What became of us.
This huge life became normal too me so quickly. I couldn't blink that we were not rushing around to make our next event. Haymitch Abernathy, the first president of Freepanem, was beloved and held his office for twelve years.
He kept me knocked up a very good deal of that time. We paraded out little heard of seven to events all over the world. Of course we suspected that two of them were Peeta's but we publicly blamed the blond curls on my mother's side of the family. We knew and Peeta knew. All the children belonged to the three of us; it is just the way we are.
The only people who really know of our arrangement are those closest to us. Finnick Odair, who was busy raising his own fleet of pretty boys because Annie kept trying for a girl. Of course, Johanna figured it out. You can't keep things from her. She had gone to District Four just to visit, and never left.
She married one of Finn's Uncles, Wakefield Odair. Finnick takes great delight in calling her Auntie Jo. She hasn't killed him yet, but we know that she could change her mind any moment.
Finnick fishes these days. He built some crazy double keeled monstrosity that has changed the way people look at him. His boat is named the MockingJo after his two best friends. He is so proud of it and it just looks like a boat to me. I am embarrassed to say that it pleased me that he'd named her for Auntie Jo and me. It makes me feel like we three old soldiers will never quite stop being connected.
The Abernathy Horde is beautiful, just like Haymitch said they would be. Haymitch is the worst father in the history of Daddy antics. He teases them, spoils them and I honestly think he would kill himself before raising a hand to them. Peeta is almost as bad, but he likes to sit them down and calmly reason with them. Mommy does not have the ability to let them run wild. I yell.
Rue is the oldest and she is as bossy as her aunt Prim. I was right. The baby who went with me to take down the capitol and capture Snow, was a girl. I tell Haymitch she will be either the greatest human to ever live, or a drunken monster. When Haymitch held her the first time, he looked terrified of her. She got her bluff in early, and Daddy never recovered. He might be president, but she was his commander.
Haymitch Jr came along only eleven months later. He is my darling. He is his father, without the horrible cares and burdens. He makes everyone laugh and his sarcasm is as advanced as his father's but swings toward humor rather than criticism and bitterness.
The twins were born a little over a year after that during our second election campaign. We named them Thresh and Finnick, but they liked to cook and bake like their father. Peeta doesn't treat them any different from the others. When he looks at them, then at me, his thanks shines through, but it isn't that I gave him children alone. It is that I loved him even if he was a Mutt. It took him years to stop being afraid to be alone with me, but what we chose worked. Eventually, as his episodes faded, Peeta became a stronger version of that sweet boy who went into the arena twice, intending to lose.
After that we tried to take a break from the baby machine but the twins were just two when we discovered that baby Cinna was on the way. Three years went by and then Effie Rose bounced into our lives followed by our youngest, Maysillee.
They were a handful. I was so thankful for Cinna and Effie. They had no children. Ours became their life. Cinna had many surgeries that restored him to some degree. He looked more like himself again and he eventually left his chair behind thanks to the robotic device that allowed his brainwaves to bypass his spinal break.
We settled into the politics of Freepanem. Prim and Rory became doctors and then were married at the capitol. Rory specialized in micro-surgery and Prim became an obstetrician. She delivered Effie Rose and Maysillee.
My mother and I never really could be called close, but she loved her grandchildren and she and Prim were thick as thieves. They all were in District Four so that became our second or third home too. Mom did start a hospital there and I have to say that even if we never quite meshed, I was very proud of her. She ran to a schedule that made even my head spin. She never married again but she did keep a picture of my Daddy and next to it one of Mr. Mellark on her desk. She refused to explain the presence of Peeta's father sitting among her family, but I think I know.
Life was so perfect. I could never have dreamed of more. I watched the world become a better place and I knew that maybe I had paid my debt to the universe for those lost in my war. I had changed something after all. I had played well.
I nearly fell apart as I watched the presidential hovercraft crash in the Rocky Mountains only twenty minutes into the flight. I couldn't breathe as I watched my husband disappear in a ball of orange flame. The investigation showed pilot error. Haymitch had used his position to talk them into letting him drive. Later we found that his controls had been sabotaged.
We had all meant to be on the flight but Haymitch insisted at the last minute that we should stay home and celebrate Effie Rose's fifth birthday and let her namesake go wild with party plans. He promised he would be back in time to blow out her candles. It was only the second promise he'd ever broken to me.
