AN: Thank you all so much for your amazing patience in waiting for this chapter. I had terrible writer's block for the longest time but hopefully the waits will be worth the results! The end of this story is right around the corner- probably one more chapter and perhaps an epilogue- so I just want to thank each and every one of you readers for taking the time to read a story that was just meant to be a oneshot for fun. So without further ado, chapter eight!

April 27, 2014

She wakes up slowly the next morning, the sound of chirping robins floating in from outside the window that Peeta cracked open last night before they fell asleep. Something seems off though and not just Katniss's looming worries about Peeta's father. Something else has settled deep in the pit of her stomach, a nagging feeling, like she forgot something.

Peeta is still fast asleep, but she can tell it's not restful. A crease is formed on his forehead and his lips, usually curled into a natural smile, are pressed tightly together in the closest thing she's ever seen to a scowl on his face. One of his arms is draped loosely over her waist and she slips out from under his grasp, careful not to wake him, as she heads for a shower.

She'll wake him once she's finished so it will leave him less time to fret and wait before going back to the hospital. It's not until she's already in the shower, scrubbing between her legs that she realizes exactly what her brain was trying to remind her of.

Last night- last night she made love with Peeta. Last night she didn't use a condom. Although she doesn't see it, the blood in her veins seems to have emptied out of her body and swirled down the drain along with the shower water. Suddenly, she has to reach a hand out to steady herself against the porcelain tile of the shower.

She had been so overwhelmed, so desperate to comfort Peeta that she hadn't even thought about protection. They've never made this mistake before, not in all their years spent together. Several minutes pass while she stands there, allowing the spray of water to trickle down her back while she finds her bearings again.

Everything will be okay. She'll just tell Peeta- but she can't tell Peeta; he already has enough to worry about. It's her fault anyway. She was the rational one last night and she just let everything get carried away. But what if she's pregnant now?

Oh, god, what if she's pregnant now? Her breathing becomes erratic as she continues to lean against the wall, panting as her mind comes up with more horrific questions she doesn't have any answers to.

Eventually, the water starts to turn cold so she manages to turn off the spray and wrap herself in a towel. The wide-eyed girl that stares at her through the mirror is a stranger- a terrified, idiotic stranger.

With the water off, she can hear Peeta mumbling in his sleep. Her heart crumbles at the sound and she knows without a doubt she can't bring this up. He already has too much on his plate. Combing through her wet hair, Katniss formulates a plan. She can be rational. There has to be a solution, some answer that will have a satisfactory outcome for everyone involved.

She lets out a shaky sigh as she sets the brush down and begins braiding her hair back. It's times like these that she wishes she had a mother who was actually present, maybe even involved, a mother that would help her figure out what to do about this mess.

By the time she walks back into the bedroom, Katniss has a plan and Peeta will never have to know.

She slides down onto the bed beside him, wrapping her arms around his waist and pressing her chest to his naked back. A pleased groan from deep in his chest indicates he's awake before Katniss leans forward and presses her lips to his shoulder.

"Hey," she whispers, the warmth of her breath causing Peeta to shiver.

He turns in her arms to face her, giving her a distracted smile. "Hi."

Her smile mirrors his as she presses a kiss to his chest. "I love you."

"I know," he murmurs, sleep still heavy in his voice as he reaches a hand up to cup her cheek, "Thank you."

She starts to shake her head but he stops her with the intensity of his gaze.

"I know how hard it was for you to be there last night. I know how hard it is for you to live through this again," Peeta says softly, the tears pooling in his eyes turning them a more vivid blue than they usually are. His voice is choked when he continues, "But I don't know what I'd do without you, Katniss. Promise me you won't go anywhere?"

His question tears through her chest, but she bites her bottom lip and nods before giving him a shaky smile. "Of course not, Peeta. Why don't you go shower and we'll get going?"

He nods his agreement, pecking her cheek with a soft kiss before sliding out from under the sheets and shuffling toward the bathroom. His movements almost remind her of a little boy, but that ass definitely belongs to a man.

While he's showering, Katniss fiddles around nervously, inspecting her wallet to ensure she has enough money. She does of course. The plan isn't expensive, she just can't stand the waiting.

Peeta enters the living room a half hour later dressed in a clean shirt chosen from several he keeps in a corner of her closet along with a fresh pair of jeans. His hair is still slightly damp since he never bothers to use a blow dryer. He shrugs with a tight-lipped smile and she knows that's his way of saying he's ready to go.

Katniss drives them to the hospital, reaching a hand over to comb through his hair any time they're stopped at a red light. He closes his eyes at her touch and she can't help but take note of the dark circles under them. Whatever sleep he got last night clearly wasn't restful.

She pulls into the circle drive at the front of the hospital and Peeta turns to her with a look of confusion.

"I thought I'd give you some time alone with him while I go grab us something for breakfast," she explains. "There's a pretty decent bagel shop a few streets over."

Peeta glances sideways towards the hospital but presses his lips together and nods. He looks terrified despite his best efforts at appearing strong. Katniss has half a mind to tell him to forget breakfast, that she'll go up to the ICU with him now, but this isn't just about breakfast and she can't ignore the second, more important stop she'll be making.

She leans across the center console and brushes her lips over the worried crease in his forehead, "It'll only be a half hour tops. Promise."

He locks eyes with her and his lips meet hers in a hurried kiss. It's not soft or particularly sweet either. This kiss is needy, desperate, reminding her of what he told her this morning while they were still in bed, that he doesn't know what he'd do without her.

"Okay." He says once their lips part. "I'll see you in a bit."

"Right," Katniss agrees and he makes his way out of the car and through the front doors to the hospital.

As soon as he's out of sight, she lets out a shaky breath, her teeth worrying her bottom lip as she puts the car back into gear and turns out of the circle drive in the opposite direction of the bagel shop she'll be getting breakfast from.

Luckily, this town is bigger than Fairbury and people don't know her. In fact, they barely even glance at her when she walks through the doors of the Walgreens two blocks away from the hospital.

"Can I help you?" The pharmacist asks from behind the counter in the back of the store when Katniss hesitantly approaches.

