A/N: Another post-epilogue piece. A Sunday with The Mellark Family. It's nothing special, just a little glimpse on what I think it could be like for them on a good day. Enjoy and please review!
Sunday is my favorite day of the week. It's both routine and vastly different every time. The household rule is that we spend the day together as a family. I'm away from the bakery, Katniss takes a respite from hunting, and Haymitch wanders in whenever he pleases. He is over several times a week in the afternoons to look after Atem while Katniss hunts, but on Sundays he is free, or at least that's what he says. He still ends up sitting on the couch with the kids on either side, reading to them or making up stories to keep them entertained. I think they are the best thing to ever happen to him. He's still Haymitch at heart but when he's with the kids, he just has a different light about him. He will never say it, but Katniss and I know the truth and that's enough.
This Sunday, Katniss and I wake just as the sun is rising and lay still in bed, listening. Listening for the sound of little footsteps in the hall or stifled Zuri giggles outside our bedroom door.
"I think she's still asleep." Katniss says. Her voice is still low and full of sleep. She turns toward me now and snuggles up closer, moving her hand up to brush my hair off my forehead.
"I don't hear Atem yet either." I add. When Atem wakes up first, everybody knows it, especially since we had to retire his crib early. At only 18 months old he already figured out how to climb out of it. I won't be surprised if he's up in the trees by the time he's 3.
"So… how's today?" I ask her. I ask her this every morning at some point. Today we are lucky enough to have a quiet moment to have this conversation before we're even out of bed.
"Today is good. I feel good, I didn't have any nightmares, and the kids are still asleep." She answers, using this quiet time to draw lazy circles on my chest. "And how's today for you?" She asks in return, just like every morning. We've been doing this for a long time now since we still have good and bad days. Katniss didn't always answer me honestly, because she was afraid that her mood swings would push me away, not thinking that I have mood swings too, sometimes even worse than her as they're often out of nowhere. We're the only ones that understand what that's like and once Katniss realized that, she was a lot more open to admitting how she was feeling every morning. It's just one of the steps we take to get through our days together.
"I can't complain; it's Sunday." I smile. She continues to draw odd shapes, not responding beyond a nod; the quietness leads me to believe she's got something on her mind. I look down at her and can see in her eyes that she's got a plan. "Katniss…" my voice is low and suspicious, and she picks up on it right away.
"Peeta…" she says, mocking my tone. It looks like I got a playful Katniss this morning.
"What's on your mind?" I ask, not sure what she's planning. We have to be quick with our time, because at any moment one or both of the kids could be waking up. They respect the lock on our door, but I would never be able to ignore them out there waiting for us.
Katniss doesn't answer me, but instead starts to move her hand lower and lower until it is in my shorts and she's gripping me with a goal in mind. She's making slow, calculated strokes and I can feel all the blood in my body rushing to my groin.
"We have to be quick," I remind her as my breath hitches in my throat. "…the kids." She shushes me and continues to work, still moving at the same pace despite my reminder.
I'm just starting to relax and enjoy this morning wakeup when we hear it, the little voice that we hear every morning. "I'm up mom and dad!" says the loud whisper from Zuri in the hallway. I want to be mad, I want to wish that she would have given us another half hour so I could finish and return the favor to Katniss, but I can't. She sounds so enthusiastic and happy that I can't find it in me to even be irritated.
Katniss lets go of me and sighs loudly. "Later…" she promises. Planting a kiss on my lips, lingering longer than she would normally because I think she feels bad that we can't finish what she started.
"I'll be out in a minute." I tell her, shifting uncomfortably in bed and trying to think of the most unflattering things so that I can get rid of this arousal. Katniss smiles at me, and gets out of bed. She makes a quick stop at the dresser and puts on a pair of shorts since she tends to only sleep in a shirt and underwear.
"I'm sorry," she whispers as she heads for the door. "…I promise we'll finish later, okay?" She doesn't wait for me to answer and is out the door in a flash. "Daddy will be out in a minute." I hear Katniss explain to Zuri.
After a bit things begin to calm down and it's safe for me to leave the room without scarring my children for life. I didn't hear Katniss talking to Atem when she came out so I decide to peek into his room to see if he's still sleeping. I open the door to his bedroom slowly, careful not to make too much noise. The sun is pouring in through the space between the shade and window and when I look down I'm met by a pair of gray eyes so like his mother's that I can't help but smile.
"Good Morning, Buddy." He's lying there stiff as a board, but relaxes when he hears me greet him. "You'll scale your crib and jump out, but you're too scared to get out of your big boy bed?" I ask. He looks up at me with sleepy eyes and finally sits up; looking at me like he is so happy I finally decided to show up and save him from his brand new bed. "Are you hungry? I think mommy is making breakfast downstairs, want to come with me?"
