log: everlark WHO: Peeta and Katniss Mellark WHEN: Backdated a little bit, to the hot water being broken earlier this week WHERE: Their room! WHAT: Peeta has made the conscious decision to not wear the prosthetic leg that the Capitol made for him, and Katniss has an important medical decision she needs to run by Peeta. WARNINGS: Not reeeeally. This is the least angsty Everlark's been in a while. :)
It wasn't that Peeta wanted to make mobility more complicated. It wasn't that he wanted to draw attention to himself. He didn't. He just couldn't keep on going knowing that the Capitol owned a piece of him.
No matter how far away they were, no matter how they'd defeated Snow, Peeta still felt the Capitol's handiwork. What had he said? He didn't want them to own him. He didn't want them to make him a piece of their games. He wanted to prove that he was still himself, no matter what.
They probably hadn't needed to take his leg. It was a nasty infection, but Capitol medicine was highly advanced. He could have survived it, they could have saved it, but they simply didn't. It was a message, and it wasn't even necessarily a message for him. The Capitol was gracious enough to allow Peeta to survive, to allow two winners of the Games. They had been kind to him. They had given Katniss a gift. Peeta was allowed to live, but at a cost.
The prosthetic leg was a reminder. Constant, in the back of his mind. You owe us. You should be grateful.
Peeta was distancing himself from what happened as best he could, and he was trying to live a normal life with normal friends. He couldn't, not when he knew that a piece of him was a gift from his enemies. What they'd done to his mind was even worse, but he couldn't take that off.
So Peeta had gotten a wheelchair from Dr. Jones. Maybe someone would build him a new prosthetic, but for now, he had this.
He'd had it for days and he hadn't done anything with it. He'd started at it, he'd rolled around the room, but he hadn't taken it out to really use it. What was worse: reminding himself of the Capitol or reminding everyone else of his handicap?
It was so much more obvious. His prosthesis resting on the bed, Peeta settled down into the wheelchair and swallowed hard. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted this, either.
The last few days, or even longer, they had both been dealing with their own personal obstacles. Katniss had been preoccupied with sorting through everything she’d learned in the recent seminar, the discovery that her experience of relationships and attraction was different not only from people far removed from her but also from Peeta himself.
It had taken the wind out of her a little bit, although he’d managed to reassure her enough that she wasn’t hurting over it. It was just a strange thing to think about now, trying to imagine what it was like to feel any sort of interest in someone that she didn’t even know and had never interacted with. Part of her wished she could go back to not knowing, when things were simpler. But another, more rational part of her supposed it was a good thing that they understood each other better.
She hadn’t brought it up again. She’d thought about talking to Finnick, since Peeta was absorbed in his own conflict over the wheelchair versus the prosthetic, but had instead been quietly mulling it over, instead. It helped to get out into the woods, to focus entirely on hunting, staying warm, leaving all the complications of her emotional life behind her.
Her muscles were sore and cold and aching by the time she got back to the bunker just after sunset. The water coming from the tap was still cold, so instead of showering and making herself even colder, she’d wiped herself down with a small damp towel and a little bit of soap, and changed into one of Peeta’s shirts and a pair of warm, soft pants. She left her hair in its braid; until she had a chance to wash it, it would probably stay cleaner that way.
When she emerged from the bathroom, she found Peeta sitting in the wheelchair. She had seen the chair already, mentally assessed it - mainly, that it was not as useful to him in terms of mobility - and had briefly offered her opinion to him when he’d brought it up, but this was the first time she’d seen him use it.
She sat down on the bed, close to him, and watched him for a moment. Then she said quietly, “Are you okay?”
Peeta let out a breath. He glanced up at her and smiled crookedly. "Yeah?"
He didn't sound sure.
He wasn't sure. The part of him that was always afraid of a new threat, that made it hard to like. He didn't know how easy it would be to get around, how accessible things would be — though he'd spent the last couple of days working out paths that he could use and trying to think about how things would be if he couldn't walk. He maneuvered without the prosthetic leg all the time when they were in their apartment, and he had a crutch to get around quickly from the bathroom to the bedroom if he didn't have it on, but it was impractical and uncomfortable for long stretches of time. As to whether the chair was better, he just didn't know yet.
