A/N: Explicit content. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK!

In a few short hours I am going to be married, just one month after the Quell anouncement that changed everything. It's customary in the Seam for a young woman to be primped and taken care of on her wedding day. It is rather silly to imagine the preparation that goes into primping the bride, because the ceremony itself is never a big thing.

In the Seam no one can afford a fancy dress, a large ceremony, or even sometimes a cake. Instead money is spent on the bread that will be burned and broken between husband and wife. Usually the girl's mother will help her prepare for the day. I fight back tears as Hazelle enters, because although she will be an excellent replacement mother, she is not my real mother.

"It will be wonderful, you'll see. You should have seen me on the day that I married Gale's father. I was a wreck and look where I am now. I know my life isn't much, but it has been filled with so much love."

"I cried for hours. I was scared. Scared to leave my family, scared to marry a man who could die in the mines, scared to lose my innocence, scared to create a child that could be taken into the Hunger Games. It is normal to feel these things."

"Every fear is normal. Try to remember that this time is happy." This is not a normal marriage, I think bitterly. What I am about to do in just a few hours' time is not how I imagined my future.

I feel a flush run across my face and Hazelle smiles softly, "Gale will take care of you. Don't be nervous about the wedding night either." If it is possible my cheeks feel even hotter as the blush deepens.

Hazelle thinks for a moment before she speaks again, "You may feel like you aren't entirely sure what to do with yourself or with him. The beauty of it is that you learn about each other together. It's like a dance or a song that ebbs and flows. You will feel like you are flowing into a gentle breeze that at first only encompasses you, but then with each new feeling you see that the breeze is made of him too." I don't quite think that I understand what she is saying and my embarrassment is tingling into my toes.

"Hazelle, it's not like that between us, you know that," my voice has a slight shake to it.

"He loves you. That's what he'll do as your husband, make you feel loved and cherished. He won't treat you like a stranger just because of these circumstances."

I want to cry as I whisper, "Gale doesn't love me though. He cares for me, but he's in love with Katniss."

I hear her sigh softly as she thinks about my words. She knows that I am being truthful, but I can tell a part of her wants to deny it.

"He loves you both. However, you will be his wife and as the years go by you will realize that the love he feels for you is much different, stronger and lasting. Katniss is really an idea, something that he wanted terribly for so long that tossing that away seems too hard. He knows though, that she isn't meant for him. He also knows that you mean something to him that's special, tangible. He can have a family with you and make a home." Her words slide over me like a warm embrace. When I open my eyes I see that she is looking at me lovingly.

"Hazelle, how did you become so wise?" I ask her, smirking. She releases a hearty laugh as she begins to pick at my coal ridden nails. Her shoulders shake with the warm laughter.

"Years of mistakes and learning," she says as she scrubs at my fingers. The amount of coal under my nails is rather ridiculous. It is a little painful to have my fingers subjected to such a thorough cleaning. Hazelle turns the palms over and runs her hands over the hard knobs of skin that have formed where I hold my pick axe.

"Do you really think he loves me?" I find my heart swelling at my own words, tossing itself roughly against my ribcage.

She stares at my open palms for a few moments, "You are a courageous, strong, and tender girl. When you are near he smiles, he even laughs; he doesn't do those things for just anyone. Most of all he looks at you the way his father used to look at me. That's how I know that he loves you. This whole family loves you." I smile at her with teary eyes. No one has ever talked so affectionately about me.

Posy enters unannounced, running to jump up onto the bed beside me, a handful of daisies crushed in her right palm. "Those are pretty undies," she says as she swings her feet happily back and forth over the edge of the bed.

I fight the blush that is trying to spread across my face and give her credit, because even though she is five and doesn't understand that her brother will someday potentially be seeing them, she is right. They are pretty, probably the prettiest items of clothing I have or will ever own. A soft pink lace, set against the deep olive of my skin. The idea of Gale seeing these undergarments is ludicrous. The idea of sharing a bed with him is too. I glance at the bed where he usually sleeps with Rory and Vick. Tonight his sleeping arrangements will be less crowded at least.

"I think my dress is much lovelier than these Posy," I point at it hanging on the back of the door.

It's a very soft shade of blue with silver floral embroidery on the chest. When things had gotten especially rough I asked my father if we could sell it, but he tearfully told me no. He always made me keep it tucked away at the back of the closet, telling me that someday I could wear it on my own wedding day.

"My mother wore it when she married my father. My whole life he kept it for me to wear on my wedding day," I tell her.

Posy jumps up to investigate it excitedly. I watch her little fingers carefully grasp the cotton. Hazelle smiles softly and begins running her fingers through my tangled curls. I feel my scalp itch angrily as she begins intricately weaving my long locks into a braid that circles the crown of my head. She shoves hard pins through it from all directions.

"Posy, will you go pick some more daisies and some blue forget-me-nots please," Hazelle is still jabbing my scalp with the pins when Posy returns with more flowers.