It had taken a long time for Effie Trinket to really forgive me for marrying Haymitch. She did include me at her wedding. It wasn't like she could not invite me beings it was Haymitch who would walk her down the aisle and hand the bride to Cinna. She and Cinna held me together until Peeta arrived to let me fall apart in his arms.
Finnick Odair arrives in hours with his leathery skin and his calloused fisherman's hands and props me up with the words I needed to hear. He told me I had made Haymitch the happiest man in the universe and I had to live up to that by staying focused. I played the part of strong young widow and though I had barely turned thirty, I felt as old as Greasy Sae.
Peeta understood all the nights I lay in his arms beyond tears and beyond death. But he stayed by my side and helped deal with the very public and elaborate ceremonies demanded by the tragic death of a national hero. I couldn't turn around that a picture or statue of Haymitch didn't smile at me and whisper that word to me that melted my soul with its sarcastic adoration.
Peeta caught me drinking and watching the hover craft slam into the mountain. The sound of the voice recorder was spliced into the footage and I could hear Haymitch crackling in the background "Oh god Katniss, I love you, Sweetheart.."
It was the last thing he'd said in this life. I knew what I was doing. I knew I was replaying it seeking insanity. I never did this in front of anyone. I was drinking a lot by then and I had played this vision a thousand times or more by the time Peeta caught me.
He turned the screen off. I didn't react or apologize. I finished my bottle and passed out sitting on the couch. When I woke up the next morning all my copies of the footage were missing. I had a new copy by the next night. This continued for a few rounds.
Peeta sat next to me finally and watched me flick the eighty seconds of footage again and again. I drank, stoic and aloof as my mentor had ever been.
"I don't know how to save you now, Katniss. He's not here to explain you to me this time. You're going to have to do it. Why are you doing this? It's like looking back fifteen years and seeing him instead of you. It is just all I can do not to laugh or cry. He would hate me for letting you slip away like this. I will call Finnick back if it will help."
"I can't help it Peeta. There is no help. In my brain every day he's dead feels like longer than we were together. I feel like the games have taken me back. I feel like I will wake up and be back there again and all of this was just a dream from the Trackerjackers. I will wake up and you will be with the careers and I will find out that you threw the spear and everything after was just a death dream. A glimmer of a dying imagination. It all went so fast Peeta. There wasn't enough time. Eighty seconds and I have to keep telling myself, that they are real. Nothing else is real."
He leaned over and kissed me. "Does that feel real, Katniss?"
"Yes." I looked at him and smiled a little.
"I love you Katniss. I have loved you since I was a little boy. Does that feel real or not real?"
I lean on him and sigh. "Real" I took his hand and felt better. He would hold on to me and get me through it all.
He kisses my head and squeezes my hand. "Good. Then we start there. Because, I can't raise all our children without you."
"Peeta. Do you think he suffered?"
"I think he's suffering now." Peeta's blue eyes sparkle with tears.
"Peeta..." I hiss in anger.
"Katniss. Where ever he is, he feels you. Send him love, but don't send him sorrow. Don't make me face him someday, knowing I failed you. Let me help you. He was always five steps ahead of everyone else. If you don't think he's watching over us this minute, then you are underestimating him."
"Then he knows how mad I am at him right now?"
Peeta grinned. "I don't think he was ever happy if you weren't."
I lean back on his chest, laughing that he's probably right. "Say it for me Peeta."
"Katniss, I can't..."
"Please, I need to hear it." My voice is a whisper.
"I love you… Sweetheart."
My dress is orange, the color of sunset. In the meadow of District Twelve a crowd gathers. It is a small wedding. Only a few hundred people were there. It was tiny compared to things that took place in the capital. Peeta stood down by the arch, waiting for his bride. I walked alone down the aisle except for the tiny life I secretly knew stirred inside of me. My seven children marched down the aisle ahead of me like little stepping stones leading my heart.
I took a step and shuddered as I felt his touch on my back. Nobody could see him but I knew he was there. His touch was familiar and he held me steady as I took another step and then another. In my ear I could feel the hiss of the static though I hadn't worn the earpiece in years. Distantly, intimately, I heard his voice.
" I always knew you would save that boy. I counted on it. I told you once he would rescue you from my evil clutches. He gave you to me for safekeeping and I am retuning you, with all my love and blessings. I always sent you what you needed, Sweetheart."
I look up at him and see him smile. I place my hand on the one touching my arm and whisper. "You always did. Every time. Love you, Haymitch."
