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Fire and Ice

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“So I got you something…” my sister, Primrose, tells me while setting a bag down. “Remember when you told me you owed me a huge favor?”

I nod slowly, placing bottles on the high shelves. I hated running the bar, but with Prim in college and Mom being well… Mom, I’m the only one who can. “Yeah?” I ask, struggling to rotate bottles. I always put the new ones in the back so the idiot bartenders I seem to hire won’t open a fresh one when there’s a half empty bottle of fucking vodka two feet in front of his or her face. “Hand me the Goose?”

She passes a bottle of Grey Goose to me. “Well…you know how I got that job at Wells Fargo because of my teacher?”

I slide the new bottle all the way to the back. “Stitching up the stick jockeys? I like when you come home with blood on your sleeve and just wave it off, naming the exact player and what happened…”

I watch Prim roll her eyes through the mirror in the back area of the bar. It serves two purposes, letting me see how much of a hot mess I am; and making sure that no matter what, I can see what’s happening in my own bar. “Anyway, Doctor Aurelius got us tickets for tonight’s home opener… Rory is going to be there with Vick and Posy…” she says hesitantly, trying to tell me that I won’t be the third wheel. I have no idea how Prim meets these people. Somehow my sister met, while getting coffee, the younger brother of the Alternate Captain of the Philadelphia Flyers and ended up waking up next to him. I still don’t know how she does it, but probably by being considerably friendlier than I am.

“And you want me to go because…?”

“We have five benchwarmer tickets to watch the practice, almost center ice seats…” she pauses, knowing I’m getting more and more disinterested every second. “And I would be eternally grateful if you came, because maybe Rory would like to introduce you to his older brother…” she says in one breath.

I don’t have work tonight and neither does Prim, so the apartment would be excruciatingly lonely with just me and her little shit of a cat. “Fine…” I agree halfheartedly. “But only if you help me put away the load. You are co-owner of this place…”

My mother was given ownership of Dad’s bar after he died. Unfortunately, she took that exact opportunity to go catatonic and move to a mental health institution. Prim goes to see her regularly; I’ve tried, but she just sits in a wheelchair and stares vacantly. The only thing I could say that day was ‘This isn’t hereditary, is it?’ It makes me sick, so I avoid visiting her. Prim called me selfish, maybe she’s right.

I hop off the back of the bar onto the honeycomb mat that has saved my feet and ass from slipping so many nights. “I just have to make a trip to the bank. Now, what did you get me?” She sets a bag on the bar and pulls out an orange jersey. “Oh, for fuck’s sake, Prim… really?”

It’s a little bigger than I would have bought for myself, but apparently that’s how you wear hockey jerseys. “We’ll match!” she exclaims, turning the shirt around, which reads Mellark 28 on the back.

“Wow, you don’t even wear your boyfriend’s brother’s numbers?”

She throws the shirt at me. “Game starts at seven, we’re getting there at five.”

“The fuck we are! I have a lot of sitting at home and doing nothing to accomplish!” I grab the closest bottle, which unfortunately turns out to be Vladimir, and pour myself a shot. “For you, madame?”

She makes a face. “I’d rather eat my own liver than Vladdy, but whatever. Hit me, or whatever they say.”

“Salud,” I announce as we tap our shot glasses before downing the vile liquid. Why couldn’t I have reached a little higher?

Prim insists we leave our home on Rodman Street, the house we have lived in since we were kids and Dad inherited the bar, earlier than sanely necessary. We don’t need to worry about parking the car; the Phillies are done and since it’s Saturday, no Eagles either.

“Let me braid your hair,” she says on the train down to the Wells Fargo Center. She pulls out her pocket hairbrush/mirror compact from Sephora and takes out my single braid. “I like you better with two braids, it’s more barely legal, not…” I glare at her through my reflection in the window as she puts my hair in two long braids, tying one with a black ribbon, the other with an orange one. It’s almost as if she planned this.

My favorite thing about the Broad Street Line is the people; the later at night, the better. Today, we have someone yelling out every stop even when we’re halfway to the next. The more ways the better, I guess.

The closer we get to Wells Fargo, the more orange the train gets. At the stop before AT&T Station, someone boards the train wearing what looks like an orange book-sock for his body, along with the one Devils fan in all of Philadelphia. I don’t think the poor fella was at all ready for the orange clad man to give him a lap dance.

“Remember when I said that woman trying to give me her Starbucks cup at two am was the weirdest thing I’ve experienced on SEPTA?”

“Yeah?” Prim asks.

“This takes the cake…” We get off at AT&T in a sea of orange and black, two of thousands wearing only a few men’s numbers. I feel the need to take note of them, considering one of these stranger’s numbers happens to be on my back - Mellark, Hawthorne, Thom, Odair, Thresh.

We’re insanely early, which makes it equally insane for this many people to be here already. “Rory!” Prim calls, letting go of my hand as she rushes to greet her boyfriend. I hadn’t even realized she was holding it. Ever since both of our parents checked out, Prim doesn’t particularly enjoy living in the city.

I just continue ignoring people trying to sell me tickets or buy mine. “Long time no see, Katniss,” Rory hugs me tightly, kissing both my cheeks. “This is Vick and Posy,” he says, introducing me to his siblings.


Peeta

Everyone has their own pregame rituals; well, we all have our own rituals in general. Some of us wear the same underwear every game, or the same socks, and they don’t get washed during a hot streak.

I get quiet before games. I’m the first one in all my gear while we’re waiting to take the ice and have a bad habit of just staring while passing my stick from hand-to-hand, checking for cracks before taping it.

“Hey man, you ready?” The room is eerily quiet. As Captain, it’s my job to get the team pumped, but I’m kind of shitty at it some nights. Fortunately, I have a goalie like Finnick.

“Alright, this is what we’re going to do. Offense, plow them down and put them in the boards. Defense, you do the same because for God’s sake, I don’t want to have to come out there and do it myself.”

Gale snorts, “Yeah, because we haven’t had a good goalie fight yet this season…”

Finnick starts stretching out. He looks huge in his pads, but is actually not much taller than I am. I have a few concerns trusting him to do the job, but he’s enthusiastic about it. “I’m not going to waste two minutes in the box on Brodeur. Now Gloss, on the other hand… let me at that pretty boy’s fucking face for two minutes. Pads off, center ice…” he says and takes a few jabs at the air. I have no idea how goalies end up with such bad blood between one another. They’re mostly kept apart and usually ignore each other. Finnick has only been in one fight that I’ve seen and that was when Cato, the Captain of our cross-state rivals, checked him into the goal mostly for shits and giggles.

Finnick was ejected from the game after that, considering he chased Cato close to the other goal and split his eyebrow after ripping off his helmet. Since then, the rule has been that Finnick only fights with the other goalie.

We go out for practice, our opponents already having taken the ice. It’s basically slapshots and this thing Odair does where he drops to his legs and shuffles from side to side. Apparently, the ladies love it. We always practice to the same playlist; it’s as traditional as Kate Smith.

The stands are already filled with fans. There’s honestly nothing like this; a city full of people cheering for you and the game hasn’t even started yet. It’s touch and go with Philadelphians, though. They’ll boo their own team if and when they see fit.


Katniss

I sit huddled on the bench sandwiched between Prim and Posy while Vick and Rory talk across from us. I’m tired from work and kind of just want a nap but it’s both too noisy and too cold. Instead I tuck my hands in my jersey and warm them on my stomach.

Prim starts telling Rory about the train here, mostly the lap dance we watched, and I lean in to listen not even paying attention as a water bottle is knocked off the railing, hitting me square in the breast. “Shit, what was that for?” I ask, unfolding my limbs and picking the bottle off the ground.

“I am so sorry, blame it on Finnick…” I look around him to the goalie, who is doing leg stretches.

“He doesn’t seem to be doing much that would send a bottle,” I retort and shake it for show, “Right into my chest!” The man turns around… Number 28, the same as my jersey.

He takes off his helmet and gloves, running his hand through his already sweaty blonde curls. “Sorry, guess we just have more padding in that area…” he says nervously, his bright blue eyes looking me up and down. “I am going to shut up now.” He looks down and holds out his hand. “Are you going to give me that back or take a drink?”

I hand him the green bottle. “Don’t let it happen again.”

Mellark leans across the railing. “You going to send me to the box, ref?”

“Peeta, shut up and go practice,” Rory cautions.

“Yes, Mom…” he groans and skates away, his helmet and gloves tucked under his arm. As he slaps his helmet on over his curls, he shoots me one of the warmest, cheekiest smiles I’ve ever seen. He’s a cocky fuck, that’s for sure, but has the nicest eyes…

Prim leans into me. “You’re blushing…”

I stop looking at Mellark and touch my cold fingers to my hot cheeks. “Shut up… it’s cold.”

Once practice is over, we have to take our seats which aren’t far from the bench with only a pane of glass keeping us from everything.

When the Devils take the ice, the fans yell ‘sucks’ after each name is announced. How can they say these people suck? They’re playing a sport at the professional level, they’d almost have to know what they’re doing.

Everything gets dark and loud as a song I’ve never heard starts booming through the speakers of the Wells Fargo Center. “Now, please welcome your Philadelphia Flyers!” the announcer says just before the song says ‘Let’s Get Ready to Rumble’ and one by one, orange and black clad Flyers enter to a sea of roaring orange.

The last one to take the ice is 28; the one who hit me, the one whose cheeky grin I can’t get out of my mind. A few minutes into the game, Rory hands me a beer. I guess he’s good for something besides turning my sister into a bubbling mess. I find myself not paying attention to the game right in front of me, but rather the huge TV hanging right above the center of the rink. It follows the puck everywhere, which is great for me because as usual, I forgot my glasses on my dresser. Every so often, the TV shows people around the arena. There are far more black and orange afro’s here than I was prepared for.

Suddenly, there’s an obnoxious buzzing followed by an equally obnoxious song. It’s a techno song I’ve heard on the internet that the crowd sings along with. The only way to describe it is thousands of people singing the word ‘doop’ in different pitches. Everyone stands, but I’m too cold and confused to bother.

During the second period, I’m pulled to my feet when another goal is scored, having no excuse to stay seated. My beer is gone, and I finally adjusted to the cold during the short break between the first and second periods.

I watch on the screen as Mellark gets checked into the glass two feet from my face, looking up just in time for a high stick to catch him in the lip. He turns around, chin bloody and swinging at the guy who hit him. The referees have already stopped play and are separating the two men from each other. This is when I choose to stand, watching little droplets of blood fall on the orange of Mellark’s jersey. “Is he out of the game?” I ask Prim. The trainer guides him off the ice, holding a towel to his chin. Before he gets too far away, he turns back to where I’m sitting and gives me the same grin, bloody teeth and all. It’s still kind of cute and innocent, though I know he wouldn’t be afraid to throw a few punches.

She shakes her head as someone fills in for Mellark and I take my seat. “They’ll stitch him up and send him out again…” I just nod.

I don’t know what starts it, but a few minutes from the end of the second period I watch Hawthorne and someone from the Devils throw their gloves off and toss down their sticks. They grab each other’s shirts and try to get a few good punches in despite the fact that they’re sliding across the ice.

“Here we go…” Vick grumbles. “Gale’s been waiting to give it to Volchenkov all day…”

“Salud,” I tell him at hearing the name. “And why?”

Vick shrugs and Posy leans into me for warmth. “You don’t ask questions, sometimes they just need to get physical to show each other who’s boss, though I’m sure this was more about him high sticking Peeta.”

Both parties are thrown into the penalty box for a few minutes, leaving each team a man down. “It just seems stupid. They’re winning.” No one tries to take the time to explain hockey fighting to me. I guess I’m just supposed to assume the testosterone in the room overflows and you just have to hit someone. Once their time is up, they fly out of the box in the same direction. They exchange words, but not blows.

Right as the third period begins, Mellark comes back out as if nothing happened. The crowd roars but it doesn’t seem to affect him.

The rest of the game favors the Flyers net. Two men with the names Thom and Thresh, along with a third who just shifts too much and always seems to have his back to me, are unable to get the puck to Mellark, Hawthorne, and Sestito. There isn’t a moment where they’re still; always moving from one spot to another either at a leisurely pace or quickly when they think they’ll have to pick the puck up.

It isn’t until Odair gets the save that the advantage is returned to the Flyers. Three periods and three goals later, I’m finally free.

“Hey, we’re going to go celebrate. Want to…”

I interrupt Prim. “Get some coffee from Wawa and regain feeling in my fingers?”

“Well, that… but celebratory drinks?”

I roll my eyes. I don’t know what there is to celebrate, since it’s the beginning of the season. “I’m going to head home and grab something before heading to the bar to make sure Darius didn’t fuck everything up.”

Prim pouts. “Katniss, don’t be anti-social. We can go back to the-“

“Prim, I’ve had enough celebration and enough to drink for one night. Don’t stay out too late,” I tease. “It was nice meeting you Vick, Posy, and Rory, don’t try anything stupid.” He just salutes in response.

The train home is just as rowdy as the one down to the game, if not more. When I walk into the house, I realize I have a headache. All of the noise and excitement added up to one massive migraine. I take two Aleve and flop down on the couch. “And people have season passes for this shit…” I grumble, closing my eyes. Buttercup, Prim’s twelve-year-old cat, paws at me. “No… I fed you already… Fuck off…”

I close my eyes and after what feels like an eternity later, my phone starts buzzing. “What…” I yawn.

“Katniss, where are you?” Prim asks, worried.

I rub the sleep from my eyes. “Sleeping off a migraine, where are you?”

“The bar. Vick took Posy home, so Rory and I came here with a few of the guys and Darius said you never made it.”

“Headache, sleeping it off,” I say again. I do have work to do tonight. The drawer needs to be counted so my work in the morning will be infinitely easier, along with tomorrow afternoon. “I’ll be there in ten minutes…”

I peel myself off the couch and grab my handbag and keys before heading into the October chill, but not before remembering my glasses. It’s already midnight, why am I leaving home to be social? I should be climbing in bed with the heated blanket.

“Why the fuck did you not bring a coat!” I hiss at myself, shoving my hands as far into my pockets as possible, only taking them out to wave at someone I run in front of on my way to the bar. To this day, we have no idea why Grandpa Everdeen wanted to open a bar. He moved to Philly after living on a farm out near Lancaster, and something possessed him to name it The Chicken Coop. When my Dad inherited it, he changed the name to the simple and sweet Everdeen’s. It’s a few blocks south of South Street, so it doesn’t see as many weirdos. And since we’re about a block away from a sex shop, the first thing that greets our customers is a sign that reads, ‘Please don’t handcuff the bartender.’ Darius thinks it’s hilarious, but I have been offered a ‘night of bliss’ in exchange for me ripping up someone’s tab. Sorry, but I’m not making any fucking money that way.

I push inside, the hockey crowd already dispersed by this hour. There are only a few regulars and my sister behind the bar with Darius, though the only part of him I can see is his brassy hair. Rory sits at the bar next to two larger men, one with black hair, the other blonde.

Darius stands up, but his shaggy reddish hair is on the wrong body. “Excuse me,” I call from the door. “If you’re not on my payroll or on the lease, you stay on the other side.”

I walk around the other side and pull down a bottle of Makers Mark. “Nice chin,” I say, eyeing up the blonde. The one with black hair has a bruise just under his right eye. “You two go at it?”

Everyone gets really quiet, like I’m missing something. “Darius! The customers are picking on me again!” I shout. ”Defend me!” I cry, pouring myself a drink.

“Darius went home when we got here,” Prim tells me. “I was going to close up tonight. Katniss?” I take a sip, an ice cube hitting my tooth. “This is Finnick Odair, Peeta Mellark, and Rory’s older brother, Gale Hawthorne…”

I keep the drink close to my lips, trying to use it to hide my embarrassment. “Prim, the people you know…”

I shake each of their hands, but linger with the blonde’s. “I’m Katniss. Do you need any ice for your lip?”

Peeta doesn’t say anything and I let go of his hand. “Fuck his lip, I need some for my ass,” Finnick says.

“Excuse me, forget your ass! Did you see what Volchenkov did to my face?” Gale points to his half a shiner.

“Both of you are whiny little bitches,” Peeta grumbles and takes a sip of his beer. “And you started that fight, Gale.”

He pats Peeta’s shoulder. “Had to defend your honor, man…”

Prim and I just exchange looks and shrug. “So if one of you falls on your ass during practice, is that person made fun of for the rest of the day?” she asks.

“More like the rest of your life…” Finnick says, checking his phone. “Well, Annie’s plane just landed. Sorry about the mess, Katniss… stiff hands from the gloves,” he notes while flexing his fingers.

I just nod as I move to clean glasses that should have been done ages ago, but Darius is a slob and likes to leave everything for the last minute. I turn the water on a little too high and get a stream of warm beer and tepid water right in the stomach. “Sorry, Peeta. I got beer on your jersey,” I tell him idly. He hasn’t looked away from me since I stepped behind the bar. I take off the shirt, trying to forget that all I have on is a white camisole and bright red bra.

“Sweater,” he corrects.

“No…” I set a clean glass down. “If I was wearing a sweater, I wouldn’t have been freezing on the way here.”

“It’s a sweater in hockey. I mean, if you want to call it a jersey that’s okay… but properly, it’s a sweater.”

I work on closing up the bar and one-by-one, the customers who aren’t part of my sister’s entourage settle their tabs and head out into the world. Two am hits and I lock the door behind Prim and Rory, who are heading back to his place for the night, leaving me alone with the cat.

“So where do you live?” Peeta asks idly as I count down the drawer. These are Prim’s ‘friends’ so why am I entertaining them?

“Like, seven blocks north of here.”

Gale pats Peeta on the back. “Dude, I gotta head home. See you tomorrow?” Peeta just nods and waves.

“Wait, aren’t you two here together?”

“We drove to work separately,” Gale tells me. Peeta just smiles sheepishly.

He hands me some cash which I just shove in the blue bag. I’ll have to recount it in the morning, as I’m a few drinks in and not exactly sharp. Gale leaves Peeta and I alone in the bar. For a few minutes, the only noise is the TV which Darius had set on ESPN. I turn it off, not needing to see the recap of the game.

“You should let me drive you home,” Peeta tells me boldly.

“No,” I answer simply.

He looks shocked. “Why? It’s late, you’ve been drinking. You have a long walk.”

I narrow my eyes. I’ve seen how he’s been staring at me. “Because you’ll get ideas. The second you drive me home, the second you ask to get invited upstairs because my sister is out of the house and it’s empty besides me and the cat. No, Mr. Mellark, not interested.”

He doesn’t look phased. “So you think that I just want to get in your pants? Maybe I just want to come up for some coffee?”

I try to stifle my laugh. “And we all know that coffee and sex are basically the same word after midnight.” His grin widens enough that his stitches pull, causing some bleeding. He hasn’t noticed and when I press a folded-up paper towel to the area, he jumps a little.

“I’m sorry about earlier. For hitting you, that is. I got distracted,” he looks everywhere but me, “I’m sorry, I’m trying really hard to look everywhere but your breasts.”

I blush. “Thanks…”

“You know, I was just going to drive you home… maybe walk you to your door, then part ways…”

I bite my lip and check to see if his chin has stopped bleeding. “Thanks…” I mumble, not knowing what else to say.

“I mean, unless you wanted to see me again?” he asks hopefully.

“Aren’t you away every other week?”

He shrugs and I press the towel into his chin again. “I’m here until Wednesday, then I’ll be back after a few days. I’m actually here for most of this month…” he stumbles a little when he talks, like I make him nervous. “I could take you to dinner, or cook for you?”

He’s nervous, like when I was sixteen and a guy clumsily asked me to Homecoming. “Here, I have some Neosporin in the office,” I say, evading his question.

Peeta isn’t much taller than I am, but his broad shoulders overwhelm me when he follows me a little too closely. I don’t think he’s going to try anything, I just don’t really enjoy the proximity. “So tell me something…” I start.

“Mhm?” he says in response.

“Your warm-up music… were you guys channeling a women’s aerobics class?”

Peeta shrugs and I dig through our first aid kit. “Here,” I say, handing him the tube.

“It’s just easy to get lost in before a game,” he replies, rubbing the cream into his stitches. “You still haven’t answered my question.”

“Let me think about it.”

“It’s just dinner, Katniss,” he murmurs.

“Dinner and coffee can mean the same thing…” I whisper.

He repeats himself. “I’m not some horny teenage boy that’s all about…“ He elongates the o in about.

“Say that again!” I snicker as he narrows his eyes clearly onto me.

“No,” he shakes his head. “Or I’ll start making fun of how you talk!” I narrow my eyes right back. “Dropping letters, adding some, and whatever the fuck a jawn is.”

“What aboot it?”

Peeta rolls his eyes and hands me back the tube. “Oh, shut up,” I stick my tongue out.

“Here…” he starts taking off his jacket and offers it to me. I blush, realizing I’m only in a tank-top. “It’s cold out…”

He has on a long-sleeved grey shirt on with Philadelphia Flyers on the chest and his number right above his left collar bone. “You looked bigger earlier,” I blurt and his eyes widen. Wow…that sounded a lot better in my head than clumsily sashaying out of my mouth.

“Ok, I’m going to… grab my things and hang myself from a pipe…” I say, practically running out of my own office, “Or jump into I-95 traffic during rush hour or cross the Boulevard with my eyes closed or…“ Warm hands grab my waist from behind, stopping my list of ways to quickly end my embarrassment.

“Katniss, calm down,” he says as his thumbs rub me a little. It feels nice, better than I was expecting. Hockey seems so violent, not at all like what I’ve seen of Peeta. I lean back and my shoulders rest against his chest.

“Yes,” I finally say. “To dinner.”

He lets go and I pull on his coat. “I’m in town until the seventeenth, what day works for you?”

“Any? Just…” I walk behind the bar and write my phone number on a napkin. “Call me?”

He smiles. “I would still feel better if I drove you home.”

“No coffee?” He smiles like he did on the ice, cheeky though still nervous, like he’s out of his element.

“It’s almost three am, Sir! I’d rather have coffee in the morning.” I grab my keys and start turning off the lights.

As I head for the door, I feel Peeta’s hand on the small of my back. “I’ll take note of that…” he whispers in my ear, passing me to hold the door open. I can still feel the heat from his hand on my back, and I know we both weren’t talking about just coffee.

Chapter Text

Peeta

“So the way I see it, you have two options…” Gale starts as we lace up. Granted, we don’t have a scheduled practice today, but we agreed that this was our season. We’re winning the cup even if it means working ourselves to death. I double knot my skates and tuck in the ties to avoid any issues. The rest of the team isn’t showing up today; it’s Sunday, which is a day of rest. We have to be here tomorrow morning, bright and early. Sometimes, I think we live in Voorhees.

“I didn’t know you were…“ I pause, heaving myself onto my feet, “Such an expert on the women.” I bend each leg, pulling the guard off each skate. They aren’t freshly sharpened like my game skates, nor have they been sharpened within the last few months, but I’m not going to be picky.

Gale snorts. “Listen, you kept looking at her every time you passed by, thus the chin.” He stands and follows me onto the ice. “So again, how I see it is that you have two options. Option one, don’t talk to her ever again; you got big shit going on this year. Option two, you man up and put her up in the box every time she comes to a game so you don’t take any more hits to the face. They can only put your teeth back in so many times.”

He skates over to the sound system on the other side of the rink. “I already have a fake one, too. Maybe I should steal Finnick’s mask?” I ask just as Jump Around by House of Pain starts playing through the speakers. We start this practice like we would any other. Slow laps at first to warm up our legs, then suicides the width of the rink. “I still think I should. I mean, I was single last season and we made it to the Cup. Maybe…” I trail off as we strap our gloves on. “Finnick would be better at this type of thing, you know?”

I throw the puck ahead of me and leisurely pass it to Gale. “Yeah…” he taps it with the front and back of his stick, skating forward.

“How’s Jo?”

He slaps the puck to me full force, “Still in Montana, still being a bitch…”

“Gentlemen, Please! Language, there’s a lady present!” Finnick roars from the boards; his girlfriend is bundled up, though she still looks like a stick compared to him.

“Sorry, Annie!” Gale hollers.

Finnick gives her a quick kiss on the cheek before skating over to us. “Yo, pass me the puck,” he demands. Being on the front lines of everything, Gale and I have learned to predict each other’s moves. Fortunately, Finnick’s head is too far up his own ass sometimes to catch on. I still have the puck so when Gale makes a one eighty, I pass it to him and he’s off.

Finnick doesn’t even have pads on so he can actually get across the ice at a reasonable pace to chase after Gale. “So Annie…” I start skating over to her.

“Yeah, Peeta?”

“When he takes the ice at warm-ups, Finnick does this thing where he does a split and like… shuffle thrusts? He says the ladies love it. Is this true?”

She slaps her forehead, understanding Finnick’s ego. “Finnick!” she shouts over the music. He stops dead in his tracks, right in Gale’s path.

“Odair down!” he shouts, laying on his back on the ice. “What do I look like?”

Gale skates around him and jumps over him, “A speed bump that shouldn’t leave the crease.”

We coerce Finnick into donning all his gear. “This shit fucking reeks, guys! Smell my gear bag!”

“No!” we shout together. My pads smell like death warmed over, and they aren’t thick foam like his leg pads. Finnick is great to play with. “I got my eyes on you,” he points to his eyes then to me. “Oh! Mellark’s going to pass to… no… no… just kidding! He’s going to love tap the puck into the goal two minutes into first period! Or this one… sneaky fuck Hawthorne!” I lazily tap the puck from side to side. “Also, what am I better than Gale at besides hockey?”

“Get on the line, man, we’ll see… But remember that chick Peeta pitched a bottle at?”

“Asshole tried to pin it on me… Annie! Go put on Jump Around! Please!” Instead of cutting across the ice, she walks around the rink saying nothing. A few seconds into the song, Finnick starts jumping in a small circle. I pass to Gale and he scores. “Hey no fair! I wasn’t ready!” Finnick hollers.

“Is that what you told the Blackhawks?”

“Oh, shut up! But no, what about the chick you beamed a water bottle at?”

“I got her number,” I say as he passes me the puck. I shoot it, but he stops it.

“And you’re going to…”

“I don’t know?”

“No, idiot. The correct answer is,” he explains, blocking another easy shot from Gale and tossing it back. “You call her. She was kind of cute. Not my type, but she had those braids. You could use them like reigns!” This causes me to swing at full force, the puck coming off the ice and passing through the top corner. I barely know this girl and I already feel the need to protect her modesty. “Or don’t. But seriously,” he passes it back, “Pros and cons. Pros? Sex, that’s the biggest one. She’s someone to come home to when we’re not away. Someone cheering for you and only you besides Mom and Dad,” I nod. “There’s also companionship; that’s important, too.”

“Now, cons. She could be a distraction. You only have the potential to see her like fifteen days out of the month until the summer. And you barely know her… plus, distraction.”

I lean my weight on my stick, weighing both sides. I did tell her it was only dinner after all…what’s the harm in that?


When I get home from practice, I decide to call her.

“Hello?” she asks, an edge of mistrust in her voice.

“Katniss?”

“Oh, hello, Peeta. Sorry, I’m trying to grab lunch, so don’t mind my chewing while I get off my feet for five minutes.”

“It’s two o’clock,” I say. Even we take a break for lunch!

“Yeah, tell that to the fucking Eagles… They’re losing, so I take comfort in that. So what’s up, stick jockey?”

“Stick jockey?”

“Calling you ‘shoulder pads’ just didn’t seem to fit…” she sighs. “Too nineteen eighties…then you might think it’s okay to grow a mustache.” She doesn’t wait for me to respond, “So before we get off topic, to what do I owe this honor?”

Here we go, just dinner, see if you hit it off. Just one dinner to see if she’s more than just a pretty face and if maybe she’s worth the distraction. “I was wondering if you were free tonight?”

The dull roar in the background turns into a chorus of people yelling ‘touchdown’. “God dammit…” she grumbles.

“Are they this loud for the Flyers?” I ask.

“Well, haven’t you ever watched a game live?” The noise dies down.

I slap myself in the forehead, “Well… no.”

She pauses for a second, “How come?”

“Because I’m playing in them?”

I hear her slap her forehead. “Oh God, you must think I’m an idiot. It kind of slipped my mind. I’m really not this much of a goof, it’s just been a long day,” she sighs and chuckles sheepishly. I can imagine the embarrassed blush on her cheeks; the same one she got in the cold last night, just pink enough. “Um… Peeta?” she asks, “Still with me?”

I shake myself out of my daydream. “Yeah, sorry, what was that?”

“I said, what did you have in mind slash what time?”

“My place for dinner whenever you get off work?”

“Hmm… No coffee?” she teases.

“Only if you need it,” I tell her, playing along. She makes a choking noise on the other end.

“I get off work in about an hour, but I need to get ready. Where do you live?”

“I’ll pick you up,” I offer. I don’t know whether or not to tell her my living situation, but her aversion to cars isn’t going to help her get to the house Gale and I share with his kids. “It’s a far drive.”

“No, you won’t. Then it’s like I owe you something. This isn’t my first rodeo, shoulder pads.” When I give her the address, unwilling to argue with her, she sighs long and hard. “You just lost a lot of points, Jersey Boy, but I’ll see you at six.”


“What are you doing?” Gale’s youngest, five-year-old Celeste, asks for the hundredth time. While my attention is focused on my cooking, the little girl hops off her chair and tugs on my pants. “Uncle Peeta!” she whines, but the doorbell distracts her and she goes running off, her stuffed rabbit dragging behind her by the ears.

“Celeste!” I holler. Gale is taking the kids back to his ex-wife’s house tonight. Unfortunately, getting three kids ready to do anything is harder than running on water. “Ne pas ouvrir la porte d'entrée!” Gale likes speaking French to his kids because it’s something his ex-wife doesn’t do with them. My mother’s first language was drilled into my head even though we lived in a predominantly English speaking area. The security system pings as the door swings open.

I run after her, sliding on the hardwood on my socks. Katniss is slack jawed, nervously clutching her black coat, as if the equally confused little girl is a dog ready to attack. Her eyes find mine. “You… You have a kid?!”

I put my hands up defensively. “I don’t, Gale does!”

“Je pensais que tu étais maman…” Celeste sighs, disappointed that the woman at the door isn’t her mother like she expected.

I sigh. “Votre père vous a dit qu'il vous emmène à la maison de votre mère après qu'il se préparait ton frère.”

She’s even more disgruntled now, knowing it’s her brothers holding her up. “Are you going to come in?”

She nods nervously and waits for Celeste to run upstairs, yelling for her brothers to hurry up the entire time. Katniss’ coat goes down to her thighs; the only part of her outfit that’s exposed is her light blue leggings and brown boots. I suddenly feel under dressed in sweats and a t-shirt. “Should I go change?”

“No, you’re perfect…” she cuts herself off, like she was going to say more and blushes. There’s an awkward silence, so she grabs her braid and strokes it nervously.

“I thought this wasn’t your first rodeo,” I tease, holding out my hand. “Here, I’ll take your coat.”

She’s still blushing, but awkwardly takes off her coat and hands it to me. Her sweater dress has ridden up enough to expose her entire right leg and through her leggings, I can make out the faintest outline of her red thong. “I’m just used to going out in public where we both have to pretend to be normal. At your house there’s a zoo of children, well zoo of one child-“

“Three. Celeste is the youngest, she’s five. Then there’s Ethan and Parker. The twins are… ten? Yeah, that sounds right. But Gale’s taking them to Madge’s because they have school, though Ethan gave Parker a bloody nose over Madden.” Her eyes widen and she nervously plays with the low V-neck of her dress, drawing my attention right to her breasts.

She clears her throat. “So, what’s for dinner?”

“I had no idea what you would eat, so Chicken Marsala.”

Katniss chuckles. “A man of many talents…”

Gale and the kids leave right before we sit down to eat. “You know the rules, don’t leave the stove on, no eggs in the microwave,” he cautions.

“Ethan did it!” I explain as Katniss sips on her second glass of wine, watching everything we do.

“And no girls in the bedroom!” She freezes at this, not bringing the glass down as if it is some type of camouflage for her blush.

“So where did you learn to cook?” she asks while we eat.

I wipe my lips clean. “Well, I was living alone in Center City for three years and I found the Food Network. It was kind of a ‘learn by doing’ thing.” She nods and takes another bite, chewing slowly. “Where are you from?” I ask.

She swallows, “Newfoundland… Pennsylvania, that is. It’s kind of two hours north of civilization, which is Allentown… But I moved to Philadelphia when I was young, so I guess there. Yourself?”

“A little town called Hearst in Ontario. If you want to talk about ‘away from civilization’ as you call it, try being about one thousand kilometers north of Toronto.” Katniss clears her plate, but doesn’t ask for more. Instead, she grills me on everything about my past.

“So why do you speak French?” she asks, finishing her third glass of wine.

“Why do you say water with an O?”

“Because… I do?”

I grin, “Exactly.”

Her cheeks flush red again. “I’m sorry. I feel like such an ass around you sometimes. I’m always saying the wrong thing!” She rests her hands on the table, twisting her napkin around her index finger. I cover her hands with mine.

“You’re perfect,” I tell her.

I save the dishes for tomorrow after practice and we settle on the couch in the den, one of the three rooms in this house that are mine. It’s a large room in the back of the house, right next to my bedroom and bathroom. The kids aren’t allowed in here, which is a relief.

“So what do you want to watch?”

She shrugs and moves a little closer to me, her arm touching my side. My arm rests on the back of the couch. While she thumbs through my DVD’s, I pull the tie out of her braid. “Excuse you…” she mumbles, closing my binder full of movies. She twists around to get the hair tie from me, but I hold it over my head and she’s straddling my lap. “No fair! Your arms are long!” she complains. I laugh and fling the black band across the room. She twists to follow its path, still in my lap. While her head is turned, I unbraid her hair.

“Why do you wear your hair back like that? It’s nice,” I tell her, winding a section around my finger. She faces me again slowly, watching me play with her hair, which is wavy from the braid. I let the strands fall from my fingers and place my hands on her back on the off chance that she falls backwards.

I look down. Her dress has bunched up, exposing almost all of her sky blue leggings. Then her hands come down and she lifts the garment over her head. The fabric crackles from the static as it passes over her hair. Her white shirt does nothing to hide the red lace bra she is wearing.

“Sorry… It was getting warm…” she mumbles. I place my hands on her back again and press her flush against my body.

“Is this better?” I ask as she rests her hands on the back of the sofa.

“Yeah…” she whispers before leaning in. Her lips just about touch mine and the static build-up from her sweater removal passes between our lips. Katniss jumps back, flushed again. “I am so sorry, P-“ I put my hands on her cheeks and pull her in for a second attempt at a kiss. They’re a little chapped, but she returns the kiss with equal force and desire. Her hands tangle in my hair as she opens her mouth, her tongue rubbing against mine. As I cup her backside, the tip of her tongue rubs against my top row of teeth. I feel her moan vibrate into my mouth as I squeeze the mounds of flesh.

She pulls away and the tips of her fingers brush against my stomach. She doesn’t even ask, already knowing the answer. My shirt gets caught on my chin and then my ears. “Oh my God!” she gasps. “Peeta!” I look down at my chest, where there’s a dark purple bruise the size of her hand. “What did you do!?”

“I took a guy’s shoulder to the chest. It happens, pads or no pads… I have another one on my leg, but you’re not seeing that one.”

She leans in and kisses the bruise. “Does it hurt?” she asks. Her face is still close to my chest, her big grey eyes wide with concern.

“No, but don’t worry about that. It’s an… occupational hazard. Just like this,” I say, pointing to my chin. “But if you want, you can kiss it again.” She bites her lip and gets out of my lap, sitting on her legs, knees touching my leg.

“So much for just dinner…” she chuckles nervously. “But you have the Sex and the City movie and Boondock Saints, so I can forgive you.”

I roll my eyes. “I am NOT watching Sex and the City!” I put my hands on my knees to help myself stand and kiss her nose.

“Well, you have both movies, so…” I put in the Boondock Saints DVD and sit back down.

I wrap my arms around her shoulders as she lays her legs over mine. “Why are women always so cold?” I ask while rubbing her arms.

She yawns. “It’s all the blood going to important places. I don’t need arms and legs, but I really need an appendix.” She rests her head on my shoulder for about half the movie, “And Shepherds we shall be. For thee, my Lord, for thee. Power hath descended forth from Thy hand. Our feet may swiftly carry out Thy commands. So we shall flow a river forth to Thee. And teeming with souls shall it ever be. In Nomeni Patri, Et Fili Spiritus Sancti.”

“How many times have you watched this?” It takes a lot of effort for Katniss to move, but soon she’s back in my lap.

“Enough…” She rests her head on my shoulder.

“Oh, you’re tired?” I ask and she nods. “Excuse me - you kept me out until three am and then I had practice this morning, but here…” she yelps as I grab her ass again and moves so she’s on her back. “These pants are ridiculous,” I tell her, kneeling between her legs.

She covers her eyes with the backs of her hands and laughs. “Prim helped me get dressed. If I had known we were going to be so casual, I would have stayed in my t-shirt and jeans!” I reach down and hook my finger in the waistband of her leggings. She removes her hands from her eyes and watches as I move my finger back and forth, but makes no effort to stop me. I pull my hands away and she shifts so I can lie down next to her.

I lay my arm across her waist and she lifts her head so she can rest it on my arm. She ends every long kiss with a shorter softer one, her hands running through the hair on my chest and head.

I reach my hand under her shirt and run my fingers along her flat stomach. She squirms a little, pulling away. “Stop that!” she giggles.

“Oh, you’re ticklish?” I move my hand to her ribs, running my fingertips up and down until she squirms her way off the couch. “Holy shit, Katniss, I’m so sorry!” I peek over the edge of the couch where she’s laying on the floor, her shirt pushed up so her bra is exposed.

“Dirty fighter!” Her hand comes up lightning quick, grabbing the collar of my shirt.

My jaw drops. “Excuse me, ma’am. What are you accusing me of?”

She sits up quickly, fixing her shirt. “’I’m sorry, ma’am?’ Just how old do you think I am?”

I think for a second. She doesn’t have that nervousness women in their early twenties seem to have about intimacy. On the other hand, she isn’t just putting herself out there. “Twenty… five?” I ask.

She kisses my cheek after she gets up off the ground. “Close enough. I’m twenty-seven. Twenty-eight in May.”

“Twenty-five in March,” I tell her. “I’ve always wanted to date an older woman.” I look up as her eyebrows knit together. She puts her hands on her hips.

“Who said anything about dating? This was just dinner.”

I sit up and grab her hands, guiding her into my lap. “Oh, I don’t know,” I kiss her cheek. “I figured we’d go out a few more times and see where this takes us…”

So I can see whether or not this is something worth pursuing, or if the benefits outweigh the risks.

We’ll see… let’s just make it through this movie…”

It’s a little awkward for a few minutes. I lay with my back against the couch and she presses her back to my chest. We lay in silence, all the while my anxiety builds, making it almost impossible to talk. That is, until she rolls over and looks me dead in the eye while smiling, her lips brushing mine. At first, the kiss is innocent and soft. She brings her leg over my hips and I move onto my back, forcing her on top of me. She’s a slight little thing, but I’ve been single for so long and most of my social interactions are with guys in hockey pads. It’s so strange to see her on me, and even stranger when she lifts off her shirt. “You know I’m not here because you’re a hockey player, right?” she asks.

“If you were, those insane pant things wouldn’t have been part of the outfit.”

Katniss narrows her eyes and crosses her arms over her small chest. Her breasts are about a palm full, the perfect size for her small frame. “You’re a cocky little ass, you know that? But that’s not important right now. Where’s your bathroom?”

“Next door on your right through my bedroom,” I explain. She hops off of me, ignoring the fact that that position made me hard. She picks up my t-shirt and pulls it over her head.

“Peeta Mellark, just because you wined and dined me doesn’t mean you’re getting into my leggings!”

She leaves the room just as the movie ends, so I switch the TV to ESPN. They’re just finishing coverage for the NFL and go into the NHL. “SportsCenter, really?” Katniss asks. I mute the coverage of the game I was actually there for. “I’ll spoil it for you. The Flyers won, you took a stick to the face, Gale punched a guy and Finnick did something that resembled the electric slide when he kept the thing from going into the other thing…”

I put my head in my hands. “Katniss Everdeen, if we’re going to continue this, you need a crash course in hockey terminology.” The couch shifts as she sits next to me, and I turn the volume on again.

“What does icing mean?” she asks after the announcer mentions it for the fifth time.

I think for a second about how general I need to be with her. She seems smart, so I choose to explain it how I learned it. “Alright, so…” I take the coasters off the coffee table and kneel in front of it. Katniss rests her elbows on her knees and cradles her chin in her knotted fingers. “Actually, one second.” My knees crack as I stand up and rush to my bedroom. I grab a handful of belts and head back into the den where Katniss is watching coverage of the Blackhawks game. I shudder a little.

“I don’t like the Blackhawks’ uniforms,” she tells me as I lay belts across the table where lines on the rink are. “They look obnoxious.” I place the center line down, marking it with a black belt and showing center ice with brown belts. At the ends, I have two more black belts and a remote marking each goal.

“The team doesn’t particularly enjoy the Blackhawks in general. Alright now, besides the faceoff circles, this is… kind of right except the rink is a little wider.” I run my index finger along the center line. “This is the red line dividing center ice in half. The remotes are the goals. This one,” I say, tapping the one to her right, “Is the defensive zone; the other one is the offensive. Which makes this…” I drag my finger from left to right, “The direction of play.” I decide to make this lesson on icing into a crash course on the very basics of hockey. “You never really hear anyone say offensive zone and defensive zone. It’s just which ever team’s goalie is in the goal.”

“So wait, the puck can only move from left to right?”

“No, it just depends on who has possession of the puck. So the Samsung remote can be Finnick, and the sound system remote with the name I can’t pronounce is the other team. Okay?” I’m amazed at how she actually listens, not getting impatient or bored.

“So where are you on this… coffee table?” she inquires. I place a coaster close to the center line on the Samsung side.

“I play center and these coasters,” I place two closer to the edges of the table, a little behind the one representing me but still at center ice, “Are right wing and left wing. The three of us try to score goals while these two,” I place two more in the back, closer to the center of the defending zone, “Are the defensemen. They try to get the puck to the three of us and keep it from getting to Finnick.”

“Who is the goalie and keeps the other team from scoring.”

I nod. “There’s hope for you yet.”

“So what is icing?”

I remove the unnecessary coasters, leaving only the center coaster and pushing the left wing coaster up just past the center line. “Say I shoot the puck from here,” I point to the center coaster. “And no one from either team could possibly pick it up and it passes the back line where the insane sound system remote is, that’s icing. It has to pass two red lines, the last one being the goal line, to be considered icing. Though, if this coaster was to do the same thing just past the red line, it would just be annoying.”

“What’s the point?” she asks, sliding off the couch and kneeling on the other side of the coffee table. She absent=mindedly pinches the end of one of the belts between her thumb and index finger.

“When it happens, there’s another faceoff. That could change possession, so it’s both a defensive and offensive move.”

She nods and looks at the table. “You have a lot of black belts and coasters.” I sigh and let myself fall back on the floor. “What? Oh, don’t be dramatic!” She walks around the coffee table and stands over me, her feet on either side of my arms. I finally realize that when she was in the bathroom, she lost the leggings. I quickly look away as she kneels down, barely resting her weight on me. “Thank you, though, for the lesson.” Her lips land on my cheek, “Your whole face lights up when you talk about hockey.”

“It was my first love,” I answer honestly.

She kisses my cheek again and runs her fingers through my hair. “What was your second?”

“The Nintendo 64 my parents got me for Christmas one year.”

“Good choice…”

“So what’s icing?” I ask.

“When someone shoots the puck across two red lines, the last one being the goal line, with no chance for someone to play it.”

I bring my hand up and brush some of her hair away from her face. “That’s my girl…” I whisper.

She smiles and I can’t help but hope that she’s worth the risk.

Chapter Text

Katniss

I stumble into the house at about eight in the morning. Prim is at the kitchen table drinking coffee. “And where were you?”

“New Jersey,” I tell her, taking off my coat and boots.

She cringes. “I hope the sex was at least good…”

I roll my eyes and pour myself a cup of coffee, dressed exactly in what I wore when I left for Peeta’s. “We didn’t have sex.” I pour my half and half and Splenda into my coffee and sit across from her.

“Bullshit, you just got home!”

I smile, “We started watching a movie and fell asleep on the couch. We woke up at like three in the morning and moved to his bed because as tired as I was, he didn’t want me driving home.”

“And you…”

“Woke up pressed against him when his alarm went off at six am. He got a shower, I watched Good Day, and then he made me pancakes.”

“And you don’t have anything to show for it?”

I shrug, still on my high from this morning. “Well, I know what icing is, and what each position is in hockey…”

“How romantic…” She stands and kisses the top of my head. “Well, have fun; do whatever it is you do when you’re up this early.”

“Usually go back to sleep?” But I’m too giddy to go back to sleep. Honestly, all I want is to see Peeta again. I know I could if I chose to drive to Voorhees, New Jersey where they practice, but I have my own business to take care of.

I shower and park myself on the couch to watch every episode of Jerry Springer, Maury and The Steve Wilkos Show that MyPHL-17 wants to throw at me while answering texts from Darius, refusing to go into the bar today. I haven’t had a full day off in close to a month. As noon hits, my phone buzzes.  Peeta: I’m bored, what are you doing?

Shouldn’t you be practicing? I send back, resting my phone between my breasts and waiting for it to buzz again. He gets back to me just as an episode is ending.

Him: We just finished up, so now I’m bored. What are you up to?

Me: I’m lounging around like a lady watching people that remind me of my neighbors ruin their lives on Jerry Springer.

Him: Never seen it.

Me: What the hell? Then come over. If you get here in a half hour, you can watch the crap daytime TV trifecta.

I hear nothing from him until the roar of an engine comes down my street and parks a few houses down. Everyone on this block has quiet cars, not to mention that because it’s a one way, people rarely cut down this street. There’s a knock at the door and the cat runs away, stopping to hiss at me every few steps. I have half a mind to just close the window next time he leaves, but Prim would just pitch a fit.

Peeta doesn’t look much more put together than I do, a dark grey t-shirt with Philadelphia Flyers on the chest, the number 28 right by his collarbone. He’s wearing the baggy sweatpants he slept in last night and his messy curls are covered by a backwards baseball cap.

“So do they give you bonuses every time you wear Flyers gear?” I ask, moving aside so he can come in. Buttercup enters and weaves between his feet as he takes off his sneakers.

“No, I just get so much of it. And we have to wear it to practice.”

“But not to games? You mean you could go to games in Penguins gear?”

He laces his fingers between mine and brings my hand up for a kiss. “If I did that, Coach would probably make me clean Finnick’s gear. We have to wear suits to games.”

I try to hide my laugh, imagining Peeta putting on a suit to go play hockey. “That seems like a waste,” I say, walking him upstairs to the living room. I’m almost embarrassed by how I’ve neglected to fix everything that needs fixing around my parents’ house. There are watermarks on the ceilings, the molding needs painting, and let’s not forget the dents in the walls from the many cousins, aunts and uncles who stopped to visit after Dad died and Mom went away. Family pictures line the stairs with memories of vacations and holidays. Peeta looks at all of them. Part of me wants to hide them from him so he doesn’t ask the painful questions, the other part wants to leave them there so he can’t help but think we’re normal in this house.

“Katniss?” His voice rips me from the dark corner of my mind. “You’re not your usual sarcastic self.”

“Sorry, this place is just a mess. I wasn’t expecting you to take me literally or I would have worn my nice sweats.” I look down at the frayed cuff and black fabric worn and washed until the knees are thin and the edges are frayed. The fabric is almost grey. My Temple hoodie isn’t in much better condition.

At the top of the stairs, he wraps his arms around me and kisses my forehead. “You’re perfect.” I’ll believe him, for now at least.

He sits against the armrest of the couch and I sit between his legs with one of his tangled between mine. I pull the plaid throw around us.

We watch the most unromantic television together. Well, I watch while Peeta seems perfectly happy playing with my hair and kissing the back and side of my neck every so often.

I swat at him, “Stop that and…” I reach behind his head and grab the brim of his hat. “No hats inside the house!” I spin the hat on my finger. “Wait, a Phillies hat?”

“What did you expect?” He kisses my neck again, but it isn’t an innocent peck. His lips linger on the sensitive flesh of my neck. I squeeze my legs shut and shamefully let out a soft pant. “Do you like that?” he whispers in my ear. I can only nod as I toss his hat to the floor.

He runs his hands across my stomach, kneading the flesh. His lips never leave my neck, sending little jolts of pleasure all throughout my body. I feel myself getting wetter and wetter between my legs as I heat up from the inside out.  I lean my head back so it’s on his shoulder just as a moan escapes from deep within me. His fingers trace the top of my sweatpants and I squeeze my legs even tighter, trying to hide my arousal from him. “May I?” he asks, the tips of his fingers just barely under my pants. I can feel the calluses on the tips of his fingers brush against the sensitive skin.

I bring my hands over my shoulders and tangle my fingers in his hair, “Y-yes…”I moan, biting my lip in anticipation.

“Then you’re going to have to spread your legs,” he nearly growls. I relax a little, only tensing up worse than before when his fingers sink into the wetness between my legs. He goes back to kissing my neck, but doesn’t do anything actually productive between my legs other than running his fingers up and down my slit. Suddenly, Peeta covers my mouth with his free hand and sinks his finger inside me. “Is anyone else in the house?”

I shake my head no and the hand over my mouth comes off and cups my breast. He withdraws the finger only to move it up, rubbing my bundle of nerves in a small, slow circle. “Do you like that?” he whispers in my ear between my whimpers.

“Y-yes!” It comes out like an embarrassing half-moan, half croak; my brain and vocal cords not communicating properly. I decide my safest option is to avoid talking while he works to get me off. It doesn’t take long before my back is arching off his chest. He works me until my vision goes white and the only things keeping me from falling are his strong hands. When the rubbing goes away, I lay against him in a daze, watching as he brings his fingers to his mouth and licks them clean.

“You’re sexy and delicious…”

I bring a sweaty, shaky hand up to the side of his head and give it a shove, unable to speak. I force myself to sit up and take off my hoodie, throwing it to the ground. I shift so I’m sitting on his legs facing him. “Yes?” he asks as I study his face. He hasn’t shaved today, as a thick layer of blonde fuzz covers his jaw and neck.

“Did you just become my booty call?” I ask, scooting myself a little closer. He hooks a finger in the spaghetti strap of my cami and pulls it down.

“You were supposed to be showing me bad daytime TV…” I bring my hand down to his groin, feeling his rock hard erection through his sweats.

“I was watching Jerry Springer, you were finger fucking me.”

His playful, crooked smile nearly melts me again. “Oh, you are such a lady…” I run my fingers up and down the length of his shaft. I grab the waistband of his pants, pulling them and his boxers down just enough that he springs free. “You don’t have to do anything…” he tells me, tucking some of my hair behind my ear, “I don’t need a reward.” But I want to. I want to make him feel as good as he made me feel.

“Don’t be so full of yourself,” I tell him, sliding his pants down further and further until they’re off. I fold them and lay them over the back of the couch. His one leg lazily falls off the couch and I slide off onto the floor. He knows what to do, sitting up so I’m kneeling between his legs. As I run my fingers up and down his thighs, he stiffens and sucks in a sharp breath. “And you said I wasn’t going to see this…” I whisper, taking my hand off his bruised hip and kissing it.

“I didn’t want you to see the ugly side effects of my profession,” he sighs.

I kiss his hip again before going about my task. I first circle my thumb over the tip and he groans. “If we’re going to make this work, I’m going to see the ugly side…” I whisper as I spread the moisture that’s already come from him around the head and kiss it. He watches everything I do and I try not to look away from his eyes unless absolutely necessary. I pepper kisses from the base of his shaft to the tip before taking him into my mouth. He sloppily pets my head, kind of like how one would pet a dog. I don’t really mind; it keeps the hair out of my face. He tastes salty and smells a little like sweat but it’s not unpleasant.

I get him to a point where I think he’s close, his breathing shallows and instead of moaning my name, he lets out primal moans. And then the front door opens.

“Katniss!” Prim calls.

Oh, for fuck’s sake! We scramble back to our original positions. “I live with three kids and we didn’t get interrupted,” he whispers in my ear as Prim comes up the stairs.

“Oh, you have company! I’m sorry,” she apologizes, sniffing the air and grinning. Months and months of me teasing her and Rory about making the living room smell like sex, and here I am with a half-naked man hidden under a blanket. “I’ll just… we’ll talk later,” Prim runs upstairs to her room, but comes back downstairs before I can compose myself. “I’ll just be going now… nice seeing you, Peeta. I hope I won’t see you Wednesday!” And just like that, the tornado that is my sister is gone.

“Can I just die?” I ask. Peeta wraps his arms around me and rocks me from side-to-side.

“There, there… you aren’t the one with your pants off,” I hear Prim’s car start and drive off. “And a throbbing erection…” When I’m sure we’re safe, I turn around to sit on his thighs. The blanket comes with me, clinging to my shoulders like a cape. He goes back to watching everything I do, arching an eyebrow as I lick my palm for lubrication.

He grips the cushion with one hand as I begin pumping. I lean in to kiss his neck, using the armrest to make sure I don’t rest all my weight on him, making the handjob impossible. When he’s close, he grabs my hair, shifting my head roughly for a sloppy kiss. His moan when he comes is muffled by my mouth, vibrating through me.

“Stay golden, Ponyboy,” I say after climbing off him, trying not to touch anything with my sticky hand.

His post-orgasm laughter comes out more like snorts. “I can’t believe you just said that…”

“Make fun of me again and I’m wiping your jizz on your face,” I threaten. He picks his head up from off the side of the couch, his eyes wide.

“You wouldn’t do that!”

I shake my head no. “Not today… but some other day.”

He gets up from the couch without pants. “Where’s your bathroom?” he asks.

“Upstairs, second door on your right.” I watch as he walks up the stairs in only his shirt, trying not to stare at his muscular legs or rounded backside.

“Hey wait!” I call when I hear the door close, “I called dibs!”

“You’re too slow!” he calls. I’m so glad Prim did dishes last night, or else I would have had to think about them being covered in this all day.

I dry my hands and grab Peeta’s pants from off the couch, then knock on the bathroom door. “Should I keep these?” I ask. He opens the door and snatches them from me. “How rude!”

I head into my room, leaving the door wide open and flop down on my unmade bed. When my parents ‘moved out’, I moved into their room. The furniture they picked out together takes up the sitting room on the first floor. Prim and I both are just unable to sell it, so no one will ever use their bedframe or dressers. I push the thought out of my mind, reaching my hands through the slats of my headboard. I dig at the paint with my nail, the powder blue already worn in places where I can get to the easiest.

The bed shifts and Peeta lays down next to me. I bring my hands out of the bedframe. “Aw, I kind of liked you like that…”

He’s fully dressed now. “Nice try, Shoulder Pads…” I yawn, rolling over so my chest is against his arm. It’s uncomfortable, but I intertwine my fingers with his. “But I don’t remember inviting you into my bed, sir.”

He picks his head up and kisses me. “I’m sorry, ma’am; I’m a lost, lonely boy in a foreign country…” he whispers against my lips.

“Please…” I kiss him quickly. “Canada is America light…”

He pulls back, feigning shock. “America… light?”

I nod, grinning. “Yeah, all the taste with half the calories…”

Peeta snorts and rolls to his side so he can practically smash me against his chest. “Clearly you’ve never eaten poutine…”

“Gesundheit!”

“Danke,” Peeta says, yawning like a lion.

I bury my face in his chest, taking in the sweaty aroma. “So, when are you leaving?” I ask, realizing just a second too late how that sounds. “For your away games, that is.”

“I leave for Ottawa on Monday, then I’m back for like six days, then off to Montreal…” He throws a leg over me to keep me warm.

“Good, we should go out sometime. Like out out, where we have to dress nice and pretend to like each other…”

He kisses the top of my head. “Friday work for you?”

“I’m off Friday, so it’s perfect.”

“I’ll pick you up at eight,” he says into my hair.

Peeta and I nap tangled together without a blanket for a few hours. He’s like a god damn space heater. “I have to get going… eventually…” he whispers, kissing my forehead.

I somehow find a way to bury myself deeper into his chest, realizing that for the first time I don’t mind a companion in my bed. In fact, the thought of him leaving my bed makes me hold on tighter. “Cold?” he asks.

“A little…” I tell him. He slept on my side of the bed so all of the blankets are just pushed to the side. “We’ve been avoiding turning on the heat,” I explain as he reaches over me for the blankets.

I roll over to lay on my back and he rests his head on my chest. “So when am I going to meet your parents?” he asks, laying his hand flat on my stomach.

“Probably when I meet yours,” I snort, pretty sure his Mom and Dad are still up in Canada.

“They’re here in December for the Winter Classic. So probably for Christmas, well…Christmas comes first…”

“My parents aren’t in the picture,” I whisper when he trails off. I suddenly feel queasy, those pesky emotions I’ve been pushing away hitting like a tidal wave. My hands go back through the slats in my headboard, nails picking at the paint. It’s a new spot now since I’m away from where I normally sleep.

Instead of letting my comment float awkwardly, he jumps right in. “Want to talk about it?” he asks, and it’s the one question I don’t know if I can answer. It’s a yes or no question. I talk about this every week with my psychologist, but she has to remain detached. She gets paid to not judge me.

“I… Maybe? My dad passed away when I was twenty-two, right after I graduated college. Lung cancer.”

“I’m sorry…”

“Yeah,” I respond flatly. I don’t go into the skeleton in my closet that is Lillian Juliet Everdeen, not wanting to chase him away. “But it’s been four years… we’re getting used to it. What about your family? I know you have two brothers. I mean, my sister sews you back together. What am I getting out of your brothers?” I ask, trying to get as far away from talks about my family. I just continue to pick at the paint. Someday I’ll change it, maybe to a green or a purple.

“My brother, Ryland, is a banker; Wheaton is a high school teacher, I think in English? Mom and Dad have been running my great-grandparents bakery for years. Nothing too special.”

“Well, yeah, their son plays in the NHL?”

I feel his hands snake their way under me and he rolls so I’m lying on top of him. My legs fall to either side of his body. “When you’re the special one, the everyday lives of your family can seem mundane. ‘Oh it’s finals week? I played in the Stanley Cup Finals.’”

I rest my chin on his chest and look into his eyes. “You are such a cocky little fuck…”

“Mhm!” He kisses me quick. I wonder if someday he’ll find me mundane.


Before I know it, Wednesday is here; there’s another Flyers home game, but I can’t make it. Prim wants to go to an 8am Zumba class tomorrow.

Prim sits at the bar, sipping on a water with lemon. “Want me to tell your boyfriend anything?” It was going to be a decent night for sales. Hockey draws a crowd, though not a football crowd, but it’s enough.

“He’s not my boyfriend. We’ve known each other for a week. But if he does get hurt, call him accident prone.”

Prim smiles and chews on her straw. “Peeta’s pretty good at staying out of the locker room during a game. I mean except last time, but that was a fluke. Oh, speaking of that… as your sister and medical care provider for the Philadelphia Flyers, I have to advise that Peeta refrains from performing cunnilingus until his stitches are out…”

“Get out of my bar,” I order as Prim flicks water at me.

“I’m running late anyway. Remember, eight am Zumba or Yoga, depending on if they go into overtime or of one of them gets their brain smooshed against their skull…”

“What happens then?”

“Send them home with someone who can drive them – wife, girlfriend, kind citizen, teammate; send them for an MRI in the morning and keep them off the ice until they’re normal,” she shrugs, slinging her purse over her shoulder as I hand a customer a Yuengling. She pulls her ponytail tight and zips up her coat over the black Flyers polo they make her wear.

“Make sure he wears his helmet… and cup!”

“Not my department and really not my department.”

The game does draw a crowd. Luckily, I have Bristel and a young new hire named Rue taking care of things so I can basically pretend to help them while watching the game. Two minutes into the first period, the Flyers get their first attempt at a goal though we watch the little black puck basically get shot into no man’s land. “Come on Flyers! You’re our only hope!” someone shouts. With the Eagles being themselves and the Phillies getting eliminated on the seventh, it was going to be a touchy season to be a Philly sports fan.

Right after the puck goes free, there’s a fight. All I can do is watch the big bright 28 on Peeta’s back charge into the fray. A loose arm knocks his helmet off before the refs pull the fight apart. They let it go without any time in the penalty box. The game is surprisingly uneventful. Peeta scores the first goal, then the Canucks trail until some guy I’ve never heard of gets it in as well and they win four to five just as I leave Rue and Bristel to close.

Peeta wants me to come over afterwards, but the half hour drive sounds like way too much. I’m kind of beat. You’re welcome to come over if you want, but I’m going to lay flat in my bed and not exist for a few hours. I hit send and shove the phone back into my pocket.

I don’t hear from him until close to midnight, and he has an eight am practice in Voorhees. It’s okay, though every time I close my eyes to sleep, I dream about how his hands and lips made me feel, or how his cock might feel buried deep inside me. It’s odd, because I’m not one for dirty dreams. When I come downstairs in the morning to see Prim off before going back to sleep, she asks me if I’m having bad dreams again because she heard me moaning. I tell her yes, because it’s more logical for me to be having nightmares than a sex dream about Peeta Mellark.


I have to work until 7ish. Pick me up at the bar? I send to Peeta.

My hair is already done for our first official date where we had to pretend to be normal, as well as my make-up. Prim made me wear a button up so I don’t ruin either when I change into my dress.

The screen of my phone lights up, 1 New Message from Shoulder Pads: Sounds good. Weren’t you off today?

I haven’t seen him in the flesh since Monday and I’ve kind of missed him. He took up so much room in my bed and while part of me wants that every night, the other part likes to starfish in the middle enjoying no one stealing my blankets. Yeah, hello call-outs. Thankfully, I’ve only been taking up space for the liquid lunch crowd and the early drinkers. I’m just waiting for Bristel to come in to make sure that Rue doesn’t drown tonight.

Around four, three cookie cutter blondes come in all wearing sorority letters on their chests. There are a few regulars in here keeping their conversations to themselves. These three have no issue running their mouths about something going on at Prim’s campus, Drexel.

“Do you have Skinny Girl cocktails?” one asks. Her hair has that dry broken look, her almost black roots draw my eyes like magnets. Unfortunately, my mind remembers the taste of artificial sweetener and bitterness of these pre-mixed drinks.

I shake my head no. “We don’t…”

They look confused, disgruntled even. “Well… why not?”

“Because this is a bar, not a sorority house,” I have amazing customer service skills. “How about Sailor Jerry and Coke Zero?” I suggest. This seems to please them and much to my shock, they’re all of age. Every few customers, I have to remind myself that relief is coming soon. I wouldn’t be working a Friday night. Rue was due in any minute, and Bristel shortly after her. Darius was putting away boxes and checking on kegs for the girls. It would be a sane night without me. I just had to cover pretty much until drink specials started. Specials that would have made the sorority girls’ tab under ten bucks instead of the close to sixty combined. I have no idea where they’re going at six in the afternoon kind of shitty, but who am I to complain? They gave me eighty in cash and said to keep the change.

At five thirty, I head back into my hidey hole to count down one drawer. “So who is your big date with?” Bristel asks, rubbing the silky fabric of my dress between her thumbs.

“Some guy I met at a hockey game.”

She nods, “This guy got a name?”

“Mhm!” I tell her while counting tens. “Peeta Mellark?” I slip the bills into the slot.

“Okay, okay…” I watch the gears in her head start turning. “Girl! How the fuck do you flirt with a dude, and get a date while he’s on the god damn ice!?”

“Prim’s boyfriend hooked us up with benchwarmer tickets and what not. There was awkward conversation, and since his roommate’s brother is dating my sister, somehow they ended up back here. You know how those things go,” I grin.

“Damn, I gotta go to more sporting events. Damn…”

I roll my eyes. “Yeah, says the girl who worshiped T.O.”

“Ugh!” Bristel groans as I hand her the drawer. “Don’t even mention those dark, dark days!” She says while pulling her iPhone out of her half apron. “But you picked good! He is yummy and growing out his hair,” she scrunches up her nose, “Well, not this picture, at least…” She shows me her phone. It’s the picture they use on the team roster. Peeta is a little washed out and missing a tooth.

“Never noticed the tooth gone…” I shrug.

“Well, if it’s a deal breaker, just send him my way.”

“Bristel, go back to work…”

There’s a knock at the door just as I get into the dress and smooth it out. “Come in!” I flop down into my chair and zip up the knee high boots Prim got me for Christmas last year. The black suede boots were the only thing that matched the merlot colored dress.

I expect Bristel, Darius, or maybe even Rue. “They said you were hiding in the office. Sent me back to check for signs of life,” I stand and as Peeta looks me up and down, my cheeks heat up.

“You’re fifteen minutes early. What if I had been naked?”

Peeta snorts, as if the answer is obvious. “Well, I’ve already seen you without-“

“Bristel!” she ducks away, where I can’t see her. “Get back to work!”

Peeta looks over his shoulder as I shove my wallet and cellphone in my black purse. “I guess I misjudged traffic into the city. There’s a mass exodus at night…”

I nod and smile. “Yeah, all the suburban bigwigs too good for SEPTA polluting the air, killing each other on I-95 and the turnpike so they can get back to their bucolic little missionary style Bucks County homes.”

He holds out his hand and I take it. “Tell me how you really feel,” he sighs, pulling me in close. He keeps his hand hanging over my shoulder, so I bring mine up to lace my fingers with his. “So did Prim pick this out?” he asks as we leave the bar.

“Mhm!” I’m not even ashamed. I have the same fashion sense at twenty-seven as I did when I was three and tried on my mom’s clothes. The only difference now is I know not to wear plaid and stripes together, and I can match my shoes. I may not know anything about fashion, but I have a sister who knows how to turn me into a woman this man would actually want to be seen with.

I’ll be the first to admit that I kind of have a crush on his car - a shiny new Camaro about the color of my dress with black stripes along the top. I want to beg him to let me take it for a spin… it puts my car to shame.

“So why a convertible?” I ask while tugging at my silk belt, untying and retying the knot over and over. Then my fingers would go back to the low neckline, tugging it up. I can’t seem to stop fidgeting, pulling down my three-quarter sleeves, or straightening out the skirt that stops just at my knee. “You live in Pennsylvania.”

“New Jersey. Jesus, Katniss, you’ve been in my bedroom!”

I flush again. “Sorry, sorry! I try to black that state out sometimes. People think it’s just a strip of beach. But no, there are more people per square mile in New Jersey than any other state. Highest gang violence rate in the country.”

“Good to know… Also, I live in Ottawa during the off season.” I furrow my brow at the thought – that’s kind of long distance. “You know, so I can see my parents and brothers. When I come back after being there for about three months, I’m so used to speaking French that my English gets a little… weird for a few weeks.”

I chuckle, “What?”

“When I first moved to Philadelphia, it was like being hit with the accent and the fast talking. When do you people breathe?”

“What do you mean, ‘you people?’” I gasp, feigning insult.

“Oh, shut up… But when I come back, it’s like culture shock all over again. At least I can remember that you use the English system.” He goes quiet, “Okay, culture shock is a little extreme, but it’s like getting on a bike after years of not riding. It takes a second to find your balance.”

“I’ve never been ice skating before…” I tell him idly, because honestly, I was expecting him to compare his readjusting to hockey.

He laughs as he parks. “No, really.”

“Yeah, really,” he parks the car, slack-jawed.

“I’m teaching you to skate, because there is a family skate at the Winter Classic. I’m not worrying about you ending up on your back the entire time, or your hands and knees…” he stops, “That was…”

“Poor choice of words?”

His cheeks are bright red. I love watching him get all hot and flustered, scratching the back of his head. “There are better places to do that. Ice is cold!” I pat his thigh and get out of the car. We’re only a few blocks from the restaurant.

“One second,” he starts, stopping me in my tracks. “There’s something I forgot.”

He spins me so I’m facing him and holds my face between his hands. I stop breathing and just stare into his eyes. He kisses me sweetly at first, but then with a simple tilt of the head and a part of the lips, our tongues rub up against each other. And just like that, it’s over.

“I’ve wanted to do that since I left you on Monday night.”

I bite my lip and try not to blush as he leads me to the restaurant.

The sign hanging from a wrought iron bracket says “Fri Sat Sun”, a fancy little American restaurant near Rittenhouse Square. It’s on the first floor of an old style row home with a Tank Bar on the second floor. We’re a little early, so we take the two seats at the corner of the bar. Peeta gets a Sam Adams, while I just stick with a shot of SoCo.

“How can you drink that?” he asks as I set my empty glass down.

