A/N: It's not quite December, but I finished NaNo early, and Geeky had half of this chapter ready weeks (months?) ago, so here you are! Final installment of Peeta's Honeymoon Survival Kit (which has surprisingly little to do with Peeta. Heh). Hope you enjoy!
Part VI - Teh Epilogue
Gale's POV -
Haymitch detaches himself from the dry bar when it finally sinks into his thick skull that Bartel won't even supply him with rubbing alcohol on Effie's orders. His face is screwed up like a well-shaved bear who's been stung on the snout by a bee who didn't like him. And I get the funny feeling that we're in for it as he makes a direct line for the banquet table where Madge and I are seated.
And I'm right. Haymitch drags out a chair next to me that was abandoned by my brother Rory and slumps down into it, casting a jaundiced eye at the pot of coffee in the center. He pours a cup for himself and lets it turn cold.
"Just think, Hawthorne," he grunts while we watch the happy couple cut the cake. "That could have been you this afternoon."
I make a sour face. Yeah. Thanks for rubbing that in. What's next, I wonder. Babies on spikes?
Madge reaches for my hand resting on the tablecloth near the five extra fancy forks I didn't know what to do with during dinner. My first instinct is to pull both of our hands under the table, out of Haymitch's view, but I see what she's doing. A show of solidarity.
"Well, I'm glad Gale didn't marry Katniss," she says sweetly to Haymitch, but batting her long eyelashes at me. I'm a sucker for that and she knows it, as evidenced by the many times she's blinked me into holding her handbag.
"Yeah, yeah," Haymitch mutters. "I guess you two will be tying the knot soon too." Haymitch grunts. "Great. It'll keep Effie out of my hair planning the auspicious occasion."
Eugh. The last thing I want is Effie Trinket, Games escort turned wedding planner, trussing me up like a monkey and parade me around like she did to Mellark today.
Besides, she knows all these weird marriage customs. That's not my idea of a good time. In fact, we're watching one of them. Peeta and Katniss shove cake in each others' mouths in front of the crowd. He smudges frosting all over her chin and tries to eat it off. Later on they're forcing us to stand up and wrestle over Katniss's garter. What kinky Capitol tool thought that up?
Probably Quintus McFarlane.
"Whatever happened to a good old-fashioned District 12 wedding?" I mutter. You know, sign some papers at the Justice Building, then go home and have a toasting. Go to bed. Nothing fancy. No extra, voyeuristic guests.
"Oh, it's not all bad," says Haymitch.
"How would you know?" I argue. "You never got married."
"Could be worse, is all I'm saying," Haymitch continues, slicing the air with his hand. "You know, in some indigenous tribes, or in backward districts like Seven, the parents are present to witness the bride and groom's first night. Sometimes even the elders. They give the newlyweds pointers and rate the performance."
"Did Effie tell you that?" Madge gasps, horrified. Her cheeks are bright pink and I have a feeling mine might be too. "It can't be true."
"Sure did," he says. He wags a finger at us. "And you never know when something like that might catch on again."
"Good thing Madge doesn't have any parents," I grouse, then snap my mouth shut as Madge gives me a bruised look. "I mean..."
Haymitch notices my slip and he gets a nasty gleam in his eye. "Tribal elders and guardians fill in when necessary." He digs an elbow into my side. Then he gets up again and says, "Don't have to check the sheets the next morning to make sure the deed was done properly." Then he stalks away. The suggestion hangs like the ague between my ribs. Haymitch is Madge's guardian for all intents and purposes. Something to do with the some debt to her Aunt Maysilee.
I can't look at Madge for a few moments while I digest this potentially idle threat. "He's not serious," I whimper.
Madge bites her lip. "He's sober. Who can tell?"
I loosen my hand from her grip and rub my jaw line nervously. Hell's teeth.
I can't help it. I start to panic a little. I don't want Haymitch thinking about Madge and I that way, let alone showing up for the blessed event. And judging by the way we treated Peeta at the bachelor party, I've got some bad karma coming down. I expect some trouble from my brothers, but Haymitch would be too much to bear.
