Disclaimer: The Hunger Games belongs to Suzanne Collins.
A huge thank you to my beta, fnur, for all her hard work and help with this chapter.
I stare at the tiny plus sign in between my forefinger and thumb for a long time before finally
letting out a deep exhale.
As I push my bangs out from my eyes, I catch my reflection in the mirror beside me.
My skin seems pale in comparison to its typical tanned hue and below my eyes are deep, puffy bags
due to lack of sleep.
I glance down once more.
We're positive. It's positive.
"You know, no matter how many times you take it, the answer always stays the same."
"Peeta!" I reflectively yell out as I jump in surprise to face him. In my haste to turn, the thin pregnancy test falls down into the toilet with a thunk.
"Now it's really positive," he smirks.
"Not funny," I try to scold, but the crease in the corners of my lips do little to help my case. I zip and button up my jeans before leaning against the sink, more casually. "What're you doing sneaking up on me, anyway?"
"Didn't realize I was 'sneaking' when I entered what's technically my room," Peeta snickers, sticking his hands into his pockets. "I just came to see what you were up to. People will be here soon..."
"Right... people," I frown, my voice lacking enthusiasm as I bend down to fish the piece of plastic from the bowl. I toss it into the garbage, wrinkling my nose up at my soiled hand before flushing the toilet and washing up quickly. "Rye's birthday."
"Big six," Peeta nods, taking a step closer until his arms wrap around my middle, pulling me closer. "Whose idea was it to have his party here, again?"
"Ugh, whoever it was should be shot," I mumble, leaning my head against his chest tiredly.
"I think we can give her a break," he murmurs back. "Just this once. I mean, I think she's pregnant, and we all know pregnant women are unstable-"
Peeta's smile deepens, making his dimples stand out more on his cheeks before slowly backing away from me and toward the door leading into our bedroom.
I traipse behind him slowly, dragging my feet across the floor until I land face first on the bed, groaning into it deeply.
"I don't wanna get up," I moan, gripping the blanket below me tightly as I feel the opposite end of the mattress sink with the added weight of him. He smacks my butt playfully, chuckling to himself as I squeal in protest.
"Rye's waiting for you, you know," Peeta says, keeping his voice light and sing-song like as he trails his fingers up and down my back slowly. "He's a little distraught that his favorite person in the universe has not yet wished him a happy birthday."
"I'm a horrible person."
"I mean, even I've wished him a happy birthday, Katniss."
"That's really saying something," I chuckle into the pillow before lifting myself up into a sitting position. The sudden movement causes my stomach to lurch uncomfortably and a cool sweat to break out along the back of my neck, a feeling I'm growing increasingly more accustomed to.
As if I ever needed a pee stick (sticks, rather) to tell me I'm pregnant. The changes my body has made in just twelve short weeks would be remarkable, if they hadn't been so uncomfortable.
It only took six weeks for my sneaking suspicion to be confirmed by a doctor, who smirked at my ghostly white face and congratulated me as he pointed out the microscopic embryo floating around inside of me.
I was seven and a half weeks along when I finally worked up enough nerve to tell Peeta. The secret helped me lose sleep, keeping me up all night tossing and turning at the thought of keeping something so important from him.
But, I knew from first-hand experience Peeta isn't exactly the best at handling "sudden" news relating to children.
When I say "worked up enough nerve," what I really mean is he caught me puking for the fourth morning in a row. Up until then, I thought I had been incredibly sneaky about the entire ordeal, but as it turns out, Peeta was very much aware of my early morning illness and sudden lack of food intake.
I broke down when I saw him standing in the doorway, a sleepy - but curious - eyebrow lifted in silent question.
Getting pregnant was never part of the plan. Not for me and definitely not for Peeta. At least, not so soon. He had his hands full with work and we both struggled to keep up with Rye's rambunctious schedule - who since starting school has grown even more talkative and more hyper... if that were even possible. The idea of adding another child into the mix - one who would require 24/7 attention was nerve-wrecking.
I don't know how I expected Peeta to react, but of all the scenarios I entertained my mind with, none of them involved him comforting me. Part of me had really expected to have to coax him into the idea of another child running around, explain to him why it's so important he's involved in his or her life, and pray he didn't decide to let me go after the shock wore off...
"Well, I'll let you get changed," Peeta grunts, pulling me from my thoughts as he lifts himself up off of the bed. "Try not to take too long. I still need a little help downstairs."
"Okay," I mumble, craning my neck up as he bends down to place a quick kiss on my lips. "I'll be right down."
"Okay," he repeats, casting me a quick wink before retreating for the door. He stops with his hand around the knob and casts a curious look over his shoulder at me.
"We're still planning on telling Rye today... right?"
"Yeah, yeah of course," I say a little too quickly. "Why wouldn't we?"
"Just checking," he speaks nonchalantly. "Since you're still checking and all."
"Yes, we're telling him," I repeat sourly. "And I was just making sure everything was still all right, okay? We just passed the danger zone... and my nausea didn't hit as early as it has been these past few weeks so I was just..."
"I understand," he smiles before swinging the door open. "I think it's cute. As long as you're all right."
"I'm fine," I promise and he nods in return, stepping out into the hallway before pausing once more and poking his head back in.
"You know, it's kind of exciting, being able to tell people now."
"I know," I say, inhaling deeply before forcing myself into a standing position. "It'll definitely come as a... shock to most."
Peeta frowns a little, leaning an arm against the door frame.
"Well, fuck 'em then."
"We'll have to work on using daddy language."
"No, seriously. If people have a problem with the fact that we're not married, or that we haven't been together that long, or whatever, they can come and talk to-"
"-Peeta," I interject, holding a hand up. "People are going to be surprised. I mean, we were surprised. It's not like it was planned-"
"-Doesn't make it an accident."
"You know," I smirk, strolling slowly in his direction in hopes to lighten the tense air. "You're getting so defensive... it's kind of hot."
He cups my cheeks with his hands, pulling me closer until his lips rest against my forehead for a long moment.
"Plus," I add in a whisper. "I thought we talked about this already... the whole marriage thing."
After we had a chance to let the newness of the surprise wear off, Peeta and I briefly batted the idea of marriage around. His parents would have expected it, had they still been alive and my mother will surely have a conniption when she finds out my technical "boss" knocked me up. The idea of having a quick and quiet makeshift wedding was a slightly appealing one...
But, neither Peeta or I were in any sort of rush for a commitment of that size and didn't want our relationship to end up a mistake because of the pressures from society. In the end, waiting seemed like the most logical thing to do.
"We did," Peeta says a moment later. "It just seems like you're still a little uncomfortable with the whole idea."
"Peeta," I say, my voice dropping with a hint of annoyance. "That's because it is uncomfortable, marriage or no marriage, it's a little... awkward."
He frowns knowingly.
"But, I'll tell you this... a somewhat unexpected proposal weeks before my baby bump grows in... yeah, a hell of a lot more uncomfortable than an unexpected pregnancy."
Peeta snickers a little, rolling his eyes at me before finally allowing his arms to fall down to his sides.
"Now leave me alone, if I do remember correctly, I have a party to get ready for."
For weeks leading up to his birthday, all Rye could wrap his mind around was the idea of having a superhero party.
Throughout dinner, conversation circled around Spiderman. His new favorite bedtime story was The Avengers. And although he insisted that at almost six he was too old to be taking supervised baths, I could hear him playing with his action figures in the tub as I passed by in the hallway.
So, it came to be no surprise when Peeta came home one afternoon from work with hundreds of dollars worth of superhero paraphernalia to give Rye the "best birthday ever."
"We'll show those kids how it's done, won't we buddy? They're going to be so jealous of how awesome your party turns out."
The next afternoon when Rye came home and I found a note inside his backpack explaining how he'd been put into time-out this afternoon for incessant bragging and teasing, I simply placed it on top of Peeta's keyboard with an accusatory raised eyebrow. He laughed as he skimmed through it, of course, until he realized that I was not joining in and offered to go and talk with him.
I snuck up the stairs a couple minutes after he disappeared, listening in through the cracked door leading into Rye's room as Peeta explained to him how he was wrong to have said the things he had the other day and that it's not nice to make our friends feel bad about things. Rye apologized, his sweet voice raising a little with the words as he wrapped his arms around Peeta's neck tightly.
"Katniss!" Rye bellows, lunging for me the second my foot hits the landing from the steep stairs. I grunt a little as he flings his arms around me, so suddenly that I have to take a few steps backwards to steady myself. He untucks his head from where it lays buried in my stomach and looks up at me with a toothless grin.
He's grown so much in the past year since I've met him. The small boy who traded my first homemade dinner for potato chips and squealed in delight when I tickled him has since transformed.
I can't pick him up anymore - he's grown twice in size - but I take both his pudgy pink cheeks in my palms and plant a firm kiss on his forehead which he immediately wipes away a moment later.
"You remember what today is, right?" he continues, his bright blue eyes boring into my own.
"How could I forget? Birthday Boy," I smile, hoping to keep my tone light and enthusiastic. It must work, because he bounces a little with excitement before wiggling free from my grasp and doing a full spin around the hall, his arms swinging out towards his sides.
"Look!" he exclaims, stopping suddenly to meet my eyes again. "Doesn't it look awesome?"
"Pretty spectacular," I agree with the slight nod of my head.
"Yeah, what's that mean?"
"Awesome," I smile and he returns my grin readily.
