Together By Chance, Together By Choice

Chapter 3

Katniss

Waking up, my first thought is about the unfamiliarity of my surroundings. I don't recognize where I am right off, but it doesn't take long for my groggy brain to remember. I moved to a new compartment yesterday…with Peeta. The memories of our quick marriage ceremony, dinner, and evening together runs through me. Mostly I think about how Peeta held me in the midst of a nightmare. Usually when these take hold, Prim has always just waked me up, but nothing more. My new husband, on the other hand, put his arms around me and stayed with me while speaking calming words in my ear until I feel back asleep. I had never felt that much comfort and security in my life since my father died.

Therefore, as I rise today, I actually find myself feeling…good. I get up, braid my hair, and dress for the work day. As I enter the kitchen, I see a piece paper lying on the counter. I pick it up and see a similar scrawl to the one I first saw yesterday.

Katniss,

If you are free for lunch, I hope you will come eat with me. I usually sit with Finnick and Annie. I am sure they would love to meet you if you are able to join us.

Just let me know. Have a great day.

Peeta

I smile at the pure kindness I am continuing to find in Peeta. I usually didn't stop for lunch, or if I did, it was to snatch a quick sandwich that I ate while walking to my next assignment. But today, I think I will take the opportunity to sit down and eat with my husband and his friends. After hearing about them, I was excited to finally be introduced.

I walked down to the main eating hall of this part of the District. I found the door leading to the kitchens and knocked on it. A minute or so passed before it was opened, but when it was I saw a very familiar face.

"Hello Sae," I say. "Showing all of them who the best cook in District 12 is?"

"Hello there, girl. You bet I am. These folk don't know anything about making a good stew." She looks me over for a moment. "What brings you here?"

"Do you know Peeta Mellark?" I ask.

"Of course. The Baker's boy. He's back there right now working on today's batches," she answers.

"Well….um…you see, he and I were matched yesterday. He's my husband." Greasy Sae raises her eyebrows in interest at this information. "He left me a note to see if I wanted to join him for lunch today. I just wanted to tell him that I would do it. Would you tell him for me?"

"Well, well. You and the Mellark boy hitched. Seems like a good match if you ask me. He's a keeper." The old woman smiles mysteriously. "I'll be sure to tell him you'll be here. You get on now."

I nod and run off, noticing that I am already late for work duty. I find the tube that will lead me to the surface. I get there and quickly find the food gathering team. They are all loading up with their equipment. I rifle through all the supplies and find the good set of bow and arrows that I have been using since I arrived.

I have just placed the quiver over my shoulder when I see Gale, hands filled with snares and traps heading over towards me. He looks practically giddy today. Must have been a really good night for him. I hope so, since he deserved some happiness after losing Madge in the bombings. I knew he had been close to proposing to her when it happened.

"Hey Catnip," he calls out. "You're late. You and Mellark have a long night?" He wiggles his eyebrows mischievously.

"Ha ha. Very funny." I come back. "Unlike you, Peeta seems to be a gentleman. Looks like you got lucky with your match, though. Who did you end up paired with?"

"Oh, a real doozy of a girl from District 7 named Johanna," Gale answers. "Never met anyone like her. She's totally different from Madge."

"Really?" I had to admit my curiosity was killing me now.

Gale runs his hand through his dark hair. "Yeah. With Madge, anything we did that was intimate she wanted to keep pretty discreet. Johanna on the other hand would shout from the rafters about what we did."

I couldn't help but laugh. "She sounds fascinating. I'll have to meet her sometime."

"You will," he replies. "Let's head out." I follow him into the woods where we go for about a mile and a half. Gale then begins to set his traps while I keep my eyes out for game. It's a good time to actually think about everything that had transpired over the last 24 hours. It was amazing that after only one night, my best friend seemed completely content with his situation, happy even. As for me, I still wasn't sure. Peeta had been really great so far about everything, but could I do what was expected of me with someone who I still am getting to know?

