deer sausage

Writing Check-In, When the Moon, Ch 14

A very small slice of sleepytime comfort for my dumped anon, my migraine anon, my triggered anon, and anyone else who could use a little sweetness tonight. <3

I’m in a place at once familiar and impossible: the Seam house I grew up in, yet as I’ve never seen it before. There is a merry, sooty coal fire on the hearth, blazing cheerfully beneath a beribboned garland of pine, and all about are the comforting scents of snow-dampened wool and leather and furs, of rabbit stew, deer-blood sausage, and hot acorn bread spread with goat cheese and honey.

It feels like home, but not my own.

I’m sitting in Granny Ashpet’s rocking chair, wearing a long dress of soft red plaid cotton. My lap is draped with a familiar ashen-silver fur with glints of copper; my fox fur – my true skin, I think idly – and I curl forward to hug the firm, proud swell of my belly with both arms.

The babies are elated.

I don’t know how I know this, but I do. They’re so full of joy that it almost hurts. They’re coming soon, so soon now, and I’m impatient to cradle and cuddle them, to guide a hungry little mouth to each breast and kiss their sweet tiny faces as they suckle.

My grandmother is seated on a crate with my bare feet in her lap, massaging them with her strong tanned hands. She’s older than she ever lived to be: her hair, pinned in a slapdash sort of bun at her nape, is almost entirely silver, and her striking face is lined by decades of happiness and hours spent hunting beneath the sun, and yet she’s still the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen. “It’s not often we get a visit from the moon herself,” she remarks, as though we’ve been at this conversation for some time, not just beginning it. “And how are the fawnlings today?” she wonders, looking up with a dazzling smile.

“Fawns?” says a man’s voice, brimming with laughter, and Grandpa Asa comes up beside her, a jaunty cap tugged low over his wild shock of gray hair and the beginnings of a stick dolly in one hand. “’Tis a peeping fat goose, acushla,” he corrects her with a wink, “silver as dandelion-down, and a merry golden kit. Goslit and kitling,” he informs us, gently laying his free hand on my belly. “None other could it be.”

He is neither handsome nor ugly, this man I have never quite been able to picture in my mind, with his hooked nose and soft gray eyes. He has a face that instantly feels like home, like sooty fires and musty quilts and ancient lullabies, and I no longer wonder why Granny Ashpet chose a slight, plain dreamer of a boy over every other in the district.

My grandfather is gentleness incarnate, and I see the adoration in Granny Ashpet’s face as she looks up at him – a feat not often achieved between the two of them, owing to my grandmother’s superior height. “Think you so, lover?” she wonders. “This doe wants fawns, make no mistake, and her golden boy is crowned with antlers.”

“That signifies little enough,” says Aunt Laurel in passing and I look up with a grin, half expecting her to be wearing her own antlers, but she looks so wonderfully ordinary and Seam-born with her muddy boots and flannel coat and silver-threaded braids that I want to clamber up from this chair and hug her about the waist. She’s about an inch taller than her aging father, making it painfully clear just how diminutive he truly is, and takes full advantage of this by pressing a sound smack of a kiss atop his capped head.

“Have you never seen her mate, Papa?” she wonders. “The sun himself, he is. She carries the stars in her womb, Morning and Evening both. Jackie!” she calls. “Tell them. You know better than anyone.”

My father emerges from the next room, wreathed in smiles and handsomer than ever, his faintly silvered black hair tied back at the temples. “You silly lot!” he laughs fondly. “You’re all more hair than wit. Catkin has loved the white bear since long before she understood it. She wept like a bereaved lover not to have him in her arms when she was just five years old, make no mistake about it. I told her he would come to her in time; all she need do was wait, and so he did.

“Catkins and cubs,” he declares, coming over to press a kiss to the kerchief tied about my braids like a little red cap. “White bear-cubs and downy silver catkins,” he says, with a caress of my cheek. “My daughter would have nothing less.”

“Beloved!” cries a muffled voice that makes my heart leap and the babes in my belly surge about wildly. “What madness is your kin conspiring with all this talk of animals?”

My husband has come.

Warm golden light seeps around the edges of the front door, brighter and more beautiful than any lantern or torch. The light of the sun itself, powerful enough to hatch black and gold nestlings from pebbles.

