"Did you dance like that?" Johanna snickers under her breath. The taunt doesn't surprise me. The fact that she isn't disrupting the music with her screechy laughter does, though. It's almost as if she doesn't want to ruin the festival for the newlyweds.
"Not exactly like that," Káto both assumes and answers for me as the grooms twirl with crisp movements around their brides.
"No, not exactly," I allow.
The pair of them snort and snicker with mirth at the thought of me bumbling through the intricate dance that the couples are performing upon the four-season-painted ground. I ignore my brother and Kolfrosta's elder sister in favor of seeking out Katniss' gaze. We share a look and a memory. No, I had not danced like that. Instead, I had scooped Katniss gently up in my arms and knelt among the scattered dyes with her upon my knee. Her hands had been warm and tantalizing on my shoulders. I'd kissed her in front of everyone. I can still remember her taste. The wine, the ale, the water, the herbs, the essence of her – all mingling on her tongue and mine.
I inhale sharply as that memory blends and twists into another: Katniss, bare before me, reclining back against our bed furs, my hands upon her hips and her thighs over my shoulders as I'd tasted—
I startle as Katniss leans across me and shoves at Káto and Johanna, jostling them unrepentantly. "I will call Primrose. She will teach you the dance. You will enjoy it." This last promise she makes with a sharp-toothed smile.
"She was an excellent teacher," I contribute, enjoying the wide-eyed looks we're being given from our tormentors though I keep both of them exiled to the periphery of my vision. I only have eyes for Katniss. Our gaze brims with shared secrets.
Johanna rolls her eyes at us and belches. "Where's the ale?"
Katniss gestures toward the barrel beside the outdoor kitchen. Káto accompanies her to refill his own drinking horn. I waste no time in curling an arm around Katniss' waist. Nuzzling her ear, I purr naughtily, "How early is too early to retire for the evening?"
She bites her lip. Her smile teases. The look in her eyes ignites tiny fires of anticipation in my blood. She opens her mouth to draw a breath.
A familiar grouchy remark interjects, startling both of us. "Go," Haymitch grumps, nodding in the direction of the keep over his shoulder.
He snarls something else that I do not catch as he stomps over to the array of gifts meant for the kiss-and-catch. Katniss and I both stare in bemusement as he plops down on the bench, tips his flask back, and then he glances back at us over his shoulder. His scruff-bordered lips twist into a smirk. He flagrantly shoos us both toward the keep.
I blink in surprise. We may not be a king and queen, but we still maintain this fortress on behalf of Samland and, as the festival is being held within its walls, the passing out of the gifts ought to fall to us. "Is he taking over our host and hostess duties? Of his own free will?"
Katniss pulls on my hand. She laughs at my unapologetic amazement. "He may change his mind," she warns in a soft, throaty voice.
My resistance evaporates. "Yes, let's depart while we still can." The last thing I want is to spend the remainder of the evening pouring ale and attempting conversation, especially with Katniss' tempting warmth hovering at my side, so close but still far too distant.
Katniss doesn't bother to make our departure less blatant and I do not have the patience to convince her to try. She leads the way up the steps to the keep and we stumble down the corridor to our room, nearly falling across the threshold, messy and tangled with greed for each other. Our mouths crash together before the door settles back into its frame. She gropes for the lock. I retreat far enough to give her an enthusiastic smile before I press my lips to the tender skin of her neck.
"Tell me we don't have to concern ourselves with our visitors tonight."
She hums. "We will not leave this room, you and I."
I groan, plant my hands on either side of her head against the wall, and allow my body to do as it likes. I surge forward and our forms fit and lock. Even through our clothing, the feel of her-me-us is exceptionally mind-emptying.
She tilts her head forward until the tip of her nose grazes my neck. Inhales deeply. When she sighs with contentment, her body melts against mine, her back arching forward and creating an inviting space for my hands to fill between her lithe body and the wood paneling.
The laces of her gown are no match for my determined fingers.
Even before I've loosened the bodice completely, she's fighting the sleeves over her shoulders and down her arms. I should slow this. Temper our passion with tenderness.
I don't know that I could even if I'd genuinely wanted to.
Not even the ridges of the newly-formed scars upon her silken back give me pause. She surges against my fingertips, pressing closer to my hand.
