Hey guys! This is for sure the last chapter. I felt this was a pretty good way to end it, but I'm also not completely satisfied. I will probably be publishing more Katniss/Peeta stories in the future, if anyone is interested.
I hope you guys enjoy this! It's been a blast to write. :)
When Eden is twelve, we sit her down to tell her about the games in detail. She's a mature child, and Peeta thinks the right time has come. Haymitch, who is getting on in age, but still managing, comes to take Asher to town for a day of who-knows-what. We all sit around the island in the kitchen, with the book we made so many years ago between us. I carefully slide the yellowed pages in front of her and her blue eyes search ours for answers.
"Mom?" She questions, looking at me. Before I can answer, she turns to her father. "Dad?" He smiles sadly.
"We know you learn about the history of the games at school, but do you mind telling us exactly what you know?"
"Well," she begins, brushing her dark hair back, "The old government put them on as punishment, right?" I nod and she continues. "Kids had to compete until there was only one left and they were really horrible."
Peeta nods. "Anything else, sweetheart?"
"And you and Mom basically stopped them." She bites her lip. "That's all I know." I know they don't really go into detail in the lower school, but I find it hard to believe she doesn't know more than that. She has plenty of friends who go to the upper school who know much more than I would like. I guess that's what happens when you used to be the Mockingjay.
Peeta runs his hand through his hair. "Alright, that's fine. Your mother and I want to tell you the full story before you hear it from anyone else." He turns his head and looks at me for confirmation and I take his hand.
"Yes, we think that's best. But we also think the best way is for you to look through this," I gesture to the book, "and ask your own questions and we'll answer them, alright?" Eden looks at the bound pages in front of her and carefully opens the cover.
The first page is the description of the Reaping, it tells about everything from Effie(she giggles at the pink wig), to my mother's blue dress, to Prim's ducktail. Peeta has drawn all of these things in such perfect detail it's almost like being back on that horrible day. Eden runs her hands over the pictures and carefully reads the paragraphs.
"You volunteered for Aunt Prim?" She asks quietly, as if she doesn't know if the question she's asking is alright.
"I did," I answer. "She was too young, too fragile."
"And Dad was just picked?"
"Yes," he says, one handing starting to drum a rhythm on the granite.
"But you had older brothers, didn't you? Why didn't they volunteer for you?"
He clears his throat before he answers and his face turns solemn. "One was too old, and the other, we just weren't that close." Eden blinks a few times, as if she's taking in all the information.
"I would have volunteered for you, Dad." She says, without looking up. "If I could have." She turns the page without waiting for us to reply. I see Peeta smile sadly from the corner of my eye.
"Don't say that," he says gently. "But you're very sweet, Eden." She reads about the Justice Building, how my mother, Prim, and Gale came to see me, telling me I had to come home. She reads about Peeta's father, and then stares at her own father for a moment before looking back down.
"Weren't you guys scared?"
"Terrified," I answer truthfully. "But I knew I had to do it."
"I even cried," Peeta says, with a hint of laughter to his voice.
"I would probably do that for Asher," she says. It makes me proud that she would do that for her brother, but the relief I feel that she will never know that feeling is incomparable. The next page she sees is the one with the colorful buildings of the old Capitol.
"Is this the old Capitol?"
"Yes," Peeta answers.
"It's ugly," she states bluntly. Eden giggles as she reads about the wonderful, rich food we ate on the train. "You would describe the food." I laugh as she turns the page and sees the beautiful outfits Cinna had made. "You look so different, Mom." She points to the dress that shimmered when I moved. "You look like you're on fire."
"That's what they called her, 'Katniss, the girl on fire.'" Peeta states, squeezing my hand lightly. Eden continues through the book silently until it comes to the part where it discusses where Peeta teamed up with the Careers.
"Why?" She asks, looking at Peeta but pointing at the picture.
"Well," he sighs. "My only goal at that point was to protect your mother. And at that time, it was the best way."
"Haymitch was your mentor, wasn't he?" Eden asks, slightly nibbling on her bottom lip.
"Did he help you decide that?"
"Yes," he says, "It was our secret from your Mom."
A minute or two passes before Eden yelps out "Mom!" and looks at me sharply. "You threw those horrible things on Dad!"
"Well," I say, running my hands over my eyes.
"She did, but do you understand why?" Peeta answers before I have a chance to speak.
"I guess," she shrugs, "but I don't know if I would have if I was her. You're my dad, Dad."
"Yes, I am," he says calmly. "But your mom thought I was the enemy at the time. She's very smart like that; she was only doing what she thought was necessary."
