Hey guys! I know I've been gone for a loonnnggg time this time and I'm so sorry. This semester was a bit insane. Real life is hitting hard with another move out of the country. But I'm trying my best to remember you guys and get to this story as often and as soon as possible. It's lovely on a stressful day to read that you guys are still with me and still reading and waiting for updates. So here is the long overdue Chapter 21. Enjoy!
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Peeta and I learn very quickly in the next few days that taking care of Glen is absolutely nothing like taking care of Iris. Other than the obvious feedings and diaper changes, we are much less prepared than we expected. I expected having had a child before would make taking care of him easier. Besides not being as nervous around babies in general, I admit two days in that I am absolutely ill-prepared. Glen is, as I suspected, so very different from her. For one, he eats less. Not that it matters. Glen is a slow baby and thus a slow eater. He does everything with prior infant thought and carries out all movements and behaviors like a little turtle. I can easily sit with Glen pressed to my chest for an hour and a half before he decides he's done. Glen is more attached to me than Iris was as well. Iris wasn't particularly needy insofar as contact and being held. If she wanted to be held, she normally gravitated more towards Peeta than me. Glen is the opposite. I haven't experienced this yet. I am used to Peeta being the preferred parent. It makes more sense to me for him to be since he's a model parent as far as I'm concerned. But Glen clings to me like I'm his hope of heaven all the time, tiny hand tangled in my braid. And Glen never wants to be put down. He cries more than Iris, but his cries are so very quiet, as if he's afraid to make too much noise. It takes us a while to notice his small, hesitant whimpers. Eventually, they'll escalate into a real cry, but not until he's whimpered enough that he's sure no one will notice him unless he really cries. He starts the quiet whimpering as soon as anyone puts him down. But he's an unusually placid baby as long as he's with someone. I shake my head at him as he presses his cheek against me, blinking calmly.
"What is it with you?" I ask him very softly, chuckling a little.
His grey eyes flick up to me and he stares at me with that pensive, analytical look of his. Peeta moves up behind me and Glen's eyes move to him.
"Are things scary without Mama with you?" Peeta croons, stroking his downy, yellow head.
"I think so. I think he's scared of being alone. It's okay, no one's going to leave you," I assure him. He blinks once more.
"He seems very serious," Peeta giggles as Glen shoots a wary, infant scowl at a brass pot he seems to find particularly threatening.
"You were serious like that, Katniss," my mother interjects. "Though I don't think you were ever really scared. You just didn't like anyone until they proved themselves worthy."
"That sounds about right," Peeta grins.
"Prim was the skittish baby. Everything under the sun scared her," my mother shakes her head wistfully.
"My mom said I was the same way," Peeta grins sheepishly. "So he's got a double dose."
"Why is he scared of everything?" Iris asks, cocking her head, staring at him hard. It's a foreign concept to her. Iris is scared of almost nothing.
"I don't know, little duck. Some people are just very cautious. Mama's one of them."
"No you're not, Mama, you're not scared of anything."
"Cautious doesn't mean you're necessarily scared. Just that you make sure you can trust something or someone before you make a decision."
"Oh. Am I cautious?"
"I...no, I don't think you're a very cautious person, Iris," Peeta shakes his head. "Which is not bad-" he assures her as she pouts. "It's neither here nor there."
"You should tell him not to be scared. I'll make sure nothing gets him," Iris assures, determined.
"Oh, I think he knows that already, little duck," I lean down and kiss her on the forehead. And it's true. There are few people Glen trusts, but Iris is undeniably one of them. He clings to her with almost as much strength as he does me. It reminds me of Peeta and Prim both.
Within a week I'm back out in the woods, much to my mother and Peeta's disapproval. This time, I have both Iris and Glen with me. Iris bounces along at my side and Glen cuddles up to me, sitting in that wrap that I still have.
"Where are we going, Mama?" Iris asks curiously.
"Well, we can check the traps and hunt a bit in a little while. But do you remember that little section of trees we went to so much before Glen was born?"