I smile. “I like the burn. You know, the hot fire of the alcohol going all the way down to my stomach. I don’t drink much, so one shot is enough to give me that feeling, and I love it.” He hasn’t let go of my hand since we got out of the car. Every so often, a group of men and women about our age look over at us and then go back to their drinks. “Too bad you have a recognizable face,” I sigh, sipping on a water.

“Hmm?” he looks over to the group. “Yeah, when I was a rookie and no one knew my name, it was nice. They won’t come over, just ask whether or not they think it’s me. Who do I look like, Justin Bieber?”

“Your people still need to apologize for that one, good sir.”

His eyes go wide. “Excuse me? What do you mean ‘your people’?” I cross my eyes and stick my tongue out. “Very lady like, how old are you? Thirty?”

“Excuse me,” a tall man with dark hair and glasses starts after tapping on Peeta’s shoulder. “This is going to be really awkward if we’re wrong, but aren’t you Peeta Mellark?”

He swivels on his chair. “Yeah, man,” he says and they shake hands. “You a fan?”

The man nods. “Since I was a kid! Mom and Dad have had season tickets since they were dating. Can I get a picture?”

Peeta grins, the attention going to his head just a little. “Sure! Katniss?”

I’m handed a cell phone and take a few passable pictures of my date and some stranger. “He should have gotten a picture with you,” Peeta says once the man has returned to his group. “Clearly, you’re the pretty one in this relationship.”

I chuckle, “Is that what this is? A relationship? Peeta Mellark, don’t you know I only date football players?”

“Please… so you can get on your soapbox about how much you dislike the sport?”

“It. Is. Obnoxious! I’m sitting there, watching burly men move a ball five yards, line up again, then go another five.”

“So you’ll come and watch the game at Finnick’s on Sunday? There’s going to be food…”

Thankfully I don’t need to answer right now, as the hostess leads us to our table. When we sit back down, Peeta laces his fingers with mine. We’re at a tiny square table. Instead of sitting across from one another, he’s to my right. “I really should work Sunday,” I start, but I really don’t have to. Darius has been pushing me to take more time off. “But it is your last day here before you leave me all alone in this big scary city,” I lean in and kiss his cheek. “Only if you’ll let me drive your car.”

He sighs. “Fine, are you coming to my game tomorrow?”

“I can’t… If I ditch work tomorrow, I’ll feel guilty about Sunday. I’ll watch every minute of it, I promise.”

He kisses my temple and his thumb becomes fixated on the one piece of jewelry I’m wearing tonight, a thick band of white gold woven together to look like tree bark with an oval citrine stone in the center. “I like this.”

“Me too,” I smile. He lifts my hand and kisses the ring.

“So why hockey?” I ask about five minutes into my lobster ravioli. Peeta ordered a filet mignon rare, a preference I can respect.

“When I was a kid, I picked up my brother’s stick. It was summer, so we were playing in the street. I wasn’t really good, but I liked it. So I begged my mom to let me join an intermural team. I still wasn’t very good, so then I kind of put all my energy into it and barely passed school.”

“And then… the NHL?”

He shakes his head, “Nah.”

“College?”

He shakes his head again. “I didn’t go to university. I kind of pissed around in the minor leagues until 2006 when I got drafted. I spent a season… ish in the minors, but when I came up from that it was kind of disappointing. Then I finally got my shit together and the rest is history.”

“Don’t curse at the dinner table,” I scold. He rolls his eyes and rests his hand on my knee. Almost every conversation with this man leads to hockey in some way, though most of the time I’m planting the seeds for the conversation just to see how his eyes light up or how wide his grin can get. Maybe I’ll make him glow like this someday.

Peeta foots the bill, but I pout until he lets me cover the tip. “You shouldn’t have done that…” he sighs as we walk around the small park. “I was trying to impress you…seem chivalrous.”

I chuckle. “Chivalry is dead, or dying, but regardless… can I borrow your jacket?” I ask as the fall chill starts biting at me.

“Nope, chivalry is dead,” he says, but takes off his sports coat anyway and moves behind me, helping me into the dark coat. When it rests as well as it’s going to on my shoulders he kisses my neck, letting his lips linger until I’m squirming, “Your neck is really sensitive….” He rests one of his hands on my stomach, just under my navel, the under just under my breasts.

“Peeta, we’re in public…” I whisper.

“Then let’s go somewhere private?”

Not wanting to waste any time, we head back to his car. “My place or yours?” he asks.

“Well, yours has the threat of the Hawthorne Herd opening doors,” I sigh once we get in.

He rests his cold hand on my bare leg. “They’re with Madge, but his girlfriend is in town…”

“So I guess my place,” I nod. By some grace of God we hit every green light and there are no strange cars in front of my house. Even Prim’s car is nowhere to be seen. It takes me a good four or five tries to get the key in the hole while Peeta unbraids my hair. “All that work to give myself a French braid and you destroy it in thirty seconds,” I sigh once we’re inside my warm house. I lead him up the stairs, ignoring the cluttered sitting room we don’t even mention.

He follows me closely up the stairs, and when I look over my shoulder, his normally bright eyes are dark. It’s a look I’ve seen before, a hunger no food could satiate. I shrug off his jacket and lay it over the back of the sofa. Then I’m turned so my backside is against the worn fabric and his lips crash into mine. I get on my toes and sit on the back of the couch for no other reason than my heels are killing my feet. It’s a rough kiss, full of want and fire paired with the rough scratch of Peeta’s beard. My chin and cheeks will be raw in the morning, but I’ll ignore it because every second our lips are pressed together, I just want more. I want that warmth to grow, the heat he creates in me. Peeta supports my back with his hand so I don’t do something embarrassing like fall over backwards. For added precaution, I wrap my legs around him, pulling him in close. The proximity and knowing the only thing keeping us from what my body is craving is three layers of fabric elicits a moan from deep within me. I grind my hips into his groin, gasping when I feel the friction of his erection press against my core.

“We should go upstairs…” he whispers against my lips.

My mouth goes dry. Why am I nervous all of a sudden? I nod my head and hop off the couch, taking his hand and leading the way. He follows me closely, lifting up my skirt and snapping my underwear. The first time it’s kind of cute, the second time I want him to shove his hand in my underwear and make me feel exactly like he did Monday, and by the third time, I take off running just so he’ll chase me. His lean muscular legs catch him up to me just after I enter my bedroom and he throws my dress across the room. His strong arms wrap around my waist as I’m lifted off the ground and tossed onto the bed. I sit up and watch as he goes for the buttons on his shirt, I crawl forward and go for his belt. My fingers get clumsy as I fumble for the button, but he has his shirt off and I get distracted. He takes the time to find his jacket that I didn’t even know he brought up, and digs through the pockets before pulling out a small square of foil and tossing it on the bed next to me. He drops the jacket on the floor and smiles at me. He has the beginnings of a six pack; not disgustingly muscular, but it’s obvious that he works out, since all of his definition is in his legs and ass. I push his pants down and stroke him through his navy boxer briefs while kissing his stomach.

When I look up, Peeta is slack-jawed with his head tilted back. I take advantage of his dazed state and inch down his shorts, bring us one step closer to our final goal. “This is the first time I’ve seen you naked. It’s always been top or bottoms. I approve.”

I sit on my legs, the zipper from my boots digging into my backside. Peeta says nothing and reaches behind my back, unhooking my bra. His touch is so gentle as he guides the straps off my arms. I shiver and look up through my eyelashes and stray strands of hair. I bring my legs out from under me so I can sit more comfortably and cover myself with my arms. Peeta grabs my ankles and lifts them up until I fall onto my back. “I like the boots, but they have to go.”

“Why?” I ask as he takes off my underwear, my ankles now resting on his shoulders.

“Because I said so?” he tells me like it’s so obvious, how could I not know? He brings his hands down, running his fingers from my backside to the tops of my boots. It’s a bit of a struggle, but before I know it the only thing I’m wearing is one hot pink sock which he does away with immediately, placing a delicate kiss on the sole of my foot.

I flinch, his soft lips tickling me. His lips trail from my foot to my ankle and up my leg until he’s pulling me to the edge of the bed and spreading my legs apart. I gulp as he lifts my legs over his shoulders after dropping to his knees. The first thing I feel is a cautious finger testing the waters, then he spreads my lips apart. The only noise in the room is my anticipation filled whimper, followed by my moan when his tongue first flicks at my clit. He pulls away when I finally let go of the awkward feeling. “I dreamt about doing this…” he tells me quietly, when he goes back he slips his fingers inside me. It’s hard to come when all you can think about is the fact that someone was probably having a sex dream about you while you were dreaming about them.

That little fact actually seems to turn me on even more. I hear myself incoherently moaning his name as I come apart, my vision going white. My legs quiver and when the sensation becomes too much, my heel catches the metal bedframe through the bed skirt and pushes me away from his mouth and fingers. “Holy fuck…” I sigh when I gather my wits, and I still want more.

Peeta sits on the bed next to me, lovingly stroking my hair. “Tu es si belle…” he whispers.

“No hablo francés…” I groan, forcing myself up and into his lap. I wipe the cocky smile off his face with my lips, tasting myself on his tongue. I keep myself raised so we don’t have any slip-ups, but every so often I find myself subconsciously lowering myself until the tip of his shaft brushes against me.

He breaks the kiss. “I need you.” Well, he isn’t the only one! “Lay down.”

I climb off his lap and lay down on my side of the bed. This is it, that moment I have been dreaming of. I watch him tear into the condom wrapper and slide it onto himself while pinching the tip. He gets in position between my legs. I’m a little disappointed by the choice of position, but none of that seems to matter when he takes my right hand in his, lacing our fingers together, and guides himself in. He’s gentle at first, but I sure as hell ain’t no virgin. “Harder,” I groan while wrapping my legs around his waist again.

He lets go of my hand and holds onto my hips. My backside comes off the bed as he closes his legs a little, so I drop my legs from around his waist to behind his legs to help keep myself up. Instead of going hard, it’s more of a slow grind with him hitting me in the exact spot I need. The feeling is almost dizzying. I try to use my abs to help, but it becomes clear really fast that I’m the out of shape one, so I let him do the work. He lowers me back to the bed when he’s close, his thrusts becoming more primal. His moans get louder and louder until he slams into me, his shoulders hunched. “Oh fuck, Katniss…” He pulls out of me and gives me a goofy grin.

I reach out for him, already missing the closeness. “I have to get rid of this…” he says, dangling the used condom over my chest. I’m too spent to move away.

“The trash can’s by the door…” I yawn.

When he gets back in bed, he holds my back to his chest and throws his leg over me. It’s hot, and though I wake up sweaty at least three times, it’s by far one of the best nights of sleep I’ve ever gotten.

Chapter Text

Hey look, it’s chapter 4.

I want to thank Chelzie for polishing this up, and helping me keep my ‘return from hiatus’ a secret until now!

Remember you can direct questions and comments to my askbox or falafelwaffelfics@gmail.com

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Peeta

“So you never came home last night,” Gale practically yells, causing the noisy locker room to grow silent. “She’s that good, eh?”

I stand and fasten my socks into my garter belt. Hockey is probably the only time where it’s socially acceptable for a man to wear one of these things. “Yeah, that and we weren’t sure if you and Johanna would still be fucking on the kitchen table.”

“Aw, come on man, your kids eat off that!” Finnick hollers, wearing only his undershorts and jockstrap and chewing a mouthful of food. He pretty much stuffs his face before every game. I guess standing in the crease is hard work? “I fucking eat off that!”

“We clean it, so quit crying!” he shouts back. “You see what you’ve started?” Gale sighs. “All because you had to go and get laid last night…”

“And this morning, and right before I came here,” I tell him as I put on my pants, leaving the suspenders down until I get my shoulder pads on. The skates come next, so I wait on the pads so I can actually bend to tie them. “It’s weird, she’s really… quiet? Yeah, that’s it…” Katniss is the first woman I’ve ever been with who’s been near silent, but not in a bad way. She doesn’t moan constantly or make that porn star whimper that usually happens when the girl gets disinterested. When she did moan, it was music to my ears. Every sign that she was enjoying herself was entirely physical; the involuntary bucking of her hips, or how she nearly ripped the fitted sheet off the mattress.

Gale shakes his head. “Was she bored?”

I shake my head in response. “No, I don’t think so. She just kind of held it in.”

“Mellark!” Coach’s yell rips me from my daydream. “Get over here!”

“Haymitch! Come on, I almost have one skate on!” Haymitch Abernathy is an impatient man with a bit of a drinking habit. He just barely manages to keep himself sober for games. Today, he’s anxious because my predecessor, Michael Richards, is in the building. He was traded to the Kings just after we lost the Stanley Cup. Actually, a few of the good LA Kings players once wore orange and black. I kick the half-tied skate away and trudge into his office.

“Why aren’t you dressed, boy?” he asks before shaking his head. “Doesn’t matter. Try to keep their heads on straight. You nervous?”

I shake my head no. “Nah, so what if Richards and Gagne are here? Is that where you send the guys you’re done with? LA?”

“Yeah, it’s our dumping ground,” he snorts.

“Send me somewhere cold when you’re done with me, LA sounds miserable.”

“You’re going to Florida. I already have it set up for when you really piss me off. But seriously, some of these idiots might act like they have something to prove. Don’t let them, and try and remind Thom again that he’s playing in the NHL, he should be able to stand on two skates.”

Thom has had so much practice falling on his ass, he’s become a pro at getting up. He makes it look downright pleasant.

“So, how are the kids?” Richards asks during warm-ups.

“You know, can’t get along with anyone else’s kids.” I’m down on the ice, stretching out my legs while watching Gale. He should be the one with the C on his sweater. He’s more experienced, having been with the team longer. I only got it because I got on a hot streak and Haymitch said I could motivate a crippled horse to gallop.

Richards throws his leg over the wall separating the benches from the ice. “Yeah, that’s them,” he sighs. “Listen, man… I respect you as a player, just like I respected you as a teammate.  But we’re playing hard, and we’re playing to win.”

I lunge the other way, grinning. “Good, we wouldn’t have it any other way.” It’s a bit of a struggle to stand, but Richards takes my hand and pulls me in. We give each other that awkward pat on the back before going back to our own teams. It’s a little different than with other teams. The current Flyers mingling with the old Flyers, remembering what it was like to play for the same team, so nothing gets done.

Once our warm-ups are over, we’re herded back into the locker room. My nerves have been better, much better in fact. Getting physically ready for a game is one thing, but being mentally prepared is hit or miss. We practice day in and day out that it’s second nature, but the hard part is getting over those pre-game jitters. “We need to put pressure on their goal and wear them down. Remember, clean hits. No heads, watch the boards,” I start, “Also they’re from California, nothing good hockey-wise has ever come from California.”

“Hey! I take offense to that!” Finnick was born and raised in southern California. I have no idea what made him pick up a hockey stick or even put on goalie pads, but occasionally, I’m glad he did.

“Okay, one decent thing.”

They play a salute to our old Captain at the beginning of the game and everyone in the stands cheers for him. It’s a rare sight that doesn’t last long.

One of the reasons I am where I am is my ability to break from someone who is pursuing me. I got good at sprinting when my coach back home started running horses with us, meaning I had to learn how to run like hell to beat a thundering horse just a few yards from me. This particular talent of mine gets the puck near the Kings’ goal, though it never stays with someone for too long, ensuring that we maintain possession. When we lose it, there’s a few less than nice tricks to get the puck back. A check can make a world of difference, so after knocking Mitchell on his ass, I manage to get the puck to Gale for a goal.

I have to watch my back for a second as I head to congratulate Gale. I got a clean hit on him, but that won’t stop the guy from taking a whack at me. “Took you long enough!” I shout above the still blasting goal horn.

“Oh, fuck off, it’s like stabbing at something in the dark!” When my shift is over, I take the bench and watch the momentum on the ice shift.

Any warm welcome Mike Richards got from us was gone the second he scored a goal against us. Philly reciprocated the cold feeling, booing him anytime he got the puck. It’s not until the third period draws on and we’re tied does the dirty playing come out.

And that’s how I end up in the box for two minutes for taking a swing at a guy.  Slashing isn’t the worst offense in the game; it only carries a two minute penalty, but during those two minutes they have a power play. It translates into potentially missed goals and extra work for the left and right wing. When those two minutes are up, I’m out – but regulation play ends with no goal from either team.

We go into overtime, and part of me hopes this leads to a shoot-out. We haven’t had one of those in a while, and I’m good at those. Just under two minutes after overtime starts, the last goal of the game gets by Finnick. We put our first loss under our belts and head into the dressing room.

“That was bullshit,” Haymitch tells us as we take off our gear. “Overtime hit and you all dropped your sticks and let them score. Odair had nothing for back-up, and his head’s already up his own ass. It’s early in the season! We can’t be making shit mistakes like this, but the final score is the final score. See you all on Monday at nine.”

I don’t get in my car to leave until after two in the morning. Between trying to hit the showers, getting intercepted by Haymitch, questions from the press, and finally getting cleaned up and changed, I somehow managed to kill from close to ten at night until quarter to two.

Apparently Haymitch was in the same boat as me, hoping for a shoot-out. The reporters wanted to know about the five second fight at the beginning and what I think we can improve on for our next game. Their attention goes to Finnick, who happily stands in front of the camera in only his jeans, talking about the goals he missed. He doesn’t blame the defense, only himself. Okay, so occasionally California boy can be humble.

“You coming home tonight?” Gale asks me on the way out.

I nod. “Yeah, and I’m bringing Katniss so I don’t have to drive into the city to get her tomorrow.”

Finnick comes thundering up from behind us. “Guys, practice tomorrow after the game?”

“Yeah, I don’t get things one through three until after we get back,” Gale says. His ex-wife lives close by and the kids go to a school in town, but they usually stay with her during the week and sometimes on weekends. He hates it, though she left him over the summer because she couldn’t take ‘him being away all the time’. It’s probably the reason why she had so many ‘sleepovers’, as Celeste told her father the two nights after our 2010/11 season ended and she left with the kids. Their ongoing divorce is a depressing but entertaining tale of who said what to whom and how long until the cops are called again. Thankfully, neither of them have crossed state lines with the kids without the other’s consent for months.

“I’ll have to see, but probably?”

“What, don’t want the girl to think all you do is play hockey? Come on, man,” Finnick teases and throws his arm around me. “At least be up front with her.”

“Yeah,” Gale starts, “Or else she’ll run away with the three things you love the most, but I’m just bitter.”

It’s a short drive to Katniss’ work. The bar’s been closed for about a half hour and when I open the door, a soft acoustic version of Adele’s Chasing Pavements plays through the speakers. Some of her hair is falling out of her braid, and she’s swapped her contacts for her black, thick-rimmed glasses. She busses through tables, pulling along a single trash bag full of napkins, destroyed coasters and straw wrappers. Every so often, she pushes up the sleeves of her baggy red flannel. “Should I give up, or should I just keep chasin' pavements? Even if it leads nowhere…” I realize that she’s been singing the whole time, quiet and sad.

I clear my throat, but the white ear buds attached to her iPod keep her from hearing me. She just keeps picking up trash and wiping tables and chairs. She finally sees me out of the corner of her eye and stiffens, reaching into her flannel before ripping out her ear buds. “Peeta! You scared the shit out of me!” She brings her hand out of her shirt, trying to fix it quickly, but I’ve already seen the gun tucked in her pants.

“Why do you have a gun?”

She continues working. “Lock the door?” she asks, wiping down a table. “I’ve been mugged once. Had someone break in while I was closing alone,” she tells me while tying the trash bag. “I don’t like being defenseless.”

“Then call the cops! You’re going to hurt yourself with that!” She smirks and drags the bag with her as she closes the distance between us.

She gives me a peck on the lips. “My Dad taught me how to shoot when I was eight. We went to the range every Saturday morning, as well as Sunday afternoons after church. I know how to handle a gun, Peeta.” She tosses the light bag towards the front door.

“Is it at least registered?” I ask and she nods. “To you?” Katniss sighs and hugs me.

“Yes and yes, but that’s not important. I’m sorry you guys lost.”

I shrug and reach into her shirt, pulling the gun out of the waist of her pants like it’s hot and setting it on the table before bear hugging her. “But I kept my promise and didn’t lose any more teeth,” I tell her before kissing the top of her head. “How much longer until you’re done? I’m kind of tired.”

“That’s awesome, because then you can nap on the way home!” That’s right, I promised she could drive my car back home. “I just have to mop. If you want, you can speed things up by putting up chairs,” she says and shoves the gun back in her waist. “I’ll be back in two minutes.”

I feel kind of useless as Katniss buzzes around humming Chasing Pavements while mopping. Thankfully she’s quick, though she slips a few times, her Thundercats Chucks not cutting it in the non-slip department.

“So how come when you went into time-out they didn’t send someone to fill in for you?”

“It’s a penalty, so the whole team is penalized in some way. I couldn’t play for two minutes, and had a power play against them.” She nods slowly and I answer her question before she can ask. “A power play is when one team outnumbers the other on the ice because of penalties. It’s a good time to score goals because you can overwhelm them.”

“Ahhh…” She squeezes out the mop and drags the yellow bucket behind the bar. “Do we have to be up early? I’m kind of looking forward to sleeping until late.”

“I turned off my alarm, but Finnick and Gale are thinking about practicing after the game. You could come if you’d like?”

She’s quiet for a minute, going back to rinse out the mop twice before motioning for me to follow her. “I think I’ll go, as long as you don’t try to get me on the ice.”

I grin and she goes to lift the mop bucket. “Let me-“ I offer, but she puts a hand up.

“I got it. Just seriously…” Dirty grey water spills down the drain of the shower like thing in the janitor’s closet. “Don’t think you’re getting me on the ice. I don’t need any broken bones.”

“I’m teaching you how to skate, but you’ll need your own skates. Rentals are always disgusting, and the blades are dull. You’d have better luck in your Converse.”

“I’ll have better luck keeping a bench warm with my ass…”

She’s still bent over, rinsing out the bucket. “I know something else you could keep warm...” Katniss stiffens when I grip her hips and press my groin into her backside.

“Ew, don’t be a pervert…” She stands up, grinning. “I’m not going to have my boyfriend be some horny frat boy.”

“Oh, you have a boyfriend now? When am I going to meet him?” I ask as she walks back to her office.

Katniss grins over her shoulder. “Oh, stop playing…”

“Because I don’t recall us ever defining what this was.”

She shrugs, locking up the safe. “Yeah, we should give it a few more dates before we say we’re an item. I may still want to shack up with Cole Hamels.”

Katniss seems to have completely forgotten about wanting to drive my car. She slides into the passenger seat and wraps herself in my discarded sport coat. “Nah, I think I’m sold…” she yawns, her cheek pressed against the headrest. The seatbelt stretches and will be useless if we get into an accident, but she sits curled up in the seat hidden under my jacket, watching me.

“On what?”

She’s quiet for a minute and when I get a chance to look over her way, her eyes are closed. “You…” she finally yawns. It’s probably a good thing she didn’t drive.

Once we arrive, Katniss jumps as I kill the engine. “Morning…” she yawns. Luckily, no one is awake when we get in. Katniss barely takes a step, just sliding her feet along until I pick her up, ignoring her defeated grunt.

“How are you the tired one?” I ask, laying her down on the bed. She rolls so her legs are off the bed and slides off, landing awkwardly on her feet before standing upright. “Are you going to be alright?” I ask. She nods and starts unbuttoning her flannel shirt, letting it land wherever it falls. I dig through my dresser for something she can wear to bed. When I turn around, she’s already under the covers, either naked or in her underwear. After I get ready for bed, I climb in next to her.

“I’m sorry you didn’t win tonight,” she yawns, shifting her body so she’s right up against me. “Mmm… you’re cold…” she murmurs and throws her leg over my hips. “Are you usually this cold after a game?”

“Nope,” I say, wrapping my arms around her. “I’m usually sweating bullets…” I feel her just barely grinding against my thigh. “Excuse me, what do you think you’re doing? Two seconds ago you were asleep, unless you just didn’t want to walk…” She stays silent. “That’s a misconduct. Ten minutes off the bed!” I go to push her but she latches on, burying her face near my armpit.

“Well, you get five minutes for spearing…” she tells me in a quiet, muffled voice. “And two for smelling.”

I sigh. “I don’t know whether to be proud of you or throw you on the floor for that horrible joke.” Katniss picks her head up and scrambles so she’s straddling me. “Why did you take the underwear off but leave the bra on?”

She blushes and looks away. “The clasp got stuck…” she mumbles.

“Oh my God…” I sigh, “Do I have to do everything?” I reach up behind her and, admittedly with some effort, unhook her bra. “But I don’t remember us agreeing that the bed was a clothes free zone.”

She sits up a little and tugs at the hem of my boxers. “Good point, these are going…” She arches her back, moving them down as far as possible, and I kick them off the rest of the way. For every intention Katniss had to have sex, she fades fast, lazing off my body and curling up next to me.

“Now we’re ready for when we wake up?” I ask.

“Mhm…”

I almost forgot what sleeping in felt like. I know I probably could have slept through the day if it hadn’t been for the nine am sneezing fit from Katniss. “Sorry,” she sniffles, placing her legs over my hips, her thigh rubbing against the erection I woke up with. Her movements are gentle enough and I hiss, not from pain but from pleasure. “Oh my God! I’m sorry!” she exclaims.

“No, no…” I tell her, rubbing her arms. She looks up at me, worried. “You’re fine. It just caught me by surprise.” Katniss’ comment about liking morning sex is proving to be more than just playful banter, though I refuse to complain. She loves the clumsy morning sex where we’re both disheveled from sleep.

She shifts gently so she’s straddling me. “Can the dress code for bed be naked?” I ask hopefully as I see the sunlight shine through the strands of dark hair that hang wildly over her breasts. She sits on my thighs and I brush her hair over her shoulders so it doesn’t obstruct my view.

“I guess it could until it gets cold, then I’m bring out the footie pajamas and you can screw me through the butt flap,” she tells me while brushing her fingertips along my shaft.  She’s so gentle at first, unsure of her movements before gaining confidence.

“Remind me… to bring out the long underwear,” I force out as she climbs off of me.

“It’s going to be the sexiest winter ever…” She gets off the bed and pulls the drawer to my bedside table open, ignoring old Playboys and the odd Hustler here and there as she digs for a condom. “Why are there so many flavors? I just want normal, not ribs that scrape my vag, or ‘tingling’…” I roll to the side and sneak my hand between her legs, playing with the moisture that has gathered there. She freezes the second my fingers gently flick against her clit. She reaches into the drawer and doesn’t even look as she hands me a foil packet. “H-here,” she stammers as I continue rubbing her, not satisfied with just sex.

I withdraw my hand and lay on my back, patting my shoulders. “Come here…” She goes for my hips again. “No, I mean actually up here. Straddle my face and hold onto the headboard.”

She looks shocked and her blush only deepens as she thinks of awkward position I want to put her in. “Prim said you shouldn’t do that!” she says in one breath.

 I pick my head off the bed. “Do what?”

“Eat me… out,” she says with absolutely no confidence.

I reach out and grab her wrist. “Well, Prim isn’t here to scold me. Now get up here and let me make you feel good. And don’t be afraid to be loud; Gale and Johanna are on the other side of the house and they can’t hear you scream… I mean moan. I don’t mean to sound like an axe murderer.”

Making an ass out of myself seems to boost her confidence and she climbs up to sit on my chest. I grab her backside and pull her forward. “Hold onto the headboard,” I tell her. She actually does let go a little. Instead of tiny little moans, she lets them out from deep within her. Her thigh muscles quiver as she gets close. “Mmm… Fuck, Peeta!” I try to push her over the edge she’s already teetering on, but eventually she pushes herself off of me and flops down awkwardly on the bed. Her head hangs over the edge, but she refuses to move it.

I take the foil packet off my nightstand and tear into it. After rolling the condom on, I pull Katniss closer to me. “Still with me?” I ask her.

She nods and places her hands over mine on her legs. She throws her head back when I enter her, her mouth hanging open in a soundless moan. She’s tight, but not shockingly so. It feels amazing being inside her, but I don’t have to fear getting into it and hurting her. She fights against my hands on her calves, trying to wrap her legs around my waist. Instead, I keep her spread as much as possible, working through the morning stiffness.

She lets go of whatever reservations she has when it comes to noise during sex, taking fistfuls of my sheets and moaning every thrust or so. Her hips buck up to meet my pace, our bodies working in perfect harmony for this period of time. I don’t think I can control it, and dig my nails into her sensitive flesh as my climax hits me.

After we both recover, we make our way to the bathroom, letting the shower run until it’s hot while brushing our teeth. Katniss faces away from the mirror, leaning on the sink and resting her head against my arm.

When we’re naked, it’s like we have to be constantly touching, regardless of whether it’s an intimate touch or simply pressing our arms together. The second the clothes go back on, however, it’s like we switch to being responsible adults, not two beings who would rather spend their time all over each other.

“What do you want for breakfast?” I ask, holding onto her hips. She leads the way into the kitchen in her socks, sliding along the hardwood.

“Hmmm…” she starts, “Just coffee.”

I kiss her neck right before we come into view. “You’re insatiable…” I whisper in her ear before letting go. “Johanna, this is Katniss; Katniss, this is Johanna.”

She looks up from her copy of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “So you’re the girlfriend?”

Katniss and I exchange looks, we still haven’t technically defined what this was. “I’ll allow it,” I tell her.

She shakes Johanna’s hand and sits down at the kitchen table. “Apparently, yes. Can I get Section B when you’re done with it?”

Johanna slides the second section of the newspaper to Katniss and shoves the Sports section in my direction. “Has he turned on ESPN yet?” she asks as Katniss skims over Dear Abby, marking her place with her finger.

“No… we kind of just crashed last night and slept in this morning because someone remembered to turn off his alarm.”

“I’m sorry, some of us have places to be before two in the afternoon.” She sticks her tongue out as I slide a mug of coffee to her and pull out the half and half.

Katniss looks up at me, squinting. “I forgot my glasses in your room… and my contacts are at home…”

She pushes out her barstool and shuffles her way to down the hallway. “Don’t walk into the wall!” Gale shouts after her.

“Nice hickey, loverboy.”  I scramble to find the first reflective surface, that being the still hot tea kettle. I pull the neck of my t-shirt aside to get a better look. To be honest, it could be from a game. Sometimes in the morning after a game, I’ll wake up with random, thumb sized bruises around my chest and limbs.

This, unfortunately, is a tiny, red-speckled bruise. “Gale, what would you say? The top of chick-chick’s head goes up to his chin. If she’s up on her toes, could her mouth reach his collar bone?”

Gale nods and I set down the kettle. “I’d say it’s when he held me up against the shower wall as I held on for dear life hoping he didn’t slip,” Katniss announces as she slides down into her chair again and sips at her coffee, the steam from it fogging up her glasses a bit. Johanna’s actually right, the water did get cold for about a minute so I pressed Katniss against the wall for warmth. She got on her toes and had at my neck.

Johanna and Gale go back to their business and Katniss places her empty mug on the counter, her cheeks bright red. “Thank you,” I mouth, refilling her mug.

She looks up and smiles.

“Here,” I toss her the keys to my car. “You agreed to come, you can drive. It’s forty-one to thirty then over the Betsy Ross bridge and I ninety-five to Yardley.”

“Does Finnick live in a cute little farm house?” she asks, getting into the driver’s seat. Gale and Johanna left about fifteen minutes ago. “I am going to fuck with all your mirrors…” She moves the seat up and straightens the back while I slide the passenger seat back and lower the seat so my head doesn’t hit the soft top.

I have no idea if she can even drive a stick shift, but I have to trust the woman. “You know,” Katniss starts as she backs out of the drive, “If I got in this car that first night and it had been an automatic, you would have never gotten that dinner. You never sully a Camaro with an automatic transmission.” She shifts effortlessly, never stalling or roughly going up a gear.

We sit in silence until we cross the Delaware River. “My Dad had a ’69 Camaro while I was growing up.”

“Good year for them,” I tell her.

She snorts. “Excuse me, Shoulder Pads, I think you’ve got good and great mixed up.”

I rest a hand on her knee. “Sorry, I get those two words mixed up… My English it is… no good.” She looks over for a fraction of a second, giving me that flawless ‘shut the fuck up’ glare she must have patented.

“Are your roommate and his girlfriend going to constantly poke at our sex life?” she asks when we get on ninety-five. “Because I feel some kind of way about that… and it’s not good.”

I shrug and give her knee a squeeze. “I don’t think so… Johanna’s a little forward, but I think she was testing the waters some. You held your own against her and I’m proud of you.”

Coming off a loss today could be spent a hundred different ways and all of them would have been more productive than just sitting on Finnick’s couch, talking over the Eagles game while Johanna, Katniss and Annie thumb through a copy of Cosmopolitan on the other side of the L shaped couch.

“I think you should keep the make-up brush away from the penis,” Johanna sighs. Everything in the room stops. “Sanitary or not, it’s called a make-up brush not a dong brush…”

“I think it’s insane that we have guides on how to give blow jobs and be a perfect little lover. Where’s the ‘Idiot’s Guide to Eating Out?’” Annie says idly. Katniss remains quiet the entire time, slowly inching away from the girls and closer to me until she hugs my arm.

“Bored?” I ask midway through the fourth quarter, pulling my arm from her and wrapping it around her shoulders.

“Not my thing,” she tells me quietly.

“Good, because if you bring a make-up brush to bed, I’m sending you packing!” Katniss seems genuinely impressed when the Eagles beat the Redskins, or it might have just been the beer.

“Are you guys really dragging us to Voorhees?”

“You don’t have to go, but-“

Katniss stands up and stretches, her long-sleeved shirt inching up some to expose a strip of her back to me. “Well, I’m going. It’s a Sunday night and what else is there to do besides watch you three whack at things with sticks.”

“She is going to fit right in,” Finnick grins.

I take the keys from Katniss so she doesn’t have to make the hour drive. She seems fine with it and curls up on the passenger seat. “You all live in such nice houses. How do you stand coming over to mine?”

Katniss’ house is old; the walls are dented and it’s been neglected some, but nothing a tub of spackle and some paint couldn’t fix. “Well, it’s because of the person inside it. And if you want, I could help you fix it up… I mean, I don’t have a lot of free time until the season’s over, but there are some afternoon’s off and some whole days off.”

She shrugs. “It’s no big deal. There’s still some left over from Dad’s life insurance. I’ve been thinking about hiring someone. The kitchen’s outdated, so’s the bathroom…“

“How does a bathroom get outdated? What big advancements have they come up with?”

Katniss rolls her eyes. “Chances are I’m living in that house for the rest of my life. Even if I don’t, I can’t sell in that area without renovating half the house.”

“I’ve rented my entire life. All I have is the furniture my mother helped me buy, my clothes and four towels.”

“I envy your simple life.”

I roll my eyes. Simple life? It’s early in the season, records are unreliable, and the guys just brought up from the minors are too fresh to figure out who’s a threat. Come mid-November, though, we’ll have a pretty good guess of who we have to watch out for. Then there’s the Winter Classic and the All-Stars. Maybe she meant outside of hockey?

“I envy yours,” I tell her.

We have an entire rink to ourselves including the locker rooms, so the girls follow us into where it’s warmer. “Here,” I tell Katniss after taking off my sweatshirt, “I don’t need it.” She pulls the black hoodie over her head. “Less people in here means it’ll be colder.” She smiles and hugs herself a little.

I love these early days of a relationship where every little glance makes someone want to rip his partner’s clothes off.

“Pass me the tape.” Finnick tosses me a roll of clear tape and heads out onto the ice, dragging his pads. Gale follows him, so Annie and Johanna don’t linger.

“Why do you tape your leg warmer things up?”

“Socks?” I ask and she nods. “It keeps them from riding down. I’ve had these for a while and the elastic is a little worn." She nods and when I set my foot down, she moves to straddle my legs but remains standing.

“You’re kind of cute all done up and ready to get your teeth knocked out,” she says, tucking some of my hair behind my ears. I place my hands on her backside at first before moving then up under the sweatshirt, spreading my fingers across the small of her back.

She squirms away, “No, you’re cold, go do your job…” she scrambles out of the locker room, tugging the back of her shirt down.


Katniss

I don’t know how I feel about Johanna, but Annie seems nice. Quiet, but nice. Johanna is big and bold and honest. She fits in here in Philadelphia, that’s for sure. “See, why can’t you do that during a game?” I hear Finnick ask. The goal is filled with picks. “That’s what, twenty goals? Mercy rule, man!”

“Yeah, because every team pulls their goalie before the clock starts.”

Peeta emerges from the locker room, talking to an older man with dark hair and stressed grey eyes. Peeta seemed to be diagraming with the blade of his stick just above the ground as they walk. He doesn’t have that care free look on his face… no, this is all business.

“No, I think he can do it. He’s been good in practice. Give Thresh first shift with me and Gale…”

The older man nods and scratches at his salt and pepper beard. “It’s a risky move, but he did good at right wing-“

“Ah, Coach is here,” Annie starts, making it impossible for me to hear the end of their conversation.

Peeta drops me off at my house after dinner, and I miss my space heater the second I get in bed. When I wake up the next morning, I have a few texts from him.

At the airport

I hate flying

Then there’s nothing for a while.  They fly in a club-owned private plane when they need to go longer distances; using buses and trains for the closer teams like the Rangers, the Penguins, the Devils and the Capitals.

While at work, I get Peeta’s text telling me that they’re in Ottawa. I don’t get to watch the game the next day, since Prim is dragging me to see Mom.

The doctor tells us she’s had three lucid days in the last ten and for a fraction of a second, I think her eyes find me. Maybe someday she’ll come back to us. We spend our evening at Penns Landing, watching boats go by, staring at the USS New Jersey,  followed by my only reason to go to Camden, the aquarium.

“I want to fix up the house,” I tell Prim. “Fix the walls, touch up the paint. We have plenty left over from Dad’s life insurance since the mortgage was paid off and we settled his debts quickly.”

She nods and leans back on the edge of the drained fountain so she can easily drink her coffee. “Good because our bathroom needs to go back to the eighties where Grandpa found it. We should start like five minutes ago. After the Winter Classic when I’m… you know, a full doctor, I’ll be going on the road with the team.”

I scrunch up my face. A whole empty house… I hate the idea. “I’m going to get a dog.”

Her face falls. “No! Buttercup hates dogs!”

“Good!” I shout and she sticks her tongue out at me. “Then that old stray will be put in his place!”

Over the next week or so, I barely see Peeta but I’m busy filling in holes in the wall caused by family and my own temper. He has games every other day leading to a full day off – no practice, no game, no nothing – on the Friday before Halloween, when we’ll be at his place for a Halloween party.

“So apparently there’s going to be snow,” Peeta tells me. He’s good with things with blades – knives in the kitchen, a hockey stick, and a spackle knife. I told him over and over again that he didn’t need to help, but he insisted. He’s wincing every so often; apparently he was checked into the boards and needed an x-ray. Other than some nasty bruising, everything checked out fine.

“It’s October, it doesn’t snow usually until February or March,” I tell him, sanding a white spot. “And go sit down! All your wincing is making my heart hurt. I’m almost done anyway.” Peeta and I aren’t going out tonight, since he’s traveling to Montreal overnight and just wanted some couples time. Honestly, I’ve seen Johanna and Annie more for game night bottles of wine than my own boyfriend.

“It’s not bad, just when I lift my arms over my head,” he says, scraping off the knife and covering the tub of spackle.

“So I can’t tie you up tonight?” I ask, feigning sorrow.

“No, I have to go soon anyway,” he says and I frown, “Like by seven soon… not in the next fifteen minutes.” I pull my phone out of my pocket and check the time. I have just under two hours left with him before he goes on the road again. After cleaning up, I join him in the living room, climbing behind him on the back of the couch.

“Take off your shirt,” I command, running my fingers through his hair. Over the last few weeks, I’ve learned to accept the bruises. I rest my chin on top of his head as I attempt to rub out the soreness. After a minute or so, he starts groaning like a dog getting his or her ear scratched.

“So at the meeting today, we found out that we’re going to be followed by cameras for the month of December…” I keep massaging as he continues, “For a special they’re running on HBO about the Winter Classic.”

“Yeah…”

“How opposed would you be to having a camera man in your immediate vicinity?”

“I’m boring. You just have to start scoring more goals and get in more fights so they just glaze over me,” I tell him, although honestly, the thought of being on camera sickens me.

Peeta’s a natural at it, though, talking about the team’s loss after their win in Montreal against Winnipeg. Finnick wasn’t goalie for that game, they weren’t as aggressive as they could have been, and they had a slow first few minutes that set the pace for the game.

I’m almost asleep when Peeta lets himself in. He climbs into bed with me, the smell of his soap invading my nostrils. “I stayed out of time-out tonight,” he tells me as we spoon.

This is the first night we actually spend together. In my half lucid state, I reach behind me and grab Peeta’s hand so it rests on my stomach. When I wake up in the morning, our fingers are laced together so tightly that my fingers are white. He continues to snore quietly in my ear and doesn’t move when I slip from the bed.

Somehow, Peeta and I have managed to sleep the day away. When I pull open the curtains to bring in some light, I’m met with something I never expected – a very light dusting of snow. “Holy fuck!” I gasp, cracking the window open and sticking my hand through where a screen should be. Tiny white flakes of snow stick to my warm skin and melt upon contact.

“Happy Halloween,” Peeta yawns. “Welcome to Canada!” He rolls over and goes back to snoring contentedly within thirty seconds.

Chapter Text

“Oh my fuck! I don’t think we’re in Pennsylvania anymore!” I have to cover my costume with Peeta’s long black coat so the only things visible are my thigh high stockings and red glittery high-heels.

Unfortunately, Peeta couldn’t wear a coat, freeing up my sweatshirt and Peeta’s trench coat as we hiked up Gale’s long driveway. The entire team is here, enjoying one of their few nights off. They have a game tomorrow afternoon even though nature is vomiting up over a foot of snow. “Your geography skills amaze me,” he says.

“It amazes me that they charge me five dollars every time I want to get back home…” My foot lands in a high drift of snow. The driveway is salted, but this very confused storm has chosen to ignore that fact. “The snow is melting the green out of your hair!”

Peeta, Gale, Finnick and some guy named Thom are dressed as the Ninja Turtles, with Thresh as Master Splinter because during their test runs, the green make up looked really strange on his dark skin. Peeta is Leonardo, the leader. Naturally, Finnick is Michelangelo the goof off, seeing as during their last game, he earned a delay of game penalty for hiding the puck in his pads. Gale, the crafty one, is Donatello; and last, but not least, Thom, the ‘one who will probably get suspended for punching someone’s lights out’, is Raphael.

Prim and Rory pull up dressed as Bonnie and Clyde just as we make it to the garage door. I adjust my two tutus under my skirt. My Dorothy costume is complete with a basket and a stuffed Yorkie.

“You look lost,” a scantily clad Johanna tells me as Peeta mingles with his teammates. I surround myself with social butterflies even though I’m a wallflower. Johanna is in a bright red wig and green leotard with ivy leaves woven into her hair and wrapped around her arms. The lights flicker a bit, while the trees that haven’t shed their leaves yet are bending dangerously under the added weight of the snow.

“Just making sure my turtle doesn’t get lost… or sit on anything white.” For whatever reason, Peeta owns a dark green Under Armour suit. I wish he could have planned ahead and bought the long-sleeved version so we didn’t have to spend two hours painting his arms. I refused to paint his face and neck until he shaved, though. I kind of miss it, though he looks like an eager little kid without the neck beard. “Or drink too much.”

“Yeah, don’t want that whiskey dick,” Johanna sighs as the lights flicker again, “Or that hangover headache when the goal horn goes off.”

I can’t help but laugh even though that sounds horribly painful. “Nope, none of that sounds good.”

Annie comes skipping over in a black and red hat, her boots and gloves jingling. There’s always that dull roar in a crowded room. It’s a buzzing noise that doesn’t exactly sound like words, but is just a noise you can’t ignore in this room. Every so often, the dull roar raises and none of it is snippets of English I can pick up on or use to get to know these men. Based only on knowing Peeta and what the NHL is made up of, I guess that it’s French, Russian and other Eastern European languages I’ve never been exposed to. “I still don’t get how they understand each other,” she sighs.

“It’s a combination of fuck, find the net, I’ll take number ‘blank’, and some more fucks.”

I pull my thumb out of my beer bottle, the half empty brown glass making a loud popping noise. “Whoever said math is universal clearly never studied hockey players!” Johanna and Annie are quickly becoming my closest allies. I never thought I would be in a position where there were behaviors and events only other women involved with hockey players would understand. Between the missing teeth, random stitches, and constantly being away from each other I need people who get it, because let’s face it. I don’t really get it yet.

Some of the men and women say hello to me, but I try and stay in my little clique. It isn’t until Peeta snags me that people actually start associating with me. I guess because I’m the Captain’s girlfriend, my mundane life is suddenly fascinating; either that or they think I’ll be sticking around long enough that someday they might need to remember my name.

When I’ve about reached my ‘being social’ quota, the make-up on Peeta’s arms and face bothers him enough that he pulls me down the hallway to his room. Unfortunately, the man has already had a few beers too many. “Get in with me!” he calls from the shower.

“Not until the water turns clear again. What color is it?”

“Green, like grass stain green.” I wait a few minutes and strip out of my costume before sneaking into the shower. I wrap my arms around Peeta’s waist. “You should watch yourself. My girlfriend’s around here.”

I kiss his back right along the groove of his spine. “You’re probably right.”

I help him make sure that all of the green paint is out of his hair and beard before the lights cut out and we’re alone in the pitch black bathroom I’m unfamiliar with, my only guide being my spacy drunk boyfriend who spent five minutes telling me I have too many half used bottles in my shower.

“You’re a goo hoarder. You and Prim hoard your goo,” he tells me as I cautiously step out of the shower, remembering the book of matches next to a Yankee Candle on the countertop.

“That’s nice…” I tell him while searching for the matches. I hear his heavy footsteps, then his wet hands are on my hips as he turns me around. It takes him a few seconds to find my lips, a few failed kiss attempts land on my forehead, nose and chin before I feel his scruffiness outline my lips. Unfortunately, drunk Peeta’s idea of romance is an open mouthed kiss that ends with him blowing against my closed lips. I shove him away roughly. “Ew! Peeta Mellark!”

“I’m sorry! I’m sorry! Your little mouth’s such a small target, I got frustrated.”

I forget the candle and paw around for our towels for a second before his strong hands grip my damp skin. “I’m sorry…” he murmurs, pulling me to his chest. I can barely make out the outlines of the shower, toilet and counter. But since he has the room memorized, it’s a breeze for him to guide me to the counter. “I just missed you so much…” The counter is cold on my backside but my front is warm from the close proximity to Peeta’s wet chest. “We’ve been a little old married couple,” he says as his lips find my nose. “I come home from work, we grab something to eat, and go to bed. If one of us isn’t stumbling in at three am, it’s the other.”

“We don’t live together,” I remind him. But whenever possible, we’re making a habit of the person working the latest driving to the other’s house after work. It’s easier for him because when I come in, I have to tiptoe through the house making sure not to wake up the kids; all he has to do is watch out for the cat. My heart sinks a little. Maybe I’m boring him already, his exciting life compared to my mundane one. He has to see it, even in his drunken state.

Peeta’s fingertips map out my collar bones and the swell of my breasts, and I shiver under his touch. “I’m falling for you…” he whispers. I’m starting to adjust to the minimal light so I can see the outline of his face, but that’s it. He brings his hands down to my thighs. “Well… say something. I can’t see your face to tell if I’m putting you off or if you’re on the same page as me.”

“I’m afraid that I’m boring…” I whisper as he takes a half step closer to me and pulls me to the very edge of the counter. A drop of water runs from my hair down my chest and I shiver. “But now I’m just cold.”

I wrap my legs around his waist and he holds me close to him. “Don’t hit me for being corny, but I’ll warm you up.”

He moves away from me a little and I feel him press into me, he hisses once he’s completely sheathed. I dig my nails into his back. “Do you think people can hear?” he asks.

“They’re leaving because of the storm,” I whisper back. He withdraws some and then crashes back into me. “Mmm… fuck. It’s probably just us, Prim, Rory, Johanna and Gale at this point; maybe Finnick and Annie, too, because he seemed pretty okay with crashing on the couch.” His fingers weave into my mess of damp hair. He withdraws almost completely before shoving himself back inside me. I bite my lip and whimper, trying to hold on as he speeds up.

“You should be more… vocal,” he tells me, slowing down again as if he forgot what he was doing. Once again, he practically pulls out only to crash into me.

“You should be less of a tease,” I argue.

He tightens his grip on my hair, pulling some so that my head is wrenched back and my mouth is left agape. He covers my lips with his and I taste his beer soaked tongue as it invades my mouth. My moan vibrates into him and his grip relaxes.

He’s right, he did warm me up. I feel a drop of either sweat or water trail down from my neck between my breasts and move my chest away from his, knocking over something heavy or loud. “Found the candle,” I say as I shift again and knock over something else.

“Just sit still,” Peeta scolds. He paws around my chest before finding my breasts, and I whimper again when his calloused thumb flicks my nipple.

“Hey man, you okay?” Gale asks from the other side of the door. “You didn’t pass out on Katniss, did you?”

“No, we’re good,” he says curtly, only slowing his thrusts a little. His large hand left my breast and covered my mouth, as if I needed it. After years of sharing a wall with my parents, I learned how to keep quiet while fucking. Get caught once having sex, never do it again.

“We have an extra flashlight, want-“

“Just leave it by the door,” he snaps, crashing into me twice. His thrusts are shorter and quicker, which means he’s getting close.

Heavy footsteps are the only response we get and Peeta picks up the pace again, barely needing anything before he withdraws completely and I feel his hot seed on my stomach. God, even drunk he remembers a half-assed attempt at avoiding an oopsie baby. I should probably consider getting on the pill.

“You didn’t finish…” he murmurs as I clean myself off.

“It’s fine, really,” I tell him while towel drying my hair. We go through our normal nighttime routine minus the lights. We brush our teeth and fight to occupy the same sink. He throws me whatever shirt he grabs first as nightwear and then we end up resting our heads on the same pillow.

“Touch yourself,” he instructs.

We have the candle from the bathroom, which survived the fall, casting a golden glow on the walls of Peeta’s bedroom. I hope the dim light hides my blush. “Why?”

“It’s not fair that I finished and you didn’t, but I’m too out of it to be productive down there…”

I bite my lip, but still sink my hand between my legs after throwing one over Peeta’s hips. It’s awkward at first, but I find a rhythm as Peeta kisses my forehead, nose, cheeks, seemingly everything he can press his lips to.

He hisses as I come, my nails digging into his back, dragging towards his front as my body stiffens and bucks against his muscular form. “You’re so beautiful…” he tells me as I press every inch of myself against him as possible.

“Shuddup…” I yawn before fatigue takes over.

We wake up in the morning with no power. Most of Philly is blacked out as well, including my bar but good news – the game’s still on.

At least it’s not winter, so I pull on one of his button ups and my underwear. “How’s your head?” I ask after brushing my teeth. Peeta gives me the ‘so-so’ sign with his hand as I hurry out of the bathroom and to the kitchen. From a hangover of my own, I know they must keep a stash of Tylenol, or Advil or some other product from the ‘hangover relief aisle’ in the corner cabinet.

Peeta’s returned to lying on his back when I bring him a glass of water. “Drink up, sexy, gotta shake that hangover or you’ll be flat on your back on the ice the first time the goal horn goes off.”

“I won’t score tonight,” he tells me, covering his eyes with his arm. “And no one else will, and Finnick will actually learn to close his legs and we’ll go into a shootout. Then the fans will be quiet.”

I know his hangover isn’t terrible, because he wasn’t absolutely plastered last night, but it’s just enough to land him with a throbbing headache. “Go to a different city if you want that, okay? Now sit up and drink this, and if you’re good, I’ll make you some cowboy toast.”

“Cowboy toast?” he asks after emptying the glass of water.

“Eggs in a nest?” I say. He blinks, still no understanding from him. “Come on… I’ll educate you in hangover cooking one-oh-one.”

Apparently, there are things I can teach this boy. I get everything I need in one trip, not leaving the fridge open any longer than I have to. “Do you have a lighter or a match for the stove?” I ask, realizing that a gas stove has an electric starter. Peeta opens drawers, digging through them before pulling out a long Bic lighter.

I somehow manage to bleed too much gas out of the pipes, causing a big blue ball of fire that burns so quickly before fading to the tame blue flame of the burner. “Step one…” I flick the lighter a few more times just out of habit. “Do not trust Katniss with fire…”

I put a pan over my contained fire and heat it up. “I was under the impression that you and the kitchen weren’t on speaking terms…” he teases.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. Also, it’s called survival cooking,” I melt butter in the pan and pull out two pieces of bread, folding them in half. “Bite, because I don’t know where a cookie cutter is in this place.”

Peeta obediently bites down on the bread, but lets the piece fall from his open mouth when I pull away. “You gonna pick that up?” I ask, giving him the other only to achieve the same end results. “Peeta Mellark, you’re twenty five years old, pick up your bread,” I instruct, going back to the stove. Peeta works around me, lighting another burner and heating up a kettle for tea.

“You know, I need that shirt for today’s game, no matter how much I love seeing you in it,” he tells me as we eat.

“I need a jersey. The power’s out at work, and let’s face it, PECO is going to take their time getting South Philly back up.”

“Stadium still has power,” he tells me with a mouthful.

I shrug. Darius lives a block away and if we open, he’ll run the show. Johanna, Annie and I are going to the game tonight.

“I might have my All-Star jersey from last year, but it’ll be a dress on you,” he tells me as I roll my eyes, “Or some of my Phantoms gear, but no.”

“Sentimental?” I ask.

He shrugs. “You should cook more often.”

“I can make three things - hangover style breakfast, whipped cream, and lasagna.”

“Whipped cream, huh?” he waggles his eyebrows, getting ideas.

I shamelessly lick the yolk off my plate. “You make All-Stars and I’ll show you.”

He exhales through his lips. “But that’s so far away,” he pouts. People slowly start to surface as I clean up from cooking; first is a rumpled looking Johanna, followed by Prim and Rory. Apparently Finnick and Annie left early in the morning after hearing a plow go through the neighborhood.

“Gale’s getting ready for the little demons. The ex-wife will be here any minute…” she grumbles, “Since we’ll have the kids, I nominate Katniss as DD for tonight.”

“Pass,” I tell her, pouring more hot water in my mug. “I’m going to my house after the game tonight, even if I have to walk.”

“I’ll carry you,” Peeta tells me, “Because, oh, would you look at that, home until Wednesday.”

“Eww, you mean I have to listen to you two hump until the sun comes up?” Prim says, wearing her best shit-eating grin.

My head snaps to Rory’s direction. “Please take your girlfriend out of the room before I scruff and toss her out in the snow like Peeta and I did her cat before we left.”

Her eyes narrow. “You wouldn’t...”

“Then I closed the kitchen window…”

She opens her mouth to argue but the doorbell cuts her off. “I’ll take the kids upstairs,” Peeta says. “Come on, Katniss.”

Gale thumps down the stairs not saying a word to any of us. The rush of cold air that invades the house is only amplified by the kid’s mother. Celeste immediately runs to Gale, clinging to his leg, “Papa!”

Gale gets down on her level, holding his little girl close and stroking her hair. The tender moment between father and daughter pulls at my heart strings. “Why don’t you go see Uncle Peeta for a little bit? Ethan, Parker, you too.” The boys head up to their room as Prim and Rory follow.

Peeta and I retreat just as Johanna comes to join her boyfriend. “You need to stop teaching my children French,” the woman starts.

“Madge, how do you expect them to communicate with their grandparents?” The walls in these new houses are made of paper. Even being in Celeste’s room, it’s like we’re still in the foyer. The walls are a pale purple, and every piece of furniture is white.

“They can learn English!” Madge retorts. “All weekend I couldn’t even talk to my own children!” she hisses.

“They’re in their late sixties!”

“Well, it’s not like they come down here anyway! And you can’t take the kids outside of the country unless I allow it!”

“I’ll take you right back to court. Don’t you string our kids along because you feel like being a cunt today, Margret.”

I just stand awkwardly in Celeste’s room as she clings to Peeta for dear life. “I want my Barbie,” she tells him, squirming out of his arms.

“I had a Barbie once,” I say, trying to break the silence.

Celeste stops dead in her tracks, her jaw on the floor. “They made Barbie’s when you were little?”

“Yeah, I asked for a Transformer for Christmas and my grandmother thought I should have a girl toy. I put her in the microwave. Barbie’s get one good transformation before they break.”

“Don’t listen to her,” Peeta cautions, giving me a disappointed look as if I’m actually telling her to put the doll in the microwave.

Some people tend to overlook what a divorce does to the kids. The focus can shift to money, especially in Gale and Madge’s situation. When they split, they agreed to share custody of the kids 50-50; but with Gale’s constant traveling for work, Madge has them more and seems to like dangling this fact in front of his face.

They argue about everything – what the kids eat, their next court date, the alimony Madge expects to receive, as well as child support. I look over at the poor girl brushing her doll’s hair while sitting in Peeta’s lap.

How can anyone do this to a kid? Before sitting down, I grab a brush from the dresser and sit behind Celeste, running my fingers through her hair. “What’s your favorite song?” I ask.

Celeste just shrugs and I run the brush through her hair. The ‘discussion’ downstairs has switched to Johanna and a slamming door echoes through the house. “You should tell her a song you want to hear. Katniss has an amazing singing voice,” Peeta tells her. I blush and begin braiding the girl’s hair.

Celeste is completely disinterested in songs. “I wish Mommy and Daddy would stop fighting. I know they don’t like each other anymore, but when the boys fight as much as them, Daddy puts them in time out. Someone should put Mommy and Daddy in time out.”

“Adults don’t have time out,” Peeta tells her. “But they should.”

“You play the only sport where they put players in time out when they do something bad, or did you forget? We also have prison. When grown-ups do really bad things, the police take them to prison.”

“Can Mommy and Daddy go there until they learn how to behave?”

I lean in and kiss the back of her head. “Maybe they’ll just learn how to get along…” I tell her.

Chapter Text

Peeta

It shocks me how attentive and patient Katniss is with Celeste. While Gale and I are figuring out how we’re getting to the game and how early we have to leave just in case we can’t take the Ben Franklin Bridge; she sits cross legged on the floor with the girl in her lap, brushing her hair and braiding orange and black ribbons into it at Celeste’s request.

“Give that girl a medal,” Gale tells me while picking out his tie. He’s torn between red and darker red. “Which one, babe?”

The power’s still out, but they’re hoping to get it back to us tonight. Either way, Gale got a hotel room in Center City because they have power and heat. “The darker red… wait, no, the lighter one.  Definitely the lighter one.”

“God, this sucks. I can’t even see two feet into my closet without it being like CSI.”

Johanna sighs. “CSI: Gale’s Closet. Your first case would be seeing whose cheetah thong is balled up in the corner, because I remember cheetah print… but-“

I put my hands up. “I’m out. Thirty minutes?” I ask him.

Gale just nods while shining his flashlight behind the closet door. “Yeah, that one’s mine.”

I push Celeste’s star covered door open, and see she’s finally stopped chattering. Katniss looks so natural with her still seated in her lap. She lazily strokes her braids while reading a book to the child. She must have stolen it from the boys’ room, because Harry Potter is a little advanced for her.

As the baby growing up, I never had the chance to care for someone younger than I am. Katniss makes it look easy as breathing. “Why don’t you go show your Dad and Johanna your hair?” I suggest. She nods tiredly and runs off.

Katniss dog ears the book before whining, “Please help. I think I might be attached to the floor.”

She holds up her arms and I haul her to her feet, still unable to shake the image of her mothering a child. “What?” she asks, “Is there something on my face?”

I shake my head and lace my fingers with hers before leading her out of the room and down the stairs to mine. “You just looked really… natural.”

Her face falls and she pulls her hand from mine.

Fuck, what did I do?

“Both my parents worked strange hours, I basically raised Prim…”

“Heard my name!” she calls from the living room.

So I brought up something that reminded her of her parents? I wonder to myself. I know her father died of lung cancer, but she never talks about her mother. If I ever bring the woman up, she diverts the conversation to something completely unrelated.

“I’m going to try and enjoy the fact that you guys have a gas water heater so there’s still hot water and get a real shower now that you’re not green and trying to fall on your ass.”

When she gets out, she still ends up sitting on the edge of the bed, her legs around my hips.

Gale and I make it to the stadium with Prim in tow with a surprising amount of ease. It’s barely even snowing anymore and from the looks of it, most of Philadelphia has their power back. “Aw, it’s the married couple and their little one!” Thresh teases.

“Thresh, you better watch it. I have to take the stitches out of your arm today. My tweezers might just slip,” she pinches with her thumb and index finger in Thresh’s general direction before her ringing phone distracts her.

“Rule number one, don’t piss off the pint sized blonde,” Gale sighs as Prim types away on her phone.

I wrap my arm around her shoulders, “Especially if she’s the one sewing you back together.”

“Or dating your brother, or better yet, your girlfriend’s sister. Ew, you guys are like third degree Eskimo brothers.”

“Once removed,” I tell her.

Gale stuffs his hands in his pockets. “Only once, man?”

Prim snorts. “After the kitchen and bathroom are done, you two should invest in a better bed and box spring. Hell, get a new mattress while you’re at it.

“Oh, shut up…” Once inside, I head straight into the locker room to get changed, earning a fair amount of teasing about a few scratches on my back.

“So Katniss is a freak in the sheets?” Finnick asks from uncomfortably close behind me. “It’s always the quieter ones.”

I roll my eyes. My sex life with Katniss is none of his business. I don’t ask him about Annie. “Are we having a moment? Do you like my shampoo? What are you doing, man?” I ask after whacking his face with my fist as I pull my t-shirt over my head.

“Just making you uncomfortable. You know how it goes, you’re the new-ish captain… Do you even have chest hair?”

I pull on my shorts. “I know I do, do you?”

Finnick is rubbing his chest when I turn around. “Nah, the lady likes a shaved chest, so who am I to question?”

After Finnick is done messing with me or is ready to move onto someone else, I join the rest of the team for a game of two touch while Gale drags the radio out of the dressing room. “Who’s got the green iPhone case?”

“Yo,” Finnick says, bouncing the ball from his knee and passing it with his head.

Gale presses play and ‘Single Ladies’ by Beyonce starts playing. “Yeah, that’s Odair’s,” he grumbles, joining us in the circle.

Thresh has the ball. “It’s Annie’s,” he taunts before passing to Thom.

“I don’t know how it got there,” Thom teases.

When Finnick finally gets the ball, he’s too busy dancing and is out of the game. “Yeah, laugh fuckers, one of you put on my pads. Block a slap shot with your shin and then we’ll talk.” It’s all fun and games and before long, we’re putting our gear on. The only difference between today and any other day is that the club has a camera in the dressing room.

“You think they’d you know, fuck off for a few hours,” I grumble, lacing my skates.

Gale’s busy on his cell phone. “They just want a good show. You know, ‘What can these idiots say in the locker room’ and what not. Here, I think my daughter adopted your girlfriend…” he chuckles, passing his phone to me, “Either that or she’s choking her to death.” There’s a strange look in Katniss’ eyes, a distant, vague gaze even with the little girl on her back.

The cameraman gets bored with everyone else and comes over to Gale and I. “So, do you think we’re bringing the cup back to Philadelphia this year?”

“Well, yeah,” I start, “One thing I’ve learned even though I’ve only been in the league for a few years is that if you put on your skates and don’t think you’re going to win, you’ve lost it all.”

Soon the camera leaves us alone, but only after asking us about our plans for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Gale laughed and told the man he was a month late. We finish getting ready, and then go out for warm-ups that lead into a relatively uneventful game.

Thom finds himself in his new home only four minutes into the period for high-sticking. Whoever is in charge of the sound system develops a sudden sense of humor, playing Man In A Box by Alice In Chains as Thom takes his seat. Two minutes later, he comes back something fierce and scores the first goal of the game on a pass from me. “Fucking right, man,” I tell him as the five of us on the ice swarm him, the goal horn and crowd still trying to deafen us. I pat his helmet and shake his head before getting ready for the next face off, and he skates by the bench.

The Flyers have and will always play the game physically; but like the Bullies and Legion of Doom before us, there’s still a level of finesse and skill to go along with it. The first period ends with no more goals or penalties. The only productive thing that happened was when I got ice up my back after being checked and fell onto my ass.

Unfortunately, after intermission, the Hurricanes come back with a ferocity we weren’t expecting. They outskate us for the next twenty minutes, sending us back to the dressing room in a bad spot.

Haymitch is pissed to say the least. “What the fuck was that? Who was that out there?”

No one says a word. At this point, you just let coach go on his rant and say nothing. “Did I just watch the fucking peewee’s out there for the last twenty minutes? You had a one goal lead, that’s like the pull and pray method of hockey.”

He takes a breath and runs his hands through his hair. “They were out skating you! Sure, we had the shots on goal, but you were too busy being apathetic and lazy to do any good.”

“Mellark,” I have my shirt, pads, and sweater off just trying to cool down. “You have that C on your chest for a reason. Some guy knocks you on your back, go the fuck after him. Don’t just let him think that shit is okay. If you sit in the box for five minutes, you sit in the box for five minutes. If you guys aren’t going to give every bit of your heart and soul in the next twenty minutes, what’s the point?”

We all look at Haymitch as he continues, “The first minute of this next period is going to set the tone for the next twenty minutes or so of your life. Come at them hard, come at them like they’ve just played forty minutes of hockey and you’re all fresh from warm-ups. Go hard, go fast, and don’t fuck up.”

We come back like we have something to prove, but it doesn’t take long for Gale, Thom and I to break through their line and put us back in the lead. The weight seems to be lifted off my chest when a wrist shot and a prayer gets the puck between the goalie’s legs.

Thirty-nine seconds is all it takes to hopefully send us back to the win column. They push back though, or try to, keeping us near Finnick for a few minutes. Eventually he gets the puck and fires it close to center ice, leaving me to chase after it. I take it to the left of the goal, making it look like I’m going around the back for a better shot. The poor bastard falls for it and brings me one goal away from my first hat trick of the season.

I get that honor with eight minutes left in the third period. When my shift ends, I fall back onto the bench, exhausted. Haymitch comes up and pats me on the back. “If one goal is the pull and pray method, what’s four?” I pant, spraying water onto my face to get some of the sweat away. Fuck, I just want a shower.

I don’t see the ice again for the rest of the game. Carolina doesn’t have a chance at winning at this point and when we return to go home for the night, Mac Miller’s Knock Knock is already queued up.

When I check my phone, I have three messages from Katniss.

You don’t have to come over after your game. I’m kind of in a shitty mood.  

Sent right before the game: I’m going to the bar after work, power outage or not. Come by if you want.

It’s been almost two hours since the game ended when her last message arrives:  I really need you.

I don’t know in what way, though I half expect it to be sexually. After getting a ride to a very dark bar, however, I realize just how wrong that assumption is.

The power’s back on, but Katniss is sitting in near darkness with only the hanging lights over the bar turned on. I trip on her keys on the way in and lock the door behind me. “Katniss?”

She doesn’t look up from where she’s rocking a shot glass back and forth between her fingers, a half full bottle of Jack Daniels at her side. I sit next to her and she sniffles. “I’m fucked up…” she whispers.

“Well, yeah,” I can smell the alcohol on her breath from here, “How full was this when you got here?”

She pours herself another shot, but I don’t really see why. She might be more productive drinking straight from the bottle. “Fuck if I know…”

I take the bottle from her when she tries to grab at it next. “Alright, you’re done.”

She looks up at me with her glazed over eyes and watches me as I take the bottle behind the bar and put it in the only empty spot. I fill her a glass of water, which she just stares at. “Drink. Now.” I command.

She listens, but spills some on my All-Star jersey; it’s only water, though. “Everyone complimented me on my jersey but asked why your signature wasn’t on it. I asked them, ‘Why the fuck would someone sign their own shirt? That’s borderline narcissistic.’”

“What did they say?” I ask as she drains her glass. She holds up her finger telling me she’ll be a minute.

She slams the glass down hard enough it slips on the varnish of the bar and hits the honey comb mat behind it with a thud. “Oops… and they just kind of laughed. I mean, how many women get to raid your closet?” She looks around the room. “No one? No one but me? Yeah, thought so. But I’m doing what we in the bizz call stalling…”

“Yeah, people don’t usually drink alone in the dark if they’re feeling okay… What’s wrong?”

She says nothing and grabs her phone, showing me a text from Prim. Mom’s doctors say she’ll be released soon.

I read the entire conversation.

Katniss: Yeah, they said that three years ago when she was lucid around Dad’s birthday.