Physically, it felt a step backward. Mentally, however …
He rubbed the back of his neck, chuckling softly. "It feels like spitting in President Snow's face," he said.
That got a smile out of Katniss. “Good,” she said, darkly amused. “He deserves it.”
It hadn’t ever really occurred to her, until Peeta had mentioned it, that they might not have saved his leg on purpose. She’d blamed herself for it, instead. But in retrospect, she felt certain he was right. Even if they really had done their very best to save the leg, he was still entirely justified in not wanting any piece of the Capitol to be part of his body.
“How well does it move?” she asked next. She’d always been practical. Peeta obviously needed to get rid of the leg, but that didn’t mean the wheelchair was the best alternative in the long run.
"Not bad?" Peeta said, grasping the wheels and rolling back a little, then forward. "It's different, and I feel short all of a sudden, but I feel like I could get used to it. Maybe it's not good all the time, but it's comfortable, and I don't have to feel beholden to anyone." He didn't need the leg they'd given him. He didn't need their supposed kindness, or their reminders, or their control. If he was ever really going to be free, he had to rid himself of everything.
"It's going to take some getting used to, but that just means long, romantic strolls with you every night, right?" He grinned shyly, wheeling back several feet and maneuvering a little turn so he could make his way around the bed. He was almost naturally built to use a wheelchair, his arms and upper body already incredibly strong. Getting around was a matter of dexterity, not a matter of strength.
Katniss watched him move back and forth. It didn’t look terribly difficult, but she could imagine that it might be tiring, eventually, if he spent a full day using his arms instead of his legs. Then again, he’d always been powerfully strong, and a lot of that strength was concentrated in his upper body. Even as she thought about that, watching his muscles work in his shoulders and upper arms was a lot more distracting than she’d expected it to be. She could certainly get used to that.
“I think we can do that,” she said, with notes of amusement and interest in her voice. Then, “Or I could sit in your lap. To help you build up your strength, or something.”
Peeta turned the chair back to face her, laughing quietly. "What, you want to?"
There was something lighter in him, despite his trepidation. He seemed genuinely delighted to have a new means of getting around that had nothing to do with the prosthetic leg, and he had no real idea what it was doing to his mood. He looked like a massive burden had been lifted off his shoulders.
"Come here, test me. I'm pretty sure I've got this."
“Mm,” Katniss agreed. Aside from the unexpected enjoyment of watching him move around, the change in his mood was very positive, and she liked it. A lot. “Definitely.”
She got to her feet and moved over to him. When she sat down, she didn’t actually sit on him, but rather on the part of the chair that was left vacant by his missing leg. Once she was entirely settled in, she had effectively fit herself between his hips, with her feet resting together on the foot-rest he wasn’t using. It was a snug fit, but she doubted he was going to complain. She certainly wasn’t.
“Go on, then,” she said, leaning back against him. She wouldn’t get to watch this time, but she wanted to feel the strength of him as he moved them around. “Show me what you’ve got.”
Like this, Peeta was able to nuzzle between her shoulder blades and lean up to kiss the back of her neck. He rocked back and forth on the wheels, experimenting, and then leaned around her in order to see while he cut a path around the room. It wasn't that much harder to roll the chair with Katniss's weight added to it.
"I could take you on dates just like this," he said, snickering quietly. "Take you somewhere nice." He almost said get you dressed up, but Peeta was relatively sure he never wanted to see Katniss dressed up again. It meant something different for them.
Katniss hummed appreciatively when she felt his lips on her neck. At times like this, when everything was warm and affectionate, it made her insecurities from other moments seem small and silly. She tilted her head and leaned into him at an angle, so that her head wouldn’t be blocking his view. She braced herself with one hand on his thigh.
The idea of a date, especially ‘somewhere nice’, made her laugh. Not because she was completely opposed to the idea, but it also seemed a little ridiculous. They were so far past dating, and even if they wanted to do something ‘normal’ like that, she didn’t care if the places they went were nice. She liked places that were quiet and open. Which mostly meant outside the bunker, and that would be harder for him in the chair.
That sobered her a little bit, but she didn’t mention it. She gave his good leg a little squeeze, and said easily, “If you’re driving, you can take me anywhere.”