"Yes! It's pretty!"
"It is, and I think Glen will like it since he used to kick when we were there. So we're going to go there for a bit."
I smile as Iris starts clambering up the tree before I do. She's still small, but she's just like a little squirrel. She climbs like I do.
"Look, Mama, I made it up by myself!"
"I see that," I assure her, breathing a little harder than normal. The aftereffects of pregnancy plus Glen's solid little body strapped to my front makes the climbing harder. But I make it just fine and settle on a thick branch. Iris is happily hanging off one just next to me, swinging back and forth.
"Iris, be careful," I warn her.
"Yes, Mama," she immediately clambers up to sit next to me. The mockingjays are all separately singing their own tune right now. I whistle a short one. The canopy goes silent for a moment until they decide to start chiming in, repeating the one I've just whistled. And just as I predicted, Glen perks up. His little grey eyes widen and he cranes his neck as much as he can. I slip him out of the wrap and put him in the other way around, making sure to support his head since he's still far too young to do it himself. I know he can't see the canopy well with his still-weak newborn eyes. But he clearly sees enough and he squeaks infinitesimally. He waves his arms around wildly.
"He likes it," Iris notes, smiling at him.
"He does, doesn't he? You did the same thing at the lake when you were this small."
"Yes. You did when you were in my belly and you did after you were born."
Iris just nods, processing the information. I think back to that day by the lake with Iris; how I just talked to her about everyone who should be alive to see her. And I get the same rush of feeling looking at Glen's feathery-looking head and chubby, waving arms. I kiss his head and sigh against it.
"Mama, are you sad?"
I swallow hard. Iris is only perceptive where those she loves are concerned, but she is indeed frighteningly perceptive then.
"A little. Don't worry about it, little duck, Mama's alright."
"Why are you sad?"
Iris isn't letting it go. I decide to be as honest with her as I can.
"I miss people who aren't here and wish they could have met you and your brother."
"Mostly my sister, little duck."
"Oh." Iris is pensive for a moment, but I know the questions are going to keep coming. Iris is unfailingly full of questions. I'll tell her what I can; she's only asking because she's worried about me.
"What was her name?"
I realize with a start that I've never told Iris my sister's name.
"Primrose. But we called her Prim."
"What did she look like?" Iris asks with curious, wide eyes. I smile.
"She was very small. Shorter than me, though she was only thirteen when she died, so she might've been taller when she was grown. But I don't think she would ever have been very big. She was a bit pale, a lot like your grandmother, and had blond hair and blue eyes a lot like her, too. And she wore her hair in pigtails all the time."
"Do you have a picture of her?" Iris asks eagerly. Glen has gone still. I'd wonder if he was asleep except that his eyes are still wide-open. I can't tell if he's listening to the Mockingjays who are still singing, or if he's listening to my voice. If I didn't know better, I'd say he was paying rapt attention to what I'm telling Iris.
"Somewhere, yes. Mostly paintings, though. Your daddy painted a few of her after she died. To remember."
"Did she come out to the woods with you?"
I laugh a little.
"No, never. Prim didn't like the woods like you and I do. She was scared of them and hated when I shot anything."
Iris giggles a little.
"She was scared of the woods?"
"Oh yes. Prim was scared of almost everything."
"Like Glen?" Iris smiles.
"Yeah, I guess so," I smile down at him.
"What did she do when you brought deers home?"
"Deer," I remind her gently. "And she was out here once when I shot one. She tried to heal it. That was what she was good at, though. She was like your grandmother that way."
"That's funny, Mama. Because you're not scared of anything."
"That's not quite true. But I was definitely scared of a lot less than she was," I smile, remembering. "That's why I tried so hard to make her feel safe. I don't think she felt safe very much, unless I was with her. I'd sing to her like I do you."
"Did you sing the same song?"
"Yes," I sigh. "I sang the same song to her. And I called her little duck, too."
"All the time."