For a brief moment I wonder what they are for, and then Hazelle begins weaving them into my hair with more pins. My head is beginning to ache. When she is done Hazelle instructs Posy to bring the small bag of make-up that she keeps stashed inside a cupboard in the bathroom. Her eyes are intense as she lightly dusts my face with it. I have never worn make-up before and I think she is trying to poke my eye when she applies a black brush to my lashes. I blink furiously a few times.

When Hazelle is satisfied with my face she retrieves my mother's dress from its perch and unbuttons the back. Posy stands on the bed and giggles as she helps her mother slip it over my head. They make quick work of the buttons and both smile at me brightly when they are done.

"You look absolutely lovely," Hazelle says as she cups her warm calloused hands on both sides of my face. She presses a soft motherly kiss to my temple.

Posy pulls my hand toward the slender mirror on the back of the door. I follow her, our bare feet padding softly against the wooden floor. When I catch sight of myself in the mirror my blood seems to skip merrily through my veins. I will never look this beautiful again, I think in amazement. Whatever Hazelle did with the makeup it seems to make my eyes vibrant and bright.

My hair is braided into a heavenly halo around my head and peppered with flowers; combined with my bare feet and silver eyes I look like a raven haired wood nymph about to run into the forest. Both Posy and Hazelle stand behind me with their hands on their hips, admiring their work. My reflection is tinged with a soft blush as I think about the fact that Hazelle deliberately made me look this way. She has crafted me into a wood nymph for Gale, the unsuspecting hunter who will find me.

A hard knock on the bedroom door shakes the three of us from our reveries.

"Who is it?" Hazelle asks as she shoos me toward the other side of the room.

Gale's deep voice seeps smoothly through the door, "Me. I forgot my good boots." Hazelle rolls her eyes as she huffs. I follow her gaze to the black boots that are precariously peeking out from under the boys' bed.

"Couldn't you have sent someone? You're not supposed to be here. Sidney is getting ready." Hazelle is exasperated, but she retrieves the boots from under the bed. I notice that they are glossy. He had them polished, probably by someone in town. More money, spent on something that we normally wouldn't. Or maybe it was their gift to him.

"Well, I didn't want Rory to scuff them." He states logically. I smirk at an image in my mind of Rory dropping the shiny boots in the dirt, then Gale strangling him vigorously in retaliation.

When Hazelle opens the door she keeps it pressed tight against her shoulder to hide me from view. She gives her son a reproachful look that says 'you would forget your head if it weren't screwed on' and hands him the boots. Posy squeezes her way through the gap and I hear her bouncing around excitedly.

"Gale, guess what!" Hazelle eyes her and presses a finger to her lips to indicate that my appearance is a surprise.

I hear Posy giggle in response before she says airily, "Oh fine, I won't tell him about how Sidney looks like a fairy queen." I snort loudly and press my fist over my mouth to stifle my laugh. Hazelle sighs heavily at her daughter, but I think I see a smile pulling at the corner of her lips. It is hard to see her face though. Gale is laughing softly.

"A fairy queen, huh?" He asks Posy who giggles happily again.

"Yeah, the most beautiful one ever! She has-". She doesn't get to finish, because I suspect that Hazelle has clasped her hand over Posy's mouth. I hear Gale laughing again. I smile wondering how Posy was about to describe me.

After a whispered exchange Gale leaves the house and Hazelle begins to get herself ready. I hear Posy splashing in my old bath water as she bathes. When they return they both look rubbed raw, they probably haven't had lukewarm water to bathe in for a long time. Posy looks pleased as she slips into her nicest dress and twirls for me several times. I laugh at her softly and watch as she has her hair plaited by Hazelle's quick fingers. I slip a few of the remaining flowers into Posy's hair and she squeals with delight.

I glance at the clock on the dresser and my heart flutters high in my chest. Hazelle follows my gaze and smiles softly. She tells me to stay here while she checks on the arrangements at my house, where the wedding will take place. Posy's soft little fingers swirl imaginary circles on my palm as she pretends to read my fortune. I watch her silently and pretend that she is surprising me with her mysterious words. She smiles happily when I fake a gasp at her suggestion that I am going to get a kiss today.

My eyes keep scanning the clock across from us. With each minute my heart seems to beat faster. After twenty minutes of playing silly games with Posy, Hazelle returns all smiles. I hear someone pacing the wooden floor beyond the bedroom door. When I emerge I see that my father has joined us. He is dressed in a dark blue shirt and has his hair combed back. I smile at him shyly as he beams. Hazelle kisses my cheek as she ushers Posy out the door. I refrain from biting my lip between my teeth; Hazelle painted them a lovely shade of pink for a reason.

"Hey kid," father says as he places a large hand on my shoulder.

"I'm sorry," I blurt out. He laughs softly and I feel sheepish as I continue, "I just mean, I know this isn't what you wanted for me." He nods and offers me his left arm. I am thankful for the offer, because I don't think that I could walk alone without toppling on my shaking legs.

"It's not how I ever dreamed this day would come about, but you look so lovely." I let out a nervous laugh and sigh.