And the place really does look awesome. The walls that were once empty but have since been filled with photos from different special events have been striped bare again to make room for life-sized Superman and Batman posters. Red, white and blue streamers hang down in strips over each door frame with the Captain Americashield plastered over the top, and through those, inside of the kitchen, was a long, plastic Spiderman table cloth sitting under a collection of hero-themed plates, napkins and goodie bags.
I look around with a strange mix of awe and confusion. I hadn't expected Peeta to do so... much. Actually, I hadn't expected him to do anything really, besides buy the stuff.
I walk slowly through the curtain of streamers leading into the kitchen to find Peeta hunched over a half-frosted rectangular cake. He pushes his bangs out from his eyes and glances up at me, setting down the knife and tube of frosting he holds.
"Sexy," I smirk, unfolding my arms crossed around my middle to grip the edges of the loose apron that dangles around his neck. He goes to pull it up off of him but I tug down on it harder.
"Don't take it off on my account," I say, toying with the long strings on each side of it. "Wouldn't want you to get dirty."
He glances over at the frosting he'd set down a moment ago and squeezes a little onto the tip of his finger, holding it out to me.
"Try it," he nods encouragingly as I glance up at him skeptically. "It's buttercream."
I hesitate for a moment, my stomach still churning a little.
"It's good," he sings, waggling his eyebrows up and down.
I smirk, shaking my head a little at him before wrapping both my hands around his thick wrist. He nudges his finger closer to my face until my lips pull it in, sucking the melted sugar off with the swipe of my tongue.
"Mmmm," I moan softly, looking up at him pointedly and noting the way his eyes droop slightly as my lips pop off of him. "Delicious."
He continues to stare as I swipe my lips over my tongue and-
"Hey! What are you doing?"
Both Peeta's and my head turn sharply in the direction of the doorway where Rye stands with deeply furrowed eyebrows and folded arms.
"Katniss! You're not supposed to have any cake until I blow the candles out!" he huffs, stomping closer to where we stand like deer caught in the headlights.
"I'm sorry, Ry-"
"-She was just being my lovely assistant, bud," Peeta cuts me off to explain, moving from our compromising position to the countertop where the cake rests.
"She's my taste-tester," he reiterates. "She has to make sure the cake isn't poisonous."
He scrunches his nose up as he says the words, wiggling his fingers around mischievously in a way that makes me snort.
"Poisonous?" Rye repeats, a hint of suspicion to his tone.
"Yup," Peeta continues, keeping his tone level. He pulls the apron up from off of his head and tosses it onto the countertop.
"You poisoned her?" he asks in disbelief, shadowing Peeta as he glides around the kitchen. "Why did you do that?"
"Don't worry Rye, the cake was safe. No poison," I assure with a wink. Peeta winks back with a knowing smile.
"Oh," he breathes out in a giggle. "I knew that."
"All right Rye, your cake is all finished, do you wanna take a first lo-"
The doorbell rings out in its familiar long-winded pattern, cutting Peeta's sentence off as Rye gasps and his eyes widen in excitement.
"People are here!" he practically screams out. "For my party! I'll get it! I'll get it! I'lllllll gettttttt itttttttttt!"
"Look," Peeta finishes somewhat deflated as he watches his brother sail down the hallway, leaving only the streamers blowing back and forth.
This is Rye's first birthday here with Peeta and his first one ever celebrated with me. Peeta and I were unsure of how the day would end up playing out, the whole occasion is somewhat bittersweet. Because although Rye has us now and is seemingly very happy about it, there are two extremely important people missing from his life.
This year has been hard. There's been a lot of firsts we've had to get Rye through without the help of his parents; first day of school, first holidays without them, and now his birthday. Peeta and I have done our best to tread carefully, keeping the day's tone light and thinking thoroughly before we speak, so as not to spark any unwanted memories to the forefront of his mind.
I pat Peeta on the back jokingly as he moves the cake from the countertop to the center of the nicely decorated table.
"He'll love it."
"Well, maybe," Peeta says, tilting his head a little as he stares down at it before turning back up to me. "My dad used to make our birthday cakes. It was sort of a tradition, so getting a store-bought one sort of felt like... cheating."
"Plus," I add with a teasing smirk. "You're much tastier."
His eyes widen a little in mock surprise, but I don't miss the way the tips of his ears glow red before his lips rise a little in the corners.
"Are we still talking about cake?" he chuckles, pushing a stray piece of hair behind my ear.
"I don't know," I murmur. "But maybe you can find out a little bit later."
"What's gotten into you?" he wonders huskily, his normally blue orbs nearly black.
"Katniss! Peeta! Look who's here!"
Rye runs back into the kitchen just as quickly as he's left, this time with his best friend Jonah, and Peeta and I pull apart quickly, trying to appear not so guilty.
"Hey, Jonah," Peeta greets, running a hand through the boy's rumpled bronze hair. "How's it going little man?"
"You'll never guess what I got Rye for his birthday!" the toothless boy exclaims with excitement and before Peeta even has the chance to respond, the boys are jumping and hanging all over him, squealing as he reaches down to pick each of them up in one arm.
It's funny how so much can change with time. Just last year, Peeta turned his nose up at the idea of even spending a few hours at the park with his younger brother. Now, he tries his hardest to make sure he can take him every Saturday.
Annie and Finnick appear through the doorway of streamers, looking around in delight just as the doorbell sounds again with a new wave of people.
At first, I was really clueless as to how many kids you're supposed to invite to these things, but after several of Rye's classmates had parties I caught on to the fact that most kids invite everyone.
When I first pitched the idea of inviting his entire class to the house for his party, Peeta seemed a little put off, clearly thinking of his expensive upholstery and crisp white carpeting in the hands of several five year olds...
But after a little time and careful consideration, Peeta agreed to a day of sitting the children for the sake of his younger brother's first birthday party with us.
Nothing could go wrong today. It just couldn't.
An hour or so past the arrival time listed on the invitation, and the party is in full-swing. The table designated for Rye's gifts has filled itself up and now spill onto the floor surrounding it. The living room Rye usually runs around in by himself is swarming with over a dozen other "little superheroes," who karate chop one another and spray each other with their "webs."
"Careful," I remind them as I walk past the room to the door as the bell rings one final time with the arrival of the pizzas.
"We are, Katniss," Rye promises from where he sits on the back of another kid, pinning him to the ground.
"Let me help," I hear Annie say from behind me, reaching past to grab the boxes while I fish out the bills Peeta had handed to me to pay with.
"Thanks," I sigh, falling into the door as it closes. "And thanks for sticking around today. We definitely needed the extra help."
"Figured as much," Annie snickers as we walk up the few steps leading to the main floor of the house. "Finnick and I have suffered through enough parties of thinking we could handle things to let our friends suffer too. Though, it would have been funny to see your expression later tonight had we left."
I roll my eyes.
"Hey!" one of Rye's classmates yell, jumping to his feet and pointing towards Annie. "She gots pizza!"
"PIZZA!" another kid cries out, as if he's never seen the stuff and suddenly we're surrounded by an influx of children, all chanting the same word over and over again, giggling as they entrap us in a circle.
"Peeta!" I call out as I feel my patience beginning to slip. Him and Finnick both appear through the streamers hanging off the kitchen doorway, looking upon the scene in front of them with mild amusement.
"Hey kids," he calls out, his voice booming over the loud roar of their own. Immediately they grow silent and turn towards him obediently. It'd almost be annoying if I weren't so damn grateful.
"Whoever doesn't grab a plate and sit down at the table isn't allowed to have pizza," he speaks sternly, his eyebrows knitted together as he eyes a couple of the more rambunctious kids. "Now I know it's a party and it's all fun and games but-"
"Peeta," Rye sighs, bouncing up and down a little. "Can we just go?"
"Yeah," Peeta grumbles, moving out of the way as the kids rush through the doorway into the kitchen, snatching plates and spots at the table and napkins. Annie sets the pizzas down in the middle of the table, handing out slices to kids who wait patiently at one end as I start dishing them out at the other. Peeta and Finnick offer to grab all the drinks and Annie's words ring true in my mind. This would have been impossible had they not stayed to help.
I watch as the vein on Peeta's forehead continues to bulge as he takes in the mess that surrounds his normally spotless house. His jaw is clenched and it's a good thing there's only another hour or so until the kids are expected to be picked up, because I'm not sure how much more than that he could handle.
Before the kids have hardly finished their pizza, they've moved on to wanting cake, banging their fists against the table and giggling as they chant for the sugary treat in unison - as if that will make us want to give it to them any faster.
"How about Rye opens some presents before cake," Peeta suggests, trying hard not to lose his patience. He runs his forefinger and thumb over the bridge of his nose in exasperation before pulling a tight smile onto his face. "Does that sound good, buddy?"
"Yes! Presents!" he squeals, and the other kids mimic him, feeding off his obvious excitement.
"Okay, lets all go back into the living room," I suggest and Peeta breathes a sigh of relief beside me. "Everyone grab the present you brought and sit in a circle, all right?"
"Thank you," Peeta murmurs against my ear, giving it a quick kiss. "I have to get this mess cleaned up."
"Chuck E. Cheese next year?" I tease and his eyes widen as he nods his head slowly.
"Okay, just don't take long cleaning up," I say, parting the streamers. "We still have to give Rye our present."
"Be there in a minute."
By the time Peeta falls down onto the couch beside me, Rye has already opened four gifts and eyes the bright paper of his fifth with excitement. He tears through the remaining ones in no time at all before staring at the blue bag that sits by my feet.