"Gale, is something wrong?" Madge runs her hand up and down my arm soothingly. "You're white as a sheet."
Sheets. I shudder. Don't think about it, I order myself. I doesn't work. My mind starts formulating plans for a way around any sort of public ceremony. Or public wedding night.
While I'm plotting, Effie drags a mutinous-looking Katniss to the middle of the dance floor and orders all the single ladies to join her. Madge has to go, though reluctantly, because all the traitorous girls in the room are pointing out all the other singles who are trying to hide from the indignity. Madge gets up, shakes off her blue dress, and traipses away, leaving me alone to plot.
Katniss turns to face away from the girls and purposefully aims away from Prim, who pouts. The bouquet hits Delly Cartwright square in the face and lands at Madge's feet. She scoops it up before Delly can recover and gives the girl a saucy, triumphant smirk.
The women are cleared off the dance floor and someone brings Katniss a chair for the garter thing. Madge comes back with the flowers and waves them at me. The bright blossoms remind me of Effie Trinket. Blech. Madge settles in her chair and says cheerfully, "Look, I'm next."
"For what?" I ask distractedly, trying to ignore the fact that Peeta is digging around in Katniss dress in public.
"To get married, silly," Madge says. Just then, Peeta pulls out a lacy wad of material that I hope is Katniss's garter and not her underwear. "That's the tradition."
Traditions. Hell's teeth. Between Haymitch, Peeta, and Madge, I feel a tension headache coming on. I rub my temples and forehead.
Madge's hand presses gently on my shoulder. "Gale, you look pale. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Poor you," Madge croons. She digs around in her purse for some aspirin, pulling everything out one by one. Random stuff that gets stuck at the bottom of women's bags. An old battery, a tube of lipstick, a few crumpled receipts. A holographic business card catches my eye. On the front, a squinty-eyed hobgoblin winks at me and blows kisses. On the other side, it reads,
Quintus McFarlane's Married-in-a-Hurry Hobgoblin Hovercraft of Love: licensed pilot, ordained minister, escort, tattoo artist, midwife, knitting instructor, cake jumper, yodeler, kitten peddler, mohel.
"What is this?" I demand, turning it over to the goblin.
Madge takes a look at the card and bites her lip. "Oh, just something I got from Katniss's party."
I scowl. "Quintus McFarlane handed out cards at her bachelorette party?" I ask suspiciously.
Madge clears her throat guiltily. "He...he was in the cake."
"In the cake?" I repeat stupidly.
"Until he jumped out," she stammers.
My eyebrows collide in the middle of my forehead. They had a pilot jump out of a cake? I thought I knew Madge and her friends better than that.
"Oh, don't use your scary eyebrows on me, Gale," she hisses. "He only recited poetry and he had on most of his clothes." Her voice has a studied air to it, like she's rehearsed that line.
"Most of his clothes?"
She shrugs. "Well, the important bits were all covered, anyway."
"Margaret Donner Undersee," I intone.
"I didn't invite him!" she protests. "Besides, he was making eyes at Nevada Rockbridge the whole time."
"Oh. Well, that's all right," I grouse sardonically. I glance at the card in my hand again. I wonder where he puts these if he's only wearing...ew. I drop the card.
But then I have an idea that could save everything. Married in a Hurry Hobgoblin Hovercraft of Love. That would solve our problems and probably resemble a traditional Twelve wedding. The longer I think about it, the more I like it.
"Madge, what about you and me just running off and doing it? Getting married, just like that." I snap my fingers for emphasis.
She wrinkles her nose. "Running off in the middle of the night to get married when nobody knows?"
"Yeah." I shrug. "Wouldn't that be fun?"
Madge wrinkles her nose. "An elopement?" she reiterates.
"Where did that come from?" Madge laughs. "You must be in a good mood again if you're cracking jokes."