Peeta leaned forward as he came to a stop, resting his mouth against Katniss's shoulder. He kissed lightly. "I'm just worried about what you talked about," he said. "If something happens. If a path gets blocked. I can't always think in escape plans and exit strategies, we're not in the arena anymore and we're not really at war, but it's still been unsafe enough times that I … well. I guess I've weighed whether or not it's worth it."
He uncurled his fingers from the wheels of the chair and wrapped his arms around Katniss instead, hugging her close against him.
"It also means people seeing me like this. It's going to change how people look at me." He knew that, but he'd weighed that, too.
Katniss was quiet for a long moment. She kept one hand on his thigh, but rested her other hand on his crossed arms where they curled around her. She wished there was a perfect solution to this - she wished they’d just saved his damn leg - but there was no point in a wish like that when it wasn’t going to come true. This was his reality, and it was hers, too. Whatever he chose, whatever happened, she’d be in it with him.
“I’ll find a way to get you out,” she said. “If something happens. We’ll do whatever we have to do, and survive, the way we always have.”
The chair would present difficulties, especially if they weren’t able to get the prosthetic to help him walk and run, but they would find a way. Or she would stay in danger with him, even if she could get herself out. Leaving him behind wasn’t an option.
“You’re more confident,” she told him. “And it makes you look strong. I like you in the chair more than I thought I would.” She smiled a little, though he couldn’t really see her face. “I don’t think anyone who’s worth anything will think any less of you.”
"Not less, just different." Peeta hadn't exactly told everyone he was missing a leg, apart from mentioning on the network in public once. It meant exposing a weakness, admitting to a vulnerability, but it also meant giving up on the Capitol's hold over him. It was worth it.
He kissed the back of her neck, pressing his palms flat against her belly. "I… mm." He paused, resting his chin against her instead of his mouth. "Katniss, you and me. We're all right?"
They hadn't fought, not really, but they'd had some words about the way Peeta saw other girls.
Katniss supposed that was probably true. She wasn’t sure precisely how they would see him differently; she wasn’t sure, yet, if she would have any other reactions to it herself. Right now, she was enjoying this change. But in a different moment… she could imagine herself watching him wheel away, and worry about him. She always worried, but it did make him less safe, and if he was trapped somewhere while she wasn’t around…
But that could happen anyway, and she would just have to find a way to do something about it. No, it didn’t change anything. Not really.
The things they’d said to each other had changed her perspective about him, though. Not in a bad way, exactly, but during their conversation, she’d felt a lot less sure of where she stood with him. She’d thought about it a lot since then, and had debated saying something about it, but he’d been preoccupied. Now he was asking, though, and she closed her eyes for a moment before answering.
“Yes,” she said, first, because it was true. Expressing herself still didn’t come easily, but she tried, pausing and faltering when words momentarily failed her. “We’re alright. I… get scared sometimes, that’s all. I know you love me, but when we talk about the things that are wrong or the ways we’re different, it gets harder to talk myself out of worrying that I’m messing this up, or that you’re not happy with me.” She turned her head to tuck it further under his chin, and then, striving for a slightly lighter tone, she added, “I could stand to hear you ramble on about all the things you like about me, every once in awhile.”
Peeta frowned. Didn't she know?
He leaned back slightly. "Katniss, you're not messing things up," he said. "We're messed-up people, both of us, but you aren't messing anything up. Not with me, anyway. I…" He looked surprised and almost hurt. Katniss was the center of his world, and always had been. Had he really been so bad at communicating that that she didn't know?
He did have that problem, where he thought people were able to read his mind and figure out his thoughts. Maybe he really didn't tell her enough.
“I love you,” Katniss said, quietly but intently. “I’m not good at saying it. I thought you’d be able to figure it out, because I kissed you, and slept next to you, and married you, but then that truth spell made me say all the things I don’t normally say, and… it turned out they were things you’d really needed to hear. It’s not something I’m used to, either, but… it helps.”
She was getting better at this, but it still took effort. She took a deep breath. “When we’re here and you’re holding me, it seems silly. But when things come up, I remember how vulnerable it is to care this much. I can talk myself out of it, but it’s easier when you talk me out of it, too.”
