Together By Chance, Together By Choice

Chapter 4


All I can say is…WOW. I'd kissed a few girls before back in District 12, but now, with Katniss, that one word is all I can process. I wasn't sure at all how things would go when I decided it was finally time to make a move in our relationship. After these past weeks learning about each other and this fantastic day together, I felt bold enough to do it, though. And the result was amazing. Her lips were soft and full on mine. Every feeling was magnified and time seemed to slow to a standstill as I kissed her in that clearing. The even better news was that I knew she was kissing me back. There was actually something on the other side of it. The thought made me practically giddy.

Once we parted, we both smile at each other and I placed my forehead on hers. "Thank you. That was amazing."

"Yeah, it was, wasn't it?" she answers. "We better go." The two of us pick up our stuff and traverse the path we took here in reverse. Along the way, our hands somehow become entwined together. I love the feeling of it. Hers are much smaller than mine, but no matter, they fit perfect in mine.

We get back to the underground of District 13 and find the way back to our rooms. Once there we both take needed showers then try to pass the time by watching TV. We've taken these last days to watching the news. It's not pretty, with skirmishes between the Capitol's forces and our own all throughout Panem. There are many casualties on both sides and the video footage we see is brutal. I'm beginning to wonder if all the fighting is worth it. Looking at Katniss, though, I know that it is. If there is going to be any kind of life for us, the Capitol has to be defeated.

"I'm so worried for Gale being out there in all of that. I wish I could stop him from going," she remarks. I know that he is leaving tomorrow night and she has every right to be afraid for him.

"If his wife hasn't been able to stop him, then I don't think you will be able to." I reply. We have yet to meet the infamous Johanna, as she pretty much keeps Gale mostly to herself in the privacy of their quarters. He has told us quite a few interesting stories, though, and we can't wait to see the lady in person tomorrow when we all say goodbye to him.

Eventually, we have had enough of the depressing footage that we turn the set off and begin to try and make a simple meal for dinner. As we both prepare the food, there is a definite tension in the air. As I try to sneak sideways glances at my wife, I notice that she is also taking glances at me. Is it me or am I really dreaming up all of this. If I am seeing what I am, then there might just be a chance that Katniss might have some feelings for me. God that would be wonderful.

We eat together chatting over some of the details of our week and afterwards I try to teach her how to play poker. As it grows late, I desperately want to take her hand again in mine, and rub small circles with my thumb over it. But, Katniss just gets up and begins to head to the bedroom door. I follow her as is my habit to say goodnight to her at the doorway before heading to the couch.

Surprisingly, though, she suddenly turns around, raises herself up to place her hands on my shoulders, and puts her lips on mine. Instinctively, my hands go to her waist and I take in the taste of her, trying to deepen it a little from this afternoon. It is intoxicating, but it does end with her pulling away. I look at her to see a very pleased kind of smile on Katniss' face.

"Good night," she says in a whisper.

"Good night." I answer, knowing that my dreams will be the sweetest they have been in a while.

The next day passes quickly, and after the morning work shift I take my apron off to go to the commons to eat. Everyone is there, as we all are gathering to say goodbye to Hawthorne before he goes to his soldier training. Katniss is with Gale and waves me over. I also spot Finnick and Annie in an animated discussion with someone I don't recognize. Tall and lean, with short spiky dark hair, this must be the notorious Johanna. As I approach the group, my wife comes to me.

"You're here. Come on!" She takes me over to the new face in the group. "Jo, this is Peeta Mellark, my husband."

"Nice to meet you." I tell her while shaking her hand.

"You too," the woman states. "Johanna Mason, District 7. And yes, that's Mason, not Hawthorne. No matter what that hunky husband of mine says." Oh boy, oh boy. Does Gale really have a pistol on his hands.

"Oh, come on Jo!" Gale shouts. "Every woman changes her name when they get married."

"Not this one." She stares daggers at the dark tall figure. "Dream on, oh lover of mine." She smiles seductively towards him.

Gale raises his arms as if giving up, and then he brashly takes Johanna by the waist and kisses her long and deep. The rest of us have no idea what to think as we stand there watching them. I look over at Katniss who raises her eyebrows to let me know she has about as much of clue as I do as to what is going on.

