The morning was hazy as they so often are. The dust from dead humans and crushed buildings seem to swirl through the wind in the same way. There is no difference between dust that was once living and dust that was not. Real or not real? Not real. I don't care that dust swirled just the same it does not change the fact that the humans that died, all died for me. The Mockingjay.
Peeta reassures me that it was not my fault that they died. I personally did not have any affect on whether their lives ended or not. They would all die of hunger anyway, so what was there to fret about. He was wrong. I had enough power to destroy them and by default should have had enough to save them. It is no use arguing though. He is stuck in his ways just as much as I am and I suppose that is why I love him so much.
One time when I had asked Finnick if he knew that he loved Annie when he met her, he had told me that it grew over time. I knew that I loved Peeta after he told me that. It took a while for Peeta to return to his normal self, but eventually he got there. He was still wonderful with words. He made my favorite cheese biscuits and continued to paint as usual. Peeta was mine all over again and before I knew it we were back where we started, waking up in each other's arms, kissing incessantly and never letting the hold between our hands break.
Still, Peeta couldn't ask everything he thought of so we still had moments where he would ask "Real or not real?" and I would still answer honestly. It was an unspoken rule and the only one I obeyed. I had never lied to him during this game and I knew that was one of the reasons he continued to play.
One morning a few weeks back, I caught Peeta painting in the study. He pinched his face in that beautiful, focused way that it used to when he frosted. He didn't notice me because he was so intense in his work. When I snuck up behind him, my hands found their way around his waist. I nuzzled my face into his muscular back as he put his paint down.
"Katniss," he whispered. That word, my name, had come from his lips with so many different inflections: shouting, hissing, whispering, intrigued and the good old romantic. Now his voice was yearning and needy, still highlighted with the love that seeped from every pore of his body and every breath of his being. I smiled into his back and his muscles moved pleasantly against my face. A nimble hand reached back to rub my arm. I took this as my cue to release him that way he could at least see me. His brilliant blue eyes were gorgeous as usual. They were a constant through rough times, like water crashing on the rocky remains of our complicated relationship of the past.
His arms cradled me the way that I loved. I dug my chin into his chest to look into his face. His lithe fingers curled around a hair in my face. His thumb stroked the highest part of my cheekbone as he leaned down to me closing his eyes at a measurably slow pace. While matching his movements I craned my head to nestle into his shoulder and caught sight of the awe-inspiring painting.
My eyes must have popped straight out of my head, fallen back in and popped out once more. I had all but forgotten Peeta's presence until he kissed my neck. He sweetly and softly trailed them up until he had blindly reached my face. I was looking over his tall shoulder at the canvas when he finally opened his eyes with worry.
"What's the matter?" he asked moving his hands that had suavely landed on my hips back to my shoulders. I still was gazing at the easel. With my chin in his firm grasp, he forced me to look into his caring and innocent eyes.
"What are you painting?" I asked, tears bubbling up like water in a spring. I managed to jimmy my way free of both his hold on my shoulder and jaw. I took a small step past Peeta and towards the painting until I was facing the wondrous monstrosity. When I felt my knees knock I fell onto the ground. Up until now, Peeta had been watching me curiously. As I fell, he rushed to my side, kneeling next to me at trying to soothe me by kissing my head.
"What are you painting?" I asked again in a demanding voice before I trailed off in a watery sort of way.
"Katniss… if I had known it would make you so upset-"
At this, I openly sobbed, choking on a dry heave. I covered my mouth the way my mom used to when she cried, as if it would help with the tears streaming down my face. Peeta attempted to pull me from the canvas but it was no use. He could lift my slight figure a thousand times over, but that would not help him pry my fingers out of the carpet.
On the canvas was a baby. It was beautiful. It had dark peach fuzz upon its little head and bright pink skin that glowed. Its eyes were a conflicted, bright but stormy blue that drowsily seemed to drop off into a slumber. Its mouth was curved into a satisfying line that implied that the baby was about to yawn. It was all wonderful and pretty, but it was all too… us.
