Katniss Everdeen snores as loudly as a train coming into the station when she's sleeping on her back. It's kind of endearing, really. Or at least it would be, if said snoring didn't wake me from even the deepest sleep. She's lying next to me, arms flung out across the pillow, making enough noise to wake up Haymitch all the way in his house.
Well actually she isn't.
Because Katniss Mellark is lying next to me.
It's been months, and I still can't quite believe that it's real. That she's here. That she's my wife.
Of course, it doesn't exactly help when there are still mornings when I wake up feeling not entirely certain where I am. Those are almost always the times when she's somehow slipped out of my arms in the process of sleeping. Without her to anchor me when I wake, I don't recognize my surroundings. I wonder where my brothers are, why I'm not in the bakery, and start to panic a little over what exactly is going on before I lean into the small, curled-up warm lump that is her body and I remember.
Unfortunately, I don't just remember that I'm in a warm bed with the woman I love. I remember all of it. Where I am and what we've gained and we've lost and just… everything. Despite the fact that she's here, it's hard to be happy in those moments, with a past soaked in so much death stretching behind me in clear detail. And that's just what I can firmly get a grasp on. Tiny fragmented pieces of terrible events that I don't ever want to remember, but I know exist, dance around the edges of my memory.
But it's not impossible to push those kind of thoughts away when she's lying next to me, making soft mewling noises in her throat while she's trying to find me in her sleep.
Sometimes it's adorable.
Other times… well… it's sort of… unbearable.
She sighs again, and the pressing need to kiss her awake dominates my every thought. Any remnants of sleep that existed before her snoring woke me are completely gone, but it's not even close to dawn yet. I roll onto my side and pull her close to me. Her warm body pressing against mine is not helping the situation at all, so I kiss her neck in an attempt to deal with it. Softly, not enough to wake her up, but enough to…
Who am I kidding? This isn't going to help anything.
"Peeta," she sighs groggily, turning her head so I can't reach her neck anymore. "I'm trying to sleep." Her breathe smells a little stale, but it somehow manages to be intoxicating anyway.
"You can keep on sleeping," I tell her hair. "Don't mind me. I'll just lie here, consumed with desire."
"You do that," she yawns into the pillow. In all but a minute, she's out again. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised at how quickly she falls asleep when relaxed. She's slept in trees before. But it's frustrating all the same. Of course, I don't expect her to be ready to go whenever my traitor of a body wants, but lying here in the dark with nothing to do but try to ignore how much I want her is not exactly comfortable. If I get up and go into the bathroom, I'll wake her, and I just hate to do that on a night when she's sleeping so soundly.
So I think about Haymitch naked.
I've got to admit, as awful as cleaning him up was, it had the unexpected fringe benefit of being the mental equivalent of a cold shower.
Even with those revolting thoughts to calm me down, it still takes forever to fall back asleep. I go through the bakery's inventory. I try to remember exactly what rooms of the house need painted, and what colors would work the best for each one. I plot out several cakes in my head, and pick out the setting for my next painting before I finally start to drift off just as the sun is coming up. I tell myself I'll get up in a few moments, but a little bit of rest won't hurt.
In what feels like a minute later, she's headbutting my shoulder until I wake up.
As soon as I'm conscious of what's happening, I have her pinned. I'm hard again, maybe still, and now that she's awake, I'm not about to waste any time.
"You're late," she raises her eyebrows and tips her head towards the clock on the bedside table.
I do not care, and tell her as much, while kissing the hollow of her throat, then working my way up the curve of her neck to the soft line of her jaw. She squirms just a bit underneath me, and I gasp.
"You might not care, but Vick does," she tries to wiggle free, pushing against my chest, her motions making me all the more insistent on keeping her where she is. "He already insinuates enough. I don't like him thinking about us doing this. It's weird."
"What could possibly be weird? We're adults, we're married. There is not a single taboo we're breaking." I slide the strap of her tank top down her arm as I kiss across her collarbone. "The things I do to you are perfectly. acceptable. in. polite. society."
She rolls her eyes.
"Okay, well, it's not like I'm going to send Effie a descriptive letter, but no one even thinks about what we do," I try to soothe her.
"Maybe not everyone around here, but Vick analyzes everything. I don't want him to start analyzing this too," she twines her arms around my neck and for just a moment, I think that I've won.