He opens the door and the sunlight blinds me momentarily. I hear a violin playing jovially in the distance. My bare feet slide silently across the grass as we approach our house. The voices of our guests mingle beneath the tones of the violin. I take a deep shaking breath as we approach. Vick is standing at the back corner of the house. He smiles at me and whispers that I need to wait here.

He runs into the back yard a yells out excitedly, "She's here!" Father and I laugh and he pats my arm. My nerves are making my skin feel like a million pins as the violin begins playing a soft tune. I nod at father and he begins to walk me further into the backyard.

My eyes are assaulted by a number of unexpected things. First, more people have come than I expected. Many people from the mines and the neighbors from the street. Everyone is wearing their best clothing. Next, my eyes are drawn to wreaths of flowers that hang from the trees lining the yard.

Finally, my eyes fall on Gale who is wearing a crisp white shirt and black pants. He has shaven and a single blue flower is pinned to his chest. A look of supple fascination and adoration blesses his face as he watches me approach him. My heart bursts at the sight and I grip father's arm more tightly. I am smiling so broadly that I must look crazy. Gale's features break into a broad smile as well. The violin music crescendos as father parts from me and I walk the last few steps alone.

My eyes search the depths of Gale's steely gaze. The look of awe is still there as we listen to the mayor read the marriage rites of Panem. We link our hands halfway through the service and repeat words that tingle in to the very fibers of my core. Gale strokes his thumbs over my knuckles when he repeats his portion. I feel a single tear stroke gently down my cheek when he is finished and he thumbs it away softly.

I smile sweetly at him as I repeat my portion of the marriage vows. This almost feels as though we are truly in love.

The mayor finishes and instructs us to sign our names on the public document that connects us forever. My fingers shake as I write Sidney Ione Hawthorne beside Gale Atticus Hawthorne. We press our pointer fingers into a blue inkpad and imprint our marks under our names on the document. A wet cloth is passed between us to wash the ink away.

Then Mayor Undersee announces us as Mr. and Mrs. Gale Hawthorne through a chorus of cheers. The violin music buoyantly spreads through the air as Gale grasps me gently in his arms. My eyes flutter shut as his lips devour me for a moment. My whole being swells with delight as one of his hands presses firmly against my back and the other lightly holds my face. When Gale deepens the kiss my body becomes hypersensitive. I hear the birds in the trees, the violin, the laughter and clapping. I feel soft grass beneath my toes and my fists are tightly gripping the back of Gale's crisp shirt.

Rory catcalls and I smile against Gale's kiss before we part. With our hands still linked we go to hug our friends and family. Hazelle is crying profusely as she hugs us both. Primrose Everdeen is next to envelope each of us in a soft hug. She smiles sweetly and tells me that I look beautiful. The crew hugs me and each shake Gale's hand. Harper claps Gale on the back and whispers something to him that makes him smile.

Finally, Katniss and Peeta approach us. Peeta's broad smile is contagious and he kisses me on the cheek softly as he wishes me all the happiness in the world. He shakes Gale's hand firmly and I watch the exchange between them with curiosity. Katniss looks like she doesn't know what to say to me. I can see some hurt behind her eyes, but she finally smiles softly and presses both of her hands into mine.

"Take care of him. He-He means a lot to me," She bites the inside of her cheek as she watches Gale and Peeta's conversation out of the corner of her eye.

Her eyes return to mine and she squeezes my hands, "Thank you for this. For saving him. For loving him. I-I-I never could have given him what you can."

Her voice has an air of strangulation in it, like each word is choking the life out of her. "Love him no matter what. And know that he does love you."

She releases my hands and I just nod softly at her words and whisper a thank you before I press a kiss to her cheek. As she approaches the two most important men in her life my chest releases the tight sensation from moments before. I didn't realize how wound up I was until she stepped away. My heart twinges as she hugs Gale tightly and whispers to him. She loves him and he loves her, but she turns to Peeta and he takes her hand to lead her to Prim and Mrs. Everdeen.

After a few conversations Gale takes my hand and leads me into the house. Everyone follows us and silence falls on the group as we stand before the fireplace. A plaid blanket is folded in front of the hearth, two loaves of warm bread lain atop it with a plate of butter and a knife. Gale and I kneel with the bread between us. I take the knife to butter the tops and bottoms of both loaves. Gale watches my fingers as they gently glide. The silence is deafening behind us. This moment more than anything will signify that we are forever one.

Gale expertly and quickly starts a fire in the hearth. The bread emits a delicious aroma as we toast it. We move closer to the fire, kneeling with our sides pressed against each other. Gale removes the hot loaves and I watch the firelight dance across his features. He smiles at me and I feel a sensation of deep satisfaction as his eyes follow the lines dancing across my face. We each break a piece off the loaf. He holds his piece up to my lips and I mirror his movement.