He nods and puts his arms up to me wanting to be picked up. I happily oblige and quickly make my way over to his dresser and pick him out some clothes to get him changed. Once he's in a clean diaper and fresh clothes, we head down to the kitchen to join the rest of the family.
"Look who I found." I announce, walking into the kitchen holding Atem in my arms. I sit him down in his high chair and buckle him in, walking over to Zuri and giving her a kiss on the top of her head. "Good Morning, Zuri."
"Morning!" she chirps. "Why did you stay in your room so long, daddy? I wanted a piggy back ride."
"I was super sleepy, I wanted to get a few extra minutes of cozy time before I started my day." I lie. I see Katniss laughing at the stove, but Zuri doesn't doubt me, and goes back to playing with her fork as she waits for breakfast to be served.
Katniss turns around now and looks at the three of us. "And look at that, Atem is even dressed." I walk over to the stove now and put my hand on Katniss' back, watching her pour pancake batter into the pan. When she is done, she turns to me and gives me a peck on the lips. "Thank you for dressing him. Are you okay?" she asks with a look of guilt in her eyes.
"I'll survive, can't blame you for trying. We should set an alarm next time." I grab the ladle from her hand and scoop up more batter to place in the pan. "Go sit down, I'll finish up." I tell her.
She shakes her head at me, "You can finish the pancakes, I'll get the kids something to drink and get some toast made. Should we do eggs too?" She quickly shuffles off gathering cups for the kids and grabbing the milk from the fridge. She has that spark in her eye today that tells me today is a very good day. We get those more often now than we used to, but it doesn't stop any of us from enjoying it to the fullest.
I walk over to the front window and peer out, noticing that Haymitch's blinds are open; he's awake. "Yes on the eggs, Haymitch is awake so I'm sure he'll be in here soon enough looking to be fed."
We work together to get breakfast on the table. Zuri has a small stack of two pancakes, a piece of toast and a small helping of eggs, while Atem is tearing into a single pancake like he's never eaten before. When we finish dishing out the food, we hear the front door creak open and footsteps fill the house. Haymitch has arrived.
"Something smells good." He calls out, walking into the kitchen.
"Uncle Haymitch!" Zuri calls out, attempting to vacate her seat.
"Sit, Zuri." Katniss says, stopping her in her tracks. "Finish your breakfast."
"Listen to your mother, Little Lady. I'll still be here when you're done." Haymitch adds sitting down at the table in front of the plate we already had prepared for him.
"Uncle Haymitch, daddy was in his room really long this morning. He wanted extra cozy time. Why aren't I allowed extra cozy time when they wake me up for school?" Oh, the innocence of a child.
Haymitch almost chokes on his eggs at this and then looks up and gives me a knowing look. "Attempted a quickie, didn't you?" he whispers to me.
"Attempted is the perfect word." I whisper back.
"What's a quickie?" Zuri asks with a mouth full of pancake.
"Zuri Mellark! Breakfast!" Katniss orders; she gives Haymitch an uncomfortable look before she whispers "And you shut up." I want to laugh but I know that if I do, that promise of later would be off the table. She'll never be alright with Haymitch knowing the events that occur in our bedroom.
The rest of breakfast proceeds as normal, and Zuri is finally free to dance and ask Haymitch 50 questions a minute. "What's a quickie, Uncle Haymitch?"
"Persistent little thing, aren't you? That was grown up talk, you shouldn't have heard it." Haymitch explains.
"Oooh…" She nods, knowing that is her signal to never ask that again. "Want to hear the new song I learned in school the other day?" I see Haymitch breathe a sigh of relief when she finally changes the topic, he nods and Zuri begins her song.
"She reminds me of you when she does that." I say to Katniss. "That eagerness to sing."
"It must be genetic." She answers, taking Atem out of his highchair and letting him run into the other room with Haymitch and Zuri; I hear him let out a small screech when Haymitch picks him up.
We wash the dishes in a comfortable silence since Haymitch is keeping the kids occupied in the other room. Katniss washes, I dry and things are done in no time. If there's one good thing to say about routine in our lives it is how easily we can get things done on days like this. Our routines aren't in place anymore to help Katniss get through the day, but more so we can keep a household with two kids running smoothly.
"We should take a walk today; maybe after lunch." Katniss suggests. "I want to stop by and pay Greasy Sae a visit; I've got some of that deer in the freezer saved for her."
"I think a walk sounds great." I smile and take her hand, leading her into the living room where Haymitch is sitting on the couch with the kids, talking about Atem's new bed.