Our daughter continues to flip until she discovers where Cato cut into Peeta's leg. I watch her face fall and I wonder if we're doing the right thing.
"Is that…is that where your fake leg comes from?" Eden doesn't look up from the book.
"No," Peeta replies, "that comes later." She nods and reads in silence until she comes to Rue's horrific death.
"You sang that to Asher and me when we were little."
"Yes, I did."
"Why did you do that for her, Mom? No one else would have." Her question wasn't one I expected, so I take a moment before I answer.
"She was so young. She reminded me of Prim, and she deserved it. It was the last thing she asked for before she died." Eden smiles at me.
"You're such a good person, Mom." I feel my eyes brim with tears so I close them tightly and take a deep breath.
"I'm glad I know who wins," she smirks, "but I thought there could only be one winner?"
"Another one of your mother's brilliant plans," Peeta says with a smile. Eden turns page after page and I wonder how she's taking all this in. She seems to be reacting well, but being my daughter, she hides her emotions well. She smiles at the pages about the cave, laughs at the part where my head begins to bleed ("That is so you, Mom!"), and exhales heavily when she reads I had to drug Peeta with the sleeping syrup.
"Mom," she says sharply. "That was mean! And dangerous! Dad said he didn't want you to go. Why did you do that? You were so mean to him." She sets the book on the counter in front of her and throws her hands out. "Dad is just such a good guy! I don't understand." Peeta laughs lightly and my forehead creases.
"I had to, Eden."
"She's right," Peeta says with a smile. "But I'm thankful she did, and you should be too, because if she hadn't, neither one of us would be here right now." She purses her lips and goes back to reading.
She doesn't say anything about the next few pages, just snorts when she reads the description of how loud Peeta was in the woods. "Dad, it's true. You're so loud. You and Asher both!" He laughs along with her. Eden doesn't offer much about the death of Foxface and I think it's because she worries about saying something that will offend her dad. After a few minutes, she simply states "it's too bad. She was clever."
Our daughter begins to tear up at the part about the Mutts and I reach to take the book away from her, but she pulls it out of my reach. "No, Mom. I want to keep reading."
"I think you've had enough for one day, Eden," I reply. "We'll look again some other time."
"No," she says, more strongly. "I'm not finished." She's almost as stubborn as I am, and there's not much more I can do. I consider leaving the room, but that's not fair to Peeta or Eden. She deserves to have both her parents telling her the story.
She doesn't tear up again, only looks up at both of us with her brilliant blue eyes.
"Dad, had you really loved Mom all those years?"
"Yes," he states, laying his arm around my chair. "All those years." Eden continues on her trek through time and smacks her hand against the table as she reads about the rule change being overturned.
"What!" She gasps. "How could they have done that? You guys made it all that way."
"The Games were horrible things, Eden. They never planned for us to both win." I say, and Eden turns the page and sees the way Peeta dropped his knife, but I loaded my arrow. She closes her eyes tightly and only opens them again when Peeta begins to speak.
"I gave up my weapon because even back then, I knew there was no life for me without your mom. And you know your mother, always so suspicious." She manages a smile at that and looks at me.
"So that's when you came up with the idea for the berries?" She asks me.
"Yes, and that's how we both made it out, which really upset President Snow." She reads the next pages without comment, only occasionally looking up at us and smiling. We've written a bit about Gale in the book, and I wonder if she's going to ask about him. Eden has met him only once, maybe twice, I can't really remember. She was about seven, and he had come to the district on business.
"Is this the same guy I met when I was younger?"
"Gale, yes," I say. "You met him when you were about seven."
"And he loved you, too?"
"He said he did."
"Did you love him too?"
"Not like your dad," I reply, looking at Peeta. He's looking at me the way he always has; the look that makes me feel blush and turn away, even after all these years. "Eden, do you want to take a break? We've been sitting here a long time. I think Haymitch and Ash should be home soon." Eden frowns.
"When will we finish?" I don't know the answer to her question, so I look at Peeta for help. I think the rest of the book should be kept until she's older- she knows as much as she needs to for now, in my opinion, but I think Peeta feels differently.
"We'll make you a deal. I know you think you're ready to hear the rest, but it's a lot to take in in such a short period. You know a lot, and you've taken it really well, but I think we should wait some time before you go on."
"But," she begins.
"Eden," I say, "you're not ready. I promise we'll look again soon."
I can tell she wants to say much more, but the look I'm giving her makes her stop.
"Alright," she sighs, closing the book and sliding back to us. I gently take the book and leave to put it back in its place. When I come back, she's icing cookies with Peeta. I move to stand behind them to watch, and she puts down the cookie she's currently holding. Eden pulls me forward so she's standing in between the two of us. She wraps her arms around us the best she can and tells us some of the greatest words I've ever heard. "I love you guys," she says, first resting her head against Peeta and then against me. I look at Peeta, who is smiling widely at me.