"I'm not joking, Madge," I say, twisting around in the chair to face her better. "Haven't you ever thought about it? We could get married right now." And no Haymitch, no Effie, no annoying ceremony. No fishing around in Madge's dress in front of people.
Madge gets a faraway look in her eyes and I can tell that she's considering the possibility.
Of course, there are some logistics to consider. Like where will we go afterward? My quarters are full of little kids and my mom. Madge has a roommate. The housing office won't be open all weekend. I guess we could find a closet somewhere.
And then there's the problem of making sure we don't get a jump start on the next generation of Hawthornes. Um. I've got some stamps in my wallet, but I have a feeling that McFarlane will charge for his services. I have enough money to maybe cover it, but not extra for anti-baby equipment.
Now, in the Seam, we made do without much money. What would I have done in this situation back home?
Effie calls all the bachelors to the floor so that Peeta can fling that garter at us. A grin snakes its way over my face because now I have a plan. What I need is a responsible male who won't miss his wallet for a few seconds. And a sucker. Peeta fits both of those descriptions. He won't miss it. I bet he's all loaded up for the big night. All I need to do is get close to him when hardly anyone else is around.
I could catch that garter.
"Madge, give me a pen," I tell her.
She frowns at me. I guess it's an unusual request from someone like me. "Why?"
I grab the pen from her and snatch the fancy card with my name and table number on it. I scribble a hasty note, initial it, and get up to join the boys on the floor. Peeta turns his back on us and sling-shots the garter into the melee. It arcs in the air and we scramble for it.
Rory goes down when I elbowed him in the chest. A few of the underlanders don't even try. The Mellark boys are another story. I jump...reaching...almost hook it with my finger. One grabs my legs. Two tries to muscle me out of the way with his shoulder. He lands on top of me, knocking the breath out of my lungs, but they can't pry the garter out of my fingers. More than some stupid tradition wrests on this.
Madge and I, flower and garter champs, pose with the Peeta and Katniss for a picture in front of some fake outdoor backdrop. I maneuver so that I'm just behind the couple. My hand slip into Peeta's back pocket, which will never happen again after this, and snatch out the thin wallet in the blink of an eye. Nobody sees it. Peeta doesn't feel the difference in his now empty pocket. Sucker.
I keep my eyes on the camera to avoid suspicion. All wallets have the same basic inner layout. From memory, my fingers flip to the "secret" pocket and - tinfoil jackpot. I pull out the coveted item and slip in my note, returning the wallet to Peeta's pocket with the skill of a seasoned street kid. Effie doesn't have to remind me to smile widely for the camera.
"We're leaving already?" Madge cries as I drag her out the doors. She barely has time to pull her wrap around her shoulders as we rush down the cool corridor. "We haven't had a dance yet!"
Oh, we'll have a dance. Just not here. And not in the way you think.
"Come along, Madge," is all I say.
"Where are we going?" she harps.
"To the hangar."
"But why?" Madge digs in her feet, forcing me to stop or to pull her arm out of her socket. I let go and she folds the endangered limb across her chest with her other arm. "Oh no. This isn't about your elopement idea, is it?"
I smooth the hair on the back of my head. "Maybe."
"Don't you think it's a bit rash?" she reprimands me.
"Look," I say reasonably, "We can get married this way, or we're stuck doing it Effie and Haymitch's way."
Madge bites her lips. "Surely you don't believe that dreadful story he told you."
I believe Haymitch would go out of his way to put someone in an uncomfortable spot, if he could. But I try a different tactic on Madge. "You won't have to spend one more night with Delly Cartwright," I remind her, dropping my voice an octave and blinking back imaginary moisture. "Unless you'd prefer to go on as roommates with her rather than me."
That decides it. I can tell by the look in her readable blue eyes. Madge hasn't been able to stand Delly since they were assigned to share quarters and the girl started showing up in places where she shouldn't.
"Of course I'd rather live with you," she protests.
I sigh. "You have a funny way of showing it."