I hear Hazelle sigh softly as Gale begins his vow, "I shall protect you, serve you, and love you all the days of my life. I break this bread with thee as a token of my love and a symbol of prosperity. You will never grow hungry, you will never grow cold, I will provide for you all the things that you deserve and love you more than you'll ever know." The last sentence of the vow is always something that the speaker chooses of their own accord. Hazelle is very clearly crying once more as Gale finishes.

With shaking fingers I hold my piece of bread to Gale's lips and recite my own vow, "I shall protect you, serve you, and love you all the days of my life. I break this bread with thee as a token of my love and a symbol of prosperity. I will move mountains, forests, and oceans to defend you; may this home be blessed with happiness, health, and the promise of new life."

Hazelle and Mrs. Pratchett both sigh happily at the mention of 'new life'. I had pondered over my word choice for several days before I settled on the right ones. It will show him that despite the control of the Capitol and the force of their hand, I will stop at nothing to make sure he survives.

As we place the bread in each other's mouths I feel a wave wash through my body. We are married, officially now. We chew the bread and my chest feels tight as I swallow. Gale grasps his hand in mine and I am startled when everyone begins clapping behind us. He leans forward and lightly kisses me. His breath smells like the warm bread.

The toasting is complete and we share the bread that Peeta has made. It is the most delicious bread I have ever had, because it is fresh. A luxury I have never been given before. I am usually content to buy the loaves that are going stale, the inexpensive bread. Everyone breaks pieces off with their fingers as they discuss the ceremony.

After an hour of conversation and well wishes, our guests retreat to their houses. When Hazelle ushers her children and my father out the door I am overwhelmed by the sensation that we are now alone in our house. I watch Gale create a small pile with our gifts in front of the fire. We kneel together again and begin opening them. I write the gifts on a piece of paper for future thank-yous. A heavy, but comfortable silence seeps between us as we inspect the gifts. A basket of pastries from Peeta and Katniss, a mixing bowl from Hazelle, a blanket from the Everdeens, a pair of towels with a dove sewn in them from the crew, and several other lovely presents.

I run my fingers over the dove on one of the towels, "These must have been weeks of pay for them." My voice is barely over a murmur. Gale nods and runs the soft texture between his palms in a trance. I think to myself that neither of us has ever owned something so nice before. He shakes his head softly and places a blank canvas in my hands with a note attached to it.

I look at him quizzically and he grunts, "Mellark." The note informs us that Peeta will paint us a wedding scene.

I smile and grasp Gale's hand as I place the canvas down, "It will be lovely." He rolls his eyes and we stare at each other for a moment. Suddenly, my face flushes a deep crimson because I am overwhelmed with the idea that Gale Hawthorne will be with me every morning, day, and night until I sacrifice myself for our family. He reaches his palm up to my blushed face and smiles.

I clear my throat lightly in preparation for a heartfelt declaration, but all that escapes my lips is a soft, "Gale." I close my eyes as he runs fingertips across my face and lets his hand trail down my neck and into my lap to grasp my hand.

I work up the courage again before I whisper, "I'm yours now forever and that is the strangest feeling." He nods at me and squeezes my hand.

I bite my lip between my teeth and look down at our hands clasped together. His fingers are longer than mine and his palms wider. Even though my skin is a healthy olive it looks positively pale beneath his sun-kissed hand. I wonder briefly what parts of him haven't been tanned by the sun and feel a flush on my face again.

After a few moments more of silence we rise and discuss where we would like to put our new belongings. I take his hand and show him the intricate details of my home. He laughs when I show him drawings that I made as a little girl.

As we look through the pile of drawings Gale's voice sweeps softly between us, "You look very beautiful today." His voice seems almost shy. I smile at him and fold my hand over his as it grasps a drawing of a butterfly.

"Thank you, you look very handsome as well," I respond just as shyly. We both rise from the couch and he lets the pictures float softly to the ground as they slide from his lap. Something keeps me from kneeling to retrieve them.

I step back from him and twirl myself in a circle, my dress billowing out as I speak, "This was my mother's wedding day dress. Father wouldn't ever let me sell it. It meant a great deal to him, he wanted me to save it for this day. It's your mother's touch that makes me look like a forest nymph though." I finger the wreath of hair and flowers atop my head and smile at him gently. He steps closer to investigate my hair more closely. He runs a hand over the intricate braid and chuckles.

"You do look like the forest nymphs I dreamt of when I was young. The bare feet are really what sell me on it though." I smirk at him and we both stare down at my toes.

"I didn't have a pair of shoes that matched the dress," I shrug my shoulder. The blanket from the Everdeens is still folded in front of the hearth. I retrieve it and press it tightly to my chest.

"We forgot to put one last thing away," I say softly. I let the insinuation of where this gift goes float between us. I think I see him gulp as I silently walk toward the old wooden bedroom door.

Gale follows me into our bedroom. I delicately remove the comforter from what used to be my parents' bed. Gale helps me fold it and we place it at the foot of what used to be my bed. I stare at my bed for a moment. Gale stands behind me and presses me against his chest in a hug. I let my head fall back against his shoulder and close my eyes. The heat of his body is enveloping my back and I sigh in content.

