Thank you, God, for everything.
DISCLAIMER: I do NOT own the Hunger Games. Here's a little ficlet for my sis who wanted this fic so therefore she's getting it because she asked. Ask and you shall receive, people. (I'm not taking requests, though. I have too many plot bunnies already.) God bless you!
It was a wonderful fall late afternoon. Katniss, wearing a long hat and her father's hunting jacket, looked over her shoulder and said in an encouraging voice, "C'mon, Benjy. C'mon, Daddy and Lily are waiting for us."
"I'm coming," said the chubby five-year-old. He lifted his little feet and caught up to Katniss, who slipped her knife into her belt so that she had a hand free. She held out her worn hand and her little boy took it.
Benjy looked longingly at the squirrel tail sticking out of Katniss's hunting bag and said in his innocent little voice, "Why'd we take the squirrel from its home?"
"Food, Ben. That's what we do in the woods. We get food," Katniss explained as they walked on through the meadow toward Victor's Village. Truth was they could have gotten their food just easily from the new tiny store that was set up or from Lily's little garden, but Katniss always and would always think that the woods was just a pantry with food to be found. (Not to mention that Lily's small garden was not able to have squirrel bushes or deer plants.)
She had always grown up in the woods as well, and she liked introducing Lily and Benjy to it. Lily liked it well enough, but was not obsessed with it like her mother. She was like her in a lot of ways and like Peeta in a lot of ways as well. She liked the woods some, like Peeta, but enjoyed being inside.
Katniss was having an interesting time introducing Benjy to it. At his tender age of five, he enjoyed touching the fluffy animals rather than kill them. Looking at his sad little eyes now made Katniss stop them and bend down to Benjy.
"Hey," she said, "when we get home, I can make you a fluffy hat. Would you like that?"
"Yeah," Benjy said quietly.
He smiled and Katniss bent back up and they continued walking, hand in hand, back through the Seam and on to Victor's Village.
The streets of District 12 were small but slowly coming back to life. It takes a while to bring a place back on its feet after a bomb takes it out. There was a little line of houses lining the street that Katniss and Benjy walked through that are slowly coming together. There's some flowers planted in strange places in corners and edges of the street that Benjy pointed out.
Katniss looked at them too, and let Benjy go and pick them. He eagerly grabbed a bunch, all wrinkled in his sweaty hand, and held them up for inspection.
"You like them, Mama?" he wanted to know.
Katniss's smile faded when she realized what he had picked. Primrose.
"They're beautiful, Benjy," she said quietly. She straightened and taking his hand again, said, "Let's go home and give them some water."
"Okay," Benjy said cheerfully, and his little legs trotted in step with Katniss's easy ones as they made their way home.
Their house was a dingy white house with several houses of similar form around them. Once only three of these houses were occupied, but now over time people had moved their belongings into the buildings.
The Mellarks' residence was at the end of the line of white houses. It had several bushes and plants in the front yard and there was a small meadow next to the house where the two children liked to play. It had several different wildflowers growing in the waving wind and both Lily and Benjy enjoyed picking the flowers and giving them to their parents.
The two Mellarks now went past the front yard where Katniss helped maneuver Benjy around Haymitch's geese, who were running all around the front yard and didn't give a hoot about whose land it was.
Katniss brought Benjy to the backyard where a wide stump was. Benjy, sucking his thumb, watched as Katniss drew out the three squirrels and two rabbits that the two had caught in a series of little snares they had made together.
"What we going to do now?" he said, thumb still in his mouth.
Katniss was not exactly sure how to explain death to her children. It was a very touchy subject in general for most people, but even more so for Katniss and Peeta and Haymitch, who came around to their house several times a week.
One squirrel was not fully dead and was still fidgety. Katniss took a deep breath as she drew out her knife. Placing the fidgety squirrel on the stump, Katniss used her free hand to gently make a wave for Benjy to back up.
"What are you doing, Mama?" he wondered.
Katniss thought for something. "I'm going to make it feel better," she said finally. It was true, to a certain extent. The thing was probably in more pain than it could let on. She was making it feel better, in a weird, twisted way. Unfortunately, she knew that a weird and twisted way was not a thing to be explained to a five-year-old but she certainly hoped it would work.