"Would she have liked me?" Iris asks in her small, eager voice.
"She would've loved you," I tell her in a near-whisper. "And Glen. You two would've been the most important thing in the world to her. Along with her own babies, had she had any."
I knew I'd have to tell Iris about her when she was older, and could understand. And I'll have to do the same for Glen, I think as I stroke his downy head. But it's still as if I'm telling them both right now.
"Do you think Glen will be like her?"
"He might be. He's certainly about as skittish as she was so far," I chuckle. Glen continues his quiet staring, unawares.
"I'll make sure he's not scared, though," Iris assures me, resting her chin on the handle of her tiny bow, small hands clutching it. Her braid dangles errantly. I smile very softly at her.
"I know you will, little duck. I have no doubt."
"I'm not scared of anything, like you," she boasts.
"I'm sure you're not," I chuckle. "But if you were, it's okay to be scared, Iris. I've told you before, I'm scared of a few things."
"What are you scared of?"
"Like I always say, I'm scared of losing you, or Daddy, or Glen, or Grandma. Or any of my friends. People I love."
Iris thinks for a minute.
"I guess that's scary, yeah," she whispers, staring at us both.
"Yeah," I agree. "But it's okay to be scared, little duck. As long as you do your best not to let it stop you."
Iris nods, determined. "I won't let it."
"I know you won't," I smile softly at her.
We sit in silence for a while until Iris giggles out of seemingly nowhere.
"What are you laughing at?" I tug playfully on her braid.
"The bird. He's really chubby like Glen and his feathers look like his hair," she titters, pointing. It takes me a moment to find it, but finally I spot the bird. It's a tiny, yellow chickadee. A particularly fat one with slightly curly, soft-looking feathers. The bird's face is as round as Glen's and he hops around clumsily. I laugh a little too.
"It does look like him. Glen, look, you're just like him."
Glen's gaze and wobbly head are just as clumsy as the bird. The bird starts chattering squeakily and it sounds just like the faint peeps Glen makes right now. Glen tries to watch the bird as best he can. He squeaks so faintly I barely hear it.
"Are you a little chickadee, Glen?" I grin at him. He wobbles a bit before he yawns.
"Okay, okay, I'll let you go to sleep," I murmur to him, turning him back around in the wrap so he can rest his head on my chest. He cuddles into me immediately. I carefully pick my way down from the tree as Iris skitters down the other side. Iris stays quiet as I hunt and so does Glen as he dozes against me. Iris is now fairly adept at helping me gather herbs and check traps. Sometimes her fingers are a bit clumsy for the more intricate traps, but in turn, her small fingers and short stature make her quite good at spotting and gathering some of the low-growing herbs that are harder for me to see.
Iris has much more fun than I do with everyones' reaction to Glen as we do our customary trek through town. She is much more positive and patient a presence than I; she gets it from Peeta. Although even I enjoy watching the general air of joy that follows us today as everyone peers at the downy blond head and ruddy, infant face at my chest.
"Oh look, he's got that blond hair of Peeta's."
"Goodness, you've got yourself a little boy, and a pretty one at that."
"Look at that curly hair."
"He looks like you in the face, Katniss."
A lot of people say something to the effect of, "You've got one just like you, and now Peeta's got one just like him." I don't mention that Iris has a lot of traits of Peeta's and that it already seems that Glen has inherited my penchant for anti-social and cautious behavior. I just nod and let them gush. Almost everyone tells me how beautiful he is. And they're right. Glen has a lot of my slender features, made a lot less sharp by Peeta's genes, and those dove-gray eyes and dandelion-blonde hair. He is indeed a pretty baby. Both of them are. Iris has a wild, untroubled, hopeful sort of air with her wavy dark hair and the bluest eyes anyone has ever seen. And Glen, from what we can see already, has a quiet, calm, refined aura that I like already.