"Is that for me?" he asks, switching his focus between my face and the present.
"It is," I smile, bending down to grab it. I haven't even lifted myself up off of the couch before he's crawling over excitedly, snatching the bag from my hands and sitting down in front of my feet.
I smile at the pure excitement that washes over his body as he pulls out the box of Star Wars legos. Peeta and him had watched the first movie just a few weeks ago together and ever since it's been the obsession following closely behind superheroes.
"Do you like it?" I ask when he turns to face me.
"I love it!" he exclaims, jumping up and falling into my arms. "We can play with it later, right?"
"Of course," I grin, pushing his shaggy hair back to kiss his forehead. "Happy Birthday."
"Happy Birthday, buddy," Peeta mimics, ruffling his hair playfully.
"Can we have cake now?" he asks, his eyes lighting up with the request and his eager friends behind him nod in agreement.
"Almost," I promise, chancing a glance over at Peeta. "We have one last present for you, Rye."
I hold out a small white envelope towards him and cautiously he takes it in his hands, glancing down at it in confusion before tearing it open at the seam and pulling the small ultrasound picture out. Immediately Annie gasps, looking to me for confirmation. I nod shortly, turning back to Rye who flips it over a couple of times, trying to figure it out.
"Do you know what you're holding, buddy?" Peeta asks, leaning in towards him and Rye shakes his head, disinterested in the present that is clearly not a toy.
"It's an ultrasound," I explain and go into further detail when he still wears a mask of confusion, explaining it's a picture that was taken inside of a belly. "My belly."
"Oh," he says.
"It's of a baby," I say, pulling him up onto my lap and wrapping my arms around his small body to hold the picture, pointing to the small strip of white that outlines the fetus's small body. He places his finger right next to where mine points before looking up at me.
I'm brushing my teeth for the night when a soft knock sounds on the door leading into Peeta's and my bedroom. From the mirror I see Peeta glance up in my direction before clearing his throat.
"Come on in."
The door squeaks a little before Rye pokes his head in, looking around nervously before slithering in more fully. His right pant leg is twisted and bunched a little past his knee and his mop of curly hair is disheveled.
"What's up buddy?" Peeta asks perplexedly as Rye climbs onto the bottom of the bed, sitting cross-legged with his hands on his knees. "I thought Katniss and I said goodnight a little bit ago."
"Yeah," he agrees with a casual nod.
Peeta and I exchange a look.
"Is everything okay, did you have a bad dream?" I ask, sitting down on the opposite side of the mattress as Peeta. "Or did all that cake make it hard to sleep?"
"I have a question," he says, ignoring my questions all together.
"Okay," Peeta answers, setting the book that balances on his knee onto his nightstand. "Shoot."
"You said Katniss and you are having a baby," he confirms, glancing between the two of us. "But I thought that only mommies and daddies could have babies..."
He trails off, leaving an uncomfortable silence to fill his unspoken words and looks between us expectantly, his eyebrows still furrowed in confusion.
"Umm..." I breathe, subconsciously twisting my fingers through the end of my braid.
"Well, once the new baby arrives, Katniss will be a mommy and I will be a daddy," Peeta answers quickly, his voice strained and I swear through the corner of my eye I see him wipe a trail of sweat off from the corner of his forehead.
"No," Rye argues, shaking his head. "Because mommies and daddies are married."
The problem with Rye is that he's smart which makes the task of tricking him next to impossible. My mind wanders back to last Christmas, when Peeta and I signed some of his presents Santa Claus. The following morning when he discovered the gifts under the tree, we were both lectured on how "lying is bad" and he knows that Santa is not real and that the presents had been from us.
"How?" Peeta had wondered in sheer disbelief, later on that afternoon once Rye was fully engrossed in his game of trucks. "I didn't tell him, did you tell him?"
"No, I didn't tell him!" I had hissed through clenched teeth. Rye's crashing noises faltered just slightly and when we both peeked around the corner and caught the glint of suspicion in his eyes we smiled and waved as casually as we could manage.
My head snaps up from where my eyes had trained themselves on the bed sheet and I meet Peeta's desperate eyes, along with the curious ones belonging to Rye.
"Anytime you want to chime in now, feel free."
"Well, uhm," I pause for a moment, blowing out a large breath of air. "When two people are in a special relationship, and they love each other a lot-"
"Katniss," Peeta speaks, warningly.
Rye stares at us, unblinkingly.
"What she's trying to say," Peeta continues, casting me a side-glance. "Is that it doesn't necessarily take a Mommy and a Daddy to have a baby."
The strawberry-pink tint thats stained the tips of Peeta's ears has traveled down to his neck and he clears his throat uncomfortably a couple of times while knotting his fingers through the sheet that rests on his lap.
"It just takes two people who really care about each other," I finish with a yawn.
"Oh," Rye says, his voice an octave higher with surprise. "And you and Peeta really care about each other, right? You and Peeta care a lot about each other."
"We do," I nod, before attempting to change the subject. "So just like Peeta said, when the baby is born I'll be its mommy and he'll be it's daddy. But, do you know what that'll make you?"
With my question, Rye's ears perk up and he looks to me with furrowed eyebrows, raising his shoulders a little.
"You'll be the baby's uncle," Peeta says, exchanging a quick glance with me before smiling more fully. "Uncle Rye."
Rye giggles as Peeta reaches forward and pulls him in closer, wrapping his thick arms around his younger brother's tiny body.
"Well," Rye smiles, craning his head to look up at his brother. "That's cool."
Peeta nods a little as I lower myself down more fully onto the mattress. I sigh in relief as I stretch out my aching back, allowing my droopy eyes to close more fully before Rye's voice fills the room again.
"Is the baby gonna be a boy or a girl?" he asks, and when I look up he's playing with the tips of Peeta's fingers.
"We're not sure yet," Peeta replies. "It'll be a little while longer until we do."
"Well," I yawn, turning onto my side. "The baby is still very tiny right now. Too tiny to tell us its gender yet."
"Oh," he frowns a little.
"What do you think it'll be?" I hear Peeta asks behind closed eyelids.
"Uhh... I don't know," Rye says and I can picture his face perfectly in my mind: eyebrows slightly raised as he shrugs his shoulders. The image makes me smile.
"Well, what do you want it to be?"
"Peeta," I chide, frowning a little.
"What?" he asks in confusion.
"Don't ask him that," I yawn, again.
"Why?" Rye asks; it's his favorite question. "Why can't he ask me that, Katniss?"
"I think Katniss needs some sleep now," Peeta says and I hear him grunt quietly as he raises himself to a standing position with Rye in his arms. "And so do you."
"I'm not very tired," I hear Rye say and when I peek up at them through one lidded eye, I see his head resting on Peeta's broad shoulder.
"You had a big day," I hear Peeta's voice trail off as he moves further down the hallway.
I'm asleep before I notice he's back.
Peeta was able to take some well-deserved time off this past weekend for Rye's party, but with Monday he's back to his maddening routine. I watch from the comfort of bed as he paces around the room, tightening his tie at the same time he tries pulling a sock up over his real leg.
Peeta lost his other leg years ago, something it took months for him to admit to me when we first met. The Mellarks have never had too much luck when it came to cars, and just like one took the life of his parents, when he was still a teenager, one took his leg as well.
"Calm down," I chide as he hits his knee against the dresser. I wince as he curses in annoyance, pushing the edge of it with all his force, as if the inanimate object had done it on purpose.
"You're your own boss, remember?"
"I still have a schedule, Katniss," he bites, slipping his shoes on before adjusting his pants one last time. "And it's going to be a busy day."
"Well, then please don't allow me to keep you," I snort, motioning to the door with my hand.
He runs a hand through his hair before sighing deeply and coming to sit on the edge of our bed.
"Sorry," he mutters, like the word burns his tongue. Everything down to the facial expression reminds me of Rye so much that I have to laugh a little as I sit up on my elbow, using it as support to give his arm a push.
"You should be," I tease. "Don't get grumpy with me just because you have to work."
He casts me a lazy half-smile before bending down to give me a quick kiss.
"I'll be home later on tonight."
"For dinner," I tell, rather than ask and he sighs dramatically, casting a wave over his head as he walks toward the door of our room.
"Yes, yes for dinner."
I smirk as I hear his loud footsteps sound down the hall before his head pokes in one last time.
"Have a good day."
I lay in bed for a while longer in hopes to get a little more sleep, but after I spend a good half hour tossing and turning in attempts to find a comfortable position on the mattress, I give up, get out of bed and go to take a shower.
Only silence can be heard from behind the closed door leading into Rye's bedroom, but by the time I turn off the hot water, I can hear him through the wall playing with some of his favorite new toys.
When I exit the bedroom, I find that Rye has decided to expand his play area and lays sprawled out with half his body inside his bedroom and the other half spilling out into the hall where he has an entire race track set up for his Hot Wheels.
"Vroo- oh! Hi Katniss!" Rye greets up at me when he notices me standing over the top of him. He flashes a large smile, so similar to that of his older brother's that it causes me to do a double take.
"Good morning," I greet, lowering myself down onto the floor opposite of him and crossing my legs. "And just what are you up to this morning?"
Rye quickly positions himself to mirror me and points excitedly to the race track in between us, explaining how he built it all by himself.
"I didn't need your help or Peeta's help or anybody!"
"That's pretty impressive. Are you going to show me how it works?"