I sigh. I know that eventually we were going to have to take that step. It was inevitable. Until then, I am determined to try my best to at least try and become friends with my husband if nothing else. If what everyone says is true, and my own experience is confirming this, then I really am lucky in my match.

We do extremely well on our hunt, bringing down a good number of birds, a handful of squirrels, and even some rabbits that Gale has trapped. We take it all back and give it to the food gathering official. The grey uniformed man counts up our load, smiles as he writes it down on a chart, and then tells us that we can go. I tell Gale goodbye and we part.

"See you tomorrow." I tell him.

"Yeah, tomorrow. It will probably be my last one," he says.

I am shocked. "What do you mean?"

"I've decided that I want to train and be a soldier. I want to fight in the rebellion." I can tell from the look on his face that Gale is completely serious.

"Gale, are you sure?" I ask.

"Absolutely," he states with conviction. "I hate what the Capitol has done. Take pretty much everything I have away. It's time for this to stop. I want to be one of the ones who does that. I can help."

I know there is nothing I can say to stop him. "Just be careful out there. If your wife is like I think she is, she will have a few choice words for you if you get hurt."

"Who says she hasn't already?" he smirks. "See you later Catnip." Gale turns away as he is going to eat his midday meal with his new enticing wife, and I have my own appointment to keep.

I head once more to the large eating hall and look around. I finally spot Peeta sitting with a handsome couple. Their eyes lock on me first, and as they give a look to the blonde head I see, it turns around and my husband smiles as he sees me. Next, he motions for me to come over. I point to the kitchen lines and he nods.

After getting my food, I walk to their table and sit next to Peeta. "Hey." I say to him.

"Hey yourself," he replies. "Have a good morning?"

"Yeah,' I answer. "It was a really good hunt and I got some laughs at hearing about Gale's newly married life. His wife sounds like a real firecracker."

Peeta begins to laugh. "Anyone who can keep Gale on his toes must be worth meeting," he comments. "Speaking of. Finnick and Annie Odair. I would like you to meet my wife Katniss Everdeen…uh…I mean Mellark." His cheeks turn bright red at his mistake. I touch his hand.

"It's okay." I tell him. "I guess it takes time to get used to a new name." I turn to the beautiful couple and say hello to them. They are so friendly and easy to talk to that the conversation just flows. I can quickly see why Peeta befriended them. They tell their story of how they fell in love but their families didn't approve. Now with the freedom to be together, I can see their tenderness in all the intimate touches and looks they give each other that could only have been built over time.

"So, how did you two actually meet?" Annie inquires. "Or did you two know each other back in 12?"

Peeta clears his throat. "Sort of. Katniss and I were in school together."

I can't help myself. "He saved my life," I say interrupting him. All three pairs of eyes turn to me.

"My father died when I was eleven." I explain. "My mother went into a deep depression and couldn't really take care of my sister and I. We were on the brink of starving when I ended up behind the bakery and Peeta threw me some loaves of bread. Those loaves gave us enough so that I could start hunting and feeding my family by myself."

"It wasn't much," my husband remarks. "You really did most of the work yourself."

"It was everything." I reply. There is a kind of silence in the air for a minute, before the Odair's say they need to get back to their work assignments.

"I do, too." Peeta says and then looks right at me. "I'll see you later?"

"Yes." I tell him. "I'm going to see Mom and Prim first, but then I will head back."

"Sounds good." He bends down to whisper in my ear. "I'm glad you came."

"Me too." I answer. I then turn around and head towards the section of District 13 that I originally stayed in. The maze of hallways seemed endless until I can to the doorways of the F compartments. I talk with security, showing them my identification and telling them the purpose of seeing my family. The officials check my credentials and must be satisfied because they let me pass. I take the tube up a couple of floors and walk until I reach the door.

I knock, and swiftly it flies open and Prim squeals upon seeing me. "Katniss! Oh, it's so good to see you." She almost strangles me when she places her hands around my neck. "Mom, come here! It's Katniss."