"By taking off its coat," Katniss said slowly after another minute passed.
Benjy stuck his little hands into the tan pockets of his jacket and said, "But it's cold out."
"But its really hot. It's alright," Katniss said with a small smile that wasn't that real.
Benjy looked from his mother to the squirrel wriggling in her worn hands. "Will he be hurt?"
Katniss looked at her son, who was looking expectantly at her, waiting for her answer. "Just a little bit, Benjy, and then he'll be fine."
"Okay," Benjy said.
Taking a deep breath, Katniss looked down and concentrated on the matter at hand. She normally didn't do this with Benjy watching, but he liked to see everything that she did when he was around. One of her hands held down its body, and she had it on its stomach so she wouldn't have to see its beady eyes looking at her.
With that, her knife went non-dramatically down and she stabbed it in the eye.
Benjy's eyes widened slightly as she began to carefully saw off the pelt of the squirrel. She kept looking at the squirrel and her hands so that she didn't have to look at Benjy.
"He's red," Benjy said slowly.
"Yep," Katniss said quietly as she tossed the flesh into the bucket.
"Is it dead?"
Katniss looked up to see Benjy looking a little concerned. His childish face looked very much sad over the squirrel. No tears were in his eyes. He just looked rather . . . . . depressed.
"It is," she answered him quietly. She wasn't quite sure how he knew something to be dead or not. He had probably heard of the word from either her and Peeta's whispered conversations or from Haymitch, or maybe from Lily. He had probably heard the word to be applied to the dead animals she brought in from the woods.
She continued with her skinning while Benjy watched, uncertain to exactly what his mother was doing.
"That my hat, Mama?" he wanted to know as she reached for one of the rabbits.
"Sure," Katniss said, giving him a small smile. "I'll sew one up for you and how about one for Lily too?"
"So we'll match?"
Katniss nodded and patted his jacketed shoulder. "Sure."
"Okay, one for Lily too," Benjy said through his thumb-stuffed mouth.
"What for me?" Katniss and Benjy both turned to their left to see ten-year-old Lily's dark head peeking way out of the porch door. Lily had dark, flowing, slightly wavy hair that had pushed out over her shoulder and she was wearing a light blue sweater. Her sharp blue eyes darted from her mother to her little brother and she asked again, "What for me?"
"A hat," Benjy called, taking out his thumb.
"What kinda of a hat?" Lily wanted to know.
"A rabbit one," Benjy said before putting his thumb back in. He turned to Katniss and asked, "Is that right, Mama?"
Katniss gave him a small but genuine grin. He had recognized what animal she was going to make into a hat for him. "That's right, Benjy," she said, "you're getting a rabbit hat."
"Not a squirrel?" and he pointed to the red bodies in the bucket.
"That's right." He made a small smile at seeing his mother so pleased.
"Cool," Lily said from the porch. She looked around and said, "It's cold out here."
"Yes, so why are you letting cold air into the house, young lady?" Katniss asked her daughter, an eyebrow raised.
"Dad wanted you to know that he's ready when you are for the squirrel," Lily said.
"Tell him I'm almost done. How's the cake coming?" Katniss asked. Lily had inherited a lot of things from both of her parents. While she had many a look and mannerism from Katniss, she liked baking, like Peeta. Peeta was delighted when she showed an interest in it and the two could often be found baking together.
"It's coming out of the oven soon," Lily replied, and with one last look around the autumn world outside the dingy white house, she stuck her head back through the crack in the door.
Katniss turned back to her work. The cold air started to nip at them as the late fall's late afternoon's darkness started to drift down on them.
"What's for supper?" Benjy wanted to know.
Katniss smiled and held up the arm of one of the squirrels. "Soup." She tossed the squirrel back into the bucket and wiping her hand briefly on the grass, she nodded to Benjy and said, "C'mon, let's go inside."
"Is Uncy Haymitch and Auntie Effie comin'?" he wanted to know. Haymitch and Effie often came around for supper. They were practically family now, and thus their Uncy and Auntie title came about.