"Yeah!" he exclaims, crawling back into the room where a bucket of cars sits. I hear him noisily searching through it - the sound going straight to my already pulsing head - before he stops and pokes his head back out into the hallway.
"Wait, Katniss... what's your favorite color again?"
"Oh yeah," he smiles. "Okay, one second!"
He appears moments later holding a shiny green car in his hand and positions it at the top of the track with ease before casting me a glance under the thick mop of curls that hang over his eyes.
Need to schedule him a haircut, I think to myself as I reach forward to push it away from his eyes.
"Do you want to do it?" he asks, motioning to the car.
"Sure," I smile, placing my hand on top of its body. "But you have to do the honors of counting down for me."
"Three... Two... One, go!" he exclaims and I let the car go, amazed as it zooms around the track, hitting the finish line in less than ten seconds. Rye squeals in excitement, his eyes wide as he picks up the car and places it back at the starting line.
This toy isn't so bad. Not loud. Easy to clean up. Definitely could keep him entertained...
My phone vibrates in my pocket at the same moment that Rye asks if I want to push the car again.
"No it's okay, it's your turn," I reply, glancing down at the message from Annie.
I need to run out and grab a couple of things. You in the mood for shopping?
"Okay, but you have to count!"
"One second bud."
When you say a "couple of things" do you mean we'll be out all day?
"One... two... three," I call out when I see him impatiently bouncing from the corner of my eye. I hear the car fly across the track accompanied by the happy giggling of Rye.
Come on, it'll be fun. Plus Rye would be a great distraction for Jonah.
A second later, another text vibrates my phone.
We can buy stuff for the babbbby.
Is that your idea of a bribe? Get me to spend money? I snicker. I'm only twelve weeks, Annie.
"Katniss, are you going to play some more?"
"Sorry, Rye," I frown, picking up the car and placing it on top of the track once again. "That was Annie who I was talking to. She wants to know if you and I want to go out for a little bit with her and Jonah."
His ears perk up at the mention of his best friend.
"Where are we going? The park?"
Trust me when I say you can never start stocking up too soon. So are you coming or no?
"Not today. Annie needs to get some shopping done. Think you can keep Jonah company?"
He nods his head vigorously, already moving around the crowded hallway to pick up his toys.
"But Katniss?" he asks, tossing his cars into their bucket so loudly.
"Yes?" I ask, trying my hardest to keep my voice sweet.
"Will you make some breakfast first? I'm hungry."
"Sure, Rye," I smirk, using my remaining effort to push myself up from on the floor then turning back to my phone to type out a reply to Annie.
Yeah, we're in.
"Peanut butter toast or waffles?"
Twenty minutes in Target, and I'm already regretting joining Annie for the afternoon.
"Oh, you need this!" she gasps, moving quickly down to the other side of the aisle and picking up a long 'U' shaped pillow.
"What is it?" I frown and her shoulders sag.
"It's a Boppy, Katniss," she says, rolling her eyes a little. "For breastfeeding."
I stare at the pillow with a cocked head.
"...You are planning to breastfeed, right?"
"Well, it doesn't matter," she claims, flicking her wrist. "It's for feeding the baby; breast milk or formula. To help support them so your arms don't ache. Mine was a lifesaver, Jonah had such a big head."
"Annie..." I say slowly, my frown only deepening as she tosses one into one of our two carts. "I don't need this right now. Actually, I don't need any of this stuff right now," I say, glancing through the sea of binkies and onesies and bottles that fill my cart.
"It's never too early, Katniss," she claims for the second time today. "If you wait until the last minute, you'll end up spending a fortune. The trick is to buy a little a time."
"And... this is a little?" I ask with a raised eyebrow. "The bubby alone is like... fifty dollars!"
"It's a Boppy."
Rye's voice breaks through our conversation and I turn right as he comes tearing down the aisle, followed closely by Jonah and carrying a large box in his arms.
"Look what I found!" he puffs out, bending over to set the box down. "It's a Darth Vader mask! It makes your voice sound like his, isn't that cool?"
"Pretty nice," I agree with a nod, knowing exactly where this is heading. "When you're done looking, make sure you put it back where you found it."
His grin slowly diminishes.
"But... Katniss," he wines and his voice sounds so much louder than usual. He tugs on the bottom of my shirt, his lip pouting out as he glances back at the box longingly. "I want it. I really, really, really want it."
"We're not here to shop for you," I remind him. "We're here shopping for Annie... and apparently the baby."
"But, maybe the baby will want a Darth Vader mask!" he perks up in reply. "I'll let the baby play with it, I promise."
"Rye," I sigh, bending over to pick up the box as Annie snickers behind me. "Today, the answer is no. Maybe next time."
"And if you ask again, you'll get a timeout."
His bright eyes grow wide as they take in my threat and then narrow with annoyance as he crosses his arms tightly over his middle.
"That's no fair!"
"Yes it is," I say, continuing to walk down the aisle, ignoring his rising tantrum. "You just had a birthday party this past weekend and have a lot of new toys at home."
"Not that one!"
"Don't be greedy," I chide. "Some kids don't have any toys. Would you like to give them some of yours?"
"Then don't be selfish," I reiterate. "Today is for the baby and what the baby needs. Which is not a lot," I say, redirecting my last words toward Annie.
With my tone, she turns back toward me, holding a small and fuzzy yellow blanket with a plush duck head in the center. She presses it against her face, making a face similar to the one Rye had moments earlier.
"Only ten dollars," she sings, shaking it in her palm.
"No," I hiss for what seems like the tenth time today. "Rye, go put that toy back please and Annie, enough. I don't need that today and I'd like to wait until we know the gender to buy a lot of this stuff and it might be nice to let Peeta have some input?"
"Peeta?" she snorts. "What's he going to want to do with it? I'll tell you, when Finn and I were out doing our registry, where was he but in the video game aisle? He could care a less whether I got blue or green onesies or whether the baby's nursery was zoo-themed or baseball-themed. Men don't care."
"Well, Peeta might," I insist, moving my cart past her own. From the corner of my eye, I see her own narrow in suspicion, and I can't say I blame her. Peeta's never given off daddy vibes in any sense, but he's surprised me with how excited he's been about the baby. If for no other reason, it's a good enough excuse to get me out of the baby aisle today.
"Most women can't wait to do this kind of stuff, Katniss," she continues on behind me. "It's so much more fun buying for them before they're born and have an opinion on everything!"
"Yes, I'll just get to deal with yours for the time being," I mumble under my breath before jumping at the sound of her over-exaggerated gasp.
"Annie! No means no!"
I glance over at the table and snicker as I see Rye's elbow supporting his head as his heavy eyes slowly fall closed and open widely before drifting shut once more.
Now that he's in school for most of the day, he's usually already laid down for his nap before he gets off the afternoon bus. But, between sleeping in a little later than normal and running errands with the Odair's, he's had to forgo it.
He lets out a small snore which startles him into a sitting position where he rubs his eyes and lets out a tired yawn.
"How're you holding up?" I ask, turning up the heat on the stove one notch.
"Me too, little man," I agree, buttering two pieces of bread before placing one on top of the pan. "We can go nap after lunch. Deal?"
As I pace the kitchen, trying to clean up as I go so I don't have to later, I notice the way Rye's eyes continue to follow me, wherever I move to. He sits silently at the table, with his small hands crossed as he watches with slightly furrowed eyebrows and tightly pursed lips.
When I re-catch his gaze, I offer him a smile, but his expression never changes as he studies me unblinkingly.
"Everything okay?" I ask, flipping over his grilled cheese and silently wondering if he's still upset about the mask from earlier.
"Where is the baby right now, Katniss?" he asks in a deep sigh, catching me off guard. I look over at him and his eyes trail down to my stomach, as if he already knows the answer.
"Well," I say, moving a little closer to him. "Right now, he or she is in my belly. That's where they're getting all the food and rest they need before coming out."
I pull on the loose sides of my shirt a little, making it tight across my barely-showing belly. It puckers out just slightly past my jeans, something even I've had to get used to, but is nothing compared to the mammoth breasts I've adopted for the time being.
Rye studies it with a serious face before giggling a little to himself, his dimples protruding.
"What's so funny?" I ask.
"So, are you going to get fat?"
"Yes," I snicker, ruffling his hair. "But it's a good kind of fat. It means the baby's growing."
This cracks him up and as I place his plate of lunch in front of him, he takes a big bite before bursting out into another round of hysterics.
"It's gonna be funny, seeing you fat Katniss."
"Oh really, is that what you think?" I smirk, picking up my own sandwich and eyeing it suspiciously. It'd looked so good while I was making it, but now the smell is starting to make me nauseous.
"Yes," he replies giddily.
"I'll remind you of this when I need someone to rub my fat feet, okay?"
"Yup," I continue, walking over to the fridge to grab an applesauce. "I volunteer you."
"No, Katniss," he giggles, taking another big bite of his sandwich. He chews loudly, and on any normal day I wouldn't mind, but watching the grilled cheese turn to mush in his mouth is really making it hard for me not to vomit.
"Chew with your mouth closed, please."
"Katniss, do you like seafood?" Rye asks, his eyes lighting up with an evil glint.
"No," I say, giving him a pointed look and making a mental note to kill Peeta later on for ever showing him that stupid joke. "I hate it."
"Oh that's too bad because I love it," he replies easily. "I wanted to share some with you."
"No, Rye," I say, swallowing down a heavy pool of bile that threatens to rise in my throat.