Prim: She’s been awake for two weeks, Katniss. Talking, eating on her own, she misses home.

Katniss: Well, I don’t miss her.

Prim: Act like an adult. She’s going to be home soon. We’ll put her furniture in my old room this week.

Katniss: Why? So she can snap again the second she walks through the door?

Prim: Because she’s coming home Monday afternoon.

Prim: Katniss?

Prim: I know you have cell reception in there.

Prim: Don’t be like this.

Prim: She’s our mother.

I set her phone down, fifteen messages after that of Prim begging Katniss to talk to her.

“We don’t have to talk about this right now. You had a good night, and I don’t want to ruin it…”

She slides out of her barstool. “Want to head home now?” I ask, hoping the air will sober her up some. She takes off the sweater I gave her to wear to the game and hands it to me. “If I puke on it, you’d be obligated to break up with me and I’m starting to fall for you, missing tooth and all.”

She’s only in jeans and a tank-top, and it’s still trying to snow outside. “At least put on my sweatshirt,” I say, handing the zip-up to her. “I’m Canadian; we only have one season, snowy.”

She takes the sweatshirt and zips it up. “No, you don’t!” she whines, “A lot of Canada enjoys four seasons much like Pennsylvania, you pretentious fuck. Just because I forget you live in New Jersey doesn’t mean I fucked up all of geography class... well, unit.”

She kicks at everything she can get her sneaker at on the way home. Empty cigarette packs, Wawa cups, a parking meter that reads, Out of order - Welcome to Philadelphia! The last one leaves her cursing, “Who the fuck puts a parking meter on the curb!”

Katniss stumbles into her house and then into the never used room where an entire bedroom’s worth of furniture is collecting dust. It’s also right where Prim seems to be taking inventory of the items. “I have a fucking bone to pick with you!” Prim hisses, “Where the fuck were you!”

Katniss swings and slaps Prim. She goes in for another, but I restrain her. “Let me go!” she hisses, trying to wiggle out of my grasp, but I have her by the wrists. “She fucking… and secrets!” Prim looks horrified as her drunk sister kicks like a mad woman.

I try to hold her as best as I can, Gale’s brother even getting between her and Prim. “Come on, let’s go upstairs,” I whisper in her ear. She tugs a little as I direct her to her bedroom, still wanting to get another piece of her sister.

“How long did you know, Prim! How fucking long were you going to keep that from me?” she screams, but the second the door closes behind us, she buckles and falls to the floor in a fit of tears. Katniss makes herself very small and cries until she passes out, not saying a word no matter how many times I talk to her.

Prim is rummaging through the medicine cabinet when I finally tuck Katniss in for the night on her side, just in case she pukes. There’s a purple mark along her eye socket from Katniss’ slap, but she’s pulling out orange bottles from a pharmacy. “What the fuck was that?” I ask.

Prim jumps like she thinks I’m coming after her, but then relaxes. This woman’s stitched me back together I don’t know how many times. Hell, she even bagged three of my four knocked out teeth, one either swallowed by me or the zamboni. She turns back to the medicine cabinet. “I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought she could handle Mom coming home,” she starts, pouring pills into her hand and counting. “She’s not… she’s not even taking her fucking meds.” Prim looks like she’s about to be sick. “Sorry you had to see that…” she says, capping the bottle.

“Is this why Katniss never even mentions your mother?” Prim nods. “What happened?”

Prim looks up at me with red rimmed eyes. “It’s not my story to tell…” she mumbles, shaking one of the bottles. “Just make sure she takes one of these when she wakes up tomorrow.”

Prim pushes past me, looking completely defeated.

The first things I see when I get back in Katniss’ room are her dim eyes. “You don’t have to stay and babysit me…” she whispers, “I mean, I ruined your night…”

I crawl in bed next to her and spoon her. “You didn’t. When you’re sad, I want to know. Granted, I didn’t need to see you go for your sister’s throat, but you pick your fights and I pick mine. But I’m never going to leave you, especially while you’re down…”

When I tell her this, she sits up with such urgency that I come up with her. Katniss throws the sheets off her and runs to the bathroom, and that’s how I go from the top of my game on the ice to honorary hair holder in only a few hours.

She forces all of the alcohol out of her stomach and is even coerced into drinking a few glass of water, two of which come right back up, before brushing her teeth and curling up at the edge of her bed.

She sniffles a few times, holding back tears. My heart aches seeing her utterly destroyed. I want to protect her from the pain, but I can’t. There isn’t anything I can do to make it go away, but I’ll do everything in my power to ease it.


Katniss

The only thing that wakes me from my dead-like sleep is the need to vomit. Unfortunately, each and every one of my footsteps makes my skull feel like it’s cracking, while dry heaving into the toilet has me terrified that the thing from Alien is somehow scrambling its way out of my head.

“Holy fuck…” I pant before slumping over and falling to the cool tile. “You understand me, bathroom floor… yes, you do… yes, you do…” I coo, having one of those drunken moments of clarity where I actually hear what’s coming out of my mouth.

The floor shakes and threatens to shatter me as Peeta stomps his way to where I’m trying not to die. “Prim and Rory left, so you won’t be going for anyone’s throat… how’s your head?” He manages to keep his voice quiet and his tone reassuring that I’ll survive this hangover. It’s not the worst I’ve had and chances are it’ll go away in an hour or two, especially with a barely legal dose of Motrin and a gallon of water.

“What time is it?” I groan, my throat raw.

“Like nine am. Come on, babe, let’s get you off the floor…”

Peeta cares for me all morning, feeding and forcing water into me. We butt heads though when he hands me a little cream colored pill the shape of an egg and the size of an orzo noodle. “Which one is this, Zoloft? Celexa? Paxil?” I ask before popping it in my mouth. I hated these things some days. Every so often, I’d feel like a bat on the celling, in the room but definitely not all the way here. I empty another glass of water. “What’s the difference?”

I chase the pill with some Motrin. Peeta doesn’t press for information and if the room wasn’t still spinning, I’d probably knock him to the ground and ride him until he understood just how much I loved that about him.

“When do you travel next?” I ask, trying to plan for Mom’s coming home. Peeta agrees to get into the tub with me on the condition that I go somewhere with him and not complain. Another thing I enjoy about him is how we can be naked and not humping like horny kids. When we’re having it, the sex is mind-blowing; when we’re not, the intimacy is amazing.

“Wednesday morning. I’ll be back the same night…”

I nod, feeling a little better. “Will you stay with me until you travel next? I just- and my Mom…” I groan and shift so I’m curled up in the space between his legs. The water is getting cold and we’ll have to get out soon, but he doesn’t seem to mind.

“Sure, and you don’t have to tell me your deepest, darkest secret… I just want you to know that whatever it is, you can talk to me…”

I sigh. “She and Dad didn’t tell us he was sick until we only had two months left, according to the doctors. I was busy with my sorority and school… Prim was just starting college.”

“Wait, back up.  You were in a sorority?”

“Delta Phi Epsilon. I still keep contact with my big, my little, my grandlittle, my great grandlittle and so on. We were the Delta Nu chapter, so Legally Blonde jokes abound! But shut up, okay? I’m pouring my heart out to you,” I snuggle deeper into his chest, the blonde curls there moving with me. “Okay… Anyway… Dad refused chemo and radiation because the cancer was already in his liver and just… everywhere. He went into the hospital for a respiratory infection and never bounced back. My mother stole my last few months with my father from me. I went about my life, thinking I still had years with him, but it was only weeks. I missed things and just went about my business. There’s so much shit,” I wipe the tears I thought had dried up from my eyes, “That I never got to do with him one last time. Like fishing, go shooting, sit on the couch and eat junk food while watching reruns of Seinfeld. Nothing. They both took that from Prim and I, but I can’t really hold a grudge against my Dad…”

“So you blame your mother?”

“I blame her for the secrets, and for leaving Prim and I after he died. It’s just… I’m not a freak, but being near her brings back all the hurt. I’ve been changing the house to start over, to move on, but now she’s coming back and I’m… I’m scared…”

Peeta kisses my temple. “Come on. I’m going to show you what I do when I’m in a bad mood.” He sneaks out of the tub behind me and I fall back a little.

“Fuck me until I can’t feel?” I ask grimly.

“Nope… just go with me.”

‘Go with me’ requires a weekend bag, a hundred dollar pair of shoes with knives on the bottom and my protesting for five minutes. “You’re an asshole. I have a hangover.”

The Flyers practice rink is open to the public, but used for kids’ games on most Sundays. The other rink is open for free skating and since games are over, we have this rink to ourselves. “It’ll distract you,” Peeta says, lacing his skates. It’s weird seeing him in them and jeans, also in only a sweatshirt. “Plus, I want you to impress my parents. Because come on, all we Canadians do is ice skate.”

“Really?” I ask dumbly.

“No,” he stands up with ease, offering me his hands. “Trust me, okay?” I lace my fingers with his and get pulled onto my feet. “Now, they’re new and not broken in, so the ankles might be stiff… but it might help keep you upright.”

“Why don’t yours have the bumpy shit on the front?”

“Because I’ve been skating for close to twenty years and hockey skates are different.”

“Either way, it’s a knife on your foot. Gotcha.”

Peeta steps onto the ice as if it’s nothing, still holding onto my hand as I grip onto the boards like a dog not wanting a bath. “Baby, come on. I won’t let you fall.”

“Promise?”

“Well, you won’t fall while I’m near you, but eventually you’re going to end up on your ass, or on your hands and knees. It’s just you and me here though, no shithead kids racing each other or parents standing around close to the boards.”

I watch my feet as I step onto the ice. I’ve been rollerblading once and that earned me a sprained wrist. “What if I take you down with me?”

“Bigger people than you have tried,” he chuckles, and now I know I’ve seen him get knocked on his ass. Peeta drags me along almost effortlessly as he skates backwards, keeping me as far away from him as possible so our legs don’t touch. Too bad I’m too afraid to move my feet until the toes of my skates touch. “Okay, point your toes outwards and your feet go out, but don’t go too far. Getting you up from a split might get awkward.”

Peeta pulls me along like a responsible boyfriend until I’ve figured out how to propel myself. “Legs tired yet?” he asks after our hundredth lap around the rink.

“A little. Mostly in my thighs, though.” He stops moving which stops me and leans against the boards, pulling me in. “Is this why your legs and ass are so nice?”

He pulls my hood over my head before kissing my cold nose and slipping away, leaving me stumbling. “Excuse me! I’m trying to compliment you!” I call after him.

“Come and get me,” he challenges, facing me again but still moving.

“Um… no!” After a second or two though, he reaches the other side of the rink and sits where one team’s bench would be. I push off the wall and follow begrudgingly. It’s not like walking where your feet move back and forth. They’re constantly going off to the side and have to be pulled back in, which pushes me forward. It’s awkward, and takes much more concentration than it should; so much so that after the door to the rink slams, my feet continue moving as the rest of me stays in one spot.

I come down hard on my right hip and wrist, but it’s just a fall. Whoever said, ‘it’s not the fall that killed you, it’s the landing’ has never contemplated getting off your back after falling on ice. Peeta’s by my side before I even bother getting off my back, hauling me to my feet by the wrist I didn’t land on. “Oh my God! Are you okay? Did you hurt yourself? Wiggle your fingers for me…” He’s cradling my wrist in his hands, but it feels fine. “Katniss…” he teases, pressing his forehead to mine, “You skate better than Thom, so…”

“Am I ready to go pro, Captain?”

Peeta kisses my hand. “Not on those scrawny legs.”

I roll my eyes and pull my wrist away from him. “I’m going to go sit down,” I announce. About five or so kids have gathered at the edge of the rink, watching me embarrass myself with Peeta as my white knight. Or is it orange knight?

When I get off the death trap ice and onto the rubber padded non-slip floor, the kids nearly knock me over again to get to Peeta. He spends the next hour or so showing the kids just how he holds his stick for the best grip, and how he positions his feet to get the most power out of a shot. I just untie my skates and pull my sneakers out of his bag. “Hey, babe?” he calls from the ice, holding a ridiculously short stick.

“What, dear?” I ask, noticing the smell in the bag. Holy fuck, I need to get him a case of Febreze for Christmas.

“Can you run down the hall and bring me back the stick with my name on it? Grab my keys though, door’s locked.”

I huff and stand up, only because he’s got that shine in his eye. “Wait, you don’t all use the same sticks?”

The kids giggle. “Yeah, yeah…” I grumble while half waddling down the hall to the locker room on my skates, flipping through his keys until I find one with “Voorhees” etched into the grip, only it doesn’t work the first time. He has six non-house keys on this fucking thing!

After flipping through them all, I find one that says ‘Voorhees In’ and it works. The lights turn on as they sense my movement. It’s boring, white walls with orange stripes traveling horizontally around the room and edged in black. The team’s sticks are along the hallway leading into the larger dressing area and in no particular order. I recognize some names - Hawthorne, Thom, Thresh, Odair. There’s a few I can’t pronounce, but have seen on the ice and in the Intelligencer and Inquirer. “Oh God dammit…” I grumble, looking for anything that says Mellark on it. I finally find his, but manage to catch the blade of the stick in my hand on two other sticks, sending them clattering to the ground. “Oh, for fuck’s sake…” I grouse, trying to bend over and still balance on my skates which I haven’t re-tied.

“You know that’s stealing,” a voice says from behind me, sending me on my ass with Peeta’s stick in my hand.

“I’m getting this for Peeta. He asked.”

The man is older, with dark hair and a scruffy face. I recognize him immediately as Peeta’s coach. The man’s face softens. “Told the kid to stay home today and get some rest…” He picks up the sticks at my feet and puts them back in their spot before helping me up, since I’m basically a hung-over turtle.

“Sorry, he was teaching me how to skate so I don’t embarrass myself in front of everyone after New Year’s.”

Haymitch Abernathy dusts off my shoulder. He smells a little like cheap beer, but that might also be the general stink of the room. “So you’re the mythical Katniss,” he says as we walk back to the rink.

“Mythical as a unicorn…” The doors slam behind us and I’m back in the chill.

“Let your girlfriend run your errands, boy?” he shouts when Peeta comes into view. He’s bouncing a puck on the blade of the child size stick.

“She was sitting on her butt. Figured I should make friends, Coach!” Haymitch shakes his head as Peeta comes to the edge and takes the stick from me. “Thank you,” he kisses my nose and is off again to show the kids how to sneak the puck in the net.

It’s later when I realize that this is what Peeta loves about his job the most. Not the salary, or the fact that he’s playing a game for money. He loves the kids that look up to him, the fans that count on him, and the young players that want to play like him some day.

It’s dark when we leave. I end up digging through Peeta’s jacket while it’s still on him for the keys to my car, seeing as his and the snow don’t really mix. I pop the trunk with my arms still around his body. “You going to let me go any day now?” he asks while I take in his smell. I have him until Wednesday. God, I hate his travel days.

“Fine…” I sigh, peeling my arms from him. I open the driver’s side door and hesitate a little. “You know, you’re really good with kids…”

“So are you…” he says to me over my car’s roof. We have a ‘what if’ moment where we both seem to honestly contemplate children together until reality hits us. We get in the car quickly, not saying a word for about a minute as my vents blow out cold air.

“I’m going to my gyno Wednesday to get onto the pill,” I finally say, backing out of the spot.

“Probably a good idea,” he agrees. I put the car in drive and he takes my hand when I go to put it back on the wheel. “With the amount of condoms we use, statistically we’re going to break one…” He massages my hand with his thumbs and kisses my palm like us talking about contraceptives is the hottest thing he’s ever heard.

One hand leaves mine and finds my leg, rubbing my thigh from knee to groin. “How are you feeling?” he asks as his thumb massages my hip flexor.

I feel the place between my legs grow hot and wet. “Like I should pull over and fuck you so we don’t make a scene in front of the kids?”

“Gale and Johanna took them out to dinner than a movie. They won’t be home until like eleven.”

Peeta’s on me the second we’re through the front door. I barely even get my shoes off before I’m pressed up against the wall, his tongue in my mouth. I work my other sneaker off with my foot and kick it away. He unzips my sweatshirt and pushes it off my shoulders so it can lay abandoned on the hardwood as we work our way into the kitchen. I grip his muscular backside, his groan rumbling through me as I knead the flesh. He attacks the button and zipper of my jeans. “We can’t strip here. Gale might shoot us,” I mumble against his lips as he lifts me onto the counter and continues to disrobe me. He tosses my jeans and underwear to the side.

“We’ll come back for them… or just not leave them,” I hear his belt and zipper before hearing a thud.

“Mmm,” I whine as the velvety head of his cock teases me and tries to warm me up, but it’s not necessary. I wrap my legs around his waist coaxing him inside me, not bothering to stifle my moan as he is fully sheathed inside me.

Peeta cradles my face in his hands, watching my face as he fucks me. His brows knit together as he studies every change in my expression. He wraps his arms around my body and cups my backside. “Hold on tight,” he tells me before pulling away from the counter, taking me with him. I pull myself up a little, causing him to slip out of me, but he tosses me down on the couch before pouncing on me again.

He lifts one of my feet over his shoulder and pushes inside me once more, his lips forming a perfect O shape. After licking my fingers, I bring my hands down to rub my clit.

I buck my hips as I get closer and closer, then a wave of pure ecstasy hits me and an uninhibited moan escapes, echoing off the cathedral style ceiling.

I think my moans and the feeling of my walls contracting are too much for Peeta. His own climax seems to come unexpectedly, because he slams deep inside me and I feel him twitch. He pulls out and we’re both very still.

Very. Very. Still.

“Ass…” I finally grumble. “Is this your first rodeo? Can’t remember to pull out?”

He backs up, embarrassed. “I’m so sorry,” he tells me, “I just… and we forgot and…” He’s kind of cute when he’s flustered.

For half a second, I weigh the options. I’m a week or two from getting my period, so there’s a slim chance if left unattended, this lapse in judgment could lead to a baby. Peeta and I have only been together for about a month, and even though he’s in an eight figure contract with the Flyers and I’m doing alright, a kid would be a terrible idea.

I shock myself with how calm I am about this. Maybe it’s because I know Peeta’s different.

“Where are you going?” he asks as I head to the powder room.

“Bathroom, then we’re going to get something to eat. After that, you’re taking me to the twenty-four hour pharmacy down the road so we can napalm my uterus.”

The only good thing about New Jersey is their love of diners, and said diners love of cheesesteaks. “So… I know what that is,” Peeta starts, pointing at my plate. “But what the fuck is that?” he asks, motioning to my plate of scrapple with his fork.

“Scrapple,” I tell him, squirting ketchup on both items. I break the crust on the scrapple with my fork.

“It’s grey inside.”

I shrug and shove a piece in my mouth. “It’s mostly the ground up crap that didn’t make it in sausage… Or pork roll… Mmm…” I groan, thinking about a pork roll and American sandwich.

“Someday, in a few years, you’re going to make a very interesting pregnant woman.”

I just smile, keeping my lips closed to hide my mouth full of ground up pig heart, snouts, and liver pressed together in a delicious, grey brick.

An hour later, I have Plan-B in me and only experience mild nausea which could just be indigestion. Peeta still seems worried, but I’m uncharacteristically calm about it.

Maybe it’s because I’m still freaking out about Mom coming home. Prim calls Peeta at nine, waking me up. Peeta’s off today and offers to go with Prim and I to get her from the mad house. Rory is coming along with Prim, so maybe he feels obligated.

Suddenly, there’s a game plan and a meet-up time. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to see that woman, but I have to.

At noon, the four of us head inside the Fairmount Behavioral Health Services building. The men walk a little ahead of Prim and I, who need to hash out our differences as soon as possible. “I’m sorry I went for your throat,” I tell her, looking at the ground.

“I should have told you about Mom sooner. She wants to be home. I can’t stop her; I miss Mom, Katniss. This’ll be good.”

“For you,” I grumble. “But I’ll take my medication, hold my tongue, and ignore the deep seeded feeling of abandonment and anxiety I feel around her.”

I know it’s childish, but I walk back to Peeta and grab his hand. She is my mother, after all.

She hasn’t changed a bit; still the same scrawny blonde with frizzy curls. She hugs Prim first, then awkwardly wraps her bony arms around me. “I’ve missed you so much,” she whispers, kissing my temple. “I love you.”

“I love you, too…” I tell her, but it’s forced and she knows.

“Things will get better, Katniss.”

“Yeah,” I quickly try to divert from the awkward moment. “Mom, this is my boyfriend, Peeta Mellark.” She shakes his hand and in true Peeta fashion, he carries on an endless easy conversation with my mother as Prim and I sign release papers and get directions for when she should take her many medications.

“What do you do for a living?” she asks him finally.

“I score goals,” he says with a cocky smirk.

I slap my forehead and groan. “Peeta,” I caution.

“Fine, fine. I play center for the Flyers.”

“Oh…. Did Prim introduce you two?”

“No, I actually threw a water bottle at her, completely on accident, and she agreed to have dinner with me so I could make it up to her.”

I return to his side for support, letting him be the rock that centers me.

Over the next few weeks, I spend more and more time at work. Mom is going to start in December, giving me more time to spend with my forever-traveling boyfriend.

The week of Thanksgiving, Mom and Prim head up to our old hometown to see the family members that forgot about us after Dad died.

Peeta and I spend a quiet Thanksgiving with Gale and Johanna, eating pasta and watching football on the TV. Apparently, Thanksgiving in Canada was over a month ago.

Either way, I’m thankful for the vodka that is making my toes tingle, my period which just ended, and the amazing sex between Peeta and I.

The next day is a Philly tradition, the Flyers Black Friday game. They beat the Canadiens and Peeta’s actually home before I’m dead asleep. He sneaks up behind me in the kitchen, which had been renovated while Mom and Prim were gone and I was using Peeta’s place as a hotel. “Hey gorgeous,” he mumbles into my hair. “What are you up to?”

I tap my palm with the frying pan in my hand. “Trying to organize the kitchen. I saw your game… two more goals and you ended up in time out?”

“Are you going to spank me?”

“No… you might enjoy that too much.”

His next game is against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden. I actually wanted to go see one of his away games, but I had lunch date with some of the girls in my Sorority and then spent the evening working.

Over the next few days, I keep feeling like there’s something I’m forgetting. On December 1st, it hits me when I shuffle out of Peeta’s bedroom in his t-shirt and boxers, greeted by a camera talking to Gale and Johanna.

“Fucking HBO…” I grumble, wanting to turn around and go back to bed, but it’s two in the afternoon and this is the only time the camera crew will catch Peeta and Gale at home before their three game road trip.

Instead, I pour myself a cup of coffee and go about my business as Gale and Peeta talk about the Winter Classic after New Year’s and their opponents, the New York Rangers.

Johanna and I subconsciously start a game called, ‘Let’s talk about inappropriate things quietly, but awkwardly close to the boom mic.’

“So I’m thinking about nude yoga,” she says, poking at tomatoes in a salad. “You know, why beat around the bush? I’m just working on my flexibility so I can keep up with Gale.”

“All you really need is downward dog.”

“Yeah, because let’s face it, my table position turns into cow position, then into caterpillar.”

She turns her laptop in my direction and points at the picture of half downward dog. “There you go, corpse pose. For the woman that wants to starfish.”

Thankfully, the cameras are gone within the hour, going to other team members’ houses.

The next week passes uneventfully. The Flyers start December strong, winning all three of their away games. Peeta comes over to my house at close to two am on Wednesday, the eighth.

We climb into bed with no funny business. “Are you going to the game tomorrow?” he asks.

“That was the plan, why?”

I try to find his face in the darkness, and he looks concerned. “First time seeing our cross state rivals this season. It tends to get… bloody.”

Chapter Text

Peeta and I get downstairs close to ten, still groggy from the night before. Mom is at the kitchen table drinking what looks like her fifth cup of tea, judging by the teabags everywhere. Peeta nudges me; my olive branch to my mother (as recommended by my therapist) is to invite her to the game tonight. It’ll be just her and I, plus a few thousand strangers basically thirsting for blood, at least from what I’ve seen on YouTube.

“Mom?” I ask as Peeta helps himself to the refrigerator. He basically lives here, and I basically live at his place, so why not?

“Hmm?” she asks, looking up from her book.

“Peeta owns a few seats at Wells Fargo, just in case his parents or brothers are in town. Want to go to the game with me tonight?” I ask.

Mom smiles. “Sure. When does it start?”

Peeta balances a loaf of bread, the milk, butter, and eggs in his hands while eating a plain slice of Stroehmann’s. “Seven, but if you get there early, you’ll get good people watching. The yinzers are in town.”

My mom’s face goes blank. “Oh… The Penguins and the Flyers haven’t patched things up?”

Mom was surprised when we had a black President, when her flip phone was a deemed a dinosaur and replaced with an iPhone like Prim and I have, and most importantly, when the anchors on Good Day Philadelphia had changed.

“It’s more the fans. I mean, we don’t like them either… but the fans want a good show. We’ll give them a good show,” Peeta says.

I frown. “Are you going to pick a fight?”

Peeta shrugs and sets down a plate of eggs. “Rumor has it their captain is out for a few games with a  head injury. No Cato, I have no one I particularly want to smack. Gale and Finnick, on the other hand…”

“Who don’t they like?” Mom asks.

“Well, their alternate captain Marvel said some off color things last year when Gale’s divorce got ugly, and Finnick played with their goalie, Brutus, a few years back and hated him back then.”

“How do goalies even get into fights?” she asks.

I snicker. “They yell across the ice, ‘Hey, dickhead! Your Mom’s a pussy!’”

Peeta rests his hand on my knee, giving it a squeeze. “No idea, but it’s like watching two turtles wrestle. They’re so big and awkward.” I don’t even know how to handle that, so I snicker quietly into my food. I know Peeta has a certain distrust for Finnick; he’s a seasoned player with a Stanley Cup under his belt, but still cocky and lewd on occasion. I think the California boy is growing on him, though. “What are you doing tomorrow?” he asks.

“Dress shopping for your stupid company Christmas party…” I grumble, “Then work… if Darius isn’t feeling better.”

“Boring.”

“Shut up, maybe I’m buying your Christmas present as well.”

Prim comes downstairs alone for once just after my third cup of coffee. She’s absolutely hung over and doesn’t even try to hide it. “If I gotta stitch your mouth up tonight…“ She doesn’t finish, her own words hurting her head. She pulls out the Brita pitcher and a glass, bringing both back to the table with a bottle of Motrin.

“Last season,” he pauses, “A knee, I think? Yeah, I went head first into the goal, got the puck in, but took the goalie’s knee to the mouth.”

“Peeta’s on the table with his hand in his mouth, pulling out his bottom front teeth while they’re getting ready to stitch him up. It was the end of the game. People still joke that he was so amped up that he was just pulling teeth.”

Peeta taps his front lower teeth. “No feeling in these ones.”

Peeta leaves around noon to get ready as Mom and I head to the bar just to oversee the day.  Almost everything is digital now; the register, how we keep tabs, and the books. I have to teach it all to her.

When I was younger, we just held people’s debit cards or licenses hostage until they paid and kept track of drinks. Now it’s keep the card, along with an open tab on the computer.

With her, it’s like teaching a dog to use the toilet sometimes. Granted, I’m less understanding of her errors than most people.

“Hey… Katniss,” Rue says, nudging me. Her voice is quiet. “Check out that wig, last stool to the right,” I look down at the woman; her skin’s a little darker than Rue’s with Lady Godiva style blonde hair.

“That’s a wig?”

She gives me this dumbfounded look. “Girl, ain’t no black woman got hair that blond and that smooth!”

I snort, trying to hold in my laughter. “Is this a game you play? Real or fake hair?”

“No, but it should be.”

I check the clock. “Hey Mom, we’ve gotta go!” I holler down the hallway. We had less of a fight for parking, since the Eagles and Phillies aren’t playing tonight. I don’t know if there’s a chance all three go at once, and I really don’t want to find out. Peeta also got his hands on a VIP parking pass for me. It’s what the wives have. We park with the players and go in where they do, but instead of heading to the locker room and offices, we head up into the public area. We’d normally be allowed in the locker room area, just not this close to game time and not without Peeta.

“I remember your Dad taking us to games at the Spectrum,” she sighs, “Can’t believe it’s gone. He took me on our first date there. Well, the second half of our first date.”

It’s the first time she’s really mentioned him, an actual memory that doesn’t send her into a downward spiral. I’m shocked. The noise in the building is almost deafening, people cheering and booing mixed together. We walk down to the ice. Warm-ups are almost over and most of the team is against the boards for whatever reason while Peeta and Gale talk. I see Peeta grin and nod before heading over to the line-up. Peeta and Gale then go down the line, checking each player into the boards. “Seems a little savage,” Mom grumbles.

“Yeah, but they’re wearing so much padding. You should be right against the glass when someone gets checked full force. It’s like the wall’s coming down,” Fortunately or unfortunately, our seats couldn’t be closer to the boards.


Peeta

I take a shot, but Finnick stops it and holds up the ‘one minute’ sign before skating out of his crease. He drops the puck and sends it flying into the Penguins net, right between an unsuspecting Brutus’ legs. The Russian looks up just as Finnick lifts up his face mask and starts to gloat.  

I grab him by the arm. “Come on, man. Don’t act like a fucking kid.”

Finnick pulls away. “Just having a little fun,” he says and skates back to the crease so warm-ups can resume. When I look towards the Penguins’ side, Cato is watching everything we do.

No pep talk is needed for this game; nothing I, or Gale, or Haymitch could say will change the outcome at this point. It’s like when we’re up against the Rangers. Punches will be thrown, teeth chipped and illegal hits. It’s unavoidable.

When the Penguins take the ice, they’re met with louder boos than normal; the response from Cato’s name alone makes it impossible to hear the announcer.

We stand for the anthems and before I know it, I’m face to face with Cato. “So some team finally had to take you, huh?” he taunts.

I roll my eyes. To be fair, I was passed over in one NHL draft, but did have a shitty previous year. I widen my stance and hunch over, choking up on my stick so I can hopefully win the faceoff. Cato mirrors my move. The puck seems to fall in slow motion, as does Cato. I sweep the puck away before his stick can even meet the ice, straight to a ready Thom.

The first shift on the ice is the most important; it sets the pace for the entire game. The dominant team emerges. A few minutes in, a puck ends up over the glass and we’re down a player for two minutes. The faceoff is by our goal, putting added pressure on Finnick and myself to keep it away from and out of the net.

Marvel gets the puck and passes to Cato. Thresh and I don’t hesitate rushing him. He takes the puck behind the goal and looks for an opening, just as Thresh and I crash into him. The force knocks the wind out of me, sending me onto my ass, but I rebound faster than Cato. I rush after Thresh to join the play, but he passes to Gale and the goal horn blasts at a deafening volume.

An over extended stick that just so happened to try and catch some guy’s knees lands me in the box for two minutes. I look across the ice, right at Katniss. She’s shaking her head at either me or her mother.

‘Sorry’, I mouth, even though she can’t see my lips. She shrugs with her hands up as if to say, ‘I don’t know.’

I put my hand up to my ear like a phone. ‘Call me?’ I mouth. She laughs and rolls her eyes again. Thirty seconds into my ‘time out’, I’m joined in the penalty box by Thom. “Fuckhead tried to trip me, so I do the job right and who gets two minutes? Cato? No, of course not.”

I look over to the Penguins’ box. “To be fair, they already have two guys in.”

Thom is an enforcer that happens to have the skill to be on our top line. The guy would go after some out of line asshole, drop his gloves and send the kid to the dressing room down a few teeth before the linesmen could catch up. Once he got out of the box, he’d come back and score.

“You get ‘em, kid,” he tells me as I fly out of the box, but the period ends without the Penguins on the board and without another goal from us.

I pull my sweater, pads and t-shirt off the second I sit down. The warmth of the room makes my shoulder ache, but it’s a dull pain that will hopefully go away the second we’re back in the cold.

It’s tense on the ice; an aggressive group of men are trailing their cross-state rivals, an equally aggressive group of men. There’s nothing at stake here for the Penguins. We’re tied with the Rangers for first in the division, the Penguins right behind us. We need this win to stay on top, to stay ahead of the team we’re facing in a few short weeks at Citizens Bank Park. I mean, any loss from us helps them.

The tension only grows as two more goals sneak through Brutus’ legs and glove. Marvel manages to get by Finnick, losing his balance and knocking our goal off the magnets, which sends Finnick, the goal and Marvel sliding a few feet.

There’s the spark that ignites the tension. Finnick and Marvel go first, but it’s like watching David fight Goliath until Finnick throws off his helmet and gloves to get a better shot. We all move in, but no one joins them. We know Finnick can handle himself and none of the Penguins go to help their guy.

The men on the bench start banging their sticks against the boards as the linesmen try to separate the two. “Real professional,” Cato taunts.

“Fuck you, your little bitch started this. Maybe if he knew how to play-“

“The half-retarded kid you put in goal has been looking for a fight all night, but that’s what you get when you have a team of washed-up players…” I don’t need more motivation to drop my gloves. You can insult me, but don’t insult my team.

Cato goes for my shirt first, trying to get it over my head so I can’t see. At some point, I lose my helmet and my sweater is on the ice in seconds, but I get him square in the gut several times in the process. Between the roar of the crowd and the tapping of sticks, I can’t even hear the linesmen telling us to get off each other.

I get Cato on the ice and go for his face, but I’m ripped off. He keeps all his teeth but we both get five for fighting.

I drag my sweater, helmet, gloves and stick back to the box with me. I close the door roughly, too busy opening and closing my mouth. My jaw is clicking, fucking great.

I squirt water in my mouth and spit it on the floor; some blood comes out, but it’s nothing I’m too worried about. The clicking is almost gone, so nothing major there either.

The game ends in a win for us, keeping us undefeated in December so far. Knock Knock by Mac Miller is already queued up when we get to the dressing room. It’s a good night in Wells Fargo, which makes it easy to ignore the cameras watching us.

When I get to Katniss’ that night, she’s already in bed in nothing but a tank-top. “Hey…” she whispers, sitting up a little. The loose fabric slides a little, exposing her breast.

“Hey yourself…”

“Come here…” She lifts her skimpy shirt over her head and throws it to the floor. Katniss has me pinned to the bed in a matter of seconds, not even hesitating to become the dominant one in the bed. Katniss only stops for a few seconds, reaching into her bed side table for a bottle of lube. Katniss has been embarrassed by the fact that her medication makes her drier down there, no matter how aroused she gets. I didn’t mind at all. We could buy pre-lubed condoms, but since we’re both clean and she religiously takes the pill every day at noon, we opted for the plainest lube possible. We agreed that a tingling sensation and my dick sounded like a bad idea.

She supports herself on my arms while riding me. Before her mother came home, Katniss was starting to get noisy when we made love, but now she’s quieter than ever. When we’re done, she rolls off of me. I throw my leg over her and hold her close. “I think I need my own place…” I tell her, “Having a place where there are no kids and away from your Mom might be good for you.”

Katniss shrugs and scoots back so she’s deeper in my chest. “You do what you want…” she yawns.

We don’t discuss the subject any further.

I offer to give Katniss my credit card to buy her dress for the party I’m dragging her to, instead she drags me with her. It’s a short, but still painful drive up the Schuylkill Expressway, a name I apparently can’t pronounce, to the King of Prussia Mall. “If you were going to move, would it be to Pennsylvania or New Jersey?”

“Pennsylvania,” I tell her, “Depending on how you feel about it, maybe closer to you.”

She smiles. “I’d like that, but don’t move for me.”

“No, it’ll be for me. I can’t really impress the ladies with three kids running through my legs. That and Gale’s selling so he and Johanna can get something closer to work.”

Katniss nods, but I can tell she doesn’t know how to handle the subject. Katniss loves to touch everything in the mall, putting back several dresses just because she didn’t like how they felt. “What’s appropriate? I don’t want to look like a nun or a hussy. What color?”

“Well, Johanna wore a skin tone dress last year, and everyone thought she was naked…”

Katniss snorts. “For some reason, that doesn’t surprise me. What are you wearing?”

“Penguin suit.”

“So… black jersey with a giant triangle on the front?”

I spin her around to face me and hold her face in my hands. “That is so sexy…” I kiss her nose, then her lips. “Now why didn’t you bring Prim or one of your sorority sisters with us?”

She shrugs. “They’re busy and besides, they’ll try to get me into something appropriate for a twenty-one year old going to a club, not a twenty-seven year old going to her boyfriend’s Christmas party.”

Katniss pulls out a tight one sleeved dress with sheer sides. “You should get that one for…“ I stop myself. What can I say that won’t ruin one of her Christmas presents? I’m bringing her to Ottawa to see my home, my real home. The city I live in during the off-season, where I hope she’ll agree to come with me for the summer. I don’t know if I’ll be playing in the All-Star game; it’s up to the fans at this point, but still a week off?

“For what?” she asks, holding it up to her body. It’ll fit her like a glove, showing off her muscular legs and fit arms. It’ll look better on the bedroom floor, though. I wonder if she’ll be able to wear a bra with it…

“Nothing. I just like it.”

“Okay…” she continues looking, picking up dresses coated in sequins. “Not getting anything that I would see in the Mummers parade, which we are going to, by the way. Don’t get drunk on New Year’s.”

“Yeah, okay. Do you know what New Year’s is?”

“Yeah, a day where everyone is suddenly an alcoholic and wants to French you once the ball drops in NYC.”

Katniss picks a white dress out that looks like a suit jacket. “What does this say?”

“I just fucked my boyfriend and he messed up my dress, so I’m stuck in this,” I say without thinking.

“Nice, I’m trying it on.” I’m subjected to the corner where they seat the husbands and boyfriends.

“So I don’t know why you guys are having a big dress up party. Don’t you wear suits every day?” she asks. I watch all her clothes hit the floor, including the sheer lace bra she has on because she hasn’t done laundry in a week or so.

Katniss comes out a few seconds later. The dress is so low cut, I think if she bends over too far everyone will see her breasts. I love it, but I don’t think it’s appropriate, and every man is ogling my girlfriend. “Hey babe? I don’t think that’s going to cut it. Odair will have a field day with it.”

Katniss nods in agreement. The next dress she tries on makes her look like a teacher, and not the kind students lust after. “Are you teaching third graders?” I ask.

She returns to the small fitting room in a huff. “I could be! My bachelor’s is in Elementary Education.”

She tries on the last dress she brought in. It looks like a strapless leather dress with long black sleeves. “That one, you’re getting that one.”

Katniss fishes for the tag. “Peeta, this is thirteen hundred, I-“

“I got it.”

Katniss frowns; she doesn’t like me paying for things. But my multi-million dollar contract versus what she brings home? It’s a no brainer. I grab her wrist and pull her in, “Consider it a Christmas present… for both of us.”

“Both?”

“Yeah, because I get to take it off you.”

Katniss puts her foot down when I pull her into Tiffany’s. “I swear to God, Peeta Mellark, if you pull out that card, I’m dumping you!” she threatens.

I sigh. “Come on, I just want to see what the fuss is about.” She sighs, defeated. “Plus, I have the car keys. Good luck getting home.”

I take her hand again and pull her in. We’re left alone for the most part, as the store is surprisingly busy since it’s the Christmas season. Katniss stops at a display of engagement rings which makes my skin grow cold.

“What are you looking at?” No one is near us so she leans in.

“I’ve been wondering what the big deal is about their diamonds since I was a kid,” she whispers. Katniss flawlessly bullshits her way through a quick conversation with the first person that comes up to help us. She says that we’ve been talking about getting engaged, but I promised to let her pick out the ring. She doesn’t touch the larger ones, keeping her choices in the wearable range and leaves empty handed, promising that I would at least be back.

“I’m sorry, that was weird. We’ve been dating what, two months?”

I wrap my arm around her waist and kiss the top of her head. “I think it’s cute, you planning ahead and all. Now don’t expect a proposal until after the season and,” I groan, “Planning a wedding with next season.”

“Peeta…” she cautions.

Katniss’ house is empty when we return. She got a text from her mother that she was going to cover Katniss’ shift, giving us time tonight.

“Ugh, what should we do?” she asks, flopping down on the couch. “Should we go out on a date?”

Their old tomcat runs out from behind the couch, weaving through my legs before padding downstairs where there is a window perpetually open for him to come and go. “Nah, I mean, unless you want to.”

I lay down on the couch with my head in her lap. She starts to run her fingers through my hair, scratching my scalp which she knows will lull me into a content stupor. “I don’t think I want to share you tonight…” she finally says. “How often are we alone somewhere?”

“Mmm…” I groan as she moves her hand to scratch my beard. She hates November; the entire team grew mustaches, and apparently I look like a 70’s porn star. This beard is there simply because I am too lazy to shave.

“So… I saw how you were looking at me when I was trying on dresses,” she drags her fingertips up and down my chest, “Come on…”

She leads me up to her bedroom, locking the door behind us and immediately dropping to her knees in front of me. “Well, excuse me,” I say. She just looks up and grins.

“Thank you,” she unbuckles my belt and struggles with the button, “For going shopping with me.”

“You don’t have to repay me like this,” I tell her as my jeans hit the floor.

Katniss tugs down my boxers. I’m only semi-hard by the thought of being in her mouth. “Who said this was repaying you?” Her cheeks are getting redder and redder. “This is something I want to do.”

It doesn’t take long for me to get hard in her mouth. She keeps my shirt pushed up so it’s not in her face, but I end up taking it off somewhere between her moaning onto my dick and me being held up by the door. She grabs her breast through her dark green sweater, moaning again. The vibration sends me over the edge. “K-Katniss!”  I shout as she takes me deeper, swallowing without complaint.

I return the favor by lying on my back as she straddles my face. She holds onto the headboard for dear life, and in the empty house, lets go as I taste every inch of her.

We lay next to each other, completely sated for only a few minutes before I feel the need to be inside her. I roll her onto her stomach and kiss down her spine before spanking her. “Should I prop you up with some pillows or can you manage to hold yourself up?”

“I got this,” she yawns. I give my shaft a few pumps before roughly slamming into her. It earns me a loud content moan. I would do anything for this woman, walk through fire or even take a bullet. I want to spend as much time as I can being tender and loving to her… except right now. All I want to do at this moment is fuck her senseless.

I reach forward and grab a fistful of her hair. She gasps and I thrust harder, the sound of our skin slapping together and our uninhibited moans filling the room like a sweet, dirty symphony. She brings a hand back to bring herself to her second orgasm. Her back dips down as she gets closer. “Fuck me harder!” she moans right before it hits her. I gladly oblige, far too consumed by her ecstasy filled moans.

We’re spent after that and latch on to each other under the covers. “So why so loud?” I ask after we catch our breath.

Katniss chews on her lips and kisses me. “The house is empty and you were looking at me today like… like I was the sexiest woman on the planet. No one has ever… no one’s ever made me… made me feel like that.”

I rub my nose against hers, “Well, get used to it.”


Katniss

I’m sore when I wake up, but I don’t care. Sure, it’ll be annoying at work, but the sex was so good I’d gladly walk around sore every day just to feel like that again.

Plus, I think I may love this man.

I ride Peeta again when he wakes up; this time, it’s more of a slow, sensual grind until he comes inside me. I lay nestled in his arms afterwards as his middle and index finger rub between my legs until I’m squirming and shuddering against him, moaning his name.

Something feels different about today. It’s not my strange emotions, but there’s a grey cloud above us. Maybe I’m just paranoid, but I can’t shake the feeling that something bad is going to happen.

Peeta leaves for his and Gale’s place to shower and get a suit, and I leave for the bar a few hours later. I’m anxious but Peeta texts me when he gets home, when he’s leaving, and when he gets to work. I half work, half watch the game. The first period goes without incident; the Flyers are losing, but that can’t be what’s got me so freaked.

The second period ticks by, two assists for Peeta but no goals. He’s on fire tonight and it looks like they’ll continue to stay in the win column for another night.  I watch Peeta, trailed by Thresh, go after a guy with the puck. Peeta goes to check him but misses, landing on his hands and knees on the ice. Thresh jumps to avoid him, but I see his head jerk as Thresh’s knee clips him. Peeta’s arms give out and he’s lying face first on the ice. Everything goes still, including my heart. Peeta doesn’t get up, he doesn’t move, he just lies there. The glass I’m drying slips from my hand and shatters.

They replay the scene three more times as the trainer comes out. Peeta’s taken off the ice by two men and seated on the bench, but he leans to the side like he can’t keep his balance. Prim texts me before I can type out my frantic ‘Keep my boyfriend’s brain safe’ text message.

‘They’re bringing him back. If you can leave, plan to. We’ll be in touch.’

The camera follows Peeta down the hall, then goes back to the game.

It doesn’t take long for Prim to get back to me. Peeta’s night is over, as he’s showing signs of concussion and apparently when he and Prim are in the room alone, he just asks for me. “Girl, go. You’ve dropped three glasses. We’ve got this,” Bristel tells me.

I don’t even shed my half apron before running out the door, tears stinging my eyes. The security guard gives me shit and I end up having to call Prim to escort me back to get Peeta. The game is over by now; it’s another win, but no one is celebrating. Their top scorer is down for the count weeks before the Winter Classic.

Finnick walks by, still in his pads, and he gets a front row seat for my menagerie of emotions. I go from relieved that Peeta’s awake, to angry that he scared me half to death, to absolutely heartbroken.

I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.

Chapter Text

The only noise in the room is Peeta’s deep, even breathing. Every once in a while, his phone buzzes in the pile of clothes Finnick got me to help him change into, but Peeta still needs help standing over the trash can. “Want me to take you to the hospital? Prim says you’re good to go home, but still…” I tell him quietly while rubbing the damp fabric of his sweater, “She says it’s up to you.”

Peeta walks away and spits into the sink before responding in perfect French while pinching at his forehead. I sigh, “Baby, you need to speak English. I don’t know French.”

He pats my cheek and slumps down, but he still towers over me in his skates and pads. I stumble back a little. “Baby…” I rub his back, my fingers tracing the silky stitching on the eight. His phone buzzes in my pocket again. I look at the screen. Maman, it reads.

“Just ignore the phone, it’s my Mom. Or text her that I’m fine and I’ll call once my head stops spinning…” I guide him back to the table and help him sit down. He goes for his skates again and I end up having to catch him and push him upright. The stone in my stomach only gets heavier.

“Okay, don’t kick me. I’m going to take off your skates,” I tell him, kneeling at his feet. It takes me a minute to get through the double knot on one and nearly five on the other. “Holy fuck, baby…” I don’t know why I keep calling him baby; it’s like a deep need to shield and protect him from any more harm. I finally get his skates off and I see that not only are the long, orange socks I expected to go into his skates basically leg warmers, they’re taped on. It takes me about ten minutes just to figure out how to peel the tape, get off his leg pad thingies and even still, there are those big, bulky, short thingies.

“Why can’t you play basketball?” I ask, standing up to untie his shorts.

“I’m too short…” Peeta seems to have forgotten where he is and shoves his hand up my shirt to cup my breast. His fingers sneak under my bra, his cold fingers instantly hardening my nipples. I let out a low moan as he squeezes, then I remember where we are. I hear whooping and hollering, and my cheeks grow hot in the glass room right across from where the entire team is changing and gawking. “Peeta… for fuck’s sake, there are people watching. We’re not at home.”

I leave him on the table before closing the blinds. “I’m sorry…” he grumbles, “’S’all that fucking testosterone…” he yawns, “And I love it when you wear… anything.”

I pull down his shorts, then help him into sweatpants and a hoodie before tying his sneakers. “Come on, superstar. My place or yours?”

“Is my computer at your place?” I nod, “Then-“ He stops and takes his phone out of my pocket, seeing the screen light up through the worn fabric of my jeans. He answers, and the conversation is both quick and in all French. He shoves the phone into the pocket of his Flyers hoodie before grabbing his baseball hat and putting it on backwards. “My mother says hello and she can’t wait to see you the day after Christmas.”

I gulp. I can do the big team Christmas party, but meeting the parents wasn’t something I ever did in high school. That’s the good thing about college guys. They’re from hours away, so no chance of their parents walking in on you blowing their son.

“You know you’re not supposed to fuck in your condition,” Finnick yells from down the hall while Haymitch pushes through the still gathered team, waiting to maybe hear something from the glass room.

“Odair, shut the fuck up and put some pants on,” he says, reaching Peeta and I. “How you feeling, boy?”

Peeta shrugs. “Don’t feel like puking anymore and it’s a little less blurry. Kat’s going to take me home, then I’ll get to the hospital first thing in the morning.”

“Unless you get sick again; then like it or not, I’m taking you to UPenn.”

The drive home is quiet. Peeta isn’t allowed to sleep, but Prim is coming home to make sure his brain doesn’t fall out of his head.

It’s barely ten o’clock and I know this happens often (ish), but I feel like my world is flipped upside down. I know how to handle a hangover, a cold, or even the flu, but it’s a different ball game when it’s Peeta. Since October, Peeta has been this unstoppable force in my mind. Hell, the night we met, he took the blade of a stick to the chin, got stitched up and was back on the ice in a matter of minutes.

Now he’s on my couch, tapping his foot while attempting to read Pride and Prejudice. He has to put it down every so often because of his spinning head. “Baby, are you sure that won’t put you to sleep?” I ask.

He shrugs after a few seconds. “It’s my favorite book.”

Well, there’s something I wasn’t expecting. The next unexpected event of my Saturday night is the honking downstairs. Peeta winces every time the horn goes off, so I open the window and hang my head out, “Yo!” I shout, “Shut the fuck up down there!”

“Katniss Everdeen, when the fuck did you get old and crotchety!” There she is, my big Twill and my little Bonnie. The woman who taught me how to be responsible but not a stick in the mud, and the woman I taught how to make tequila sunrises even while still drunk from the night before.

“Hey, let me come down. I’ll let you in,” I close the window and turn around. Peeta’s back to reading. “Do you mind? I can send them packing.”

Peeta smiles. “Honey, you don’t have to babysit me. If my head starts hurting, I’ll go into the other room.” The truth is, I did have to babysit him. He couldn’t sleep, and I know I won’t be sleeping until we get home from the hospital in the morning. Our plan is to climb into bed and sleep the day away once we find out just how bad his head is.

I hurry down the stairs, wine sloshing on my t-shirt. “You guys can come up, but my boyfriend might have a concussion so… no yelling…”

“Sex swing fall off its hook again?” Bonnie asks.

I run my hands through my hair. If only my relationship type stressors were that ordinary! Instead, I have a boyfriend from another country that is constantly in other cities and frequently talks it about when he’s back in Ottawa for the summer. “No, he fell on the ice and took someone’s knee to the head. He can’t really remember it, but…”

Last time we met, I told them I was seeing someone. Not that I was seeing an important someone who might just be the someone. Though that might be jumping ahead of myself… I think.

We join Peeta upstairs. I sit on the couch with his head in my lap, that way I can wake him when he starts trying to sleep. Bonnie clings to the window; it’s the only place I’ll let her smoke since my house became a smoke free zone. Twill chats about her job as an addiction counselor near North Philadelphia, while Bonnie is moving to Levittown with her husband. “Did you go to induction?” she asks, drinking straight from my bottle of cheap merlot.

I brush back Peeta’s curls. “No, I was at a hockey game.”

They both make a face. “I think I need glasses,” Peeta reaches up and takes mine from my face. “Nope, but baby, are you blind?”

“Sometimes. When Katniss was seeing someone from Alpha Epsilon Pi, she-“ Twill stops when I give her a dirty look. The story was that I left my glasses in my fuck buddy’s room after a night of mediocre sex on his twin bed. I came back, snuck into his residence hall and ended up blowing his roommate. My excuse was that I couldn’t see and too many Irish Car-bombs got me trashed enough that my blurry vision turned my black fuck buddy’s mixed roommate into his look alike. I’m going to blame it on the Jameson, Guinness and Bailey’s, and the fact that I was an irresponsible bitch in college.

Peeta is watching me, especially how my cheeks are growing hot from the memory of my irresponsible self. “It was college, I was stupid…”

“One time while I was in the junior league, I got drunk at a party in Ottawa and screwed the wrong woman. I mean, I wasn’t dating anyone, but you shouldn’t bring a woman to the party and then get caught inside another,” he blinks a few times. “Shit,” I let that sink in. Peeta was constantly in other cities while drinking…. What if he accidentally stuck it in some bimbo outside his hotel?

What’s been stopping me? I have guys flirting with me regularly at the bar. Before, it was flattering; but the second Peeta and I became an item (Facebook official and everything), it disgusted me. Does he feel the same way? Suddenly, I want them to leave so I can prod Peeta for information. Do women flirt with him? He’s mentioned that the guys go out whenever they’re in a new city and have the chance for dinner or whatever.

My sorority sisters read in on this and immediately remember they’re supposed to be meeting someone in the Gayborhood to go to some party and what not. They see themselves out so I don’t have to move. “Do women flirt with you?” I ask the second the front door closes.

“Yes, sometimes. Why?”

Next question. “Just wondering. How does it make you feel?”

He shrugs, “Weird. Even before you, I didn’t really do the whole flirting thing.”

“Was I one of the few?”

“More like the one and only. I was such an awkward kid.”

I look down at him, the way even his smallest smiles reach his eyes. “Oh, so you were just riding on the confidence of being the captain of a hockey team when you were trying to woo me.”

“Katniss, I’m still trying to woo you.”

“Is that why you’re reading Jane Austen?”

“Nope. Honestly do love Pride and Prejudice.”

I personally couldn’t get through the book until I watched the movie and suddenly feel the need to devour every word. Peeta and I watch it together, then the Rocky Horror Picture show, and finally,Good Day Philadelphia, which now begins at four am. His headaches come and go but we drink tea and talk about everything, Peeta’s grogginess making his responses borderline idiotic sometimes.

Finally, seven am hits. We’re both tired, him more than me. Prim said that he could sleep for a few hours at a time if he wanted, but he would only go to sleep if I did the same. Together, we decided that we’ll stay up and sleep the day away. He doesn’t have work because of his head, and I don’t have work because my mother is working for me.

Concussion or not, it’s going to be perfect.

We’re at the hospital until nine forty five. Because I’m not his wife or a blood relative, I get to stay in the waiting room reading an abused copy of Metro. I have Peeta’s cell phone, a level of trust that excites me. His inbox is full of messages from the team, well wishes and hopes that they won’t hear the ‘C’ word. I only know this because looking at his text messages hurt his head, so Peeta told me to check them. While he’s not here, I decide not to snoop. I trust him.

Instead, I pull out my phone. At the hospital with the beau. Fingers crossed that we hear good news,  I type into Facebook.

Five minutes later, an aunt I haven’t spoken to in years responds,  A baby?

It catches me off guard and I end up snorting when I try to hide my laughter. A few other people look at me, so I tuck my phone away and crack open an old copy of People.

Peeta is sullen when he’s done, and by the time we get home, it’s official to the public. Peeta Mellark, top scorer and Captain of the number one team in the Atlantic division, is out indefinitely with a concussion. Coach tells him he’s not allowed at practice and definitely not on the road until he’s better. Peeta will be re-evaluated by the team’s physician on Tuesday and can’t play again until he is 100 percent.

He looks like a wounded puppy. “We could spend your unexpected time off looking for an apartment for you?” I suggest.

“Can we just spend my time off in bed with you in my arms?”

I smile and help him put on a clean t-shirt. “We can do that today and some of tomorrow.” Peeta covers himself with my down comforter and I pull the curtains before getting ready for bed. When I get back after brushing my teeth, I’m surprised that Peeta’s still awake.

“There you are…” he mumbles before throwing his arm and leg over me. “I don’t think I told you this before, but I think I’m falling in love with you…”

He’s snoring quietly in my ear before I can respond. I go soon after, the soft snores from him more like a lullaby at this point, or something to disrupt the occasional ambulance siren and slamming doors.

Peeta and I sleep away Sunday and wake up starving at six am on Monday. We shower and get ready for the day slower than anything.

“Can you hand me my shampoo?” I ask while hugging Peeta’s wet body. He said he was feeling better, but he couldn’t remember exactly how he got concussed; only that he couldn’t practice today and wouldn’t be going on the road tomorrow.

Peeta turns around with my mother’s conditioner in her hand. “This it?” he asks with a smirk.

I tap his chest with the back of my hand. “Not funny!” He starts reading the back aloud, but only the French part. As I grab my shampoo and attempt to avoid getting it in my eye, I can’t help but marvel at how beautiful the directions on a bottle of Tresemmé sound coming out of his mouth. When I turn away from him, Peeta hugs me from behind and starts humming in my ear.

“I love you,” he tells me before I go completely rigid. We both say nothing for a minute or so. “Well, say something. I meant to keep that inside but my brain is bruised,” he tells me, ending his sentence with a kiss on my wet head.

“I just… It caught me off guard, okay?” I turn around so I can see his face, studying every freckle and scar. I stroke his hairy chin with my thumb; the light of the bathroom only makes his beard look more ginger, which still has me confused. I don’t think I should have to weigh my options, but I do anyway. This man has been in my life since the beginning of October, and now it’s almost Christmas. He can make me laugh no matter what, and supported me when I became a huge bitch about mom. I can spend days in his arms and find it impossible to sleep without him anymore.

Is this love? Everything I can think of seems so trivial, but still so vital to my survival and happiness. Then I remember how I felt when I saw him on the ice; when he was dragged off, my brain was screaming for me to run and be with him, but my body was frozen.

I get on my toes and press my lips to his. I can’t tell him that I love him yet. I haven’t got that sorted out, but I can show him that he’s the most important thing in my life.


Philadelphia is a town of many colors. When the rest of the country isn’t calling it Killadelphia, we change with the sports season (depending on who is winning). From 2008-2010, we were a baseball town. If you weren’t in a suit going to work, you were in red, white and blue. If the Eagles decide to show up, there’s green and white as far as the eye can see. Philly is a hockey town right now. The Flyers are undefeated in December so far and with their first game since Peeta’s injury, it’s a tense night.

Madge is in the Caribbean with her new boyfriend, a nameless man she apparently had around a lot while she and Gale were still married. Peeta and I are on babysitting duty, which means that I’m on babysitting duty while Peeta stresses about the game.

Peeta refused to get behind the wheel, leaving me the painful drive to New Jersey. His headaches were off and on, but still painful. He also gets confused and dizzy from time to time and and doesn’t want to put me in harm’s way. “You know, they’re only in DC. We could have gone,” he tells me as I pull into the garage.

“Yeah, then who would be here to watch the kids?” He leans over and kisses my cheek. His eyes are vacant again, telling me he’s in another bout of dizzy confusion. It’s confirmed when he speaks next.

“I love watching you with kids,” he says before getting out of the car. I don’t poke the subject.

Gale is waiting for us with a duffel bag in hand. “Took you long enough,” he jokes.

“Sorry man, my car is still at the stadium, and this one drives-“

I bump into Peeta to shut him up. “Says the guy whining that every bump was hurting his head,” I get on my toes and kiss his cheek, “You’re lucky you’re cute.”

Gale leaves us with his daughter and a warning to not let Celeste near the closet in his bedroom. My first thought is sex toys, but apparently Santa hides gifts there.

Watching Celeste is easy enough. She loves Barbies, hot chocolate, grilled cheese with ketchup (oddly not as much as Peeta), and the Lion King on DVD. She basically watches herself.

“Hey,” Peeta starts after getting off his phone, “Are you wearing anything you wouldn’t want to be seen on TV wearing?”

He flops back down on the couch, throwing his arm around me, “Oh, God dammit.”

I know HBO brought True Blood to me in sexy high definition, but it’s really inconvenient to have them buzzing around while we’re watching three kids that aren’t ours and getting ready to watch the game.

When seven o’clock gets closer, Peeta puts his arm around me, holding me close while Celeste’s feet rest on my lap. The announcer is absolutely blunt about the added pressure on the team with Peeta’s absence. “Mellark’s agent reported that he was ‘feeling fine, and will be monitored as the week goes on…’” Peeta goes still next to me. “In twenty-eight outings, Mellark has accumulated sixteen goals and twenty-three assists, sending both himself and his team to the top of the Atlantic Division.” Peeta sighs and slouches.

Peeta is tense the entire game, but the Flyers are on fire. Finnick only lets one goal past him, which is not enough considering the four goal lead. Peeta relaxes when the game ends five to one, Flyers. I had put the kids to bed while he watched in near silence.

There’s one more win in this seven game win streak against the Canadiens, but the six to nothing loss against the Boston Bruins almost makes Peeta rush to get back onto the ice.

He’s been upgraded to ‘no contact practice’, which is better than ‘gym only’ and a lot better than ‘don’t bother coming in for a few days’.

“It just pisses me off,” he grumbles, getting ready for bed. He tosses me a t-shirt since mine are all dirty. I pull it over my head and take off my underwear so I can fling it at him. “I feel fine, every day they keep me shooting pucks at an empty net, I’m getting more and more rusty.”

I hold my arms out after pulling the covers up. “Come here.”

He climbs into bed next to me and I set my glasses on the bedside table. He falls asleep with his head on my chest. The next game, against Colorado, ends in a loss for the Flyers, but it’s the last game Peeta will miss because of his concussion.

Peeta has an early appointment on the morning of the twenty-first. Gale and the rest of the team left for Dallas the night before, but Peeta is following them. “Babe…” he shakes me awake.

“Mmm… No, come back to bed.”

Peeta kisses my cheek. “Can’t baby… I’m heading to Dallas.”

I sleepily attach myself to his waist. “Score a goal for me tonight, baby…”

He kisses me one last time right before he leaves. “I’ll text you when I get to the airport and call when I can. I love you.”

My skin grows cold. Why can’t I say it? I’m sure I love him. I’m sure what I’m feeling has to be love.

I think he assumes I’ve fallen asleep again, because he leaves while I do battle internally. Just what he needs, another distraction.

God dammit!

Chapter Text

Peeta

Katniss Everdeen @KEverdeen

@PMellark28 Missing my space heater. Score a few goals for me tonight. #goodbyeconcussion #hellodallas

I couldn’t stop looking at the tweet. It alleviates some of my anxiety, but not all of it.

Everyone is already on the ice and although I had a few hours, I feel like I need days. I pull on my red practice jersey; red for the first offensive line, for contact practice, for actually playing tonight.

None of them knows I’m here. Hell, if Haymitch hasn’t checked his phone in a while, I’m sure he doesn’t. The only three people who know I’m in Dallas are Katniss, Prim and Doctor A.

I take the time to call Katniss while I get ready. “Hey baby,” she starts, “How’s Texas?”

“Lonely… What if I fuck up tonight?” I ask.

Katniss goes quiet. “Can you please shut the fuck up and put my boyfriend on the phone? You know, the one leading his team in goals and I think still at the top of the entire league?”

More of my anxiety is gone. “God, you’re perfect. I’m going to score just for you.”

She either moans or groans while stretching. “Mmm… baby, talk dirty to me. But I have to head to work and then home so I can watch you be amazing tonight.”

Katniss hates being home without me because her mother has a habit of planting doubt in her mind. The best was when she asked Katniss if she really thought women didn’t approach me when I was on the road.

My search for a new place is quickly becoming Katniss’ and my search for a house or apartment, though she won’t say it outright.

“I will. Call me. I’ll answer if it’s before six thirty.”

HBO clips a mike to my sweater just before I head out. I’ll be wearing one during the game if I see the ice. Needless to say, I’m not happy about it.

It’s strange walking down any other hall to the rink. It’s bare and empty, the only noise being Haymitch yelling out what should be my line that not taking advantage of a power play would land them back with the Phantoms.

Everything goes silent when I hit the ice. “You lost?” Finnick asks after lifting up his mask.

I clip on my helmet. “Nah, man, Santa dropped me off. Early Christmas present.”

I push myself every second of practice, running drills for every situation we may see on the ice. “How you feeling, boy?” Haymitch asks me during a second of downtime.

I shrug and continue to skate with him. “I mean. I’m alright. I don’t want to get out there and flounder.”

“Well, do you want my honest opinion?” he asks and I nod. “You look like a million bucks out there,” I just nod again. I am still nervous, and nothing is going to stop that. “So you skipped the family skate last week?”

I shrug and a puck comes in my direction. I mindlessly tap it side to side before scooping it up on the blade of my stick. “Don’t have any kids, so it didn’t seem necessary. Plus, that was like the day after I found out about my concussion.”

“Ah, the lady kept you home.”

I just shake my head. “We wanted to seem as boring for 24/7 as possible, but she’s coming tomorrow night. She’s pretending to be excited.”

Haymitch pats my shoulder. “Get back to work. Take some shots on Finnick while the other guys work on power play drills. Go right for the five-hole because if he doesn’t work on that, he won’t be seeing Citizens Bank.”

When we get off the ice and head back into the locker room to get ready for the game and try to get some food in us, I check my phone to see two missed calls from Katniss, but no voicemails.

I grab my food, a Styrofoam container of barbecue from a local restaurant and hunt for a quiet spot. “Hey,” she mumbles after picking up on the second ring. “How’s Dallas?”

“Probably not as eventful as Philadelphia. What’s up?”

Katniss inhales sharply, as if she just finished crying, “Mom and I… this huge fucking fight,” she sighs. “God, I feel like I’m a teenager.”

“What was it about?” I ask as I pick apart dry meat. I hate barbecue.

Katniss hesitates. “She says I’m so caught up in, who or what or however she phrased it, you are that I have no identity outside of you anymore.”

The key thing about any argument with Katniss is that she’s never a victim. She will never just sit there and take someone yelling at her. “What did you say?”

“That I spent the last four years working every night to be the mother that Prim didn’t have. That after everything she missed, she has no room to talk. And what do I do besides work anyway?”

This is a difficult spot, one I want to get out of. “Well, what are you doing now?”

“I don’t know,” the phone whooshes from a strong gust of wind. “I’m at Penn’s Landing watching two kids play in the emptied fountains.”

I don’t want her wandering the city pissed off at her mother. It’s cold, and probably dark there already. I pinch the bridge of my nose. “Go back to my place. Johanna and Annie are there right now.  We’ll probably be home by one or two, so keep the bed warm.”

“Okay, and Peeta?”

“Yeah?”

She hesitates again. “I know it would be better if this was face to face but… I love you, Peeta, and kick ass tonight… but not literally, because you shouldn’t get two concussions back to back. I don’t know if that’s a real thing to worry about, but it sounds bad.”

I chuckle as she stammers on nervously. “I love you, too.”

Getting back into a game after a serious injury is difficult. During my first face off against Steve Ott, I flinch and he wins, giving the Stars the upper hand.

The goal horn goes off fifty-six seconds into the game. He wins the next face off, and the one after that, shoving me out of the way quickly. He knows I’m not in this game.

“What the fuck are you doing?” Haymitch asks when I’m back on the bench. “You have two jobs, win face-offs and score goals. So far, none of that is happening!”

I nod.

We cycle through all four lines. “Alright, top of the order guys. Let’s get in this game.”

I win the next face off, but the Stars get possession of the puck when we’re by their goal. I charge their defender and knock him to the ground while getting the puck free.

I pass it to Thom who takes a shot, finding nothing but the goalie’s glove. “You feeling this face off?” I ask while skating next to Ott.

He nods. “Yeah, and I’m probably going to win this one. I mean, you’re a good player, but I’m fifth in the league.”

We stand face to face in the circle. “Where are you getting this?” I ask.

He looks annoyed. “NHL.com. You’re doing well this year, but stand back, kid. I’m going to win this one.”

“Alright, cut the chitchat,” the ref cautions. I bend over and choke up on my stick to get the most control. The puck is between his legs and in Thresh’s possession before Ott can even react. I skate backwards, giving him a little bow before joining the play. Fifth in the league, my ass.

Thom and Thresh set me up for my first goal and three minutes later, I pay Thom back. As we get ready to go home, everyone in the locker room celebrates. A four to one win, we’re ready to end December the way we started it.


“Kid, wake up…” We’re somewhere over the deep South and all I want to do is sleep, but Haymitch has another idea. “Sleep when you’re dead. Come up front.” My stiff body protests, but I follow anyway. There are about four rows separating us from the rest of the team; the cabin is dark except for the one light above Haymitch and a few iPads and laptops. “How about Finnick tonight?”

I sit down next to him. “He’s getting used to playing for us. It’s good to see…” Coming from a small market team to a team like Philadelphia is no easy feat. “I think he should be good for New Year’s, unless he takes another nose dive.”

Haymitch nods. “That’s what I was thinking. Now, we should have done this months ago, but we’re solidifying your line. It’s going to be you, Thom, and Jagr from now on.” This is a shock to me; Jagr is a seasoned veteran, a legend even. Just practicing alongside him was an honor, but this is something else. “The three of you have good chemistry. Thresh is going to move back with Gale.”

“I would have expected you to put Gale up with me again.”

Haymitch scratches his beard. “Need him in center, kid’s a fucking mountain. I’d have you guys come in for practice tomorrow; but after tonight, I think you guys have earned a morning off.”