They finally break apart and we all sit down to lunch together. It's fairly light, and Johanna proves to be lively with stories from her life in the forestry district. She can name all the trees here, which Katniss finds extremely helpful and fascinating. All too soon, the meal is over, and we all know that Gale has to catch the transport to where they are training new recruits as soldiers for the rebels.

He picks up his backpack and looks at all of us. Finnick shake his hand, and Annie gives him a small kiss on the cheek. Hawthorne turns to Katniss then who wraps her arms around him.

"Please take care, Gale." she says, and eventually lets go. I am almost jealous of this interaction as he turns to me to shake my hand.

"I know you love her. Take care of her for me." he whispers in my ear so that no one can hear.

"I do and I will." I respond quietly. Katniss gives us a confused look at what I could possibly mean, but decides not to ask. What happens next, though, is surprising, as Gale once more turns to his wife and captures her in a passionate kiss as if they were the two people in the world.

"Don't you dare get yourself hurt, Hawthorne," Johanna tells him as they part, "and you better write to me. If you even think about not sending letters, I will come myself and cut you down with my axe." She then kisses him again and whispers something in his ear that I can't hear. It's something so intimate, and I am amazed that such a thing can be achieved between these two in what has been less than a month. I wonder what she said to him, but think that I will probably never know.

The two finally let go of each other. "Goodbye, Jo." I hear Gale whisper. He then places his backpack and turns to walk away. We all watch in silence as he goes and enters the tube to take him to his transport. It is only when he is completely out of view that I see what seem to be small tears in the corners of Johanna's eyes.

The days continue to go on. Although there are no major changes, there are smaller ones that I take note of. Katniss and I are now kissing pretty routinely now. Nothing too out of hand, but each one seems to build just a little each time, even to the point of a little making out on the couch. Also, there are little ways that the intimacy is building between us, mostly in the way we touch. We hold hands most of the time, but I also find that I can wrap my arms around her to give my wife a hug. I begin to place my hand on her hip to bring her closer to me, and I admit that each touch is like a lightning bolt.

I think that things are going really well. We have been married for about a month, and our relationship is growing. It is a surprise when the buzz at our door goes off out of nowhere. We aren't expecting anyone to visit, so Katniss and I both shrug as we head to the door. There is one woman and two men at the door. They are all in grey official uniforms, although the man in front has a white lab coat on.

"Hello. Mr. and Mrs. Mellark?" We both nod. "I'm Dr. Aurelius. I'm here to do your monthly examination."

"What examination?" I ask.

"Why, an examination of Mrs. Mellark to see if she is pregnant," the doctor states. "We have been ordered by the leadership to go around and do tests of all our young matched women to see if any are as of yet expecting a baby."

Katniss gives a gasp, and I know I must look as shocked as she is. We let the trio in, though, and the doctor gives a motion to let Katniss lead the way to the bedroom. She does so, but turns to give me a look that seems to ask me what she should do. I mouth It's okay to her. The two assistants follow behind the doctor and the door closes.

I am so anxious for Katniss and what she must be going through. I can hear quiet talking through the door, but can't make out what is being said. I have no idea what tests they might be doing on her. I sit on the couch for what is about twenty minutes when they all come out. The three visitors head to the door.

"Thank you for your time," the doctor states as he leave. As soon as they are gone I turn to my wife.

"What happened?"

She breathes out. "It wasn't bad, just embarrassing. They did blood work, a urine test, and a vaginal exam. That was the embarrassing part. The doctor didn't even say anything the whole time."

"Okay," I take a deep breath of relief, too. "That's fine. It sounds like normal tests, at least." I stop for a moment before continuing, "So they will know you are not pregnant. No big deal. They should know not everyone can conceive right away."

"But Peeta, they also know that…" she can't even say it at first. "…That I am still a virgin. I'm not sure that will go over so well."

My mouth makes an O shape as I take the information in. Katniss is right. Not being pregnant is one thing, but not having done anything at all is another. Considering what they are asking of us, the district officials would probably at least expect at least that line to have been crossed.

I run my hands through my hair trying to think of a response. "Well, maybe it won't be a big deal to them. They might just wait and see what we do. Give us time."