Peeta tightened his arms around her, kissing her shoulder again. "I'm never going to let you be unsafe," he said quietly. "I … I know the situation with us is hard, with what they did to me. Sometimes it feels like I can't promise that I'll never hurt you again, but I won't. And I'm not going to hurt you if you're vulnerable in front of me. That's what I'm here for. I want you to feel like you can tell me anything, or do anything with me. I've loved you my entire life — I didn't really know what that meant until recently, but there's never been anyone else. Just you."
He shrugged, his cheeks feeling hot. One hand slid around to her back, rubbing against it in slow, gentle circles. "Maybe that's stupid, to say I never really cared about another girl. I didn't even know you. I just got caught up in staring at you like an idiot."
Warmth spread through her body, starting from where his lips had touched her shoulder, and Katniss closed her eyes. She listened to him, waited for him to finish before she said anything in response. Part of her wanted to stop talking - part of her always wanted to stop talking, these conversations were so vulnerable, but she was getting used to that - but there seemed to be so many things that needed to be said. So many things that they each thought the other understood, but they didn’t.
“I’m not scared of you, Peeta,” she said quietly. “It’s not about being afraid of what you might do. It never has been.”
And if it didn’t work, if he was totally lost to her, then it didn’t matter if he attacked her or not. The emotional loss was worse than anything he could do to her physically. But she didn’t say that, because she didn’t want him to think that she had so little faith in him. He hadn’t hurt her, not once, since he’d figured out that Snow had lied and she was telling him the truth. She believed him when he said he wasn’t going to hurt her again.
“I’m scared of losing you. Losing the feeling of being special to you.” She shifted a little in his arms, turning to the side, so that she could press her face into his neck, brushing her lips over his pulse. “That’s why it’s not stupid to say things like that. We have a lot of difficult things to talk about, so sometimes, after, it’s good to hear it. So I know you still feel that way. But no matter how scared or vulnerable I feel, I’m not going anywhere.”
Peeta's hand slid up her spine to squeeze the back of her neck. "Neither am I, okay? I'm not going anywhere. I need you. And I'm going to start reminding you more." He smiled against her shoulder, nuzzling her again.
Was this a good day? A really good day? They were so rare that sometimes Peeta was shocked when he realized that he was doing well, and that he and Katniss seemed to be in a good place. "I love you, Mrs. Mellark." It still felt strange to say it, but he could get used to it while trying it all out.
Katniss smiled, too, her eyes still closed. The tightness of anxiety inside her had eased, and she relaxed against him. The words and the soft nuzzling had as strong an effect as a thorough massage, warmth and languor seeping into her body.
And then she remembered there was still one more thing that she had wanted to tell him, but hadn’t done it, because she had temporarily lost some of her confidence in them to fear. But that was gone now, so she said it, without bothering to try to lead into it. “I want to get one of the implants they talked about at the seminar.”
Peeta blinked, surprised, and he leaned around Katniss to try and look at her. "One of the ones that keeps you from … really?"
It was smart. Katniss didn't want children right now, and Peeta knew that they were being overly careful. If they had another way to prevent pregnancy, it was a good idea — even if Peeta wasn't sure whether Katniss would one day change her mind.
"Okay," he said easily.
Katniss hadn’t been sure of what he’d think of it. He was opposed to the leg, but that was because it was from the Capitol; a prosthetic from the doctors here would be different. He had accepted this idea easily, too, so she continued. “I found a doctor that I… I think he’ll be able to do it for me. I was going to ask, but we - you and I - were talking about everything else.”
She turned her head to look at him more easily, and added, “I just want you, without anything getting in the way.”
Oh. Peeta leaned back a little, nodding. "I…" His cheeks felt hot, and he knew that he was blushing, particularly when she was snuggled up against him so close. "And if you do that, if you see that doctor about it, then…"
He was so terrible at talking about sex. He'd gotten really good at having sex, with practice and patience and curiosity, but it was the sort of thing he was confident and comfortable about in the moment. When asked directly, when fully clothed, he tended to just smile vaguely and nod. Being at the seminar had been intensely awkward for him, no matter how curious he'd been.
It amused her that she’d managed to fluster him; it made her feel significantly less awkward about having said it in the first place. Katniss tried not to smile, but didn’t entirely succeed.
“Yes,” she said, amused, and with intentional, significant emphasis. “Then.”