She really shouldn't be embarrassed. She's an adult after all, damn it. But still, she can just imagine all the disdainful looks she would get from everyone in Fairbury if they knew.

She quickly mumbles what she needs, earning a confused smile from the pharmacist.

"Sorry, I couldn't quite hear you."


"I need the morning after pill." Her cheeks redden involuntarily and she wishes she could just fall through a hole in the floor.

"Okay." The woman behind the counter nods, turning around and reaching for a little green box off the shelves behind her, "Did you need anything else? I can check you out here if you're finished shopping."

Katniss eyes the other woman nervously. How on earth can she be so damn calm about all of this? She shakes her head firmly. "N- no. I'm good. Thanks."

She rings up the box quickly and Katniss presents the wad of crumpled cash comprised of the tip money she earned from her last shift at the bar.

"Do you have any questions about this?" The pharmacist asks, watching her closely as she hands over the small plastic bag.

"Not much to it, right?" Katniss responds with a nervous chuckle, "Take it and that's it?"

The woman nods, "Take it as soon as possible. It works better the earlier it's used. There are side effects too. Make sure you read the instructions in the box."

Katniss is already backing away from the counter, nodding her understanding. She doesn't think she can stand here talking about this for much longer. She's already about to melt from the heat flooding her cheeks.

Once she's safely enclosed in her car, she pulls that little green box out and skims the warnings. Really all she wants to know is that the little white pill will do its job and she will have averted a potential disaster. As suspected, there's not much to it, so she swallows the pill with a gulp of water from an old bottle she bought earlier this week.

She sits in the parking lot for another handful of minutes, waiting to feel different, for some indication that everything is better now. Of course, there is no sign, and everything is not better. Mr. Mellark is still unconscious in a bed a few blocks away after all.

With a sigh, Katniss throws the car into gear and heads toward the little bagel place. She doesn't want to keep Peeta waiting in the hospital for longer than necessary. And really, there's nothing more she can do about last night. If all goes according to plan, Peeta won't ever need to be told about the mistake because nothing will ever come of it. It was a one time thing and she's done everything she can to rectify the situation. Still she feels like an idiot for letting this happen, and in some very small, dark corner of her mind, she also feels rather lonely in all of this.

"Hey, Dad." Peeta greets, bending over to place a gentle kiss to the older man's forehead. There's no reaction of course save for the hissing of the ventilator. Nothing seems to have changed in the several hours that he's been gone. In fact, he probably wouldn't even be able to guess an entire night had passed if he hadn't spent it with Katniss. His heart flutters lightly against his chest at the thought of her, of her touch last night, of her words this morning, of the way those grey eyes always seem to figure out exactly what he needs even when he can't figure out the words to tell her.

The heart monitor above the bed beeps softly while Peeta pulls one of the uncomfortable, straight-backed hospital chairs up to his father's bed, settling his bulky form onto it.

He stares stiffly at the older man's unconscious form for a long while, unsure of what to do or say. He wishes Katniss were here. She'd know what to do. Actions are always her specialty. Guilt roils inside of him at the thought that she only knows how to handle herself in hospitals from personal experience. She really has amazed him in the last twenty-four hours, but then, Katniss Everdeen has always been one to amaze him.

"I really think she's going to stay this time, dad," he murmurs quietly, almost as a thought to himself, brushing a hand over David Mellark's thinning blond hair. He doesn't want the nurses outside the glass doors to hear him, but maybe his father will listen. They're always saying in movies that unconscious people can still hear the people around them. "I know mom always says that Katniss still has one foot out the door, but- but, dad, yesterday was so hard for her and she didn't run."

"Dad, wake up," Peeta orders quietly, his voice tight with the tears he's fighting. He clears his throat before adding, "We still need you with us."

He waits for any sign that his father has heard him. A twitch, a sigh, a flutter of an eyelid. But nothing happens and he hates the stab of disappointment that runs through him. It seems like admitting to disappointment is a little like giving up.

He only has a minute to ruminate on it before Katniss slides through the doorway, a cup of steaming coffee in each hand and a paper bag pinned under her arm. She flashes Peeta a hesitant smile, her silver eyes darting toward David Mellark's still form.

"Hi, Mr. Mellark," she murmurs, reaching out to brush the man's hand with her own once she passes one of the coffee cups to Peeta. She's silent for a long moment, observing the head of the Mellark family for a while, a bittersweet smile pulling at her lips before she turns to Peeta again.

"I bought your favorite."

Peeta begins to open his mouth to argue that he's not hungry, but Katniss isn't about to take that as an answer, "You need to eat something, Peeta, or you'll make yourself sick."

She opens the paper bag, unfurling the wax paper inside and pulling out the bagel that smells lightly of cinnamon. It's already been cut and toasted, he notes as she spreads some peanut butter on one half, a personal preference he's had since high school.

"I'm going to be sick if you make me eat," he retorts, earning an eye roll from her as she settles herself on his lap before she presents him with a bite of prepared bagel.

"Eat." She orders, her voice kind but firm, leaving him with little room for argument. He takes the food between his teeth, earning a quiver of a smile from her. Peeta decides he doesn't care if he makes himself sick trying to eat, that sweet smile is worth it.

He chews thoughtfully, watching her the whole time, letting his hands move to rest on her hips. Thank god for Katniss. Her calm presence is the only thing holding him together right now.

Peeta lets her feed him an entire bagel bite by bite, but when she moves to get off his lap, his hands tighten on her hips. Instead he guides her to turn around so her back rests against his chest. Her stomach rumbles and he chuckles, pressing his lips against her shoulder. She reaches for what smells like an apple cinnamon bagel but barely picks at it before she sets it aside.

"Hypocrite," he mutters against her neck.

She shakes her head slowly. "I feel really queasy right now. I'll save it for later."

Peeta frowns, but she doesn't say more and he's too distracted by the nurse that walks in to ask about it further. Katniss slides off his lap and ducks out to use the restroom while the nurse updates him on how the night went.

Things look good from what Peeta can gather from her explanation. David's blood oxygen level is back to normal and today they'll start testing to see if he can come off the ventilator.

