We see her off to school after Peeta stuffs her so full of pancakes, fried eggs, bacon, and milk that she looks as if she could pop at any moment…or possibly throw up. I know she has to be miserable from it all but I can't help but hold on to the moment tightly. There has been so many meals, days…years really, if I'm being honest with myself, that I've had to send her to school or to bed still hungry at best, starving at worst. It is the best kind of therapy I can possibly get to be able to see her off stuffed full for once and know that I can have her back again, any time I want according to Peeta, and stuff her to the brim all over again. I don't have to worry about her starving anymore, I realize slowly. I know that Peeta's told me as much before, but I don't think I've really been able to believe it until now.
He is going to take care of me.
By taking care of Prim, giving her an open invitation to our house, a good merchant job to look forward to, a real future, he's really taking care of me. I turn around to him from my place in the doorway and smile, a rouge tear on my cheek.
It doesn't go unnoticed and he immediately walks across the room to me to wipe it away with his thumb. "What's wrong Katniss?"
I shake my head a little and smile, embarrassed at my lack of control over my emotions. This isn't like me. "Nothing's wrong. I think it's my first time since my father died."
His face shows an understanding and he pulls me up to his chest, cradling my head to him and just holding me. I breathe in his scent…all the smells that I have come to love so deeply in such a short time. I allow myself to relax in the moment before suggesting "let's go get cleaned up. I'm in some pretty serious need of a bath."
He nods and we go upstairs. Both of us can't fit into the tub at once though, of course, especially not with my cast, so I suggest that he go first as it will take him less time and he bathes as I remove the sheets from our bed. The bottom sheet has blood stains from the night before. Proof to Peeta that I was indeed a virgin. Not that he needed more proof. It was the rest of the town that had thrown rocks and accused me of being an adulteress and sleeping with two different men when I still had yet to sleep with any at all.
If this were medieval times like we had learned about in history class I would just hang the sheet with the blood stain outside the front window for the world to see. Proof that the marriage was real and consummated and proof that I was innocent. But that would probably just embarrass the daylights out of Peeta and gross out everyone else.
I strip off the dress that I had thrown on this morning before Prim woke up and walk to the bathroom naked. At this point Peeta has seen everything anyway, though maybe not in great detail due to the dimness of the moonlight versus actual daylight. He's out of the tub already, draining the dirty water out from his bath and then filling it up again with new, hot water from the tap. One thing I love about living here besides Peeta is the automatic hot and cold tap water. It's amazing now much of a luxury it is to have throughout the day and how much time and work it saves. I have yet to quit marveling over it mentally every time I see it flow out of the faucets like magic.
One thing that's even better than the magical tap water is the view of Peeta in front of me. His naked, clean body crouched over to test the temperature of the water. I rake my eyes over all of his well defined muscles and beautiful clear skin. I hate to think of all the fair haired merchant girls that must have thrown themselves at him, but am amazed to think about it knowing that he purposefully picked me over all of them. How could I possibly ever pay this boy back for everything he has done?
But I can do some things to show my gratitude, including hunting all the game I can find as soon as I'm physically able. Peeta rises slowly from the floor and my jaw gaps a little at the sight of his beautiful naked body moving again as a few other ways to show my gratitude come to mind.
He jumps when he turns around and sees me, caught unaware of my presence and then his eyes grow larger, looking at me from top to bottom. Taking in my nakedness. Okay, maybe this is a little more embarrassing than I had thought it would be. He can see me. Me…every scar, every imperfection, in the broad daylight.
"You're beautiful." He tumbles out the words as if caught off guard, as if he had only just realized that he thought this. I frown. Does he think he has to say that?
I want to stop him, to tell him that he doesn't have to try to make me feel better, but I don't have the words and know that I'll screw them up if I try. I end up just walked forward and stepping into the tub, gripping the sides with both hands as I position my bad leg to hang down over the outside. Peeta simply stands where he was before, his eyes fixated on my every movement. Once I'm all the way into the water our eyes meet for a moment. His big blue hypnotic eyes have had me mesmerized from the beginning and I'm so wonderfully lost now that I can't see ever even trying to find my way back out again.