And then I'm flipped over on my back and she's sitting on top of me. With a wicked grin that I don't see very often, she grinds her hips into mine, then leans down until she's right next to my ear.
"Go to work, Peeta," she whispers.
Before I can catch her, she's jumped into the bathroom and locked the door behind her. The sound of the shower begins. It doesn't matter if she's going hunting, and will have to shower again later. I think if she could, Katniss would shower five times a day. I think about her in there, hot water running over the smooth, firm curves of her body, and I bite my lip, hard.
"You're killing me," I call to her, putting on my leg.
Over the shower, I can hear her shout, "You've been through worse!"
I dress quickly, ignoring my general… discomfort. She's right, I need to go in. Vick isn't really equipped to open the place properly, although he technically knows how. If I'm not there, he tends to experiment with our more standard recipes. It's something I definitely encourage him to do, but not at the expense of the day's first batches of bread.
Especially since we've been using one of his first experiments to prop open the back door when it gets hot. It functions just as well as a brick might.
He still has some learning to do.
Dressed and feeling less like breaking into the bathroom, I realize there's something I need to ask her before I go.
"Katniss?" I call through the door when I hear the running water stop.
After a moment, it opens and out pops her head. Her hair is wet and dripping across the dewy skin of her collarbone. I realize I'm staring at the line where her towel meets her body, when she shakes her head, a blush staining her cheeks.
My pants are uncomfortably tight all over again. We're allowed to do this. I'm allowed to do this, to think about how much I want her, and it's not disrespectful or inappropriate or… painful. I feel almost drunk at the thought, and smile to myself, even though she won't make eye contact. Sometimes she's almost defiant in how much she responds to me, other times, she's suddenly shy, like now. The lush variety of her reactions is something I'm not certain I'll ever get used to.
"What, Peeta? Don't you need to leave?" she says to the floor. I can see the corners of her mouth turning up just the tiniest bit.
I scratch my head, trying to remember what it was exactly that I even wanted her to tell me. She waits patiently, hair dripping onto the floor. As frustrated as I might get with my own memory, she never seems to mind in the slightest when I can't remember the reason I've brought something up.
Looking at the wall instead of at her, I try to recall the moments leading up to this one. I was kneeling on the ground, tying my shoes, when I remembered something she had said last night…
"Didn't you say I needed to sign something from Gale today?"
She gets a strange look, one that I don't know how to read, and says, "Later."
Then she shuts the door in my face. No explanation. No kiss before I leave for the day. No nothing. We go from shy smiles to a sudden, abrupt stop. It's not until I'm closing the bedroom door behind me that I hear a muffled "Bye!" coming from the direction of the bathroom.
The walk to the bakery is pretty awful because not only do I feel confused and just a little bit worried about the way she was acting when I left the house, but I'm also having a really hard time calming down. You'd think that the former would take care of the latter, but I guess not. In between trying to figure out why on earth she basically kicked me out of the house, all I can think about is the way her skin smelled, like trees and sweat and just her, and once I've reached town, it's all I can do not to turn around, hike into the woods, pull her out of whatever tree she's nested in, and just…
This isn't helping.
I walk around the square four times until I feel like I can go inside without embarrassment.
"Where were you? It's almost six thirty," Vick grunts, kneading the day's second batch of dough with a strength that his thin wrists belie. He's usually not so surly in the morning. I know it can't be because I'm late, since he actually loves having the place to himself. I am about halfway through trying to figure out what could be upsetting him so much, when I see the reason sitting on the counter.
"Mornin' Bread-boy," Johanna grins, crumbs of day-old cookies spraying out of her mouth. She's leaning back on her wrists next to a stack of baked goods that she pulled out of the display cases.
I nod and smile in what I think is a pretty pleasant manner, then cross the kitchen to begin stoking the still-glowing embers of the oven. Vick has already tended to it some, but he doesn't have the same comfort level with fire as I do, and he shies away from really stoking it to the necessary temperature.
I'm not as excited to see Johanna here than I normally would be, especially considering we rarely ever get to see each other as it is. My guess is that once she has the baby, she'll be able to visit even less. Visiting her is out of the question. As long as Katniss is legally bound to stay in Twelve, Twelve is where I'll stay. So really, I should be thrilled she's showed up in the bakery out of the blue. But right now, I'm too distracted.
