Author's notes: This is the second study of an episode involving Peeta's leg. It's meant to be a companion piece to the first HG fic I wrote earlier this year, but this can stand alone. Feedback is greatly appreciated. No copyright infringement intended.
There's nothing ill can dwell in such a temple:
If the ill spirit have so fair a house,
Good things will strive to dwell with 't.
Good Things Will Strive to Dwell
"Storm's coming," she heard him whisper into her ear before falling asleep in his arms last night.
Years ago, Peeta developed an uncanny talent for predicting the weather so accurately that Katniss was inclined to believe that he was clairvoyant. Peeta would casually announce severe weather would come their way, and it would come to pass sure enough. It dawned on Katniss a few months later, that Peeta would wince almost imperceptively—but enough not to escape her trained hunter's eyes—shortly following his forecast, as he struggled to put sustained weight on his false leg when he walked. She set aside her irritation at him for nearly duping her into thinking his talent was supernatural. If she had to admit it, she was mostly vexed at herself for not noticing Peeta's limp right away. She descended on him, got him to admit the truth, and put him on the phone with her mother immediately. Although there is no cure for the pains that accompany a phantom limb, Katniss's mother prescribed some remedies that would help alleviate some of Peeta's discomfort.
So it was, that whenever Peeta declared a change in the weather, Katniss would make it a point to rise earlier than her husband the baker, especially since the children were born.
When Katniss opens her eyes, she is greeted by the pitter-patter––not of the rain her husband predicted, although the scent of it is unmistakable in the air––but of her two children's feet in the hallway outside their bedroom. Katniss glances down at Peeta, whose sleeping head rests on her shoulder. She tenderly places a kiss on his crown, as she extracts herself gingerly from under him. Before she leaves the room, she places Peeta's leg ointment and some extra wrappings next to his prosthetics on the floor.
Katniss greets her children, and looking over her shoulder, indicating the room she shares with Peeta, she puts her index finger to her lips with a muted "shh." The little ones imitate their mother's gesture, as it is customary to let Papa sleep in when the weather is bad. Katniss gathers the children, gets them ready and dressed. She takes each of their hands and leads them downstairs.
She feeds her son while coaxing her daughter to take "one more bite" a few dozens of times. Once they finish, Katniss fetches their coats and bundles up the boy first. She makes a game out of snatching his nose, which delights the child endlessly, not minding at all whether he got it back or not. The girl sits at Katniss's feet, absently coloring with an art set Peeta had given her. Katniss notices that her daughter is particularly quiet this morning, the air absent of the usual humming of a nonsensical tune to herself. Throughout the morning, she keeps glancing expectantly upstairs, no doubt missing her father in the family's morning routine.
"All right, little bird, it's your turn," she beckons to her daughter, letting loose the monster of the boy to play with his toys. Katniss kneels behind the girl, then plaits her hair into two braids. She hums to her daughter, playfully trying to draw a tune out of her but to no avail.
Katniss can hear the muffled sounds of Peeta rising and lumbering about upstairs. She turns to her daughter, a wise soul at all of six years old, and cautions gently, "Remember to help pay mind to Papa's leg today, okay?"
As Katniss adjusts her daughter's hair, the girl nods. After a few moments of silence, she looks up at her mother with her blue eyes solemn and worried, and asks, "Mommy, what happened to Papa's real leg?"
Katniss blinks at this, taken slightly aback. Although she and Peeta have talked about this moment, she always figured they have a few more years until the first question about The Past springs from their children's mouths. Katniss silently wishes that Peeta can help her now. He's always been better with words.
"Well..." she chooses her words carefully, "his leg was hurt very badly... a long time ago. It had to be taken away."
"Oh," she furrows her eyebrows, trying to process this. "Is Papa broken?" she asks her mother sadly.
Katniss feels her heart melt at her daughter's compassion and precociousness, and regards her warmly, "No, sweetheart." She is surprised—but then again, not really—at how easily she knows the answer to this question. "Only very strong people can have a leg like Papa does," she explains. Upon hearing the word "strong" from halfway across the room, the boy comes over and shows off his biceps, puffing his chest out from under layers of clothing, wayward blonde curls falling over his smiling grey eyes. "Yes, I know, you're strong, too," Katniss giggles at her son's silliness, engulfing him in her arms.
"And, you know," she continues to her daughter conspiratorially, but with every bit of honesty she can pour into the next words, "your Papa is the strongest person I know."
The little girl considers this for a brief moment. Then her eyes are alight, beaming a knowing smile at her mother, she declares genuinely, "Me, too."
Katniss takes her daughter in her arms as well, planting a kiss on her cheek. She stays like this, embracing both her children, inhaling the scent of them, and committing it to memory. She hears the distinct step-and-thump of her husband's footfalls on the bottom stair the same time Haymitch's voice suddenly erupts from outside. The curses emanating from the house next door––punctuated by "damn geese," "damn rain," and all manner of expletives––serve to disrupt the morning's peace. With a sigh, Katniss addresses her children, "Why don't you two see if Uncle Haymitch needs help with the geese?"
A pair of arms circle Katniss's waist as the children scamper outside with glee. Peeta rests his chin on Katniss's shoulder, watching the three attempt to corral wayward geese into Haymitch's enclosure.
"Did you hear all that?" Katniss offers no more than a sideways glance at him.
"Yes," he replies, feigning an apologetic tone. Katniss senses Peeta's eyes crinkle with a smile on upon her cheek, "But only because I was eavesdropping."
She turns her head towards him finally, granting him her trademark scowl, but with no attempt to hide her amusement. "Well, aren't you clever?"
Katniss swivels her body inward, facing his, draping her arms over his shoulders to caress his nape. She feels the familiar warmth of his body that cannot be measured by temperature.
"It's true, though," she says, looking earnestly into his eyes. "Every word." And she means it. People used to tout her strength, during the Games and the war that followed, but it was Peeta who remained true and steadfast through it all. She hopes this reminds Peeta that he may have lost a limb, but he hasn't lost an ounce of himself.
The smile he rewards her is the kind that tugs at her very core, and the kiss he draws her into is the kind that leaves traces of it hours after its passing. When they part, she rests a palm on his cheek, into which he leaves a small kiss, and says to her blithely, "I don't think my leg will be bothering me at all today."
The last thing Katniss thinks, as she watches her husband retrieve their children from Haymitch's yard, is how beautiful the meadow looks after a storm passes.