"Henri, your Mémé is here," Katniss called out as she heard the car pull up outside.
Henri came clattering down the stairs already wearing his football boots.
"Have you remembered your shin pads this time?"
"Already got them on," he said smugly, tapping one leg with the heel of his other boot to demonstrate his point.
"Good luck." She wished him as she opened the door to see Peeta's mother in-law coming up the steps. Henri gave Katniss' cheek a quick kiss goodbye before he bounded down the stairs past his grand-mother toward the waiting car and his grandfather. At ten, Henri hardly had to stretch to reach Katniss' cheek anymore. His maternal grandfather was a tall man and Katniss got the feeling it wouldn't be long before Henri was as tall as her.
"How are you this morning?" Evelyne enquired reaching the top of the steps. "You look tired."
"I didn't sleep very well last night."
"Not long now" she said sympathetically. "You're look very low today," she further commented placing a hand on Katniss' protruding belly. "That baby wants to get out."
"About time," Katniss grumbled, "they should have been out two weeks ago."
"These things happen in their own time." Evelyne smiled gently. "When I was expecting Margot everyone suggested I eat pineapple to speed the delivery up, that or Thierry and I have sex."
Katniss wasn't quite sure how to respond, preferring not to picture Henri's grandparents' sex life even if was in reference to something that happened over three decades ago.
"Why don't we take Henri for the day and give you a chance to get a rest?" Evelyne continued.
"Thank you Evelyne, that would be wonderful."
"Then you can call Peeta and ask him to bring you home a pineapple, and perhaps later he can help you get that baby out of there," she said with a cunning smile and a wink.
Katniss thought that at this point in her life there were few things that could shock her, but the elegant older lady's suggestion still managed to bring a tint of uncomfortable embarrassment to her cheeks.
Katniss tried to sit and watch TV for a while after Henri left but she couldn't get comfortable on the sofa and so she opted to lie down in bed.
Stretched out on her left side with a pillow wedged between her legs she tried to get some sleep, but the baby had other ideas. It seemed they had decided they wanted to follow their big brother onto the football pitch and now was the perfect time for practicing penalty kicks.
"Please bébé, maman is tired." She rubbed the swollen hard round of her stomach in a calming motion only to be met with an elbow or a heel in return. "It's time you got out of there you know." She chastised lightly.
She grabbed the phone off the side table and called the bakery. Delphine answered.
"Hi Delly can you ask Peeta to stop off at Clément's on the way home and pick up a pineapple."
"Trying to get that baby out of there are you?" Delly laughed recognising the tip to speed up labour. "Everyone told me to have a really scorching hot curry when I was late with François, but I don't think any of that actually works. If you really want that baby out of there you and Peeta need to …"
"Gah! Not you as well Delly! Look, just tell Peeta I called." And she hung up quickly the sound of Delphine's laughter still ringing in her ears.
Seriously what was wrong with these people? She felt like a great lump of a beached whale, her boobs hurt, her belly button had popped into an outty, her back was killing her and if that wasn't bad enough she'd started getting an uncomfortable pain in her lower abdomen and groin when she was tired. The last thing she felt like doing was having sex. She couldn't even lie down in bed comfortably.
Why was everyone so keen to give her advice? Half the time the contradicting suggestions she received managed to cancel each other out. And the horror stories! Why would anyone want to share their horror stories with a first time mother? But it seemed everyone had some tale to tell. Twenty four hour labour, emergency cesareans, mastitis, colic. She had months, no years according to some people, of sleepless nights to look forward to and apparently her body would never be the same again.
Nope. There was absolutely no way she was having sex with Peeta again- ever, he'd already done enough damage getting her pregnant in the first place! Although strictly speaking it had been a joint decision to try for a baby, actually come to think of it, it might have even been her suggestion. Katniss had been stunned by the severity of her jealously at the birth of Delly and Thomas' son François, she had honestly thought she would be happy never to have children. But the sight of Peeta with another woman's baby in his arms had brought on an unexpected reaction in her and she found herself with a growing desire to give Peeta a child. And not just because she knew it was what he wanted, but because she wanted it to.
Peeta had always been honest about his wish to have bigger family but he hadn't pushed the matter, simply stating that there was no rush. "Only when you're ready Katniss," he would say. But she had worried she would never be ready. In reality by the time she discovered she was pregnant she had already been a mother for years.
She loved Henri, but it had been a difficult transition. When they had moved in together she had struggled to find the right balance in their relationship. Torn between trying to be his friend, wanting him to like her and having to take the responsibility of a parent and discipline him when Peeta wasn't there.
She had cried the first time she'd had to tell him off and he had stormed to his bedroom yelling, "I hate you, you're not my mother, you can't tell me what to do."