Because despite how much I've missed Johanna, it's already almost forty-five minutes later than the time when I'm usually baking. With just Vick and I, we're going to end up with a line people waiting at the door for the first batch to come out. And even now, or maybe especially now, with the nation recovering from war, the bread we make is the main source of food for everyone who has come back to the district.
"So what's yanking your chain this morning?" she asks, right behind me. I have to catch myself from jumping at the shock. "Not really one for hugs, but I know when I haven't been given one."
I clench my jaw and shake my head, "Nothing's wrong at all. Just, slept in and didn't get to have breakfast."
She grins deviously, "Cause you were too busy rolling around in the sheets?"
"I heard that!" Vick protests.
Of course Johanna Mason would bring up the one thing I was going to work hard not thinking about for the rest of the day. I'm not really certain why I expected anything else.
"What are you doing here anyway?" I change the subject. "It's really early."
With the index finger of each hand, she points with exaggeration at her stomach.
"Being pregnant blows. I dunno what this kid is doing, but I sure as hell can't sleep through it."
I move to walk past her and make my way to the counter, but she grabs me by the arm.
"Not so fast. You're avoiding the subject, and you're in a bad mood, which means you're frustrated and we both know what that–"
"Not in front of Vick," I whisper harshly.
Over her shoulder I can see Vick shake his head as he puts the dough that had risen overnight into pans, "Peeta, I can still hear you. And you are right; although I am not a child, I would absolutely love it if you avoided discussing whatever it is that Johanna is insinuating within my hearing."
Johanna whirls around, and even though I can't see her face, I know she's smiling a predatory sort of smile. I've seen it before, and though it doesn't faze me in the slightest, Vick's an entirely different story. He drops the last bit of dough into a pan and backs up against the counter, looking for an escape route.
"Oh, so now you're bowing out of the big kid's discussion?" she slowly saunters over to him. As well as a pregnant woman can saunter, anyway. "You didn't seem too much of a prude to out your brother and I."
"He was having extreme difficulty communicating!" Vick sputters. "I thought I was doing him a favor! And also, it was…"
She snorts, "Was what?"
"Look Vickie," Johanna drawls boredly, although it's obvious to me that she's having the time of her life. "I thought it was hilarious. I'm just saying, if you're gonna pull shit like that, you," she pokes him in the chest, "have gotta be ready to deal with the idea of sex in general."
Vick's wide eyes flicker up and down nervously, and he nods, clearly uncertain how to react. He seems to be in awe. I've seen the look before. He's not exactly subtle. Johanna slaps him on the shoulder, and turns to walk back to me, before I see her grin and whirl around on the ball of her foot.
"Oh, and one more thing."
"Yes?" he gulps.
"I know they're awesome, especially now that I'm knocked up, but stop staring at my tits."
I don't even see him leave, he's so quick, just hear the slamming of the door as he runs from the kitchen into the storefront.
"I guess you'll just start opening up then, Vick?" I call after him, hoping for the best. Gathering up the bread pans that he's prepped, I begin to load them into the oven.
"So what's the source of your sexual frustration here, Bread-boy? Mockingjay on the rag?"
I glare at her and she laughs before sauntering back over to the counter and putting another cookie in her mouth.
"Did Gale mention anything to you about some kind of paper Katniss and I need to sign?" I ask once I've completely loaded the oven.
She shakes her head, "No. Why?"
"Last night, when we were going to bed, she told me that she wanted me to sign Gale's wedding present. She seemed pretty happy about it. Then when I asked her about it this morning, she slammed the bathroom door in my face."
"Was that before or after she turned you down?" she asks frankly, sliding off of the counter and examining various kitchen implements.
"After," I grimace, fully expecting the mocking laugh that will undoubtedly follow.
Instead, she demands, "Where's your bathroom?" somewhat unexpectedly
"Um… out by the storefront. Vick will show you."
"This kid has legs as long as his dad, and one of them is lodged in my bladder about eighty percent of the damn time," she mutters angrily, stomping through the swinging door.
And I'm alone with nothing but the confusing events of early this morning to keep me company.
It's not that I'm upset that we didn't have sex. I mean, obviously I wanted to. I don't think there's a single minute of the day where I wouldn't run the entire way home if she dropped even the slightest hint that she was planning on being naked. But it's not like she owes it to me to be ready to go whenever I want. Especially if that happens to be in the middle of the night.
