who do you think would have won if we'd been pitted against each other?"

"I meant what I said during your post-games interview. I'd have been fucked if you had a knife."

"But if I didn't? Then you think you would have won?" she challenged.

"Come on, Her. I could snap your neck with one hand."

"Is that a fact?" She rose from the couch and made her way to the center of the room. "You may be ten times stronger than me, but it won't do any good if you can't catch me, and I'm very slippery," she drawled.

He rose slowly. "You sure you wanna do this?"

"Oh I'm sure."

The second the words were out of her mouth, he pounced and she found herself flat on her back as he pinned her to the ground. He laughed like a little kid and sat back on his heels, raising his arms triumphantly into the air. He was actually gloating, and she marveled at just how dense he could be sometimes.

Clearly she needed to be a bit more obvious. She started to stand up slowly, pretending to be miffed, but as he crouched there, still laughing like an idiot, she lunged at him, pressing on his shoulders and taking advantage of his precarious position. He fell onto his back and she straddled his torso, reaching down to inch his t shirt up just enough so she could grind herself on the bare skin of his abdomen.

His eyes went wide as he felt how wet she was through the thin fabric of her shorts. She leaned down over his body, scootching her bottom back into his quickly-growing erection and pressing her chest to his. "I warned you I was slippery," she whispered into his ear.

She immediately found herself on her back again. "Shorts. Off. Now." he said through clenched teeth.

"Mmm yes, sir," she purred, and showed him, to his delight, that she too could be very good at following directions.

xxxxxxxxxx

The next morning, Cato left after breakfast to spend the day with his mom. "I'll be back to cook dinner," he said. "Around 6."

"Bring your mom," Hera said. She'd spent a few afternoons with the older woman after her tour, and the two of them had taken a liking to one another almost immediately. But she hadn't seen her for a few weeks, and she missed her.

"Nah, she's got plans with some of her friends already. Want me to invite her for tomorrow though?"

"Sure."

"What are you gonna do all day?" he asked.

"I promised Lila I'd go shopping with her this afternoon. And I'm gonna bake."

"Sugar cookies?" he asked hopefully.

"Yes. Sugar cookies. But first, I'm gonna pour myself another cup of coffee, and then I'm gonna go upstairs and run a nice, hot bath. And then I'll take off all my clothes and sink into the water and think about you while I touch myself."

Cato glared at her. He was already half-hard. "Tease," he said bitterly.

"You could always come up and wash my back real fast before you go. I have a hard time reaching the middle of it, you know."

As he eyed her, Cato seriously considered it. But he knew how it would end-he'd be late for his engagement with the other important woman in his life, and he didn't want to neglect her. Plus, the mischievous look in Hera's eye told him he'd probably come away from the ordeal with wet clothing.

"I can't," he groaned. "But next time. Next time you take a bath I'm gonna come watch while you touch yourself."

xxxxxxxxxx

Hera felt a little guilty. She'd basically neglected everyone else in her life for the past week.

But Lila was ecstatic. "We have to go lingerie shopping!" her friend exclaimed. "So you can be properly attired for your new...hobby."

"No!" Hera was horrified. "They'll put it on the news!"

Lila shook her head. "We'll go to Luna's. They're known for their discretion. All of the important Capitol women shop there. Besides, Cato will love it."

"Ok," Hera relented.

So they spent the afternoon drinking champagne and picking out lingerie. Hera discovered that she was drawn to delicate pieces, rather than bold, vampy ones. She liked fine, sheer lace and everything she chose was either black or blush-colored, with the exception of a short, cream-colored silk robe and a dark red chemise.

The grandmotherly saleswoman who had helped her smiled knowingly as she wrapped everything up in tissue paper. "We'll have one of our girls drop these off at your house, dear. That way you won't have to walk around with them for the rest of the day."

"Thank you," Hera said with relief. "Five o'clock would be perfect."

They went for lattes afterward and then they browsed through a few more boutiques, but Hera wasn't really interested in buying anything else, so she spent the rest of the time trailing behind Lila and offering her opinion when her friend asked for it.

"So...what you bought today….which one are you gonna wear tonight?" Lila asked as the salesman boxed up a pair of stilettos she'd just picked out.

"I'm not sure," Hera said. But then her eyes fell on a pair of dark red heels and she laughed. "Actually, I think I'll go with something he's already seen."

xxxxxxxxxx

"I'm so happy for you two!" Cato's mother said over lunch. "I was beginning to worry it was never gonna happen."

"I didn't wanna rush her," Cato said. "You know, come on too strong and scare her off."

"Are you taking good care of her?"

"Yes."

"Good. And are you two being careful?"

"Mo-om," he grumbled as his face turned beet red. "This isn't exactly the kind of thing I wanna talk about with you."

"Ok, ok. I'm just saying. I want grandbabies someday, but I'm certainly not in any rush for them, and I don't want you two to get pregnant before you're ready." There was a sad look in her eyes.

Cato reached across the table and covered her hand with his own. "I'm not him," he reassured her. "I won't ever abandon her like he did you."

"I know," she said softly, and reached up to ruffle his hair. "I don't doubt you. But it's good to hear you say it anyway."

"Good. So no more lectures?"

"First of all, I didn't lecture you. I simply asked you if you were being careful. And second, no. I have one more. We need to talk about why you aren't wearing a coat. It's February. You'll catch your death of cold."

"Mo-om!"

xxxxxxxxxx

Cato had forgotten all about Hera and her bath.

The wind picked up and it started to snow again late that afternoon, and his teeth chattered as he made his way back from the grocery store at dusk with a paper bag full of food and a bottle of wine tucked under his arm, rolling his eyes as he admitted to himself that his mother had been right about the coat.

"Hey little buddy," he said when Remy greeted him at the door, and he reached down to scratch the cat behind his ears. "Hera?" he called as he kicked off his boots and pulled his hood down.

"In the kitchen!" she called back.

He shuffled across the wooden floor in his socks and into the kitchen.

"I got stuff to make macaroni and ch-" he cut himself off when he saw her, and he almost lost his hold on the bag.

"Oh-ho, don't drop the wine, whatever you do," she said, her voice low and teasing.

"Oh. my. god." She sat on the marble countertop, her hair in a messy topknot, her feet clad in the heels he loved so much. She wore nothing else, and she was leaning back on her hands. Her thighs were spread, leaving her completely bare and on display.

"Well, are you just gonna stand there with your mouth hanging open or are you gonna put that down and come over here?"

She didn't have to ask twice. He deposited the groceries on the table and practically sprinted over to her.

She grabbed his belt with both hands as he approached and tugged him between her legs, and then she parted his lips with hers and gave his bottom one a firm nip as she undid his belt and zipper.

He moaned into her mouth and she shoved his pants and boxers down just enough to free his erection from its confines.

His hands went to her thighs as she swept her tongue across his, and he ran them appreciatively down her legs, caressing the delicate skin behind her knees and the silk of her calves before wrapping his fingers around each ankle and sliding her closer to the edge of the counter.

She wrapped her legs around him, but stilled his hands as he went to remove his shirt. "Leave it on," she whispered, and something about the idea of her sitting there completely bare to him, apart from the shoes, while he fucked her senseless on that counter with all of his clothes on turned him on even more.

He rested one of his hands on top of her thigh and slid the fingers of the other into the silky hair on the crown of her head and he kissed her passionately.

When he pulled back, she looked up at him through half-closed lids, the color of her eyes especially deep and rich. "Fuck me," she begged. "Please Cato. Please fuck me."

So he let go of her hair and he cupped her ass, a cheek in each hand, and with a firm squeeze and one good thrust, he buried himself inside of her and went to town.