"Well...," Madge drawls. "I suppose we could elope. It's just..." Madge looks both ways on the corridor, then whispers, "What if people get the wrong impression?"
I place my hand over my breast pocket, giving her a half-grin. "Oh, I've made sure they won't."
The Hobgoblin Hovercraft of Love wouldn't be hard to miss even without the green rope lights flashing a path to the macked-out besra with the outrageous pinup.
There's a bell pull outside the hatch, which I tug on once. Instantly, an invisible recording starts playing a twangy song that echoes all over the hangar.
He'll be flying 'round the mountain when he comes...
The sounds of fumbling and objects being shoved aside come from inside. The music cuts out and the hatch opens. A green, bejeweled head pokes out through a set of hanging bead curtains.
Captain Quintus McFarlane sets his eyes on us and we're nearly blinded by his ultra-white and sparkly smile.
"Ah. Visitors," he croons. "Hop on up."
I help Madge up, then follow her into the fuselage. If I hadn't seen the place from the outside, I'd never believe it was a hovercraft on the inside. Faded oriental rugs line the floor. Framed magazine clips hang on the wall; it takes a moment to realize that all the people with different hair color are really just Quintus. Above us, red, blue and purple rope lights crawl along the ceiling like toxic veins. I smell something sweet, like Quintus is burning vanilla cupcake candles somewhere out of view. The only furniture is a row of teak chests and pile of cushions. He drags two out from the bottom and makes us sit on them.
"Tea?" he asks, not waiting for an answer. We watch Quintus disappear into the cockpit and emerge with two steaming mugs of green stuff, which are forced into our hands. Quintus steps back from the cushions and eyes us for what feels like an age while we stare back at him.
"Now, let's proceed," he says all of a sudden. Madge and I exchange glances, wondering what he means. After all, Quintus hasn't even asked why we're here. But he's busy dashing over the small space. The hot tea scalds my hand while I watch him pulling open drawers and raking through them.
"Aha!" He grabs a book, tucks it under his arm. He throws on a black collar with a white stripe down the middle. Then he takes the untouched cups of tea from our hands even as Madge tries to take a sip. He directs us over to stand in front of the interior engine, which has a white cloth draped over it like an alter. He situates us, then places the book on the alter. He licks his fingers, then flips to the page he's looking for.
"Ah. Here we are. Dearly beloved...er," Quintus pauses. His finger toggles between us. "You are here to get married, aren't you?"
Madge and I exchange a glance. "Yesss."
Quintus holds his hands up defensively. "Just checking. That's always an awkward mistake to make. Guys come in here for a piercing and leave with a bride." He clucks his tongue. "Messy business, especially when the happy pair don't know each other."
"Quintus," I grumble.
Quintus clears his throat. "Ahem. Dearly beloved, we gather here in the sight of the Hobgoblin and all these witnesses - namely me - to witness the union of this guy and her..."
"Wait...we need witnesses?" Madge asks.
"What?" Quintus blinks from his book. He turns it over then back again, as if looking for something. "Oh. Nah."
"But you just said all these witnesses," Madge tells him.
Quintus taps his lips thoughtfully with his book. "If anybody asks, my name means 'five,' so...just say you had quinti witnesses at the wedding and we're good. Now, if you don't mind, I'd like to proceed."
We don't interrupt after that.
"Alrightee...la dee dah," he scans the page to find his place. "Ah. You two aren't married to other people, yeah?"
We glance at each other. "Definitely not."
"No other lawful reasons why I should call the ceremony quits?" he asks. "You aren't near relations? On your conscience, now."
Besides the fact that the very nature of this ceremony is cause for concern? "No."
"Good, good. Now." Quintus asks me, "Do you take her to be your wife?"
My throat constricts. For such a short question I suddenly feel a lot of pressure. But I manage to utter a, "Yes."
"And do you take him?" Quintus asks Madge. She opens her mouth to answer, but he interrupts. "You won't be able to give him back, you know."