But her rejection, however sleepy and inoffensive, in combination with her strange behavior keeps playing in my head as though they're somehow related, even though logically I know how unlikely that is. I don't know what went on with Gale, only that they talked, and she feels some kind of closure. Before this morning, I felt good about it. But now, I'm not so sure.
I trust her. I really, really do. But my brain runs in circles, whether I want it to or not. I only talk to Dr. Aurelius every other week now, but it always comes back to this.
"Peeta, there are just some things that time isn't going to change."
All I can do is remind myself that sometimes the things I feel are paranoia, and not real. That I just have to experience them, and let them go, because I can't control them. Not at all.
And trust her. I have to trust her.
In no time at all, Johanna is back, slamming through the doors in the noisiest way possible. I'm not alone. I guess I'm not really ever alone, although sometimes the isolation of my mental health situation nearly smothers me.
She slides into a chair and props her feet up on the counter. "So where were we?"
I push her feet off, and wipe the area down with a soapy rag. "I think you were about to mock me, and I was then going to turn the conversation back around to you, and then we were going to both be irritated at each other for a while."
She rolls her eyes, "That sounds annoying. Can we just skip to the part where you tell me what the hell crawled up your ass and died? You don't even seem that happy to see me, which obviously can't be right."
"I'm not an idiot, Peeta. Spill. You know the rules. Nothing is too minor to talk about."
The fact that she's referring to our group therapy means there's nothing I can do to avoid this conversation.
"I can usually read Katniss pretty well, and she's acting confusing. I want to just ask her what's going on, but I feel like I'm making this all up in my head and, since she just talked to Gale, it might come off as though I'm jealous or suspicious, and it's just not that at all."
"Are you sure you're not just pissed because she didn't want to fuck this morning?" she puts her feet back on the counter and grins at me defiantly.
"No! I mean, sort of. I'm definitely not pissed. I guess it added to things, but that wasn't her fault. It just made me feel rejected, even though logically the timing was off and there was no practical way for it to happen."
"And you weren't at all nervous about Gale coming back?" she looks at me like she knows the answer.
"Just how angry will you be if I say that I was?"
She slams the counter and glares at me, "You think I wasn't nervous, you moron? Of course I was! Do you know how backwards all of this has been for me? None of this was supposed to happen like this! I never even considered having a kid, but I know I'm supposed to have my shit together before I have a one, not to mention that the kid's father's supposed to have his shit together too. There's not supposed to be all these loose ends that, if I let myself think about them too much, tell me I'm at worst a damn rebound, and, at best, some kind of personal redemption project."
There are rules about Johanna, about touching her, when you can, and how often. I probably know them more than anyone, because there was a point when I was the only person allowed to do so. But sometimes she just looks so vulnerable that I can't help myself and I hug her.
"I can't think of two people less equipped to be…" she tosses up her hand, as though she's not certain what word to use, and it hits my face, "together. With the exception of you two, and maybe Haymitch, we're the most shell-shocked people in the damn country. Even Annie's got it together more than I do. But I'm still with him, 'cause, even when I feel my absolute worst, there's still nowhere else I want to be. And I know, because I've tried. Now stop hugging me Bread-boy, before I break your arms. You know how I hate to be touched."
She's laughing though, so I think it's alright.
I let her go. Well, put her down really. Even pregnant, she's still so small, her bones like those of a bird. Before… well, before everything that happened, in the Quell and after, she had been petite, yes, but heavily muscled and strong. I've gained my bulk back, and more besides, but she hasn't.
I fear that she won't ever do so, no matter how many stale cookies she eats.
"Anyway, that wasn't really relevant to what you were saying…" she looks embarrassed.
"It's okay," I tell her. "I feel sort of better now, although I'm not really sure why."
"She wants you, though," she offers. "I mean, I saw her looking at you yesterday when you were sitting by the fire. She fixates on your arms when you're not paying attention."
"I mean, I know she does… wait, my arms?"
She holds up her hand, "Just because you know doesn't mean you don't need to hear it. I mean, don't even get me started on her fingering that damn pearl all the time when we shared a room. If that isn't blatant symbolism, I don't know what is."
"The one you gave her. In the Quell. She'd lie on her back and roll it against her lips and kiss it when she thought I was asleep. Honestly, she could have just rubbed one out. I would have kept my mouth shut."
And then I'm laughing so hard I fall on the floor.
