My eyes flutter open at the first rays of light. It's a habit. I can't sleep late even if I wanted to. But that's actually okay. I have come to love these first moments when I am awake and Katniss is still asleep. She looks so peaceful, and so beautiful as she lays there. I smile.
I have every reason to smile this morning, because the previous evening had to be the most amazing night of my life. I have had many fantasies of being with Katniss like that, and the reality was everything I could have imagined and more. She practically glowed in the candlelight as we danced, and as kisses deepened I could feel the moment was right. So, I led her into the bedroom. Yes, it was awkward at times with both of us being novices, but when we finally came together it was a more powerful feeling than anything I had ever known.
Surprisingly, Katniss must have felt it too, because in the middle of the night I awoke to see her looking at me. With no words, she kissed me, and actually initiated a second time which turned out to be even more intense than the first. Her actions made me curious. I know she has some feelings for me. The fact that she decided to stay with me knowing what it meant showed that she at least cares, right? The intimacy that has been growing has definitely not been one sided. But, whether what she feels for me is love, I still don't know. I need to ask her about it.
I still hate the idea of this being forced upon us, but I have decided to take what's here between us and hope that whatever she feels will continue to grow.
My wife begins to stir beside me. I take the sign of her waking to put my arms around her waist and pull her to me. I can hear a contented moan come from her as she snuggles into me. I love the feel of Katniss so close to me. I would do anything to protect her and keep her safe.
As her eyes finally look upon the world for the first time, I gently kiss her forehead. "Good morning."
Her smile makes her face soften. "Good morning."
"Are you okay?" The sudden memory that I had hurt her in the process makes me wince.
"I'm fine," she says quietly. I must not look convinced because Katniss continues. "Really, I am. It did hurt for a moment, but overall now I feel great." She is trying to reassure me.
I give her a little kiss. "I'm glad. How about I go and get started on your buns." I start to get up out of the bed.
Katniss gives a little pout. "I was hoping we could stay here a little longer."
I give a smirk as I can't help but be pleased at her desire. "Trust me, I would love nothing more, but I'm afraid the kitchens won't wait. I know we need to talk. Tonight, alright?"
"Alright," she replies with a sigh. Reluctantly, I leave her and get ready for my day. As I head to the transport tubes, I think that this must be a first for me not actually wanting to go and bake. I try to motivate myself all the way there. I try to make the morning go by quickly by getting busy, but visions of Katniss last night continue to distract me. So much so, that I almost ruin a loaf with the wrong ingredients. UGH! This day is going to last forever. I don't know how I can do this when all I want is to be with my wife. I need to picture something that will keep me focused. Not easy.
I'm pretty silent most of the day, knowing that anyone around me too long would see the goofy grin plastered on my face and know what is doing on. I can only imagine what our friends will say next time we see them. Greasy Sae walks by a few times as I am kneading dough, and I swear the old woman can see right through me. The last times she does, she stops next to me. I had just put the last batch of rolls in the oven.
"I imagine you want to head home for the day, don't you boy?" The smile on her face is all knowing. I can only nod my head at the comment, even though I think she doesn't actually need my response.
"Go on," she says. "I can get these out of the oven for you. You go see that wife of yours." I don't waste any time taking her up on the offer. I mutter my thanks and untie my apron and practically run out of the kitchens.
I get in the tubes and head up to our level. I get out and practically run down the hallways until I reach our compartment. I'm never sure when Katniss will be home since it depends on how good the hunt is for the day. I enter in the rooms calling out her name.
"Katniss? Are you here?" I don't see anything but hear it first a scuffle of hurrying feet followed by a weight pushing upon me towards the wall. I have no time to think before lips are upon mine. They are insistent, but I am nothing but obliging. After some time, they finally let go.
"Hi," she says breathless. "Welcome home."
"And what a welcome it is." I smile at her. "You had a good day, I take it?"
"Yeah, I did," she starts. "There was lots of game around the streams and I would have been back even sooner if I hadn't been daydreaming. I've been thinking about you all day. It's distracting. Even now when I was just trying to figure out what we could have for dinner."