My eyes shoot open when I feel his lips pressed against my neck. Gooseflesh spreads from the spot that he claims. I swallow and turn toward the blanket. We unfold the gift together and spread it over what is now our bed. I've never slept in it before, because my bed was always the smaller one. I run my hands softly over the covers to smooth out the wrinkles. Gale watches me from the foot of the bed.

I stare at the bed for several moments before I break the silence, "Gale, I don't expect anything to happen between us. I know this is a marriage of convenience, but I want you to know that I do love you." I feel absolutely foolish as my whole body seems to heat with a warm blush. Gale sighs softly and moves towards me. I feel him grasp my hand and press it against his chest. His heart leaps up to greet me, beating heavily.

"I love you too, I always have," he whispers.

"Oh," I sigh. "But, we don't have to – I mean, I'm not experienced in that way, I don't expect you to – I'm sorry, this isn't coming out right," I murmur, pressing a hand against my heated face.

"What makes you think that I'm experienced, or that I'm not just as scared," his tone is soft and soothing, coaxing me to look up into his beautiful eyes. I nearly whimper at his touch as he wraps his remaining arm around my waist.

"You've never-" my voice sounds almost mystified, as I let the remainder of the sentence float off into nothingness. He shakes his head and my eyes widen slightly, because that isn't the impression that most of the girls from school had all these years. At my expression he releases a soft laugh and I see tension in his shoulders. I slide my eyes over the slope of his nose and the round pillow of his lips. All I muster is a soft "oh" in response.

He laughs lightly again, "Sure I've kissed plenty of girls, but you'll be my first uh…everything else." A soft nervous giggle escapes my lips at his insinuation.

"You've been my first everything so far," I say lightly as I drop my gaze to my hand, pressed against his chest. I feel him gazing at me in confusion for a moment. I reach my other hand up and lay it beside the first. His heart is skipping merrily beneath my fists.

"My first kiss when I was seven years old, under the willow tree in the meadow, but maybe that one doesn't count entirely since I didn't understand the magnitude of the event at the time. And you pulled my hair afterward." I laugh softly as I spread my palms across his chest in a slow motion.

"My first crush when I discovered that boys didn't in fact have cooties," I let my hands smooth over his shoulders and begin a sloping journey down his muscular arms. I gulp slightly as I feel the bands of muscle under my finger tips. I think I hear Gale sigh as I move my hands back to his chest slowly.

"My real first kiss when we were twelve and you told me my eyes were like rainclouds. When your father died and you slipped away from me for a long time. You were always there though, hovering in the fringes of my consciousness." My hands slide down the planes of Gale's chest and smooth lower down his tight stomach. I almost distract myself with the ridge of muscles I discover there, but I continue telling him about my firsts.

"My first love. That part really snuck up on me. It was like you clambered up out of the darkness of my mind and bit me unbeknownst. And here we are. My heart is fully yours; you are my husband, and my first and only everything." My hands slide up his body, over his shoulders, and down his arms to grasp his warm hands.

Our fingers intertwine and he raises them up to kiss my fingers softly one by one. A soft sigh escapes my lips as I watch him. Then without warning his lips are covering mine and his arms are embracing me. He kisses me feverishly until my knees feel week and shaky. I cling to him, grasping the back of his shirt for purchase.

My mind is filled with the idea that he is a gale force wind and I almost laugh that his mother might have named him after intense weather. His scent is making me heady and stimulating my every sense. I gasp when he releases my lips and begins a hot trail across my jaw and down the expanse of my neck.

My hands snake their way into his dark hair. I press kisses against all the features of his face, memorizing what is now mine to love. After a moment he releases me and steps back a few paces. My whole body feels alive and hot like burning coal. Gale looks flushed and his lips are freshly kissed and red. The light seeping through the window is slowly fading, but he is shining in it.

"One of us is going into that arena, you know I'm not going to let you try to put your name in," his voice is barely above a whisper.

"I guess we'll see who gets to the justice building first then," I shoot back.

He closes his eyes, releasing a breath, "Let me love you at least once first. Let's pretend forever could be real."

I quiver at his words and although my heart is filled with fear, I turn my back to allow him to unbutton my dress. I feel his breath hot on my neck as he gently unclasps one button at a time. I feel his fingers flutter over my skin as the fabric falls away when it is undone. When he reaches the last button Gale slips his hand fully over the smooth skin. He lets his palms trail softly up the breadth of my back and slips his hands over my shoulders to release the dress from them. It pools quietly on the floor at my feet and Gale lets out a large breath of air.

My whole body is tingling with excitement and fear. Gale's hands are still lightly resting on my bare shoulders as he presses a soft kiss to the right blade. After a moment I work up the nerve to turn and face him. My heart is beating so loudly that I am sure he hears its deep pounding. Gale's eyes travel the length of my body several times. His lips are slightly parted and I reach my right hand up to run my fingertips across the two kissable mounds. He swallows thickly as I let my hands fall to the buttons of his shirt. I feel faint as I work on unclasping the buttons. My hands are shaky and Gale places his palms over mine several times to help me.