"You know what this means, don't you, Atem?" Haymitch looks at the boy with a serious look. "You're a man now, so that means you have to look after your sister here, even though she's bigger than you." Atem stares at Haymitch, clearly not comprehending a word the old man is saying.
"Uncle Haymitch," Zuri complains. "I don't need anyone looking after me!" She stands and puts her hands on her hips now, challenging Haymitch to oppose.
"There's that Katniss spark!" Haymitch laughs, shaking his head. "I swear if you guys didn't get kids that were the absolute reflection of both of you. I feel bad for you when they're teenagers." He says when he notices us watching from the doorway. "I should know."
He's right. Both kids have a personality that is a distinct hybrid of me and Katniss. Zuri is more like me on the surface. She will talk your ear off and make you laugh, but the minute you offend her, look out. That's when you see Katniss; she won't hesitate to put you in your place and knock you when you're down. Atem is still very young, but it's easy to his that his personality is much more like Katniss' on the surface. He's very focused on everything he does and is easily angered when he can't do something, but according to Katniss, he has a certain charm about him that she doesn't have; she says that part of him is all me.
"Let's not rush things, Haymitch." I don't want to entertain the idea of my children as teenagers just yet. "Do you want to stay for lunch?" I ask. "We're going to visit Greasy Sae afterward."
"No, no. I'll be having a liquid lunch this afternoon, and you guys need your family time, but give Sae my best." Haymitch says standing up. He's a lot slower these days, so it takes him a minute to stand up straight. "I should probably get going anyway; thanks for breakfast." He says goodbye to the kids and is out the door and off to get his daily dose of liquor in his system.
"We're going to see Sae?" Zuri asks, jumping around in front of us.
"Yes, but not until after lunch; you need to get dressed." Katniss answers.
The rest of the morning is uneventful. Atem spends over an hour trying to get all of the plastic fish hooked onto his toy fishing pole at the same time. The toy was a gift from Katniss' mother for Atem's first birthday, and he's been trying almost daily to hook all the fish at once ever since. Zuri curls up on the couch, coloring a picture that she drew of The Meadow.
"She reminds me of you when she does that." Katniss says, mimicking what I said earlier when Zuri began to sing.
When lunch is finished we get the kids out the door and begin our walk through District 12. Katniss is trailing behind Atem who will try to walk the entire way on his own. He'll eventually give up and Katniss will pick him up and hold him the rest of the way. I make a mental note to include a back massage for Katniss in with tonight's activities after the kids are in bed.
Zuri is holding my hand and walking beside me, just like every morning when we walk her to school. The homes in The Victor's Village are full now, not with Victors but with families that needed homes. It's not The Victor's Village anymore and hasn't been for a long time, but nobody ever bothered to change the name, so that's what we still call it. Everyone that has moved into the homes has been respectful of our privacy, even if they do all know who we are. They will give a cordial hello if they see us; some will strike up a conversation about gardening or some other topic that keeps things neighborly, and on the odd occasion we do get a wonderer into the village that wants to catch a glimpse of the last victors of The Hunger Games, they've all been great at keeping them away.
As we approach Greasy Sae's house, we see her sitting out on the porch as she does every day the weather will allow. She tells everyone she is retired now, and this is how she wants to spend the final chapter of her life. Her grand-children are grown now and have taken over where she left off, and she is content just sitting on her porch watching her great-grandchildren. She says it's her peace after most of her life in District 12 being so rough; she's just happy to have been able to see her grand-children grow up safely, unlike her own children, and the added bonus of now having great-grandchildren to watch is never taken for granted.
Zuri runs up to the porch first and greets Sae with a big hug; Sae waves at us when she sees the rest of us approaching the porch. "The Mellarks are here," she says with a smile. She's been calling us that since the day of our Toasting. "Good of you to stop by."
"I have some deer meat for you, Sae." Katniss speaks loudly; Sae's hearing isn't what it used to be.
"Oh you didn't have to do that, Katniss." Of course she did. Katniss will never stop feeling as though she owes Greasy Sae for everything she did after Katniss returned to District 12 at the end of the war. As long as Sae is alive, Katniss will be here doing anything she can to show her how grateful, and maybe a little guilty, she feels.
We leave Greasy Sae's house a little while later, after light conversation and Zuri insisting she sing her new song. As suspected, Katniss is holding Atem on the walk back home, and Zuri skips ahead, informing us that we should follow her because she's the leader.
By the time we return, it's about time to start dinner. We used the last of the bread this morning for breakfast, so I'll have to make more. I get everything set up and ready to start before I run upstairs and change into a simple white tee-shirt, which is what I usually bake in. When I come back downstairs, Zuri is at the bottom of the steps, waiting for me.