It’s something I definitely need. The drive from Philly International to Gale’s and my place is agonizingly long. I’m exhausted and only want to curl up next to Katniss.

She’s sound asleep when I get in, which is something I’m used to. Late nights like this I would be crushed if she chose to wait up for me. I strip out of my suit and head into the bathroom to get ready for bed. It feels good to be back, to not wonder day in and day out if I’m going to become one of those cautionary tales. Make sure you can stay standing after missing a check. Don’t end up like Mellark. I can’t imagine being on long term injury reserve.

I put my toothbrush back in the holder next to Katniss’ and climb into bed next to her in only my underwear. “Welcome home…” she yawns.

I kiss the back of her head. “Mhm… Thanks for keeping the bed warm.” I press my cold feet against the backs of her thighs which makes her whine, so I pull back to stretch out my sore muscles. My legs are painful but still, it feels amazing to be back.


Katniss

“Thank you…” I look up at Peeta while I pick lint off my dress. I have no idea how it was sticking to the leather or why I thought wearing a leather dress was smart, but it is sweaty. I had to borrow a black slip from Johanna so it wouldn’t stick to me all night.

“For what?” I ask.

“Coming to this stuffy Christmas party, and agreeing to drive so I can get drunk tonight.”

I elbow him in response. “Screw you. I’m only here because it’s at the Aquarium,” I tell him matter-of-factly.

There was an informal Christmas party for families the day after Peeta found out about his concussion. This one is dress and tie required, and no one under eighteen, since some of the players are as young as twenty. A valet takes Peeta’s keys and we head inside the Aquarium, but I stop at the edge of the Delaware.

I lace my fingers between Peeta’s. “Isn’t it beautiful?” I ask, looking at the twinkling skyline backed by the deep pink of the sunset; the bright red letters on the PSFS building, the clock on City Hall, and One and Two Liberty Place. “I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else…”

I really can’t. I love Philadelphia for all its beauty and flaws. I lean into him. “When you guys win the Stanley Cup, the lights on Liberty Place will be orange… or they’re stupid.”

Peeta kisses the top of my head. “You’re so eloquent.” A gust of wind blows down from the USS New Jersey. “Let’s go inside before they think we’re off fucking in some corner.”

I let go of his hand and walk behind him, wrapping my arms around his waist and taking in his scent. “I’m going to drag you into the shark tunnel and blow you,” I tell him with my face pressed up against his back.

“What was that?” he asks as if he didn’t hear.

“Shut up, I’m hungry.”

The Christmas party is like a wedding that isn’t happening with an orange theme, jovial and full of both alcohol and delicious food. I find myself constantly stealing asparagus from Peeta’s plate before dinner is over, and he leaves me for his teammates after I nearly shove him over. He’s been pining for the guys for days; by God, he doesn’t need to sit and entertain me.

I find Johanna, Annie and Delly talking with an older woman. “There she is - the Captain’s girlfriend. May we bask in your glory,” Annie jokes before hugging me. “Cute dress, though I’m not sure how I feel about the leather.”

“Don’t worry, no sticking. We coated this piggy in baby powder and a black slip,” I blush a little and cross my legs as Johanna talks about the scramble this afternoon.

“Fine, I’ll be the polite one. Katniss, this is Effie Abernathy, the coach’s wife. She’s the head of the Flyers’ Wives Charities.”

I shake her hand, and Effie is everything I would expect a coach’s wife to be. She’s slender but still curvy, five foot nine and golden brown with platinum blonde, poker straight hair that reaches the center of her back.

She gives me a smile more brilliant than the sun and she has a grip like a titan. This is no human, she is a super woman. “We’re thinking about a 5k in the spring with the players and their wives, or girlfriends. Remember, you guys are all welcome at any of our meetings and to help with any events.”

Delly blows out hard. “If Thom wants me to go, he’d better put a ring on it!” She holds up her hand where an engagement ring rests on her manicured finger, “A second ring.”

“Out of the four of us, your excuse is the most bullshit.”

Effie sighs, “Oh you… You’re much more vocal than Madge Hawthorne.”

“Yeah, you should have seen her when she picked up the kids…” None of us say a word. Instead, I scan the room. Peeta’s talking with an older man, beer in hand.

“Who is that?” I ask as the older guy pats his back. They’re standing by the giant glass wall looking into the largest of the tanks where the shark tunnel that passes through is. A hammerhead swims by them, but they don’t notice.

“Oh, that’s Bobby Clarke, he’s the vice president of the club. He’s a legend in this room. Haymitch is hoping that Peeta will follow in his footsteps, wear the Flyers colors until retirement, lead the team to Stanley Cups… not be afraid to be the alpha dog on the ice,” Effie tells me. “Bob Clarke forgot the boy’s name at the draft a few years back,” she whistles. “I’m sure he knows it now.”

I get to know these four women. In this room and even on the outside, they are my lifelines. I love Peeta, and I want to be at his side for the highs and lows of the regular season, as well as the stress of the playoffs. I want to spend the post season relaxing with him before he has to get ready for the 2012/13 season and every one after that.

Peeta must know I’m thinking about him, or he’s bored from socializing because soon he’s behind me, rubbing my shoulders as I talk to my small group of friends.

I let my head fall back into his abdomen. Everyone seems pretty okay with hanging around in the main room, even though we have an entire aquarium to explore, though some people are still eating. “I think I need to stretch my legs. Peeta?” I ask. As I stand up and offer my hand, I give him a wink.

His eyes go wide, so he did hear me.

We walk away from the noise and the crowd. When we’re sure they can’t see us because we can’t see them and can barely hear them, Peeta pins me up against the thick glass of the tunnel. He presses his lips to mine, the taste of wine thick on his tongue as it slips into my mouth. He parts my legs with his thigh, my skirt tugging up to my things. “Those fucking pantyhose are the only things stopping me from fucking you,” Peeta whispers.

I back away a little and look down. Peeta’s pants are perfectly displaying the one flaw of dress pants – they are incredibly prone to tent pitching. “What would you do without me?” I ask, sinking to my knees. The tile floor is cold through my black stockings and his zipper gets stuck, but it doesn’t take me long to get him free.

I hold onto his taut backside as I take him into my mouth. He groans and braces himself against the thick glass behind me. We don’t have long so I pull out all the tricks, using my tongue more than usual, using my hand, moaning while he’s still in my mouth.

I look up at him and lick the head of his cock while running my hand up and down his shaft. He keeps running his hands through my hair, messing it up, but I don’t care. Suddenly, he grips my head and thrusts into my mouth. I’m caught off guard at first, but he doesn’t force his dick down my throat, which is a welcome surprise. He does the work while I just move my tongue and relax so I don’t gag on a wild thrust, which honestly seems like every other one. He grabs two fistfuls of my hair, pulling hard. I moan onto him, which seems to do the trick. He thrusts hard into my mouth, knocking me back a little, but I hold onto him as his warm seed spills down my throat. I pull back once I’m sure he’s tucked himself into his pants.

Just as we get presentable again, Gale comes down the hall. “There you two are. Haymitch is giving his yearly speech, three sheets to the wind. Don’t want to miss this!”

Peeta doesn’t move, so neither do I. “We’ll just be a minute,” he says as Gale nods and heads back into the party. “I’m sorry I got out of hand,” he starts, “It’s just… with my concussion and everything, we haven’t really done anything in a while.”

I look from the tiger shark swimming in front of us to him. “I liked it. Don’t ever apologize…” A shadow passes over us, a sea turtle lazily swimming by, unaware of what just happened. I get on my toes and kiss his nose. “I love you.”

“And I love you…” We walk hand in hand back to the party, everyone clueless as to what just happened in that tunnel, or at least I hope so.

We get back just as Haymitch is done congratulating the team on a good lead up to the Winter Classic, then he sees Peeta. “Ah, there he is, we were just talking about you. Get up here, Mellark, anything you want to say?”

I pull away to go back to my seat, but Peeta loops his arm around my waist. “One or two things,” he announces and holds me close, so I lean against him. Haymitch hands him a microphone. “I’ll keep it short and sweet, because I know at this point, you guys don’t have it in you to sit through long speeches. We’ve had a phenomenal start to the season and I can’t wait to make history with you guys on New Year’s Day.”

We slip out shortly afterwards. It’s still early, so when we get back home, we settle in Peeta’s den with two six packs and a movie. Peeta puts Scott Pilgrim vs. the World in the DVD player while I worm my way out of my dress. It falls in a heap of sweaty leather, my slip stuck to my body with sweat. Lesson learned, a leather dress is a shitty idea.

We watch the movie pressed tightly together, my legs over his, his arm around my shoulders. His free hand starts playing with my slip, then sneaks under my bra, his hand just resting on my breast. “Are you going to do anything productive in there or just warm your hand?”

He squeezes my breast twice, “Meh.” I’m not satisfied with his answer, so I scramble up into his lap. He doesn’t let me have the upper hand, and proceeds to tug down the front of my dress and cups of my bra so my breasts are exposed.

Peeta leans back into the couch and tries to smoosh my less than ampule bosom together. “What are you doing?”

“Guy stuff,” he says, still focused on my breasts.

I get up from his lap and fix my bra and dress. “Well, when you’re done with your guy stuff, you’ll find me in the bedroom, waiting to be ripped out of these pantyhose.”

Peeta takes about fifteen seconds to turn off the movie and follow me into the room. He lifts the black slip over my head and tosses it away before climbing onto the bed. I’m left in nothing but black pantyhose. I climb on top of him and sit on his thighs so I can get his pants off.

Something burns inside of me; a deep, undeniable need to be skin to skin with him. “Take your shirt off,” I tell him while pulling his pants off. “I need every inch of you.” I throw his pants to the side and help him with the many buttons on his shirt. Once it’s open, he digs his fingers into my ass crack and rips my pantyhose so they hang on only by my legs. He sits up, which forces me to wrap my legs around his waist.

“Hold on,” he orders, carrying me over to the dresser and sitting me down to pull the stockings off while I fling my bra across the room.

When I’m completely naked, Peeta leaves me and fetches the lube. I hate anti-depressants and their strange side-effects so much. Upon returning, he abandons his boxers and sets the bottle down next to me. It bothers me that he can bring me over the edge repeatedly and my pussy would still be too dry for him to fuck me comfortably.

He doesn’t seem to mind even now as he kneels down in front of me, using his fingers to spread my lips before going in for the kill. I grip the cool wood of the dresser and rest my feet on his shoulders while I watch his head of curly, blonde hair obscure my view of his tongue on me. “Mmm,” I pant as he slides his fingers inside me after licking them. I bite my lip as he hits just the right spot.  We heard Johanna and Gale come home halfway through the movie and I don’t want them hearing what we are doing. I try to keep quiet, but inside I’m screaming. I’ve missed this so much. Once I let go of my inhibitions, I allow myself to moan and cry his name when the sensations become too much to handle.

He holds me steady as I tremble after my orgasm and only when I can hold my own does he wipe his face clean. I hear the cap on the lube snap open. “Give me your hand,” he instructs and I obediently offer it to him. He squirts a little bit of the clear liquid on my fingers before doing the same for his own.

“Ah!” I gasp as he pushes his fingers in me again to make sure our coupling doesn’t hurt me at all. I realize what he wants me to do with the lube in my hand and I reach down, spreading the slippery liquid down his shaft.

He hisses as he inhales, looking down at my hand running up and down his shaft before kissing me. I withdraw my hand when he removes his. He holds onto my hips as I cup his cheeks with my hands, refusing to break our kiss even as he slides into me. Our moans mix in our mouths as he slowly thrusts in and out of me, just keeping to a slow, loving pace.

When we finally have to break to get a good breath of air, he rests his forehead against mine, looking into my eyes as we make love. It’s what this has to be, love making. I can’t believe I’ve gone this long without experiencing this. It’s powerful and raw; we’re stripped down and bare both physically and emotionally, but we still come together and mix in a fiery, hot bout of passion.

I never want to let go. I never want him to stop, but I know that he’ll climax and we’ll be done for tonight. It’s disappointing, but at the same time, I want him to feel the immense pleasure he made me feel only a few minutes earlier.

When it’s all said and done, I accept that fact knowing that we’ll repeat another time. Out of habit, he pulls out just before his climax, his seed shooting onto my stomach and making a mess in the patch of hair I’m letting grow between my legs.

I take my fingers and clean up the mess myself. I’m licking my fingers clean before he can even get me a tissue. “That’s so fucking hot…” he tells me before pulling me to bed.

We sleep face to face, every inch of ourselves pressed together. My forehead rests at his jugular notch, his chest hair tickling my nose.

“I love you…” I mumble halfway between consciousness and sleep.

“I love you, too.”

The next day brings a loss for the Flyers against the Rangers. Peeta seems a little upset by this, but the second Christmas hits, the frustration is gone. He drags me to church with some of his teammates without family in the area and sings along. I just sit and watch the story of Jesus’ birth.

Like children, we go to sleep early. Mom is upstate for the holiday, where she will most likely stay according to Prim, letting things go back to normal. Prim is disappointed in me for the screaming match between our mother and myself, but she’s spending Christmas stuck in bed with the flu, so she doesn’t really fight it.

Celeste is actually the one who gets us out of bed. Madge gets the kids tonight, but somehow Gale worked it out so he got the morning. Peeta says it’s because Madge got a DUI two weeks ago and thinks that Gale won’t use it to get full custody of their kids.

“Santa came!” she cheers while jumping on the bed, driving a wedge between Peeta and I. “And he better not have brought anything for my brothers!”

She launches herself off the bed and bolts out of the room, leaving the two of us confused. “When did we decide to have kids?” Peeta yawns. “Seriously, what were you thinking?”

“A week ago you were saying you liked watching me with kids,” I tell him while pulling on pants.

He follows suit. “I had a concussion, Katniss, you can’t believe anything I said at that time.”

We groggily make our way to the living room, even though it’s barely eight am. The only one actually awake is Celeste, who refuses to sit still. “This one has your name on it, Aunt Katniss,” she says, handing me a small box from Peeta.

“I’ll wait for your Dad and brothers and Johanna. It’s rude to start before everyone is here,” I tell her as we sit down on the couch and she climbs into our laps.

“Hurry up!” the little thing screams. “Santa didn’t do all this work so I could wait all day!”

Peeta and I exchange looks; she’s a cute little brat.

The four of us watch the kids tear into their toys and wait until they’re distracted to start exchanging our own gifts.

I open the one Celeste gave to me first. A tiny blue box from Tiffany’s, and my heart stops. The last time we were there, I was trying on engagement rings just because. He really doesn’t think that-

“Breathe, Katniss,” Peeta tells me, interrupting my thought. “It’s not an engagement ring.”

“Oh, thank God,” The box opens with a creak, and inside is a beautiful rose-gold key. The top is a circle, a thin strand of rose gold woven together to make a beautiful, symmetrical knot. “It’s beautiful,” I say, hugging him tightly. If I had the money, I would buy something like this for myself.

My gifts for him are so boring. A new hard drive for his Xbox since he filled the other one (or broke it, Gale wasn’t clear on the details), a copy of NHL 12 so he would stop stealing the boys’. And because he’s always checking my watch or his phone, a new watch, along with a tie that I think matches his eyes and goes with a purple dress shirt he had nothing to match with. And finally, a sheer, red nightgown that he pulls out of the box while Gale and Johanna are distracted.

I calmly rest my hand on his and push the item back in the box. We’ll examine that one later.

“Later…” I whisper.

He nods, grinning. “Alright, now the rest of yours. They kind of go in order.” He starts with a large heavy box. Inside are a pair of black snow boots with a fur lining, which is strange since it rarely snows here to the point of snow boots. The next gift is a brand new North Face fleece, since the fleece I wear every day has worn out cuffs and the zipper is broken. After that comes a pair of flannel pajamas that I kind of want to put on. Finally, he hands me another large box. Inside is a coat that could probably keep me warm as I walk across Antarctica.

“Okay… I know I always complain about how I hate winter… but not this much.”

He kisses my temple. “This last one will explain it all.”

He hands me an envelope with no card inside, but a plane ticket to Ottawa on January 25th and a key. “I don’t get it…”

“All-Star Weekend is from the 26th until about the 30th. Whether I make it or not, there are no games so I’m going up to spend the weekend with my family. I want you to join me. The key is to my house in Ottawa.”

I close my hand around the key, as it seems so personal. “I’m so glad Prim made me get my passport when she had to get hers,” I finally say.

“So you’ll go?” he asks in disbelief.

I squeeze my fist, the key poking my palm. “I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”

Chapter Text

Katniss

“Katniss!” Prim sniffles, “But you have to!” The flu is still running rampant through her body, making her miss one of her first away games as a full doctor for the Flyers. Luckily, I got the flu shot and it actually worked. “It’s her last chance!”

Prim is a huge animal lover and constantly spends her afternoons on the Philadelphia SPCA website looking at dogs about to go to the gas chamber. This one, though, pulled at her heartstrings. “I already got you approved for adoption… just… look at her face!”

She turns her laptop to face me; the dog is a black, grey and white fluffy fox with a long tuft of hair on her chest, she calls it a Pomeranian. The fluffball’s name is Ontario, another reason Prim says it’s destiny. “If you don’t go and show interest, they’re going to kill her! She’s little, perfect for our house, and they’re healthy dogs!” she begs in her nasally flu-voice. 

I sigh, “I’m making you a cup of tea, getting you some Dayquil. We’ll go, but I’m not making any promises.” My hope is that someone else sees the ad and gets the dog; because by telling Prim I would go to the shelter, it’s a guarantee that if the dog isn’t a little shit, I’d be walking out with it.

Peeta has been talking about getting one, and Gale did say it was okay as long as it doesn’t shit in the house or bite the kids. But this is a decision we should make together. What precedent am I setting for the rest of our relationship if he comes home from his game in Tampa and I have a dog?

I gather everything I’ll need just in case - proof of residency, the collar and leash from our first dog, Honey, who ran away when Prim was six and opened the front door. She ran for the hills and though our parents never told us, probably met the front end of a bus.

Prim is ecstatic, though I’m nervous.

Let’s make a list of everything that can go wrong…

Number one, we’re in Peeta’s car. The dog could piss on the leather and we’d have to hear that. Number two, Peeta’s parents are in town somewhere and I don’t want them thinking I’m irresponsible. Number three, Peeta thinks I’m irresponsible and impulsive.

I quit while I’m ahead. The volunteers bring Ontario into a small room with two metal chairs and a sink. The dog takes a second to warm up to us. Her ears go back, flat against her head like she’s nervous. She has less of the fluffy coat that comes to mind when I think of a Pomeranian. Instead, she looks like a shrunken down sheepdog. “Our best guess is Pom and Australian Shepherd. She’s very well trained,” they tell me.

I sit down on the dirty floor. I remember adopting Honey when I was four. She was afraid of big things, but the second Dad sat on the ground she was okay. Ontario is the same way, kind of. Her ears perk up again as she pads over on her dainty white paws. She first rubs against me like a cat before jumping up to lick my face. “She’s house trained, rarely barks unless someone comes to the door, and her breed makes her very trainable.”

The woman keeps trying to sell me the dog. “Normally they’re easy to move, but any more people want the big dogs with the loud scary bark.” Ontario sniffs at my hand before I go to pet her. Her eyes are a beautiful dark brown, full of life and dumb puppy love. Her muzzle is white with a strip of fur of the same color that goes up between her eyes.

During our short visit, Prim and I discover that Ontario loves toys that squeak, and toys made of rope, she’s fixed and is current on all of her shots, and is ready to go whenever we are.

“The second we get you home, you’re getting a name change.”

Unfortunately by the time we get Ontario to the pet store to get her food, bowls, a new leash and a fuck ton of chew toys, I’ve already forgotten about her horrible name.

She curls up on my lap to watch Peeta’s game as Prim passes out from her ailment.

Prim wakes up with a great purpose during the second intermission. “Wait!” she wheezes, “I have an idea!”

Prim is slow going but goes up both flights of steps. Ontario picks up her head to listen, cocking it from side to side as things crash. Prim comes down the stairs sluggishly five minutes later, holding a baby bottle and a pink blanket.

Ontario doesn’t protest as Prim wraps her in the blanket like a baby; she keeps her legs tucked under her, allowing us to loosely swaddle the poor thing. “Cradle her in your arms and pretend to feed her the bottle.”

I listen as Prim snaps a few pictures. When my phone lights up telling me I was tagged in something, it becomes clear what she did. Right under the picture of me holding the dog is a quick message, ‘It’s a girl!’

Ontario squirms away to go play with a discounted squeaky Christmas tree. “Ha!” Prim laughs as her flu induced haze kicks in again, “Dogs are fun!” And just like that, she’s out again.

I end up having to go in to close. The Flyers leave Tampa with a loss and Ontario curls up with Prim.

“So what did you do today?” Rue asks, pouring a beer.

I shrug, “Not much. Prim talked me into adopting a dog with her puppy dog eyes.”

Rue freezes. “Wait, what? Like a dog dog? With a tail and fur, and snout?”

I nod, “Her name is Ontario, but we’re changing that because Peeta lives in Ontario and it’s just weird. But she’s calm and sweet and obedient.”

“What does the beau think?”

I don’t say anything at first, “Peeta doesn’t know about her yet.”  I add a shot of vodka to a shaker and pop the lid on. “So fingers crossed they don’t hate each other.”

I pour the cosmopolitan out and garnish it with a lime.

My place or yours? Peeta asks via text.

Mine, I send back. Last thing I need is to bring Ontario to Gale’s before Peeta’s met her.

I head out shortly after two, bundling up in my new coat for the walk home. It’s that point in the night where church stoops have sleeping people on them, bundled up for the frigid night.

Peeta’s managed to beat me home. “Shit…” I mumble.

When I head into the kitchen, Peeta’s face lights up. “Babe, look at this,” he points his fingers like a gun at Ontario, who is standing in front of him, her tongue out of her mouth. “Bang!”

Ontario flops on the ground. “So you like her?”

Peeta nods. “Her name is idiotic. She’s not an Ontario, clearly she’s an Alberta… Or a Saskatchewan,” The dog starts circling Peeta’s legs, “Right, Sasquatch?”

She sits at Peeta’s feet.

“It’s funny!” Prim laughs from the couch, “Because she barely weighs fifteen pounds!”

Sasquatch sleeps in bed with Peeta and I, curled up in a little ball. Though when we wake up, her feet are pushing back at Peeta’s chest and the flat top of her head is against my lips. “Bad girl…” I yawn while scratching her belly. I paw for Peeta’s phone to turn off his nine am wake-up call.

“Come on babe, you have to be at the Skate Zone in two and a half hours.”

Unfortunately for her first day as an Everdeen, Sasquatch is stuck alone.

—-

“How much am I supposed to feed her?”

I shrug, “Oh, iunno… like half a cup?” I use a fork to mix eggs, milk and oil into pancake mix.

“Wha?” he asks, as if I’m already trying to starve the poor thing. “That’s like nothing.”

“Peeta, she weighs less than your pants,” I turn around as kibble hits the bowl. Sasquatch starts barking before getting up on her hind legs and twirling like a ballerina.

Peeta looks down at his flannels. “These weigh like nothing. I think you can see my dick through them!” I roll my eyes.

“No, I mean the ones with the padded ass. Would you give her the bowl? She’s going to get dizzy.”

Peeta and I quickly realize how horrible the dog’s table manners are. She barks through breakfast and when she thinks she isn’t getting enough attention, she puts her paws on my legs and barks some more.

“Prim, your dog is being a dick,” I tell her after I finish off my coffee.

She blows her nose into a napkin, “Katniss, your dog… Oh no!” Buttercup and Sasquatch haven’t met yet, but by the look of things, it won’t be a pleasant meeting.

Sasquatch’s ears perk up and her head cocks to the side, then she’s off.

“I’m so glad you talked me into that dog,” I tell Prim as we hear Buttercup hiss.

—-

“Alright,” Peeta starts once we get to Voorhees, “Don’t be nervous. My mother and brothers can smell fear a mile away.”

“I’m not nervous,” I lie. I’m not afraid to meet his family, just that I’ll run my mouth before speaking and accidentally let it slip that I do obscene things with their son.

Peeta puts his hands on my shoulder and spins me so that I’m facing him. “Sorry, I’m nervous,” he tells me before kissing my nose. “But I love you, so they’ll love you.”

“And if they don’t?”

“I live like a thousand miles away eight months out of the year…” This isn’t reassuring; in fact, I want to go puke in a trash can but Peeta rests his hand on my lower back and ushers me inside.

I try to sneak away and go watch the squirts play hockey, but Peeta’s so much stronger than I am.

I can tell the Mellarks from the other fans, parents and friends since they’re all blonde. His mother must be where he gets his height from; she’s shorter than I am, unlike her taller than Thom husband and two gigantic sons.

Peeta clears his throat, “Guys?”

They all turn around, even his nieces and nephews. My heart starts racing, my palms moisten with sweat even though it’s just about forty degrees inside the rink. “Hi,” I squeak, giving a small wave.Fuck, this is so embarrassing.

“Well, aren’t you going to introduce us to Katniss?” his mother asks. She stands up, shifting the blond haired toddler from her lap to her hip. “I’m Lorelai,” she saunters over and extends her hand. She looks up at Peeta, “Don’t you have practice?”

Peeta groans and they exchange words in French so I just stand there like a deer in the headlights. “Oh, sorry. Peeta says you only speak English?”

I nod and tuck my hair behind my ear. “They tried teaching me Spanish once, but all I can say is, ‘I have a cat in my pants?’” I explain, kicking myself on the inside.

“Do it!” one of his brothers starts.

“Tengo un gato en mis pantalones,” his face lights up, “Which brother are you? Sorry… you two look like twins.”

“We get that a lot,” the other one explains.

Peeta kisses my cheek. “Babe, I’m running late. I’ll see you when we’re done?”

I nod, unsure of how much affection to show towards him in front of this firing squad, but he’s off.

“Sorry,” Lorelai explains, “He gets like that around hockey… one track mind.”

I nod, “Yeah, he’s been talking about the Winter Classic since we met in October. When he was out for his concussion… holy dear God, I thought Thresh’s knee put him on repeat.”

Lorelai grabs my hand. “Well, don’t just stand there like you’re afraid of us. This is my husband, Raymond, and our sons Ryland and Wheaton.” She first points to the one that asked me about the cat in the pants thing, and secondly to the other blonde, “And their wives, Isabelle and Claudia.”

Holy fuck, so many people. I just wave and shake hands as names are called.

“This little one,” she bounces the toddler on her hips, “Is Ryland and Claudia’s second, Madison.” She looks around, “Where are Elizabeth and Mason?”

Raymond shrugs. “They were playing under the bleachers. I figure they’re cousins, so it’s not like when Ryland and Wheaton were in high school.”

This piques my interest, “Why not Peeta?” I ask.

His mother shrugs, “Peeta… Well, he had only one thing on his mind. He wasn’t much for dating.”

“Or women!” Ryland starts.

“Yeah, we went a few years thinking he was gay. Remember in ’06 when he came and told us he was entering the NHL draft? We all thought he was coming out of the closet.”

Claudia elbows her husband. “Not like it’s a bad thing, but he did start the family meeting by saying, ‘Guys, I have something important to tell you.’”

When the players take the ice, I get sandwiched between my boyfriend’s parents. “So, Peeta was vague on how you two met…” Lorelai starts, “Care to elaborate?”

“Sure… My sister and her boyfriend… erm, Hawthorne’s brother,” I point to Gale on the ice, “That one right there. Well, they pulled some strings and got us the home opener bench passes so we could watch practice. Now I had never been to a hockey game. I’ve watched them on the TV, but it’s completely different when you’re actually there. We get to our spots on the bench and a few minutes into warming up, your son pitches a water bottle at me. We actually met when my sister and her boyfriend got some of the guys to come to the bar my family owns after the game. He wanted to make the bottle incident up to me by taking me to dinner,” I can’t help but smile. “It was supposed to be just dinner.”

“But you banged him,” Wheaton concludes.

Even in the cold ice rink, my cheeks grow hot. “Oh, God no! What kind of girl do you think I am?”

“Wheaton!” their father cautions, “Leave the poor girl alone. So what’s the plan for the rest of the day?”

Peeta and I quickly talked about what to do with his family. They wanted to see Philly and sending them into Center City with no clue sounded like a horrible idea. “Well, there are a few museums in the city that are family-friendly. Um… The Franklin Institute and-“

“Peeta raves about the art museum.”

I nod, “That’s within walking distance, but Peeta and I are going to cook for you guys later at my house. It’s easier for Peeta to get to Philly International from there, so he’ll usually sleep at my place the night before he travels.”

“Where’s he going now?” Raymond asks.

I groan, “Pittsburgh. Last time they played, he got into a fight.”

Lorelai waves dismissively, “Oh, the guy he wants is out with a concussion.”

—-

The thing I’ve always loved about the Franklin Institute is how it shoves kids right into science. The rambunctious and elusive Elizabeth and Mason, who is Claudia and Wheaton’s son, run at everything they can get their hands on.

We walk through everything - the heart exhibit, electricity, the environment, space, trains, and finally end up in the sports area. “Who are these people?” Mason asks, pointing to life sized portraits of a few Eagles.

“They play for the football team here,” I explain.

I can tell Peeta is fading fast so while the kids throw themselves on the rock wall, he leans up against a wall out of everyone’s way. “Hey… how long do you think it’ll take him to notice?” his father asks, nudging me.

I look over to my boyfriend while the little one tries to kick a soccer ball. He’s half on the portrait of himself, which is next to one of Thom and another of Thresh. “I mean… he is pretty beat… so I’m going to say never.” His mother takes out her phone and snaps a picture.

I walk over to him, “Hmm… five foot ten… one hundred sixty nine pounds,” I pat his stomach, “Give or take.”

He cocks his eyebrow, “What?”

I ignore his question. “Now, Thom… why doesn’t he play basketball?” I point at the sign on the wall. “Six foot five, one hundred ninety five pounds. The Sixers could really use some talent!”

Peeta backs up and turns around. “Well… would you look at that! There’s that guy that I am,” he puts his face next to the picture where he’s wearing that determined animalistic stare he adopts the second he hits the ice. “Who has the better smile?” he asks, grinning.

“Wait, don’t move,” I take a picture, “Peeta, you left your tooth at my house. What if the dog eats it?”

“Pfft!” he waves it off, “I’ll just get a new one. I’m sure the team has spares.” I walk up to him and tuck myself under his arm before taking a picture of the two of us.

I sigh. “Which one do I like better? The sexy hockey player, or the one that forgot his tooth?” I ask as I walk away, shaking my head.

Peeta grabs me around the middle. “You love the sexy hockey player who forgot his tooth.”

“I do,” I tell him while tweeting the picture. It was a cycle. I’d tweet something about Peeta or a picture. Peeta would re-tweet it and the Flyers’ twitter would retweet it from him. It was literally the twitter-centipede of Peeta Mellark.

When we get back to my house, I’m thankful that the street is still empty. “Alright, now I don’t know what Sasquatch got into while we were gone.”

“Sasquatch?” someone asks.

“Yeah, my sister talked me into adopting a dog yesterday. Her name was Ontario, but Sasquatch was more fitting.”

I flip through my keys as I walk up the front steps. “Her full name is Saskatchewan,” I look over my shoulder and shoot Peeta a dirty look as he says this.

She hears the key in the door, her yelpy barks betraying her reputation. “Hi baby!” I coo before picking her up. “Remember we have guests, so you have to be on your best behavior.”

It’s refreshing, almost normal to be with the Mellarks. They’re so proud of their sons, but because this is their first time to embarrass Peeta in front of me, he gets the torture.

Pictures are spread all around the living room. Every so often, Sasquatch tiptoes through the mess, gingerly stepping on every picture. “Oh, here it is!” his mother exclaims, handing me a picture of a young Peeta wearing nothing but a Wayne Gretzky jersey while sitting cross legged in front of the TV.

“’I want to be just like him someday,’” his Dad quotes, getting all starry eyed.

I look into the kitchen where Peeta is putting the last few dishes away, just shaking his head. “If you guys are going to keep making fun of me as a kid let me remind you, I played in the Stanley Cup final in 2010. Scored a game winning overtime goal, kept us alive…”

“Then you lost,” Ryland quips.

“Ryland!” their mother snaps, “Don’t act like an ass!”

“I don’t think Philly was ready for another championship…” I start, trying to dissipate the awkwardness in the room. “I mean, after the Phillies’ World Series win, Broad Street was kind of flipped over,” I explain while Peeta joins me on the floor. He lays down next to me and rests his head in my lap.

My fingers automatically dive into his hair, brushing away curls. Downstairs, I hear keys jingle and Sasquatch runs like a bat out of hell to the top of the stairs to yowl as Prim climbs them. The dog hasn’t gotten the hang of stairs yet so she paces back and forth, patrolling the small space. Prim’s eyes go wide when she sees the army I’ve assembled on the couches and floor.

“Where’s the boy?” I ask.

She sighs, “I have to be at Philly International at six tomorrow morning with this idiot,” she gripes, kicking at Peeta’s socked foot. “Oh, and Delly wants you to answer your phone. Something about tickets for tomorrow’s game.”

I snort, “Yeah, in Shittsburgh.”

“Isn’t Delly on the ‘not allowed anywhere near here’ list for the entire city?” Peeta asks.

Prim shrugs and digs through my discarded purse for my phone before pitching it to me as Peeta introduces his family.

4 Missed Calls, my phone tells me.

“I think this is for you…” Peeta passes his phone up to me. Delly Cartwright @itslikejellybaby: @pmellark28 could you tell your girlfriend to answer her phone?

I think about getting up but Peeta’s big head is in my lap and I think my legs are asleep. Delly answers on the first ring. “Oh my God, is someone on fire?” I ask, making myself sound a little exasperated. Four calls, a few texts and a tweet - someone better be dying.

Peeta takes his phone from me as he and his brothers start reminiscing about that one time Wheaton fell through ice and they didn’t want their parents to find out. “Um, yeah. Your goddamn boyfriend, but that’s beside the point. Johanna may or may have gotten us tickets to tomorrow’s game. Will you drive us to Pittsburgh and maybe stay? We don’t want to get lost.” I start looking at Peeta’s phone as he thumbs through tweets. The phrases ‘that puck slut’ and ‘your puck bunny’ come up several times.

“How are you going to get lost? It’s one road!”

“Shuddup… so that’s a yes? I’ll buy your beer!”

I sigh, “Fine, but so help me God if you hit someone, sass someone, or spit on or at someone, we are leaving!”

Delly seems excited, “Good, see you tomorrow morning?”

Well, yeah… now I have a six hour drive ahead of me…

Prim ignores her early morning wakeup call and in place of my mother pulls out some pictures from high school and college, including the Susan G. Komen three day she and I did with some of my sorority sisters. “What the ever loving God is on your head?” Ryland asks as I discreetly pull a hair tie from under the sofa and give drowsy Peeta a ponytail.

“It’s a pink sweat band we did up like Easter Bonnets,” I explain while giving Peeta a Pebbles style look.

“Katniss was really idealistic and philanthropic when she was in college,” Prim explains, trying to talk me up to these people. “She organized all of her sorority’s charitable events, an anti-rape walk,” she says. trading the word ‘slut’ for anti-rape. “Oh, and the polar bear plunge!”

I shiver just thinking about running towards the Atlantic in early February in nothing but a black bikini.

Of course, everyone has to make fun of the fact that I was crazy enough to go to the beach in February and actually get in the water, but it was for a good cause. My sorority raised close to $1000 for the battered women’s shelter we shoved most of our charitable funds towards.

After the picture of me soaking wet and cold makes its rounds, I snatch it back from Prim.

“Hmm?” Peeta asks, stretching a little so the back of his head digs into my hip. He may be the least graceful napper ever. “What’s that?”

“Picture of your girlfriend in a bikini in February,” It wasn’t just me, there were several women in with me, all flexing and trying not to shiver.

I show Peeta the picture. “You’re not normal,” he tells me, wrapping his arms around my waist to get a better hold.

Because Prim is sadistic, we end up finding a picture of me about the same age as the Wayne Gretzky picture of Peeta; though I’m covered in mud, chasing around our old dog Honey in a really old Disneyworld shirt with a missing sleeve.

“Aw, look how cute you two were… what happened?” Wheaton asks.

We get made fun of for another hour or so until the kids are no longer entertained by their toys or the dog and it’s clear that we’re all fading fast.

I take Sasquatch out to piss as Peeta says goodbye to his family. After we tell them to drive safe and they head off into the night, we head inside so Sasquatch can finally play with her squeaky toys as energetically as possible. Thankfully, Prim scoops her up and takes her into her room.

“My back hurts from sleeping on the floor…” Peeta complains, flopping down on my bed shirtless since I stole his t-shirt after our shower.

“Then scoot over!” He does as I ask, lying dead center on the bed.

I climb on him and sit on his hips. “Doesn’t the team have a masseuse or something?” I place my hands at the base of his neck and start rubbing in small circles with my thumbs.

“Chiropractor, but I don’t want to wait until tomorrow… A little lower,” I move my hands to where it hurts and Peeta starts groaning.

“Baby, if you get a goddamn boner…”

“Don’t punish me for getting hard. I can feel you on my lower back. Do you know what that does to a guy?”

I run the tips of my fingers along his back. He squirms under me before rolling too quickly for me to not fly off him onto the bed.

Peeta gets up on his knees. “You evil little witch!” I try and focus on him, but his sweats are the actual definition of ‘pitching a tent’. He tugs them down far enough to take the pressure off his dick before laying on top of me and forcing the air out of my lungs.

“And I’m evil! Is this your idea of foreplay?” I ask, looking down to where he is face down in my breasts.

“No,” he says, muffled by my shirt. “So my family likes you,” he tells me while nuzzling my breasts.

“Oh my God,” I start sarcastically, “You really know how to make a girl wet…”

He picks up his head. “Sorry… I just, I’m happy,” he sits up so I can finally breathe right and opens the nightstand drawer to pull out the lube.

“You were just thinking about your family and you’re horny?”

Peeta gives me a puppy dog pout. “I’m sorry, I have a big game tomorrow, and you were wearing those jeans today that make your ass look really good. Like an eleven out of five.”

I want sex, too, but I like messing with him almost as much as fucking him. “If I say I love you and I won’t ever ask you to do anal… is that a yes?”

“You’re so… strange when you’re begging for sex,” I sit up and grab his shoulders, “Now come and warm me up…”

Before, Peeta and I always viewed the missionary position as a boring excuse for lazy starfish sex. Now it’s trying to watch the muscles in his arms flex as he keeps himself just close enough so we can kiss from time to time and maintain eye contact, something that used to be very awkward for me. Now it’s just perfect. I love being able to run my hands over his muscular back and chest, and hold his face in right the spot for the perfect kiss.

“So… I’m staying overnight in Pittsburgh,” Peeta tells me as we spoon. His hand is between my legs, rubbing my clit slowly enough to make me squirm and whimper, but I’m not sure he’s going to get me off like this. “You should sneak into my hotel room. I mean, Gale and I room together.”

“Uh huh… so we can have a celebratory orgy?” He chuckles and kisses the back of my head while I try to focus on what’s going on between my legs. “But if I lazily jerked you off like you’re trying to rub me off, you’d kick me out of bed…” I tell him. He picks up the pace and adds some actual pressure, telling me how much he loves me as I lose control of my own body and he tries to hold me steady.

I pass out almost immediately after I come and when I wake up, my boyfriend has been  replaced by my dog, resting her head against his pillow and just staring at me with her black dog eyes. “You’re so weird…” I yawn before rolling over.

There’s a handwritten note from Peeta on my nightstand.

Don’t let her lick your face, she tried to eat her own shit.

Love you and drive safe,

Peeta

“You’re nasty!” I call over my shoulder. Sasquatch presses her cold, wet nose against the base of my neck. I can feel her breathing on me, hot and moist. “Okay, okay! I’ll get up!”

I’m thankful that the family next to us has a stay at home mom who is more than willing to feed Sasquatch and take her outside today for a quick thirty bucks. Since it’s laundry day, I end up in leggings, a jersey Peeta found the need to sign, and flat black boots that go up my calf. It’s a decent outfit since I don’t care.

Annie is at Thom and Delly’s place when I get there and Johanna follows shortly after me. “So the guys just landed, but their ice time got delayed for… fuck if I know. Peeta’s apparently pissed and Gale just wants a nap.”

I pull out my phone. Baby, shut the fuck up and go to bed. I’ll text you when we get to Shittsburgh. PS, you’re lucky I love you… A Philadelphian never goes farther west than Harrisburg.

While in the car, Annie and Delly talk wedding plans while Johanna and I talk divorce. “So the witch got a DUI,” she says, pushing her sunglasses up the bridge of her nose. “Gale doesn’t know if it’ll work, but he wants to use that to push the divorce through and prove that she’s irresponsible and using the kids as weapons against him.”

“Doesn’t that sound a little psychotic?”

“Towards the woman who keeps asking for more and more alimony? The cunt that wants all of my boyfriend slash fiancé slash father of three kids who now call me mom’s paycheck for child support,  even though she’s the one who violated their marriage? The same woman who when she heard Gale and I were getting serious and they were close to finally signing the goddamn paper brought up all this child support and alimony bullshit? No. I’m ready for the day that Madge is out of our goddamn lives, except for every other weekends if Gale doesn’t get full custody.”

“Preach, sister!” Delly says from the back seat and leans forward for a fist bump. “So when are you and Gale going to get hitched?”

“Before the ink dries on the divorce papers,” Johanna tells us, smiling.

Everything goes quiet in the car for a little bit. Delly connects her iPod to the car and a chorus of Love is Gone by David Guetta fills the car, followed by Shakira’s She Wolf. Before the next song has a chance to play, Johanna is turning down the volume on the radio. “So if we don’t stay overnight, I can be DD tonight.”

Annie chuckles, “Coming from the girl who can drink a forty for breakfast? Why are you volunteering? You got us the tickets, after all…”

Johanna takes a deep breath. “Gale and I found out a few weeks ago that I will be designated driver whenever he wants to get drunk until like August.”

Annie, Delly and I spend a minute or two trying to figure this out. “Wait… you’re not pregnant, are you? You’re on the pill!”

“Guess I’m the one percent… Or the less than one percent!”

—-

Peeta

It was a short flight from Philly to Pittsburgh, and we got the news that our practice time was being moved from noon to four in the afternoon which means that I didn’t need to leave a very warm and very naked Katniss.

“Don’t have too much fun,” Thom teases as Gale and I head into our room.

Gale and I are accustomed to the gay jokes by now. Instead, we just shrug and play along. “Do you want to be top or bottom tonight?” I ask, “Because I was top with Katniss last night and I think my legs need a break.”

Gale sighs, “Fuck, well… fine.” The door unlocks and he holds it open, “At least your hair is long enough now so I can hold onto something besides your boyish hips.”

“Shut up, my ass is fine,” I retort as the door slams behind us, hopefully leaving the rest of the team confused or uncomfortable. Either way, they’ll leave us alone.

I draw the curtains and Gale strips down to his boxers before flopping down on the bed closest to the window. I make sure absolutely no outside light is going to come in and the heater is on loud enough to muffle Gale’s snoring and the general fuckery of the guys. Gale lays on top of the sheets with his hand in his pants. “Dude, I was kidding…”

He throws a pillow at me.

I don’t know how to shut down for the day or let myself pass out this early. I spent so much time in the airport and on the plane psyching myself up to get to Pittsburgh, have an hour or so of downtime, eat lunch and then go practice. Now we have five hours before we’re even leaving the hotel.

Gale shuts off the light as I try to get comfortable. I really do need the sleep. I spent most of last night watching Katniss and marveling at the random set of circumstances that led me to her.

Like what if I had gone to college, got a degree and a normal job? The chances of me running into her would have been so slim they wouldn’t even be worth mentioning. What if I’d been drafted to a different team? Even if she ended up at that game back in October, she would’ve just been a woman on a bench to me.

Or if Thresh hadn’t decided to take that exact opportunity to prank Odair and unscrew the top of his water bottle so I got distracted, flinging a bottle at her.

Everything lined up just perfectly for me to find her. She’s my soulmate, I just know it.

“Okay… what’s on your mind?” Gale asks groggily.

I shrug, “Nothing.”

I hear the sheets rustle on the other bed. “Yeah, bullshit, you’re sighing and rolling around like you do right before playoffs. What is on your mind?”

“When did you know Johanna was the one?”

“When I could bring her home to spend time with my kids and they loved her as much as I did, and she treated my kids like her own.”

Well… that doesn’t help me at all. Katniss and I have been together since October. Two very short months that have left me unable to think about anything but her. I want to spend every day with her, every moment of the rest of my life with her… but it’s only been two months.

“I think Katniss is it for me, man…” It’s hard to talk to Gale about a hasty relationship. He and Madge married young and shouldn’t be allowed in the same room now; he says that it feels different with Johanna, that he got it right this time. He regrets nothing about his marriage to Madge, except for the fact that he’s stuck in it until everything is settled.

“Then buy her a ring…” He must have laid back down because his words are muffled by what I assume is either the comforter or the pillow.

“What if she doesn’t feel the same way?” Another pillow comes flying in my direction. “Awesome, you must be running out of ammo.”

“Peeta, that woman is driving six hours across Pennsylvania with a five foot nothing ball of crazy, the quiet, but oh-so-devious Annie, and my pregnant girlfriend.”

I sit straight up and flick the light on. “Your what?”

Gale’s grinning from ear to ear. “I’ve always wanted another one. I love my kids more than anything, but Ethan and Parker will be teenagers in a few years and I can’t really keep calling Celeste my little princess.”

I sigh and shake my head, “She’ll always be your little princess. I mean, I’m in my twenties and I’m still my Dad’s little princess.”

“You’re a guy, and I’ve been within arms reach of you when you ploughed through a guy almost a foot taller than you. If there were more princesses like you, I wouldn’t feel emasculated buying Celeste toys for Christmas. But anyway, shut the fuck up. I’m having another kid, and I want to go to bed.”

He flicks the light off and I wait a few minutes before speaking again, “Gale?”

He groans, “What, Peeta?”

“Can I be the godfather?”

His face is illuminated by his cell phone. “If you shut up and go to sleep, you can raise the kid,” he tells me before setting the device down. “Though Ethan or Parker will be moving into your bedroom and the other one will be moving into your den.”

I just sigh, “How long do I have?”

“July? August?”

Well, I’ve been casually looking for places to live that are easily accessible for Katniss and still offer some privacy. I hate her row home. It’s loud from the city sounds, and we can occasionally hear her neighbors nailing each other.

“Have you told the kids yet?” I ask.

“Nope. I’m telling the guys tonight, or this afternoon, and the kids when we get back. Now, Peeta, go the fuck to sleep.”

My phone vibrates, a text from Katniss telling me the same and how I have to know she loves me since she’s crossing the invisible line in the state that divides the Philly half from the Pittsburgh half.

They feed us between noon and two-thirty. It takes a lot of food to even satiate this group, so the massive buffet is quickly cleared out.

Gale and I sit with Prim, Finnick, Thom and Thresh at a large round table. “So what are you going to do tonight without Cato?” Thresh asks with a mouthful.

“The same thing Finnick does when they don’t start Brutus.”

“Hope the offense kicks enough ass in the first period that they have to pull the goalie for the second and that you guys piss them off enough that someone takes a nasty shot at one of our guys,” Finnick says, stuffing his face. “Skating across the ice in pads is annoying!”

“Ha!” Prim snorts while scrolling through her phone. “Katniss says you’d better win or you’re sleeping on the couch.” Prim goes back to stabbing her food, “Why do they always serve us chicken?”

“High in protein, low in fat, easy to cook in large quantities?” Thom asks.

Prim just shrugs. “At least when we’re in Texas, they give us an animal that isn’t feathered.”

Everyone congratulates Gale when he announces that he and Johanna are having a kid. We may rip on each other every chance we get but some things are sacred, and there isn’t a man or woman in this room that doesn’t know the only thing Gale loves more than being in the NHL is being a father.

Soon enough we have to scramble, the bus leaves at three and most of us are either still in gym clothes or half in our suits. “Can’t believe you’re wearing a pink pastel shirt…” Gale grumbles.

“I can’t believe you haven’t offered to pick up my dry cleaning. This is my last suit…”

Even though we’re in Pittsburgh, a city in one of the deepest rivalries with my team that I have ever seen, there are fans outside of the hotel waiting for signatures. It’s just polite to sign something with your name on it. “Are you wearing this to the game tonight?” I ask. It’s a preordered Winter Classic sweater with drawstrings at the neck.

“Wouldn’t be caught dead wearing anything else,” the man tells me.

The game isn’t much different than any other game. We’re booed when we take the ice, called assholes when there’s a call in our favor, and even when an early goal makes us play catch up. Marvel takes Cato’s place as lead asshole in his absence. “Oh look, the old married couple,” he chirps as Gale takes the ice on a power play. “So Hawthorne, did you get the divorce because Peeta gives better head?”

We set up for a face off and even though Gale isn’t responding, I know he’s waiting to pounce. I look him in the eye and shake my head. “I got this,” I promise as the original center is thrown out of the face off and replaced by Marvel.

“So do you want to go?” I ask, getting into position for the face off.

Marvel smirks, “Fuck you.”

That’s a yes.

The puck drops and I get it in Gale’s general direction. The linesmen follow the play as Marvel and I throw our sticks to the ice and fling off our gloves.

Marvel has about six inches on me and weighs about forty pounds more than I do. He hits the ice hard, dragging me down with him. It’s hard to tell who’s winning once we’re wrestling on the ice and the refs are trying to pull us off each other. But with three minutes left in the period, we’re sent back to the dressing room.

Prim comes to look at my face. My mouth tastes like copper and sweat but I don’t think any teeth have been knocked loose. “You’re good, just a split lip,” she tells me, handing me a towel. “Keep this on it through intermission.

I nod just as Jagr scores a goal. We make it through two more periods, scoring three more goals to their one and leave the building still undefeated in the Penguins’ new home.

—-

Katniss

I’m learning quickly that Delly isn’t exactly child friendly when watching a hockey game. Even as we try to vacate the stadium, if someone runs their mouth about the colors we’re wearing, she isn’t afraid to talk back.

Delly puts her hand to her ear. “Oh… Oh, I’m sorry? Was that… Was that the goal horn? Nah… Just the sound of the Flyers remaining undefeated in your house! Get on your knees and suck my fucking dick, asshole!” she spits.

Annie, Johanna and I just let her do her thing.

We make it back to their hotel before they get out of the game. It shouldn’t be long, though; with an away game, there’s less press for them to handle. “Oh my God… they are taking like an eternity… Johanna is going to drop her calf before they get home!”

I hear a smack as I page through tweets directed at my boyfriend.

@PMellark28 Where did you find that puck slut?

@PMellark28 Does your puck bunny have a sister?

There’s more, but I don’t want to look. Tweets warning Peeta to not get distracted by his puck slut.

The smell of Peeta’s aftershave and sweat fill my nose. “Stop reading that,” he whispers in my ear, “And come upstairs with me.”

“You didn’t take a shower after the game?”

He bites my neck even though we’re in full view of everyone. “I was hoping you would join me…” he whispers.

Hotel showers are always weird. Peeta and I spend five minutes either burning ourselves or freezing under the torrent of water while keeping our lips locked together. The water goes cold after another adjustment and I squirm against Peeta and his growing erection. His eyes screw shut, “Oh, s’il vous plaît…ne me taquiner…”

I pull back. “In English?”

“Don’t tease me…” So I go for it. Under the flow of the temperamental shower, I pump my hand up and down Peeta’s shaft as he moans and mumbles in French.

Peeta tries to get me off, but it’s yet another side effect of my medication - random apathy towards a sexy man with his face between my legs.

When it’s getting sore down there, I just tap Peeta on the shoulder. “It’s not going to happen, love…” He looks disappointed in himself more than anything. “It’s just been a long day and I’m tired,” I explain.

He nods and wipes his mouth on the back of his hand before pulling on a clean pair of boxers, letting me wear his Flyers shirt that he seems to sleep in the second it’s clean and plain black gym shorts.

All three of them are so comfortable running around in their underwear. Johanna looks a little pudgy now that I see her without a baggy jersey on. It’s nothing major, just something there compared when I last saw her half naked on Halloween.

I’m completely out of place in this group, fully covered up. “Gale, can you keep your hand away from your balls for two seconds?” Johanna scolds. When I look over, his hand is just resting over his package.

“You wouldn’t understand! You don’t have these things hanging off you that just spent like four hours in a cup; I have to make sure the boys are doing good.”

“Yeah, because God forbid you realize there are two other people are in the room with us. How would you like it if I just kept my hand in with my cunt or tits?”

Their poor kid.

Peeta just ignores them and climbs into bed with me. “We should do this more often…” he yawns into my hair.

“Maybe if you spend the night in DC or Manhattan,” I tell him. “This drive sucks!”

“Shut up, there are six tunnels on the way from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh! Six!” Johanna calls from the other bed. Okay, well there’s that.

Peeta kisses the base of my neck. “Bonne nuit, mon amour.”

Chapter Text

Peeta

It was hard to get the kids out of the house tonight, and even harder to get them to want to stay awake past midnight, but we did it. 

“Put me down!” Parker screams as I swing him back and forth upside down. Thom had the idea for all of us to go to Penn’s Landing where our families wouldn’t be in a confined space. I managed to talk Katniss into getting on the ice at the Blue Cross River but she didn’t last long, so the guys and I started rushing each other and checking our targets to the ice.

Thom and Delly stayed out of it though, sticking to the middle of the rink where he spun her around. Delly’s a figure skater who had a promising career until she destroyed her knee. She coaches a few kids at Voorhees for some extra cash, and a few have gone on to win national medals. Delly hopes that one of her girls will make it to the Olympics in 2014, but a broken foot might stop that from happening.

A few people start counting down from sixty when the clock hits 11:59, more and more joining in with each passing second. I finally let Parker scamper away to find his twin, or his father, or some other hell to raise. The second he’s gone, I grab a hold of Katniss.

“This will be our year,” I whisper in her ear with ten seconds left.

Katniss shakes her head. “Nah, this is your year,” she tells me as the sky lights up with fireworks just past the Ben Franklin Bridge. I hook my finger under her chin and capture her lips in our first kiss of the New Year.


It still amazes me how quickly grown men can turn into children, “I should get Ruiz’s stall! Catchers are like the goalies of baseball.”

We’re trying to have our last meeting before practice. But instead of being at the Wells Fargo Center, we’re a glass encased meeting room at Citizens Bank Park. “Finnick, shut the fuck up,” Haymitch cautions. “Okay, so tomorrow morning, coaches, captains, and alternates report no later than nine, not nine oh five. Not nine fifteen. Nine o’clock. I know you were all up late last night, I know at least ten of you are hung over, but we have shit to do. Everyone else should be here by ten. Families can come in to skate this afternoon starting at noon; they’ll be on the ice from noon until two, then we’re out of the facility so the Rangers can practice.”

“Invest in eye black or anti-glare stickers. We found a few left over from the Phils for practice, but stop by Dick’s, or Modell’s, or Sports Authority.”

“Isn’t this in our budget?” someone asks.

Haymitch smiles and shakes his head, meaning we’re dismissed for now. Business is finished and all he wants to see is action.

It’s uncomfortably warm in the Phillies locker room. We have to put on layer after layer and they have the heat pumping in, it’s like getting ready in a fucking oven. Baseball players must be missing something, like the ability to handle the cold.

My stall is dead center of the curved room, my throwback sweater giving it away. I pull back the name card on nameplate, C. Utley.

“Jesus fuck, Odair! How big is your closet?” Thresh teases as Finnick sits with the biggest shit eating grin on his face at his gear, which is spread across three stalls.

“What can I say, I like my accessories,” he pulls his one leg pad to him, “You can never have too many pads.”

The room goes silent. “Is no one going to touch that?” I ask while taking off my button up shirt and throwing my tie on the ground. With the tight schedule, we aren’t hitting the gym today although I saw it in passing. Every machine is covered in red or blue, whereas all of ours are black with orange. Other than that it’s nothing out of the ordinary, considering how vastly different our sports are.

When I’m ready to hit the ice, I pull on the toque with my name and number stitched into it and hold my helmet by the strap. We won’t be wearing them for a while.

The floors are covered in rubber pads to save our skates, but there are wires from the cameras still following us. “This is where Roy Halladay comes out to pitch a no hitter,” I chuckle.

Outdoor hockey is the game in its purest form, but with the fifty degree weather and the sun beating down, the ice is somewhat soft. As Haymitch talks about a play he wants us to try more than once, one of the guys starts scraping up ice with the blade of his skates and uses a stick to put slush in people’s discarded helmets.

“So… Prim is showing up today, right?” Gale asks once practice is over.

“Probably? You’d have to ask Katniss.”

Gale nods and leaves me to my own devices. “Wait, why?”

Gale turns around and shrugs. “Iunno man, he just said it was important that she was here.”

I have no idea what they mean by that. All I know is that Katniss is fifteen minutes late and there is no Prim.

“Dude, dumped the day before hockey prom…” Ryland teases, “It’s like Wheaton in high school all over again.”

Even in my skates my brother towers over me, though my shoulders are about twice the size of his in full pads. “Don’t pick on him. He and Isabelle are very happy.”

“Yeah… if Elizabeth will stop lifting up the tarp they have on the diamond and eating the orange dirt. And if Madison and Mason…” Something his kids are doing catches his eye and he’s off yelling for them. I’m not alone for long. My parents are skating hand in hand talking to Gale’s parents and before I know it, Rory is at my side.

“Your girlfriend is ruining my life,” he sneers.

I pull the toque off my head and pull it over his so his eyes are covered. “Know what’s holding them up?”

“Prim was picking up Katniss from work like ten minutes ago.”

I roll my eyes; Ethan, Parker, and Celeste are making their rounds. She’s in the middle as her brothers drag her along. “Well, calm the fuck down. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go relieve your nephews. Where are Vick and Posy?”

Rory points across the ice. Posy has a friend I’ve never seen and Vick’s with a girl I’ve seen him flirt with in Gatineau when I visit the Hawthornes over the summer.

“Oh, Winter Classic, so romantic,” I tease before stepping onto the ice. Rory looks so flushed and nervous, there’s only one cause that comes to mind. “Just hope your pants don’t split when you get down on one knee!” I holler while skating backwards, just before the Hawthorne kids pass and I snatch up Celeste.

“Uncle Peeta! I can do this on my own!” she says, kicking wildly. “But you can hold my hand, unless Aunt Katniss wants to hold your hand.”

I set her down as her one foot kicks out wildly, but she keeps her balance. “Daddy says that if I can get better at skating, he’ll sign me up for hockey when I’m old enough,” she tells me, skating ahead of me. Celeste jabbers on and on about the new baby, her mom’s new significant other, Katniss, but her favorite topic is that damn dog. “Mommy says that if she catches Quiche humping the couch pillows again, she’s going to cook her…”

I try to ignore ‘humping’, a word I don’t think belongs in a kid’s vocabulary. “Quiche?”

“Mommy thinks Sasquatch is too long of a name, and I like Quiche, I had it at Disney World.”

“Alright munchkin, time to leave Peeta alone. His date’s here.”

Sure enough, Katniss is leaning up against the boards, her hair flying out of her braid. “Better late than never,” I tease before pulling her in for a kiss.

“Sorry,” she sighs, taking off her black coat. “We had some maintenance drinkers that decided to puke in the bathroom, and on the bathroom and… I hate New Year’s. Kiss me again!” She gets on her toes to reach my lips but ends up sucking on my lower lip.

She gives me a sly grin. “Prim made me rush, you should give me the grand tour,” she tells me before biting her lip. If there’s one thing I’ve learned recently with Katniss and her fluctuating libido, when she’s horny we have to jump on the chance.

Just before heading inside, I put my helmet on her head. “This smells like sweat and your shampoo,” she tells me while I find a private enough spot for us that is not a bathroom. At Wells Fargo, we have a trainer’s room with medical benches and privacy. Once we finally find something similar, I close the door behind us as Katniss paws for a light switch.

“Everything’s red and blue with them…” I don’t care about small talk or the covering on the padded table. I spin Katniss around; she feels so small against me. A slight little thing, something I’m not used to dressed for a game. I’m used to being the smallest, but here she can be eclipsed by my form.

“Peeta, I don’t even know where to start,” she tells me, tugging at my sweater. She goes back to biting her lip and looking up at me through her thick eyelashes.

I pull my sweater over my head. “Well, we should hurry, because my cup is fucking killing me.”

It’s a group effort to get me out of my pants and underwear. For time’s sake, we both leave our shirts on and I don’t even bother with my pads, more hassle than it’s worth.

“Up on the table,” I tell Katniss once her black work pants are in the mess of my hockey gear.

“Eww, are we playing doctor?” I roll my eyes and she turns around, throwing her one leg up on the bench instead of jumping up.

I swat her ass, and she jumps up while giving me a dirty look. “You’d better hope no one is around,” she cautions.

I rest my hands on her knees, as her legs are squeezed shut. “Well, you’d better not moan too loudly,” I tell her while spreading her legs. Going down on Katniss is a pleasant necessity. I love how she squirms as I add fingers, or how the sound of her moan changes depending on whether I’m using the tip of my tongue or flattening it out.

She has this drunk, sated look on her face when I finish. “You’re a pro at keeping quiet,” I tell her before kissing her.

“Yeah, I’ve had sex in a lot of strange places…” She looks around. “This tops the list, though,” she whispers as I grip myself and drag my tip along her moist folds.

“If this hurts, if you’re not wet enough, if anything… tell me and I’ll stop, okay?”

She nods and wraps her thin legs around my waist while holding onto my pads. My heart aches when she whimpers as I sheath myself inside her. I pull away from our kiss and she doesn’t look hurt. “Just go, I’m fine. My finger got caught in your pads.”

I try and hurry up; I don’t know how long we have before someone comes looking for us, but I choose not to care. Instead, I savor this rare moment when Katniss is just as horny as I am. I try to commit to memory the sound of her little moans as she bites and sucks on my neck and tugs on my hair.

I force her to look at me right before I come. Her eyes are wild with lust, and she sends me over the edge with another tempting grin.

God dammit, I love this woman.

After coming down from our post coital high, we spend another eternity getting me presentable again. “Usually it’s the woman that has to be redressed just right,” she teases as I shove my shin pads on.

“Yeah, yeah… Just wait, I’ll have my revenge!” I’m almost cold clocked by the opening door just as I’m pulling up my pants by the suspenders.

“They should have band-aids in… here…” Prim stops dead in her tracks. There’s no way of denying it.

My brother’s face lights up. After years of me accidently walking in on him, or teasing him for that one time Mom and Dad caught him having sex. “Oh, you are so busted! Wait until I tell Mom and Dad you had s-e-x in the Phillies’ locker room!” Wheaton says, spelling the word out to save Elizabeth’s ‘virginal ears’.

I feel Katniss’ warm hand link with mine. “Maybe we should go outside?” she whispers in my ear.

“Yeah, so this room can air out!” Wheaton teases while Katniss pulls me away with the rest of my gear in her hands.

We are not living that down any time soon.

Rory is still jittery as fuck when we get up to the ice again and my suspicions are confirmed when Prim comes back with my brother and niece.

The kid has a lot of balls. “Prim?” he asks, clearing his throat, “I know this isn’t the most romantic setting, but it seemed fitting. This team is what brought you into my life. Yeah, you didn’t take me seriously when I asked you out the first three times, but I’m hoping it only takes one time for me to get this right.” Rory drops to one knee, “Primrose Everdeen, will you marry me?”

Delly’s squeal of delight breaks the beautiful moment. “Say yes! His brother made three beautiful babies and one has yet to be confirmed to be beautiful!”

“Delly!” Thom gasps.

I barely hear it; I don’t think Rory even catches it the first time. “Yes!”

As soon as the family skate is over, Katniss is off into the evening to finish her shift, but not before sobbing like a baby as she hugs Prim crying, ‘My baby sister is getting married!’ over and over.

Katniss and I don’t sleep at the same place for what might be the first time since we started dating. Originally I think it’s for the best so I don’t wake her up after getting home at 2am or later, but when I’m waking up every few minutes searching for her in the bed, I have regrets.

Can’t sleep, tell me a story.  I send her.

Me either, Delly texted me like an hour ago asking how I felt about my sister getting engaged before me, she sends back.

And how do you feel?

It takes her a few minutes before getting back to me. Promise not to get weirded out?

As long as the next text isn’t about you secretly being a guy, I’m okay with it.

Another long wait, but it finally comes through. I told her that I couldn’t be happier that Prim found the man for her so young and didn’t get stuck sloshing through the swamp of shitty boyfriends. It took me about a decade to find my knight in orange armor.

Are you drunk? I send back. Katniss wouldn’t ‘normally’ send such a shitty pun.

A little… but I love you. All that hard work and sacrifice to get Prim into and funded for med school led me to you.

I know she’s talking about how her degree is basically collecting dust so she can run the bar instead of maybe being moved to get a job as a teacher.

I fall asleep smiling at the random set of circumstances that led to our relationship. We’re a happy accident.


My alarm wakes me up at 6:15. “Babe… can you hit the snooze?” I ask, “I know you love Preston and Steve…” I reach for her but find a cold half of the bed. I climb across her side and hit the snooze until it’s 7 and there’s a five-year-old jumping up and down in my bed before being wrangled up by her father. “Sorry man, you know how kids are,” Gale tells me while throwing Celeste over his shoulder.

“No, I just rent yours whenever my dick tells me maybe I should pass on my genes. You know, me being such good breeding stock.”

“What? Egotistical, teeth of a hick, and uneducated?”

Johanna wanders into my room. “Ugh, would you two stop flirting in French? The baby is right here. Unless you want her telling her teacher…”

“That Daddy Peeta can’t help her with homework because Daddy says his English is bad,” I quote the kid. To be fair she’s right, though it was Ethan that came up with that one. The kids don’t do a good job of explaining me to their teachers. I’m the roommate who picks them up from school when they’re sick. I sign their tests, and because Gale got the papers and not Madge, I’m the second parent on their emergency contact papers.

“Are you guys going to hang out in here all morning?”

“What? Want to wax your morning wood?” Gale and I exchange looks.

“Johanna Mason, just because you’re pregnant doesn’t mean you have a pass to say whatever you want.”

Johanna rolls her eyes and they leave me be. I hit the snooze button again and end up sleeping for another hour.

When I wake up, I have a text from Katniss sent at 4am. “What the fuck… do you sleep?” I ask my phone.

I don’t know why I’m sending you this. You wanted a story but a picture is worth 1000 words and I’m really really tired, but can’t sleep because the other half of my bed is cold and the dog is snoring.

Attached is a picture. There’s a good fifteen girls in it the picture, all pale blonde girls with a redhead here and there. There’s one that stands out with dark hair and skin, sitting on someone’s shoulders. It’s hard to recognize Katniss with that carefree look on her face.  I tap the picture with my thumb so the picture zooms in on her face.  Even while drunk yesterday, Katniss looked like something in the back of her mind was bothering her. The Katniss in this picture is absolutely carefree. She doesn’t need medication to help her get out of bed on the bad days, or an extra push when that doesn’t work.

I know this Katniss is somewhere inside my girlfriend, hidden behind years of depression and huge losses. “I’m going to find you…” I tell the picture, “I know you’re in there somewhere.”

After saving the picture, I open my email.

From: Haymitch Abernathy

Subject: Game Delay

Because hockey can’t be played on slush, the game has been delayed. Please adjust your schedule accordingly and prepare for a 3pm start time. Report times are pushed back two hours except for Mellark, as the press doesn’t give a fuck about slush.

He doesn’t sign the email. Haymitch never does; it’s how we can tell whether or not it’s actually Effie writing his emails.

“Come on…” I groan, throwing the blankets.


There are reporters from every Philadelphia station, but the only one that really sticks out is a small blonde named Jennaphr Fredrick, spelled like her parents were both drunk while naming her. She’s that one who always ends up in the middle of anything big in sports. She’s been on our ice, at practice with the Phillies, and at training camp with the Eagles.

“So where is everyone?” she asks.

I’m already out of my suit and ready to hit the gym to wake my body up. “Probably asleep… Uhh… You know,  with the delay and everything they’re… uh, going to get as much sleep as they can to get ready for today’s game.”

“And you’re not in bed because…”

“My roommate’s daughter has a bad… habit of coming into my room as soon as she wakes up because she knows I’ll sleep the day away. And they weren’t pushing my report time back.”

My phone pings in my pocket telling me I have a text. “I am so sorry,” I reach over and rest my hand on the woman’s thigh and go to shut it up.

Katniss: Stop using so many filler words and it’s THEY, not dey.

Then another.

Katniss: Oh my God, you didn’t silence your cell phone.