"What are we doing?" I ask absently.

"I don't know," he sighs.

My eyes soak up the planes of his chest as it is revealed. I lean forward and press a soft kiss to his collarbone. I raise my palms in the smoothing motion from before and glide his shirt off his shoulders. In the soft light I can see dark freckles peppering the tops of his shoulders. The bigger distraction is the smooth skin of his stomach, accented with hard ridges of abdominal muscles. My fingers ghost over the skin there, tentatively mapping the muscles. When I slide my fingers up his sides I feel thick ribs.

A hoarse laugh fills the room and he shrinks away from my touch momentarily, "Sorry, I'm ticklish there." He laughs and I continue staring at him.

I bite my lip hard as I look back into his eyes. Gale fingers the strap of my bra. His fingertips gently investigate the lacy fabric of my undergarments. I smirk softly and press my body against his warm naked chest. Our skin feels divine pressed together, silk on silk. I press my palms across his bare back and pull my hands away in surprise. I look at the ground shamefully from my reaction to his mangled skin. He grasps my chin in his hand and pulls my gaze to his.

"I know it looks awful, but it doesn't hurt anymore. I promise." His deep voice is smooth like liquid sliding across my skin. I walk around him and place one palm against his scars. They are taught and white against his dark skin. I suppress the whimper that is attempting to pour out of me.

I gently let my calloused palms slide along the terrible lines. Bile rises in my throat, hatred for the Capitol, hatred for the new head peacekeeper. Tears begin to seep silently down my cheeks. One drop falls on my bare foot as I lean forward and press my lips to Gale's back. As I stand fully behind him I wrap my arms around his middle and place my hands on the smooth muscles of his stomach. This hug is like the one that he gave me before; I let it linger for a moment before I begin to move my lips. I kiss my way along each scar.

My tears are flowing freely now as I murmur things like, "I hate the capitol," "I hate peacekeepers", and softer things like "Your bravery is beautiful," and "Your scars are beautiful."

When Gale turns around to wrap me in his arms I feel hot tears dripping on to my shoulders. I suddenly feel a tension in my chest as I realize that he is crying too. I press my hands against his face and murmur sweet nothings while I kiss his lips softly. I run my hands all along his bare skin and press myself firmly into his embrace. I try to fight against the visions of watching the whip crack against his bare previously unblemished skin.

Once we have both regained our composure Gale is kissing me feverishly again. I bravely slide my shaking hands down his waist and try to maneuver his belt. He laughs at me through our kiss as I struggle, before he replaces my hands and removes it himself. I watch him gently unbutton his pants and shimmy them down his muscular legs. I make an audible gulp as he stands before me clad only in white boxer shorts. I step forward and revel in the feel of our nearly naked bodies pressed together.

Gale takes my hand and leads me to the bed. My fear doubles in magnitude, but the excitement of the moment seems to win out. I sit softly beside him and he takes my hand into his and presses a kiss into my palm, just as he did when I found him after the mine collapse.

"Sidney Ione Hawthorne. I like the way that sounds." His voice is soft now, but the deep liquid quality of it remains. I nod absently at his words and watch him kiss the inside of my wrist and gently kiss his way up my arm.

He presses his lips softly against mine and guides me into a laying position on the bed. He lies beside me and props his head up on one hand while the other hand smoothes soft circles on my stomach. We stare at each other in the dim light of the setting sun as it pours through the windowpane. It casts a bronze shadow over his bare chest and I smile in approval. He cocks his head to the side as if to say, what?

He leans closer until his body is pressed against my side and he dips his head to kiss my neck and chest. My heart flutters as his lips glide over the valley between my breasts. His free hand presses into the soft flesh of my hip, and then glides up my side and over the swell of my breast. I gasp at the sudden knew sensation it creates. I wasn't prepared for these sensations. Not in the least. My eyes roam the ceiling as Gale's palm does wondrous things to me.

The tree outside the window is casting a shadow across the ceiling. The bronze light of the setting sun is making the shadow dance in intricate designs. My eyelids quiver as Gale kneels between my legs and kisses his way down my stomach. His hands, calloused and hot, trace over every section of skin. My hands are knotted in his hair as I feel him lightly trace the shape of my leg. When I open my eyes I am unprepared for the swell in my heart at the sight of him hovering over me.

I silently pray thanks to whoever gave him the idea to hunt. He's perched patiently, and I imagine him in a distant tree analyzing his prey steadily, searching for weaknesses. His eyes are dark as his hands tantalize me. I am the prey and I feel how desperately I want him to ensnare me. He lowers his body gently on to mine and I feel a strange ache between my thighs. I also feel Gale, the part of him that is purely and most definitely male. I grip his shoulders and try to focus on the scratchy material of the blanket beneath my bare back.

