June 30, 1876
Their kids played in a wheatfield. Six-year-old Laurel, the happy but serious girl who reminded Katniss so much of herself before her father died that it hurt sometimes. Two-year-old baby Ray, the carefree boy who looked up to his big sister in a way Peeta had never had the luxury of doing with his brothers. Their laughing girl, running and skipping and enjoying the late summer breeze, her dark hair streaming behind her and her bright blue eyes sparkling in the sunlight. Their laughing boy, struggling to keep up on his chubby toddler legs, his gray eyes wide with merriment and his soft blond curls mussed as always.
Pregnancy had been difficult for Katniss. The baby was totally dependant on her, in a way that not even Prim had been before, and the woman who had faced three years of bloody battle was consumed with terror at the responsibility she suddenly felt. All she could think of were the legions of men she had watched mowed down. How could she hope to protect a baby in a world that chewed people up and spit them out on that kind of a scale? It took the combined efforts of her husband and her sister and her mother and her best friend Rue to help her through, and in the end the joy she felt at seeing her little girl swaddled in her arms was the only thing that could have ever convinced her to do it all again.
Her second pregnancy was easier on her, if not by much, but complications with the delivery left her weakened and confined to her bed for over a week. Katniss was devastated when Prim determined that the ordeal had likely left her unable to conceive again, but Peeta was relieved. He had already decided that another child was not worth his wife's life.
As the shock of Prim's pronouncement began to fade, Katniss came to understand how Peeta felt about it. They both knew of women who had borne many children only to watch half of them die in their cribs. They had both seen the life drained right out of some women under the burden of too many pregnancies, until one day a half-dozen young children were left motherless. Peeta saw their avoidance of either fate as nothing but a blessing, and while her disappointment never fully went away, as she so often did Katniss found herself persuaded to accept her husband's positive outlook.
In the end they were left with their two perfect children. A girl with the skill and intelligence of her huntress mother but the sweet disposition of her father. A boy who loved spending days in the kitchen with his father but who was sometimes cranky and impatient like his mother. Two children growing up surrounded by love and abundance the likes of which their parents could only have dreamed of in their younger days. Two children who never lacked for anything it was within their parents' ability to provide.
Two children who didn't know that the field where they played was once a killing field. Two children who didn't realize that the reason they were allowed to run free like this was because their parents were too overwhelmed with dark memories to chase after them right now.
Katniss and Peeta couldn't quite explain their desire to revisit Gettysburg. It had been a turning point in the war, yes, but the battle held no particular significance for them. This wasn't where they'd lost Finnick, or Caesar, or Doc Aurelius. This wasn't where they'd camped for nearly a year, or where they'd almost died, or where they'd been married.
Maybe it was because it was the only major battle they'd fought close to home. Maybe they just needed to visit a battlefield, and as they traveled east to spend the national centennial with the Odairs in Philadelphia, Gettysburg was – sort of – on their way. They had purposely avoided the ten year anniversary gathering a few years earlier, but here they were now, drowning themselves in memories of war.
Their kids didn't really understand about the war. What child could, who wasn't in one? Miss Trinket taught about it in school, and their daughter knew they were involved. Her questions were just beginning, and soon the boy's would follow. They'd have to explain to them that Mommy and Daddy had killed people. They'd have to explain that Uncle Thresh and Auntie Rue used to be treated as property, not as people. They'd have to explain why Daddy had a funny leg, why Mommy had that scar running up her forehead and the clump of ruined tissue on the inside of her elbow. Why it was that the Mellark children were sometimes woken by their parents' nightmares instead of the other way around.
The idea of explaining everything terrified Katniss sometimes. She prized her children's innocence, a commodity her own childhood had been in short supply of. Peeta tried to reassure her: that every child has to learn about the world at some point and it was up to them to do it right. That they could explain things without shattering that protective bubble of innocence, that they could make them understand in a way that would make them braver. One day they would show their kids their book and tell them stories of their fallen friends, of the fine and not-so-fine people who gave everything to help produce the world they now lived in.
As Katniss leaned back against her husband's hard chest and relaxed into his embrace, as she watched her happy and carefree children chase each other across the field, she took comfort that that day was not today. Today, her kids played in a wheatfield, oblivious to the evils, however necessary, that once took place there. Today, she and Peeta only had to support each other. Something they'd been doing for a long time now, and something they would always do.
That's it! It's over!
This is the first time I've ever completed a WIP, and I have to admit I'm kind of emotional about it. I actually can finish stories! Of course, it took me 15 months to publish a ten-chapter story, so maybe I shouldn't get too full of myself. :)
Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to read this story, and especially everyone who was kind enough to share your thoughts in a review, comment, or message. You guys are awesome, and I can honestly say that this story wouldn't exist as it is without your support.
If you enjoyed this story, I hope you'll check out some of my other work, or come bug me on Tumblr. Right now my next writing goal is to make sure that this story remains my only completed WIP for as short a time as possible. After that, I have other stories to complete, other ideas I want to write… and if the stars align themselves, I might be revisiting this particular AU towards the end of the year.