A/N- So I know it's been a while, but I've been working on some one-shots, as many of you may have seen. The Prompts in Panem challenge is one of my favorites and I couldn't miss it. Sorry I've had you guys waiting long enough for the finale, but here it is! Enjoy.
Chapter 15: The Epilogue
It was a hot summer day when she finally said yes. I didn't expect it. I didn't see it coming any time soon, but I had been holding on to the hope of the someday that she had given me the day of our toasting. It was more than I could ever ask for.
"Good morning, Mrs. Mellark," I said as the sunlight streamed in from the open window.
She looked up at me from where she was resting her head on my bare chest, "I love the way you say that," she smiled.
"Yes." She pecked my cheek affectionately. "How you always remind me that we're married. That I'm yours."
I chuckled. "I don't think I'll ever get used to seeing you like this. Lying here in arms. Naked. Every morning." I ran my fingertips through the long, loose tendrils of her dark, silky hair.
She snorted. "I'm not naked every morning. That would be exhausting."
I sneaked my hand beneath the sheet and cupped her bare ass. "Almost."
"You horn dog."
I smirked. "Oh yeah? Who's the one rubbing on my cock with her thigh right now?" Getting her to sleep with me was either than breathing nowadays. Gone were my early days of endless sexual frustration, when she allowed me to sleep in her bed but not actually sleep with her.
She blushed as she glanced down and realized that I was already hard and aching for her. I lifted her chin so that our eyes made contact. "I want you. Always." I could almost feel my pupils dilating at the sight of her.
She bit her lip. "Peeta, I've been thinking…"
"I don't want to take those pills anymore."
"You want to try the shot instead? I thought you hated needles."
She shook her head. "No. I don't want to use anything."
I frowned. "Um. Well, do you want me to use something? Because I will if that's what you need me to…"
This time, she cut me off with a kiss. I kissed her back eagerly, although I was still perplexed. Did she want us to go back to using condoms? I thought we had moved past that, but I wasn't sure anymore. I was about to ask her that when we ended our kiss. "Katniss…"
"Shh, stop. Just listen, okay? I don't want either of us to take anything. Or get those weird Capitol operations. I want us to stop using protection for a while." She gazed at me with her silver eyes as it suddenly dawned upon me that this might be her subtle way of saying yes.
"You want us to try for a baby?"
She nodded. "I want to have your children, Peeta."
My heart beat fast as my brain struggled to fully process her words. I couldn't believe it. "Are you sure? I mean, just because I want it, doesn't mean…"
"I'm not afraid anymore, Peeta," she cut me off. "Or at least not as afraid as I used to be. I feel safe here with you. And I know that you'll be a great father and that you'll keep them safe too."
"I love you so much, Katniss," I gasped out as I knotted her fingers through mine and kissed her knuckles devotedly.
"I love you too, Peeta."
"I want this for us. I've never met anyone who could love as fiercely as you, Katniss. You've protected me as much as I've protected you. And I'm willing to share that. You'll be the best mother," I said, tears stinging my eyes.
I leaned towards her and kissed her passionately, and she moaned into my mouth as I tangled my fingers in her hair. I was overwhelmed with raw emotion, our lips clashing and molding in the same desperate yet eager frenzy they had used when we first started being intimate. I wanted to get started right away. I wanted to make love to her again and again. "Peeta…" she whimpered when I slipped a finger into her moist, warm folds.
"Are you on the pill now?"
"No. I ran out a few days ago. That's why I knew I had to tell you soon."
I gasped. "You've been trying to get pregnant and you didn't tell me?"
She blushed. "Not necessarily…I just stopped worrying about it, I guess."
"Well, I guess we can start trying for real now."
She raised an eyebrow and laughed as I kissed her again, reveling in the feeling of her lips against mine, my tongue stroking hers. She fisted her hands in my hair, our breaths mixing together as we inhaled and exhaled in unison. I trailed my mouth down to her neck, kissing and nibbling the delicate skin above her pulse point until she arched her spine and threw her head back so that I could gain better access. I palmed her breast with one hand as the other one cupped the side of her face while I continued to ravish her neck. Her nails scraped my back lightly as I pinched her nipple and grasped her mound firmly, kneading it just the way she liked it. I bent down and latched the other one into my mouth, sucking on the pebbled tip eagerly. She gasped and whimpered at my ministrations. I looked up at her and kissed her lips again, continuing to worship her body with my hands.
