Okay, this wasn't planned. But then my lovely beta, Chelzie, graduated. I offered a gift, and this is what she wished for. Congrats, my friend!
So here it is. Short and sweet ;)
I'm happy that she's late for breakfast. It gives me time to do something that I once said I would do. I pick flowers for her in the garden by our cottage. Blue ones.
Always an always. There. Somewhere. Everywhere.
It's been a year since she came back to me. We've been living together only a few months, since her birthday, but we have gathered enough always to live off—we could practically eat them.
Always. So many ways to say it, mean it, use it. The word likes to sneak up on us during different parts of the day or night, popping its head over our blanket or swaying between the trees, startling us while I paint or while she braids her hair. The word will come out breathy and light, like something new. Or it will come out like a demand, rough around the edges, like it's hard to believe always exists, though we cling to it anyway. Or it will come out desperate, like we aren't allowed to say it more than once and must choose carefully.
Other times, we say it the way we say one another's names. Like we were born with it.
I don't know about Katniss, but our word—because it's ours—makes me feel literal. Physically endless. Boundless. Does that even make sense?
No. Nothing makes sense with her. That's the best part about us.
My mouth lifts. The blue petals are plump. The purple sky turns over the way a person waking up would, slowly opening its eyes.
She won't be expecting the bouquet. She won't be surprised either. She knows me and my ways. I'm the only one whose sentimentality she tolerates. Anyone who has survived her free-falling tongue and feisty scowl can testify: I have every right to be proud of my rare gift. I'm Katniss-compatible.
It's the imperfect flowers that she'll appreciate, that draw me in. The ones that grow despite their flaws. The ones nobody would commonly want. I can spot them better than any forest guardian.
I find a particularly wilted bloom and bend over to collect it. When the wind shifts, my grin tingles. I bend far over. Far, far over.
Now, you're just showing off.
Her voice runs through my mind like a slender finger that knows which direction it wants to go. Down to secret places.
We've played this game before. The teasing. The "showing off." Poking at each other's weaknesses until one of us melts. Most of the time, she's the one who loses and pounces on me first.
My head twists over my shoulder. I look up and see her standing on our roof, one leg propped on the smoking chimney. It's been her favorite spot on which to make an appearance since she discovered an unparalleled sense of fae balance.
She wears a soft but durable green dress, ending above the knees and allowing her to move easily through the woods. Strips of darker green and silver leather weave around the sleeve cuffs and hem, creating a braid design that matches her hairstyle. My mind goes straight to the tight green shorts that I know are beneath the material—she calls them boyshorts.
Her silver quiver hangs over her shoulder. Hours of prowling the forest have produced a satisfied sheen on her cheeks. As a fae, the color of her eyes has sharpened to a more blinding type of gray, the kind that can either slice a person's heart in half or protect it like a shield. She owns me with her eyes.
The mockingjay perches beside her. Of course.
I stand. Katniss jumps back.
"Oh, did I scare you?" I joke.
Ha! You wish. If that dog-wolf can't scare me anymore, your ass sure can't.
"No, but it can do other things to you. Shall I turn and wiggle it again?"
Wait. Let me get closer for this.
I laugh as she slides down the side of the roof, landing on both feet. The wind shifts with her again. We discovered that it does this around her. It reacts to her, moves with her, follows her through Hob Forest. It's a gale whenever she's angry at something—or someone like Haymitch or Effie. It's a light breeze whenever she's content, usually after visiting her family or Cinna, or while resting her head in my lap. It's a still and concentrated pocket of air whenever she's hunting with her father, as she has been this morning.
She has become a huntress in the deepest sense. She understands animals on an emotional level beyond that of a normal fae. If they're not prey, they flock to her for guidance, sometimes needing her to settle disputes over territory and maintain a balance between the species.
If they are prey, they take care to avoid her. Which isn't easy. She can locate their tracks even when they seemed to have vanished, can smell and hear them from fathomless distances. She has surpassed her father already.
I cross my arms. "Where's your game bag?'
She shrugs. Already in the kitchen.
I hadn't heard a thing. I'm impressed.
She detaches a small pouch from her hip and whispers to the mockingjay flapping its wings next to her. The bird clamps the pouch in its beak and flies away.
I'm suspicious. "What was that about?"
She stares at her boots. Just a nothing I collected for someone.
There are three scenarios in which my silver girl uses her thoughts to communicate with me. To flirt. To make a comment that she doesn't want company to hear. And to deal with a sore subject.
I know what was in that pouch. It wasn't healing herbs for her mother and Prim.
"Finnick," I say.
Katniss looks at me. He thought Annie would like the blue buds. They don't grow in her region.
I sigh. We've forgiven him, but we haven't forgotten. I still don't know where our friendship stands, but Katniss believes that if Finnick and Annie end up happy together, he and I might someday find a middle ground again. I don't know.
But Katniss likes Annie—especially now that Annie's interest in me has faded. For mystical reasons, Katniss thinks Finnick could be good for Annie. Katniss is really doing this for her. She doesn't do Finnick any favors.
I've gotten into plenty of debates with her over this, but I'm slowly pulling back. I trust her judgment. And perhaps I miss Finnick too, and I want her to be right, though I doubt it could ever be the same between us. We shall see. I'm more willing than I was, say, yesterday.
I walk across the grass and hold out the flowers. Her gaze floats down. She takes them and just stares, without touching them or inhaling their scent. Just one long, unwavering stare. It's a perfect reaction.
"Yes," I say.
Hmm. A few details are wrong.
Her smirk is correct, but we've started our game again. I play dumb.
"Really?" I ask, scratching my head. "I don't think so. Remind me."
You said I would wake up and be standing in the doorway when I found you doing this.
That I would be naked and wrapped in a blanket.
That you would carry me back into the house.
"And?" I whisper, giving her a doubtful look.
"And I'm always right," she whispers back, then slaps my backside.
We move closer, even though we really can't. My head dips. My kiss tells her that I'm the loser this morning, that I've given into her. It's the most fun way to lose game, and it's the scariest, letting her have this power over me. Sometimes I'm afraid she'll disappear, that we'll slip from each other again. Sometimes I wake up and reach out for her, just to make sure.
I reach out now, but I'm not worried. When she first told me she was staying in this world, I predicted this moment. Today, I made it happen, and as long as I do that with every other moment ahead, she'll be here. This will be home. Always.
Katniss is right. The details are wrong. I can fix one of them.
I hoist her off her feet and carry her inside, the flowers crushed between our bodies and becoming even more tattered. Natural creatures that have truly lived and carry scars.
I envision Katniss's head on the pillow and the rest of her beneath me, in just a few more steps. I close the door behind us. I make real everything that happens next.