Six years later...

Katniss's back is facing me, but there's a definite gap between us, putting her near the very edge of the bed. I sigh, knowing what today is. It hits me heavy with a little sadness and pain, but not as bad as it does Katniss. I wish I could take all her pain away, I wish I could so bad.

The comforter is draped over her waist where her shirt has ridden up, and I can make out the few faint white scars on her hip. Her breathing isn't shallow, so I know she's awake. But I don't say anything just yet. Instead, I climb out of the bed and throw on a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. I quietly leave the room and go into the kitchen, heating up a pan and grabbing ingredients to make chocolate chip pancakes – even though it's past noon.

When I'm done whisking all the ingredients together into a perfect consistency, I grab a ladle and scoop some of the batter up, pouring it neatly onto the hot pan. It sizzles, filling the quiet kitchen with some noise. My hands reach for my wallet on the counter, and I absentmindedly find the weathered picture behind all of my recent ones.

It has crinkles and two of the edges are bent, but it's still intact and I plan to keep it that way. I don't want to forget. The grainy, black and white image weighs heavily down on me, but over the years it has become easier to look at. To look at the tiny body that had been growing inside of Katniss. Even at twelve weeks he was perfect, nothing was wrong. Until Katniss went into labour three and a half months early. Many babies had been prematurely born, ours just happened to have a defective heart and underdeveloped lungs. He was barely alive for an hour.

He would've been two years old today. James Mellark.

The son I never had the chance to teach how to bake or paint or to play basketball. But I had to keep myself together for Katniss after his death, so I only let myself think about this on this particular day. After his birth and death, Katniss went into a weird state. She was living, but her eyes had looked exactly like they had when I found her at Marvel's house eight years ago. And that scared me the most, I never wanted her to be like that again, I never wanted her to be in pain.

She began to smile and laugh later on, but sometimes I could see the hollowness in her smile and hear it in her laugh. I tried so hard to be strong for her, but a month and a half after, I cracked.

Our forks scrape their plates while Katniss and I eat in silence. She pierces a carrot and holds it up to her lips, her eyes meeting mine. "I hear the Lakers play tonight," she says quietly, continuing to shove the carrot in her mouth.

"Yeah," I reply, pushing a piece of chicken around my plate. "I forget who they're playing."

It kills me to be like this. For all this silence between us, for all of this pain. I just want us to beat this. I want us to be happy and lively again. I just want her to smile and laugh and kiss me. I want her to be happy again.

My heart starts pounding against my chest and my lungs struggle to breathe air in and out. "I'll...be right back." I push my chair back quickly and nearly stumble over my own feet in my escape to the bathroom. I close the door behind me, and my hands grip the sink edge of the counter.

I finally let all the tears fall, the tears I don't want Katniss to see. I don't want her to see how weak I am because I need to show her that I can be strong too, just not her. She doesn't always have to be the one to carry the world for others.

I still remember the way his chest raised and fell so quickly, it looked as if he were hyperventilating – which he probably was. I remember Katniss leaning down, her hair plastered to her sweaty face, and she placed a kiss to his forehead just as his chest stopped moving. We knew it was coming, the doctor told us just after he was born. They couldn't do much, and Katniss and I only had him for an hour. I remember the way I cradled his little head in my hand, the way Katniss cried, the look of our families' and friends' faces when I went out with the doctor to tell them. I remember it all.

And it still hurts so much.

My cheeks are wet and red when I look up into the mirror, but I also see Katniss standing in the doorway. I always forget how quiet she is on her feet. I quickly wipe away the last of my tears and turn to face her. The pain in her grey eyes makes me want to cry all over again, but I can't.

"Oh, Peeta..." she says so softly, I'm reminded of the Katniss I know and love, the Katniss that allows herself to feel and show emotion. I still love her now, but I just hate seeing her emotionless.

"I'm-" she cuts me off by wrapping her arms around my middle and pressing her head against my chest, her ear over my heart. My arms slowly wrap around her, too, and I rest my head on top of hers.

"Shh," she hushes calmly, like a mother would – and that hurts even more. "I'm sorry. I wish...I wish I could've made you a father."

I pull back and crane my neck to meet her eyes. They're almost spilling over with tears, and I quickly wipe the ones that slip past down her cheek. I'm so surprised to see her crying – she hasn't cried since he was pronounced dead. "Don't be sorry. Things happen...I don't know why, but they do. We'll...we'll get our chance someday."

I flip the pancake easily, a golden brown staring up at me. I stare around the kitchen aimlessly, smiling at the picture of Dani on her first day of fourth grade this year. I use the spatula to lift the edge of the pancake to see if it's done, and I'm met with a golden brown – just the way Katniss likes. I slide it off the pan and onto a plate, then ladle some more batter to make a second pancake.


I carry the tray of pancakes, two peanut butter cookies, milk and syrup to the bedroom. Katniss is still in the same position as I left her, so I walk over to her side of the bed, and move the book off her nightstand and place the tray down.

When I look down at her, it breaks a little bit of my heart like it did last year. Her hair is tucked behind her ear, and her eyes a rimmed with red, a clear indication that she has been crying. I move her legs and take a seat on the edge of the bed, reaching out to brush her cheek with my thumb. But all she does is stare ahead at the window.

"I made you your favourites," I say softly, continuing to lightly brush her cheek. "Well, the cookies are from yesterday. But I know they're your favourite."