She reached down and stroked my cock beneath the covers, and I hissed against her lips. My hips thrust into her hand as she circled the tip of my length, spreading the pre-cum all around the rest of it. I moaned and bit the inside of cheek as my dick twitched. "Slow down," I warned her as she began pumping me rapidly.
She let go of me and then traced my chest with her callused hands instead, drawing patterns across it as she curled her fist into the short, springy blonde curls on it. I dipped my hand down in between the apex of her thighs to find her clit. I rubbed the tender flesh in tight circles, using my other hand to slip my fingers inside her, beckoning her until she came. Her walls closed in around my fingers, and she pushed my hand away impatiently as she flipped us over so that she was on top.
She kissed my lips desperately, her tongue battling with mine until she made her way down to my neck, sucking on it like I did with hers and then trailing down to my chest with rapid kisses, tugging my nipple into her mouth as she watched my reaction. I winced at the feeling of pleasure-pain as her warm lips enveloped me and then sucked me in to graze my rigid nipple with her teeth.
I gasped as she continued her fevered trek south, her hands scattering treacherously over the hair above my hips, her mouth breathing down on my hot and throbbing erection before finally taking it into her moist mouth. She flicked at the glans experimentally at first, her silver eyes turning dark as she watched me lecherously, her thin fingers tugging and twisting up and down my shaft. I pulled her hair aside to watch her glide up and down my length, her eyes wide but her mouth even wider. It was fascinating, seeing my cock appear and disappear from inside of her mouth like a salacious magic act. Goddamn.
I threw my head back, banging it on the headboard with soft thud. "Fuck, Katniss, I need to be inside of you," I growled.
She made one last, seductive lick to the underside of my shaft before removing her mouth, then leering up at me to tug at my testes, pulling at the sensitive sac teasingly before sitting up to hover her hips above my twitching cock. I gritted my teeth as she grabbed my shaft with one hand while the other one leaned on my shoulder, leading me steadily to her entrance. I heaved as I felt her damp, pliable walls surround me until I was fully sheathed inside her, feeling that familiar sensation at the back of my teeth as she began to ride me.
I would never get tired of this sight. I loved everything about her being on top and in command. Her hand pulling back her long, dark hair as she closed her eyes and bit her bottom lip, her hips swaying back and forth expertly. She had no idea, the effect she could have, how unintentionally sexy she was. I clutched at her bottom while I watched her bounce on top of me, her breasts swinging with the motions, my cock swelling even more inside of her heated core. It had taken me a long time to get her to try this, but once she discovered how good this position was, she couldn't get enough of it, and neither could I. Who would have guessed that this was my life now? I was basking in the throes of sex with her, indulging in the pleasure of our raging passion. She was on fire and so was I, heat coiling in between us, her hips swirling and turning, circling around in one way and then another until I couldn't take it any longer. Our breaths increased as she pushed me further inside of her as I felt the familiar tingling in my balls and abdomen, signaling that I was close.
"Shh, I'm almost there." Her face scrunched up as she winced, almost as if she were about to cry but not quite.
"Come with me," I begged.
"Wait for me," she said as her walls tightened around me. I shifted my hips to hit her in just the right spot, knowing that I didn't have long.
We cried out in an almost the exact same instant, having just reached the peak of our rollercoaster and falling down from its towering height. The world crashed and shattered around me, and in that moment it was just me and her and our euphoric high as her walls milked the rest of my orgasm while I spilled myself inside her. She collapsed, tragically and beautifully, on top of my chest as it rose and fell with my heavy breaths, our bodies still trembling. I didn't know where she ended and I began. I stroked her back, damp with perspiration, and sighed. "What would I do without you?" I gasped.
"You'll never have to find out," she promised me as her eyes met mine lovingly while she stroked my jaw.
I smiled. "Give me a few minutes and we'll go again?"
Our daughter was born a year and a half later. Katniss had clutched the sheets beneath her and cried out in a similar but more painful way than I was used to seeing her doing in bed. She had my eyes and her hair. Tears fell down my cheeks the first time I held her. "She's beautiful, just like her mother," I told Katniss as our baby squeezed my finger tightly in her tiny pink fist. Her mouth was etched into the classic Everdeen scowl. I laughed.