"There is no pain," she promises me between messy kisses, but it is not that I fear hurting her. No, I honor her and I marvel at us. Her scars are fewer and better-knit than mine, but we still match. In this way, despite our innumerable differences, Katniss and I are the same: we'd come between the monster and the people we protect. We'd volunteered.
A part of me will miss the evenings spent dabbing poultice over Katniss' raw skin. A part that needs Katniss to need me and only me. A part of me that aches with thanks for so many things that might have come to pass but had – at the final moment – been defeated. How often have I thought over the events of the past, wondering which path-not-taken or word-left-unsaid would have led to her death, to mine, to me not crouching over her in the lamplight as I'd dressed her wounds? How close had we come to losing each other? By how fine a margin is this moment – here and now – real?
The mere contemplation of it makes me clumsy with urgency and an unquenchable thirst for her. Together, we shove her shift and gown to her waist and then she works on my belt as I map her bare shoulders and chest with butterfly kisses.
"Hm?" My fingers splay wide as I stroke her back from the nape of her neck all the way down to the curve of her hip and back up again.
"Do not, um. We don't…"
I promise breathlessly, "Children will wait. I understand, Katniss." I suck the soft lobe of her ear between my lips.
Her hips rock against mine helplessly. My belt falls to the floor with a slap and muffled clatter.
"No, I—I want to, um, share – enjoy – everything."
I pause. What?
"I… it is safe now. We can, um. I want…" She blows out a sudden breath. She is anxious, uncertain, and wanton all at once. "… you."
It takes a moment for her husky words to saturate my brain. And then I heartedly wish she hadn't said that because—
I hiss in a breath, my entire body heating until the feel of cloth against my skin begins to drive me mad. My fingers curl into fists, one clamped in a fur wall hanging and the other twisting the fabric of her gown and shift. "Katniss, you—you want—?" Oh, dear gods. I can barely think it, let alone say it.
In a blur of fumbling hands, urgent breaths, and tumbling cloth, we move from one threshold to another as we cross the bed chamber. When the edge of the bed nudges the back of my knees, I sink down, my hands guiding up and down the backs of Katniss' arms as my trousers slip downward and my boots clatter against the floor. I retreat, invite, beckon and Katniss pursues, climbing and crawling, crouching over me, canting kisses against my skin.
"Katniss…" I urge her mouth up to mine and force myself not to twist up off of my back and pin her down. My body wants hers that badly and that frightens me. Collecting her hands, I place her palms on my hips to keep me steady.
She consents to my kisses and rubs against my caressing hands. The light brush of fingertips, the deep surge of my tongue past her lips, her soft moan of approval, the heat of her inner thighs – open and taunting – against my hips and I'm glad she's holding me down because I want to lose myself in her so very badly—
Her mouth retreats from mine as a single hand moves inland, searing a trail across my skin. "Can I…?" she asks.
"Please," I choke. I gasp as she fits her hand against my flesh. I forget to breathe as she cants her hips forward and moves to surround me. So hesitant. So slow. I grit my teeth – whimper – scramble for her unoccupied hand, pressing it to my hip harder-tighter-stronger. I must not move unless she wills it but – oh gods – the feel of her—Katniss—!
She studies me, breath panting and breasts rising-falling-rising-falling. Her eyes unfocus, soften. Her lips part helplessly with a shock of pleasure. She licks them. I close my eyes, but it's too late. I cannot hold back.
My fingers twist among the furs, claw and scrape. "I'm sorry," I blurt.
She pauses, still hovering above me with one hand bracing her weight against my hip and the other still curled around me as we find our way to each other. Her entire body clenches and her voice twists my heart. "Peeta?"
The sound of my name breathed from her lips, the feel of holding me so tightly in her heat, and I'm lost. Brilliant light-heat-desire races through my body, and darkness-silence-softness takes me.
When I open my eyes – push through the thrumming of my laboring heart – I discover that my hands are mindlessly petting Katniss' thighs in lazy circles. I've nearly caught my breath when I realize two additional things. First is my shame. Looking up into Katniss' knowing grey eyes, another apology tugs at my lips. She leans forward and brushes her fingers over my mouth, shushing me without a sound. And that's when I realize the second point of interest: we are locked together. Completely.
