Baby Girl, Black

By: Michelle Rose Landau

Summary: She became their child the moment they took her into their arms. They didn't see a negro baby; they saw the answer to their prayers...

Disclaimer: I do not own The Hunger Games series, nor any of its characters. They are the sole creative property of Suzanne Collins.

A/N: Thank you for all the reviews, favorites, and follows! They are much appreciated. Updates will likely be slow, as I want to do this story justice. I hope that I can achieve the vision and direction that I have in my head. Enjoy.


~two~

1949

Katniss couldn't have been the only one that thought that it was just a little bit absurd that the principal of Snow High School made wedding announcements over the intercom as part of morning announcements.

"Congratulations to Cato Adams and Shannon "Glimmer" Hart, John Marvel and Delly Cartwright, and Finnick Odair and Annie Cresta who have all recently become engaged. Please make sure to offer your congratulations when you see them..."

Recently wasn't exactly accurate; Katniss knew for a fact that Cato and Glimmer had been engaged since early summer, and Finnick and Annie had been engaged since last Christmas.

Part of Katniss believed that they made the announcements to reinforce the "next step" for all the senior girls. By next step they meant that marriage was the best option because the war was over, the economy was booming again; Rosie the Riveter went back home to her children and her husband and took back up the torch of motherhood and housewifery. She was a desirable woman, an enviable woman, an example to follow after. She served her country, and now she would continue to serve her country by raising good, patriotic children, and making sure her husband came home to a hot meal after a long day's work. Marriage and motherhood was the most honorable thing a woman could do with her life.

Katniss often wondered who exactly would believe that, and as she looked around at all the swooning couples, she thought: Apparently, everyone.

Some girls were going to "college"which meant that they were likely to marry after graduation and follow their new husbands to their colleges and live in the neighboring towns. Then there were some girls who actually were interested in going to college, and they had no plans to marry any time soon. These were girls who grew up with means in the richer part of Mockingjay, Capitol Hills. The suburb nearest to the town center where people drove the latest cars and could afford luxuries. The girls' hair was blonde or red, or brunette and always coiffed, blue or brown eyed, fair skinned, and rosy cheeks and lips, their nails were always manicured, their clothes were the latest fashions, and their boyfriends drove new, shiny cars and had their Ivy League sweaters and shirts, hair always perfect and combed back. All set for the American Dream.

And then there were girls like Katniss, from the Seam Valley neighborhood, often referred to as "Slum Valley", where things were different, where the people who lived there looked different. The houses were smaller, not as well kept as the ones in Capitol Hills, money was always tight, and the businesses were barely making it. The residents were a little darker skinned, olive-skinned, or mulatto, if not full-blooded negro, and they had grey eyes, and dark, wavy, hair that was either a deep, rich chestnut that only glowed in the sun, or just jet black. The story was that there was a flood of people coming from Louisiana, and they brought their blood and customs with them. In Louisiana, her father, Beaux Everdeen, was classified mulatto, and Katniss supposed that she would have been too, though she'd been told several times that she "could pass for white, sometimes."

All Katniss knew was that she didn't have the time to care. There were other things that mattered to her because life was hard, and it was easy to look upon the kids from Capitol Hills, just about eight miles down the road, with a mixture of disdain and envy. They had no idea what it was like to sometimes go without meals, to go without heat, to have to work after school, sometimes until midnight, instead being able to gather at Hob's Diner, or at Paylor Park for football and walks and picnics with their other peers.

They all mingled through common events, such as sporting events, dances, and church, but the difference was there.

Seam Vally used to be a little like Capitol Hills, when the mines were still operating, but after the Crash of '29, the mines closed and money dried up. Katniss' parents worked hard, both of them worked three jobs a piece just to make ends meet. Then her father passed away: he'd been walking home from one of his jobs late at night, and a drunk driver struck him, killed him instantly. It was then that Rose-Dee, her mother, fell into a deep despair, and everything was heaped upon Katniss; she had to suddenly learn how to pay bills, take care of her little sister, cook dinner, and take care of her mother. Every month it was a struggle, but once her mother recovered, things weren't quite as bad.

Her grades were okay, she supposed. Math and science were her strongest subjects, but she could care less about history, English, and home economics. She passed them, but they didn't hold her interest, and weren't quite as practical to her versus the endless applications and infinite value of numbers and formulas.