“Open the door to me, Katniss,” he implores, “for I am heavy-burdened with gifts and mean to kiss you at once, and thoroughly, upon my entering.”

I laugh delightedly and shake off my kin, wriggling out of the chair with a great heave for my heavy belly. I’m half-delirious with eagerness and the babies are twice so, tremoring inside me with anticipation for their father. The promised kiss, of course, is only the beginning. My beloved intends to carry me to the nearest bed of musty quilts and there love me from head to foot, lavishing an immeasurable span of time on my belly, where our children lie, and lower down; the secret place, where he entered to plant them inside me. His touches there are the sweetest of all, and I blush deeply at the thought of engaging in such delicious intimacies while my family waits in the room adjacent, but a little embarrassment is not enough to give me pause, not when I am so near to joining with my beloved once more.

“Whatever form he appears in is the form the babes will take!” Granny Ashpet whispers urgently, somewhere behind me.

“I’ll take that bet,” her daughter whispers back.

“Don’t bother with your trappings,” Granny Ashpet calls to my unseen beloved. “Your bride is anxious to see your face.”

“As am I for hers,” he calls in reply, then beseeches me with blatant adoration: “Moon-willow, vixen, sweet songbird who made her nest in my heart: please let me in! I am dying for want of your lips on mine and your precious body in my arms.”

I take hold of the latch, the metal gently warmed by his presence on the other side, and lift it with eager, trembling fingers. Whatever waits for me beyond this door – a magnificent golden buck, a great white bear, a silly yellow gander, or a young man incandescent with the sun’s own light – I love him all, and all of him, and I ache to see our babes and hold them in my arms.

But not before I hold him, and love him with all my might.

I fling the door wide open to a glorious blaze of hot, honey-golden light –

– and I wake with an audible pang, my belly heavy and hollow and my heart a cold knot of grief.

No mysterious, unseen beloved. No babes. My father and his family are all dead, not surrounding me in gentle affection and making playful guesses as to the nature of my unborn twins.

And yet I’m not alone.

I’m lying beside – half on top of – a soundly sleeping Peeta, his powerful body cocooned around mine, snugging me solidly between his glorious warm bulk and the cushioned back of the sofa.

I smile.

Welcome, beloved,” I whisper soundlessly, tracing his heart with a fingertip, and shiver at the daring words cascading from my tongue, still caught up in the bittersweet, beautiful dream. “My door is always open to you, and my arms.

He gives a soft grunt in response, making me start, and one strong hand slides over my body to cover my hand on his chest. “Sweetheart,” he drowses. “M’ little sweetheart…”

“Not quite,” I tell him sadly, almost silently. “You’ve caught a little black bird – tamed her, in fact – but she’s not the right one.”

Only one,” he slurs insistently.

“I know, sweet boy,” I assure him with a gentle kiss to his forehead. “There’s only one bird for you, and always has been. We’ll get her for you, even if I have to lay the snare myself.”

“She lays the snares,” he sighs. “Lays snares for me…shimmering nets of moonlight…in her eyes.”

“And you want the moon,” I reply, intending to comfort him with the reminder, but I can barely choke out the words.

“I watch her,” he whispers. “Look for her every day in the sky, but she never comes near the sun. She’s barely close enough to feel his light…never close enough to hold.”

“She will be,” I promise, even as it breaks my heart to identify his sweetheart – some other birdlike Seam girl – as the huntress-moon. “Perhaps she’ll surprise you and catch hold of you herself,” I suggest. “She is a huntress, after all.”

My huntress,” he grunts, squeezing my hand, and I let a smile sneak onto my lips. However wildly he dreams of his sweetheart, he still knows who I am, even in slumber.

“Yours, whole and entire,” I agree, dipping my head to kiss his hand where it covers mine on his chest. “Always and entirely yours.”

He gives a pleasured little “Mmm…” in reply and sinks into slow deep breaths once more.

Note: I have a personal headcanon (for my headcanon :P) that Jack Everdeen’s parents called him “Jackie” and thus if his little sister had survived, she would have done so too. 

Also, this is totally not original fiction in any way. Katniss totally had grandparents so it’s not like I’m, erm, making all any of this up…