At the Broken Places
Warnings: Spoilers for the epilogue of Mockingjay. This could be considered a continuation of my fic A Girl (on the nature) of Fire, but it's also totally fine as a stand-alone. There's also one line of not very (for me at least) explicit sexual contact; but it's only the one line which is why I gave it the rating it has.
Summary: Katniss thinks about the answer to the question her husband has never asked. You know, the baby one. The answer surprises no one more than her.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Hunger Games or any of it's brilliant characters. I am merely borrowing them for the purpose of entertainment, and promise to return them in (mostly) pristine condition.
"The world breaks us all. Afterward, some are stronger at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway, Farewell To Arms
It starts with the girl with the cupcakes.
Well, not really.
It starts with years of having to watch innocent children being Reaped, sent to their death for the entertainment of people who have never felt hunger in their lives. With years of knowing that she could never bring a child into that world, where mothers are forced to bury their sons and daughters. Years of watching her mother fade away, unable to care for her children after her father's death. Years of caring for Prim, of sleepless nights, worrying where every meal was going to come from next; of not having a next meal.
Then there is the Reaping, and the Games and the Rebellion. Then there is losing Prim and her mind along with her, and then there is finding herself again.
Then there is the boy with the bread who loves her. Now there is Peeta, her husband who loves her.
Her husband who has always wanted children.
Her husband, who has never once asked her for children.
And in the beginning, when they were still becoming who they wanted to be together, nothing could have made Katniss happier; because that was not a fight she wanted to have. Because nothing, not even him, could have changed her mind and she hadn't wanted this one thing, after all that they had been through, to be the one thing that finally made him give up on her for someone else.
And so she had, in those first few months, spent nights coming up with arguments of why it was a bad idea. The world was too unstable to bring a child into; too much political unrest and too high a possibility of another war. They were too broken to take care of a child; she had days where she still couldn't get out of bed and he still had episodes where, just for a few minutes he hated her, fiercely before he remembered who he – they – were.
Surely, no child deserved a home like that.
But all her carefully planned arguments had been for not, because he had never asked. Not even once, in an indirect sort of way, and as he years rolled by Katniss realized he was never going to, and she had been glad.
But then there is the girl with the cupcakes.
The girl who comes into the bakery every other day without fail, her hair in two braids as she presses her little face up against the glass to get a better look at the elaborate frosting designs Peeta has made for the cupcakes. The girl that Peeta, without fail, sneaks a free cupcake every time she is there, solely for the pleasure of watching her little face light up as she gets to pick one and unwrap it, smearing frosting on her little nose.
The blond, grey-eyed girl with the cupcakes.
Katniss doesn't know her name, but she recognises her parents around town. A young couple, no more than twenty and too young to have ever known the true terror of a Reaping. The father has the look of a boy who was born in the Seam; grey eyes and darker skin like Katniss's own, but his cheeks are full and his body is strong, a far cry from the emaciated Seam children of her youth. The mother is his opposite in almost every way, all blond hair and soft hands; a migration from District 4 who sells flowers at the District market, her face also healthy and full.
And most of the times, when she sees them, the little girl is with them, her hands tucked into her parents as they swing her between them and her giggles always seem to reach Katniss's ears, no matter how far away she is. At first, it used to be sweet, this happy little family.
Lately, it makes something hot curl in her stomach. Something that she's pretty sure is envy, mixed in with what's she's afraid is a good dose of plain old, terrifying want.
And so Katniss tries to push it down, to ignore the feeling, but one afternoon when they are just puttering lazily around the house it just gets away from her and she can't help but blurt out, out of the blue, the question unnaturally loud in the peaceful quiet of their kitchen, "Why haven't you ever asked me for children?"
In response Peeta pauses what he was doing and turns towards her, blinks at her puzzled, the motion almost sleepy, before he says plainly, "I know you don't want them."
"You do though," Katniss replies after a moment, her voice slow but certain, and it is not a question.