"Ugh," Johanna Mason huffed next to her quietly during the announcements. "If I hear another damned wedding announcement, I think I might just scream."

Katniss chuckled.

"Is there something funny, Miss Everdeen?" Mrs. Wiress inquired.

Katniss looked up. "No ma'am..."

"Please prepare your experiment."

"Yes ma'am."

Johanna Mason was one of her good and closest friends. There were three of them all together: Delly, Katniss, and Johanna. Delly was sweet and outspoken, Madge was moral and cautious, and Johanna was the girl that other girls loved to hate.

Even though she lived in Capitol Hills, she was a little bit of a wild child. Her parents, Patton and Elizabeth Mason, owned a chain of pharmacies, and they were very conservative and low-key, so compared with Johanna's personality, it seemed as though their daughter came into the world raving and raging. She cussed, she drank, she smoked, and she had no problem with boys. She was brazen and gorgeous and brave...everything Katniss was not. Johanna was voluptuous and alluring; she was practically fully developed by age thirteen, and her parents worried. Of course, she gave them good reason.

Johanna proudly wore the title of troublemaker, and the moments when Katniss, Delly, and Madge got in trouble, it was always Johanna at the helm.

"I swear, if that bitch Glimmer makes me wear some ridiculous get-up-"

"Miss Mason!" Mrs. Wiress scolded. "That kind of filthy language is inappropriate! And shame on you Katniss for allowing her to use such language. Go to Mr. Templesmith's office now."

Johanna rolled her eyes as she got up, winking at Katniss.

"See ya."

Katniss grinned a bit, but when Mrs. Wiress saw her, she looked down at her experiment.

"You ought to be a little more careful with whom you associate, Miss Everdeen."

"Yes Mrs. Wiress."

"Mr. Mellark..."

Katniss' heart suddenly clenched and she felt it speed up.

"Will you please assist Miss Everdeen with the experiment?"

"Yes ma'am."

Peeta Mellark got up from his seat, and he came over to Katniss, who felt the blush creeping up into her cheeks. She could feel the evil glare of his current girlfriend, Clove Winchester, burning into her back.

She was reacting this way because it recently became apparent to her (because people-Johanna being the most insistent-have been telling her) that Peeta Mellark had been interested in her for a long time. When Katniss learned of this, she suddenly became aware of how he looked at her, of how he would wave to her in the hallway during passing period, how he threw a knee-melting smile at her every now and then when Clove wasn't around.

He was very handsome, popular, and intelligent; he excelled at anything that was thrown his way. He could read something, like a manual, and then he would be able to do it. He remembered quotes from stories and poems, he was able to recall information in a flash. He was a bit of a wiz kid, and an athlete. He played basketball and football and he wrestled. He was strong and looked like a man, but he wasn't a jerk about it. He was humble and gentle, giving. He cared about others, and he was respectful. Every girl had her eye on him, vied for his attention. He first dated Cashmere Thompson, then Victoria Boggs, and now Clove. There was no doubt that he was a catch, and that Clove was a lucky girl.

Clove was also possessive.

It stung her to hear and know that Peeta's eyes wandered, specifically to Katniss Everdeen, the mousy, poor, mutt of a girl who lived in Seam Valley. What stung even more was that she wasn't ugly. She could stand a little makeup to brighten up her features, but otherwise, she was beautiful, only she didn't flaunt it. She was very modest and kept her head down, but she was a looker.

The problem was that Clove's attachment to Peeta was deeper than his to her. She knew that she would have to work that much harder to keep his attention, but her one insurance was that he would never date Katniss Everdeen, or any other girl from Seam Valley for that matter. His mother certainly would never allow for it, and Peeta knew that he would be asking for trouble, that it would be social suicide. Clove didn't even care about love-though, she wanted to love Peeta, it was certainly easy to considering that he was so sweet and caring-so much as she cared about marrying well. Peeta's mother Veena liked her, and insinuated around town that an engagement would happen soon. Clove wanted-more than love, more than anything-to be Mrs. Peeta Mellark, to be a member of the family.

She could imagine what the partnership would be like: the Winchesters and the Mellarks...giving bread and guns to the world.