Annie has covered her mouth in astonishment and Finnick is holding on to Peeta. Some could see him and there were anomalies in the footage that were inexplicable.
Peeta smiled as he slipped the second band on my finger to his whispered I do. My first band stayed in place and his guarded it. He was our protector and my reservations about a second public marriage were finally gone. I looked down at my hand that now possessed a new ring with a pearl setting. We had passed through the fire and won this quiet peaceful love.
Peeta and I raised children and they never questioned or resented him, because he had always been there. He decided to run for president, then suddenly withdrew. He never explained why and I was actually thankful for his decision. Our children took their places in life, most leaning to Politics and Peeta was involved even though he didn't play. He guided many hearts to do what was right and I liked my more private quiet role in the world. I never would be able to stay out of controversy. I was not made that way.
My last child was born seven months after my wedding. Prim flew to district Twelve and I gave birth privately in our lakeside cabin. I was nervous for some reason as the days passed waiting. The date was eating at me. I spent many hours next to the stone monuments that marked the resting place of Gale and Haymitch.
I walked in the woods every day as we waited and I felt someone there. I would turn to a specific sound and expect Gale or Haymitch to come ambling out from behind a tree. After seeing Haymitch so clearly, I admit that I hoped it would happen. He didn't show himself. I never saw Gale, but I knew he was around.
Three years to the day that Haymitch left us, we welcomed Jaymee Gale into the world.
Peeta held his daughter for the first time and laughed. "She might has well have arrived with a silver parachute attached. Don't you see, Katniss; we have to celebrate this day now. He's still with us, watching over us, like in the games. Just like he walked you down the aisle." he said with a knowing smile.
In my ear, a whisper. "Yes, Sweetheart."
"I feel like Gale is here too." I admit softly.
When I am up and around, I take the baby to Gale's grave. It is late in the afternoon and the light is magical and touches every leaf with sweetness. I want to tell him I never forgot him and named my baby for him. I stop as I see the weeds gone rampant on his grave.
"What is that? Is it mint, Katniss?" Peeta frowns looking at the two foot tall green blanket that has appeared in just days.
"It's. Peeta, it's…Catnip." I smile and listen carefully for him as the breeze suddenly whispers through the treetops. Her little grey eyes pop open for a second as if something cold has touched her face.
The sun burned bright orange in dusky peace as all the fire cooled and I suddenly understood that even the darkness I had fought for so long was only a gentle reminder, that even if the day is too hot, there is hope in the equable promise of the night.
"That everything is on fire, slow fire, and we're all less than a million breaths away from an oblivion more total than we can even bring ourselves to even try to imagine..."
― David Foster Wallace, The Pale King
Ok, once again I do realize that the pairing is iffy – but it is not that farfetched that one or both of them could at some point develop feelings beyond plain friendship, affection, and kindness - those things are all elements of love and true love, deep love does not have to ever be acted upon to exist. Sometimes true love does find physical expression.
Some of you may recognize the many Grail themes that play here.
Haymitch – The maimed king. The old one unable to live or die.( Pelles) – or seen in some more modern versions the old Arthur – losing his faith and letting his kingdom fall in betrayals and possessive sorrow. In this story, I let the kingdom redeem itself. I don't let Haymitch fall into the bitter possessive sorrow the most popular version of Arthur did. He never abandons the warrior goddess to rumor and self-doubt, he hands her his soul without demand.
Peeta – The young innocent Greylion(the lion of wisdom in old English) – (Garlon) The builder of the city of Y's betrayed and tragic. (In the new versions – the youthful hope of Arthur. Bread is the symbol of life. Pearls equal the pure of heart. The true Grail King – who loved too deeply and survived his kingdom disappearing beneath the waves.
Finnick – the Fisher King of course –(Pellinor, brother to Greylion) but also the Balin figure, the knight of two swords. He who waits. He who represents the struggle of the new way and the old. The Truth vs. Myth.
Gale – The Lancelot figure who would bring about the fall of the kingdom, for all the right reasons and all the selfish ones of the heart. Romantic, wild – Power, danger and battle – wrapped in a tragic package.
Katniss – the warrior queen – the Geneviève, the Gwen. Purity, innocence, darkness all wrapped up in something that can't be explained – the Magdalene in the Christian romances.
For those who have wondered, why I picked a chameleon to represent Haymitch, it was because he could transform. He hid within the bright colors of evil, never quite becoming part of it, while seeming to on the outside.
I hope you enjoyed my little tale – thank you for your time. Please review.