(Point of View: Katniss)
I tried to open my eyes to look at Peeta. I longed to see his face. Instead, I accomplished only a slight fluttering with my eyelids. The brightness that slipped into my vision sent a throbbing pain through my head that caused me to close my eyes tightly again. I made a small whimper of pain. Peeta squeezed my hand.
"That's good, Katniss. That's good." He said.
Even though Peeta seemed to find my ability to make any sounds at all encouraging, I felt that I was looking very weak by showing pain at such small efforts. I couldn't believe how helpless I was. Peeta kissed the back of my hand. He whispered about our baby as I drifted off to sleep.
I had no sense of time, but I remember Peeta being in the room again. It was a different day than the day when I lifted my hand. When he called my name, I managed to open my eyes ever so slightly and briefly.
He smiled lovingly. "That's my girl," He said.
Despite how distorted my vision was, seeing Peeta's face had never been more welcome.
"I brought my other girl with me today. She is half yours, after all. I can't keep her to myself forever." He explained jovially.
I sighed deeply. Knowing that Peeta had probably had to negotiate bringing our baby to see me, I felt extremely grateful to him. I gave Peeta the most enthusiastic smile I could muster, and it was entirely genuine. Weak as I was, I was so excited.
Our baby, I thought. I am going to get to meet our baby.
I could see the bundle of blankets that I was sure contained her. I felt an intense yearning to hold her, and I concentrated very hard on lifting my arms. I should have known that I wouldn't come close to being able to bring my arms up into a cradling position, but I felt the need to try. Being able to raise my arms only halfway, I was overwhelmed by a feeling of powerlessness. Since I'd become more aware, I'd had to learn to cope with the fact that I was utterly dependent on others. I could do almost nothing for myself except change my position slightly. There was nobody in the world that I trusted to help me more than Peeta though.
Seeing my efforts, Peeta remarked, "That's good, Katniss. I saw that. I know you are trying hard. I'll help you."
Thank God that he knows I am trying, I thought.
It had broken my heart to hear him say that he thought I might have given up. I hadn't given up, not this time.
Peeta sat down beside me on the bed. He turned me to my side slightly and lifted me up so that I was leaning against him. Peeta was stronger than the nurses. He moved me faster. It hurt more, and my thigh brushed across the sheet too harshly. I made a small sound of pain.
"Sorry. It will be worth it though." Peeta said softly.
I shifted my body slightly, proud that I could do so. My slight movements and gravity settled me against Peeta's chest. It was indeed already "worth it."
Peeta bent my elbow and placed his own bent arm underneath mine. He intertwined our fingers, his palm lying against the back of my hand. Then he placed the small bundle that he held with the other arm in the nook he'd created with our adjoined elbows.
"I told you she was beautiful," He said quietly as he kissed my cheek.
Although my vision was very blurry, I could make out the small figure that was my daughter. My emotions were indescribable. She did have gray eyes. She had Peeta's blonde hair though, and she seemed to have more hair than most babies I'd seen.
Our baby. I thought. Our precious, precious baby.
"What do you think?" Peeta asked after a moment.
I let out the breath I'd been holding and closed my eyes thoughtfully. I felt him hold me tighter, a sign of compassion and love. He knew that I wished that I could explain with detail. In that moment, I was thankful that Peeta and I needed no words to communicate some emotions.
Peeta un-wrapped the soft green blankets that surrounded the baby with his free hand. The baby let out a cry. I shook slightly, afraid that I'd done something wrong. How could I have though? I could barely move.
Peeta must have done something wrong! I thought comically.
"Oh, wait until you hear her really cry; this is just a mild protest." Peeta said laughing. "She probably doesn't like this because it feels cold. We won't leave her uncovered for long though."
Doesn't know what she needs, huh? I thought sarcastically.
Peeta took my free hand in his. He put my hand near the baby's face and head. I managed to move my fingers enough to touch her by myself. My eyes quickly filled with tears and a tiny sob escaped my lips. I touched her cheek and felt her soft hair with my fingertips.
"Now both of my girls are crying," Peeta said as he pulled me tight again, causing the baby's position to change slightly.
The baby started to slip down my nearly useless arm, which was still being firmed supported by Peeta's. Peeta shifted the baby's weight so that she rested securely in our arms again. He seemed so comfortable holding her even in such an awkward position for him. I marveled at his confidence.