Gale's hot breath is whispering over my face. The slope of his nose slides across my cheek followed by his lips. Every single part of me feels like it is splitting open. I feel a yearning to have Gale around and inside my very core. I'm so caught up in sliding my hands along his sides that his words are lost to my ears as he whispers to me. I make a noncommittal noise that indicates I don't understand him.

"Can I take this off?" His lips are hovering over my ear and an electric jump shoots up my spine at the sensation.

I murmur another ambiguous noise of acceptance and close my eyes tightly as I prop myself on elbows to allow him access. He slips his hands beneath me and fiddles with the clasp before it pops undone. I squeeze my eyelids tighter and allow him to slide the lacy fabric off my arms.

Gale tentatively cups his hand over my right breast. I knit my eyebrows roughly together and bite my lip as he thumbs the sensitive skin there. It feels strange to have someone else's hands touch this intimate area. I gasp as he presses a kiss against each one and proceeds to delight in massaging the newfound areas of skin.

"You are unbelievably soft. Everywhere." His voice vibrates against my chest as he speaks between kisses. I feel myself shaking again, because now we are entering very dangerous waters. He hooks his fingers in my panties and I squeeze my eyes shut again and fight the blush that is surely covering my entire body.

"And these?" He asks to remove them and I just nod weakly and lay my forearm over my flushed face.

He lets out a low, "huh." As he inspects the second region of my body that is purely woman. I feel his palm slink softly up my leg and intake a sharp breath. He stops and our eyes meet. He looks very apprehensive, but intrigued as if he has discovered some new way to set a trap. I sit further up and lean myself on the pillows. I am extremely unsure about letting him touch me there all of a sudden.

"I-I-oh Gale, I just don't know. I feel so afraid." Now I feel like a tease as I let the position that we are in soak over me. The air is moist and the sun has disappeared altogether. Our eyes are adjusting to a room that is slowly being cast into darkness.

"I would never hurt you," Gale says softly as he kneels closer to me so that he can press a kiss against my temple. I nod, feeling my stomach tighten as I think about him touching me where even I am tentative to let my fingers wander. Gale sprawls out beside me and swallows. I watch his Adam's apple bounce in his throat. He stares at the ceiling a moment and then turns his head to regard me once more.

"I'll let you touch me first. Maybe you'll be less afraid." Less afraid? Is he crazy, I wonder briefly as I think about the thought of seeing him fully naked. I don't even know what the parts of a man are supposed to look like. Before I can even say anything on the matter Gale is shimmying out of his shorts. I cover my eyes in embarrassment and make a strangled noise.

I feel him grasp my hand away and I let my gaze float to that new part of him. It's strange and I'm not quite sure how I feel about it. I must have a weird expression on my face, because his low laugh breaks me from my silent thoughts. I slide my gaze over the entire length of Gale's body from head to toe and I decide that this new part of him is proportionally and fittingly right. I find myself sitting up beside him. He watches me with heavy eyes. I place my hand on his chest and slide it south to the portion of soft skin that joins his leg to his hip.

"You're soft too," I whisper and look up to see that his eyes are closed.

There is a strange expression on his face and I experimentally run my hands over his body again. This action causes his face to strain in what I decide must be pleasure. I kiss my way across his chest and down his stomach and am rewarded with a low moan that vibrates through him into me. He seems embarrassed by the noise because he places his fist over his mouth when I repeat the action again. I laugh softly as I remove his fist and kiss the knuckles.

Gale guides my hand to his nether regions in a gentle sweep. I tentatively touch the skin there and am pleasantly surprised at how soft, but rigid it is. Smooth silk, with an underlying hardness. It's my turn to let a soft "huh" escape my lips. I lie beside Gale and let my hand move of its own accord. Gale is breathing heavily now. I stare at his face. His mouth has gone slightly slack and his eyebrows are furrowed together.

"What kinds of things do you do?" I whisper. Gale squeezes his eyes tighter and grasps my wandering hand. He shakes his head and looks at me with a look that is dripping in desire.

"How about I show you some other time. I really don't think that's a good idea right now." I understand the subtly in his statement that is telling me he is too on edge to let me touch him anymore.

I marvel in the innocence that is slowly seeping away from me with every touch and kiss. Gale slides his hand down my abdomen without a second thought. I don't stop him this time as his fingers become acquainted with this part of me. I hook my leg over his to allow him more room to explore. His fingers slide in the moisture there and one finally discovers the place where he will be inside me. I shudder at his touch and nearly kick him as he slides a finger into the tight area.

"Ahhh. Woah. Okay, maybe we should…uh I don't know." I gasp and look down at the arm he has snaked between my legs. It is so tan against my skin. He pushes his finger deeper inside me and I feel a weird sharp pain.

I moan in pain and he quickly pulls his arm away and looks at me, concern written all over his face. I look at him apologetically and grasp his hand. It is moist and I feel awkward knowing that I am the cause of that.