Katniss squeezes her eyes shut, and then I notice a tear glide down her cheek and across her nose, making a dark dot where it hit the bed sheet. I get down on my knees on the floor, kneeling right in front of her.

"Please don't cry anymore," I say while running a hand through her hair. "Katniss, look at me. Please." Slowly, she opens her eyes and sniffs her runny nose. I pull my sleeve over my hand and wipe her runny nose.

"Peeta, that's gross." Her voice is scratchy and barely audible, but it brings a half-grin to my face.

"It's your snot," I say back, rolling my sleeve up. I stare into her eyes for a few more seconds, before giving her cheek one last tender stroke. I climb over her and lay down beside her. She turns over, her nose brushing mine.

She breathes in shakily. "I'm not sure if it's getting easier or harder."

"Neither," I say softly. I play with her hair and twirling it between my fingers. "You eat as much as you want, and I'll leave you alone until you're ready to go. Okay?" I place a soft kiss to her temple before untangling myself from her.

It's how we did it last year. She stayed in bed, I checked in on her, then I let her come find me when she was ready and we headed off to the cemetery. But she surprises me by grabbing my hand as I stand.

"I'll eat at the table," she says quietly, sitting up. "Just give me a few minutes."

I squeeze her hand before letting go and picking up the tray. I close the door on my way out, and go into the kitchen and transfer the items from the tray to the table. I sit down and grab an apple from the center bowl. I wipe it on my shirt, then take bite – one big enough that Katniss would call an inhumanly large bite.

A few minutes pass before I hear footsteps come down the hall, and Katniss takes a seat across from me. Even now, at thirty, Katniss is still as beautiful as ever. It looks like she hasn't aged a bit. With her wavy hair still the same and her eyes still the same enticing grey.

She pushes the plate in the middle of the table. "Have some."

"I made it for you," I say and take another bite of my apple.

"Yeah, and none for yourself. So, have some." I shake my head and lean further back into the chair. Katniss sighs and cuts a piece of the pancake with the fork, and she gets up and walks around the table, putting the fork close to my lips. "Peeta."

"I'm not havin-" she shoves the piece into my mouth, almost causing me to choke. She pulls the fork away and takes her seat again, as if she didn't just do that.

"I'm not too hungry right now," Katniss says, taking a small sip of her milk. She looks up, almost apologetically. "I'll eat it later, okay?"

I nod and stand up, throwing out the apple core. "Do you want to go?"

She covers the plate with another one, and nods slowly. "Okay."


Halfway through our walk down the row of headstones, I feel Katniss lace her fingers with mine. I squeeze her hand firmly, looking at her with sort of a sad smile. Her grip tightens when we stop just in front of his grave. Katniss kneels down and puts the flowers we picked up in the holder. I take a seat on the grass next to her, letting go of her hand.

"I love you," she whispers. I nod, staring at the stone, but then her cold hand finds mine and I look up at her. "I was talking to you."

I smile and put an arm around her. "I love you, too."

"What do we do now?" Katniss asks quietly, and by the way her voice wavers, I know she's fighting back tears. As strong as she would like to think she is, she's not inhuman. She has to feel emotions.

"What we did last year," I say lightly.

Katniss nods and rests her hand on my knee. She breathes in a few times and clears her throat before humming and softly singing.

Deep in the meadow, under the willow
A bed of grass, a soft green pillow
Lay down your head, and close your sleepy eyes
And when again they open, the sun will rise.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it's morning, they'll wash away.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Here is the place where I love you.

Deep in the meadow, hidden far away
A cloak of leaves, a moonbeam ray
Forget your woes and let your troubles lay
And when again it's morning, they'll wash away.

Here it's safe, here it's warm
Here the daisies guard you from every harm
Here your dreams are sweet and tomorrow brings them true
Here is the place where I love you.

Katniss and I sit in silence when she's done. I close my eyes and envision what our son could've looked like. He could've had Katniss's dark hair and my blue eyes, or maybe my blond, wavy hair and Katniss's skin tone. And her eyes. The possibilities are endless, and I'm only hurting myself more if I try to imagine them all, so I open my eyes and stare up at the blue sky.

"Thanks for sticking with me for the last two years," Katniss whispers, finally turning to me with glassy eyes, but no tears fall. "Actually, for the last eight years."

"I'll always stick with you," I reply, leaning closer to her. "Thank you for standing by me, too." Her hands come up to my face and she gently places her hands on my jaw, pulling my lips to hers for a quick, chaste kiss. "Should we go now?"

Katniss looks from me to the grave hesitantly, and shrugs. "I don't know...shouldn't we stay...?"

I gently grab her other hand with my free one and shake my head sadly. "Katniss, I know James was our first child. It's been two years, and I'm just saying maybe we should slowly move on, we need to start really focusing on what we could have."

"Peeta, but he's still our son!" Katniss snaps, letting go of my hand. She stands up and I quickly do the same, not wanting to do this. "You can't expect me to forget about our first child!"

I gently grab her arm, but she shakes me off. "Katniss, listen to me, that's not what I'm saying. I don't want you to forget him. I just think we need to move on and think that this has made us stronger. I'll always love him, but we have-"

"Move on? And just leave him in the past?" Katniss asks, shaking her head. "No."

"You need to start thinking about the future," I say back loudly, immediately cringing at the volume of my voice and I quickly lower it to a softer tone. "I need you. Neither you or I can just shut down anymore."