"Not this night," Katniss told him. "It'll just be you and me and Daddy and Lily."
Benjy made a toothy smile as they made their way into the house.
They went into the kitchen, a warm area with bright orange lights that reflected bits of cobwebs in the lamps. There was dingy white cupboards and a small sink and a phone next to the sink. The counter was wooden and at this moment covered in messy bowls, scraps of batter hanging, ready to fall off the side of the counter and spoons.
Katniss merely raised an eyebrow and placed the flesh bucket and her hunting bag on the floating island, which had a rack ready for the cake and a bowl with remnants of cake batter.
She put the bucket with the pelts onto the floor in a corner of the counter and washed her bloody hands and took off her jacket before doing the same for Benjy. He scampered off as she threw their jackets onto their worn sofa that was a few feet in front of the floating island.
She turned and took the small bunch of primrose flowers out of her belt. She looked at them longingly for a moment before reaching under the sink and grabbing a small vase that Lily had painted. She slipped some water into it and placed the flowers into it. She pushed it back onto the counter so that it stood by the sink, tall and wrinkly and proud.
She looked at it for a moment before turning. Flicking her braid behind her shoulder, she leaned over the sofa and called out, "Peeta, Lily, where are you?"
She listened and blinked, a bit perplexed, when she heard laughing. Then there was a little screaming.
She instantly ran through the house, braid whipping past her, screaming, "PEETA! LILY! BENJY!" There was screaming. Screaming was bad. Very bad indeed. She didn't see where Benjy had gone. This was bad.
When she didn't find them in the bathroom or front porch or office, she turned and ran back to the living room where the stairs was. Panicking, she called their names again, and was ready to race up the stairs in a second when Lily and Benjy, both running and stumbling down the carpeted stairs, shrieked with smiles on their faces.
Katniss watched them come down with an surprised look on her face until Peeta came into view. He came around the bend (his artificial leg thumping) and it was obvious because of the smile on his face and the laugh in his throat that he was just having a fun time chasing the children around.
The kids came racing down and Katniss automatically bent down and wrapped them both with her thin arms. She held them so close that she could hear their heartbeats despite them fidgeting around at the sudden burst of affection.
"Mom!" Lily said, wriggling a bit.
Katniss heard Peeta stop running. After catching her panicked breath, she looked up to see him look so hurt and concerned she didn't feel so mad at him.
"What happened?" he asked.
"Peeta," she said through clenched teeth, "I heard screaming and-"
"Oh, no, I'm sorry," he said immediately, sounding sorry indeed. He immediately came down the rest of the stairs and he wrapped his thick arms around his wife and kids, enveloping them into the hug.
Katniss felt like she was dry heaving. She held them tighter, all three of them, feeling like she didn't want to let them go. She knew that they were just having fun but they were screaming. Screaming reminded her too much of everything that had happened. Everything.
After a moment, Lily pointed out, "Dad, the cake's done. You'd better get it out before it burns."
"Yeah," Peeta said into her hair before he stood up. Katniss stood up as well and the two's eyes met while the kids scampered down toward the kitchen.
Peeta immediately reached out and hugged Katniss. Katniss, stiff for a moment, wrapped her arms around his neck and hugged him tight.
"Damn you, Peeta," she said quietly.
She heard a tiny laugh come from him as he said, "I'm really sorry, Katniss."
She drew back and looked at his face. She sighed and said, "It's okay."
"No, it's not, and I'm sorry," he said quietly.
"All right, I forgive you, you can stop apologizing," Katniss told him quietly.
"Dad!" They both turned to see Lily with oven mitts on her hands and Benjy running around her in circles, sucking his thumb.
Katniss turned back to Peeta and said with a small smile, "You have a cake to get out."
"Yeah," he said slowly and with his eyes still on her, he walked off of the stairs and over to Lily.
"Here's some mitts for you, Dad," and Lily handed Peeta a pair of mitts. Greasy Sae was a bit of a knitter and she had made the Mellark family two pairs of oven mitts. Katniss barely used them and Benjy was too young so they were eagerly handed over to Peeta and Lily. Peeta's had a flower pattern and Lily's hand a white with pretty leaves scattered over it.