Her father, Lawton Winchester was a distant relative, but related to the Winchester family nonetheless. He sold guns and knives, offered shooting lessons. Clove was an expert knife-thrower, took great pleasure out of watching the sharp blades sink into her targets.

Then reality came crashing back into her as she watched, with eyes narrowed into thin, thin slits, her boyfriend assist the girl who, in her mind, was competition. Not much competition, but competition nonetheless. That was alright, though. Clove loved games because she was good at winning them.

Oh, how she would love to sink one of her knives into Katniss Everdeen's mutt heart.

"You need to make sure to add-"

"Baking Soda, I know, I've got it," Katniss said quickly. "I-I don't need your help. Thanks, though."

Katniss was dutifully avoiding making eye contact with him because she knew that Clove was watching. The last thing she wanted was to be dangled in the middle of Clove and Peeta's relationship. Having him near her, smelling his cologne, seeing his strong hands working the experiment, watching the muscles in his arms flexing and bulging, the neatness and tight fit of his clothes...those ocean blue eyes...

Stop it, she thought to herself.

Her hands began to shake as she picked up the beaker.

"You got it?" Peeta asked.

"Yeah, I'm fine," Katniss insisted, but her hands were communicating otherwise.

"Here, I should-"

He put his hands over hers, and she pulled her hands away, dropping the glass beaker to the floor, the shatter reverberating in the room, and she hoped that the beating of her heart against her chest wasn't as loud.

Katniss felt the hot blush rising in her cheeks and she looked away.

"I'll clean this up," Mrs. Wiress said. "Focus, Miss Everdeen."

Katniss felt her breath become shallow, and she gathered up her books and rushed out of the classroom, hearing the wave of chuckles from other classmates as she ran.

After school, Katniss found Johanna propped up against the side of her car with her boyfriend, Thresh Jackson. She was chomping away at her gum, and she had a satisfied smirk on her mischievous face.

"So, how was it working with Mr. Blonde, Tall, and Handsome?"

"You knew that Mrs. Wiress would ask Peeta to help me," Katniss huffed. "Why did you do that?"

"Because you are crazy about him," Johanna replied, as if the answer was that simple. "And Peeta's crazy about you."

Katniss blushed. "I am not crazy about him..."

"You're a terrible liar," Johanna chuckled as she allowed Thresh to put his arm around her shoulders possessively. "Aside from the fact that I wanted you to find your moxie, I just like to see that poodle-faced Clove squirm."

Katniss hugged her books closer to her.

"Yeah, well not all of us came into this world with moxie," Katniss huffed.

She wasn't crazy about Peeta Mellark, not like that...was she?

Even if she were, he would never date a girl like her. She could only imagine what Mrs. Mellark would do or say, and that was enough in and of itself to keep away from him.

Katniss preferred to steer clear of controversy, and she mainly just kept her head down.

Thresh dropped Katniss off at Newton's Dry Clean and Tailor, and she waved before going in.

"Mrs. Newton, I'm here," Katniss said as she made her way to the back.

"Ah, just in time, girl," Sae said.

Katniss stowed her things in the back office, then she got to work on the orders. Katniss was turning into a fine seamstress, and Sae boasted about her talents often. Katniss had an eye for detail and a precision that Sae had lost years ago because of her eyesight.

Katniss worked under a microscope so that she could see the stitching, and she knew how to work with any fabric.

Mrs. Newton's was in the town center, and she was a widow. Her husband was killed during WWI, and she never married again, she loved him so much. She kept a picture of him in her locket, and she kept their wedding photo in her office. Katniss found herself gazing at it every now and then, thinking about how pretty Mrs. Newton was when she married, and how handsome and strong her husband looked. He had benevolent eyes, and he looked almost regal in his suit.

Mrs. Newton would talk about him sometimes, about how when they married two years before, in 1916, that he was so funny and sweet. She reminisced about how he would come home with fresh flowers and how he would sing to her. She talked about how athletic and energetic he was. Katniss could tell that she missed him, even decades later.

Katniss wanted a love like that, but then that meant marriage, and babies, and all of that, and Katniss simply didn't want that. She couldn't be as unashamed as Johanna about love.

The bell rang at the door, and Katniss went to the front.