Katniss looks away, staring at the gravestone. "Just give me a minute," she says coldly.

I clench my jaw, shoving my hands in my pockets. "Katniss, he was- is my son, too. Don't act like I don't care."

Her head snaps up and she glares at me. Pointing her finger, she steps forward and jabs it at my chest. "You don't know what it was like. To carry a baby for almost six months...and then have it die. You-"

"I know that," I say back, pushing her hand down. "But that doesn't mean it didn't hurt me just as much. Katniss, this tears me apart just as it does you, but we have to move on sometime."

"I-" and then she cuts herself off and walks into my ready arms, burying her face in my shirt. Her tears don't fall, instead she just stands there, breathing deeply. "He was just...just taken so fast. I never got to know him."

"I know," I soothe, rubbing circles on her back. "I know."

She steps away from me and crouches down in front of the stone, pacing her hand on the top. "Happy Second Birthday, James. I'll keep you in my heart forever."

I crouch down beside her and place my hand over hers. "We'll love you always, James."


I pull up into the driveway of the familiar Everdeen house, noticing a few other familiar vehicles, and put my truck in park. Two years after Katniss and I got married, the Jeep broke down and I had to settle down and buy this truck.

"Peeta," Katniss says quietly, stopping my movements. I look up at her, pushing the hair from my forehead. "You were right. About moving on...I just...I don't know what I'd do without you."

"Good thing I'm not going anywhere," I say and lean over the middle console, kissing her quickly. I hop out of the truck and wait for her to meet me at the front. I grab her hand while we walk up the lawn and knock on the door. The door opens right away, Jack and April standing there.

"Oh my," April says, reaching out to rub the bags under Katniss's eyes, which I'm sure I have too. "You two come in and sleep. Dinner won't be ready for two more hours."

Jack reaches out and gives me a quick hug along with a look of sympathy. They all know today was James's day, hence the big dinner. "Good seeing you, son."

Katniss and I step in the house, kicking off our shoes. It's pretty quiet, so I assume they're all in the living room. Jack and April go into the kitchen while Katniss and I head the other way into the living room.

The first to look up is Prim, and she immediately jumps up and pulls both me and Katniss into a hug. "You guys okay?"

"Yeah," Katniss answers quietly. "Rory at work?" She asks, looking around the room. Prim and Rory got engaged a year ago, but they aren't tying the knot until Prim is officially done with her training for becoming a doctor.

Prim nods. "Yeah. He's sorry he couldn't come."

"It's fine," I offer, smiling slightly. Ryan, Emily and my father come up. "Hey guys."

We all exchange hugs, Emily hugging Katniss twice and giving her a small smile. Katniss yawns and I tug her hand slightly.

"We're going to take a quick nap, then we'll be up in a bit." Katniss says and pulls me out down the hallway, quickly going up to her old bedroom. "I love them all, but I hate the pity." She closes the door and lays down on the bed, pulling me with her.

"I think it's called sympathy," I say with a slight grin, draping an arm over her waist. "Sorry for raising my voice at you earlier."

Katniss smiles, a very small one. "I snapped at you."

"It doesn't matter," I murmur while closing my eyes. Last night had not been good to me or Katniss. I think we slept about three hours collectively. My fingers drum against her lower back absentmindedly, and her smell of vanilla quickly aids to my sleepiness.

"Peeta," Katniss whispers, snapping me from my sleepy sensation. "I need to tell you something." I open one eye, nodding for her to continue. Her eyes dart around the room, only resting on me for a few seconds at a time. "Peeta...I'm ninety-nine percent sure I'm pregnant again."

My other eye opens and I stare at her with wide eyes. A million thoughts rush through my head. The chance to have another child. The chance to start our own family. Some fear shoots through me, too, because I know if this goes wrong...Katniss might never be the same.

"What? Are you serious?" I ask quickly, sitting up. She nods and sits up beside me, a look of fear passing across her face. "Are you happy? About being pregnant, I mean."

"Yes..." She answers slowly, staring down at the floor. "Just scared. I can't go through the same thing twice though, Peeta. I can't."

"I'll do everything in my power to make sure it doesn't," I say softly and tilt her chin up towards me. "Think of this as a blessing from James."

Losing James has made Katniss far more emotional the she usually ever was, and she starts to tear up – or maybe now it's hormones. So many times me and Katniss could've ended everything, but we stuck it through and got us here.

"I don't think I can be happy anymore," Katniss says dejectedly, sitting at the back work table while I roll dough. "Please just leave me. I want you to be happy-"

"Katniss, what the hell?" I say, stopping my movements. "I love you, I'm not going to leave you!"

"All I'm ever going to be is a reminder of the life you never had," she shouts, "and all you're ever going to be is a reminder of my dead son!"

Her knuckles are white, despite her scars, as she clutches the table. A weight drops to the bottom of my stomach, making me feel sick. Why is she saying this? I can't leave her, she can't leave me either. I'll be done.

"Katniss, don't say that. We can work through this-"

"Peeta, it has almost been four months! We're getting nowhere. I know you're not happy anymore, and I'm not either. Face it." She bites the inside of her cheek.

"I'm unhappy sometimes. We lost our son, Katniss! We're still coping," I cry out, running a dirty hand through my hair. She shakes her head and takes a step away. "Katniss...please. Please don't go. Don't say this. Don't leave," I beg.