"I'm not so sure," she says quietly. I'm not sure I want to think about what that might mean. I decide that for now there is nothing we can do about it.

"Let's just wait and see what happens," I offer. Katniss agrees and we leave it at that and try to spend the rest of the evening not thinking about the consequences of today's visit. We go on about our normal activities and it is just like every night until we go to bed.

I am kissing Katniss like we have been doing just before separating for the night, when she breaks apart and looks up at me with hooded lids.

"Peeta," she says a little breathlessly. I love that I can have that effect on her. "You know you don't have to sleep on the couch if you don't want to."

I look back at her, trying to think of what to do. Katniss must see my confusion about what her intentions are with the statement, so she elaborates. "I mean, just to sleep for now. I know you sleep better when you have stayed after my nightmare."

I scramble in my mind to get my thoughts together. I have slept better when I have ended up in the bed with her. I know it probably could be for a lot of reasons, but I know that it is mostly because I am with her. When I have placed my arm around her to calm her, I find that it calms me too, and sleep comes easily.

I can tell that Katniss is trying this time to take a step for us to be closer. So far, I have been making most of the moves, but now I see that she is trying this time. I decide to take her offer.

"Okay." I say softly and gently kiss her on the nose. We spend the next few minutes getting ready and I eventually join her in bed. I take the side that is empty and after a quick good night to each other she turns out the light.

It's kind of strange just lying there looking at each other, and not really saying a word. It's not exactly conducive to falling asleep when I am there so close yet not holding her. Eventually, I decide I can't stand it and put out my hand to place my hand on top of hers. She smiles at me, laces her fingers in mine, and then closes her eyes. With my own satisfied smile, I do the same and enjoy the most peaceful night of sleep yet.

I wake up to find her hand still in mine, and somehow in the night her body has moved a little closer to mine. Katniss is still deep in sleep, so I kiss her forehead and try to quietly get up. It is going to be a busy day as Prim and Mrs. Everdeen will be visiting later this afternoon. I head to the kitchen to first whip up some cheese buns for Katniss. With that done, I then work on some cookies for Prim, chocolate chip that I remember she likes.

My wife comes in to the aroma of baked good. "Mmmmm. That smells so good. I'll have to have one." She gives me a small kiss on the cheek.

I laugh and mockingly swat at her. "No you don't. They're for later. There are cheese buns for you on the counter." Katniss smiles and goes to grab one. She doesn't seem to feel weird about last night, so I take that as a good sign. I suppose any lingering awkwardness will dissipate with time.

The day continues to go well and when there is a buzz at the door, Katniss practically rushes to it and is immediately tackled by Prim. "Hi! How are you? I hate not being able to see you more."

"I'm good, little duck. Mom, I'm glad you came." Katniss turns to Mrs. Everdeen and they embrace warmly.

"So am I. It's been busy in the medical areas, so it's nice to have a little break. We do miss you." It's then that they turn to look at me standing there. Katniss makes the introductions.

"Mom. Prim. You remember Peeta from back home." I can see the stares of two sets of blue eyes upon me. I smile at the two females that mean the most to my wife.

The young girl speaks first. "Hi Peeta!" She comes over and grabs me in a hug. "I'm really glad you were chosen to be with Katniss. Did you make anything?"

Katniss rolls her eyes. "Prim, it's not polite to just come here and assume Peeta made any treats for you."

"I'm just asking." Prim protests.

I chuckle a little and bend down to the girl's ear. "In the kitchen. I made them just for you." Prim beams at me, gives me a hug and her thanks, and runs off into the other room. Katniss follows to help her out. I find myself left alone with my now Mother-in-law. She was watching the girls, but now turns to me.

"I think you've made her happy," she comments.

"I'm trying." I tell her.

"You're doing a good job. I was so scared for her at first being forced into this situation, but now I think it might be the best thing to happen to her. She's different in a way. Softer. More hopeful. I think that's because of you. I haven't really been there for her. She did all the work to save our family. Now she has someone putting her needs first for a change. It's so nice to see." I can see in her face she means every word.