Katniss: Fucknugget!

“You’re going a little red in the face.”

“My girlfriend, just poking some fun.”

The woman nods, “Now she’s a native of Philadelphia, right?”

I smile, knowing I have to get this conversation as far away from my personal life and onto the game as possible. “Yeah, she’s coming to the game this afternoon. Hopefully all this preparation pays off, since our track record against the Rangers hasn’t been good so far.”

And just like that Jennaphr forgets about Katniss, and no matter how much I want it to stop, the clock ticks closer to puck drop.


“I don’t know what to tell you, kid,” Haymitch starts, “You know how Lundqvist is. That shot either needs to be some kind of crazy or flawless.” We’ve been looking for repeated errors that Lundqvist makes, but are coming up completely empty handed.

He’s right… I hate it when Coach is right.

We all know magic is going to have to happen out there for us to come out on top. Magic, or some kind of crazy.

People from the NHL and HBO are buzzing around the locker room, pinning mics to us. “What the fuck is this?!” Finnick gasps, lifting up his helmet. He has a new one just for today’s game. Where his personal one has the orange and black theme with some images of his ‘homeland’ (California), this one is entirely Philadelphia. “Why do I have a box… Oh, it’s a camera. I can’t wait to play a game without all these wires,” he lifts up his arms and twists at the waist to make sure nothing pulls, “And I hope you guys are ready to hear whatever comes out of my mouth.”

“Because that’s so different from any other day,” Thresh sighs. “At least you’ve stopped yelling at the cameras in Russian.”

Finnick points at Thresh, “Hey! My grandmother and grandfather escaped from the USSR, but they made sure we still knew where we came from…” he says, wiggling the camera. “They are going to get so many awkward crotch shots…” Finnick mumbles.

The opening to the Winter Classic might be even longer than the beginning of the season. “Remember, right after the anthem and right before the fireworks, I think there’s going to be three F-16’s that fly over. No one shit themselves.”

I try to rock a little on my skates, but the blade guards make it annoyingly difficult. “Ladies and Gentlemen, please welcome the New York Rangers!”

“It never ceases to amaze me how long they can boo one team,” Gale says from behind me while working his glove onto his hand.

I shrug and look up at him, “Their hatred runs deep, man.”

The booing dies down. “And now, your Philadelphia Flyers!”

Orange and white fireworks go off as we walk along the rubber padding leading to the ice. The noise is almost deafening even in the open arena. Finnick ends up holding us all up, since he has to kneel down so the equipment managers pull off the guards on his skates; then, like the bulky ginger mass that he is, he’s off and we slowly trickle out to get one last stretch of our legs before the game starts.

When we line up on the blue line for the anthem, a small blonde comes out while we take off our helmets. After the song, the F-16s, and the fireworks, we can actually start the fucking game and twenty minutes of uneventful hockey. Other than a few minor penalties we manage to kill, there is little to nothing in the first and second period until our third line gets on the scoreboard. When the actual horn quiets down and we hear our goal song, the Phillies home run bell lights up just after the guys on the ice skate past our bench. Then on my next shift, the bell rings for me.

“We’ve got this, guys; we’ve got this,” I tell them after the Rangers score their first goal, as we still have the lead. Mike Rupp, the offending player, quickly causes some tension with only five minutes left in the game.

“Well… should we fight them?” I ask, “That’s a fucking dick move. Kid’s scored one goal in his career before this and he’s gotta Jagr Salute with the guy right fucking here?” I ask, pointing over my shoulder at Jags.

“He says he does the ‘Anisimov,’” Thom tells me, chewing on his mouth guard.

I look over my shoulder to where the Rangers have gathered. “You mean shoot the goalie?” Thom shrugs when I ask, “Well, I guess we’ve gotta fight now.” I start judging all of them by their size. I’m not exactly the biggest guy on the ice, and even though it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, I don’t want to get my ass kicked. “I got sixty-two,” I say, but it’s all in good fun. With this close of a game, fighting would be reckless. We can’t risk a penalty.

The whistle blows and we get ready for the face off. “Did your guy just fucking Jagr Salute?” I ask my opponent.

He shrugs and gets into position. “Yeah, I thought it was pretty cool.”

Maybe we should fucking fight. “How’s that cool? Kid’s second goal, the guy’s a fucking legend!”

The ref throws me out of the face off, probably because I won’t shut up. Thom takes my place and the second the puck is in my possession I’m shoved to the ice.

Maybe we should fucking respond.

We don’t, though. We make a few shit moves, get overconfident and let two goals get by, all while getting pinned down by our own goal.

Our lines start getting jumbled as the third period draws to a close. After a nauseatingly long and desperate dig out in the corner, the puck slips through my feet and right to Gale’s stick. With only thirty seconds left, Gale’s off the second he has the puck. This is it, he has to make this shot or we lose. “Come on!” I shout as the clock keeps running. One of their guys is close enough that one misstep would fuck all this up, but then he stabs his stick between Gale’s legs and swipes just before he takes the shot.

What happens can only be described as a comedy of errors as Gale’s speed sends him straight into Lundqvist and the pair into the goal. The ref’s already called for the penalty shot but everyone swarms on Gale even though he helped the goalie off his ass. “Hey!” Thom shouts, “Back the fuck up! Your guy tripped our guy!” He grabs someone’s shoulders and rips a body away from Gale. You just don’t touch a goalie, even if it’s an accident. Otherwise, people get testy.

It takes a minute or so for the goal to get put back in place and everyone ready for the penalty shot. “You’ve got this,” I tell Gale from the bench. He takes the water bottle from me and sprays his face before taking a drink. “Just don’t whiff it, or hit the post.”

Gale wipes his face off with a rag and gives me a dirty look, “Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

I grin, “I know you can do it, but just don’t puss out. I’ll never let you live it down.”

When the whistle blows, Gale rolls his eyes and skates off. With nineteen seconds left, if he doesn’t make this shot, we have little to no chance of pulling a win out of our asses.

“After this, top of the line going out, get ready,” Haymitch warns us as the stadium gets eerily quiet.  The wind whistles through the gap between the open outfield and the left field scoreboard. It’s the only noise until the goal horn goes off after Gale ties the game.

“Glad you took my advice,” I tell Gale while taking the ice again, “It’s an honor to have passed on my knowledge…”

Gale rolls his eyes and punches my shoulder. “You were skating with chairs when I was captaining the Sabres…” he teases. “Now go and end this, I’ve gotta piss.”

The team that’s going to leave victorious will be the one who wants it more. It’ll be the team that comes to the five minutes of overtime less exhausted.

It ends up being us. With twenty seconds left, Thom sneaks the puck past Lundqvist. The overtime ends and the entire bench clears to rush Finnick. Every time one of us taps our helmet with his, he makes a kissing noise.

I skate back with Finnick. “Get enough crotch shots?” Orange fireworks keep going off as we make our retreat, some wads of charred paper falling to the ice.

He lifts off his facemask. “Yeah, Rupp put his sack in my face every chance he could. I’ll never be able to forget the aroma of Rupp nut sack.”

He shakes his head as I soak that in, but stumbles a little. Finnick winces and starts to favor his left leg. I may have my issues with the guy and at times I trust him only half as far as I can throw him,  but he’s my goalie and we wear the same crest. I grab his right arm and put it over my shoulder. “I’ve got you,” I tell him. He leans on me until we’re back in the locker room and he’s at his stall, or well, stalls.

‘Thanks,’ he mouths. Anything else he tries to say won’t be heard over Knock Knock. I nod and pull my sweater over my head and throw it in the bin.

Finnick Odair may get on my nerves from time to time, his up and down goal tending may make me nervous, but it doesn’t change the fact that he’s willing to put on the pads and tend goal, and for that he has my respect.

I’m barely out of my pads before the press hemorrhages in, wanting their stories for the six o’clock news. I bend the brim of my hat and put it on backwards to get the hair out of my face. “We did what we had to do,” I tell them. “It was a pretty frustrating draw in the first period, but we outskated them for most of the second then got… We got cocky and let them slip past,” I laugh. “I think we all owe Gale a beer for keeping us alive with that penalty shot, but we’ve got a game against Chicago on Thursday and he’s only useful if he’s alive.”

We give HBO our final words; one or two cameras might still follow us around for the rest of the day but once they take the mics off us and the cameras retreat, Katniss and I take a collective sigh of relief.

“How do the Kardashians do it?” she groans while rubbing Sasquatch’s belly.

I turn the page in my beat-up copy of Pride and Prejudice, “No idea…” She slides down in the sheets with the dog on her stomach. “You should have played harder to get,” I joke. Katniss snorts and slumps in my direction so her head is against my arm. “I mean, I still love you despite your inferior breeding, but I didn’t get the satisfaction of perusing you.”

“Yeah...” I kiss the top of her head as she speaks, “Peeta, I’m like three years from the wrong side of thirty. I’ve been there and done that,” I hear the dog’s collar jingle and her nails click on the ground. Sasquatch is more comfortable under the bed, leading me to believe she’s secretly a cat.

“Oh, have you? Scandalous…”

Katniss shifts, “I’m like a hawk. When I find a man I like, I’ve gotta sink my claws in…”

She moves to straddle me, “Is that so?” I ask as she digs her fingers in my hair.

“Mhm…” she kisses my nose before backing up and biting her lip. “But if you do want me to play hard to get, I could withhold sex. I was going congratulate you on the spectacular win with my body, but instead I’ll just go to sleep…” Katniss flails off me and lands face first in her pillow.

“Wait…” I roll her onto her back, “I have to stake my claim, mark you as my woman!”

Katniss squirms and starts giggling as I pepper her face and neck with soft kisses and bites until I get her shirt off and kick the dog out of the room.

Katniss gets up on her knees as I make my way back to the bed and take off my pants.

“You should lie on your back,” she tells me. “You’re the one who did all the hard work today; I just sat and drank beer while teasing Johanna…”

I lay down next to her and after getting them down far enough, kick my boxers away. “Yeah, she wasn’t too happy…” Katniss spreads my legs and kneels between them, “…About that…” She doesn’t say anything as she wraps her thumb and index finger around the base of my dick.

She doesn’t break eye contact as she takes me into her warm, wet mouth unless it’s to close her eyes and moan. I don’t know if Katniss actually enjoys giving head, but between the skill of her tongue and the vibrations from her moans, she almost pushes me over the edge. But I don’t want to finish in her mouth; I want to finish with her in my arms, pressed up against me.

She reads my mind and crawls to the end of the bed to get the lube. I hold out my hand and she squeezes some onto my fingers before crawling back on top of me. Katniss grinds onto my hand as I make sure everything is slick.

Katniss grasps my hands after I brace my elbows on the bed. “I love you so much…” I tell her as she slides onto me.

“I know…”

Chapter Text

Peeta

It doesn't feel right sneaking around behind Katniss' back, but this is something I need to do for the both of us. With Katniss' mother back in town, her mood has gone from great to dismal.

Katniss wants to get close to her mother again. I know this because the other week Katniss brought me to one of her therapy sessions. Katniss just doesn't trust the woman to stick around, and she's put off by how much her mother honestly hates, or really dislikes me (since hate is such a strong word) even though the woman barely knows a thing about me.

"Jesus H. Christ, where's the fucking fire?" Thresh asks as I unlace my skates and strip down to my underwear faster than a hooker who's been paid up front.

I abandon my underwear and grab an orange towel from the pile of hopefully clean ones. "I'm already running late for this thing with Katniss' mom, who already doesn't want me dating her daughter."

Thresh snorts as I pull the shower curtain closed on one of the stalls and he follows me to the next one. I have no idea why we have the tile dividers between stalls; they go up to chest height on me, but a tall guy like Thresh or Thom only have to look a little sideways and down before getting an eyeful of my dick.

I hurry, but try and make myself not smell like hockey pads. I'll actually have to wash my practice pads soon instead of just throwing them back in my bag and forgetting about them until our next skate. I have a clean set at Wells Fargo that I'll be wearing tonight against the Bruins.

Mrs. Everdeen picked the restaurant we'll be meeting at, a small place called Honey's Sit 'n Eat in Fishtown, a straight shot from Voorhees… well, kind of.

She looks nothing like Katniss, that's for sure. Besides their stubborn personalities, I would never be able to guess that this woman gave birth to my girlfriend.

"Sorry I'm late," I apologize, "Coach had us running bag skates until we were half dead."

She nods slowly, "I'm sure." What a good way to start this off. She already doesn't trust me enough to tell the truth.

I rub my palms together, the chill of the outside still on my fingers as well as the raw spots on my palms from where my stick rubbed. I stupidly forgot my gloves at home and was too lazy to try and find a new pair.

"Excuse me," a small voice calls, tugging on my sleeve. "But my Daddy wants to know if you're…" The little redhead's brow furrows, trying to remember my name when her father jumps in and takes over the exchange.

"Sorry, my wife and I were wondering and she just kind of got up and ran over here. Sorry to bother you."

I smile, "It's no problem; I love meeting fans." I look to the little girl, who appears to be older than Celeste, maybe a year but not much more. "Have you ever played hockey?" I ask.

She shakes her head no. "I'm a ballerina!"

"That's awesome! So is my goalie, Finnick Odair, but don't tell anyone. I've seen that man pirouette on skates with the grace of the Russian Ballet."

In the end, I sign a few things for them, and offer them my seats to the next game since Katniss usually works or just goes up to the family box. I hate seeing them go to waste.

It's awkwardly quiet after the family leaves us be. Once our menus are gone and the waitress leaves us alone, I take a deep breath.

Here we go…

"Listen, ma'am, I know you're suspicious of me, and I'm trying to understand that. But you've only met me a few times. You do not know me well enough to judge me or my motives."

She quietly sips on her cup of coffee. This woman just wants to protect her daughter, who can barely stand to be around her without having a panic attack. "Ma'am, I love your daughter more than I thought I could ever love a person. She's the first thing I think about when I wake up and the last thing I think about before going to sleep, even when we're away from each other. She's the fire under my ass after a tough loss."

"I know you want to protect your daughter from getting hurt, but I'm not going to leave her for someone else, or cheat on her while on the road. I'm not going to get drunk at the bar and suddenly forget how much I love her and destroy what we have, because I think she might be it for me. I refuse to ruin that…"

Our waitress brings a bowl of macaroni and cheese for Mrs. Everdeen. She picks a goldfish cracker off the top, and lets me have the floor to make my case without question. "But your distrust for me… it's hurting Katniss and I'm not going to sit by and watch while the woman I love is hurting."

"I didn't know…" she mumbles. "I've just seen Katniss in relationships in both high school and college. She's never once looked at a man the way she looks at you. She's never opened up, not even to her therapist. You said over the phone that you went with her?"

I start picking tilapia off my sandwich. I don't want to be one of 'those people,' but with the amount of beer I've been drinking I have to cut carbs somewhere and add protein. I'm the worst eater in the world. "She told me to get in the car, but not where we were going," I pop a fry in my mouth and chew slowly. "But she told the guy that she just wishes things could be easier between you two."

"Does she know you're here?"

I shake my head no. "She's working right now and I have to get over to Wells Fargo, since we have a game tonight. Last two before Katniss and I head up to Canada."

"She's never been out of the country, hell… she's never been on a plane before…" Mrs. Everdeen pulls her coffee mug. "I… I've missed so much," she tells me, getting misty-eyed. "My youngest is engaged, my oldest can't stand me… Prim is a doctor, Katniss has… student loans."

"I thought she paid her loans off."

Mrs. Everdeen shakes her head. "She's paid off Prim's. Not even Prim knows. It's what she does, gives every bit of herself to the people she cares about and asks for nothing in return…"

I carry her words with me for the rest of the evening and through a painful loss against the Bruins. The game was an all-out war. Dirty checks, gloves, and sticks all over the ice.

By the time I get to my car, I just want to get into bed and forget how I barely showed up to the game. A 5-3 loss, every goal scored by Thom. Granted, I set him up and got the puck where it needed to go; but the fact of the matter is that on every shot I took, I was practically handing the puck to the fucking goalie.

I somehow manage beat Gale home. "I packed your bag for your game tomorrow. The suit you picked out had a marker stain on it, and you can't match ties for shit."

She goes back to messing with her laptop, the dog curled up at her feet. "Thanks, babe," I tell her, joining her on the couch with a beer. "I'd be lost without you…"

"You looked a little lost after you missed that shot."

"Shots," I correct her.

Katniss goes quiet for a little bit. "The Bruins did play really well tonight," she whispers. "I was watching and-"

"So you're going to insult me? Just like that?" I snap, taking a large mouthful of beer, not ready for the bitterness of it.

"I'm just saying… they looked really good when you guys weren't throwing punches…" She reaches across the gap between us, though it might as well be a mile stretch of cushion separating us. "I think your cheek's…" Her fingertips brush against a sore spot above my jaw and I swat it away rougher than I should.

"Don't touch me. What the fuck's wrong with you?"

Katniss could let my temper run her over, but instead she meets my icy, closed off demeanor with the fire of a thousand suns. "A fucking lot! Thanks for pointing it out! What, do you think the sun shines out your ass? That if your team loses a fucking game it can't be because you were outplayed?" She slams her laptop closed and throws the blanket and the flailing dog off her lap. "Fuck you and your cocky shitty attitude! I don't need this right now!"

"What do you even know about hockey? When I met you in October, you thought icing was us kicking up loose shavings when we stopped too fast!" I snap.

Katniss is wearing my clothes like she usually does when she gets ready for bed. She'll pull something out I threw on in the morning instead of something clean. She says she likes how I smell on her.

Less than two minutes later, she's in jeans, her 'give me tips' boots and her black pea coat. "Where are you going? Your car isn't even here!"

"I'm going home," she says, throwing her computer in her backpack.

"What, are you going to walk to Philadelphia? It's past midnight!"

She scoops the dog up. "I'm going to get the PATCO into Philly and who the fuck knows after that. Maybe I'll walk the entire way or crash with Delly and Thom, or maybe I'll catch a bus up to Yardley and spend the night with Finnick and Annie. Or maybe I'll just go home and suffer through my mother telling me, 'I told you so!'"

That one cuts right to the core, considering how her Mom and I were so civil today and quite possibly found some common ground.

"I've been to almost all your games, watching every minute of them. When I can't make a home game, I'm watching it on TV. I watch every minute of every fucking game you play. I hang around with your teammates' girlfriends for my sanity and I've picked up a few things. So don't you fucking dare dismiss my opinion or treat me like an idiot. Grow the fuck up and admit that maybe tonight you got fucking outplayed."

Every word makes me shrink back from her, even after she stomps off. "And when I met you in October, Peeta," I hear the door swing open, "When you lost you came home, got pissed about it for about a half hour and then we fucked. Not this bullshit. Hi, Gale. He's all yours."

"Where are you…?" Gale starts.

"Philadelphia! Where Peeta Mellark, the oh-so-perfect captain of the Philadelphia fucking Flyers, isn't acting like a whiny fucking cunt!"

The slamming door shakes the house and for once I'm glad the kids are with their Mom and Johanna is not nosy enough to come down.

When I hear Gale go upstairs, I finally realize that I'm crying. The room is icy cold without her there, but not from the front door being ajar. When she left, she took every ounce of caring, love, and warmth I could feel. It's like when we moved from Hearst to Ottawa and I hated it. I hated every minute of it because I couldn't speak the language well enough to make friends easily. Sure, some of them understood French, but there wasn't an identifiable middle ground where we could communicate without long awkward pauses.

"A house isn't a home without the people you love and who love you in return…" my mother once told me. And right now, the one person in the world I love more than I can even fathom left because of my stupid fucking mouth, and she took all the warmth of a home with her.

I don't know how long I sit there just staring at my beer before Gale comes at me. "What the fuck was that?" he asks. I'm almost blindsided by the sudden French, "Why are you still here? Go after her!"

"How long has it been?" I ask, wiping my eyes and nose on my hand.

"Like half an hour. I thought you were just going to run after her and have make-up sex in the front yard, so I got in bed with Johanna. But it's kind of bitter out. And here you are, staring at your fucking beer like a genie is going to come out and fix your idiot head!" He practically shoves me off the couch. "God, why did you curse me with this idiot son!" he sighs.

Somehow, as if by magic, Katniss makes it to the train station in those heels. "Go away!" she groans as I sit down next to her. She pulls the Flyers toque I wore at the Winter Classic farther over her head and whips her orange scarf in my direction.

I shake my head no in response. "Fine!" she snaps, standing up. "Then I'll go over here!"

There's no one here, just the wind whistling through the empty station. "Tu me manques!" I shout after her.

Her shoulders stiffen as she halts. "I don't speak French, Peeta, and even if I did, you would probably tell me I don't know enough about it to have a conversation with you about it!"

"Katniss, I deserve that… But I said that you were missing from me."

She turns around slowly, cradling Sasquatch like a baby. "It's 'I miss you,'" she corrects.

"No, it's not. It's 'you're missing from me.' Please, the French are a little more romantic than a simple, 'I miss you.'" She doesn't move closer to me, but when the train pulls into the station, she doesn't move to get on either. "When I'm on the road, I feel empty without you. The few nights we spend apart, I can't sleep because I'm afraid you'll have a nightmare and I won't be there to wake you up or calm you down. When we're not together, something is missing from me. It's like… if I break my stick out on the ice, I'm useless unless I want to throw myself down on the ice to block a shot. Which hurts a lot!"

"So in this beautiful French metaphor, you chose to make me your hockey stick?"

"I'm a center. I'd get rid of the helmet, the mouth guard, and the gloves before I'd go into a faceoff without my stick."

She goes quiet, and again the only sound is the wind cutting through us. The only noise after we stare each other down is the train pulling out of the station. "Fuck!" she snaps, "That was the last one for an hour!"

"Now what are you going to do? Walk across the Ben Franklin Bridge? The Betsy Ross Bridge?" Katniss rolls her eyes. "The Tacony Palmyra?" she stays quiet, "Or do you hate me that much that you'd walk all the way to the Burlington Bristol Bridge?"

"The Turnpike Bridge, Mellark! Don't you fucking test me!" She's not joking.

"Katniss, please… you have to understand," I take a step towards her. "I'm not a big guy, or loud… I became the leader of my team because Gale's life was in the shitter. I lead by example and tonight… my example was absolute shit." I feel like I'm exposing myself to her, or at least my deepest, darkest secret. "Fuck, they even asked if I'd be interested in putting my name in the captains list for the All-Star Game. I told them no because if I play shitty, then I can't lead my team. I fail them. I failed my guys tonight, each and every one of them. I missed passes and caused a lot of shitty turnovers. I failed my fucking team and I was pissed…" I take a deep breath, "And I took it out on you and I'm sorry…"

I open my arms for her. "Katniss, you don't have to forgive me, but please don't run off into the city in the middle of the night. Something could happen to you, and I… I couldn't live with myself if something did. Come home with me. We'll talk in the morning after we've had a night to sleep on it."

She shakes her head no, but still takes my hand. "Wait with me? For the next train?"

"If you get on that train, I'm getting on it with you."

Katniss walks past me, but grabs onto my hand. "Wait with me… You need your sleep, you have a game in Florida tomorrow…"

We sit in another uncomfortable silence. "In French, there are three ways to refer to your dwelling…" I tell her to break the silence. "First there's maison, house, or the actual roof over your head; then there's home, chez moi. Maison can never convey the comfort that chez moi gives… ever…"

"What's the third?" she asks while shifting so she can tuck the dog in her jacket.

"It's what I have when you're missing. Without you, it's…" I sigh, "C'est vide… it's empty, a void."

"You're stalling."

"Chez nous. It's home, but I guess, at least in English, it would be the we, the people that make the home. Sure I have Gale, his kids, and Johanna… and I love them like my family. But my house isn't a home if you aren't there with me."

"I shouldn't have brushed off your knowledge about well… the second most important thing in my life. I shouldn't have insulted you…"

"You take your job very seriously because you have to. You're one of the youngest captains in the game and you feel like you have something to prove."

I nod, "Yeah."

Katniss reaches for my hand again, this time lacing her fingers with mine. "Peeta, if you want a home with me, you're going to have to realize that the road isn't going to be easy. You're going to lose games that you think you should have won. Everyone is going to make mistakes that may cost you a game… but you can't come home to me and look for every reason to pick a fight in order to get your anger out." She leans into me and I can hear the dog snort from the shift. "Just channel it into the next game and beat the shit out of some guy who looks at one of your guys the wrong way…"

"You're telling me to fight?"

"I'm telling you to assert your dominance like Sasquatch asserts hers over your pillow when you're not looking."

The spoiled dog has her foxy head poking out of Katniss' coat. Her big black eyes open and close every so often. "If we ever get trapped with that thing, we're eating it," I tell Katniss.

She snorts. "Yeah… Okay…"

Katniss doesn't budge when the next train comes, the last one of the evening. "Let's go home…" she finally says, "One stupid game and a few stupid words by both of us aren't enough to destroy what we have."

The dog must be angry at us because the second Katniss sets her down on the floor, she retreats upstairs, looking for Celeste's bed. When she finds it empty, Sasquatch curls up on the couch and closes her eyes.


When I get back from brushing my teeth, Katniss has already stripped down to nothing and climbed into bed. "You're so cold…" I whisper in her ear as I climb into bed next to her.

I run my hand up and down her frigid legs before letting my palm rest on her stomach. I'm not ready to sleep yet, and I'm not sure that she is either. We hover in this blissful half-asleep, half-awake state where neither of us wants to talk or do anything. That is until I brush her hair off her shoulders and place a perfectly innocent kiss right at the pulse point, followed by another, and another. She lifts her leg and hooks it behind mine so I can move my hand off her stomach and into her folds.

Katniss squirms in my arms as I hold her firm to me and continue my assault on her neck and clit. Finally, she reaches over herself and tries to get my underwear down. It's a group effort that ends with my boxers bunched up at the bottom of the bed where I'll forget about them until I have to wash my sheets.

I start thrusting between her legs, slow enough to tease her but nothing more. "Please…" she whimpers. She feels wet enough, but that honestly means nothing. "Just go without!" she moans. It takes us both a few seconds, but we finally get the right angle and the right rhythm.

To keep her hair out of my mouth, I wrap it around my wrist, using it to tilt Katniss' head back and expose her neck to me.

At some point between her coming around me and my own orgasm, I bite her hard enough to leave a mark. If anything actually, I think it's what sends her over the edge.

We fall asleep and wake up in the same position we made love in. "Well?" she asks, her voice hoarse, "We slept on it…"

I lean in and kiss the nape of her neck through her mess of hair. "And?"

"I'm hungry… and my feet hurt…"

Gale and Johanna still aren't up; or they are and have already gone back into their room. Katniss and I sleepily navigate the kitchen before settling at the table with coffee and eggs. She reads the paper while I mess around on my phone trying to be sure that everything is just right when we leave for Ottawa.

I hear a thump and when I look down, her foot is on my chair between my legs. "Is this code for foot rub?" I ask.

"I told you my feet hurt!"

"You walked a mile and a half in heels! No shit, your feet hurt."

"Oh my god, they're fighting again; just fuck or strangle each other," Johanna yawns. "Or eat each other, holy fuck!" Johanna hooks her finger in the collar of Katniss' shirt. "It's funny, because you can see where Peeta's tooth is gone."

"It's funny because I drank an entire six pack before the first intermission, making vaguely sexual noises just to piss you off yesterday," Katniss quips. She pulls back her one foot and puts the other one on the chair.

"Did you only paint the nails on one foot?"

"I got drunk and Johanna got pissed off at me for moaning at my beers…" she says, like it's an everyday occurrence.

Chapter Text

“So I met your agent,” Katniss tells me as she thumps up the stairs, “This was thrown at me.”

She drops the box she’s carrying unceremoniously at my feet. I got to her house from work before she did; usually, the person working the latest ends up at the other’s house. Today, however, is our last day in America for a week. We have to be at the airport at close to 7am, so it just makes more sense to attempt to sleep here.

“When was this dropped off?” I ask. It’s late and there’s no way my agent is delivering anything past four. The fact that he’s in Philadelphia and not Toronto, or Tahiti, or somewhere warm is amazing.

“Like… two? He was all uptight in his pinstripe suit. Handed me the box and said, ‘Make sure he deals with this, my assistant will be by in the morning to pick it up.’”

I pull the flaps open. “Oh, God dammit… Babe, can you go into my carry on and get my silver and black sharpie?”

Katniss walks over to see what the package is for herself. “Ooo, magazine with your face on it.”

She heads into the kitchen, flipping through glossy pages. “Oh… you kept your shirt on,” I hear the zipper to my backpack, “From his first faceoff back in October, the eighteenth captain of the Philadelphia Flyers has made his mark in both the city of Philadelphia and the NHL…” she pauses, “Oh captain, my captain!” When she comes back, she has the top off her bottle of Captain.

“Oh, here I thought you were talking about me…” Katniss takes another swig, “So, sleep on the plane? My mom has the heat going at my house so I figured sleep on the plane, get to my place, then sleep again.”

“Delly and Jake are going to be so disappointed.”

I shake my head and pull out the stack of jerseys. There are a few chipped pucks from games and two sets of my gloves. All of this stuff can be auctioned off. “Sometimes, I think you’re in more of a relationship with Delly and Johanna than me.”

Katniss snorts and goes back to the rum. “Oh, I’m sorry, while you’re running around the locker room in your boxers or a towel with your friends, I’m allowed to get down to my bra and underwear and compare breast sizes with my friends.”

I barely close the eight on my autograph, “Wait, what?”

“Johanna’s jugs are already getting big. We were… well, I was drunk and so were Annie and Delly, and well…” Katniss looks at the expression on my face, “Really, Peeta? You think I’d just take my clothes off and start fondling other women?”

I sign the next jersey, “Iunno, you get handsy sometimes when you’re drunk.”

Katniss slumps down, “I’m going back to my reading.”

“Out loud? I want to hear what I said.”

“Fine, where was I? Oh…  With half the season behind him, Peeta Mellark is a front-runner for the Hart Trophy, leading his team and the league in goals and assists even after being sidelined for four games with a concussion in mid-December.”

“We had a great beginning to December but could only stay on top for so long. I knew the second I stumbled on that check that something bad was about to happen. Thresh was skating way too close to me to miss my head.”

I work through the stack as she continues reading the article out loud, “When the hockey club saw a huge facelift to their roster over the summer, rumors began spreading as to who would get the ‘C’ on their jersey. With a captaincy already under his wing, Gale Hawthorne was a front-runner.”

“He turned it down,” Mellark says, taping a new stick after breaking one at practice earlier in the day, “It was an awkward few days in his house. I had just driven down from Ottawa and both of us were going back and forth with Haymitch, the owners, and just everyone for a day and a half while arguing why the other person should get it. In the end, me telling everyone, ‘Gale and Kimmo have been in the league longer’ wasn’t enough. But I know Gale and Kimmo have my back. The whole team, actually.”

Katniss takes another swig.

“Mellark started his career in his hometown of Hearst, Ontario before the family moved to Ottawa where through the years, he became a local celebrity playing for the Gatineau Olympiques and for Team Canada, where the team won gold in the Czech Republic… blah, blah, blah you’re amazing and there are no shirtless pictures in this!” She rolls up the glossy magazine and whacks my head with it, “Although, I did enjoy the chest hair poking out,” she tells me while reaching into my shirt and scratching at my chest hair.

“Thank you… now, have you packed yet?”

Katniss shakes her head no, “And I’m taking my Captain with me!” she tells me, taking another swig. “And the booze. You think I can’t masturbate to not shirtless pictures?”

“I never said that,” I tell her as she wobbles to her feet.

“Well, I’ll show you, Mellark!” she tells me while heading upstairs, the dog hot on her heels. I hear a loud thud a few seconds later.

“Ya fall?” I ask, going to sign the next jersey.

“Yeah…” she groans.

“Ya bleeding?”

“My Captain spilled on the dog…” she whines. “In the most innocent way possible,” she tells me through her laughter. “Come on, baby, you’re getting a bath…”

I get up to help her, afraid that she’ll end up in the tub with the dog. Sasquatch doesn’t seem to mind being washed, though Katniss and I manage to turn a simple dog bath into a fiasco. “Katniss, that’s too much shampoo,” I caution as she keeps squeezing Tresemme on the now demonic looking wet dog.

“It was a lot of rum,” she says as I rub the soap into the dog’s fur. Sasquatch just stands there either frozen by fear or just not caring. After a while, I’m not sure where the foam ends and the dog begins.

“Watch her ears,” I caution as Katniss takes the showerhead and starts rinsing.

“I know how to wash a dog,” Katniss sighs before grabbing the white conditioner bottle and going to town. “I just make mistakes sometimes…” she tells me before looking up, her cheeks bright red.

“It’s alright,” I tell her before kissing her cheek, “She has to look good for her first trip out of America.”

Katniss rinses the dog again. “Can you dry her so I can pack?” she says once the conditioner is out of Sasquatch’s fur.

Sasquatch and I exchange glances as Katniss stumbles to her feet. After the dog shakes, I throw a towel over her and listen to her groan and growl while I rub the water out of her fur. “Come on, you little shit eater,” I tell her, “You’re done for the night.”

The dog scurries out of the bathroom and just stares for a second before bolting and running in and out of every room with no clear direction. I don’t move, fearing I’ll punt the poor thing out the window, so I sit and watch until Katniss starts drunkenly reading aloud again, only down in the living room and not where her clothes are.

Fifteen minutes later, when she’s still pacing the room reading the article out loud, I have to physically carry her up the stairs.

“Don’t come out of this room until you’re packed or we aren’t getting Wawa before heading to the airport.”

“Bullshit!” she says while pointing at me and stumbling back to her nightstand where her computer sits precariously close to the edge.

She lifts the top and hits the play button, “Oh, I love this song!” She grins from ear to ear as Why Go by Pearl Jam starts playing.

“She’s been diagnosed, by some stupid fuck!” she sings while pulling two suitcases out from under her bed. Sasquatch takes this opportunity to stop the running thing and curl up on the bed while Katniss dumps her entire underwear drawer on top of her.

“Do you have it from here?”

“She could just pretend, she could join the game!”

“You don’t need all your underwear, babe.”

“I’m picking out cute underwear and not cute underwear. Do you honestly think I wear those lace thongs all day? Nope, I always have a pair in my purse.”

Well, today I learned.

She pulls out the drawer with her bras in it and dumps that out, trying to find matches when something very out of place tumbles out.

“What is this?” I ask, picking up the purple bra up by the strap. There are little fake pearls stitched into the straps and under the cup, her sorority letters are also on the cups and swatch of fabric connecting them.

She goes pale. “It’s… it’s nothing,” she snatches the skimpy garment from me, “Just…” my question has completely thrown her off balance, “It was a highlighter party this frat was throwing. My sorority was invited and well… Prim was home for Spring Break… I dragged her along because she was sitting in her room, studying and being a good student. It was my last party as a co-ed, well, one of the last ones. She got a call from our Mom that Dad…”

Katniss bites her lip and sets the garment down. “He died a few weeks later…” she whispers, “I was trying to hook up with some nameless guy, and my Dad was fighting for his life…” We sit in silence through a few songs I can’t even place.

Her computer starts playing Collide by Howie Day. “Come on, babe, dance with me?”

She looks up at me, tears clinging to her red rimmed eyes. “Please?”

“Okay…” she whispers. I hate knowing that my question brought back such bad memories, so I hold her close as the song plays and stroke her hair until I can’t feel her eyes wetting my shirt anymore. The song ends and Bro Hymn by Pennywise comes on; it’s a song that still holds a special place in my heart, but it’s no good for slow dancing.

“I haven’t heard this song in years…” I sigh as I hold her close. “Game three, Stanley Cup finals, or at least that’s the last time I remember hearing it… we were in overtime.”

“And you scored… I’ve watched your post game interview, you looked like a caveman,” she tells me.

I kiss her nose. “I was just a kid, and I had the best fucking playoff beard on the entire team.”

Katniss gets on her toes and drapes her arms over my shoulders, “I can’t wait to see it again…”

Katniss spends the next two hours singing every word of every song her iTunes will play and when she shuts that off to listen to Preston and Steve, she barely makes it to the first commercial before coming downstairs, showered and ready to head to the airport.

Normally when the team travels, we have our own plane that’s owned by the club; we drive straight to the plane, hand our bags off and go. Instead, we have to deal with security lines, though Katniss doesn’t seem to care. I work to massage the tension out of her shoulder blades as we stand in the security line.

“You can see the two major differences between our countries,” she starts, comparing our passports. Sasquatch paws around in her crate, yipping a little as someone makes an announcement over the intercom. I can barely hear it; I swear Philadelphia International only hires people that talk like they’re playing fluffy bunny.

“What’s that?” We move up a little in line to go through security. I sneak a treat into Sasquatch’s cage; the only reason we can take her on the plane is because Katniss’ shrink dubbed her an ‘emotional support animal’, which in stressful situations like flying puts her right up there with guide dogs. Fucking bitch gets a first class seat and everything!

“Yours is like, ‘We really like maple leafs, did you know that?’ Mine is, ‘Look at this motherfucking eagle and this goddamn grain.’”

“Mine’s also in French and English…”

“Well, that… How do you stay in America for so long?” she asks, “Do you have a green card?”

I shrug, “I don’t know what that is. I’m here on a work visa, but if I want to retire early I could always stay in America on a fiancé visa.”

She snorts, “Yeah, who are you going to propose to?” Katniss asks as she takes a step forward. She keeps her back to me, so I wrap my arm around her waist, tug on her braid and kiss her forehead, “I’ll just get you drunk and take you to Vegas. Now give me my passport before you find a way to lose it and I get stuck in America.”

“Flyers All-Star forward Peeta Mellark could not attend the 2012 NHL All-Star weekend because his girlfriend’s dog ate his passport,” she jokes, “I mean, I’m still going to Ottawa even if you’re stranded. Delly would be pissed if I ditched her at our lunch date in two days.” She backs up a little and bumps the bundle of hockey sticks I couldn’t bring myself to check. Due to the sheer number of players with their own brand selection and length, it’s a lot easier and less stressful for guys to bring their own gear, which is worth more than a baggage handler’s salary.

“Katniss…” I sigh, picking them up. “These are like $250 a piece,” I tap her on the ass with them, “Watch it.”

She sticks her tongue out. “But are you going to be able to find your way around? Katniss, I don’t know how I feel about you being in an unfamiliar city by yourself.”

Katniss rolls her eyes at me, “If someone comes at me speaking French, I’ll just stare blankly until they realize I’m American,” I go back to rubbing her shoulders, “And if that doesn’t work, I could just get Siri to tell me how to find my way home. Peeta, Ottawa has the street crime rate of Disney World. The amount of robberies they’ve had in the last year is less than North Philadelphia in the last quarter.”

She leans back, “I’m a tough little chicky...”

“I know…” I kiss the top of her head, “But I still have to worry.”


Katniss

I don’t think airport security likes us. For one, I’m bringing a dog everywhere I go. Secondly, I might still be a little tipsy, and third, they seem really confused as to why someone is bringing a bundle of three hockey sticks through security.

After what feels like twelve eternities and an army of people who think I want to blow something up later, I’m done moving until we get on the plane so I pull out my computer. I barely find a wi-fi signal before passing out with my head on Peeta’s shoulder.  

I’m rudely awakened by Peeta when we have to board our plane. The after effects of the rum are almost too strong. After Peeta says a prayer for his sticks, I go to put his gear bag in the overhead bin. “Holy shit, what do you have in here? A small village?”

“Just pads and skates and like… ten or more pucks I stole…” I know he can tell by the look I’m giving him that he’s being judged harshly, “Katniss, we have a lot of pucks. Like, if you left the guys alone for long enough, I’m sure they’d build a fort out of them. Okay, not that many, but they’re not going to miss them. Oh, and my skates. They have my name on them.”

I flop down in my seat and hunch over so I can remind the dog that she’s not alone and going to a horrible place. She doesn’t look too happy, although she also looks like I just woke her up from a nap. “I swear Sasquatch only cares if the doorbell rings, or if someone says cookie.”

“Oh, you said the word,” Peeta digs through his pocket and hands me a dog treat. “Can you take her out?” he asks as I break it up so she think’s she’s getting more.

“I mean, if I’m having a freak out because my boyfriend is taking me out of Philadelphia, I’d like to see them try.”

Sasquatch ends up making an appearance when I can no longer feel the ground beneath my feet. I’ve never been this far from home, nor ever left the country. Hell, I’ve never even been in a plane before.

Luckily, I’m still exhausted from not sleeping and drinking my rum. I fall asleep to the sweet nothings of Five Finger Death Punch with one hand keeping Sasquatch in her preferred position, tucked in my hoodie, and my other holding onto Peeta’s.

My nap is too short. I almost wish for more flying time before I have to shove the dog back in her crate and hope I look presentable. “How do I look?” I ask, standing up for the first time in a few hours.

“Like you just woke up,” he teases, “But welcome to my home.”

I stretch until my back cracks, “Your home is the airport?”

Peeta groans as he pulls down his equipment bag. “It sure feels like that from like September through May.”


That switch in Peeta’s head that makes him speak English seems to be off unless he’s talking to me, and then his English only turns on when I stare at him with a blank face.

Getting into Canada is easy enough. They ask if we’re here for business or pleasure; Peeta says business while I just stare slack jawed. “She’s on vacation, sorry. She just woke up,” Peeta says to the man.

Sasquatch is less than pleased to be fondled by the airport personnel, but that pales in comparison to the biting cold we face just while trying to get to our rental car. “What the fuck!” I gasp when it hits me.

Peeta, like the asshole he is deep down inside, just laughs at me.

“I hate you and your god damn country! We’re going on a cruise over the summer.”

Peeta leans across the armrest and kisses my cheek, “Just wait until you warm up.”


I’m not sure what I’m expecting out of Peeta’s house up here. He was barely an adult when he bought it and only spends about three months out of the year here.

When I finally start to feel warm, Peeta pulls into a shoveled driveway. There’s about two feet of snow on the ground and I don’t like it. His house is two stories with a stone front and white siding on the sides and I assume on the back as well.

“In Philly, the only streets that get plowed are Broad, JFK, and anything in Old City,” I tell him, tucking my face into my jacket even though we’re in a garage. The thermometer in the car says -5, not a temperature I’m okay with. “Here, they get the side streets and the neighborhoods.”

“We know how to handle our snow,” Peeta digs through his coat pockets and hands me his key ring. “I’m going to go around back and shovel some. I know my brothers didn’t bother with that,” he tells me once the bags are out of the trunk. “Do you mind? Oh, and I’m pretty sure my Mom went food shopping.”

“Nah. I’m going to get the bags inside and try to get the dog to piss. Oh, I didn’t bring dog food because I didn’t want to carry it. And that’s cute, your Mom loves you,” I tell him while clipping the leash on to Sasquatch’s collar and bringing her out into the bitterness.

Peeta taps my ass with the shovel. “At least you’re honest, and your Mom loves you, too. Oh, Thom and Delly are actually coming today. They’re stopping by later before heading to their hotel so Thom can babysit the rookies.”

“Shouldn’t that be your job?” I call after him, “You’re the captain, after all,” but he doesn’t respond. This is the dog’s first real experience with snow so after she does her business, she goes about sniffing every fucking thing and ends up looking like a cokehead with a mustache, “Come on, you little shit,” I sigh, tugging on her leash.

Peeta’s house has the same suburban look on the inside as it does outside. The downstairs is wide open with a half wall separating the living room from the kitchen and a well kept sitting room in the front. I start turning on every light I can, trying to make the home seem more inviting.

Sasquatch follows me everywhere until she finds the back door and barks at Peeta, who is making a path for her to go to the bathroom. “Hey, you ungrateful little shit,” I call, “Watch your mouth,” I tell her before I start snooping. My first target is the mounted radio under the corner cabinet. “What were you listening to before you came to Philly, Mr. Mellark…” I say to myself while pressing the on button.

It’s a French radio station, “Yeah, pass,” I say and hit the eject button. Peeta’s taste in music is a little out there sometimes and from what I’ve learned, completely situational. Much to my disgust, a Nickelback album comes out. “We’re going to have to have a long talk about this one,” I slide the CD back in and switch the radio off.

Since I feel weird going upstairs to find his bedroom, I check to see what ‘food shopping’ means to Peeta’s mother. Besides the usual, there’s nothing too spectacular until I pull out an innocent looking red pitcher and pull off the top. “What the fuck?” I ask, looking at the bag inside.

I pull it out and try to figure out what it is. It looks like milk, but milk doesn’t come like this, at least I don’t think it does. There’s no marking on it, so I’m stuck asking Peeta.

“Hey babe?” I ask once I’m kind of used to the cold bitch slapping me. He looks up from his shoveling and wipes sweat from his brow.

“Yeah?” he asks as the overly curious dog bolts. I’m not sure she’s ever really seen snow.

“What is this?” I hold the bag by the seam and dangle it.

“It’s milk, what else would it be?”

“Why?” I spin it, trying to get a better look.

He looks confused, “Because… cows made it?”

“No, why is it like this?”

“White?”

“No, idiot, in a bag. Wait, where’s the dog?” I ask, trying to look past him to where Sasquatch is trying her hardest to turn herself into a giant snowball by digging at the hard icy layer above the fluffier snow. She starts growling at it and nipping.

Peeta takes off his glove and whistles for the dog’s attention. “Come on, shithead. The snow did nothing to you.”

After the dog runs into the house and I put away the milk, I get over my fear and start dragging our luggage up to Peeta’s bedroom. There are four doors upstairs. One is definitely Peeta’s man cave, though it’s missing an Xbox; another is a bathroom and a sparsely furnished bedroom. Finally, at the end of the hall is a room with a king sized bed made of dark wood and matching furniture. There are picture frames covering almost every inch of the wall the headboard is against. Most are hockey pictures, a few are Peeta and his brothers fishing, and one team photo from last year.

On the nightstand on what I assume to be his side of this ridiculously large bed is a picture of Gale’s three kids sitting on his back in the Hawthorne’s backyard. His hair’s shorter and the kids look like babies.

Around the other side are pictures of men I’ve never met but have seen pictures of before. I’m pulled from my snooping by a commotion downstairs. “You got a rat!” an unfamiliar male voice booms. I start to creep down the stairs to see Peeta with two of the guys I saw in the pictures upstairs.

“Oh, that’s Sasquatch. She’s mostly harmless unless you’re a pair of socks or a pillow. She’s my girlfriend’s,” Peeta says, picking her up.

“Speaking of which, where is your little American puckslut?” one asks when I hit the bottom of the steps.

My cheeks flush. At first I’m hurt, but then really quickly, I switch to being pissed. “Hi, I’m Katniss, go fuck yourself,” I tell him, crossing my arms over my chest before turning my attention to Peeta. “Our suitcases are upstairs. I didn’t unpack because I don’t know where things go.”

The one man pales; he has dark hair and fair skin, he’s a little taller than Peeta but not built as well. The other could be Peeta’s cousin for all I know, he has that sandy blond hair that’s just a little lighter than Peeta’s and his beard comes in with a rusty tint.

“Katniss, this is Marc-Andre and Alex. I used to play with them until they went to college. You’ll have to forgive Alex,” he says, pointing to the darker one. “He’s a fucking idiot.”

Fortunately, they both brought beer. Marc-Andre is holding a case of something with a flying monkey on it, while Alex has two PBR 12 packs.

“I’ll take this,” I say, relieving him of one of the PBR’s. It’s not Yuengling, but it’ll do.

“Babe, just put what you’re not going to drink out back. Whole country’s an icebox.”

I hug the twelve pack to my chest and sit on the couch. “Sure thing,” I tell him, cracking into my first beer. “So who has an embarrassing story about Peeta to share? I’m collecting them.”

 

Chapter Text

Katniss looks like she’s fading fast, but I can understand. She crunches her fifth beer can and sets it on the table. I don’t think that Marc and Alex were expecting the woman I’ve been seeing to be able to keep up with them. Still, she looks exhausted.

“Drunk already?” Alex teases.

Katniss shakes her head. “Tired…” she yawns, moving to lie down, “Can you lift up your arms?” she asks me. I pick my hands up off my lap so she can use my thigh as a pillow as I keep swapping between black jerseys and orange jerseys.

“Do you always play as the Flyers?” Marc Andre asks as I start messing with lines.

“Nah, Gale’s kids always play Flyers,” I explain while Katniss sneaks her hand under my knee to get comfortable.

“Gale?” Marc Andre asks as the opening animation starts to play. I try my best to keep my hands off Katniss but once she’s out, I rest my arm on her shoulder. I changed the first line so I could be Gale’s wing. “Oh, that guy…”

“Yeah…” It’s weird playing fake hockey. Every so often, my legs will twitch as my brain wonders why I’m stagnant. I end up losing the game, mostly because at every stoppage of play, my hands immediately go to Katniss’ hair. It’s so long and dark against my pale skin but works well with her tan complexion. I pass off the controller so they can play Battlefield or Call of Duty, which are basically the same game.

Sasquatch comes out of hiding and looks pathetically to where Katniss is sleeping before looking at me. “You’re big enough to get up here, you’re just lazy.”

She puts her paws up on the cushion, eying up the vacant space where Katniss has her knees pulled up. I reach over and pick her up with one hand, ignoring the flailing legs, and set her down. “So why did you two get a dog, too soon to have a kid?” Alex asks.

I snort, “Way too soon. But her sister apparently talked her into this one. I think I was on a road trip.”

I scratch the dog behind the ears after she’s curled up into a ball just to piss her off. “Plus, I live in a house with three kids, four come early September.” I smile and look down at Katniss. My living situation is unconventional; it isn’t the ideal for a young athlete, but I wouldn’t have changed it for anything. Living with three little hell raisers has helped me learn how to focus during chaotic situations and has most likely helped me to become a better captain, but now my time there is ending. Once the season is over, I’ll pack up what little possessions I have and search for a place to call home.

I don’t know what I’m going to do with that void in my life, or even how to handle a quiet house or any calm environment. And I know for a fact that bringing up even the idea of having a kid together to Katniss would be catastrophic and ill-timed. I don’t even know why I sometimes get stuck on the idea of having a child of my own instead of helping raise someone else’s kid.

As they leave, Alex and Marc Andre tell me that they’ve never seen me like this - domestic, relaxed, and easy going. At first I don’t know how to take it, then I just assume it’s a compliment and close the door behind them.

Katniss stirs when I pick her up to take her to bed, but doesn’t say anything until we’re upstairs. “I could have done that…” she mumbles.

“I know,” I tell her. “I just like doing things for you.”

“I want to change…” she tells me the second we’re in our bedroom. I sit her down on the bed and she manages to keep herself upright while I take off everything but my underwear.

I sigh when I see that she hasn’t moved. “Alright, arms up.” She listens better than Celeste on a good day. “Do you want your bra on or off?” I ask her after getting her shirt over her head. She shrugs and before I can even get the clasp undone, she’s climbing for the bed with her jeans still on.

“Katniss, it’s easier to get a five year old ready for bed than you!” I get my fingers under the waist of her jeans and tug them down. Either she’s losing weight or I’m just that good.

Katniss slowly squirms under the covers, choosing to lay on the very edge of the entire bed, face down with her head under the pillow. She whines when I pull her to me, closer to the center of the bed, but doesn’t move away.

“I love you,” I tell her, kissing the back of her skull.

“You’d better…” she yawns.

I wake up flat on my back with a weight across my hips. “Delly and Thom are going to be here in a half hour,” Katniss tells me from her perch, “So hurry up and fuck me before they get here. We need to christen this bed.”

I don’t want to tell her that that’s been done already, as well as every other surface in the house. “Well… christen it right,” she finishes.

I yawn and stretch before opening my eyes. Her hair is wet and up in a bun, keeping it off the shirt she stole from me. She nervously brings her hand up to her mouth and bites on the sleeve. “Are you really going to get shy now?” I ask. Her cheeks get rosy and she looks away before I grab her hips and pull her forward to the erection I woke up with.

She lifts up just enough so when I start pushing her back and forth, there isn’t any unfortunate crushing going on.

It doesn’t take long before my back is against the headboard and Katniss is holding onto my shoulders as she rides me. The empty house brings a welcome change to Katniss, who moans so loudly while she’s coming that the dog comes running from wherever she was dead asleep, assuming her owner is being horribly murdered.

“Sasquatch, fuck off!” we shout in unison.

Katniss and I look into each other’s eyes before she digs her fingers in my hair. She’s rough when we’re in a house by ourselves, she’s loud in and control. I love it.


I get in the shower while Katniss messes with her phone. “Babe, what’s your wifi code?” she asks. “No, Johanna, I don’t want to run my… Oh, fuck it… I want to see the hell spawn!”

“Oh, fuck you! That’s my son, you bitch!”

“Wait, how far along are you? I thought they couldn’t tell that until it was ready to cartwheel out.”

“Excuse me, motherfucker, my vagina is tighter than your asshole.”

Katniss squeals, “Oh, fuck off!”

“They did CVS testing shit at eleven weeks. Apparently, Gale knocked me up right before Halloween, or so they think because of how big the little fish is.”

“And?” Katniss asks.

“Everything checks out, and they thought they saw a penis today.”

“Is it as small as Gale’s?” I shout.

“Is he in the room? Peeta, you wish your dick was as big as Gale’s. Katniss, am I on speaker phone?”

I hear the doorbell ring over the shower, as well as Katniss hopping off her perch. “Gotta go darling, good luck with that fish you swallowed. Look for my face on the TV tomorrow. I’ll be the drunk one.”

Katniss adjusts her shirt. “Hurry up, sexy.”

I shut off the water and immediately bear hug Katniss before she can escape. “Eww, Peeta! You’re all wet!” I open my mouth and suck on her neck as hard as I can without causing her pain.

She squirms out of my embrace. “Go let my line-mate in and tell him I miss showering with him.”

She rolls her eyes. “You better have not left a mark!”


Katniss

“You and Peeta should just check into the hotel and pretend it’s a vacation,” Delly tells me as I stare at the background on my phone. After getting shit show drunk last night, Gale and Thom thought it was appropriate to see which of them was the “manlier man" by going outside in just boots and their boxers. Peeta’s stupidity is my personal eye candy.

“Nah, I kind of like having the privacy. We spend the whole morning completely naked.”

I watch Peeta and Thom sort of cling to their rookies as everyone starts practicing. It’s an informal practice; no one’s been placed on teams yet, so it’s more a show of skills, or a friendly reminder of the talent in the room.

Finally, they start to expand their social circles, and everyone seems to do it at the same time.

“This is so freaky…” I tell Delly. “It’s like they’re all the best of friends.” Their practice jerseys are all from their respective teams, but everyone is mingling like they didn’t just spend the last four months slamming each other into the boards.

“If you look at who is talking to whom, it’s the Frenchies, the English speakers, and the others who are sticking the closest together. And then there’s Thom, who will try and be a social butterfly… And put his arm around Marvel.”

It’s awkward to watch, the Flyer and the Penguin in a quick embrace, but Marvel pats Thom on the shoulder. They even pass the puck back and forth before Thom gives it to Marvel for an empty net goal.

Peeta is either hungover or hiding his skills from everyone, though everyone’s probably seen the highlights, or played against him. He just skates backwards the entire time like it’s nothing, talking to a few people, or running a drill every so often, but he doesn’t do much.

Delly finally elbows me. “Come on, I need your help with something.”

I follow Delly without question, watching this informal skate all afternoon sounds dull and Peeta has a shit ton of other things to do this evening that don’t involve me.

She leads me out of the sparsely populated arena and out into the cold. “What are you going to do if Peeta ever gets traded to a Canadian team like Calgary, or Edmonton, or Vancouver?” she asks as I curl up into a ball in the passenger seat. It isn’t that much colder than Philadelphia, but it’s the wind that’s getting to me. I’m used to the city where the tight buildings block most of it.

“Who says he’ll take me?”

I peek over the neck of my jacket where I’ve been protecting my face just in time to see Delly roll her eyes. “Okay, I get it. Who says I’ll go? A weekend is one thing… forever is…”

“Forever.”

Finally, the heat kicks on just as we arrive at the hotel where the player and their guests are staying. “Is any surface sanitary here?” I ask as I take off my boots.

Delly scoffs. “Please, Thom and I do more than just have sex.”

“Right,” I tell her, sounding skeptical.

“Sometimes we have anal sex,” she tells me like there’s a difference.

I slam my palm against my face. “Fucking-A, Delly! Why did you bring me here?”

She holds up her index finger, telling me to wait a minute before rummaging through two backpacks, a duffel bag, then the first backpack a second time. What she throws down on the bed is a thousand bridal magazines.

Delly inhales deeply, then tells me in one breath, “My wedding is at the end of June and I don’t have a wedding dress. I’m going up to Manhattan in a week to try shit on. Help!”

I can’t tell if she’s joking or not until she shoves a magazine in my hand. “No mermaids! I’ll order champagne!”

It takes two corks going missing, one broken champagne flute and about ten minutes longer than necessary wrestling with plastic wrapped cups to get started.

“What’s your price range?” I ask, flipping through glossy pages.

Delly shrugs. “I mean… less than Thom’s yearly salary.”

“Don’t get a lacy dress. It’s not your style. You need like big and bold and in everyone’s face. Also, show off your tits,” I tell her as I help myself to more champagne.

We dog ear, take notes, scare the room service man and finally come to the conclusion that Delly wants something sleek and sexy because she worked really hard for her curves.

“So you’ll go to New York with me?” Delly asks while using her thumb to get a scuff mark from a stray cork off the ceiling. “Annie’s coming and Johanna might, but that depends on whether the guys have a game that night and if she and Gale have the kids.”

I sigh. “Just one day?”

“No, a long weekend. Leave Thursday, come back Sunday unless I get Thom’s credit card, then maybe Monday. Mama needs a new purse.”

I lie back on the bed and lift my legs so I can grab my feet. “I need new shoes, but I’m broke…” I sigh.

Delly snorts. “I don’t mean to sound like a gold digger, but Peeta would probably give you the means buy a whole new wardrobe.” I eye my wallet, knowing there’s a hefty ‘gift’ from Peeta that he snuck in the second he knew we’d be out and about.

He knows I don’t want to treat him like an extension of my wallet… but he did drag me out of the country to watch him play hockey.

There’s a rattling from the door and a few seconds later it thumps against the wall, “God dammit, Jacob!” Delly sighs, “I almost peed myself.”

Peeta follows Thom into the room, and looks at our discarded bottles of champagne and bridal magazines. “So the… four bottles of champagne were… lunch?” Peeta asks, standing over me. I ball up my fists and hold them up.

“Want to fight?” I ask.

Peeta snorts, “You’re not going to fight like that…” He takes my hand and unwraps my fingers. “Don’t tuck your thumb.”

I look at my hand. “I know that… take me home, we have to cook for your Mom and Dad,” I remind him. “Can we cook naked? My jeans are uncomfortable…”

Peeta grabs my hands and hauls me to my feet. “Not with my parents in the house.”

I stumble forward in his arms and as I catch myself, I don’t miss the concern written all over his face. He’s quiet as we stop for groceries and barely talks to me once we get home.

He’s already in the kitchen when I get back from taking the dog for a walk. “Baby?” I ask cautiously and get frustrated when he doesn’t answer me. “Peeta, God dammit, are you mad at me?”

He shrugs with his back still turned to me. “I’m just tired, Katniss. Why don’t you go sleep off that champagne?”

I narrow my eyes. “Is that the issue? That Delly and I drank?” He says nothing even as I approach him. I reach out for him, “Peeta, please talk to me…”

His shoulders slump, “I’m worried about you, that’s all. You drink every chance you get and not just one or two.”

“Peeta, it was just some champagne,” I run my hands through my hair, wishing he would face me. “I mean, it was two bottles… but over the whole afternoon, and we were looking at wedding dresses and…” my voice cracks.

“I’m afraid that any progress you’re making will be ruined…” he tells me in a defeated tone while I reach out for him. I withdraw my hand and quietly walk away as tears well up in my eyes.  I slip away like a ghost, unsure that he even knows or cares that I’m gone until the doorbell rings. The dog’s ears perk up, but she doesn’t leave me. We’re both hidden under the down comforter on our bed.

“Where’s your other half?” I hear his father ask.

“Upstairs, hopefully sleeping. I think she caught something on the plane up here,” Peeta tells his parents. “I’m actually going to go bring her some tea. Help yourselves to whatever.”

I continue to pet Sasquatch as she tries to nibble on my fingers until the lights are turned on. “Babe?”

Maybe if I lay still long enough, he’ll think I’m napping. “I know you’re awake… Listen, babe. I’m sorry if I seemed angry earlier. I’m not, really… You can do whatever you want with your friends. You just drink a lot. I’m worried about your health, mental and physical.” I hear him thump around the room, “You’re not supposed to take these with alcohol for a reason,” he says, shaking my meds.

The bed sinks under his weight. “Listen, Katniss. Remember the night I found you in the bar alone?”

“Yes…” I tell him after a minute.

“I’m afraid that you turn to alcohol as an escape when things get tough. There are hundreds of things you could do when the world becomes too much. Go for a run, talk to me…” He pulls the covers down to see my tear-stained face. He stops just at my shoulders, keeping his hands there. “Have rough passionate sex with me…”

“It’s the only way I knew how to cope with… everything. Then it just kind of stuck,” I tell him. “And you aren’t always here.”

Peeta sighs, “I know… But you have Prim, who can actually answer her phone during game time, and your sorority sisters who probably still want you to show your face, and Johanna, and Annie, and Delly… I know you try to be strong in front of people, but the people who care will still love you, even when you’re weak.”

I shift to hug him around the middle. “Just promise me you’ll cut back on the drinking. You don’t have to stop, you’re a grown ass woman… But if you need an escape…”

“I’ll fuck your brains out…” I mumble. “You should go downstairs and be a good host to your parents. I’ll be down in a bit… I need to change and wash my face.”

“Take your time,” he tells me, kissing my forehead. “I love you.”

I stretch and sit up. “Love you too, even if you do still smell like hockey pads,” I tease.

Peeta sniffs his armpit. “I do not, unless it’s in my skin.”

I pick up my lazy ass dog from her spot in the center of the bed and hand her to Peeta. “Here, it’s your shift with the baby. I need a break.”

He sighs, “Are you giving her to me right when she needs to be changed and fed?”

I feel a grin spread across my face. “Can we get little clothes for her!?” 

Chapter Text

“Oh my fuck, they look like proud fathers…” Delly whispers in my ear as Thom, Peeta and their veteran defenseman, Timonen, pose for a picture with their rookies.

It’s what the red carpet before the All-Star Fantasy Draft is, a series of pictures; the guys signing jerseys while Delly and I smile and play the role of hockey girlfriend. Big smiles, and when we’re asked about them, just talk about how good of a season they’re having and how well the team is doing. Don’t mention yourself at all, everything is about the men here.

After about my thousandth picture with Peeta, Delly grabs my hand. “I’ll return her; we have girl things to do,” she tells Peeta.

“Wait, but-“ Peeta starts.

Delly whips her head around, my mouth catching a blonde ringlet. “Girl things, Mellark!” she snaps.

Delly leads me away from the guys, “Okay, how’s my hair?”

I run my tongue against my front teeth. “In my mouth,” I tell her, pulling out a long blonde strand.

She rolls her eyes. “Thanks. Now do you see that guy there?”

I nod slowly, seeing a familiar face with a short haircut and strong jaw. I know him from somewhere, but I just can’t figure it out yet. “Well, when I was a wee lass, I was big into Buffy and naturally Angel and naturally David Boreanaz. And he comes to every single All-Star weekend and we’re getting our picture with him.”

“Oh, and he’s a Flyers fan.”

Mr. Boreanaz is polite, courteous, and asks about Peeta and Thom. Apparently he’s been invited to practice with the team every so often.

We get our pictures with him, about a hundred before Thom pulls Delly away, shaking his head and laughing at her obvious fangirling.

Peeta shakes hands with the object of Delly’s obsession. “So… uh… your other half?” he asks Peeta.

“At home with the kids, and his pregnant girlfriend.”

David smiles, “He should have brought them up. Herding kids is a lot like herding rookies, or so I’ve heard.” For a fraction of a second, Peeta’s eyes flick to me.

‘What?’ I mouth. He shakes his head and mouths, ‘Nothing,’ back to me.

Peeta ends up inviting him to practice the next time he is on the east coast and has free time. When we finally head inside, Peeta kisses my temple. “Relax…” he whispers into my hair as another flashbulb goes off. We make our way through the glass doors.

I really need a drink but I promised Peeta I’d cut back, and I also know how stressed this afternoon’s made me. Peeta and I part ways with a long ‘we don’t give a fuck who is looking’ kiss before our small entourage heads off to where the players are corralled.

As soon as we’re seated, Delly orders a Cosmo and I order a water, though I have to repeat myself three times because her French and my Philadelphian English don’t blend.

“You’re not drinking?” Delly asks curiously.

I shrug and chew on the lemon that came with my water. “Peeta thinks I might have a drinking problem, or at least a dependency of some sorts. He’s mad that I got drunk when his friends were over, and that I got drunk before we had dinner with his Mom and Dad.”

Delly nods. “You can lap a hockey player when we’re drinking, Katniss. That’s… that’s skill.”

I nod, feeling my shoulders slump. “I just don’t want to scare him off…”

Delly puts a cold hand on my bare shoulder. “Listen, bitch, in the like… five years I’ve known that man, I’ve seen him give one woman a second glance. Like, you should have seen him before you. I swear, he was addicted to the gym.”

I laugh nervously, chewing on my thumbnail. “He still is. Every morning before leaving to skate, it’s a half hour on the treadmill. If they don’t have a practice, he’ll lift weights,” I sigh and watch as Peeta walks out from the back and is handed a red and white jersey with the NHL logo on the chest. “He wants the Stanley Cup more than anything. I don’t want to be added stress to him.”

“Katniss, you’re like… a de-stressor to him, but you both are going to have ups and downs together and as individuals. You were there when Peeta had his concussion, and he was there when you were figuring out things with your Mom.”

I grunt and hear Thom’s name get called for the same team as Peeta. Delly jumps up out of her seat. “That’s my man!” she shouts.

Someone at the next table snickers. “Suck my clit, Glimmer!” she snaps before sitting back down. “Now where were we?”

I shrug and look to where the players are separated into their teams. Peeta’s eyes find mine; he gives me a small wave which I return.

Delly sighs dreamily into her third Cosmo. “I can’t wait until you two get married and have little hockey babies. Thom and I will probably still be setting up the sex swing at our house. The directions are in Swedish or some shit.”

I quickly intercept her fourth Cosmo and down it before she can react. “You’re done, honey,” I choke out as I feel the burn travel down to my stomach.

I’m more proud than I should be that Peeta’s drunker than I am after we leave the hotel bar for his place. Peeta and Thom made a drunken “gentlemen’s” wager - for every time Thom falls during the All-Star game, he has to donate $1,000 to a charity of Peeta’s choice. Peeta agrees to match the donation and Delly and I think they won’t even remember.

Peeta hands me the keys to his rental car. “I can direct you. I just don’t trust myself driving, not with you in the car.”

He’s only had two beers that I’ve seen, but he’s right. The roads are slick and Peeta takes fucking tight turns.

The house is blissfully quiet. “Can you unzip me?” I ask lifting up my hair. Peeta gets the zipper of my red dress down and I abandon it in the foyer before heading upstairs, ready for sleep.

Though we get home close to one am, Peeta wakes me up at six to get ready for his morning skate. I keep out of his way until he flops back down on the bed. “Want to go running with me?” he asks, hopeful.

I pull the comforter up some more. “It’s six thirty, and we’re in Canada and…” I look at his puppy dog face and throw the covers off. Peeta’s been slowly stocking my wardrobe with Under Armor so at least I know I’ll survive the initial chill.

I’ve never actually been running. Sure, I’ve done my time on the treadmill and have a fondness for Zumba, but I’ve never just ran.

“Do you think you can keep up with me?” Peeta asks as we warm up.

I have no idea where he gets his energy. It’s barely 7am. “No, I’m a bartender, not a hockey player.”

I have no idea how long Peeta and I run for. He’s patient, letting me take breaks when I need it, spanking me when I want to go back home. I don’t know how I feel about this running thing, but I’d do it again with him. We’re silent while on the move, but it’s an easy silence.

When we get home I flop on the couch and Peeta feeds the dog. “Babe, want breakfast?”

I wave my hand in the air. “I’ll eat when you’re at practice.” Peeta and I won’t see each other until after the skills competition. They have a skate, some interviews, practice again, a break time where Peeta will check into his hotel room and nap on my orders, and finally, the Super Skills competition.

“Okay, then can you please do me a quick favor?”

I sit up. “Sure.”

“Can you go upstairs and make sure everything is in my bags? I need my suit, workout clothes, and just make sure my skates aren’t fucking up my jersey.”

