"They need this. It will be good for them," Peeta said with all the confidence he could muster as he pushed a lump of dough back and forth with the heels of his hands. His body was possessed by a nervous energy that he had been trying quite valiantly to hide from his guest. Unfortunately, it wasn't working too well. But then, simultaneously tearing through a kitchen, somehow baking almost ten different things at once did not exactly establish an aura of calm.
Johanna didn't respond, but that was because every inch of space that she normally used for talking was currently full of some kind of delicious, fluffy pastry that her host had just pulled out of the oven. A snowstorm of crumbs fell out of her mouth and gathered on the prominent bulge of her abdomen.
Peeta slapped the dough hard and, with almost desperate enthusiasm, pulled it apart into small sections, which he then rapidly formed into little loaves. "Because, you know, it's been two years. She's ready for healing, I think. This will be good. Great, really."
Johanna still did not respond, elbows leaning on what was the only clear space on the huge expanse of kitchen counter. The rest was covered with every single baking implement in the house, and nearly every one of them was in the process of being used. She shoved an entire chocolate croissant in her mouth at once.
"Not that it will be easy. I couldn't get her to talk about him for almost six months. But, she missed him even then. I mean, they were best friends and that doesn't just go–"
"Peeta?" Johanna interrupted in a sweet voice.
Without the distraction of talking, the pitch of his frenzied baking greatly increased. Johanna leisurely picked up a small beignet and devoured it with slow smacking sounds. They were silent for a long time.
"Do you trust her?" she asked, still reigning, two years later, as lady and mistress of the elephant in the room.
The egg that Peeta had been about to crack exploded in his hand, startling him. He closed his eyes and grabbed onto the countertop until his knuckles were white. After a few seconds of this, he relaxed a bit, and took a deep breath.
"Yes. Completely. Totally. More than anyone else in the world." He wiped his egg-covered hand on his apron, asking in a much smaller voice, "Do you trust him?"
Johanna didn't answer right away.
"Yeah." She gently touched her stomach and added sardonically, "I guess I might as well at this point."
He gave her a hopeful smile, and then picked up a new egg and cracked it effortlessly between his fingers above a bowl.
She sat up suddenly. "That doesn't exactly make this pleasant, though."
"Least you can get drunk," she stuffed a cookie in her mouth.
He scoffed, "Johanna, I can't ever get drunk. I'm not even supposed to let myself get too sleepy."
"Oh, yeah," she said, with her mouth full. "Sorry. Forgot."
He shrugged, "It's alright. It's hard to even think about alcohol without getting flashes of holding naked Haymitch under the shower. You'd think if a government was going to go to all the trouble of rewriting your memory, they'd at least have the decency to get rid of something like that along with it."
Johanna snorted, and crumbs of cookie flew out of her nose, making her cough.
"So what are we going to do to soothe our irrational paranoia until they get back?" he asked.
"Well, we could always just do what we're both secretly terrified they're doing."
He chuckled and shook his head.
"You couldn't handle me anyway."
He laughed out loud.
"Let's see then… we could tie some knots! A tried and true classic of the mentally deranged."
"I think I've tied enough knots for fourteen lifetimes."
Suddenly annoyed, she slumped back down into the chair. "I don't know, Peeta! What do you do when you're stressed?"
"I'm already doing it. Or did you think we needed five dozen cheese buns for dinner?"
"And as much as I and my parasitic appendage appreciate the endless supply of fattening delights, I need something to do before I go crazy. This," she pointed at her belly, "means that I can't swing an axe for the next six months. Might tear something, or some kind of nonsense like that. I don't understand what's going on down there."
"You could go wake up Haymitch. He stayed fairly sober last night so Katniss could talk to him. I'm pretty certain I heard him making up for it around two in the morning. I'm sure it'd be quite gratifying for you."
"Just the smell of all that liquor makes me sick. What are you doing to me?" she yelled at her stomach, then turned to Peeta again. "Why'd she need to talk to him anyway? Couldn't she just talk to you?"
"She was mad at me."
Johanna shook with laughter, "Why?"
"Because I told her that I thought it was really important she talk to Gale."
The laugh died on her lips.
"Stop being so damn good, Peeta."
"I'll take it under advisement," he said distractedly, concentrating on rolling out a batch of phyllo dough.
He paused to look up and add something, but as he did, he found himself in the possession of an entire faceful of flour.
After a stunned moment, he lifted his apron and calmly wiped the flour out of his eyes, mouth, and nose. "Are you sure you want to do this, Johanna?" he asked when he could speak again. "As a seasoned veteran of some very epic flour battles, I can tell you that you don't stand a chance."
She grabbed one of the bowls and ducked behind the island. "Breadboy, did you see the 71st Hunger Games? Maybe you forgot, but being the underdog is kinda my thing."
A half an hour later, Gale and Katniss opened the front door, quietly discussing the somewhat neutral topic of how much cleaner Twelve was without the constant stain of coal dust. She was trembling, and his eyes were swollen and lined with red, but the strain in both their shoulders was gone. They could finally look each other in the eye.
"Peeta?" she called for her husband. After the conversation she had just had, all she wanted was to curl up in his arms and sleep for the next eight to eighteen hours.
A very guilty voice called out from the kitchen, "Oh! You're back already! We were just… uh… baking. Things are a bit of a mess. I'll be right out, give me a second."
Katniss exchanged a wary look with Gale. His was a little more suspicious than wary. She couldn't really blame him, she supposed. Subconsciously, he was probably never going to completely trust that Peeta Mellark wouldn't steal his girl when his back was turned, even if said girl was a historically vicious killer currently very pregnant with Gale's baby. With a silent nod to each other, Gale and Katniss slipped into hunting mode and crept into the kitchen.
Peeta had not been lying. He had clearly been baking. Baking from the moment they had left the house four hours ago it seemed. Stack and stacks of breads, pastries and cookies were sitting in a sheltered spot under the cabinets.
The rest of the kitchen was a different story.
There was flour e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.
There had to be almost twenty pounds of it spilled across the entire kitchen. It was on the ceiling. In between the tiles on the wall. On the clean dishes in the doorless cabinet. In the funnel of the teapot. In the tiny holes in the saltshaker. And, most of all, it lay in huge piles on the counter, island, and floor. Some of it had gotten wet and was now congealing into a disgusting paste. Johanna's short brown bob was now completely white. Peeta's entire right side was uniformly covered.
This chaos didn't even including the dozen eggs that had been thrown into the walls, windows, and, it appeared, Peeta's face. Butter was smeared across the cabinets. A bottle of vanilla had exploded (or been thrown), and Johanna reeked of it.
There was, what was that? a blueberry in her husband's ear.
"Whaa…?" Gale started to ask, but couldn't really form a coherent sentence.
Johanna was lying on her side on the floor, laughing so hard no noise was coming out. Little puffs of flour rose with each hysterical spasm. Peeta looked chagrined, and he slowly approached his stunned wife.
"We got bored."