"Yes," Peeta replies simply, and he strokes a thumb across her cheek before he continues, "But I want you more."
And Katniss can think of nothing to say in response, and so Peeta takes her silence to mean that the conversation has ended and so he smiles softly at her before his mind moving to other things. Kisses her absently but sweetly, the kiss of long standing love, and then moves to take the cheesy buns out of the oven so that they don't burn.
And it should be the end of the conversation for Katniss as well, but it isn't.
It isn't because Katniss can't stop thinking about the little girl with the cupcakes; the little girl with the grey eyes and the blond hair that could be their child, if Katniss had said yes to the question she had never been asked.
And so that night Katniss finds herself thinking about all of her carefully crafted arguments. There is little to no political unrest anymore; Paylor's government is stable and District boarders have been open for years, the positive outcome from that seen all around; the couple and the girl with the cupcakes are proof enough of that, leaving her first argument null and void.
The second part of her argument is more complex because they are still broken; that will never truly go away. But they are better now; her bad days have been replaced by bad mornings now, and on those mornings when Katniss can't get up Peeta brings her a cheese bun and a glass of water, kisses her forehead and then he heads to the bakery, because he knows that she needs her space to get up on her own. And when Peeta has an episode, which are rarer and rarer by the year, Katniss knows to say his name to tell him softly of all of the things that are real - from the important things like how she began to love him to the trivial, like the new color of paint she is considering for the outside of the house – until he comes back to her.
They are broken, but they are strong because of it. Their broken pieces fit together perfectly, like her fingers did into his so long ago in that stupid chariot; like they have every day since.
And because of that, she thinks that together, they could make having a child work. Katniss would take her (or him) on Peeta's bad days and Peeta would take her (or him) on Katniss's bad days and together they would be alright.
It could work, and more importantly, the longer she thinks about it, the longer she wants the opportunity for it to work.
And so she decides, decides that she wants to try, and although her hands shake when she puts her monthly contraceptive shot back into the drawer unused a week later, she feels secure in her decision.
She doesn't tell Peeta though; not when she crawls into bed with him that night, not when she kisses him with the slightest edge of desperation, not when she straddles him and takes him inside of her, so familiar and yet so good, and not when he comes within seconds after her, the look on his face almost reverent, his voice a rough whisper as he says her name.
There a plenty of reasons why she doesn't; partially because she's afraid, partially because a part of her feels if she doesn't say it aloud it then it isn't real. But mostly it's because she doesn't know if it will work right away; if, given the damage their bodies have taken in the past it will ever work, and she can't bear to get his hopes up if it doesn't. She promised herself she would never hurt him like that again, and this is a promise she will do anything to keep.
And so she stays quiet, and they have a lot of sex in the next month, so much that Peeta starts to joke that he might need to start taking vitamins to keep up with her, but's he's both an entirely willing and entirely unsuspicious participant. He even starts instigating rendezvous, and Katniss will freely admit that he's definitely better at spontaneity than she is; she would have never thought of the flour sacks in the back of the bakery in the middle of the day.
She is definitely not complaining.
When the month is up and her period, which is as regular as clockwork, hasn't arrived, Katniss tells herself not to get her hopes up. When it reaches a week after her period was supposed to have come and it's still absent Katniss starts to get nervous, although whether it's because of thoughts that it has or hasn't worked she is unsure.
When she wakes up and then vomits two weeks after her period was supposed to have come, the feeling intensifies and she tells Peeta she's going hunting. She goes to the healer's instead, who hands her a little test and tells her to pee on it; one line for not-pregnant, two for pregnant. She follows the instructions, and after the two minutes her hands are shaking so badly that she almost can't read the test, it's vibrating so. But somewhere, from the depths or herself she manages to draw up the courage to steady her hand and look.
They're having a baby.
And then Katniss bursts into tears, because she's terrified; so, so terrified but she's also happy and there is no way those two emotions are staying inside of her without some kind of release.