"Gale, a woman needs to kind of warm up, if you know what I mean." I say in an embarrassed tone. He doesn't seem to mind though and his look is one of caring and I still see the etch of concern in his eyes. I gently bring his hand back and place his fingers on the bundle of nerves that he probably doesn't know exist. I circle his fingers over the nerves and feel a twinge of fire.

"Here. Touch me here. Let me show you." I continue to help him circle the area until I start to feel a familiar sense of pleasure spring through my veins. I am breathing heavily and gripping him tightly. He appears to be a quick learner and he leans closer to me and kisses me enthusiastically as he continues without the guidance of my hand.

I feel a steady rhythm of ecstasy strumming through my legs and a tightening in my muscles. I gasp his name and press my face into his shoulder when my muscles begin to quake me into a stupor. I lie gasping beneath him and watch the look of awe cross his face at what he has done to me. I laugh loudly to release the giddy feeling in my stomach.

Gale kisses me softly and murmurs something like, 'interesting'. My whole body feels like I'm walking on hot coals. Gale settles himself between my legs and whispers his lips over my face. He takes it in both his hands and I see in his eyes that he is asking me for the final part of myself that I can give. I kiss him softly and widen my legs to let him settle more easily between them. I feel the heat between his legs and anticipation grows within me. Gale uses his hand to guide the tip against me. I grip his shoulders and press my forehead against his as he begins to push inside me. I try to relax every part of my body, but I feel like a livewire. A tight sensation wells up in my waist as the girth of him slides slowly.

There is a sharp pain briefly and I whimper. He presses his lips against my face and makes soothing noises until he is fully and completely inside me. Blood is rushing loudly in my ears. I have the sensation that I am full like a large mug of hot tea. Gale's heartbeat is racing with mine, trying to beat me to the next bend in the road.

I press a kiss into his shoulder, "I love you Gale Hawthorne. Always have and always will." He smiles and kisses my words before he answers, "I love you too. You feel so warm." I understand that statement, because he feels warm inside me. Gently and slowly he starts to move in a rhythm that causes us both to gasp.

"Oh, Gale." I feel faint and my eyes are seeing starbursts of light, spotty and bright across my vision. He grunts something in response and braces his arms on either side of me for better leverage. I find my hips gliding with his in a motion like waves. Gale's hand finds my breast and I release an appreciative moan loudly against his shoulder. I feel like I am sailing through the air in a disorderly breeze, a gale force wind that tumults me, encompasses me from all directions.

At points he slows and removes himself to rest his beating heart and prevent this from being over too quickly. Gale is below and above me, inside me, surrounding me. Never ending. At some point our tangled limbs adjust and I straddle his waist as I sink on to him. His face is shining with absolute radiant pleasure and I marvel at my ability to create that in him. Our fingers are entwined as I use his strong arms as leverage.

Gale can't handle this though and I feel his stomach tighten against mine and suddenly he's moaning deeply and grasping me to his chest. I kiss him deeply and fall beside him, resting my head on his beating heart. It sings to me, a cheerful fiddle song that beats through the silence of the room.

He sighs deeply and runs his hand lazily across my back before soft words escape his lips, "I can really get used to this." I snort at him and swat his chest with my hand. He chuckles and squeezes me tighter. When the air begins to be too cool we settle ourselves beneath the covers naked and sandwiched together.

"Do you remember the night my mother died?" My voice is soft and low. Gale tightens his grip on my waist and grunts in response. I sigh and press my cheek into the warm skin of his shoulder.

"I slept in your bed that night. You kept kicking me in the shins because you wanted me to move over," I say as my lips curve into a smile. I let the image float across my mind.

Seven year old Gale is giggling loudly in my mind as he tells me a silly story about a rabbit he saw in the woods with his father. Real Gale chuckles and the deep sound reverberates through his chest. It tickles my skin. He is probably thinking about his annoying boy tendencies.

"Don't worry, I won't kick you. I'm pretty used to having Rory and Vick dangling all over me. It was hard for all three of us to share a bed without it." If I didn't know any better I would think he might miss them tonight. Then I think about what it would be like if I had a sibling to snuggle up to all those cold winter nights.

"When you were asleep I remember holding your hand," Gale says quietly. I raise my head from his chest and look up at him confused.

He runs his hand across my cheek and smiles, "You reminded me of a wood nymph then too. I watched you sleeping for a little while and held your hand. It was soft and I thought it was funny to pick it up and watch your arm drop, dead weight. And your hair was spread across the pillow, shiny in the moonlight." I stare at him for a moment.

"Your seven year old self was very perceptive," I smirk and he mirrors me.

"I just mostly remember that it was fun repeatedly wiggling your dead arm weight around without you waking up," He says and wiggles my arm jokingly to indicate his point.

"Hey, another first!" Gale exclaims, "I was the first boy you slept with innocently and otherwise." Gale winks at me cheekily and I roll my eyes before I place my head back on his shoulder. His heart beat has slowed in my ear. Sleep is teasing at the edges of my consciousness as he begins to rub his palm mindlessly along my back once more.

I begin to drift into sleep thinking over and over again, what have I just done?