I force myself off the couch and head up into our bedroom. Peeta is the absolute worst when it comes to packing.

I pull his clothes out of his duffel bag and fold them neatly. Dress shoes and sneakers on the bottom with exercise clothes on top of that. I put his suit back up on a hanger and swap ties. Finally, I tackle his hockey bag. The smell is what hits me first. It’s not as strong as I expected, but the lingering smell of his pads is there to stay.

I dump the entire bag out, removing bloody gauze, band-aid wrappers and five used rolls of tape before wiping the inside with a Lysol cloth and giving his pads the same treatment. I start loading the bag, securing the guards on his skates, untangling the suspenders on his pants, all the while refusing to touch his jock strap or cup. He has so much gear that it’s almost overwhelming. The last item I put back in his bag before the jersey is his pair of gloves.

It takes me a minute to realize the reason his last name is stitched into them is just in case he fights. They’re big on me, big and stiff. Inside, the material is smooth from where his hands rub and where there is the most pressure put on his stick. I tuck them in next to the skates before folding his jersey and placing it in the bag so the crest is practically shouting at him.

I haul the load down, leaving the suit upstairs. Delly is coming to get me at eleven, so at some point, we’ll drop everything off at the hotel. “I’m going to drop your suit off at the hotel, okay? I don’t want it getting wrinkled.”

Peeta just stands there, staring at me with this look of pure adoration on his eyes. He walks up to me and holds my face in his hands before kissing me. I give him a confused look for a few minutes before settling down at the kitchen table. Peeta and I stay in our domestic moment as I read the paper and he pushes a plate of toast in my direction, determined to get me to eat it.

I’m halfway through an article when I realize it’s an interview with Peeta. “I’m so fucking out of it, I don’t even realize when I’m reading about you…” I grumble. I think I glazed over it because it was a string of word vomit and hockey stats. My eyes are glued to the page the second I spot my name.

Mellark’s eyes light up at the mention of his girlfriend, twenty-seven year old Katniss Everdeen of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “She wouldn’t appreciate me talking about her,” he says. “She’s a private person and I can appreciate that.”

“Awwww…” I coo, “You’re defending my honor, and right to privacy.”

Peeta nods slowly. “I got your back, baby, and don’t worry. Someone’s going to want to talk to you eventually.”

I shrug, “I’ve already agreed to help Haymitch’s wife with your carnival thing. I’m taking baby steps towards being a proper hockey girlfriend.”

Peeta looks down at his plate and pushes his food around with his fork. I don’t know if I’ve upset him, it’s just that he has his thinking face on.

I go back to reading, curious to see what else was said about me. It’s nothing scandalous, just Peeta stating that I may be the best thing to ever happen to him.

Peeta gets up from the table quietly and puts his dishes in the dishwasher; god, he’s so awkward right now.

“Peeta?” I ask quietly. He looks embarrassed. “You throwing that water bottle at me in October was the best thing to ever happen to me,” I tell him honestly. “I love you.”

He walks around the kitchen table to kiss me but I cling to his waist and practically pull him into my lap. Peeta makes me a better person; he give me a reason to fight instead of just pretend I’m okay to appease people.

Peeta settles awkwardly into my lap as I take in his scent.

I don’t know what forever would be like with Peeta, what it would be like to perhaps some day move to another city, or even to be married to him. I don’t know what it would be like to start a family someday in the distant future, but have him be absent from October to May ever year until he retires. I don’t even know if he thinks about these things, or if everything that’s us is just passion and lust covered in sexual chemistry.

He practically drags me to the bedroom when he has to leave for practice. Our goodbye kiss starts innocently, but then turns into me with my back against the front door and his cold hands down my pants. Peeta leaves me unsatisfied and wanting more; he knows exactly what he’s done and walks proudly to the car as I watch him leave for work as if I was a housewife from the 1950’s.

If he gets traded to another city, would I leach off his funds? Would I be able to use my degree to get a job?

Everything is suddenly way too real for me. It’s a huge weight crashing down on my head and settling on my back, pinning me to the ground.

I pace around the house, perfectly quiet and completely Peeta’s. There are no signs of children, no risk of stepping on a Lego. Peeta’s house is so neat and clean. Everything is in its place because it’s seldom lived in. Peeta owns an entire house that he uses three months out of the year, and even then he honestly only lives in the kitchen, his ‘man cave’ and his bedroom.

Domestic isn’t something Peeta did before me. Before me, Peeta did four things – play Xbox, eat, sleep, and play hockey, at least that’s what I’ve been told. He’s almost 25, is domestic something 25-year-olds want?

I can’t stop moving; I don’t want to think, but I still do. I think, which leads to me panicking, which leads to me pacing more until finally I pick up my phone.

Peeta is the first person I think of calling, but I hang up after the first ring. He probably has important stuff that he’s doing.

I tap my phone against my teeth, thinking of someone who I can vent to, but it vibrates to life.

“Peeta…” my voice cracks when I answer the phone.

“Katniss, what happened? What’s wrong? Are you okay?” he asks, frantic.

I try to calm my breathing before I respond. “I…” my chest tightens, “Panic attack.”

I sit down on the floor in the middle of the hall and press my forehead to my knees. “What happened?” he asks calmly, though his voice is a little higher than normal.

I let myself hit the floor with a thud, waking up the dog and sending her barreling for my location. The position calms my breathing. “The future…” I explain to him my concerns about him getting traded, if he’d take me with him or would want me to come, if I would work, and if what we have is too serious for a young athlete.

“Katniss, I’m coming home. I don’t want you to be all by yourself right now…” he tells me.

“No!” I practically yell. “You have practice, and stuff to do. Just stay there. I’m fine. I’m fine. I’m fine,” I tell him over and over, trying to make it seem believable.

Peeta sighs. “Katniss, I know you’re nervous about the future, and I am, too. I worry every day that you’re going to finally wake up and want someone who isn’t traveling all the time, who doesn’t come home with bruises all over him. I’m worried that you’ll get sick of my living situation, or get sick of me.”

“That’s stupid,” I tell him while spooning the dog. “You’re perfect.”

“So are you,” he tells me, “Flaws and all.”


I pick myself off the floor three hours later. After a long conversation about what we want out of life, I feel much better. We promise each other forever, no matter what the city. It’s a whole new depth to our relationship, a step away from the here and now, because now there’s our future to think about. Like how it’s our bedroom, our bed, our dog.

Peeta’s mother called me to wake me up from my floor nap. She wants to see me before we head to the arena tonight. Naturally, I ask if she’s okay with Delly coming along.

I come ready in my Flyers Winter Classic jersey with Delly matching me.

“Is Peeta’s room still the same from when he lived here?” Delly asks curiously as I snack on practically anything that is edible.

Peeta’s mother nods, “Yeah, want to see it?”

Delly nods eagerly. “Yeah, Thom and them want to see what Peeta was like before he was a hockey machine.”

“You know he still sleeps here in the off season? Or he did,” his mother confesses. “He doesn’t like the quiet house. I’d go to bed some nights and wake up in the morning with him trying not to fall out of bed.”

I watch as Lorelei leads us down the hall. Peeta gets his love for hanging pictures from her. Every son gets their fair share of space, no one kid’s achievements overshadowing the others.

Peeta’s childhood bedroom has been mostly cleared out because of his moving to Philadelphia. The only thing left that really stands out is a Team Canada photo where they’re all holding gold medals. It’s not in a frame, just on his desk. I flip the photo over.

Unfamiliar autographs litter the photo but I do see one familiar face. Thresh has his arm around Peeta’s shoulders, his gold medal in his teeth.

“God, look at his baby face,” I groan.

“Yeah, Peeta looked like a kid, then one day, boom. Our boy became a man.”

“When’d that happen?” I ask Delly idly, acutely aware that Lorelei is watching me like a hawk in her son’s room.

“Somewhere between his first shameful playoff beard and when he looked like a caveman.”

Peeta’s room is too impersonal for me, but all of his spaces are like that. It’s almost like he doesn’t have a home, just places where he spends his time.

One of them taps me on my shoulder. “Earth to Katniss, you in there?” I snap out of my morose daze about my boyfriend’s scattered life.

“Yeah, sorry…”


Getting the card key to the hotel room Peeta and I were supposed to share was easy enough, but finding the actual room proved to be difficult, especially when players who were supposed to be resting assumed I was some kind of assistant or official.

There seems to be little difference between the locker room and the hallway of their hotel. Guys have their doors open and are shouting across the hall about things on TV, like whether someone knows how to get beer out of a suit jacket, or the occasional ‘Shut up, I’m napping!’

I just roll my eyes and find Peeta’s room.

I try to be as quiet as I can when I get inside, as he’s already sound asleep. I’m meeting Delly and Peeta’s family closer to the start time of tonight’s event.

I look at the red numbers on the clock by the bed, two hours before Peeta has to leave. Plenty of time for a nap.

I kick off my shoes and pants and slip under the covers in my underwear and his jersey. “You’d better watch it…” he yawns, “My girlfriend might show up…”

I spread my hand out on his stomach. “I’m sure she won’t mind…” Peeta rolls towards me, taking away my position as big spoon. Peeta’s mom and Delly suddenly had things to do that didn’t include me; it’s like they knew the one thing I needed in this world was right here in this bed.

The alarm is like a squawking wounded animal ripping me from my nap way too early. “Gale… hit the snooze…” I hear Peeta grumble. He waits for a second as it keeps beeping. “Gale…” he whines, “Don’t be a dick.”

I roll back towards Peeta and he jumps when he feels me, like he’s forgotten I’m here. “Holy crap, it wasn’t a dream,” Peeta tells me, squeezing the air out of me before swinging at the alarm clock. “I was so worried about you all day.”

He kisses every inch of my face. “I’m sorry…” I whisper. I squirm in his arms trying to gain more ground and settle down when my cheek is against his. We sit in silence through four snoozes before Peeta finally gets out of bed.

“Go get ready, I’ll lay your suit out.” I tell him, forcing myself out of the warm covers.

Peeta gives me a funny look, “You don’t have to.” I shrug and pull my legs in so I’m sitting Indian style. “Wait, don’t move.”

Peeta takes his phone from on top of the wardrobe and takes a picture of me. “What was that for?” I ask.

“You’re basically wearing my jersey, one I personally sweat in, and nothing else. You have no idea how hot that is.”

While he’s brushing his teeth, for whatever reason I start to unpack his suit. He has the heater cooking so I throw off the jersey and my t-shirt and lay out his clothes in nothing but my underwear.


Peeta

When I exit the bathroom, Katniss is fumbling with my tie wearing nothing but her black panties, glasses and one sock. “You didn’t have to get my clothes ready…” I tell her while subtly adjusting myself in my boxers.

“I wanted to…” she tells me, still fumbling with my tie.

I approach her and grab the silk, tying just loose enough to slide easily. My knuckles brush between her breasts and up to her neck as I tighten it. “There…”

Her glasses have slid down to just about the tip of her nose, some of her hair is coming out of her braids, and her cheeks are growing rosier with every second. While her guard is down, I yank the tie quickly, pulling her towards me. She stumbles a little, but doesn’t resist as I let the silk fall from my hand and hold her hips.

Her lips are soft and warm and I almost get lost in them before I realize the time. “We don’t have a lot of time,” I tell her against her lips.

“Then hurry up and fuck me.”

I don’t think twice; instead, I grab my tie again like it’s a leash and back her into the dresser. I don’t know why I can’t let go of it. It’s some kind of subconscious dominance thing. “Take off your underwear,” I tell her.

She hesitates but hooks her thumbs in the waistband of her black panties, pushing them down just far enough that they fall off her skinny legs.

I help Katniss settle on the dresser before I let my boxers hit the floor. “I don’t… I don’t need anything,” she stammers, “I’m already-“

Something’s gotten into us, we’re both fucking animals. Her sharp nails dig up my back and shoulders and I’m positive I’m leaving bruises on her knees from holding her legs open too roughly.

And the fucking noise, of all the places for her to let go of everything… she naturally chooses a hotel full of hockey players and fans, all of whom are getting ready for the skills competition in three hours.

When she comes, her moaning my name is all I can hear. She clings to my back so I pull away, feeling her unwillingly scratch me, which sends me over the edge.

Katniss doesn’t try to take my tie off until after she’s dressed again, “No, keep it on,” I suggest as she adjusts her jersey.

“Usually the woman gives the man a favor when he goes into battle.”

I lean in and kiss the tip of her nose. “Then what are you going to give me?”

Katniss holds her index finger up, telling me she’ll be one minute. She then searches for her purse and digs around until she pulls out her glasses case.

Katniss hands me the necklace I gave her for Christmas. “A token of my love for you to wear into battle, my lord. Wear my colors with pride!”

I almost always have a cross around my neck. It’s easily hidden under my shirts and pads, and with a little tape, never moves. I stare at the rose gold key in my hand before putting it around my neck. “I always do.”

Katniss snorts, “No, really, you’re representing my city. You’d better be amazing tonight, asshole!” she jokes.

I clutch my heart. “Ouch. I think they felt that burn back in Philadelphia.”

She turns away from me with a proud little bounce. “I’d better get going… while you were in the bathroom, your family and Delly texted me that they were on their way.”

I wrap my arms around her waist from behind and kiss the back of her head. “I can’t wait to come home to you tonight…” I tell her honestly.

Katniss stiffens. “You should go out with Thom tonight and anyone else. Have fun with these guys,” she tells me quietly.

I squeeze her. “I don’t want to go bar hopping with a bunch of strangers. I want to come home to you.”

Katniss pulls away slowly. “Just go out tonight and be the twenty-four year old hockey player you are. We’re not an old married couple.”

“Katniss,” I reach out for her but pull my hand away. “I’m coming home to you tonight because after hours of basically being paraded around for the NHL’s enjoyment and money making, there’s nothing more relaxing than watching a movie with you, the dog and a bottle of wine.”

Katniss looks at me from over her shoulder, a small smile playing on her lips. “I get to pick the movie tonight,” she tells me before leaving. Just before she lets the door close, she pokes her head back into the room. “I love you.”

“I love you, too.”


When I get on the bus to head back to the stadium, I’m greeted by a row of high fives. “What the hell is this for?” I ask, taking my seat next to Thom.

“I don’t know,” a voice calls from the back. “All I know is that chick who just left your hotel room isn’t wearing white on her wedding day.”

I groan and put my head in my hands. If any of them say anything about noises coming from my room, Katniss will be mortified.

Thom nudges my side to make me look up. He has an innocent look on his face but is holding his fist. “Dude… pound it.”

“Fuck you, man…” I grumble, giving him what he wants.

I don’t think I’ll ever be allowed to live down the scratches on my back, but to be fair, I don’t really want to. I’ve been made fun of more times than I can count for cockblocking myself; now I’m having meaningful sex and I’m hopefully going to enjoy it for the rest of our lives.

“How do you tell them apart?” Thom asks me, motioning to the Sedin twins.

I roll my eyes. “You put their first initial and last name on the back of their shirt, then give them unique numbers,” he shrugs and continues playing on his phone.

“Hmm…” he responds before grabbing at the collar of my t-shirt. “Holy fuck, dude… does that hurt?”

“Not as much as your jaw will if you don’t shut the fuck up,” I threaten while checking my phone.

“What’s she want?” Thom asks, “Round two?”

Thankfully, Thom can take a good beating.


“I’m just saying… It was a funny joke,” Thom tells me as we wait to go on the ice. They introduce every player one by one with our teams, hometowns, and a picture of them before we all went pro.  Thom informed me that a tweet was going around about a kat being loose in the hotel.

I warned Katniss, but she’s taking it better than I expected. She says they’re just jealous. “I’m just saying that it’s not your sex life at stake,” I mumble.

Thom stares at me with a blank face. “Fuck you and your fucking Frenchie cult.”

I’ve been terrible at switching back and forth this afternoon. It’s not like it matters much, since I don’t have to relay information on the ice. For the most part, the tasks are individual events that work towards the group’s score.

“You’re just pissed because my English is better than yours.”

“Peet, I’m almost a foot taller than you. I will sit on your head.”

I bounce from skate to skate, waiting for my turn to go onto the ice. Thom goes first, which gets rid of about 90% of my entertainment before I decide if seeing how far ahead in line I can get my stick is a good idea. Guys don’t really like when they have the blade of a hockey stick rubbing at their neck from the middle of nowhere.

This whole weekend is just a huge circus to show us all off, but it’s a good break from that last long stretch before the playoffs.

Finally, after waiting for the other team to be announced, it’s my turn.

“One of the league’s brightest young stars, with fifty-five points coming into the break. Representing the Philadelphia Flyers, number 28, right wing Peeta Mellark,” I roll my eyes as I skate to center ice. They can’t even get my position right.

There is a kid representing each of the thirty NHL teams. On my way, I bump my fist against the kid in the Flyers jersey before pausing. I don’t see the picture my Mom sent for them to use; instead, I salute as Thom did, to honor our absent line mate.

After the introduction and the anthems, everything starts moving quickly.

No one really stays with their All-Star team as the events go on. Old teammates shoot the shit, we judge each other’s breakaway form, and I trip Thom from my position on the edge of the bench. “That’s a thousand bucks!”

Thom shakes his head, “Canadian or American?”

I scratch my head. “No idea, haven’t decided if I want it donated to an American charity or not. You could donate it to my house fund.”

“No, fuck you. You got a raise in September when they redid your contract, and Gale doesn’t charge you rent.”

I pick up a water bottle and spray my face, a little out of habit before squirting some water in my mouth.

Finally, I’m up. “How’s my hair?” I ask as I fasten my helmet.

Thom doesn’t respond. The course is simple, half way up the rink forward, the length of the rink backwards, then the rest forwards.

Make the guy with the shortest legs do this… I grumble. I know I’m fast, but in shit like this…

The whistle is blown and I’m off, completely ignoring the guy in this heat with me. I lean into my turn, using the momentum to help me turn to go backwards.

Okay… Face-off circle, blue line, red line, blue line, face-off… and turn.

I dig in on the last push, just barely beating the poor SOB next to me. Everyone tells me he was ahead until we went backwards.

Everything is so relaxed for the rest of the night, mostly because I only have the elimination shootout to do. Guys wander around taking pictures and signing autographs for the fans that have close seats with the glass down.

My team walks away with the win in the skills competition, a good way to start the weekend.


My drive home is quiet. My mother dropped Katniss off at the house shortly after the event was over.

Katniss is sound asleep on the couch when I get home. She’s in nothing but her black bra and underwear with a long open sweater to keep her warm.

I lean over the back of the couch and kiss her cheek, ignoring the warning growls from Sassy. “Mmm…” Katniss stretches, “Hey you…” she yawns. “You just missed your parents…”

“I hope you didn’t walk around dressed like that with them here.”

She shakes her head. “Nah… are you ready for the game tomorrow?”

I mess up her hair. “As ready as I’ll ever be. “

Chapter Text

I’m already done with Media Day, or morning.

“So you guys recently finished 24/7 with HBO,” I could still be in bed with Katniss, “Did you guys watch the finished product?”

Thom and I exchange looks. “My fiancé and I watched it; it was strange because while they’re filming, you’re always saying in the back of your head, ‘Don’t curse, don’t say something stupid.’”

I start chuckling, which draws their attention to me. “At least they could use most of the footage they shot of you two at home.”

“A lot of cursing at home?” the interviewer asks.

“Not cursing, but apparently there was a lot of footage of my girlfriend and Gale Hawthorne’s fiancé saying whatever came to mind whenever they were near the boom mic.”

I could still be in bed, naked, with Katniss. It’s 8am and I’ve already done two interviews. Everyone wants to ask the same questions, take the same pictures… I could still be in bed with Katniss and even our cock block of a dog. I know I should be honored, but I’ve never been so tempted to just stay in bed all day and do nothing.

It’s pretty much the same deal as yesterday, though. Interviews, light practice, lunch, free time.

At about nine, I express my wish to just do nothing in bed with Katniss to her. At two, I head to the hotel room and find Katniss on the bed in a t-shirt and sweats, the dog lying across her stomach.

“There are definitely no animals allowed in this hotel… I think.”

Sasquatch picks her head up off Katniss’ stomach. “Snuck her in with that gigantic purse I got for Christmas. She didn’t have any issue.” Of course she wouldn’t. That’s the laziest dog in the world, unless you say the word cookie.

I strip down to my underwear and lay down next to her. “Are we going to nap?” she asks, hopeful. I passed out last night and might have kept her up with my snoring.

More and more guys start making their way up, but luckily Katniss is already asleep in my arms. I watch Sassy pick her head up from Katniss’ calf and listen outside, tilting her head to the side every so often before giving up and going back to sleep.

I know I should sleep; I have a game tonight and real life starts again tomorrow, but I just sit and watch the love of my life sleep in my arms. I could never get tired of this sight. I must do something because Katniss wakes up. “Like what you see?” she mumbles.

I kiss her forehead. “I love what I see… Did I wake you up?”

“The guy screaming ‘boom headshot’ did…” I turn on my side, letting her burrow her face in my chest. “And I think it was Thom, so good luck, Delly.”

I shudder.


“Get the fuck back here!” I laugh. To be honest, I stopped caring about this game the second my skates hit the ice. I follow closely behind Thom instead of going for the puck. We made a deal, a thousand bucks every time his ass hits the ice.

If we were on opposing teams, I probably would have racked up so many penalties that they’d have to send me packing.

I swipe at his feet, but when he magically stays on two skates I go after the puck, taking another shot on goal, finding nothing but the goalie’s pads.

When I head to the face-off circle, Thom nudges me. Sure, he has a good five inches on me height wise, but I’m getting his ass on the ice.

Up top they select the players they want to talk to, so after my fourth attempt at tripping Thom, I’m not surprised when my earpiece comes to life. “So this must be good for you, your line mate Jacob Thom at your side?” the announcer, Caesar Flickerman starts. “Now he’s got to give a thousand dollars to charity for every time he falls to the ice, is that right?”

“Yeah,” I lift my stick off the ice, “I’m gonna trip him up.” I watch the puck drop and try to get it behind me, to one of my teammates. I luck out and it gets to Thom, “Here we go! Here we go!” The second he passes the puck to our teammate, I take a swing at his feet.

The game progresses in the same fashion, every time Thom and I are out on the ice, I’m getting my stick between his legs, checking him from behind, and swinging for his skates. The fucker falls twice, which is unacceptably low.

almost fell,” I say after failing to trip Thom again.  Only this time when I take a shot on goal, the goalie goes down on all fours, right in my path.

After tripping over him, I land flat on my back, hard. I slide a few feet, joined by the puck, kicked loose.  It hits me under the chin, not hard enough to draw blood or break anything, but hard enough to break my mic.

I rip the busted mic off my jersey and pull it until the cord is out. “Guess I don’t have to worry about what I say anymore?” I joke while handing it to the ref. I don’t know if he’s the one I’m supposed to give it to, but he’s the one who’s getting it.

In the end, Team Chara wins 12-9, which seems disgustingly high but two of those nine goals are mine, and one is Thom’s.


Katniss

“Don’t feed the dog at the table,” Gale scolds as I pass a piece of chicken from my plate to Sasquatch.

I look up while wiping my hand on my jeans. “You’re not my real Dad,” I tell him while sticking my tongue out. Apparently, Gale had to talk to me.

Gale rolls his eyes, “Fine…”

“So is this how you expected to spend your Friday night?” Johanna teases.

I shrug and feed the dog another bite. “I mean, I’m a little old to go on a rager,” I tell them. “So why did you call the family meeting?”

Gale doesn’t miss a step, “Well, we’re going on a road trip to the West Coast, and coincidentally, it’s the same week Johanna has decided to go visit her family.”

“I want to see them before I get fat, and before we’re back in Quebec for the summer,” she says to defend herself.

I take a bite. “What does this have to do with me?”

“Well, because of my ex-wife’s legal issues right now, I can’t in my right mind leave the kids with her… we were wondering if you would be able to watch them for that week?”

I halt my chewing. I’m okay with Gale’s kids when I can pass them back the second they get too noisy, but this is an entire week where the little monsters are dependent on me.

But Gale does basically let me live here free of charge, and I do eat a lot of his food. “Sure. Will you leave me instructions, like how often they need to be watered?”

Gale tries to negotiate a price for me to babysit his kids for their week long road trip, but I refuse. Even as I get ready for work, he’s offering me more than I would make in a week in tips if I worked every night.

“Gale,” I finally say, throwing my purse over my shoulder. “You let my boyfriend and I live here free of charge. And I know you say you charge Peeta rent, but the most I’ve seen him pay is for groceries twice. I’ll watch the kids; you guys can show the West Coast why the East really is best.”

Peeta drops me off at the PATCO station, but doesn’t let me go until he gets a proper goodbye. “I hate you taking the train into the city… By the time you get back, it’s late and all the freaks are out…” he mumbles against my lips.

“Well,” I sigh, “I’ve been mugged before.” I start digging in my purse. It’s smaller than the one I brought to Ottawa. “It’s why I-“ I’m searching for my can of pepper spray that’s always on my key ring for work. But when my fingers brush against the twenty-eight little blisters from my pack of birth control, my heart stops.

I haven’t carried this purse since at least a week before we left for Canada. “Shit…” I choke out under my breath. It’s been just about three weeks.

Peeta notices my change in mood almost immediately. “What’s wrong, are you okay?” he asks, putting his hand on my knee.

“I forgot to go to the bank,” I lie quickly. “My check…” I stop, “I have bills coming out Monday.”

I look up at Peeta, what I really want to say is, ‘I’m an idiot, I completely forgot about my birth control and we’ve been having sex every chance we get.’

He smiles a little. “I’ll front you the money. You worry too easily, babe…” he kisses my temple. “I’ll be here to get you at like three.”

I nod slowly. “I love you,” I tell him, trying to not sound completely worried out of my mind.


The worry stays with me until Saturday night, when it gets replaced by something else.

I manage to get to the game, it’s a one o’clock game which I had hoped would keep me busy.

Delly and Annie notice my sour mood almost immediately and set out to get me drunk. I take every drink they pass to me. Peeta’s right – I do drink to run away from my problems, but unfortunately there’s no running away from this potential problem. The problem could very well be inside of me.

The Flyers are up two goals to the Devils none when everything goes silent. “No,” In my drunken haze, I notice Johanna jump to her feet, the kids rushing to the edge of the balcony. “Gale…” She adjusts her white knuckled grip on the railing. “Get up, you asshole!” she shouts.

Gale skates off with the help of the trainer. Peeta says it’s a huge pride thing to leave the ice on your own two feet and not need the stretcher.

The hit on Gale was an act of desperation that Thom responds to with his fists less than two minutes after Gale’s gone. The game gets violent after that. Every little nudge starts a shoving match.

Peeta gets tripped and someone comes after the guy, Thom is checked hard into the boards and Peeta decides it’s his time to respond. During this time, they score two more goals. The crowd has about lost their shit. The climax of the drama happens when Finnick is shoved into the goal and it comes dislodged.

“Shit…” Annie grumbles. It doesn’t take a genius to know that Finnick is pissed. The linesmen don’t even get to put the goal in place. Everyone on the ice is by the Flyers goal, screaming at each other, I assume. The Devils’ goalie looks lost at the other end.

Everyone watches closely as Finnick looses his glove and blocker before throwing off his facemask. He circles the mob quickly before ripping the guy that shoved him out of the pack and cold clocking him.

“Oh, god dammit…” Annie grumbles.


We get news of Gale’s condition at eight in the morning Sunday. I’m a little hungover, Peeta has a shiner, and Gale’s out indefinitely with a concussion.

Peeta and I take over Gale and Johanna’s jobs of taking the boys to their Sunday game. It’s good practice for me because even if Gale’s still out, I’m definitely not going to abandon him with the kids next week.

As we attempt to watch Ethan and Parker’s game, Peeta becomes acutely aware of my off mood. He knows me, he knows how hungover I am… I shouldn’t be surprised.

“Alright, what’s up?” he asks.

I look at the ground.  Just tell him… He’ll be happy, I think…

My mouth goes dry and I try to swallow several times. “I… um…” I swallow again, and suddenly I’m nauseous. “There’s a chance I might be pregnant.”

My eyes well up with tears. “And I’m so stupid, I got drunk yesterday and…” I hug myself, “Oh god…”

Peeta silently pulls me into his arms and doesn’t say anything. I can’t get a read on him, I have no idea whether he’s upset, or angry, or happy.

I know the chances are still kind of slim, but I still feel like a fucking idiot.

Chapter Text

The house is silent. The kids are so worried about their Dad’s health that they play quietly in their rooms, only coming out when Peeta and I go in and tell them it’s dinner time.

Johanna hasn’t left Gale’s side, as his condition is worse than Peeta’s. Peeta says it might be his age, or his glass skull.

I bring in food for both of them and a lemon-lime Gatorade for Gale. “How is he?” I ask in a quiet voice. Gale is out like a light, finally.

Johanna puts down her copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting. “His headache is going away a little… I think this one might be the worst he’s ever had.” I nod and hand her a plate, setting the second one on the nightstand. “So what’s wrong with you and Peeta?” she asks.

I freeze and consider dashing downstairs. I think I’m going to head home to my own bed tonight. I love Peeta, but his treating me like a wounded animal is making me more anxious. “I forgot about my birth control for around three weeks…” I tell her before leaving the bedroom.

I still don’t know either way, but he’s a young athlete. He needs to worry about practice, winning games, being captain, and enjoying his wealth… not raising the accidental child of a glorified cocktail waitress.

I’m a fly on the wall at dinner, watching Peeta take care of three kids that aren’t his own.

“You barely ate…” Peeta tells me, coming up from behind as I load the dishwasher. “You need to eat.”

“I’m not hungry,” I tell him quickly.

“Katniss, if you’re-“

“I’m not pregnant,” I snap. I don’t even mean to be this harsh, but I also don’t want to be hounded about this.

Peeta hugs me from behind, nuzzling his face into my hair. “Johanna can watch the kids, want to go find out?”

I cross my arms and cover his hands with mine. “I’m scared…” I admit, “I don’t want this… I don’t want you stuck with me because of a kid.”

I feel the weight of his head on my shoulder and lean my head against his. “Don’t worry about that now. We’ll cross that bridge when and if we have to…”

“Peeta, there are days when I can barely take care of myself. How am I supposed to take care of a baby?”

Johanna enters the kitchen like a ninja and announces her presence by slamming a box on the counter. “This is Gale’s and my gift to you on what could possibly be considered your…” she pauses and starts talking under her breath for a second, “November… December… January…” Her voice returns to normal, “Three month anniversary present. And from him to you two – congratulations, I’m sorry, better luck next time, or dodged a bullet there. Pick whichever one applies.”

“I’m going to put the kids to bed so you can do your thing. Oh, and the line farthest from the piss side is the control box. It just tells you that you did get the tip wet.”

“Which tip do you mean?” Peeta asks, not missing a beat.

“Well, obviously both or you wouldn’t be taking a pregnancy test.”

We abandon the dishes and decide silently that we’re going to solve this mystery before one of us (namely me) has a freak out.

“Well?” Peeta asks.

I come back into the bedroom with the test in hand. “I don’t think it’s done baking yet…”

“Are you sure it’s not too soon to take it?”

I shrug. “I’m due for my period in like two days. This is one of those early tests for women who are actually trying and can’t wait.”

I pace around the room, waiting for lines to form. Then it happens.

The air is completely sucked out of the room the second I see only one pink line. “Well?” Peeta asks again.

“I’m not pregnant…” I mumble before heading to the bathroom to throw out the tormenting pee stick.

I realize the nauseating numbness all throughout my body stems from my own disappointment. A part of me, and I don’t know how dominant that part is, wanted two lines to form.

I close the door and turn on the shower before sinking to the floor. I don’t want Peeta to see me cry.

I bring my legs up to my chest and wobble on my perch for a second. A few minutes into my fit, Peeta comes into the bathroom. He looks about as conflicted as I feel, though he’s actually holding himself together pretty well.

Peeta coaxes me into the warm shower to help me relax. He holds me tight against his chest with the water beating against my back, “It’s okay…” he whispers as I cry into his shoulder, “It’s not a good time right now… You and I have so much going on.”

I pick my head up from his shoulder. “What the fuck do I have going on right now? I go to hockey games and watch hockey games with your teammates’ girlfriends,” I know he’s right. I bury my face back into his shoulder. I hate to admit it, but I know he’s right. I’m overcome by another bout of uncontrollable sobbing. I never realized how much I actually want this.

“If you want it to happen, it’ll happen someday, but not yet. When the time is right, it’ll happen…”


“I’m not going,” Johanna tells us. “There’s too much to do at home.”

Delly, Annie, and I exchange looks; then Delly steps forward. “Johanna Mason. Gale’s brother is in the house. He’s willing to look after the kids even though Gale’s out and about. Rory Hawthorne is also twenty-fucking-five years old, so he knows what he’s doing. I, on the other hand, am getting married for the first and last time on June sixteenth of this year. Get your bag, get your pregnant ass in my car, and let’s go!” Johanna stands there stunned for a second before laughing. Delly’s aggression would be threatening if she were over five feet tall.

Delly exhales. “Wow, this being a bitchy bride thing is hard. Train leaves in an hour.”

“I’m just going to steal a hoodie from Peeta,” I tell them. “I’ll be back in half a second.”

It’s about a two-hour train ride to Penn Station and we’re thrown right in front of Madison Square Garden. “Hey, Delly, remember when you got kicked out of there?” Johanna asks as we pile into a cab.

“Yeah… aluminum Budweiser bottles get some good… arching with my ex-figure skater arms.”

Delly’s love for Friday Bride Day on TLC lead her to hunt for an appointment at Kleinfeld’s, so after quickly setting our bags down in our hotel rooms, we catch another cab.

The shop is offensively cream-colored. “Hello, my name is Allison. Which one of you is the bride?”

Delly raises her hand a little. “That would be me.”

Allison sits in between Annie and Delly. “Alright, Delilah.”

“Delly.”

Allison smiles and writes a note on her clipboard, “Alright, Delly, who’d you bring with you today?”

She stands up. “Alright, I lucked out because my fiancé’s coworkers also have great taste in women for me to hang out with. These women, once I get them drunk enough, will be my bridesmaids.”

“Coworker seems a little…” Johanna starts.

“Relaxed.”

Delly can see that her consultant is confused. “My fiancé plays for the Philadelphia Flyers. We have the goalie’s girlfriend, Annie; the alternate captain’s fiancée, Johanna; and the captain’s girlfriend, Katniss.”

She takes notes; why, I have no idea. “So captain’s girlfriend, does that mean you’re the leader of this pack?”

“Oh, god no,” I start. “That’s the coach’s wife,” I say while answering a text from Effie herself. We need to start planning the Fight for Lives Carnival in March. Well, it’s already planned but we need more man power. I hinted that I might have about 25 sorority sisters in need a community service and she swooped in.

“So when and where are you getting married?

“On June sixteenth of this year, at the King Edward Hotel in Toronto.”

Delly goes on to tell Allison that she wants something which will show off her curves and is a little edgy, “But not short,” she says. “Jake and I met when I was hobbling to the rink at the Vancouver Olympics. I was forced into retirement when I tore my ACL, and all six feet and a hundred inches of him ran me into the ground. I got the man from the adventure, but I still have a scar I’d rather not see in my pictures.”

Delly’s gone for about fifteen minutes before she comes out in her first dress. She has little to no budget, so this is going to be an hour and a half adventure.

The first dress is a definite no. It’s too simple and looks like a nightgown; the only plus is that it shows off Delly’s rack… but a little too much.

Me: I need you Monday.

Peeta: I need you five minutes ago. ;)

Peeta: How’s shopping?

Peeta doesn’t understand the gravity of wedding dress shopping.

Delly comes out in another dress that clings to every inch of her form, but has a netting instead of a midsection. “I like this…” she says, “But I think my Dad would have a heart attack…”

Johanna’s pulled a granola bar out of her purse, claiming her fetus is hungry. “I give the dress a seven, your ass in the dress an eleven.”

Me: Pretty good. Johanna’s already scaring the common folk.

Me: But seriously. Wednesday night, your ass is mine.

Peeta: We agreed no pegging. But I’ll keep my busy schedule open.

It takes ten dresses – some silky, some lacy, some that make her look like a princess, while some are over-the-top sexy.

“I don’t care what you guys say,” Delly says, nearly in tears. “This is it.”

It’s perfect. It clings to her torso and is tight down the thighs before fanning out a little. The dress is pure white with a sweetheart top and a classy lace overlay. It’s the perfect combination of sexy and classy. “And my ass is still an eleven in it!”

Delly is bouncing off the walls for the rest of the day. It’s still early, so we decide to go shopping. Peeta is up to his old tricks again, shoving money in my wallet.

I unfortunately decide to indulge myself as I’m dragged from boutique to boutique on Madison Avenue while listening to the girls telling me I dress like my boyfriend.

“How pregnant do you think I’m going to be in late March?” Johanna asks, coming out in a silky red dress that makes her look like she’s draped in the fabric. It has room for her to grow and still look banging.


Peeta

“Does she suspect anything?” Gale asks as I make dinner for the five of us.

I shake my head. “Not a damn thing. How’s your head?”

Gale has kept Katniss’ dog on his lap since he surfaced for the day at 8 am. I got the kids on the bus and went to morning skate, while he was already on the couch. Without Johanna here, Gale’s refused to shave or even really shower. “Fucking sucks, man. I’m still dizzy, and now I have to go out and buy Johanna an engagement ring since youare trying to get the other women to give you tips.”

I approached Annie, Delly, and Johanna the day before, asking them to go into jewelry stores to try and nail down what Katniss would like in a ring. Katniss and I talked in Ottawa about spending our lives together and I’m going to make that happen. We made a verbal promise that we’re in this for the long haul, but I want something physical.

Something I’ve learned in my time with Katniss is that she occasionally worries that she’s not enough for me; when in reality, she’s perfect. I’m going to get her something physical; so every time she looks at her hand, she’s reminded that I’m here for her on the days when she can’t get out of bed, when she gives birth to our kids, and finally, when we’re old. I’m going to love her until the day I die, because there’s no way in hell I’m letting her go first.

Once the kids are settled in for the night, the guys start showing up. We’ve quickly figured out that we have no idea what to do with ourselves without the women.

“You are all assholes,” Finnick tells us. “You’re getting married,” he says, pointing to Thom, “You’re having yourhundredth kid,” he points to Gale before turning to me. “And you’re eventually proposing. Annie’s going to start asking questions! I’m not ready to get married, guys! I don’t want to have kids yet. Yeah, I’m thirty, but Annie’s not.”

Gale throws a cushion at Finnick. “Shut the hell up. You’re too loud…”

My phone goes off in the pocket of my sweats while Finnick quietly argues with Gale and Thom about their bad influences on his relationship.

Katniss: Well, it’s official, you’re not going to be a Dad. But I got this for our dog-baby.

Next, a picture of a panda bear suit comes in, labeled dog pajamas.

Me: Tell it to go away now. Your period won’t stop me from fucking you until you can’t walk and I can’t skate on Valentines Day.

“Oh my god, this wedding is going to bankrupt me,” Thom grumbles, looking at his phone. “Delly and I should have eloped.”

“I could have told you that. My wedding to Madge cost me about twenty grand, and that’s not including the eight grand for her dress. That was, what, ten years ago?”

“Delilah just dropped nine on her dress.”

“Oooo… She got the full name…” Finnick teases.

The next message I get from Katniss is a picture of her in the hoodie she took from me before leaving and nothing else.Is this good enough for Valentine’s lingerie?


Ever since the Winter Classic, we can’t seem to get past the Rangers. The only plus side to this evening is that when the bus lets us off at the hotel, Katniss is there.

She leaps into my arms, wrapping her long legs around my waist. The guys whistle as I cup her backside to keep her from sliding off me and kiss her cheek.

“Damn, and here I thought the locals were jackasses,” someone grumbles in passing. “Peeta’s got women throwing themselves at him.”

“I missed you,” she whispers in my ear, “But please, put me down.”

Because Gale is out until his concussion is gone, I have a room all to myself.

Katniss and I decline to go out with the rest of the team. After the stress from the last week, we decide to stick with room service and a bottle of wine.

“So what are we doing for Valentine’s Day?” she asks into her second glass of wine.

“Well, I have the whole day off…” She sets her glass down on the end table and lies down, resting her head in my lap. “But you might want to dress up, at least for dinner…” I run my hands through her long, dark hair. “But make it something easy to get out of.”

“You’re not proposing, are you?”

I go cold for a second. Maybe I’m at a different spot in this relationship than she is. “No, that is, unless you want me to?”

“Not on Valentine’s Day. Too cheesy. It should be a day that’s special for us because we’re going to make it special,” she whispers. Eventually, she falls asleep with her head in my lap. This is the last time we’ll be in bed together before Valentine’s Day, since our next stop is Detroit.

Katniss wakes up when I shift her to a laying position. “Was my head uncomfortable in your lap?” she asks as I shut the light off.

“No, it was actually nice…” I roll to face her, draping my arm over her small waist.

Katniss is quiet for a few minutes, and for a second, I think she’s asleep again. Then she speaks up. “Is this what the rest of our lives are going to be like?” she asks in a meek voice.

“At least until I’m forty…ish.” Sure, I’m healthy now, but in my line of work, we don’t usually make it past the wrong side of thirty-five.

“Oh…” is all she says. I think that’s a problem for her until she moves closer. “I like it.”

Chapter Text

Katniss

“I just don’t get it,” I finally say, “I don’t even recognize myself anymore…” I tell Dr. Tucker.

He sits up a little straighter in his chair once I tell him this. “This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, Katniss. Do you like the person you’re turning into?”

I smile a little, “She’s different. She wants a house, kids, a husband.”

“Have you discussed any of this with your boyfriend?”

I shrug. “Peeta and I talked about spending our lives together. We’re going to look for a house before the next season…” I swallow, “And last week, we had a pregnancy scare…”

I’ll turn out better if I talk to Dr. Tucker, even though it’s embarrassing.

“How did you handle it?”

I snort. “The usual way… Peeta thinks I have a bit of a drinking problem.” Dr. Tucker says nothing so I fill the dead air, “He says I use liquor to run away from my problems and he’s right. Some days I’m just so tense and scared; I can’t breathe, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep. It happens less often now that I have Peeta, but there are days where I feel like I’m being strangled.”

“Have you tried the breathing techniques I taught you?”

The appointment seems to be going in the same circle it always does. He’s already asked me if I’m taking my medication, getting out of bed before one pm, socializing, and now the breathing. I decide to derail the entire appointment. “I want to have a baby,” I tell him honestly, “Not now, but someday. I want to be a Mom… to Peeta’s children... but I’m afraid he’ll leave me.”

Dr. Tucker says that most of my depression and anxiety comes from some deep feeling of abandonment after my Dad’s death, Mom’s… catatonia, and Prim going back to college added to Dad’s parents and siblings not even trying to help me with his affairs. The doctor says I don’t trust anyone to stick around when I need them.

The doctor tells me that we’ve run out of time, but this is good progress. The fact that I’m thinking of having a child with someone is a good sign. When we part, he cautions me to not make any rash decisions before I’m 100% sure I’m ready.


I arrive home before Celeste gets back from preschool, but Peeta’s car is still gone.

“That’s weird…” I mumble. He should already be back from Detroit. The first thing I do is let the dog out back so she can terrorize the birds with her bitchy little yips. “Come on, shithead,” I finally call. She’s gotten so used to the nickname that she comes running at me and straight into the door, which Gale has propped open.

“Good morning, sleeping beauty.”

“I need you to drive me places,” he tells me as I kick slush off my boots and head down the hall to Peeta’s and my bedroom.

“Places sounds dangerous. Where do you need to go?” I call back.

“Celeste’s pre-school, then Voorhees to get my head looked at.”

I sigh. He can’t drive himself, and Johanna must be either asleep or out… but her car’s still here. “Where’s Johanna?” I ask, opening the closet only to find a fresh pile of Peeta’s laundry separated into the dry cleaning pile and his gym clothes.

“With… Annie?” he hesitates for a second. So then where the fuck is Peeta?

I decide not to push it for about half a second. “So what are Peeta and Johanna doing?” I ask, coming down the hall with Peeta’s dry cleaning. It’s weird that he isn’t here waiting for me to come home. I’m always the first person he wants to see after a road trip.

Gale throws me the keys, which I catch in Peeta’s pastel pink dress shirt. “Come on, we’re running late. Peeta’s at the arena and Johanna is out with Annie.”

Gale still can’t drive, or isn’t supposed to, because he gets dizzy from time to time. Still, he’s making great strides.

Or at least that’s what Prim says when she comes and finds Celeste and I clipping her dad’s helmet on her. “It’s too big!” Celeste tells me, shaking her head and running away.

“She’s going to be the next Chara,” Prim jokes, which goes right over my head. “Hold on, munchkin. You’re not going to score any goals like that!” She leaves and quickly returns with a stick, “There you go, mini-goon.”

I sit down in Peeta’s stall. Normally women aren’t allowed in here, but there’s no game today. He’s dead center and can easily see everyone in the room from his spot. “You should get married this summer. Johanna and Gale are going to go first, since his divorce should be finalized in about a month… or at least that’s what he said on the ride over here. Thom and Delly in June… Then you and Rory over the summer? I’ll be done with weddings,” I sigh happily. “I’d only have to go dress shopping once.”

“Rory and I are staying engaged for a minimum of three years. Then we’ll start planning. I want to walk down the aisle to Halo by Beyonce, but Rory says-”

“That is the most boujetto thing in the world.”

“Yes!”

“What the hell is boujetto?” Peeta’s voice startles me.

“Uncle Peeta!” Celeste shouts, making a beeline for him. He’s in a soft grey sweater that clings to his muscular torso in all the right places, and tight, dark jeans. The outfit would be perfect if it weren’t for the beanie he’s most certainly wearing because he neglected to shower before catching the plane.

“Hey, munchkin!” he says while scooping her up, the stick in her hand clattering to the ground. “That helmet’s so loose, it’ll stay on worse than Thom’s!”

“Can we go out on the ice?” she asks.

Peeta kisses her cheek sloppily and the helmet falls to the ground. “Let me talk to Katniss first and then I’ll show you a few tricks.”

He keeps her on his hip like a toddler as he approaches me. She looks much too big for it, but clearly doesn’t mind. Celeste always clings to Peeta. “How was Detroit?” I ask after he bends down to kiss me.

“Lonely… I like when you’re there at my away games.”

“Where were you and Johanna?”

“King of Prussia. You weren’t home and I needed to get something to wear for Valentine’s Day.”

Fuck, I still don’t have anything to wear.

“What did you get?” I ask, holding on to his belt loop before pulling him in. “Can I see? Are there pictures?” Celeste puts her foot on my cheek and pushes my face away. She’s been very territorial. Now that her Dad is having another baby with a woman that isn’t her mother, a woman who legally can’t see her without Gale’s permission, Peeta seems like the one thing in her life that isn’t changing.

Unfortunately for the little rugrat, Peeta’s being evicted and we’re hopefully getting a place together.

“Well, your girlfriend has just informed me that’s not my business. Can I borrow your car, and can you drive Gale home? Prim and I are doing our own shopping.”

Peeta sighs and reaches into his back pocket before handing me the keys to his Camaro. “I’m just going to buy you a car,” he grumbles.

“Do that and I’m not talking to you…” I start, “For like a week…” I say under my breath. No, I can’t take a handout like that… No. What the fuck is wrong with my head?

But what happens if/when Peeta and I get married? He makes millions and I’ll live off tips? Dad made sure I knew the value of a dollar growing up; I had to work for everything. Taking the extravagant shit that Peeta buys for me feels more like prostitution. This is confusing.

“Prim, are you done for the day?” I ask her before Peeta can say anything.

“Yeah, Dr. A. is in there with Gale and none of the other guys are coming in to get looked at.”

I use Peeta’s beltloop to get my ass out of his stall and kiss his cheek before grabbing both of Celeste’s and kissing her on the nose. “You keep our boyfriend safe, okay? And show him up on the ice.”

“I love you, babe,” he tells me.

“I love you, too, even if you are scheming. Just remember, your butt is mine tonight. Effie’s coming, too.”

Peeta looks shocked. He really thinks this is something sexual, or at least he did. “Wait, this isn’t some creepy three-way thing or spouse swapping, is it?”

“Uncle Peeta, what’s a three-way?” Celeste asks.

He bounces her a little on his hip. “Something I hope you never have.”


Peeta

“So, what’s the verdict?” I ask Gale the second we get through the front door.

“I start practice tomorrow alone with one of the trainers, then no contact on Saturday. Most of my symptoms are gone, except for the headache, but that might just be from stress since it’s in the same spot as before the hit.”

“So you could travel with us?” I ask hopefully.

“Maybe? So did you get the ring that you just couldn’t wait a few days to get, even though you’re not popping the question tomorrow?”

“Yeah, I hid it in my closet in the extra blankets for my bed.”

Gale rolls his eyes. “Man, if she finds that, your life will be a living hell or she’ll drive herself insane. And let’s face it, Katniss has a few screws loose.”

I shoot him a dirty look. “Man, don’t say that. That’s my future wife you’re talking about.”

“She hasn’t said yes yet,” he reminds me.

I roll my eyes and start digging through the fridge. “How could she say no? Have you seen me? My stats? My ass?”

“Peeta,” I look up from my digging, “Your douchebag is showing again.”

“So did you ever get Johanna her ring?”

Gale shrugs. “I’ve had that thing since New Year’s.”

“Why the fuck haven’t you given it to her?” I ask, shocked.

“Because now that she’s hormonal, after she bitches about not having a ring but the proposal, she gets really apologetic and the “I’m sorry I yelled at you because you brought me the wrong flavor potato chips” sex is almost as good as the marathon sessions it took to get her pregnant in the first place.”

I cringe. “That’s way too much information. I’m going to take my Gatorade now, vomit a little at the thought of you having sex, and then I’m going to nap.”


Effie makes it no secret that she doesn’t feel comfortable on Temple’s campus, but Katniss waves off her fears. “You wanted helpers for the Carnival, I’m getting you helpers,” she explains.

“They’re not criminals, are they?” she asks, skeptical.

Katniss rolls her eyes. “No, they’re sorority girls.” She takes out her cellphone and dials a number quickly, “Hey, we’re here, can you let us in? …Kay, bye.”

A short redhead wearing Katniss’ sorority letters opens the door. “Cold out, isn’t it?” she sighs before extending her hand. “My name’s Alicia, I’m the President.”

I shake her hand first. “Peeta Mellark, I’m-“

“Flyers Captain; please, I have your fathead!”

Katniss snorts, trying to hold back her laughter. “Don’t inflate his ego - I have to live with him.”

Effie holds out her hand. “Effie Abernathy, a pleasure.”

As an alumnus, Katniss is the only one allowed to propose the service to the sisterhood. This makes Effie a little miffed.

“Hello, I’m Katniss Everdeen. I was the events coordinator for three years here before I graduated. My…” she starts counting on her fingers, “Grand like a hundred times over little is right there. Did you ever get the glitter out of your room?”

A petite blonde speaks up, “No! The six of you were horrible. Glitter is the herpes of the craft world!”

Katniss grins, and I have to admit, I’ve never seen her so relaxed. “Alright, I digress. The sisterhood has been here for me during a very dark time in my life, and I hate to ask for your help again, but I have a way of helping you in return. Every year, the Flyers Wives’ Charities hold a carnival which is open to the public. It’s their main fundraising event and after last year they… well, now we, know that we don’t have enough manpower to properly run it. We need as many of you as possible to help on Saturday March third from the hours of nine am to about six pm that evening. We just need people to assist with setup, give directions and just help out anywhere necessary. In exchange, I am making Flyers letters for the sisters and initiates that show up, though the initiates’ shirts will be given to their bigs. We also have two boxes reserved for anyone who shows up for the March eighteenth game against the Penguins,” she rocks back and forth on her heels. “It would be a huge help if this service could get approved. We need the manpower; you probably need that last service to meet your requirements. Plus, it’s a great day with all the money going to a great cause.”

It takes about five minutes for the sisterhood to vote in favor for helping us and another forty five minutes for Effie to pass around paperwork and Katniss to get t-shirt sizes.

After that’s done, we’re off. “Thank you so much, Katniss,” Effie tells her, hugging my girlfriend tightly. “You’re a life saver.”

Katniss smiles, “No, thank you for giving my sisters a chance to get involved off campus. You don’t know what this’ll mean to them.”

Effie goes to get in her car. “I’ll call you sometime this week about the other thing. Okay?”

“Okay dear, you two drive safe.”

When Effie is gone, I can’t help but ask Katniss what my purpose was. “Distracting eye candy, silly! You know, they see you, you play for the Flyers, all the Flyers will be there, which means there will naturally be more hot guys there. Plus, I like taking you places.”


Katniss and I sleep in, or attempt to. It’s amazingly warm in bed with her. We wake up several times and just reposition ourselves before going back to sleep.

At nine, she comes in with a mug of coffee, wearing nothing but a peach silk robe. “Come on,” she says, tempting to get me out of bed. “The den is lonely without you.” I drag myself out from under the covers, not bothering to put pants on. Boxers will be more than enough.

The coffee is forgotten the moment we’re on the couch. Katniss locks the door the second we get in there and climbs onto my lap; her robe moves to the side a little, showing me that she’s completely nude under the silk folds.

“Let’s get rid of this…” I mumble against her lips as I pull at the silk sash keeping me from her bare flesh. The silk falls from her body with ease and lands in a heap on the ground where it belongs, along with my boxers.

“Here, come on… stand up and put your leg on the coffee table.” The second we’re on our feet, Katniss bends her naked body into mine and kisses me with a hunger only she could muster at nine in the morning. I savor the taste of coffee on her agile tongue; it’s the only coffee I’ll need, at least for now.

I pull away and splay my hand out on her breast bone. “Slow down, babe… we have all day,” I remind her before sinking to my knees. It’s a position she usually puts herself in, but today is my turn. I explore her already moist core with my middle and index finger, paying extra attention to the hooded bundle of nerves that makes her moan my name every time. Katniss has stopped holding back for the most part. It’s so fucking hot to hear her pant my name when she’s about to lose control. I occupy my mouth with the flat expanse of her stomach. I lick and nibble on the hot flesh as she grabs at her breasts, my hair, my shoulders, anything she can touch.

She looks disappointed when I stand; but when I offer her the two fingers I had inside her, she greedily takes them in her mouth, moaning as her talented tongue licks every bit of her arousal off my finger. As I pull my hand away I come in for a kiss, quickly replacing my fingers with my lips.

Katniss gets down on her knees without hesitation, taking my erection in her hand. “I wish we could wake up like this more often…” she tells me before licking my shaft from base to tip. “We could relax…” She wraps her pink lips around my head and swirls her tongue. I grasp her hair instinctively. I want every inch of me inside her perfect mouth…

She pulls away. “Watch the news…” she moves one of her hands and very gingerly starts massaging my sac, “Then fuck each other the rest of the way awake…”

She doesn’t say anything after that. Instead, she takes as much of me as she can into her mouth, keeping me steady with her thumb and index finger. The one thing that drives me over the edge when Katniss gives me head is the eye contact. She never looks away, as if she wants to see the effect she has on me. When she gets a good pace going, she moves her hand back to my sac and I can’t help but start thrusting ever so slightly, fucking that gorgeous face of hers.

I pull away from her; if she goes any longer like that, I’m not going to get to fuck her before we leave for the day. I need a break, so after bending down to get more hungry kisses, I push her down onto the couch. “Put your one leg up here,” I tell her, patting the top of the sofa before handing her a pillow for her head.

When she’s settled, I lick my ring and middle finger and ease them inside her while kissing her quivering thigh. “You’re so wet…” I tell her as she looks away and blushes. I keep thrusting my fingers in and out of her. “Don’t be shy. You’re so fucking sexy… don’t be shy,” I tell her before flicking my tongue across her clit. Katniss gasps and looks down at me. “There you go… watch me, Katniss. I wish you could see how beautiful you are right now…”

I try to keep my hand out of the way as I get her off with my tongue. When she’s good and excited, I take my mouth off her and start moving my hand faster. “Oh fuck, Peeta!” she gasps, grabbing at the back of the sofa. I keep up the pace, just wanting to hear her scream. The kids are at school and who gives a fuck if Johanna and Gale hear us? They’re probably doing the same thing.

I start making sure every thrust of my fingers rubs against the spot on her front wall that turns her moans into incoherent babble. She finally gets something intelligible out. “Don’t stop, I’m close,” she moans over and over again, as if I’d tease her like that.

I put my mouth back on her, trying to get her the rest of the way there. Her back arcs off the sofa so far she practically sits up. Her walls clamp down on my fingers as I keep at my work, trying to push her farther over the edge.

I let her settle down before doing anything else. I stroke her chin with my thumb as her brain comes back. “Want me to move?” she asks, smiling up at me with that glazed over look on her face. She’s so perfect…

I almost ask her right then and there to marry me, but it’s not the right time. I don’t have her ring in here with me, and she said she didn’t want a proposal on Valentine’s Day. Maybe I can just not listen to her and pop the question tonight.

Katniss keeps her leg over the back of the couch as I enter her. Her mouth forms a perfect ‘O’ as I sheath myself and lean down to kiss her forehead, then her nose, both of her cheeks and finally her lips before pulling away. She keeps one hand on my shoulder, which I cover with my own and drag down to my heart.

When I feel myself getting close, I bend over again, keeping my body as close to Katniss’ as possible as I slowly thrust in and out of her. “I love you so much,” I tell her, but I know I should shut up. In the heat of the moment, I might just ask her to marry me. I rest one hand between her breasts, feeling the thumping of her heart as she does the same to me.

My entire world goes white as I come; the only thing I’m aware of is just how hard I thrust into Katniss and her sexy moan that follows. She frees her hand from mine and holds onto either side of my face. “I love you,” she says, picking her head up and kissing me. She repeats this process over and over again until I finally, reluctantly, pull out of her.

Katniss and I get ready side by side. We shower together, but only share a few slow kisses and playful grabs. She blows my hair dry and I don’t even attempt to touch her long hair. I’m completely dressed before Katniss comes back into our bedroom still in nothing but a towel, but her hair and make-up done.

“You can go out like that. I mean, I won’t complain.”

Katniss rolls her eyes and walks into the closet. She’s mere feet away from her engagement ring. Fuck, Gale was right.

Katniss comes out of the closet carrying an armful of clothes. I watch her get ready. With every article of clothing she puts on, I get another disappointing step away from her soft, warm flesh.

She puts on the tightest pair of black jeans I think she owns, a lacy black top and a soft looking button up sweater that looks huge on her. “You look beautiful,” I tell her, because I don’t really say it often enough.

She blushes and looks up at me. “You’re not so bad yourself…” Katniss tells me before heading to the dresser to dig for her jewelry. She puts on her ring and the necklace I gave her for Christmas, but looks for the silver watch she wears every day. “Peeta, have you seen my watch?”

“No, maybe it fell. Did you check under the dresser?”

She groans and gets flat on the ground. “This fucking…” she starts to grumble with her arm all the way under the dresser, “What the…”

Katniss sits up on her knees and I watch her with her gift in her lap. Katniss first pulls the note free from the box and reads the letter aloud, though I already know what I wrote. “Katniss, the night I first met you was most definitely the first day of the rest of my life. There isn’t a minute I’m not thinking about you, or wishing I was by your side instead of winning some stupid hockey game.” She looks up at me, “Peeta…” she scolds.

“What? Just keep reading...”

“I’m not sure there’s much more I can do to show my love for you physically or emotionally, so I’m going to take the opportunity to brag to the world. I love you, Katniss, more than life itself. Happy first Valentine’s Day, my love, with many more to come…”

She sets the letter down on the ground before opening the box. It’s a simple pearl bracelet and matching earrings. “How did you know… pearls?”

“They’re the gemstone of your sorority. You didn’t think I would overlook googling this shit, right?”

She quickly puts both items on. “I love them, Peeta…” she tells me, putting the back on her second earring. “I got you something, too… but you have to close your eyes.”

I obey and listen to her quiet footsteps along with the drawer on her side of the bed opening and closing. Finally, I feel the bed shift in front of me. “Okay, open your eyes.”

In her hands is a cross necklace. “You seemed really bothered that you haven’t scored since All-Stars…” Fuck, I didn’t know she paid attention. I barely mentioned it to anyone. “And I heard you say that you thought the luck in your cross had worn out. You played really well at All-Stars and you were wearing my necklace, but I like it. So I got you a new cross to wear and I hope it brings you luck.”

I don’t know what to say. It’s honestly the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever gotten for me. “Katniss, every day you find another way to amaze me… I love you, babe…”

She leans in and kisses the tip of my nose. “I love you more…”

“Doubtful.”


“I should run up the steps,” I say to Katniss as she slaps her forehead with her hand.

“You fucking tourist…” she teases, then goes quiet. “So Art Museum?” she asks as I hold the door open for her.

“Yeah. There was one class besides gym that I did well in, art. I love to sketch, but I barely have time for it unless we’re on road trips and I’m alone in my hotel room,” I confess.

Katniss leans into me, her fingers still tightly laced with mine. “I love you,” is all she tells me.

“Why don’t you paint?” she asks just as we enter the era of art where there is heavy influence from the Christian Dark Ages. Everything is depressing and a little gory, but the attention to anatomy is superb. I guess it would have to be if your city had the plague ripping through it and there were dead bodies literally falling at your feet to study.

“I’m kind of shitty with blending color. I think I might be a little color blind,” I confess.

Katniss looks away from the painting. “So that’s why you always wear pastels…” she teases before walking away.

I spank her lightly. “No, pastels just go great with my eyes.”

Katniss is mostly quiet inside the art museum. She takes everything in like a sponge and stands in front of a painting of lush green hills littered with pine trees for a good twenty minutes. She’ll never admit it, but I know Katniss wants to get out of the city someday.

Katniss stops dead in her tracks the second we leave the art museum. “I love this view,” she confesses, taking my hand again. I stare over the perfect view of the Philly skyline, City Hall down the Ben Franklin Parkway and get an idea.

“Let’s come back after dinner.”


Katniss and I chat throughout our meal, but she keeps the fingers of her left hand laced with mine. I keep stroking her ring finger absentmindedly. I’m going to put my ring there, and soon.

It’s eleven thirty when we leave Bistrot la Minette, a small French restaurant with some of the best crème brûlée I’ve ever had.

“Peeta, it’s cold. Let’s go home,” Katniss complains as I lead her up the stairs of the Art Museum again.

“Just a minute,” I say while checking my watch. It’s eleven fifty-eight, she just has to hold off for three more minutes.

My palms start to sweat. This is really happening. I’m going to do this. I’m going to ask Katniss to marry me. There are other couples here, enjoying the view. We reach the top and Katniss gasps. “I’ve lived in this city almost my entire life, and I’ve never seen it like this…”

The orangish street lamps leading up to City Hall twinkle the entire way down to the old building. To our right are the skyscrapers lit up for the night, a perfect representation of the city itself, historical mixed with modern.

Katniss shivers a little so I pull her in just as midnight hits. “Katniss, I know sometimes you worry that you’re not enough for me, but someday I’m going to convince you that you’re perfect for me, even if it takes the rest of our lives. I can promise you that I’m going to be here for you on the days where you can’t get out of bed, when you give birth to our kids, when we grow old together, and every day in between. I know we haven’t been together long, but I know you’re it for me. There’s no one else out there who can make me as happy as you can.” When I pull away to look at her, she’s crying. “No, babe, don’t cry…”

“Are you proposing?” she asks, wiping her tears away with her index fingers.

I take her hand in mine and get down on one knee. “Yes, Katniss, will you marry me? And you can’t hate me for a Valentine’s Day proposal because it’s…” I check my watch, “Twelve oh four. So it’s not Valentine’s Day, it’s our day.”

She hesitates for half a second. “Yes, Peeta,” more tears come as she practically hauls me to my feet to hug me, “I’ll marry you…”

After she lets me out of her vice grip-like hug, I hold her cheeks in my hands and kiss her, pouring every ounce of my love for her into it. A few flashes go off - I don’t know if it’s just an invasion of our privacy or if people recognize us, but I don’t care.

The ring fits perfectly on Katniss’ finger. “It’s too much,” she tells me, looking at the diamond on her hand.

I pull her in for another kiss. “It’s just enough. You deserve to be spoiled, Katniss, and I’m going to spoil you for the rest of your life.” She looks down at the cushion cut diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds. She doesn’t stop looking at it on the car ride home, as we get ready for bed, or even as we watch TV before bed.

Finally, I get her attention as I pull her t-shirt over her head and get her in my lap. 

Chapter Text

Katniss

“No, he waited until after midnight,” I tell Prim, spinning the ring around my finger. The guys are all at their morning skate, but she’s in the back doing next to nothing. “And… it was perfect.” I’m crying again; Peeta must think I’m going insane.

“Peeta’s going to tell the guys after practice, but I didn’t want you to hear it from him.”

Prim groans as she stretches, “I’m throwing you an engagement party.”

“Prim, you haven’t even had your own!”

“Shut up, I don’t want one. Have you told Mom?”

I cringe, “No, she doesn’t really like Peeta, or at least I don’t think she does…”

“You should do it in person and invite me. I’ll sell tickets.”

I sigh. “Fine, where do you want to eat lunch?”

“How about that Indian place on Girard? And you better hurry, because Deadspin already has the story, and you know how Mom likes the midday news.”

I look at the clock, 11am. I haven’t even been engaged for twelve hours. The ring has been off my hand once, when I got my shower this morning. I hated the ring at first – it was too big, too showy… then Peeta put it on my finger and I was in love.

“I’m going to call her… I’ll let you know.”

“Good luck! And I’ll pick you up so I can squeal about your ring without giving it away to Mom. I’m leaving now.

Mom doesn’t pick up her cell phone, but gets the house phone on the second ring. “Hi honey, how are you?”

“I’m alright. Prim and I are getting lunch at Tiffin, and you’re coming,” I don’t give her a choice.

Prim is characteristically ecstatic when she gets here, still in her Flyers polo and work pants. “You’re engaged!” she squeals, wrapping me in a tight hug and forcing all the air from my lungs. “It took him long enough…” she sighs happily.

“Prim, we’ve been dating for four months.”

“And he should have asked you to marry him the night you met.”


It’s hard keeping my left hand hidden from my Mom. I want to tell her about my engagement instead of having her find out and act like I’m keeping it from her.

“So how was your Valentine’s Day?” she asks both of us halfway through our lunch. Prim’s been a saint and has dominated the conversation so far.

“Good, but Katniss’ was better,” Prim starts.

I look down at my hands in my lap before offering Mom my left hand. “Peeta proposed,” I tell her, tearing up again. I still can’t believe it. I’m engaged; me, of all people.

Her hands are ice cold on mine as she examines my hand. “So soon? What did he do?”

I rip my hand away. “Nothing! Dammit, Mom!”

Prim stays completely silent. “Did Rory get this treatment as well?”

“Rory and Prim were dating for more than four months.”

“Mom, I’m almost twenty-eight…” I complain.

“So you said yes out of desperation?” she asks.

“No, I said yes because I love him, and I’m old enough to know what I want. Who cares how long we were dating? All that matters is-“

“That you two love each other?” she sneers. “Katniss, it takes more than love to keep a marriage working…” Mom takes a deep breath when she sees how I’m looking at her. “Katniss, you need to look at it from my point of view. You met this man in October and spend every minute of your time with him. You don’t work, and you’ve changed everything about you. What has Peeta changed?”

“Mom, all Peeta did before me was play hockey and Xbox!”

She crosses her arms over her chest. “Sounds like a man child.”

“And you know what, Mom? That man child will be your son-in-law someday. And he’s a kind, loving man. He has a stable job, doesn’t do drugs, and treats me with respect. Mom, be happy for me for five minutes. Then try and get to know Peeta better.”

The screen of my phone lights up. “Speak of the devil…”

Peeta: Still at practice. Trainer is running late, we’re bullshitting. You should come by so I can show off my beautiful fiancée.

“What does he want, his dry cleaning picked up?” Mom sneers.

“No, Mom, he’s telling me that his practice is running behind because one of the trainers is late. Since they won’t be busy, he asked if we could stop by.”

Mom brushes it off. “I can’t. I have a meeting with a lawyer.”

I freeze. “Lawyer, why? Are you being sued?”

“No, I’m selling the bar to Darius, putting the house on the market and moving upstate. Katniss, there is nothing for me here.”

I nod and look down at my lap. Prim and I are nothing to her; we’re not worth sticking around Philadelphia for. The two of us are getting married and she’s moving three hours away.

I can feel my heart in my throat, I’m worth nothing to my own mother.

“Katniss, don’t be like that. You’re overreacting.”

I try to breathe, but I can’t seem to get any air inside my lungs. There are hands on me, but I don’t look up. At some point, the bill was paid while I try and soak up the fact that I mean nothing to my mother. 

