Title: Dandelion – Chapter Fifteen: The Next Generation

Warnings / Spoilers: none / THG, CF, and MJ

Pairing(s): Katniss/Peeta

Word Count: 502

Author's Note: final Dandelion chapter

Katniss watched silently through the living room window as Peeta and the children played in the yard. He was facing the other direction, but somehow she knew without seeing it that he was smiling.

It had been months since his last attack, and they all hoped those days were mostly behind them. He would never be the same as he was before the Capitol tracker-jackered him. He struggled every day to be the same, but sometimes he had to plaster on a fake smile and force his way through a moment, a situation, or even a day. Katniss could see it, each and every time he fought to retain his identity. When she could tell he was winning that fight, she would leave him alone, avoid triggering a second wave of the attack that he may not come back from, accept the fake smile and try to smile right along with him from a distance. When it was obvious he wasn't winning the battle for his own mind, however, she'd stay nearby, hold his hand, talk to him, sing to him, try to keep him there with her. She always knew that it could end badly, and that if he did finally snap, she wouldn't fight him – as long as she was the only target of his black-out rage, she would endure it if necessary. But when he would snap out of it, calmly, without incident, they would embrace, beaming.

Their children could recognize the signs of an attack now, too. Katniss and Peeta had made sure to explain to them as best they could what was going on with their father and how they could best help him. Katniss wanted to instruct them to keep their distance, but Peeta was confident in his ability to avoid hurting them. He asked that they stay close to him no matter how bad his state of mind – they were to touch him during an attack under no circumstances – and make sure he could see them. If possible, he asked that they continue to play as if nothing was wrong, hoping that seeing his children happy could snap him out of it.

Sometimes that worked.

Other times it didn't, but the children were always safe with their father. If that ever ceased to be true….

Katniss didn't even want to think about it.

She could see him now, through the window, and he looked like the happiest man alive. The children were laughing, rolling about on the grass, trying to pull their father down with them, tickling him when the opportunity presented itself.

Kneeling in the grass, warding off small tickling fingers, he looked up at her happily. Then he beckoned for her to come out and join them.

Katniss laughed, watching her children finally get the better of their father: they were piling on top of him on the lawn, all three laughing madly. I'd better go rescue him again, she thought as she rose from the chair and headed for the back door.