She just stares at me. "You're not unhappy forever...you can be happy again. Please...Katniss." My voice has hit the epitome of desperation, and I know I may be selfish for not wanting Katniss to leave because I love her too much.

"Peeta," Katniss whispers quietly, putting her head in her hands. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I'm so sorry-"

"Don't be sorry," I say softly and step forward to pull her hands away. "Just stay. Through thick and thin, stay with me. I meant it when I said always."

Katniss's eyes, glazed over and dull, look into mine with such vulnerability, I almost crack again. "Always."

"James," Katniss says quietly and nods. "Do you think he's looking down on us?" Her voice is so unguarded and weak, something of a rarity with her (besides times like this), and I lean over and rest my head against hers, my lips close to her ear.

"I don't doubt it," I whisper. "And I know he's just as proud of you as I am."

"Proud of me?" She echoes, turning her head to look me in the eyes.

I nod and make a noise of confirmation. "Yes. For being so strong and brave."

She presses her lips to mine in a gentle kiss. "I couldn't have done it without you."

"Want to take a walk?" I ask and stand up from the bed, forgetting about my previous exhaustion and sleepiness. Katniss accepts my outstretched hand and I lead her out of the room and down the stairs.

"Hey, I thought you guys were going to take a nap?" Dad asks us, April and Jack had joined him on the couch while we were upstairs.

Katniss smiles slightly. "We're, um, going to go for a walk."

"Be back in time for dinner, kids!" Ryan calls out with a wink, and I roll my eyes.


The occasional gust of wind breezes through the park, the same park I took Katniss to on our soccer adventure back when I first met her. We avoid the play structure area and choose to sit on a bench near a treeline. The sun is already getting lower in the sky, the autumn making the sun set far more earlier than in the summer.

"Here," I say, reaching into my pocket and pulling out a chain with a pearl the size of a pea – the pearl we found at the Everdeen cabin years ago. "I got this made into a necklace for you."

Katniss gasps quietly. "I thought I lost that two days ago."

"Nope, I just borrowed it for a short while," I say and reach out, clipping it around her neck. I run my hands through her hair, pulling it out from underneath the chain. "There. Now you'll never really lose it."

She smiles slightly and kisses my cheek lightly. "Thank you."

I nod and continue to look out over the park. The trees and grass and flowers. Everything about this place is beautiful, and maybe we'll our baby here when after they're born. Katniss can push them on the swing, and I can catch them at the bottom of the slide...

"How far along?" I ask, breaking our sweet silence.

Her eyes flutter closed. "I think a little over a month. Because that was when we last...you know."

I laugh quietly and press my arm against hers. "Does Madge know?"

"No one but you."

"Katniss," I say and turn to face her fully, and she looks at me almost hesitantly. She knows what I'm going to say. "I know you're scared, I am too. But what happened to James isn't what is always going to happen, okay? Life is difficult and things happen, but the whole world isn't always against you."

"When you say things like that I almost want to believe you," she whispers.

"Well you should believe me." I gently touch her cheek. "Whatever happens...I'm always going to be there. I'll carry all your hurt. All your pain."

Katniss gives me a small half-smile laced with wistfulness. "Too bad that's impossible," she adds gently, reaching up to brush my hair back.

I place my hand over hers, stilling her movements and lacing our fingers together. "I'll make it possible."

"I wish you could." Hurt must register across my own face, because a look of regret flashes in her eyes. "Peeta, look, sor-"

"Are you happy? Yes or no? Because if I'm the reason for your unhappiness...if I remind you too much of James, then tell me." I let go of her hand and move an inch away. "I'm sorry for making you stay two years ago – I'm sorry I make you unhappy. I'm so goddamn sorry I couldn't protect you enough!"

I don't know when this started to happen, but I realize I'm having a breakdown. Maybe it's from the guilt I feel for not keeping her as happy – for not being able to save James. Tears blur my vision, and I turn away from her and wipe at my eyes.

"Peeta, that's not true. Please-"

"It is true! I'm sorry I failed you, I'm sorry I'm not the guy who protected you like I said I would-"

Her warm hand find my face and turns my head towards her. I barely get another word in before she's crashing her lips to mine, a fierceness in it. Our lips move and our tongues clash together, sorrowful passion filling our kisses.

"Will you just shut up and listen?" she breathes out after kissing me hard one last time. I open my eyes, an inch away from her face. "I wanted to stay, don't you ever think I didn't want to. You're amazing...you helped me so much. Please, Peeta, don't doubt yourself. I love you – always, remember?"

"What if I said I was scared too?" I ask, making it my turn at being vulnerable.

"That's okay," she says gently. "You don't always have to be strong – you taught me that, Peeta."

I chuckle quietly. "I love you, too." My hand tentatively goes to her flat stomach that will soon turn into a bump. Katniss gives me a look, but I just crane my neck downward, leaning closer to her stomach. "Daddy and Mommy are going to love you. Now you listen up-" I say shakily, a tear of happiness gliding down my cheek. "don't cause too much trouble for Mommy. Okay? She's been going through something rough, but I know you'll bring a smile to her face and she's going to love you so much. Daddy's going to keep you safe, I'm going to protect you."

I press a kiss through the material of Katniss's shirt before pulling away, and when I look back up at Katniss, she's holding in tears with a small full of love. The same smile she wore on our wedding day. I open my arms, and Katniss familiarly leans into me, wrapping her arms around my neck and I bury my face in the crook of her neck.