"Is that ours?" I asked, uncertainty trembling in my voice. For a long time he didn't reply, and I hoped so intensely that it's because its not. When I found it possible to tear my eyes from the painting I figure out that I had no such luck. Peeta's eyes were watering as he nervously chewed on his lip. That was the moment that I knew it was true. That baby was a perfect, artistic mix of Peeta and me. That baby was perfect period. I never wanted that baby.
"You don't want children. Real or not real?" he asked with a voice void of emotion. I wanted so badly to give him the answer he wanted, but I was not going to begin my lying streak now. He deserves better than that.
"Real." There was a long moment where I sat with my legs folded awkwardly beneath me and Peeta hovered over me with sadness in his eyes. Neither of us spoke. Neither of us moved. I was at his mercy to do something and it felt awful.
At that moment, the bell in the kitchen tolled. His biscuits had finished and he needed to retrieve them. Finally, I knew that I could move. He stood up slowly, maneuvering his metal leg with care. He took my hands and helped me up, never letting go as he brought me to the kitchen. I broke off and land in the rocking chair. My face had not moved so much as an inch since I had replied. Peeta, as normally as usual, removed his pillows of cheesy heaven from the oven and laid them out to cool. He approached me and I managed to avoid eye contact, hoping that it would be enough to voice the fact that I did not want to talk about it. He pulled the footrest in front of me and sat down.
"Peeta," I beg. He replied with a stripe of flour across my face. I couldn't avoid smiling as I sniffed and wiped my finger across my eye. He leaned across the now small gap between out faces. Again, he managed the perfect pace at closing his eyes. I had put a finger to his lips. His eyes snapped open.
"You love me. Real or not real?" I asked, playing the game just as well as he does. Peeta answered my question with a kiss just like the one that we shared at the Quarter Quell… no, not just like it, better.
Things were different the rest of the day, but as soon as we went to bed, I was haunted by yet another nightmare. When I woke up Peeta was watching me. It was impossible not to feel bad when I realized that he had been awake all night. My mouth was dry when I tried to speak. Peeta beat me to it before I could wake up my mind.
"You had a nightmare again," he said straightforward, but still concerned. I nodded, still trying to make my mouth work again. Peeta's bare chest was distracting me from finding the words to say. How is it possible for a baker to have a perfect body? I blamed him for my obvious lack influential words.
"Which one was it this time?" he asked his voice low and groveling. I wiped my long, dark hair from my sweaty face and looked at his sleepless eyes.
"It was a new one. I was pregnant," I replied, with an utter lack of gusto in the explanation. Peeta's face fell. I knew I had hurt him. It took him a while for him to find the right thing to say, to work up the courage to speak again. Buttercup in the meantime had cuddled at the end of the bed. I knew that as long as Buttercup was there that Peeta would not have to stay up during the night, not that it would stop him.
"It wouldn't be the first time you were," he chuckled. I exhaled a breath and closed my eyes wishing he would drop asleep, but I knew that wouldn't happen. Every night I had a nightmare Peeta was awake to soothe me, the bad part, every night I had a nightmare Peeta was awake to force the story out of me.
"Tell me about it," he murmured as a mere suggestion. His hot breath caressed my face and his hand rubbed my bare arm. I worked to sit up sideways; the way he was, in order to look less vulnerable wrapped up in his body. During this struggle, Peeta's metal leg graced my foot with its presence. I took a sharp intake and jumped away from the cold metal. In an instant, everything that the Capitol did to us flashed through my head. After that, the last thing I wanted to explain was my petty worries about children, but I did anyway.
After a lengthy explanation of the dream, Peeta coaxed my real worries from me. I confessed that I had been afraid of bringing kids into our horrible world, but now it did not seem like such a solid excuse. Then there was whether I was ready to be with him. He didn't say anything but he knew that it was not the real reason. The one that struck home was that I was afraid I wouldn't be a good mother. He laughed when I said that… literally laughed aloud. He was lucky that he could not see the fervor on my face.