"She scowls just like you, too."
Katniss smiled tiredly. "Yes, but she has your eyes."
I held her fragile, light body closer to me as I inhaled her newborn baby smell and kissed her little head. "She's perfect."
"Thank you." I leaned down and kissed my wife tenderly on the lips, our daughter squirming in between us.
I chuckled as I handed her back to her mother. "I was so scared, Peeta." Her voice shook with emotion. "But now, holding her in my arms… I know that it was worth it. This joy is the only thing that tames my fear." She stroked her feather-soft hair lightly, her eyes full of love as she gazed at out newborn child.
"You have nothing to be afraid of anymore," I promised her as I sat down on the bed and put my arms around them both. "I'll keep you both safe."
Adara was four when Katniss began telling her about Prim. She was braiding her hair and singing her songs on the couch, telling her about how she used to have a little sister named Prim who loved the song about the meadow as much as she did. "She couldn't fall asleep without me singing it to her either," Katniss recalled.
"Mommy, where is Aunt Prim now?" I heard our daughter ask innocently from where I was kneading dough in the kitchen.
Katniss paused for a minute before finally replying, "She died a long time ago, honey. She's in a better place now."
"In the meadow?"
"Yes, I suppose we could say that."
"How come I don't have a little brother or sister?" Adara insisted.
Katniss hesitated again. "I don't know, sweetie. Do you want one?"
"Yes!" she shrieked as she started jumping up and down excitedly.
I chuckled. "I told you she would want one." Katniss scowled at me as she turned around when she heard me talk.
"Daddy, did you have brothers or sisters?" Adara asked as she skipped towards me.
I gave her a sad smile. "Yes, cupcake, I had two older brothers. Their names were Leven and Rye. They died a long time ago too."
"With Gramma and Grampa?"
I nodded forlornly. "A lot of people died during that time."
I sighed, and then turned to Katniss for help as she stood up from the couch. "All right duckling, that's enough questions for today, don't you think? How about a little nap?" Katniss suggested as she took her hand and led her upstairs.
"Yes, Mommy." Adara gave me a sad look before turning away, and I gave her another weak smile in response. I turned my attention back to my baking as a thousand memories invaded me: my father teaching me how to decorate cakes, my mother hitting me with a rolling pin, Leven telling me how to wrestle, and Rye teasing me about girls. Although I didn't really miss my mother, I missed my father and my brothers. They had been a pain in the ass half the time, but I had learned a lot from them. I wanted my daughter to have a sibling as well. Someone to play with and share a bond with like the one Katniss had with her sister Prim. I wondered if Katniss would really agree to have another baby. I knew how frightened she had been during her last pregnancy, and I didn't want to pressure her. Perhaps she was still afraid that something bad would happen to one of our children.
I glanced up to see that Katniss was back and I had gotten lost in my thoughts. I had just been about to put the cheese buns in the oven as I grabbed the tray. "Yes, Katniss?" I asked distractedly as I opened the oven door and then closed it once the buns were inside. I turned it up to the right temperature and then looked back at her.
"I've been thinking…" She began, biting her lip nervously.
I knew this line.
"About what?" I asked hopefully.
"I think Adara's right. She probably needs a brother or sister. She should have one. Just because we both lost our siblings during the war doesn't mean that she should grow up alone too."
"I agree. You know I would love to have another child. But is this what you want?"
She nodded. "Yes, maybe not right away, but sometime soon. I think it would be good for us and for our daughter as well."
I grinned and clapped my hands together. "Great. We can start practicing now."
She laughed, and I gathered her in my arms and dug my nose into her hair, inhaling her scent deeply. She smelled like wildflowers. "Thank you for this," I murmured as we continued to embrace, her warm body fitting perfectly against mine, her hands splayed out across my broad back.
"You know for what. For everything. For giving me a beautiful daughter. For wanting to give me another child. For staying with me."
"I should be thanking you for that."
"I will always stay with you, Katniss."
"I love you more than I could ever promise," she said.
"And I love you just the way you are. I wouldn't have you any other way, Mrs. Mellark." I kissed her forehead.
She fisted my shirt. "Make love to me."