"I love you so much, Peeta," she whispers quietly, so quiet I don't think she meant for me to hear it. I breathe in her scent, closing my eyes momentarily until a throat clearing makes us pull apart.

We look over our shoulders, my eyes widening. It's been years since I last saw her, but even then it was a mere passing. I was in my car, she was leaving a store. We didn't even make eye contact for more than a second. It hurt, but over the years I've learned not to dwell on it because I have Ryan, Taftan, Dad and the Everdeens, too. Most importantly, Katniss.

Her blue eyes look between Katniss and I, and her hair is now a mix of blonde-grey, the grey much more noticeable. She holds a book in her hands, and she almost seems normal. But it's my mother, she's not normal.

"Peeta," she says slowly, as if she can't believe her eyes. "The years have passed."

My brain sputters for a few moments, trying to think of what to say. "They have," I say evenly.

"Taftan has said you've grown up quite a bit," she says. "He was right."

Taftan and Laura still take Dani to go see her. They couldn't cut Dani's grandmother out of her life randomly, especially at a young age.

"Any little ones?" She asks, surprisingly with no malice or venom or mockery in her voice. Just plain curiosity, because she couldn't possibly know about James. Taftan wouldn't have told her, and she still has somewhat of a heart.

I look to Katniss, her face void of a scowl and her eyes downcast. I sigh and smile slightly – my mother doesn't deserve to know, but she deserves to know how I'm fine and content no matter what she did to me. "One on the way."

Katniss looks up at me in shock, but I give her a look to let her know it's okay. My mother's eyebrows raise for a split second. "The first is always the hardest."

I want to cry and tell I know that already. To tell her I already had a son who was born and then died. To tell her I know the first one is the hardest more than she'll ever understand. I want to scream and ask her why she couldn't have really been a mom all those years ago. I want-

Katniss's hand finds mine, giving me strength. "Like you wouldn't believe." Confusion flashes across my mother's face, making me angry. "Our son would've been two today. He's gone – didn't even live an over hour. So, yes, the first one is the hardest."

Her mouth opens and closes while I stand up with Katniss. "The difference between you and me is...I'm upset and angry with the world for taking away my child, and you're upset and angry with the world for giving you a child. I just wish you could've loved me like I loved- still love the son I never spent more than sixty minutes with. I wish you were happy with what you got, but I do have to thank you for one thing...Thank you for showing me what a child should never go through."

I gently tug Katniss's hand and walk away from the bench. When I look back over my shoulder, my mother is still standing there. Her eyes meet mine and she quickly walks away, disappearing down the path of the park.

"Peeta," Katniss says pulling on my hand. "Peeta, stop walking and look at me." I stop walking and look at her, breathing deeply. She smiles and puts my mood at ease just with that little gesture. "You're going to be such a great father."

"You think so?"

"I know so."


"Should we say a prayer for James?" Dad asks while we all crowd around the Everdeens' dining table. All eyes fall on us – even Dani, Taftan and Laura – who had showed up while me and Katniss were on our walk.

Katniss takes a deep breath, looking to me. I take her hand in my own, and slowly shake my head. "No...no. He knows we love him, Dad. I know he knows somehow."

"Uncle Peeta and Auntie Katniss, don't be sad. I'm sure he has a lot of toys up in Heaven!" Nine year old Dani says with a big smile, making a tear escape my eyes which I quickly wipe away with my palm.

"I bet he does, kiddo." I say with a halfhearted smile.

Katniss's hand loosens in my own and she pulls it away, looking down at her own plate. I know Katniss and I talked about moving on, but it's still hard. Hard to think about James. It's hard reliving that day in our nightmares and minds. It's only been two years, but the pain is still raw. It was our child – something that we created – and then it was taken from us. But I know with time, we'll be able move on and heal.

Forks start clanking against plates, conversation stirring around the table, and everyone knows not to engage Katniss and I right now. Sometimes it's best to deal with silence.

I catch sight of Ryan and Emily's wedding rings. They got married three years ago – I was Best Man – just before their son was born. Aiden Mellark; he has Emily's straight black hair and Ryan's light blue eyes, along with his facial features. Being around them after James was harder, not intolerable, just harder to think about what could've been.

It was hard with all our friends actually. Finnick and Annie got eloped around the time of Ryan and Emily's marriage, and Annie gave birth to Zachary Odair, like Finn in every way except for his dark hair, a few months before Aiden was born. Gale and Madge got married too, a year after we did. Katniss was Maid of Honour in the small ceremony that had limited guests like our wedding.

What's hard for Katniss, though, was finding out Madge is four months pregnant. Last month Madge announced she was three months along, and we were happy for her and Gale, but envious, too. Now I guess we don't have to be anymore.

"Where's Aiden?" I ask Ryan, pushing around the food on my plate.

"He's with Em's parents." Ryan leans closer, lowering his voice, "You okay?"

In many ways I'm okay; I just found out Katniss is pregnant again, she's happy and I'm happy. We have family, the bakery, friends. I'm learning to cope with the loss of a child, no matter how long I knew him. I'm doing okay.

"I'm okay," I echo my thoughts. He nods and offers a smile before turning back to his food.

A lull falls in the conversations, and I catch a few glances around the table as I slowly pick apart my food. I look over at Katniss, she's done a great job at shredding up her chicken. But at least she ate the majority, the baby needs food too.