“I’m going to get her home,” Prim says, helping me from my seat and draping my coat over my shoulders. Every inch of me is locked up, but I somehow get my legs to work.

“It’s okay,” Prim tells me, rubbing slow circles on my back. “Just keep breathing, Katniss…”

“Katniss, Prim!” our mother calls, catching up to us. “Here, let me help.”

“No, you’ve done enough!” Prim snaps. “Do you listen to yourself talk!? You just told us that although your two daughters live in Philadelphia, there is nothing here for you. You’re selling two pieces of our childhood without even consulting us…” Prim takes a deep breath but lets out a groan that borders on a scream. “God fucking dammit, Mom! After each and every little thing Katniss has done to keep this family afloat while you were gone, you still don’t care! She’s the one who kept the business running, the house in one piece, and bullied me into med school. But you come back and act like nothing happened, like the last four years don’t exist because you were in the hospital. Then finally, finally! Something good happens in Katniss’ life that makes her happy, so you shit all over it. I hope you enjoy yourself upstate, because you’re right, now there’s NOTHING for you in Philadelphia.”

I’m lucid enough to get myself into the car. Prim’s temper is a sobering thing. “Fuck her…” she grumbles, “And fuck you, asshole! That god damn triangle is a fucking yield, not an invitation onto my fucking bumper!”

Prim has to go and fill out some paperwork regarding Gale’s concussion. He’s hopefully being cleared for take-off.

I walk to the edge of the ice and sort of tune out Delly and Annie. The guys really are bullshitting... Gale is the only one wearing a bright yellow jersey, a symbol that he’s injured and can’t participate in contact drills.

Peeta’s face lights up when he sees me, but his joy is pushed to the side the second he gets close enough. He can tell that I’ve been crying. “Katniss, what’s wrong?”

I shake my head no. “At home… Okay?”

He nods slowly. “Then at least smile?”

I shake my head no again. Even after he kisses me, I still can’t find it in me to smile. “Fine,” he tells me, holding out his gloved hands. “Sit your ass up here. I’m going to make you smile.”

“You have practice…” I grumble before giving him my hands. The fingers of his gloves are thick and rough on my hands, but I don’t let go as he helps me into a seated position on the boards. Without warning, Peeta flicks his gloves off his wrists and spreads my legs.

I can barely react before he wraps his arms around my back and pulls me away from my seat. “Peeta!” I squeal while wrapping my arms around his neck in fear that he’ll topple over.

“Are you smiling?” he asks. He’s really hard to hold on to; his sweater is slippery and his shoulders are even broader from his pads.

“If I lie, will you put me down!?”

Peeta stops his movement. “Guys, have you met Katniss?”

“Peeta, put me down,” I beg.

“Babe, we’re on the ice.”

“I don’t care! You’re going to lose your balance and fall!”

He leans forward and backwards, trying to tease me. “I love you, babe…” he kisses my temple as he sets me down on the ice.

I can’t help but smile. Fuck whatever my mother thinks, she can’t drag me down any more.


Peeta

This scoring drought is miserable.  Every game, I watch my chances at the Hart and the Art Ross trophies get farther and farther away, but we’ve been in a constant tug of war with Pittsburgh for top of the Atlantic.

Haymitch pats me on the shoulder. Last night I got an assist on six of our seven goals, today I have one assist. Every time I’m on the ice I get shut down. There’s always a Penguin fucking my day up with their stick or body.

Though I’ve definitely lucked out besides drawing dumb penalties from Pittsburgh, I haven’t actually gotten called for anything. Cato and I have only been on the ice together for about a minute during the first face-off.

On my next shift, he’s right there. Gale, Thresh and I are out to get a power play goal, Cato and Marvel are here to make sure that doesn’t happen.

Gale takes the face-off, it’s his first game back after missing six. He sure picked a hell of an afternoon to come back.

“I heard you put a ring on your whore,” Cato chirps.

I say nothing and just wait to get the puck, even if I have to put my elbow through his fucking visor. “Man, all the chicks here are dirty as hell. You’re going to get something from her.”

He’s trying to get inside my head to distract me or draw a penalty, but it won’t work. The puck goes to Thom and it’s a foot race between me and Cato. I hate this fucking rivalry so much; everything I do on and off the ice is compared to him.  Then we’re put in the same arena and it’s basically the ref’s letting us have at it until one of us swings.

The shit they’ll do for ratings.

I’m checked hard into the boards. It knocks the wind out of me but I have to force myself to carry on. On a bad turnover, the puck gets knocked into the air. “I got it!” I shout as I charge. It’s close, but I have no excuse to miss this. We’re three goals down in our own building against fucking Pittsburgh. I’m scoring even if it kills me.

Instead of waiting for the puck to fall, I reach my hand into the air and swat it down in front of me. There’s barely thirty seconds left in the period and I hear skates behind me with no orange in my peripheral vision. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!

I’m the fastest skater on the ice. I just have to be faster than Brutus. I take my shot from the edge of the right face-off circle. The hockey gods have my back. When the red light behind the goal lights up, I coast as the spotlight follows me to the boards.

It’s the greatest feeling in the world to light the lamp after what’s felt like an eternity. “Fucking right!” someone calls from the bench as I pass by for the usual drive-by slapping of fives.

We end up losing, and while I know I should be playing for the crest on my chest, but my slump is over. Or at least it had better be.

It takes me a while to will myself into the showers. I’m soaked with sweat all the way through, but it doesn’t matter. Every inch of me is sore, and the thought of taking off all my gear sounds even worse than the dull ache in my back.

My procrastination means that once the media is allowed in, I’m just pulling up my shorts and I’m always at the top of the line-up for interviews.

I never know where to look. There’s always a camera from the team here, one from ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Not to mention the people from the papers recording what I’m saying. Do I look at a camera? The guy talking to me?

“Before this afternoon it had been over ten games since you scored. There were questions about your health. Was there an injury?”

I shake my head. “Nah, my health was good. Everyone has their slumps. I just have to take the energy from tonight and take it with me on the road.”

Another reporter asks the next obvious question. They have to blame my slump on something. “You’ve had a big week personally; is there any chance your personal life was a distraction?”

They have no idea how big the last week or so has been. Katniss and I are still a little confused and wounded from the pregnancy scare, but I take time before every game to put everything off the ice out of my mind. “No, definitely not. My personal life stays off the ice. As soon as I lace my skates, all I think about is winning the game.”

They want me to say I was nervous about proposing and that was reason for my slump. These story hungry assholes will do anything for a scoop and I have to protect Katniss and her reputation. Fans have already tried calling her a slut. I try to shield her from what’s said about her, but she’s clever, and I know she knows.

“You’ll be in the same building as the Penguins exactly one month from now, in Pittsburgh. Is there any difference between playing on their ice versus your own?”

“Well, if I recall, they’re working on getting our name on the building. Every time we hit the ice in Pittsburgh, we own the building, after all.”


“God, you’re such a cocky ass…” Katniss tells me, turning off the news. My arm is behind her back so all I have to do is sneak my hand under her knees to get into my lap.

“Yeah, but you’re the one marrying me. Soon I’ll be your cocky ass, forever and ever. Speaking of which… which summer do you want to get married? This one or next one, or the one after the next one?”

She shrugs and rests her head on my shoulder. “What hoops are we going to have to jump through to get married since you’re not an American?”

“You mean since you’re not Canadian?”

Katniss snorts and gets off my lap. “You’re living in my country, motherfucker,” she jokes, lying down on the couch with her thighs across my lap.

“Well, I’m always in Ottawa in the summer, so I figured we’d get married up there. It’s beautiful in the summer.”

Katniss blows out through her lips, “Well…” she elongates the word. “I like Philadelphia.”

Our first obstacle – what country to have the wedding in.

“Plus, I don’t want a long engagement. How will we plan a wedding with only a few months in the city? Oh, where it’s hit or miss if I can talk to them!”

“Have you heard Philadelphians speak?”

“Yes, we speak perfect English. Your English is just shitty.”’

I reach down and grab her side, making her squeal and flail. “You’re right… Oh, I can’t wait to teach our kids French…”

Katniss rolls her eyes, “Let’s get hitched first before worrying about kids, okay?”

“This summer?” I suggest.

Katniss exhales and closes her eyes. She rests her hands on her stomach and takes a few deep breaths. She’s trying to calm herself down, bringing herself back from the edge of a panic attack. “August?” she finally says, “Give me your phone.”

I hand it to her and watch her brow furrow as she thumbs through something. “Your code into your phone is still yours and Gale’s numbers,” she says idly before looking my way. “Why isn’t it the digits of my birthday?” she asks in an angry voice, only to smile a second later. “Don’t fucking do that, though.”

I exhale the shock out of me.

“Alright, how does August fourth sound?” she asks.

I let myself fall to the side so I’m using her chest as a pillow. “How does tomorrow sound?” I ask, wrapping my arms around her waist. “I’m ready for forever to start.”


The day we leave for our road trip, Katniss wakes up at six in the morning to start getting the kids ready for school. When I get out of bed with my bags packed for a week on the road, she’s sitting at the kitchen island reading the paper while Gale says goodbye to his sons. Johanna left for home the night before, and in a few hours, Katniss will be alone with Ethan, Parker, and Celeste.

She’s sitting cross legged with her glasses falling down her nose and her hair sloppily tied in a loose bun. “Good morning, baby,” she greets, looking at the sports section. “Your little challenge to Pittsburgh made the paper,” she tells me as I hunt down my favorite mug. Chip and all, it’s the best one in the whole house.

“Read it?” I ask, while hunting down half and half.

She clears her throat, “When asked about their game in Pittsburgh on March 18, Flyers Captain and All-Star forward Peeta Mellark’s eyes lit up. ‘Well, if I recall, they’re working on getting our name on the building. Every time we hit the ice in Pittsburgh, we own the building, after all,’ he says, referencing the Flyers undefeated record in the Consol Energy Center.”

“What else does it say?” I ask reluctantly.

She looks down at the paper and clucks her tongue a few times. “Um… here it is. ‘Mellark, 24, remains vague about his recent engagement but assures his team and a room full of press that it hasn’t affected his performance on the ice.’”

I snort. “Vague? There’s pictures of it! Ten minutes after I got that ring on your finger, someone tagged us both in a tweet telling me that the woman in the picture had better be you!”

Katniss laughs quietly. Stress caused by her mother aside, this is the happiest I’ve seen her in a while. She’s been so much more relaxed these last few days.

“When you get back, we’re going to need to start figuring out who we want at the wedding, and send out save the dates, since either way some of our guests have to jump the border.”

It feels so strange that she and I chose a date for the wedding without debate, just a few minutes on the calendar on my phone. I just have to hope that the rest of the process is easy. According to Thom, it’s secretly hell.


Katniss

“How do you do long division?” Parker asks from the kitchen table. This parenting thing is weird, but I think the twins are testing me. Celeste is easier though, if she’d just detach herself from my leg.

“I don’t know, I went to public school,” I joke.

“No, you didn’t!” Ethan shouts, “You just said you went to catholic school!”

“Caught me,” I joke. I’ve had the kids for three days. During that time, I’ve discovered that I can’t actually read a bedtime story to Celeste because the books that aren’t ridiculously long are in French. Fortunately, she has two big brothers who were willing to back me up if I promised to tape the Flyers game Thursday night, since it didn’t start until 10 pm. The second half of the deal is that I couldn’t even hint about whether they won or lost.

Gale calls at 6 pm, right on schedule. “We’re still not talking.” I tell Gale. After they left for the airport, I found Peeta’s fake tooth sitting in a cup of water.

“You’re marrying the guy. He’s your responsibility now. I’ve had him for a few years.”

I groan. “Who do you want first?” I ask, since he doesn’t really want to talk to me. He wants to hear from his kids, so I creep away.

The house is so empty with out Gale and Peeta, and quiet without Johanna. The fridge isn’t filled with $100 worth of chicken because of the disgusting amount of protein it takes to keep two hockey players alive and today, I woke up to more than a tablespoon of milk in the jug.

There is still the lingering smell of shit that was worn before, during or after a game or practice in our closet, but I think that’s going to stay with the house.

Although I never formally moved in, everything I own in the world is in boxes in Peeta’s den. It’s not much – mementos, summer clothes, and other junk I’ve accumulated. Peeta wants me to start putting stuff out so the room feels like it’s partially mine, too. But I won’t, because I’ll just have to pack it up in a few months.

Peeta and I are starting with next to nothing but the baggage we’re bringing to our marriage, mostly from me. We don’t even have a house, but hopefully we’ll fix that soon if we can narrow down which state we want to live in.

“Aunt Katniss!” Celeste hollers from the doorway, snapping me from my thoughts. “Uncle Peeta!” She practically throws the phone at me and runs back to playing with the dog.

I groan into the phone, “Why aren’t you in our bed?”

Peeta sighs, “Because I’m in fucking Edmonton. Why aren’t you in my hotel room?”

I head back to the kitchen to check on the kids. “Because I’m playing Mommy,” I tell him honestly. I try and keep busy while he tells me how bored he is and has buzzes around with a few rookies. I flip through the schedule for the rest of the season. “You have a game on your birthday,” I say idly, not really to him. But since I’m on the phone with him, of course he responds.

“Against who?”

“The Capitals? It says WSH.”

“Home or away?” he asks.

“Home. What do you want for your birthday?”

“You naked in my bed… Oh wait, you in our bed in nothing but my jersey.”

I slap my forehead. “God dammit, Peeta! What can I buy you? I’ll buy you an engagement ring; I shouldn’t be the only one that has to wear jewelry.”

 

“How about I get your name tattooed on my chest? I’ll put the tattoo I’m getting when we win the Stanley Cup this year right next to it.”

Chapter Text

Intimacy is a strange thing. The pinnacle of my intimacy with Peeta is definitely naked in his arms in bed with him inside me, but there are some things that come close.

“I should take a massage class…” I joke. The season is catching up to Peeta. Instead of the usual bruises, scrapes, and blisters, Peeta now comes home with all over soreness, which he says is because everyone seems to go out of their way to hit him. Getting checked constantly keeps him from scoring.

He sits with his legs hanging off the bed while I sit behind him, my legs wrapped around his body, pressing myself against his back. He smells like Old Spice and Icy Hot with the lingering aroma of the game tonight; he’s developed a habit of taking a quick shower after a game, dealing with the media, before rushing home to me. I keep telling him to go out with the guys, but he’s already settled into the boring married life we’re going to live starting this summer.

Peeta’s exhausted and understandably so. He got home from San Jose last night at about eight, decided he was taking me to dinner in the city before even unpacking or trying to adjust to being in the Eastern time zone again, then practiced on four hours of sleep and worked out up until the game tonight. He’s starting to lose that small layer of chub I actually adored because it was nice to rest my head against. Unfortunately, Peeta’s body isn’t entirely his own.

“I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and not have anything to do…” Peeta yawns.

I pick my head up from off his back. “Nothing? You’re the one dragging me to Old City to look at condos…”

Apparently Peeta was making a lot of phone calls without my knowledge, not that I mind. We’re speeding up moving out of Gale’s and since most of our summer will be spent in Philadelphia because of the wedding, it makes sense. That and he really wants us out so he can get the boys’ rooms ready.

Peeta seems to favor Old City and I favor not living in New Jersey, so it’s a win for both of us. Plus I will be able to take the subway to games again, though some fans are starting to recognize my face and the All-Star jersey I always wear to games. Most people are nice and tell me that they’re huge fans of my future husband, though some mutter ‘puck-slut’ as I pass them during games, thinking I can’t hear them.

It’s starting to get warmer, so Peeta’s need to keep me pressed up against him as we sleep is starting to get uncomfortable. I ignore it, let Peeta throw his leg over mine, and allow myself be lulled to sleep by the smell of Icy Hot and sound of his heart beating.  At least both of our sinuses are nice and clear from the fumes, so there’s no snoring.


Peeta seems happy that I’m letting him spoil me, though I’m pretty sure this is an ‘us’ thing.

We’ve been to eight places so far, all within a few blocks of each other. Peeta holds my hand the entire time as I search for things I dislike about these places I personally could never afford.

A lot of them are boring - white walls, two bedrooms, kitchen, living room, bathrooms. At the eighth place, I see something that we need.

“Holy fuck!” I gasp, standing in what may be the most gorgeous bathroom I’ve ever had the fortune to stand in. I let go of Peeta’s hand for the first time all day to admire the massive tub in the master bathroom, a tub that can very well be mine if I give the okay to Peeta. He doesn’t really care where we live, as long as we’re together.

Peeta talks to Mark, the real estate agent he hired, while I can only think about fucking inside this massive tub. It’s practically free standing with a gentle curve and a large black stone rim around the edge to store anything from glasses of wine to little decorative pieces.

This is the last place Peeta has flagged as a possibility, at least in Old City. We part ways with Mark to grab an early dinner and weigh our options. I could only focus on place eight. From our living room, there was a stunning view of Independence Hall. We would have a doorman, and underground parking.

“What are you grinning about?” he asks me, using his thumb to get some of the foam from my lager off my bottom lip.

“That tub, and the walk-in closet… Plus the kitchen…” I sigh happily. I really… REALLY want to live in that building, in that apartment, in that fucking tub… but I’d never outright ask Peeta to sign the deal. It’s his money, not mine.

He hooks his thumb under my chin and pulls me in for a kiss. “Just say the word, Katniss, and it’s ours.”

The place is pet friendly, close to a park, in a safe area, close to Delly and Thom, and still in Philadelphia.

I sigh and take another gulp for courage. Could I be Peeta’s perfect wife in that apartment? Could I be there for him as he is for me in the bustle of the city? Could we raise our children there?

It’s safe, it’s gorgeous, it’s close to the stadium…

“Peeta, it’s perfect. It has everything you were looking for, everything I was looking for. The only thing is that you know I can’t help you pay for it.”

Peeta grins, I’ve given him what he wanted. “I just ask that you help pick out furniture.”

He calls Mark after dinner, and signs the paperwork early Saturday morning. The apartment is completely ours… Only we have little to no furniture.


“This is bullshit,” Delly grumbles, sipping on her Starbucks. “The fucking players don’t have to be here until like nine, and we’re here at six in the fucking morning.”

Johanna elbows her, “To be fair, we did have to pick your fucking ass up because you’re still drunk.”

“Thom and I went to Yuengs and Wings… Except it quickly became Yuengs and Yuengs. We would have invited you guys, but Johanna’s pregnant and the rest of you were apparently humping last night.”

Annie shakes her head. “Delly’s still drunk,” she tells us, stating the obvious.

“To be fair, Peeta and I were celebrating finding a place to live. It becomes official in a few hours!” Everyone’s excited for us, and Delly assures me that she’s bouncing off the walls that I’m now a block from her and Thom, but her hangover is preventing that.

At six thirty, my phone vibrates. Because of a late Sixers game last night, we couldn’t set up the night before. “Hey, Delly?” I call as we help lay down black mats on the ice. She’s still a little drunk but coordinated enough to assemble what is basically a big black puzzle simple enough for a toddler to put together. “Delly!” I call again and again until she picks her head up.

“What, Katniss!?” she snaps as I stomp a corner down.

“I just got like twenty college-aged kids to get out of bed on a Saturday morning before nine am. How old are you?” I ask, heading down the tunnel to clear them with security.

“Old enough to shove my foot up your skinny ass!”


Everything is set up right before the players get here. Apparently, it’s a six or more hour job that because of the recruits I got, took just over three.

“You’re good at rallying the troops,” Effie tells me quietly as we hand out shirts. They’re plain black with Flyers Wives Charity and the logo on the front. On the back, they have our significant other’s number with our last names inside white blocks like on the guys’ jerseys.

I smile before pulling mine over my tank top. “It’s what I did in college. I mean, besides amassing thousands of dollars in debts, and getting a degree I will probably never use because I’ve spent my last four years running a bar and-“ I look up at Effie, who is actually listening to my griping.

Effie smiles. “Apply for a few jobs. What’s Peeta going to say? No? This is the twenty-first century, Katniss. Men only think they’re in charge.”

I shrug. “Honestly? I don’t think I want to work. I mean, I like being busy during the day so I don’t get fat, but…” I look over the room of fatigued but still chipper sorority girls, hockey wives, girlfriends, fiancées, all here for one thing, to raise money for a good cause. “Things like this… this is what I’d rather be doing.”

Effie nods. “We can work something out…”


Because I get to games so early now, I rarely come in contact with pregame crowds. There are even more people here today. For the most part, I can move quietly through crowds as I like, until I’m within five feet of Peeta.

At that point, I become his camerawoman, his pen carrier, anything he needs. As we swim through a crowd, Peeta loops his hand around my waist. “So I have something for you…” he whispers into my ear as we take the elevator downstairs.

We haven’t really talked today. I know he signed the paperwork for our apartment, but that’s it.

“Close your eyes,” he tells me, “And hold out your hand.”

I do as I’m told and the second my eyes are shut, a key is placed in my hand. When I open my eyes, he’s grinning. “The locks got changed today. The place is ours, we just need to fill it with furniture.”

I look down at the simple key. Tears begin to prickle at my eyes, “We have a home…” I whisper, “You and I… We have a place of our own!”

The only time Peeta and I have ever truly lived alone was that weekend in Ottawa. It’s beautiful, realizing that soon there will be next to no chance that a child is going to walk in on us having sex, that we’ll be able to pick furniture that fits us, not the owner of the house…

The elevator pings when we reach the basement, opening slowly and revealing our tight celebratory hug to several fans. I kiss Peeta on the cheek before passing through the crowd, letting him handle this.


Peeta

People waiting in line to meet me is still the strangest feeling ever. I’m not sure I’m interesting enough to warrant this type of attention. Still, fans eagerly line up to get my autograph and take pictures with me.

I feel like I’m up on some pedestal, when chances are if they sat down next to me to shoot the shit anywhere in the city, I’d be willing to talk.

The day is long and painful at times, but mostly for my right hand. I meet hundreds of people who tell me that Flyers hockey is as much a part of their history as it is becoming mine. I’m not sure whose identity is more tied to this team, the fans or the players?

During lunch, I get to take a break from signing and hide in the quiet of the locker room. Everyone’s been eating in shifts but I seemed to miss it all. As I wander around our area of Wells Fargo, lazily eating an apple, I find Katniss curled up on a couch in the lounge with my jacket over her as a blanket. She’s been up since quarter of five and I doubt anyone will notice she’s disappeared.

I join her on the couch, gently placing her head in my lap. I spend my half hour or so lunch break stroking her loose, dark hair and making sure she doesn’t have any bad dreams.

She emerges around close to two in the afternoon looking groggy as hell. The first thing she does when she surfaces is wrap her arms around my waist and press her cheek against my chest. Her cheeks are still rosy from sleep and her eyes are completely unfocused.

“Good morning,” she says happily as I kiss the top of her head. She’s off as soon as she came, disappearing into the sea of orange and black. I try to watch her go, but give up and go back to posing for the picture she interrupted.

“Sorry,” I tell the people waiting, “Long day.”

I see her again towards the end of the carnival. I had the very last shift in the dreaded dunk tank and apparently she ran by and hit the button, soaking me about an hour before, but Annie won’t narc on her.

“Don’t shake!” she scolds as I shake my hair out over her. We’re on camera again. It’s getting more frequent but she seems to ignore it. I lean in and kiss her nose.

“You dunked me…” I remind her.

She grins and it’s obvious she’s beyond exhausted. “It was Finnick, he told me I wouldn’t do it…”

She leans against me during the entire interview, smiling brightly. God, I hope she’s found her place here.


Katniss

“Annnnnd…. They’re gone,” Annie tells us, closing the curtain in the dining room.

Delly comes bouncing down the hallway, blond curls springing up and down as she hops on her stilettos. “Delly, we’re going to Society Hill tonight,” Annie warns her for the hundredth time. The older section of the city still has some cobblestone streets, and the place we’re going after the guys’ signing tonight is down a narrow, no vehicle access street.

She bounces her head from side to side. “Long hair! Don’t care!” she reminds us while smacking her head with her hair. “Now… Johanna!” she shouts, “The sitter knows what to do!”

Peeta’s birthday is tomorrow, and after destroying an eleven game win streak of the Penguins on Wednesday night, Thom is still high on his own “deafening awesomeness” as he likes to call his last second overtime goal. According to him, he couldn’t really care about their loss to Florida last night. If they win tomorrow, on my fiancé’s birthday, they clinch a playoff spot.

I didn’t know what to get Peeta for his birthday, but Gale gave me the idea. A week or so ago, he was so excited about this panoramic of Wells Fargo Center he found at the mall. He stood in the store, staring at the thing for a minute or so until he backed away to tell me excitedly that one of the orange dots was him. I forgot my glasses, and the store owner called bullshit for about thirty seconds.

In our ‘more bedrooms than strictly necessary’ apartment, we’ve turned one room into Peeta’s ‘man cave’, complete with an over the top flat screen, the panoramic, and a case for Peeta’s medals and trophies so they’re no longer in a box.

When we finally move in tonight, he’s going to find his All-Star jersey, stick and puck he scored one of his goals with mounted with a picture of his teammates that were in Ottawa with him that weekend. I’ve done the same with his Winter Classic memorabilia. Some of the other guys have gotten it done, but they say Peeta’s just an airhead.

We pile in the car, Peeta’s and my clothes in the back along with our computers, and a few odds and ends that we forgot or overlooked. “So, how does it feel to be leaving Gale and Johanna’s place for one last time?” Annie asks me as Johanna backs up.

I smile. “We’ll be back… We have a whole eighty-two games next season to sit on their couch and drink wine,” I lean forward and rub Johanna’s growing belly, “With this one.”

“And a long playoff run,” Johanna adds.

“The longest!” Delly cheers excitedly.


“Delly, you stupid bitch!” Annie giggles from a few steps behind Peeta and I. Delly and Thom live three blocks from here, Peeta and I have about seven or eight to walk. Everyone else gets to drive home from Xochitl.

Delly realized very quickly that tequila shots, Society Hill, and her favorite stilettos didn’t mix very well. Thom bent over to give her a piggy back ride and she’s been looking down at us smugly ever since.

“I am so fucking tall right now!” she cheers, swinging her legs. “Wait, what time is it?”

“Eleven fifty-nine,” Gale yawns. “Shit, I can’t keep up with you kids.”

“Stop the train! Stop the train!” Delly slaps Thom’s back.

“Jesus fucking Christ, woman!” Thom growls. He’s not mad, just a little shocked at the sudden beating.

A few seconds later someone’s watch beeps, letting us know that we’ve officially hit Peeta’s birthday.

Everyone catches up to the shitfaced Delly and the minute or so solid of us shouting ‘Happy Birthday’ at him almost gets us cited for public drunkenness and general jackassery.

“Wait, how old are you?” Finnick finally asks.

Peeta keeps me close. It’s chilly, but now that spring is here I no longer need my big puffy coat to survive.

“Twenty five… And I swear if you punch me-“

“He’s not going to help you guys get into the playoffs tomorrow,” I tell him. “I’m watching you… Russian!” Finnick’s not actually from Russia, or so I’m told, it’s just his heritage.

It’s actually beautiful to part ways with everyone after a good night of food and drinks. When we go home, we don’t need to tiptoe so we don’t wake any kids. We don’t have to quietly have sex, and we definitely don’t have to worry about anyone walking in on us.

“Ready?” Peeta asks me in the elevator. After ten minutes of thanking Gale for everything he’s done for him, we finally made it home. Our home… I get giddy just thinking about it.

I jingle my keys. “I put away your clothes and a few other things…” I tell him vaguely, “I’m going to walk the dog, though,” I say as he unlocks the door.  I move to enter but he blocks me with his arm, ignoring the dog bouncing for our attention.

“I have to carry you over the threshold,” he tells me seriously. God, he’s so drunk… he doesn’t even give me time to react. One second I’m on the ground, the next I’m cradled in his arms. “Wait, is it left foot or right foot first?”

“Right foot,” I tell him, “And hurry up, we just moved in. I don’t want to make enemies with our neighbors!”

He carries me into the kitchen and just stands there with me in his arms, maybe taking it all in, maybe lost in a drunken haze.

He sighs happily as it hits me again. Everything in this place is ours… from the king sized bed we christened the second the movers left, to the napkin rings we’ll never use… everything here is ours.


I come back from my short walk with the dog. It’s late, but we’re in a relatively safe part of the city and the dog needed to go to the bathroom. The apartment is almost too quiet.

“Babe?” I call, locking the door before unhooking Sasquatch’s leash. Peeta could be asleep… but our bedroom is empty. I don’t ask questions and get ready for bed before searching for him again.

The last room I check is the man-cave. “Open the door slowly!” I hear him call from the other side. I listen to him, but find all the furniture shifted and covered in blankets. The TV has fallen prey to Peeta’s drunkenness, getting what looks like the guest room’s fitted sheet tucked around the corners, “I did something,” he tells me, poking his head out of a crack.

“I see that!” I crawl through a small hole. Is this what adulthood is supposed to be like? Though I do remember Annie telling me that sometimes she thinks hockey players forget that they’re adults.

“Peeta, come on… you have a game tomorrow.”

He’s cross-legged on one of the couch cushions with an Xbox controller in his hands. “Don’t care. It’s my birthday,” he says. I join him, expecting to watch for a half hour and then drag him to bed. Instead, he hands me a controller and we spend the next three hours borderline abusing each other while playing something called Soul Calibur. We agree that the person who loses has to strip off a piece of clothing. It works really well for him until I figure out I can press the same button over and over and win once I figured out this special move that happens when I press a certain combination of buttons.

Peeta says I’m cheating, but when I have him on his back naked with his hands pinned above his head, he doesn’t complain. He has no complaints when I take him into my mouth, and even less when I’m bouncing up and down on his dick.

“Still think I’m a cheater?” I ask, rubbing sweaty hair out of my face and grinding into him very slowly. This fucking blanket fort is like an oven, and it must be the strangest place we’ve had sex, even though we did it in the Phillies’ locker room.

He puts his large hands on my hips and moves me back and forth ever so slightly, rubbing us together in just the right way, “N-no…” he moans.

I smile and lean down to kiss his forehead. Our first night in the new apartment, and we’re not even going to spend it in our own bed…


Peeta

Being in a committed relationship has its benefits, like happy birthday blowjobs in the shower. I try to swing happy birthday anal, but she’s not going for it. So instead, I get happy birthday reverse cowgirl with her long, black braid as a handle on our barely broken in bed.

It’s a good send-off for our game against the Capitals tonight, which doesn’t go our way twenty-six seconds into the game.

“Can’t you chirp him in Russian when he comes by?” I ask Finnick, who is still pissed off about the goal when I take the ice for my next shift.

The goal was knocked out of place so as we wait for that to get situated, he sprays his face with water. “I called his Mom a borscht blooded cocksucker, but Ovi just pointed at the score board.” He taps me on the ass with his stick, “Now get the puck the fuck out of my end and score a goal,” he says, whacking me again on the ass.

I shake my head and skate away. Like it’s that easy…

“Make your birthday worth- oh, the wave is coming this way!”

He holds his hands over his head just as the crowd behind him does it.

We remain scoreless in the first period and for a good chunk of the second, then we break free from the Capitals defense. On a sloppy pass and half off balance, I get it in and practically face-plant onto the ice. I’m sliding on my side into the boards as the spotlight follows me and the goal horn dies down. My line mates haul me off the ice, and instead of deafening cheering and clapping, I’m met with almost 20,000 fans singing ‘happy birthday’ to me.

“You guys are pricks!” I shout over the noise while skating back to the bench. I hold my stick straight in the air to salute the fans.

Thom is right behind me. “It’s not us, definitely Haymitch,” he tells me as we sit down.  We need fresh skates on the ice to score again, though another period and a half goes by and neither team scores.

I’m sweaty and fatigued from pulling double shifts towards the end of the game when we go back and forth in overtime until the five minutes are up. Someone should just fucking score.


“And the hero!” I practically shout, “Of my birthday game,” I throw my arm around Thresh’s shoulders. I know I’m gone, I’m so far gone that I’m happy Katniss and I got birthday sex out of the way earlier, “My new best friend Thresh! Gale, you’re out, you’ve got nothing but glove.”

He snorts. “At least I hit the net,” he jokes, punching my side.

“Yeah, I missed… But Thresh got us into the playoffs. You know, that magical time where you prove that you’re the top clinch player in the whole league?”

It’s been a pretty big night all around.


Katniss

“He’s shitfaced…”

Gale and Finnick haul Peeta into our room. “Well… it was his birthday. But he’s yours now!” Finnick tells me while I roll Peeta onto his back because he’s got to get out of his suit and tie somehow. Two nights in a row… at least he’s too drunk to make a blanket fort.

Finnick and Gale quickly leave me to my work. “Katniss?” Peeta asks, now suddenly lucid as I try to pull his pants down. I can smell the liquor on his breath.

“Yes, babe?”

“I want us to have a big fancy wedding…”

I freeze, his grey slacks at his knees. “Why?” We know we’re inviting the team and most of the Flyers organization, his family, my family (though I’d rather not), and some girls from my sorority. What does he mean by big?

“Because I want you to feel like a princess, or queen or whatever…” he tells me while I slide his pants off. “Because you bend over backwards for everyone and I can give this to you. I want to give this to you… I want to spoil you, starting with right now. Every fucking day, I’m going to spoil you.”

He reaches out for me, his voice suddenly getting whiny. “And I’m horny,” he says, ruining the moment. I’m not entirely sure he could even get it up at this point.

“You’re also shitfaced,” I tell him, taking his hands. He pulls me on top of them.

“I can be both!” he practically shouts in my ear while bear hugging me. “Did I mention it’s my birthday?”

“You might have…”

Peeta’s passed out before I can respond, so I roll him onto his back and start to get his dress shirt off. I don’t need him sweating like a pig or ripping the shirt tonight. He’s semi-lucid when I force him into a seated position and get him out of his shirts, but I let him fall when I see what’s under his shirt.

 

Still red and a little sore looking, seated right on his freshly shaved pectoral, is my fucking name.

Chapter Text

Perhaps I should have made him sleep on the couch, or maybe I should have slept on the couch…

I can’t bring myself to do it, though. I’m pissed. No, wait, I’m livid. Everyone knows that name tattoos are bad news for relationships. I spend the entire night next to my stupid, drunk fiancé and his bad luck tattoo while he snores peacefully. Sure, I’m furious, but I can’t bring myself to leave his side. I don’t want to spend a night away from his warmth or his scent, even if it is masked under the smell of liquor. We spend so much time apart that despite my anger, I don’t want to miss a moment of our time together, even if it’s dancing along the fine line between consciousness and unconsciousness.

Peeta’s still drunk when he wakes up. Another day, another hangover, only I have to drive him to his morning skate.

“So… umm…” I start. I don’t want to yell at him. It’s no use; tattoos are permanent, and hopefully our marriage is just as permanent. He’s brushing his teeth, or attempting to. The fucker got out of bed before me, in the dark, and immediately put a shirt on.

He has to know that I know. “Peeta, why would you get a tattoo? I know you told me you were planning on it, but still… It’s bad luck.”

I’m angry, he knows I’m angry, but he’s still not completely in his right mind, so he finishes brushing his teeth.

Instead of engaging me though, he walks past me, like he’s avoiding the conversation. “Peeta?” I ask gently once more as he strips out of his boxers and into workout clothes for practice, UnderArmour leggings and gym shorts. My name is still staring at me whenever he turns slightly in my direction.

“Peeta Mellark! It’s six thirty in the morning! Your friends had to drag your drunken ass home last night, waking me up in the process, and you show up with my name on your chest!” I snap. “Don’t ignore me!”

“Katniss!” he practically growls when he finally acknowledges me. “It’s only bad luck if you make it bad luck. You wear your ring every second of every day. Some nights it’s on your finger, even when you’re in the shower.”

“Then we should have gotten you a ring. This is permanent!”

The air in the room gets noticeably colder. “And our marriage won’t be?” He grabs his sneakers and a pair of socks, still forgetting his shirt, and leaves the room.

In my own frustration I practically jump down the hallway after him, waking up the dog and maybe even the people below us. “That’s real nice, Katniss!” he calls.

“Peeta! Where are you going? You can’t drive!”

“For a run!” he yells back, still frustrated. God dammit, he’s drunk, and he’s in a part of the city he’s unfamiliar with… and the sidewalks are extra shitty here.

“Put a fucking shirt on!” I hiss, following him through the apartment. He’ll be the death of himself, and me as well. “And some gloves.”

At this point, any arguing is going to be mindless, but neither of us quit. “I don’t need a shirt or gloves!” It’s almost the end of March, but it still hit 29 last night. “Your March is my August!”

The dog is my savior, as he bends over to tie his black and orange sneakers. They basically give him a new wardrobe every season and why wouldn’t something the Flyers give their players not be orange and black? She weaves through his legs, sending him to the floor with a loud thud.

He rolls onto his back, even though he’s now fair game for face kisses from the dog. I stand over his chest, putting my foot on his sternum. “There, now that I have you in one place…” I sigh and sink down so I’m sitting on him. “I know our marriage is permanent, but do you really want to look at my name for the rest of your life? Or do you think I want to look at my name?”

He looks surprisingly sober as I continue. “Also, you aren’t supposed to work out without covering that with something… I saw a frat guy with these Alice in Chains lyrics on his ribs,” I lean forward and his hands immediately go up to catch me. I wanted to kiss him, not scare him. I pull back and link hands with him. “Well, he went to the gym and his tattoo got infected and looked kind of like the Black Death or someone carving the words out of his ribcage.” I start to support my weight on his arms and wobble a little. “Hockey pads are disgusting and you know it.” I lean down and kiss his nose, “I don’t like my name on your chest. I can’t change it, but at least take care of it.”

Neither of us yells after that. Instead I get some food in Peeta’s stomach and drive him to Wells Fargo because apparently there’s ‘housekeeping.’ He won’t tell me what, but his breath smells like a gin and tonic, so I’m pretty sure he has no idea what’s going on.

As soon as he’s inside, I turn the car back on and head to the Wawa just off Delaware Avenue. Their practice today is private, which means only family are allowed inside, no fans, no press, and cellphone use is highly discouraged.

When I get there, more cars are in the parking lot. I sigh and go inside. Maybe I can get the women to kill their men for me.


Peeta

“Fuck, are you still drunk?” Gale asks loud enough to make my head spin.

“A little, no? Maybe… I think I’m hungover at this point. But what the fuck, you guys were supposed to watch me.”

I hear Finnick suck in air through his teeth. “Is she mad?” he asks.

Thresh snorts. “Dude started drinking, went to a tattoo shop with you, and came back with his fiancée’s name on his chest two hours later.”

Finnick stands up from his seat at the conference table. The suits left us all to our own devices. Finnick lifts his shirt up to show us the anchor he had tattooed precariously close to his ginger bush. “Finnick Odair, if you don’t put your shirt down, I will healthy scratch you.”

Finnick sits down immediately. “But Coach, I came to breakfast!”

“Katniss is livid,” I tell him quietly. “But she doesn’t want to pick the fight.”

Haymitch starts going over the teams who are more than likely to clinch the remaining playoff spots. We sit in the conference room and watch what feels like an eternity of other teams’ highlights.

“Alright, get changed, but pads and jerseys only for now. Upstairs ordered a new entrance for you guys for the playoffs. Everyone but Odair needs everything but pants and socks.

“What do I need?” Finnick asks.

Haymitch looks at him for a moment, “Everything.”

As we walk out, Finnick decides it’s time to act sassy. “I’m not even going to lift my bucket! They can’t make me.”

Just before Haymitch leaves the room, his eyes are on me. “You, boy, my office,” he points.

I wobble as I get up. My head is spinning, but I follow Haymitch like an obedient little puppy. I don’t suspect that anything is wrong until after the door is shut. Haymitch’s office is windowless, with thick walls and a heavy door. It’s meant to be quiet if someone needs to be chewed out or when secret dealings need to be done with suits.

“You are one of the most talented players in the goddamn league; no, scratch that. Scratch that, Mellark, the fucking world. You are captain of one of the most talented hockey clubs in this god damned league and what are you doing? Pissing it away on fucking booze and late nights less than a month away from playoffs?”

Haymitch shakes his head. Our latest team picture is on his desktop, with me dead center in the front row. They ripped on me for being late to the photo because I was getting my hair perfect. They were kind of right.

On his wall are other captains, other teams, now retired, traded, or just out of the league. Hell, there’s even an entire wall of captains and their years as captain. I don’t want my name to have 2010-2011 next to it just because I lost sight of my priorities.

“If you don’t clean up your act, you’re going to find yourself on some Russian team where the sun shines two days out of the year. Grow the fuck up and get ready. I’ll be out in 5 minutes.”

I’ve never gotten dressed faster in my life.


The day is long; unnecessarily, brutally long and we don’t even really get on the ice for actual practice. Plus, my hangover sets in just as they want to shove a camera on my face, which adds to my overall shitty mood after Haymitch had his little talk with me. Apparently the death stares I’ve been giving the camera are appropriate.

I can see Katniss on the bench talking on her cell phone a few seats away from the other women. After about ten minutes of them trying to get a shot of me in my helmet looking up after looking down at the ice, I skate over to her just as she ends the call.

“Who was that?” I ask curiously.

“Oh, no one…” she waves a little in the air. “I just booked the venue for our wedding.”

My heart sinks. “Katniss, you didn’t talk to me about this or anything?” I try not to get angry with her, but instantly I am. This is our wedding; I want to be a part of the planning. I don’t want to be told what we’re having.

She narrows her eyes. “No, I didn’t. I have four months to plan a ‘big wedding’. Four months to get everything just right. I don’t have a dress, and you don’t have a tux. We need a band, a caterer, and someone to make the cake. We haven’t sent out save the dates, nor do we have a guest list. Peeta, everything I’m going to be doing from this point forward until seven o’clock on August 4th is plan the wedding. At seven o’clock, I will be marrying you at sunset with the Museum of Art in our field of vision, and the Philadelphia skyline on the other.”

“So you didn’t pick some shitty place for revenge?” I ask. I’m still pretty pissed that she went and did that, considering that I would be paying the deposit. Then I see her face, the distant look in her eyes as she lists off what she still needs to do. I see that look in the mirror every time I think about playoffs, all the preparation I’ll need to do to get myself in top physical condition. Sure, I’m good now, but I’ll need to be even better.

Suddenly, Katniss booking a venue suddenly doesn’t seem like an issue. It’s a gift.

Katniss rolls her eyes. “Peeta, it’s my wedding, too. I’m going to love every minute of it. The lead-up… that’s another thing. Plus, I figured most of your energy from this point on will be playoff related.”

I hear skates behind me, and Katniss’ face lights up. “Hi, I’m looking for my fiancé’s friends. They’re on their way to the morgue.”

“And going away now,” Thom says before I can even look over my shoulder.


“Yeah, you’re right, she’s pissed…” Thom sighs, unlacing his skates.

“And now she’s going crazy over this wedding bullshit…”

Gale punches me. “You’re kidding, right? You gave her six months to plan a wedding, but two months of that is shot because of your move. Speaking of which, the kids are still mad at you. They say Johanna and I are hard asses. Johanna is pissed that they like you better.”

“Of course they like me better! I play X-Box with them until buttfuck o’clock! But look, Thom and Delly are getting married in June, right? He proposed in December and-“

“That woman and this wedding have made me cry on several occasions. I’m not proud of it, but when you spend four hours stuffing envelopes and accidentally start stuffing envelopes inside of envelopes and she comes at you, you crack.”

“Delly is five foot nothing.”

“And Katniss is like five foot three and a twig, and sooner or later she will break you with this wedding stuff. It may be floral arrangements or trying to figure out how to have your first dance with a foot and a half height difference, although…”

“Shuddup…”

“What I’m getting at is sooner or later, one of you is going to snap, and then the other will. Weddings fucking blow.”

“Then why do we have them? Why don’t we just go to the courthouse?” I ask.

“That’s what Johanna and I are doing. I told her I could give her a big fancy wedding when my divorce was finalized, which it should be tonight if Madge shows up with her lawyer. Johanna said that where she’s from, weddings consist of, ‘Oops, someone got pregnant, let’s get the shotgun.’ I got off easy this time.”

“Oops, someone got pregnant!” Finnick laughs, still in full gear. He really is refusing to lift his bucket. “Annie told me last night that I better not propose because it’s starting to look like the thing to do. I think that’s code for, ‘you’d better ask me to marry you.’ Guys, do I have to propose to Annie?”

Finnick looks like an idiot, sitting on the bench trying to cross his legs while the rest of us are just in shorts. Naturally, we all take out our phones and take pictures of him.

“Finnick Odair, dressed for the playoffs before the season even ends.”

“Guys, I’m serious, is Annie going to-“

“No!” Gale snaps. “But most women want that big fairy tale wedding. They’re like programmed from birth by TV and some shit with society. You propose, you promise Katniss the world, the big fairy tale. Then you have the means to give everything to her. And I know you have it, because I know your take home,” Gale tells me.

“Everyone with Google knows my take home. And she wanted something small; I’m pretty sure she would have gone to the courthouse if I had asked. Now we have a venue and-“

“You should totally just whisk her off to Vegas, get married at one of those drive-thru chapels and come back for the playoffs. Use the venue to host a huge party at the end of the summer, and get one of those nude sushi ladies so Delly and I can have a three way with her when we all get shitty on sake!” Thom notices how we’re all looking at him. “What? It’s one of those things that’s on both of our bucket lists!”

Haymitch comes in when we’re all just waiting for the go-ahead to go home. When he comes in, he looks around the room. “Why the fuck are you all not dressed? Odair, I like your style.” It’s a mess of begrudgingly getting off the benches to take off our shorts and get ready for practice.

“Alright, tomorrow we host the Habs. No morning skate, but be back here by two. We have the Lightning on Monday, then up to Toronto.” Haymitch flips his paper over, “Why do they have us come back here to host Ottawa?” he asks himself. “Alright, you guys are done for the day, see you tomorrow.”

My jaw drops. I have one leg in my compression pants.

“He just trolled the shit out of us…” someone grumbles as shirts and pants start hitting the floor.


“No, I’m telling you, I have this covered. Don’t worry about it.” Katniss has been on the phone for over an hour, “No, because if you call, you’re just going to bite someone’s head off!” Katniss pauses, “Yes, I know you’re pregnant. The whole world can tell you’re pregnant,” Katniss sighs, “I’ll walk to Delly and Thom’s once I get off the phone. In fact, I’ll walk there now.” It’s really distracting to watch her walk around our kitchen in nothing but my t-shirt.

Katniss is pacing with the dog sitting on her hip like a toddler. “Oh, I don’t give a fuck if Annie’s already there. She lives in goddamn Yardley! I’d be in Philadelphia every fucking day if I lived with all those yuppies. Also, Peeta and I had to christen the kitchen counter.”

Katniss hangs up and groans loudly before taking a deep breath, ready to catch me up. “Fucking… pregnant brides. Madge signed the divorce papers. Gale and Johanna are getting married on Wednesday as long as their license goes through. I need a dress, and Johanna says if you wear anything that isn’t a black suit and a nice tie to her wedding, she’s going to have you for dinner.”

Katniss sets the dog down, who just sits at her feet looking confused. I’ve never met an animal that likes being held more. “But I have to go and-“

I put my hands up. “Oh, no. Not yet. We have to talk,” I say and her face falls.

I walk up to her and wrap my arms around her waist. “Come here…” I start to pick her up off the ground. She wraps her legs around me and I carry her into the room where we spent our first night in this apartment. “Now, I saw something when you made me clean up the mess I made in here.”

“You still didn’t make the guest room bed,” she reminds me.

I groan, “I know!” I sigh, “But that’s not important.” I look at the two gigantic frames on the wall. It was no small task organizing this or getting them in here.

I hug my future wife. “Thank you…”

“Don’t mention it,” she tells me from where her face is buried in my bare shoulder. “And I really don’t mind your tattoo… I just think it’s bad luck.”

I pat her ass instead of pushing her back up, and she’s sliding down me. “We’re going to make our own luck, Mrs. Mellark.”

“We’re not married yet; it’s still Miss Everdeen, and who says I’m taking your name?” she asks.

I kiss whatever part of her head I can get to. I’m not starting this conversation right now so I just put her down.

As she walks to our room, she tosses my shirt back at me, hitting me in the face. In just under fifteen minutes, she comes out looking more put together than I could manage in the same amount of time. I’ve never seen this outfit on her, especially the impossibly tall black heels and skinny jeans that cling to the curve of her ass.

“Where are you going dressed like that?” I ask curiously while she slides one of the ten thousand bobby-pins around our apartment into her bun before putting on her glasses.

“King of Prussia. Johanna doesn’t have anything to wear when she gets married.”

“Are you getting something?” I ask curiously.

Katniss shrugs as she zips up her fleece jacket, I have no idea how this woman gets so cold so easily. “But I don’t think I’ll be home for dinner.”

I shrug, “I’ll get something with Thom. Do you need me to do anything for you, or the wedding?”

Katniss freezes and her face goes blank for a good ten seconds. “Really?”

I nod, “Whatever you need.”

“I need you to write down the names of anyone you want to come. Parents, brothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins, someone you played hockey with ten years ago, anyone. But I also need their addresses. Once we have that, we need to narrow down the guest list because I’m sure you don’t want to pay for dinner and drinks for over five hundred.”

“No problem. Anything else?”

She chews on her lower lip. “If you’re feeling adventurous, the dog needs food and we’re almost out of milk.”

Katniss gives me a quick kiss goodbye and is out the door, leaving me with the large task of deciding who I want to be there when we get married.


I don’t really know what to do in the apartment when Katniss isn’t here. In the first hour, I get the dog to twirl on her hind legs until she stumbles around for a few minutes, and my immediate family’s names and addresses on my list. During the second hour, my mom calls and says she'll bring the addresses of my aunts, uncles, and any other blood relatives I barely remember meeting.

“So our plane lands at ten in the morning next Tuesday. Do you want us to bring anything from your house?”

I lay down on the couch, which immediately brings the dog out of her hiding place and onto my chest. I pat my hand right above my sternum, the noise making her ears perk up and causing her tail to thump against the back of the couch. She covers my hand with her paw, trying to get me to stop.

“Peeta?” I completely forgot I was on the phone with my mother. “Anything you need?”

“Not that I can think of…” I tell her as the dog covers my thumping hand with her body and nuzzles her face in my neck.

“Anything you and Katniss need help with?”

Then it hits me, “I don’t think I told Katniss you guys were coming…”

My mother snorts, “Well, you’d better get on that. I have to go before I burn dinner. Enjoy the couch!”

Forgetting to tell Katniss that my parents are staying with us can’t be that bad…


Katniss

“Alright, so what do you have?” I ask from my perch on the couch. Peeta’s sprawled out on the floor with a huge list of names. Well, huge for me, seeing as a good chunk of his list is also on mine. I’m a little jealous of Johanna and Gale’s quick wedding on Tuesday. Only Peeta, myself and the kids will be there to witness, followed by a huge reception-like party at Haymitch’s house. I called Effie and she loved the idea. The best part was when she said she’d cover everything so I can plan my wedding instead of someone else’s.

Peeta starts counting out loud in his native tongue so when he’s done, he doesn’t understand my confused stare. I slide off the couch and crawl across the fuzzy white rug so I’m on top of my fiancé.

“In English, please,” I say, kissing his nose.

“Well, between family, friends, teammates, coaches, trainers, and what not… I have about one thirty, counting spouses and plus one’s…”

I grab his list from his hand and rest my cheek on his bare chest. “Jesus, fuck, how do you know this many people?”

He palms my bare ass cheek before swatting it. “Excuse me, Miss ‘I have to invite all the women from my pledge year.’”

I groan. “Speaking of which, I still need to figure out the bridesmaid situation. Have you picked your best man?”

Peeta’s laughter echoes through his chest. “I have two brothers, and a teammate who is like my brother. I think I might see who can skate two miles the fastest and whoever wins gets to be my best man. It’s not like the guy’s going to have a huge job. Not like the maid of honor…”

I feel myself smile. “I didn’t even have to ask Prim. I think it’s a sister thing… She’s even trying to take me dress shopping…”

Peeta’s hand leaves my ass and a second later, I feel the tips of his fingers running up and down my spine. “I can’t believe you haven’t gone yet. Isn’t that the first thing women do when they get engaged?”

“I’m afraid to go… It’s one of those things…” My tongue gets dry; I’ve been trying not to think about this. “One of those things people do with their moms…” I roll off of him and stare up at the ceiling.

“What about my mom?” Peeta asks a moment after taking my hand.

I snort, “Like she’s going to fly all the way from Ottawa to go wedding dress shopping with me.”

“Yeah… About that…” he trails off.

I sit upright. “Peeta, your parents aren’t about to knock on our door, are they? We’re naked, the fridge is empty, and there aren’t even sheets on the guest room beds. Still, because you tried to wash two beds worth of sheets in one load.”

He shakes his head no and I lay back down. “But they are coming next Tuesday.”

“What!?” I hear myself shriek, which makes the dog come bounding from wherever she was hiding.


Peeta

“I still can’t believe we lost last night…” I grumble as I straighten out my tie. “Do you even have your dress on yet?”

“Nope!” Katniss calls from the bathroom. “I figured I should run around in my underwear before my future in-laws come.”

“Babe, I’ve told you six times, what you’re wearing isn’t underwear. It’s wrapping paper!” Black, lacy, complicated wrapping paper. When she comes out of the bathroom she’s in her tight black dress, picking at part of the metallic pattern. “Ready?”

“To attend my first shotgun wedding? Naturally!” Katniss starts picking up her things – cellphone, keys, and wallet – and immediately hands most of them to me.

“What am I going to do with this?” I ask, opening up her wallet. In the see-through slot where her license goes is her ID that gets her into the ‘VIP’ areas of Wells Fargo Center.

Katniss links her arm with mine. “You’re the man, you have the pockets…”

We’re quiet in the elevator until Katniss starts shifting uncomfortably. “I have a weggie,” she complains. “Don’t look at me!” I can’t help but look down as she shifts from one foot to the other. “Peeta! Look the other way!”

“No one told you to wear a lace thong!” I remind her just as the elevator door opens and an older couple gets in. I grab her arm and guide her into the parking garage, my cheeks hot from embarrassment and the image of her in nothing but the aforementioned thong.

About halfway over the Ben Franklin Bridge, she has her dress all the way up and removes her stockings and underwear. “There… I’ll just have to remember to keep my legs crossed!”

Gale practically rips me away from Johanna, Katniss and the kids the second we get to the courthouse.

“I’m freaking out, man…” he tells me halfway down a drab grey hall, “What if it happens again? What if in ten years she gets sick of me and is gone? I can’t do it to the kids again and-“

I grip his shoulder and shake him until he shuts up. “Gale, for the love of God, shut up. You’re just getting cold feet!” He nods before rubbing his face with his hands. “Would you really be here if you had any doubts? Not even about to marry her,  but if you didn’t think Johanna was going to be in it for the long haul, would you have brought her around your kids, let them get that close to her, or let her live with us?”

“Us?” he asks with a smirk. “You realize we’re not actually married.”

“We are a little bit married. You still pack a toothbrush for me on road trips.”

Their ceremony is simple, a few vows, some paperwork and that’s it. The boys latch onto their stepmother’s legs the second they’re done and Celeste is out of my arms and into her father’s.

“This is the first time since she’s gotten pregnant that I’ve seen Johanna cry at something that isn’t ice cream…” I whisper to Katniss.


We couldn’t stay long at the party being thrown for Johanna and Gale. After them being an hour late because Ethan spilled something on himself, Katniss reminded me for the hundredth time today that we have the kids so Gale and Johanna can have a proper wedding night. Haymitch informed us that there was no need; clearly, they already had their wedding night.

“Celeste and I are taking the dog for a walk.” I look up from the TV. After Parker soundly kicked my ass in Halo, he earned the right to face the previous champ of our little grudge matches.

Katniss is just trying to burn off some of the kid’s energy and the dog’s so we can get some sleep tonight. We don’t think the boys will be an issue, but Celeste has proven on more than one occasion that she has no problem poking her nose in our room.

“Are you nervous about the playoffs?” Ethan asks after the front door closes.

I scratch at my beard. I’m going to have to shave it in a week or so, that way I can start fresh. “Yeah,” I tell the kids honestly. This is my first playoff run as a captain in the NHL. I don’t know how to explain it to two almost eleven-year-olds that the increased media attention on you, a hoard of rookies asking you questions, and the stress of wanting to lead a team to their first Stanley Cup win in decades makes a man just a little stressed.

Katniss has definitely noticed it. I think that may be why we’ve been having sex with me on bottom for the last few days. I think she’s under the impression that me being on top might cause an unfortunate injury.

“Dad says all you have to worry about is knocking Shittsburgh out of the playoffs or else you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.”

“Parker, don’t curse.”

“Why? Mom curses. Both of them, actually - the one who had us, and the one we picked.” I try to tell them that their Dad chose Johanna, but they’re right. No matter how much Gale loved her, if any of the three of them didn’t like Johanna, she wouldn’t be around.

“Just don’t tell your parents you heard it from me.”


“We make good fake parents…” Katniss yawns as we toss throw pillows off our bed. I don’t understand the point. At Gale’s I had two pillows, one for me, and one for me to prop myself up with, but later for Katniss. Katniss is actually wearing pants to bed instead of a t-shirt, so I don’t get to watch the t-shirt ride up and expose her pussy as she climbs into bed. I guess I’ll have to deal.

“Yeah, and someday we’re going to make amazing real parents…” I tell her as I settle in for the night. The door is cracked so the dog can come in if she chooses, but at three in the morning Celeste wanders in without the dog and becomes a familiar, impenetrable wall between my fiancée and me.


Katniss

Peeta and I have cameras in the apartment starting at 5:30am. The fruits of our exhaustive labor are premiering on 6 ABC’s 5 o’clock news. A few years ago when they found out that Peeta and Gale were rooming together, they did a story. Now they’re doing one because we moved out.

Gale’s comes after Peeta’s because he wants to get the family settled, even though the only thing that’s different in the Hawthorne’s house is a piece of paper.

It’s 5:15 and Peeta and I are both about to snooze on the couch when we hear his name.

“You saw it on Twitter, folks - Flyers Captain Peeta Mellark and his fiancé, Katniss Everdeen, have left the Hawthorne nest. For the last few years, we’ve watched Mellark and Hawthorne play like they have some kind of psychic connection and skeptic hockey fans worried that the mid-season move was tempting fate. Fortunately, we’ve still seen the duo performing like the well-oiled machine Philly knows and loves. 6 ABC spent the day with the young Captain to see just what it takes to get him ready for a game.”

We’re no longer looking at an anchor, but our bedroom door. “Even when the first puck drops after 7, Peeta Mellark is up with the sun.”

“Before it was easier, you know? Getting up at 5am because you know you have to get your run in before the house is taken over by the kids. Now Katniss and I have about thirty pounds of dog expecting breakfast earlier and earlier,” Peeta tells them.

“His day starts like everyone else’s. Hit the snooze button until the last minute, followed by a cup of coffee and some breakfast.” I‘ve joined him at this point, feeding the dog while trying to hide my face and unshowered hair, which is piled on top of my head. “Then he’s off to work. Two miles every morning to warm up before driving to whichever training facility they’re using that day. There’s no game today, so he’s off to Voorhees a full three hours before practice starts.”

The bit goes on to talk about Peeta’s hours of early practice and late practice, and ends with him and I having a quiet, early dinner so we can start over tomorrow.

It’s quiet, painfully so in our apartment after the TV is turned off. I spent my day on the phone trying to set up a meeting with a wedding planner Delly and Prim recommended, which doesn’t sound like a lot until it’s paired with running errands. Since we only have one car, I also had to figure out how to not lose Peeta’s favorite suit on the El.

The only noise in the apartment is the heat and the dog’s snores from who knows where. I wake up the next morning on the couch with Peeta in some strangely comfortable mess of limbs and dog.

Peeta has the morning off today. “Babe, come on, you gotta go to bed.”

Prim and I are meeting for breakfast, and I want Peeta to get a few hours of the best sleep possible before he has to go back to being a hockey player. He stumbles back into the bedroom, lies face down on our decorative pillows and is snoring before I can re-kiss him goodnight.


 “This is my wedding gift to you and Peeta…” Prim tells me as she digs through her purse. “He’s the best wedding planner in town, and books up months in advance.”

“And how did you get not only an appointment, but the ability for him to be flexible during the day today?” We’re a few blocks away. Prim told me to wear my good shoes, and I thought she meant expensive heels. “And I’m taking the bus home.”

The wedding planner meets us at Sabrina’s Café, a cute little place with an ever-changing brunch menu and the best Challah French Toast I’ve ever had the privilege to eat.

I don’t know what I was expecting, but Cinna certainly doesn’t fit the vague idea in my head. He’s tall, absolutely ripped, and in a well-pressed grey suit with a lavender tie.

“You must be Miss Everdeen,” he greets as he joins us at the table while setting down a paper bag. In less than five seconds, he has ordered a pitcher of orange juice and a bucket of ice for the bottle of champagne he brought.

“Forgive me – I just wanted to get some bubbly in my stomach so we can get down to business.”

The meeting is simple. We have a venue, I don’t have a dress. We have the guest list but need to mail out save the dates once we figure out what we want them to look like.

I tell Cinna that even though orange is a big summer wedding color, we want to avoid it as much as possible. But if it’s the difference between something looking bland and amazing, it’s okay though.

Cinna takes notes the entire time. “How do you feel about flowers?”

“I’m not a huge fan of roses. I like the more… homey ones? Yeah… the kind you think you’d see in a country kitchen.”

“She means wildflowers,” Prim tells Cinna to help clarify things.

He nods and takes more notes. So far I like Cinna; he’s thorough. “Any major religious requirements? You’re using the same space for your ceremony and reception. I need to know if I should start planning an arch or a Chuppah.”

“You can make an arch out of my fiancé’s broken hockey sticks…” I joke. Cinna starts jotting something down. “I’m kidding! Please don’t do that, I’m begging you.”

Cinna grins; he’s already taken a huge amount of stress off my back. “Okay, so I’m going to start booking dress fittings for you, dear. Just tell me what you want and I’ll work my magic.”

Much to my surprise, I already kind of know what I want. “Something simple, not huge and heavy. I’d like lace, with as few rhinestones and sequins as possible… My budget is pretty much unlimited, but I don’t want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a dress I’m only wearing once.”

Leaving Sabrina’s, I feel better about the whole thing. Even though I just met him, I feel like Cinna is going to work some kind of magic, though my relaxed state of mind might be coming more from the half a bottle of champagne worth of mimosas I drank before my French toast even hit the table. 

Chapter Text

Peeta

I watch Katniss slip a few times. Just to taunt her, I skate a large circle around her backwards with my arms crossed behind my back. I can see that it’s getting to her, so I continue doing it.

“Use the stick to help you balance, or I could always get you a chair from the back.” I skate a little too close and catch the blade of her stick between my feet and take a tumble.

“Oh my God! Peeta!” she exclaims and wobbles in my general direction.

I roll onto my back, “You did that on purpose!” I grab her ankle, but she moves backwards, sliding away.

“I… Maybe… Should I run or er–skate?”

I start to get up and she does her best to stay upright. I let her get halfway across the ice before I’m on my feet, tearing off after her. “I’m going to throw you in the sin bin!” I slow down and put my hands on her hips, forcing her to move at my speed which sends both of us crashing down onto the ice. I try my best to turn our bodies so I take the brunt of the fall and half succeed.

“I pointed my toes inward,” she explains while I climb on top of her and hold myself up with my elbows.

“It’s okay; I was off balance when I caught you.” I stroke her cheek with my thumb before leaning in for a kiss, “And probably going way too fast.”

Someone clears their throat behind us. “Is the sin bin a sexual innuendo between you two?” We look up and see Finnick standing barely three feet away from us, wearing full pads.

“If it’s not, Thom and I will borrow it!” Delly shouts from her seat on the boards with her legs dangling over the ice.

I climb off of my fiancée and help her to her feet. “Finnick, did you call the whole team? This isn’t an official practice.”

“Yeah, no shit, mon capitaine, considering you want to work on shootouts like two weeks before the season ends. Annie told Delly, who told Thom, who told Thresh… who did this.” He holds up his mask to show us the remnants of probably an entire can of shaving cream.

From the bench, I hear two grown men burst into fits of laughter.

“Yeah, yeah, laugh it up, fuckfaces. I’m going to piss in your shampoo when we’re in Toronto.”

“Go Leafs?” Delly asks from her seat. Thom looks completely and utterly offended.

“The Leafs!? Still? You know the last time they made the playoffs, TV was basically black and white. Peeta was probably still in diapers.”

Delly crosses her arms and looks away. “You knew what I was when you got me on my back that night in Toronto.”

I pinch the bridge of my nose and start cursing under my breath as I help Katniss off the ice and onto the bench. “Want me to get your sneakers or water bottle?” I ask while Delly and Thom bicker and Thresh taunts Finnick. I really wish Gale was here to act as team father right now.

Katniss smiles and starts unlacing her skates. “I’m fine. I need my purse, though; it has the swatches and your silver sharpie.”

I kiss her forehead. “I’ll go get it. I know your feet aren’t used to skates… I’ll rub them later.”

 


 

Katniss

Peeta’s absolutely right – my feet and skates do NOT get along, I remind myself as I flop the boots down next to me on the bench. Peeta sets my shoes in front of me, his water bottle by my side, before gingerly setting my purse in my lap so I can dig out our pre-approved swatches of color and hand him a marker.

“Okay, number them and let me know how high. I’ll get some pucks and number them. The ones that Finnick saves are out, the ones I get in are still contenders. We’ll play until there is only one left.”

“So this is your big plan? I thought we were just here so you could escape wedding planning. We’re not picking anything else this way.” He kisses my forehead once more, his stubble scratching at the bridge of my nose.

He walks out onto the ice, knocking over a pyramid of pucks as he goes. With his stick, he nudges the mass of black rubber pucks into the center while I write numbers. “We have six choices,” I shout to him, loud enough to be heard over the girls who have gathered around me.

Delly has her phone out. “So, the future Mrs. Mellark, why are you here?”

I have to take a double take to realize that she’s filming me. “We’re figuring out the color scheme for our wedding, the only way Peeta knows how.”

“Alright, Odair, are you ready?” I hear Peeta ask Finnick as he taps his goal before dropping his face mask.

“I have shaving cream in my ears and –”

Peeta doesn’t wait. He picks a puck at random and takes off; it’s all very simple, and nothing we haven’t seen before in a real shootout. He gets trickier, scooping the puck up, shooting it backwards, even ducking behind the goal to sneak one in.

“I’m not sure he can do that,” Annie comments quietly.

When Peeta’s out of the first round of pucks, he only has three left – numbers one, five and six. I discard our rejected color schemes and wait for all of this to be over.

In the end, we have our colors. “Sage green and apricot, baby! I’ll let Cinna know!”

 


 

Once we get home, Peeta takes a quick shower while I call Cinna to tell him the good news.

“It’s a little fall, but the colors are kind of soft. I set up a few appointments for you to try on gowns – the first one is Thursday.”

I groan.                        

Cinna sighs. “Katniss, every day we wait, your options become more and more limited. You don’t have to pick the dress that day, but I want you to get a feel for what you like ahead of time. Go to the store and grab every bridal magazine you can, or look on the internet. Bring only the people you trust into the boutique with you.”

Peeta passes by me in only his boxers and runs the tips of his fingers across my stomach. “I’ll get dinner on, babe.” He kisses me quickly before disappearing off into the kitchen just slowly enough for me to admire his ass.

“Katniss, you have your whole life to do whatever you’re thinking about,” Cinna reminds me.

“Yes, right. What were we talking about?”

Cinna sighs heavily, and I can almost see him facepalming. “Dress fitting Thursday, picking the menu… It feels kind of soon, but we’ll get that out of the way hopefully next Monday at noon. Does that work for you guys?”

I make my way over to my organizational whiteboard that has Peeta’s travel, game, and practice schedules scribbled on it. “Can we make it two? We’ll be in Pittsburgh the night before and won’t get back until like two am… Oh wait, that game is 12:30, but Peeta’s plane doesn’t leave until nine.”

“I’ll make a call and let them know the bride says two pm. Now, we’re going to have to do the cake soon as well. I don’t want to jam that in the same day, but you wanted to get the food stuff out of the way before the playoffs, right?”

I write our appointment on my whiteboard. “Right. How does Wednesday at around the same time work for you? The Flyers have a two game home stand before heading back to Shittsburgh to finish out their season.”

“I will make the calls I need to make. Once we get the menu planned out, we’ll get the invitations done… that is if you’ve finished getting addresses for your guests?”