Quintus beams beatifically. "Then our work here is done." Then he holds up a finger. "Except for the kiss. Sorry. Can't forget that."
I give Madge a quick peck on the lips.
"Well, that was steamy," says Quintus dryly. "Now pay up."
I fish the wallet out of my pocket and pull out some of the stamps to count out. Quintus snatches them from my fingers, scribbles his name on a certificate he tore out from the back of his book, which he hands to Madge, then he bustles us out of the hatch.
"Congratulations for getting married in a hurry. Stop by the Hobgoblin Hovercraft of Love again soon. You make a lovely couple. Mazel tov. Invite me to the bris! Ta-ta!"
"Invite him to the what?" Madge ask as we trip down the aisle of green lights.
"Forget it," I tell her, grabbing her hand to pull her along. "I think he's crazy."
Madge rolls her eyes. "What did you expect from a guy who runs a wedding business out of his hovercraft?"
Well. There is that. Now, where to get this honeymoon rolling...
Nev shows up before the maintenance crew shuts off the hangar lights. "All done here?" she asks from outside the door.
Quintus jumps down from Hobgoblin and gives her a kiss. "Yep."
"Come on, then," she says, pulling on his collar. "Let's go home."
He smirks. "I'm right behind you."
They walk arm in arm past a certain sparrowhawk fighter.
"Is that windshield supposed to be steamed up like that?" Nevada asks.
Quintus's head swivels round to see what she means. "What? Oh."
His eyebrows knit together as he considers the situation. He has a good guess about who might be in there and what sort of extracurricular activities they might be up to.
"Funny, I always took that surly chap for more of a slag heap sort," he mumbles to himself.
"What?" Nev asks. "Never mind. Quintus, I think we should investigate."
His eyes grow wide. "No, I definitely think we shouldn't," he replies, on no uncertain terms. "Come along, moon of my delight. Let's mind our own business."
Quintus grabs Nev's arm and pulls her away from the corrupted hovercraft.
The door shuts, and I look up to see my healer, wearing a shapeless, formless white lab coat. Typical of District 13. No gold fishnet. No sparkly workwear. Probably no fur-trimmed underwear. Just hardhats and coveralls. Boring through and through.
"Sorry to keep you waiting..." the healer pauses, glances down at a chart, "Mr. Odair."
I try not to move in greeting, but the reflex can't be helped, though I wish it could. The movement, any movement, shoots pain straight to my ribs and down my torso. My fists clench, but that only causes my biceps to tense, another place desecrated by those brutes in Intimate Apparel.
I catch the name tag on the coat. Rockwell House. "No problem, Healer House. And you can call me Finnick."
"The bounds between patient and healer must always be strictly observed...Mr. Odair."
Hmph. I wipe the pearly grin off my face. What is it about being in D13 that makes everyone so cold?
The healer sets down the chart. I can see a picture of the human figure, spread-eagle, with different lines connecting dots on the body. Coincidentally, or perhaps not so coincidentally, all those dots correspond to the injured areas on me, which I described faithfully before I was admitted to see the doc.
"Alright, Mr. Odair, I can see you are in a lot of pain, so I'll try to make this quick," Healer House says.
"Not too quick, if you please," I reply. "My injuries are such that a thorough exam and treatment are necessary."
The doctor's eyebrows raise, so I elaborate. "I'm out of commission until the bruises heal."
"Commission?" the doctor politely inquires.
I find it hard to believe that any underlander wouldn't recognize my posters, so I strike a pose, throwing both arms behind my head and smirking. I call it the Riveter. And if this image didn't rivet itself into the doctor's brain, I'd be surprised.
Resuming the pose makes me wince. Good thing I've practiced my exercises so many times. Otherwise I'd never be able to hold the smolder through the pain that lances through my side the instant I raise my arms. My eyes start to water, and at first I feel embarrassed, but then I remember Cinna's words. The people expect blood, sweat, and tears. And they find it sexy.