I look away, closing my eyes for a brief second. I-

"I'm pregnant."

My eyes fly open, and I turn in my chair. She told me, but I didn't realize she'd tell our family right away. I thought we'd wait until she was further along. The table goes quiet, everyone going still.

Prim is the first to speak. "You are? Oh my- Wait, Peeta, did you know?"

"Of course," I say, setting down my fork. "I just didn't know we would be telling anyone this early."

Katniss sighs and looks at me. "Peeta, they're our family, they should know."

"But we should've waited until you were further along inca-"

"Incase what?" Katniss snaps, dropping her fork. "Incase I miscarry? Incase our baby dies again? Is that what you were going to say?"

If the table was silent before, I'm not sure what it is now. I stare at Katniss for a second or two before pushing away from the table and leaving the room. I slide on my shoes and go through the front door.

I'm tired of all this shit. Of all the stress – of all the unnecessary jabs.

I'm near the end of the driveway when I hear my name being called out. I look over my shoulder at Taftan and Ryan running over to me. They each place a hand on my shoulder.

"You okay?" Taftan asks this time, and this time the answer the answer is different.

"No," I say. "I'm not. I'm not okay with Katniss in all this pain, or me. I'm not okay with seeing our mother. I'm not okay."

"Wait-" Ryan interjects, looking at me seriously. "You saw our mother? When?"

"On my walk with Katniss, I told her off and that's that." I shake off their hands and run my own through my hair. "Why...why did Katniss have to say that? We were happy...We- Why?"

"She looked like she regretted it once you left," Taftan says and crosses his arms. "Peet, you two have been through everything together, this is just a little harder. But I know you two can do it."

Ryan nods in agreement. "Yeah, Taftan's right for once. You guys can do this, it'll obviously take time to completely move on."

"Is Dani okay?" I ask, remembering that she probably just saw all of that. She's never seen me and Katniss like that before.

"Yeah. I think Prim and Emily are talking to Katniss. Do you want to go back inside or...?"

I shake my head and motion for them to go on. "I'll come in soon. Give me a few minutes."

They nod and hesitantly leave me alone. When the front door closes, I pull out my wallet and look at the photos in my wallet. The first of Katniss at Christmas time four years ago. The second of Aiden and Dani. The final two are my and Katniss's wedding picture, and the ultrasound picture. My thumb runs over the picture before I fold it and jump in my truck, peeling out of the driveway.


The cemetery is quiet and cold without Katniss. But my trip isn't going to be long. When I come up to the gravestone, I kneel down and press a kiss to the folded picture in my hand.

"I'll love you forever, James," I say quietly. "But I need to move on, too. I wish you were here, but you're not and I can't dwell over something that will never be. I know you'll understand. Keep an eye out for your mother, will you?" I press a second kiss to the paper before tucking it into the flower holder in the ground with our flowers from earlier today.

"Goodbye," I whisper to the wind before backing away.


I step into the living room, everyone's heads turning to me. Prim jumps up and shoves my shoulder.

"Where the hell did you go?" She asks loudly, so much like her sister. "Katniss thought you left!"

"I had to say goodbye," I say quietly, making Prim lower her hand. She pulls me into a hug, whispering that Katniss is upstairs. I nod when we pull apart, and I catch Jack's eye. I reach my hand out to him. "Sorry."

He smiles. "Don't be, son. It's a good thing you married my daughter before getting her pregnant," he says, and his humour during such a sad time is refreshing. I crack a grin before heading upstairs.

Light is streaming out from underneath the door, and I slowly open it and slide in past the door. One hand is on her stomach, the other rolling the pearl through her fingers. Either she's ignoring me, or I was more quiet than I thought, when she doesn't look up.

"Hey," I say, shifting from foot to foot.

She sits up so fast and drops the pearl against her collar bone. "...hi." I pull out the chair from her desk and seat it near the bed. Katniss watches me carefully, and I watch her, but don't say anything. "Please don't leave me."

"I'd never leave you."

"I just need time...Time to heal." She pulls her hair over to her left shoulder and twists it absentmindedly.

"Okay." I rub my face and breathe out. "Stress isn't good for the baby, so you need to take it easy. I was thinking...we could see a grief counsellor." Katniss stares at me and I sigh. "I still have Dr. Aurelius's card."

Katniss looks away. "I don't need someone with a fancy degree to tell me I'm sad about losing our son."

"Katniss," I say tiredly, raking a hand through my hair. "He could help us move on. Please, can we try seeing him once? Then if you don't like it...we don't have to go back."

Maybe she's too tired from all of this, but she nods and looks up at me. "Okay."

"Thank you. I'll call him later." I rest my chin on my hand. "I want a girl."

Katniss smiles slightly. "Me, too."

"I know, Prim told me." I grin at her flushed cheeks, reaching out to grab her hand.


Madge already has a bump on her belly, much different than Katniss's flat stomach. I barely listen to anything anyone is saying and just think about how much has changed since two days.

We have a baby on the way. Katniss is learning how to move on. I'm learning that I can't protect everyone. And we're seeing Dr. Aurelius today. He remembered us from delivering James two years ago – he was a specialist in delivering preemie babies, as well as a counsellor for grief, especially parents.

"Peeta, are you even listening?" Annie asks, reaching over a sleeping Zachary to smack my arm.

I nod slightly, looking up from my cup of water. Finnick throws a foam soccer ball at me, one of Zachary's toys. "What's got you so distracted?"