When Peeta had come back from work he'd pulled her into his arms and laughed kindly. "Katniss, that's part of being a parent. When I told Henri the other day he couldn't watch TV because he hadn't done his homework. He told me I was the meanest horriblest dad ever and that he wanted to go and live with Antoine because his parents were so much nicer than his. He's just a kid. He says things he doesn't really mean when he's angry. I'll go talk to him."
Henri had appeared shame faced a few minutes later and apologized. "I'm sorry Katniss, I didn't mean to make you cry. I don't really hate you."
"That's okay Henri. You know why I had to tell you off don't you? I wasn't just trying to be cruel."
He'd nodded and they'd hugged but it had felt like more than friends, for the first time she'd felt half way like a parent.
It was three years since they'd all moved into the new house just a short distance from the bakery and in that time she'd grown to love Henri unconditionally. He wasn't just Peeta's son any more, they were a family.
But that didn't mean she wasn't terrified of becoming a mother to a tiny helpless completely dependent upon her baby.
Katniss woke to the sounds of Peeta moving about the bedroom. She must have been so dead to the world she hadn't heard him come in or shower.
"Peeta?" she groaned still half a sleep. "How long have you been home?"
"Not long," he smiled down at her. "I didn't want to wake you. You looked so peaceful for a change."
She stretched and looked at the bedside clock. "Wow," she mumbled sleepily, "I've been asleep for hours."
Tucking her arm beneath her head she watched Peeta move back over to the dresser. Fresh from the shower his damp hair had formed little curls at the nape of his neck that just begged for her to tease her fingers through them. A stray bead of water still clung to the dip where his neck met his shoulder, just where she knew he was sensitive. If she were to slip behind him now and taste it with a flick of her tongue she knew what his reaction would be, the exact sound he would make somewhere between a gasp of ticklish torture and a groan of pleasure. Her eyes travelled down over his body. The towel he wore wrapped about him sat low on his hips, affording her with the chance to survey the lines of his bare back and strong shoulders as he applied deodorant. A smattering of light freckles, a reminder of the last days of summer, were still visible across his shoulders and she wanted to run her finger tips across them and kiss each one. She wanted to feel the hard muscles of his back beneath her palms and wrap her hands about the tight bands of his biceps.
He reached to open the top drawer of the dresser where his underwear was kept.
"Hmm." He turned to face her, a pair of shorts in his hands.
"Don't bother to put those on."
He looked at her and then the underwear he still held in his hand, as if completely bemused. She didn't blame him, what with the back pain, the insomnia and the indigestion it had been several months since she had felt even slightly like being intimate with him.
"Come here Peeta." She beckoned.
Raising his eyebrows he tossed the pair of shorts away, a smile spreading across his face as he walked towards the bed.
"You should probably lose the towel as well," she added suggestively.
He unwound the towel that had already started to tent at the front and dropped it to the floor.
She pushed herself up to sit as he came to a stop before her.
She wrapped her hand about him, as she looked up with a teasing smile playing on her lips and he groaned pushing into her grip.
"Fuck, Katniss," he moaned as she lowered her mouth to him. His fingers tangling in her hair as she moved over him with more earnest. "Fuck I want you so badly."
She pulled back to look up at him incredulously "Really?"
"Hell yes, why wouldn't I?"
"Because, well look at me I'm gross."
"You're gorgeous." He said with a shake of his head, "And you're tits are twice the size they used to be and I haven't touched them for months." He added in a rush, blushing instantly at his uncensored admission.
"You'll probably have to lie behind me."
His eyes grew wide with shocked disbelief that she was giving him permission, and she suddenly felt a little guilty that she hadn't wanted him to touch her for months.
He slid into the bed behind her. "You're gorgeous." He reiterated as he swept her hair out of the way to kiss her neck. "I know you've had a rough time of it but I think you're beautiful when you're pregnant Katniss. If it was up to me I'd keep you this way all the time."
"Really!" Not sure if she was flattered or horrified.
"Mmhmm," he confirmed kissing her shoulders. "Only maybe with a bit more sex." He teased.
"That's what got me into this state in the first place."
"You're not in a state, you're glorious." He whispered as his hands slipped over her rounded belly, making their way up to very gently cup her swollen breasts.
She could feel his breath growing heavier against her neck as he unbuttoned the neck of her dress until he could slide one hand inside. His touch was light as he smoothed it over her bra before slipping under the material. His fingers catching her nipple between them and she gave a sharp gasp at the sensation of almost painful pleasure.
"Do you like that?" he breathed in her ear.
She nodded, then gasped again as he repeated his action.
She felt his other arm, the one trapped between him and the bed, snake between them as he raised her dress, and she helped him to rid her of her underwear.
She moaned at the overwhelming combination of his grasp on her breast, his teeth on her neck and his fingers gliding against her slick heated skin to reach her clit. Grinding against his hand as his fingers stimulated her.
She growled in frustration at the loss of his touch when he moved his hand to raise her leg, resting it over his thigh.