"Hi, how may I-"

She stopped abruptly when she made eye contact with Peeta Mellark.

He smiled charmingly at her, and she lost the battle to suppress the blush rising in her cheeks.

"Hey Katniss," he smiled.

Before she could even formulate a response his mother, Veena, pushed him out of the way, frantic, as she dropped articles of clothing onto the counter.

"I need these dry cleaned immediately," she huffed. "And Peeta needs to be measured for a new suit right away."

"Y-Yes ma'am," Katniss said, gathering up the garments.

Sae brought Peeta into the fitting area.

"Katniss, can you please bring my measuring tape?" Sae asked.

"Yes ma'am," Katniss said.

Katniss quickly retrieved the measuring tape, then she went to the back and prepared the shirts for dry cleaning.

As she hung them up, Katniss could smell, ever so faintly, Peeta's cologne, and just his natural scent. She felt something, the same feeling she felt every time, as she catalogued his scent. She fingered his sleeve, brought it to her nose and inhaled his scent, his pulse, his very being, and her her heart fluttered.

"I need your help, girl," Sae called.

"Yes ma'am," Katniss said as she prepared the machine.

Katniss came out to the fitting area, and Peeta was standing on the small platform as Mrs. Newton measured him.

"I wish he'd stop growing," Mrs. Mellark huffed. "All of his trousers have gotten too short, and he can't fit any of his suits. He needs a suit for Clove's debutante celebration."

Peeta caught Katniss' eyes in the mirror, and he smiled, and she nearly dropped her notepad and pen.

The interaction wasn't lost on Veena, who stepped around in front of him.

"You are taller than your mother," she huffed.

"Am I not supposed to be?" Peeta asked.

"I just wish you'd stop growing like a weed," she despaired. "Everything you'll ever wear will probably have to be tailored."

Katniss wrote down the measurements.

"I think we might have something," Katniss said.

Peeta followed Katniss to the suits.

"Um...these are the latest fashions from New York," she explained.

Peeta looked the suit over. "Hm...I like it, but the color's a bit off."

"Well, we can certainly order it in another color if you'd like," she offered.

"That'd be great," he said. "So um...look, I'm sorry about earlier in Chemistry...you said you were alright, I should have respected that."

"It's okay," Katniss said quietly, diverting her eyes to the catalogue. "Um..."

"Why do you do that?"

"What?" She asked, flipping through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue.

"Every time I look at you, you've got your head down," he said. "Like you're ashamed of something."

Katniss shook her head, flipping through the catalogue with singular focus, letting his observation hang between them like a string of garlic.

"Katniss...say something..." He chuckled, good natured. "You can't be that shy."

"I'm not...I'm not good at saying something," she sighed. "I'm not very great with people. Did you want the powder blue, red, or the cream?"

"Uh, the cream," Peeta confirmed. "Clove's wearing this yellowish get up, and I kind of need to match her, according to my mother...anyway-"

"Isn't Clove your girlfriend?" Katniss interrupted, writing down the order numbers.

She needed to remind him of that.

"Yeah," he said. "Look, Katniss, can I just be your friend, maybe? I come in here all the time...my mom's an awful sewer, and you're so detailed, that me, my dad, and my brothers prefer your stitching. I see you all the time at school, and at events and things like that...I just want us to be friends."

Katniss nibbled at her bottom lip.

Suddenly, she felt his finger tilt her head up and her eyes met his. Her knees were shaking behind the counter, and she felt like she was going to collapse then and there.

"When you're around me at least, don't keep your head down," he said, a little too firmly for her liking, and as if their friendship was already confirmed. "You're a beautiful girl, Katniss Everdeen. Don't hide it."

"Peeta..."

He dropped his hand, but kept his eyes locked with Katniss'.

"Yes ma'am?"

"Did you get the suit ordered?" Veena asked as she clacked her way over to him.

"Yes ma'am," he said.

"Come along," Veena said, taking his arm. "We have other errands to run, darling."

"See you later, Katniss," he grinned.

Katniss shuddered at the memory of his fingertip on her skin.


The baby was angry, which was understandable.

Peeta put his hand on the newborn's belly as she squirmed and cried.

"Shh, it's okay little one," he whispered.