He eyes me skeptically as I shrug, but my eyes leave his and go to Katniss. She's curled up on the Odair's patio couch next to Madge. She smiles in the slightest, her toes wiggling in her socks – a habit of hers.

"Oh, nothing. Just tired, I guess," I say with a shrug. I'm not sure if Katniss and me are going to tell our friends that we're expecting a child just yet. But I can't hide anything from Finnick and Katniss can't hide anything from Madge, so inevitably Gale and Annie will find out, too.

"I call bullshit," Gale interjects, and he's even more menacing with the title ex-Marine. After he and Madge got married, he decided he didn't want to put her through all the stress and sadness of him being away, so he took up a job at a training center teaching self-defense.

"Gale," Katniss says with a warning tone, shooting him a look.

Madge looks between me and Katniss, a sympathetic look. "James?"

Katniss looks at me as she answers, "No...not James."

"Oh no, don't tell me you two are divorcing? You've been awfully distant today, oh my. You two are made for each other-" Annie cuts herself just as Katniss chuckles, a genuine chuckle. The chuckle that makes my insides twist happily.

"What's so funny?" Finnick asks, looking at a chuckling Katniss and grinning me. "What did you break? I swear to God if it was my beer cup..."

"Calm down, Finn. It's not your precious cup." I look over to Katniss quickly, and she gives a small nod. "Katniss can't even drink anyways..."

"Oh my God," Madge says quietly, turning to Katniss. "Oh my God!"

Finnick jumps up and pulls me up into a hug while bouncing up and down. "Holy shit-"

"Finnick, watch your language!" Annie scolds, still smiling.

"Holy poop," Finnick over exaggerates, rolling his eyes with a bright smile. "Peet, I'm so happy for you, bro!" Gale comes up and slaps my shoulder a few times with a congratulatory smile.

"Stay for dinner, we'll celebrate!" Annie says, standing up to hug Katniss.

Katniss hugs her back lightly, then pulls away. "We have to leave soon...so we'll have to pass. But thank you."

"What, why?" Madge asks, standing up from the couch.

"Ah...we're going to see a grief counsellor." I say, seeing the way Katniss bites her lip. "We're at an odd time of happiness and sadness. It's, um, rough."

"I'm proud of you two," Finnick says seriously. "You call anyone of us if you ever need anything, okay?"


"One of the most important things is to remember that what happened two years ago doesn't define what your future is. Only you two can define your future. Learn to trust and have faith in this blessing of another child and in each other, too." Dr. Aurelius adjust his glasses, setting them down on his desk. "It's obvious the loss of your first child has deeply affected both of you, and you can correct it by opening up again. Don't hold back, don't hide the truth or from it. Don't shut each other out. Do things like you used to, go out and enjoy life again."

He pulls out a small little agenda book and clicks a pen. "Would you like to schedule another appointment? How about two weeks from now?"

I look over at Katniss, and surprisingly she sits forward and nods. "Two weeks is good. Thank you...for this."

"I'm glad to help," Dr. Aurelius says, he stands up and looks down at his pager. "Sorry to leave like this, but I have a patient to go check up on. Please, take your time." I stand up to quickly shake his hand before he leaves.

Katniss and I leave his office on the higher level of the hospital wordlessly, but I do reach out and gently take her hand in my own as we step in the elevator. I reply everything from the last hour, but what Dr. Aurelius just said made realize that Katniss and I can really get past this.

"Home?" I ask.

Katniss nods. "Home."


We walk in through the back door of the bakery, waving at Dad and Ryan. I know Emily will have to leave soon to go get Aiden from her parents house, and Ryan will leave, too, so the bakery will only be open for another hour. It's nice being able to dictate when to close it.

"How'd it go?" Dad asks, slowly sitting down on a stool. His age is catching up on him, and I hope he starts to take it easy.

"Good," I say and grab two cookies off the cool rack. I hand one out to Katniss, which she eagerly accepts. "Do you think you could close the bakery in an hour?"

Dad nods, his greying hair curling around his ears. His eyes still hold a tenderness that they had since I could remember. I hope to look at mine and Katniss's baby like that.

"Thanks, Chris." Katniss says and waves at him before slowly going over to the stairs. I follow behind her and look over my shoulder at Dad once more, smiling. He waves me on and gets up from the stool to resume work.

I walk into the kitchen, Katniss drinking milk from the carton. I groan and grab it out of her hands, looking down at her with mock exasperation.

"I told you how unsanitary that is!"

She raises an eyebrow. "So you'll kiss me and everything, but once I drink out of the milk carton it's gross?"

"Yes," I say and pull out a cup for her. I shove my cookie in my mouth, making a face at her. I actually feel good. After that session, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted of my shoulders.

She smiles and brushes past me. "Just making sure I still annoy you."

I follow her down the hall, she turns into our other room with our laptops and her keyboard. She takes a seat at the keyboard and begins pressing the keys gingerly, something she hasn't done in a while. A tune begins playing throughout the room along her soft, melodic voice. I cross the room, taking a seat beside her on the bench.

I watch her fingers and scarred knuckles gracefully press the keys, and when I look up at her, I find her grey eyes on me.