Katniss returns a few minutes later, looking slightly pale, but she smiles when he tells her about the ventilator.

"That's a good sign, Peeta," she assures him. "Mom always says that coming off a ventilator is a big step."

He steps outside to call his mom with the update. She sounds strange over the phone and not just tired. There's a vulnerability in her voice that was never there before. She sounds almost lonely. Peeta can't bring himself to ask about it or offer up any comfort though. He knows it's horrible of him, but he just can't find that kind of compassion this morning.

He passes the rest of the morning trying to best Katniss at Fruit Ninja and failing miserably, her cat-like reflexes completely blowing him out of the water. A respiratory therapist comes in and talks them through the test that David will have to pass before he can come off the ventilator. He doesn't pass this time around, but they're going to try again this evening.

"Hey, Peetie." Andrew calls as enters the room, shooting one of the nurses walking by a cheeky smile.

Peeta wonders how on earth his brother could be in such a good spirits with their father lying in the bed a few feet away, but Andrew was always exceptional at rising to the occasion and the nurse is quite pretty.

"You know I hate it when you call me Peetie," he mutters as Andrew pulls up another chair up beside the bed.

"And you know that I'm your big brother so I'm required to tease you," he replies, ruffling a hand through Peeta's hair with a grin before turning his attention to David. "Hi, dad."

Peeta hangs around for a little while, chatting with Andrew about nothing important, but eventually Katniss places a hand over his forearm. It's clammy to the touch and he turns to her with a frown.

"You alright?" He asks, taking in her pale cheeks.

When she admits with a shake of her head that she's not okay, Peeta realizes she really must feel like shit. Katniss isn't one to lie down quietly when she doesn't feel well.

"You two should go anyway. It's my shift now." Andrew offers, propping his feet up on the edge of David's bed, "I'll let you know if anything changes."

Peeta offers to drive once they reach the parking lot and Katniss doesn't even attempt to argue, handing over the keys to his SUV silently before she slides into the passenger seat and curls up.

"Hey," Peeta places a hand on the back of her neck and the touch earns a shudder from her. "What's going on?"

"Nothing," she mumbles into her knees. "I must have caught a bug or something."

She doesn't say anything more and Peeta doesn't press her. Silently, she slips out of the car once they come to a stop and moves slowly towards the house.

"Do you want some tea?" Peeta questions her once she's settled on the sofa, a blanket wrapped around her shoulders.

"I just need to rest," she replies, her voice shaky as though she's unsure whether or not she's going to get sick. "You should try and get some sleep, Peeta. I know you didn't sleep well last night."

"Okay," he nods, a worried look painting his features, but he presses a kiss to her forehead anyway. He knows she'll just argue with him if he tries to stay up and take care of her so he heads to the bedroom where he promptly dozes off, the exhaustion of the last forty-eight hours finally catching up with him.

Katniss slips in and out of sleep for several hours, wishing away the nausea that seems to permeate every corner of her body and hoping the awful cramps mean that the little white pill is working. She feels like an idiot for taking the list of side effects so lightly, but she supposes a little vomit is a small price to pay.

When she finally gives up on sleep and the waves of nausea rolling through her seem to have settled some, Katniss makes her way stiffly into the kitchen where Peeta is humming quietly to himself. All at once, the few feet between them seems too great. Silently, she steps up behind him and wraps her arms around the gentle taper of his waist. He's warm and the soft cotton of his tee shirt feels like heaven beneath her flushed cheek.

"Hi," Peeta turns in her arms, weaving his fingers in the hair against her scalp, massaging gently. "You feeling any better?"

"A little," she smiles weakly.

"You had me worried," he frowns, leaning forward to press his lips against the crown of her head.

"You shouldn't be," she replies softly, nestling her head against his chest, "You have better things to worry about."

He nuzzles his nose in her hair. "You're just as important as my dad, Katniss. He'd never let me hear the end of it if he ever heard I was too focused on him to worry about you."

She chuckles softly. Dear lord does she love this man.

The timer on the stove dings and Katniss jumps in surprise. She'd forgotten the reason Peeta was in here in the first place. He releases her and reaches for a pan on the burner beside him.

"I made some soup- chicken and rice." He tells her, "I thought that might make your stomach feel a little bit better."

Her cheeks flush, "I was going to cook for you, Peeta. You don't have to run around taking care of me."

"It's alright," he assures her. "Jack called a little while ago."

Her heart skips a beat, "Any news?"

"Dad's awake." His lips split into a heart-stopping grin, his excitement to tell her evident in the spark that lights up his eyes. "He came around about an hour ago now, tried to pull the ventilator tube out for himself."

"Oh, Peeta," Katniss throws her arms around his neck, "that's so wonderful."

"They've got him off the ventilator now and Jack said he was asking for something to eat as soon as he could talk again." Peeta's muscled arms wrap tightly around her.

Katniss lets out a heavy breath that she's been holding for the last two days, "We should go out there. Why didn't you wake me up?"

"You looked peaceful." He shrugs. "I thought we'd eat then head over to the hospital."

She shakes her head. "I don't need to eat anything. I'm still kind of queasy. I'll drive and you can eat."

Katniss is already halfway out the door by the time Peeta catches up with her, a thermos of soup in one hand and his jacket in the other. They buckle up and are on the road in record time.

"Don't think I haven't kept track of the fact you haven't eaten at all today," Peeta points out softly from the passenger seat where he's shoveling in mouthfuls of the steaming soup. "Half of this container is yours."

She nods. "Fine. I'll eat once we're there. Let's just get you to your family."

"There's my boy!" David calls jovially from his hospital bed as soon as the mop of blonde curls is visible through the glass doors of the room.

"Hey, dad!" Peeta grins, moving in to hug the eldest Mellark fiercely. "You look great."

"Well, you know us Mellark men have a difficult time looking bad." He replies with a hearty laugh as he runs a hand over his baggy hospital gown before his eyes alight on Katniss standing awkwardly in the doorway.

The entire clan is here, which of course includes Evelyn, who has been eyeing Katniss from her seat next to David since the moment she arrived. It's not the typical, death glare that she gets from the woman, which is honestly what's throwing her off. It's more curious than anything, like Katniss has some new wart on her face or something else that she doesn't know about.