Katniss tucked her pinky into the baby's hand, and the child squeezed it. They took the baby to the hospital immediately, and the nurses took her and cleaned her up, and then Dr. Plutarch Heavensbee, a local pediatrician, came in and examined her.

As soon as Katniss found the baby, Peeta took the blanket from the trunk of their car, and he wrapped it around the infant. Katniss swatted away the last of the insects that were gnawing on the baby's arms and legs. She held the child close, the skin contact and the beating of Katniss' heart soothing the tiny being, if only for a moment, as Peeta drove them to the hospital.

The infant was not a happy camper as he smoothed ointment over the bites on her delicate skin and pricked her foot to get her blood type. The little creature was teary and screaming. The doctor, Dr. Heavensbee, pressed the stethoscope to the baby's chest, to check her heart beat, then he checked her weight and reflexes, took her measurements.

"Well, so far, she looks healthy," Dr. Heavensbee reported. "There's no obvious defects, and the ointment should help with the mosquito bites. She's got good reflexes, she's responding to stimuli. She's six pounds, eight ounces, and she's nineteen inches long. She's definitely hungry, so she'll get fed once she's in the nursery."

There was a knock on the door to the examination room, and Dr. Heavensbee got up and opened the door, and two police officers came in.

"Good evening, folks, I'm Officer Darius Kimble, this is Sheriff Mitchell."

Peeta shook the officers' hands and the men nodded to Katniss.

"Mr. Mellark, Mrs. Mellark," Darius said genially. "Now um, can you tell us what happened?"

"We were walking in Paylor Park," Katniss explained. "Along the trail, and we saw someone, we couldn't see who, came darting out, nearly ran us over. At first, I thought that it was a mugger, but the person just ran off. The next thing we know, we hear the baby crying."

Sheriff Mitchell wrote down the details. "And you didn't get a good look at the person who ran by?"

"No," Katniss said. "Once we heard the baby, she was all we could think about."

The officers nodded.

Katniss looked down at the baby, who was calming as she stroked the baby's cheek with her finger. She was beautiful, and Katniss didn't want to leave her side. She already felt connected to the tiny creature, and she smiled. Peeta noticed how happy his wife looked as she took the small child into her arms again, and rested the baby on her chest. The infant gurgled, whimpered, then burrowed into the warmth of Katniss' body. The baby had thick, dark curly hair, dark eyes, and she had the cutest nose. Her skin was tawny, soft. She smelled like the standard hospital soap, powdery.

"What's going to happen to her?" Peeta asked.

"Well, we'll put in a report, ask around the neighborhood," Darius explained. "She'll stay here in the hospital for a few days, then she'll be put in the care of the state. Probably put into foster care."

Peeta nodded.

"Thank you for your time," Sheriff Mitchell said. "You folks try to have a good evening."

A nurse came in, and she gingerly took the baby into her arms.

"Alright, off to the nursery."

"Wait," Katniss said.

"Yes?" The nurse, by the name of Octavia, inquired.

"C-Can I stay with her for a little while?" Katniss asked.

Octavia looked hesitantly to Dr. Heavensbee.

"That's fine, Octavia," Dr. Heavensbee approved.

Peeta and Katniss followed Octavia to the nursery, and another nurse, Cressida, took Katniss to a restroom to change. She put on one of the gowns and put her bloody blouse into a plastic bag.

Once she and Peeta were prepared, Octavia handed the baby back to Katniss as she sat down in the chair.

Cressida prepared a bottle and gave it to Katniss.

Peeta sat in the chair off to the side and watched his wife.

The baby whimpered and let out tiny cries as she adjusted to suckling.

"It's okay," Katniss cooed. "I know you're hungry..."

The infant finally fixed her lips around the nipple of the bottle and she suckled slowly, but she quickly got used to the motion and began to eat.

"There you go," Katniss praised with a smile.

Peeta watched as his wife cuddled the baby in her arms, and he was in complete awe. It was a sight that he'd been longing to see, his heart thrummed with happiness, even if it was only temporary, even if it meant having to remind her that this sweet little baby wasn't theirs to take home.

Katniss looked up at him, her eyes glistening, and a beaming smile forming on her face.

God, how was he ever going to be able to keep her away?

He saw it in her eyes...the unconditional and irrevocable love.