Peeta grinned faintly, then bit his lip to hide it. "All right," he blurted out. "Then, yeah, yeah, sure, if you want to." He glanced away, rubbing at the back of his neck. "I'm fine with that, I don't object."
“You only want me,” Katniss said, no longer bothering to hide her smile, which was both fond and amused. After how confident he’d gotten, being able to unnerve him - in a good way - was strangely flattering. “And I only want you. There isn’t any reason why we’d need more than that, right?”
At least, that was what she’d understood. It was probably going to make her paranoid at first, before she trusted the implant to work, but they had said that it would. The doctor would probably be able to answer more of her questions.
“I’m going to ask the alien doctor to do it. Maybe tomorrow.”
Peeta leaned over and kissed her shoulder. "Do you want me to go with you?" He knew it was a sensitive medical procedure that she probably didn't want him around for, but he also didn't know if he trusted any of the doctors. They seemed like good people, Dr. Tam had patched up Katniss's leg and Peeta had gotten his wheelchair from Dr. Jones, but that didn't mean he trusted them.
He frowned slightly. "Why not Dr. Tam? He helped you before."
“If you want,” Katniss answered. “You don’t have to. I... was thinking of asking Annie to come.” She was way more experienced with all of this than Katniss was - well, maybe not with implants specifically, given that she was pregnant, but still - and would probably be a lot more comfortable asking questions than Katniss would be. Or Peeta, for that matter.
And... speaking of things that were uncomfortable to explain. She shifted in the seat, not entirely sure how to explain the instinct that had driven her to choose the doctor, an alien, that she barely even knew. “I don’t know. I know him. It’s too… personal. I don’t want any of the other doctors, either. They say things in a way that’s so… that makes this seem so important to them. They could even be attracted to me, not… in a way they’d do anything about, but still.” The whole idea of it, with literally any of the other doctors, made her thoroughly uncomfortable. “But he’s an alien. He thinks human sexuality is ridiculous. He’ll probably just be thinking about how weird my human parts are, not about… anything else.”
Peeta frowned slightly. He didn't trust a lot of doctors, either, but he was willing to put his faith in people that seemed decent. Katniss was less willing, and Peeta wasn't about to try and convince her to see someone human. He was sure that the alien could manage it, even if it wouldn't have been Peeta's personal choice.
"I… okay?" He smiled faintly. "If that's what you want." Katniss tended to make unusual decisions about who she wanted on her side, and her instincts were usually good ones even if they made little sense on the surface.
"You can go with Annie, and … you know, message me, if something goes wrong, or if you have problems. Or even if you don't."
Katniss didn’t really expect him to get it. Almost everyone seemed to be more comfortable with this kind of thing than she was. Peeta got flustered, but, well, sexuality was still fairly normal to him. Ever since she’d discovered that her experience and view of the world was different, Katniss had felt a little bit alien herself. Actually, if she was being entirely honest, having a sexuality at all still seemed ridiculously strange when she thought about it. It only made sense that she went to a doctor that understood her.
It still made her a little bit sad, when she thought about it, that she was different from Peeta on such a fundamental level. But it wasn’t the only thing that was different between them, and when it came down to it, it didn’t matter.
“I don’t mind if you come with us,” she told him. “I don’t not want you there. I just figured - Annie might know what questions to ask better than I would. And she’d definitely be a lot more comfortable asking them.” She ran the back of her hand absentmindedly over his chest. “Neither of us really know what we’re doing, do we? We’re just making it up as we go along.”
A moment later she added, “I’m not complaining, though. Mr. Everdeen.”
Peeta laughed quietly, his hand covering hers. He couldn't help it, he liked the nickname. "I don't really think anyone really knows what they're doing," he said. "Everyone sort of stumbles through, we just … have different things to trip over."
“We can’t trip,” Katniss pointed out, grinning, “If we’re in this chair.”
"In that case, we'll just barrel on through everything and … trample over obstacles?" Peeta smiled crookedly. "And … hope we don't crash and flip over, I guess. The metaphor's getting away from me."
Katniss laughed, and kissed him. “How about: you drive, I’ll shoot everything out of our way.” She rested her forehead against his. “We’ll make a good team, however we go about it.”