I chuckled. "Right here?"
"We've got some time before our daughter wakes up."
I lifted her hips up on the counter and gave her a lingering kiss as I pulled down her pants. She wrapped her hands around my neck as she pulled me closer, my hips nestled in between her parted legs.
We both jumped up and turned around to find Adara gaping at us. "Why are your pants on the floor?" she gasped at Katniss.
"Darling, I thought you were asleep," Katniss said flustered as I handed her back her sweats, which she pulled on hastily. It was a good thing I had left her underwear on, I mused. Too bad I had to get rid of my hard-on.
"Mommy was just thinking of taking a shower and I was helping her get undressed, right Katniss?" I said innocuously. She scowled at me, but then turned back to smile and nod at our daughter.
"Oh," Adara said, confused. Then: "I want cheese buns."
I smirked. "Of course you do; you're just like your mother. They're almost ready, don't worry."
"You can have one, but after that, you're taking your nap," Katniss told her firmly.
"So you can shower with Daddy?" she asked innocently.
I chortled. "Yeah, that's exactly it, sweet pea," I winked.
Katniss scowled at me again, raising her eyebrow. "I don't know if I'm really that interested in that shower anymore."
I shrugged. "Well, I guess it's your loss, then. The shower head will miss you, I'm sure." She gaped at me as I burst out laughing once more, bending down as I clapped my knees in amusement. "And you thought I didn't know about that!"
"About what?" Adara asked, lost.
"Nothing, dear, your daddy is just being immature." She turned back to me. "Actually, I think I'm going to shower right now. I can't have the shower head waiting, now can I? You can feed our daughter and put her to rest afterwards. I'll eat the cheese buns later."
"Yes, love," I said, grinning.
She rolled her eyes at me before heading upstairs. "What a drama queen," Adara sighed, and I guffawed.
It would be two years before we would have another child.
"I'll have whatever he's having," I said as I pointed at Haymitch, who was shit-faced and passed out on the couch as he snored loudly. Today was Haymitch's birthday, and we had decided to have a little celebration at our house. Needless to say, he hadn't gone easy on the vodka. He drank the whole bottle by himself and didn't even offer me a sip.
Katniss frowned at me, her hand resting on her swollen belly. She had been grouchier lately due to the fact that she was due any day now. "Peeta, I think it's time you take him home, he's had too much excitement for tonight."She took our three-year-old son by the hand, "I'm taking the kids to bed while you do that," she said as our nine-year-old daughter protested.
"Fine," I grumbled.
"Say goodnight to Daddy," Katniss told the kids.
"Ninny time, Daddy," Orion exclaimed as I bent down so he could give me a sloppy kiss on the cheek.
I chuckled. "You're so silly. Goodnight, champ." I ruffled his hair playfully.
"You'll be back to tuck me in, right?" Adara asked hopefully after she kissed me goodnight.
"Yes, biscuit," I promised as I leaned down to throw one of Haymitch's heavy arms over my shoulders.
"Whasss goin' on?" Haymitch slurred as I pulled him unsteadily to his feet.
"You're drunk, I'm taking you home," I said as I opened the front door.
"Gerroff me I can walkbym'self." He shoved me aside and stumbled out the door as I followed behind, making sure he didn't trip and fall on the front porch steps.
I caught a hold of his arm before he reached them, catching him in time before he fell flat on his face. "Lemme alone!" he insisted as I gripped him tighter.
I clenched my jaw. "Haymitch, you're acting worse than a toddler, seriously, just let me walk you home; we're almost there."
He laughed. I frowned at him, but he continued to laugh maniacally as we crossed the yard and reached his front door. He dug his hands deep into his pockets, trying to find his keys, until I opened the door, showing him that it wasn't locked. "Oh," he said, suddenly remembering that he never locked his door. Then he cackled again.
"Yeah, come on, let's get you upstairs." I pushed the older man inside, wondering how I was going to pull that off.
But he collapsed face-up on his couch before I could suggest anything. I rolled my eyes and knelt down to pull off his boots. He chuckled. "You an' shweetheart kicked me out cuz yer gonna fuck 'soon as yer kids 'sleep."
I gaped. "What?" I flushed, tossing his boots as they hit the wooden floorboards with a loud thud.