Peeta moved my hand so that my fingers ran across the back of the baby's hand. Then he turned my hand so that my fingers touched hers. To my surprise, the baby grasped one of my fingers tightly. Her eyes seemed bright with the happiness of being able to use this skill. She kicked her feet against my body. A feeling I'd only felt in twinges before started to build up inside me. I'd felt hints of it when I was pregnant, but when I held our baby for the first time it came to maturity. It was the love of a mother that I felt. It was far different from my love for Peeta, but it was just as strong.
I'd only managed to choke out a few Individual words to the nurse when I needed something before that day – "yes," "no," "cold," "hot," "hurt". Seeing our baby motivated me to make extraordinary efforts to ask Peeta the questions that had been weighing on my mind ever since I started to wake up in the hospital. I knew I was in a District 13 hospital because of how the room looked, but I didn't know much else.
"How long?" I said noticing that my voice sounded terribly raspy.
"2 1/2 weeks." He answered.
I shook my head, unable to believe it had been that long. My baby was 2 ½ weeks old already!
"What happened?" My throat was so dry and sore. They'd told me that would get better soon though.
"You were bitten by a copperhead. Remember? We brought you here to district 13. You had a
C-section to deliver the baby." Peeta said. He tucked a stray strand of my hair behind my ear with the
hand not supporting my arm and the baby.
"She's alright?" I said still staring at the baby.
"Yes. She was just too early, and she weighed only about 3 pounds. She's doing very well now though." Peeta said reassuringly.
I wanted to know more but decided to wait. It was enough information to know that she was doing well.
We sat there as a new family for a long time. I don't remember Peeta taking the baby out of my arms. I must have drifted off to sleep sandwiched between them.
Over the next few days and weeks, I slowly and painfully moved more. I talked more. Peeta encouraged me constantly. Sometimes he "encouraged" me too much! I'd shoot him looks that could kill! He didn't take them personally though. I was getting better, after all. The doctors told me they didn't know if I'd ever be quite back to "normal" again. Peeta pointed out that they also said the fact that I'd made so much progress was encouraging. I was beginning to wonder what "normal" was. All I really wanted was to be able to take care of myself and the baby. So I pushed myself to use eating utensils, to sit up, to stand up, and eventually to walk. Everyone said I was doing amazingly well, and I was glad they were so happy. I'd been through yet another ordeal in having our baby though, and what I wanted most was to leave the green tiled walls of the District 13 hospital to go home.
After a week more I felt comfortable holding the baby by myself. Up until that point I'd either held her with Peeta's help, or we propped her up beside me with pillows while Peeta sat nearby. I waited so long to hold her completely alone because her safety was more important to me than proving that I could hold her. I wouldn't lift or carry her at all. I was afraid my still somewhat feeble arms might give out or my coordination would fail. It was probably an unrealistic fear, but Peeta understood.
One day Peeta came in to see me. He was quiet; there was no gleeful "hello." He took my hairbrush from the table across from the bed and sat behind me. He began brushing my hair. It was a task I found difficult because I could not reach my arms far enough to do it properly. Then he braided my hair, which I am sure was difficult because my hair really hadn't been properly cared for in so long. Of course, I couldn't braid my hair yet either. Peeta tied the end of the long braid just as I had always done. My eyes moistened. The reason wasn't because I couldn't do those tasks myself yet, it was because my husband was thoughtful enough to think of doing them for me. How wonderful was that?
Then Peeta kissed me behind my ear and said softly, "We're leaving today?" My moist eyes quickly brimmed with tears of joy.
On the train to District 12 I caught sight of the mountains that the rock ledge overlooks. The valley quickly came into view too. It was autumn, and the trees had changed colors while we were in District 13. The mountains burst with colors: majestic reds, bright yellows and fiery oranges. The sun was just beginning to set, and the colors of the sunset contrasted beautifully with the many hues of the leaves. That peaceful feeling enveloped me again.
These are my mountains. I thought. I can feel them in my bones.
I lifted the baby up to the window.
"This is home." I told her.
Peeta smiled. "Yes, it is," He said.
[Please review and let me know how you liked the ending. It's always hard to end a story!]
[Note: Thanks to all of you who have read, reviewed and/or have taken an interest in this story. If you liked it, please tell your friends who are Hunger Games fans to read it too. Also, I am working on a new story, and if you are interested in my new story – you can put me in your "author alerts" – and then you'll be notified when it's published. I would love to have a beta reader for my new story. If you are interested in that then send me a message.]
[Disclaimer: All credit for Hunger Games goes to Suzanne Collins. I own nothing and no ownership is implied in this story. She's given us some wonderful characters to love.]