playful kiss much

Writing Check-In, When the Moon, Ch 14

A/N: I really, really want to finish this chapter before Christmas and I think it might almost be possible… Hugs and/or good vibes, anyone?

I don’t go far, though – I think I’d burst if I did – and settle so close beside him that our hips brush, to his evident delight. “What’s this?” he wonders with a smile that could outshine the sun. “A tiny brave kit has deigned to sit beside me.”

“Because said kit wants a gosling for dessert,” I answer smartly, only half-teasing. “Roast chicken washes down best with a mouthful of yellow feathers,” I explain, and take a mock nip at the firm cap of his shoulder to punctuate it.

“I knew there would be gobbling-up!” he says gleefully. “Finish your dinner, greedy thing, before you run out of room for dessert.”

“I’ll always have room for dessert,” I assure him, “provided said dessert has yellow feathers and a beak that never shuts,” and I tilt my head to peck his mouth. “Now let’s get you some supper,” I tell him, picking up the second plate and laying the full slab of venison ribs across it. “You’re looking a little lean, gander mine.”

Peeta laughs so hard his shoulders shake and holds up his hands before I can fit the plate edges into them. “Where, exactly, voracious thing,” he wonders, “have I lost this much weight?”

I tip my head in contemplation. Peeta is gloriously solid – broad and firm, not fleshy in the least – both to the eye and to the touch, and I’m sorely tempted to snake a hand under the front of his sweater to see whether his belly is soft or taut with muscle.

My eyes trail down his legs which, if memory serves, are solid as young oaks beneath their corduroy confines, except for – “Aha!” I crow, pointing at his right shin. “That decoy leg of yours! You’re missing a good three pounds of protein there, and you need to add it back somewhere. You can’t shortchange a hungry vixen on her winter feast and not expect her to notice,” I inform him, and deposit the plate of ribs squarely over his lap.

I worry for a half-second that I’ve taken my teasing too far but Peeta is grinning from ear to ear, though he somehow manages to impose mock-shamed eyes over the expression. “That was my grand escape plan,” he says ruefully. “I thought I could give you my prosthesis to nibble on every day, like Hansel in the candy-witch’s cage, and when you finally had to take it out to the workshop to ‘carve’ it – because I know you’d never give up on a log of metal and plastic if you thought there was a hearty meal locked away inside –” he winks at that – “I’d make a break for it in the woods.”

I clutch a hand to my heart in mock-theatrics. “You wound me, deceitful bird,” I chide. “And here I thought you were looking forward to a winter in the pantry with daily vixen-nips and stolen pinches of down.”

“I’m particularly looking forward to the vixen-nips,” he replies merrily. “I plotted my escape before I knew just how pleasant those nips could be.”

“There will be no more nips for you, wicked bird,” I declare, as imperiously as I can muster. “You’re all pretend-down and hollow legs, not worth the space in my storeroom –”

“Oh, get over here,” he says with exasperated affection, and I’m not sure where the ribs disappear to but suddenly I’m back in Peeta’s lap, where he takes both my hands by the wrists and presses the palms to his chest. “This down, admittedly, is counterfeit, as I’ve yet to sprout my own breastful,” he explains. “But this –” he brings my hands to his head and curls them into deep fistfuls of hair – “is rooted and entirely real, and if you nose around a bit you’ll find more beneath my shirt and trousers – where, I need hardly add, you will also find only one half of one limb to be artificial.”

I imagine rooting inside Peeta’s clothes for more golden hairs sprouting from firm, warm flesh and I smile, slow and wolfishly. “Very well,” I reply, “I shall suspend my misgivings, but only until such time as a thorough inventory of your parts can be conducted and catalogued. And if I find you to be featherless and skinny as a rail,” I warn, “I’m going to put you in the empty stall beside Rye and feed you nothing but chocolate, roast chicken, and cream till you plump into a worthy winter meal.”

“As lovely as that sounds,” he says huskily, leaning in to brush noses with me, “I’m far too stocky to merit a winter of fattening up – but you’re welcome to inventory me at your leisure just the same.”

I tug his head down to nip at one blond eyebrow. “One,” I count aloud happily.