"SEE FOOD!" he hollers before sticking his tongue out to flash whatever is leftover in his mouth.
I don't make it to the bathroom before I throw up.
"Oh just admit it, it's kind of funny," Peeta chuckles to himself, working the buttons of his shirt loose before pulling it free from his body. I watch his arm muscles strain and allow my eyes to travel down over where his undershirt hugs his torso.
Subconsciously, I lick my lips.
He turns in my direction, knocking me free from my trance and I relocate my eyes, blinking a couple of times before frowning back toward him.
"You know, next time I'll leave the puke there for you to clean up and we'll see how funny you think it is."
"He already apologized, what more do you want?"
"I'm not angry with him," I hiss. "I'm just pissed off with you for showing him that joke in the first place. You should have known that'd be a bad idea."
"He's a boy."
"Who needs manners."
Peeta falls down onto the bed on top of the covers and sighs deeply before turning his head to face me. He pushes a stray lock of my hair back before placing a kiss on my lips quickly.
"I'll talk to him about it tomorrow."
"No, I don't need you to talk to him," I groan in frustration.
"Then what do you want?"
"I don't know!" I snap. "Not everything needs a solution, Peeta. Sometimes I just want to complain and I need you to listen!"
Peeta watches me silently, his lips just barely twisted up in what looks to be amusement. My emotions are definitely out of sorts because I can't decided whether I'd rather kiss the look away or slap it.
"Why are you just staring at me?"
"Oh my god," I growl. "You probably need to get away from me right now."
I turn in the opposite direction of him, pulling the covers as far up my body as I can - a difficult task with him laying on top of them.
Always ruining everything.
There's a stretch of silence between us, but he makes no effort to leave or move. I sigh deeply, not-so-subtly pulling on the blankets and huffing when they make no move under his weight.
"Come on, Kat," Peeta finally says, his tone somewhat teasing. "I don't want to fight."
"Well, you should have thought of that earlier," I grumble, though to tell the truth, I can't even really remember what we were fighting about.
Peeta lets out a low grunt behind me and then the bed jostles as he moves in closer to me, pressing the front of his body against the back of mine and wrapping an arm around my middle. He places a steady kiss behind my ear, his breath tickling my sensitive skin, causing me to shudder.
"I was thinking about you earlier," he whispers huskily and my body betrays me by instinctively backing further into his.
"What were you... thinking about?" I hesitate as his hand slowly moves down my side, pulling the covers past my thighs until I kick them down toward my ankles.
"How I couldn't wait to get home," he replies, smirking when I crane my head around to look at him.
"That's the boring answer," I murmur, turning to face him more fully. Already I can feel him hard against my inner thigh and slowly begin rocking myself into it. "Why couldn't you wait to get home?"
Peeta snakes his hand around my neck, entwining his fingers through my hair before his lips part slightly. Instead of the answer I expect him to give, he moves his head forward, capturing me into a heated kiss. I gasp in surprise and he takes advantage of the moment, allowing his tongue to glide in past my mouth, deepening our movements.
With his heavy pants fanning across my face, I can smell the peppermint Listerine he used, some of its flavor still clinging to his lips. Forcibly, I push Peeta down so that he lies on his back and swing a leg over the top of him, straddling myself over his middle.
He smirks up at me in a mixture of surprise and arousal before allowing his hands to trail up my sides and underneath the part of my shirt that's risen a little. My skin pebbles under his feathery touch as they move higher, lifting my shirt up over my head and tossing it to the other side of the room.
His hands fall to my chest automatically, pulling and pinching at my hardened nipples in a way that'd usually have me throwing my head back in ecstasy. But right now, it just fucking hurts. Almost neck-in-neck with nausea for inconvenience is the constant pain in my growing boobs that stings when Peeta even looks at them.
He stills as my body grows rigid and glances up at me before loosening his grip and rubbing gentler. Still an irritant.
Not wanting to ruin the moment anymore than I already have, I cup my hands over the backs of his and move them down my sides slowly until they rest on the waistband of my underwear.
"I don't want to play," I whisper, leaning down to suck on his earlobe. I tease it between my teeth, nipping lightly while rocking my hips over his rhythmically. "Not tonight."
"Fuck," he breathes, helping my hips to move over him at a quicker pace before hooking his fingers under the band of my underwear. "Then lets get these off."
Gladly, I think to myself, smirking as I lift my hips up to help him ease the material down my thighs. Once it hits my knees I roll off from on top of him, easing them down until they flick off of my ankles.
"You're a little overdressed, Mr. Mellark," I sing, trailing a fingertip down his bare chest. His stomach clenches under my ministrations, defining his toned muscles as I move closer to the button of his slacks.
"Allow me to help."
"Please," he breathes, already bucking a little towards my hands. I pull the zipper down, purposely brushing against his erection before pulling on the material to get him to lift his hips. He does so breathily and I move his pants along with his underwear down over his knees as he leans over the dresser beside the bed, digging through the drawer.
"What're you doing?" I murmur, taking him into my palm, rubbing it up and down. His leg muscles tighten and he breathes harder out his nose, his search becoming more frantic.
"Condom," he grits.
"Peeta," I continue in the same soothing tone. He lets out a cross between a moan and grunt in response. "I'm pregnant..."
"I kno-oh," his cheeks darken a little as he turns back to me, the drawer still hanging open, and smiles sheepishly. "Right."
I wink, positioning myself over him before running the tip of him between my folds teasingly. His head lands against the pillow with a heavy thud and he breathes gruffly through his nose as I continue to sink down on top of him.
"Oh fuck" he mutters, gnashing his teeth together and meeting my thrusts with urgency. "You're so tight."
His hands knot with mine against the mattress, squeezing tighter as we move a little faster and my body crashes down on top of his.
I can feel his heart beating rapidly inside his chest against my own as he sucks and moans around the skin over my collarbone. When he bites down a little rougher than I expect I reflexively clench around him, causing his eyes to roll behind his head slightly.
With each upstroke my clit rubs against his skin roughly, edging me closer and I dig my nails into his skin harder as I feel myself approaching the point of coming undone.
"Shit," he mutters.
"Peeta," I hiss against his shoulder. "Ahh Peeta! I'm close, I'm so close."
"Me too," he breathes raggedly and I can feel him beginning to pulse inside of me. His arms wrap around my back, pulling me into him impossibly closer and his eyes tighten, creating a perfect crinkle in his forehead as he bites down on his lip heavily before letting out a shaky moan.
"Katniss, faster," he begs, meeting my shallow thrusts harder.
I respond to his request, moving my hips as fast as they will go, my mouth growing slack as the familiar and intense euphoric feeling starts to make its way down my belly.
"Peeta!" I cry out as my body convulses on top of his and it's enough to send him spilling over the edge as well. We shake as the aftermath of our orgasms wash over us and lay entwined with each other for a long moment before I chance a glance up at him with lazy smile.
"See?" he grins back, lopsidedly. "Aren't you glad I came home?"
Ohh... who lives in a pineapple under the sea?
Absorbent and yellow and porous is he!
If nautical nonsense is something you wish...
"Rye," I groan, my voice coming out sharper than I intend it to.
"What?" he asks confusedly. I look to the side to find his head turned in my direction but his eyes still focused on the television ahead of him. When I don't immediately respond, he chances a quick glance over at me.
"Would you mind turning the television down a little? I'm not feeling good."
"Oh, okay Katniss," he says, reaching over the table for the remote.
It's a little after four in the afternoon. Rye's dirty shoes and book bag lay sprawled out across the living room floor and he's elbow deep in a bag of greasy chips because I just can't find it in me to care right now. He convinced me to let him have a soda instead of his normal juice and guzzles it down greedily, only stopping when I remind him that drinking too fast will cause him to hiccup.
Behind my closed eyelids I hear him crawling over to where I lay and then a small hand lands on top of my folded ones. I peek down at him through one lid and he frowns deeply, giving me a gentle pat.
I nod, tiredly.
"With the flu?"
"No, it's not that kind of sick. It's just the baby growing... makes me kind of tired sometimes."
"Oh," he speaks quietly with furrowed eyebrows as he stares down at my belly in concentration. "That's not very nice of the baby."
"Well, they're not doing it on purpose," I murmur, reaching into my pocket for my phone as it buzzes.
I squint to read the name that flashes on the screen, surprised to see that it's from Prim, my younger sister. We try to keep in contact with one another frequently, but between my busy life here in New York with the Mellarks and her's back in Virginia - the same town we grew up in - it usually ends up to be just once a week over Skype... if that.
When I open the message, it's a picture of Prim smiling brightly alongside her long-time boyfriend, Darius. She chopped her long hair off a few months ago and what's left of it sits right above her shoulders in an angled bob. Although I've seen several pictures of her 'new-do', it still takes me by surprise.
Katniss! Darius and I are at Greasy Sae's place... AND MISS YOU! :( When are you coming back?
"Katniss, I want you to play with me," Rye whines, pulling on the sleeve of my shirt.
"Hmm? Oh Rye, I'm sorry," I reply with a frown. "I think I need to take a little nap or something. But when I wake up maybe we can play some cars? Why don't you watch Spongebob until then?"
Yummy! I reply to Prim. Eat some good food for me!
Don't sidestep the question...
"Okay," Rye sighs, letting go of my arm and turning back toward the television, his hand already digging back into the bag of chips. I really should take those away from him.
"Don't eat that whole bag," I mumble, reaching out to ruffle his hair.