Katniss burped the baby once she finished feeding, and then let the child fall asleep against her chest.

Octavia came in.

"Mrs. Mellark," she began softly. "I should take the baby. She needs to lie down."

Katniss involuntarily held the baby closer, and Peeta came over and kneeled in front of her.

"Babe, she's going to be okay now," he said quietly.

Katniss nodded and let Octavia take the baby.

Peeta held her and she turned and embraced him back.

The ride home was a quiet one, and once they arrived, Katniss immediately put her blouse in the washing machine. Once she got that started, she went upstairs and changed out of the gown the hospital gave her and into her nightgown. She looked at herself in the mirror as she changed clothes. Peeta came into the bathroom to brush his teeth, and he saw Katniss caressing over her lower abdomen and he came up behind her, and he kissed her shoulder as he wrapped her arms around her waist and put his hands over hers.

They looked at each other through the mirror.

"I love you," he whispered.

"I love you too," she said.

They changed and brushed their teeth, then they got into bed together.

"I can't get my mind off that poor little baby," Katniss said quietly. "Who would just..." she paused, then continued, "imagine if we hadn't been walking along there. She would have died, Peeta. Who would just..."

Peeta shook his head. "I-I don't know...but just be thankful that we found her in time. She's safe now."

Katniss nodded.

Peeta leaned over and kissed her softly. "Try to get some sleep, babe."

They both laid down, and Katniss immediately curled up against her husband.


It didn't take long for the news about the baby to get around, so it didn't surprise her when it was brought up at the bi-weekly bridge games held at Glimmer Adams's house. Katniss didn't know why she went; they were always a bit of a bore, and she had to endure the grace of her mother-in-law's presence. That was probably the worst part. If weren't for the fact that the food was so good, Katniss wouldn't bother going at all.

Veena barely acknowledged her most times, though, even after fifteen years of being married to her son. At first, Katniss was very sensitive about it, and Peeta finally put his mother in her place. She hasn't been outwardly nasty to her since, but she still managed to get her little digs in.

Delly Marvel, Madge Hawthorne, Betty Undersee, and Annie Odair were all sitting at the table.

Katniss greeted each of them before she went over and fixed a plate.

She joined the women at the table.

Madge put her hand on Katniss' arm.

"Honey how are you?" She asked. "I heard about what happened on Sunday evening in the park."

"Oh, I'm fine," Katniss shrugged. "Peeta's fine."

"Ugh, can you imagine," Glimmer said incredulously. "What a terrible woman to abandon a child like that."

"I don't know if it was a woman that left the baby," Katniss recalled. "It was too dark to see..."

"Well either way, a woman let her child be left for dead," Glimmer said.

"I heard that it was a negro baby," Veena mentioned haughtily. "No doubt from the Seam Valley neighborhood. They have babies left and right, so it doesn't surprise me. Godless, the lot of them."

Katniss rolled her eyes.

"Whatever happened to 'thou shalt not judge'?" Katniss challenged.

"It's not judgment, Katniss," Veena huffed. "It's a matter of fact."

It was better to let Veena believe that she was right than to engage her, no matter how offensive her comments. Fifteen years with Peeta has built her tolerance and endurance of Veena. More than that, she wasn't the only one that thought that of people from the Seam Valley neighborhood.

"Look, I have nothing against people in the Valley, and I have nothing against the negroes," Veena continued defensively as she shifted her cards around, her cigarette wedged between her index and middle fingers. "And I believe that everyone should be treated with dignity and respect, but they have to do their part, be more responsible and get an education. President Johnson did his part, now it's time they do theirs."

It was an overly simplistic view, and Katniss had to bite her tongue because she didn't want to ruin what was otherwise a pleasant afternoon.

"Well, I hope that they'll find a good home for her," Betty said. "Or maybe someone who knew the mother will come forward and claim the baby."

Katniss doubted that; the person who left the baby put her far enough away from the trail, and late enough at night that if she and Peeta had gone elsewhere, she surely would have perished. Whoever abandoned her didn't want her to be found...and they certainly didn't want her to survive.

The thought made her stomach turn, and she pushed her plate away.

The smoke coming from Veena's cigarette wasn't helping, either, and Katniss put her cards down and got up.