"I know what you mean." I tell her. "I've been thinking about you, too. Almost ruined some of the food." Katniss laughs and I kiss her again at this point, the feeling building with each moment. We both finally come up for air and look at each other.
"Forget dinner," I say and from there we both get lost in the haze of each other.
Later, we are both sitting there in the bed, and I know that it's time to talk about a few things. I see a satisfied smile on Katniss' face as she places her head on my shoulder. I stroke the soft curls in her hair that is now down.
"You really are surprising, you know that?" I remark.
"What do you mean?" she asks with a chuckle.
I take a moment to decide on my words. "Just that, when we decided to do this, I knew how I felt about you. I've just been surprised at how you've responded, knowing you don't feel the same. I mean twice last night and now? Not that it hasn't been amazing. It has. It's been more than I ever would have expected."
Katniss sits up and looks me in the eyes. "Who says I don't feel the same?"
I am speechless at the implications that her question has. Is it possible? With all my hopes up, I ask the question. "How do you feel, then?"
Her eyes don't flit away for even a second. "You shouldn't be surprised about anything, Peeta. Because I love you." He hand goes softly on my cheek. I feel like I could burst from the joy I feel at her declaration. She loves me. This relationship may have been forced at first, but the feelings we have now are real.
"I love you, too." I tell her, and then back that statement up with action by giving loving kisses.
The next days we spend getting to know each other in a new way. It's funny that now we have started, Katniss and I are almost insatiable. We spend most of our evenings in bed. I can't get enough of her. It's an amazing experience each time.
Although we try to be discreet and hide our happiness in this development of our relationship, we are soon found out and unmercifully teased.
"Well, well. It looks like a certain twosome has finally gotten their act together and is getting it on." Johanna states at lunch one day while staring directly at us. She had called us all together to hear her read the most recently letter to Gale. Both Katniss and I blush beet red at her statement. The others turn to look at us and smirk in the knowledge of what we have been doing.
"Stop it, Jo," I finally say. "We're married. It's not like it's unusual for married couples to be intimate."
"No," she agrees, "but I can definitely tell you that compared to a month ago when I think you two weren't doing a thing that you have obviously made some big steps. Congratulations. Welcome to the club. It's fabulous, isn't it?"
"Yeah, great." Katniss states sarcastically while scowling in Johanna's direction. "Just lay off, okay?"
"Alright," she agrees. "Just as long as you keep lover boy happy. That goofy grin of his is priceless!" I blush again knowing it must have been me who had given our status away. Oh well, why should I hide anyway?
Katniss and I are not shocked this time when not long after there is a buzz at our door and we open it to find Dr. Aurelius and his assistants again. Haymitch is also with them, probably sent by the leadership to check in on if we have done what they demanded.
"Please, come in," I say with a smile that is anything but sincere.
They enter, and as Haymitch passes by he raises an eyebrow in question. We both slightly nod so that only he can see. He nods back and smirks knowingly at us.
Katniss is asked again to follow the doctor into the bedroom. As she walks by me, she leans towards me.
"At least if I am not pregnant, they can't say it wasn't for any lack of trying," she whispers to me. I laugh at her comment, and she is smiling as she goes through the doorway. Once again, all I can do is sit and wait. Haymitch stays with me.
"If what you are telling me is true, then you should have nothing to worry about," he quietly grumbles while we sit there. I can only hope that he is right.
Everyone finally emerges and I stand up to see if Katniss is alright. She looks at me, and reading her face, I can tell that she is relieved it is over and satisfied at whatever the results of her exam were. Dr. Aurelius approaches me.
"Well, Mr. Mellark. Your wife is not pregnant at this time, but I will be happy to report that you have most definitely made progress since my last examination."
"Thank you, doctor. I am glad that you have noticed our efforts." I reply.
"Indeed. Keep them up and we will have good news in the near future, I'm sure." With that, the group quickly exits with Haymitch giving us his final word of advice.
"Take care of each other." We thank him and he leaves. As the door closes, Katniss places her head on my chest. My arms instinctively wrap around her.