My mother comes out from her bedroom wiping her hands. "Katniss, I'm so glad you came. They wouldn't tell us anything and we just wanted to know you were alright. I was hoping you would find your way."

"I did." I tell them. "I'm in the M compartments now." I write down the exact number for them. "I'm sure you can come see me anytime,"

We sit down at the table and all get a cup of tea. "I can't believe you were matched with Peeta Mellark, Katniss! He is so nice. He always snuck me a few cookies whenever I was in the bakery." She takes a sip of her drink. "So, when am I going to be an aunt?" she asks all of the sudden.

"Prim!" my mother scolds. "Really. They were just married yesterday, and barely even know each other. These things take time, although in this case they are not really giving that to you, are they?"

I shake my head. "No, they aren't." I must have some kind of look on my face, because my mother then asks Prim to go to her room for a while so that we can talk privately. She sticks out her tongue at us, but goes anyway. Watching her leave, my mother turns back to me.

"How are you really, sweetheart?" she asks softly.

"Fine." I say. "Good so far, really. He has been nothing but kind. He hasn't forced anything. We've just talked. Try to get to know each other at least a little."

"I'm glad, honey," she answers. "Peeta is a lot like his father in that way. Always kind, no matter what." He voice gets a little wistful. I wonder if there is a story there, but I let it pass.

"I know we will have to take those steps eventually, but Peeta thinks we can wait a little bit, at least. For now, we are just trying to become friends, I think."

Mother smiles. "It's a place to start. Your father and I were the best of friends first before we fell in love." I know she is trying to comfort me in the situation.

I finish my tea and decide it's time to go. We all say our goodbyes and they tell me that they will try to come by in the next few days. I hug them both and head back to what is now my home. When I get there I begin making some preparations for the evening. I look in the kitchen to see if there is anything that I can put together for a meal. I actually find some vegetables that I can make into a stew, and begin putting things into the pot. Before long, the aroma of cooking food fills the room and I am lost in it when I hear the door open.

Peeta walks in, fairly disheveled with flour still lingering on his shirt and pants. I stifle a smile at this because it seems so him.

"Hi. Smells good in here," he says.

"I found enough stuff to make a stew. It's all I can really cook anyway. Want some?" I keep stirring the sauce in the pot.

"Absolutely. I'm starving. Let me just go clean up." He walks out and soon I can vaguely hear the shower water running. Soon enough Peeta comes back out just as I am finishing putting a couple of bowls out. We sit down and he asks me about my afternoon. I start rambling off about visiting Mom and Prim. I am talking about how they want to visit with us and get to know him better, when I notice that although Peeta is listening, there is an almost sad look in his eyes.

Then I realize what must be going on. I am going on and on about my family, when Peeta is still probably grieving the loss of his own. I suddenly stop myself.

"Oh, Peeta. I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have gone on like that. I should have realized how it would make you feel."

He places his hand up. "No, Katniss, it's okay. I was thinking about them, but I need to do that to work through it."

"It must be hard losing all of them." I say softly.

"It is," he admits sadly. "The hardest part was the idea that I had no family anymore. But, I guess that's changed."

I'm confused by this. "What do you mean?"

He looks directly in my eyes and his voice gets really quiet. "You're my family now."

I am at first shocked as I take this idea in. But, it quickly becomes apparent that he is right. In his eyes, as his wife, I am his family. It makes me want to reach out and comfort him in some way, so I just take my hand and place it over his. "I guess I am." I tell him.

We finish and again just spend the evening quietly. We find ways to play different word games and tic tac toe, with every one ending in a tie between us. It gets late and we say our good nights to each other before I go into the bedroom and Peeta lies down on the couch. It's hard to sleep when your mind is so full. I can't seem to get a grasp on what I feel about everything, and eventually fall asleep with the questions in my head still not answered.