"Ye heard me boy," he said, grinning impishly. His eyebrows raised suggestively, his tongue slightly sticking out from in between his teeth as he snickered uncontrollably.
I stood up. "You're drunk," I said again as he shook his head. "And you know what? Maybe I will get laid tonight, but that's between me and my wife so you can damn well stay out of it," I said firmly.
This time, he laughed so hard he started coughing up a lung, and before I knew it, he had puked all over the floor. I groaned. This was going to take longer than I thought.
"What took you so long?" My pregnant wife demanded, hands resting on her wide hips as she scowled at me. I always thought she looked sexy when she was mad, but I knew now wasn't the time to point it out.
"Haymitch threw up all over the place and I had to bathe him," I said instead.
"Ugh. I didn't want to know that." She scrunched up her nose in disgust.
"Then why'd you ask?" I smirked.
"Never mind, let's go to bed, my feet are killing me, and your daughter won't go to sleep until you tuck her in."
"Is Orion asleep already?" I asked.
She nodded. "He was out right after I put him to bed. He was exhausted from running around all day, and the bath relaxed him."
"Okay, I'll go check up on him after I finish with Adara," I promised her as we went the up the stairs together, my hand resting on the small of her back.
We went into Adara's room first, where she was still sitting up on her bed with a book in her hand. "Hey muffin, what are you reading?" I asked as I stepped in with Katniss behind me.
"Daddy!" her face brightened up at the sight of me, holding up the cover of the old plant book in her hand. Katniss and I exchanged worried glances. We had just started telling her about the Hunger Games, and she always asked the most complicated questions after going through the memory book.
"Which page are we on tonight?" Katniss and I sat down at the edge of the bed with her.
"I'm reading about Rue. She and Auntie Prim were around the same age, weren't they? Did they ever meet?" she asked softly, her blue orbs wide.
I turned to Katniss. She sighed and glanced down at the quilt covering the bed, concentrating on the knitted pattern. "Rue was twelve when she died, and Prim was thirteen, but she died a year later. So yes, they were the same age. Rue always reminded me of my sister," she said mournfully. "But no, they never met. Rue died in the arena and Prim died in the Capitol."
I rubbed her shoulder comfortingly. Adara looked between us. "What if we name my twin sisters after them?" she piped up.
Katniss and I turned to her in surprise. "You want to name the babies after Prim and Rue?" I asked.
She nodded. Katniss frowned at her. "I don't know, little bird. It may not be a good idea. I have a lot of painful memories associated with that, and I want your little sisters to get a fresh start," she explained as she rubbed her belly nervously.
"But you had memories of them too, Katniss," I reminded her.
Katniss hesitated. "I'll think about it," she decided.
I smiled. "That's all we ask," I said as I squeezed her hand.
"Okay, but it's time for you to go to sleep now," she told our daughter.
"Yes, Mommy," she groaned as she put the book away on the nightstand and dug herself under the covers. I helped her pull them up to her chin and then leaned down to kiss her forehead gently.
"Sweet dreams, princess," I murmured.
"Goodnight, Daddy," she grinned. "Goodnight, Mommy," she said as Katniss kissed her dimpled cheek.
"'Night, sweet tart," I replied as Katniss and I stood up to leave the room.
"Sleep well, baby," Katniss added before I closed the door. "Do you think we use too many pet names for them?" she asked as we headed to Orion's room, where he was already sound asleep, his disheveled blonde curls forming a messy halo around his head.
"Nah. The only pet name my mother ever used for me was 'boy,' and I hated it," I recalled.
Katniss frowned. "My mother didn't use very many pet names for me either," she admitted. "Not after my dad died, anyway. Look at our sweet little angel," she said fondly as we adjusted the covers on Orion's bed. I stroked his hair and kissed his forehead just like I had done with Adara, and Katniss bent down to repeat the same action.
We then headed off to our room as Katniss instantly lay back on our bed, exhausted. I sat at the end of it and slipped off her shoes and socks, massaging her swollen feet. "Mmm, that feels good," she moaned.
"Yeah? You like that?" I tickled the soles of her feet playfully.
"Stop that," she giggled.
I raised her feet towards my lips and kissed them. "That's gross, Peeta," she joked.
"No it's not, you love it and you know it. I literally worship at your feet."