Glen isn't very responsive to everyones' attention. He mostly stays asleep as if he isn't particularly keen on interacting with a wealth of strangers. He opens his eyes for our last two stops, first at Sae's. She chuckles the throaty chuckle she has and runs a small section of his hair through her fingers. Sage is the last and she smiles a small, closed-mouthed smile, which is about as much as anyone ever gets from her.
"Finally decided to come out, then?"
"After being a week overdue and keeping me in labor for seventeen hours," I huff. "It's a good thing for you that you're cute," I direct down at Glen. He just continues to clutch my braid and blink. Florian loudly babbles nonsense syllables at his mother, waving a rattle in his fist. He seems a fairly insistent sort of presence, a lot like Sage herself.
"What's his name?" Sage asks with her normal terseness, regarding my baby carefully.
Sage nods sharply once, which means approval on her part. Glen squeaks a very small bit as Florian shakes the rattle particularly hard. Florian stops and listens to the small squeaking for a moment before squealing laughing. I laugh with him.
"He's so loud. Like someone else I know," I dig playfully. Sage snorts.
"He does that with sounds he likes. So apparently he likes that little squeak he's doing," Sage nods at Glen. She shakes her head a little. "He's quieter than Iris was."
"Who's quieter than me, Mama?" Iris tugs on the sleeve of my hunting jacket.
"Sage is saying that Glen is quieter than you were when you were a baby."
"He is very quiet," she agrees, nodding vigorously.
"But apparently your Florian hears him just fine," I smile, watching Florian pause once more, staring blankly up, before he giggles madly, shaking his rattle with a vengeance when he hears the little squeak. Sage smiles the barely-noticeable tender smile she only wears when she looks at Florian.
"He seems to. He's probably happy to hear another baby around. It's not like there's many here," she gestures vaguely to the main thoroughfare of District 12. And I suddenly realize that Glen might not be as lonely as Iris was before she made friends at school. Glen and Florian are the same age and will be able to keep each other company, provided they get along. He's only a week old, but from what I've learned of Glen in a week, he seems like the sort of child that gets along with a wide variety of people. I let Glen and Florian squeak and babble, respectively, at each other for a moment before giving Sage the customary nod goodbye as I turn back towards home.
As we're walking, Iris dances ahead of me a little. We're halfway home when she stops and turns to me.
"Mama, we have to go by Uncle Haymitch's house!"
"Well we can, but why, little duck?"
"Uncle Haymitch told me to promise I would ask you to bring the baby over. He wants to see him! He hasn't even seen him yet and it's been a whole week!"
"Well, why don't you run ahead and ask Uncle Haymitch if he wants lunch? If not, I'll bring Glen over, but I think your Uncle Haymitch might like to get out of the house."
Iris darts ahead of me and I watch her zig zag up the hill towards the Victor's Village. Iris is a fast little thing just as she was when she was a baby. I watch her knock on his door, talk animatedly for a moment when the door opens, and subsequently dart back to me.
"Uncle Haymitch is going to come over."
I nod at her. I figured as much. Haymitch seems to be outside a bit more than he used to. I suppose he's trying to keep from losing what little progress he's made.
Peeta grins from ear to ear when we all walk in. He immediately kisses Iris on the head, kisses me, and gently lifts Glen out of the wrap at my chest, cradling him lovingly. Glen waves his arms around at him as best he can.
"Did you have fun, Glen? Do you like walking around with your Mama?" he croons and I shake my head. Peeta is so deliriously happy lately that I can't help but feel the same. He leans forward to kiss the tip of Glen's nose and for a moment their blond hair tangles together and I marvel that it's the exact same shade. Glen kicks his legs happily and Peeta grins at him.
"Oh, Haymitch is coming over for lunch. I think he wants to see Glen," I warn Peeta, since he's the one who'll have to cook to feed an extra person. Although, as expected, Peeta replies, "Oh, it's alright. I made enough, I always try to."
"How'd you fare outside today?" my mother asks, sizing me up.
"A little out of breath, but just fine otherwise."