"And you brought Miss Katniss too," David points out with a smile, waving her over to him. "Come here, dear."

As soon as she's near enough, he reaches for her hand and pulls her into a bear hug like her own father used to give her when he got home at the end of a long day.

"Thank you," he whispers so only she can hear. Just two words, but they hold a heavy weight of gratitude that she's not quite prepared for. How can this man still be so kind to her after everything? The suddenness of it has her eyes filling rapidly with tears. She pulls away, giving him a smile as she blinks rapidly.

"I thought you weren't going to be here for another hour or two?" Evelyn questions, arching a perfectly manicured eyebrow at the pair before her.

"We weren't," Peeta admits with a shrug and reaches for Katniss's hand. "Katniss wanted to get here as soon as possible when I told her about dad though."

Evelyn purses her lips and nods. "Well, we're glad you're here."

Katniss glances at the other faces in the room, seeing the same shock that she feels. The words are given a chilly air by her tone, but that's the nicest thing Evelyn Mellark has ever said in relation to Katniss Everdeen and they all know it.

"It's good for David to have his entire family with him," she adds as an afterthought. Katniss gut tightens at the mention of family. Perhaps she's more a part of the Mellark name than she ever thought.

The tension in the room eases after that and the brothers joke idly with one another, reliving the more hilarious antics of their youth with their father. Katniss remains mostly quiet, watching the scene in front of her. It's a soothing sight to see for a girl like her, practically alone in the world as far as her own family goes.

Then Peeta turns to look at her, his eyes alive with laughter, a smile gracing those beautiful lips that she's kissed so often and yet never seems to get enough of. In that moment, she knows without a doubt that she does have a family. Peeta is her family. He's all she needs and he's willing to be just that for her.

She reaches for his hand and laces her fingers with his, giving them a gentle squeeze as she does. She hopes he is having this same realization. She's pretty certain he is.

May 16, 2014

Katniss walks through the hospital doors nearly a month later, this time with an excited smile as she follows the signs that lead her to the postpartum unit of the hospital. She only stops long enough to ask the nurse at the counter which way suite 117 is.

She knocks softly on the oak door. Gale's large form greets her when it opens, a tired, lopsided grin plastered on his face.

"Congratulations, daddy," Katniss says throwing her arms around this neck in a tight hug that leaves them both laughing.

"Thanks, Catnip," he murmurs against her hair before breaking away from their embrace. "Madge is trying to get some rest. You want to meet my daughter?"

The giddy joy in his question is enough to leave Katniss grinning from ear to ear as he disappears behind a curtain drawn around Madge's bed and retrieves his tiny newborn. The little bundle is no more than seven and a half pounds, but in Gale's hands she looks even smaller. They always say that a new mother glows with happiness, but they never talk about the look of utter awe that fathers have when they look at their fragile offspring.

"Catnip, this is Cassie," he tilts the little bundle so Katniss can see the bright pink skin of his first-born framed by thick black hair and polished off with a little button nose. The infant is fast asleep, but gives a little, contented sigh. "Cassie, this is my best friend."

"She's beautiful, Gale," Katniss says, reaching out and giving his arm a squeeze.

"The most perfect accident I ever had," Gale replies reverently as he bends to place a kiss on his daughter's forehead. After a moment he turns his eyes to Katniss. "I talked to Madge a bit. And we were both wondering whether you'd be interested in being her godmother."

Her grey eyes widen as she takes in the man before her, her best friend, practically her brother. The tears fall from her eyes almost before she realizes she's about to cry.

She's having a hard time putting together a coherent thought as she stares at the tiny bundle so she asks the first thing that comes to mind, "Are you sure?"

Gale laughs and rolls his eyes, "Of course I'm sure. Is that a yes?"

"Well, yeah." Katniss chuckles, swiping at the tears still streaking down her cheeks.

"You want to hold her?" He offers and she nods, instantly holding her arms out to take the precious bundle from his hands.

Cassie yawns, stretching her little hands into the air as Katniss settles her body more comfortably in her arms. It's truly one of the great wonders of the world that everyone starts out as a tiny, innocent, defenseless baby. Looking at the little girl in her arms, Katniss wonders what the world has in store for her. Will she know the suffering that Katniss has already at such a young age? Will she know the love and happiness?

Gale coos softly to his baby girl, clearly brimming with happiness. Cassie starts to fuss a little while later and the sound causes Madge to stir from her sleep.

Katniss smiles in greeting when the blond woman pulls back the curtain tiredly.

"It's probably time for me to feed her," she says, taking the infant gently from Katniss's arms.

Katniss steps outside of the room to give them a few minutes alone while Madge allows Cassie to suckle quietly. She fiddles quietly with her phone, waiting for the okay to rejoin them when she hears the sound of heavy footfalls approaching.


She turns, a smile already pulling at her lips. "Hi."

"So Gale's a dad now," Peeta observes evenly as he pulls her to him for a hug. He still smells strongly of yeast and she guesses that he came directly to the hospital after closing up the shop today. The bakery just reopened a few days ago and looks better than ever after the fire. They're still working to refinish his apartment, but Katniss doesn't mind the company of having him around her house all the time. And she definitely doesn't mind the cooking.

"Weird, right?" She asks as they pull apart, still shaking her head a bit in disbelief before nodding at the door and adding, "Madge is feeding her right now."

Peeta nods, shoving his hands into the pockets of those jeans that she loves so much. He's been wearing them more often she's noticed. Peeta gazes steadily at the petite brunette beside him as she watches a nurse stroll by with a bottle of formula. She's been off lately. He can't put a finger on what exactly it is, but she's been even quieter than usual, almost withdrawn, like she's getting lost inside her head.

Part of him was terrified of it at first, afraid she was going to shut down like her mother did all those years ago. He knows more than she realizes about those first few months after Katniss's father died. But she hasn't descended into a depression like her mother did. It's almost as though she's preoccupied by something but Peeta can't figure out what.