"Touch yourself." He directed
It was a slightly difficult position to reach herself, but she took over from his ministrations. At the same time she felt him slide his hard length against her wet skin before entering her.
He swore and paused his movement, his forehead dropping against the back of her shoulder before he recommenced his rhythm.
He maintained a tight grip on to her thigh as he thrust into her. The room growing heavy with the sounds of their breathing, their skin becoming increasingly slick with sweat at their joint exertion.
She tried to match his rhythm with her own, but her own actions were becoming increasingly erratic and she knew this wasn't going to last long for either of them.
"Shit Katniss, I can't..."
"Just a bit longer." She pleaded, increasing the pressure of her circled touch on her clitoris.
His hands moved back from her hip to her breast, catching her nipple in a tight grasp between his fingers. It was enough to push her over the edge and she cried out his name as he joined her in his own release.
Leaning over her, she turned her head so he could kiss her lips.
"I love you and you are beautiful."
"Sorry I've been a bit of a grumpy bitch recently."
He chuckled. "That's okay, I'm used to it."
She elbowed him and he gave an exaggerated "Ouch" before adding. "You're going to be a great mother you know." She responded with an unconvinced huff but he defended his comment. "You already are."
She must have fallen asleep because when she woke the room was dark and she was on her own in the bed.
She could hear Peeta and Henri talking downstairs and she supposed she really ought to get out of bed. As she stood up she felt a crippling cramping pain across her lower abdomen that took her breath away and forced her to hold onto the side table for support.
Regaining her breath she made it as far as the door before she looked down at the puddle that had formed at her feet.
"Peeta!" She called out not sure if she was scared or relieved. "Peeta, I think my water just broke."
Birth was neither 'the most wonderful natural experience' she had ever had as promised by some of the birthing books nor was it the horror she had come to expect after some of the tales she had been told by other mothers. The pain had been mainly subdued by the gas and air she'd sucked away on the like her life depended on it, in fact she'd like to take one of those machines home with her if they'd let her.
But no matter how sore she felt it had been worth it.
Peeta and Henri both came to collect her from the hospital. She'd been concerned about how Henri was going to react to the baby. Obviously they had discussed it a lot during the pregnancy, but she had still been worried that he would be jealous. She needn't have been worried, he was completely smitten with his little sister.
Rolling over, Katniss could see the tiny mop of dark hair in the moses basket beside the bed. Katniss sat up wincing a little, still a little sore from the stitches that had been necessary after the birth.
Celeste was asleep on her back, her hands still curled in tight little fists. Every now and again her closed mouth would make a tiny motion as if still suckling on the breast, that was so endearing it made Katniss want to cry.
She heard Peeta groan on the other side of the bed, waking up.
"Is it time to get up?" he asked sleepily.
"No silly, its Sunday."
"What you doing?" He asked sitting up and looking past her to where their daughter still lay fast asleep.
"Are you crying?" he asked his voice full of bemused concern. "Are you okay, are you feeling sore?"
She shook her head. "I just can't believe it. That she's mine…ours…that we made this tiny thing and she's so perfect."
Peeta leant over to kiss Katniss on the cheek. "I remember feeling the same way when Henri was born. I just wasn't prepared for the shock of how much you could love someone so much so instantly."
Katniss, gave a sniff and wiped away a tear from her cheek. "I'm just so happy and so scared. Its just … so overwhelming."
"I think that might have a bit to do with the hormones." He said wrapping his arm about her and bringing her back to lie with him on the bed again. Before adding softly."Its okay to be scared, its only natural. I know it's daunting and I know you feel overwhelmed, but it's okay. We – the four of us - were going to be just fine."
She rolled over to face him and she kissed his lips gently.
"I think I'm probably supposed to be thanking you at this point for giving me a beautiful daughter."
She shook her head. "No, thank you. For everything. For a beautiful daughter and a wonderful son. For giving me a second chance when I needed it."
"Katniss, I probably would have given you a third and a fourth and a fifth if you'd wanted me to."
She shook her head again. "I don't know if I deserve you."
"Well you know, beautiful intelligent rich sexy women who could have any man they wanted they're easy to come by but us small town bakers we're a rare breed," he said with faux conceit, "we're worth our weight in gold."
"Mmhmm," she agreed laughing at his ridiculous pompous expression before kissing him, "you're priceless."
Right so that's it. I'm done. I'm out of here.
Thanks to those who stuck with it to the end.
Sorry if I totally failed to respond to your review - real life has been a bit full on lately and I'm pretty crap at responding anyway.
Massive thanks to Kismet4891 for being awesome.
Might get round to doing a couple of outtakes from this - how katniss got herself into the whole gold-digger business in the first place and maybe a proposal, but not going to promise anything.
Oh and for those of you who speak American you can swap all appearances of the word football for soccer. I just can't bring myself to type soccer 'cause well that's just not what its called!
Thanks again for reading