"If you're frustrated, you should let her know how much you want her. You know, show some initiative."
"I don't like to push her…"
She looks me dead in the eyes, "I know why, okay? You know that. But I just want you to understand that once a woman trusts you enough, she will not mind you slamming her against the wall and fucking her brains out."
Popping another cookie in her mouth, she grins, "Hell, I certainly didn't last night when Gale..."
I push her feet off the counter, just in time to hear Vick wail, "Someone please cauterize my eardrums!"
The rest of the day feels better, although I find myself swarmed with worry in brief moments. Gale comes by and offers to help me clean some of the old ashes out of the oven. He seems unable to stop working, even when Johanna sits on a chair and flicks little pieces of dough at him. He gives her this glare that's equal parts annoyance and something else that I'm not certain I should even see.
The desire to hike into the woods and find Katniss rages up inside me again.
"You should go home, Peeta," Vick announces about an hour before the end of the day. "It appears as though you are on the verge of an episode."
"Huh?" I say, looking up from the cake I'm frosting.
Vick sits down the knife he was using to cut away the uneven edges of a cake, pushes his glasses up the bridge of his nose, and begins using what I've started to refer to as his "science voice."
"Your pupils are dilating ever few minutes. You stop whatever you're doing and stare, as though you're not really here in your mind. Also, your hands are shaking. All indications of an imminent episode."
Johanna chuckles, "An episode, eh? That's what they're calling it nowadays? You should go home, you know, have your 'episode' in private?"
Gale laughs somewhat unexpectedly from his position behind her. I feel the overwhelming urge to tell him that I'm going to go home and make love to my wife until she is hoarse from screaming. But his laugh dies off suddenly, replaced by a choking sound, and Johanna's left hand isn't visible, so I decide that maybe I'll just keep that information to myself.
"You know what? You're right. I should go," without waiting for a response, I gather my coat and storm out the back door
"See ya…" Gale croaks weakly as it slams behind me.
The entire walk home, my frustration builds, until it's almost anger. I want to know what's going on, why she pushed me out so abruptly this morning. I want to kiss her breathless and feel her writhe underneath me. I feel like I'm burning from the inside out.
"Katniss!" I call out in a voice so angry it shocks even me as I push open the door. It echoes back to me off the walls and stairs, but she's nowhere to be found. Her boots, jacket, and bow are sitting in their normal spot by the door, but I can always feel it when she's nearby. I don't know if it's something the Capitol did, or something I did or maybe just what happens when you fall in love, but I always know.
And she's definitely not on the first floor.
I take the stairs two at a time, and burst into our bedroom. The shower is running again. I can hear Katniss singing to herself over the sound of the running water. My shirt is over my head before I even realize what I'm doing. I toss it onto the bed, when I see it, a halfway unfolded piece of thick Capitol paper with Gale's signature at the bottom.
The paper feels strange against the calloused ridges on my hands. I wish I had more like this to draw on, but it's hard to come by. So why is it sitting on my bed?
The fold opens, and I see my name, as well as Katniss' maiden name. I close my eyes, and behind them flashes Caeser Flickerman's smile.
We're more married than any piece of paper or big party could make us.
Here it is. The piece of paper. With Gale's name at the bottom. As a witness.
I'm too busy looking at it to even notice that the shower has turned off, the singing has ended, or the bathroom door has opened until hands, warm and slightly damp from the shower, slide up the expanse of my back.
"You're not supposed to be home yet," she purrs, sending a bolt of electricity down my spine. I've been in such a state of arousal all day that it takes less than thirty seconds for me to become completely hard for what might be the fifteenth time in the past six hours.
I try to turn around, but she clings to my shoulders and leans up against me. I can feel bare skin against mine, and it's obvious that she's not wearing much at all. All of my muscles tighten involuntarily as she runs her fingernails down my spine.
"So… apparently we're not married," she murmurs, kissing across the expanse of my back. Her lips are soft, but just a little chapped, and I can feel the difference in textures as she skims across my scars. I close my eyes and sigh blissfully.
And then her words sink in.
"What?" I spin around, and my eyes just about fall out of my head.
With the exception of sliding a zipper down her back and helping her out of her fake wedding dress, I have never seen Katniss in any sort of "fancy" underwear. Ever. Even that one time, all I saw was the back of a bra and then I closed my eyes and thought about Haymitch.