Even at night, when he tries to make love with her, she seems distracted, caught up in some worry she's yet to voice to him. Though he won't admit it to himself, his greatest fear is that she'll leave again- this time for good- but he doesn't know how to stop it. He can't fix something when he doesn't know what's broken.

"Are you okay?" He asks quietly as a couple of visitors pass by to enter the suit next door.

Her grey eyes look up at him quizzically, "Sure. Why do you ask?"

Peeta opens his mouth to answer just as the door to the suite opens and Madge sticks her head out with a smile. "Hey, Peeta! Come in; she's done feeding."

Katniss watches him for another second before turning to walk inside. She's hiding something; he can tell that much, and it kills him that she thinks she can't talk to him. How many times would they have to go through this before she really believed that she could talk to him about anything?

"Do you want to hold her, Peeta?" Madge questions sweetly. Her hair is slightly mussed, not coiffed in the perfect, shiny curls she usually wears, but she's glowing regardless.

Peeta can't stop the grin from spreading across his face when she holds out the little bundle of blankets. He takes the baby from her arms and nestles her close to his chest. He's in complete awe as he gazes down at her. It seems impossible that her hands could be so tiny, with such perfect fingernails. She blinks her wide, grey eyes blearily at him before giving a soft grunt as she settles back to sleep, content now that she has a full belly.

He murmurs softly to her, quietly enough that he's sure no one can hear what he's saying. It's mostly nonsense; words that he imagines would be soothing for new ears to hear. An elderly, grey-haired nurse slips into the room and Peeta finally notices how quiet the room has grown. He looks away from the little life in his hands and catches Katniss watching him, a look that he can't quite name flooding her face before she can conceal it from him. It's gone in an instant though before he really gets the chance to contemplate what it might mean.

"She's perfect," he says, smiling between Madge and Gale both of whom look as though they might burst with pride.

"Thank you, Peeta." Madge grins.

The nurse states she needs to check how Madge and the baby are doing, a subtle hint that the visitors should leave the room. Peeta takes one look at the dark circles under Gale's eyes and decides they could probably use a short break from visitors. He knows that Gale's family is planning to visit around the dinner hour.

"We should probably get going anyway. You two should get some rest," Peeta says, handing the infant to the nurse before wrapping his arms around Madge in a friendly hug. Katniss follows suit and they quietly slip from the room as Gale settles into the pullout window seat, his eyes already half shut.

Katniss is silent on the ride home, which sets Peeta's nerves on edge. She doesn't even realize how quiet she's being. She just can't get the image of Peeta's face while he whispered to Cassie out of her mind. And his mother's words from the baby shower return to her as well. She can't stop the thoughts from invading her mind, telling her that she's not what Peeta needs. She already knows she's not what he deserves. There's never been a doubt in her mind that Peeta Mellark will be a wonderful father one day, but the question that begs to be asked is whether Katniss has it in her to be a mother. It's a downright terrifying possibility. After all, it's only been a month since her first pregnancy scare and she hasn't even found a way to mention that to Peeta yet.

He doesn't suspect anything though; not that she can tell anyway. He hasn't mentioned anything and she hasn't hinted. She made sure to hide the doctor's bills after she went to get a test done, which was negative, thank god. She had even put aside her mortification when the doctor suggested she start on the Depo shot 'just as an extra precaution against another scare.'

"What's up with you?" He asks once they've finished dinner and she's washing the dishes up at the sink.

His strong arms wrap around her waist as he pulls her back flush with his front, nuzzling his nose against the crook of her neck.

"You've been quiet ever since we got back from the hospital." He says, his words warm and muffled against her skin. His hands sneak under the hem of her shirt, his thumbs drawing circles on the smooth skin of her abdomen, "And you've just been off lately."

It could be the concern lacing his words. It could be that she's PMSing and overreacting. It could be the memory of Peeta's face when he held Cassie earlier today, or those words that Evelyn Mellark said all those months ago at the baby shower. It might be that she's so tired from keeping the pregnancy scare a secret over the last month. Or it might simply be the way his hands come to rest below her belly button, right where a child would be if there were one.

It doesn't really matter what sets her off though, because the tears streak down her face anyway. Her chest tightens and she can't breath and she's terrified that this is it. This will finally be the moment Peeta realizes that she's no good for him.

He notices her body tense in his arms, but he doesn't understand why until she gives a telltale sniffle.

"Katniss, why are you crying?" He questions worriedly.

Katniss doesn't cry for no reason. Out of all the times he's seen her cry the majority have been because of some horrible loss or the precursor to her leaving him. A chill seeps into his bones at the thought of her leaving again. Maybe he was right and she's been pulling away from him over the last few weeks because she's planning on walking away from him again. But she promised she wouldn't- said she couldn't survive without him.

She pulls away from him now however, and backs away toward the door.

"I don't know," she whispers, her words punctuated by hiccups from the sobs wracking her body. "Everything is so…"

Peeta frowns, his heart racing against his chest as he steps forward, reaching a hand out to her even as she continues to move away from him. "Everything is so what? Katniss, talk to me." His tone is desperate, but he doesn't see much of a point in pretending he's not.

As her hand hits the doorknob and pushes the backdoor of the house open, something inside of him breaks free. All this time, she was never going to stay with him. How long has she known she wanted to leave him?

She's still hysterical as she rushes outside and runs for the fields that surround the house. The farmers haven't planted their crops yet, but the black dirt was tilled under just this week, so her feet sink up to her ankles in the dark soil. Katniss waits for Peeta to shout after her, for his heavy breath as he tries to catch up with her, but he doesn't. The sounds never reach her ears.

The sun has nearly set by the time she arrives at the familiar outcropping of trees that grows up between two neighboring fields. She hasn't been here in over a year, not since Prim's wake, but it hasn't changed a bit. A cool breeze whips over the flat plains and through the trees, biting through the thin shirt she's wearing.

Katniss doesn't pay her shivers any mind though as she settles in against a tree trunk, letting her head fall to rest against her knees as she pulls them up to her chest. She's not even sure why, but Peeta's reaction to Cassie was the last straw. Ever since her pregnancy scare, she's never felt more alone. Today made her feel as though she made the wrong choice in never telling Peeta.