"Ah, yes. The propaganda posters. I hear those are very popular among the troops. Especially the female ones," the doctor says, sounding a bit miffed. Has Haymitch's poison spread throughout the ducts of the entire Underground? Or is my healer jealous of the attention I get from the ladies?
I shrug, and instantly regret it. The milk's sedative effects are starting to wear off, and each and every one of my bruises throbs to protest the ill-considered movement. "Can't help that. But I assure you, I only care what my wife thinks about the posters."
"Is that so?" says the doctor dryly.
"And what does she think about them?"
I lick my lips, thinking about Annie's response when I brought the proofs from the last shoot home. I will never look at a pair of dice the same way again. Ever. "Oh, I think she likes them. A lot."
"And if I don't recover soon, there will be consequences," I remind Dr. House. "For the rebel effort." I start to lower my arms, but the doctor holds up a hand.
"Actually, you can stay like that. It allows me easier access to your body." The doctor coughs. "That is, it allows me to see your injuries more easily."
"Sure, doc, whatever you say."
The healer's smile is warm and assuring. If I could move without bringing on the crippling pain, I'd sigh in relief. "Now please, Mr. Odair, remove your clothes."
The room is cold, but I still feel a thin sheen of sweat form across my skin. I flash back to that other time I was ugly. In the clock arena with those god-awful scabs and green paste. At least then, I couldn't see how ghastly I looked. Here, there is a mirror right across from me and I'll be forced to view my disfigurement. Bruises. Scrapes. Swelling. All so hideous.
I fold my arms across my chest. Looking down, I notice they're covered with goosebumps in the most putrefying shades of purple and yellow. "Are you sure that's necessary?" I hedge.
The doctor's eyebrows raise a centimeter. "Last time I checked, you didn't have training in medicine," says House dryly.
I bite my tongue. Sure, I could bring up how I saved Peeta with some mouth-to-mouth action, but this is probably neither the time nor place. Without further argument, I unbutton my shirt and let if fall off my shoulders.
The zipper of my pants becomes stuck about half way down. As I look to see what the problem is, I am faced with a little, actually enormous, piece of info I'd overlooked. "Um, I kind of, uh-"
"Yes, Mr. Odair?" the healer says impatiently, tapping a pen against the table.
"I'm not wearing any underwear...whoops."
The healer grins like a chesire cat. "It's alright. Nothing I haven't seen before."
"Yeah, I suppose not." Down go the pants, right next to my shirt. Sweet freedom at last.
"Do you need me to do anything else?" I ask, slowly raising my sore arms over my head again.
My question interrupts my healer's furious scribbling on a pad. Probably my prescription. Tapping pen against chin, the healer responds, "If you would be so kind, please have a seat." Gingerly, I move my body over to the flat surface indicated by the doctor and hoist myself up. It's a lot harder to do with your hands raised above your head. I can't help the groan that escapes my mouth as I settle onto the unforgiving flat tabletop. I'm in pain. Plus, it's really, really cold.
The doctor raises a brow, but makes no comment. Just circles the table as I sit there stark naked, looking me over from head to toe.
"Now how did you get hurt?" If I'm not mistaken, I detect some pity in the healer's voice. Good. I need all TLC I can get.
Tell the bald, ugly truth or pretty it up a bit? "I sustained these injuries while infiltrating uncharted territory in order to retrieve an essential item for one of the Rebellion's figureheads. My snatch and grab mission was interrupted by a handful of operatives, trained in the methods of torture. They beat me with hand-help weapons before bodily launching me into a pod of splinters and pain. I narrowly escaped with my life."
The healer looks over with bated breath and dilated pupils. Probably not used to such displays of heroics. "Really? That sounds dangerous."
"Oh it was, it was! Just picture it. My heart pounding, muscles straining, sweat glistening all over my body, clothes torn nearly to shreds by some human/pig hybrid muttation whose sole intent was to see my hopes and dreams snuffed out. Don't mention the despair of potentially failing my mission."