She laughed. "You just want to get me naked."
"You just want me to help you get naked," I corrected her as I pulled down her pants.
"That too," she acknowledged as I raised her shirt over her head, leaving her in only her bra and underwear. I reached under her back and unclasped her bra as she tossed it off quickly. Katniss slept in only her underwear now; she said it was too hot to sleep in anything else, and I was more than happy to help. I cupped her breasts gently; she had increased two cup sizes from the pregnancy and I was making the most of it.
She bit her lip. "Do you like them better this way?" she asked softly as I tweaked her sensitive pebbled peaks.
"I like them any way I can get them," I confessed. "I'm going to have to share after you give birth, though."
"I don't think the twins will want to share them with you," she warned me teasingly.
"All the more reason to enjoy them now," I said as I suckled one into my mouth.
"Argh, Peeta," she gasped as I pulled lightly at her delicate nipple.
I grinned up at her as I caressed her round abdomen with my rough palm, kissing my way down from her chest to her protruding bellybutton. "You make me so happy, Katniss," I said as I rested my head where she was carrying our children.
"If I only I had known there would be two of them this time…" she trailed off.
"You don't regret it, do you?" I asked worriedly.
She looked at me in surprise. "Oh, Peeta no, I would never take it back. I love my children and you're the only person I would want to have them with. It's just that this pregnancy had been tougher than the others. It's different, too, and I feel so fat and cumbersome…" she sighed.
"Stop that, you're beautiful when you're pregnant. You're always beautiful to me," I peppered kisses all around her belly and then made my way up to her lovely lips, stroking her hair gently as I cupped her face. Our mouths met in a hungry kiss, my tongue tracing the outline of her lips before dashing in to play with hers in a joyful dance.
"You make me happy too, Peeta," she said breathlessly when we broke our kiss. "You and our children keep me going even on my toughest times."
I pressed her closer as I kicked my shoes off. "Good," I said. "Because you deserve to be happy. You're so wonderful, Katniss. I can't believe you don't realize how striking you are. I love your sexy scowl and your enchanting voice and your lovely hair. I can't get enough of your perky tits and I'm obsessed with the way you say my name when you come. You look absolutely resplendent when you're pregnant; I love the glow on your face and the swelling of your hips and the womb that cradles my children…our children. That we made together. Sometimes I can't even believe that this is actually my life, that all of this is real."
"It is real, Peeta." She kissed me softly.
"I know." I smiled against her lips.
I slipped off my jeans and removed my shirt as I lifted the sheets and gathered her in my arms. I reached over and turned off the lamp on the bedside table while she rested her head on my chest. I thought about what Haymitch had said, but decided that Katniss was probably too tired for us to actually try anything else right now.
We heard lightning strike and thunder roar when it began to rain just as we were drifting off to sleep. Katniss jerked up as we heard the familiar sound of tiny bare feet running across the carpeted hall towards our room. I picked up my white cotton t-shirt from the floor. "Here, put this on," I offered as she pulled it on hastily just as Orion burst into our room crying.
"Oh, cookie, don't cry, come here," I pulled him up so that he could lie in between me and Katniss.
"I-I'm s-scared," he sobbed, rubbing his gray eyes with his chubby fists.
Katniss pressed him close to her chest and kissed the top of his head. "I know, baby, I know. Thunderstorms can be scary. But Daddy and I are here to keep you safe, okay? We won't let anything bad happen to you, right Peeta?"
"That's right," I affirmed just as our daughter came running in too. I scooted over and lifted the covers so that she could slide in beside me.
"I hate storms," she said as she hugged my chest tightly.
"I don't think anybody in this family likes them," I told her just as we heard another monstrous rumble rip out across the night sky.
Orion whimpered as Katniss cooed at him in comfort. "Daddy, tell me a story," Adara requested as she tightened her grip on me, my arm cradled protectively around her small frame.
"Okay," I said as I began to tell the tale of a little girl who wore two braids instead of one, and a little boy who fell in love with her the moment her beautiful singing made even the birds stop to listen. I told her about a cave where this boy and girl took comfort in each other's arms during a different thunderstorm, and how the boy admitted his love for her there. "He watched her walk home every day for eleven years," I recounted.