"You know you should probably wait a little longer after having a baby to traipse around outside, Katniss. Not that my telling you that will do any good."
I shrug and my mother clucks at me a little before moving over to pet Glen's head. Peeta grins at her and hands him to her. She euphorically bounces him up and down, making faces at him. Both Peeta and my mother love babies more than almost anything. I tend to fare better with children after they learn to speak. Although even I can admit that there is something sweet about the warm, quiet weight of a baby on your chest.
"Uncle Haymitch!" Iris squeals, loud enough to make us all jump. Immediately after, I hear the quiet whimpers coming from Glen's direction. My mother automatically hands him off to me; I'm the one who'll be able to quiet him the quickest.
"Hey sweetheart," Haymitch greets Iris, moving his bottle into the crook of his arm so he can give her the hug she clearly wants. "Having fun terrorizing your mother today?"
"I don't do that," Iris shakes her head, although I'm not sure she completely knows what "terrorize" means.
"Sure you don't," Haymitch quips sarcastically before looking up to me. His eyes flick down to Glen, who quieted as soon as he got his tiny, pink fingers around my braid. He's blinking placidly as ever. Haymitch almost chuckles, but settles for rolling his eyes.
"Jesus, it's Peeta Jr. He looks just like you, boy," Haymich directs at Peeta. Peeta grins but shakes his head.
"He has my hair, but he looks like Katniss in the face."
"Does he?" Haymitch asks. He must be just inebriated enough not to look at Glen too closely. He lumbers closer.
"Let me see him."
I've learned to judge if Haymitch is too drunk to hold babies, and he seems alright for the moment. I pass Glen to Haymitch, who holds him like a football in one arm. He peers into Glen's face.
"So he does. He's got those Seam eyes of yours," he tells me, his own gray eyes searching Glen's face. "Got that sharp, strong chin, too. But at least he's a boy. You've got a chin like a man, sweetheart."
"Haymitch, you really can't go a day without insulting anyone, can you?" my mother pesters him. I'm sure she used to have to bear his sarcasm when they were both young, even before his Games.
"It's just honesty, don't shoot the messenger," he shrugs.
"At least I have a chin," I volley back. Peeta tries very hard not to laugh and Haymitch sneers at me. Both Peeta and my mother fail in their quest not to laugh at my retort and they both dissolve into giggling in the background. "It's just honesty," I shrug back. Haymitch rolls his eyes and stalks off to one of the chairs around the kitchen table. He sits down with Glen and keeps giving him that hard stare he always does.
"You don't have much of a sense of humor, do you, kid?" Haymitch laughs a little as Glen blinks up at him with an infinitesimal frown on his small face. "Got that from your mother."
"He's just cautious," Peeta defends him. Haymitch ignores him.
"Quieter than your sister, though. Got that from your dad, I bet. Your mother never shuts up, you'll learn that."
We ignore Haymitch's monologue and eventually he stops it. He and Glen just sit quietly together for a long while. Iris falls asleep sprawled out on the kitchen floor next to him immediately after finishing her lunch. We all sit with quiet, slow conversation every now and then. Haymitch leafs through a copy of the paper my mother left on the table from this morning. Both she and Peeta read it every morning. They share the same one since relatively few copies are sent to tiny District 12. I tend to avoid it since we both crop up from time to time. I don't like to be reminded that Panem still likes keeping tabs on me and Peeta, even if the interest is innocent now.
"Hey kid, did you know you're in the paper?" Haymitch asks Glen. I freeze.
"It's okay, Katniss, there's no picture of him or anything. Just a mention of him, that's all," Peeta murmurs calmly, already at my side.
"What did they say?!" I snap at Haymitch.
"Katniss, Peeta's right. It's harmless," my mother tries to calm me.
"They published something about Iris after she was born, did you know that?"
I nearly choke.
"Yes, just a small paragraph. And that's all this is, too. They probably just ask people around the District about it. They don't know all that much from the looks of it. Here, do you want me to read it?" Peeta asks, rubbing my shoulders to try and calm me down.