"Kay," he chuckles, his voice distant as he's sucked into his cartoons.
I don't know, Prim. But I'll try to get back soon... promise.
Yada yada yada, she replies once I'm nearly asleep. Not like I've been hearing that line for years now.
I frown as I read over her message a couple of times. She's right of course, I have been promising to visit her for years now, but I haven't been back home since I left for good after high school. It's much easier said than done, going back, because the thing is the longer I wait, the harder it becomes to commit to a visit. And it's been years...
I do feel bad. It's not Prim that I'm avoiding seeing, just our crazy parents - Mother in particular - who still live not three doors down from their youngest daughter. If it were just Prim, my efforts to get back would be a lot more intense.
Really, I promise her.
I tuck my phone back into my pocket and turn onto my side, trying to block out the sound of Spongebob and Patrick's obnoxious giggling. Guilt washes over my body - doing nothing to help the nausea - as I think about how upset Prim will be with me when she finds out about the baby.
It's not something I can hide from her forever, or something I particularly want to hide. It's just not something I imagined telling her via text message - which seems to be all she has time for these days. For someone I love so dearly, the reveal of this secret has to be more personal.
My phone buzzes but my heavy limbs refuse to move and my closed eyes feel like lead, so I let it buzz and cuddle further into the blanket, hoping to get lost into sleep.
But I have to talk with Peeta when I wake.
The smell of something delicious wafting in the air is what finally causes me to rouse from my sleep. The sky is still light, but through the open window the sun has already begun to set. I run a hand over my eyes sleepily, glancing around in confusion as I sniff the air with greater force.
Chinese? It's poignant in the air, but I'm not sure if it's my brain playing tricks on me or if I could actually be lucky enough to have found something that doesn't make me immediately gag and it's in the house.
Faintly, I hear the sound of talking from the other room. It's definitely Rye's squeaky voice, but his words are muffled and incoherent.
"Peeta?" I croak out, clearing my throat before trying again. I move myself into a sitting position, running a hand through my (what I'm sure is crazy) hair.
Peeta pokes his head into the room a moment later, his smile increasing as he takes me in.
"Hey, Sleeping Beauty finally woke up!" he calls out, loud enough for Rye to giggle.
"Please don't fire me. I promise I don't always fall asleep on the job," I yawn, only half-joking. Although it's obvious Peeta and my relationship extends far past that of being Rye's nanny, I do feel sort of bad for my lackluster performance.
Peeta quirks an eyebrow, as if he'll have to think about it and hums lowly, taking cautious steps forward.
"I don't know, Everdeen. You might need to bribe me a little," he smirks with a wink.
"Shut up," I snicker, rolling my eyes. I reach up and grab his tie in my one hand, pulling him down towards me with it. He gives me a quick kiss - one suitable for a young person who might walk in at any moment to see - before smiling.
"Yes. Did you make dinner?"
"Make? No. But I did order something out. Figured you weren't in much of a cooking mood."
"You figured right. But I am in a Chinese mood. Is that what I smell?"
"Indeed," he grins. "Let me go fix you a plate."
I lean back into the couch and sigh a little, beating my hands against my hardening stomach. I feel bloated, the way it puffs out just slightly, only when I try sucking it in, it refuses to budge.
"They forgot to give me the brown rice," Peeta relays sourly. "But they gave us plenty of your favorite: sweet and spicy."
"Thanks," I smile as he sets the plate down in front of me. He lowers himself down onto the couch beside me, resting his arm on the back of the couch to allow me to lean on his chest comfortably.
I glance over at his plate, practically spilling over with food and catch a whiff of the steak and peppers that sit on top of the rice.
It smells good.
I take a bite of my food. Not bad... but not what I smelled... and eye his as he takes a large bite, his eyes focused on the television ahead. My mouth pools with saliva as some of the sauce slides down his chin and I find myself licking my own lips, as if to taste it.
Peeta catches my stare from the corner of his eye and turns his head to face me with confusion.
"Mhm," I nod, smiling a little. "Delicious."
"Oh, well good."
"Hey, what did you get?" I ask, trying my hardest to sound casual. I can ask that right? It doesn't automatically mean I want it...
But I do. I want it so badly.
"Steak," he replies quickly, already looking back at the television.
"Oh..." I say slowly, twirling my fork around on my own plate. "Is it... good?"
"You want to try a piec-"
He snickers as my cheeks turn red with my eagerness and I smile timidly at him before picking at a piece with my fork.
"Sure, take the biggest piece why don't you?"
"Did not!" I reply, though it sounds somewhat muffled in between bites. I moan, my eyes closing and head falling back onto the couch as I swallow what is possibly the greatest thing I have ever had in my life.
"Is there uh... any more of that... in the kitchen?"
"No," Peeta chuckles before placing his plate on my lap and grabbing hold of the one in my hand. "But we can swap if you'd like."
I eye him in confusion - he doesn't even particularly like sweet and spicy chicken but already he's begun to shovel it into his mouth.
"Well, I guess pregnancy does have its perks," I tease, biting into the steak more slowly.
"Don't get used to it," Peeta snorts. "Your time is ticking."
His joke casts a harsh reminder to the forefront of my mind as I recall the conversation I had with Prim earlier, before falling asleep. He's more right than he realizes; my time is ticking. Because how long is too long to go without telling your family that you're pregnant?
When I don't respond to his joke, Peeta turns to look at me with furrowed eyes.
"Are you sure you're feeling all right? You look a little pale."
"I'm fine. Just thinking..." I promise, taking another bite of food. "I was, um, thinking it might be time I tell my family..."
He pauses for a moment with a look of confusion.
"...About the baby."
"...You haven't done that yet?" he asks and I turn to him with a pointed glare.
"No I 'haven't done that yet' are you kidding me? I was thinking since this is both of our news, maybe both of us should tell."
"No, you were thinking of using me as your human shield since your mother is a pyschopath... no offense."
I say nothing, because I can't really be angry with him for that one. After nearly a year of living together, Peeta has experienced firsthand how little my family has to do with me, minus Prim. I'm not surprised he doesn't harbor a soft spot for them.
Although Peeta was up to his eyeballs in work when I first met him and knew little to nothing about children, it didn't take long for me to see that before his parents' accident, he had been close with them. He had good memories to share with me; funny stories that made our sides hurt and sad ones that'd make us both tear up with emotion. He loved his parents and in every photo, every home video and every letter he dug up, it was clear they loved him too.
But it doesn't change the fact that my family needs to know.
"Can't we just... I don't know... send them a birth announcement when the baby gets here or something?"
"No!" I hiss, appalled. "They're my family, Peeta."
Peeta rolls his eyes.
"You hardly mention them besides Prim. They hardly count as 'family', Katniss. A distant relative, maybe, and you know what distant relatives get? A birth announcement."
"They're my parents whether you like it or not," I seethe, feeling an irrational need to protect them from the spite in his tone. "And they deserve to know..." I finish as I motion down to my belly with a stubborn and quick shrug. Peeta's eyes follow down to where I point and he inhales deeply.
"And if I do recall, you didn't have the best of relationships with your mother either."
"My mother didn't check out of my life, she still cared about me Katniss," Peeta argues. "And I care about you, that's why I'm acting like this. I don't want her to hurt you anymore than she already has. I mean, how much can you possibly expect from her?"
"We have to tell them," I speak with finality.
Peeta hesitates, watching my unmoving features carefully before sighing with a slow nod.
"Yeah," he finally agrees.
"Soon," I reinforce.
"Whenever you're ready," he agrees, pushing a stray strand of my hair back behind my ear.
"Besides..." he snickers. "I have to talk with them sometime. Might as well be to tell them surprise! I knocked up your daughter..."
"I know, great first impression," Peeta says, taking a sip of his drink.
"Yeah, but I've always been trouble child why not add bastard child to the mix?"
Peeta snorts, spilling some of his soda back into the cup before coughing a couple of times and laughing. I laugh too, because he looks so ridiculous, but he only shakes head at me.
"God, maybe it's not such a good idea for me to be there when you tell them. I can't be held responsible for my actions."
"You aren't getting out of it that easily, Mellark. Besides, no one is going to hold you responsible," I mutter, picking at the remains of my plate. Damnit, gone already. I barely remember tasting it.
"Good, 'cause no baby of mine is a bastard," Peeta says, surprising me when his fingers ghost across my stomach for the first time since the pregnancy. He places his palm over its center deliberately and smiles down at me. Shakily, I return it, watching his hand as he starts to rub smooth circles over me.
"When will she start kicking?"
"I don't know," I reply as guilt overrides me again because should I know these things? I don't even know if she has feet yet let alone-
"Wait," I say out loud. "Did you just say she?"
A tint of color paints Peeta's cheeks and he shifts his eyes away from my own before clearing his throat a little.
"Yeah, I might have."
"You think it's a girl?"
"Peeta, I thought we weren't going to play the guessing game," I say, annoyed.
"There's nothing wrong with visualizing!"
"What if it's a boy and you've built up in your mind that its a girl? Are you going to love him any less for being a boy?"
"No, of course not," he frowns. "I wouldn't do that."
"Then what's the point in visualizing?" I snap and I'm not sure if it's because I'm actually mad with him or if it's because now I'm visualizing a girl.
A sweet, dimpled, blonde, curly-headed baby girl...
"I just have a hunch it's a girl. Don't parents sometimes get those?"
"Well, we'll find out the gender soon enough," I say, clearing my head of pink imagery. "I have an appointment for another ultrasound next week if you'd like to come. I'd... appreciate having you there for it."
