A/N: Already the end. Thanks to everyone for reading, favorite-ing, and reviewing!
Thirteen Years Later
When Katniss slips into the woods each morning, she thinks. She thinks about Peeta and the way his strong hands looked holding a paintbrush as she was leaving, the way Haymitch's geese wake her multiple times a night, and how old Greasy Sae's stew will taste with that deer that's nibbling on grass some yards away.
Oftentimes she tries not to think, too. She tries not to think of the way her sister laughed at Lady the goat, or how Gale's steady smile greeted her past the fence every day, or the way Rue was twisted in on herself after the spear had impaled her.
And for the past decade or so, she has tried not to think of a little boy with her dark hair, Peeta's curls, Peeta's eyes, Peeta's smile –
Because she doesn't want that. She hasn't wanted that since she was an uncomplicated girl. She still doesn't want that. Right?
Lately Katniss has allowed herself to spend more mornings in the woods considering the idea of chasing chubby legs across the grass, peals of laughter reverberating off of the houses in the Victor's Village. Since Peeta's plea, months ago now, the walls around her long-ago decision have slowly cracked and crumbled, until only the remaining dust is what gives her pause.
She hears what her husband has been saying – the world is a new place, and kids don't have to kill each other for sport, and food isn't scarce, and neither she nor Peeta are planning on going anywhere – but for years that hasn't been enough, hasn't stopped the what-ifs – what if Peeta's flashbacks return, what if the new government is overthrown, what if I die, what if he dies and I can't go on and it's my parents all over again –
But recently, in the woods, when she pictures little hands and the what-ifs bombard her and she's ready to give up entirely and stalk home and tell Peeta that she is never going to change her mind and he'll have to deal with it or divorce her – she hears his voice, his calm, familiar voice, quelling all of her fears, one by one, until the last stares her in the face: What if I'm a terrible mother?
And one morning, the day Katniss thinks about the way his boy-with-the-bread-calloused hands held that paintbrush so delicately as she was leaving, she hears his answer to this worry, too, as clear as if she'd just asked him: You won't be.
On the walk back home, Katniss thinks of the way Johanna Mason had been with she and Gale's two-year-old the last time they'd visited, nurturing and supportive and so different from her usual brash and tough demeanor (which she had still displayed quite fiercely once the little one was off playing with some sticks). If Victor Johanna Mason from District 7 could be so good at parenting with Gale's help, couldn't Katniss be at least passable alongside Peeta?
She meanders through the Meadow, the late-summer sun trekking towards its noon position. As she passes through town, her normal route to walk home, she imagines a little boy or girl beside her, maybe holding her hand. They'd stop in front of shops and peer into the windows, and Katniss would lift him or her up so they could have a better look at the things behind the glass. They'd practice good manners and wave to friends, and they'd stoop down on the sidewalk and look at the little flowers sprouting in the cracks. And when they neared the famous Mellark Bakery, the little child would tug free of Katniss's hand and run for the open door, and by the time Katniss got inside, Peeta would have lifted their child into his strong baker's arms, mirror smiles on their faces.
Katniss has reached the bakery, in fact, and looks inside – her husband is chatting animatedly with customers across the counter. He hands a delicate pink cookie to the woman, a special treat he created himself, airy and sweet – a Primrose.
He catches her eye as she stands in the doorway watching, sends her a grin. She half-smiles back, knows that her arrival will prompt him to close for an hour's lunch. She'll wait until the sign is up to tell him what she's been thinking about all day.