"I-I'm sorry," Katniss said as she grabbed her sweater. "I need to go."

She left the lunch.

The next thing she knew, she was at the hospital, in the nursery, watching over the tiny newborn she found in Paylor Park.

Katniss wanted to hold her again, but the nurses said that the baby was sleeping and need not be disturbed. She saw all the other babies squirming, crying, sleeping, or just looking around in wonderment. She looked back to the baby she fed, held in her arms.

The child opened her eyes suddenly, almost as if she knew that Katniss' eyes were on her.

She went down to the phone at the nurses' station, and dialed the number to the factory.

"Mellark and Sons Bread Company, how may I direct your call?"

"Um, Mags, hi," Katniss said.

"Oh, good afternoon, Mrs. Mellark," Mags said jovially.

"Hey, is Peeta busy right now?"

"No Mrs. Mellark," Mags said. "Would you like me to transfer your call to his office?"

"Yes please, thank you," Katniss said.

A few minutes later, the phone rings on the other line.

"Peeta Mellark."

"Hi Peeta," Katniss said.

"Hey babe, how are you?" He asked. "How was the bridge game?"

"I'm at the hospital," she said without answering his question, or giving any further preamble.

"Are you okay?" He questioned, concern and panic edging his voice. "What happened?"

"N-No, I'm-I mean, I'm fine," Katniss explained. "I just came to see the baby...to look after her for a bit."

Peeta sighed. "Babe...she's going to be alright."

"I know," Katniss said quietly.

"Do you really?" He asked softly. "Babe...she's in good hands, alright?"

"I know, but...what if she doesn't get a good home?" Katniss asked. "I just...I can't stop thinking about her."

"I know, me neither," Peeta admitted. "But I know that she will be okay. I don't know why, but in my heart, I know that she's going to be alright."

"She just..." Katniss sighed, blinking back tears. "It felt good holding her...it's what I'd wanted for so long before we..."

"I know," Peeta said. "Babe...are you sure that you're going to be alright while I'm gone?"

"Yes," she said.

"Katniss, are you absolutely sure?"

"Yes," she said more firmly, resolved. "You're right...she's taken care of."

"We'll just remember to keep her in our prayers," he comforted.

"Okay."

"You know what? I'll get off early today, and we can do something," he suggested. "Maybe go to a show? Or go for a drive...whatever you want to do..."

Katniss smiled. "Yeah..okay."

"Alright, think about it," he said. "I'll be home in about an hour."

"Okay," she said softly. "I love you."

"I love you too, babe," he said. "See you at home."

With that, she hung up.

Katniss went back down to the viewing room, and she gazed at the baby.


Peeta sighed as he sat back in his chair, his thoughts on Katniss. He was worried about her, about this whole situation with the baby, and how it was affecting her, both of them, actually. He was pretty sure that the child was going to be placed into a good home, but in the back of his mind, that worry, that same concern that Katniss had gnawed at him. What if she didn't get placed in a good home? With people that were going to care about her and give her a good life?

He was trying to stay positive, for Katniss' sake because he knew how her mind worked. She obsessed, she fixated on things sometimes, and it stressed her to the point of despair. There were times that Katniss could barely get out of bed, especially in the early years of their marriage. Every time, his heart broke because that was the one thing he couldn't fix, or heal. Katniss inherited the despair from her mother, and it made her angry to know that, it fed the bitterness she still held for her mother. He knows the signs well now, and does his best to try and help her cope.

He got up and went to his father's office.

"Dad?"

"Yeah son?"

"Is it okay if I take off early today?"

George Mellark took off his glasses and closed the files he was looking at.

"Is everything alright?" George inquires.

"Yeah," Peeta says. "It's just...I'm worried about Katniss. Ever since we found the baby...Katniss hasn't been able to stop thinking about her. Honestly, I can't either, but I think it's starting to get to her. I don't even know if it would be a good idea to leave her alone when she's like this."

George got up and gestured to the couch, and Peeta took a seat.

"It's been a long time since her last episode," Peeta explained. "But I've seen it coming for a little while. Finding the baby might be a catalyst..."

"Well, you do what you think is best," George advised. "I can handle the business in Chicago. Family is first, son. I've always told you that."