"Of course," he nods and I'm sure my face expresses shock. He furrows his eyebrows at me, cocking his head slightly to the side in question.
"Should I be offended that you look so surprised?"
"I just thought you'd put up a bigger fight is all," I tease and he chuckles, leaning back into the couch a little further.
"A year ago? Sure. I hadn't the first clue what to do with a kid... let alone baby. But having Rye around and... you around... it's kind of changed my perspective on all that stuff. And the idea of a baby isn't so scary anymore. I think... it'll be really good."
Well, I'm glad one of us isn't scared...
I smile anyway, squeezing his hand in my own before resting my head back on his chest easily.
"I'm glad. I think it'll good too," I nod in agreement. "And then Rye will have someone around all the time."
"Yeah, I think it'll be good for the rugrat," Peeta snickers as we hear him singing some sort of song he's made up from in the kitchen.
"What is he doing?" I question.
"Drawing," Peeta grunts, pushing himself up off of the couch. "I should go check on him. Need anything?"
"Do we have any ice cream?"
"Ice cream? After all that food?" Peeta asks with eyes wide enough to make me frown. He notes the look and grins wider, patting my head tenderly before grabbing the dishes that are stacked on the coffee table. "I don't think we do, Kat."
"That's unfortunate," I sigh, dramatically.
"Yeah," he agrees, with an oblivious nod of his head.
"Too bad I don't know anyone who could easily run out and get me some."
"Too ba... oh," his expression drops as realization dawns on him. "Yeah, I could go and get you some."
I smile, beamingly.
"Hey buddy, you want to run out to the store with me?"
Rye's feet pattering on the ground immediately sounds out and moments later he comes flying down the hallway that sits right beside the living room and leaps into Peeta's open arms.
"What kind?" Peeta asks, shoving his wallet down into his pocket with one hand and holding Rye with the other.
"Anything with chocolate."
"Mmmm chocolate!" Rye repeats, licking his lips. He wiggles enough to break free from Peeta's grasp and puts his shoes on in excitement.
"Does the baby want anything else, Katniss?"
"Nope, just chocolate ice cream."
"Don't let her fool you Rye, our baby isn't craving ice cream, Katniss is," Peeta teases, pretending to whisper in Rye's ear, who giggles madly.
I take one of the pillows from the couch and throw it at his head with all my force. Of course he catches it, and throws it right back, nailing me in the face which only makes their uniform laughter sound louder.
"Just get me the ice cream!"
I'm not sure what type of strings Peeta had to pull in order to get the day off, or how much work he'll have piled up for him when he gets back... but I'm excited that we'll be able to go together for the baby's check-up ultrasound.
I frown as I glance myself over in the mirror, trying to pull on the material as if to make it look better. The shirt that'd once been too big for me now stretches to its maximum across my new well-endowed chest, and my favorite pair of jeans refuse to button.
"You'll have to go shopping," Peeta snickers as I suck in my stomach as hard as I can, trying my hardest to button the damn things.
"My favorite thing to do," I mutter.
"Let Annie do it then, sure she wouldn't mind."
"I don't want new clothes. I just want mine to fit," I grumble irrationally, throwing one of Peeta's large sweatshirts over my head, even though it has to be over eighty degrees outside.
"Well, it's only going to get tighter from here."
"Thanks Peeta," I frown. "Ever the comfort you are."
"Hey, you're the one who wanted me to come," he shoots back with a playful smirk before tugging a shirt off its hanger and slipping it on over his torso. His perfectly in shape, flat, torso.
I stare at him sourly.
"You know what's really not fair?"
"Huh?" he asks, walking up behind me and encasing his arms around my middle.
"You don't have to deal with anything,"I say, narrowing my eyes at him through the mirror. He smirks, which only infuriates me more.
"No, seriously. All you have to do is have sex. Big sacrifice that is! Meanwhile I have to carry this kid around, I have to deal with my body changing and buy new clothes and deal with stretch marks, I have to deal with the nausea and weird cravings and hormones and... and..." I shake my head, pulling free from his grasp and biting my nail to slow my rapidly beating heart.
Peeta waits quietly.
"Yeah that's about it," I croak. "But it sucks."
"No, you don't," I snap. "Do not even say "you know" to me right now."
"Okay, you're right," he admits. "But I understand as best as I can without actually going through it. I'm sorry that it sucks right now, but after it's all over, you'll have experienced something that I'll never be able to! I mean think about it, right now you're simultaneously feeding, nurturing and providing safety to our baby. You're the only person in the world who can do that right now. They fully depend on you."
He smiles a little from where he stands across from me, an action that broadens as I mimic it.
"And you're doing an amazing job."
"Why are you so good with your words?" I question.
"I'm a lawyer," he smirks, squeezing my hand. "Come on, we should get going. Don't want to be late."
The spring air feels nice as it blows back and forth occasionally while Peeta and I make our way down to the bus stop to pick up Rye for the afternoon. It's not often that Peeta is around to see him off the bus and I can just imagine his face screwed up in excitement as he pulls up to see his big brother waiting.
"When is your next doctor's appointment?" Peeta asks me casually once we've made it to the stop sign.
"I don't remember," I say, yanking my phone out from my back pocket to check the calendar inside of it. "Uh... two weeks from now."
"I'll try to arrange to be off of work."
I look to him in surprise, raising a curious eyebrow at him.
"Yeah," he shrugs, as if it's no big deal. "Your shock is starting to become something short of a trend, you know."
"I just didn't think you could afford to keep missing work is all," I shrug. "It's a happy surprise. Are you planning to come to all my appointments with me?"
"Depends," he smirks, his eyes lighting up playfully. "Do you want me to?"
I roll my eyes, shaking my head as he chuckles a little to himself and Rye's bus pulls up beside us.
"Of course," I mutter reluctantly. "As long as you want to be there."
Peeta leans in and places a quick kiss on top of my hair.
"Peeta!" Rye exclaims, turning our attention in his direction. He hops off the last step of the bus, running at full speed toward his brother with open arms. It's almost comical the way his large backpack flops up and down his back with each large step he takes.
"Hey, buddy!" Peeta greets, returning the enthusiasm. He throws Rye up before catching him in his arms and ruffling his hair. "How was your day?"
"Fine," he replies, shimming his way down to his feet. "Why are you home? What happened?"
I can see the look of guilt Peeta wears, that his brother thinks something must be wrong for him to be home so early, but before it can get to him too much, I pat his back reassuringly because he's a hell of a lot better than he used to be.
"Well," he responds, grabbing hold of one of Rye's hands while I take the other. "Katniss had a doctor's appointment today, for the baby."
Rye lifts his legs up suddenly, the added weight of him pulling me down unexpectedly and I let out a low umph!
"Rye," Peeta says, his tone breathily as he yanks him away from my grasp.
"What?" he asks, glancing between Peeta and I with shock etched into his features. "I was just playing swing."
"You need to warn me," I remind him gently, leaning over Peeta to make eye contact with him.
"Katniss can't play those games anymore," Peeta tells him sternly. "Remember, she has the baby to take care of and that takes up most of her energy."
"It's fine, Peeta," I frown. It's not like I'm some weakling or invalid. I'm pregnant. Pregnant women do stuff.
...I know I haven't been doing much lately, but the doctor even told us earlier today at our visit that my strength and energy would be returning to me soon. Any day now, I'll be back to playing around with Rye and going to the park and all the other fun things we used to do.
Peeta looks to me skeptically, clearly trying to decide whether or not it's worth it to piss me off. He sidesteps the subject completely by telling Rye all about the doctor's appointment we'd been to just a few hours earlier and how we'd been able to hear the baby's heartbeat.
"Well, guess what I did today," he chatters on obliviously while Peeta and I exchange a look.
"What's that?" I ask him when he looks up expectantly.
"I ran for the longest in gym class! And I even got a piece of paper with my name on it!"
"Do you know what that's called?"
"...No," he replies lowly.
"A certificate," I tell him, saying the word slow, pronouncing every syllable.
"Certificate," Rye repeats, testing the word out. "Cool!"
"We can hang it in your bedroom if you'd like," Peeta tells him, grinning at his little brother's newfound excitement to get home.
"Can we race?" he asks, his tone doubtful as he glances up towards me.
"On your mark," I say, cutting Peeta off and Rye immediately starts bouncing up and down excitedly. "Get set..."
He giggles, looking up at Peeta and preparing himself to take off.
Both Rye and Peeta take off down the street - Peeta taking much smaller steps than he normally would, letting Rye gain on him and claiming it's the fastest he can go. This amuses his little brother as he passes him and continues far ahead of him until he reaches the porch step.
When I arrive, Rye is still standing out from, jumping up and down and dancing in victory.
"I told you I was the fastest runner!"
"You could be in the Olympics," I nod in agreement.
"I'm the best runner in the universe!"
Sitting on the bed I used to sleep on each night feels a little strange. The mattress is different - softer - and everything is kept completely orderly, unlike Peeta's room. I pull the laptop I'd found my first night here out and set it on the mattress in front of me, opening it and allowing it to start itself up.
Peeta is still tucking Rye in for bedtime. When I'd passed by his bedroom, the light from the hallway just barely shining through, he'd been reading to him from this large book of Superhero stories he found at our latest visit to the bookstore. The story? Spiderman, of course.
