Six months later…
"Gale! Come on! We're going to miss it!" I yelled down the hallway. He insisted on getting ready completely by himself today and it had taken twice as long. But I was proud of him, this was a huge milestone for him, and he had come so far in six short months.
His burns have faded to scars, but he likes the scars, because he says they remind him of the dumber things he's done in his life, they make him proud to walk through town and have people stare. The scars also keep him humble, and show him that each day is precious, each day means something. It always bothers me that he has those scars because of me, because he was protecting me, but when I mention this, he shoves it away.
We live in the Capitol now, so Gale had access to all the doctors he needs. Normal couples would be thousands in debt right now, but every doctor that treats him refuses our money. Whenever he is fully healed, we plan on moving back to 12, and back to the forest where we belong.
He's been walking without the use of his cane for a while now, healing so much faster than expected. Hunting is still several months away, but he reminds himself that he can do it every day. Since he doesn't have a war to work for now, he uses his rehab as a challenge. If he can get better faster than expected, if he can do things faster than expected, if he can ultimately better himself, then he's won the war.
But it's the emotional war that really bothers us. Some days, I have flashbacks so bad that I bend over the couch, shaking with the fear of my memories. Gale has them too, and sneaking up on him sends him back into the arena, constantly trying to protect me. But our doctor encouraged us to start writing our flashbacks down, so that's what we do.
Most of my pages are filled with Rue, but sometimes I see faces of people I never could save, or Cato killing the ones I love. Gale's are filled with me dying, waking up in the arena without me, having to kill me himself. Some of them he talks about, but most of them he doesn't. And we don't read each other's journals, it's a place where we can let things off our chest. I hope one day I can let him read it, just so he can see how scared I am of losing him.
He slowly emerges from our bedroom, dressed in a button up shirt, with the sleeves pushed up to the elbows, and light washed blue jeans. He runs his hand through his hair, "Calm yourself, Catnip, I'm ready!" I can see he's just as happy as I am about the news.
Earlier this morning, in the small apartment the four of us shared, we helped a very pregnant Madge and a very nervous Peeta down to Gale's truck. Her water had broken and she wanted to get to the hospital very soon, and in a safer vehicle than what Peeta drove. Gale had laughed and asked Peeta if he needed to ride shotgun while one of us drove, but he didn't. He had driven and we promised to be up there in a few hours.
Peeta had married Madge shortly after Paylor's election as president. I was happy that the people of Panem had voted for someone who would actually change the country, because we didn't need another whacko running it. Peeta and Madge had branched out into Capitol traditions for a wedding, with a toasting mixed in. Cinna had designed most of it, dressing me as the maid of honor in a sunrise orange short dress, with Johanna and Posy matching as the other bridesmaids.
Haymitch had given her away, in a tux with a matching orange vest and tie. Gale was striking in his best man's suit, with Rory looking eerily similar, and Finnick blew everyone away. It had been confusing as to why all those people were there, but it was beautiful nonetheless.
And today, their beautiful baby would grace the world. I was really scared, knowing I would have to go through this myself in about six months, but Gale squeezed my hand, excited for the same reason. He walks down the hall with a louder tread than he used to have, entering the waiting room. He slowly bends down to kiss my slightly protruding stomach before he kisses my lips. "I love you, Catnip. And Catnip junior or Gale junior," he winks.
"We are not naming our unborn child after you, your ego is large enough for the both of us," I laugh. "Now hurry up, or we're going to miss it and we'll never be forgiven!"
We hailed a cab and asked the man to step on it. The four of us were basically our own family, and we were so excited to have a little baby running around. With Madge and Peeta's parents gone, my mother and Gale's had accepted Madge and Peeta as family, and they were waiting anxiously for news like grandparents. They called every day and sometimes stopped by, just to see how Madge was. We joked that they loved Peeta and Madge more than Gale and I.
Even though the sex of the baby could be determined with Capitol technology, Peeta and Madge had decided they wanted this old fashioned and didn't want to know. Haymitch and Johanna had been betting furiously, judging on how high Madge was carrying, how emotional she was, and for how long she'd been pregnant. I'd been told they'd already started betting on me too.
When we arrived to the hospital, we rushed to the delivery waiting room where Haymitch and Hazelle were both pacing. Finnick was blindly tying knots (better than I could, and I'm not blind), and Annie was reading a book alongside Vick. Rory was holding Prim's hand and talking quietly, I wondered why she wasn't helping deliver with my mother. Gale mussed his brother's hair and kissed Posy on the forehead.
Many screams, curse words, and laps around the waiting room later, we heard the cries of a beautiful, healthy baby. Peeta opened the door and rushed out to us, "It's a girl! A girl! A beautiful blonde haired, blue eyed, baby girl!"
We all smiled and hugged him, exclaiming our congratulations. Johanna looked to Haymitch, "Pay up." He shrugged and handed over the money as she smiled.
"What's the name, Peeta?" Prim asked.
His smile stretched wider, "Nadia. Nadia Mellark. It means 'beginning.'"
And it was appropriate. As I smiled to Gale, who put a hand on my stomach, this was the beginning. The beginning of a life we had always dreamed of. A life where we didn't have to run off or live in the woods for a child of mine and Gale's to be safe.
He kissed my lips, "I love you," he whispered.
That night, we lay in bed, talking as we always do. We had added Nadia to the book we had kept about people in the war. Unlike the book about our flashbacks, this one was a happy one that celebrated the lives of the people we missed. Although Nadia had been born after the war was over, she still played a big part in swinging the people's allegiances and creating a diversion so her father could come home.
Not to mention she was a beautiful baby.
Gale rolled over to turn off the light and then held me close to him. "We never have to give this up, Catnip. We can love each other as much as we want; no one has to sacrifice anything for our happiness ever again."
And it's true.
Six months after Nadia is born, our beautiful baby boy graces the world. Right away, we notice he has dark hair and grey eyes like his parents. Gale swells with pride as people clap him excitedly on the back and he kisses the baby boy in my arms. We name him Colby, after Gale's father.
As he grows and Gale heals, we move back to district 12, rebuilding the house on the lake that we love so much. He loves the outdoors and Gale gave him a bow on his fifth birthday. We teach him to hunt, we teach him to love nature, we teach him everything we know. The girl followed him three years after, Caroline, my mother's middle name. She says it means 'free person,' and that is appropriate too.
They love to play with Peeta and Madge's three kids, but they love to explore the woods even more. While Colby has the seam look, Caroline is the spitting image of Prim, and just as happy as Prim always is.
The days pass easy and Peeta is eventually elected Mayor of the district. Our book of flashbacks gets written in less often, but the book of people that we remember grows. As each of our party gets married and have children, we add them so they can always be celebrated. We remind ourselves every day of the struggles we went through just to have the life we do now.
Some days, I wonder if Gale always envisioned this outcome, but deep down, I know he did. And he was right, no one has tried to take our happiness, no one has to survive to please a president. We are at peace, and we will stay that way. Our children will get the future we fought for. Every sacrifice was worth it, just to see my son and daughter wrestle in the living room with Gale.
But no one has to sacrifice any more.