The healer grips the pen so tight, I'm surprised it doesn't burst and shoot ink everywhere. "I think I can see it." The doctor's eyes open. Head shakes as if to clear it. "Did you succeed?"
"Thankfully another soldier was able to locate the item elsewhere." I grin, and punctuate it with a wink. "Mission accomplished."
"Thank goodness for that. Well, let's get started on your examination, shall we?"
The ominous sound of the doctor's glove smacking against skin sends a shudder down my body. "Just be careful," I warn.
"Of course," the healer says, lightly tracing a bruise on my arm. "I can see how delicate you are."
What? The doctor ignores my scowl and proceeds with the exam.
The healer starts with my ribs. "Just bruised, most likely."
"Just bruised?" Not with this amount of pain. Impossible. And I know something about injuries after all I've been through.
"Given the amount of dairy you imbibe daily, as indicated on your files, it's hardly likely that you've cracked or broken anything."
Ah. Well, there is that.
I don't question the doc much after that. As the seconds pass, I begin to relax. I name the muscle groups as the healer examines them, feeling the tension escape until there is pressure on my right bicep. I draw away, hissing in pain. My teeth dig into my lower lip, and I submit myself once more to the healing hands of the good doctor as each corresponding dot on the chart is connected and examined. No pain, no gain.
But when it happens a second time, I can't take it any longer.
"Ouch, Annie, that hurts like the blazes!"
"Really?" she gasps, dropping the affectation. "I thought you were pretending. I'm so sorry, Finny. You should have said something sooner." She removes the gloves and throws them in the trash. Great, now I'll have to snatch another pair the next time I visit Prim for my indigestion. Or maybe not. I'm not quite sure I like this game all that much, and I saw a much more exciting one in Peeta's book. Eskimo wrestling.
"I clearly wasn't pretending," I say, lowering my arms. They tingle from the blood that rushes back. And Annie's kisses.
"Does that feel better?" she says against a particularly sore spot on my ribs.
"Maybe," I sniff. "But it really hurts over here." I point to a trio of bruises near my shoulder, which she kisses. And then I show her the ones on my stomach. And my arms and legs. Everywhere.
"Aww, my poor Finny's had a really rough week, hasn't he?" Annie asks, in between tending to my maladies. Her lips on my ticklish skin make me squirm.
"The worst week ever," I pout.
Her bottom lip puckers out. "Poor you."
I agree. "So what does the doctor order?"
Annie reaches across me, her hair tickling my chest, as she rips the top paper from the notepad off and hands it to me.
In neat, even handwriting it reads, "Drink three glasses of milk a day, and engage in vigorous physical activity and bedrest. Morning, noon, and night. Repeat as needed."
I sweep Annie from the kitchen table, deciding my rehabilitation starts now. "You promised you'd tell me what you got for Katniss," I remind her as I make my way to the bedroom.
"I'm already wearing it," she says inside the doorway.
I stop while she crawls into bed. "Really?" Looking down, I see Annie lounge across the bed, enveloped in the standard issue lab coat I stole from the doctor's office. "But..."
I quickly climb into bed after Annie, grabbing her foot and dragging her toward me on the opposite side of the mattress until her toes are easy to reach and tease.
"Now that you're fit for service, are you ready for your next mission, Soldier Odair?" she giggles.
I flash her a smirk. "Depends. What is it?" I snatch her toe, tickle her foot. Watch her squirm and arch off the bed while she laughs and begs me to stop.
"First, reconnaissance to find the last f-fishie," she tells me between gasps of laughter.
Ooh! Recon. I approve. Wouldn't want to leave a mission incomplete. "Hmm, could it be in here?"
My impatient fingers cause one of the buttons to pop off the lab coat as I try to pry it open. It doesn't hit me in the eye, but I nearly start to cry anyway as the coat falls away from Annie's torso. Feathers. Fishnet. My fantasy, come to life.
"And then?" I squeak. Swallow. "What's after that?"
Annie's foot teases its up my thigh while she reaches for the table lamp, "Night ops."
Thanks for reading!