"Katniss, of course you'd be a great mother. Just think, you're the Mockingjay, what can't you do? Besides, if you aren't a good one, I'm sure I'd be a great father," Peeta chuckled wholeheartedly. I made a disdainful snort.
"Why don't you have the kid then," I said snidely. He ran his thumb down my jaw and made me shiver.
"Do you remember when I first came to District 13?" Peeta asked, pausing for me to reply. I had no idea why he asked, but it hurt to remember.
"I remember that day that you came in after I tried to kill you. I said that you weren't even remotely nice and a piece of work," Peeta said, his voice not revealing any of what he was feeling as he recalled this.
"Yeah, you were still hijacked though," I said, hoping that was where he was going with that.
"It doesn't change the fact that you're early morning snapping makes me think that you're already pregnant." I glared at Peeta for his sad attempt at lightening the mood. I did not know what to say then. I nuzzled my face into his chest and fiddled with the ring around his finger. Peeta breathed at a slow cadence that lulled me back into a sleeping state.
"Katniss," he said, almost as if to nobody in particular. I didn't reply. "Do you remember when I told you that you'd make a great mother? In the Quarter Quell?" Peeta waited for a response then kissed my forehead. "When I said it, I wasn't lying," he whispered into my hair. I still refused to move. Assuming I was asleep he muttered, "Goodnight little Mockingjay."
Soon after my husband fell asleep, I did as well. We slept in later than usual. So late in fact that Haymitch was up before us, which was saying a lot. When we went downstairs, still groggy, we found Haymitch sitting in our living room.
"'Morning happy couple." I don't know why, but it made me twinge when he had said that, especially considering everything we went through the day before. Peeta, still shirtless I might add, uncomfortably moved me to block his mere boxer-clad legs from view. I giggled at his worry about indecency.
"Hi, Haymitch… can I get you something to eat?" I asked brightly, knowing very well that if anyone were to be cooking it would be Peeta. I noticed him slip off to put on his robe before he reentered the room.
"No, I'm not staying much longer. I just came to share some news," he said, barely impaired by the amount of alcohol in him. For a moment, I wondered if the districts changing had caused him to do the same… then I remembered it was Haymitch.
"And?" Peeta encouraged. Haymitch smiled his lazy grin, knowing how much it bothered Peeta that he refused to get straight to the point.
"Annie called me this morning; or rather her healer did…" Haymitch trailed off. "She's had her baby and wants you to come and visit. Apparently he's six pounds and eight ounces of joy," he said with mock excitement.
"Hovercar or train?" I asked curiously.
"How soon?" Peeta added, thoroughly excited by this news. He was beaming about the baby. I wished I was able to give him a baby. I wished I was able to make him beam about our son. I wished I wasn't so stubborn. I wished I wasn't such a piece of work.
"The next train comes this afternoon," Haymitch suggested, "that's when I'm leaving."
"Then we'll be right with you!" Peeta exclaimed. "That is, if it's alright with you Honey?" I laughed at his obvious excitement and agreed, knowing that if I didn't I would feel anger radiating off him.
"Sure," I giggled. Haymitch took this as his cue to leave. He exited through the back door and crossed Peeta's old house to get back to his. I allowed Peeta to cook breakfast as I packed our bags. Peeta has never been that good with packing. It was a good thing that he had lived next door when he moved; otherwise, we'd be shipping things that he had left for months. After I packed our suitcase for three days I came down to eat.
"Is this enough?" Peeta asked while looking at the suitcases.
"Its enough until the next train comes. I know it's a short trip, but Annie will be tired and so will the baby," I reassured. "We can visit again another time." Peeta looked very disappointed by the length of our trip, but there was nothing else I could tell him. If it was my say, we would stay longer too.