"Read it," I demand with gritted teeth. I know I'm spiraling into a breakdown and everyone around me is doing everything they can to pull me out of it. All I can think about is that people are publishing information, however vague it may be, on sweet, rambunctious Iris who is sprawled out on the floor, and on tiny, squeaky, feathery-headed Glen who sleeps in the crook of Haymitch's arm.
"Listen. Past Hunger Games Victors and war revolutionaries Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark welcomed a child on Thursday of last week. Sources in District 12 tell us that Glen Mellark was born sometime in the afternoon or evening on Thursday." Peeta sighs and shakes his head before continuing. "Our sources also tell us that little Glen has his father's blond hair and mother's mockingjay-gray eyes."
"Are they gonna list his blood type too?" Haymitch snorts. "Trust the Capitol to have to report what his damn eye color is."
Although the Capitol no longer has the same power over the Districts, the city itself still exists, is still the center of legal processes in Panem, and the people inhabiting it are almost as shallow and foolish as they were years ago. I suspect it'll take a few more generations to get sensible people living there. And for some reason, despite the fact that I spurred the rebellion that destroyed half of their city, killed their President, and overturned their way of living, they still love me. I suppose old habits die hard. The Capitol still loves their victors and they love me and Peeta the most out of any of them. Either that or the Districts now have enough control over Panem's information and media that they can publish what they want regardless of what the left-over Capitol citizens want.
"They gave Iris's hair and eye color in the one they wrote about her," my mother sighs. "If they knew the weight, they'd give that too."
Peeta purses his lips and continues.
"Glen is Katniss and Peeta's second child, brother to five-year-old Iris Mellark. After our Mockingjay's tragic loss of her first baby after the 75th Games, which was a Quarter Quell year for those who were too young to have watched it, we know every citizen of Panem is overjoyed to welcome first Iris, and now Glen. Panem is glad to know that, for the star-crossed lovers of District 12, the odds finally seem to be in their favor."
I sneer a little. The odds are not in our favor that much if people are still keeping tabs on us.
"See? They don't know very much, Katniss. It's not as if they're filming you still or anything," my mother offers.
"I'd rather them not know anything at all," I snap.
"I don't think they mean it maliciously, Katniss. I mean, of course I'd rather them not know so much either, but they're just so happy. The Capitol always loved you, even if it was misguided. And the Districts? They hang on your every move, you know that. And you're alive and you have two healthy children and they know they can do the same and that their children won't have to go into the arena because of you."
I know that Peeta is right. I don't like it; I'd give everything to be able to escape into anonymity. But I've known for many years that I'll never escape being Panem's mockingjay. Panem will always, however innocent it is, be watching my every move.
"I know. I just don't want them watching my children."
"Look, sweetheart," Haymitch starts, eyes as hard and practical and honest as always. "Hate it all you want, but your kids are going to be about as famous as you two are. You need to start reading the paper and checking up on what they are checking up on. You need to know what everyone else knows about these little rugrats so that they don't grow up and leave District 12 and suddenly everyone they talk to starts crying, or wants their picture and they don't know why."
"They'll know why, I'll tell them about the Games eventually-"
"No, they won't know why. They won't think that people will gush over them. You, yes, but not them. You've got to warn them, sweetheart. Everyone is going to look to them as as much of an example as you are and they'll watch them as closely as they do you and they have to know it before it blindsides them. It's not fair, but it's true. I'm not saying to tell them now, but when they're old enough to understand, you've got to."
I scowl, but I nod because I know Haymitch is right. All I want is to hole up in District 12 and never leave. I want to live anonymously, I want to make sure my children never have to deal with my past. But I can't. It is something I have to remind myself every day. I have only taken Iris out of the District once, when she was a baby, and Glen is far too young to have ever gone. And that is a problem. Once again, I am reminded that I can't hole up in District 12 and leave my children unprepared to deal with their world. Haymitch nods in response to my own nod. He seems to be able to tell that I've realized what he means. I resolve, at some point, to take my children out of District 12, when Glen is old enough to understand, too.