“Peeta’s mom is bringing her address book when they get here in a few hours. We’ll organize our list and send it to you as soon as we can.”

“Perfect, perfect. We’ll deal with the floral arrangements and place settings once your life calms down some. Have a good evening, Miss Everdeen, and I’ll be at your apartment at ten am on Thursday to pick you up for your bridal gown adventures.”

I take a quick shower myself and decide that instead of putting on real clothes, I’ll pull something out of the dry cleaning pile Peeta and I keep ignoring. I’ll have to tackle it soon before he decides to be seen in public in a plaid suit.

I button up the dress shirt and bring the collar to my nose to breathe him in before heading out to see what kind of a mess he’s created.

He’s cleaning up already now that whatever he prepped is in the oven. “Am I too late to help?” I ask with the collar of his shirt still up near my nose.

Peeta eyes me up and down before approaching me. There’s a hunger in his eyes that I welcome. His hands are suddenly at my waist and I’m briefly in the air before he sets me down on the cool granite countertop. “You know, the dirty clothes pile is there for a reason,” he informs me with his large calloused hands on my thighs. I shiver as they move up and down my gooseflesh covered legs.

“Then get it off me,” I hear myself say as he parts my thighs. I bring my feet to his hips and slide his boxers down, causing him to spring free.

Peeta pulls me forward and pulls the collar back to check the tag before snaking his fingers in the spaces between the buttons and pulling. Something about the action ignites me. I launch myself forward and press my lips to his. “We have an hour until my parents land, so like two hours until they’re here,” he mumbles against my lips after the last of the buttons have stopped bouncing across the kitchen floor.

“I don’t care about time. Just shut up and fuck me.”

There’s very little warning or prep between my demands and him entering me. It alerts the dog, who tries to warn the entire building that his owner is getting murdered or something.

“Ignore her,” Peeta growls as he wraps my braid around his fist and pulls my head back so he can assault my neck with kisses and bites. Fortunately, one of us was smart enough to shut the poor dog in one of the bedrooms.

When all is said and done, Peeta gives me one more long kiss before letting me fall back so I can recover from my orgasm. “Have I told you lately how gorgeous you look in my clothes?” He comes around to the other side of the island and sits on one of our barstools with his head in his hands.

“Is that why you ripped your shirt open?”

He kisses me again with the same sweetness as before. “Yeah… but I was ready to part ways with that one.” Another kiss. I become very aware of his hand’s journey from my chest to my stomach.

“What’s gotten into you?” I tuck my arm under my head as a pillow.

Peeta shrugs, “Nothing in particular.” He rests his head on my chest and closes his eyes, “I just want to live in this moment forever…” he yawns.

I look down at him, confused. “This is an odd moment to live in. Eventually, laying on the counter is going to murder my back.”

Peeta nods with his eyes closed, listening to my heartbeat. “But everything is perfect right now. Everything.”

He’s right, pretty much everything in our lives is going right.

So we live in our private little moment, enjoying our crafted perfection for as long as possible. Him listening to my heart beating, me playing with his curls.

Less than ten minutes before the doorbell rings, we remember that we’re about to have houseguests.

“Don’t forget to Lysol the counter!” I call as I run down the hall, opening doors as I pass to let the dog free. She tears out of Peeta’s man cave like a bat out of hell, still on alert from the sounds of my horrific murder.

I hear her nails click down the hall. When she realizes I’m not in need of saving, she lets out a half assed ‘boof’ instead of a real bark.

 


 

I never imagined myself to be the type who freaked out about her home being a mess, but that’s what I’ve become.

“Peeta! Bring me the dishes you have in there!” I call from the kitchen.

Peeta says something in French that is either ‘no’ or something about him not speaking English.

“What was that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of me cleaning up after you so your parents don’t know we’re slobs.”

“I said I can’t! I’m working on my reflexes!”

“Playing X-Box isn’t working on your reflexes!”

Just then the doorbell rings and I’m not sure who gets there faster, Peeta or the dog.

There’s a flurry of French, which stops immediately when I come into view. “Katniss!” I’m greeted with the same warmth as Peeta, kisses on the cheek and questions about how I’ve been and how wedding planning is going.

Even Peeta’s father gives me a tight hug, this from the same man who was so quiet towards me when we were in Ottawa. I feel like I’ve passed some sort of test I didn’t know I was taking.

 


 

Lorelei Mellark is amazing when it comes to the whole wedding thing. My only issue is that her presence in my planning serves as a reminder that my own mother isn’t able to be involved.

I bottle those emotions for eighteen solid hours before I break.

There’s a home game tonight, so Peeta has practice at the ass crack of dawn. He pets my hair as he leaves, thinking I’m still asleep. Not long after, I get out of bed to take Sasquatch for a walk.

Even though it’s late March, there’s a bit of light frost on the few patches of grass we pass. “Oh my God, if you don’t do something, I’m going to get you a litter box and you’ll be the joke of the building,” I inform the dog, who insists on sniffing everything.

It’s grey and misty, but that burns off as we head home and I eat my breakfast while flipping through the eight hundred bridal magazines I was brought.

“Weddings are so complicated…” I tell myself over the last two eggs in the apartment. It’s quarter to eight, so I grab a few bags and make the trek to the grocery store while cursing my lack of car.

“I really need to take Peeta up on his car offer…” I yawn to myself as I help bag our usual haul plus a few things that I think look good. Two gallons of milk, all the boneless skinless chicken breasts I can get (since that and fish are the only meats Peeta is allowed to eat right now), two huge bunches of bananas, and several dozen eggs.

I feel like my shoulders are going to run away from this punishment as I unlock the front door, nearly tripping over Peeta’s gym bag.

There are soft footsteps coming my way. “Let me take those,” Peeta’s mother says as she relieves me of about half my burden. “Peeta! Come help Katniss!” She smiles at me before taking one last bag. “He just got out of the shower,” she explains.

He doesn’t show his face, but between the two of us, we get the groceries put away quickly.

“My son told me that you’re going to try on gowns tomorrow. If you want, I could go with you,” she offers. Prim, Delly, and Annie are already planning to be there. And while I know she means well and is offering to help out of the goodness of her heart, as soon as the words leave her mouth, I hear my mother telling Prim and I that there was nothing for her here in Philadelphia. I hear her questioning my relationship with Peeta, followed by the news that she sold the bar.

“I- yes, I would like that,” I force out. I mean it, but I’m trying my best not to start crying in front of her. “If you’ll excuse me.”

I don’t have an escape plan; I just put my sneakers and jacket back on and grab my purse.

“Katniss…” Peeta stops me from running out of the apartment. “Talk to me.”

“I’ll tell you later. Right now, I just need to clear my head.”

Peeta refuses to let go of my wrist. “Let me go with you then.”

I shake my head. “No, you should relax before your game. I’m just going for a walk. I’ll be back in no time,” I promise.

He lets go of me, nodding reluctantly.

 


 

I don’t know how I ended up here, but somehow I’m standing in the middle of a closed bar. The closed bar that I used to run, that my father used to own, that his father owned. Not a damn thing has changed. “Holy shit! Katniss?”

Darius’ voice snaps me back to reality. He’s looking at me as though I might break if he moves too quickly. “I like what you’ve done with the place,” I tell him quietly.

“Yeah, figured I wouldn’t mess with what’s worked for so many years. So what can I do for you? Or are you just here for a little Wednesday morning B&E?”

I think for a second. Why am I here?

“Beer. I know it’s early, but–”

I must look pathetic because he leads me to the bar and pulls out a stool. “Usual?” he asks. I nod and smile when a Yuengling is placed in front of me.

“So talk to me, little lady. What brings you into a bar at ten am on a Wednesday?”

I hold my pint in two hands and sigh. “My mother-in-law offered to go wedding dress shopping with me,” I grumble before downing about half the glass.

Darius isn’t convinced. He’s tended bar long enough that he can spot a half-cooked bullshit story from across the county. “Just… everything. Mom selling the bar, her telling Prim and I that there was nothing left for her in Philadelphia. And Peeta’s mom is trying to be so helpful, it’s just… Mom should go dress shopping with me, Mom should be sticking her nose in everything, Mom should–”

Darius puts his hands up to stop me. “Katniss, no offense, but your Mom has been one sick ticket ever since your Dad died. What she did was fucked up.”

“You didn’t have to let her give you the bar. I would have happily–”

His hands go up again, cutting me off mid snap. “I told her to give it to you, but she was ready to put it up on the market or close it down completely.” Darius looks around. “Your Dad was like a brother to me, and I couldn’t risk letting everything he worked for get washed down the drain because of your mother’s messed up head.”

I nod and finish off my beer, even the warm frothy dribbles at the bottom.

“If you want, I could always, you know…”

This time I cut him off. “No, I don’t want it. I just needed to know that his memory lives on here.” I couldn’t take responsibility of this place back. “I can’t believe I’m saying this, really I can’t, but next season I’ll be the Captain’s wife. The coach’s wife, Effie, has every intention of passing on the reins of the Flyers Wives Charities over to me for some ungodly reason.”

Darius sets another beer down in front of me, “You know you’re living the dream of many local women, right?”

It takes me a minute to realize what he means. I smile and stare down the head of my beer. “I don’t care about that. I don’t really care about his wealth, or the fact that he’s a professional athlete or that he’s absolutely gorgeous. He’s doing something that makes him happy, something that makes waking up at five am and all the lonely nights worth it. The look on his face when he’s hitting the ice? It’s chilling. Sometimes I think he’s only fully happy when he’s on the ice.”

“That’s not completely true.” I jump and swivel just in time for Peeta to wrap his arms around me. “I’m happy when you’re with me, Katniss.” I wrap my arms around his body and squeeze until I think I might break him.

“How did you know I’d be here?” I ask after breathing him in.

Peeta rests his chin on the top of my head. “I just guessed. I figured you’d go somewhere familiar. I would have searched the entire city until we found you.”

I look up. “We?” When I look around him, I see my baby sister standing in the doorway.

Prim rushes over to me. “I’ve never seen or heard Peeta so worried in my life,” she says and rests her small hand on my back. “Katniss, what’s going on?”

“I’ll be in the back if you need me,” Darius announces and takes his leave, giving us some privacy.

I half want to leave again, but my more dominant half decides to pour her heart out. “Mom left – not because she was sick, but because she doesn’t have anything left here in Philly. Her two daughters are engaged and she left.”

I half expect a ‘not this again’, but it never comes.

“Mom only thought of herself when she moved, but still she needed to.” Prim rubs my back to keep me calm as she continues. “She went about it in the worst way imaginable, though. To her, it was like we were on pause and when she was ready to hit play, she just hit eject instead and left the room. But we get to choose our own family, you know. And we’ve found a pretty good one.”

I nod and wipe away a few more tears. “Peeta, your mom must think I’m insane.”

He shakes his head. “No, she’s a mom. She knows you’re hurting about something.” I feel fingers run through my hair. “She doesn’t care what it is, she just knows that you’re in pain. She was beside herself when you left. She thought she’d crossed the line.”

I squeeze Peeta again. “She didn’t cross any line. She’s more than I ever could have asked for.”

“We’re heading to the arena to show Mom and Dad around before the game. Do you want us to leave you be for a little bit?”

I shake my head no and pull a twenty out of my wallet, tucking it under my empty glass. “No, for once I think I need to be around people.”

 


 

I go with Prim to let out Sasquatch, and she doesn’t ask about my outburst. In fact, she acts as if it never happened, which is something else I need.

“So I’m flying out to Montreal late so I can go dress shopping with you tomorrow,” she tells me while parking. “Delly and Annie are showing up at your place at around nine, so actually put pants on.”

“And Johanna?” I flash my VIP pass since I don’t recognize the security guard. “Never thought I’d get a name badge because I was someone’s significant other,” I mumble as I tuck it away in my wallet.

“Johanna is being mommy, but there are rumors of a babysitter being hired.”

“My entourage is ridiculous. It’s just a dress.”

Prim stomps her foot. “Katniss, it isn’t just a dress! This is special, plus you get to tease Peeta until August that you know what it looks like and he doesn’t. In fact, we all do.”

“So what you’re saying is that I should enjoy dress shopping because I can hold it over my future husband’s head? That’s healthy.”

Prim sighs and ducks into one of the training rooms. There are very few people here already, mostly the guy who sharpens the skates, and the people responsible for laying out the uniforms. I really should learn their names. They all know mine.

I make my way through the tunnels under the stadium, following a familiar sound – Peeta’s laugh.

“Come on, old man! And you can’t say those skates are tight, I broke them in myself!” Peeta taunts his own father. I take a seat on the Flyers bench close to Peeta’s mother.

She wraps an arm around me. “Ignore them. Raymond doesn’t realize how old he is actually getting. And Peeta’s cocky.”

I find myself leaning into her. “Could we maybe talk?” I ask as Peeta lazily skates past us backwards.

“So this is what you see?” I hear his father ask.

“It’s usually more orange, but yeah. What do you say, some one-on-one?”

His father scratches the back of his head. “I think I’m a little rusty, my boy. Maybe if I had your brothers.”

“Hey! Three on one isn’t fair!”

Lorelei presses her cheek to mine, which feels cold as ice. “Sure, dear. How are you feeling?”

I feel my cheeks get hot. “Embarrassed. What happened earlier wasn’t because of anything you did. I just wanted to get that out there.”

She holds her hand up, and says something to Peeta and his father in French. “Come, let’s go somewhere a little more comfortable.”

“What did you tell them?” I ask, hating the language barrier.

“Oh, I told Peeta not to break his father while we’re in America and that we were going somewhere warmer. My husband’s not very fast when it comes to English.”

We isolate ourselves in one of the lounges and close the door behind us. “This is better, yes?”

I feel so awkward sitting next to her, preparing to spill my guts. “Yeah, let’s just hope Peeta doesn’t get too into it…” We’re quiet for a small eternity as I find the courage to speak.

“I’ve been handling the fact that my parents won’t be at my wedding poorly,” I confess. “My Dad passed away a few years ago. My mother didn’t take too kindly to that, but that’s another story for another day. She left recently, telling my little sister and me that there was nothing left for her in Philadelphia. And she’s right.” As I speak, these realizations become crystal clear. “Prim and I waited for years for her to come back so we could be a family again and that meant nothing to her. So she’s right, there’s nothing left for her. I’m not waiting for her to want to be in my life. I’m not letting her hurt Prim or I again. But still… I never thought I’d be planning a wedding my Mom objected to.” I twist my engagement ring around my finger.

She squeezes me again. “This all must be very stressful.” I nod and don’t pull away when she tucks some loose hair behind my ear. “But instead, you should focus on your wedding being about the love the two of you feel for each other. If your mother doesn’t see the way you two look at each other and realize what that means, it’s her loss.”

She wraps me in one of those tight mom hugs that I realize I’ve missed. “I’m so happy my son found his other half.” She kisses my cheek and pulls away, brushing a tear from her eye.

When we head back to find Peeta and his father, I don’t feel much better about the situation with my mother, but I’m relieved that my support net just got a whole lot stronger.

Chapter Text

Katniss

I feel ridiculous.

I'm alone in a large fitting room, in nothing but my underwear and a white silk robe. I've moved from the plush white chair to the other white chair, and back to the little block on the ground where I'm supposed to stand once they squeeze me into a gown. Instead of getting on my phone and talking to my fiancé, I stare at my reflection.

The woman staring back at me is almost a complete stranger. She has curves that were absent in early October, muscular legs and a round backside from learning how to skate and following Peeta on runs. The woman in the mirror's hair is healthy and shiny, worn down today, falling across her back in very loose curls from a refusal to blow dry her hair this morning. This woman takes her medicine, spends time with friends, enjoys a glass of dry red wine with dinner, and has sex in whatever position keeps her closest to the love of her life. It's hard to believe that this woman is me. Even after slowly becoming her, I still find it amazing that I've come this far.

And now here I am, waiting to try on gowns more expensive than my first car. It quickly becomes very clear that I'm not the type for overly ornate gowns with ruching, rhinestones, and sequins. Mermaid style gowns look horrible on me, and I'm not one for the princess style gown, a-la Kate Middleton.

"I'm sorry," I say and cover myself up with the robe and sit down on the pedestal, tugging at my sleeve, "This is a huge waste of time. I'm not a bride." I stand and tug on my jeans as I feel the bile rise in my throat. "I just wear the ring…" my bra is a struggle, "And plan the party…"

Cinna stands, reaching out but not daring to touch me, "Katniss, why don't you go take a walk or chat with your friends? We'll all have a cup of coffee or another mimosa, then regroup, pull a few more gowns and see where that takes us."

As he speaks, I feel my chest tightening, "Can… is there a back door?" I'm barely dressed and already pushing my way to the back before my t-shirt is fully over my head.

Walks… I've been taking a lot of those. My future in-laws have to think I'm crazy. The friends I've just met must think I'm crazy. And Prim…

With shaky fingers, I scroll through the contacts while my panicked brain runs through Peeta's schedule.

"It's gotta be naptime by now. Fuck, I sound like I'm talking about a toddler." I've successfully found the one clean alley in Philadelphia, so I take advantage of the non-piss and gum-free saturated hideaway and slide down the brick wall that is supporting 100% of my weight.

The phone rings twice before there is an answer, "Peeta…" I cry.

Only it's not Peeta, but his road trip roommate, Gale. "Peeta's in the shower…" I sniffle at his words, "Do you want me to-"

"I'll call back, just-"

I hear Gale sigh on the other end. "Katniss, wait, don't hang up. You sound upset, do you… Um, want to talk about it?"

I take a deep breath. Gale had this dad like quality, probably due to the obvious. (The kids, being one of the few responsible ones on a professional hockey team, being over thirty…)

I finally exhale and begin my pathetic sob story and its hand-laid foundation of my own insecurities and first world problems.


Peeta

Sometimes I wonder how I'd look with short hair, especially after it gets past the point where it frizzes and sticks out of my helmet. Gale and Thom tell me I look like some blonde clown. It takes me longer than normal to shave due to my pure laziness over the last few weeks, and I clog the sink like five times.

Practice was fucking long this morning, as was the red-eye into Toronto. All I want is a nap, a fucking long nap. I could probably sleep for three days and still be tired. This fucking season has been long; amazing, but long.

I leave the bathroom in only my towel and try to keep as quiet as possible when I see Gale on the phone and notice the phone case. It was easily the best gag gift, considering my entire wardrobe is Flyers related. I'm given so many damn t-shirts, hoodies, sweats, and everything in between with the logo on it, then for my birthday I got a new iPhone case. It's black with orange letters, reading 'Property of the Philadelphia Flyers.' Gale swats at me when I come near. "Peeta, put your dick away and - yes, just give him two seconds to - Peeta Mellark, I'm not joking! Put your underwear on and I'll give you the phone!"

I give in and obey his demands while he apologizes for the French and quickly frees my phone from his clutches. "Katniss?"

I hear her let out a shaky breath, "Peeta… Shouldn't you be asleep?" I hear a siren in the background.

"Shouldn't you be trying on wedding dresses?" I hear a sniffle and my heart sinks. "Katniss, baby…" I sigh as she takes a deep breath.

"It's fine, everything's fine. I'll talk to you when you get home," she tells me in the same shaky voice. "I love you, Peeta, so much. Just get home soon. Once you get home, we are going to curl up on the couch in our most unpresentable PJ's and watch Netflix."

"Whatever you want, babe… And I love you."

A half hour later, I'm staring at the ceiling. They had us report for breakfast at five am, morning skate, and I still can't sleep.

"Hey, Gale?" I ask while studying a spot where they touched up the ceiling with paint that didn't match.

Gale sighs. "Jesus Christ, Peeta. We have two hours to nap. When your my age and you've hoisted like thirty Stanley Cups over your head, some twenty something hot shot is going to keep you from your pregame nap-"

"What did Katniss want?"

"She's worried that she's not…" he huffs, "I don't know how else to put it, but she doesn't think she's bride material. Wedding jitters… it happens. Madge got 'em, and I got 'em before Johanna and I got hitched." Gale yawns. I have no idea how he can be so calm about this. "When we get home, get her a nice bottle of her favorite wine…"

I pick my head up and look at my roommate, really look at him. He might have a concussion if he thinks Katniss would choose wine over any type of alcohol if there wasn't a steak in front of her.

"I mean, get her a six pack of Yuengling, and just fucking talk to her about why she's panicking and being so hard on herself. Is it her parents? Is it the fact that her entire life's been thrown upside-down in the last six months? Maybe she's having a hard time adjusting to the fact that she was basically a bartender and in a few months she's going to be a millionaire? Maybe she realized that she's going to be stuck with your trashy ass for the rest of her life and is having second thoughts."

"Hey!" I throw my spare pillow at him, "I am a catch."

Gale rolls over, his back facing me. "Does your mom tell you that every night?"

"She might."


We leave Toronto in the winner's column and as I board the plane, I get the feeling that everyone knows something I don't.

It might be the way everyone hushes when I board the plane last, or maybe the way every single phone screen is tilted from my view when I'm trying to figure out what each and every one of them is looking at.

Finnick gives it away when he pulls my toque over my eyes somewhere over Bumblefuck, PA, "Aw, damn, you just missed your one chance to see your blushing bride in her wedding gown!" I swing at him while trying to fold my hat up so the Team Canada logo isn't scratching the bridge of my nose. "I must say, she really is a vision in white." He pats my shoulder a few times. "You really are one lucky son of a bitch."

I reach for his phone, mostly shocked that Katniss actually found a dress, and absolutely curious about what she picked, not to mention wondering how the entire team received it sometime between our conversation yesterday afternoon and boarding this plane.

I imagined this would be a month long event full of tears and panic.

"Hey, no. I'm not going to be responsible for your divorce because I showed you what she looked like in her dress. Twizzler?" He swats my hand with his candy.

I snatch it from him and bite. "So everyone's seen her but me?" I ask with a mouth full of the vile candy. God, who would pay money for these?

Finnick shrugs and continues chomping, "Not everyone, just Thom, Gale, Thresh, me, uh… Actually, yeah. Delly took a picture and texted Thom before we won last night and he gloated too much. And you know how our cuddly enforcer is with gossip."

I groan.

"But really, she's beautiful. Make sure you have a lot of tissues in your tux, because you're going to need them." He pats my shoulder again before returning to his seat in the back. We're beginning our final decent into Philadelphia, and apparently if he has to be told one more time to sit down, he's got bag skates in his future.

Once we've landed, I quickly grab my bag and practically run to my car, so damn thankful that I live so close to the airport. Well, not close. It takes me no time at all to drive I-95 far enough that I can see my building, navigating through one way streets and the surprising level of traffic at eleven AM on a Friday in Old City.

The apartment is dead silent when I get home, but it smells like the kitchen has recently been used, so they haven't totally abandoned me. The damn dog doesn't even come to greet me. My overnight bag hits the hardwood with a thud and I'm immediately shushed in my own home. I round the corner and see my mother on the couch with her feet up on the coffee table. Her reading glasses have slid down to the tip of her nose, but she doesn't push them up. She seems to be totally engrossed in whatever romance novel her book club is reading this month.

Katniss is sound asleep with her head in my mother's lap, and she has the dog in her arms. Sasquatch licks her lips when she sees me and I can see her tail floof as it wags from the spot pinned between the couch and Katniss, "Rough night," my mother tells me simply, swatting my hand when I try and scoop Katniss up to take her to bed. "Does she have nightmares often?" she asks.

"Leave her be," she scolds after swatting my hand. My mother hasn't been a mama bear in years, so this has me confused.

"What happened?" I ask while sitting by my fiancée's feet. I place them in my lap and start rubbing her leg through the pair of my sweatpants she's wearing. She's practically swimming in them. Katniss is out like a light.

"Delly tweeted something about wedding dress shopping, Katniss tweeted about finding her wedding dress, blah blah blah, and then she spent about six hours fielding tweets and messages about how she's a puck slut, a whore, and how she only cares about your money. I saw some of it. Strangers can be vile."

"Why didn't she call me?" I hiss. My phone is always on me, that way she doesn't have to go through something like this alone. Hell, she shouldn't have to go through this at all.

Mom finally looks up from her Kindle. "When you're in the middle of a hockey game? Your father is proud of you for finally letting someone else have the puck. He's out buying a few things."

I shake my head, "She shouldn't have to deal with this shit."

Katniss finally stirs. "I know enough French to know when you're talking about me…" she yawns, sitting up. There are dark circles under her eyes from lack of sleep, and a rosy tint from the tears I wasn't here to comfort her through.

Katniss releases the dog and flops onto me, wrapping her sweatshirt-clad arms around my middle and squeezing. "I missed you. I hate it when you have away games."

I squeeze her back, "Not as much as I missed you."

Katniss scoffs. "Yeah, right. How could you miss me when you were too busy setting up goals last night?"

I lean in and instead of kissing her cheek, I blow a raspberry on the warm flesh and hold her still as she flails. "Ew, gross!" she squeals as I release her squirming body. She wipes my drool off her cheek with my sleeve. "Mrs. Mellark, Peeta's picking on me!"

My mom turns the page. "I didn't see a damned thing."


Katniss basically mainlines coffee before we head out to lunch with my parents. I try to convince her that she should just stay home and relax, but she's determined. Dad is a little upset that his afternoon plan to finally finish A Song of Ice and Fire and make lemon poppy seed scones is dashed, but he joins us regardless.

"Peeta, could you put your phone down for two minutes?" Dad sighs while I type furiously.

"Just…one… more…" I hit send and set it face down. "Sorry. If I don't answer my damn agent within thirty seconds, he calls. And I know we're busy with wedding stuff, but… Philadelphia magazine wants you and I for the cover story and-"

"No," Katniss sips her beer and sets it down. "Then I'll be the puck slut that's using you for fame," she mumbles while picking at her coaster. Katniss looks up at me and forces a smile, "Your life is more interesting than mine. Plus, you're the pretty one in in this relationship."

"Nonsense, Katniss. Maybe if Peeta would shave, had all his teeth, or cut his damn hair," my own Dad chirps.

This earns a real smile from her. It's small, but still somehow reaches her eyes. In my heart, I know it's real.

"One, I'm going to shave in like five days so I can start fresh for the playoffs. Two, I'm not the one who knocked them out and I'm not the idiot Zamboni driver that sucked them up. Three, I already agreed to cut it for the wedding so, as Katniss put it, 'I don't look like the long lost Jonas Brother.'"

"We're going to have those pictures forever. We're going to show our kids those pictures, and they'll show their kids when they brag about our great love and what-not when we're senile. And you don't have to chop it all off… just, you know, tame it."

I sigh, not wanting to fight Katniss on this one because I know she has a point. Plus, my hair tends to get extra puffy in the humidity, which Philadelphia swims in throughout August.

The rest of the evening goes by smoothly, I keep my promise and we spend the night on the couch watching Netflix while my parents enjoy their own date night. I don't bring up the ongoing harassment that Katniss is dealing with quietly, and almost nonstop. Instead, I send out my own tweet.

Feels real good to know that some of the fans think the only thing there is to like about me is my money. #evaluateyourlifechoices

The first one to pounce on it is Delly, naturally.

Itslikejellybaby PMellark28 So you're telling me that you're like a real person with feelings that someone might take a general interest in? #shocker

KEverdeen PMellark28 The haters are just pissed that they didn't get their wedding invites.

KEverdeen and because they're narrow-minded sexist cowards.

I ignore almost all forms of social media for the next few days. After a good night's sleep and waking up to a phone full of encouragement, she agrees to do the cover with me, as long as it's classy. I have absolutely no idea what she means by that. In fact, the first time I even acknowledge I have a Twitter is to catch the butt end of the Flyers Official Twitter centipede when a picture of my future wife in the very jersey I wore at the Winter Classic, with Delly, Johanna, and Annie all dressed similarly is tweeted just outside the Consol Energy Center with their backs to the camera.

'Worst. Summer. Home. Ever.' is underneath it, from Annie.

It's April Fool's day, we're coming off a loss from my parents' secret favorite team, and someone (Finnick) has been hiding rubber spiders everywhere.

Someone (Finnick) left all the water bottles unscrewed and after two hours and countless soaked crotches, we're still falling for it.

SOMEONE (not Finnick) filled Finnick's facemask with an entire can of shaving cream.

Haymitch gives us some half-assed speech to psych us up for the game, but we don't need it. We know we're minutes from being booed, we know we're bound for bloodshed, the penalty box, and the winners column.

We know this is our fucking ice. They just fucked the logo up a lot.

I ignore the noise as we take the ice and line up for the anthem after a quick lap down our end to get my legs ready. I don't even hear the song, I just try to not drop my helmet and clear my mind.

The only thing in my life that matters is the next sixty minutes, and whatever end Brutus is guarding.

There are no rubber spiders in my jock.

There is no wedding.

There is no Katniss.

There's me, my teammates, the puck, and them.

Our start is shit. I've met the boards enough times that pleasantries are no longer necessary, and hearing the Penguins goal horn twice in five minutes is more than enough. All in all, it's not going as planned. The only thing going, as we predicted, is the ref's total apathy to any of the shit Cato and I do to each other. Ratings, baby. This rivalry brings the viewers.

"I'm going to go out there and score," I tell Gale as we scoot down the bench. He snorts and spits rosy water onto the floor. "Thom at my side keeping fucking Marvel out of my ass, they won't know what hit 'em. Their coach has been keeping Cato off when I'm on. I think he thinks I'm going to break him."

Gale snorts. "You are going to break him."

Haymitch slaps me on the helmet, telling me I'm up. I stand and the second there's someone returning to the bench, I launch myself onto the ice and ten seconds later into someone in the wrong uniform. He's flat on his ass before I see Cato coming to take the puck from me.

I skate off, trying to keep this round of keep away going and out of our end, but he's on my ass.

"I don't have time for this shit!" I shout with my shoulder in his chest. Cato hits the boards with a thunderous boom and I honestly worry about the legality of the hit for a fraction of a second before I realize just who is hot on my tail while I am in their end with the puck.

In desperation, I pass to Thresh, who passes to Thom who, after a graceful game of keep away, passes it back to me. I shoot, I pray, and I light up the red light. The force and desperation of my shot lands me on my stomach, but I'm too pumped to care about the snow down my shirt.

"Told you so!" I shout as I pass Gale on the bench. I know I have maybe one more faceoff before my shift is over, but my cocky side gets the best of me. I don't want to play, I want to dominate.

Cato and I line up on top of their logo. I'm too up my own ass to prepare myself for the bite of his stick across my wrists so he could win the faceoff.

So that's how it's going to be…

I watch as the puck becomes property of the Penguins and give chase just long enough to finish my shift.

The first period ends with us still one in the hole, though I still take every single shot even if I know it's going to be an ugly one. Cato and I are still left to our own devices, checking and tripping each other with literally no consequence. They're vaguely legal hits, so no ref wants to stop us. The crowd is eating this shit up.

Second period, we tie it up, but I'm not on the ice. We're catching up; only one more and we're winning. Two more and we're in a good spot.

The three goals my teammates score is just icing on the cake. We only half care when they get their third.

"I'm going to fuck him up," I hear Finnick grumbling as I pass the goal. There was a stoppage of play, commercial probably. Televised games really tamper with the flow of the game.

"Who?" I ask as he sprays down his face.

"Brutus. Look at him over there."

I look down toward the Penguins goalie, who appears to be having a similar meeting with Cato. "I literally have no fucking idea how goalies can be so pissed at each other. You haven't said a damn word to each other."

"You wouldn't understand." He taps me on the ass with his stick, "Go fucking score again, piss Cato off, or better yet, start a line brawl. I wanna dive in Hextall style and beat the shit out of someone," he shouts after me while pointing his stick in Brutus's direction.

I write it off as boredom until I score my second of the night with just under two minutes left. Another two points for the team, even though playoff match-ups are almost solidified. Guess I'm just a greedy motherfucker sometimes.

I'm skating back to the bench when I first feel an entire body hit my back, then the cold hard ice. "What the hell…" It's just some kid, a rookie, but he has no idea what he's done.

Thom's on him in an instant. My loyal mountain of a bodyguard already has his gloves off and a fist full of black sweater before I can even pick myself up.

The clock is stopped and the refs watch as every single man save Cato, myself, Brutus, and Finnick - no wait… Finnick and Brutus are making their way toward each other.

It's just Cato and I close to center ice. Even the coaches are screaming at each other.

The crowd is eating this shit up.

Cato sighs, "So are we gonna go or what? It's what they want."

I tap my stick a few times before dropping it. "Yeah…" I almost want our big brawl to be in the heat of the moment. Not Cato and I lining up on the Pens logo, mirroring each other as we flick off our gloves, lose the helmets, and roll our sleeves up so they're not in the way.

"I really hate having to fuck up your face," I tell him while we both wait to make the first move. "It's honestly the only thing you have going for you."

We move closer together and take hold of each other so the force doesn't push us away.

I don't notice until later, while watching the replays, how everything stops once we start giving them what they want. How the crowd almost goes silent the second we flick our gloves off.

His fist meets my cheek just before I can get my first hit in. It's the same shit, blows to the head, a few to the middle, trying to get the other's sweaters over his head, and trying not to be the one who drops first. Mine ends up going first, but I'm smart enough to pull away just long enough to get it off and away.

Everything smells and tastes like blood, the world feels hot and sticky, and I go in again. Fighting on a slick surface while balancing on two thin blades is about as easy as it sounds. Still, we manage to fuck each other up even as both of us hit the ice. He slips and falls on his back, and I stop. I know when a battle is won.

He picks himself up and spits red onto the ice just as we're both grabbed by refs. "That's enough, you got it out of your systems!"

Clearly.

I grab my things - sweater thrown over the shoulder, helmet, gloves, stick, as well as a pad that got loose. I've earned myself five for fighting. I leave my team with a whole minute and three seconds left to fend without me, even though half of them are serving penalties for one reason or another - tripping, fighting, unsportsmanlike conduct, et cetera. It takes the announcer ten minutes just to read it off.

Down the tunnel, they finally get to me. "Philadelphia Flyers number twenty-eight, Peeta Mellark, five minutes, fighting."

I'm almost to the locker room when I hear Cato's sentence. Two minutes, unsportsmanlike conduct. "Oh, come the fuck on!" I spit for the hundredth time, noting that there's still plenty of blood in there.

Prim is on me in a second. "You think I won? I think I did…" I ask as she tries to clean my own blood off my face to assess the damage. I run my tongue along my bloody teeth and feel for any loose ones. The gap was probably the cause of the cut in my mouth and unfortunately, it feels like Cato's fist knocked something loose.

"Too close to tell." She watches as I reach in and wiggle the loose tooth until it pops out. "I am so happy that you're going to be my brother-in-law," she deadpan sighs.

"I'm going to make a great addition to your family." I spit out a mouthful of blood into the trash can and lean back as Prim sews me back together for the hundredth time.

I even leave Pittsburgh with all the teeth I came with, which feels absolutely amazing, I might add. There's nothing like having a ripped out tooth put back into place with only adrenaline as your anesthesia.

It's a lot louder in my apartment when I return from Pittsburgh. The women's plane landed about two hours ahead of ours since they have no press, no hotel room to pack up, and seriously, no goddamn press.

"Oh my God, Peeta!" Katniss is on me in a second. I try to hold in a painful hiss as her fingers brush against my stitches.

"You should see the other guy," I grunt.

"We did," my Dad calls from the kitchen. "Nothing official, but there's been mention of a concussion."

I honestly feel no satisfaction.

"So… guess I won?"

My dad hands me a beer before slapping the back of my head. "That's a yes."

The pain in my face keeps me up all night, which keeps Katniss up.

"My face is wet," I tell her in the dark.

She yawns and rolls out of bed with a thunk and pads her way over to the bathroom, "You'd better not be bleeding on the pillowcases."

"I'm marking it as my own! If I peed on them, you'd yell," I yawn before shielding my eyes from the light. She straddles me and opens up a first aid kit I didn't even know we had. "How bad is it?" I ask as I watch her chew on her lip and thumb through the supplies.

"You have a black eye and your forehead is oozing blood." She dabs the stitches in my forehead with gauze. "I'm a shit doctor, but maybe my sister makes house calls," she sighs after I wince. "She told me you were completely stoic when you ripped out your tooth. Now you're wincing every time I go near those." She taps the skin just under the stitched up cut.

I grab her hand and bring the cloth back to where the pain is coming from. "Because you're the only person in the world I can be weak in front of, Katniss."

She blinks a few times, trying to sort out what I've just confessed and settles for pressing her soft lips against my forehead, away from my wound.

Katniss dabs Neosporin where it needs to go and checks every bump and bruise before settling back into bed. We give up on sleep temporarily.

"I bought two dresses," she confesses in the dark. "I figured since we were confessing things, you'd want to know the truth."

"How are you going to change mid-ceremony?" I interlace our fingers together and kiss her empty ring finger.

She chuckles and pulls my hand over to her side of the bed, kissing my knuckles. "No, after the ceremony, you, or maybe Prim if you're not up to it, gets to help me out of my wedding dress and into my reception dress. It's our party, so I'm going to be comfortable."

I nod and roll to my side, throwing my leg over her and pulling her in. "It's going to a busy summer. Delly and Thom's wedding, our wedding… Vegas."

"Wait, Vegas?"

Oops… I may have forgotten to mention that…

Chapter Text

Katniss

“I can’t believe they talked me into this,” I grumble while I watch Effie tap her Louboutin on the cement floor.

“Now, we would like to present the Bobby Clarke trophy to the player voted most valuable by the local sportswriters and sportscasters. For the second year in a row… Number twenty-eight, Captain Peeta Mellark!”

I join the crowd in cheering for my man as he shakes hands and poses with the trophy’s namesake for a picture before handing back the glass trophy. More crap for his man cave… I think to myself while imagining just where I could put a new shelf.

Peeta is handed a microphone, and I can tell he’s nervous from the hesitation when he speaks. “It’s an honor to be named most valuable on such a fantastic team, and an honor to be given the opportunity to lead them on both our greatest wins and toughest losses. Thank you, fans; I truly thank you for your support every single day both on and off the ice.” He shifts on his skates, perhaps slipping on the rolled out carpet that I will be on with Effie in her impossibly high heels. “I now have the honor of presenting this year’s Pelle Lindbergh trophy in place of its late namesake to the player who we believe improved the most between last season and this one. Voted most improved by his teammates, number nineteen Jacob Thom!” He pauses for the roar of applause and to let Thom skate over to accept his award. “He finally learned how to stand on two skates!”

Thom earns the man hug from Peeta, as well as a handshake, pull in, and two pats on the back. He grabs the microphone, “This is great, guys, but you all should take two minutes to vote for this man right here. We’re all looking at EA’s next cover model if he can get his hair right!”

They playfully punch each other like the children they secretly are before skating off, chatting about something no mic can pick up. There’s a few shoves between them even after they get back to the bench.

Another award comes Peeta’s way; for earning the most points, he gets a glass trophy from Toyota and a massive novelty check to the charity of his choice. When the end of the season awards are over and the pathway is cleared, Effie links arms with me.

“Chins up, smiles on,” she reminds me. I admire her - fierce, generous, well dressed. Here I am in my stolen jersey and skinny jeans next to this six foot platinum blond goddess in her black power suit and red bottomed heels. “Step lightly because the carpet can shift.”

‘And now, representing the Flyers Charities, Effie Abernathy and Katniss Everdeen!’

I follow her lead and tread lightly as the crowd applauds and cheers for two women they probably don’t even care about. My eyes immediately go to Peeta when we reach the end of the carpet, who mouths ‘You can do this’, from his seat on the bench. I nod and wince before my eyes adjust to the spotlight on me.

We’re both handed microphones.

I’m going to kill Johanna for pulling the pregnancy card on this one. And Delly for the hangover excuse… And Annie for being ‘stuck in traffic.’

Effie nudges me, telling me to speak. I will be representing this charity when the next season starts. Why do I feel like she’s placing the reins in my hand now?

“On behalf of the Flyers Charities, Effie and I would like to take a minute to thank you all for your unsurpassed generosity this past season.” Somehow I remember every word Effie told me to say, every word she drilled me on for the last two hours. “We won’t take up much of your time, we promise.” I swallow and lick my lips, “Your donations have helped to advance medical research, brighten the days of sick children, and help find animals a happy home. The 50/50, the Carnival, and starting next year with the Flyers 5K, you all prove day in and day out that you are the best fans in the league and probably even the world, no matter what everyone else likes to say about Flyers fans. And I’ll say it again, thank you, because we couldn’t do it without you. Without you, none of us - the players, the staff, the charity - would be here without your love, your support, or your unyielding dedication.”

Out of the corner of my eye, I see flashes of orange hop off the bench and take the ice. One by one, the guys skate to center ice and raise their sticks as high as they can get them to salute the fans for an amazing regular season.

Effie brings her mic to her mouth. “Thanks to each and every one of you for such an amazing season. And now, on with the show!”

Effie kisses both of my cheeks the second we’re out of view. “That was wonderful, darling. Next year you’ll be on your own and I promise it gets easier,” she proclaims while tucking a loose chunk of hair from my braid behind my ear.

I nod and press the button to call the elevator so I can return to the privacy of our box and watch my last regular season game at home. “What if I mess things up?”

Effie waves my worry off. “Darling, there’s an entire board to take the fall for that. Plus, you’re mostly the figure head and liaison between the fans, the team and the board. You will do wonderfully, that I have no doubt. You have a fire in you, a passion that an organization like this needs.”

I lean against the back wall of the elevator, absorbing her compliment, just before it lurches upwards.

“How is Peeta doing?” she asks quietly between floors.

“He’s fine. Stitches bug him at night and he says his jaw is clicking.” I don’t dare mention how Peeta complains about his pinkies occasionally going numb. He made me promise that not even Prim would know until their season is officially done.

Effie nods and bites the tip of her thumbnail. “Haymitch was fined ten thousand dollars for his stunt in Pittsburgh. I have told him a thousand times he needs to work on his temper.”

“Jesus…” I say as the doors slide open, “Ten thousand? Did he have to write it on one of those massive novelty checks?”

Effie grins. “Oh no, he wanted to mail the league the amount in either singles or pennies, but he was afraid it would get lost along the way.”

I shake my head as we push into the family box and immediately snag a beer and some food. “They’re good friends, you know, the Penguins’ coach and my husband.” She doesn’t use his name, knowing I wouldn’t be able to place a face to a role to a name. “You wouldn’t know it with all the boards standing and screaming at each other, while your fiancé and his rival beat each other’s faces.”

I take a long sip. “Not even a little… ugh, fuck, is this Lite? I thought we were done with Lite beer in this place?”

They win that night, their last home game of the 2011-2012 season. I expected Peeta to be happy when we finally met up after the game, but instead he’s livid.

“Peeta…” He practically passes me without a second thought on the way out, but at the last minute he places a hand on my lower back and ‘guides’ me into the chilly April air.

“Let’s go,” he grumbles in a clipped tone, bag over his shoulder.

He didn’t score but got an assist, which usually makes him happy. “My parents head home?” he asks with a hand on my back, pushing me towards his car.

“Yeah… They said that they’re not as young as they used to be.”

He nods and holds the door open for me. “Want to get a beer?”

My eyes go wide. “Peeta, you have practice at like, six am, then you travel-”

He snorts in response.  “I’m not fucking traveling…” he spits as the engine of his Camaro roars to life. “Tomorrow morning, there will be an announcement that I’m showing signs of a concussion and will not be joining my team in Pittsburgh to end the season.”

“But you’re…”

“Perfectly fucking healthy!” He holds the wheel with one hand and clenches his fist a few times before shaking it out. I’ve caught him doing that more and more lately, but haven’t thought to ask. Now doesn’t seem like a good time, so I make a mental note that will get lost in a pile of other mental notes.

Most of the traffic has already cleared out, so making a break for it post-game is a piece of cake.

I send a quick text to Peeta’s parents telling them that we’re going out and to not wait up, that Peeta’s off until playoffs start and that everything’s okay.

Peeta’s been there for me through so much shit already; I know I have to be here for him while he rides out his frustration, no matter how he chooses to do so.

“And Gale’s staying too, which means that the team is in Thom’s hands and-”

“A few hours ago, you handed that man a trophy and said that he was the most improved. Thom may be an immature prick sometimes, but he’s passionate. He’ll lead the team and keep them in check. Have some faith in him, Peeta…” I rest my hand on his thigh, stroking through the fabric of his dress pants.

I’m so busy trying to get him out of his hate spiral that I don’t realize where we’re going until we’re walking through the front door. “Why did you bring me to my old bar?”

Peeta drapes his arm over my shoulder. “I don’t know, figured we should go somewhere happy. We basically met for real here.”

“Are we going to visit all the places in Philly that are important to us before this night is over?” I ask as I park him on a barstool. Nothing has changed about the place, and I love it.

Most of the hockey crowd has dispersed, leaving only the super drunk and the regulars. Several of them nod to me as I slip behind the bar. “Hey! No customers behind the bar,” a newcomer snaps.

Bristel looks up from the register. “She’s cool, Steffie. This was her place until a few months ago.” She takes a deep breath while I reach for a bottle of Jäger. “Darius! You have a visitor!” she screams while I pour two shots. Peeta and I are going to regret tonight in the morning.

“I thought we were getting beers?” He picks his shot up anyway when I set it in front of him.

“Beer is next. I’m going to outdrink you tonight. We can call a cab, walk home, or navigate SEPTA.”

Peeta snorts. “Katniss, I’m like, six inches taller than you, I weigh more, and I’m Canadian. I doubt you can outdrink me.”

“Peeta, I was in a sorority that acted like all the stereotypes. Plus I’m from Philly, which means I don’t know when or how to back down from a challenge, even one that I’ve set.” I hold my glass up to him. “Cheers, baby.” We tap glasses and make the liquor vanish. “Also, I want your phone.”

He reluctantly digs it out of his pocket and sets it on the bar. “I wasn’t going to tweet anything confidential or petty.”

“Sober Peeta, yes. But drunk Peeta is unpredictable. My name on your chest is a testament to that.”

Things get a little fuzzy after that. I remember Darius rolling his eyes and forcing me to sit beside Peeta while we drink ourselves into oblivion going shot for shot and beer for beer. I remember making out just after last call… then nothing.

When I wake up the next morning, I have to wonder whether or not we had sex in an alleyway. Judging by the painful scrapes on my lower back I’m inclined to say yes, but it’s also likely that I just busted my ass several times.

We nurse our hangovers with water, Motrin, and the greasiest food we can manage to keep down. “Judging by the pictures on our phones, it was a busy night,” he yawns from his position with his head in my lap while we watch whatever crap is on our Netflix watch list. I pet his hair, curling a few strands around my finger.

“You should see the scratches on my back. I haven’t gotten that drunk in a long ass time.”

The day is one of our laziest. We leave the couch to use the bathroom/ vomit, marathon crap TV, and nap like we’re being paid to. We’re basically children; his parents even make us dinner.

The next morning, we wake up feeling better than ever. Our day of pain and relaxation has left us feeling reborn.

Peeta wakes up at his regular time, butt-fuck o’clock. His parents are already quietly preparing their breakfast when we flop off the couch.

Waking up after our recovery day, we’re perfectly in sync.

“Run?” he asks after brushing his teeth.

I’m already pulling on my skintight capris and wrestling with my overly complicated sports bra.

I love running through Old City. I love the mix of what this city once was and what it is becoming. We’re sweaty and giddy when we enter our home.

Peeta’s happiness only lasts so long. At four o’clock, we’re all seated on the couch watching the last game of the Flyers regular season.

I’ve never really watched Peeta watch a game when he wasn’t injured. Now that he feels like there’s no reason for him to be away from the team, he’s sour and prone to yelling at the TV. He tries to bark orders at teammates who are separated from him by a six hour drive. None of us try to silence him; instead, we let him ride out his frustration.

When the first period ends and the score is tied one to one, he seems hopeful. After the second period, it’s tied two to two and he’s back to being sour. When Cato scores with less than a minute left, Peeta gets up from the couch.

He grabs his wallet and keys. “Peeta, where are you going?” his Dad asks, following him.

“Practice.”

“Peeta,” I jump up from the couch. “It’s almost dinner time.” The dog almost trips me as I pursue him. “Come on,” I reach for his wrist, but he jerks away before I can touch him. “Baby… Please don’t leave, you’re upset and I-”

“Don’t say you understand, Katniss.”

And so it begins, this argument again, the one we had at the very beginning of our relationship. “We’re not doing this, Peeta. Not again. I know you’re pissed, and you should be. But that doesn’t give you the right to shut everyone out.”

He squares off to me and closes the distance between us in two steps. He’s so close I can feel his breath on my face. “I wasn’t there! I failed my team, Katniss! I’m supposed to be there to lead them, to play by their side. They’re our number one rivals and the last time we see them until the playoffs, when every second counts, where am I? In fucking Philadelphia!”

We absolutely forget his parents are here.

I place my hands on my hips and stand as straight as I can to show him that I’m not going to back down. “Please forgive me. I didn’t realize being in Philadelphia was such a damn inconvenience to you,” I spit.

He runs his fingers through his hair. “That’s not what I meant, Katniss, and you know it!” The volume of his voice raises with every word and I wince. He’s yelling at me; Peeta never yells at me. We never fight, nor has he ever gotten in my face and yelled at me.

I know it’s not what he meant. I know very well what he meant, so I say nothing.

“They put a ‘C’ on my jersey for a reason, and it wasn’t to be put on the shelf in storage because the goddamn league is trying to manufacture drama. And the team buys into it, as does the coach, and hell, even I buy into it.”

“It’s a loss! One loss!” I argue. “The game didn’t even matter, Peeta, because you’re in the playoffs! You know who you’re seeing in round one! Spoiler alert - it’s the Penguins!”

Something I say ends the argument. He takes one step back before turning away from me to rip the front door open. He’s gone before I can even try to stop him.

I stare at the closed door.

Go after him.

It’s never just a game to him, you know that.

Go after him.

Idiot, go after him.

It takes a two hour public transportation extravaganza to get to Voorhees, and about halfway over the Ben Franklin Bridge, I realize that he could have very well gone to the Wells Fargo Center to pout. He has keys, it’s vacant, and it would be predictably dramatic. But it’s too late to alter my travel plans. Thankfully, his car is parked right in front of the very locked private door.

I walked almost a mile, since I have no idea how buses in New Jersey that don’t go straight to Haddonfield work.

The poor teenager on duty has a hell of a time trying to keep me out of the blocked off rink the Flyers use for practice. “It’s closed to the public, ma’am.”

“Yeah…” I dig through my handbag and pull out my increasingly useful VIP pass. “Not part of the public in this case.”

“He doesn’t want to be disturbed,” the kid tells me vaguely. He’s a pretty shitty bouncer. He can’t be older than sixteen though, so I know he’s trying his best.

I shrug. “I’m his fiancée, and nothing’s going to stop me from disturbing him. I won’t tell anyone about this if you don’t,” I wink and push through the blacked-out door.

Sure enough, there he is taking shots at a net that’s already filled with pucks with I Stand Alone by Godsmack screaming in the background. I assume it’s a coincidence, and not just Peeta being overly mopey and unnecessarily dramatic. He doesn’t see me enter or hear me call his name.

“Peeta!” I take a step onto the ice but he’s so far in the zone I’m not even here.

I know better than to walk in front of him. I’ve seen the bruises pucks can leave through pads, but it quickly becomes something out of my control. I hear him grunt and take a wild shot. I feel a gust of wind from the puck as it passes no more than two feet from my kneecaps. It smacks the boards behind me hauntingly.

That could have been my leg…

Peeta looks horrified. “Oh my god, Katniss, I could have-” he shouts. I put my hand up to silence him before ducking into the box with the sound system and turning it off.

“There, now we can hear each other.”

He didn’t bother suiting up, wearing just a t-shirt, sweat shorts, gloves, and his skates. His sweat soaked shirt clings to him in every right way, but I ignore it. “Bag skate?” I ask quietly when I approach him, this time without the hard rubber projectiles.

He pulls off one glove and wipes his forehead. “What are you doing here, Katniss?” he asks with a very minimal grumble. To be honest, it’s more of a gravely exasperated sigh.

“I’m sorry I said the game didn’t matter. Every game matters in its own way, I know that. But this isn’t 2010, and it didn’t come down to the wire. It was more of an exhibition than anything else.”

Peeta sighs and places a hand on my shoulder so he doesn’t accidently slide away or into me. “I know, it’s just…”

“You should have been with your team. Not having you play is one thing, but barring you from travel is another?”

He nods and smiles, “Hit the nail on the head.” He bends over and kisses my forehead before rubbing his sweaty, scruffy cheek against mine.

“Oh, gross!” I try to flail away but he slides with me. If I move too quickly, I’ll fall on my ass with every single one of his almost two hundred pound frame on top of me.

Peeta lets go and smirks, “You know, speaking of 2010, that has to be one of my favorite moments of my life. Probably my career, at least up until this point.”

“Oh? You should tell me about the night the great Peeta Mellark became the Chosen One of Philadelphia, destined to bring the Stanley Cup back to the City of Brotherly Love alongside his team of misfits and pretty boy Finnick Odair.”

“He was a lot more pompous back then. Real princess that one,” he drags his stick and skates back towards the goal. “Used to always gel his hair back, but Philly isn’t into that. You people don’t want the most gorgeous player, you one who can deliver. One that’s rough around the edges.”

“And we got you.”

He rolls his eyes and lazily empties the net he filled. “Yeah, you got me.  You all secretly want the team that brought the cup here back in ’74 and ’75. They’re all retired, but we’re almost missing enough teeth to take their place,” he grins, showing me the gap in his smile.

“But enough about Finnick and the alumni – tell me more about you.”

“Finnick is vital to this story, believe it or not.” He’s passing pucks back to center ice, reloading, “So it’s the last game of the season, us versus the Rangers. One of us is playoff bound, the other is going to have to dust off the golf clubs. First period, they score. Second period, we score. I actually think Gale got the assist, but he’s hardly relevant to the story. We’re talking about me.”

He’s looking down, passing the puck back and forth to himself. Nothing fancy, just idle stick handling.

“Third period, and twenty of the most stressful minutes of my life. Now, I should let you know that there’s only two ways you can get past the Rangers’ goalie on a good day. That shot has to be perfect, or the sloppiest fucking thing in your life.”

“I’ll remember that next time I’m playing the Rangers,” I tease.

He looks up and smiles. “Yeah, yeah… You’re small so you can use that to your advantage. It’s how I got where I am today. BUT back to the story.” He starts getting trickier, weaving the puck through his legs, then weaving it through mine. I’m not ashamed to admit how turned on I am by his stick brushing against my inner thigh, though the look on his face might be a contributing factor, deep in concentration but still smiling. “Fuck, I lied. Gale’s a huge part of this story, too. That fucking suave bastard…” he’s idly skating around me, weaving the puck between my slightly spread legs in one lazy infinity symbol. “Third period, a little scuffle between Gale and someone, no big deal. The guy used to be a good fighter before he woke up one day and decided to be classy. Clock runs down and we’re all hungry for the playoffs, so it’s all elbows and checking. Everyone is on point, puck barely leaves neutral territory, and then regulation ends. A fucking TIE.” Suddenly, he draws back wildly when he’s far enough away from me and takes a shot. He picks another puck at random and continues his practice, only this time through his horde of pucks. Every so often he takes another shot, groaning when he misses the empty net, but he reloads anyway and continues the oddly delicate process of weaving a puck in and out of the spaces between its stationary brothers.

“I’ve never been so excited for overtime in my life, I can barely focus. It’s a lot for a twenty-two year old to process. Sudden death, that puck gets past Finnick and we’re bound for the golf course, and golf’s boring as fuck sometimes. So it’s more of the same, five minutes of stress and ferocity, always rotating for the freshest skates on the ice. We know we’re not dead yet. Overtime ends and Gale becomes crucial to this story. A shootout, Gale’s first for us, sinks it. Beautiful shot, flawless. Their guy misses, our next guy misses. Richards, a good guy, who plays for the Kings now. At that point, his miss doesn’t matter if the Rangers’ next shooter misses, and he doesn’t. Sometimes Finnick struggles with the one-on-one, but he’s getting better. Then it’s my turn, and it’s me and Lundqvist, that’s it. That’s all that matters in the world. My shootout is usually predictable - fast approach, quick deke,” he explains and mimics his normal tactics. I’ve seen it a dozen times and I’m still impressed with how quick he can move without losing his balance. “Not this one, though. I follow my gut, go slow, analyze, and then I see his five hole is open. The red light goes off and I throw myself into the glass as the whole world comes rushing back to me.” He takes another shot.

“The whole team all jumped to the ice to celebrate.”

He gets quiet. His story is over, but he continues with the idle puck handling.

“I felt the burden of an entire team counting on me with its full force for the first time that night,” he finally tells me.

“And it’s all been uphill from there?”

He shrugs. “It got easier once the A on my sweater turned to a C. Fewer people treating me like a pretender to the throne.”

He remains quiet once his story is over and goes back to practicing. I take a few steps back to give him the space he needs to vent his anger. When most of his hoard of pucks is in or around the net, he hands me his stick for whatever reason before lazily skating past the goal. He holds onto the cross bar and drags it with him to clean up any stray pucks before pushing it off to the side.

“You might want to back up,” he calls. I nod and back out of his path, off the logo.

I watch as he takes a few deep breaths and shakes out his arms and legs. In a fraction of a second, he goes from standing still to flying past me. He skates the length of the rink over and over again, punishing his body until he no longer feels the frustration from earlier. His stops and turns are both graceful and violent. Each time I expect him to fall as the blades of his skates kick up torrents of snow, but he somehow shifts his momentum so he’s off in the other direction.

He finally slows, now taking lazy laps to cool down before he glides to my location with his hands on his knees. “Better?” I ask. He spits several times and nods, still hunched over. I take a step back, waiting for him to vomit. When his breathing slows, he finally stands and shakes out his sweaty curls.

He sighs. “My parents must think I’m going off the deep end.”

“Your parents love you and worry about your safety and health. They know you’re stressed.” I hand him his stick and he picks one of the few pucks he has left from the meager pile behind me. He’s back to passing the puck between my legs, only he’s much, much closer now. His body smells like sweat and his damp curls brush against me. “You need a shower,” I grumble when I feel the back of my shirt moisten from his dampness.

Peeta pauses. “Come with me?” he asks with his stick between my legs. He taps it on the ice twice, not willing to stop his complex movements just yet.

“Yeah, and when someone walks in on us?”

“The entire Flyers organization is in Pittsburgh, except for me. Showers are private and clean, and it’s kind of been a fantasy of mine. Also, I made it very clear to the staff that under no circumstances was anyone to be allowed in here.”

“The kid did try his hardest. So, our list of weird places we’ve had sex - Phillies training room, an alley somewhere in Philly probably-”

“There was no way I was sober enough to get hard that night. You probably just fell.”

I grin. “Oh, I don’t doubt it. But we need to figure out how to do it at Wells Fargo and Lincoln Financial so we can get the trifecta.”

“I think we’ve had this conversation before. I honestly don’t think we’ll ever see the inside of Lincoln Financial Field unless we have another Winter Classic. Wells Fargo Center might be doable. Just because I play for one team doesn’t mean that I’m welcome inside every stadium whenever I want.”

I roll my eyes. “Well, it should. Not because you play for a Philly team, but because you’re the best in Philly.”

Peeta drops his stick. “Okay, you, me, showers. Now.”

I think for a second that he’s going to pick me up, but he takes my hand instead. “It’s a far walk,” he explains, “And I don’t want to drop you. Plus I’ll soak you.” He hasn’t lost the gloves yet. As we walk, I trace his name on the velcro strap. “It’s so they don’t get mixed up…”

“Mhm,” I hum. “It’s like sewing mittens to a kids coat after she leaves the first three pairs at school.”

“Like my mom had to do for my two brothers until they graduated from college.” He smiles down at me and kisses the crown of my head just before I step onto safe, dry land.

“So you’re sure no one will walk in on us?” I ask as he leads me to the locker room.

Peeta nods. “The only way in is through here and I locked it behind me. The rest of the entire Flyers organization is in Pittsburgh, it’s like ten at night and the public part of the rink is closed. The cleaning crew only comes through after a team practice or on Thursdays.” I take a seat on a bench and watch as he flicks his gloves in the vicinity of his stall and removes his sweaty shirt.

“You probably should have worn activity appropriate clothing.” I note several red patches on his arms from hitting the ice before I got there. There’s more on his legs, bruises that are just starting to form that I take mental note of while he’s holding my hands and walking backwards towards the showers. He has two fluffy white towels tucked under his arm and a different shampoo and body wash than what he uses at home under the other arm.

“Where’s the fun in that?” he asks, wearing nothing but his underwear and that look that says, ‘I’m up to no good.’ My jeans hit the floor just after his shorts, and my shirt came off as he was unlacing his skates.

“We really shouldn’t be doing this…” I whisper. The showers are simple; clean white tile, showerheads separated by shoulder high partitions, with no curtains or frills. The only adornment in the room is the strip of orange tile about shoulder height on me. He sets the towels on the partition across from where he’s orphaned his soaps.

Peeta shrugs and kisses the tip of my nose. “We absolutely should be doing this. We’re young, this place is empty,” he tugs me into him, trapping me in a sweaty bear hug. “I want to feel every inch of you against me.” His rough fingers dance along the ridge of my spine before settling on the clasp of my bra. “So we’re going to need to lose this.”

Even though he tells me we’re alone, I still listen for an opening door or the sound of footsteps, really anything that would give away someone catching us in mid-act.

I take a step back from him, letting my bra slide down my arms and fall to the tile floor. “Better?” I ask, noting the look in his eyes.

“Oh god, yes,” he breathes before mumbling a string of French I can’t understand as he takes my face into his hands. His rough thumbs brush my cheeks. “Have I told you today how much I love you?” he asks quietly before peppering my face in scratchy kisses.

“Probably, but I never get tired of hearing it.” I rest the palm of my hand against his erection.

A grin spreads across his features, highlighting the gap left by the teeth that went missing. “Plus que ma propre vie.” I have no idea what he’s saying, but the way he says it, like a quiet prayer to me, brings tears to my eyes that he brushes away.

We’re quiet as we move under the water once our underwear is lost. Our mouths are far too busy with more important tasks, like appreciating the salty taste of Peeta’s skin that I would normally find gross if I wasn’t so drunk on him right now.

When he turns me away from him, I don’t ask any questions. I spread my legs just enough and stand on my toes for ease of access. He enters me at a torturously slow pace; neither of us planned for our night to end like this, so the lube sits lonely and abandoned in our bedside table.

When his pelvis and my backside finally meet, he stills. “You can go, I’m not made of glass,” I remind him as I try to keep my toes balanced on the slippery shower floor, all while trying to focus on the blissful feeling of being filled by him.

Peeta’s hand rests on my back, gently pushing my lower half down. I hadn’t even realized that I was curling up. “Sorry, your white knuckle grip on the ledge has me a little worried,” he chuckles.

I take a deep breath and relax before wiggling a little, his hands traveling to my hips. “I’m fine, it’s fine. Just-” Another wiggle, which he answers with a moan. “Please,” I start rocking my hips, but I’m already sort of off balance, so it’s hardly satisfying. Not that it doesn’t feel good, it just doesn’t feel good enough.

He slowly begins rocking his hips to meet mine, his moans answering my own as the only noise in the room until the sound of our wet skin slapping together begins echoing off the walls.

Peeta wraps his arms around me, forcing me to stand upright and freeing my hands so I can tease myself. When I come undone around him, he stills to let me catch my breath.

“I’m going to move again,” he whispers once I’m fully lucid again.

After the first thrust, both of us try to put the fact that anyone left in this building has to know what we’re up to in the back of our minds.

When we’re done, I leave him to bathe alone while I hunt down the spare work-out clothes he promises exist. I can’t find them, so I lie down on the long wooden bench in the center of the room and let my body air dry.

I’m half asleep when Peeta gently tugs me down to the edge of bench and presses a long gentle kiss to the skin between my hip bones. My legs are thrown over his shoulders and I don’t ask questions. I let myself get lost, only coming back to reality when one of Peeta’s large hands finds itself venturing from my breasts to my side to keep me from falling on the floor.

I sort of try and muffle myself when I come, but only after we both realize how loud the initial scream is.

 


 

“Your shorts keep falling down,” I yawn as I tug the silky black fabric back up onto my hips.

After our romp in the shower and him eating me out on the bench, I was too tired to wrestle my way into my skinny jeans, so he threw me a clean pair of his shorts and a t-shirt. I tossed them on seconds after dropping my towel.

“It’s not my fault you don’t fit into my clothes.” He’s got a shit eating grin on his face as he admires me swimming in his sweatshirt, tugging up his shorts, and awkwardly shivering as we walk to his car. “Did you park around front?” he asks when there’s only one car in the back lot.

The Camaro beeps when he unlocks it and I swing the passenger door open. “Parked what car, Peeta? My old dead POS that’s probably rusting in the junkyard at this point?”

He tosses his bag into the back seat. “Good point,” he says as he flops into the driver’s seat. “I’ll solve that problem tomorrow. Want an import or an American?”

I snort. “Well, for one, that’s not a purchase you rush. And two, I’m marrying an import, so I might as well stick with what I know.”

He nods. “Should probably invest in something more practical than a sports car… Meh…” he shrugs.

I sigh and just let him have this. I’m too tired to fight and I know he’s right. Either way it has to happen, either at a cautious, responsible pace, or Peeta’s ‘now or never’ pace. In the afternoon, when he hands me an unfamiliar black key fob, I don’t question a damn thing.

I run my thumb over the red and silver S8 on the back. “Isn’t this something we’re supposed to do together and argue about?”

Peeta shrugs and straddles me on the couch. “What kind of person would I be if I let you see your birthday gift before I was ready to give it to you?”

My phone vibrates, letting me know that someone in the world wants me. The face Peeta makes when he feels it against his thigh will stick with me for a long ass time.

 Johanna: So… Gale found your drawers and bra in the showers at the SkateZone. I don’t want to know 1) how he knew they were yours and 2) why they were there. Secret’s safe with us, you horndogs, as long as you agree to watch the kids whenever we ask over the summer.

I show Peeta the text. He finds it a lot funnier than I do.

“Come on, forget that.” He’s like a kid, a kid with few million dollars resting in several bank accounts.

I both love him and fear him in this moment.

“Oh, I’ll bite. What the fuck did you buy me?”

He drags me down into the garage under our building. In the dim lights, my new blue Audi sparkles. There are two things I will freely admit about the car - it’s smarter than I am, and it’s actually pretty nice.

 


 

The afternoon before Peeta leaves for Pittsburgh, the callbox buzzes just as we sit down for lunch. “One of your friends?” Lorelei asks.

I almost don’t want to get up, since my future mother-in-law made real food. Like real minestrone soup and grilled cheese. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen someone put so much effort into lunch and I don’t want to see it get cold.

Peeta and I both get up. “Yeah?” he asks the speaker in the wall.

“Hey asshole, are you going to let us in or do we have to roast out here? Fuck.”

I don’t recognize the voices a first, but two minutes later, the door swings open and a black and red knit cap is placed on Peeta’s head. “Surprise, motherfucker!”

His two blonde brothers invite themselves inside, suitcases in tow.

My soon to be father-in-law just rolls his eyes. “Boys…” Raymond Mellark scolds after the initial shock wears off.

“Like we’re going to miss the playoffs, especially when our baby brother is actually playing.”

Peeta rolls his eyes and sits back down, the unwelcome hat still on his head over his backwards baseball cap. “I’ve never missed the playoffs.”

Wheaton waves his hand and flops down next to his brother. “Yeah, well, Sens tickets were fucking expensive. And they sold out in like two minutes. Apparently once the regular season ends, you can’t pull the ‘my brother plays for the NHL’ card.”

“We tried,” Ryland sighs. “Really hard.”

“It actually never works.”

Lorelei is already back in the kitchen. “So you decided to fly down from Ottawa to Philadelphia unannounced without your families?”

“Family bonding?”

“Getting to know our new sister?”

“Free travel and booze?”

“We had sick days.”

“Can we sleep on your couches?”

“Do you have any beer?”

Peeta dabs his sandwich in ketchup. “Sorry for them, really I am. I thought they were joking when they said they were just going to get the next flight down.” He takes a large bite. “And you can drink if you want, I’m going to practice after we eat.”

From the kitchen, I hear their mother mumbling something about paint chips.

Neither of the ‘boys’ argue until Peeta quietly leaves the table, not interrupting their conversation with their father about things they need to do to their houses or my talk with Lorelei about table settings for the wedding.

When Peeta emerges from our bedroom in a t-shirt and gym shorts, Ryland speaks up, “All work and no play-”

“Brings the Stanley Cup back to Philadelphia for the first time since nineteen seventy-five. I’d like to lift the thing before speculation of my retirement begins.”