The last of the spring robins chirp quietly in the trees above her as they settle down to sleep by the time she hears the uneven crunch of footsteps in the leaves nearby. Katniss doesn't have the courage to look up. She knows she'll only find disappointment in his gaze. She ran. She can only imagine what he must have thought when she left him alone in the kitchen.

His shoulder brushes against hers as he sits down besides her, causing her skin to pebble as her nerves catch fire. Katniss wonders how it's still possible for her body to react to him like this after all these years.

Peeta clears his throat before leaning close to her, his breath warm against her neck as he softly asks, "Are you ready to talk to me now?"

Katniss shakes her head but simultaneously allows her body to rest against his, reveling in the warmth radiating from him. He reaches an arm around her shoulders and pulls her closer, his lips brushing against her hair as he does.

"When are you going to figure out that this will never work if you don't talk to me?" he asks sadly.

She finally looks up, her grey eyes searching his. "I think I screwed up," she admits, her voice shaky, sounding not at all like her usual self.

He frowns, confusion creasing his brow as he watches her, waiting patiently for an explanation. Katniss wishes she would have thought about this more before the fact. Now she's not sure how to confess this secret she's held close to her heart for the last month, so afraid of what Peeta's reaction might be.

Katniss drops her gaze, nervously picking at the knee of her pants. "You'll be a wonderful father someday, Peeta, but I don't know if I could ever be a good mother."

His breath whooshes from his chest, the heat of his breath rushing against the chilled skin of her neck. She's still too frightened to look at his face but she can hear the shock in his tone when he speaks again. "Oh-kay… but that won't be anytime soon, right?"

Katniss doesn't answer right away and Peeta's stomach jumps into his throat. He reaches a shaky hand and lifts her chin, forcing her to look at him again. "Right, Katniss?" He waits, and she still remains silent. "This isn't some messed up way of telling me your pregnant."

"No," Katniss whispers, a tremor running through her that causes Peeta more concern than her previous reaction.


"I could have been!" She blurts out, her cheeks flushing red at her admission, "That first night after the fire, we didn't use protection."

His cerulean eyes widen as he recalls that night. The last thing on his mind had been a condom. He had been so distraught, so lost. Katniss had been his solace, but what had he done to her? As their eyes meet now, he sees just how lost she has been this last month.

"But you aren't?" He questions again unsteadily, his voice giving away his uncertainty.


Peeta breathes a sigh of relief. "Thank god."

He's immediately taken aback by the betrayal in her gaze as she shifts out of his grasp and stands, walking a few paces before turning back around with a scathing glare. "Would it really be that terrible if I was, Peeta?"

"No!" He retorts, immediately realizing what she must think of his response. She spent a month keeping this a secret and his first reaction is thankfulness that she isn't going to be bearing his child. Her eyes are blazing, but beneath the fire is a hurt that runs deeper than he would have expected since she always told him she never wanted children anyway. "I mean- I just- no. It wouldn't be bad. I'd just like to be prepared for it- to plan it. If that's an option, I mean."

"That morning when I dropped you off at the hospital and went to get breakfast, I also got the morning after pill," she says softly, her shoulders sagging as though she's run a marathon and is completely exhausted. Peeta imagines this secret has been wearing her down from the moment she realized what had happened. "I had a doctor's appointment two weeks ago to make sure it worked.

Peeta stands, crossing the space between them before wrapping his arms around her and pulling her close. "Why didn't you tell me, Katniss?"

He can't conceal the hurt from his voice. Katniss merely buries her face against the smooth fabric of his shirt, playing idly with a button. She shrugs after a tense silence and Peeta lets his face nestle into the crook of her neck.

"You had other things to worry about," she murmurs, child-like as she lets her hands drift to the back of his neck and her fingers tangle in the soft curls they find there. "Your father was still unconscious. You didn't need to worry about me too."

"Katniss," the word rumbles through his chest like a growl before he continues, "you will always be my greatest concern. I love you. You shouldn't have dealt with all of this alone."

"Once your father woke up, I thought about telling you," Katniss admits uncertainly. "But it seemed like it was too late then." Her bottom lip trembles. "I tried to let it go, but today, when you were holding Cassie, I couldn't help but think that maybe I-"

A sob slips past her lips and her eyes fill with tears. Peeta gathers her more tightly to his chest, but she pushes away.

"You deserve someone who will gladly give you all the children you could ever want, not a girl who panics at the first risk of conception," Katniss explains ruefully.

"Katniss." Peeta reaches for her and pulls her back to him, holding her by the shoulders and resisting her attempts to free herself. "Katniss, stop it."

"You should just leave!" She shouts, shaking her head furiously. "Your mother is right! I'm no good for you."

"I'm not going anywhere!" He shouts back, his words deep and angry as he shakes her shoulders. His face softens when he sees her surprise at his reaction. "And you aren't either. Do I want children? Of course I do, but that can wait. We have time. I don't want a child with anyone other than you. I will wait the rest of my life if I must."

His mouth meets hers only a moment later in a kiss so desperate it takes her breath away. Her hands curl into fists against his chest as his tongue brushes the crease of her lips, seeking entrance. Katniss pulls back though, giving him a wistful look as Peeta opens his eyes to reveal thin blue rings surrounding dark pools of want.

"I'll never understand why you don't hate me after everything I've put you through."

Peeta snorts, leaning forward so his lips brush against her ear. "I'll never understand how you can't see the effect you have on people."

His lips find her neck and press open kisses against the soft, cool skin. Katniss closes her eyes, allowing herself to melt against him, because now he knows. He knows, and he doesn't hate her for her decision. He doesn't want to leave her. His touch sets her nerves alight once more as he sucks the tender skin and holds her close. A shiver runs through her spine and she can feel him smile against her skin.

"Will you let me take you home?" He whispers his lips brushing against her and causing another shiver to take her.

He leans back to see her nod shyly before he takes her hand and guides her to his SUV right at the edge of the small woods. He drives them slowly back over the narrow divide of grass between the two fields before finally reaching the road and making quick time back to her house.

"How did you know where I would be?" She questions once he parks the car and they walk next to one another towards the house.