"I'm sorry," she says quietly.
"There's nothing to be sorry about." I tell her.
"I had no idea until they told me the test was negative that I was actually sad that it was," she explains. "There was a part of me that wanted to have baby growing inside me. I always thought that I didn't want children. Loving you has changed my mind, I guess."
"It's okay," I say comfortingly with a kiss on her forehead. "It will happen someday. Don't worry about it."
Katniss agrees and lets it go after that, although the discussion at lunch the next day brings the topic back to the forefront. Our group is all together and the girls are all talking about their examinations. Most of them had tests like Katniss, although Johanna's was a checkup on the progress of her pregnancy.
"I'm doing well so far they said. The baby is developing nicely. I told them that if puking every morning and feeling like a bloated goat was doing well, then I would hate to see what doing badly was like." We all laugh at this when Delly chimes in. She and her husband Fred had taken to joining all of us the past few weeks.
"Well, Johanna, I hope that I can survive the nauseous and bloated feeling as well as you have," the ever smiling and happy young woman says. We all turn to look at her. She smiles. "Fred and I are now expecting, as well." Cheers are given all around, and I give a slap on the red haired man's back in congratulations. Katniss hugs Delly, but I can also see a little bit of a wistful look on her face, knowing she has to wait a little longer.
A few days later, everyone's light mood is stopped in its track when the word comes in that there were heavy losses in a battle fought in what was District 3. There is little information from the front lines and so many are frantic to get word of their loved ones. Johanna is beside herself.
"I've tried to get through the communication lines to talk to Gale, but there is nothing," she sobs. For such a strong woman, I've never seen her break down like this. She must really love him. "I don't know whether he is alive or dead." Katniss and I both hold her, telling her that it will be alright and we're sure that eventually they will be able to tell her where he is. As she leaves, my wife is thoughtful.
"I've got a bad feeling about this," she says prophetically. "I don't know exactly what will happen, but it can't be good."
And it turns out she is right. We are lazily watching the evening news when the expected announcement breaks in to the usual broadcast. The face that we are coming to loathe sits in the middle of the screen, a multitude of microphones in front of her face. Alma Coin steps up to bring the latest results of the rebellion efforts.
"Citizens! I am happy to tell you that after examinations we have found another 6 couples are expecting a new addition to our populace. We in the leadership are so pleased at how well this bold program is going and how these amazing couples are coming through in our hour of need." She breaks here but soon continues with a graver face. "But, there is troubling news, as well. We have recently had some major losses in our struggle against the Capitol. The battles have been bloody, and while we are still confident that we will prevail, our forces are in need. So, therefore I have decreed that we will be soon drafting some of our abled young men to join our troops already on the front lines. Those selected will be notified in the next few days. We know their sacrifice will ultimately bring us victory." With that the announcement is over.
I turn off the TV and turn to look at my wife. The look I read on her face is one of shock and fear. I can only imagine what she may think about this new development and what it may mean for us.
"Do you think they will make you go?" Katniss asks quickly.
I let a breath out. "I wouldn't think so. They need soldiers, but there is one thing they want more. Babies. To them, I haven't completed my duty here yet. My guess is that they will pick those that are single or who have kids already."
"With everything they have already done to us, anything could be possible," she says angrily and begins crying. I take her in my arms and just hold her tight. "I hate this! I want to win the war, but I can't stand how they are controlling us. I just want us to be able to live our lives."
Her thoughts linger in the air. I agree with her completely, although this situation is what put us together. I can't deny that. I finally let out a question I have had in my head for some time. "If I had gone out in the rain and given you the bread, or been brave enough to talk to you, would we have eventually come together on our own?" I ask her.
"I don't know," Katniss answers. "What happened has happened. I should be thankful to them at least that I have you. I guess all that matters is we are together now. I don't want to lose you."
"I won't be able to stop them if they select me to go," I tell her in almost a whisper.
"I know," she says while leaning her head on my chest. "Until then…stay with me?" The question echoes the one she uttered the first night we were married. I didn't have an answer then, but I do now.