Always and Forever

Flashback

The next few months went by relatively normally. It is now evident that Annie is pregnant even though she is only approximately four months along now. But because she has always been fit and slim, everyone can see the little bit of roundness on her tummy. Finnick is very protective of her, like any husband would be, and rarely lets her do anything that could possibly exert her too hard.

Gale is much the same, being the over protective husband to Madge and doing everything for her. It’s kind of cute to watch them sometimes, and sometimes I even wish that I was expecting a baby too.

Everyone decided that they liked our meal arrangements better than before, so now breakfast and dinner, and even sometimes lunch is spent with our spouses. I go hunting with Gale every two or three days, usually bringing back a nice haul to last us all a few days.

Colette keeps mostly to herself, occasionally joining us for a meal when she gets lonely. Peeta and I finally got around to adding on to our shelter making it a bit bigger. Now we have two rooms instead of one and the other is used mostly for cooking and is completely open on one side. The two of us have made Friday’s our special ‘date night’ and usually head to the pool that we found a while back when I had my first kiss in the rain. Sadly no more rain has come our way except for a small drizzle a few weeks back. Hopefully the waterfall keeps on flowing and the few streams we have found keep moving, bringing us fresh water.

Madge is now a professional swimmer. Thanks to Gale giving her lessons whenever she felt up to it, which were most days. Every few days all 6 of us, and sometimes Colette, go for a swim, and occasionally make an entire round of our small island. We all have very tanned skinned after months of being outside all the time, and Finnick’s naturally bronze skin is even darker. If someone saw us they might think we all came from District four.

Gale and I are darker than Peeta and Madge with their blond hair and fair skin. Gale and I already had olive skin but now it is more bronze colored. My hair is almost to my waist now and I have been meaning to cut it but I don’t trust Peeta to cut it evenly and it’s in a braid most of the time anyways.

I really can’t believe that we have been married almost five months already. It seems like we just met, when really it’s been almost four years, and three since the rebellion and everything. Peeta seems to be sweeter all the time, surprising me with little things he finds, pretty shells, leaves and flowers, stuff like that. Even though we’re on an island and married, you’d think that we were dating again.

Lying on my back on the golden sand, I watch the waves roll up on shore bringing seaweed and shells, then curl back out to sea. Peeta and the girls went to collect fruit for our respective homes and Gale and I had been out hunting but returned early. There is a slight breeze that brushes wisps of hair across my face and tickles my nose. Closing my eyes I sigh and go back in time to our wedding…

“Hold still would ya! It’ll take longer if you keep squirming!” My mother scolds while helping me with my wedding dress. There is a whole line of little clasps from my shoulder blades down to my waist and they keep poking my skin and making me squirm uncomfortably.

“Couldn’t I just wear my hunting outfit?” I whine. “It’d be much more comfortable!”

“Are you kidding me Katniss! Now that we have more money I want this wedding to be how I only thought could be a dream. Just let me have the satisfaction of dressing my oldest daughter for her wedding.”

“Okay.” I relent and let her finish the clasps. The dress is pure white and brushes my toes. There are one-inch straps and the back of the dress is bare at the top. Tiny light green sequins litter my bust and shimmer in the sunlight. My arms are bare except for a small pearl bracelet with matching necklace and earrings. It swirls around my feet when I walk and I have to say I feel like a princess, I just hope Peeta likes it. Thankfully Mother didn’t force me into heels so I am wearing comfortable mint green flats that match the sequins.

Prim has already painted my fingers and toes even though I told her not to bother, at least with my toes since they will not be visible. But she wanted all of me to be perfect and I let her do as she liked.

Madge came about an hour ago for my hair and make-up and just left to get ready herself. My hair is all piled on top of my head with a few ringlets framing my face. She only put on a dab of make-up since I haven’t really gotten used to wearing it yet and prefer not to. But I have to admit; when I look in the mirror I look quite stunning.

“There, all done.” Mother announces with a sad smile.

“Oh mom, don’t cry now!”

“I can’t help it!” She retrieves a tissue and wipes her eyes. “My baby is getting married!”

“It’s not like I’m moving away though. Peeta and I will be living next door.” I tell her.

“I know that. But it’ll still be different.” She says, taking a deep breath. “But don’t worry, I won’t cry.”

“Thanks.” I say with a small smile.

We are having the wedding outside at the meadow, which has been opened for public use. The guys have set up chairs for the few guests and built a little gazebo for the ceremony. Peeta wouldn’t let me see it before the wedding but I decided that it was fair since he doesn’t get to see me in my dress before it starts either.

“How do I look?” I turn around to see Prim has entered the room and is wearing a beautiful light green dress just like Madge and Posy Hawthorne who is our little flower girl.

“Beautiful.” I tell her honestly. Walking across the room and giving her a hug.

“Careful! You might wrinkle it!” She shrinks, taking a step back.

“Sorry.” I say with a chuckle.

“So, when do we go?” I ask.

“Ooh, someone’s a little anxious.” Prim says grinning.

My face heats up and I can’t find anything to say, thankfully mom speaks for me.