"She's worth it." With that Mrs. Everdeen smiles and gives me a hug. "It's nice to have a man in the family again," she notes. We walk together to join Katniss and Prim in the kitchen. We enjoy talking together and everyone eats up all the cookies. By the end of the day, I feel like I had better conversations with these three women today than I ever did with my own family. It's nice to feel like a part of something again.

That evening, Katniss and I lie in bed together again, and continue on in the days after. Each night we get closer and closer, until about the fifth night we give up any pretense and as we turn off the light my wife snuggles close into me. Her body fits so perfectly with mine, and I feel so comfortable and content like this. We both sleep well, and her nightmares seem to have disappeared.

I also know that my body is most definitely reacting to hers being so close. I'm going to have to do something soon before anything gets out of hand before it should. Small steps, Mellark. Small steps. It's going so well. Don't mess it up now. I know it will have to happen, and we are getting there, but I can't jump the gun. I'm still not sure she's ready.

Most nights now we spend watching news coverage on the TV. The coverage is generally about the rebellion and at the end of each broadcast is a list of recent casualties. Katniss is always on the lookout to see if Gale is still alright. Johanna gets letters, but they are sporadic, and usually arrive a couple of weeks after they are written.

About a week after we had been sharing a bed, we are watching the latest news on how the forces were beginning to infiltrate the middle districts. "We are making progress," the host says. Suddenly, he stops and says for all viewers to stay tuned for a special announcement from the leader of District 13.

At this change in the broadcast, Katniss and I both sit up a little on the couch. Next, we see on camera a view of Alma Coin once again on the platform in the main auditorium.

"Citizens!" she states into the microphone. "I want to come on tonight to tell you myself the good news I have received. As you know, our forces are fighting hard and working their way towards our goal of being able to infiltrate the Capitol and take control away from them. I hear from our captains that we have now won over District 6 and are heading on to 5. We will succeed!" I can hear loud cheers from the people who are there in person listening to the speech.

"Also, I want to share how well our repopulation program is proceeding. As you know, we brought together around 85 couples to help in our crisis. Each matched couple was married and then recently tested. I am happy to confirm that at least 18 of those couples are now expecting and will be bringing new life into our country. We are so proud of these men and women for doing their duty in this, and to those who have not yet been so blessed, we pledge that will do everything in our power to help you in this process. Once again, we will succeed!" The roars of the audience are overwhelming and it is then that Katniss turns off the TV.

"What do you think she means by everything in our power to help?" she asks.

"I'm not sure I want to know." I honestly tell her. I worry about what they might do to those like us who have yet to meet their demands. Until something happens, though, we keep on as we have.

The next day, we have lunch with our usual group. Everyone is chatting about the announcements and what they mean.

"I wonder who the blessed couples are." Finnick asks.

"Well, Gale and I for one." Johanna lets out. We all turn to her in various amounts of shock and excitement. All of us give our congratulations to her and the girls start planning all things baby together.

"Have you been able to tell Gale?" I ask.

"I sent a letter last week when I found out, but you know how long it takes," she says wistfully. It is amazing to see her so choked up about a man who a little over a month ago she didn't even know. They seemed to have formed such a strong attachment so quickly. I think that Katniss and I could have the same, but it's just taking us a little longer. Not everyone is as passionate as those two, for sure.

That night when Katniss and I are back in our rooms, she is preparing some dinner. I can tell something is on her mind by the way she is fidgeting. It's a habit I've noticed in her.

"How long do you think it will take before they come to talk to us about our relationship?" she finally asks. Ahhh, so that is what is bothering her.

I let out a breath. "I don't know. They haven't come yet. Maybe they will leave us alone for now. But, if they were to come, it will probably be soon.

Turns out, we don't have to wait long at all. An hour later we are cleaning up when there is the familiar sound of someone at our door. We look at each other, knowing that no one is expected at this time. We both walk to the door and open it, revealing not one but at least five officials waiting in the doorway. One of them strangely is Haymitch Abernathy from our home in District 12.

He is not the one to speak, though. The female in the middle is the one who eventually talks.

"Hello. Peeta and Katniss, is it? Good evening to you both. We have come to visit with you and talk about your marriage." Oh no. This can't be good.

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