Rye loves to sit in on my Skype conversations with Prim. He thinks she's funny and she, of course, thinks he's adorable. I would have let him tonight too, if it weren't the night we were planning to tell her - and my parents - about the baby. I just don't know what to expect and there's a high chance that not everything said will be child friendly.
I'm online whenever you get the chance, Prim's message reads to me as I click the icon, allowing it time to load.
Okay, just one second.
Peeta creeps past the door only a moment after I've signed in, looking to me expectantly, as if he'd been silently hoping I'd already dropped the bomb without him.
No such luck.
"You ready?" I ask as it begins to connect.
"No," he groans, falling onto the bed. "But, might as well get it over with."
"It's just not that big of a deal, Peeta," I hiss, though I'm not sure if I'm trying to convince him or myself.
"It is the lesser of two evils," he agrees, sitting himself up in preparation. "At least I know they can't grab me by the balls via internet."
"Who's grabbing your balls?" Prim's voice rings out and moments later her face appears up on the screen. She smiles excitedly and gives us a wave hello.
"Hey, Prim. And nothing, ignore him," I say, rolling my eyes.
"Hey Prim," Peeta echoes.
"No Rye tonight?"
"Nah, munchkins must be in bed by eight-thirty."
"Katniss runs a tight ship," Peeta teases, making Prim ring out in musical laughter. She tucks a short lock of hair behind her ear, showing off three piercings right in a row - one more than she had the last time I noticed her earrings.
"Too bad," she shrugs. "I'm always excited to talk with him."
We talk superficially back in forth for what seems like forever. I ask her about school and work and how Darius is doing and she listens to funny stories about Rye and Peeta's latest insane client from last week. Eventually she glances down at the clock, shocked to see how late it's already getting and mentions having an earlier shift at work tomorrow.
"I should get going soon."
"Oh okay," I start and before I can continue Peeta nudges me in the side. "Umm... you're at Mom and Dad's right?"
"...Yeah," she speaks slowly. "Did you want to say hi?"
I understand her skepticism. It's not like I typically ask to talk with my parents. Occasionally, Dad and I talk on the phone, but I can count on one hand how many conversations my mother and I have had since I left.
"Yeah," I answer back, running a hand over my loosely braided hair nervously. "Well, actually... I uh... well, we had something to tell you guys... all of you... so um... could you grab them then? I guess?"
I'm stammering and the hand supporting my weight on the mattress clenches against the comforter below me, shaking with nerves. The fact that I'm so nervous actually pisses me off. I'm an adult. I'm living on my own out of state and have been doing just fine. I'm perfectly capable of making my own decisions in regards to my own life.
I nod to myself slightly, as if to back up my inner thoughts before Peeta's hand lands on my thigh, squeezing it gently in comfort. Prim disappears from in front of the camera and can be heard in the distance, calling for our parents.
"Be calm," Peeta soothes through his clenched teeth. "It's not a big deal."
"Easy for you to say," I grumble. "Your parents are dead."
I'm mortified by my bluntness immediately and turn towards him to apologize right as he snorts loudly, his shoulders shaking with laughter. Should have known it'd have little to no effect on him - this is the man who was seemingly unfazed by their death not two weeks after the fact.
"You speak the truth," he mumbles, nudging me in the side with his elbow. "But it'll all be over soon."
"Yeah," I murmur right before shadows appear in front of the screen. We straighten out our posture and Peeta removes the hand that'd be resting on my thigh, folding them up into his own lap nervously.
"Katniss," Dad greets, waving hello to us through the screen. "Oh how cool is this, it's like you're sitting right next to us."
"Hi Dad," I smile, ignoring my rapidly beating heart. "How are you?"
"Prim said you had something to tell us," My mother interjects, never one to beat around the bush. She falls down into the chair next to Dad with a thud and faintly in the background I make out the yellow of Prim's shirt.
"Yeah," I reply shakily. "Um, well first of all, this is Peeta. I'm sure Prim's mentioned him to you on occasion, but uhh..." I turn to Peeta expectantly.
"Oh yeah," Peeta snaps back to reality, clearing his throat. When he speaks again it holds the same professionalism and authority that it had the first time we met. "Hello, Mr. and Mrs. Everdeen."
"Yes, I've heard the name before," Dad nods. "Nice to meet you. Or should I say see you," he snickers to himself, which Peeta immediately responds to.
"Just do it," he grits through his plastered smile and I exhale loudly through my nose.
"Well, we just wanted to let you guys know some exciting news we recently received," I hope to God that I don't wince with my words. "We're um... pregnant."
A long pause follows my words.
"I'm pregnant," I say again, louder and smile through the fear that racks my body. I'm an adult. Their opinion does not matter. You're doing the right thing.
"Oh my god!" Prim squeals, dipping her head into view. She wears a large smile and her eyes are bright with obvious excitement. "Are you serious? I'm going to be an aunt? I never thought I'd be an aunt!"
Her enthusiasm is relieving, but does little to hide the blank expressions etched on each of our parents' faces.
"...How'd that happen?"
"Mom!" Prim chides, her eyebrows dipping low creating a singular wrinkle in her nose.
"I'm just asking!"
"How do you think it happened?" Dad chimes in and I feel my cheeks growing red.
"Isn't that a little unprofessional, Mr. Mellark?"
Peeta's mouth opens a little and then closes, repeating the action a couple more times as he fights to find a proper response. I wonder if they can tell how red he's becoming through the screen. So much for being good with his words. If I weren't so flustered myself, I'd tease him.
"Can't we just be excited?" Prim interjects and I hear Peeta breathe an audible sigh of relief. "I mean, I'm going to be an aunt! Aunt Prim!" she squeals loudly, causing even us to wince. "Do we know if it's a boy or a girl yet?"
The muffled cry for Peeta comes from down the hallway, leading to Rye's room. He's hardly had a chance to call for him twice before Peeta is on his feet, lunging towards the door.
"Peeta," I hiss and he turns on his heels quickly, glancing between me and the partially opened door. Rye calls out for him again.
"Just go," I groan, rolling my eyes at his eagerness. Lucky bastard...
I turn back to the monitor to meet the still dazed expression from my mother and the excited one that now paints Dad and Prim's faces.
"Rye must have woken up," I say in explanation of Peeta's sudden disappearance. I leave out the fact that typically we're not so eager to rush back into his bedroom, hoping he'll fall back asleep on his own, and that Peeta simply wanted an out of this awkward conversation.
I am so sick of telling people that I'm pregnant.
"I'm sorry to spring this on you," I finally say, filling the silence. "I know it's a lot to take in and everything. I just felt that the longer we waited, the worse it'd be and you guys deserved to know..."
"How many weeks are you?" Prim asks, cutting me off. "You look so little."
"Tell my clothes that," I say with a snort. "Thirteen weeks just about."
"Well, we'll arrange our affairs quickly then," Mother says. "You won't want too many guests when the baby is first born so we'll come up beforehand and then maybe again once they're a little bit older."
My head snaps up in their direction and I'm sure I do nothing to hide my shock.
Prim and I exchange confused glances. I expected Prim to want to come and visit - something neither Peeta or I had a problem with - but not my mother. She's never even shown an interest in wanting to visit the next town over, let alone New York. What is she going to do in New York? Besides drive me to my limit?
"Mom, what're you..." Prim trails off, looking to her with furrowed eyebrows.
"I'll look at my calendar, find a time that works for me and get back to you Katniss, all right?"
I'm too stunned to confront her, so instead I give a feeble and pathetic nod. It's evident Prim wants to talk some more - without the curious ears of our parents just a few feet over - and reluctantly says goodbye before holding her phone up, motioning that she'll text me later on. I give her a quick wink before waving goodbye and shutting the computer off.
I don't bother putting the laptop away, or even turning off the light and shutting the door leading into the spare bedroom. I feel sick and my stomach is twisted in knots that leave me near doubled over by the time I make it down the hall into mine and Peeta's room.
I lay on the bed with my feet dangling over the edge in silence for a long time until I finally hear Peeta emerge from Rye's room, heading in the direction of the other room we'd been sitting in. I wait quietly, focusing on breathing evenly through my nose and swallowing the rising liquid pooling in my throat.
The door shuts and a moment later Peeta appears at my side, causing the mattress to slope with his added weight.
"I take it went well?" he teases and I chance a glance up at him with furrowed eyebrows.
"What happened? Sorry I left..."
"No you're not," I reply sourly. If he'd been there, maybe he'd have thought of an excuse or reply or something to say that'd prevent my mother from coming here for a visit.
Or maybe not I think bitterly, replaying his silence through my mind with irritation.
"Katniss?" Peeta asks, waiting for me to open my eyes to continue. "Are you all right? You look a little pale."
"Prim wants to come and visit."
"Well that's great," he says cautiously, his tone obviously confused. "What's wrong with that?"
"My mother is coming, too."
Hey everyone, welcome back after almost exactly a year! This second installation is a piece that I wrote for a charity that took place over the summer called Fandom4LLS (Lymphoma & Leukemia Society). If any of you read it back over the summer for the charity you might have remembered me saying that this was only 1/2 of what part two was supposed to be and this is still true. I haven't gotten around to writing the second part between other fanfics and my life outside of the fandom so I apologize for that, but there will be one last add on once that second part is finished so stay tuned!
A huge thank you goes out to my wonderful friends: annieoakley1, nonemoreblack and misshoneywell for pre-reading this piece for me and to atetheredmind for her awesome cheerleading and support.
If you want to hang out, come find me on tumblr: stutteringpeeta.