A/N: Hey guys! Here's just a quick little one shot about a day that Zuri spends at the bakery with Peeta shortly before Atem is born.
As some of you may have noticed, my story "Synchronicity" was removed from because of the content. If you are unsure of where to find the story now, please visit my profile where the links to both my Tumblr account and AO3 account are located. I will be posting all updates to Synchronicity to those pages.
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"Are you sure you're okay?" I ask Katniss, who looks dazed sitting at the kitchen table.
"I'm fine, just really tired." She replies, moving eggs around on her breakfast plate before looking up at me and giving me a weak smile.
"Go upstairs and get some rest, you need it right now. We'll be back before three." I tell her, taking her plate away. "Zuri! Are you ready to go?" I call out for my three year old daughter who comes running in from the living room with a smile.
"I'm singing, daddy." She informs me in between tiny jumps.
"I heard you." I smile. "You can sing some more on the walk."
"Can I ride on your shoulders?" she asks.
"Sure. But first, you have to give mommy a kiss goodbye and tell her and baby to get some rest." I tell her, pointing at Katniss who has finally managed to get up from her chair and is standing in front of the table. Zuri obeys and skips over to Katniss, giving her a hug around her legs as Katniss does the best she can to bend to Zuri's level to place a kiss on the top of her head.
"Bye, mommy," Zuri says, squeezing harder. "You and baby rest, that's what daddy said." She points her tiny toddler finger at Katniss as she speaks the last sentence.
"Yes, ma'am." Katniss says. Zuri lets go and walks over to the front door to wait for me.
I take my turn to walk over to Katniss to say goodbye and give yet another reminder that she needs her rest. "Do as Zuri says," I remind her with a sheepish smile. I lean in and place a soft kiss on her lips and brush her cheek with my thumb. "It'll be over soon." She nods at this and leans her head in, resting her forehead on mine and closing her eyes.
After running the bakery for 16 years, I can make my own hours, which means Zuri doesn't have to get up at 4am in order to come with me, so I've been taking her with me a lot lately to give Katniss some time to rest before our second child is born. She hasn't been sleeping well at all, and for once, it isn't the nightmares interrupting her sleep; it's discomfort. She's in the final stretch of the pregnancy, with only a few weeks left before the baby is due and Katniss says it feels like he or she is ready to come out right now, kicking and pushing on Katniss's stomach with such force that it wakes her up from a deep sleep.
We've spent many nights over the last few months just watching her stomach as it moves from side to side as the baby pushes and kicks around. It doesn't scare her nearly as much as it did when she was pregnant with Zuri, but there are still nights that the movement and reality of another child overwhelms her and I have to remind her how well we've done with Zuri and what a great little person she is. It helps, but I don't think Katniss will ever be able to convince herself that she's doing the best she can as a parent. Anyone that sees her with Zuri will tell you how wrong Katniss is, but after Prim's death all those years ago, Katniss will never be able to shake the feeling that she failed her, and she'll never shake the fear that she'll fail one or both of our children one day.
Zuri and I leave the house and start the familiar walk over to the bakery where we'll spend the next few hours. Coming to the bakery has been beneficial for Zuri in a lot of ways. It's helping her learn to socialize and be around other people, and it has also helped her with her numbers and counting when she helps me measure ingredients while I bake.
"Up, daddy." Zuri calls, pulling on my shirt. I scoop her up in my arms, lift her over my shoulders and set her down. She rests her head on mine and hangs on tight. "I'm tall!" she squeals as we begin to walk again.
"You're the tallest girl in District 12." I confirm. She giggles at the statement.
When we make it to the bakery, Hakan and Monte are there as usual. They've been opening the bakery since Zuri was born three years ago, allowing me to have some time with my family before going to work. I hated the thought of being awake and out of the house before Zuri was awake. I wanted to be able to see her when she woke up every day and have breakfast with her and Katniss.
"Good Morning, Peeta." Hakan says. "You have something on your shoulders." He smiles at Zuri. "It kind of looks like this little girl that I know. I think her name is… I can't remember. Do you know who I'm talking about?"
"I have no idea who you're talking about." I say, going along with Hakan. He's great with Zuri; it's a shame he never had kids of his own.
"Zuri Mellark!" Zuri calls out.
"That's it! Zuri Mellark. Mellark. That's funny; this bakery has the same name as you."
"Because it's my daddy's." Zuri points out.
"Is it really?" Hakan asks. "I didn't know that. Thank you for letting me filling me in, Zuri." I take her off my shoulders and she runs to the back of the bakery.
"How's Katniss?" Hakan asks.
"She's alright, just really tired. This one finds that the best time to kick and move around is when we're trying to sleep. It keeps her up at night." I explain.
"How much longer now?"
"A little less than four weeks." I tell him. "We don't even have the room ready yet. I want everything done beforehand, even if the baby will be sleeping in the bassinet in our room for the first few weeks." I don't know why I'm saying all of this to Hakan, but he doesn't seem to mind. "It's just a lot more difficult now with Zuri and Katniss barely being able to move these days. I think it took her five minutes to get out of the kitchen chair this morning." I laugh.
I find Zuri by the steel table in the back of bakery that we use for all of the baking. She is too small to see over the table, so she just stands there, barely visible. "I'm ready, dad." She says, trying to sound mature.
"Ready for what?" I ask, trying not to laugh.
"To work." She says like it's the most obvious thing in the world.
We start off by washing our hands, something I've been trying to teach her since she was old enough to walk. Never touch food you're making for other people unless you've washed your hands first. She does a pretty good job of remembering this, but there are still times when I have to remind her.