"I was slow," she says with a lopsided, rueful grin.
"No," I insist, grinning up at her. "No, there is no too slow or too fast, Katniss. Not where you are concerned." I, on the other hand, had been much, much too fast.
She bites her lip, mirth pulling at every feature of her face. "Um. But, this time – one time – I am not impatient."
I snort out what can only be called a giggle. Katniss' breathy laughter joins mine. The incidental motions of our bodies make me tingle and flush anew. Sobering on a shiver of desire, I reach up and trace the escaped locks of her dark hair as they spill over her shoulders, down her arms and over her breasts. It won't be long before she'll have to hold me steady again. Now more than ever, I refuse to lose myself to mindless lust. "Do you feel any pain?" I ask, bracing myself for the inevitable wave of regret.
She shakes her head and I suck in a breath as she blankets me with her body, pressing our bellies and chests together, tunneling her fingers into my hair, kissing my neck. "No pain," she sighs. "I belong here."
My arms arch over her waist and back. My fingertips trace along the tendrils of her mussed hair. She is not speaking of this bed, this room, this fortress, or even this country. Katniss is speaking of the two of us, inseparable. That is what we are, by choice or design it matters not. It matters not if we are meant to be together, if the Fates have willed it to be so. It matters not where our path will take us in the future. It matters only that we are together.
Katniss hums softly, her lips moving against my beard and her fingertips swirling patterns on my skin. I recognize the slow, rising melody. She'd sung it by the river where we'd once fished. My heart had been hers long before that moment but, when she'd sung, this fierce shield maiden's gentle, sorrowful voice had seduced my spirit.
She sings just as gently as she had then but there is no sadness in her now. Now she sings not for things lost but for what we've found. And, at long last, I can understand the words.
"Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true—
"Here is the place where I love you."
When tears spill from my lashes this time, she reminds me that the day is not yet done and nightfall is but a distant promise.
The lamps eventually burn low before we allow slumber to cover our bare skin with its sweetness and warmth. My last thought is of Katniss, of a forest-shadowed road which leads us to a river-bound ship, of our child growing in her belly as we journey onward. Where we venture, I do not know, but it does not matter. Katniss and I may serve a master, a king, a country – we may do our duty – but in each other we are free.
You were maybe hoping for a little more resolution between Harald and Peeta, but unfortunately I don't think that would be possible except through Kato, and since he's visiting Samland on official (friendly) business, I think we can infer that Harald approves.
As for Katniss and Peeta's role in Samland in the future... well, I leave that open to your imagination. Go play and enjoy the feels!
Thank you for all of the comments you've left on DSSD. I am so sad to see this journey end, but I'm glad I had the chance to share it with all of you.
This story was inspired in part (a big one) thanks to the March 2013 Prompts in Panem (promptsinpanem on Tumblr). Thank you, MissHoneywell, for sponsoring such an amazing event. I just don't have words for all the thanks.
A very special THANK YOU goes out to Fnur (a.k.a. fnurfnur) for looking over the final three chapters of this story and assuring me that it wasn't gibberish. Also, if you all haven't read her story, "Range of Motion", please do! Her masterful integration of Katniss' song - "Deep in the meadow..." - into prose is an inspiration to me!
For more medieval/pre-medieval Hunger Games fanfiction try: "Britannia et Panem" by Just a Dram, "Legend" by HGRomance, "The Darkest of Reasons" by CapitolAttendant, and just about everything included in the collection "Fairy Tales of Panem" over on WWW dot Archive of Our Own dot ORG / series / 44990
As for the future of this story, I have some news - good or bad, you decide. I'm currently researching and re-writing DSSD for self-publication as an original work. I ended up loving the concept of this story so much that I've decided to give it a life of its own away from fandom so that anyone (and not just us Everlark 'shippers) can read and enjoy it to the fullest.
Will I be removing DSSD from AO3 or ffnet when I start publishing? I don't know. It's a possibility. So, if you'd like to be able to read it again in the future, I encourage you to save a copy for yourself.
If you're interested in following my adventure in re-writing and original character development, I'll be posting and grumbling and fangirling on Tumblr (I'm Manniness).
I hope you'll let me know how you liked "Daughter of Samland, Son of Denmark". It's been an amazing journey for me. I hope it has been for you, too.