But what she is wearing now can only be classified as lingerie.
It's black, and looks like lace, only instead of frilled or scalloped, or whatever the correct term for women's undergarment finishing is, the edges are ragged and torn. There's a bra, I guess, and some kind of little shorts and that is basically the only kind of description my mind can manage, because right now I don't feel like someone who has been seeing this woman in all stages of nudity for the past year. I feel like a fifteen-year-old who has suddenly won the teenage boy lottery. I twitch hard against my trousers, and I forget what I was even talking about, until she speaks up again.
"We're not legally married. The form we sent to the Capitol wasn't official. Apparently it's not just something you can announce. So…" she takes a deep breath as though even now it's hard to say, "Gale gave me that," she gestures to the paper that is hanging limply out of my hands, "and told us to sign it so we're legally protected."
"He did?" I say to her breasts.
She moves closer, and I feel her hands reach around my waist and dip into the back of my trousers.
"I don't want to talk about Gale," she whispers, and then nips at my ear. "I want you to take me right now. The way you wanted to this morning. I've been thinking about it all day."
"Uh, shouldn't we sign this?" I ask, so unused to this sort of talk from her that I say basically the stupidest thing I could possibly imagine.
She steps back and looks at me as though I'm the biggest idiot ever, "Is that what you really want, Peeta?"
I'm pulled tight as a wire, looking at her, damp hair loose across her shoulders, black lace across the dark olive of her skin.
Maybe I'm just imagining it, but her scent hangs heavy in the air.
I surge forward and capture her mouth in a kiss, pushing her backwards until we slam into the wall. I feel her hands scramble across my back as our lips war with each other, and I wrap my hands around her waist, lifting her easily and pressing her into the hard surface. Her legs twine around me, and I can feel her heat, even through the material of my trousers.
"I want you against the wall," I tell her, and once I've started I can't stop. "I've wanted you all damn day. I couldn't stop thinking about it. I spelled Susie's name on her birthday cake wrong three times, because all I could think about was…" she reaches her hand and grasps me and I groan.
"Was what?" she whispers, sliding down my zipper
"Fucking you," I gasp. I feel her fingers slip through my shorts and wrap tightly around me. Her hand is still so warm from the shower and it feels so damn good. I don't talk like this very often, and I don't know why I am now, but I don't know if I'm going to be able to stop, now that I've started. "I thought about knocking everything off the bakery counter and laying you down and just tasting you."
Her hand begins to move even more quickly, and I muffle a groan into her shoulder. Without warning, I let go of her legs, and she slides down with a bump.
"What are you–?" she begins, as I push her hips against the wall, and in the same motion, pull down her tiny shorts and kneel. I'll regret it tomorrow, I'm certain, but even then, I probably won't really regret it, because I want her, this, all of it so damn badly.
"Just because we're not in the bakery doesn't mean I can't do this." With my elbow and hand of my right arm, I push apart her thighs, and then, the smell of her is everywhere, driving me into a near frenzy. I hear the thunk of her head as it leans back against the wall, and then there is nothing but her, hot and absolutely drenched. Her fingers twine through my hair as she makes quiet keening sounds that echo through the room.
I slide each of her thighs over my shoulder, and then I stand, even as I work her with my mouth. With the added leverage gained by being upright, I hold her against the wall by her hips. Her legs squeeze tightly around my head and I feel her short fingernails digging into my scalp and pulling my hair. The slight burst of pain sends another rush of blood south. There's no such thing as time anymore, only the touch and taste of her as she trembles against me.
"Peeta yes oh please oh please don't stop please," she whimpers in one long unending stream of barely discernible words. I feel her hands pull even harder at my hair, and her legs clench even more tightly.
Then she screams, and I almost come at the sound. Her whole body relaxes, and I have to brace myself to catch her as she slides down the wall. When she's finally on her feet again, leaning weakly against me, all she can manage to say are two hoarse words.
I laugh a little and press a kiss to her forehead, "What?"
As though energized by my words, she stands up straighter and pushes me towards the bed.
"I want you to do what you said earlier," she says softly, walking unsteadily towards me. Her body may be exhausted, but there's a silver gleam in her eyes as she speaks.
Having once been on the borders of insanity, I take my mental health very seriously. I try to maintain a cool head when I can, and make certain everyone around me is safe when I can't.
But at her words, I completely lose my mind.