"Do they publish things on them often?" I swallow hard. I don't read the paper, so I have no idea how closely people watch us. Peeta reads it every day; he must deign not to tell me if there's something in there because he knows this is what will happen.
"Hardly at all. It's only been when Iris was born, and now Glen," Peeta supplies. I nod quietly. I pace over to where Haymitch cradles Glen. He hands him over without a word and I scoop the baby into my arms and press him gently to me. Glen grabs my braid as he's wont to do.
"I...I may go outside again for a bit. Just let Iris sleep," I tell them quietly. Waking Iris is never a good idea; she tends to throw tantrums if woken up. That and her enthusiasm for everything also means a lot of probing questions that I do not have the capacity to answer right now. I do not want to have to explain to her just yet why she and Glen appear in the paper from time to time. I just want quiet and calm. Which is why I wrap Glen up and take him with me. Once in the woods, I do not just talk to him. I ask him things.
"What should I do, Glen? You seem like a sensible baby, how would you react?" I laugh a little to him as I sit in the trees with him. I let the mockingjays titter whatever they please. Glen stares and blinks.
"I'll take that as an 'I don't know.' I'm sorry to ask you big questions like that. You're a baby. You're both babies. You shouldn't have to process information like this. Ever. And I'm sorry that you'll have to some day."
Glen listens quietly. Something tells me that this trait, this penchant for being a quiet, placid listener, will carry through out of babyhood.
"I'm sorry, but your mama and daddy have a lot of baggage that you'll learn about someday, my little chickadee," I smile a little at the nickname I've just come up with, stroking his feathery hair. He squeaks a little.
"And I don't know when your sister is going to start asking questions I don't ever want to answer. You'll ask them someday, too. I don't think I know how to answer them, Glen. I really don't."
He continues to blink, hand clenched around my hair. An aching lump forms in my throat.
"Your sister is so happy. She's an innocent sort of person. How am I supposed to tell her about the Hunger Games?" I choke. A few tears bead in Glen's yellow-blond hair as I start to cry. It's the first time I've said that phrase to either of my children. And instead of them being to Iris, who is five and might have some hope of understanding, it's to week-old Glen whose eyes seem older than mine. I shake my head at the absurdity of it. But it doesn't seem as absurd as Glen presses his cheek to my breastbone and cuddles up to me. I know in my head that he doesn't understand a word of what I've told him and that I'll have to tell it to him again when he's old enough to understand it, just like Iris. But I also think, on some level, that he understands something of what's happening. At the very least, he seems to know that his mama is upset. And instead of crying with me like Iris would've done, Glen just presses his cheek to me as hard as he can and clutches my braid. I rock back and forth a little bit, clutching my baby to me, my lips pressed to his hair, as I cry. My tears soak spots of his blonde head. He is the most comforting presence I could hope for. And for once, I feel better when the tears have slowed. Glen wriggles a little when I kiss his head one last time and raise my head up, looking with swollen, red eyes on the trees in front of me. He squeaks, questioning.
"It's okay now, chickadee, Mama's alright. Thanks to you."
I slowly climb down from the tree I'm lodged in. Glen falls asleep on the walk back to the Victor's Village. Everyone regards my puffy, pink face apprehensively as I come back in. Iris is still asleep.
"Katniss?" Peeta asks.
"I'm okay. I just...needed a minute. I'm fine."
Peeta searches my face and smiles a small bit when he realizes it's true.
"He's a good little listener," I chuckle thickly as I look down at him. "Like his daddy," I look across at Peeta. And I think for the first time in a long time, as Peeta kisses my cheek and Glen sleeps quietly at my chest, that whatever happens, that it'll be alright. It won't be easy, but in the end, it'll all be just fine.
Hope you all enjoyed Chapter 21! As always, do stop by and leave a review and tell me what you thought. Until next time!