The days, and then even weeks roll on like this. We work, and then come home to spend time together. The pattern becomes fairly comfortable. Over the time I learn quite a bit about my husband. I find that he doesn't take sugar in his tea, and always double knots his shoelaces. His favorite color is orange, not harsh, but the soft kind found in sunsets. I also learn that his difficulty sleeping is partly because back home Peeta always slept with the windows open, while here underground it is impossible. He feels stifled and can't get comfortable at night. Still, he comes each time to comfort me when my nightmares occur. He never complains about it either.

I continue to be amazed at Peeta's kindness not only to me, but to others. Once he finds out how much I enjoy cheese buns, I begin to find one most mornings left on the kitchen counter. These usually are accompanied by a note. Nothing romantic, but just messages either saying a good morning or invitations to have lunch or tea with him later in the day. I usually join him, and more and more find how enjoyable it is to be with him. Sometimes we eat with FInnick and Annie and sometimes not. Either way, things are building, albeit slowly.

About three weeks after we have been married, I wake up to look at my arm to find for the first time that my schedule is left clear to do whatever I want. I am considering the possibilities when I walk out into the living area.

"I've been given the day free, can you believe that?" I say excitedly.

"Me too." Peeta adds. "Weird, huh?"

"Yeah, but that's not going to stop me from taking it." I suddenly get a thought. "Do you want to do something together?" I say hesitantly.

Peeta seems surprised, but pleased at my offer. "I'd love to. What would you like to do?"

"I've got an idea." I say with a smile. "Get dressed and we can go." He follows my instructions and a while later we are both ready. "Come on!" I encourage and lead him out.

We take a tube up to the surface. As we get out, I can hear Peeta breathe in deeply. I think he is happy to be in the fresh air for once. I point in the direction I want us to go and he follows me. I find the trail I had found a couple of weeks after we got here. It's a beautiful day, actually, and the birds are singing all around. We walk for a mile, and then I turn left. "Not much further." I tell Peeta. Pretty soon, I hear him make a sound as the place I was looking for comes into view.

It is a clearing in the woods, not too large, but big enough to allow the sunshine to seep in. This is important, because the sun only highlights the amazing amount of dandelions that cover the ground. The effect is dazzling in the light. This is what Peeta sees as we near. I smile knowing that I had made the right choice.

"It's beautiful," he comments.

"I'm glad you like it." I answer. "I thought you might want to draw it for now, maybe paint it later."

He nods, and then I spread the blanket I had brought in my backpack out on the ground. Peeta sits down and brings out his pad and pencils. I decide to walk around the woods some more to see if I can find some berries of some kind that we could eat. I get lucky as not too far off I find some strawberry patches with just enough berries ripe for picking. I take them and head back.

Peeta's brow is furrowed in concentration as his hand steadily draws. I can see already that his work is amazing. I smile and sit next to him on the blanket and place the berries down. He sees them and smiles at me before taking one and eating it. I join him, and for a moment just enjoy the feeling of freedom sitting there.

After the treat, Peeta continues to complete his drawing. I just watch and make small comments here and there. Before I know it, a couple of hours have actually passed. I wish I could just stay here, but we have to go back. I give a sigh as Peeta picks up his materials and I grab the blanket.

Once I have it folded, I look at him. "This has been great," he says. "Thank you for bringing me here."

"You're welcome." I smile. "Is there anything else you want to do before we go back?"

His eyes are steady on mine. "Yes," he states. "I'd like to kiss you."

"Oh," is all I can say at first. I have to admit I wasn't expecting this at the moment, but at the same time knew we had to get here eventually. "Okay," I finally answer.

"Then, you'll allow it?" he asks.

"I'll allow it." I immediately respond. "We are married, you know."

He chuckles at this, and I really like the smile that is on his face. He takes a step closer to me, and then places his hands on my shoulders to steady me, because I am still nervous. I am calmed by his touch, though, and he takes his fingers to lift my chin up, and I feel the brush of his lips upon mine.

A thousand sensations are going through my body as we kiss. It is unlike anything I have ever experienced. But, as he pulls away, one thought wins over all the others.

I liked it.

It's a good beginning. Who knows? Maybe we can somehow make this work after all.


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