The healer, and older, motherly figure that has a look about her that says that she's seen everything before, simply pats her shoulder and tells her the feeling is normal and then hands her a tissue and a bottle of pre-natal vitamins.
Finally, after she stops crying and she feels a bit more like herself again, Katniss finds herself making her way home, and it's there that it occurs to her that she has no idea how to tell Peeta what is happening. And it's not that's she's afraid that he'll be upset; he told her he wants children, it's just she wants it to be special because it could be their only one, and Katniss isn't all that great at special.
She still isn't any better at saying something than she was in the cave; Peeta is just good at interpreting what she doesn't.
However before she can work herself up over it, she catches sight of the calendar they keep on the wall, and as the significance of the date sets in she can't help but smile, because she isn't a big believer in fate, but this is pretty perfect.
A rough plan in mind, she ends up baking him a cupcake, decorates it carefully with white frosting and a tiny sprig of baby's breath, that grow outside the house in the summer, for accent. And then she puts it on one of the nice plates they have, a gift from Haymitch of all people, places it where he can't miss it on the table and waits for him to come home.
Luckily for her nerves she doesn't have to wait long, as no more than 15 minutes later he walks through the door, fanning himself slightly with his hand, as the June heat has started to set in. He smiles at her and, as is his routine, presses an affectionate kiss to her lips, that she returns with more fervor than she typically would for a welcome home kiss, her nerves and anticipation rising.
He blinks lazily when she draws back, his eyes beginning to darken with desire, but before he can formulate a reply he notices the cupcake, and Katniss has the pleasure of watching his whole body freeze, before he returns his gaze to her and asks warily, "Did I forget an occasion?" And she can almost see him rack his brain desperately trying to figure out what he has missed.
"Yes," she says, and she is helpless to stop the little smile that she knows has formed around her around her mouth, "but it's not one we've ever celebrated before, so you get a pass this time. Next year however, I expect you to remember it."
"All right…" he says slowly, and without relinquishing his hold on her he picks up the cupcake, cradles it in one of hands before he asks lightly, "So are you going to tell me, or do you want me to guess?"
She breathes deep, gathers all of her courage and brings his free hand from where it is resting on the small of her back to her still flat stomach, before she says softly, "It's father's day."
He drops the cupcake, right on its top and the frosting smears on the floor, but the stunned smile of almost helpless joy that bursts on his face and shines brighter than the sun more than makes up for that.
"I love you," he says fervently after he can move again, brushing kisses to everywhere on her face that he can reach before he bends and says, to her stomach, in between kisses there as well, "And I love you too."
And Katniss can't help but smile because yes, she is scared, but they will do this together, and she knows they will be alright.
It ends with the girl with the cupcakes.
Well, not really.
It ends with the girl and the little boy with the cupcakes.
The blond, grey-eyed girl and the little brown-haired, blue eyed boy, their faces covered in frosting who run into Katniss's arms as their father chases them around the kitchen playfully, all giggles and laughter, a pout on his face as he silently asks to join the impromptu group hug.
They are still broken, yes, still have bad days, but it works; their broken places fit together like a puzzle, becoming something new and strong and beautiful that she wouldn't change for the world.
Katniss smiles, and opens her arms.
He fits in them perfectly.
"And will I tell you that these three lived happily ever after? I will not, for no one ever does. But there was happiness. And they did live."― Stephen King, The Dark Tower
A/N: I read the trilogy after I saw the Hunger Games last weekend (advantage of being a speed reader), and although I loved the books, the line about Katniss giving into kids because "Peeta wanted them so badly" frankly didn't seem like something that either character would have done; Katniss because I see her as a stronger character than that and Peeta because, let's be honest, his one defining character trait is that he loves Katniss (not that there is anything wrong with that), which is why I don't see him asking her. And then my little sister sent me an online cupcake and this was born (pardon the pun), which this is probably the fluffiest and least smutty thing I have ever written. *Shrugs* Oh well, we must always try new things! As always, reviews and constructive criticism are welcome.