After I have my bath and get clean I'm going to take the boy with those beautiful perfect eyes and…and…do whatever the word is for when people feel as I do. Show him how much he means to me. I want to make him as happy as he has me. He comes to sit on the side of the tub, opposite my leg, and gently takes the washcloth that I've begun using away from me, motioning for me to lean forward.
Silently, I do, and he begins washing my back in motions that feels more like a massage than scouring for dirt. His hands are warm. "I've been dreaming about doing this ever since I gave you that sponge bath." He comments softly.
"Really? I was dreaming of you doing what you did last night while you were giving me the sponge bath." I manage out boldly, not nearly as embarrassed by the statement as I would have been just a day ago.
"You were?" A touch of disbelief is in his tone mixed with satisfaction and awe.
He runs a wet hand though his hair, removing the slightly overgrown bits from his eyes. He will need a haircut soon. "At first I didn't think you would ever even sleep in the same room as me. This is like some kind of fantasy. I'm still a little scared I might wake up and you're still with Gale and I'm alone again." His hand runs out of skin to clean on my back and he gently nudges me to relax against the back of the tub and give him access to my chest.
"I was never with Gale like that Peeta." I remind him. "I always thought of him like a brother or cousin or something. I never thought of anybody like that. I just thought of hunting and Prim and how to get through the day. It's strange to be here and to have enough food in my stomach and space in my head to think of more."
"And now that you can?" His eyes are hopeful as he continues the gentle washing at my shoulders and collarbone.
I smile at him shyly. Its a small smile, but it is one of contentment. "At this point I'm pretty sure that if you were going to get rid of me you'd have done it already."
He shakes his head and smiles at me as if I had just said something ridiculous and a little funny. The next thing I know is the feel of his lips against mine. Soft. Warm. Gentle. Slightly desperate still, as he always is when we kiss. Sometimes he kisses me like he is afraid I'll push him away at any second; like all of his will is going into convincing me not to. I kiss him back fully, deeply and try to communicate through it how thankful I am to him.
I don't notice when the water begins to get cold. I barely even notice when I'm lifted up from it, still dripping wet and strangely numb to the chill. All I know is him- his lips and tongue caressing mine, his hard chiseled chest against my body, his strong and yet gentle hand at my thighs, his arm at my back, his clean vanilla and cinnamon smell mixed with his own natural musk. Then I notice his hot breath at my neck, his body hovering close above mine on the bare mattress, his hands in my hair and cheeks and then at my breasts and hips. It sends goosebumps down my naked body and yet everything about him is warm.
I'm sore from the night before, but as his fingers come down to touch me as only he has the right to, I really don't care. If I'm already covered in scars from having to fight, then certainly I don't mind a little pain from finally learning to trust. I open my legs willingly to him and take his face in my hands to kiss him again as we become joined. When we finally part lips for air, I open my eyes to find him staring at me as he moves with those big blue intoxicating eyes and I lock onto them, hypnotized. I understand now why he waited. I understand why it is that he worked so hard to get me to trust him and never forced this onto me. It would've been impossible. This, what's happening between the two of us right now, can't be forced on someone. In this moment he isn't just taking my body. He's seeing every piece of me. Every fault, inexperience, vulnerability; he sees it all because I am giving it to him. He staring into my soul through my eyes as I am staring at his right back. Even though it still scares me, being this honest and trusting of someone, I can't help but marvel at how beautiful this moment is.
I know he loves me. I can see it plain as day in his eyes. It is spelled across his face. He hadn't lied about it ever. This stupid boy really does love me inside and out and wants me for my soul as much as for my body. I think he tells it to me at some point; perhaps as a whisper in my ear, as he keeps up his slowly, steady, careful rhythm. But I think he says it better with his free hand at my cheek, his hot breath at the base of my throat, his lips at the sensitive spot just beneath my ear. He says it by the way he pulls me up to him and holds me when he finishes, his arms wrapped securely around me and his fingers drawing little patterns onto my skin.
And, though I don't say it yet, at least not aloud, I can't help but smile to myself as a strangely comforting hum of realization settles within me that I love him too.