“Who wouldn’t be Prim? Your sister is getting married! You just wait, you’re time will come soon enough.”

The 15-year-old girl blushes slightly and just like if it was a planned, the door opens and in walks Rory Hawthorne, the boy with whom Prim spends most of her time. I never really thought anything of it just because Gale was my best friend for years and we spent every day together. But I was never physically attracted to him, unlike Prim with his younger brother. It is completely obvious.

“Ready to go Prim?” He asks and Prim nods. The boy extends his arm, and a still blushing Prim takes it and the two of them walk happily out the door.

“Aren’t they cute?” Mom sighs, watching them walk towards the meadow.

“Mom! She’s fifteen! “

“I know I know. I can’t believe how fast she is growing up.”

“Don’t worry.” I assure her. “She’ll be living here for at least a few more years.”

“I hope so. Now, are you all ready to go?” I nod. “As ready as I can be to get married.”

“Good, let’s go.” Mom grabs her purse off the table and we begin the walk to the meadow. Everyone should be there all ready since the bride is supposed to come in last. Since my Dad isn’t here to walk me down the isle and give me away, I asked Gale to do the honors since he has been my older best friend since we were kids and there isn’t really anyone else I’d pick. We walk slowly so as not to get my dress dusty and dirty on the road there.

When we get to the meadow, everyone is seated and quiet music is playing. Gale is standing at the back waiting for me, Prim, Madge, and Posy are standing with smiles on their faces on one side of the gazebo, and Rory, Vick are on the other side, with a place for Gale after he walks me up. Mom hurries ahead of me and takes her seat. Mayor Undersee and Peeta wait at the front and Peeta’s whole face lights up when he sees me. I give him a smile and begin making my way down the rows of chairs, smiling people and flashing cameras. Only a few close friends and family from District 12 are here. That’s how we wanted it.

We aren’t having the normal toasting like most people in the Seam do at weddings. Things are different now and after Madge and Gale had their wedding like this where her Dad married them and there was a ceremony along with an after party, I knew that when my wedding came that I’d want it just like that. Peeta had agreed. I can’t seem to get rid of the huge grin on my face as I walk towards Peeta, my arm linked with Gale’s and my other hand clutching a bouquet of dandelions picked from the meadow.

After what seems like a long time, but what is only about a minute we have arrived. Gale gives me a hug and kisses my cheek, then gives my hand to Peeta and walks over to stand next to his brothers.

Peeta gives my hand a squeeze and I squeeze back while we both turn to Mayor Undersee who holds an old marriage book in his hands. He asks Peeta a few questions with which Peeta answers each one with ‘I do.’ Then it’s my turn.

“Katniss, do you take Peeta, to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

“I do.” I reply, hardly able to hear my own voice.

A few more questions, just like the ones asked of Peeta are asked of me, and I reply confidently with ‘I do’ to every single one.

“You may now exchange the rings.”

Vick walks forward with a silk pillow and hands Peeta my ring, then he in turn slips it onto my outstretched finger. Perfect fit.

Then Vick hands me Peeta’s ring and I slide it gently on his finger like he did mine. Vick walks back to his spot.

“I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss your bride Peeta.”

Peeta grins widely and places both of his hands on either side of my face. “I love you.” He whispers, then leans down and places a gentle kiss on my lips.

“I give to you, Mr. and Mrs. Peeta Mellark!” The mayor announces and everyone erupts into cheers.

Peeta picks me up in his arms and swings me around, peppering kisses all over my face. I throw my bouquet behind me and not surprisingly, Prim catches it. She smiles shyly and clutches the flowers close to her, glancing quickly over at Rory who winks at her, causing her entire face to turn red.

Then before I know it, Peeta is running with me securely in his arms all the way back to our new home in the ‘victor’s village’.