I remember the drive home
When the blind hope turned to crying and screaming "Why?"
Flowers pile up in the worst way, no one knows what to say
About a baby boy who died

And it's about to be halloween
You could be anything you wanted if you were still here
I remember the last hour when I kissed your face
I whispered in your ear

Come on baby with me we're gonna fly away from here
Out of this curtain room and this hospital grey, we'll just disappear
Come on baby with me we're gonna fly away from here-

I smile slightly when she stops playing. "You're going to be such a good mother, Katniss. I know you will be."

"I'd like to hope I will be," she says back, tracing my fingers with one of hers.

"You already are," I say and rest my hand on her stomach. "James passed in the arms of a beautiful, strong woman who loved him. There can't be a better way to pass."

"Thank you," she says, a smile lighting up her beautiful face. "Let's make some hot chocolate and watch a movie."


Katniss comes into the kitchen, her red plaid pyjama pants on and her grey hoodie. I smile at the sight, then turn back to stirring cocoa powder in the steaming mugs. She comes up to my side with a bag of marshmellows and drops a few into her mug.

"What about me? I want marshmellows, too."

She raises her eyebrows and throws one of the white puffs at my face, hitting me square on the nose. I stop stirring to pick up the marshmellow on the the counter, eyeing her.

"Oh, really?" I ask, a smirk lighting up her face and making her eyes shine. "Do you really want to start this?"

"Start what?" she asks innocently, not a hint of sadness or emptiness in her voice. Just playfulness, like my Katniss. Her hand closes around the bag and she quickly moves away, laughing when I throw the marshmellow at her. "Are you trying to start a war, Peeta?"

I raise my hands in surrender as she pulls a marshmellow out of the bag. "Of course not."

"Too late," she says, whipping the marshmellow right at my chest. I sprint away, abandoning Katniss and the hot chocolate, and run down the stairs into the back of the bakery. Dad and Ryan are just leaving through the back door as I run past them, ducking by a work table.

"Dad, help me!" I shout like a little kid, a hint of whining in my voice. Katniss comes down the stairs, laughing as Dad and Ryan close the door behind them. "Katniss, I love you!"

She stuffs her hand in the bag and pulls it out, throwing a handful of marshmellows at me when she rounds the corner of the table. "That's real nice of you to say, Peeta."

I reach up and grab her hand, pulling her down into me. We fall over, her hands bracing themselves on my chest. "Yeah, I'm too nice sometimes."

She looks down at me, a smile lighting up her features once again. Maybe what Dr. Aurelius told us earlier helped Katniss – it sure helped me. Maybe all we needed was someone to tell us to allow ourselves to be happy again. And I think Katniss really listened.

"How about that movie?"


Katniss's hands fiddle with the waistband of the pyjamas I had just put on before our movie. They trail over to the drawstring, and she starts making loops and tying bows while The Lion King plays – we're never too old for this movie. Her legs are entwined with mine, and I smile down at her even though she can't see me.

We've come a long way since we met. Katniss learned to be open and to love, more importantly, she knows that she is loved. She's loved by so many, especially me, and I know she'll never ever go a day without knowing.

"I can see you grinning at me through the TV," Katniss murmurs softly, her cheek pressed against my chest. "You're such a dork."

"I know," I admit with a slight smile when she cranes her head to look at me. "We're okay, you know that, right?"

"Of course I know that," she says gently, her hands leaving the string and reaching up to brush back my hair. "I know I've been sad sometimes, but I'm still really happy. I'm happy with you. With our life, too."

"I am, too," I say, holding her closer. "I can't wait to start a family, Katniss."

She smiles again. "I can't either."

And that smile is what reassures me the most. That special smile she has – the smile that lets me know everything will be okay. No matter what happens, we're going to be okay. It'll take a while to really heal from James, but we're already starting to heal. I can see and feel it. Right now, we're okay.

"I love you, Katniss," I say softly, craning my head downwards to kiss her. She stretches up, her hand falling to my collarbone just as we pull apart. "Always. Ever since I met you, I haven't stopped. Never forget that, okay? Even during the toughest times...I'll love you. You're always going to be loved."

"I know," she whispers, her grey eyes bright. "I love you, always. We're going to be better. I can tell we're better than we were before. And I'm so happy and lucky to have you by my side through all of this," she says, taking a deep breath and looking down with a small chuckle. "Wow, I'm not used to saying that much."

I laugh, too, making her look back up with those gorgeous grey eyes that I hope our kid will have. "I like your voice, so talk that much all the time."

"Maybe just for you," she says, smirking up at me.

"We're starting a family?" I ask, a hopeful gleam enters her eyes.

"Yes, Peeta."

"I can hardly believe it's real," I say with slight awe, but then a smirk takes over and just for some fun, I say, "You love me?"

"I do, Peeta." She tells me with a small smile, leaning closer to my lips. With her lips just centimeters from mine, she asks, "And you love me?"

"That's most definitely true."

And our words are sealed with a kiss.


The end!

-far off crying-

I can't believe it's over. My first Everlark story...finished! I'm so so so so thankful and appreciative of every single one of you. Please believe me when I say I couldn't have done any of this without all of you. All of your encouraging and kind words.

I hope this epilogue was good – even though it was a little sad.

Honestly, when I first posted this story...I never imagined it would have over 100 followers, let alone 341. And 456 reviews! You guys are so awesome, I can't even tell you in words how thankful I am for having you guys as supporters and readers!

Don't let the end of this story stop you from continuing to read my other stories, along with future stories that I will be posting!

I LOVE YOU ALL!

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