"You might be beautiful and fascinating, Katniss," he smiles gently, wrapping an arm around her waist, "but you're completely predictable when you're upset."

She bites her bottom lip to hide her smile and his fingers grasp her hip a bit tighter as they walk through the front door. Peeta makes sure it's locked behind them and guides her to the bedroom.

"I love you," he murmurs, settling her back against the soft, old quilt. She lays back with a gentle smile as he climbs onto the bed with her, hovering over her before pressing a sweet, lingering kiss against her lips. "I will always love you. No matter what shit you pull, Katniss Everdeen, you'll never be rid of me. Never."

She laughs and Peeta follows her, burying his face against her shoulder as he snorts happily. She wraps her arms around him and waits for his laughter to die down again. He turns his head, resting his ear against her chest so his blue eyes can meet hers as he smiles.

"Kiss me." Katniss whispers, tugging at his shirt to drag him up to her mouth. His smile breaks into a cheeky grin as he moves up her body, sucking her bottom lip between his, reaching to twine his fingers in her thick, dark hair as he does.

When they pull away to catch their breath, Peeta doesn't move his hands from her hair, instead letting his thumbs graze over her temples. "I've missed this," he tells her softly, pressing a kiss to the tip of her nose.

"Missed what?" She asks, her brow wrinkling in confusion, letting her hands slide beneath his shirt to draw mindless patterns along the small of his back.

"You," he states simply, lowering his lips to her throat so his next words tickle her skin, "being like this. You've been so preoccupied lately and I couldn't figure out why."

"I was so afraid of what you would say if you found out," she confesses, a tiny frown still playing at her lips. Peeta doesn't like that frown, so he leans forward and kisses it away, leaving her shuddering and breathless beneath him by the time he pulls away, dragging his lips across her jaw and nipping at the sensitive skin.

She gasps and he chuckles- a deep, rumbling sound that thrills her.

"I know you were." Peeta agrees as his hands slide under the hem of her shirt and find her breasts, palming them fondly as his lips continue to trail along her collarbone. "But you don't have to be anymore."

Katniss shivers beneath his warmth, a fire lighting within her as he worships her with his every touch. A languid heat pours through her veins desperate to find some release. She tugs impatiently at his shirt and a laugh rolls deep inside his broad chest as he sits back and pulls the fabric over his head, casting it to the side of the room.

"What are you in such a hurry for?" He grins as Katniss sits up, ripping her shirt over her head in a similar fashion.

"I want you," she mutters with a shy blush that creeps along the smooth skin of her neck. His stomach swoops at her words. How can she always make him want her more? He is flooded by the sudden desire, no rather, the need to possess her, to remind her that she is his and that he will be hers forever too.

His mouth meets hungrily with hers and Katniss whimpers involuntarily, squirming so she brushes against the bulge in his pants. Her hands glide along the plains of his back, appreciating the taut muscles as he presses over her, placing open kisses against her shoulder as he allows his teeth to graze her heated skin.

Katniss's legs tangle with his as she arches against him. His hands find the button of her jeans, unclasping them before letting his hands drift beneath the coarse fabric to cup herass. His strong hands knead as he moans against her lips. He kisses her deeply, his tongue seeking dominance over hers and Katniss watches him, eyes wide open while he does. The stubble of his chin scratches her skin as he devours her, his tongue delving against her as though she's some elixir he needs to survive.

All at once, he pulls away, his blue eyes dark with need as he slips down her body, pulling her pants with him as he goes. His lips meet the inner side of her thigh with such reverence it makes her want to cry. His broad palms find the back of her legs and pull them apart, gently spreading them as he continues to place kisses along her thigh until he reaches it's end, faced with the pale green panties she had mindlessly slipped on this morning.

He leans in, pressing his face to the thin fabric and breathing deeply, his breath hot against her already heated folds. She trembles, her legs closing against his shoulders as a hand finds the back of his head, burying her fingers in his rich, golden curls.

Peeta brushes a hand over her panties, feeling the dampness already pooling there, and smiles. He nuzzles the soft skin of her thigh, the roughness of his jaw causing the skin there to pebble.

"So fucking wet already, Katniss," he mutters against her, his words vibrating through her core. "I could get drunk on the smell of you."

She gives a quiet moan and rolls her hips, wordlessly begging for his mouth. Peeta dips gleefully between her legs and his lips immediately lock around that hidden bundle of nerves, sucking strongly as he flicks his tongue over the tiny bud.

"Peeta." She cries lowly, her fingers clenching against his scalp.

"Katniss," he copies, lapping his tongue over her center before smiling up at her, his blue eyes alight with fire. "Tell me what you want."

"You." She answers simply, closing her eyes as she lets her head fall back against the soft covers of the bed, holding his head between her thighs where his curls brush softly against her skin.

Without another word, Peeta hooks his fingers under the waistband of her panties and tugs them down. His tongue finds her center again and slips through her folds, dipping inside of her and earning a gasp as he does. Katniss drags a labored breath, her fingers shaking unsteadily.

"Peeta, please," she begs quietly.

He moves away instantly, peering down at her with a mischievous air. He kisses her slowly, the musky taste of herself still heavy on his lips.

"What Katniss? What are you begging for?" he teases, his fingers probing gently against her hips. He lowers his lips close to her ear before he whispers, "Do you want me to fuck you? Do you want me buried deep inside of you?"

She whimpers, unable to form a coherent response as her hands grapple at his pants, messily attempting to push them over his hips. His eyes are dark as they watch her struggle, allowing her time to push his underwear down as well to reveal his ridged cock.

"Katniss, tell me." Peeta commands, earning a wide-eyed look from her pretty face. She's not used to this side of him. He has shown it so rarely in the past, but tonight he needs her to tell him.

"I need you," she whispers hesitantly, grey eyes peering up at him as her tiny hand wraps around the soft, heated skin of his cock.

Peeta can't help but thrust against her grip, struggling not to groan and collapse against her, begging her to pump that small fist over his length. He weaves his thick fingers through her dark locks, ruining the neat braid she keeps her hair in. A deep furrow creases his brow as he works himself against her hand, his eyes straining as he tries to hold back a deep grunt of bliss. Bolts of pleasure make their way through him, travelling straight to his groin.