Peeta slipped the mitts on and the two headed to the oven. They opened the door together while Peeta took the cake layers out. Lily poked them with a piece of straw to see if they were done.
"They're ready," she said firmly. She watched as Peeta gently slid them to the top of the oven and she asked, a little concerned looking, "Did we burn it?"
Katniss stifled a small smile while Peeta said patiently, "No, it's just right."
Lily nodded as she turned to the floating island. She began to gather the ingredients for the frosting.
"When's supper?" Benjy said. He had clambered onto the top of a high stool that was next to the floating island. He stuck his chubby chin onto the top of his folded arms which were on the counter.
"Soon," Peeta said. He grabbed the bucket of squirrel and rabbit bodies and looked inside.
"How's it look?" Katniss said, looking into the bucket from the other side.
It looked bloody disgusting (literally) inside the bucket but Peeta said, "They look fine."
"We caught them all using Benjy's snares," Katniss said, gesturing her head toward Benjy, who was watching Lily line up the measuring cups that Katniss had carved.
"Did you really?" Peeta said, smiling. They both turned to Benjy, who was now watching them. "Did you catch these just with Mama helping you, buddy?"
Benjy nodded. Peeta broke into a happy smile as the two Mellark adults walked over to the floating island. Peeta leaned over the counter and copied Benjy's mannerisms so that the two looked nearly identical.
"That's very fantastic of you, you know that, bud?" Peeta asked Benjy.
The little boy nodded and Peeta reached out and ruffled his little blonde curls.
"Atta boy," Peeta said, still smiling, as he straightened. He looked over Lily's shoulder to see what she was doing and he nodded. "I'm going to start the soup," he said, turning to Katniss, who was on the other side of Lily.
"Alright," she said quietly, watching her daughter's hands.
"Do you want to sit down?" Katniss turned to see Peeta looking at her with a concerned look on his face. His blue eyes looked soft as he continued, "You look tired."
She probably wouldn't have noticed it if he hadn't mentioned it, but now that he did, she did feel a little tired. She was getting older (even though she would never admit it) and she found herself sitting down a lot lately. Going out into the woods today was a bit exerting, so she listened to Peeta and took a seat at the small table in the lower right hand corner of the kitchen.
Sighing, her fists went up and formed an angle as her elbows sat against the tabletop. Her braid hung over her shoulder and she didn't brush it back. She instead placed her face against her fists and observed.
She watched as Benjy sat up on his bent knees to get a better look at what his father and sister was doing. He was not sucking his thumb now like he usually did, but was leaning over the counter so that he was almost face level with the bowl.
Lily was carefully adding powdery soft sugar into the bowl. Her eyes lit up as Peeta, smiling, hovered over and smiled harder when she did it right. He ran a hand around in her hair and she demanded for him to cut it out.
Peeta himself looked like he was in heaven. He had his two lovely kids and his Katniss, he was baking and spending time with them. His smile seemed brighter than it had in weeks and his cheeks had a warm glow.
Katniss allowed a small smile as she watched the three. She felt like she didn't even need to join them (she would just get in the way, she thought). She didn't, that is, until Lily and Benjy's bright faces turned to her and Lily said, "C'mon, Mom!"
Peeta looked up from the frosting bowl and said excitedly, "C'mon, Katniss!"
The three looked at her eagerly. Katniss sighed just a tiny bit as her sore muscles started to move. She walked over behind the floating island and behind Peeta to watch over his shoulder.
"I'm here, happy?" she said monotonously.
Peeta grinned as he turned slightly to take in her face. "Yes," and he leaned forward and gave her a kiss on the tip of her nose.
Katniss smiled as Peeta went back to watching the kids. She leaned forward and placed her head in the crook of his neck. Her arms wrapped around his torso and held him close.
Sometimes, she thought, it was the simplest, most normal moments that she cherished the most. Just watching the three most important people in her life breath and smile and be happy was all that she needed.
It was a wonderful fall late afternoon.
AND THERE YOU GO. My original plan was pure fluffiness and adorableness but things had to be a little realistic. Anyhoo, I hope you liked it and please, if you'd like, review! God bless you!