"We love you, too," Peeta says, and leans over to kiss my cheek.
"Yes, we do. Very much," I reply, taking a newly iced cookie off the sheet.
One year later, while Asher is at a friend's house, we sit on the floor of our living room around the coffee table. The book has made it's reappearance after Eden has turned 13.
"Have you not learned about the Quarter Quell?" I ask, not sure if they mention them in the history of the Games.
"No," she says. "They only told us there were special games every twenty-five years, but didn't really go into detail. You guys were in it, right?"
Both Peeta and I nod our heads. She flips through until she gets to the second reaping.
"How did I know you would volunteer, Dad?" Peeta looks at Eden and grins.
"I don't think Haymitch would have made a good tribute, do you?"
"Probably not," she agrees. "Why did they do this though?"
"President Snow was an evil man," I say. "He wanted to punish the strongest of the country to remind the regular citizens how much we were at the government's mercy." She nods a few times, but I'm not sure she understands. We have made our children's lives easy, much easier than ours were. Our children are never hungry, Eden hunts with me for leisure, not out of necessity, and they have never experienced the horrible feeling of dread from reaping day.
Eden comes across a picture of Finnick. "Merritt," she says, "His dad?"
"That's right," Peeta says. Merritt is now slightly older than Finnick was when he died, and he looks just the same as his father did. Eden and Asher have come to see Merritt as an uncle of sorts. Him and Annie call weekly, always being sweet and charming, just like his father.
"Merritt really does look just like him." She grins. "Is Merritt like him? I've heard you talking to Annie saying he was."
"Exactly like him, right down to his voice." I say, leaning down to look at the picture Peeta has so carefully drawn.
"I didn't know Annie was called," she says. "I guess I didn't even know she was a Victor until now; I never really thought about it. How did she win her games?"
"She could swim the best when they flooded the arena." I reply, watching Peeta carefully. I still think Eden's too young to learn all this, but she hasn't brought learning anymore since we told her about our first games last year. Occasionally she'll ask Peeta or me questions about what she already knows, but doesn't understand, but never about knowing new information.
Eden points to Mags. "That's who volunteered for her?"
"Mhm," I hum.
"She was so old, though. How? Why?"
"She could make a fish hook out of anything," Peeta says quietly. "And she was an amazing woman. She died to save us all."
"She was, and she was Finnick's mentor during his games. Mags was pretty much his family."
"That's so sad." Eden replies solemnly, and turns a few pages. Her bottom lip begins to quiver when she realizes what had happened when Peeta hit the force field. He wraps an arm around her shoulders and I can't help but shoot him a sharp look that he hopefully takes as "I told you she wasn't ready!"
"Hey," he says softly. "Don't cry. Obviously I made it."
"Well, yeah, I know that. But still…it's hard to read about."
"I understand," he replies quietly. He kisses the top of her head and watches her carefully for the next few minutes.
"Johanna is kind of mean," Eden states. She's met her a few times before, but only briefly. I'm not sure Johanna has ever fully recovered, but I don't think any of us have. She reads in silence until the end, where the arena is blown up and we're left in mad chaos.
"Mom, as smart as you are, you're kind of oblivious sometimes." Peeta bursts out laughing and immediately covers his mouth with his hand.
"Excuse me?" I ask, glaring at the still-laughing duo.
"I'm not trying to be mean, but, during the first games you were kind of…always so suspicious and couldn't believe Dad wanted to help you, and then this time, the Gamemaker even gave you a clue and you didn't get it until you were almost threw with the Quell."
I'm not really sure what to say. I feel as though I'm being attacked. I've been through all this, and now my teenage daughter is calling me out on being oblivious? My face must betray my anger because I see the color drain from Eden's face and she loses the smile from her face that looks so much like mine.
"Please don't be mad, Mom. I didn't mean it bad. I was just…I'm sorry." Peeta rubs her shoulder consolingly.
"It's okay, Eden," he says. "Why don't you go see what your friend Olivia is up to?" She closes the book and silently leaves to get her coat. Peeta waves goodbye as she walks out the door.
"Katniss, you okay?"
"Yeah, fine," I say, "It's perfectly okay to be demeaned by your child while telling her the story of the horrific and awful story about people dying by slaughtering each other!" I huff as I grab the book of the table and stomp up the stairs to put it in its hiding place. I hear Peeta following after me, so I leave the door open.