"And he gave her the bread that gave her hope," Katniss added quietly over Orion's soft snores. He had fallen asleep in her arms, and Adara was already drifting off in mine.
"It was you, wasn't it Daddy? You're telling us the story of how you fell in love with Mommy. No one sings more beautiful than her, and you make the best bread," she said, stifling a tired yawn.
I chuckled softly. "Yes, you caught me. But you sing just as pretty as her, and you're not such a bad baker yourself, you know."
"Were you in love with him too, Mommy?" she asked curiously.
Katniss smiled dreamily. "Of course I was. How could I not be? I was just afraid to admit it because I didn't want to lose him. And I did, for a time. But look at us now. Even after all this time, he's still with me."
"Always." I said as I leaned over our children to kiss her. Adara snuggled closer to me, satisfied with her mother's response as she allowed sleep to finally overtake her.
We fell asleep like that, until the sunlight streamed in through the windows and a new day and two new children born.
I remember the first time my son asked me about sex. He was eight. It didn't go well. Actually, he was horrified.
"But Dad, that's disgusting, why would you put that there?" he wrinkled his nose in disgust.
"You won't think it's disgusting when you're older," I assured him as I put down the donut and breadstick I was using for demonstration.
"Gross! And you do that with Mom? WHY?" he screamed, his face red. "THOSE PLACES ARE WHERE YOU PEE!"
I sighed. "Son, it's part of life. That's how babies grow. Okay?"
"Well then I don't want babies ever, they're annoying and they smell." He crossed his arms.
I chuckled. "I don't know, Orion, you still kind of smell like cookies and dirt…"
I smirked at him. "Just kidding, buddy. You mostly smell like dirt now. Go wash your hands so you can help me knead this dough for your mother's cheese buns."
"I hope that's not code word for something," he muttered under his breath as he went towards the sink.
"I said I don't smell like dirt anymore," he lied.
"Yeah, that's what I thought, although I beg to differ."
We both looked up as we heard the bell of the bakery ring, signaling the entrance of a customer. When I went out towards the front counter, however, I saw that it was Katniss and our daughters, Adara, Rue, and Rose. Rue and Rose were five. Rue was the spitting image of Katniss, and Primrose (who preferred to be called Rose) had my blue eyes and blonde hair. Adara was fourteen, and she and Katniss were practically the same height now.
I grinned. "Well if it isn't my four favorite ladies."
"Are the cheese buns ready?" Adara asked eagerly. I swear she and her mother probably liked my cheese buns more than they liked me.
I shook my head. "No, sorry, we got held up with an order. Would you like to come in and help?"
"Yay!" the twins jumped up and down eagerly.
"Ugh, no Dad, they'll ruin everything!" Orion whined.
I glared at him. "Don't be rude, son."
"Oh, come now, Orion, we'll just sit here and watch," Katniss said to him.
"No, I wanna help!" Rue cried out.
"Me too!" Rose squealed.
"Okay, here, you can take this dough and form it into a ball," I told them as I pinched off some pieces to give to them so that they could play.
"I'll help you guys out," Adara said as she went towards the fridge to take out the cheese.
"Good, we should be done in no time with all of our new helpers!" I winked at the twins, and they giggled.
"Dad was telling me about sex," I heard Orion whisper to Adara.
She blushed. "What did he say?" she hissed back as I pretended not to hear. I glanced up at Katniss as she was grating some cheese, and I could tell that she was pretending not to listen in too.
"He said boys stick their wee-wee's in girls' cha-cha's."
"That is NOT how I said it," I exclaimed as I Katniss burst out laughing uncontrollably.
"Daddy, what's a cha-cha?" Rose asked as Orion flushed and we all burst out into hysterics.
"What's so funny?" Rue demanded, wrinkling her nose.
"Way to be subtle, little bro," Adara elbowed him teasingly.
"Okay, okay, so my dad actually used breadsticks and donuts but I knew what he meant."
"Peeta!" Katniss gaped at me as she laughed even harder.
"Well, what else was I supposed to use?" I said defensively.
"I don't know; did you have to use anything?"
"Yeah, and I'm using a banana when we start discussing condoms."
"Gross," Adara shuddered.
"Do I even wanna know?" Orion made a look of disgust.
"Not yet, but in a few years," I winked at him as Adara pretended to retch.