"Fuck." Peeta breathes, the air passing his lips and teasing the downy hairs near her ear.

He wants to hold out. He wants Katniss to beg him for what she wants, but he's not sure he's capable of such discipline. Muscles tighten in his belly and he pulls away from her grip, knowing if he doesn't this evening will be over far too soon.

"Peeta," Katniss trembles beneath him, "Please. I need you in me."

He grins at her timid words. He wants nothing more than to bury himself inside of her and never leave. He reaches towards the drawer of the bedside table where the condoms are but Katniss stills his hand, looking up at him shyly.


Peeta frowns and shakes his head. "Katniss, don't be ridiculous-"

"I'm on the shot," she confesses, shrugging halfheartedly. "I have been since I went to the doctor to be sure."

He stares down at her, blinking slowly as he realizes what this means. "Katniss, we don't have to- we could still use one."

She shakes her head slowly. "I don't want anything between us tonight."

Her cheeks blush the most beautiful pink Peeta has ever seen. He didn't think it was possible for him to love her more, but it seems she only continues to prove him wrong.

Wordlessly, Peeta presses himself against her folds, teasing her before slipping slowly inside, releasing a shuddering sigh as he does. He has never felt more whole than he does tonight. She holds his gaze as he moves inside of her, burying himself as deeply as he can. He tugs at the cups of her bra, releasing her breasts from their confinement so he can lower his mouth and suck a rosy bud between his lips, nipping softly.

"Peeta!" she whines weakly, wrapping her arms around his neck, holding him close to her.

He thrusts deeply, earning a moan from her that entices him to do it again and again and again. He finds her clitoris with his thumb, pressing firm circles over the small bundle. She sighs, cries, shudders, squirms. Peeta revels at the way her body responds to him, the way her legs firmly wrap themselves around his waist as he snaps his hips against hers ruthlessly. All at once, she's chanting his name so close, tightening around him. Her nails claw desperately at his back, begging him to take her over the edge of this precipice he's brought her to.

He places his hands at the backs of her knees and presses them towards her chest, thrusting even deeper, grunting with his efforts as he feels her warmth clench around him. Katniss let's out a strangled cry of pleasure, the precursor to her impending climax and Peeta pulls out quickly, earning an angry shout from her as her grey eyes snap open and she glares up at him.

Peeta smiles, administering a line of kisses over her belly, across her chest, up her throat, until finally reaching her lips, his tongue dipping past her lips. He moves, laying down beside her and wrapping an arm around her waist to pull her so they are spooning one another. His cock brushes her backside briefly as he shimmies into position.

Katniss opens her pretty lips to ask him what he's doing, but he thrusts inside of her with one strong snap of his hips, turning her words into a gasp, which quickly transforms into a moan. He feels so much bigger from this position. She has always loved it and she throws her head back to rest against his shoulder in bliss now as he thrusts into her at a quick pace.

"Fuck, Peeta," she moans deeply, sounding like a woman possessed, which Peeta thinks she might be as she bucks her hips back to meet his every thrust. He reaches a large, calloused hand between the cleft of her thighs, teasing her relentlessly, biting softly at her shoulder.

"Come for me," Peeta demands, his voice gruff as he continues to drive into her. "I love you, Katniss. Come for me."

All at once, her back arches against him, her muscles turning ridged as she lets out a breathless cry, a hand reaching back to find his as he laces his fingers with hers. Her walls clench around him as he thrusts into her more gently, helping her ride out her climax as she lets out a tiny whimper with each movement. Peeta buries his face in the crook of her neck and with one final thrust, a wave of euphoria washes over him, to the tip of every nerve in his body. He spills over inside of her, pouring his warmth in her as his cock throbs and he pants heavily.

His shaky hands find hers, holding her close to him as they regain use of their bodies once more. Katniss melts against him, boneless in her bliss. Peeta slips out once he softens again and she can't help but squirm at the feel of his semen following. It's unusual though not completely unwelcome. She immediately misses his presence inside of her, noting how empty she feels.

Peeta rests his cheek against hers bringing one of their hands back to her belly and brushing his thumb over the taut skin. He needs to tell her; he needs her to understand.

"I would love to have children, Katniss, but I need to be with you. I want us to be ready and I want you to want our children as much as I do. I'm not going to force you into something you're not ready for or don't want."

"I'm not sure I can do it," she whispers quietly, afraid that he might change his mind when he hears her confession.

He just chuckles softly.

"I know you can. If you decide you want to, you will be the best mother a child could ever hope for, Katniss. Look at how you were with Prim. You love with your whole heart. You would do anything to protect those that you care for."

She turns just enough so she can meet her gaze with those comforting blue eyes and she can't help but smile. This man has so much faith in her. Maybe he's right. Maybe she could be a mother one day, but with so much uncertainty in the world, the idea still frightens her. She's not sure she could live through another loss like she had to with Prim.

"We would keep them safe," he murmurs against her hair, pressing a gentle kiss just behind her ear. Peeta knows her well enough to know her exact worry. "I wouldn't let anything happen to you or anyone that is a part of you."

Katniss snuggles in closer to him with a soft sigh. Maybe she'll be ready one day. But for tonight, at least she knows she still has him. Her heart swells against her chest as she twines her fingers tightly with his.

"Every minute I love you more than the last," she admits with a tiny laugh. It sounds corny, more like something Peeta would be prone to saying, but Katniss can't deny the truth in that one simple sentence. She has never loved Peeta Mellark more than she does right now.

Peeta doesn't say anything in return and she starts to worry that she's done something to upset him. Her fears are quickly quelled when she hears the deep snore that slips past his lips, tickling the wispy hairs against her neck. Katniss laughs again but pulls the covers closer, allowing her eyes to drift shut and claim the first truly restful sleep she's had in a month.

AN: Please feel free to let me know what you think! I love hearing from you. I haven't had a chance to answer every review from the last chapter but I will be working to catch up on them tonight hopefully. Just know I truly appreciate each and every one of you that takes the time to read and leave your feedback. If you want, you can always follow me at therebelliondies dot tumblr dot com