"Yes sir," Peeta said. "I just...I love my wife so much, and I want her to be happy. I come home and it's me and her, and I know that she loves me, but it's just us in the house..."

George put his hand on his son's shoulder.

"Go home, son," he said. "In fact, take a little bit."

"Dad-"

"I'm telling you not just as your father, but your boss," George grinned. "Take some time off, be with your wife."

Peeta hugged his father. "Thank you, Dad...I love you."

"Love you too, son," George said.

Peeta signed a few documents, and helped his father with the last minute preparations for the meetings in Chicago.

It took Peeta some time to get used to working this closely with his father. His father bestowed the title of partner to him five years ago, and it was an incredible privilege, being trusted with so many responsibilities regarding the factory. His brothers were in charge of the mechanical side of things, making sure that the floor was running smoothly. Peeta always had more business sense, like his father, and it was expected that he would be taking over the financial side of the business.

Van and Isaak had no problem with that, which was a good thing because the last thing they wanted was for the family dynamic to be thrown off. Peeta was the youngest, and for him to have such a position of authority carried the potential for conflict. George weighed his decision heavily, and when it was all said and done, he knew in his heart that Peeta was the right son to entrust his finances and business to.

It felt weird to him, though, having an office (which his mother had decorated by some Swedish guy named Flavius). It was sleek, and the colors were right-contrasting orange tones-and the furniture was comfortable, but oddly shaped. It took some getting used to, but when Peeta began adding personal touches, like pictures of his wife, and family, and other things, it felt a little more relaxed and like home.

Peeta gathered up his things, locked his office, and headed home.

When he arrived, he found Katniss lying on the couch, the TV on low, and a magazine draped over her chest. She must have dozed off, and he grinned, taking in how gorgeous she looked. He came over and kissed her forehead, and she stirred, her eyes fluttering open.

"Hi," she sighed.

"Hey babe," he said as he kissed her lips softly.

Katniss gazed at her husband, and she brought him down to her lips for a loving kiss.

"I love you," she whispered.

"Love you too..."

He captured her lips with his again, and he deepened their kiss. Katniss sighed as she pulled away.

"I'm going to go change," he said.

"Okay."

Peeta went upstairs to their bedroom, untying his tie. He opened up the closet and took out something comfortable. He unbuttoned his dress shirt, too it off, and he placed it into the hamper.

He saw Katniss come into the room through the mirror.

"Did you decide what you wanted to do this afternoon?" He asked.

She came up behind him and kissed his shoulder.

He turned around and wrapped his arms around her.

"I want to stay in," she whispered against his lips.

Peeta's eyes darkened as she caressed her hands down his chest.

He claimed her lips in a kiss that was fiery and deep. His hands roamed over her back, then slipped up under her blouse, caressing her soft skin. He moved his lips over her chin and neck, and she tilted her head back. She untucked his undershirt and pulled it up. He pulled away and she pulled it up and off before he drew her back to him.

He cupped her cheeks in his hands, and kissed her hungrily, and she moaned softly, pulling him with her toward their bed.

Peeta stripped Katniss of her clothes, and he peppered kisses over her velvety, olive skin. She giggled as he started with her feet, then made his way up her legs, then he placed his hands on her knees and parted them. She shuddered as his lips worked their way up her inner thighs. He loved her with his lips and tongue, leaving her a squirming, sweaty, and pleasured mess, then he kissed his way up her body.

Katniss helped him undo his pants and push them off then their bodies molded and melted together.

After, Peeta dragged his lips over her damp neck, his fingers tangled up with her long hair, and his other hand caressed over her skin. He came up and captured her lips with his. She hooked her arms under his and parted her lips, inviting him to deepen their kiss.

They pulled away, and eventually, they curled up together, Peeta spooning her and leaving tender kisses on her shoulder every now and then. His arm was wrapped around her waist, his palm splayed over the smooth, pale scar on her lower abdomen. The scar that was the remnant of a long-abandoned hope.

In the haze of the afternoon, they were two bodies lying together, immense love burning between them as the silence reverberated through every room of the home they shared.

The question they both had, perhaps at different moments (between getting dressed and having dinner), or simultaneously as they reclined in bed, was not if, but when the day would come when just simply being together, just the two of them, would no longer be enough.


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