I step forward, and pick her up, then toss her on the bed. She lands on the license, and then bounces before landing again, but I've already ripped off my trousers and shorts, and crawled up after her before she's stopped moving. I grab each one of her feet and pull her toward me. I'm so hard I think I might explode any second, but I don't even care as I find her entrance and slide effortlessly inside her tight, warm, wet heat.
"Sign it," she gasps, grabbing onto my shoulders and stilling my movements.
I try to get a grasp on what she's talking about, but it's all I can do to hold myself back.
She reaches down with one hand and grabs the marriage license, and then puts in on her sweat-covered stomach. She's still wearing her bra, and I'm still wearing my socks.
This seems a little unnecessary at the moment. "Right now?" I ask, feeling my eyes beginning to cross from holding back.
"Right now," she reaches for a pen on the nightstand and hands it to me. "I don't want them telling me who my husband is. So sign it. Now. This can be our 'official ceremony.' Marry me, Peeta Mellark."
I laugh, because it is heart wrenchingly sweet, ridiculous, and altogether so very Katniss, but my laugh's cut off as she begins to clench herself around me. Grabbing for the pen, I lean down and try to write my name, growling, "If you want me to do this, you're gonna have to stop that for a minute, woman."
"Well just how much do you want me to be your wife?" she lifts her eyebrows, as though daring me, "Can you control yourself long enough to sign?"
I grit my teeth and try to ignore blissful pressure of her squeezing around me. "I'll make an honest woman out of you yet," I half-laugh, half-gasp.
The pen slips onto the mattress when she runs her fingernails from the base of my hairline to my tailbone, and my signature ends up looking like it did when I was ten, but it's done.
"Your turn," I grin, then pull out and flip her onto her stomach. I push her onto her hands and knees, and then slide back inside her, reaching around with my finger to rub tight, tiny circles on the bundle of nerves that will drive her over the edge.
She exhales raggedly and I can see her hand reach out shakily to grasp the pen.
"Peeta, what…" she moans.
"Tell me Katniss," I hiss through gritted teeth as I slam into her. "Just how much do you want to be my wife?"
The look she gives me as she turns around sets me on fire.
"Don't you dare stop."
She signs with a closed fist, an enormous caricature of her signature, then throws the pen and paper across the room. Her back arches and she pushes herself back into me almost as hard as I'm pushing into her. Our bodies are slick with sweat, and it's hard for me to hold onto her hips well enough to touch her, but I'd rather die than stop.
I want her to come, she has to come, because if I have to wait for much longer, I think I'm gonna die. But the way she's squeezing me, and grasping at the sheets, I think she's on the verge.
"I love you so damn much," she groans into the pillow, lowering her head and changing the angle just so that I can push even deeper than before.
When I'm on the verge of an episode, time seems to slow into infinitesimal movements, as though I have just a moment to stop myself, to stay on one side of the edge, to remain in the land of the mentally fit. It's hard to hold on, and so tempting to let go. But I fight it, I hold back, and I'm getting better at better at staying on the side of the sane, of reality.
It's exhausting, though, trying to hold back. Trying to be strong even when I'm not. But as I feel her under and around me, so beautiful and wild, I can't even think of those things. I can't think of anything at all other than racing toward the edge with her. But I hold back. I wait for her. She knows I do. She knows I will.
But just when I think she's about to spill over the precipice, just when I can't take it anymore, her head turns and she looks at me with a drunken smile.
"Let go, Peeta."
I'm utterly lost. The world dissolves into a single moment of sensation, and then…
Somewhere, in the midst of the whirlwind of sensation, I hear her gasp out my name. And then I collapse on top of her, feeling the blood as it thrums through my body, and there is no room for anything else but the blissful blankness that comes with release.
"So it's official now," she says after some time, when we're lying on our backs, hand in hand, too worn out to even roll together and hold each other, "I am definitely, without a doubt, Katniss Mellark."
"We never really talked about that," I yawn. "You could have kept your name. I know it's not really traditional, but if you wanted… I could be Peeta Everdeen. Now that we have that certificate, we can change it to whatever we want. It's a silly tradition, I don't even understand why a woman is supposed to give up her name."
She looks at me softly for a moment, the sort of looks that, despite how good what we just did was, I would choose over all else for the rest of my life.
"I like things the way they are," she says softly.
Fair enough, I suppose.