We change quickly and somewhat reluctantly make our way to my old house where everyone has gathered for cake and drinks. The party lasts well into the night, nobody seemed to want to leave. But mother, sensing our need to get away, at about 10pm sneaks us out the back door where we run across the yard to our home. Of course Peeta has to pick me up again and carry me over the threshold, but this time, I don’t mind. In fact, I couldn’t be happier.

~~~

I smile at the memory that seems like a lifetime ago.

“What are you smiling about?”

I sit up quickly at Peeta’s voice and find him standing directly behind me.

“Just reminiscing.” I reply and pat the spot beside me. He plops down obligingly and kisses my cheek.“Get the fruit?”

“Sure did. A lot of it too.” He answers.

“I’m surprised that we haven’t picked those trees bare yet!”

“It’s a good thing though!”

I nod, “Yeah, it is.” “Where is everyone else?”

“Madge went back to her place to find Gale, and Finnick and Annie went for a walk down the beach.” Peeta replies.

“Oh okay.”

“Did you and Gale bring back any game?”

“Yeah, quite a bit actually. All of his snares had something in them. We shot some edible looking birds and so everything should last us all a few days. Hopefully make a few stews as well.”

“That’s good.” He says quietly. I lay my head down on his lap and let his fingers run through my hair.

“Kat!” I sit up turn around at the sound of a woman’s scream to find Madge running frantically towards us.

Peeta and I stand up quickly and make our way towards her.

“Slow down Madge. What’s wrong?” Peeta asks.

“I can’t find him!” She cries, breathing heavily.

“Who? Gale?” I ask and she bobs her head.

“He’s not at the house and I can’t find him anywhere!”

“Well he couldn’t have gotten too far.” I tell her. “We only got back about an hour ago and he told me he was heading to your place.”

“But he isn’t there!” Madge insists.

“Don’t worry, we’ll find him.” Peeta says soothingly. Putting an arm around her as we make our way back to the camp.

When we get to their shelter sure enough Gale is nowhere in sight.

“Where could he have gone?” Peeta asks.

“I don’t know.” Madge slumps down on a stump, her shoulders sagging.

“Maybe he just went for a short walk when he saw that you weren’t back yet.” I suggest.

“Maybe.” She agrees.

“How about you stay here with Peeta and I will see if he is nearby.” I say.

“Okay.” She relents and Peeta sits down beside her. “We’re going to find him Madge.” He soothes as tears fall from her blue eyes. Must be the emotional side of being pregnant, I think to myself as I leave them and sprint of into the woods. I don’t find anything out of the ordinary in the first five minutes so I just keep going. I come across Colette about ten minutes into my search and she looks up from whatever she was working on. “What brings you here?” she asks.

“Looking for Gale. Madge can’t find him.” I explain breathlessly.

“Oh, I saw him walk that way.” She says.

“How long ago?

“‘Bout half an hour.”

“Thanks.” I say and am just about to run off again when Colette speaks.

“Need some help?”

“Sure, that’d be great.” She smiles and stands up.

“Well, let’s go.”

So the two of us begin racing through the trees, making a wide circle around the perimeter of the camp. After about 20 minutes of constant running we have made it back to Madge and Peeta and still no trace of Gale. Madge is sobbing now and Peeta is trying to comfort her.

“Let’s check the beach in the direction that Annie and Finnick took their walk.” I suggest and Colette agrees. We begin running side by side again down the beach, leaving our shoes behind making it easier the make our way through the sand. I spot the couple a little ways off a few minutes later and they wave to us. I wave back and Colette and I run faster to catch up with them.

“Going for a jog?” Finnick jokes once we’re caught up with them.

“No, looking for Gale.” Colette replies hotly.

“Gale?” Annie asks with a worried voice.

“Yeah, Madge got back and couldn’t find him. Colette and I have been all over the camp area and haven’t come across him.

“Oh no.” Finnick’s face goes slightly pale.

“What?” I ask.

“Well, on our walk, Annie and I saw some freshly made tracks made by the tiger. Apparently he isn’t dead yet.” He tells us gravely.

“You don’t think…” I can’t finish my sentence.

“It’s possible that while Madge was away he decided to go kill the tiger himself.” Annie finishes for me.

“But he’s still wounded from his last fight with that beast!” I shriek.

“I know. It wasn’t smart. But if we want to save him we’d better stop talking and get moving.” Finnick says. “Annie, you go back to camp and tell Peeta where we are. It’d probably be best if you didn’t give Madge all the details.”

Annie nods and gives her husband a hug. “I will, be safe.”

Finnick leans down and gives her a quick kiss. “We will.” He promises, then watches her as she runs back down the beach toward the camp.

“Let’s go.” Finnick says and the three of us once again begin running.

Just a few short minutes later he stops us. “This is where we saw the prints.” He whispers and Colette and I follow his pointing finger with our eyes. Sure enough, large paw prints that are evenly spaced start a few feet from where we stand and go across the sand and disappear in a grove of trees.

“We should follow them.” I say and the other two nod in agreement. We all begin walking beside the tracks trying not to step on them and mess them up. We are so focused on following the tracks that when we look up we are in a small grove of trees.

“This is where they stop.” I say.

“Well then it should be close.”

“What’s that?” Colette cries, pointing to a pool of dark red, fresh blood on the ground not too far from us.

“Blood.” I say quietly.

“Look, there are drops, let’s follow them and see where they lead.” Finnick suggests and once again we are on our way. A few minutes later we come to a clearing where the blood is in more frequent drops and there is a lot of it. We look up and I almost joke when I see what is in front of us. The tiger lies dead on its side only a few yards in front of us.

“He really did kill him.” Colette says, breaking the silence.

“Yeah, but where is Gale I wonder. I doubt he got away without being hurt.” I say.

“You’re right Katniss, let’s go.”

The three of us make our way past the dead cat and towards a few more drops of blood that leads us into more trees. We haven’t been going for very long before Colette lets out a small scream of surprise.

I look to where she is looking and feel like I could be sick on the spot. Gale is lying face first on the ground, a nasty looking wound on the side of his head, and a pool of blood around him like a halo.

“Gale!” I scream before I can help myself and hurry over to him.

Finnick helps push him over to his back and leans down to listen for a heart beat.

“It’s there.” He tells us. “He’s alive, but barely.”


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