"Peeta, don't you think he's too young?" Katniss frowned.
"Yeah, you're right; we'll save that discussion for another day."
"Thank goodness," Adara said.
"Daddy, is this fine?" Rose asked as she showed me her ball of dough, which resembled a piece of chewed-up gum.
I grinned. "Yes, that's perfect, pumpkin!"
"How 'bout mine?" Rue asked as she held up hers.
"Beautiful job, sweetie pie!" I said enthusiastically as Orion rolled his eyes and shook his head sadly.
He was only eight and he already considered himself a professional baker. In truth, he still had a lot to learn, but perhaps I praised my kids too much. Katniss wasn't much better though; she always bragged about how good he was at archery, and he did catch nearly as many squirrels as his mother. And yet his biggest talents were probably the arts. He loved to paint and play guitar. I had no doubt that all of our children were extremely gifted.
We finished up the cheese buns and cleaned up the bakery while we waited for them to bake. Rose and Rue ran around all over the place, playing hide-and-seek and hiding in small corners. "'Dara, will you teach us how to dance?" Rose asked as she twirled around the kitchen while Katniss warned her to not get too close to the oven.
"Do you want to take ballet classes too?" Adara asked the twins. Adara loved to dance and sing. She wasn't much for hunting, much to Katniss's dismay, but she sang just as beautifully as her mother. She wanted to be a professional dancer when she grew up, and I was sure she would be one of the best of them someday.
The twins nodded eagerly, and then begged Katniss to sign them up for it. She looked up at me and I nodded in approval. "I think it would be good for the girls to bond in this way," I said. "My brothers and I all used to wrestle, and it brought us together when we needed to practice."
"Okay then, we'll sign you girls up when we go to the studio tomorrow," Katniss decided.
"Yay!" the twins cheered.
I chuckled, and then heard the distinctive ding coming from the oven as I turned around to take the cheese buns out of the oven. We closed the bakery and put the buns in a paper bag as we walked back home in the late afternoon, handing the kids a bun each as we made the short trip from the middle of town to Victor's Village. Katniss held my hand and smiled at me as the kids ran ahead of us.
I smiled back at her. This was our life now. This was the world we had brought our children into. It wasn't always butterflies and rainbows, but it could always be good again. Our kids could grow up and do whatever they wanted with their future, never having to worry about war or starvation or people long gone. Sometimes, on tough days when Katniss couldn't get out of bed because she was afraid that she would lose all of this, I would hold her tight and remind her that there was always hope. I would tell her about all of the good things that people had done for us, how wonderful and smart our children were, and how much I loved her. I would send the kids with Haymitch and take a long, hot bubble bath with her until our fingers and toes were wrinkled like prunes and I would joke about how we would get old doing this together. And at the end of the day, when she finally felt better, I would place my head in between her legs until she cried out and whimpered my name. Her legs would tremble and shake when I finally released her, and then I would pepper kisses all the way up to her mouth to show her how good she tasted.
But sometimes it was her who had to help me. Sometimes, when the shiny memories came back to haunt me, I would clutch on to the back of her chair as she begged the children to leave and go out and play in the meadow while she dealt with me. I hated those moments. They made me feel like a monster, and I always feared that I would accidently hurt my family during one of my episodes. But then my wife would take me in her arms, clutching my wrists tightly until I stared straight back at her. We would sit on the floor, me kneeling down between her legs as her thighs clutched at my sides, her forehead resting against mine. And she would sing to me and beg me to stay with her until I finally came back to her and whispered always. She would cry with me and kiss me as I chanted I'm sorry all over and over again. It was a pattern that we had established long before we even got married, back in the days when we were still growing and healing together. Some things just never changed.
And yet, things always seemed to get better. Even after dealing with the nightmares, even after being unable to completely escape our inner demons, we always had each other, and now we had our children as well. It had taken her five, ten, fifteen years, but she had finally agreed to have them with me. We would grow old and live to see our grandchildren running happily in the same meadow where the past was buried. I would assure Katniss that we would be okay. The dandelions always came back in the spring, and the death and destruction had planted the rebirth of a brighter future. All of our sacrifices had come to fruition. All of the compassion and love that we had given during times of devastation and pain had come back to us tenfold. In the end, it wasn't a war story. It was a love story.