"Can you bring me four eggs?" I say to her slowly, emphasizing the word four. Since Zuri has been coming to work with me, I moved the eggs to a lower shelf so that she can be the one to count them out and bring them to me; I have things set up the same way at home. She's dropped some a few times, but it only teaches her to be more careful next time.
"One, two," I hear her count out before bringing me the eggs and walking back to the fridge. "Three, four." She says, finishing her task.
"Thank you. Can you tell me how many cups of sugar are here?" I ask her, pointing to the two cups of sugar each measured out in one cup measurements.
"That's two cups, daddy." She answers, pointing at them. "One, two."
"Perfect. Can you pour them both into the bowl with the butter?" I ask, and then watch as she carefully picks up the cups of sugar one by one and dumps them into the bowl. We continue in this fashion until we have dough for sugar cookies ready to be chilled. Once the dough is chilling we begin to clean up.
"Cleaning is so fun!" Zuri says, standing on a chair next to the sink, putting spoons and cups into it as I hand them to her.
"I'm glad you think so." I reply.
When to dough is chilled enough, Zuri helps me cut circles out of the dough with cookie cutters. They're not perfect, but our customers know a Zuri cookie at this point and don't mind, so I let her help with this part before I put the trays in the oven.
We repeat this same pattern for a few loaves of bread and another batch of cookies before we stop to take a break. "I'm going to call mommy now." I tell Zuri, who jumps off her chair and runs to the corner where the phone is. I dial the number and let it ring two, three times before I hear the other end pick up.
"Hello?" Katniss says.
"Hey," I start. "You weren't sleeping were you?" I ask.
"No, I was having lunch." She answers.
"Are you feeling any better?"
"A little. I took a 3 hour nap at you guys left."
"Good. We'll still be home by three; I just wanted to see how you were feeling." I tell her as Zuri starts to tug at my leg. "I think someone wants to talk to you." I say. "Hang on a minute." I hand the phone to Zuri and she begins talking right away.
"Hi mommy!" pause. "Yes." Pause. "We made cookies!" Pause. "And bread!" Pause. "No." Pause. "No." A laugh. "Okay, mommy." She moves the phone from her ear. "It's for you, daddy." She says, before putting the phone to her mouth. "BYE MOMMY!" she yells.
"Hey," I say into the phone again.
"She's having fun." Katniss says. I can hear the smile in her voice now.
"A blast. She even said she loves to clean." I tell her.
"Good, I'll remember that." Katniss jokes. "Watch her by those ovens."
"You know I always do." I say.
"I know. I'll see you soon." She replies.
"I love you."
"I love you too."
I hang up the phone and find Zuri looking at the display at the front of the bakery. "Are you hungry?" I ask her. She nods. "There is some fruit and cheese in the back. You have to have some of that before you can have a cookie." Her shoulder slump at this realization before she begins walking to the back where I grab the food from the fridge set Zuri up at the table in the far back where the other employees have lunch and sit across from her, sharing the food.
"Good grapes." She says, stuffing three in her mouth.
"Hey," I say sternly. "Small bites." I don't need her to start choking.
"That's what mommy says." She points out with a smile.
When she is finished eating I bring her back to the front of the bakery and let her pick a cookie out. "I want that one." She says, point to one of the sugar cookies we made this morning. "Can we take one home for mommy too?" she asks.
"We can do better." I say. "Let's bring a whole bag home for mommy. She loves these right now." Katniss has been on a major sweets kick since getting pregnant this second time. Ever her love of cheese buns has been overshadowed by her cravings for sweets.
We give the bakery a once over before leaving it in the hands of Chelle and Anani. Zuri is in charge of the bag of cookies and I put her back up on my shoulders for the walk home, the bag hitting me in the head every few steps. We see Haymitch when we make our way into the Victor's Village; he waves at us and says he'll see us later for dinner.
Once we get into the house, Zuri runs into the living room where Katniss is laying on the couch with her feet propped up on a pillow. "Here, mommy!" Zuri says excitedly, shoving the bag of sugar cookies at Katniss.
"Did you make these for me?" Katniss asks, looking into the bag. Zuri nods. "Thank you, Zuri." She says as Zuri climbs up in the couch and wedged herself between the couch cushion and Katniss' legs. Katniss moves her head to the side, eyes searching.
"Hey," I say, walking into the living room finally. She smiles when I walk in, extending her hand in my direction, I take her hand and stand next to her. "I see you got your present." I decide to sit down on the floor next to the couch, keeping Katniss's hand in mine. "Looks like I've gone down on the totem pole, I don't even get a spot on the couch anymore."
"Stop that." Katniss says letting go of my hand and swatting my shoulder. "Look, how can you disturb that?" she points at Zuri who is now curled up on the couch, almost asleep.
"I wouldn't." I answer. "She worked hard today."
"I'll help you with dinner." Katniss say, but I shake my head.
"No, you lay down. I'll get Haymitch to help." This makes Katniss laugh.
"Good luck with that." She says.
"It can wait a little bit anyway; I'm comfortable here in my new spot on the floor."
"You're so neglected." She teases. I move my head down to rest it near Katniss, and she puts her head down on top of mine. "We're all going to fall asleep over here." She says quietly.
"I don't have a problem with that." I reply.
And we stay like that, both of us drifting in and out of sleep while Zuri naps at Katniss's feet. I'm not getting dinner started this way, but it's too perfect of a moment; I don't want to interrupt it.