The train ride had made me euphoric. Peeta and I cuddled in the twin mattress of my room for the entirety of the ride. He didn't bring up having kids anymore, but I knew it was on his mind. All I knew was that it was going to take a lot more than moping convince me of the upside. When we unloaded from the train, it had eaten up the first day of our travel, although seeing as though we woke up late it was a short day anyway.
It was a short walk to Annie's house in District 4 the next day. The front façade of the house screamed Finnick. There were nets hanging from the overhang of the door and instead of mulch, shells and sea glass covered the roots of the plantings. I could even make out what appeared to be a barn with horses in the backyard. It all brought back memories… "Sugar cube?". I was about to start crying when Annie opened the door.
"Katniss!" she shrieked. Annie's tiny little frame had returned to its normal size. My arms wrapped around her in a hug as she shot out of the house. To say that since Finnick had died she had gotten better would be a lie, but she wasn't as bad as she used to be. After I had let her go, she hugged Peeta, who was still trying to rebalance himself as we made it into the house.
"Annie, where is he?" I asked, becoming eager to see the little rascal. She led us inside to a room outfitted with a crib made out of driftwood and a spinning mobile made of mini tridents. Hanging over the fireplace was one of Finnick's old tridents. It took all I had not to cry in front of Annie. Peeta had beaten me to the crib where he ogled over the baby. When I had made it over to him, I audibly gasped. That baby looked just like his father.
"What's his name?" I asked as I peered down at the sleeping baby.
"Destin," Annie whispered, almost cooing his name. His hair was a bronze color just like his father's and he seemed to have an awful lot of it even being at such a young age. His skin had yet to acquire the tan quality but I knew as well as I knew Haymitch had brought liquor with him that the child would soon be tan. He had his eyes closed so I couldn't make out whether they were the subtle brown of Annie's eyes or the brilliant sea foam green-blue of Finnick's eyes.
"Destin Odair," I whispered. "That's got a nice ring to it. Finnick would be so happy," I said. Annie covered her ears at the sound of his name but nodded in agreement. Peeta had not taken his eyes off the child since the moment we had stepped into the room.
This was all just Peeta's way of convincing me that children were a good thing. While we were out on a walk, I could plainly see that the districts had really started to clean up. Peacekeepers did not monitor any of them and the people working looked like they enjoyed their jobs. I knew that there were no more Hunger Games to worry about my child going into and Peeta and I will be celebrating our wedding anniversary in the coming month. Plainly, I could tell that Peeta was a great father and obviously, he thought I would make a great mother. I hurt all over again when I thought about Prim.
She would want to have a niece or nephew. Prim would want what would make me happy. Would having a child really make me happy? It seemed to make Annie happy. It seemed to make Peeta happy. I didn't know how else I could argue. If it was Peeta's plan to bring me here to convince me then it was a pretty good one. Even still, it took years of visiting Annie and little Destin before I had made up my mind. Peeta was happy and in turn… so was I.
The morning was hazy as they so often are. The dust from dead humans and crushed buildings seem to swirl through the wind and cloud my window. It's early; I can tell by the way the sun colors the sky outside. Peeta is absent from the bed, which begins to worry me. When I drag myself out of bed, I groan with soreness. I slowly stumble downstairs to find Peeta sitting upon the couch with his legs tucked into his arms and pulled up to his chin. His eyes are closed, but he is not asleep.
"Peeta, are you okay?" I ask, slowly walking towards him. He looks up at me and frowns.
"Why are you awake? You need your rest Katniss," he insists. I shake my head and sit down next to him. He sees the look in my eyes and answers my question. "No, I keep having nightmares about being a bad father. Katniss, I don't know if I'm ready for this," he says, his voice laced with fear and worry. I smile at him; beginning to think like Peeta, I decide to joke.
"Well, it's kind of too late to turn back," I laugh, looking down at my round belly. Peeta's eyes follow mine there as he manages a wry grin. I take his hand within my own and look at him. He cradles me with him and rubs my stomach where our baby lives. It's our baby with the dark hair and blue eyes. The baby I thought was too... us, the baby I thought I would never have. The baby I knew would be perfect.