"You know she didn't mean it like that. It was just an offhand comment." He sits on the bed and watches me slam drawers just because I feel like it. I know I'm being ridiculous, but I can't help it. She doesn't understand; she doesn't have any reason to.
"She doesn't get it, Peeta."
"What do you mean? Of course she gets it."
"No, I don't think she does. She's never lived like we had to. She's just reading and making comments like it's no big deal." Peeta sighs and I stand at the foot of the bed with my hip pressed against the foot-board.
"Katniss, I love you very much, but will you listen to yourself? Of course she's reading it and making comments. What else do you want her to do? She's never lived like we had to because of what you've fought for- what we've all fought for. I have no idea what reaction you were expecting, but for me, she's doing exceptional. To me, the way she's taking this all in shows what a great job of raising her we've done."
"And besides, Katniss, you've even said yourself you're not always as self-aware as you think you are. Eden is your daughter; obviously she's going to remark about your personality traits. Think about it." Peeta finishes and rests his head against the pillows. He looks at me once more before shutting his eyes. I don't move from my position from the end of the bed and I exhale. I always hate to admit when Peeta's right. A few minutes pass and I'm still pouting.
"Figured out you're wrong yet?" Peeta asks with his eyes still closed, but with a smirk on his face.
"Shut up," I say, hastily leaving the room before he can get anymore satisfaction about being right.
When Eden is fourteen, Peeta and I settle on to our bed with Eden in the middle. She has the book in her lap, and we're finally going to get to the full war. Eden does not know about Peeta's hijacking; only that he was taken by the Capitol for a while before he came back to 13. When the kids were little, he would have his moments, but after a few seconds of him holding tightly on to a chair, they would pass. Eden and Asher only watched, but never asked what was wrong.
Eden is now almost as tall as I am, with dark hair that she wears in a braid occasionally. Her gray eyes are still as bright as they were when she was small. Now that she is older, she spends more time in the woods alone.
"So District 13 existed?"
"Yes," I say.
"But you weren't with Dad. Dad was in the Capitol, right?"
"Correct," he says.
"But Gale was with you, Mom?"
"Yes," I say again. Peeta laughs as our daughter's nose scrunches up.
"I know he was your best friend and all, but I prefer Dad."
"Me too," Peeta says, and Eden laughs. I shove his shoulder, but I find myself laughing, too.
"I think I do as well." I say.
"But Finnick was there?"
"Correct again," I say.
This time, I end up telling her most of the story rather than her asking questions. "You're so brave," she says. "You, too, Dad," she adds after a second. Although the last time we did this, her lip quivered when she read about Peeta walking into the force field, this time, she full out cries. It's not wracking sobs, or her not being able to breathe, but there is a stream of steady tears that don't seem to stop until we're finished.
The stream seems to grow as we near the end of the book, and the part where Peeta plants the Primroses really makes her come undone, so I quietly take the book from her hands and set it on the floor. Eden wipes her face on the back of her sleeve.
"Just so…" she babbles out. "Just so sad." I run my hands over her hair.
"Eden," I say, "Please don't cry. It's okay. Everything is alright." Peeta rubs her back and it seems we're both at a loss for what to do. After a few minutes, she's stopped crying, but she's still sniffling.
"All those people," she manages. "And you guys made it through. And Haymitch, too."
"Yes, we made it, and for the last eighteen or so years, we've had a pretty perfect life." Eden leans back against the pillows again and looks at us both.
"I'm really glad you guys are my parents," she smiles at both of us.
"Thanks," Peeta says. "I'm glad I get to be your parent."
I take a tissue from beside our bed, and gently wipe her face as I used to do when she was small. Unlike usual, Eden doesn't complain, just lets me clean her up.
"I feel pretty drained," Eden admits. "I think I'm going to take a nap now." She easily climbs off our bed and heads for the door.
"Sleep well," Peeta says with a smile.
"We love you," I call as she walks down the hallway toward her room.
I lie down on the bed after I hear Eden's door shut. "That was incredibly rough. I hope she's alright." I murmur, more to myself than anyone else. Peeta shifts so he's lying beside me and runs his thumb over my cheek.
"She's your daughter, she'll be perfectly fine."
"And she's your daughter, so she'll be perfectly fine." I reply, letting my eyes drift close.
"I think we did pretty well with kids, if I do say so myself." Peeta states, and I can tell he's grinning. He places his lips against mine once, twice, three times before he pulls back.
Yes, I think, we have come so far, and have done extremely well.
I hope this chapter was a good ending place for guys. I never thought so many people would be reading this story and it just really, really brightens up my day when I get an email someone new has reviewed, added this to their alerts or favorites. Y'all are awesome!
Reviews are always wonderful too!