"Are you making bread, daddy?" she asks, sounding hopeful. I give her a nod and a smile. "Can I help?"
"Of course you can help, go change your clothes." She runs up the stairs and disappears to her room to find the clothes we have designated her "baking clothes". It was easier to do that than have to wash flour out of everything she has.
While Zuri is upstairs changing, I go into the kitchen and get started. Measuring out what we'll need and putting them aside for Zuri. That's her job; put the ingredients in the bowl, and she takes it very seriously. Katniss walks by with Atem, stating that it's time for a diaper change and also retreats upstairs, passing Zuri on the stairway.
"Okay dad, I'm ready." I'm always just "dad" when we're baking, she's a professional, you know. She grabs a kitchen chair and drags it over to the counter, nestling it where she always does and she steps up onto it.
"Atem is ready to help too." Katniss says, returning from diaper duty. She has him clad in just a diaper as she brings him into the kitchen, strapping him into his highchair and locking the tray in place. We did this with Zuri too when she was that age. Whenever I would bake, I'd give a small portion of dough and a little flour to her in her highchair to play with.
"Does mommy want to help too?" I ask. She's never been one for baking; it's too precise for her. She much prefers cooking, where she can add a little or a lot and not have it ruin the entire recipe.
"Mommy will observe and plan the rest of dinner." Katniss answers. She walks over to the refrigerator and sticks her head in, taking a mental inventory of what is in there and what we could make with it.
A short while later we've got dough made for 3 loaves of bread and Atem is happily playing with his piece, taking the occasional bite and making a face of disgust every time.
"You think he'd learn." Katniss says, watching Atem make this face for the third time.
Once the dough is put into the bowl, Zuri carefully covers it and we wait an hour for it to be ready for the oven. Once the hour is up, we start dinner after putting the bread into the oven, Zuri guarding the timer that will beep when it is ready.
"Well isn't this a pretty picture." Haymitch is back; it's almost like he can sense that we're cooking. He's a little less sober than he was this morning, but the kids will never notice the difference. "Cooking together as a family." Haymitch will never lose that snarky attitude, no matter how many kids we have.
"I take it you're joining us?" Katniss asks. We already know the answer, but Katniss is never one to shy away from getting snarky right back at him.
"Is it that big of a mystery, Sweetheart?"
Dinner is full of small talk. Haymitch quizzes Zuri on her numbers while Atem smashes his spoon onto his highchair tray. It's loud, controlled chaos that we'd probably miss now if it weren't around. We clean up the kitchen while the kids run and play through the living room, working off the energy burst that dinner gave them and getting them nice and tired for bed time which isn't too far off now. Haymitch leaves with a promise to be back in the morning that we know he'll keep, and then we take the kids upstairs to change into their night clothes and get their teeth brushed before we go back down and start a fire in the living room fireplace.
Katniss and Zuri sit on the floor as Katniss braids her hair; Atem and I sit on the couch. He's nestled up against my side as he stares into the fire, almost in a trance and I know he'll be out soon. Zuri rarely falls asleep down here anymore. She likes to walk up to her room on her own and get comfortable in bed before drifting off, but Atem is still young enough to nod off down here have one of us carry him up to bed.
We sit in silence for a long time, just relaxing and enjoying the sounds of the fire. Atem falls asleep within ten minute and I notice that Zuri is yawning, her eyes looking heavy.
"I think it may be bed time." I whisper. Katniss looks and notices Atem asleep, curled up at my side. She nods.
"You take him, I'll take her." She says. "Come on, Zuri." She helps Zuri stand and they hold hands as they make their way upstairs.
I reach over and scoop Atem up, careful not to wake him and make my way up the stairs behind Katniss and Zuri. I get Atem situated in his bed and pull his covers up before going to Zuri's room to join Katniss in saying goodnight.
"Sleep tight, school in the morning." I tell her, as if she doesn't know. I give her a kiss on her forehead and watch as Katniss does the same.
"Red socks tomorrow?" Katniss asks her. I'm not sure what that means, but Zuri nods and smiles. We head to Atem's room where we both simply give him a kiss on the forehead since he's already asleep.
Finally, we can retire to our room. The day wasn't hectic or tough, but it's still nice to relax and get comfortable in bed before starting a new week. We change into our night clothes and wash up then turn down the bed. I hop in, pulling the covers over my waist and leaning back on the pillows.
Katniss walks over to our bedroom door and closes it quietly, locking it with a small click before turning to me. "Now," she says with a slight smirk. "where were we?"